A Nation of Sludge

 I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

 And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

 I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

          — William Butler Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.  (Lk. 15:18)

If only, if only it were the pavements grey, that make the heart long for a sweet and natural life!

Sludge everywhere, the sludge of a nation bored with sanity, hating the false gods of wealth, ease, prestige, lust, and what is called, without a trace of irony, politics, but blaming not the false gods and not themselves for falling in worship of them, but rather the worshippers on the other side of the sluice—they are the ones, only they, who raise the stink of disease and degeneracy and death.

I check the morning news and there is madness, things once unspeakable but now taken with a shrug, as the sludge floats past, slowly, interminably, yet always bringing some new offense, some new capitulation to boredom, disgust, and indifference.

A deeply disturbed adolescent boy dons a green tail and calls himself a merman, posing with girlish breasts and boasting a boyfriend who first found it odd to swim in the lake with a creature from fantasyland, but now has gotten used to it.  Another disturbed adolescent boy announces to his classmates that he is sexually attracted to dogs and horses, and boys besides.  This occasions a long article on the “problems” that “zoophiles” present to the homosexual movement.

A monster abortionist from Philadelphia, a man with the morals of Josef Mengele but without the surgical skills, is on trial for years of butchery.  One woman testifies that she heard the screams of failed abortions, of babies still alive, screaming like aliens, she says, until they snipped their spines in two.  The monster used to keep baby-parts as trophies.  The media mundi bury the story.  But they pump the story of a coach a few miles across the Delaware River, whose offense is that he pushed his players around in practice and called them names.  The coach resigns, and the Athletic Director also loses his job, for the offense of not having fired the coach immediately.  It is a world in which everything is condoned, and nothing is forgiven.

A representative of Planned Predators testifies publicly that if an aborted child is still alive, it should be given no care.  She advocates infanticide.  Teenage boys in a decrepit town in the Rust Belt are convicted of raping a girl below the age of consent; the girl was blind drunk at the time and did not know what she was doing.  A boy murderer, at the scene of his conviction, holds up his hand to the parents of his victims and announces to them that he will be in jail doing something unspeakable with it, while thinking of their murdered sons.  His monstrosity shows up in a more acceptable feminine form, in the person of a leering, lewd actress and producer, whose latest series has featured an “edgy”—the word means “drearily obscene”—episode in which her lover does what the boy murderer plans to do, while fantasizing about molesting a small child.  He isn’t called a monster for it.  Other ghoul-girls write learned reviews of the series for the dying newspapers, giving it their polished thumbnails up.

Sludge is a buoyant commodity.  You can slap a fetid scrap of it with a long stick, but it bobs up again and floats your way.  Floating our way again is a lecherous congressman from New York, who made of himself his own porn star for the internet, who resigned in shamelessness and resurfaces the same.  But what’s the problem, eh?  We are sixteen million million dollars in debt, and we overspend ourselves by more than a million million dollars a year.  What’s one more liar in Congress, when our whole political life is woven from scraps and rag-ends of lies, that the Constitution is more than embossed tissue paper for the lavatories of the Capitol, that legislators legislate, that judges judge, and that the executive executes?  Every four years we engage, at tremendous expense, in a charade of self-government, a mass selection of the American Idol, a celebrity in chief, with light and noise and not one sensible thing said.

In Ohio, an Amish man and his “accomplices” are sentenced to fifteen years in prison for disciplinary hair-cutting of some of their fellow Amish.  The federal government, careless of the families being destroyed, steps in because the scissors was transported across state lines.  A thousand renegade Amish barbers could clip away with abandon and not do as much harm to the common good as will one day’s worth of people crossing our borders illegally, but the Amish don’t have nearly the number of votes as do the latter.

Of the brutality and villainy of the violence at the Boston Marathon I can say nothing.  Words fail me.

And so my heart yearns for a place that was.  It was not perfect, as nothing on earth is.  But it had all the simple sunniness of ordinary time, because it was ordinary: there was an order to it.  In that place, when teachers complained about their most unruly students, it was because they ran in the halls, or passed notes in class, or chewed gum.  The teachers weren’t geniuses, and most of their students weren’t, either, but they managed to impart enough knowledge of the ordinary things, like grammar and practical arithmetic and American history and geography, to set the high school graduate on a path to a decent livelihood, without the need to mortgage the house for a wicked combination of the snob, the sybarite, and the sophomore.

In that place, that natural place that was cater-corner to the church, a boy was tolerated for being a boy, a little bit cuffed but tolerated nonetheless, and raised to look beyond boyishness to clean manhood, so that he could become a good husband and father.  A girl was praised for being a girl, a little patronized but praised nonetheless, and raised to look beyond girlishness to the beauty of womanhood, so that she could become a good wife and mother.  That was a land of marriage and families, so it was indeed a country for old men, and old women and little children.

In that place, that ordinary place across the gravel road from my Father’s house, the most boisterous noise that most people would hear were the whoops of boys playing baseball in some old man’s back yard, or the laughter of lads and lasses at the dance, while the band was playing, not amplified by any instrument more powerful than the glad arms and lungs of the players.  In that place, the Tsars were in their rightful place—far away from us.

In that place, that human place within earshot of the bells of the Angelus, there was sadness, there was sin, but there was the girl with the blue shawl stopping by the chapel for prayer, and repentance was held forth as a duty and an opportunity.

In that place, that holy and silent place on the hillside where the tombstones mark where our fathers and mothers lie, life was lived in the long vistas of eternity, and those who went before us were revered for their labor and their wisdom, not scorned and forgotten.  Therefore that place was not a flophouse or a motel but a home.

The poet Yeats wanted to retreat from the hardness of the city and the strife of politics, to that peaceful island, where he would build his cabin and grow his beans.  It has been a century since he daydreamed about Innisfree.  There is no such island to turn to.  All the possible roads back to sanity have been closed off.  We cannot arise and go anywhere.  Innisfree is as sick as Illinois.

There is only one choice; and to tell the truth, it was always the only choice.  I will arise and go now to my Father’s house.  It is time, Christian, to go home; there are no homes to be found anywhere else.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • cloonfush

    This graphic recount of today’s reality made me shiver. God help us.

  • John O’Neill

    Excellent article Professor Esolen ; it really summarizes the vast pit we now find ourselves in. The Americanized world has really become the world of Satan and his minions, we live in fact in the Kingdom of lies. The only spot to go to is to where the Blessed Sacrament reposes and we can once again get in contact with the divine reality. I write this as I prepare to go out the door to our little parish in the middle of Amish land where families still toil the soil and bring their children up to respect God.

    • tom

      p.s. Let’s say a prayer for the Mennonites who wrongfully shaved some others’ beards off and got….FIFTEEN YEARS for bringing the barber’s scissors across state lines. That’s Obama Law in a nutshell.

      • musicacre

        A nut.

        • musicacre

          I meant Obama of course!

  • Thank you Professor Esolen, you have said everything that is on my heart with respect to the world.

  • Harry

    No, no, no and no again.

    The reaction to the evils of the age should never, ever be to start wallowing in Nostalgia about a Golden Age that never existed. What era are you referring to? The 1950’s? Life in America is pretty good, on the whole, if you’re white. If you’re black then you still have to deal with segregation, open hatred and the occasional lynching And what about the rest of the world? Europe’s in ruins after the War (rationing is still in effect, and will continue to be so, unlike in the USA), China’s an absolute mess, the Korean peninsula will descend into bloody warfare that will end in a division of the country and a dictatorship that lasts to this day, Russia’s under the control of a murderous tyrant (to be followed by a series of murderous tyrants), the Holocaust is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and the Iron Curtain has descended across Eastern Europe and half of Germany, and the world is getting ready to engage in a new type of cold warfare with the added bonus that if it ever turns hot nuclear fire will rain down from the skies and in all likelihood wipe out most of the world’s population.

