The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Monday, November 30, 2020


The term scapegoat comes to us from the Bible.   The Book of Leviticus, which is the third book of Moses in what we call the Pentateuch and Jews call the Torah, mostly consists of instructions for the priestly, ceremonial, aspects of the Sinaitic Covenant.   Hence the title of the Book.   The Levites were the Tribe of Levi, the tribe assigned to the priestly role.   The sixteenth chapter of the book is a set of instructions pertaining specifically to the high priest, on the one day of the year he was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant with the Shekinah of God over the Mercy Seat was located.   That day was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.   On that day, the high priest was commanded to bring a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.    The fifth verse adds that he was to "take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goat for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering".   The first bullock and ram were offerings required for himself, the others were required for the people.   This, as St. Paul reminds us in the book of Hebrews, was what was required of the Levitical priesthood in their daily office as well as on the Day of Atonement - first they brought offerings for themselves, then on behalf of the people.   

After Aaron, and by implication his successors in the role of high priest, offered the bullock for his own sin offering, he was commanded to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle.   Lots would be cast on the goats to determine which would be the Lord's, the sin offering, and which would be the scapegoat.   The one chosen by lot to be the Lord's would be offered up on the altar as a sin offering.   As for the other goat, the scapegoat, after the priest had made the burnt and sin offerings and sanctified everything by sprinkling it with blood, he would bring the scapegoat, present him live before the Lord, lay his hands upon the head of the goat and "confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins", after which the goat would be led away into the wilderness and released.    The purpose of all of this, if it is not already plain, was the symbolic removal of the people's sins.   The live goat, released into the wilderness, was called an azazel in Hebrew.   This word, derived from the verb for "remove", has generally been rendered in translation by words that emphasize the removal of the goat itself, although there is an alternative , mystical, tradition that sees Azazel as the proper name of a demon that receives the goat and the sins.   The English "scapegoat" uses a shortened form of the word "escape", and thus aligns with the first interpretive tradition, albeit in a way that would be awkward if this rendition had been made today.

In Christianity, books such as Leviticus are understood in the light of the revelation of God's mercy and grace in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Atonement He made in His death, and His triumphant Resurrection.   The aforementioned epistle to the Hebrews contains the longest canonical example of such interpretation, laying the foundation for all that followed.   Although St. Paul elaborates in that epistle on how Jesus Christ was the true High Priest to which Aaron pointed, as well as the true sacrifice, and even how the heavenly Tabernacle where He entered through the sprinkling of His Own blood is the true Tabernacle to which the Tabernacle in the wilderness pointed, he does not mention the scapegoat.   It is likely he felt that given everything else he had written the Christian understanding of the scapegoat would be so obvious as to not need to be elaborated on.   Jesus is the fulfilment of both the sacrifice and the goat that was released because it is through Him our sins are taken away.   Elsewhere, St. Paul wrote "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him". (II Cor. 5:21)   Even before St. Paul, however, the prophet Isaiah had tied the imagery of the scapegoat to the promised Messiah, in the last of his Songs of the Suffering Servant, when he wrote "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Is. 53:6)

The word scapegoat in the Biblical sense we have just looked at is a noun.   It has entered common parlance, however, as a verb, and a verb with rather negative connotations.   It has become the verb that denotes the act of unfairly blaming an innocent victim either for your own mistakes or wrongdoings or for some bad thing that is happening to a group to which you and the now-excluded scapegoat belong(ed).   In other words, to do to a person or group of persons, what the high priest was commanded to do to the literal scapegoat in Leviticus.

It could be argued that this usage distorts the original meaning of the word and such an argument would, in a sense, be right.   It is worth noting, however, that the vernacular usage of the verb scapegoat describes precisely the actions of the human agents involved in the Crucifixion, from the priests and lay leaders of Israel who conspired against Jesus, to the Roman governor who acquiesced to the execution of a Man he knew to be innocent to satisfy the demands of a mob.    Think of the words of Caiaphas, as recorded by St. John, following the resurrection of Lazarus "Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one Man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (Jn. 11:49-50) and consider them in the sense obviously intended by the high priest, rather than the prophetic sense recognized by the Apostle.   The intent is parallel to that of Pontius Pilate - sacrifice an Innocent Man to avoid a catastrophe that would affect the whole society.    However Caiaphas and Pilate may have eased their own consciences over this, they have gone down in the judgement of history as the most cowardly and treacherous villains of all time.

One thinker who saw a very close connection between the literal Biblical scapegoat and the social phenomenon that bears its name was the late French-American historian, literary professor and social philosopher René Girard.  Girard, who was born and raised in France, but who taught in various American academic institutions including Indiana, John Hopkins, and finally Stanford Universities, developed his thoughts on scapegoating as a societal mechanism in the context of his larger theories with regards to mimicry.    What began as a fairly non-controversial theory of learning and development - that human learning begins with the imitating of adult language and behaviour - he expanded into a general theory explaining the origins of violence, conflict and religion.   As people learn by copying others, they come to develop the same desires as others.  This mimetic desire, as Girard called it, produces competition and rivalry, which grow into conflict.   Here violence enters into the picture.   Scapegoating, in the sense of finding someone to pin all the blame for the conflict and violence upon, and then banish or kill that person, he maintained, was the means which communities and societies had developed for relieving the pressure from this cycle of violence when it had gotten to the point of being about to explode and destroy everything, restoring unity and harmony,  and preserving the community.   This only worked, however, if everybody accepted the (false) guilt of the scapegoat.   The restored societal peace was built upon a lie. 

