Friday, July 31, 2015

Killing them softly

The sick irony of President Barack Obama’s administration is that he often compares himself to Abraham Lincoln. But he is perfectly happy to let Planned Parenthood sell off black children in bits and pieces as someone else’s property."

- Erick Erickson, RedState

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday: "My college actually took me away from logical thinking"

So says Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard in this article (H/T NRO).  His experience pretty much jibes not only with my own, but with many of my friends who sit in "careers" for which they're vastly overeducated.

A friend of mine, like Karlgaard a PoliSci major, has never had a job for which his degree meant anything other than that he had a college degree in the first place.  "Unless I was actually going into teaching, that degree was pretty much useless from a job standpoint," he told me.  "I didn't take it because I thought it would improve my chances to get a job or to make more money.  I took it because I liked and was interested in politics, and I wanted exposure to the kinds of thought I would be encountering."  Meaning?  "Look, I didn't have any illusions that I'd be getting a good education.  After all, this was a school where the students cheered when they heard Reagan'd been shot.  They had bumper stickers that said 'Reagan in '80, Bush in '81.'  If they were any more left, they would have fallen off the table completely.  But I figure if you want to be involved in 'competitive' politics (as I did at the time), it's good to know what the enemy's saying about you."

But the point he went on to make is this: "Ultimately, it didn't matter what I studied.  I figured a successful school year was one in which I still knew as much at the end of the term as I did at the beginning.  As long as they didn't make me stupid, it was a good year.  But at the end I had that degree.  How many decent jobs can you get now where they don't ask for - demand - a college degree?  Even when it has nothing to do with the job itself?  It's lazy - they just use it as a gatekeeper to keep out the riffraff.  Most of the jobs out there can probably be handled just fine by someone with a degree from a vo-tech school."

I digress with that little anecdote, but only slightly.  Karlgaard's point in this article is similar to my friends - that college has become an enormous (and ridiculous) drain on family and individual finances, oftentimes for nothing more than a piece of paper that does little to prepare the student for life after college - and introduce him or her to a lifetime of debt. Karlgaard posits that the average student would "learn more and spend much less at a community college," and it's hard to disagree with that.  The money quote:

The U.S., I would argue, is driving itself crazy over early achievement. Expensive four-year colleges are a symptom. They’ve become a costly dream trap for too many kids and families. High school grades are overemphasized, SATs must be prepared for years in advance, youthful intellectual experiments (or pranks of the kind Steve Jobs famously engaged in) are discouraged–and for what? Most kids won’t get into the topflight college of their dreams. Worse, some who actually clear that bar will nearly bankrupt their parents in the process. Or they’ll find life so competitive at Elite U. that they drop down into the Mickey Mouse courses–which exist everywhere, even at Harvard–and end up with a worthless degree.

In fact, it's been my observation that education is really one of the last things the modern college is concerned with.  First and foremost is indoctrination, but after that there's the endless quest for prestige, to be able to say "we're the best business school in the world," or law school, or engineering school, or what have you, in the ratings that come out from publications such as US News  There's the desire for research dollars from governments and foundations.  There's the scam being leveraged on alums to provide financial support for the school.  There's a continuing, and growing, alliance with big government and big business to control access to the power in this country.

But don't just take my rantings - be sure to read all of what Karlgaard says, and discuss.

Originally published by Paul Drew on May 7, 2013

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wish I'd written that

The International Olympic Committee — a.k.a. FIFA With Rhythmic Gymnasts."

- Charles Pierce, Grantland

Opera Wednesday - Dialogues of the Carmelites

When we have more time, I'll write at greater length about Francis Poulenc's stirring Dialogues of the Carmelites, which has a tremendous relevance to the post-Christian times in which we now live, but in the meantime here's the dramatic conclusion: the Carmelite sisters, having been condemned by the Satanic French Revolution, make their way, one by one, to the guillotine.

Monday, July 20, 2015

On gratitude for the veteran

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this article, in which former Marine officer Stanton Coerr says it's time to stop thanking veterans for their military service:

We know that all of you appreciate what we do. We know that you support our military forces and that (more importantly) you love our country. We know how patriotic you are…several times a day, every day, you tell us.

