My introduction to the
Ancient World was through cinema. The first such movie I saw was either
The Robe. Both films were about Rome, and because of them I
developed an admiration and love for those ancient Romans that continues
to this day.
Over the years I saw about
every movie ever made about the Ancient World. Some were good, some were
not, some were simply awful---but no matter, for through them I could
indulge my fantasies about actually living among those ancients long
ago, a world now 'lost to the shadows of time and vanished beneath the
dust of ages.'
My DVD and video
collection of the Ancient World includes the usual suspects along with
some of the more off-beat:
Demetrius and the Gladiators---from which
Gladiator ripped off much material---The
Land of the Pharaohs---where a scantily clad 19-year old Joan
Collins scampers about the Egyptian sands plotting and seducing. Her
obvious charms quite overwhelmed the young boy that I was when I first
saw the movie:
Then there is
Sodom and Gomorrah---which showed much of the grotesque
immorality described in the Old Testament and which assuredly terrified
(or amused) the censors of its day---and
Quo Vadis---where Christians are devoured by lions sent by the
Emperor Nero--- called by Paul 'anti-Christ,' and in this movie we see
why. His role is played by the superb Peter Ustinov, who also appears in
the Egyptian and Spartacus.
I, Claudius is arguably the most accurate portrayal of early
Imperial Rome and is certainly the finest television I have ever seen.
Barabbas is another film from which Gladiator lifted
Cleopatra has both Burton and Taylor, and the off-screen
immorality by these two not only scandalized Hollywood but spilled over
into the movie itself in their steamy portrayals of Antony and
I came upon this oddity by
It is the Italian epic
Scipio Africanusmade in 1937 in Mussolini's regime. It shows all sorts
of fascist hand salutes and hero worship---of Scipio, but the implication is of
course that it is really Il Duce being portrayed. It is quite good, and one can
hardly tell that it is dubbed. The film shows Hannibal's many elephants in the
Battle of Zama (201 BC) and how they were dispatched by Scipio's legionnaires.
Certainly many of these pachyderms perished on screen, though today the things
would be computer generated---as in
Now I hear rumors about
Mel Gibson making a
movie about the ancient Maya. It is tentatively called Apocalypto
and the characters will speak only a Mayan dialect, which is the
first language of much of Guatemala.
Set in an ancient
civilisation some 3,000 years ago, the film will apparently be full
of action and violence, but will have no religious theme this time
around. Aside from that, little is known of the project, apart from
the fact that it will probably net the writer director a tidy sum of
I still fantasize of a movie about the
conquest of Mexico and the taking of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
Or the long-promised film of Stephen Pressfield's
Gates of Fire.
So all you Hollywood types, take time off
from snorting your cocaine, coveting your neighbors' wives and acting
the public imbecile and get to making these films. Please.
Sometimes going through old photos is definitely not
a good idea.
It was somewhere in Mexico, perhaps at Barra de Navidad.
The year was 1983. I was in---how does one say it?---the 'flower of
youth.' Eternity seemed, well, an eternity away. I lived in the
there and then with no thought at all of mortality. What I wanted I
sought after---and usually got. I lived a material existence. The
Supernatural---if I even thought of it---scarcely intervened. I was left
blissfully and ignorantly alone.
And now? More than half of my life is over. And it is odd that I regret
nothing. Maybe not so odd, as it is all those moments passed away in
glorious victories and glorious defeats, in times wretched and times
sublime, on my feet and on my knees and in darkness and light that has
shaped who and what I am. I have thought for a long time that I am the
luckiest man in the world. Most men think of themselves in this way too.
They are right, we are right. I would in no way wish a return to those
Mexican days and nights, for I live now in the best of times.
Anyway, I have less hair and more waist than I had in the photo above. I
do not mind that hair part, but I would like to lose those twenty-odd
pounds I put on since that time in Mexico twenty-two summers and one
thousand years ago. I curse Krispy Kreme.
