American Elephants


Time for Our Annual Salute to Paul Revere by The Elephant's Child


[A little Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for the eighteenth of April]

Listen, my children, and  you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend,”If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light—
One if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, a British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now gazed at the landscape far and near.
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth
And turned and tightened his saddle girth:
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides:
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest.  In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm—
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will awaken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the  midnight message of Paul Revere.

(The illustration is from a lovely edition of the poem illustrated by Ted Rand for children or any Longfellow lovers. Copies still available from Amazon at very reasonable  prices)

I post this every year, but I almost forgot entirely. Too late for most, but print it out if you have kids and teach them a little history, which they probably won’t get in school. Kids like the rhythm- of galloping hooves that Longfellow used in this historic poem.

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California: A Failing Utopian Vision by The Elephant's Child

California is becoming the most watched state in the union. The worst-managed state. threatening secession, or division, insisting on whatever the rest of the country is doing, they will go in another direction. And Washington State is trying to follow in their wake,

Here’s Victor Davis Hanson trying to explain what’s gone wrong and why. Our most populous state, a sanctuary state, broke, and people and businesses are fleeing the state for anywhere where taxes are lower and housing costs are sane. People are living in motor homes, sheds, turning a single apartment into a dormitory. Facebook and Google are apparently building a new town to house their workers.



There Are Some Conversations That Shake Up Your Ideas. This Is One of Them. by The Elephant's Child

You probably remember Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College back in March last year, that essentially turned into a riot. This video was made about a week after the embarrassing incident. I had never seen it before, and found it to be not only fascinating but a little frightening.

We had lots of similar embarrassing occasions on college campuses across the country since, but the events all have a similarity. Students have no understanding of the meaning of the free speech clause in the Constitution,  and are unprepared to hear speech with which they do not agree, Dr. Murray, a noted political scientist, was invited to speak at the campus by Middlebury Professor and Political Scientist Allison Stanger.

One of the first sources to report on the melee was The American Interest should you need a reminder of what transpired. The involved students should have been disciplined, suspended, or just sent home, because there was no excuse for such behavior. Of course, that didn’t happen, with the confused situation on campus discourse today.As the National Interest story says: “If students (and especially professors…) want to criticize an author, they should read what he has written first.” Clearly, academic rigor has deteriorated, along with majors in things like English and History.

This video was made about a week after the events at Middlebury, but I had not seen it before. The comments by Jonathan Haidt, a Professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, are a fascinating discussion about the Middlebury Melee and the problems of higher education that brought it about, and the implications of the event. It’s the implications that are important.

Clearly, students had no idea what a political scientist does, nor what Dr. Murray had written about, nor why his writings should be read, nor why his studies are important. How many (mostly conservative) speakers can you think of who have been similarly badly treated on today’s college campuses or banned from speaking in the time since that event?

A college campus is not a “community” it is a campus. The reigning meme seems to be “diversity” but diversity of thought and ideas just doesn’t enter into it at all. The acceptable ideas are that diversity is about race, sex, ethnicity, and representation of groups deemed marginalized, but there are “norms” that exclude all sorts of people. Elite businesses and universities assume that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is not only a means to excellence, but an end in itself. No one should be allowed to question that  evident truth. Community should not be disturbed by disagreement. Richard Epstein remarks:

Having chosen its members, D&I champions next embrace a message of “fairness and protection to all regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But rarely do they face up to the conceptual ambiguities and practical tradeoffs that this grandiose statement conceals.

And here is Thomas Sowell:

Nothing so epitomizes the politically correct gullibility of our times as the magic word “diversity.” The wonders of diversity are proclaimed from the media, extolled in the academy and confirmed in the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States. But have you ever seen one speck of hard evidence to support the lofty claims?

Although diversity has become one of the leading buzzwords of our time, it has a history that goes back several generations. In the early twentieth century, the principle of geographic diversity was used to conceal bias against Jews in the admission of students to Harvard and other leading academic institutions.

“Diversity” oddly, does not include diversity of thought or belief. Since there is little diversity among the administration and faculty of most universities, it should not be surprising that both campus and workplace are now considered “communities”, and since communities are supposed to be peaceful places where everyone is truly communal, the observation that they are becoming communes is obviously true, but unacceptable as a comment.

