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Friday, October 13, 2017

Alone in the Universe: October 12, 2017

Yesterday, October 12, 2017, was my birthday, meaning, no cards, no cake, no candles, no calls. No presents, no invitations, no "I know today is your birthday and I know it's always hard for you. Want to talk about it?"

My birthday mostly exists to drive home to me that I am alone, have always been alone, and will always be alone.

And so this blog about aloneness.

Has anyone ever been as alone as I am?

My birthday is the same date as traditional Columbus Day, an international and, of late, controversial holiday, to which I am sentimentally attached. Lately people have been attacking Columbus Day, and I stepped up and reposted a previous piece arguing against the New Age, Politically Correct insistence that white men are uniquely evil and that Native Americans were and are superior.

A reader wrote to remind me of the Crow Creek Massacre.

Some Indians were living in a settlement, complete with a protective moat and stockade. Invaders came. The Indians were massacred and their remains left for researchers to study. Invaders scalped them. Tore out their tongues. Left their bodies to rot in the sun, without decent burial. There are relatively few remains of fertile females. Probably taken as sex slaves. This all happened, researchers say, in the 1300s, well before Europeans arrived in North America.

Reading the researchers' account was really disturbing. I could picture myself in that village, facing the invaders, being dragged out and bludgeoned.

People. What we humans do to each other.

When I think of this Crow Creek massacre, I feel so sad and so overwhelmed. I think of many things, including, how lonely it feels. Lonely as in unconnected. Lonely as in without gravestone, commemoration, without the balm of meaning. We don't even have names for these victims. They were just anonymous human flesh slaughtered like animals.

Meaning can make almost anything unbearable. Being alone strips you of meaning. Yesterday meant nothing to anyone but me.

I should be grateful. I have, so far, eluded the scalping tomahawk. Although I see, in this morning's news, that Trump has managed to cut off funding for health care for folks like me: working poor, pre-existing condition, chronically ill, and old. I have recently received my second cancer diagnosis. If what I am reading is true, I have just lost access to necessary treatment and monitoring. How many of us will our fellow citizens dispatch to more civilized mass graves?

I wasn't always this alone. When I was younger, prettier, less poor, more shy – thus less challenging – and more conventional, there were more people in my life.

I remember when I first began writing. That drove people away, especially men.

I remember when I got sick with the inner ear ailment. Friends evaporated like dew.

Three apologies.

First apology. G was in my life twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years! That's more years than my brother Phil, who was killed on my birthday, had on earth.

After I was struck by the inner ear disorder, G rejected my friendship. She did so quite articulately. She called me up and said, "You are facing many hardships, and I don't like hearing about it. If you can't be more upbeat, goodbye." It was one of those phone calls that is so stunning that I remember exactly where I was standing when I received it.

G contacted me a few months back. She had found me through Facebook. My name is unusual and easily googled. She sent me a friend request, and a rather tepid apology for her behavior over twenty years ago.

I did not respond. As a Christian, I am supposed to offer forgiveness. Let Jesus forgive G. I feel zero forgiveness for G and I do not want to reward her with my presence in her life. She has proven herself unworthy.

Second apology. R was adorable. He had the cutest Scottish accent. He had a heart of gold. We were lovers.

My brother Mike died and I was sad. It was my second brother to die, in the prime of life, in a relatively short time. In addition to being sad, I was also, slowly but surely, finding my voice as a writer in those days. I spoke. I expressed my opinion.

R broke up with me. He said he couldn't handle my sadness over my brother's death, and he was put off by how verbal and intelligent I was.

I was young, and I thought I'd find another lover easily enough, so I did not hold it against him.

Years later, he wrote to apologize, to tell me that he had still had feelings for me, and that he was about to marry a woman, about whom he said, "Every idea she has in her head, I put there." I suspect that they are very happy.

Third apology. I adored E. He backed away from me when I was going through a difficult time. Years later he wrote to apologize. He said that he had gone to grad school, and had been targeted, for no good reason, by the higherups, and he suddenly understood the difficult time I had been going through. He said that his friends had begun to back away from him the way that he remembered himself backing away from me. He said that he suddenly realized how venally he had behaved, and how much it must have hurt me.

It was a beautiful letter. We are no longer in touch. Some broken things can't be fixed. I still think of E, and only with fondness. He had eyes the color of Sleeping Beauty turquoise. That is what I remember, and that sweet sound of his voice.



And being alone.

Happy Birthday to me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

For Indigenous Peoples' Day a.k.a. Columbus Day

I used to, on some level, accept the popular notion that Native Americans were more spiritual and in tune with nature than European Americans, and that it was European Americans who brought war, sexism, and environmental degradation to an otherwise innocent, peaceful and Edenic Native America.

As a kid I bought slim paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Club that taught me that Native Americans planted dead fish in their agricultural fields in order to fertilize them. I learned that North American Indians didn't have the wheel, bronze, iron, or steel, or writing. They cooked acorns by dropping hot stones into holes dug in the ground and filled with water. The acorns had to be soaked in advance in order to leech them of toxins. I thought of how cumbersome and time-consuming that cooking method would be, and how bland a meal a soaked acorn would provide.

In popular culture, Native Americans were the spiritual and natural corrective to modern Americans, who were seen as greedy and divorced from nature. On TV, Iron Eyes Cody witnessed American pollution and a visible tear flowed down his creased and weathered cheek. Of course Iron Eyes Cody was actually Sicilian but hey. The commercial meant well.

Chief Seattle was alleged to have given an eloquent speech about protecting the environment. He compared the Native American harmony with nature and the White Man's greed. Chief Seattle's environmental speech is a hoax. The version most people know was written by a white, Christian man from Texas.

My environmentalist and Politically Correct friends were deeply offended by the "kill theory" of megafauna extinction. How did wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers disappear? Native Americans probably wiped them out. That's one theory, the "kill" theory. Other theories are the "chill" theory – cold weather killed the megafauna, and the "ill" theory. They died from disease. The kill theory depicted Native Americans as just like all other humans – not "in harmony with nature" but eager to exploit nature and heedless of the long term consequences of such exploitation.

Christy Turner is a forensic anthropologist specializing in teeth. Native Americans have different teeth than European Americans. Their teeth are shovel shaped.

