A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager)

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Chuck Fager -- Writer, Editor
Updated: 3 days 21 hours ago

My Campus Crusade for Free Speech, 1963

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 8:13am

I

            Not long ago, over a friendly lunch near a progressive college, I told the story below to a rising young academic.

            As he listened, his eyes widened. Then he shook his head, and put down his fork.

            “You could never do that now,” he said quietly.

            Did I hear regret? Maybe even a touch of apprehension? (Was it: You couldn’t do that now, because “they” wouldn’t let you? Or, “they” (maybe a different “they”) would stop you from doing it, by  force if need be?)

            I wasn’t surprised at this reaction. Not today. But then, and there, we would have thought it outlandish, even absurd.

 II

            “Then” was the fall of 1963; “there” was Colorado State University, or CSU, which was spreading out along the front range of the Rockies, an hour or so north of Denver.

The Administration Building at CSU, Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1963.

And “we” were Dennis Lone, editor of the Collegian, the campus paper, and me, a budding writer who produced a widely-read, pot-stirring weekly column for his pages.

            On a Saturday morning in September, Dennis and I were hanging out in the Collegian office. It was otherwise deserted: the paper didn’t print on weekends.

The CSU seal, in the 1960s

            We were bored. Our social lives were nothing to brag about. The CSU football team was on a record-setting 28-game losing streak. Culturally, CSU was then a backwater, deep in what would one day become “flyover country.”

From a far away Outside World, faint echoes could be heard of civil rights protests and political struggles, but most were shrugged off in what a few of us decried as our “hotbed of apathy.”

            I slouched; he smoked. When Dennis, who had been paging through a thick weekend issue of the Rocky Mountain News, said, “Hey, listen to this,” I only half-perked up.

            “What?”

            “It looks like James Meredith is coming to Denver.”

            I sat up straight. “What?” I said again.

Chuck Fager, CSU 1963

            He read a brief notice, announcing that Meredith, who had desegregated the University of Mississippi in September of 1962, was to speak to the Denver chapter of the NAACP.

            “Wow, that sounds exciting,” I said.

            Meredith’s arrival on the Mississippi campus had set off riots that killed two, and required federal troops to quell.  Until he graduated in August 1963, he had federal marshals as constant bodyguards when attending classes.

            As Dennis read, I grew wistful. “I wish he was coming to speak here, too,” I said. “But you know this place. . . .”

            Dennis looked up. “We could ask him,” he said, with an offhand practicality.

Dennis Lone, at the Editor’s desk in the CSU Collegian office, 1963.

            “Could we really?” I said. “How?”

            Dennis was a reporter, and he was thinking like one: a former Collegian editor now worked at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Dennis called him, got an NAACP contact, who gave him an address in Mississippi. But no phone number.

            “Oh no,” I fretted, “There’s not enough time to write him a letter.”

            Dennis was undaunted. “We could send him a telegram.”

            A telegram! I’d never sent one. Didn’t they cost a fortune?

James Meredith, center, is escorted to the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. marshals on Oct. 1, 1962.

            Not really, it turned out, if one kept them brief. And ours was: would he come speak at CSU while he was in Colorado?

            I was excited, but still skeptical: A living specimen of that distant Outside World — here, at Apathy State U, up in Backwater County? It seemed very unlikely. But what the hey? The worst he could say was “No.” Worth a shot.

            And two days later, Dennis was waving a pale yellow telegram reply in my face: “Meredith says yes!”

 III

            That is, James Meredith said “Yes,” he’d be happy to speak at CSU–for $500. (About $4000 in 2017 cash.)

            It was a reasonable price. But there was a hitch: we didn’t have it.

            But we got past this hurdle: after some pleading, the student legislature reluctantly agreed to underwrite the fee, and we agreed to collect admission of fifty cents each ($4 in 2017 money) to help recover it.

            Then Dennis and I shamelessly exercised our media influence to hype the talk: I wrote a column, he published articles, the buzz spread, our hopes were high.