I recently finished the first of three essays about
of Macedon. I wondered how he would measure up to other great generals, not just
to those of Antiquity but to those of every age. Were his campaigns, say, in
Afghanistan more difficult than Caesar's in Gaul? Were his tactical and
logistical gifts greater than those of Napoleon? Could he be called the Greatest Captain in History?
If not Alexander, then who?
Everyone has a short list of the greatest generals of all time. Here
are the usual suspects (in alphabetical order) upon whom all agree: Alexander,
Caesar, Hannibal, Napoleon. After these luminaries the lists go their separate
ways. One might mention Belisarius; another, Scipio. In fact anyone who fancies
military history can easily name a score of great captains.
is one such list, though it is too lengthy. So here I go. But first, some
guidelines on what constitutes excellence in the military arts:
1. The candidate must not just conquer but must hold---he
must put into place political changes that renders the enemy unable to
present a future threat. Territory once held should not have to be
re-conquered again and again. To be forced to do so demoralizes and wastes
blood and treasure. Here Napoleon failed time after time.
2. He must always keep in mind his Clausewitz and realize that warfare is a means to a
political end. To lose sight of this is to revel in the
slaughter and commotion of the battlefield for their own sake. Genghis all
too often simply exulted in the chaotic mayhem of war.
3. He must not be addicted to the wanton slaughter either of his
opponents or his own soldiers. He must be sparing of life and keep his eye
on the goal---that of
shah-mat, of ending his
enemy's will to resist. Alexander was here the master until Darius III was killed.
4. He must be a skilled diplomat and be willing to form
alliances and to achieve
victory with little bloodshed. Cyrus did this again and again.
5. He must keep his army well-supplied and in high spirits so as to
provide it with the will to fight and win. His army must feel itself
invincible. Patton and his 3rd Army are fine models of these.
6. He must lead by example: sharing the risks of the march,
talking with his troops, sharing their fatigue and laughter.
Hannibal was just this sort of general.
7. His campaigns must be quick, direct and to the point.
Goals should be attainable with resources either at hand or available on the
march. A long war with no clear goal demoralizes and makes defeat more
likely. Pompey in Spain and Westmoreland in Vietnam were guilty of such wars.
8. He must be magnanimous---and even a bit chivalrous---in victory.
Saladin and Caesar demonstrated these character traits time after time.
9. He must be able improvise on the run---to build boats and
bridges, to adapt to an enemy's tactics, to supply his army in enemy
territory. Cortez and Alexander did all of these.
10. He must be flexible in tactics and expert at siege, guerrilla war and
intelligence. Here Caesar and both Scipios were masters.
11. He must be accomplished at speed and surprise---the overnight
march, the splitting of forces, the sudden appearance where his enemy did
not expect. Sherman and Napoleon excelled here.
12. He must at all times and everywhere keep in mind that his
army is composed of men not gods or machines. Flesh has limitations though a
great captain can get wonders out of the men under him. Marius did just that
during the Roman Republic's war against the German tribes.
And what of true military genius rather than just competence? A
writer on the Punic Wars has some words on that.
All genius is rare and military genius cannot, in the nature of
things, be rarer than any other kind. It only seems to be so because
it demands certain conditions in order to enable it to manifest
itself, which are only very exceptionally encountered in civilized
societies...[A great general] needs a war of some magnitude, swift
elevation to high command, a tenure of command extending over
several years, complete freedom of action and an adequate supply of
human raw material out of which to forge the tools of his trade.
All the generals below have these in greater or lesser
quantities. There is no time to go into every brilliant general in
history, but I
have chosen those who do not get much attention but who still rank among
Before we hit the history books, what about mentioning the
most competent general around today? This would be
Tommy Franks (born
1945). Oklahoma born but Texas raised, Franks designed the campaigns that
overthrew the terrorist regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan had
troubled invaders since Alexander. Even the British came to grief there (1842),
losing 16,000 troops and camp followers on a
retreat to India. The
Soviet Union also tried its hand. During a ten-year invasion and
occupation (1979-1989) it killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to
flee. Even so, the Russians never could pacify the place even though they shared
a common border with it. The Soviet retreat was one of the causes of its own fall. Good
old Southern boy Franks conquered Afghanistan in five weeks though that
country was on the 'far side of the world.' Franks then turned his guns upon
Iraq and smashed the Baathist regime to pieces. And let us not forget who
appointed Franks to his post---that would be George W. Bush. These two are a
perfect case of master and commander.