Religion, Girard maintained in Violence and the Sacred (1972, 1977) has its origins in the scapegoat mechanism.   The human sacrifices of primitive religions were scapegoats, the animal sacrifices of more advanced religions were an attempt at accomplishing the same end with less human bloodshed.   Christianity, Girard, who was a Roman Catholic, argued, in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978, 1987) presented a solution that was the very opposite of all of this.   Jesus Christ was the ultimate victim of the scapegoat process, but turned it all around.   As He was crucified He forgave His murderers.   He rose from the dead, proving both His divinity and His innocence.  This denied to His persecutors the fulfilment of their purpose in scapegoating Him - no new unity could be built upon the acceptance of the lie of His guilt, but He offered something better instead.   If man cannot live in peace and harmony without the death of an innocent victim, then so be it, but let there be no pretension about it.  He Himself would be the last sacrifice, the voluntary scapegoat, satisfying the sinful human need for innocent blood and offering real peace and unity, but on the grounds of the truth of our guilt and His Innocence, rather than the lie of the reverse.

Of course people are as free to reject this solution as they are to accept it and so scapegoating continues long after the final Sacrifice.

Almost a century ago, a man who rejected the Christian solution rose to power in a country that had largely turned its back on Christianity in its embrace of modernity, by promising them relief for the hardships they had endured since the end of the First World War.   As part of his pitch to the German people, Adolf Hitler employed the scapegoat mechanism of blaming the Jewish race for their woes.   I don't need to tell you what the result was.   As the late Paul Harvey used to say, "now you know the rest of the story".

Which brings us to this year and what is going on right now.   

The number of cases of bat flu here in the province of Manitoba in the Dominion of Canada has been rising since the end of summer.   There has also been a rise in hospitalizations and deaths, the latter mostly among those who are very old and have three or more health conditions.   The media with its alarmist hype has blown all three of these rises - case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths - way out of proportion, and tried to convince us that we are living out Stephen King's The Stand..   Brian Pallister, the province's premier, and Brent Roussin, the chief health mandarin, have sought to allay the irrational fears brought about by this irresponsible excuse for reporting by imposing restrictions upon Manitobans,   When the first set of restrictions didn't work, they imposed more, and when that didn't work, they imposed more yet again.   Once again they failed to achieve their desired result.   Sane people, at this point, would have realized that if something hasn't worked, and more of the same hasn't worked, and yet more of the same hasn't worked either, that it is time to try something else instead.   They were incapable of thinking of anything other than restrictions, however, and so we ended up with more of the same.   Ultimately it got to the point where we were in complete lockdown again, worse than earlier this year, with a month-long ban on socializing with people outside of our immediate households.   It was as if they wanted to move us out of The Stand and into The Shining (another Stephen King novel in which an alcoholic writer, driven mad by loneliness and isolation, tries to murder his family).

Clearly, Pallister and Roussin's bat flu policies were a complete failure.   Worse, they had taken away all of the traditional and prescriptive freedoms that are rightfully ours as citizens of one of Her Majesty's Commonwealth Realms, as well as our constitutional rights, and had nothing to show for it.   They decided to look for a scapegoat and found it in the very few Christian congregations in this province who have not behaved as quislings in the face of the flagrantly unconstitutional suspension of the fundamental freedom of worship.   The reason the case numbers keep going up, Pallister and Roussin tell us, is not because they, Pallister and Roussin, have small, one-track minds, incapable of thinking of anything more creative than slapping restrictions and fines on people, but because these congregations insist on meeting in violation of public health orders.

They are blaming innocent parties for their own failure.   Classic scapegoating.

Take, for example, the story that has been all over the CBC this weekend.  On Saturday evening and again Sunday morning, Springs of Living Water held drive-in services.   These services are banned under the present public health orders even though they cannot possibly contribute to the spread of the bat flu, because everyone stays in his own car in the parking lot and listens to the service on a loudspeaker.   Since nobody can transmit the bat flu - or any other contagion for that matter - under these circumstances, the public health order forbidding them are unconstitutional.  Court precedent dictates that limitations on our fundamental freedoms - and the freedom of worship, assembly, and association are all involved here - can only be considered constitutionally justifiable if their impact on the freedom/right is minimal and demonstrably contributes to the policy end for which the limitation is enacted.   The inclusion of drive-in services in this ban fails both of these litmus tests and is clearly in place to bully and harass worshipping believers.   I don't think much of the "prosperity gospel" theology of this congregation and its pastor Leon Fontaine, but they are well within their constitutional rights to stand their ground here, and are certainly not contributing to the spread of the bat flu.