The tech industry, in particular, seems to be a source for much of the groupthink. Businesses seem to believe that they can become advocates for correct political thought, since as Hillary says so often, the places that did not vote for her were clearly ignorant deplorables who did not recognize correct enlightened ideas. Is this all a result of the idea that everyone should get a medal or a gold star and no one should be excluded? Of supervised play, and computers and social media where those who have improper thoughts or words can be blocked or unfriended? If you think about that process, it bears a striking similarity to what is happening on college campuses and in the workplace.

Our public schools are anxious to get all the kids computerized, as that seems to be the necessary element in education for the future. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe that’s why thoughtful people tell college students to avoid any class that has “studies” after its name. Maybe the idea of reducing or eliminating competition is faulty. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a gold star. Maybe Nancy Pelosi’s call for open borders as opposed to any ideal of  “merit” in admission of immigrants is totally haywire. Canada and Australia admit immigrants by considering what skills or benefits they bring to their new country, much like the most selective schools do, or used to do. The video isn’t very long, but there’s a lot of food for thought there.



Hollywood Celebrates Hollywood by The Elephant's Child

There was an award show last night, one of those things where Hollywood celebrates itself and gives itself little statues to brag about. The female celebrities, who are famous because some people know their names or faces, wear borrowed gowns to preen on the “red carpet” in varying states of undress, dresses that aren’t all that becoming.

In any case, I didn’t watch. I wasn’t interested. I haven’t seen any of the shows that were on last year, so I don’t care who wins what. I’ve pretty much given up on Hollywood movies. I read a lot, and there are all sorts of good stories out there, but they don’t seem interested in good stories, but only in ones they made before, that made money last time. Who needs that? Turns out a lot of people agreed with me, at least they weren’t interested either. Lowest interest in the Oscars in history. Nobody watched.  This might be the reason:



February 22 is George Washington’s Real Birthday, Not Some Ginned Up “President’s Day” by The Elephant's Child

Imagine, you just turned 43 years old, and suddenly you find yourself Commander in Chief of a ragtag American army, such as it was. The battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had already been fought when Washington arrived in Massachusetts, and had established that the British could not break out of Boston. Once Washington placed the captured British cannon on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuated by sea.

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Washington had been named Commander in Chief by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in June 1775. He was forty-three years old. There was not yet any American army for him to command, only the militias ringing Boston, but the delegates of the increasingly rebellious colonies were seized by fury for action and for war. “Oh that I was a soldier,” wrote John Adams, a radical lawyer from Massachusetts. “I will be. I am reading military books. Everybody must and will, and shall be a soldier.”

Adams never became a soldier, but Washington had already been one. He had served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War twenty years earlier, rising to the rank of colonel. In his old age, Adams would describe Washington’s selection as a political compromise—a southern commander, to lead what would at first be a mostly New England force—engineered by congressional wise-men, including Adams. But Congress did not have many other officers to choose from, Israel Putnam, of the Connecticut militia, was, at 57, too old. Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts militia, was incompetent and suffering from the stone.
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The state begins in violence. However lofty the ideals of a new country or a new regime, it encounters opposition, as most new regimes and countries do, it must fight. If it loses, its ideals join the long catalogue of unfulfilled aspirations.

At six o’clock on the evening of July 9, 1776, the soldiers of the main American army, stationed in New York, were paraded and read the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington, Commander in Chief, hoped this “important event” would inspire them, though when some soldiers joined a mob in pulling down a statue of George III, he deplored their “want of order.” Over the next two months the American army and its commander, orderly or not, were unable to offer much in defense of the Declaration’s sentiments. …