And another thing: any discussion of military greats would be
simply overwhelmed by the number of
For 1200 years (225 BC-1071 AD) Republican and Imperial Rome cranked out
military worthies faster than the Clintons created scandals. The most notable
among notables would include Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Publius Cornelius Scipio
Africanus Major, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, Lucius
Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, Lucius Aemilius Paullus
Macedonicus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor, Gaius Marius,
Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Lucullus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Octavian, Agrippa, Tiberius,
Germanicus, Agricola, Corbulo, Trajan, Septimius Severus, Aurelian, Aetius,
Belisarius, Heraclius...and on and on and on until the Battle of Manzikert
From the start (509 BC) the Roman government was in reality a
group of a dozen or so patrician families who intermarried and formed the
Senate, the most 'ruthless and far-seeing aristocracy' ever devised. This
government---it ruled in the name of 'the Senate and the People of Rome' (senatus
populusque romanus)---oversaw Rome from her beginnings as a small
beleaguered city-state of 300 square miles to her conquest of the entire
Mediterranean world. Senators competed ferociously to lead armies in the field,
and many perished---along with their legions---in doing so. As Republic became
Empire the patrician families continued to fill bureaucracies, army commands and
the imperial throne. Simply stated, the Roman Senate was the strongest and most
competent government of all time, and most of the greatest military commanders
in history came from it.
Let us now take a look at those superb generals who are not quite in
the Alexander-Caesar-Hannibal category. In no particular order we first
(505-565), the Byzantine military leader. One author writes:
Of the great generals of history, Belisarius is not particularly
well known today (certainly nowhere as near as well-known as Julius
Caesar, or Alexander the Great), but this is due more to a lack of
attention to Byzantine history than to his skill and
accomplishments, which were matched by few, if any, military
That might overstate the case but not by much. Belisarius served his
well, fighting the Huns, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths and the Persians
with hardly more than 18,000 soldiers---an astounding achievement. His
one weakness was his wife Antonia. She led a dissolute life and had many
lovers while her husband was off to the myriad wars of the Byzantine
Empire. The Emperor Justinian out of envy also betrayed his loyal
captain, and had his property seized and his reputation disgraced. Here
is Belisarius being saluted by his soldiers.
also had wife troubles, but of a different sort: He strangled her after she
arrived in Mexico. Still, Cortez was the captain of his age---a diplomat of
skill in a New World who could amass allies among the dozens of competing
Mesoamerican nations and use them against the Aztecs; a brilliant tactician who
could send men into Mexican volcanoes to acquire the ingredients for gunpowder;
an improviser of genius who built detachable boats, dragged them to the Aztec
capital of Tenochtitlan and used them to blast away at its Indian defenders. His
reputation has suffered over time.
It is extremely difficult to characterize this particular
conquistador – his unspeakable atrocities, his tactical and
strategic awareness, the rewards for his Tlaxcalteca allies along
with the rehabilitation of the nobility (including a castle for
Moctezuma's heirs in Spain that still stands), his respect for
Indians as worthy adversaries and family members. In Mexico
today he is condemned as a modern-day damnatio memoriae, with
only one statue – but half a million descendants, and one of the
most remarkable stories in history.
Mexicans today despise Cortez, but the reality is that he was the founder of
their nation and the first modern Mexican.
Latin Americans are not known for producing great captains. Most of
their 'generals' were prancing and bemedalled buffoons more suited to
the operatic stage than to the battlefield. A few have been little more
than practiced killers, creatures such as the Argentine
and the Venezuelan
was both buffoon and killer, a man as addled by prostitutes as he was by
dancing. His battles and marches were scenes of squalid violence and
rabid demagoguery. In his own estimation he was a cosmic failure:
I consider that, for us [Latin] America is ungovernable;
whosoever works for the a revolution is plowing the sea; this
country [Gran Colombia] will ineluctably fall into the hands of a
mob gone wild, later again to fall under the domination of obscure
small tyrants of every color and race; [We will be] decimated by
every kind of crime and exhausted by our cruel excesses.