The other congregation that has been all over the news for its defiance of these evil and unconstitutional public health orders is the Church of God, located just south of Steinbach in the Municipality of Hanover.   Last weekend the police fined this congregation $5000 for meeting and they fined its pastor, Tobias Tiessen, about half that amount in two tickets, one for holding the service, another for attending the anti-lockdown rally in Steinbach on the 14th.   The latter ticket, of course, is a violation of the constitutional right to peacefully protest.   This weekend, the congregation had planned a drive-in service to be held in the parking lot, against which no public health order is constitutionally acceptable.   The RCMP blockaded the congregation's parking lot.

It is time that we call this government harassment of people exercising their constitutional "fundamental freedom" of worship what it is - scapegoating.  It is not people attending worship services that is causing the bat flu numbers to rise.   It is not even people breaking the stupid and absurd health orders in general.   There is simply not enough of that going on here for that to be the cause.   The fact of the matter is that the continual rise in numbers prove that the public health orders don't work and should be rescinded in toto immediately.   Pallister and Roussin should admit their bullying, thuggish behaviour and vile health orders don't work, apologize for infringing upon our rights and freedoms, and immediately cease and desist their attempts to scapegoat Manitobans who wish to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, live their lives, and obey their God, rather than locking themselves away in their homes and living in fear of the bat flu.

Sunday, November 29, 2020


It is Advent Sunday, the first day in the liturgical calendar for Western Christians, and the first of the four Sundays of Advent, the period that begins now and ends with the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour on Christmas.   It is, like the longer period of Lent that leads up to Easter or Pascha, the Christian Passover celebrating our Lord's Glorious Resurrection, a period for penitence and sober reflection.   I should say, that is what the period of Advent traditionally has been in the Church.   There is now a secular Christmas which falls on the same day as the celebration of the birth of Christ, and with it a secular Advent that is more-or-less the opposite of what Advent is all about in the Church.   Secular Advent comes in a long and a short version.   The short version is that which is evident in the secular version of Advent calendars.   An Advent calendar is the kind where you count down the days to Christmas by opening a door, eating a candy, or some such thing.   Religious Advent calendars begin with Advent Sunday which may, as this year, fall in November (the 27th is the earliest it can fall).   Secular Advent calendars typically begin on December 1st.   That is the short version of secular Advent.   The long version starts when the Christmas decorations go up.   This was remarkably early this year.   I  saw a house in Winnipeg's West End - that is the name of the section of town, not an accurate description of its location - lit up as if they were in competition with Clark Griswold, back in September.

Secular Advent, as stated above, is typically the opposite in tone and spirit to what Advent is supposed to be in the Church.   It is more of an extended version of secular Christmas, with parties and gift-giving and the like, and thus resembles Carnival, the pre-Lent festive season for those of the Roman Communion that corresponds to the more reserved Anglican Shrovetide, more than it does Lent itself.   That is what has been the norm for decades.   It does not look like it will be the case this year.   Grinches all around the world have seized the opportunity of the mass hysteria generated by media hype about the Wuhan bat flu to steal both the secular and the Christian Christmas, taking Advent to boot.   Here in the Dominion of Canada the chief Grinch has been Captain Airhead, who managed to retain his position as Her Majesty's First Minister last year despite being hit by at least three scandals any one of which would have taken down anybody who did not belong to the Canadian equivalent of the Kennedy family, but the provincial premiers, especially our own premier in Manitoba, Brian Pallister,  who cannot seem to make up his mind as to whether he is a rectal orifice or a squirt bottle used to clean the same, has come close to surpassing Captain Airhead in his Grinchiness.   He shut down the small businesses that depend upon the Christmas shopping rush to balance their books for at least a month in that very period, then, when they complained that they were being treated unfairly, instead of doing something that would actually help, ordered the larger stores to seal off everything except food and a few other "essentials", thus giving all the  business in the province for other items to Amazon.   He ordered the Churches to close and seems determined to make those Churches that have insisted upon their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship in defiance of his orders into scapegoats for the failure of his restrictions to produce the desired effect of lower case numbers.   I shall, Deus Vult, be addressing that scapegoating at greater length later this week , but note that this unconstitutional and totalitarian ban on in-person Church services includes even drive-in services where everyone remains in their own car in the parking lot and which cannot possibly contribute to the spread of this or any other disease.    He even had the nerve to lecture Lower Canada's premier François Legault over the latter's less Grinchy policy with regards to family gatherings over Christmas.   Sadly, Mr. Legault's response was merely to say that Mr. Pallister did not seem to be aware of the precautions surrounding the Christmas exception in his province, rather than the "va te faire foutre" that the situation seemed to call for.   Mr. Pallister is not content with trying to steal Christmas from Manitobans, he wants to steal it from other Canadians too.

Mr. Pallister, whose inability to think outside the lockdown box when it comes to the bat flu evinces his lack of understanding the meaning or perhaps even of having read Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Read Death, shows by his efforts to steal Christmas that he  has failed to grasp the lesson of Dr. Seuss's story about the Grinch as well.   In the end, despite all the Grinch's efforts, Christmas came "it came just the same".   It is perhaps too much to hope that Mr. Pallister's small heart will grow three sizes when this very thing happens this year.  Denied his annual vacation in Costa Rica because of bat flu travel restrictions he seems determined to make everybody as miserable as he is.   Those who do not understand the purpose of penitential seasons like Advent and Lent might conclude from this that he has restored the original spirit of the period.

