Categories
Book reviews

Heppermann’s Ask Me How I Got Here (Greenwillow Books, 2016)

Although a feeble teen abortion account, pro-lifers can use this “novel” (so-called) to show how post-abortion syndrome affects a young woman who lacks orthodox religious faith.

Heppermann’s work, a “novel-in-verse”, is anything but.  The “poetry” is feeble; the “lines” would read better if they were written as sentences in paragraphs.  Since full-length novels have the space to develop characters, this “work”, therefore, could qualify as a short story.  It still would not give Hemingway a run for his money.

Why Greenwillow Books would waste 225 pages of paper and ink like this is beyond me.  Maybe it felt that this tenuous “book” served a young adult reading audience need, I dunno.

Bad publishing and marketing choices aside, though, this “work” has some merit.  Although Addie is a typical young woman who fornicates with her boyfriend, becomes pregnant, and thinks only of killing the unborn child at one of the offices of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, the “work” does illustrate three ideas long known in the pro-life world:

1.  That mothers who abort experience post-abortion syndrome (PAS), often a short time after the killing has taken place.  This is evident when Addie’s personality disintegrates; she quits track at high school; picks fights with her boyfriend, leading to their breakup; and chooses a misguided lesbian relationship as a source of affection.

2.  That parents who are weak in their faith often abscond from their responsibility as parents in helping their teen daughters choose life.  This is the case with Addie’s parents, whose lack of firm Catholic Christian faith is evident when they say nothing about helping Addie choose life.

3.  That the abortion itself is difficult to talk about and the person killed in an abortion is always dehumanized.  This is obvious when Addie’s parents are unable to talk about the time of Addie’s abortion.  Addie’s mother refers to the abortion as “what we went through / a few months ago” (172); her father, similarly, cannot refer to the abortion:  “She never had those [side aches] before” without specifying that the term “before” is a truncation of “before the abortion” (173).  How surprising, then, to read that, when Addie writes a letter to her unborn child towards the “novel’s” end, she refers to the child as “a girl with Nick’s smile, / a boy with my eyes, / a baby” and says that she “would never want you / to hate yourself”, which suggests that Addie hates herself (211).

Maybe this novel is so feeble because the author herself is anti-life; Heppermann promotes the abortion business Planned Parenthood on the last unnumbered page of the book as one of several anti-life organizations that “exist at the community and national level that teens can turn to for help.”

This vapid “work” only takes about an hour to read; the “poetry” is ordinary language, nothing significant, so, unless you’re an English professor who must read crap like this to monitor fiction on the life issues, one can turn page after page without needing to annotate anything important.

The best way to reply to the book’s title Ask Me How I Got Here is to say, “Let’s not and say we did.”

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Book reviews

Paul V. Mankowski’s Jesuit at Large (Ignatius Press, 2021)

Mellifluous, trenchant, and often witty writing on a variety of topics, this collection of Fr. Paul V. Mankowski’ s essays will inspire faithful Catholics to fight against pro-abortion priests and to affirm their Catholic Faith.

First, though, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Purchase it from Ignatius Press directly: https://ignatius.com/jesuit-at-large-jlerp/.

A few pages into reading this book, I knew I had a problem.  Besides George Weigel’s well-written introduction, which was forcing me to annotate several paragraphs, by the first couple of pages of Fr. Mankowski’s essays, I knew I had to buy the book.  The annotations were becoming so numerous that buying the book instead of transcribing notes from the library copy would save time in recording them into my electronic notes.

Why is the writing of Fr. Mankowski so worthwhile?  I offer three reasons.

First, of course, is the human element.  Every faithful Catholic who is persecuted by priests who are not pro-life or who support pro-abortion Democrats like the hapless Joe Biden or Catholics who are orthodox in their faith but are called rigid by the Church hierarchy (as the leftist Pope Francis does) can sympathize with Fr. Mankowski, a persecuted priest who died without ever knowing the praise he deserved for exposing corruption in the Jesuit order.

The book’s editor, George Weigel, notes that Fr. Mankowski “was often berated, deplored, and rejected by his own” (13).  Knowing that Fr. Mankowski was persecuted by his “fellow” Jesuits for exposing the political machinations that shoved a pro-abortion Jesuit, Fr. Robert Drinan, into the U.S. Congress colors the entire reading.  The book is transformed from a collection of essays into a dramatic narrative; the reader wants to know if Fr. Mankowski will be redeemed.

Furthermore, why is reading a book which includes a significant portion focusing on one pro-abortion Jesuit (Drinan) so worthwhile?  Weigel explains:

During his congressional career, Father Drinan was a reliable vote in favor of the most extreme interpretations of the abortion license created by the 1973 Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton; in doing so, he helped provide political cover for numerous Catholic politicians who tacked to the prevailing cultural winds by taking a similar stand.  (15)

When Fr. Mankowski gave Jesuit archival material to another Catholic researcher, the famous Catholic historian James Hitchcock, abortion-minded Jesuits did not merely oppose him; they persecuted him:

The publication of Hitchcock’s article unleashed a firestorm of criticism, but the hot blasts of opprobrium were not aimed at Father Robert Drinan or his Jesuit enablers.  They were aimed at Father Paul Mankowski, who had given materials he had gleaned from the archives of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus to Professor Hitchcock as documentation for his article.  (16)

Fr. Mankowski himself succinctly explains why he exposed Drinan and his politically-minded operatives within the Jesuit order, basing his actions on pro-life principles which should endear him to every pro-life civil rights activist today:

Pro-lifers (of whom I am one) regarded Drinan as one of their most formidable and injurious opponents in the U.S., despite his insistence that he accepted Church teaching on abortion.  I’ve yet to meet a politically aware pro-life Catholic who wasn’t baffled and exasperated by the damage Drinan was permitted to do as a priest-congressman and a priest-lawyer.  Therefore, presented with firsthand testimony that Drinan was complicit in a ruse from which he launched his career as a pro-abortion legislator, I was fully disposed to challenge his moral authority by making the knowledge public.  (196)

One would hope that this persecuted good man was vindicated.  Unfortunately, Fr. Mankowski’s contributions in exposing the fraud of Drinan and those who collaborated in getting him into Congress despite the opposition of Superior General Pedro Arrupe were never appreciated in his lifetime.

This book, therefore, damns those pro-abortion Jesuits who oppose the Catholic Church’s respect for human life and vindicates Fr. Mankowski for his suffering and heroism.

The second reason why Fr. Mankowski’s essays are worthwhile is that they remain relevant, even the ones dating from the 1990s.  The pro-abortion zealot Drinan is long gone, but faithful Catholics still must contend with disgraces to the Catholic Faith like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, two Democrats who, like Drinan, put “social justice” (or their distortion of it) ahead of the first civil right, the right to life, and thus vote for tax dollars for abortion, appoint judges who oppose the first civil right to life, etc.

Fr. Mankowski knew that the presence of pro-abortion Jesuits was only a symptom of a larger problem: “rot” affecting the entire order.  As quoted by Weigel, Fr. Mankowski wrote, “I believe those in command [of “the Roman Jesuit leadership”] are, for the most part, frightened to stand up to the full extent of the rot.  I believe a few positively desire the rot; they want religious life to disappear and want to be agents in its disappearance” (14).