That last sentence well describes both the history of Latin America
and Bolívar himself. This 'Great Liberator' included some good advice:
The most sensible action to take in [Latin]
America is to emigrate.
The only Latin Americans of military talent were the Argentine
José de San
Martín (1778-1850) and the Venezuelan
José de Sucre (1795-1830). These generals were accomplished in the
arts of leading men in extreme conditions: through the Andes of
Argentina and Peru, across the Altiplano and into and out of deserts.
They defeated the Spaniards wherever they found them---in Chile, in
Peru, in Bolivia, in Ecuador. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,
San Martín's skill in leading his men through the defiles, chasms
and passes---often 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level---of four
Andean cordilleras has caused him to be ranked with Hannibal and
Neither San Martín nor Sucre were intoxicated by the air of violence,
and perversion that swirled about Bolívar. Both men were the true libertadores of South America. San Martín
was so fed up with the antics of Bolívar at their meeting in Lima that
he took Bolívar's advice and left South America for France.
Guatemala has borne the brunt of heavy rains
exacerbated by Hurricane Stan, which made
landfall Tuesday on the Mexican Gulf Coast
before quickly weakening to a tropical
Governments in Central America and Mexico
were still struggling Saturday to reach
isolated areas devastated by flooding and
landslides. Many roads had yet to be
the banks of Lake Atitlan, a popular tourist
destination, dozens of Mayan Indians swarmed
over a vast bed of caked mud that covered
trees and houses, looking for those still
missing after Wednesday's landslide.
Last year I hiked among the Mayan
villages surrounding Lake Atitlan. The water stunned with its beauty,
the Mayan villages nestled near the lake 'like frogs around a pond.' One
could take as much time as desire and money allowed and amble from town
to town. One village where I stayed for a while was Santiago de Atitlan.
Hardest hit was the lakeside town of
Santiago Atitlan, where the side of a volcano collapsed, killing at
least 208 people.
I took this photo while
working my way toward Santiago de Atitlan. (Click on the images to
Below is the village itself.
Here one can see the volcanoes around the
lake, magnificent hills of rock and lava that Mayans worship for their
beauty and curse for the death they bring to those who live in their
these words at
the beginning of my walkabout around the lake.
way to see the stunning visuals that the
lake offers is to walk around it, going from
village to village...I slowly traveled East,
and stayed at Indigenous villages where
there was always at least a hospedaje.
Thus, tent, stove and all the other
accutrements of backpacking were left
behind. It was odd at first not having my
pack weigh as much as a well-fed teenager,
but I got used to it quickly. Some of the
villages are delightful...The locals mainly
wear traditional clothing.
Primitive wooden coffins piled up in the
cemetery, waiting for bodies. Villagers held
sprigs of native herbs to ward off odors as
they dug mass graves for bodies that likely
would be buried without names.
The disaster started
Lake Atitlan, where
creeks and rivers
began spilling their
banks on Wednesday
as rains soaked
Is is as if
Chac, the Mayan rain god of old, has returned to
claim his land.
And it rained fire and ash; and trees
and rocks fell. And the trees and rocks came crashing against each
other...And they were buried by the side of the sand in the waves of
the sea. And then, in one fell swoop, the waters came.
I spent much of my life in Portland. I was raised there,
went to college there and worked there for some time before heading to
Argentina for a ten-year high school teaching post. Portland boasts
hundreds of miles of bike trails, of both asphalt and dirt. In short,
the place was bike heaven. In those days I road a Specialized Stump
Jumper, a fine machine for its time. I took the thing with me to
Argentina but sold it after experiencing how the Argies drive. I had
this odd desire to live, you see.
