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Tuesday, January 04, 2022

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Bill, when you write, "A man comes along, a man much lied about and maligned, a patriotic American, who, though something of a sybarite in his personal behavior, yet accomplished much to stop the slaughter. So what does French do? He throws in with Biden and the pro-abortion gang," you touch on the heart of the matter. To make such a choice reveals some deep moral flaw and a certain unseriousness--as if politics, in this case, is not in the end about life and death--in the very persons who delight in vaunting their virtue. Related to this is Dreher's certainty that the opponents of the Left will be silenced and sidelined by the tools of "soft totalitarianism," however constraining these may be, rather than those of "hard totalitarianism." Of this, I am not at all sure, since signs of the latter variant are already evident in, for instance, the inhuman detention and relentless prosecutions of citizens present at the U.S. Capitol or the thinly veiled threats by Biden's Justice Department to monitor parents ("domestic terrorists") who protest CRT at school board meetings. The line between soft and hard totalitarianisms is not fixed; instead, one mergers into the other, and the Left, aided by their comrades among federal bureaucrats, prosecutors, and judges, will find ways to move it if necessary. I am not sure why Dreher is so sure that the line will not be altered, but his conviction of its fixity makes it easier for him to stand in the wings waiting for his ideal conservative champion to appear, after all, he reasons, no one is going into an American gulag. (By the way, sorry for my typo "stalwart opponents of communism," not "communion").

Vito,

You are right to question Dreher's distinction between hard and soft totalitarianism. There is nothing to stop an eventual transmogrification of the former into the latter. You rightly cite the inhuman detention of the Capitol trespassers, the prosecution and persecution of those merely present at the 6 January 'insurrection,' and the vicious slander of concerned parents as 'domestic terrorists.' Add to that the systematic abuse of language. Insurrection?

>>I am not sure why Dreher is so sure that the line will not be altered, but his conviction of its fixity makes it easier for him to stand in the wings waiting for his ideal conservative champion to appear; after all, he reasons, no one is going into an American gulag.<<

That is a plausible explanation of Dreher's attitude.

To Dreher I would say: either join the fight, or shut up and retreat to a monastery. But he won't shut up. He loves to write and comment and hold forth. So do I. But I understand what he doesn't, namely, that one must take sides here.

There is a case to be made for retreating from the political entirely, especially if one is a Christian. This world is a vanishing quantity. Why are we so exercised over it? The temporal is next-to-nothing compared to eternity. "We have but one night to spend in this bad inn." (Teresa of Avila) If the totalitarians come for us, we should allow ourselves to be imprisoned or slaughtered. We should stand fast in our faith and "resist not the evildoer."

Dreher won't retreat from the political, nor will he join the fight. Is this a viable way? It strikes me as an untenable compromise.

What about me? What's my way? I try to live in accordance with the following propositions:

1. This world cannot satisfy anyone with spiritual depth. To live for it alone is spiritual and intellectual folly. A life worth living is a life in pursuit of the Absolute.

2. I am a moral and intellectual weakling as compared to Boethius, say, and would not do well under torture or imprisonment. I would not under such circumstances be able to prosecute the quest for the Absolute. Therefore:

3. I must give some time and attention to the defense of the conditions that allow me to live what I deem the highest life, the life in pursuit of the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. As an American, I must do my paltry bit to defend the Republic, to defend America as she was founded to be, against the destructive Left. I must join the fight. But:

4. I must now allow myself to be swallowed up by the political. I must live the life of the part-time warrior and the part-time monastic, mystic, philosopher, religionist, and conscience-follower. The latter roles must dominate the warrior role.

Well. Here is some more Winston Churchill. We have made this mistake before., and made it hugely. This is from "The Gathering Storm," 1948 edition (mine is falling apart), page 347: "There was sense for fighting for Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the German Army could scarcely put half a dozen trained divisions on the Western Front, when the French with nearly sixty or seventy divisions could most certainly have rolled across the Rhine or into the Ruhr. But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality. Yet now at last the two Western Democracies declared themselves ready to stake their lives upon the territorial integrity of Poland. History, which we are told is mainly the record of the follies, and miseries of mankind, may be scoured and ransacked to find a parallel to this sudden and complete reversal of five or six yeas of easy-going placatory appeasement, and its transformation almost overnight into a readiness to accept an obviously imminent war on far worse conditions and on the greatest scale." • • • • ! ! ! But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality. ! ! ! • • • •  And here we are going down the the same path, it seems. — Joe Odegaard, Architect and Barbarian.

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