But it is now time for all of us to move on. 

Coerr goes on to list three reasons why it's time:

1.  We're all volunteers.  "So everyone you thank for their service is there by choice. The military, in the words of P.J. O’Rourke, “gives people with military-style personalities a place to work.” It also gives the nation a place to focus as it balances its anger at a foreign war against its appreciation for those sent to fight it.

2.  Thanking Lets You Off the Hook.  "Every time I am thanked for my service, I stop myself from asking, 'And what about yours?' I do not want you to also serve the military, but I do want you to serve our country, your city, your town, the local school. What are you doing to help? Are you volunteering at the hospital? The soup kitchen? Are you helping that elementary-school teacher in the inner city, the one who is buying her students pencils from her own pocket because the school district cannot? Are you donating to the fire department down the street?

We are all of us Americans. Each serves in his or her own way. You don’t need to thank me—your service should be enough."

3.  You Are Thanking the Wrong People.  "Most of us who have gone overseas, even into a combat zone, have never heard a shot fired in anger. We volunteered, we went, we did our jobs, we came back. And that is pretty much it." [...]

"Take note: most of us are somewhat ashamed of our lack of combat. No matter what you did, someone in the highly competitive combat-arms military has done more. Go and read the interviews with the shy young men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor in the past few years (can you name even one?). Every one of them, to a man, says the exact same thing: I didn’t do anything unusual. I could have done more. All I can think about is the guys we lost that day. The guys around me were the real heroes. They would have done the same for me."

On the one hand, I see where he's coming from.  The "Thank You Military!" celebrations that go on have become so trite, so automatic and unthinking, that they may strike many as virtually meaningless.  There's more than a little bit of jingoistic, U-S-A! self-congratulation to it all, that it tends to rub the wrong way.  As one writer reminds us, not all heroes are soldiers and not all soldiers are heroes.  And don't even get me started on these parent-child surprise reunions that we get bombarded with at sporting events and on news programs.  Our thanks should not be a made-for-TV event.

In addition, most soldiers - at least the ones I've encountered, and most of the ones I've read about, are very modest people, and I've always thought that the endless parades, singling out, and so on probably embarrass them more than anything else.  It's hard enough getting used to civilian life again without constantly being reminded of it.

And yet...  while it's true that we do have a volunteer military, the fact remains these people are choosing to join in the defense of our country, to willingly put their lives on the line, for our benefit.  Yes, police and firefighters do the same thing - any call they go on could be a fatal one - and they should be thanked as well.  They probably aren't thanked often enough.  Does that mean we're wrong to thank a soldier?  To thank him or her from volunteering to take a job that they know could cost them their lives?

I appreciate the point he makes about how we all should do our part, but that's the very think that sets their service apart - they do this without asking for anything other than being treated fairly, by getting what the nation has agreed to provide them with in return for risking their lives, and for our leaders to be thoughtful about sending them into harm's way.  Otherwise, their service is unconditional.  I could understand if they expected more from the public than that, but they don't.  It's not part of the bargain, and that's one reason why it makes their service extraordinary.

I admit that there's much about what Coerr says that rubs me the wrong way, but I agree with him that our thanks ought to be heartfelt and sincere, that it should be thought out rather than automatic, that it works best in the small ways rather than the grandiose, look-at-me moments.  Sometimes the best thanks is a nod of the head - or, even more radically, actually providing the types of veterans' services that the military is entitled to.

Perhaps we still have a collective guilt complex from the Vietnam days and the horrid way in which veterans were treated, even though many of us were either not around then or had nothing to do with it.  We probably overdue it as a way of overcompensating for the past, and that's wrong.  But it's not wrong for a grateful nation to say thanks; there's something very decent about the kind of selfless service the military as a whole provides, and as long as we recognize it, as long as the military remains true to its mission and its values, gratitude is always in order.  As is graciousness in accepting it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Memoriam #ToujoursJules

There are no words tonight as this post is written just past 11 PM Eastern time, with the news that came out at 8:45 PM EDT Friday night announcing sadly, that the Lap 45 crash at 4:47 PM (JST) October 5 at Suzuka during the Japanese Grand Prix involving a Marussia of Jules Bianchi and a JCB tractor retrieving Adrian Sutil's Sauber proved to be Formula One racing's first fatal crash since that terrifying 2:17 PM on May 1, 1994.