            Sure enough: something like 1300 students and faculty filled most of the Student Center’s big ballroom, likely a record. The turnout meant we not only covered Meredith’s fee: the student legislature — to their amazement– actually made a profit.

            Further, Meredith’s speech hit the mark. No stemwinder, he didn’t try to compete with Dr. King or other eloquent movement orators. Instead, he calmly told of growing up respectably poor, joining the Air Force, and wanting to use his veteran’s benefits to become the first in his family to attend college, at a state-supported university.

James Meredith at CSU, September, 1963.

            The room was pin-drop quiet as this basically undramatic story unreeled. That’s because, apart from the riots which it evoked, it was very familiar to many of those present: CSU was not an elite school, with generations of legacy admissions. Many listening were likewise among the first in our families to go beyond high school. Veterans’ benefits after World War Two and Korea –and low public college tuitions –played a big part in opening those doors; the same was true for many of the CSU faculty.

            So even though Meredith was speaking to a virtually all-white crowd, across unimaginable cultural gaps of slavery and segregation, the basic arc of his aspirations was something many in this CSU audience could relate to at a deep level. The fact that Meredith’s path became a death-defying quest gave it depth without the need for soaring rhetorical flourishes. And among the many who were moved by his words was me.

             I was also moved before the speech by an unexpected behind-the-scenes shock: to save on expenses, I had invited Meredith to stay at my fraternity, called FarmHouse.  Members were permitted to do this, occasionally, and I hadn’t done it before.

            What I had done, though, before I joined FarmHouse, was check its Bylaws, to see if they included discriminatory membership clauses (still common in those days). They didn’t. Their motto, “We Build Men,” was okay too.

            Further, in those years FarmHouse regularly won the trophy for the highest grade average of any frat at CSU.

           All good. But personal attitudes, unspoken til now, were something else. When word spread around the house about what I had done, I was pulled into an impromptu chapter meeting, and was stunned to hear several members declare that they couldn’t accept having a black person stay in the house. Before I had absorbed these comments, a vote was taken and my invitation to Meredith was overruled.

           I staggered out, wondering if I had been teleported to Mississippi, and began writing a resignation letter in my head.

           But the next morning, word of this decision had somehow reached the CSU administration. Our chapter president was summoned, and reportedly read the riot act. I don’t know what was said, but expect it went something like this:

          “Do you know what will  happen when this hits the press? A man who had to have the army escort him into a public university was turned away by a group at CSU? Do you want that spotlight pointed at FarmHouse? And your alma mater? Do you expect us to put up with that?”

          The fraternities were private groups, but were chartered by the university; and what CSU gave, CSU could take away.

          After lunch that same day, another emergency chapter meeting was convened. The officers told us the house and its reputation were on the line; news of the refusal would be devastating.

         Two or three of the hardliners against inviting Meredith stood to agree. They said that “somebody” (sneering in my direction), had snitched to the authorities and betrayed our brotherhood. Now we all had to swallow hard, bite the bullet, and save its good name from the traitor.

         Another vote was taken; the invitation was sullenly, reluctantly revived.

         Meredith did stay at FarmHouse, without incident. While with him at dinner that evening, I noticed a few absences; no doubt a number of the hard core took shelter elsewhere.  But as we left the house for the student center, he never suspected a thing.

        No word of this incident leaked out (until now); the FarmHouse reputation was saved. But it ruined my relationships there; I did resign a few months later.

       And my conscience was clear. I hadn’t called the administration. My guess was a conscience-stricken officer had done it, or someone else was bragging too loud where somebody outside heard him. Instant karma, even then.         

IV

            The morning after his speech, Meredith returned to Mississippi; Dennis and I basked in the afterglow of our successful debut as accidental undergraduate impresarios.

            A couple of days later, we held an open discussion where students and faculty could talk about what Meredith had to say. Following the meeting, a student came up to us and said, “So you’ve presented one side of the issue. Are you going to present the other?”

            Light bulbs appeared above our heads: if we could do this once, why not do it again?

            Soon Dennis was back on the phone.