They would be wrong, of course, because gloom and misery do not add up to penitence.   Indeed, they are even more a part of despair than they are a part of penitence or repentance.   Despair, you might recall, was in medieval moral theology, the mortal sin opposite to the theological virtue of hope and amounted to the repudiation of the latter.   In its most extreme form it was the belief that one had sinned beyond the capacity of God's grace and mercy and expressed itself in suicide.   The mental anguish that tormented the eighteenth century poet and Olney hymn writer William Cowper in the latter years of his life, from which he received release only shortly before he was allowed to die in the peace of assurance of God's forgiveness, was pretty much the textbook example.   In is a recurring subject throughout Shakespeare, the ending of Romeo and Juliet being the most obvious example although it is expressed best in all that King Lear says after he enters, in the third and last scene of Act V, carrying the dead body of Cordelia, the only one of his daughters, as he realized too late, who had been truly loving, devoted, and loyal.   Despair is so serious a sin because it precludes repentance.   Penitence or repentance, always includes hope.

True penitence or repentance involves a sober reflection upon one's own mortality and that which is ultimately the cause of the dread which the inevitability of one's own death inspires, one's sin.    "It is appointed unto man once to die", St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, "but after this the judgement."   The Greek word translated repentance is often given the definition "change of mind".   It is, in fact, formed by adding a preposition which when used in compounds has the meaning "again" to a word referring to thought.    The image is of looking upon one's thoughts, words, and deeds of the past and recognizing how far short of God's will, whether expressed in the Ten Commandments or the Greatest and Second Greatest Commandments to which our Lord pointed, we have fallen.   The basic Greek word for sin in the New Testament, the same used by Aristotle in his works of literary/theatrical criticism/theory to denote the "fatal flaw" of a tragic hero, means literally to miss the mark, to fall short of the bull's eye.   This sort of reflection falls short of being repentance, however, and leads to despair, if it is not joined to faith and hope.

This is why seasons of penitence are always seasons which look forward to a faith and hope inspiring event.   Lent looks forward to the remembrance of the events whereby sin and death were defeated, the Crucifixion, in which Our Saviour allowed Himself to be unjustly executed by wicked men, that He might offer Himself up as the One true sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world, and the Resurrection in which His triumph over sin, death, and the very gates of hell, was declared to the world.   Advent looks forward to His birth, and what His birth signifies, the Incarnation, God coming down to earth and becoming man that He might lift man up to God.     Faith rests upon God's revelation of Himself and His love and saving mercy to the world in these events and it is faith which gives birth to hope, which is but faith looking forward, and charity or Christian love, which is but faith in action.   Repentance prepares our hearts to receive God's saving revelation of Himself in faith.

So, denied the shopping, partying, and revelry of secular Advent this year by Satan-possessed politicians and doctors determined to preserve our mere existence by forbidding us to truly live our lives, let us reflect in the true spirit of the season, on our sinfulness and mortality, repent, and embrace in faith and hope the "dawn of redeeming grace", to borrow Dr. Luther's words, in the events remembered at Christmas.   If we do so, Christmas will come just the same despite the efforts of politicians and physicians to prevent it.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Songs of the Times

In this essay I shall be discussing the bands Echosmith and High Valley.  Joining the two together as a single topic will probably seem rather peculiar to anyone familiar with both groups.  The former band hails from the city of Chino, thirty miles east of Los Angeles in the state of California’s San Bernardino County in the American republic.   It specializes in the kind of music that is called “indie pop” or “alt pop.”   The latter band is from the province of Alberta here in the Dominion of Canada.   Their home community is Blumenort, which like the Blumenorts in Manitoba and Saskatchewan is a small, unincorporated, farming community founded by Mennonites.   It is located in Mackenzie County in the north of the province, near the hamlet of La Crete which is also a Mennonite community.   To provide a more familiar landmark, this is about thirty miles north of Edmonton.   High Valley performs country and western music of various styles and varieties.  One might be tempted to say that in the universe of music, these bands come from completely different worlds.


The reason I have decided to write about the two bands together is that they have both released new songs this year.   In the case of Echosmith they released an entire album, their second studio album “Lonely Generation.”   High Valley has not released a full studio album this year yet, but they have released an EP with six tracks, including the single that shares its title “Grew Up On That” which has received a lot of playtime on country radio.    It is this single and the title song from the Echosmith album which I will be focusing on specifically.  Both songs strike me as saying something which, due to the times in which we live, is very important and relevant.   I do not mean that they are saying the same thing.  Indeed, the contrast between what the two songs are saying is possibly greater than the one drawn in the previous paragraph between the two bands. 


Before examining them at greater length, however, it might be interesting to note a few curious similarities between the two groups.