    Fight against the evils of today, and fight well, but let’s not fall into any illusions about how wonderful life was 30, 40, 50 or 60 years ago.

    • Harry, I wonder how old you are. Did you live through all of those things you list? The horrors you describe, all horrors, to be sure, were the horrors of the state. We now live in the everyday horrors of the everyday person, perpetrated by individuals on individuals, very personal, very close, very right-next-door. Can’t you perceive the difference?

      • Harry

        Mob violence is a case of neighbour against neighbour – common in the 19th and 18th centuries, it had very little to do with the state – see the Know-Nothing anti-Catholic riots, or the terrible anti-black violence in the Draft Riots. The same with lynching, and as for the brutal state-sponsored paranoia that poisoned relationships under Communist rule – there is nothing I can think of that is more “personal” than learning that the people you thought were friends actually turn out to be informants and spies, as was revealed when they opened the Stasi archives.
        I do not have to have personally experienced these things (I’m 21) to point out how awful they were, and it is good to keep this in perspective. Ask a man of Mr Esolen’s background whether the world has gotten worse or better since he was a boy, he will tell you how awful things have gotten. The reaction will be far different if you were to ask a Pole if life has improved since the 50’s, a Russian Orthodox believer whether life is better now that he can go to Church without having to worry about state persecution, a black person from the South whether things are different now that a black man is president – and so on. Mr Esolen’s post is far too subjective.

        • Me

          Harry writes, “The reaction will be far different if you were to ask a Pole if life has improved since the 50’s, a Russian Orthodox believer whether life is better now that he can go to Church without having to worry about state persecution, a black person from the South whether things are different now that a black man is president – and so on. ”

          Agreed. And if you want to limit yourself to the US, ask any woman, child, or member or a minority group — anyone other than a white man — if things have gotten better or worse in the last 200 years, and the answer will most often be a resounding yes.

          • Ford Oxaal

            We do have better dental care. We have many material blessings. But what about childhood? How’s that doing these days? Do children make the statistics churned out by the paid experts? How do you collect that data? “Hey Johnny, how do you feel today? Just fine? Want some corn syrup? What? Did you say something? No? Good, I’ll check the happy box.”

            • And children, in my day, didn’t go to school and murder their classmates.

              • tom

                They weren’t even murdered before they were born. Life is good!

              • Adam__Baum

                Or brazenly form “pregnancy pacts”, to assure a whole class of fatherless children, or contracept with school assistance and without parental knowledge or kill children conceived in uncontrolled teenage passion.

          • tom

            It sucks for white men now to be sure. I wonder who will build the next “civilization” without him?

          • Adam__Baum

            Harry doesn’t seem to understand Catholics are a minority group. Oh well, we aren’t on the state approved list of grievants, so he doesn’t see that Anti-Catholicism is growing, often from within.

          • msmischief

            Which is why blacks flocked to Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored.

        • Adam__Baum

          Harry, the problem with being 21 is that having no personal (subjective) experience, you to easily dismiss it. My grandmother lived to be a few days short of 100. I know that she saw much material improvement in life, but lamented growing crudity, debasement, isolation, complexity, an a host of other disquieting trends.

          You think it’s something special that a “black” (actually biracial) man is President. We think it disturbing that he throws a public temper tantrum. I find it disturbing that you ignore the content of his character and are satisfied with the color of his skin.

          • msmischief

            Sometimes they miss it until it’s pointed out to them as Theodore Dalrymple did to his mother:

            And when my mother asks me whether I am not in danger of letting my personal experience embitter me or cause me to look at the world through bile-colored spectacles, I ask her why she thinks that she, in common with all old people in Britain today, feels the need to be indoors by sundown or face the consequences, and why this should be the case in a country that within living memory was law-abiding and safe? Did she not herself tell me that, as a young woman during the blackouts in the Blitz, she felt perfectly safe, at least from the depredations of her fellow citizens, walking home in the pitch dark, and that it never occurred to her that she might be the victim of a crime, whereas nowadays she has only to put her nose out of her door at dusk for her to think of nothing else?

            Full acount here:http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.html

      • FrancisXIII

        While I feel the same way as Anthony Esolen more often than not, I see Harry’s point. In jesus’s final hours, however, his friends could not stay awake with him, he was betrayed with a kiss, he was denied three times, he was spat on and beaten and ridiculed. This, I suppose, was the individual, very personal side. Finally, he was crucified, and his crucifixion was ordered by a official who publicly acknowledged his innocence before seeking a vote on his sentencing. This was the political side. These are all things that Christ said we must be ready to suffer through. It is hard not to despair … these have happened before … perhaps until we sit by the cross and remember the Resurrection.

    • fredx2

      You are right, there were serious evils then. However, the big difference was that those evils were present and addressable. Everyone knew they were wrong. People organized themselves against those evils. But today, no one knows what is right and wrong. The dominant theme of our times is confusion.

      • Harry

        Are things so different? There are plenty of moral wrongs that were once thought good, and good things thought wrong. Quite a lot of people in Germany once thought that genocide was okay. Racism was dominant in all aspects of society, slavery was once thought of by many Christians as a positive institution that worked for the benefit of blacks and had been established by God, and once upon a time Catholic’s thought that the right reaction to a person like Hans Kung or Gary Wills was to gruesomely kill them in a public manner. People convincing themselves that evil is good or vice versa is an ever-present reality in our world.

        • Ford Oxaal

          You only have to look as far as the rise of single parenting to see that society is breaking down. 67% of black families are single parent. Other races are following suit. The next generation is severely compromised in every category. They have to dig out from our wreckage.

        • tom

          Western civilization…and all the Hope it carried…started dying by 1960. I remember it. We’re in trouble and darker days are approaching all too fast.

          • musicacre

            I’ll never forget the conference I attended shortly after getting married and having our first baby. It was meant as a wake-up call- and it was – hosting a special guest, the daughter-in-law of Malcolm Muggeridge. Anne Roche Muggeridge. It was around 1986 I believe, and the dire warning was that it was already five minutes to midnight, as far as how close we were to huge cultural and religious damage in our society. She wrote a book, The Desolate City, and it served as the big eye-opener for both my husband and I and my parents, to change our lives. In what way? It influenced my decision to quit nursing and stay at home with the family, and later to homeschool, but mostly to really pray as a family, stay away from TV and pay attention to and stay away from, destructive trends. Here we are about 27 years later later and I think I can safely say, the culture your children will grow up in is the one you labor over and help make happen. ..it’s actually possible, even with limited resources to rescue your kids from the cheap and vulgar culture that is pervasive. It isn’t really about avoiding so many things, as much as replacing them with wholesome wonderful old-fashioned experiences. It’s possible, with the help of God. The next generation will be the better for it as they come shining through these dark times and be a beacon for future generations!

        • Theorist

          What does this even prove? Everyone knows that it is inevitable that people will make mistakes regarding good and evil. The point is to correct one’s mistakes. Unless your point is that evil is inevitable and so it should not be reduced, in which case why would you tell us anything and thereby refute your own point?

          Also, we should remember that slavery does not need to brutal or coercive in order for it to be slavery. As long as people are not considered mere property slavery is okay, after all, some people are just natural followers or servants and are happiest that way.They simply lack the creativity or ingenuity to lead. I assume that most people, including me, are more or less natural slaves because most people are simply not members of the political establishment.

      • You took the words right out of my mouth.

