Thursday, November 17, 2005

To-day I left the G.O.P.

I am currently dealing with post-partum depression. T0-night, for the first time since I was 18, I am going to bed outside what George H.W. Bush called "the Big Tent of the Republican Party." I reregistered this day as an American Independent.
My annoyance with the G.O.P. has been growing for a long time, and I suppose this step wasinevitable since the time I voted third party back in the 80s, when pro-abort Republican Ed Schau was running to unseat pro-abort Senator Cranston. Why this action?
Well, of course, as a committed Monarchist, I never really liked the party name. But beyond that there was the growing conviction that I was simpky participating in a meaningless political ritual, a sort of political Kabuki. Apart from tone and rhetoric, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is little or no difference between the policies of the Clinton and Bush II administrations. Whether or not one is pro-Iraq war, the fact remains that our intervention there was conducted according to the Clinton Doctrine, the idea that we would intervene anywhere we deemed a threat, regardless of national sovereignty. The feminisation and homosexualisation of the military continues apace, there will be no advocates of overturning Roe v. Wade appointed to the High Court, and on and on.
Yet the G.O.P. continue to take the "social conservative" vote for granted, all the while giving them nothing, materially. The Democrats do the same to their core constituencies, the minorities and organised labour. The central committes of both parties have more in common with each other than with their own rank and file. (Of course, the SC, labour, and minorities have much more in common with each other than either do with their party leadersip).
The rivalry between the two parties is more apparent than real. The British, Canadians, Australians, and subjects of various other Crown Commonwealth realms are wonderful for their own empty political rituals. The openings of Parliament by the Queen, Governors-General and other viceroys always showcase the Monarch or her standins offering the "Speech from the Throne, in which she or they offer the current government's agenda (although she menions "my government in the course of the oration, she has no control over the contents pf what she utters.
This is responded to by the "Address-in-Reply." Debate over this introduction constitutes the first debate on new policies. The debate may be lively, but the formla of the address is unchanging. The version used in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales is typical:
"To His/HerExcellency [name of the Governor], Governor of the State of New South Wales in the Commonwealth of Australia.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY___We,the Members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our thanks for Your Excellency's speech, and to express our loyalty to the Sovereign.
2. We assure Your Excellency that our earnest consideration will be given to the measures to be submitted to us, that we will faithfully carry out the important duties entrusted to us by the people of New South Wales, and that the necessary provision for the Public Services will be made in due course.
3. We join Your Excellency in the hope that our labours may be so directed as to advance the best interests of all sections of the community."
It would be easy to smile at the idea of the primarily republican NSW Assembly expressing their loyalty to the Sovereign, considering how many of its members want to overthrow the Monarchy. But it is no more fanciful than the Governor referring to "My Government" during the throne speech.
Now, so long as the republicrats have a lock on power, our elections are essentially meaningless exercises in Kabuki (admittedly without the beauty or grace of that ancient Japanese artform). I wish it were not so (though, to be sure, I wish that Speeches from the Throne and Addresses in Reply meant what they said too). But things are as they are, not as we would wish.
Friends have told me that voting Third Party is a waste of vote; but having voted Republlican all my life, with the likes of Anthony Kennedy as reward, I think that I have been doing so my entire adult life. Perhaps, now, my voting really will mean something!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Legal, Safe, and Rare

I must say that the arguements in favour of legal abortion have convinced me. Moreover, they have inspired me; so I want to apply them to another area that has concerned me --- contract killings.

As one goes through life, he frequently encounters people who are inconvenient: elders who stand in the way of incomes, spouses who stand in the way of lovers, blackmailers who stand in the way of election or promotion, and the like. The people can stunt careers, lower one's quality of life, and even ruin one socially. To eliminate such living barriers to happiness, perfectly respectable people are forced to resort to hired killers, or "hit-men." For the wealthy, this poses little problem; the corridors of organised crime are filled with professionals who, for a hefty fee, will quickly and often silently remove the human obstacle. Their proficiency is such that the murder cannot be traced back either to the perpetrator or his employer. It is efficient, safe, and final.