Both groups consist of siblings.   High Valley, the older of the two groups, is composed of the Rempel brothers, Brad and Curtis.   Echosmith is composed of the Sierota siblings, the brothers Noah and Graham as well as a sister Sydney who is the lead vocalist of the group.   Another similarity is that both groups saw the departure of a brother and founding member in the last few years.     In the case of High Valley it was Bryan Rempel about six years ago and in the case of Echosmith it was Jamie Sierota about two years ago.   


The most successful songs so far of both bands were released in 2013-2014.    Echosmith’s debut studio album came out in 2013.   The band had been formed about four years previously and they had originally performed covers of songs by other artists but this album, “Talking Dreams”, featured original songs written by the band members with their father Jeffrey David who is also their producer.   The best known song from the album was “Cool Kids”, which reached the thirteenth spot on Billboard’s Hot 100.   High Valley, which as mentioned is the older of the two groups having been formed in the late 1990s, released their fourth studio album the following year, entitled “Country Line”.   It contained ten tracks, six of which charted in the top ten for Canadian country as radio singles.   One of these, “Make You Mine”, in which they were joined by Ricky Skaggs, made the top five.  Both songs grew in popularity in the years after they were originally released, and both were certified Platinum – triple Platinum in the case of “Cool Kids”.


Now let us come back to the present year and take a look at the songs the bands have just released.   We will start with Echosmith.


As mentioned Echosmith’s “Lonely Generation” album was released earlier this year.   The title song was the first track on the album.   Like the songs on their first album, and the rest of the songs on this one for that matter, it was written by the siblings with their father and producer Jeffrey David.  


Here is the song’s chorus:

We’re the lonely generation
A pixelated version of ourselves
Empty conversations
I’ve disconnected, now I’m by myself


What jumps out about these words is how they well they describe what so many people have been experiencing since March of this year – the loneliness and isolation forced upon us all by the bat flu lockdowns.   Upon hearing those words for the first time, one could easily come to the conclusion that Mr. David and his children wrote the song during lockdown to express how they feeling about the whole thing.


The conclusion would be wrong, however.   Unlike “The Quarantine Song”, written by C. W. “Buddy” Kalb Jr. and performed by legendary country and western funny man Ray Stevens, containing the excellent lines “two more weeks of quarantine/will be the death of me” this song was not written about the lockdown or even in the lockdown.   The album was released in early January.  


The song was actually written as a commentary on social media, computers, smartphones, etc. and the culture, if it can be called that, surrounding them.   This is the band’s own explanation of the song.  Sidney Sierota saidIt came out of a really interesting conversation about social media and how addicted we are to our phones” and “Conceptually, it felt really important. We always have a message in our music. For how connected we are, we end up feeling lonelier. Our generation needs to acknowledge it’s a problem and be more intentional in daily life”.


What I find very interesting about the lyrics and the explanation of them is the contrast with which the same phenomenon was been portrayed since the beginning of the bat flu lockdown.  The freedom-hating Communist swine who have placed us all under house arrest and lied to us about how it is all for our own good to keep us “safe” have presented social media to us as a lifeline, a savior to keep us from the loneliness and isolation that they have forced upon us with these unjust and wicked measures.   “Stay connected” we have been told, not meaning any kind of normal human connection since all of those have been banned, but plugging ourselves into what is essentially the Matrix and becoming, in the band’s words “pixelated versions of ourselves.”   Echosmith’s depiction of social media and its effects is by far the more honest and truthful of the two.  


Lockdowns produce loneliness, disconnect, and isolation.   Social media produces loneliness, disconnect, and isolation.   Does this not tell us that suggesting that we alleviate the isolation caused by lockdowns with social media is the equivalent of suggesting that we try to douse a fire with gasoline?   Of course, the reality is that it is the lockdown that is adding fuel to the fire of loneliness, disconnect, and isolation which, as the song, coming out when it did, demonstrates, was already present prior to the lockdown.


What we find in the Echosmith song, therefore, is commentary on one of the important social problems of the day which has been made doubly relevant by events that transpired shortly after the song was released.


High Valley’s “Grew Up On That” provides us with something extremely different.   It does not discuss the social problems of the present day but rather the good life of yesteryear.   Anyone who was raised on a farm in a small rural community in the prairie provinces of Canada, or, for that matter, the states of the American Midwest, will likely find something in this song’s nostalgic lyrics that he can relate to, especially if he had any sort of Christian upbringing.  


The lengthy chorus depicts the rural way of life in many of its aspects, from the sacred to the mundane and from the hard work to the equally hard play.    It goes:


Them Main Streets, them tractor seats
We put some country miles on
Them Friday nights, wide-open skies
Back Forty, gettin' wild on
Sweet by-and-by, I saw the light
In a little white church way in the back
Grew up, grew up, grew up on that

Ricky Skaggs on the vinyl
King James on the Bible
Feet on the dash with ourselves in the back
We grew up on that



(I call all of the above the chorus because that is how it is so designated in every copy of the lyrics that I have been able to find.   Just from listening to the song I would have taken the lines prior to the mention of Ricky Skaggs to be a bridge and everything that follows to be the actual chorus.)