Mr. Bianchi died Friday at the University Center Hospital in Nice, where he never recovered from the coma after the crash at Dunlop Curve just past the East Course shortcut.  It is also the first fatal race incident at the Japanese circuit since the 2012 World Touring Car Championship race where a driver was killed during a local sportscar event that is equivalent to the SCCA's Pirelli World Challenge series, and the second foreign driver to die at Suzuka (NASCAR Safety Car driver Elmo Langley was the first, of a heart attack in 1996 during safety car runs).

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Statement from the Bianchi Family

Nice, France
Saturday 18 July 2015
02.45hrs France │ 01.45hrs UK | NOTE:  20.45hrs US EDT Friday

It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan, where the Suzuka Circuit is located - Ed.) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.

"Furthermore, we thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.

"We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dog star

I hope you've been following the tremendously exciting Pluto story this week, but in case you haven't you can read about it here.  I've been absolutely enthralled by it; the idea of seeing actual pictures of that most distant planet* is just unthinkable.  As someone who's always been fascinated by space travel, I can't remember the last time I found something this exciting.  The first few flights of the space shuttle, perhaps?  Even though that was nowhere near as momentous as the race for the moon, it was still pretty interesting.  And yet this Pluto thing has been - to use a word I generally try to avoid - mind-blowing.

*Yes, I'm still calling it a planet.

Pluto has existed as a planet for my entire lifetime.  I remember reading a book about it when I was in grade school; one of those Scholastic publications, I suspect.  I found the story of Pluto's discovery to be strangely gripping, and I can still remember the names of the scientists who made up the story: Percival Lowell, who thought there were canals on Mars and had pioneered the search for what he referred to as "Planet X," and Clyde Tombaugh, the man who finally discovered the planet.

Left: Pluto from 476,000 miles away; Right: Mountains on the surface, from about 7,600 miles.  (Source: NASA)
Part of what made Pluto so interesting for a kid, of course, was the connection to Disney's dog*; it made the planet somehow more accessible to a child's mind.  But there was also something about the sheer distance from Earth to Pluto.  It was so much farther away than the other planets; it had a tilted orbit, and was so elongated that for a time it becomes the eighth planet, creeping closer to the Sun than Neptune.  The fact that it had been discovered in the 20th Century, long after an eight-planet solar system had been established, only added to its mystique.  The event not only changed history books, it changed music as well: Holst's The Planets ended with Neptune, and it was up to the contemporary composer Colin Matthews to compose a new movement for Pluto in 2000.

*In the same way, perhaps, that I liked the baseball player Yogi Berra because of Yogi Bear.

As critical of Neil deGrasse Tyson as I've been in the past, I think his book on Pluto is wonderful, and his description of Pluto as "America's favorite planet" is both perceptive and endearing.  The decision to change Pluto's status to that of a dwarf planet may be technically correct, but at the same time it points out why science fact is so much more boring than science fiction: it completely lacks any sense of romance, of mystery.  It seems likely that the fact Pluto was discovered by an American had something to do with it's downgrading.

But what does it prove, other than that Holst's work can be performed as originally written?  Not a thing to my mind.  Pluto remains, for me, a planet - period.  The sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft - taking more than nine years, and traveling over 3 billion miles - have made the tiny planet so immediate, so real.  Looking back at it - from that paperback book I read nearly 50 years ago to the tiny specks of light visible in the night sky - it is still amazing that something so far away and so dead can become so alive.  What Lowell and Tombaugh would have thought had they seen those pictures!  Dwarf planet, my foot!