But what of the rest of us, who cannot afford that kind of help? We must either resort to rank amateurs, who frequently botch the job, and are even caught. Sometimes the intended recipient (victim is SUCH an ugly word) survives; if the apprehended hit man turns in his employer (an almost inevitable occurence) the client's woes are multiplied.

Now, let me assure my reader that, as with abortion, I myself am personally opposed to the practice. I would not do myself, nor counsel anyone who came to me for advice to pursue this course of action. At the same time, however, I do not feel that I can impose my views on the public, most of whom do not share my religion or its values.

I propose, then, that contract eliminations ("killing" is such a loaded term) be legalised. Hit men could then be regulated and authorized by law. They would be required to achieve a certain level of training, and to operate in an open and above-board fashion.

Certainly, the decision to eliminate another person for the sake of one's own financial position, emotional state, or even mere piece of mind is a sensitive and deeply troubling one. I believe that it should be taken only with the advice and counsel of one's family, friends, and clergyperson. I would like to see these events become rare, recognising the severe strain they can put on everyone involved in the transaction. But I do not believe that the government has a right to intervene in such a deeply personal choice. So join with me in the fight to make this choice legal, safe, and rare!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Now We Are Forty-five!

Today is my forty-fifth birthday. My fortieth seems like yesterday; friends came from Ireland, Germany, and Arkansas to celebrate it, we hired a limousine, and had a splendid party at one of my favourite watering-holes. As an added entertainment, my foreign cronies were treated a few days later to the strangest presidential elections in our history.

Five years --- and what a difference. There have been personal difficulties, but I have had five books published in that time. I am extremely content. In the world at large, however, things have becomemuch worse, of course. But I have the best friends I could hope for (if I am not in as frequent contact as I should like), travel regularly to Europe, Canada, and the East (though I would very much enjoy getting back to Australia and New Zealand), and am doing sufficiently well financially to enjoy some meagre comforts. Moreover, I received a Papal knighthood. I'll never be wealthy or famous, but that's fine.

No big party, this year --- I'll dole out the cheer over the next two weeks in lunches and dinners with various people. But fear not; If I live so long, I'll throw a real blowout on my fiftieth!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Vive La France!

Alas, my ancestral homeland is bleeding. The land of St. Louis, of Joan of Arc, of the Vendee and the Chouans, of Dom Gueranger and Cardinal Pie. Two churches have apparently already been burned. Particularly disturbing is the news from Evreux, from which diocese my ancestors came to Quebec in the 17th century.

It is beautiful country, that part of Normandy. One of my fantasies has been to retire to Le Neubourg, the little town whence the Coulombes came to this continent (of course, I would be reluctant to leave the States full time, and I will never have the money to do it anyway).

Hating the French is a big part of the American psyche; two years ago it expressed itself with Freedom Fries and all that. We forget how FDR did his best to chisel De Gaulle out of the Free French movement, or that we stabbed them in the back repeatedly during their colonial wars after World War II (of course, we did the same to the British, Dutch, Belgians, and Portuguese during the same period, but those countries don't seem to resent it). De-colonisation certainly did not help most of the colonies; as we see, it has been no picnic in the metropole either, given the results of large numbers of ex-subjects coming to roost in France. Possibly the biggest mistake any French government ever made was Louis XVI bankrupting himself in the war against Great Britain (which, of course, resulted in our independence). It led directly to the French Revolution, after all, and the creation of the French secular state.

It is that pitiful yet overbearing entity that is trying to deal with the current crisis. In the face of rampant disorder, the politicos in Paris are gassing about the need for opportunity for youths, etc., as the palliative that will restore normality. But the real problem they cannot face, because they are part of it. As long as France is severed from her religious roots, and her rulers reflect that severance, they will be unable to deal adequately with the problem posed by Islam in the country.