There are also two short four-line verses.   The first which opens the song is a recital of parental injunctions that the Rempels undoubtedly heard repeatedly while growing up, about such things as showing reverence at meal time, treating their dates with respect, fiscal responsibility and social respectability.  The second verse references various staples of rural living such as “barbed wire” and “bonfires” and “one red light blinking.”



Obviously this song is not intended to be social commentary in the same way as the Echosmith song.   It is a very personal collection of reminiscences, autobiographical in nature and sentimental in tone.   The second verse, however, ends with a line that in expressing the nostalgic spirit of the song, does convey a message of sorts.  That line is:



Had it so good, didn’t know how good we had it, oh.



These words, removed from their context, can be understood in two rather different ways.   They can be taken in the eulogistic sense of “we didn’t realize what we had until it is gone” or they can be taken in the thankful sense of “in the wisdom that comes with age we have grown to appreciate all that was given us.”    Taken in context, of course, they can only have the latter sense.   The song is one of fond reminiscence not eulogy and gratitude is clearly the song writers’ intent here.    Now, with the Echosmith song, we saw how the events that followed almost immediately after the song’s release added to the meaning the writers had originally intended.    I think that is the case here too, but as with the words themselves there are two different ways to understand the additional meaning.



One way is to see the events of this year as having switched the sense from gratitude to eulogy.



This is the year in which C. S. Lewis’ insightful remark about how “a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive” has been confirmed.   With a few small, local, exceptions, tyranny of this very sort has been imposed all around the world.   The public health dictators have taken everything away from us – our basic freedoms and constitutional civil rights, the entire fabric of communities and institutions intermediate to the individual and the state that we call society, for many people their jobs and businesses, and basically our entire way of life.   While far too many people seem to be okay with sacrificing all of this, not only for themselves but for all other people as well, in the name of keeping people safe from the bat flu, it is difficult to imagine that there are many left who could not empathize with the sentiment “didn’t’ know how good we had it” even looking back only so far as January and February.



While all of this is true for people whether they are rural or urban, the particular way of life portrayed in the Rempels’ song is under especially severe attack by the public health dictatorship.   It is not exactly a secret that this way of life has been disappearing for decades.   That process has been accelerated by the public health dictatorship.   Think about it.   While the costly sanitation requirements, limited capacity restrictions, and lockdowns have made things difficult for all businesses, benefiting only internet based corporations like Amazon, they have been particularly hard on small local businesses, especially restaurants.   These are the businesses that have been driven into insolvency, or very close to it, by these measures.   In small towns, small local businesses are usually the only kind to be found.     In small, rural communities the churches have remained a much larger part of the life of the community than they have in large cities.   This year they have been ordered to close for most of the year, a move that has had no precedent in what was formerly Christendom except in the parts of it that succumbed to regimes with totalitarian ideologies like Communism.   While churches in small towns are probably more likely to be able to get away with disregarding public health orders to close than urban churches, they are also far less likely to be able to survive being shut down for a lengthy period.   Their loss due to the lockdown, whether temporary or permanent, will be a much bigger blow to the rural communities.   


Having said all of that, I don’t think that a switch from gratitude to eulogy is the best way of understanding what the song is saying to us in the context of the unfolding events of the year.     I think that the sense of thankful appreciation for having grown up in the kind of community where Edmund Burke’s “unbought grace of life” could still be found  should be understood as having been amplified by the sharp contrast with the opposite of all that which now surrounds us. 


Understood that way, its message in the context of the bat flu complements that of Echosmith’s “Lonely Generation.”    The latter by shining a light on the isolation caused by the “plugged in” culture of communications technology exposes the lie of the public health dictatorship that has been holding that very culture out to us as a lifeline to keep us from drowning in the loneliness that their mad experiment in universal quarantine has produced.   High Valley’s “Grew Up On That”, however, offers the real lifeline of a connection to the sanity which preceded the madness of these dark times in the grateful, appreciative, memory of good times and good places and the faith in God which made those times and places good.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Your Bat Flu Breaking Point

Rod Dreher is a writer who blogs at the website of The American Conservative, the magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, Taki Theodoracopulos and Scott McConnell in 2002 to oppose the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and more specifically the drive for war in Iraq from the right.   Dreher is also the author of such books as Crunchy Cons (2006), How Dante Can Save Your Life (2015), The Benedict Option (2017), and most recently, Live Not By Lies which was released earlier this year.   The last title mentioned warns small-o orthodox Christians – Dreher, who was raised Protestant, became a Roman Catholic and is now Eastern Orthodox with a large-O – about the coming “soft totalitarianism” to which wokeness, the more militant successor to political correctness, is leading the Western world.  Note that there are many who would generally agree with Dreher’s assessment of wokeness but suggest that a past tense would be more appropriate than a future one.


Earlier this year, Dreher posted a piece entitled “Your Woke Breaking Point” at his blog.   He began with an excerpt from an article by Megan McArdle at the Washington Post about how Donald Trump’s predictions of four years ago as to how the attacks on Confederate monuments would lead to attacks on monuments to the American republic’s founders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were coming true.   McArdle, in her editorial, referenced Dreher’s “Law of Merited Impossibility” which has been stated several different ways, the best known being “It will never happen, and when it does you bigots will deserve it”.    The law satirizes, without exaggerating in the least, the paradox of the typical progressive response to conservative warnings about the direction in which left-wing causes seem to be heading, before and after the predictions are fulfilled.   It is likely to end up being Dreher’s single most significant and lasting contribution to political discourse.    McArdle’s article referencing it was an uncharacteristic moment of liberal self-criticism, in which she discussed the progressive side’s seeming inability to restrain its radicals and apply the brakes when they are going too far and too fast.