Turner was working his way through a box of bones in an Arizona museum in the 1970s when he said to himself "Holy Smokes." He suddenly realized that these human bones were the remains of a meal. These Native Americans had been butchered, cooked, and eaten. The bones showed typical evidence like cutting at key points to remove meat from bone. Diners had lopped off the tops of human skulls and placed them, face out, around fires in order to cook up and gain access to tasty brains. Before eating these peoples' brains, the diners had gazed at their agonized, slaughtered faces staring out at them from the cook fire.

Turner dated this horror repast, this cannibal cafeteria, between 900 AD and 1150 AD – three hundred years before Columbus arrived in North America. He found seventy-two sites with cannibal remains. Tons of human meat.

At one site, the cannibals slaughtered a family, butchered them, cooked them, ate them, and then crapped their remains out into the most sacred and beloved spot in a home – the family hearth – the source of heat, light, sustenance, and companionship. A coprolite, or fossilized feces, was found in the family hearth. It contained human remains, proof positive of Turner's cannibalism theory.

Turner published his research. He called the cannibals "thugs" and "Charles Manson types"

He was demonized. How dare you, you nasty white man named "Christy" as in the evil Christian Church (yes Turner's critics did say things like this), how dare you vilify Native Americans? Turner is hated to this day.

I was shocked when I read Turner's research. On some level I really believed that Native Americans were kinder and gentler and more spiritual.

I went to the National Museum of the American Indian run by the Smithsonian Institution. I learned there that Pizarro was able to conquer the Inca Empire with fewer than two hundred Spanish soldiers. Native American soldiers fought with him against the Inca. There must have been some mighty hatred for the Inca on the part of their Native American neighbors.

The Aztecs bragged of sacrificing 80,000 victims at the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487. A review of a museum show of Aztec art called it "chilling" and "terrifying." Writing in "The Guardian," journalist Laura Cumming called Aztec art

"the most alien of all art. There are no images of moving animals, as in the caves of Lascaux. There are no accounts of great deeds, or commemorations of great leaders as in the art of the Pharaohs. Unlike just about every other culture in history, the Aztecs did not represent women, or women with babies, or, indeed, children at all. Nor, to be fair, did they ever depict men except as priests or warriors half-skeletonised in the jaws of death.

If they had any interest in the human spirit, in friendship, sex or emotion, then they certainly never showed it. The last thing you would expect from them would be anything as human or intimate as a portrait…As far as I can see, pretty much the entire purpose of Aztec art was to scare the living daylights out of everyone who saw it…Even the flea is monumentalised in stone because it lives by sucking blood.

It is impossible to look at all these objects without seeing them as the emblems and tools of a vast, putrid slaughterhouse. Nothing in Aztec art speaks of humanity or beauty. There is no attempt to inspire the sacrificial victim with rewarding images of the afterlife or to celebrate the gifts of the gods."

Obviously Ms. Cumming did not receive the memo on Political Correctness or Cultural Relativism.

Some promote Native Americans as gender heroes. The idea is that sexism is a modern invention, or that Christianity is to blame, and the further one gets from civilization and Christianity, the better things get for women and homosexuals, or "two spirit" people or berdaches.

Others acknowledge that it's not that simple. The Amazonian Yanomami is one of the most remote tribes on earth. They are very violent, including towards women. Gang rape is a fact of life. Husbands beat and burn their wives to establish dominance. According to David Good, who was born of a Yanomami mother and an anthropologist father, the language has no word for "love." When his anthropologist father left the village, his mother was gang raped by over 20 men. She had no husband to protect her.

I recently re-watched John Ford's classic 1956 western "The Searchers." The film is so rich whenever I watch it I simultaneously google various features of the story. "The Searchers" depicts settlers in 1860s Texas. Comanche warriors raid a homestead, murder four family members and kidnap the youngest, Debbie, to raise as one of their own and eventually marry her off to Scar, the chief. The plot is inspired by the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker who was the mother of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanche.

Every American knows how we are supposed to react to "The Searchers" now. Back in 1956, when it was first made, Americans were supposed unquestioningly to accept the film's depiction of the Comanche as scary warriors who did horrible things to captives, especially women captives.

Now we are supposed to doubt and mock that official narrative. We are supposed to understand the Comanche as noble warriors defending their homeland against white, Euro-American Christians, who are supposed to be the real savages.

That's not what I found out through Google. What I found out through Google was pretty nightmarish.

The Comanche were no more native to Texas than the European Americans. They had started out in Wyoming. Europeans brought horses to the Americans, horses that had previously been driven to extinction in North America by kill, ill, or chill.

The Comanche adopted the horse and a mentality of "total war." They made furious war on other Native Americans, including the Apache, whom they "nearly exterminated" according to S. C. Gwynne, author of "Empire of the Summer Moon."

In "The Searchers," John Ford never shows or tells exactly what the Comanche did to their captives and their slaves. One can find out, though, through a Google search. I read material that utterly shocked me. The Comanche did things that even the Nazis, as far as I know, did not do. I don't want to repeat the worst things. I'll just repeat one death – they took a white slave captive's baby, tied a rope to him, and dragged his infant body through cactus plants until he died.

One sixteen year old captive was repeatedly burned over eighteen months until her face was roasted away and her body was covered with bruises and burns.

One captive, Rachel Plummer, turned on her tormenter and began beating the Comanche. Once the captive had the upper hand, she nearly beat the Comanche to death. She reported that other Comanche stood around and watched their fellow tribeswoman being beaten to death by a white captive, and enjoyed it as an entertaining spectacle.

Once the captive had defeated the Comanche woman and she lay prostrate, no other Comanche would help her. The white captive did so, dragging her to a shelter and dressing her wounds. Plummer reported that beating a Comanche nearly to death earned her status in the tribe, and after that she was treated as an equal. S. C. Gwynne characterizes the Comanche as possessed of a "demonic immorality." Their enthusiastically sadistic rapes "border on criminal perversion if not some very advanced form of evil."

After reading about the Comanche, I had a taboo thought. "I'm glad the Comanche lost."

Mind. I'm not saying that the conquest of the Americas was not a bloodbath initiated by Europeans on less developed and often defenseless Native Americans. Of course I acknowledge the massive human suffering and injustice. And most tribes were not the Comanche or the Anasazi cannibals or Aztecs.

But in this one case, the case of European settlers in Texas v the Comanche, I'm glad the Comanche lost. If their way of life is accurately depicted in the accounts I read, a way of life in which constant war, enslavement of non-Comanche, rape and torture were central features, I'm glad that that culture was defeated.