            He called the office of Arizona’s Republican Senator, Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was running for president and was an opponent of the civil rights bill then in Congress ; but no dice. I think they figured conservative Colorado was in the bag (if so, they were very mistaken: Lyndon Johnson beat Goldwater by 23 points in his 1964 landslide. But that’s another story.)

            However, two pro-segregation insurgents were eager to visit CSU: one was Ross Barnett, at that time the governor of Mississippi who had vowed to keep Meredith out of “Ole Miss”; the other was George Wallace, the sitting governor of Alabama. Both came in January 1964.

Ross Barnett at CSU.

            By the time Barnett got to CSU, he was out of office, so he traveled on a commercial flight sans retinue. Barnett was fascinating, in a repulsive way: he shouted more than spoke, and in his ranting we could imagine him stumping his mostly rural state, exploiting the fear and rage of a poorly-educated white electorate. But as he finished, I understood much better why it took federal troops to get Meredith enrolled at “Ole Miss,” and a continuous bodyguard detail to keep him alive there.

            But Barnett was old news compared to George Wallace who, as a sitting governor, traveled on an Alabama state aircraft with an assortment of aides and bodyguards. Where Barnett voiced the racism of yesteryear, Wallace was preaching an updated racist gospel for 1963–and, we now know, for decades to come. He too was running for president, but as an insurgent Democrat, and would soon be shaking up primaries in seemingly enlightened states like Wisconsin.

Gov. George Wallace at CSU.

            Wallace was slick and smart. He fenced deftly and often humorously with our questioning local liberals. His speeches were peppered with attacks on intellectuals and “pinkos,” loud calls to “Send Them a message” about “law and  order,” mixed with populist promises of raising Social Security payments. His themes and memes exposed deep veins of rhetorical ore which was to be refined into winning campaign messages by his rightwing populist successors for a half-century to come (and counting). And we got to watch him do it.

  V

            After that busy January, Dennis and I were on a roll. We had brought voices from the Outside World into our backwater, and they were stirring the pot, waking us up. Both Barnett and Wallace brought out protest picketers (peaceful), a new thing at CSU. But did putting racist reactionaries like Wallace and Barnett allow them to peddle their political wares, influence students, recruit followers?

            Good question. And for sure, the two influenced me. Not to become a supporter; just the opposite. But they, along with Meredith, showed me the reality of forces and ideas that were previously  only occasional headlines.

           Yet who knows, maybe some among the large crowds we gathered bought into parts or all of their platform. (After all, in 2016, 52 years later, 43 per cent of Colorado’s voters cast ballots for a racist populist, one of George Wallace’s direct heirs. No question: ideas have consequences.)

            But after three speeches that had happened almost accidentally, we decided to take a more thoughtful approach. Political and social extremes were becoming more apparent in the country, underscored by the national trauma of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963.

Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy, at John Kennedy’s funeral, November, 1963.

            So why not present a series of speeches on the theme of extremism? We had been on both sides of civil rights; what if we next went with a right-wing extremist, followed with a left-wing extremist, and wound up with Attorney General Robert Kennedy talking about the impact of extremism in the country.

 (RFK? “Hey,” as Dennis said, “if you’re gonna dream, dream big.”)

            We didn’t get Kennedy. And neither of us was particularly political. But like all red-blooded Americans in 1963 and 1964, we knew Communism was The Enemy. So what about a Communist?

            Now this, we dimly perceived, could in fact be controversial; while we were vague on the details (I knew nothing of the Hollywood Ten, and little of McCarthyism), we knew that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover was still warning us that they (or their dupes) were everywhere — even if, in fact, actual Communist speakers often had great difficulty getting a hearing.

            Yet we had listened to Wallace and Barnett, and the sky didn’t fall. So why stop now?

            But things weren’t quite so easy this time around. Dennis gave it his best shot. But in 1963, after years of hysteria, the American Communist Party barely existed. Its membership had been decimated by years of government persecution and FBI Infiltration. It had also lost credibility with many former members, disillusioned by the party’s unshakably loyalty to the repressive Soviet regime.