A third reason why Fr. Mankowski’s essays are worthwhile is that they address those relevant issues within the Catholic Church in a learned, beautifully written style that often contains snarky humor.

Examples of Fr. Mankowski’s mellifluous prose can be found when he affirms working-class Catholics.  His praise for such hardworking people ranges from the simple “In effect the new liturgists disenfranchised working-class Catholics, and in particular working men, from reasonably wholehearted participation in the Mass” (30) to lengthier and more complex prose, culminating in a call to “resist” those who would distort the most significant item of Catholic worship, the Mass:

Taken together, all the visions of the deconstructionist, all the resentments of the disaffected, all the personal quirks and daydreams of the individual minister, all the globally contextualized inclusivities of the professorial hierophant, do not add up to a single reason to deprive the faithful of the Mass, the Mass in its full integrity.  Those who come into our midst mouthing the sweet words of compassion and openness are, very often, trying to wheedle us out of our birthright.  Perhaps the time has come to resist.  (37)

Faithful Catholic readers will understand immediately Fr. Mankowski’s discussion of a category of cleric he calls “tames”, priests, bishops, cardinals, and, we could add, perhaps even the current problematic (and Jesuit) Pope Francis.  These tames aim for popularity instead of orthodoxy, which, by itself, is not problematic, but Fr. Mankowski explains how the drive for popularity emasculates tames when they are compelled to collaborate with the aggressive gay and lesbian lobby.  “In the contemporary Church,” Fr. Mankowski writes:

tames serve the agenda of gays in the long run, even though they sometimes find themselves forced to take a contrary stance.  Tames are extremely susceptible to emotional blackmail of all kinds, and gays are adept at putting a thumb on the emotional windpipe of weak men in order to manipulate them.  (67)

Readers will find footnote six on this matter especially interesting:

It is noteworthy that bishops who are tames almost always have a number of gays as advisers or high officials in the chancery; once in office they are virtually powerless to prevent gays from collecting around them, and as a consequence any pressures for reform are effectively neutralized.  (70)

Fr. Mankowski’ s comments about the sexual orientation of his fellow priests are alarming.  Regarding the number of priests who have unresolved same-sex attraction, he writes:

I would estimate that between 50 and 60 percent of the men who entered religious life with me in the mid-1970s were homosexuals who had no particular interest in the Church, but who were using the celibacy requirement of the priesthood as a way of camouflaging the real reason for the fact that they would never marry.  (74)

Since persons with same-sex attraction who have fallen victim to the gay and lesbian lifestyle invariably oppose chastity and purity, Church officials who promote those virtues would necessarily be targets of their opposition and hatred.  Fr. Mankowski accounts for the Jesuit hatred of Pope, now Saint, John Paul II thus:

Over the course of twenty-eight years in the Society of Jesus, I’ve watched Wojtyła- [Pope John Paul II-] hatred turn into one of the principal subthemes of Jesuit life [….]  The dreams that progressivists surfaced during Paul VI’s pontificate—of a congregational, sexually emancipated, anti-sacral “picnic” Catholicism—were frankly infantile.  Yet Catholics over fifty will remember the emotional mist of auto-suggestion that “the next pope” would move with the times and make these dreams come true.  Not all Jesuits got smitten by this vision, but the majority did, and was stunned when Wojtyła failed to act out its fantasy.  Many left the Society to seethe outside it; others remained, and seethe within.  (81-3)

One fellow Jesuit is a particular target of Fr. Mankowski’s criticism.  Everybody knows Fr. James Martin, whose pro-LGBTQ views and opposition to the Church’s teaching on sexuality saturate contemporary leftist media.  Martin has done more damage to persons with same-sex attraction than any other by suggesting not only that gays and lesbians have been abandoned by the Church, but also that the Church must accept their homosexual lifestyles.  Fr. Mankowski counters Martin’s flaccid arguments with one succinct line: persons with same-sex attraction who live a chaste life “already live in the heart of the Church” (158), and the frequency with which same-sex persons receive the confidential Sacrament of Penance testifies to their faith.

Fr. Mankowski offers a thorough analysis of another unorthodox and famous (infamous) priest, Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame.  “Hesburgh became resentful of direction—which he viewed as interference—on the part of agencies claiming superior authority, most notably the Holy See and his own religious congregation” (186), Fr. Mankowski writes, so it is understandable that Hesburgh would coordinate the Land O’ Lakes conference, which sought to separate Catholic colleges from the Magisterium on a distorted claim of “academic freedom” (186).  Hesburgh further manifested his antagonism to the Magisterium by supporting contraception (188-9).  Hesburgh relegated the right-to-life movement to an inferior position, siding instead with leftists in favor of the safer, politically-correct social justice issues of “global poverty and world peace” (189).  Unlike Fr. Mankowski, who praised working-class Catholics, Hesburgh had a “fear of being lumped with the defenders of Humanae Vitae—the thick-necked ‘red meat and rosary’ folks who typified working-class Catholicism” (190.)

Students who want to appreciate a solid writing style should study Fr. Mankowski’s use of parallelism: the repetition of “I live” (21), “gone” (60), and “every culture” (112) are exemplary.  His diction is concise, as demonstrated by his ability to translate the psychobabble of papers presented at leftist academic conferences into plain English.  For example, he brilliantly reduces one paper from the American Academy of Religion to the following: “Were I forced to decode [the presenter’s] thesis in monosyllables, I would render it thus: gay men see things in more black-and-white terms than do ‘bi’ girls” (104).

I can confirm Fr. Mankowski’s general comment about the academic preoccupation with sex, having attended numerous academic conferences whose programs read more as sex therapy or heterosexuality gripe sessions than symposia for English language and literature professors:

For want of a better term, I would call it an impulse to vandalism.  The interest here displayed was overwhelmingly an interest in aberrant sexuality—evidenced not only in repeated protests against so-called “compulsory heterosexuality” but in a macabre litany of erotic pathology: mutilation, child abuse, incest, sadomasochism, ritual castration, and so on ad nauseam.  (116)

Granted, Fr. Mankowski critiques the culture well in a learned manner, but the essays are punctuated with comic gems.  For example, there is this first-page bit of humor: “I am promised prosperous and intriguing companions by the folks who brew my beer; and those who sell my shaving cream are at pains to assure me that it will provoke the women I encounter into sexual frenzy.  (The last claim, I might add, is an exaggeration.)” (21).

Feminist nuns are an especial target of some of Fr. Mankowski’s humor, probably because they, like pro-abortion Jesuits, don’t care for the pro-life issues as much as politically-correct leftist social justice ones:

Today’s Skimpole is more likely to be a feminist than a Nazi, but both are missing something—and not just a balanced picture of God.  [….]  Feminist Skimpoles [….]  are in the same intellectual position as a pouting child at the breakfast table picking the raisins out of the bran flakes.  (131-2)

Fr. Mankowski even jabs feminist nuns while reviewing a dismally ridiculous Norman Mailer novel:

[H]e is so far behind the Heterodoxy Curve as to be unaware that his shattering innovations are little more than the platitudes of New Age suburbia, and have long been superseded by those “weekend spirituality workshops” in which feminist nuns and retired orthodontists are taught how to deconstruct the New Testament and make pumpkin bread.  (152)

This 237-page compilation ends with a chronology of Fr. Mankowski’s expose of the pro-abortion Drinan and a detailed list of Drinan’s extensive anti-life votes (229-31).  Unfortunately, the volume does not have an index, a fatal flaw from Ignatius Press which impedes faculty and student research.

Summary judgement: it’s time to canonize Fr. Paul V. Mankowski for having accomplished two major tasks, exposing corruption within the Jesuit order and living worthily as a genuine and pro-life Jesuit priest.

Categories
Book reviews

Richard Antall’s The X-Mas Files (Atmosphere Press, 2021)

Antall’s latest novel is a delightful review of the mistake called “Christmas” from a perspective that every pro-abortion Democratic politician would appreciate: Satan himself.

If the preceding sounds emotionally charged, then you’ll love Richard Antall’s latest novel, an account of how Satan and his minions would view the birth of Christ if, as the novel suggests, “computer” files were obtained of “reports” from Satan’s demons, trying to explain how they let the baby Jesus slip through their hands and failed to kill Him.

The novel is an attempt of reportage from Hell.  No one has ever considered the birth of Christ from the perspective of Satan, who calls the Incarnation the “Invasion” by the “enemy” angels who chose to remain with God.  Antall does a remarkable job of filling in the gaps of what a demonic account of this supreme failure would be.

And “failure” is what Christmas is, if you’re a fallen angel working for Lucifer.  Since devils despise human life (which explains why they would promote abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia), the birth of Jesus is the ultimate failure for the third of the heavenly host which fell from Heaven instead of the joyous time that the Christian world knows it to be.

The novel is certainly not simple, as in naïve.  It contains several erudite passages, including sophisticated Persian or French terms like “Dahak” or “mauvaise foi”, most of which, fortunately, are translated for us ignorant American readers (9, 58).  Also, some literary allusions require diligent readers to check DuckDuckGo.  For example, “who said that history might have been different if a certain Egyptian queen [Cleopatra] had had a longer […] nose”?  Answer: Blaise Pascal (172).

But that’s the fun of this fictional account of Satan and his minions covering their asses for the failure of stopping the birth of the Messiah.

Antall has a wonderful ability to create characters with whom us ordinary people can identify, probably because he has decades of experience not only reading the quantities of books that he has (when you think of Antall, think of an educated man), but also “reading” people who come to him for spiritual counseling or remission of their sins.

For example, even though she was a most exuberant whore and conveyor of abortifacients all of her life, readers will cheer when Pulcheria has a change of heart near the time of her collapsing in death (118).  Similarly, readers feel joy when the drunkard Nathan acts like a little child, urging his animals to warm the Holy Family as the Virgin Mary gives birth (178).

Moreover, the novel’s comedy is obvious and sophisticated.  I laughed out loud on reading the hilarious “transcriptions” of what are purported to be court records of the trials of the devils who were unable to stop Jesus’ birth.  A filmmaker would have a delightful time producing a Perry Mason-like version of many of these passages (cf. 58ff).

Technically, the novel has merits which should endear it to college and university faculty and students.  The polyvocal contributions of devilish commentary on the Messiah’s birth, the sometimes erudite literary allusions, and the plausibility of what can be categorized as a spiritual allegory should make this novel popular with students in secular institutions, which love anything which seems to attack Christianity.  Orthodox Catholic colleges and universities, of course, will appreciate the novel for its contrarian perspective.

Not only to be read during Christmas, Antall’s latest work can supplement one’s faith journey throughout the year since the topic is universal: the importance of Jesus’ Incarnation.  Who would have “thunk” that a novel written from the perspective of devils could increase someone’s faith?

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Book reviews

Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (Vintage International, 1992)

Written by a lesbian writer, this novel affirms heterosexual normativity and Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage seen through the lens of adultery.  Gay and lesbian literary critics, therefore, and, even worse, transgender literary critics, would probably abuse Winterson the same way they have tried to cancel J. K. Rowling.

A genderless and unnamed narrator has an adulterous affair with a woman, who either has died or merely vanished from the scene.  That this entire novel is merely a linguistic exercise and not a fictional work meant to have some type of meaning in reality or didactic value for contemporary readers is obvious on the penultimate page, when the narrator asserts that “It’s as if Louise never existed, like a character in a book” (189).

That’s it.  Nothing else to say about the plot.  Typical adultery novel.

What’s fascinating, though, is that the gender of the narrator is irrelevant.  If the narrator is female, then the adultery involves a lesbian relationship.  If the narrator is male, then the adultery involves a heterosexual relationship.  So what?  Adultery is still adultery.  The narrator is still contributing to a wife breaking her marriage vows.

What’s more fascinating are the literary allusions to Scripture and Christianity throughout the novel.  Being a British work and set in Britain, the type of Christianity is Anglicanism grown flaccid in its theology and practice as the descriptive passage about a feeble worship service on pages 151-3 illustrates.

Also interesting are casual comments from various characters who show that a vibrant Christianity was desperately needed in the Britain of 1992 as it is still needed now, in 2022.  The philosophy of one of the narrator’s boyfriends is not that love is God Himself and the greatest distinguishing feature of humanity, but that “love had been invented to fool people” (93).  Another typical void-of-religion statement comes from a cancer doctor who says that taking care of cancer patients is “wasting your time”; the question “Why bother?” posed to this doctor is unanswered (149-50).

Pro-life readers, whether those who have same-sex attraction or those who are secure in heterosexual normativity, can cite one statement from the seemingly irreligious narrator as evidence against suicide.  Commenting on being separated from his adulterous lover, the narrator affirms that “Although I felt that my life had been struck in two I still wanted life.  I have never thought of suicide as a solution to unhappiness” (155).

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Book reviews

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam (Center Street/Hachette Book Group, 2021)

A lucid and cogent analysis of corporate America’s distortion of social justice and its support of racist groups like Black Lives Matter, Vivek Ramaswamy’s 358-page work is an indictment of corporate greed and should be an embarrassment to those who swallowed the woke ideology without stopping to think about its anti-American positions.

So much of the book is worthy of annotation that it may be best to purchase it.  Of course, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Purchase it from Hachette Book Group directly: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/vivek-ramaswamy/woke-inc/9781546059820/.

I will, however, highlight some major ideas which will help conservative and pro-life persons fight against the Big Tech and Wall Street billionaires who (invariably) support Democratic politicians who finance the racist, pro-abortion, and anti-American woke activists.  After some initial remarks, the balance of this review will provide quotable quotes to help high school and college students fight back against the leftist tyranny of teachers and faculty, since academia, also, has swallowed the woke nonsense whole without thinking about its negative effects on the nation.

While ordinary patriotic Americans intuitively know that the woke agenda is anti-American, Ramaswamy defines it as clearly as possible for his reader.  “Basically,” he writes, “being woke means obsessing about race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Maybe climate change too” (5).  From this, he asserts that “the point of this book is to expose the dirty little secret underlying […] corporate America’s act, its Prestige.  Here’s how it works: pretend like you care about something other than profit and power, precisely to gain more of each” (3; italics in original).

It helps, too, that, like every American who has been saturated with woke politics obstructing the administration of President Donald Trump, Ramaswamy is “fed up with corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money” (3).

Ramaswamy’s discussion of specific legal and financial concepts can be daunting, requiring several rereadings of the text, but, overall, his language is eminently understandable to the layperson and often quite comical in its metaphors.  For example, “So, in a nutshell, here’s how wokeness and capitalism shacked up: large corporations knocked up woke millennials.  Together they birthed woke capitalism.  And they put Occupy Wall Street up for adoption” (136).

Ramaswamy does not hesitate to identify corporations which succumbed to petulant woke agitators, and his list of companies which follow the “woke-industrial complex” (1) is disturbing, making it seem as though no one can buy anything or use any electronic service without supporting the leftist lunacy of woke activists.  The companies include:

Goldman Sachs, involved in the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad Fund) scandal, while boasting of its purported “ethics” in the United States (15);

L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, and Delta, all of which endorsed the positions of the racist group Black Lives Matter (16-7);

Apple and Uber, fearful of being tainted as “racist” companies after the death of the criminal George Floyd because it would have hurt their business (58);

Volkswagen, which perpetuated the sham of being green after it installed “’defeat devices’ […] to circumvent EPA emissions standards” (91);

Airbnb’s collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party (162);

LeBron James, who fiercely defended the dictatorial regime of the Chinese Communist Party (167-8); “The whole affair exposed a darkly hilarious truth: the NBA and its stars felt duty-bound to criticize America’s president and judicial system but considered it beyond the pale to criticize China’s” (168);

Google’s cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party in censoring its people (172);

YouTube censorship in the United States (183-4);

Facebook censorship in the United States (186);

Mailchimp censorship of conservative groups (187);

the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, which Ramaswamy calls “the charitable world’s equivalent of a Ponzi scheme” (188);

Big Tech’s suppression of Hunter Biden’s extortion crimes (190);

Twitter censorship of the New York Post (191);

Regarding Facebook and Twitter censorship: “Don’t be fooled by their [Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jack Dorsey’s] practiced vulnerability.  Was it merely a coincidence that Facebook and Twitter adopted the exact same policies with the exact same political effect at the exact same time?  Nope.  This wasn’t a case of two bumbling gentle giants that simply couldn’t get out of their own way.  It was a case of nefarious coordination” (191-2);

and finally Coca-Cola and Delta caving in to the boycott by the racist group Black Lives Matter (283).

Of course, while much of the book is devoted to highlighting the insincere support of woke politics by American companies, Ramaswamy does suggest several solutions to counter the disastrous effects of wokeness on the nation.

The first solution is philosophical.  A recurring theme is Ramaswamy’s belief that “I believe the best way to achieve diversity of thought on a corporate board is to simply screen board candidates for the diversity of their thoughts, not the diversity of their genetically inherited attributes” (14).  The idea of selecting intellectual diversity over skin color or gender identity recognized at birth is often repeated.  “True diversity is very valuable,” Ramaswamy judiciously affirms, “both for a nation and for a company.  But it’s diversity of thought that’s supposed to matter, not a kind of diversity crudely measured by appearance or accent” (219; italics in original).  A further insight shows that Ramaswamy can rightfully accuse woke companies and academia themselves of practicing racism: “when institutions conflate racial and gender diversity metrics with diversity of thought in their organizations, they implicitly reinforce the incorrect assumption that genetic characteristics predict something important about the way that a person thinks—the most fundamental assumption underlying racism itself” (266).

Ramaswamy’s remaining solutions to woke’s corrosive effects on the United States are more practical.  “The solution to today’s new dilemma isn’t to change capitalism, as Democrats try to.  But neither is it to ignore the inherently invasive qualities of capitalism, as many Republicans are prone to do.  Rather it’s to prevent capitalism from changing everything else, by building protective walls around the things we cherish most, like democracy” (54).

Moreover, he advocates that shareholders should be able to sue social activist shareholders of woke companies like BlackRock (76-7).  He also argues for a limit to the business judgement rule (97).

Ramaswamy thinks that Senator Josh Hawley is wrong about using antitrust law against Big Tech censorship because Big Tech will only feign a fear of being broken up.  Besides, Big Tech doesn’t restrict markets and raise prices; it censors ideas, a category not specified in the Sherman Act (194-5).  Ramaswamy does, however, recommend that “A more promising solution, at least in theory, would be for Congress to amend Section 230 in the following manner: any company that benefits from Section 230 is bound by the standards of the First Amendment” (208).

Ramaswamy’s final recommendations seem simple, but, if implemented, could halt and correct the damage done by Big Tech and corporations in their support of woke extremism.  Ramaswamy, a practicing Hindu, recommends that we should be charitable towards woke zealots as “Christ gave the Grand Inquisitor a courtesy that the Grand Inquisitor wouldn’t return” (238).  Ramaswamy, the Yale law graduate, argues for protection of political beliefs under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against private actors like Big Tech (244).  Ramaswamy, the multimillionaire entrepreneur, proposes that, instead of divisive critical race theory (CRT), we should practice “critical diversity theory” (CDT), hallmark concepts of which are “Excellence, Opportunity, and Civility—an Alternative to ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’” (267, 270).

While the volume has extensive notes (329-53), there is no index, a grave disservice for students who may need to locate his commentary on a given topic.  For example, researching how woke activists support abortion would be enhanced if an index would collate the references to the Chinese Communist Party’s forcing abortion on Uighur mothers (165); or the book’s discussion of Disney, the CCP, and abortion (169); or vaguer references elsewhere.

Here are some quotable quotes that high school and college students may find compelling to argue in class and in their research papers:

“[T]here’s a difference between speaking up as a citizen and using your company’s market power to foist your views onto society while avoiding the rights of public debate in our democracy.  That’s exactly what Larry Fink does when BlackRock issues social mandates about what companies it will or won’t invest in or what Jack Dorsey does when Twitter consistently censors certain political viewpoints rather than others” (19).

“When companies make political proclamations, employees who personally disagree with the company’s position face a stark choice: speak up freely and risk your career, or keep your job while keeping your head down.  That isn’t how America is supposed to work, yet that is a reality for many Americans today” (20-1).

“As a society we should allow and even embrace the corporate pursuit of financial self-interest above all.  The only thing we should ask in return is this: keep it naked, instead of dressing it up as altruism” (39; italics in original).

“Personally while I believe racism exists and should be eliminated, I don’t believe in ‘systemic racism.’  In fact, I don’t even know what it means: to me, it sounds like a catchall phrase designed to allow political leaders to escape accountability for solving real-world problems like poverty and failure in education” (63).

“By adopting these new ‘woke’ values, America’s business leaders stumbled upon a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leap from heresy to sainthood.  Corporations were no longer the oppressors.  Instead, corporate power—if wielded in the right way—could actually empower the new disempowered classes who suffered not at the hands of evil corporations but instead at the hands of straight white men—the real culprits who had exploited their power not only since the birth of the corporation but throughout all of modern human history” (135).

“The wedding of wokeness to capitalism offers a tempting, individually rational choice that harms the nation as a whole by handing corporations social and political power.  They don’t truly have wokeness’s best interests at heart, and the two systems aren’t truly compatible.  Wokeness and capitalism simply tolerate each other because each feels it can use the other.  They will turn a blind eye to each other’s faults as long as they themselves can still benefit.  But a marriage in which each side secretly has contempt for the other cannot end well” (140).