This conclusion is totally at odds with the Politically Correct worldview that insists that Europeans and Christians as the source of problems like sexism, cruelty and war. It's totally at odds with the centuries-old concept of the Noble Savage.

David Good, the son of an anthropologist father and a Yanomami mother, reports an anecdote.

"I remember the wife of a very prominent anthropologist — I was 12 or 13 at the time — asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, 'A Nintendo 64 with Super Mario Bros.' She looked at me in horror and said, 'Oh, my God. You're a typical American kid. I thought you'd be different.'"

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

 This piece appears at FrontPageMag here

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist by Danusha Goska

"Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist" ran in American Thinker on July 21, 2014, here. In the three years since, it has not stopped being circulated. Every few months or so, another website picks it up (without informing me) and I receive new mail from readers. 

"Ten Reasons" was even refuted on Daily Kos on March 9, 2017. The bravely anonymous author says he could find his liberal self nowhere in the piece. He had to ask himself, "Is this what my friend thinks of me?" Yes, my anonymous comrade, it *is* what your friends think of you, and that you were totally unaware of that is not testimony to your powers of observation now, is it? 

Anyway, since everyone else is re-running this piece, I may as well, too. 

BTW, I made one change. I'll inform you of that change at the bottom of the piece. 

Ten Reasons I Am No Longer a Leftist 

How far left was I? So far left my beloved uncle was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in a Communist country. When I returned to his Slovak village to buy him a mass card, the priest refused to sell me one. So far left that a self-identified terrorist proposed marriage to me. So far left I was a two-time Peace Corps volunteer and I have a degree from UC Berkeley. So far left that my Teamster mother used to tell anyone who would listen that she voted for Gus Hall, Communist Party chairman, for president. I wore a button saying "Eat the Rich." To me it wasn't a metaphor.

I voted Republican in the last presidential election.

Below are the top ten reasons I am no longer a leftist. This is not a rigorous comparison of theories. This list is idiosyncratic, impressionistic, and intuitive. It's an accounting of the milestones on my herky-jerky journey.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017
Reflections on a Fallen Counter-Jihadi

September 11, 2001, was one of the happiest mornings of my life. I was seated at a computer, with a view of a green Indiana lawn. I had worked long and hard to get here: writing my dissertation on Polish-Jewish relations. I had spent years of my life eating, sleeping, and breathing Polish-Jewish relations.

In addition to my academic writing, I also broadcast short editorials via radio and I published in local print media. Anyone who heard or read me probably concluded, correctly, that I was a lifelong liberal. I spoke against misogyny and bigotry and for gay rights. I did not know a single person who voted Republican. David Horowitz was recognized, in my social circle, as Satan incarnate.

I stood up from the computer to take my breakfast break. I turned on NPR. Bob Edwards announced that one, no, now, two planes had flown into the World Trade Center.

You know that old line, "There are two kinds of people in this world"? Here's one such division. There are two kinds of people in this world. Some people had no idea why planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Some of us immediately knew why. I knew immediately.

Years before, in the 1980s, I had worked on a campus in Paterson, NJ. Passaic County has one of America's largest Muslim populations. I grew up with Muslims and count Muslims among my friends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Movies I Watched with My Sister Antoinette

You do not know how you will remember your loved ones until after they have died.

I suffer from a degree of "face blindness" – I find it difficult to recognize faces. And yet my mind spontaneously resurrects my sister's at least once a day. It's as if my consciousness had hands and were running over every pore, her tweezed brows, her green eyes, her fine nose, her sarcastic smile. Sometimes she is a bean-pole teenager. Sometimes a lush, young siren. Then a matron, weighing more than I, which is more than I ever thought my sister would weigh. As I emerge from a car, she looks down from the balcony, smiling an unselfconscious, friendly greeting. I had not seen her in a month. I wish I could return her smile, but I gasp. What a brain tumor can do to a woman's appearance. And then she is gone, and my day continues.

September 23 is her second birthday since her death.

Had I died first, she wouldn't think of me for more than a week. I am ashamed for missing her so much.

Our relationship was imperfect.

A kind of memory I never predicted has punctuated my days. "I watched that movie with Antoinette."

Here are some of the movies we watched together.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Save Rifle Camp Park and Garret Mountain from "Development"

Hi, do you have a minute?

I want to show you something.

Just take my hand, and close your eyes.

Okay, open them now.

See where we are?

Hear the car stereos, the sirens, the trucks hitting potholes, the fights? See the garbage in the streets? And do you smell that? It's the antique sewers.

Hey, watch out! You almost got hit by a Porsche.

He's here to buy drugs.

We are in Paterson, New Jersey. Silk City has seen better days.

That African American gentleman there, the one with the white beard, rising from his park bench and reaching out to shake your hand. He's retired since he had a heart attack. He asks you how you are, and he really wants to hear. He promises to pray for you, and he will. He offers kind advice about living every day to its fullest. His smiling face and compassion prove that many good people still live in Paterson.

It is, though, a tough place to live.

But look up. Five hundred feet. That verdant outcropping. That is Paterson's emerald. You are looking at Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp Park. Take my hand. Let's go.


I hear you. Wow, indeed. It is so different from Paterson, isn't it? Or Woodland Park, or Clifton, the surrounding, endless, megalopolis of traffic jams and sports fields and pushing and shoving.

Here, you can feel the cool breeze clapping through the leaves, rather than heat pounding up from asphalt. You can hear birds sing and water trickle against basalt streambeds, rather than sirens' wail and boom box blast. White and black and brown people, grandparents and children. Teens flying kites. Toddlers eye to eye with their very first frog. Lovers gazing at the rising moon as if they've never seen sky before.

Runners train with all the focus of Rocky Balboa before his big match with Apollo Creed.

A woman is pulling paper out of her pocket and scribbling. She's a writer; she needs this escape to rendezvous with her muse.

We slip into tree cover. Suddenly all sound is muffled. We step silently over moss pillows. The trail is surprisingly steep. Our bodies are dappled with leaf shadow -- just like that dappled fawn in the high grass. Never fear; her doe mother is nearby. We pass three young black men, seated around a big, table-shaped boulder. It's where they come to decompress.

Over there you see some folks with binoculars. Believe it or not, this small park, falling within the boundaries of New Jersey's third most populous city, in America's most densely populated state, is an Audubon-designated, environmentally important area.