           The U.S. party leader, Gus Hall, was based in New York. He did give speeches on college campuses, but was an early denizen of “flyover country,” and we failed to tempt him to add a stop in Colorado.

            While we worked on finding another suitably notorious Communist, we also set out to get a right-wing spokesman. This one was easier.

            What was the most right-wing organization in the country? The Nazi Party, of course. And George Lincoln Rockwell, its flamboyant leader, was only too happy to talk to anyone who would listen. One telegram and he was set to go.

 VI

George Lincoln Rockwell, making his views plain.

          When Rockwell came, we moved to a smaller theater space in the student center, where it was still standing room only. Rockwell’s speech was a bombastic stream of bizarre sociological and anthropological “facts” that added up to, “they’re bad and we’re good.”  I remember him saying that there were “breeds of people, just like breeds of dogs.” Dennis and I did not sit on a platform with him, as we had the others; the front row was close enough.

Rockwell at CSU. Several people walked out during his presentation advocating racism, anti-semitism & national socialism.

         Rockwell caused lots of talk. A few days after his speech, some sociology professors held an open discussion they titled, “Is George Lincoln Rockwell a Closet Homosexual?”
           While many dismissed Rockwell as a kind of evil clown, and he was murdered by own of his own in 1967, he remains a cult figure for sectors of the rightwing which are still around.

            Meanwhile, after he left we didn’t have any luck booking more speakers.

          Which in some ways was a relief; I was a senior, preparing to move on from CSU, and Dennis still had a newspaper to put out. Then one day Dennis got a call at the Collegian office from CSU’s President, William E. Morgan. Morgan, who was genuinely respected by the students and faculty (and by us), told Dennis he had just talked to an alumnus, who referred to our speakers and wanted to know who was going to appear on campus next, Mao Zedong?

             Dennis couldn’t resist: “If I thought we could get him,” he said, “I’d send him a telegram today.”

William E. Morgan, longtime president of CSU. He quietly backed us up.

             President Morgan said he supported what we had done and still would if we wanted to continue, but wanted us to know that some people outside CSU were taking a dim view of our activities.

            He didn’t say anything about our speaker series in public; he didn’t have to. But would Morgan really have stuck with us if we had found a Communist? I believe so, although he would likely have taken some more heat. And as a political appointee, answerable to the state legislature for budgets, it could have gotten difficult for him.

             So, given our problems with lining up speakers, the apparent decline in interest among the students, and our own distractions, our series quietly petered out, after what still seems like a pretty good run. 

              Looking back from half a century-plus, Dennis and I have somewhat different feelings about our season of applying the First Amendment. For Dennis, never one to be burdened by gravitas, it was all a fun adventure, on a par with the time he sent Collegian reporters (including Chuck) to infiltrate the local American Legion stag show and report on which city officials attended. He would have been incredulous if anyone had suggested we couldn’t or shouldn’t bring the speakers.

              For me (Chuck) It was also a lot of fun, notwithstanding my frat house ordeal. Yet I also took much of it to heart. And it still seems like something close to what college is supposed to be about, even the difficult parts: hearing and grappling not only with unwelcome and even offensive ideas, but also the people who advocate them.

             One more time, I agree with those who say today that speech has consequences: I left CSU after the summer sessions of 1964, and within six months was in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King in Alabama.

               But that’s another story.  

The post My Campus Crusade for Free Speech, 1963 appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

The Nashville Declaration Is a Hoot

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 8:36pm

Many friends of mine are upset about a recent anti-LGBT screed called the Nashville Declaration. I don’t begrudge their anger; yet I wish they would take a break from the issuance of indignant counter-screeds to ponder some of the upside resources offered by this piece.

I urge this because the “Declaration,” and its sponsor, the “Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” (the Bibs, for short), look way overdue for a new approach: lampooning.

I mean, at the least, the Bibs deserve a Career Achievement Award from LGBT groups.

After all, when their Council was organized, public support for same sex marriage was barely above zilch —

Thanks, fellas!

