The Sadness of the Days, the Treasures that Remain

The most we can hope for is that the murderers and enemies of humanity who attacked in Boston today are, at least some of them, apprehended. Executed they will not be (unless perhaps they turn out to be “white supremacists”), nor will any lessons be drawn that might help prevent similar atrocities in the future. Jihad is the most likely motive but there are plenty of other possibilities. I am afraid that to me it feels only like the sort of event to be expected in an America that has been destroying moral restraint from within and admitting hordes of invaders from without for many decades. I am not shocked at all and I have little desire to know the details. One thing I always remember when something like this happens is the suffering that will be endured by the survivors. Through a mutual acquaintance, I once heard in some detail about the sufferings of someone injured in the Atlanta Olympics bombing. It goes on for years, really a lifetime of pain and often repeated surgeries.

I still feel a vestigial sense of obligation to follow the news – as one of the responsibilities of an informed citizen – but the ongoing decay of our society has become so egregious that I feel the need to limit my intake of information that is upsetting without being edifying. I would much rather read about English kings or the American Civil War. These narratives abound in human drama and teach us something about who we are and what is possible. What would be the point, though, of studying the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, except as a study in pre-ordained failure? I feel for our men fighting abroad, and I grieve for the sacrifice of their talent and lives in activities not remotely connected to their own interests, but I do not want to follow the process step by step.

Newspaper reportage, for instance, was a major component of the civil war. See this article, for instance, concerning the Confederate side. J. Cutler Andrews’ The South Reports the Civil War (University of Pittsburgh, 1985) presents a narrative of the war from the perspective of the Southern press. I enjoy the elegant, if melodramatic, writing style of the period, and the book reminds one of how complex and multifarious the war experience really was. Today, this complexity is lost, and it is not even just a matter of a pro-Northern bias; the entire meaning, reason, and legitimacy of the war is discussed only in terms of the interests of the black slaves.

As part of an ongoing project to read (and preferably see, in the BBC or other productions) all of Shakespeare’s English history plays, I found myself working on John Gillingham’s Richard the Lionheart (London: Book Club Associates, 1978). I always find it astonishing to contemplate the fact that large parts of France were, in theory, under English rule for long periods of time – at least in theory; Richard I was really “French.” In Shakespeare’s King John Richard is only a background figure, the Crusader who tore a lion’s heart from its body, and the father of the more or less ahistorical Philip the Bastard, who aligns with King John in hopes of moving up in the world. In any case according to Gillingham, Richard was one of the most capable kings in English history, distinguished not only for his courage and fighting prowess, but also for his skills as an administrator:

Richard won his wars not simply by deeds of prowess on the battlefield, but also by being able to transfer the economic resources of the Angevin Empire into military supplies and ensure that these supplies were in the right place at the right time – in other words by sheer administrative competence. The image or Richard as a night in armor, good at fighting but at nothing else, is an image based upon a romantic and unrealistic view of war. (287)

The blogger Cambria Will Not Yield, one of the most original writers I have ever encountered on the Web, has a fine introduction to the topic of Shakespeare’s histories here, in the form of a review of John Julius Norwich’s Shakespeare’s Kings. While I cannot accept some of CWNY’s broader assertions, his understanding of the old Europe surpasses that of any pointy-headed academic, for it comes from the heart, and grasps the essential fact that the white peoples of the world were changed forever by their acceptance of, and love for, Christ.

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11 Responses to The Sadness of the Days, the Treasures that Remain

  1. Terry Morris says:

    We seem to be on similar paths. I received a text message from a nephew the day of the bombing informing me of the event. I expressed little interest in learning the details, and he kindly refrained from sharing anything further. My only reaction at the time was that “this means more police and para-military police units; more “security” and less liberty.” That is the only “answer” that liberal society can allow itself to consider.

    I don’t vote anymore because, well, really, what would be the point? If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then I think I must have once been insane to think that my vote would ever make an ounce of positive difference, even at the local level. We can’t possibly outnumber the loons and half-wits, the moral degenerates and government dependents in this society so long as “one man, one vote” universal suffrage remains a ruling principle. When I was in the military I often complained about having to work for people “stupider than me,” not that all of my superiors fit into this category, but a significant number of them did. Now my main complaint is being forced to live under the rulership of stupid people, especially the morons the aforementioned people elect to govern our cities, states and nation. But anyway,…

    Kindly pardon the rant. :-)

    • stephenhopewell says:

      Terry, thanks for the comment. Actually I got rather caught up in the bombing story after I wrote that – I felt so horrible for the victims – but as a whole this is how I feel. What can you even say about our society these days? NBA player comes out as “gay,” White House commends him for it on the SAME DAY? Cloud Cuckooland.
      I did vote in the last presidential election (my mother-in-law really wanted me to vote for Romney, and this was supposed to be a state in his reach) and I still do things like calling my politician to oppose Amnesty. But at the same time it’s largely true the game is fixed and I only do things like this because they’re the right thing to do, and only as energy allows. Hope you and your family are well.

  2. Terry Morris says:

    Well, I still write letters to the editor challenging sacredly held liberal notions of “family values” and things like that. But for me personally, refusal to participate in an election system that I know is rigged in such a way by the powers that be so as to ensure the forward march of liberalism/progressivism no matter which candidate you vote for, is the only right thing to do.

    • stephenhopewell says:

      I think voting can still be a kind of statement. But I certainly don’t think it obligatory, as I once believed in accordance with what I saw as my patriotic duty. It’s like the census: as a white person, should you refuse to participate, knowing it will be used to oppress you? Or do you make the statement, “I am here!”

      • Terry Morris says:

        Y’know, I have considered switching from registered Republican to Independent as one way of making a statement. I forget the exact numbers, but I read a story in the Tulsa World newspaper sometime back in which it was reported that in Oklahoma Democrats have been steadily losing numbers for I think two decades, while Republicans have been gaining numbers during the same timeframe, and Independents, although still solidly in the minority, have outpaced the Republicans in gains over the last several years. Somebody is apparently trying to tell somebody something.

        I wouldn’t be able, as an Independent, to vote in the primaries, but since I don’t vote anymore anyway, what is that to me? Yep, I think I’ll do it. And try to get everyone I can to join me. :-)

      • stephenhopewell says:

        Yes, that seems like one possible response to the situation.
        Oklahoma seems to have more relatively sound politicians than most states, but I guess in the bigger picture it’s headed in the same direction as the rest of the U.S.

  3. Liam says:

    Hello Stephen,

    Just thought I’d share the following with you, knowing your musical tastes. Weller may have become an unspeakable ### but at one time he could write a love song of rare beauty.

  4. Liam says:

    Apologies for the rather ad hoc nature of the link in my last post. I’d dined well but not wisely with an old friend and we’d taken the drastic step of opening a bottle of very good malt whisky.

    • stephenhopewell says:

      Liam, thanks for the link, and sorry for the belated acknowledgement. It’s a great song. I’d enjoy sharing drinks with you while listening to some good music!

  5. Liam says:

    Stephen,

    Happened across this today and recalled a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson which you once published here.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/allanmassie/100071381/as-we-stand-on-the-verge-of-state-licensed-newspapers-a-dreadful-prophecy-is-being-fulfilled/

    (The connection will become obvious if you read the article in full).

    • stephenhopewell says:

      Liam, a wonderful find. Thank you. Have meant to write on Treasure Island here for some time. Thanks for checking in on the blog!

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