Look down around you. You see that this mountain is actually a plateau. It's the remnants of an ancient magma flow. Down below: suburbs, factories, highways. New Jersey is right underneath the Atlantic Flyway, the ancient route birds take north in spring and south in winter. Because this park is an oasis of green surrounded by pavement, birds need Rifle Camp and Garret to feed and rest.

See those dead trees? They feed bugs, and birds eat those bugs. Then those trees crumple into soil, nourishing new life. The grasses, bushes, wetlands and rocks all play their part in making this park a lifeline for one-hundred-fifty species of birds, some of them endangered. Peregrines and bald eagles, red-headed woodpeckers and cerulean warblers. These birds travel from the Arctic to the Amazon, every year. New Jersey's own Garret and Rifle Camp are part of the timeless, border-defying web of life.

Remember when we were back in the city, with all its rush and rules? You couldn't cross the street till the sign said you could. You had to compete with others on the urban sidewalks. Think of how you feel on a sports field. The referee blows his whistle. "You win! You lose!"

We need trees as much as we need civilization. Thousands of years ago, Moses went into the wilderness to encounter God. Today we come to Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp.

When I was a kid, an older immigrant from Spain used to talk to me about how important it was for him to spend time in Rifle Camp Park. I think Rifle Camp gave him a chance to connect with the part of his soul that he left behind when he was a shepherd child in the dry hills beyond Toledo.

One of my neighbors now, a successful artist, a sophisticated professional who works for the city, cherishes this park as her route to inspiration for her abstract paintings.

Another woman I know doesn't get up here as much as she would like. She doesn't have a car and she needs a wheelchair. Even so, she makes it a point, every day, to gaze upward. No matter what she has just heard from the doctors or what hassle she must work through to get the medical care she needs, she finds peace and solace just in the vision. She can then focus on her day to day struggles with renewed vigor.

No, Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp is not, oh, say, Yosemite Valley. There are no spectacular rock faces to climb; no grizzly bears to fear.

This is what Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp Park is. It is a green escape from a concrete jungle. It is a refuge of bird melodies and wind song in a cacophony of blare. It is an essential oasis for a hummingbird so light you could mail ten of them with one first class stamp, a bird traveling a three-thousand-mile highway. It is a water sponge when it rains – it helps to lessen flooding. It is a seal that Passaic County voters protect their environment for future generations. It is a portal to another dimension, where the sun and the clouds create light, where air on the skin ignites pleasure, where manmade rules, from the "Don't Walk" sign to the concept of points and home-runs, are utterly meaningless.

It is the place low-income Paterson, Clifton, and Woodland Park residents can reach. They may never climb Half Dome in Yosemite. They may never "Ooo" and "Aaa" over Yellowstone. They may be so low income they don't have a car to reach Stokes Forest or Norvin Green Forest in western and northern New Jersey.

But they have this, their emerald, their green, their place to exhale. Passaic County Freeholders, don't take away from this generation what previous generations have protected.

Sign the petition to protect Rifle Camp Park from development:

Visit this webpage:

Join up with other cool people who want to protect Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Vatican Attack: Americans are "Dangerous;" Islam is Non-Violent

This article first appeared in FrontPageMag here

The Vatican Attacks Trump Supporters
 White Christian Americans are "Dangerous;" Islam is Non-Violent

In July, 2017, La Civilta Cattolica published an article entitled "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism," a.k.a. "An Ecumenism of Hate." La Civilta Cattolica is Italian for Catholic Civilization. This publication is prestigious and long-lived. It was founded in 1850 and it is vetted by the Vatican. The authors of "An Ecumenism of Hate" are Antonio Spadaro a 51-year-old, Italian Jesuit and editor-in-chief of La Civilta Cattolica, and Marcelo Figueroa , a Presbyterian, Argentinian theologian. Both are close associates of Pope Francis.

"An Ecumenism of Hate" identifies Trump voters, Protestant and Catholic, as in need of correction, as they diverge from true Christian faith, and pose a threat to American democracy and world peace. These Trump voters are wrong about, or are handling in an incorrect way, the following: abortion, same-sex marriage, the environment, education, welfare, immigration, the current influx of migrants into Europe, and Islam. Given that the article was understood as a papally-endorsed, full-frontal attack on the president of the United States and his supporters, it received wide attention.

New York Times' readers exulted. "Glory hallelujah," says the reader response voted most popular by other readers. "I am not a Catholic but I believe Pope Francis is a true disciple of Christ," reads the second most popular response. "I wholly support Pope Francis' crusade against greed and exploitation… and hate-inspired exclusionary policies," "I am CHEERING," "Pope Francis … is the true moral leader of the world," read subsequent popular responses.

The Economist calls the article "startling." In Commonweal, author and theology professor Massimo Faggioli calls "An Ecumenism of Hate" a "must-read," because, inter alia, it shines a light on Vatican response to "Trump's Islamophobic remarks and advocacy for the deportation of undocumented immigrants." Trump voters and their ilk, Faggioli writes, are responsible for "new barriers … between Christianity and Islam."

Luis Badilla, editor of a popular Italian Catholic website, Il Sismografo, asks why Rome had to produce such an article. Why hadn't American bishops said, sooner and more emphatically, what the article said? American Catholic leaders were guilty of an "embarrassing silence."

There were some similar outpourings of joy at the Civilta Cattolica site. "My Muslim friends say that Francis is the one man on earth who is uncorrupted and can speak the truth. They love him," writes one reader.

John L. Allen writes in Crux that Spadaro and Figueroa "clearly reflect the kind of views held by the pontiff." Trump supporters hated the article, and Trump critics loved the article, Allen writes: "immediate reaction here mostly broke down along pro- or anti-Trump lines. If you're inclined to give the president a break, you probably hated the article, and vice-versa." The article deserves attention, Allen writes, because it breaks precedent. "This is not just business as usual. It's rare for a Vatican media outlet, even one that's only semi-official, to comment directly on the politics of another nation, especially in a fashion that can't help but be seen as fairly partisan."

A subsequent Crux article presents a "Latino / Latina take" on the article. "Underrepresented" Latinos and Latinas feel like "aliens in this Promised Land." Latinos and Latinas voted for Hillary Clinton. (The article really does insist, throughout, on referring to male and female Latinos and Latinas separately.)  

The Jesuit magazine America's coverage features a photo of a sincere looking, attractive young woman holding a sign in front of the White House. Her message: "Resist Islamophobia."