I have not owned a machine since until recently when I
bought the entry-level
Specialized, the Hardrock model. It cost one-third what
my Stump Jumper cost (in 2005 dollars) yet is far more technologically
But it is a monument to crudity compared to this
magnificent machine. (Click on photo to enlarge.) It is hand-made in the
US of A by a company called
Purgatory Bikes. If Michelangelo
designed bikes, this is what he would build.
And the price of this beauty? Oh, only $2399---for the
There is much blather about
how President Bush has alienated and abandoned his base
by choosing Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. This is
absurd. A 'base'---a politician's foundation stones of
support---does not run from a political fight. It does
not turn suddenly on a man it once supported only to
publicly savage and insult him in the public arena. It
does not act like a spoiled child and threaten to
abandon the Republican Party if some political decision
does not go its way. The base is always there--through
thick and thin, in war and peace, in times good and
times bad. Ann Coulter and National Review and George
Will and their acolytes most certainly do not represent
the foundation stone of President Bush and his
Republican base. That they think they do only shows how
shallow is their central moral core and little they
really understand Bush. To look at such people closely
is to find 'no there there.' They thought they and Bush
were married. In fact Bush was just dallying with them.
Now they act exactly as bitter and cast-off lovers. Oh,
the poor things! When all of this is over and Miers sits
on the Court, they will return to the fold. Bush will
not put much trust in them of course---but then, he
So what exactly is
the core of support for Bush? Who are those who refuse
to abandon the man they helped put into office? In no
particular order: Evangelical and conservative
Christians, inhabitants of Red States, 2nd Amendment
lovers and ex- and present military. And where do I
stand on all of this? I am a member of all of the above.
I should also add that Bush and I share a passion for
Jeeps. I imagine though that his is better than mine,
So what do those
anti-Bush Republicans have in common? What is their own 'foundation
stone'? Most come from elite universities in the East. Most are
published authors and syndicated columnists. Most live in expensive and
tony enclaves of New York and Washington D.C. Most either disdain or
ignore conservative Christians. Most are uncomfortable with the Second
Amendment. Most see themselves as quite clever, superb thinkers and
well-deserving of the high speaking fees they charge. In short, they
have much in common with New York Times editors, media bigwigs, liberal
think-tank-types and Washington lobbyists. Most of them whether on the
right or left are prideful, arrogant, condescending and conceited. But
do not believe me, simply read what they have written over the years.
And here is a good test: See where any of these types have admitted
being wrong. Ever. Just once.
So what all of this Republican
in-fighting really boils down to is that a few hundred pundits in Washington and
New York are outraged that Bush did not nominate one of them to the Supreme
Court. The rest of us---that would number about 52 million---are perfectly
willing to trust the president and listen to Miers when she goes before the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
I were a Democrat I would be heartily enjoying the petty sniping,
backbiting, complaining, whining and sniveling going on right now among
Republicans. The issue is of course the nomination by Bush of Harriet
Miers for the vacancy on the Supreme Court. It is impossible to escape
the caterwauling among my Republican fellows. Like a catfight among girlfriends
it dismays yet attracts. Even some great folks are full
of spittle, going at it in cyberspace with froth and venom. Putative allies have become
putative enemies, battle lines have been drawn and trenches dug, cyber-blood
has been cyber-shed. What a mess!
I have no idea of what kind of judge
Ms. Miers will make---and neither do
Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer,
Ann Coulter, George Will and all the flabby fellows at
National Review. Some of their writing
on this is simply hysterical and would be right at home among the
moveon.org crowd if their prose were sprinkled with expletives and less
refined. Some gems:
But nominating a
constitutional tabula rasa to sit on what is America's
constitutional court is an exercise of regal authority with the
arbitrariness of a king giving his favorite general a particularly
plush dukedom...By choosing a nominee suggested by Senate Democratic
leader Harry Reid and well known only to himself, the president has
ducked a fight on the most important domestic question dividing
liberals from conservatives: the principles by which one should read
and interpret the Constitution.
What Krathammer calls 'an exercise in
regal authority' is actually one of the president's constitutional
prerogatives. (Please see Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2.) Krauthammer
admits his own ignorance of Miers---he calls her a tabula rosa---but
then acknowledges that Bush knows her well indeed. That is not enough
for Charles, alas.