— now it’s around 70 percent & still rising (yes, despite the current debacle in Washington). Coincidence?

Furthermore, the Bibs, who are joined like a bad haircut to the Southern Baptist Convention, also deserve a plaque for a key role in shrinking the SBC’s membership by a third since it came on the scene. (Yes, a third of SBC Baptists have since decamped.) A Carolina Quaker wag summed it up this way: “That’s not a church extension program, it’s a church extinction program.”

Keep it up! Keep it up!

Surely the Freedom from Religion Society would sign on to this, with its growing youth affiliate, the National Committee of Nones, Dones & Having Funs.

(No wonder Nashville’s mayor immediately rejected the Bibs’ Declaration. Theology aside–

— she saw it as a drag on tourism, more like a tired rerun from the Bland Old Opry.)

And not least, there’s the Bibs’ theology, chronically misspelled as Complementarianism. Misled by the typos, they say it means women are to “complement” men by deferring & submitting (& by pretending LGBTs don’t exist).

But of course, what their theologians really meant was Complimentarianism, which shows what a difference the right “i” can make. 

This much more nuanced and profound doctrine is built on repeating two Great Commandments —

First: “Darling, you look fabulous!” And, 

Second: “That outfit does NOT make your ass look fat!” 

(There is some dispute over a third: “Jesus, this must be the best wine in all of Cana!” But that’s another story.) 

How much more peaceful will our world be when the Bibs finally get their “i” versus “e” issue worked out? Shouldn’t we help them at every chance?

And isn’t there more mileage for us, their truest friends, to be made by subjecting their self-parodying pronouncements to the corrosive force of the laugh test? There are many more ways here just waiting to be tried out.

I’m sure the Bibs’ Alpha Leader will take it all like a man.

Or maybe — because you never really know these days, like a woman.

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Categories: Blogs

“Disinvited” a Poem for Friends of A Certain Age

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:09am

Disinvited — composed on learning a Friend was “disinvited” to the  Philadelphia YAF Weekend Retreat

There was a recent FB notice here in Carolina for a YAF gathering (only for dinner-plus, not a weekend),
And it specified the age range as “18-40-ish.”
Couldn’t help it: I snickered.

Pop Quiz: Who’s the youngest in this photo?

To me the notice was on the verge of saying,
YAF = (self-defined=What Ever).

Which is okay with me,
because everybody starts out “young,”
and everybody who stays alive eventually
becomes “not young,”
or maybe “young emeritus.”

Really they turn out that way.
And doing so isn’t
a moral defeat or character defect
or spiritual sellout.
It’s life.

Besides, once one faces up to being
“not young,” one can still revisit “youth”–
in an occasional mood, 
or a special encounter or a spell of deja vu,
through certain good art, and often vicariously.

For most of the day, I shed thirty years after seeing this picture.

Yet there is other business to tend to also.

And in any case, the big discovery is,
that life is not over for the “not young.”
Life is not over until it’s over.
Thinking otherwise is not really being “young.”
It’s more like being pre-mature.

I think that came to me in the nick of time.
A bit before I hit 40-ish.

Or did 40-ish hit me?

The flower of eternal youth. (It lasted about a week.)

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Categories: Blogs

Breaking: Dale Earnhart Jr. Backs Athletes’ Protests

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:37pm

I give up. 

I was planning to ignore the NFL protests. Why? As regular readers will know, I despise the NFL and pro football, considering both to be mainly a fiendishly successful ongoing racist plot to find and destroy many of the best and most promising youths of color year after year. and persuade too many other persons of color to cheer it on.

You ask me, the KKK couldn’t have cooked up a more thoroughly and successfully racist scheme.

I’m not surprised that millions of whites cheer themselves  hoarse watching so many strong young back men bashing their brains out on live TV. But really, why should anyone who believes “Black Lives Matter” join the shouting?

Well anyway, in the midst of this orgy of youthful self-destruction, the kneeling, fist-raising & other athlete protests are clearly a great thing, maybe the only positive contribution I can see the game is making to our society today. Even if Colin Kaepernick never plays another NFL game, he’s secured a place in American history.