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote a critical response, calling the article "bad but important." The National Catholic Register condemns the article as "a collection of uninformed assertions spiced with malice." Spadaro and Figueroa attacked an obscure website, Church Militant. That website responded sharply, suggesting that the article might be "promoting positions contrary to Catholic teaching." In CatholicPhilly ,Archbishop Charles Chaput likens Spadero and Figueroa to Lenin's "useful idiots."

I am a proud and lifelong Catholic, author of a book defending my faith. I am not a Trump supporter. Reading Spadaro and Figueroa's reflection of my pope's thinking about my country and my fellow citizens enrages and disgusts me, and tempts me to despair. The article epitomizes the ignorant, arrogant liberal stance that got Trump elected in the first place. Spadaro and Figueroa, and, by extension, Pope Francis, have, in this article, not only failed to meet the challenge presented by the Trump phenomenon, they have taken giant steps in the wrong direction.  

"The Ecumenism of Hate" exhibits the intellectual level of a gaggle of scruffy, slightly tipsy graduate students randomly spinning the Google wheel in a futile attempt to support their wobbly positions. Spadaro and Figueroa make sweeping generalizations about what Americans think and how Americans behave, and they cite not one single peer-reviewed social science article or respectable poll. Spadaro is an Italian who has lived in Italy most of his life. His degrees are in theology, and he writes about literature and art. Figueroa is an Argentinian Presbyterian pastor and theologian. What formal education or life experience qualifies these two men to fabricate a hostile, strawman depiction of their boogeymen of choice, Trump supporters, and also, as the authors themselves specify in their bigoted little screed, "whites from the deep American South"?

In fact they have no scholarly support. Rather, their rant is sanctioned by its being obedient to liberal prejudices and pseudo-intellectual smokescreens. Liberalism's favorite go-to scapegoat for all the world's ills is the Redneck, the Cracker, the Hillbilly, the Trailer Trash "whites from the deep American South." This character is as reliable a bete noir to liberals as Shylock is to anti-Semites. Spadaro and Figueroa have not received adulation because they use the tools of scholarship to advance a novel and pertinent paradigm. Their words have been elevated to prophetic status because they exploit their intimacy with the world's oldest institution to tell liberals that liberal prejudices, liberal blind spots, and progress-retarding liberal hatreds are perfumed with sanctity. The sad irony is that many of those liberals metaphorically spit on the Vatican, on Christianity, and on Western Civilization, and no amount of flattery or gestures at comradeship will budge them from their Christophobia.

Just one demonstration of Spadaro and Figueroa's intellectual pretensions. They insist that Lyman Stewart and Rousas John Rushdoony contributed to getting Trump elected, and are responsible for the worldview of many Evangelicals and Catholics. I will wait while you Google these two names. I think most readers of "An Ecumenism of Hate" had to Google these two names.

Rousas John Rushdoony was a twentieth-century, Armenian-American Calvinist who is known as the father of Christian Reconstructionism, a fringe movement that recommends that society be governed by divine law. Spadaro and Figueroa make no attempt to support their assertion that Rushdoony's was the unseen hand, manipulating Rednecks, however remotely, into voting for Trump.

I performed a little experiment. Many of my Facebook friends are members of the groups Spadaro and Figueroa point their accusing finger at. They are white, Christian, Southerners who voted Trump. I asked, "Have you ever heard of Rousas John Rushdoony?" They had not. Yes, a man can be influential but unknown, but the friends I asked are the type of people who support their positions with quotes from their reading. They cite admired sources like Martin Luther, the Bible, C. S. Lewis, Friedrich Hayek and David Horowitz, chapter and verse. Rushdoony was a non-entity to them.  

It is easy enough to demonstrate a thinker's influence. Spadaro and Figueroa could have, for example, shown us where bestselling, contemporary authors cite Rushdoony. No such attempt is made. Spadaro and Figueroa could have toted up the Facebook pages devoted to Rushdoony and the number of fans such pages have. One can find multiple Facebook pages dedicated to C. S. Lewis. Just one such Lewis page has a million and a half fans. I found a couple of pages for Rushdoony with a few thousand fans. Facebook reflects no groundswell of affection for the man. Paul Matzko argues that Rushdoony himself exaggerated his influence by insisting that thinkers were stealing ideas from him without attributing them to him. Perhaps Spadaro and Figueroa made the mistake Matzko describes – insisting that Rushdoony is influential because Rushdoony himself insisted he was.

Too, just because two different people reached the same conclusion does not mean that one influenced the other. They may have reached these conclusions independently. Rushdoony decried the influence of welfare on the work ethic of recipients and he called for homeschooling. Plenty of people have drawn similar conclusions without any contact with Rushdoony or his ideas.

Announcing that Trump voters are following in the footsteps of Rousas John Rushdoony matters. It matters because Rushdoony was close to being a Holocaust denier, and he had other controversial ideas. This is guilt by association, a logical fallacy.

During Barack Obama's first run for the presidency, video emerged of his friend and mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright making inflammatory statements, including "God damn America." As one, the powers that be, from pulpits to senate chambers to editorial offices, drew and quartered anyone who posited any connection between Obama's close association with Wright and Wright's calling down hellfire destruction on the nation Obama hoped to lead. Obama's opponents, John McCain and Mitt Romney, refused to use the Wright tapes in their campaigns.

Spadaro and Figueroa insist on smearing all "whites from the deep American South" who voted for Trump with the name "Rushdoony," a name most have never heard, a name that has had negligible influence on their lives. But associating a liberal person of color, Barack Obama, with Rev. Wright or Obama's communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis is verboten, a hanging offense. This is a prime example of liberal selective outrage and the liberal ethnic identity hierarchy.

Spadaro and Figueroa remind me much of Michelle Goldberg's 2006 book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Goldberg works hard to associate American Christians with Nazis, through her black, white, and red cover photo of sieg heiling Christians to her saying that reasonable people must "Keep a bag packed and your passport current," so that you can escape the US once the evil Christians take over. Goldberg also waved the dreaded flag of Rushdoony. Goldberg diagnosed of one attorney, presumably an educated man, "whether he knew it or not" Rushdoony had "shaped his thinking."

As author Charlotte Allen put it in an L. A. Times 2011 op-ed, "Every time a Republican candidate for high office surfaces who is also a dedicated Christian, the left warns in apocalyptic tones that if you vote for him, America will sink into a 'theocracy' … but linking Rushdoony to present-day evangelicals involves connecting a dubious series of dots." If you knew somebody who knew somebody who knew Rushdoony … you were obviously a Rushdoony-ite and mere mortals must shudder in fear before you.