Dreher used the excerpt from McArdle’s article to introduce a challenge that he borrowed from mathematician James A. Lindsay.   Lindsay had tweeted on the 24th of June:


Talking with a brilliant friend last night keyed me into an important idea: everybody has a Woke breaking point, a point where they can’t deny any longer the fact that it’s a totalitarian nightmare. Encourage your sympathetic friends to start naming what theirs would be.


Dreher re-posted Lindsay’s tweet and several follow-up tweets, the first of which went:

Whose statue has to come down? Seriously, whose is the last straw? Who has to get cancelled? Fired? Doxxed? Destroyed? Beaten up? Killed? Does it take a lynching?  Does it take destroying the thing YOU love? Your family? Your kids? Your job? Your hobby? What is it? What’s too far?


It is an excellent question and one that we would do well to pose to any liberals of our acquaintance.  What do the Social Justice Warriors – the BLM, Antifa and MeToo# types -- have to do before you will admit that they have gone too far?  


There is a very similar question that I would suggest we start posing to people.   Or perhaps it is the same question asked in a different context.


This question I would pose to all those people who think that all the public health orders, all the restrictions imposed to control the spread of the Wuhan bat flu, are necessary and especially to those who think that even more restrictions are called for.   I will note, obiter dictum, that Rod Dreher himself was certainly one of these back in the spring.   Whether he still is or not I am unaware because he has written far less on that subject in recent months than in March, April and May.  


The question is simply this – what is your Bat Flu Breaking Point? 


Let us clarify the matter with some follow up questions.


What do our public health officials have to do for you to agree that they have gone too far?   What line do they have to cross?   What freedom do they have to take away?   How much imposed loneliness, isolation, and misery is too much?   How many small businesses have to be destroyed?   How many people have to lose their jobs?   How many people have to be driven to suicide, drunkenness and substance abuse?   At what point is keeping us safe no longer worth the price we are being forced to pay for it?


Would curtailing to the point of eliminating our basic freedoms of association, assembly and religion be going too far?


Would telling people that they have to close the small businesses that has been in their families and served their local communities for generations and which they have been struggling to keep afloat for years right in the busiest shopping time of the year, the period that they rely upon to make enough to balance their books, be crossing the line?


Would fining people thousands of dollars for acts that are not only not mala in se but are rather clearly bona in se although forbidden by some petty health order be one step too many in the direction of totalitarianism?


Would opening a snitch line and encouraging people to rat out their family, friends and neighbours be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?


Would establishing a special police force – a Gestapo, Cheka/NKVD, or Stasi so to speak – for enforcing public health orders be the limit of what is tolerable?


Everything I have mentioned so far has already been done here in Manitoba and, indeed, in most if not all of the other provinces of the Dominion of Canada.   For the many who support all of these measures and say they are “necessary” it is difficult to imagine what further step could possibly be taken that would finally have these people saying that it is too much.  


Would it take forcing everybody to have foreign substances, including modified RNA, injected into their bodies upon penalty of not being allowed to work, buy groceries, or go anywhere if they refuse?


Would even telling everyone that they must pledge their allegiance to Satan by having 666 tattooed on their right hand or forehead in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 finally be enough to do it?


Ask everyone you know who is in favour of the sanitary dictatorship what their Bat Flu Breaking Point is.







Thursday, November 26, 2020

Roussin’s Victims


The province of Manitoba in the Dominion of Canada, one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth Realms, is my home.   We have seen two types of protests directed against the provincial government in recent months, both objecting to the province’s response to the spread of the Wuhan bat flu.   One type of protest, such as that which took place in Steinbach on the 14th of November, expresses opposition to the public health orders as trampling all over our basic freedoms of association, assembly and religion and our prescriptive and constitutional civil rights.   The other type of protest expressed the views of the socialist opposition party, its leader Wab Kinew and his health critic, and their far left echo chamber in the media which features such automatons as the CBC’s Bartley Kives and the Winnipeg Free Press’s Dan Lett and Ryan Thorpe.   Those involved in this type of protest take the position that the government’s public health orders have been too few, too light, and too slowly enacted, and that the government by not imposing a harsh lockdown the moment the case numbers started to rise in the fall, is responsible for all the deaths we have seen since September.



My sympathies are entirely with the first group of protesters, as anyone who has read a word I have previously written on the subject already knows.   I should say that my sympathies are with the protesters' basic position.   I don’t much care for the rhetoric of civil disobedience, rebellion, and populism in which that position is often expressed at those protests.



While the second group of protesters are certainly entitled to their opinion and the free expression of the same, a freedom that I note many if not most of them would prefer to deny to me and others who take my side of the issue, their position is easily debunked from an ethical point of view.