It is not important that she be
confirmed because there is no evidence that she is
among the leading lights of American jurisprudence,
or that she possesses talents commensurate with the
Supreme Court's tasks. The president's "argument''
for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to,
for several reasons...He has neither the inclination
nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments
about competing approaches to construing the
Certainly Will knows that some of
those 'leading lights of American jurisprudence' have given us Roe and
Kelo and Casey---and for that matter, Plessy and Dred Scott. And his soi-disant sophistication really is just calling
Bush stupid. Yeah, poor stupid Bush who 'has neither the inclination nor
the ability to make sophisticated judgments...' Tell me oh-so-clever
George, certainly you did not vote for this moron!
Unfortunately for Bush, he could nominate his
Scottish terrier Barney, and some conservatives
would rush to defend him, claiming to be in
possession of secret information convincing them
that the pooch is a true conservative and listing
Barney's many virtues – loyalty, courage, never
jumps on the furniture ...Harriet Miers went to
Southern Methodist University Law School, which is
not ranked at all by the serious law school reports
and ranked No. 52 by US News and World Report...Bush
has no right to say "Trust me."
Here the superbly-legged Coulter
insults all sorts of her conservative allies and demeans those who
really understand that courage and loyalty mean to stand by your man and
to trust the guy you voted into presidency. And why does Coulter use the
liberal US News and World Report to support her view on Miers? She has
built a career on insulting liberals but here she turns her venom
against the man she helped put into office. So tell me Ann, how do
you define courage and loyalty? And you claim that Bush has no right
to say "Trust me." Sorry, Ann, it is you that we cannot trust because
your caustic pen wounds both friend and foe. (I still like you but I
would hate to be your husband.)
All of these types confirm the wisdom
of 'keeping your enemies close but your friends closer.' Teddy Roosevelt
knew all about them as well.
It is not the critic who
counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or
where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit
belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is
marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs
and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms,
the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at
the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who,
at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that
his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know
neither victory nor defeat.
If the US military demonstrated the
same sort of courage and loyalty shown by Coulter, Will, Krauthammer and
all their ilk we would have lost the war in Iraq long ago.
So let us all listen to
The Anchoress---and calm down. Remember
that our enemies are watching. If these were any other than the
Democrats---who are in far worse shape than the Republicans---we would
be in big trouble.
Cronkite, once ludicrously described as 'America's most trusted newsman,' is
back. (True, he never really left, but I had my hopes.) His latest
is a perfect gem of liberal thought, a distillation of ignorance and arrogance
and condescension in two sentences.
We're an ignorant
nation right now. We're not really capable I do not think
the majority of our people of making the decisions that have
to be made at election time and particularly in the
selection of their legislatures and their Congress and the
presidency of course.
Well, Walter, let us assume for your sake that what you say is
true, that America is an ignorant nation. How did it become so? Who has had
control of public schools, of the news media, of the entertainment industry, of
academia, of the judicial system and the entire government bureaucracy for half
a century? Why, you Mr. Cronkite, you and your ilk: the whole liberal
establishment that has kicked God out of schools, mandated secret abortions for
14 year old girls, encouraged sodomy among teenagers, passed out condoms as if
they were vitamins, laughed while an American president did odd things with
cigars in the White House, accalimed adulterer-girl killer-alcoholic and
treasonous Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) as an American exemplar, supported the pompous
gigolo and traitor John Kerry (D-Mass) for the highest office in the land,
soaked the popular culture with 'all sex all the time,' lauded the perverse as
the normal ('defining deviancy down'), gleefully insulted your country at
international forums and publicly lauded grotesque mass murderers such as Yasar
Arafat, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein---favoring these monsters in the same way that
Monica favored Bill.