And the power of what he started is undeniable: when it gets the goat of the jackass in the White House, and exposes (yet again) the racist underside of his attitudes — what’s not to like, even for  a curmudgeon like me?

Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, 1960.

The obnoxious, vulgar character of so much of the opposition reminds me of nothing so much as the segregationist assaults on the similarly dignified sit-ins at segregated lunch counters which began in Greensboro NC in 1960, They too were polite, peaceful, and — yes — patriotic.

And like the Greensboro protests, the NFL-spawned movement is spreading, to the most unlikely places. No, not the NBA — well, yes, the NBA, but that’s not really a surprise; we already knew those guys could  talk some smack. 

Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell lays his major league baseball career on the line. Let’s hope he has some backup soon.

More stunning, it’s even jumped the whitewashed wall that surrounds Major League baseball, with its nearly all-white fan base. Hats off to Oakland’s Bruce Maxwell: today he’s a lonely hero; I hope his solitude does not last long.

But even more stunning to me is that one of the biggest voices in NASCAR has now joined this chorus. NASCAR’s roots are sunk about as deep as you can get in the white South, and Confederate regalia is still widely seen in its precincts. Further, its rulers have taken a hard line against the protests.

A not untypical display at NASCAR’s Daytona track, 2015. The sport’s rulers have “asked” fans to chill on the rebel regalia; the response has often been, well, rebellious.

But Dale Earnhart Jr., son of NASCAR’s most famous early driver and a multiple-championship winner himself, has defied the NASCAR barons by tweeting support for the protests.

 

 

 

 

 

Earnhart has said 2017 will be his last season, and he’s reported to be worth $300 million, so he’s beyond the disciplinary reach of the other NASCAR overseers. And as he was crowned the Most Popular NASCAR Driver for 14 seasons, his opinion can’t help but be influential.

The late great comedian Dick Gregory once joked about the Woolworth protests that, “I sat in at a lunch counter for nine months. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.”

For that  matter, both lunch lunch counters and Woolworth’s are pretty much history now. But as Gregory well knew, the protests that started there were about a lot more than a sandwich, and their impact reverberated far beyond the aisles of old-time department stores. 

I’m figuring this athlete’s protest movement is, or soon will  be, about a lot more than variously-shaped balls, or driving around a track a few hundred times. Plus, the bad-tempered shouts from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will only add fuel to their peaceful but  blazing fire. And if, like the old lunch counters, NFL football (and NASCAR) are on the slide today, boosting this struggle for justice could be one of the best swan songs such bigtime sports could offer the country that made them what they have been.

So drop to that knee, then play ball, and let’s roll. 

 

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Categories: Blogs

God(DESS) Explains IRMA’S Track

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 4:45pm

“First of all, I pulled some punches with Cuba. Would’ve passed them by completely — the folks there have fer sure suffered enough from the stupid US boycott — but there’s still the official corruption.

And then Florida — which can’t be separated from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee & Mississippi. First of all, this is the absolute heartland of lynchings; a couple thousand at least, and if you think all that blood doesn’t still cry out like tinnitus in my ears every day, you’re deef as a post. 

Next, because I already whacked the Carolinas last year, and NC got enough of the message to elect a Dem guvnor & kinda “repeal” that HB (Hell Bill) Two. It was a start; but that loudmouth Franklin Graham is getting on my last nerve.

Anyway, also among the living, what a collection of pitiful excuses for “leaders”: from Florida’s dingbat denier Scott and that empty suit, two-legged tapedeck Rubio in Florida, to Alabama —

Do I really have to mention Jefferson Beauregard “DACA-Demolisher” Sessions? (Yes, can’t be helped.)

And their soon-to-be new U.S. Senator, double-disgraced “judge” Roy Moore (whose role in DC may be to make Rubio look almost smart by contrast).

Alabama’s Roy Moore, twice kicked off the state’s supreme court, now apparently headed for the U.S. Senate.