Britain and the Netherlands face similar problems, as do other European countries. The answer is relatively simple; if aliens do not like the religion and culture of the country they are in, there is a simple answer --- return to their motherlands; there Islam is safe, and they will not have to worry about corrupting influences --- like the cell phones being used to co-ordinate the riots.

The United States are not more virtuous than Europe, though we have not gone quite so far down the road to ruin as they have (we are of course trying; although our birthrate is higher than theirs, it is still below replacement levels --- gay marriage will doubtless help that problem). But we are far more fortunate than they are in one respect --- the identity of the southern neighbours that may replace us. Rather than the Muslims of Turkey and North Africa, we have the Latin Americans. Despite the gangs (with which I am well acquainted)they are rather more peaceful, far closer to us in culture, and all-in-all far more pleasant to deal with. Frankly, I would far rather live in the United Mexican States than in the Caliphate. Thanks to the blessings of geography, we have far less to fear from the future, than do the Europeans.

Still and all, though, I will enjoy France and the rest of the Mother Continent so long as they still exist.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A GRAVE IN BATTERSEA

Last August I attended a conference on J.R.R. Tolkien in Birmingham, England. That finished, I had to go to Aachen, Germany, but spent a few days in London. Courtesy of the Chelsea Arts Club, I was able to stay at Allen House, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which takes boarders quite reasonably over the Summer (I could have stayed with friends in the suburbs, but the late taxi rides are murder on the wallet!).

In any case, Allen Hall is in Chelsea, a part of London I did not know well. What I did not expect to find was that I would be embedded (literally!) in four layers of history.

My first discovery was that the Seminary is in a former convent of the Soeurs d'Adoration Reparatrices ("The Sisters of Reparative Aodration" for the Gallicly challenged, an order of contemplative nuns who adore the Blessed Sacrament in atonement for the sins of the world). While the building itself is new, it sits on the site of St. Thomas MOre's "Great House." Although that structure was pulled down in 1740, in the garden of Allen House is an ancient mulberry tree that the Mores used to hang around at. There is also a surivivng wall of the house.

The neighbourhood is filled with St. Thomas More Memorabilia. As might be supposed, the nearby Catholic Church is dedicated in his honour. But getting there is truly half the fun. First, you pass by Crosby Hall, a mansion formerly in Bishopsgate, over in the City of London (as the square mile at the centre of town is called). St. Thomas More owned it and lived there prior to moving to Chelsea, and it was moved, brick by brick, to its present location in 1910. From there, you come to Chelsea Old Church, All Saints. Anglican since Queen ELizabeth reneged on her oath in the 1550s, it was the More parish. Inside, St. Thomas had erected an altar-tomb for his family, and moved his father and first wife into it (the second Lady More also ended up there). Although St. Thomas is not there himself (his body is at the Royal Chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula in the Tower of London, and his head at St. Dunstan's in Canterbury), his epitaph, which he himself compsed is. In it, he proclaims himsefl a friend to all save those who feared him --- murderers, thieves, and... The...represents a gap in the Latin. We know what he intended it to read from his will --- "heretics." But St. Thomas apparently kept it off as a rebuke to his former friend, Henry VIII, who of course had him judicially murdered. During the Blitz in World War II, the Church was bombed. The only thing that survived was the part containing the More tomb.

At that locale, one becomes very aware of all that St. Thomas gave up, apart from his life, to uphold the Papal Supremacy. Today, when, as polls tell us happily, 70% of American Catholics don't believe in Transubstantiation, want married priests, priestesses, pedophile priests (okay, so maybe not that one), it is sobering to compare ourselves, who gladly sell out the Faith for nothing, to St. Thomas More.

Allen Hall has yet another layer of sobering thought to add to our considerations, however. It is, together with Old Hall, Ware (a Catholic boy's school in the country, where my good friend, Alan Robinson, teaches)the successor of Douai, the college in France established in exile by 16th century Englishmen escaping St. Thomas More's fate. It was there that the Catholic Bible was translated into English. From its gates came a steady stream of priests who returned tot heir native land to aid the besieged Catholics of England. Many were martyred, and a list of these is posted in the refectory at Allen Hall. Those who were hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn Hill left relics that are venerated at Tyburn Convent, a house of Benedictine Nuns near Marble Arch. In any case, the French Revolution forced the school back across the Channel in 1793; it went to Ware, and the seminary section came to Chelsea in 1975, when the nuns left. But the contrast between them and us was heavy on me.