In addition to its intellectual worthlessness, "An Ecumenism of Hate" is a failure for another reason. The authors are guilty of the very crime they impute to others. Spadaro and Figueroa use the term "Manicheanism." Manicheanism was a religious worldview from Ancient Persia. Its followers viewed the world as locked in conflict between darkness and light. By this reference, Spadaro and Figueroa argue that Trump voters see the world as good v. evil, and in black and white terms, with no nuance, no shades of gray.

Spadaro and Figueroa, and, sadly, their patron, the pope, are the ones thinking in Manichean terms. Spadaro and Figueroa refer to their scapegoats, their bete noirs, "whites from the deep American South," in the following terms. They are "dangerous" and "vindictive." They work "to maintain conflict levels," they want to "conquer and defend" "the Promised Land," they ignore "the bond between capital and profits and arms sales," they think of war in terms of "heroic conquests," they offer a "theological justification" for their "belligerence," they are "anesthetized" to "ecological disasters," they perceive their fellow Christians as a "community of combatants," their religious beliefs are "no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism," because "the narrative of terror shapes the worldviews of jihadists and the new crusaders and is imbibed from wells that are not too far apart." Trump voters' religious views are identical to "the theopolitics spread by Isis" because both are possessed by the "nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state." Trump voters are mired in a "xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations."

In an exclusive interview with America, Spadaro continued in this vein. He accused the targets of his condemnation of "intolerance," of lacking mercy, of being "warlike and militant." He said, "Christians are called, together with other people, including those who think differently from them, to build a better society."

The authors have the audacity and the utter lack of self-awareness to state, "The pope does not want to say who is right or who is wrong for he knows that at the root of conflicts there is always a fight for power. So, there is no need to imagine a taking of sides for moral reasons, much worse for spiritual ones." The hypocrisy here could burn through lead. 

The demonization of whites from the American South, or, by extension, all white, American Christians, like any hate, has consequences. Harvey recently set records as one of history's most destructive hurricanes. People died. Millions suffered. Vivid images of heroism were broadcast throughout the world. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, responded by celebrating the death of "whites from the deep American South." The magazine headline read "God Exists." Because God killed white Southerners. This is where we are in 2017. Liberals celebrate internationally, and are suddenly ready to admit the existence of God, because white Southerners drowned in Hurricane Harvey. Spadaro and Figueroa, speaking for the pope, are playing their role in this tidal wave of hate.

Also in his interview with America, Spadaro said that his opponents' thinking imagines that "the church is therefore transformed into a kind of sect, a sect of the pure, the option of the pure, even though numerically small, which then seeks to impose its vision on society, prescinding any form of dialogue." Christians must "build a better world through dialogue." Someone really needs to hand Spadaro a mirror. Spadaro and Figueroa exhibit no hint that they had ever engaged in any dialogue with Trump voters. They speak within earshot but over the heads of Trump voters, to condemn them to other liberals. This process is condescending, humiliating, and dehumanizing.

That Spadaro and Figueroa's article participates in liberals' longstanding hierarchy of ethnicities is evident in the article itself, in its treatment of Southerners. This liberal ethnic hierarchy is also on display in a response to the article, the above-mentioned Crux piece that offers a "Latino / Latina" "take" on the article. Latinos and Latinas "comprise nearly half of the Catholic Church in the United States." That statement is triumphalist – our numbers beat your numbers – and it is meant to intimidate – there are more of us than there are of you. This is an anti-Christian and anti-Catholic motivation. The Catholic statement would be that one hundred percent of American Catholics are one hundred percent Catholic.

The author of this article, Miguel H. Diaz, has placed a hand puppet of Catholicism over his real agenda: identity politics, the very identity politics that helped get Trump elected, as Mark Lilla diagnosed in the New York Times within a week of the 2016 election. Steve Bannon recently invited Democrats to continue with identity politics. As long as they do so, people like him, Bannon, will continue to win. He's right.

Diaz harps on how disempowered he feels as a Latino. He says he is an "underrepresented alien in the Promised Land." He self-identifies thus: "Miguel H. Diaz holds the John Courtney Murray Chair in Public Service at Loyola University Chicago and is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama." This is a man who occupies the pinnacle of American society. And yet he playacts at being a marginalized ethnic victim, because it is rewarding to him to do so.

Diaz' article closes, "What we most need at this unprecedented time in American history is a transfusion of Christian ecumenical love into our veins capable of offering us new life so that each of us regardless of creed, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and political affiliation can participate in the great project of making us one nation." Diaz announces himself as being about transcending identity, but the very point of his piece, its raison d'etre, is to racialize thought, to insist that a Latino, or maybe a Latina, would have a reaction to Spadaro and Figueroa that a non-Latino would not have. Diaz ethnicizes cognition. That is an utterly racist thing to do. The atomization and balkanization that his approach inevitably leads to is hinted at in his insistence, throughout his article, to referring to Latinos and Latinas. It isn't enough, to him, to put a fence around the identity of those whose ancestors spoke Spanish, and corral them off from those whose ancestors did not speak Spanish. No. He must further cordon off descendants of Spanish speakers by gender. I am shocked, shocked, that Crux did not follow up with an article expatiating on how Latino transgendered differently-abled readers reacted to the Civilta Cattolica article.

There's something even more nefarious going on. There are concrete reasons why those most dastardly of humans, "whites from the deep American South," voted for Trump. Spadaro and Figueroa wave the unfamiliar name "Rushdoony" in an act of misdirection. They don't want their readers to think of the real reasons Trump voters voted Trump.

In addition to its focused demonization of "whites from the deep American South" and other Trump supporters, Spadaro and Figueroa's article has another agenda. It practices identity politics. It elevates one identity above others. It exists to shield a religion from honest critique. It exists to cushion adherents of that religion from any confrontation with the outcome of their adherence to their religion's dictates. The shielded religion is Islam. The elevated population are Muslims.

Spadaro and Figueroa accuse Trump voters of investing in "a cult of the apocalypse." This is a bizarre accusation. I can't see Trump supporters like the fleshy Sean Hannity or the always exquisitely groomed Ann Coulter indulging in apocalyptic prepping. There is a real apocalyptic cult making headlines in today's world but apparently the Vatican has adopted a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil stance when it comes to the folks whose acts create a cornucopia of images, worthy of Hieronymus Bosch, for the End Times Catalogue. ISIS publishes a magazine entitled Dabiq, because ISIS members believe that their forces will defeat "The Army of Rome" near Dabiq, Syria, and bring on the end times. ISIS bases this belief on a saying of Mohammed. ISIS uses this belief to justify the selling of Yazidi children as sex slaves. "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women … If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market."