So then on to Memphis– and because of Elvis & Beale Street I’ll maybe ease up some there too.

But really, we’re talking about  the hometown of the old South’s biggest slave-seller, Nathan Bedford (“I also invented the KKK”) Forrest, whose statue still stands, almost as mean as life). It oughta be leveled; not to mention that Tennessee creepo the Orange Man wanted to put at the head of the Army? Come on.

Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, Memphis, with some updating.

And notice that I’ll make another right turn there, mostly sliding past St. Louis — but that’s only because of the Cardinals, not the beer. (You bet Ima baseball fan.)

Besides, I’ve gotta cut a slice out of McConnell’s Kentucky, and rinse off some of the stink from the counties where the Clerks are still pretending same sex marriage ain’t “Christian” (as if THEY would know).

And then it’s smack into Pence-diana, also the biggest stronghold of the Klan (which even sucked in lots of Hoosier Quakers) in its last big heyday, before this current one. (Could there be a connection between then & now? Do they make Square Donuts in Richmond?) Might even linger there awhile.

Richmond Indiana’s claim to fame. . . .

Now, I know some of you liberal crybabies are gonna be complaining — what about all the nice liberals trapped here and there along this route? Do they have to suffer too?

Look: just shut your pie holes and re-read the Book of Job; it’s all in there. (Or you could take Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s online course about it.)

But don’t make me explain anymore, or I’ll start tinkering with Jose.”

                                                                      — God(Dess)

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Categories: Blogs

Review: A Legacy of Spies” — John LeCarre’s Latest

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:27am

Actually this is the report on a twofer/Marathon:

First, “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold,” and then “A Legacy of Spies,” both by John LeCarre.

“Cold” is 40-plus years old, JLC’s first big hit; “Legacy” is a brand-new sequel/followup/reconsideration.

Both are gloomy to the point of hopelessness. I might have read “Cold” many years ago, and surely saw the movie, but remembered little of it. It tells of a Cold War operation in which the good guy characters are sold out to Communist killers by their (allegedly) good guy superiors for the (purportedly) Greater Good of (what used to be called) the “Free World”.

In “Legacy,” just out this week, that now ancient case rises like a slime-covered swamp creature from the mud and mists in which it was thought to be sunk forever. It rampages among survivors, culpable & not alike, loosing nightmares, desperation, regrets, parliamentary snooping and –god help us–lawyers.

I sought out the books after reading a recent joint interview with JLC & another, younger author who writes respected nonfiction about the intelligence world.

The nonfictioneer insisted that JLC has written the real “truth” about that world via his fiction.

His elder accepted the praise patiently. LeCarre is now mid-80s, likely beyond the reach of flattery. Besides, this truth as he has disclosed it comes down to endless lies, betrayal & blood in the service of “causes” all but consumed by the cost of their illusions. A job well-done, surely, yet hardly the fodder of smug self-satisfaction.

JLC seemed, in both the interview & in “Legacy,” perhaps more mindful of the whisperings of Ecclesiastes 12:12: “Of the making of books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (& the spirit).”

No question, LeCarre’s themes resonate for me. Though I don’t believe it was his “Circus,” or even the CIA, despite all the damage they’ve done, that brought us to our present desperate plight; no, this current mess is at bottom our own malign creation. And so far, even the spooks seem to have no clue about how to “exfiltrate” us. (Which is probably for the better.)

I finished “Legacy” Friday, while Hurricane Irma continued to stalk us, but seemed (this morning) to be turning sharply away from North Carolina toward Tennessee. So I felt relief.

Survivors guilt may kick in after a few days. Or, as LeCarre also shows, maybe not.

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A Titanic Evangelical Ship of Fools: Michael Cromartie’s Doomed Voyage

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 1:02am

Politico noted Tuesday  the death from cancer of Michael Cromartie, a longtime staffer at the very right-wing but carefully-high-toned Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC) in DC.

I knew Cromartie a bit in the ’80s. He & EPPC even tried to recruit me for their efforts to discredit anti-Vietnam protests (in anticipation of defending new US wars).