Unknowingly, I fell into another layer of history, when I crossed the Battersea Bridge in search of the Church of St. Mary's, Battersea. My reason for seeking it out was that it was where William Blake was married. But when I arrived at the place (although there has been a church on the spot since 800, the current structure only dates back to the 18th century; it is Georgian, and very reminiscent of any number of colonial Anglican churches in the 13 original states)the Church secretary said said, "Have you come for the American connexion?"

"What connexion is that?" I asked.

She showed me. Benedict Arnold is buried there, and there are a tablet and a stained glass window in his honour. Nor was that all. During and after the Revolution, Battersea was a facored refuge for Loyalists fleeing oppression in their homeland. Among the graves is John Vassall, onetime owner of the Vassall House on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass. As with most of the owners on the street (nicknamed "Tory Row"), the Vassalls had been forced out with most of their neighbours one cold night in 1774 --- before the war started. Their home in America is better known as the residence of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and I have been by it many times.

I have always had sympathy for the Loyalists. Their crime was to continue to hold the views that they and their fathers had always held --- and they lost everything for it. As our country continues to morph into something strange and unusual on many fronts, that sympathy has continued to grow. Whether it be gay marriage, or eminent domain for the sale of the wealthy, or not being able to say "Merry Christmas," what will be the straw that breaks our backs? Whateevr else one may say of the Loyalists, they showed a bravery few of us have.

Back in Chelsea, I wandered down King's Road. Now, those either very old, learned in history, or who have attended the rather risque ballet "Play Without Words," will know that this area was to London what Haight-Ashbury was to San Francisco, Greenwich Village was to New York, or Hollywood was to Los Angeles during the "Swinging '60s;" the epicentre. And no place had a better claim to be Ground Zero than Gandalf's Garden (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~pardos/GG.html). Located in a section appropriately enough called "World's End," it had been located at 1 Daltrey Terrace. A coffee shop and commune that produced a strange magazine, it was recalled, lovingly or otherwise, by many older Londoners of my acquaintance.

Looking at the A to Z, I found WOrld's end, and a Daltrey Walk --- but no Terrace. I resolved to find the site if I could, although the Gardeners had long since decamped to other towns, other countries, and perhaps other dimensions. Proceeding along King's Road, I came to a venerable Second Hand booksllers, called the "World's End Bookshop." Supposing it to be of a like age to the Garden, I enquired of the young man behind the counter about the place.

"Well, sir," he said,"keep going about a hundred yards and turn to the left, and you'll be there. But you'll find it's chnaged since you were there." I took silent umbrage at this assumption of my antiquity, since I would have been 7 and 8 when the Garden was blooming. Certainly I was not in anything remotely resembling hippie garb. But never mind; it certainly had changed. The area is all Council Flats, and not even the streets are as they were. The World has moved on.

St. Thomas More, the Martyrs at Douai, the Loyalists, the Gandalf's Gardeners. The first two named died for a cause sublime, the third group for faith and unbreakable oaths, the last...um...well...many are still around. If we are not capable of the sanctity that brings martyrdom, or the loyalty that brought a lonely grave in Battersea, or even the bizzarity that brought bright colours to World's End, we have at least mediocrity. This mat not be pleasing, until we reflect that the mediocre are never lonely. One remembers the end of "A Man For All Seasons," when the character who represents the common man (More's servant, etc.) says, after describing the hrrible or at least unpleasant ends that engulfed the major players, says, "And me? I died in my bed --- as I hope will all of you." He meant it no doubt as a blessing, but by Arnold's grave in Battersea, it seemd more a curse.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

November

Well, folks, it is November, a month that means a lot to me. It is the month of the Holy Souls, and so, as with Autumn in general, it is a time when my thoughts turn to my dead --- my dear father, my grandparents, Cardinal McIntyre, and so many others. And, of course, to the passage of time in general. It really is a river, and the world of my childhood, the 60's revolution that ended it so quickly, the 70s and 80s --- all are receding ever more quickly; as are the 90s.

I love the look of Los Angeles in the Autumn; the mellow golden light that gives everything a dreamy quality, the incredible blue of the sky on clear days, and the fogginess of the green hills when the marine layer comes in. Of course, I miss the foliage back east. But even here we have a gentle shadow of it, some years more intense than others.

Hallowe'en is one of my favourite holidays. I won't bother defending it, because I have done that at great length elsewhere. While, on the one hand, Hallowe'en decorations in the first week of September are annoying on ideological grounds (like Christmas decorations in mid-November), both sets are breaks from the ordinary, and the Hallowe'en decorations signal that the heat of our summers is on its way out. Carving the Jack-O-Lantern is great fun, and I very much enjoy giving out candy (as well as little notes reminding the kids that praying for the dead was the original purpose of giving out the treats, and asking them to do so for my deceased --- as I will for theirs). The whole wealth of folklore of the time is always great to read up on.

All Saints and All Souls are even more enjoyable, for the same reasons; the latter is a sombre event, to be sure --- but a realistic and hopeful one. Then comes St. Hubert's Day. I try to eat venison in honour of the patron of hunters. This year I made braised venison medallions with mixed winter root vegetables, and it was quite simply delicious; my guests thought so. Around hunting and St. Hubert are all sorts of folklore as well, and I abominate both Tony Blair and Adolph Hitler for abolishing hunting to hounds in their respective countries (a point of confluence the countryside lobby in Britain should have made more of).

The 8th of November is an important day to me. It was the day that JFK was elected (an event that does not please me much); it is the feast of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs on the Latin calendar, whose church in Rome is Cardinal Mahony's title --- too bad, really, because it is a beautiful and ancient church, and has cloistered Augustinian nuns attached who are VERY devout; it is the feast of St. Michael in the Byzantine calendar, and of Emperor St. Constantine in the Coptic. But it is also my birthday --- this year, the 45th.

Now, the 11th has two important connexions: St. Martin's Day (goose and red wine!) and Armistice, Remembrance, or Veteran's Day. This year, I am wearing the red poppy and will observe the two minute's silence at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in honour of the dead of World War I and the succeeding conflicts including the current unpleasantness in Iraq. Regardless of what one feels about the wars themselves, the young men (and now, due to the worthlessness of our rulership, the young women) who have died or are dying deserves respect. Poppy-wearing was still done in the States when I was a kid, and are in fact available still from the VFW and the American Legion.

The Canadian Thanksgiving in October, with its obvious roots in European harvets festivals, has always pleased me more than our version, with its Puritan overtones. So, as I have done for over a decade, this year I will refuse invitations, turn off the phone and computer, munch turkey, drink champagne, and watch old black-and-white films all day --- the one day in the year when I do not have to deal with anyone!

November's last Sunday, in the new calendar, presents the feast of Christ the King (though I observe it in October, its traditional appearance). Whenever one celebrates it, it is a wonderful feast, a time to rededicate oneself to the Social Kingship of Christ and and to His Sacred Heart, as well as to the Church's political and economic teaching.

In any case, we arrive at Advent, and the beginning of a new liturgical year (though that happens for the Byzantines on 1 September). So after a month of reflection, of remembrance, and, truthfully, pleasant melancholy, it is time to start again in fasting and feasting, working and playing, as another civic year dies and we (and the world) come closer to our appointed end. It really is a grand thing to be alive!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hello, all!

Well, I have just now launched my own blog, "Coulombe's Law." On this spot I will muse about the various things that interest me --- and dialogue with whomever. Moreover, I hope that ithers will dothe same among themselves --- with charity and courtesy, that is. So, here we are!