It is 'Uncle Walter' and his fellow
CBS-NBC-ABC-BBC-CNN-NPR and their avatars at the New
York Times and the Washington Post that have dominated
for 50 years the news that comes into our homes day in,
day out, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Whatever
pressing issue of the day, be it global warming or
abortion or Iraq or Bush or Christianity or Terri
Schiavo or judicial appointments or taxes or Katrina all
of these fine media agree. They speak with one voice,
one mouth, one view---and these news paladins have
shaped how we think about events for two generations.
here for more.)
And after all this, Cronkite now condemns as ignorant this culture that
he and his cronies created and nourished?
Well, Walter, I agree that somebody
is ignorant and incapable of making rational decisions
here. I seem to recall a
little incident in 1969 called the Tet Offensive. It was during the
Vietnam War, a war that your liberal establishment began, fought and
lost. After the most disastrous defeat of the Vietnamese communists
against US forces during the entire war, you went on camera to declare
what rational people saw as a clear triumph of American arms to be in
reality a ghastly US defeat and a communist victory.
Cronkite lied, people died---hundreds of thousands
actually---the Americans (that is, the Democrats in
Congress, showing their usual patriotism and backbone)
turned tail. And the rest is what I teach, history.
Some commentators were not amused by Cronkite's moral
collapse during Tet. Twenty-five years later one had
this to say about
'Uncle Walter's' performance:
has contemporary crisis journalism turned out, in
retrospect, to have veered so widely from reality. .
.To have portrayed such a setback for one side as a
defeat for the other—in a major crisis abroad—cannot
be counted as a triumph for American journalism.
To say the absolute least.
Cronkite retired from his mendacious reading of the news at
CBS in 1980 only to be replaced by the equally mendacious Dan Rather (see
here). And so the beat went on. Until
recently Rather performed the same service for the war
in Iraq as Cronkite had for the war in Vietnam.
Only mortality will prevent old Wally from his on-going
lunatic commentary on current affairs. Perhaps when both
he and Rather have departed from this life
they can sit around---if sitting around is permissible
there---and decry the continuing ignorance of the
I wrote most
of the maxims below on my last day in Buenos Aires where I had lived for
ten years. That was scarcely two summers ago yet it seems so many
more---a lifetime in fact, light and shadow from another world. I could
say that they reflect what I learned while teaching there, but I am not
sure. Perhaps I would have written them no matter where I was. The cost
of putting them into my heart has been exorbitant but not frightful, and
certainly less than that paid by
In visions of the night, like
dropping rain, Descend the many memories of pain Before the spirit's sight: through tears and sorrow
Comes wisdom over the unwilling soul.
We need not be
Bourbons of old, who 'forgot nothing and learned nothing.' But we
certainly are as
Dr. Johnson would have us, 'of needing
to be reminded more than instructed.' Here are some reminders.
Drink wine now and again. Jesus did.
kindness to all children. Jesus did.
your enemies. Jesus did.
trust the person who looks back at you in the
He is your worst enemy.
the world not for Himself, but for you.
Go see it.
makes cities. God makes Mountains. And Jungles.
And Forests. And
Glaciers. And Canyons. And Valleys.
Go to a
Church or Mosque or Temple or Synagogue as often as you can.
world does not care about your problems.
refuse a favor.
habit of using foul language.
cannot love too much.
You can, however, love improperly.
world hated Christ.
It will hate His followers.
rare and costly.
So is Honor.
So is Chastity.
away as much of yourself as you can.
You cannot understand Love until you empty yourself.
world knows its own.
Christ knows His own.
No one belongs to both Christ and the world.
not a Christian because you believe in God.
Even Satan believes
You are a Christian if you follow God.
in Hell believes in God.
freedom is internal.
Death does not end it.
comes out of a man is vastly more important than what goes into him.
If you have not read the
Bible do not comment on Christianity.
most people say 'God is love' what they really mean is 'Love is God.'
on the Cross.
The Christian must join Him there.
no bondage until you are a slave to sin.
You know no freedom until those
bonds are broken.
never a reason for rudeness or unkindness or cruelty.
and Evil echo for years.
higher you climb, the fewer the people but the clearer the view.
nothing remotely as joyful as being clean on the inside.
free to break the Moral Law but you cannot avoid