This week Pluto came full circle, from one astronomer's distant dream to another's discovery of a speck on a photoplate to a planet that has become every bit as real as our own moon - more real, in its way, than most of the other planets in the outer group.  No wonder that, next to Earth itself, it remains my favorite planet as well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The sinister moves

Last month, I sang in the Summer Chorus performance of Haydn's Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War), also called Paukenmesse (The Kettledrum Mass), which in Haydn catalogues is Mass No. 10 in C Major (H: XXII:9).  During the concert day, as the movement to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Soldiers Monument began to be rampant, funded by George Soros in an utter victory of the liberal activist, the second major victory against the state in seven months (striking down the state constitution's marriage definition amendment was the first, also supported by his minions) that effectively gave him control of the state, I talked to our tenor soloist, a college professor, who was befuddled at the discussion against the Confederacy.

Based on historical references I had researched, I informed him that the deconfederatisation movement has its roots in the denazification efforts of post-WWII Germany in 1946, but more sinister was Mao Tse-Tung's Cultural Revolution in the 1960's.  Mao purged anything that was against the Communist empire, as we learned, and following a further discussion on The Kelly File, a guest noted the deconfederatisation effort's roots within Soviet Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, ironic considering one top organisation leading the new Cultural Revolution of the Left is the Americans United Against Militarism (as it was known at founding), which protected Bolsheviks.

He was shocked and said there was no reason for the deconfederatisation efforts.  What I know now was the Soros activists began the movement with signs placed near Mother Emanuel in the days after the shooting, trying to blame everything on a flag, and create racial tension when the real problem was, as we previously mentioned here, nihilism, a worldview of nothingness, which proved itself because the target was a church.  And with the sad state of affairs after the New York Court (as Justice Scalia called out for its one-city bias), the worldview of the atheists was in control of the nation.  When our Governess was soundly defeated in court to protect the state's constitution against Soros and other Bolshevik minions, and the pressure was up again, she sadly caved and let other cities push deconfederatisation.

Now the pressure is turning up with victory on one end of the deconfederatisation efforts where the next stage – removing Confederate monuments, including names of places, and even war venues, including Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Bull Run, and historical places such as the CSS Hunley – is beginning.  As I've read over the years, the next stage in the left's revisionist history is to develop new heroes to fit their narrative – and advancing the sexual deviancy agenda that lost in 30 states and could only win with the President and his minions in packed courts to overturn majorities over 75 percent is one such way.  When our Civil War dead, war tactics that were 50 years ahead of the Germans (see the CSS Hunley), the first ironclad battle between the CSS Virginia (fka USS Merrimac) vs USS Monitor,  Battles of  Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg, the Burning of Atlanta (where the Calgary Flames' nickname is sourced), and even Memorial Day (for Union War Dead) are purged from our history books under this effort, the replacement will be to advance the sexual deviancy elites' agenda down where a certain sexual deviancy leader's birthday would replace Memorial Day, as seen in California already.

Will the Gettysburg Address be banned because of its Civil War reference and be replaced by Dear Leader's celebration of throwing Christians to the Lions?

What type of whitewashing are we allowing with deconfederatisation?  The flag is only the beginning.  Do not be fooled – the sinister gooool is an elimination of all Confederate heroes and leaders – Davis, Lee, Stevens, Jackson, and other heroes of the Confederacy.  No wonder the Left demands “Stonewall” refer to a sexual deviancy bar that turned into victory for their movement when every Southerner knows Stonewall is the nickname for General Thomas Jackson, whose death on May 10, 1863 is observed as Memorial Day in many states.

Are we headed to 1924 Russia, where Petrograd and Yekaterinaburg, among others, had their Czar names replaced by Communist leaders' names, which was prominent in all of the East Bloc (Chemintz, and Saigon are two other cities where such Communist whitewashing happened – Yekaterinaburg and Chemintz has since been restored to its original name, while Petrograd has since been restored to its pre-World War I name)?  I fear that every Confederacy related name and battle field will be purged for the celebration of the current Dear Leader and his social justice efforts.