    • John O’Neill

      Since 1973 over forty million unborn babies have been slaughtered under the aegis of the American government. Presently there is a trial going on in Philadelphia where a government supported abortion clinic was killing children who survived abortion and butchering their bodies in his macabre lab and the American media is trying to cover up. During the 1930s and 1940s there were actual Christians and others being martyred trying to resist government evil; point out the martyrs in today’s world. During the Second World War there were military people actually questioning the morality of open bombing on German and Japanese cities where millions of civilians were being slaughtered. Is anybody in the American government even questioning the same tactics now being carried out by drones? Lying , stealing, adultery, and violence are no longer considered immoral today in the modern American World State as long as they serve the interests and agenda of the State. An immoral person realizes what they are doing is wrong but they do it anyway; an amoral person does not recognize the difference or the existence of right and wrong. We are now living in an amoral country.

    • JERD

      You miss the point. Yes, there will always be wars, hatred, bigotry – in other words there will always be sin. The difference today – and it makes ALL the difference – is that we do not acknowledge the sin – the sludge – as we did in decades past, and we do not, therefore, seek repentance – the sludge just continues to meander, unobstructed and unabated.

      • I think it would be better to say that that the sins we acknowledge have changed over the last few decades. Yes, in some circles adultery and abortion were given greater moral disapproval 50-70 years ago, but there were behaviors from that period which were acceptable then but are now repulsive. The courts routinely made racist judgments, and eugenics was a mainstream belief, and violence was more widespread.

        • JERD

          Eugenics is alive and well and practiced widely – 80% of children diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are aborted, and the destruction of human embryos after genetic screening before implantation is common. Violence is indeed more widespread – 50 million children have been exterminated by abortion. Sins don’t change. Only in a culture of moral relativism, like our current Western societies, could one say that abortion is no longer violent, and no longer serves a eugenic purpose. Your post proves Esolen’s point.

        • Theorist

          That’s a good point. I think most people acknowledge sins that are totally different from the ones traditional Catholics acknowledge. Basically, I would call them sins against “liberal democracy”. That is, everyone is revolted by fascism, human rights abuses, and equality, but when it comes to the commandments, things start to get very controversial.

          It’s not that “leftists” disbelieve in morality, but that they have a totally different philosophy of nature than do “rightists”.

      • FrancisXIII

        I agree with you…but I believe we may be able to go even further in trying to determine why our perception or understanding of sin is different today. I am thinking it is not so much our understanding of sin that has changed as it is our understanding of “man” or who we are. Pope John Paul II presented Christian humanism as a foil to the atheistic humanism prevalent at his time, and he wrote in Redemptoris Hominis, “Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not
        absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare.” I am thinking that time, science, the world, whatever, has diverted us somewhat from understanding who we are. “The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance
        with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and
        measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his
        weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must,
        so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must ‘appropriate’
        and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in
        order to find himself.” I am thinking that if we move this direction, we will understand what sin is.

        • JERD

          We are made in the image of God. Thus, we grow in our understanding of ourselves, if we grow in our understanding of our God. To know more of God, is to know more of our goodness – our true self, and conversely to know more of our propensity to sin – our temptation to follow the father of all lies. As we grow in understanding, the former we embrace more tightly, the later we push away. We are losing our understanding of sin, because we are losing our understanding of ourselves through Christ.

          • FrancisXIII

            Yes … I think that is it.

    • cestusdei

      Since the ’50’s more black children are born out of wedlock then every before. Is that what Dr. King wanted?

    • musicacre

      There are always the wonderful times sandwiched between the “bad” times. We must also be grateful for small (and big ) mercies, whenever they come our way!

  • Madigan

    I experience this feeling every day and remember the time of Judges when the Lord led Israel into the promised land, but they failed to teach their children and instead did what was right in their own eyes

  • Caroline

    We’re very lucky to live in this so-called “age of sludge.” What era would supposedly be better? The 1930s in Europe with fascist uprisings and mass genocide? Or maybe the pre-Enlightenment days of arbitrary torture and execution? Yes, if you go looking for sludge you will find it, and the newspapers report much of what they used to ignore, but the idea that life was so much better in the past is a sign that one isn’t coping with our privileged present. I always tell my kids not to whine but to roll up their sleeves and make a difference.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Do you want your sons and daughters to be virgins when they marry? If not, it is pretty rosy out there. If so, you have a strong current to swim against.

    • tom

      Caroline always has a silly statement.

      • Caroline

        These gratuitous insults are the silliest, most pointless statements of all.

        • tamsin

          Who is being gratuitous, insulting, silly, and pointless?

          Fascism, socialism, communism, and their requisite mass genocide are the babies of the Enlightenment.

        • Adam__Baum

          Truth is the first defense.

    • UltraMontane

      there were hundreds of good things going on back then too. did you tell the people back then protesting against slavery to look at “all the good things going on?” bloody hell, of course we are lucky if we live purely material lives (benefit from modern technology, organization, efficiency, and collective knowledge), but man does not live on bread alone.

      If… you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane — if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground — ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of past ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling of how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God – CS Lewis

    • Adam__Baum

      Right, we are so much better than that, since our genocide doesn’t leave grainy black and white images to assure people like Caroline that we’re “better”. Surprise, Europe is rapidly descending back into socialist statism (and let’s not forget, despite the nonsense you were taught, Nazi’s were Socialists).

      Or do you think Gosnell is better than Mengele?

  • Lorimae

    Man has lost his way, but doesn’t know it. He has deadened his conscience, so he doesn’t feel it. Confusion is the norm, order is a memory. But Faith and Hope are with us until the end of time, so even if it is just within our families, we live the Christian life for we are in the world but not of it. We continue to obey the Commandments, strive for the Beatitudes and enter into prayer always. Peace of soul is attainable even if peace in the world is not, it can’t be, there is too much evil out there. And yes, I agree the best place to be is the with the Blessed Sacrament.

    • Confusion is a tool of the devil.

      • tom

        Then, he’s runnin’ things from the Democratic National Committee….since around 1965. Anyone who voted for a Democrat has a moral problem, with a couple of exceptions like Bob Casey, whom they banned for his stand as a Roman Catholic.

        • Adam__Baum

          He should have spent more time raising his son with strong religious convictionsa nd less time imbuing him with political ambitions. Being from the greater Scranton area, I hold the Casey’s and their noblesse oblige in no great esteem.

  • Alecto

    I laugh at the comments who believe that somehow because we aren’t rounding up people, gassing them and shoving them in ovens yet, that things are still good. We are such wonderful people with the best intentions? No matter that 50 million have died, far more people than were ever killed in every war fought by the United States. Who cares about them! They didn’t really exist, right? Fifty million blank slates can’t testify to our cruelty, our barbarism.

    The American talent for self-delusion is unparalleled. When facts don’t fit, we rewrite the stories to make ourselves feel better. When the gruesome truth is staring us in the face, when it is so overwhelmingly evil, we choose to anesthetize our bodies with drugs, alcohol, sex, anything rather than repent and amend our lives. This is the most graceless of all ages.

    • buckyinky

      Well said.

      • Adam__Baum

        Agreed. However, there are other countries that have worse records and greater prideful self-delusion. If you believe that when Christ was tempted in the desert, he really was tempted, then you realize how many kingdoms have cast their lots with the prince of lies.

        Somewhere along the line, shortly after half a million men were sacrificed to the competing goals of the right to secede and the indissolubility of a previously formed union, the progressives, confident of their wisdom and incorruptibility, began using their temple arts to create a modern golden calf. The passage of the 16th Amendment provided unlimited food for the growing leviathan.

        By the time the pledge of allegiance was modified to include the phrase “one nation under God”, it was a lie and the tentacles of the modern administrative superstate were already reaching deep into American life

  • Me

    Life was a lot worse in the old days than it is now. Back then you wouldn’t read about it or hear it on TV because you probably wouldn’t be able to read and TV didn’t exist. Of course the world isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than it used to be. Today we have incredible advantages with freedoms granted to us that have been consecrated by the blood of martyrs. If anyone can’t find joy in this world, they are either depressed or so entitled that they’ll always be dissatisfied and ungrateful. Despair and presumption are sins against hope. Cheer up, people! We are all responsible for our own happiness.