“Large publicly traded technology companies, as of this writing, have added over a trillion dollars of market capitalization since the start of the pandemic in early 2020—an order of magnitude more than the GDP of most nations in the same period.  Why?  Because lockdowns meant more people decided to get their groceries on Amazon rather than go to the local store, because more people were able to meet via Zoom rather than travel to a conference, and because more people chose to subscribe to Netflix rather than go to a movie theater.  Meanwhile, small businesses across America suffered for the very same reason.  It’s no wonder that Big tech stacked the decks of public debate to favor lockdowns” (186).

“A recent report from the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology found that over a third of conservative academics and PhD students in the US have been threatened with disciplinary action for their views, and 70 percent of conservative academics report a hostile departmental climate for their beliefs.  The report contains a number of other grim statistical findings, like the fact that more that 40 percent of US academics would refuse to hire a Trump supporter” (265).

“Committed liberals should be concerned about what woke capitalism does to pure ideals like service, altruism, and social good.  Anyone who sincerely cares about important causes like female empowerment, racial equality, and environmentalism ought to be offended when these causes are cheapened by corporations that pawn them off to advance their own goals” (304).

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Book reviews

David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl (Penguin Books, 2000)

A fictionalized account of a transgender person whose life supports traditional heterosexual values; worth reading to counter the idiocy of today’s transgender zealots.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Obtaining a copy for reading purposes free of charge through your local public library would suffice.

David Ebershoff, who has been on a gay serial’s “list of influential LGBT people” (biography page before the title page), views the case of Einar Wegener, who later became Lili Elbe, as “a pioneer of the transgender movement” (10 of the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”).  However, it would be foolish to claim her case as evidence to support today’s aggressive transgender political movement that Ryan T. Anderson cogently warned us about in his 2018 book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

From my application of the five principles of right-to-life literary theory to Ebershoff’s novel, Einar Wegener’s unfortunate case of hermaphroditism and eventual transformation into Lili supports heterosexual and Jewish and Christian sexual values more than it attacks them.

First, regarding whether the literary work supports the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless, it is obvious that Einar, his wife Greta, Lili, and other characters believe that living is worthwhile, despite the anxieties created by Lili’s bodily and sexual confusion.

Second, the literary work does respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life.  The action of the novel is supposed to occur in Denmark and Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s when eugenicist thinking was pronounced and, in the case of the latter nation, forming the ideological basis of the Nazi party.  Yet no instance of support for killing a sexually-confused person like Einar is suggested in the novel.  Even those doctors who attempted to assist Einar in resolving his sexual confusion should be cited as advocating treatments deemed scientific at the time, but quackery in our supposedly sophisticated medical elitist era.

Third, does the novel respect heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?  Granted, the depictions of family life show the flaws of poor parenting.  Einar’s father’s disciplinary methods were typical of the time.  When Einar at age seven wore his mother’s beads, his father exclaims, “’You can’t do that!’ [….]  ‘Little boys can’t do that!’”, to which Einar’s counter question of “But why not?” goes unanswered (28).  Similarly, some statements about married life illustrate a negative view that some have towards marriage.  For example, Greta equates marriage not as the sacramental union of a man and a woman, but as “the great cave of wedlock” (19).

Lili, however, utters several heterosexual affirmations which run contrary to transgender political correctivity.  “’Marriage is like a third person,’ Lili said.  ‘It creates someone else, more than just the two of you’” (79)—a statement which can attest to her own “creation” within the marriage of Einar and Greta and to the life-giving sexual function of marriage.  Carlisle, Greta’s brother, affirms Lili’s desire to be a wife and mother when he asserts the rhetorical question, “What little girl doesn’t want” to be a mother (251).

Moreover, the third question of right-to-life literary theory offers some lightness at this point.  Gay and transgender zealots (and even ordinary readers) would delight, chuckle, and (if the reader is a high school or college student) thrill with the desire to write a standard literary research paper loaded with the usual crap about sexual imagery in the similes and metaphors which Einar uses to describe his penis.  Einar identifies his penis as a part “as small and useless as a white radish” (10) or “the garish lump in his groin” (11).  The penis of his boyhood friend, Hans, is described as “pink […] flopping around like [a] schnauzer tail” (31).  Later, when Einar is transforming into a woman, Lili considers Einar’s shriveled penis (or his scrotum; the text is ambiguous) as “vile” (107).  When he anticipates the first of his sex surgery operations, Einar describes his penis as “parasitically worthless, the color of a wart” (173) and later “spongy flesh” (192).  After the surgery, the author colorfully (and weirdly!) writes that “Einar Wegener has passed from man into woman, two testicles scooped from the pruned hammock of his scrotum” (200).

It would be litotes to say that Einar’s/Lili’s attitudes towards the penis are not consistent with any male who thanks God for his ability to use such a tool for sexually pleasing his wife and being open to the creation of new life.  Oh well, what else can be expected from an author like Ebershoff who writes characters who seem to be devoid of religious values?

Fourth, determing whether the literary work comports with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist could be challenging since this novel concerns neither abortion, infanticide, nor euthanasia as topics.  However, the attitude towards respect for human life is evident in two seemingly insignificant passages.  Greta’s child by her first husband is a stillbirth, and, even though Greta “sometimes hated the baby growing inside her” (42), the author notes that she had the child baptized.  While religion or religious incidents and values are virtually absent in the novel, this notation is surprising.  Why would Greta even bother to have her stillborn son baptized if she and her husband lead lives devoid of any religious activity?  Is this act of faith perfunctory or a sign that a deeper set of values is inherent in human life as manifested in these characters?

Similarly, when her first husband asks her to kill him as he lay dying from tuberculosis, Greta refuses to perform the euthanasia, but only on aesthetic, not religious or moral grounds.  “She couldn’t do it.  Such a horrible way to die, beneath this smelly old thing, rubber the last scent of your life” (168).  While this is a feeble reason not to kill someone, it is at least a reason, so credit must be given to Greta for affirming that her husband’s mature (and diseased) human life has an inherent right to exist.

Finally, when they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?  The reader cannot determine this question with certainty.  Lili dies at novel’s end, and Greta leaves Denmark to marry and live in California.  While the film version of this novel may suggest a “spiritual” ending, finding such in the novel requires a subjective, if not tortured, analysis which would detract from this novel being a quick read.

I can understand how transgender zealots may use this novel as literary evidence of ambiguity about bodily integrity that supposedly afflicts many in contemporary culture.  However, the bodily or sexual confusion that transgender zealots think people experience may be located more in Ebershoff’s following claim in the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”: “We struggle throughout our lives to learn to accept the shell that transports us through this world” (15).  Jews and Christians, especially Catholics who know about St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, would dispute such a negative view of the human body. Maybe that’s why transgender zealots are so furious when the rest of us affirm heterosexual normativity.

Categories
Book reviews

Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)

Although dated, Bobbitt’s work, a scholarly treatment of statecraft, can help the pro-life world understand how Big Tech could corrupt the market-states, which, the author argues, is replacing nation-states.

Reading Bobbitt’s work is equivalent to a semester (or two) of college credit without the leftist lunacy that most colleges and universities now interject with their distortions of “social justice” (gender equality, which distorts heterosexual normativity; bashing the United States, which they think is the Satan of nations; or affirming racist groups like Black Lives Matter).  Thus, the general reader will delight in whipping out his or her smartphone to learn more about historical events and persons mentioned in the text or defining polysyllabic and rarely-used words, like the wonderfully mellifluous “vertiginous” (703).

Pro-life readers will especially appreciate being able to “connect the dots” of Bobbitt’s study with current events two decades later, and the epiphany that they will receive should motivate them to even greater action than reading Senator Josh Hawley’s exposé of Big Tech, demonstrated in his masterly book The Tyranny of Big Tech (Regnery, 2021).

Of course, while Bobbitt’s book is dated, all readers will appreciate his discussion of five developments that challenge the sovereignty of nation-states (xxii); or his commentary on cutting regulations and taxes (241), which will lead the reader to conclude ineluctably that President Trump was right on those topics and that the inept Joe Biden and his fellow anti-American Democrats are wrong in their $3.5 trillion tax increases; or the “the six modalities of U.S. constitutional law” (660).

Bobbitt’s work has at least one glaring omission of an important person who made world history.  There is no mention of St. John Paul II and his role in the discussion of the collapse of communism in Europe (61), nor is the saint mentioned in the discussion of Poland’s labor union Solidarnosc (622).  There isn’t even an index entry for John Paul II.  I trust that Bobbitt doesn’t think that it was only President Reagan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who worked to end Communism in Europe.

While some items in Bobbitt’s work, since it is dated, must be disregarded, such as the woefully outdated internet information (788), more items must be corrected or updated.  Reading that “The democratic, capitalist, and parliamentary state no longer faces great-power threats” (8) is cringeworthy; Communist China was an enemy of the United States in 2002 as it is now, even more so, as President Trump showed us during his administration.  Regarding his comments on the Second Amendment, a vital update is needed because of the destruction and death caused by Antifa domestic terrorists (237).  Similarly, there should be an update regarding enemy states; the claim that “None really threaten [sic] us” (268) is naïve when we Americans know that Communist China wishes to destroy American intellectual and political power or that the Taliban has seized an entire nation from which international terrorism has a base, no thanks to the inept Joe Biden.

Furthermore, since “corporations” in 2021 include the more powerful social media companies created by leftist billionaires who mine our personal data for their bank accounts, several of Bobbitt’s statements about corporations and their involvement in the market-state need revision.

For example, Bobbitt’s claim that “Business corporations cannot try people and jail them” (337) needs to be corrected.  Big Tech social media companies try (as in determine the political correctness of users’ opinions) and then jail (as in ban, block, censor, or quarantine) users if the leftist social media companies don’t like what is posted.

Similarly, Bobbitt’s claim that Nazi ideology as a governmental form has vanished from the globe is woefully premature: “The disgust and horror experienced by civilized people everywhere [over Nazi death camps] effectively removed fascism from the list of possible choices that nations might consider in forming states and marginalized it forever to the dormitory rooms of misfits” (610).  Abortions performed in “clinics” run by companies like the monolithic Planned Parenthood are the death camps of today, and the Nazi “misfits” of the 1940s are today’s Antifa domestic terrorists, financed by Democratic Party operatives.

Moreover, the claim that feminism “has thus far been quite marginal” (658) is either utterly naïve or blatantly ignorant.  Anti-life feminism, the kind that, unlike pro-life feminism, supports abortion, has managed to coerce corporations and governments to support abortion with donations (from the corporations) and tax dollars (from the governments) all in the name of “equality”, a corruption of the Western ideal so that the unborn child’s life is not equal to that of the mother and his or her father.

As a corollary, if Bobbitt cannot recognize anti-life feminism’s impact on the globe, then no wonder he can assert the tiresome and misleading statistic that AIDS is the “leading cause of death among Americans under the age of twenty-one” (709) and not perceive or be bold enough to state that abortion is the number one killer of youth.

Instead of faulting his research, contemporary readers can use Bobbitt’s commentary about the market-state to see how Big Tech is trying to corrupt (hopefully, not already has corrupted) the market-state.  According to Bobbitt, “the market-state promises instead to maximize the opportunity of the people and thus tends to privatize many state activities and to make voting and representative government less influential and more responsive to the market” [211].  If this definition is true, then Big Tech would love the market-state because it’s all about money: “the market-state is largely indifferent to the norms of justice, or for that matter to any particular set of moral values so long as law does not act as an impediment to economic competition” (230).

Bobbitt’s commentary about political leaders in the new market-state is almost prophetic.  “I speculate that leadership for this move [“to encourage the development of entrepreneurial states”] is likelier to come from the leaders of multinational corporations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) than from leaders of the national security apparatus and the political establishment” (337).  While it would be disastrous to think that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Jack Dorsey (Twitter) are those “leaders”, I think a better example of such a leader who can function in the new worldview and who supports the pro-life movement was and is President Donald Trump.  How desperately we need more leaders like him to counter the leftist ones in Big Tech who would destroy Western civilization!

Fortunately, Bobbitt clearly identifies the Achilles’ heel(s) of the market-state: “the market-state’s inherent weaknesses—its lack of community, its extreme meritocracy, its essential materialism and indifference to heroism, spirituality, and tradition” (290).  Thus, if Big Tech thinks it can flourish in such a political arrangement, its constituent companies (the leftist Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.) would need to battle billions of people who oppose materialism, who aim to be heroes, who are spiritual, and who believe and follow tradition.

Finally, Bobbitt specifies some areas where the market-state could promote anti-life ideas, so pro-lifers must be vigilant against Big Tech’s/corporations’ efforts to harm or kill human beings.  He recognizes that the market-state may ration health care by determining “to whom to give life-saving medical care” (710).  In a futuristic scenario of one category of the market-state, Bobbitt conjectures that “anti-abortion laws […] all vanished” (735) and, in another scenario, “assisted suicide […] organ harvesting” occur (736; italics in original in both cases).  A final example of a scenario for a future market-state lists “population control” as a “constitutional condition for a society of market-states” (802).

At 888 lugubrious pages, Bobbitt’s work is challenging to read, yet necessary to understand how the Big Tech billionaires could distort our twenty-first century.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book on any service other than Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned pro-life dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/15353/the-shield-of-achilles-by-philip-bobbitt/) or from some other venue.

Categories
Book reviews

Kevin Clark’s and Ravi Scott Jain’s The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education (Classical Academic Press, 2013)

Everybody knows that public school secondary (and even primary) education is inferior.  Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain aim to convince us that the essential way to overcome the feeble educational structures of today is to do something truly bold, even revolutionary.  They want students to read books.

And not just any books, but the foundational, ancient works which are the canon of Western civilization, such as the works of Aristotle and the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Clark and Jain discuss and argue for the return of the seven subject areas of the Trivium and the Quadrivium, categorized in the acronym PGMAPT, which stands for piety, gymnastic, music, the liberal arts, philosophy, and theology (3).

It is a joy to read authors who cite with approbation (and not ridicule as contemporary politically-motivated “educators” do) several dominant concepts from the ancient and medieval worlds which inform Western culture, including St. Anselm’s “credo ut intelligam”, “I believe that I may understand” (4), and the ancient maxim that “Imitation precedes art” (5).  Plato’s idea that “the songs we sing, the stories we read, and the art we make and admire, form our souls” (27) is damning for those who think that rap and trap music meet the transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty.

Moreover, it is an especially delightful ecumenical joy to read the authors’ opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica: “In this text the reader finds a careful consideration of every known perspective on every conceivable theological and philosophical problem” (43).  High praise indeed!

Contemporary readers may be shocked to learn that the people of the medieval period, dismissed as mere peasants under the domination of what some would criticize as a patriarchal and oppressive Catholic Church, espoused ideas strikingly “modern”, such as the fact that “appeals to reason were the strongest form of medieval proof” (8).  Reason, therefore, did not just pop into the world with the advent of the bloody French Revolution, which was supposed to be the philosophical summation of reason.

Similarly, the ancient and medieval periods believed that gymnastic was important because “the body and the soul are united in such a way that failure to cultivate the capacities inherent in either is failure to cultivate the whole person” (22).  Catholic readers know that this unity is an essential criterion of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  Thus, it is good to see Protestant Christians recognizing the importance of the ancient belief in human beings consisting of both a corporal and a spiritual element, a belief always held by the Catholic Church.

One noteworthy idea needs to be emphasized.  Contemporary college and university professors will agree with Clark and Jain when they claim that today’s academics are like the ancient Sophists, as when professors argue, for example, that truth is relative (89).  Clark and Jain write further about “postmodern anti-realism, which is perhaps a variant of the ancient sophism” (112).  Any college or university academic who is forced into diversity or equity sessions promoting the  irrational and illogical support for the mental disorder of transgenderism will agree with the authors that such anti-realist efforts prove that contemporary academics are indeed more sophist than philosopher, let alone professorial.

There are two flaws in the work worth mentioning.  First, the footnotes expanding ideas in the text are often lugubrious—so thick that the train of thought in the original paragraph can be lost.

Second, the work is obviously a Protestant treatise, and the inability to identify the Roman Catholic component of Western civilization is not only intellectually dismissive, but also annoying.  The authors refer to the “medieval” world and its authors, but seem hesitant to mention an important descriptor of such authors: they were not merely Christian, but Catholic, and even more specifically Roman Catholic Christian (in contrast to Byzantine or Greek Catholic or Orthodox Christianity).  Maybe this hesitancy occurs because the authors wanted to appeal to a Protestant Christian audience which may not appreciate the efforts of 1,500 years of Catholic Christianity, continuing, by the way, well past the Reformation.  I hope that the hesitancy is not due to an inherent anti-Catholic bias, like the kind that secular and atheist thinkers in contemporary education have.

Despite these flaws, the work is a helpful handbook for those entering, for example, an academy which uses the Great Books or which operates in contrast to public or parochial schools which fail to stimulate sufficient wonder in their students, whether their charges are elementary or secondary students.

In fact, college faculty may find the authors’ premises helpful to reorganize their higher education curricula so that college and university education does not simply parrot the leftist nonsense promoted by certain political factions in society vying for their fifteen minutes of fame.  We college professors already know about the Trivium and the Quadrivium.  Clark and Jain make a compelling argument for their return to academia.

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Book reviews

Ellen Glasgow’s Barren Ground (1925)

Steven Spielberg would never film this novel since it features an unfulfilled feminist, so Mel Gibson will have to do it.

Pro-abortion feminists in this twenty-first century may think of Ellen Glasgow as just another dead white female writer, but pro-life feminists will delight in and learn much from this quasi-autobiographical and thorough narrative of Dorinda, a late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century woman who thinks that her life is a failure.

Maybe it’s a failure because Dorinda has been restricted by Presbyterian Christianity and therefore beyond the two-millennia tradition of orthodox Catholic Christianity and all that the religion has to say about love, marriage, and sex.

Maybe Dorinda is an unfulfilled woman because she (or the author) confuses the terms “love”, “marriage”, and “sex” throughout the novel.  These three terms seem to be used interchangeably when they obviously denote different things, as anybody steeped in Judaism and Christianity knows.  Dorinda’s comments on love and sex lead to the conclusion that she would have benefited from understanding the Theology of the Body as discussed by St. John Paul II, especially since the characters are Protestant.  Although the setting is decades before the saint first enunciated his ideas about the importance of sex and the human body, this claim is not anachronistic, of course, since Catholic Christianity has consistently taught that sex, instituted by the Creator, is so beautiful as the union of two bodies that it must be honored within marriage.  Dorinda utterly fails to understand that.

In fact, the terms and phrases which Dorinda uses to refer to the triad of love, marriage, and sex demonstrate the unfortunate ambiguity of her Protestant Christian heritage, becoming more nominal as she progresses through the decades of the plot.  Dorinda mentions the three terms in often obscured language, as when she talks about “this hidden knowledge of life” (27) or that she “became aware of her body” (63).  This hesitancy cannot be attributed to authorial fear of not being published.  After all, the novel was written in 1925, when Freud’s ideas about sex were emerging as popular topics; the author herself was as bold as most early feminists of that time were known to be.

Dorinda’s attitude toward life in general shows how pessimistic someone can become who distances him- or herself from the life-affirming Judeo-Christian ethos.  Dorinda equates life with “barren ground” (196), and she thinks the “will to love” is a “destructive process” (233).  It doesn’t help, either, that Dorinda was unwanted: “Dorinda and [her brother] Rufus both came while [their mother] was looking ahead, as she told herself, to a peaceful middle age unhampered by child-bearing” (39).

Closely related to sex, maybe Dorinda is such a lonely and unfulfilled character because she has a negative view of men.  Even though she encountered some men who were faithful and loving, Dorinda (like a typical teenaged girl) cannot get over her “first love”, who is more a disgrace to the male gender than a possible husband and father of Dorinda’s child.  This episode of fornication with a man who just wanted to get into her pants is the cause of her enduring negative views on men.  While asserting that she could live without any man is innocuous enough (106), agreeing with her mother in being secretive with men (124) and saying that “No good had ever come […] of putting questions to a man” (318) illustrate her inability to work with the male half of humanity—a fatal flaw in a person who should be a fully-developed feminist.

Overall, Glasgow paints a depressing portrait of an aging feminist, but it is a portrait which can not only educate us in the twenty-first century, but also force us to support traditional sexual norms in a twenty-first century culture which accepts the leftist idiocy of a distorted gender ideology and the mental illness of transgenderism as alternative lifestyles.  While Dorinda hopes for “something in life besides love” (198), contemporary readers must counter that love is the essence of life.  While Dorinda reduces love, marriage, and sex with the demeaning phrase “all that” (252) and babbles about “sex vanity” (292), contemporary readers, again, must reaffirm what the Creator originally intended: love leads to marriage, which enables a man and a woman to engage in the rapturous physical activity of sex.  Pity the man who marries a woman like Dorinda, who has “a distaste for physical love” (471)!