During the summer, the British assembled, on Staten Island and in the harbor, the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century: ten ships of the line, twenty frigates, and 32,000 regular troops. On August 22, most of those troops began moving to Gravesend Bay on Long Island, in what is now southwest Brooklyn. Anticipating a possible landing there, Washington had posted more than a third of his own force of 19,000 men on Brooklyn Heights, and on a line of hills to the south. But he expected the British to attack him on the harbor side of his position, where they could bring the guns of their ships into play. On the morning of the 27th, the British slipped a force through the hills five miles away in the opposite direction and hit the American front line from before and behind.
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These are excerpts from Richard Brookheiser’s Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which he calls a moral biography, which has two purposes: to explain its subject, and to shape the minds and hearts of those who read it—by showing how a great man navigated politics and a life as a public figure. Brookheiser says “If Washington’s contemporaries were too willing to be awed, we are not willing enough. …We have lost the conviction that ideas require men to bring them to earth, and that great statesmen must be great men. Great statesmen are rare enough in their world. We believe they are mythical, like unicorns.” They are not.

According to recent studies, our kids don’t know anything about George Washington, nor do most adults. There is some speculation that the problem is big fat books. People are more apt to read thin books that don’t scare them about the time involved. Answering that need is a new biography by the great British historian Paul Johnson. The paperback is only $8.71, and a hardback is available.

ADDENDUM: The picture above is a forensic reconstruction of Washington as a General, and Commander in Chief. Getting a likeness is hard. You get one thing just a little off, and you have lost the resemblance. Washington’s skin was pale, we are told, and he burned in the sun. I don’t think the tricorn hat gives even as much protection as a baseball cap, so I’m sure he appeared much more weathered, with squint lines (no sunglasses). His real hair was reddish. But nasty Stuart Gilbert did him real dirt down through the ages by overemphasizing the distortions of false teeth, and getting a poor likeness. Remember that, every time you look at a one dollar bill. It was deliberate.



Today is the Real George Washington’s Birthday by The Elephant's Child
February 22, 2018, 1:19 am
Filed under: Art, History, Military, Politics | Tags: , ,

That’s why we left the header up for the last two days. The picture at the top is a great deal more what George Washington looked like than the familiar image on the dollar bill. That was a dirty trick played by portrait artist Gilbert Stuart. In the days before photography, we had to rely on portraits of varying expertise done by those who chose to be artists, not all were particularly successful at it.

Portraits are hard. if you have ever had a portrait taken at a photo studio, you received a sheet of proofs from which  to choose the one that pleased you most. The you that you are most familiar with is the one in the mirror. Unless you make a lot of faces at yourself, there are a lot of expressions that you do that you are unaware of. Others may look at the proofs and choose a completely different one, and they are all you. In Washington’s day you were entirely dependent on the artist, and for the most part most people didn’t have a bunch of mirrors. And different people will see different things. A face is mobile and expressive. I post the following piece every year on Washington’s birthday, because I really hate the Gilbert Stuart portrait and believe, with a great deal of justification, that it was a dirty trick. I want you all to believe in the George Washington shown here, and in the header. Believe in the life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon, which is the most likely correct.



Alienating Young Men: Jordan Peterson by The Elephant's Child

This one is important, and short. All this gender nonsense has been growing and is purely evil. It’s all trying to tear our society apart in the name of politics: feminism, white supremacy, race, diversity, and so on. I don’t understand what they are trying to do. We’ve had a celebration of gender dysphoria, which is a mental illness related to other kinds of dysphorias. They are teaching little children that changing genders is normal and real. There are even people who have come to believe that one of their limbs is bad and must be removed. Some few attempt the removal themselves, with unfortunate results.

The American people come in a wide variety of colors. The majority are more or less white, but that does not become “white supremacy.” Feminism had some reality when women wanted to be recognized as individuals and to have the right to vote. Congress passed the law in 1919 and it became a reality in 1920. Do we have to have some kind of young men’s liberation movement to get the trendy people to stop beating up on them?

There is something deeply, oddly, wrong in our country at present. In universities we have young people demanding that they should not have to hear ideas with which they do not agree—and what is a university and why are you there? Women are marching around with vulgar signs in vagina costumes. A teacher in public school announces that any young men who go into the military are dummies, lacking in intelligence and ability. Female teachers are having sex with their young male students, and getting sent to prison for it. Think about the protests and demonstrations you can remember from the past year or so. They make no sense. Where does this come from?




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