    • fredx2

      On the other hand, now TV emphasizes the sick, the weird, the perverted. As a six year old kid, you are exposed to the philosophy of Charlie Sheen rather than Fulton Sheen. The sitcoms all seem to be about having sex. There is no indication that life is anything more than having sex. Swear words are the norm. HBO insists that each hour of the Game of Thrones include a nude sex scene, and a scene where graphic gore is shown. People have so much material wealth that they are confused and the inner life is dying. People used to pay attention to one another, but now each lives in his own little world. More families are divorced. Materially better, yes. More healthy, yes, Less violence in the world, yes. But kids are becoming dumber because they don’t read. All sorts of weird junk is now accepted as history. The country is so far in debt that we may be crippled as a country for years. It’s not that we can’t find joy, we can. But to concentrate on having fun when we are setting the future up for a trainwreck is irresponsible. We are living off our societal capital, and pretending that no matter what we do, everything will always stay the same.

      • There has always been and always will be junk media. The onus is on the individual to decide how they will respond to it.

      • Me

        How many six-year-olds watch Game of Thrones? I’ve never seen it and don’t know what it’s about. Not so long ago in Europe, you could take your six-year-old to a real life public beheading. How’s that for graphic gore? Nowadays capital punishment is banned in Europe. What makes you think kids are getting dumber? The real evidence appears to contradict that widely-held perception. Divorce rates are declining, along with teen pregnancies and abortion.

        • Tomm

          We had “test exam collections” in my Dutch university: collections of exam questions given in previous years that you could practice on. I always noted who those from 10 years ago required more fundamental, hard thinking than those of 5 years ago…and those of 5 years ago more so than those of my year.

          • Tomm

            …noticed THAT….

          • tom

            Liberals, Trotskyites and communists depend on this trend. They do NOT want an educated citizenry! They want heathen sheeple.

        • cestusdei

          The average age for a child to discover hard core porn on the internet is 8.

        • Adam__Baum

          Last week college kids conducting “anti-bullying” seminars for middle-schoolers had prepubescent girls ask each other for lesbian kisses. Once, that would haven’t even been imagined, but if it were, the perpetrators would have been charged with corrupting the morals of minors.

          You think kids are insulated from the sight of a public beheading? Great, now step outside your insular little suburban bubble. Today they see people getting offed for wearing the wrong color, rather than offending the crown. They can get plenty of slaughter on TV and the the internet.

          What makes me think kids are getting dumber? Go to any store staffed by teenagers. Ring up a bill of X dollars and Y cents. Hand them X+1 dollars and Y cents. and watch the quizzical reaction. Not too long ago, I had one of these products of modern education tell me “you gave me too much”.

        • Bono95

          The question remains, just how many people actually did take their little kids to see a beheading, hanging, etc.? When St. Thomas More was martyred, the only member of his family present was his adopted daughter Margaret Giggs-Clement, and she was 20-something.

        • Theorist

          Yeah, but graphic death is even in the Bible. The point is not what you see, but how you interpret what you see. And in those days, I would bet that seeing a public beheading was not an exercise in gratuitous cruelty. If divorce rates are declining then, I find it hard to believe it is because people are getting along better. I find it more likely that the costs of divorce are simply too high in this economic climate. As for abortion and teen pregnancies, again this is due to contraception, in which case I’d rather we have uncontrolled levels of teen pregnancies.

      • Bono95

        Yeah, more people today have the ability to read than ever before, but how many of them use that ability? In days of yore, nearly everyone who could read used their ability and used it with a fair amount of frequency. Can’t say the same today.

        • Facile1

          They also had slaves in days of yore and that bought them the time to read.

          • How many had slaves? A tiny minority of people in the US owned slaves and yet the descendants of those who didn’t must constantly have slavery thrown in their faces. By the way, who were the men that freed the slaves?

            • Facile1

              Dear Mr. Marks,

              The number who owned slaves is immaterial. And just so you are aware, my family owned ‘indentured servants’ (approximately 200 families) in the Philippines. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sell them.

              The point IS slavery was LEGAL all over the world — even in England and the US until the late 19th century (a scant 200 years ago). The family’s ‘indentured servants’ became ‘subsistence farmers’ when the Americans colonized the Philippines in 1898 (at the end of the Spanish American War). The ‘subsistence farmers’ were converted to ‘farm workers’ in 1972 under the Philippine Land Reform Law and were paid the minimum wage of factory workers. The family still owns the farm today, but we no longer farm. The family donated some of the land for a school and a chapel.

              The Qur’an refers to women as ‘chattel’. So as long as there are practicing Muslims anywhere in the world (Muslims comprise 5% of the Philippine population and Philippine law accommodates Shari’ah Law), one can argue ‘slavery’ has NEVER really left us.

              The ancient Greeks believed slaves were necessary to ‘make’ the time for ‘more important’ tasks (like inventing philosophy and religion). So while the literacy rate may be higher in the world today, the time to read may be a function of the diminishing number of slaves. (My graduate degree is in Statistics, so please excuse my lapses into mathematical jargon.)

              Humanity seems to be evolving into androgynous singletons working in the marketplace and in the home. If we cannot make the time for children, why should we make the time to READ?

              No offense is (nor was) intended toward any ONE particular person. HOWEVER, speaking as a woman (educated by a father against the wishes of her mother), I do mean to accuse.

              Have a good day.

              • Theorist

                Abortion is legal now, and so is heresy and yet these are much bigger crimes than slavery (which again isn’t really a crime per se) ever was.

                • Facile1

                  I’m not sure I understand you.

                  Abortion was a crime and is legal now in the US. Heresy was never a crime in the US. It was a crime, however, in Great Britain (This is why St. Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake.) Slavery was not a crime in the US or Great Britain or even a sin in the Roman Catholic Church. Great Britain ended slavery in 1833 and the transportation of slaves became a crime punishable by a fine in 1834. Slavery became a Federal crime with the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865. The Roman Catholic Church did not declare slavery a sin until Vatican II in 1960.

                  Because the State has the guns and the prisons to threaten our human rights to life, liberty and property, the State should always be considered dangerous to oneself and to others.

                  Therefore, I believe the State should NOT be in the business of criminalizing sin nor should the Church ADVOCATE the use of the State’s temporal powers to punish sin.

                  In the case of St. Joan of Arc, it was the English Catholic Church that condemned her of heresy and the English Crown that put her to death in 1431. A more recent case in human history is that of the Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal, who was condemned of apostasy by the Spanish Catholic Church in 1892 and imprisoned until his execution by the Spanish Crown in 1896 for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy.

                  Are abortion and heresy much bigger crimes than slavery? They’re equal in sin and it’s none of the State’s business.

    • cestusdei

      Some of the best children I have met came from families that didn’t own a TV.

  • Leonard

    Well Said… God Bless America!!!

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Once contraception is normalized everything else becomes possible:


    • Ford Oxaal

      — the problem self-corrects in three generations. Be fruitful in your marriage and courageous in your family life.

  • One of the objects of our educational system since Dewey has been to slander our forefathers, so as to help usher in the Brave New World. So I end up hearing from people giving me a “history” lesson — and I make my living teaching literature, history, philosophy, and theology, from about 1500 BC to the present.
    One at a time: The idea that people were less literate than we are, in previous generations in America, is patently absurd. All one has to do is to read the letters and diaries of ordinary people, such as the foot-soldiers in the Civil War, to learn otherwise. They all sound like Cicero to our ears now. I could pile the evidence as high as the Empire State Building. Let this little detail suffice: Boys’ Life Magazine, marketed for boys, to be sold by boys in turn, and I mean boys and not high school graduates — the 12 year old boys who made up the bulk of the movement — was in 1911, the first year of its issue, a great deal more literate than is the New York Times right now. It was written at what the algorithms peg at a 14.5 grade level — college sophomore. The New York Times doesn’t come in nearly that high; 12.0, I found, for a technical economics article on the gold standard; the editorial page comes in a good deal lower than that.
    Another thing: The idea that people in previous generations fornicated with the abandon we now see is demonstrable nonsense. What with no reliable contraception available, it would have meant that huge numbers of children would have been conceived out of wedlock. The statistics show otherwise; very few children in fact were conceived out of wedlock. In 1900, nine out of ten black children in the US were born within wedlock.
    Another thing: I am quite aware of the evil of racism among our ancestors. This is our one claim to superiority, which we cling to for dear life. Alas, it too does not reflect all that well upon us, either. Blacks were subject to evil indignities; but they had intact families. It is not clear to me that, if you offered me legal and cultural discrimination but an intact family, or no discrimination but a broken family, I would certainly choose the latter. I think I would choose the former.
    Still another thing: It is not as if the evils we see around us are unrelated to the flagrant evils of Nazism and Stalinism. They spring from the same foul root. The people in the west who were lauding Stalin and Mao were also the people who have helped bring about the dumbing of our schools, the sexualization of children, and the crackup of the family: Dewey, Adorno, Henry Wallace, Huxley, Margaret Sanger, the SDS and the Weathermen, Marcuse, Kinsey, and the other demoniacs.
    Cultural decline is the most common thing in the world; and cultural renewal often comes when people reach behind their immediate predecessors to recover virtues from farther back. That is not nostalgia. If you are living in a sewer, the first thing to do is to remember when people lived somewhere else.

    • Me

      Your information is misleading. In the Middle Ages, the majority of people couldn’t read or write at all. In the mid-1800s in England, 33% of men and 44% of women had to sign their marriage certificates with a mark because they couldn’t write. Before and even during the Civil War, it was illegal in some states to teach slaves to read and write. Black slaves didn’t have “intact families.” Families could be broken up and sold, and slaveowners fathered children with their slaves. I don’t agree sexual licentiousness is greater today than in the past. Sexual sadism was rampant in times gone by, in areas from “discipline” of children to the Inquisition to state-sanctioned punishments. We live in a much healthier, more moral world today.

      • We are talking about the United States. In the United States, in the nineteenth century, literacy was for all intents and purposes universal, among the whites. I am quite aware of the evil of slavery. Protestants learned to read because they wanted to read the Bible. Why don’t you check up on popular literature of that time? Again I repeat that it is easily demonstrable that sexual activity was more confined within marriage in the US before the sexual revolution — otherwise there would have been a majority of children born out of wedlock. Sadism was rampant in times gone by? Really? More rampant than in SF now? Absolute nonsense, historical nonsense. Blacks in 1900, which is the year I cited, DID HAVE intact families; that is a discoverable FACT. Come on, now — you are shilling for the sexual revolution and you don’t want to admit it. Ask somebody who is 80 years old what life was like in his neighborhood during the Depression and the war. Why don’t you look at what people — progressives! — were writing about purity and marriage, before 1900? Your history is a tangle of misconceptions, errors, exaggerations, and induced bigotry against the past…. You “know” things about the Middle Ages that never happened …

        • Me

          No, literacy was not almost universal among whites. 11.5% of whites over the age of 14 were illiterate in 1870, while only 0.4% were illiterate in 1979 (US Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census). It is also a serious logical fallacy to refer only to whites when the population was not made up only of whites. What about the almost 80% of African Americans who couldn’t read in 1870? You cherry pick again when you want to limit your data about marriages among African Americans to 1900. Why only that date? It’s hardly the only year in US history. Literary standards in the past varied widely, just as they do today. To make any sort of claim about broad literacy at the time you would, as I’ve said before, need to produce facts showing who read this literature and how much of it they understood. So you can see when you actually start pinning down facts, rather than merely speculating subjectively, you can get a much more optimistic picture of the present.

          • Ford Oxaal

            The black family has been destroyed — do you actually dispute that?

            • Ford, I would dispute that with one simple discrimination, that those who have escaped the destruction are simply the same ones currently accused by their “community” of selling out.

              • Ford Oxaal

                The black family has been destroyed (67% single parent!!!). The rest of society is following suit. This represents a fundamental societal breakdown.

          • What was the literacy rate among the population of Germany both before and after WWII? Does literacy make a people moral? Can particular literature in wide distribution make a people immoral? Can it rationalize immorality on a national scale? With all the talk about how we could set monkeys at typewriters and one would end up writing a Shakespearean sonnet, do you find it strange that there is no human writer rivaling Shakespeare today? Is reading and writing in cursive important to literacy or should we replace all texts with the too familiar text messaging embraced today.

          • Tomm

            Literacy of almost 90% is pretty much universal, to say that it is “almost universal” as Esolen does is at worst a slight exaggeration but quite possibly a fair statement – it really depends on what exact meaning you give to “almost” – when 9 out of 10 people pass a test you can say “almost all passed”. So Esolen isn’t mispresenting the facts here in any material way and you really have a meagre point there.

            Pointing at black illiteracy – straw man argument: Esolen never pretended total literacy was almost universal.

            “You cherry pick again when you want to limit your data about marriages among African Americans to 1900. Why only that date?” – then pick another date !! Go ahead, I taunt you: pick any date between say 1870 and 1930 with any date between 1960 and 2013 and you will be forced to acknowledge: the increase in out of wedlock marriage among blacks, as among whites, is really a reliable trend over the last century or so.

            Any more questions?

            • Me

              “Go ahead, I taunt you: pick any date between say 1870 and 1930 with any date between 1960 and 2013 ”

              Well that’s easy. Marriage rates were 9.2% in 1930 and 10.2% in 1985.

              • Tomm

                I was talking about out of wedlock births, not marriage rate.

                Even on the topic of marriage rate, though, we see a steady decline over the past 100 years or so – but yes, ok, individual exceptions such as 1930 and 1985 exist.

                Let me grant you a draw there.

                Having addressed that point, and noting you wisely chose “no contest” on the other two rebuttals (you used the straw man on black illiteracy, and tried to say that 89% is not “almost 100%), I must now modestly call two victories and one draw.

                Any more questions?

          • Quality, quality. Many of those whites who were counted as illiterate would now be counted as literate, as the definition has cratered; and most of those at that time were immigrants. Read newspapers circa 1900. Most high school graduates right now could NOT read a popular magazine printed in 1890 — say, Century Magazine, or an early issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal. People printed newspapers and magazines to make money; they wanted as wide a readership as possible. Why don’t you read the books that were printed then? Did you know that there were publishing houses circa 1900 that had special departments for books for boys? Why not find their lists and see what was on them? You don’t think people understood what they were reading? I am not speculating subjectively; you are. I point you towards popular publications and their linguistic sophistication and their wide readership, and you cast vague aspersions — they didn’t understand, nobody read them, and so forth. Have you ever read the printed sermons of popular preachers in the nineteenth century? Have you ever heard of the Chautauqua movement — tremendously popular, or read their publications?

            • Me

              Pure speculation on your part. How many people actually read the newspapers of the day? What are the economic reasons newspapers aim at a particular audience? Do you think child factory workers in 1900 were growing up reading? Have you heard of the Flynn effect — the increase per generation of 3-4 IQ points per decade?

              • Cheryl

                Newspapers had huge circulations and were thriving enterprises, partly because most folks did buy and read them in order to know what was going on in the world. Back then they took more pride in reporting facts and in getting the scoop on what was really going on, so folks valued them. Newspaper delivery was daily, even morning and evening in some cities, and driving down any suburban street behind the delivery van you would see a rolled, wrapped or banded paper tossed expertly into the yard or driveway or even onto the porch of nearly every home. It was so lucrative that in a typical Midwestern suburb my uncle’s contract paper delivery service earned an excellent living for his family (wife didn’t work outside the home), two sons graduated college, and then uncle and aunt retired to a gorgeous home in Florida with in-ground pool, etc. Nearly everyone read and discussed the paper daily. It was nothing like today’s poor excuses for journalism. Oh, and is the Flynn effect as accurate as the government’s claims that we have very little inflation?

          • Cheryl

            Me, you have not provided any facts to support your position either. Quoting the US Dept of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, as a statistic is ridiculous. Census information is self-reported. It is not based on any demonstrable achievement. Either by mail or in person, the census (taker) asks the question and the respondent answers, and since it would have been a bit embarrassing to admit to illiteracy in 1979, it’s unlikely that it would be admitted. And then we have the question again of quality. What is your/my/our/the government’s definition of literacy? Is it based on breadth of vocabulary mastery? Syntax complexity? Depth of comprehension? Read just enough to get along in everyday life (forget about understanding medical, financial, legal or other reading needed to protect oneself from unscrupulous characters/institutions)? A very rudimentary review of the materials published for the average housewife or school child or sportsman 50 to 75 years ago reveals the higher reading levels of those generations.

        • I was born in 1950 and I can promise you it was a far better world than the one I live in now. It was not perfect but we thought it was pretty damn good but I won’t bore you with the differences The sixies was a time of upheavel and it went downhill from there. I try to think what my Irish grandmother would have thought of all this but there are no words. I’m glad that I know God wins in the end but the living is still so hard to bear.

      • Ford Oxaal

        It might look healthier (although, that’s disputable — have you been to Walrus Mart lately?) but is it really? Or are we simply good at hiding atrocity? Have you seen statistics on abortion by race? That’s right. Black genocide is here. Big time numbers. Why chop the tree down with a eugenic gas chamber when you can just uproot the seedlings?

      • cestusdei

        Been on the internet recently?

      • tom

        Why do you “forget” about Good Queen Bess and the star Chamber? Just sayin’.

        • Bono95

          Speaking of literacy and “Good” Queen Bess, did you know that Richard III in the Shakespeare play of the same name is not so much the actual King Richard as he is a highly unflattering metaphor of Bess, illegitimate younger daughter of Henry VIII and consort Anne Boleyn? Lucky for Shakespeare, Bess herself apparently never caught on.

          • Bono95

            My Nation of Sludge for a Horse! 😀

    • Me

      Another thing: Anecdotal evidence such as a few civil war diaries and reading levels of a boys’ magazine are obviously meaningless without broader supporting data, such as socioeconomic level of the group, how much they read of the magazines, how much they comprehended, etc. My father was given a set of encyclopedias as a child which were written at a very high reading level, but he never opened them. When you look at real studies, it becomes clear that illiteracy has declined tremendously since 1870 while educational attainment has increased.

      • Ford Oxaal

        The success of a society must be measured in the percentage of its citizens which go on to populate Heaven — the ultimate survival of the fittest test. The metric is a moral one. If virginity, lifelong marriage, and the sanctity of the womb are weighted according to Catholic norms, our society is very sick indeed. If, on the other hand, life is a YOLO (you only live once) party, then we might still be pegging the pleasure meter, but with AIDS, the nationwide orgy hit a bit of a snag. But will that party last? How do you think we are doing in terms of economic well-being for the next generation?

        • Me

          You’re assuming you get to decide what percentage of citizens will go to Heaven, and you’re focusing primarily on sexual mores, rather than on the full gamut of ethical behaviors (although nobody has produced hard evidence suggesting even sexual mores have declined over the years.)

          • Ford Oxaal

            No I’m not. I’m saying statistics aren’t as easy to come by as you might think. But even through your lens, will the good times roll? How do you feel about the world we are leaving the next generation? This is not a rhetorical question — I actually want to know what you think.

            • Me

              I think our children will inherit a better world than we did and that they will leave it better than they found it. Yes, there are problems, such as global warming, etc., but there are also solutions and most people are good. We will never live in a perfect world, but we live in a pretty good world.

              • Ford Oxaal

                Do you think that the rise of the single parent family is a problem, a net positive, or neutral? This might be a major difference in our evaluation criteria. On a similar vein, do you see universal pre-K as a positive development?

              • tom

                Me supports a 50% illegitimacy rate and thinks it’s better than 20% or 10%?

          • msmischief

            He who breaks one commandent is guilty of the whole law. Including those against sexual sins.

      • cestusdei

        I was reading Jack London in 3rd grade and Dante in 10th.

        • John O’Neill

          In 3rd grade I was learning the Latin part of the Roman Catholic Mass; I consider Latin my first other language. I spent my career teaching Latin and German and I came from a poor immigrant family; my parents had very little education in the old country but they could do basic math and read at a competent level. The Modern Americans cannot get their public school charges to read at a second grades level after twelve years of school. Those who are defending our modern culture are living in an unreal world where anything that challenges their orthodox pc concepts must be denigrated.

          • musicacre

            I know what you’re saying! My sister teaches in an expensive private boarding school and usually when the kids arrive from other places in grades 9 or 10, they can’t write simple sentences! In another instance, on an open radio talk show, a teacher (in Vancouver) explained how she teaches a minimal of 3 months of grade three English to ALL her first year college students when they arrive; that is the level they are generally at.

      • Cheryl

        Sure, illiteracy has declined tremendously since 1870. That’s why so many students can’t even pass the most basic skills assessments, school districts are failing to meet state and federal achievement guidelines, college entrance exams are being dummied down, a large percentage of students end up in GED or Alternative School programs, or show up at college and spend freshman year in remedial math and English classes. Maybe it just depends on your definition of literacy, though…

    • musicacre

      This last paragraph of yours neatly summarizes the truth of the matter. And I would go so far as to say that single people with bad ideas don’t make a huge splash unless they are sponsored in some way to get the word out. You can bet that every person on your list is just the front man (or woman) but they were funded by faceless, nameless people that would like to stay in the shadows.

    • hombre111

      Hmm. An unwelcome history lesson about the collapse of black families. I was in college taking a class under Joseph Fichter, S.J., a sociologist. Thanks to a book called “Hunger in America,” America had just discovered to its horror that Third World poverty existed in its midst. The response: Something never seen before: the welfare program, aimed at bringing food to hungry, mostly black families. But as usual, conservatives and liberals wer divided on how to feed hungry children. The Repups with their usual sensitivity refused to give welfare to a family if the father was in the house. The father, the no-good bum, should get a job. Problem was, this was a time of huge immigration of families from the rural south whose fathers had no marketable skills in an industrial society. The liberal solution: job training. Alert as always to future repercussions, the Repubs refused to support such a thing. In the end, the liberals got welfare and the Repubs got families without fathers and men without job skills.

      I always remember Fichter’s furious reaction. He predicted that fathers would leave their families so that their children could eat. He predicted that men without skills would turn to violent crime. He pointed out that nine out of ten black children were born in intact familes. And then he predicted that, without the father in the house, the black family would collapse in a generation.

      Wonderful how this Republican generated tragedy gets blamed on the liberals.

      • Bono95

        Actually, the welfare state blame goes all the way back to the liberals of the Protestant Revolt. Prior to 1517, the Catholic Church and monasteries founded and ran most of the schools, universities, hospitals, and homeless shelters, and these were funded by tithes from the laity.

        Then, Calvin came along and said that Christians did not have to throw away their money on other people. If a person had lots of money, he was one of the saved elect, like all the good prosperous people of the Old Testament. If a man had little or no money, too bad for him, he was one of the damned obviously and there was nothing he or anyone else could do about it.

        In England, Henry VIII destroyed and looted nearly all of the ancient English churches, convents, and monasteries (notably the tomb of St. Thomas Beckett) and the few he spared were Protestantized. Elizabeth I continued the wanton destruction, and the end result was that the poor had few people to help them, nowhere to go, and for the first time, there were significants amounts of people begging in the streets where once there were few or none.

        To quell the growing discontentment, Elizabeth was forced to create a welfare state which required all working people to hand over a portion of their earnings for the government to give to those without a living. This system sounds so great, but it is really problematic on several levels.

        #1 True charity is voluntary and loving (charitable). The welfare program demands its funds, which are often handed over unwillingly. Sometimes the unwillingness is selfish, but other times it may stem from the fact that the forced pay cut hurts the livlihood of the family it’s taken from, even though they have an income, food, shelter, etc.

        #2 Welfare is basically paying people to stay paupers. They quickly realize that they can make as much if not more money by not getting a job, so they don’t bother getting one. This quickly leads to a higher number of paupers and a growing host of other vices, all funded by taxpayers’ dollars, pounds, etc.

        #3 As the people on welfare get more and more free handouts, the often come not only to expect them, but to demand them, and even to demand more and more, thus placing an even greater burden on the working taxpayers who are being legally robbed without so much as being thanked for it.

        The ideal model of aid for a poor man runs like this. He should go first to his immediate family and friends for help. If they can’t help him, he should go to his local church or other religious institution. If they can’t help, he should go to the local government. If they can’t help, he should go to the state government. And if THEY can’t help, then and ONLY then should he seek help from the national government.

        The national government has so many duties already that not only is demanding welfare from them unfair, it’s also unhelpful. It drains the taxpayers’ funds, it encourages immorality, and rarely is the national government going to fully understand or sympathize with a poor man the way his family, friends, and church will or should.

      • Adam__Baum

        You are a relentless hack. The Democrats owned both Houses from the 50’s to the 90’s. What we see is their doing. I have no love for the RINOs, but I despise disingenuous frauds.

        • hombre111

          The Democrat “majority” in the fifties and sixties included many ultra-conservatives from the south. They called them Dixiecrats. I called them Republicrats, because they sided with the Republicans on social issues. Such as the creation of a welfare system that drove the father out of the home, and the refusal to give job training to people without the skills to survive in an industrialized society. Call me what you want, bub, but I was there.

          • cestusdei

            Those Democrats also supported Jim Crow.

            • hombre111

              When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he famously said something like, “there goes the South.” And he was right. Nixon got the southern Democrats to become Republicans and it was all over race. The South remains the solid bastion of the red states today.

          • Theorist

            Obfuscatory. That’s like calling the Communists Nazis or vice versa since the Communists voted for the Nazis.

            • hombre111

              Not at all. Just an insight into the development of the two parties. I just did a lot of research into the elections of 1832-1838 and got an education. The Democrats were anti-big government and pro-states’ rights, which meant that the Federal Government could not interfere with the affairs of the states, which was a code word for slavery. In the meanwhile, the Whigs were pro-big government, anti-states rights, and against slavery.
              The Whigs became the Republicans and along came Lincoln and the Civil War. From then on, the South was solidly Democrat. But this began to change and, by the time Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the two parties had changed places. It took the Civil Rights Act for the archconservative Dixiecrats to realize their party had moved away from them and their real home was the Republican Party.

      • Sorry, but for your conclusion to be valid you would have to accept that the welfare programs are free from defect in their own right, and that is not the case. As designed, they pay people not even to try to get work. As is so often the case, both parties fouled up. The real issue? That politicians think they are smarter than everyone else in every sphere of knowledge.

  • Diogenes71

    A moral vacuum must be created for evil to triumph. Many
    have become inurned to the evil seeping out of the media and the schools and choking
    our culture. Modesty is mocked. Promiscuity is praised. Personal responsibility
    is ridiculed. Dependency on “free money”
    from the state is encouraged in radio and TV ads. Self esteem, having taken the
    place of education in our public schools, is encouraged and is based on little,
    or no, actual accomplishment. Abortion is encouraged and murder of the innocent
    is accepted as normal. We are forced to accept, not just tolerate, depravity and
    degeneracy. If human life can be extinguished
    to serve convenience, it is but a small step for the state to terminate the
    less productive, the elderly and the sick before they become a burden. We are being conditioned to accept any pervasion,
    any act of the state, any deviancy, any immorality as normal. Teenage potty-mouth
    kids put down fatherhood on sit-coms during “family hour.”

    Liberalism’s march through education has tilled the soil so
    moral equivalency is accepted, even encouraged, by the elites. Oh, yes, the elites
    those self appointed persons who know better than we do what is good for us and
    are self-appointed in just about e very area.

    Those who cooperate with the voracious Leviathan will be
    rewarded. Those who see clearly and believe they can make better decisions for
    their families will be marginalized, called homophobes, or worse, and targeted
    from bully pulpits, or arrested, taxed and fined into submission. Look no
    farther than the black clad storm troopers pulling innocent citizens of
    Watertown out their homes last week to see the erosion of our natural rights.

    We are drowning in sludge. We must go to our Father’s house, seek
    forgiveness and beg for strength to fight back. If not we will enter a new dark
    age that will bring with it terrible consequences for liberty and freedom.
    There is a conspiracy of falsehood that only the truth will overcome.

  • Back in my day, there were certain common denominators in the neighborhood in which I grew up. Most specifically, every home had mom and dad, children related to both parents or adopted, school and Church. It seems that the only common denominator among children today is school.

    • And school, today, is nothing to brag about.

    • musicacre

      School is a poison pond; better to homeschool to help the child have an intact and integrated personality.

  • Sadly, you are so right and you say it so well.

  • cestusdei

    I was born in the last of those days. I remember them. I grieve for their loss. I could not even imagine the sludge of today.

  • jaymis

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the governing of any other.” by John Adams. We are neither moral or religious people when we allow/rationalize the murder of 54+ million defenseless, innocent babies i/n/o “freedom of choice” plus the multiple perversions that continue to accelerate at an ever quickening pace. Nothing shocks anymore. We are numb as a society. Bill coming due straight ahead. Case Closed!

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  • Patrick Button

    Professor Esolan: Thank you for writing this. I feel the same way about our poor excuse for a civilization and I must ask, what exactly are we supposed to do? As families and individuals, we can receive the sacraments and repent of our sins, but how can we rebuild our culture? Do you think it is even possible to do so?

    • Patrick: Good questions. One: Get the kids the heck out of those cesspools, the schools. What more do the schools have to do, hire striptease artists? Have Hooker Days? Get the kids out of there. Two: No television or internet in the bedrooms, period. Three: Forget almost all television anyhow. Use the thing to watch good old movies or old innocent comedies. Four: Let it sink in to your children’s heads: we are not pagans. Five: Study, study. Read the great works of our Catholic heritage. Be armed against the stupidities. Six: Rebuild the truly INNOCENT things that once shepherded boys and girls into their roles as men and women, fathers and mothers. That means dances, socials, ballgames …

      • cestusdei

        On a lovely summer day I drove by a beautiful park full of play equipment and ball fields. It was empty. I asked someone where the children are and he said they were home playing video games on the computer.

  • Elizabeth Hansen

    Your article has given words to what has been in my mind/heart most recently about not only our nation, but also the world. The cumulating damage of living in a sinful, fallen world has not only caught up with us, but is overtaking us. Who has let this happen? Ah! We have! We have failed. We have fallen. We have sinned. Who will help us? Ah! Yes…I will rise and go to the house of my Father! He will help us….if only more and more souls will turn away from selfishness, pride, and self-agrandizement, and turn to Jesus, our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and the Author and Finisher of our faith! O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Safe us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

  • I miss that place too.