A final comment is necessary about the denouement.  Although she is a warped feminist, Dorinda is a successful businesswoman.  Moreover, she overcame her first experience of fornication and married another successful businessman in her home town.  Why, then, at age thirty-three, doesn’t she feel “complete” (355)?  Similarly, even though she has overcome major obstacles to her financial and social success, why does she still assert a hundred pages towards novel’s end, “Three months of love, and you pay for it with all the rest of your life” (412)?  Finally, near the end of the novel—a mere four pages away from the ending—why does Dorinda regret “the love that she had never known and the happiness that she had missed” (522)?  While she does claim “better by far the drab freedom” of simple women than the life of married women (88), the adjective clearly indicates that Dorinda disparages the single as much as she denigrates the married state.  Does she not know that being a single woman is a fulfilling vocation like being a married woman, or a woman devoting herself to a religious order?  Apparently, not.  Remember: Dorinda hails from a Presbyterian form of Christianity in a rural Virginia area, so religious diversity and the two-thousand year history of Catholic Christianity are closed to her.

Hopefully, some of the above conjectures and ideas may help students working on literature essays for their secondary or college courses.  The rest of us can simply delight in reading an early twentieth-century novel which functions as evidence that, even then, feminist writers were aware that a woman who closed herself to love led to an eventual unfulfilled life.

Categories
Book reviews

Josh Hawley’s The Tyranny of Big Tech (Regnery, 2021)

Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and other Big Tech Democrats should worry: young Republican elected officials, who will soon replace them, are targeting Big Tech on behalf of the American people.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book on any service other than Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned pro-life dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher, Regnery: https://www.regnery.com/9781684512393/the-tyranny-of-big-tech/.

Senator Josh Hawley’s book is a masterly analysis of how Big Tech completes the efforts of the robber barons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to amass wealth at the expense of hardworking, ordinary American citizens.  Hawley summarizes how the monopolies of the late nineteenth century began through the efforts of millionaires like J. P. Morgan, who worked tirelessly to guarantee that the federal government did not interfere in their plans to hoard as much money as possible for themselves.

Hawley illustrates cogently how the robber barons’ ideology, called “corporate liberalism”, was strongly opposed by Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, only to become enshrined as the economic ideology of the United States under Democratic President Woodrow Wilson.  This ideology divided the American workforce into the elite industrialists and bankers who hoarded wealth; management, which did the bidding of the wealthy elite; and ordinary people who slaved for management and the plutocratic wealthy.  Since corporate liberalism was the foundation economic theory of the rest of the twentieth century, Hawley thus concludes that Big Tech’s primary goal of amassing wealth succeeds where J. P. Morgan and his fellow plutocrats failed.

And we ordinary Americans suffer accordingly at the hands of Big Tech monopolists.

Fortunately, though, not all is lost because, as Senator Hawley experienced firsthand when he interrogated Mark Zuckerberg in several interviews regarding Facebook’s censorship, “Big Tech is desperately afraid of public criticism, of someone taking a public stand” (126).  Hawley proposes several initiatives to stop Big Tech’s attacks on American life, including: placing the Federal Trade Commission, which can prevent monopolies, under the Department of Justice (152); ending Big Tech’s Section 230 immunity (153); giving social media users the “Do Not Track” option (154); and treating Big Tech platforms like publishers so that social media users can sue them for censorship (156).

Although he doesn’t say it, all of these positive efforts to combat the Big Tech monopoly can only occur, though, when Democrats are kicked out of the House, the Senate, and the White House.  While he points out that both Republicans and Democrats support the concept of corporate liberalism and have benefited from Big Tech’s major donations to their campaigns, both Hawley and we ordinary Americans know that the billionaires of Big Tech consistently support Democratic Party candidates over Republicans.

And the reasons why Big Tech supports the un-American values of the Democratic Party are obvious.  Big Tech endorses the LGBTQ agenda (which distorts heterosexual normativity) and the racism of Black Lives Matter (109).  Finally, Big Tech promotes abortion, even to the point of censoring pro-life groups; Hawley got Zuckerberg to admit that that Facebook “wrongly de-platformed a pro-life group, Live Action” (2).

Buying the book is absolutely necessary, not only to reward Hawley for having written a guide for future legislative action against Big Tech billionaires (remember: Simon & Schuster reneged on its plan to publish his book), but also to serve as a reference.  My own annotations spanned three full single-spaced pages, so purchasing the book from Regnery was essential instead of breaking copyright rules by photocopying relevant pages.  All of Hawley’s book is relevant.

Finally, here are some choice quotes for consideration, all of which can help students write solid essays on Big Tech abuses:

Hawley’s book “calls into question the reigning order of corporate liberalism, and it challenges the power of those who benefit from it” (ix).

“The book is an exercise in alternative possibilities, an attempt to recover a different way of thinking about society and politics; it is an attempt, most fundamentally, to recover the meaning of the common man’s republic” (xii).

Quoting Teddy Roosevelt: “And of all forms of tyranny […] the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy” (28).

On the influence of St. Paul: “What was revolutionary about Paul in a political sense was his insistence on the dignity of ordinary people and ordinary life” (32).

“For reasons the chattering class couldn’t quite pinpoint, couldn’t quite comprehend or even describe, the voting public became more and more out of sorts as the twenty-first century dawned, more resistant to the usual political platitudes and talking points” (53).

“Zuckerberg’s spoke of change, a fresh departure from the past, but in fact his pitch was the climax of the revolution his robber baron predecessors had initiated a century before.  It was the climax of corporate liberalism” (58).

“The Age of Big Tech, like the age of the robber barons, would be the age of monopoly” (59).

“Far from empowering everyday Americans, Big Tech was assaulting the habits and mores of democratic life” (76).

“Woodrow Wilson and his fellow corporate liberals had portrayed self-development as a form of liberty, the form of liberty most suited to, most needed in, the modern era.  And yet the advent of social media made painfully, brutally clear that the search for self-development, self-expression, and originality could be as much a burden as a relief” (81; italics in original).

“The private-choice liberty of corporate liberalism was, of course, a version of the liberty Big Tech assiduously promoted to sell its products and justify its power.  And the irony was thick.  Big Tech’s social media platforms, the things Mark Zuckerberg said would connect the world, were perhaps the most anti-social devices in American history: not connecting, but isolating; not uniting, but dividing” (82; italics in original).

“As outrage became the norm on the social platforms, researchers found that heavy social media users were taking their outrage with them into the workplace, the neighborhood, the church—in short, to those actual communities made up of actual people that had once been havens from the outrage-by-algorithm of online culture but were now increasingly subject to its contagion” (86-7).

Quoting Robert Epstein, “Google […] has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world since at least 2015” (102).

Big Tech “produced almost nothing, paid next to nothing in U.S. taxes, made virtually no significant capital investment relative to their profits, and extracted nearly all their value as economic rents from a customer base held hostage to their monopoly control” (112).

Section 230 succinctly explained: “Under the new and improved statute, tech companies could shape or edit content without liability, could take down content without any show of good faith or fair dealing, and could display content they knew to be illegal—and no one could challenge any of it in court” (128).

“Victory against Big Tech’s pathologies requires that we reinvigorate family, neighborhood, school, and church, the places where, in authentic community, we come to know ourselves and one another, exercise our responsibilities, and find our sense of belonging.  These are the places where we become citizens, where we become free, where we learn to exercise the sovereignty of a citizen in a free republic.  Genuine community is now, more than ever, countercultural—and opposed to the ersatz ‘global community’ pushed by the corrupt and power-hungry Big Tech” (143).