Monday, November 1, 2010

The Anniversary

Today is approximately the one-year anniversary of the day when I started this blog. As with most blogs (I suspect) not everything’s turned out quite as expected. For starters, politics appeared far more often in posts than I had intended it too. That’s as it should be: the year has been a strange one in DC and consequently, everywhere else in the country. Some of the top news stories of the year:

There was the Gulf oil spill. An oil spill is not like a war (I hear we once did have one of those in the Gulf), although the coverage tried to make it sound that way. Our beaches were being invaded by a monster in black . . . some kind Thing from the Deep Sea, a former ally turned bad. It was going to destroy the earth and make organic farming impossible. Only the school children knew how Evil it was. They were crying, crying for the victims . . . the pelicans . . . Our Fearless Leader’s children were crying . . . he was crying . . . the pelicans were crying . . . the penguins were crying (wait, wrong story!) . . . And the oil, with all the persistence of the Energizer bunny, just kept coming and coming and coming, while the poor BP folk, with all the haplessness of Peter Parker meeting the Black Sticky Stuff from Outer Space, just kept capping and capping and capping. It’s interesting too that we heard about every failed cap attempt, but we haven’t heard anything from the Gulf for a while. No news is good news?

Then there was the global warming scam. Being a long time fan of Bjorn Lomborg and Alston Chase, I can’t claim to have had my opinions changed either about the actual state of the earth or about the earth-saving movement. But I must admit that the gall of the researchers did for a moment give me pause. It’s not the weight of the evidence; it’s the seriousness of the scenario . . . that seemed to matter to them. Now where have I heard a claim like that before?

Gun control! Thank you to Supreme Court Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy. I don’t feel any safer driving into DC (yet), but God bless you just the same.

Health care. Just for the record?—I’ve always wanted an HSA. I’ll pay my dental and eye and cough and cold out of pocket. I just want to know that if I should get run over, there’s be someone to pay my hospital bills; just as (for example) if my house burned down, there’d be someone to pay to rebuild it. Unfortunately, you need to be employed full-time to open an HSA—a condition which I still do not meet (all thanks be to thee, Fearless Leader).

Greece and France—just about every place, for that matter—have had a bad time of it economically. Even more striking than the economic difficulties are the temper tantrums thrown by their citizens. How dare the government not take care of its people! Here over the water we’ve been experiencing a temper tantrum of a different kind (they call it “The Tea Party”), but its mood is exactly the opposite: get the heck out of my life. That's American exceptionalism for you. Please God, tomorrow will be the latest and greatest example thereof.

Last year about this time I wrote an article complaining—yes, I admit it, complaining—about a liberal neighbor who snubbed one of my brothers for engaging in make-believe. This year I have a different kind of trick-or-treating story, a story that is perhaps illustrative of the difference between the mood of our country then and the mood now.

My poor brother didn’t dress up this Halloween, even though his older brother did (in Army fatigues—wouldn’t you?). The two of them did go out with their younger siblings though, and passed through the same ill-fated neighborhood that they had visited the previous year. They came upon a group of adults sitting outside in their yard around a little bonfire. After giving the younger children candy, the adults informed the older two that since they were teenagers, they would have to “do something for it—sing or dance or something like that.” The uncostumed brother offered to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride.” He had gotten to about the fifth stanza (“Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church”) before one of the adults got it. “He’s doing the whole thing!”

By that time my father had taken the impatient younger children down the block. The recitation went on, until my brother got stuck on the city where Mr. Revere stopped at midnight. (“It was twelve by the village clock when he galloped into . . . ?”) No-one could remember the name of the town, so my brothers said goodbye and followed the rest of the family. When they came back around the block, however, they found the neighbor was on his phone and talking to his cousin in Massachusetts. The name of Revere’s first stop? Medford town. My brother completed the poem, and he and his army-clad sibling were showered with compliments and candy.

It’s a different spirit out there, or it was last night.

I have a few predictions for the coming year. Tomorrow: the election will go well, very well, for conservatives—better than ’94. Everybody’s saying this, so it’s not much of a prediction. Illegal immigration will come back as a major issue. The economy will get worse before it gets better—but because of the political climate, people will start taking risks again. China will continue to open up slowly. Pope Benedict will be awesome. It won’t be a perfect world; but we conservatives now know there are others on our side, which makes all the difference in a fight.

I am reminded of an old and wise professor of mine. He insisted, to my astonished ears, that “The world will get much worse before it gets better. But it’s good thing, a very good thing; you’re lucky to live in a time like this. . . . Because you have something to fight, and something to fight for.”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”
Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

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