Kyrie eleison.  Why the hate of the Civil War?  Are people trying to associate the war with racism as in this shooter's moves?  By doing so, they are associating the Confederacy with the shooter – which was never true.  Enough with this false narrative in order to push a new revisionism.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

America the damned

The Fourth of July used to be a special day for me. For a couple of years, I was the chair of the 4th of July parade in Richfield, Minnesota, and in the years before and after that it was always a treat to go to a parade.  We lived for the fireworks show at night; in addition to the shows on the Fourth, Bloomington had a show on the evening of the 3rd; if the weather was nice we drove to the top level of a nearby parking ramp, where we'd listen to the radio and eat popcorn while waiting for it to get dark enough for the show to begin.  The Fourth itself meant movies, almost in the same way that Christmas does - The Music Man, with Robert Preston, and my favorite musical of all time, 1776.  Yes, those were good times.

It's been a few years now since I've paid the Fourth any attention at all, and this year will be no exception.  I can't celebrate it anymore, because in my opinion there's nothing to celebrate. Over the course of these last years, we've seen America go straight to Hell, and last week's obscene Supreme Court decision just emphasizes the fact.  It's not only the decision itself, disordered as it is; it's this whole idea that the American Experiment has finally come to an end.  States' rights are going, if not gone; a relentless political correctness, from which dissent is not tolerated, governs our public discourse, as companies and special interest groups increasingly punish people simply for expressing their own thoughts; religious freedoms are not only done away with but scoffed at; police forces are increasingly militarized; in the name of national security, the Federal government becomes more and more intrusive in our lives; our very history is either forgotten or airbrushed.  Increasingly the world revolves around international financiers, investors more concerned with the bottom line than the High Altar.  To them it is money that makes the world go around, not the laws of gravity.  They've succeeded in reducing man to a statistic in a budget, a mere number that represents not a human soul but a profit/loss statement.  To them things such as gay rights are ideas to be pandered to; they see them not as troubled individuals but consumers with money to spend, and that's the only kind of morality that matters to them.  The poet Allen Ginsburg, in his epic Howl, called it Moloch, as is so evocatively illustrated here:

And who is there to turn to?  Not the humans running the Church; as rights are stripped away and depravities are legalized, we get lectures on climate change. Not political parties: the leftist Democrats, held captive by fanatical extremists, are the driving force behind many of these changes, while the timid Republicans, more interested in retaining power than doing anything with it, stand idly by.  Besides, the parties are just flip sides of the same coin anyway; they both want our money, the only difference being what they plan to do with it.

Man, that is depressing, isn't it?

We're all to blame for it, in a way, thanks to Original Sin.  We've allowed marriage to be corrupted through our own actions, just as we've played our own roles elsewhere.  There's more to it than that, of course; the Devil is alive and well in this world, in these United States, and he's finding many a willing disciple.  This doesn't mean we're helpless, though.  The pessimistic (but realistic) Rod Dreher has advocated what he calls the "Benedict Option," which involves groups of orthodox believers gathering into what might be called community support groups, where they exist to strengthen each other's faith, families and future.  It's not a retreat from the world, as some would have it, but a circling of the wagons.  And it's necessary because, as Dreher puts it, things are not going to get better.  Others advocate a more activist approach, attaching the issue head-on and refusing to be pushed around.  Still others think things can be turned around by electing the right individuals, that America at its heart is still a conservative nation.  The number who believe in that last category grows smaller and smaller, and if you're inclined to believe it I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to discuss with you.

In short, America seems to have devolved into a Godless, licentious nation, consumed with hedonism, basing everything on feelings rather than any kind of logical thought.  Not the sex you want to be?  Easy - just change.  Feel like marrying two or three other people?  Well, why not?  Think killer whales are human?  They probably are.  If you even bother to believe in God, you can create Him in whatever Image you want, knowing that He just wants you to be "happy," whatever that means nowadays.  What's frightening is not the question of where it all ends; it's that, deep in our hearts, we already know what the answer is.  It's not just America, of course, but the whole world.  The whole world isn't celebrating July 4th, however, and I'm not sure how we can, either.

In this atmosphere, watching a movie such as 1776 where we witness the birth of the republic, seeing what all these men were willing to risk their lives for, and then to look at what that cause has become, is beyond depressing.  To see an immoral lifestyle legalized (in the process overturning state laws passed by citizens) by a group of nine unelected officials, the same group (if not the same individuals) responsible for legalizing the murder of unborn human beings, all based on supposed rights that can't be found in the Constitution - well, if I was one who cried, I'd have shed more than one tear over these last few years.

I mentioned above that what's really scary about this is that in our hearts we know where it all leads.  A priest, talking about the various natural disasters that have befallen California recently, remarked that "When you keep giving God the finger, pretty soon he's going to grant your wish and leave you alone."  It's tempting on the one hand to look at anything bad that happens and see in it the finger of God, just as it's tempting to look at those same events and decry the idea that God would punish people indiscriminately, the innocent as well as the guilty.  But as we're reminded in Matthew 5:45, it rains on the just and the unjust.  The fact that there may have been innocent people living in Sodom and Gomorrah did not save the cities from being destroyed.  In fact, the Bible is replete with natural disasters as a sign of God's displeasure.

Speaking of which, it's worth noting that while some conservatives today suggest God is withdrawing His protection of America as a once-special country, there are others who would point out that America was founded on dubious propositions in the first place.  Such are the probing questions asked in Christopher Ferrara's provocative book Liberty, the God That Failed, which suggests that from the very beginning, liberty was a chimera, "the false god of a new political order."  Much the same message can be found in Hans-Herman Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed,  So perhaps we've been thumbing our noses at God this whole time, and that the Hell we're going through was predestined to happen at some time or another; it's just our lot that it's happening in our lifetimes.

And yet - it's all been part of God's plan that we are alive here, now.  There's obviously something we're meant to do, some role we're intended to play.  It's not likely we'll be able to determine that on our own, which means we have to keep our eyes and ears open and our prayers constant.  We must live lives that are good and pious, to the best of our abilities.  We must try as best we can to influence those close to us: friends, family, neighbors, workmates.

Most of all, I think, we must realize that we cannot be both Christians and Americans.  We can no longer live this hybrid, hyphenated life.  We give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, following the words and examples of Jesus, but we can no longer excuse what America does simply because it is America.  We pray for our country because patriotism is, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, a virtue, but we cannot go down with the ship - instead, we must head for the lifeboat created by Our Savior for our protection.

So in this weekend of rote patriotism, when for some of us there seems nothing left worth celebrating, try to remember that the things we truly celebrate are those things that are scorned by the rest of the world.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ reminded us thusly: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

That reward is greater than any nation, any flag, any political or judicial victory.  It is the hope which we carry to ward off despair, the true joy that protects the soul from depression, the light that shines in the darkness.  If indeed America is beyond salvation, then damned she will be; our victory will be greater than that.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Crossing "The Bridge"

What with all the madness that's been going on the last couple of weeks, and the idea that killer whales should be considered human beings, it seems an apropos time to remind ourselves that there's nothing new under the sun.

A few years ago, when Drew first penned this piece, it was in reaction to a proposal by some liberals that to “reduce the carbon footprint” on the planet by depopulating – in other words, humans must die (off) so the planet can live on. Taking it one step further, there’s the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which suggests that “everyone in the world should stop having kids all at once.” As someone said at the time, that would indeed be the only logical extension of such thinking. “Wouldn't it be only proper for people suggesting this (and heck, given a chance, they'd enforce it) to kill themselves and set an example?”

This was precisely the idea behind D. Keith Mano’s brilliant, disturbing 1973 novel, The Bridge. Long out of print (as is, sadly, most of Mano’s work; the best place to find them is a used book store), The Bridge is set in the dystopian New York of 2035, where civil war has resulted in a world run by a radical environmentalist/totaliarian regime. In this world, all forms of life – “down to the merest microbe” – are considered equal. All acts of aggression – even disagreement – have been outlawed. The absurdity of their thinking is summed up in the words on a plaque outside the now-deserted and crumbling Yankee Stadium, “Where, in an age of brutality and ignorance, men presumed to compete against their brother men.” (Interestingly enough, Mano didn’t anticipate the use of inclusive language – which shows you that 1973 was, indeed, a long time ago.) Mano demonstrates the ruthlessness, indeed the inhumanity, of such inflexible thought with this exchange between two prisoners of the regime, discussing the consequences that followed when all automobiles were banned:

"It was after the road breakers came. After my brother died because there was no car to take him where the doctor was."