When a virus is spreading, government is not required to do everything in its power to slow or stop the spread.   Indeed, it has a moral obligation NOT to do everything in its power to slow or stop the spread of the virus.   This is because the government has the power to do tremendous evil as well as good.



Let us agree that saving lives that are at risk from the virus is in itself a good and worthy goal.   Stopping and slowing the spread of the virus may be a means to that end, but whether it is a good means to a good end or a bad means to a good end is debatable.  Slowing the spread of the virus increases the total length of the pandemic, stretching out the time we have to deal with this plague over a much longer period than would otherwise be the case.   That can hardly be regarded as desirable in itself.   Quite the contrary in fact.   Whether this is an acceptable evil, worth tolerating in order to achieve the end of lives saved, depends upon a couple of considerations.



First it depends upon the effectiveness of the method of slowing the spread of the virus in saving lives.   If the method is not effective, then the evil of artificially lengthening the period of the pandemic is much less tolerable.



Second it depends upon the means whereby the stopping or slowing of the virus, considered as an end itself, is to be accomplished.   If those means are themselves bad, this compounds the evil of stretching out the pandemic.



Neither of these considerations provides much in the way of support for concluding that a longer pandemic is an evil made tolerable by a good end, such as saving lives.



With regards to the first consideration, it is by no means clear that any lives have been saved in this way at all.  Indeed, at the beginning of the first lockdown, back when everyone was repeating the phrase “flatten the curve” ad naseum, the experts advising this strategy told us that it would not decrease the total lives lost  but merely spread them out so that the hospitals would not be overwhelmed at once.   This, in my opinion at least, was not nearly as desirable an end as saving lives and not one sufficient to make the lockdown measures acceptable.



This brings us to our second criteria.   The means by which our government health officials have tried to slow or stop the spread of the virus are neither morally neutral nor positively good.   On the contrary, they are positively evil.  They inflict all sorts of unnecessary misery upon people.  Advocates of the lockdown method sometimes maintain that the damage inflicted is merely economic and therefore “worth it” to save lives.   This would be a dubious conclusion even if the premise were valid.   The premise is not valid, however, and it is highly unlikely that those who state it seriously believe what they are saying.  



Telling people to stay home and avoid all contact with other people does not just hurt people financially, although it certainly does that if their business is forced to close or their job is deemed by some bureaucrat to be “non-essential”.  It forces people to act against their nature as social beings, deprives them of social contact which is essential to their psychological and spiritual wellbeing, which are in turn essential to their physical wellbeing.   Mens sana in corpore sano.   The longer people are deprived of social contact, the more loneliness and a sense of isolation will erode away at their mental health.   Phone, e-mail, and even video chat, are not adequate substitutes for in-person social contact.


All of this was true of the first lockdown in the spring but it is that much more true with regards to the second lockdowns that are now being imposed.   The first lockdown was bad enough, but the second lockdown, imposed for at least a month, coming right before Christmas in the same year as the first, will be certain to pile a sense of hopelessness and despair on top of the inevitable loneliness and isolation.  The government has kept liquor stores and marijuana vendors open, even though the combination of alcohol and pot with hopelessness, loneliness, and despair is a recipe for self-destructive behaviour, while ordering all the churches, which offer, among other things, hope, to close.    This is evil of truly monstrous proportions.    It can only lead to death – whether by suicide, addictive self-destruction, or just plain heart brokenness.   



The protesters who accuse Brian Pallister and the government he leads of murder for having re-opened our economy from the first lockdown and not having imposed a second one right away when the cases began to rise are wrong-headed about the matter as they, generally being leftists, are wrong-headed about everything.   The government does not become morally culpable for deaths because it refrains from taking actions which are extremely morally wrong in themselves in order to achieve the goal of saving lives.   Not imposing a draconian lockdown does not translate into the murder of those for whom the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus becomes one health complication too many.



Where Pallister does bear moral culpability for deaths is with regards to all the people who will kill themselves, or perhaps snap and kill others, drink themselves to death or accomplish the same with drugs, or simply give up on life in hopeless gloom and despair because he has allowed Brent Roussin, once again, to impose these totalitarian public health orders.



Roussin has been going on television as of late, showing pictures of people who have died, and lecturing Manitobans on how these are not just numbers but people.   This is a kind of sleight-of-hand, by which he hopes to distract the public from all the harm he is actively causing, and he knows full well that lockdowns are themselves destructive and lethal for he admitted as much a couple of months ago thus compounding his guilt now, by manipulating their emotions.



Does Roussin realize that this street runs both ways?



What about the young man, Roussin, who would otherwise have had decades of life ahead of him, much more than those whose deaths you have been exploiting to justify your bad decisions, but who killed himself because you cancelled his job as "non-essential", took away  his social life, and left him with the prospect of long-term isolation?   Do you not realize that he is a person as well?



In the end, those who die from the lockdown may very well turn out to outnumber by far those who succumb to the bat flu.   In which case all that Roussin will have accomplished will have been to exchange a smaller number of deaths for which he would not have been morally responsible for a larger number of deaths that leave his hands permanently stained with blood.