Spadaro and Figueroa quote Pope Francis. "The duty of Christianity for Europe is that of service … The contribution of Christianity to a culture is that of Christ washing the feet … Christians are called, together with other people, including those who think differently from them, to build a better society … to build a better world through dialogue."

I cannot find any verses in my Bible where Jesus tells his disciples to "build a better society" or to "build a better world." I cannot find any verses announcing that all Christians are to do is to wash feet. If that's all Jesus did, he never would have been crucified. No. Christians are to speak their truth: Mark 16:15, John 8:32, Matthew 28 18-20, Luke 11:33. We must speak the truth to Muslims. We must not offer up "whites from the deep American South" as scapegoats for our rage for all that is wrong with the world.

Spadaro and Figueroa accuse Trump supporters of being without mercy. In fact it is they who are merciless. To demonize Trump voters, they refuse to acknowledge any pain that those Trump voters feel, any real threat under which they live. Spadaro and Figueroa castigate President George W. Bush for speaking of an "axis of evil." They castigate Team Trump for supporting a ban on Muslim immigration. "Axis of evil" talk and Muslim bans have their irrational roots in the delusions of an Armenian-American Calvinist, they insist. Spadaro and Figueroa close their eyes – and their hearts – to the real inspiration for Bush's and Trump's statements. Spadaro and Figueroa throw out red herrings in order to deafen themselves and others to the agonizing events that preceding Bush's and Trump's comments. On September 11, 2001, three thousand innocent Americans were incinerated for no other reason than their national and religious identity. On December 2, 2015, fourteen innocent people were shot to death at an office Christmas party. One shooter was an American-born Muslim, the son of immigrant parents. The other was a recent immigrant. Spadaro and Figueroa express no concern for the spilled blood of these innocents. There is not a word of compassion or understanding for the victims, their loved ones, the still living wounded, or a terrorized nation. Trump announced his Muslim travel ban five days after the San Bernardino shooting. However one feels about Trump's proposed ban, it is not just dishonest, it is inhuman, to obscure the event that inspired it. To insist, as Spadaro and Figueroa do, that Trump's proposed Muslim travel ban or Bush's talk of an "axis of evil" have their roots in the publications of an obscure, deceased Presbyterian is intellectual perversion and ethical rot.

Spadaro and Figueroa conflate counter-jihad with white supremacy. If you opposed the Civil Rights Movement, they say, you will oppose jihad. Spadaro and Figueroa should meet Lt. Col. and former Congressman Allen West, who rocketed to fame after he spoke frankly about the history of jihad when the white members of his panel sat stone-faced and silent, "Pleading the fifth amendment," as one put it, afraid to make any peep that might identify them as politically incorrect. That same Allen West went head to head with a lighter-skinned CAIR representative who tried to shout him down. And that Allen West, a black man, did not back down. Perhaps Spadaro and Figueroa have closed their eyes, their ears, and their hearts when confronted with the cries of pain of black Christians in Nigeria, in the Central African Republic, in Kenya, as they are blown up, driven from their homes, and sexually enslaved by jihadis, often lighter skinned than they.

Spadaro and Figueroa claim that Trump supporters work "to maintain conflict levels." I'd like to hear from Spadaro and Figueroa what, exactly, the fourteen innocents who died at the San Bernardino Christmas Party did to "maintain conflict levels" with their Muslim killers. Spadaro and Figueroa, please tell me what eight-year-old Catholic schoolboy Martin Richard did to "maintain conflict levels." His little body was ripped to shreds by the Tsarnaev brothers' pressure cooker bomb at the Boston Marathon.

In his interview with America magazine, Spadaro specifically identifies Pope Francis as deputizing himself to cleanse the good name of Islam. Francis, he says, "gives no theological-political legitimacy to … any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism." In other words, if Francis says jihad is not Islamic, suddenly jihad will stop being Islamic. When a non-Muslim says that jihad is not Islamic, it is "like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice," one ISIS member tweeted.

John L. Allen says that Trump supporters would not like the Spadaro and Figueroa article, and Trump critics would like it. I am a Catholic, and I am a Trump critic. I have debated every flashpoint that Spadaro and Figueroa highlight, from abortion to welfare, from jihad to homeschooling. I have never felt any temptation to take the route that Spadaro and Figueroa take. I have never felt any temptation to compare Trump voters to ISIS or to single out "whites from the deep American South" as being somehow uniquely evil actors on the world stage. In taking this high-profile and papally approved stance, Spadaro, Figueroa, and their supporters are not weakening Trump, they are strengthening him. And they are walking backwards from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2017

"No Moon to Pray To" A New, Page-turner, Vampire Novel

This article appears at FrontPageMag here

Review of No Moon to Pray To, A New, Page-turner Vampire Novel

And Why FrontPageMag Readers Might Be Interested

I want to recommend a book to you. It's called No Moon to Pray To. It's a fun paperback, the kind of book you'd read on the beach, in the airport, or even, as I recently did, in a doctor's office while awaiting intimidating test results. The book sucked me in so thoroughly I almost forgot where I was and why. No Moon to Pray To is about vampires and Crusaders. I'm not a horror fan, but I enjoyed this book. Why should FrontPageMag run a review of a vampire novel? I'll tell you, below, but first let me tell you about the book.

A month back, I received an email from an educator. A friend of hers, she said, Jerry Guern, had self-published a book. Would I look at it? "Heck no," was, of course, my first thought. I have a religious devotion to good writing. I assumed I'd read a bit of her friend's book and savage it in my review and pointlessly hurt two people. And … vampires? Not only have I never read a vampire book cover-to-cover, I couldn't even sit through the classic 1931 Dracula, though I recognized Bela Lugosi as a genius.

But, other writers have helped my writing, and I want to "pay it forward." A review copy of No Moon to Pray To arrived in the mail. I honestly thought I'd open it up, read a page, find the predictable flaws I have too frequently found in self-published writing – and, sadly, even in published writing – and just mail the book back with a note about how busy I am.