"Lots of people died like that."

"They said thousands had died in cars. It was better that one man should die because there were no cars."

Despite these and other decrees designed to, as we would put it today, “reduce the carbon footprint,” a mass genocide continues, to which the regime’s response is stark, and final:

Whereas it has been ascertained irrefutably by the Council's Emergency Committee on Respiration that the process of breathing has and will continue to destroy and maim innumerable forms of microscopic biological life, we of the Council, convened in full, have decided that man in good conscience can no longer permit this wanton destruction of our fellow creatures, whose right to exist is fully as great as ours. It is therefore decreed that men, in spontaneous free will and contrition, voluntarily accede to the termination of their species. . . It is hoped bretheren, that you will donate your physical bodies to the earth in such a manner that the heinous crimes of murder and pollution committed by our race throughout history may in some small way find redress.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one could almost imagine the names of some of our more prominent environmentalist/politicians being attached to a statement like that, don't you think?

From thereon in, The Bridge becomes something of an action thriller, with Mano's protagonist - the unlikely, but typically Manonian-named, Dominick Priest, who had been imprisoned for the crime of "competition" (playing chess) - on a quest to return to his home and his wife, a journey which will take him through a landscape run riot by decay, overflowing vegetation (remember, even cutting grass is a murdeous crime) and wild, feral animals, and regime officials seeking to enforce the Council's mandatory suicide decree, culminating in a harrowing crossing of the remains of the George Washington Bridge.

Ultimately, what Priest represents is the resiliency of man, the urge to survive, the quality which is the bain not only of the Council, but of totalitarian regimes throughout history. Priest is not altogether a likeable hero; Mano has chosen to portray him not as some kind of monastic crusader seeking to redeem the world, but as a man on a singular mission to live, with only a limited comprehension of the higher, existential meaning of life. As such, Priest is filled with all the foibles of man, and then some. This leads to a startling, indeed deeply disturbing (while at the same time somewhat satisfying) resolution, the consequences of which can be seen in an epilogue taking place years later.

Keith Mano has always been identified as a "Christian" novelist, and it is true that his Episcopal faith has made itself known through all of his books - from Take Five, in which a man slowly loses each of his five senses, to Bishop's Progress, featuring a confrontation between a lukewarm Episcopal Bishop and the devil, to Horn, a debate between the priest of an urban parish and a radical black leader. His most commercially successful novel, Topless, can best be summed up by the book's tag line: "Father Mike Wilson's having a bad day. He just found a headless body in his topless bar." As one might be able to gather from that last description, Mano's books have always been laced with a heavy dose of black humor.

It would be wrong to call these "comic novels," however, for the humor is mostly of the ironic sort, presenting a scenario that often borders on the absurd but merely serves as the setup for Mano's provocative probing, challenging questions on the meaning of life, and our ability (or lack thereof) to ascertain it. Religion - or faith, if you will - is never far from the surface but, despite that fact that most of Mano's protagonists are priests (in name or fact), the religiousity is not of the overt, preachy type that so often passes for "religious fiction" nowadays. It's more, as one critic put it, in the style of Waugh or Greene, probing into something deeper, and often darker – not just what it means to be a believer, but what it is to actually believe in anything.

Mano's books, while critically acclaimed, were for the most part less than commercially successful; he once recounted that his agent told him after his latest slow-seller that the only way he'd be able to get published again was under a pseudonym. His most recent novel, The Fergus Dialogues: A Meditation on the Gender of Christ, was published in 1998; since then, he has for the most part retreated from writing due to the onset of Parkinson's disease.

And that is a shame, professionally as well as personally, because in novels such as The Bridge, Keith Mano proved himself to be not only a provocative novelist but a prescient one as well.
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