Michael Cromartie

Perhaps I seemed a good prospect: I could write; I’d been an active antiwar protester, but had also publicly criticized some of the extremists & crazies in the movement; and (not least, for EPPC’s laserlike focus on the Ivies & their ilk) I had attended Harvard Divinity School.

But it didn’t work out.

I was a critical peacenik, not a turncoat.

Cromartie did succeed with a broader scheme, that of organizing a series of annual powwows [“Faith Angle Forums] that brought together “elite journalists” and allegedly top-drawer evangelicals, especially Ivy-PhD bearing ones.

These sessions aimed to de-fang the evangelicals and educate the mostly secular journalists. The goal (as always), was respectability & credibility for the self-conscious evangelical elite, particularly as they moved ever closer (surely by Divine favor) to taking power in Washington & (yes, someday) even in its media.

Politico linked to a lengthy 2013 profile of Cromartie & his mission from the main intellectual evangelical mouthpiece, Christianity Today. It’s a very interesting period piece, clearly aimed to help Cromartie shore up fundraising for the project in the rocky post-Crash years.
Under the subhead, Michael Cromartie is guiding media elites into a more accurate view of conservative Christians, the article also highlights both the value of Cromartie’s work, and in retrospect its poignant, perhaps even tragic underlying folly:

Tim Keller [founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City] arrived at the most recent Faith Angle Forum, in March [2013] to explain the faith and future of American evangelicals. He presented an image different from [California megachurch pastor Rick] Warren’s but no less compelling—more urban, cultured, and intellectual. Today’s younger generation of evangelicals, he says, are more complex politically, more multiethnic, more likely to enter the cultural industries and “captivated by the idea of sacrificial service and pouring themselves out for the poor.”

Pressed repeatedly on Christian opposition to same-sex marriage, he explains that evangelicals see sex “not as a consumer good but a form of self-donation.” Evangelicals believe that “male and female have unique glories” and marriage must bring those glories together. This makes sex “a kind of Eucharist for married people, a reunion of the alienated genders.”

Whether or not it convinced the skeptics in the room, it was a winsome and impressive response. . . .”

The value here is easy to cite: it’s a cliche that, then and now, most elite media types are either non-religious or hugely ignorant of religion, or both. Yet it’s also still true. It seems clear that some among them shed a few layers of this arrogant ignorance under Cromartie’s “guidance.”

And yet, read in 2017, the article sounds like a sales brochure for berths on the Titanic.

Cromartie & his EPPC pals were sure that, not only were his evangelicals likely to be first in heaven, but they were also the intellectual leading edge, the true vanguard of the “Christian” takeover/renaissance they were confident was about to arrive. And a key part of the underlying message was, “Fear not, elite media mavens; our reign too will be ‘urban, cultured, and intellectual’ too.”

And now, at long last, their vessel has come in. But with few exceptions, Cromartie’s elite evangelical passenger list is missing from the crowded decks of a roaring ship of fools, knaves, mountebanks and monsters.

All the evangelical image burnishing that Cromartie had so long and doggedly pursued went up in the smoke of a single long night last November.

Ever since, alumni of Cromartie’s sessions like David Brooks & Ross Douthat, certified elite doyens at the New York Times, have been falling all over themselves trying to cover their tracks, explain (away?) their multiple prophetic and political follies, and make sense of the bigotry and bloodlust their favored movement has suddenly loosed upon the culture–exactly none of which Cromartie’s gatherings prepared them for.

— Indeed, how “winsome” a spectacle the real leaders made with their tiki torches.

— How “impressive” was their Jew-free Holocaust statement.

How–

But enough. Michael Cromartie did what he could and has gone to his rest; may God have mercy.

Was it his fault that the evangelical movement he worked so long to de-demonize proved, when its moment really came, that even some of the most lurid, most ignorant elite media demonizing had been actually — understated?

And is America’s media elite thereby better-prepared now to cope with its spreading furies?

I wish I thought the answer was yes. No doubt he would too.

But I don’t.

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