The first paragraph wowed me. I felt professional awe. In the first six pages of No Moon to Pray To, author Jerry Guern exhibits the height of authorial audacity. This unknown writer attempts an account of one of the most famous events in history. An event that has been the subject of artists and writers from Rembrandt to Cecil B. DeMille to Bill O'Reilly. And, against all odds, Guern succeeds. He forces the reader to see and feel this familiar historical event in a new way. He wrung tears from my eyes. Guern writes this scene with such authority it's as if he lived it himself. He is intimate with the physical sensations of the key characters, and he knows their thoughts and motivations. Guern avoids any temptation to resort to high-fallutin' vocabulary to create his scene, an exotic one, distant in space and time from the reader. Guern provides the reader with the sense of touching the transcendent and he does this by using the same sort of everyday words one might use when talking to a plumber.

Could Guern maintain this quality for the length of a 312-page book? Yes. Guern displays the command of a born storyteller. Foreshadowings of future revelations are sprinkled throughout, keeping the reader engaged. Plot twists are never cheap or manipulative. In addition to surprising the reader, they satisfy. "Aha! I could believe that of that character!" Action, too, is not on the page just for action's sake. Action reveals character and causes the reader to loathe or love the actor.

Guern uses language with utmost economy. There's a scene where a character the reader had come to like kills another character the reader doesn't want to see die. I reread the scene three times. Once, to verify to myself that the scene was as portentous and yet as economically drawn as it seemed on first reading, second, to fully feel its impact, and third, to admire, and to learn from, Guern's skill.

No Moon to Pray To has two main characters. One, Enik, is a retired Crusader knight. Father Michael is a Catholic priest and member of a secretive order. The two cross paths in thirteenth-century Provence. Father Michael is on a mission against predatory, supernatural creatures. Enik has dedicated his post-Crusades career to protecting the peasants on his estate. They interact with Cardinal Graziani, a crafty elder who has had a big impact on both of their lives, and Klaus, a vampire.

All of these characters have mysterious, and, often, heartbreaking biographies that are revealed, bit by bit, keeping the reader eager to learn more.

I came to care about each character immediately and I remained invested in each one's fate through every plot twist, right up to the end of the book. Even after one character made a major turnaround, I still cared. I found myself thinking about each character and his choices after I closed the book's cover. What was the right thing for him to do? What else could he have done in that situation?

After mixing it up with some social justice warriors on Facebook, I immediately thought, "Wow, this is just like stumbling upon a nest of vampires!" The vampires of the book, and the characters' struggles, made for ready metaphors about essential struggles between good and evil, appearance versus reality, and selfless duty versus obedience only to one's ego or selfish desires. You won't want to know much more than this before you start reading.

I love description and I did wish for more. I know nothing about what Provence was like in the thirteenth century, and I would like to have been able to see, hear, and smell it more than I did through these pages. On the other hand, minimal description keeps the plot moving along briskly.

There was one aspect of the book that I did not like. About fifty pages in to No Moon to Pray To, I really missed female characters. The main characters are involved in epic struggle over highly important issues. I wish there were a woman I could identify with. Women are mentioned as sources of temptation or sexual satisfaction. Guys, if you are looking for a book depicting a world of manly men going about manly business with almost no women on scene, you may like this book.

Now, why did I ask FrontPageMag to post a review of a vampire book? Here's why. As I was reading No Moon to Pray To, I noted that it manifests all the qualities of a successful paperback novel. It is suspenseful, horrifying to a degree appropriate for its genre, engaging, with sympathetic characters. I had to ask, why would no one publish this? The educator who first contacted me told me that the author had an agent – and getting an agent is a major coup for a debut novelist these days – and yet no publisher would take the book.

I think their reason may be this. No Moon to Pray To takes Christianity, and, specifically, Catholicism, very seriously. The book makes no attempt to convert anyone to Christianity. Rather it is a horror novel about chasing after bloodsuckers and the hard choices one must make when doing such work. But its treatment of Catholicism is utterly different from what one finds in most pop culture.

I'm a Baby Boomer. Back in the day, when religious faith – anyone's religious faith – was discussed on TV, commentators used a certain reverent tone. That tone was almost like a uniform you wore, or a ritual in which we participated. In 2017, that ritualized respect when discussing religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, is a museum-piece, remembered only by geezers like me.

Listen when a late-night comedian like Bill Maher or John Oliver or even Stephen Colbert mentions the word "Catholic." If, like me, you are a Catholic, you brace for an obscene, gutter comment about priests and nuns. The audience often beats the comic to the punch, automatically making the kind of noises in response to the word "Catholic" that you might more reasonably expect in response to a word like "traitor" or "arsonist."

More and more I recognize that mainstream popular culture is replete with anti-Western-civilization memes. I think I'm sitting down to a few laughs after work and before bed and before I know it I am invited to laugh at obscene priest jokes and to embrace Islam as the religion of peace. I am supposed to go along quietly with implications that white people are somehow inherently imperialistic and that no non-Western nation has ever colonized or enslaved anyone or committed a genocide. I can't accept these premises and so I find myself seeking farther and farther afield even just for casual reading on the beach, in the airport, or in a doctor's office before receiving the results of a scary test.

Those of us who are on the pro-Western-Civilization side of today's culture wars don't read only serious news accounts or policy briefs. We also want to kick back and read page-turner paperbacks. We want to watch late-night comedians. We want to watch romantic comedies.

For all I know, in his next vampire book, Jerry Guern may skewer the Catholic Church. But I can say that No Moon to Pray To treats Jesus Christ as a man who endured torture in order to save mankind. Its most sympathetic character is a devout Christian. The Church exercises power for the good. And all of those things really shocked me as a reader of popular writing.

My favorite character in No Moon to Pray To reminded me much of the character that Gary Cooper played in movies like Sergeant York and High Noon. A man of traditional values, who hates violence, seeks no fame or confrontation, is manipulated by forces craftier than himself, but who, in the end, saves the day. This traditional model of masculine heroism is mocked, not favored, in contemporary pop culture.

And I have to wonder if that is why Guern could not find a home for his book that deserves publication by a major publisher. I am almost certain that had Guern played the Dan-Brown, Da Vinci Code card, and written a book exposing the secret that Jesus was really a vampire, Guern would have found a publisher. That's why I asked to be allowed to talk about No Moon to Pray To here. Because those of us who are pro-Western-civilization, and who don't want to swallow anti-Western-civilization memes in our late-night comedy, our classrooms, or our paperback novels, deserve pop culture.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete