Finding True South

Walker Percy once remarked that it is difficult to write about the South without succumbing “to the ghosts of the Old South or the happy hustlers of the new Sunbelt.” Two new books on the South—Rick Bragg’s My Southern Journey and Margaret Eby’s South Toward Home—easily avoid the latter. There’s no fawning over pristine suburbs with adjacent golf courses and shopping centers or breathless praise of waterparks. But they both happily embrace ghosts—not those of the Old South, mind you, but the ghosts of his “people” for Bragg and the spirits of Southern literature for Eby. And why not? After all, what’s wrong with a little feel-good nostalgia?

Not much, perhaps, but not nothing either.

In a way, Bragg has been writing about ghosts his whole life. In All Over But the Shoutin’, first published in 1991, he remembers his impoverished childhood and the love and sacrifices of his mother. It’s a moving portrait notable for Bragg’s refusal to ignore the harshness of life. In Ava’s Man (2001), he tells the story of his mother’s father, a family legend, who did his best to support his seven children in the foothills of the Appalachia during the Great Depression by working odd jobs, bootlegging, or whatever means possible.

My Southern Journey is lighter fare, composed mostly of short reflections (some no longer than a page) on contemporary life in the South. In essays on the art of piddling, the tradition of Sunday lunch, or the experience of a rare winter snowfall, Bragg affects a good ole boy pose, as he often does, and writes with a conversational ease, wisdom, and humor that goes down as smoothly as a mint julep.

In one particularly entertaining piece, Bragg argues that Southerners cannot be trusted with fireworks. “The North had most of the artillery,” he writes, which is why Southerners are fascinated by bottle rockets and unable to use them properly. “I love my people, but you know there is truth in this. Even when we are sober, bad things happen.” In another, he muses on the relatively popular remark that the defining characteristic of Southern literature is not its interest in place or commitment to lost causes but the simple presence of a dead mule. “Southern writers were killing mules even before Faulkner drowned a perfectly good team in the Yoknapatawpha River in As I Lay Dying,” he writes.

The essays that deal with his family—and many of them do—touch on the simpler parts of home life. He remembers long prayers before Sunday lunch and writes about the old skill of his brother in the garden or evenings sitting on the front porch. He recalls playing in the region’s ubiquitous red dirt as a young boy and imagines that the clay has entered into his very bones.

Nostalgia is part of what makes the South the South. As Bragg puts it: “spirits are welcome here.” But it can be a bit thick sometimes in My Southern Journey. Whenever Bragg casts his eye backwards, it’s …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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The Fate Of An Anonymous Muslim Woman

I heard tonight from my friend who has been trying to help the young Muslim woman in danger (the one I wrote about last night). If you missed that earlier post, the subject is a young woman from a Muslim country who is living in the United States. She is not an American citizen, but is here on a visa. Her family back home has demanded that she return and enter into a marriage against her will. And here in America, her family members have threatened to kill her if she doesn’t submit. My friend has been trying to help her escape this situation. I wrote last night on the blog to ask you readers for ideas on how to deliver this young woman, whose name I do not know, from her tormentors.

And you responded, both on this blog and (more often) in private e-mails to me, offering assistance. I passed on all that information to my friend, who warned me last night that the young woman was terrified of being killed by her family, but also terrified of what defying them would mean: being alone and penniless in a foreign country, with no guarantee that she would be granted asylum, and even if she were, no confidence that she would ever be able to feel safe from honor killing. The young woman faced an agonizing choice.

She has made a decision. My friend wrote to me, and asked me to post this for you all:

I spoke with the young lady at length. Please understand there are far more factors than Rod has been able to disclose here. After much consideration and prayer, the young lady feels the most responsible thing she can do is return home and submit to her culture. I truly wish I could give you the details which led to this decision because if you knew them, you would realize this is not the coward’s way out. This is a strong, courageous young woman choosing to give up her freedom to protect others.

I would like you to know she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, encouragement, and love from complete strangers, and I lost count at how many times she said thank you. She asked if I would continue to pray for God to either change the options in the situation or send her a husband who sees her as God does and treats her with honor and respect.

I have to say in working with women in violent situations, I have seen many submit to their abusers. I have never seen one submit with more courage, strength, or honor than I am witnessing with this young lady. If it is possible to consider someone heroic for returning to a violent situation, then she is a hero.

Thank you for your hearts, generosity, and wondrous compassion. You are beautiful people.

I can tell you this: the country to which this poor woman is returning is an American ally, and a place where murders and other atrocities are common …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Taming Religious Conservatives

Reader Devinicus comments:

As so many commenters on this thread are enjoying the analogy game, I offer the analogy of 18th century Britain and Ireland under the penal laws. By the mid-1700s, Catholics in these countries were largely safe from physical threats and could worship more or less freely. However, they were banned from the professions, from matriculating to Oxford or Cambridge, from serving in the military, and from holding political office.

By the early 19th century, Catholics in Britain and Ireland had become so politically, socially, and culturally enfeebled that there was no longer any real point to penal laws. And so they were repealed by 1829. But they had done their work. Catholicism had been definitively reduced to a rump and what survived was ensured to be completely docile in every way possible.

This is the future of American religious conservatism. A Benedict Option is necessary to preserve what can be preserved. Yet it is important to admit that — like Catholic England in 1829 — Christian America will be but a faint memory by the time Rod’s children are drawing their first Social Security checks. We work today to make a difference by 2116.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Sexual Revolution: Past Is Prologue

A reader named Andrew Beckwith, a lawyer and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, sent the following e-mail in response to my earlier post on religious liberty. I post it with his permission:

You mentioned Professor Dale Carpenter. I took his “Sexuality and the Law” class at the University of Minnesota Law School in the 2002-2003 academic year. That class was a large reason for why I now work full-time in a deep blue state to fight for family values and religious liberty. His class told me what was coming. Don’t get me wrong, Dale was a nice guy and an encouraging and intelligent professor, but in his class on sexuality and the law, we marched through in theory what we’ve been living in law and culture over the past decade.

The class opened with the announcement that there could be no religion or traditional morality invoked to justify laws regarding sexual activity. The foundation for what should be acceptable was whatever “two consenting adults” wanted to do. I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I did not have the presence of mind, or perhaps the courage, to object to that standard. It sounded perfectly reasonable. Of course, it became clear that “two consenting adults” included homosexual activity and adultery, in addition to fornication. It also meant that incest (if they were adult relations) should not be criminalized. Some students were mildly uncomfortable with incest, but that discomfort was explained away by a now antiquated aversion to sexual unions which had a higher rate of genetic deformities, etc. With our medical advances in screening, access to contraception and abortion, there was really no reason why adult incest was wrong. BUT, then we were asked why “two” consenting adults? That numerical limit was seen as arbitrary. Many cultures engage in polygamy or even polyamory, so why limit the sexual activities of consenting adults to only couplings of two? Again, the students in the class largely accepted this as the correct progressive conclusion at which to arrive.

But we didn’t stop there. Who is an “adult?” Different cultures and societies across history have had different acceptable ages for marriage and sexual activity. The age of consent is different even across some US states, so who is to say what an adult is. Alfred Kinsey’s ground-breaking research demonstrated that children, even very young children, have sexual desires and can have sexual pleasure, so do they not have rights? Should we be denying them sexual pleasure based on arbitrary age restrictions? Isn’t that really more about just ensuring the ability to give consent? Which brought us to our destination in this semester-long through experiment – interspecies sex. Bestiality, fortunately, was a bridge too far, even for my very liberal classmates. However, their objections to the legal and social acceptance of sex between humans and animals was NOT that it was …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Why I’m proud to be a prude

At 31, I closed my bedroom door when it came to men, rethinking how to have fulfilling relationships without sex. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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Religious Liberty Is So Passé

A reader sends in two essays — one from 2014, the other from 2015 — talking about the wide divergence now in public law, particularly around religion. This is really important stuff, re: the future of religious liberty.

In the 2015 piece, Marc DiGirolami, the Catholic law professor, writes about the ideologization of legal scholarship. Excerpts:

For some time now, I have believed that the political and ideological divides among legal academics in the law and religion field have been growing. They have now reached cavernous dimensions. Paul Horwitz argues in this (superb) piece that law and religion scholars have been in a state of general consensus about free exercise/accommodation issues until extremely recently, but I see things a little differently. The disagreements about free exercise have been manifest at least since I have been studying and writing in the area–about a decade now and probably longer than that. But Paul is right that they have increased dramatically even within that period.

Paul is also right that there was a period of such consensus. But it was a much earlier time. It was the period when, for example, giants including Kent Greenawalt and Doug Laycock and Vince Blasi and Jesse Choper came of scholarly age, the period when Leo Pfeffer’s views were dominant in this area, and only a few outliers arguing for non-preferentialism like James O’Neill existed. One could be a liberal nel vecchio stile and with great complaisance in those days, but still support exotic religions (traditional Christian religions were never really on the agenda), confident in the view that the “great minds” of the past—Jefferson and Madison (Marshall, Adams, and so many others were rarely mentioned)—were on board in spirit. One bought one’s bona fides to argue for relatively expansive free exercise protections (it was the ‘60s and ‘70s, and people should be free to follow their stars and make themselves into whatever they wanted) with iron separationism when it came to establishment. But the bottom line was that one’s Establishment Clause views always drove the boat then, as, it seems to me, they do now. Free exercise in that period was an afterthought—a concession to the unusual and the strange. Sort of like the way many discuss the nature of excuses in criminal law. One is excused for one’s conduct because, notwithstanding its wrongfulness, one makes a concession to human weakness by allowing that one is not blameworthy for that conduct. That’s how religion was perceived—as basically somewhere between odd and wrongful, but not culpable, and therefore excusable conduct which should be accommodated where possible for those in need of such ministrations.

That period is dead. It has been dead since long before Paul or I started writing about these matters. For those who followed in the wake of the liberal consensus, what happened was—again, beginning from an ever-hardening view of what the Establishment Clause demanded—the end of the ‘60s and ‘70s with its taste for exoticism and weird pluralism. In its place arrived a new …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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A message to Trump, Cruz and their followers

It’s way past time to restore civility and decorum to the Republican presidential primary. It’s time to knock it off. Enough is enough. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines


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Where Will the GOP Go After Trump?

I agree with Alan Jacobs and Michael Brendan Dougherty that the GOP will be remarkably unchanged by having Trump as its nominee. If there is one rule that seems to govern the modern Republican Party, it is that its leaders learn little or nothing from disaster and reliably draw the wrong conclusions from their defeats. We saw that in the wake of the 2012 election, when party leaders and donors concluded that the only significant fix needed for the party’s problems was to embrace immigration legislation opposed by most Republicans. The idea that the GOP would benefit politically by pushing its donors’ agenda harder and aligning with corporate interests even more than it already had never made sense, but that was the lesson the strategists insisted on drawing from Romney’s loss. They took the one thing that distinguished Romney from Bush and decided that it was the big liability that needed to go.

These leaders and donors had no problem with the rest of Bushism, and saw no reason to repudiate perpetual war, constant meddling overseas, corporatism, or an outdated economic agenda that was irrelevant to most voters. Assuming Trump is the nominee and goes on to lose badly, we can be reasonably sure that the “back to Bushism” impulse will be even stronger than it was four years ago. That would be a horrible mistake, but the GOP has a knack for making those.

I’m a bit more skeptical than Jacobs that anti-Trump Republicans will go back to the Rubio well a second time. He writes:

Among the major figures in the Republican Party, the one least likely to defend, endorse, or support Trump is surely Marco Rubio. (A point recently reinforced.) And if Rubio denounces Trump, or just stays silent, then that will significantly increase the likelihood of the scenario I imagined in that earlier post: an essentially intact GOP leadership in 2018 wheeling out as their preferred candidate a four-years-older, four-years-wiser, four-years-more-seasoned Marco Rubio.

That’s certainly possible, but somehow I doubt it. Rubio won’t finish the year as the runner-up to Trump or even a strong third-place “winner” in the delegate count. His effort to hang on to his delegates seems more like a desperate bid for relevance than the foundation of a future political comeback. The senator will be a little older and possibly even wiser in two years (when the next presidential campaign will effectively begin), but he’ll no longer be a senator and all of the same problems he had this year will remain. Assuming that he even wants to run for office again, he would do better to try to rebuild his career in Florida before pursuing the presidential nomination again, and after his failed campaign this year he is likely to have far fewer boosters in the future than he had this time around. I’m a confirmed Rubio-skeptic, so I may be missing something here, but even if the GOP is foolish enough to think reviving Bushism is the post-2016 …read more

Via:: American Conservative


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Foreign Policy and the ‘Good Instincts’ Trap

Many presidential candidates have little or no foreign policy experience before the campaign begins, and some have even less specific knowledge about the relevant issues. This is an obvious liability for these candidates, and their supporters frequently resort to the same argument to deflect attention from it: “He may not know the issues that well, but he has good instincts.” The “good instincts” defense makes a certain amount of sense at first glance, but it always proves to be woefully inadequate. When supporters can’t argue that the candidate knows what he’s doing or what he’s talking about, they have to use this defense in lieu of being able to make a positive case that the candidate is at least somewhat prepared for the position he’s seeking.

We heard the “good instincts” argument a lot during then-Gov. George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. Bush didn’t know much about foreign policy, he didn’t seem terribly interested in learning more, and there wasn’t much of an effort to pretend that he did. But we were told that he had the right instincts, and would in any case be surrounded by very knowledgeable people. He mouthed some sensible-sounding phrases during the campaign, but the truth was that his instincts were actually quite bad and the people around Bush encouraged him in his worst hawkish instincts.

The “good instincts” defense usually relies on cherry-picking statements that a candidate has made that supporters like while explaining away all of the others that they don’t. As it turned out, Bush’s preference for unilateralism and his disdain for international agreements were far more reliable indicators of how he would govern than the “humble” approach he professed to favor, and his lack of experience and knowledge proved to be much more important in producing bad policy decisions than most people probably thought possible before he was elected. Another problem with this argument is that it makes the candidate’s superficial public persona more important than his actual record (or lack thereof).

The biggest problem with the “good instincts” argument is that it lets the candidate off the hook for his lack of knowledge, which is treated as a minor weakness that can be easily remedied instead of the serious flaw that it really is. It intentionally lowers the standard by which a candidate is judged, and it gives him a pass for his ignorance that would normally be considered disqualifying in any other field. That not only encourages the candidate in question to try to get by with the bare minimum of preparation, but it also tells aspiring future candidates that they don’t need to bother with learning the issues in any depth. That may well work as a campaign tactic, but it practically guarantees poor policy decisions in the future.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative


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