  • Alecto

    Esolen cites Yeats poem, but I prefer William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”.

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    and a heaven in a wildflower,
    To hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    and eternity in an hour.

  • Spencer

    Oh, the mewling and carping! We are very lucky to live in this world! Stop judging others and look at all the good things you have, along with what you can do to make yourself better. Stop worrying about everyone else!

  • Spencer

    Oh, the mewling and carping! We are very lucky to live in this world! Stop judging others and look at all the good things you have, along with what you can do to make yourself better. Stop worrying about everyone else!

    • I have a lot of good things. I also have these things: a town, like almost all towns in the US, where nobody knows anyone else, and nobody would walk alone down the back streets, and nobody would leave the front door unlocked when they were out, and nobody would leave the keys in the car, and everybody’s extended family is shot to hell with divorces and shackups and stepparents and chaos. By the way, what in the name of all that’s holy do you think I am doing, if not issuing a clarion call to my fellow Catholics, to rise up against the evils? Also, what is this banality, “make yourself better”? Never heard of the grace of God? Even on a human level, no society makes itself better by being soft and mushy about its sins. Virtue is hard work, and demands self-denial.

      • Bono95


      • James Stagg

        Amen! Amen!

  • musicacre

    I think our only choice ever was to come home to the Father, regardless of the times. We did have some golden years, it is true, but there was wanton murder and villainy going on in other parts of the world as we enjoyed the peacefulness of what seemed to be safety and predictability and decency here, years gone by. I have to say though, that my Grandfather, (a native of N. France , a staunch Catholic and a pioneer in the Canadian prairie wilderness) was absolutely shocked at what my mother was being taught in school. This was the 1940’s . She said he was so upset he could not speak. So the infiltration of bad eduacation and ideas has been planted some time ago, in N. America. The fruits are visible now, now but the plan has been long-term.

  • musicacre

    I think my comment was lost, so I will try again. The article was cynical, but true. And I think Professor Esolen is pointing out that the new norms in Western civilization include actually enshrining protection for sinful behaviors previously accepted almost universally as repugnant and shameful. These behaviors have been around in varying degrees for centuries and yet in the history of Western society, have not been “protected” by law, maybe not since the decadence of the pagan Roman Empire! And a big part of communicating this new “morality” is through what passes for schools, the new purging centers. They purge from students, family affection, decency, modesty, hope, faith, intellect and even health! (vaccination programs). Part of my solution is to make your home as joyful and Christian as you can and that is your legacy to your children, since you can’t change the whole world. I even know of some university profs who have given up their jobs to teach their kids. There is a very strong Catholic Home-school organization here in the Pacific Northwest! Maybe that is the oasis in the desert we are being offered……

    • tamsin

      Which homeschool organization is it? Link, or sponsoring parish? Thanks.

      • musicacre

        The St. Thomas More Homeschooling group in Wash. State, even though I don’t live in the States, I’ve had a lot of contact over the years with some of these people. They have their own board of directors,etc.

  • Deacon Paul O. Iacono

    Thank you for this excellent essay. It should be required reading in all Catholic and Christian high schools, colleges, and board rooms in America.

  • I’m reading copies of Boys’ Life magazine from its earliest years. I’ll have to write a separate article about this. But what was the “moral” issue that the writers warned the boys against? What were they most worried the boys would take up as a bad habit? Smoking….

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  • Malcolm

    There is no evidence that the world today is smuttier than it was in the past. It’s just that we have greater access to information about what is going on in other people’s lives. There’s a certain amount of voyeurism implicit in all this hand wringing. “I’m so revolted by other people’s sins that I’m going to read all about them and then write an article about them.” What’s that all about? Just turn your head and look at all the good in the world. And maybe think about the bad in yourself rather than projecting it onto others.

    • Cheryl

      All it takes for evil to succeed is for [good people to turn their heads and look at all the good in the world]. My apologies to the originator of this bit of wisdom. Oh, and no one here is denying their own sins/failures. On the contrary, we are acknowledging our collective sins and failures that have led to this deplorably amoral and immoral state.

    • Malcolm — perhaps you’d like to spare me the ad hominem? And perhaps you’d like to point me to a single moral reformer in the history of the world who did not point out where things were wrong? As for the smut — demonstrably false. You’re living in my hometown in 1940. Where do you go to get smut? Take a train to the city, maybe? It isn’t a click away. It isn’t in the drug stores. It isn’t in the library. It isn’t on the radio. You know what — you are talking to somebody who actually reads books and other material printed before the day before yesterday.

  • One of the tactics of the wreckers, in the last hundred years, is to cause wreckage, and then once that is done, conveniently to forget that they themselves were responsible for the evils that they believe they alone have the wherewithal to address. The “progress” is then predicated upon an improvement in the conditions which the self-styled progressors caused, precisely to bring about in the people an appetite for the changes they recommend. So we will hear that “things” are better now than they were in 1930, when Communists and Nazis marched arm in arm in Berlin to help bring down the Social Democrats, ultimately leading to Hitler’s rise to power; or that “things” are better now than they were in 1950, when the same Communists had attained much of what they wanted out of the world war, a Germany carved in half, so that the natural and industrial resources of that country could be put to use for Mother Russia. Yes, and in 1950 there was the fraud and pervert Kinsey, trying to corrupt a nation, and Soviet moles in high levels of government, trying to sell the nation out to the Soviets for the betterment of mankind, and in 1960 the Communist Betty Friedan, hiding her communism and impersonating a housewife, writing “objective” interviews of women in order to bring down the family, and in 1970 the terrorists Bernadine Dohrn and Billy Ayres, writing that violence for the Left is not the same as “reactionary” violence, and is morally justified … It is one long miserable history of hatred of the west, hatred of the natural family, hatred of the Church (oh, I forgot: the communist Rolf Hochhuth slandering Pius XII)…

  • SoCalChick

    Thank you for the reflection of my own despair in this powerful piece. Yesterday, as I watched the Belgian Priest pray during his attack and then pick up and kiss the Virgin Mary water guns (??) I was without words. On a daily basis, I say to my husband “the world is upside down.” Right is wrong and wrong is right. Thus, I retreat deeper and deeper into my Catholic faith. Its beauty is timeless. It offers me peace. I contemplate the face of my Savior and perhaps understand a tiny bit better the outrages He suffered in His Passion. The media buries the truth and propagandizes the rest of the time. I watch my govt grow in power while life as we know it, is unstable and on the precipice of collapse. It seems as though Satan is truly running amuck. As I watch it all unfurl at an alarming rate I think that perhaps I might have a better understanding of the Lord’s Passion. He is our rock and our refuge and our shore of sanity in this turbulent sea.

  • Marc L

    If I may, I think it was said better, and more timelessly, in 1978.


    • Cheryl

      Thank you, Marc L, for sharing this. I am passing it on.

  • Susan Kaness

    And even in our Father’s house, it is a house divided – infiltrated by those who choose to stay and change instead of leaving and being honest about their lack of belief in what makes His house a home. I long for that place of old where we knew, without a doubt, that we were with kindred spirits. Now, we can go to Mass and never hear about contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage. Many who call themselves Catholic do not know what the Church teaches and think that their conscience (how they FEEL about something) is the way to decide about everything they face. They don’t realize that they must have a well-formed conscience – and they don’t want to know that or anything else that makes being Catholic inconvenient. We will hear about feeding the poor because those who don’t want to hear about sexual immorality are big supporters of social justice. Homilies are given with an eye to not offending those who come to Mass and contribute so preaching about sin is avoided except in a very generic way (be good, don’t be bad, decide yourself which is which). As you said, it wasn’t perfect but I’d love to have the world back to the way it was ‘back then’ (in my case, the 1950s). At this point in my life, I welcome the day when I will be (God-willing) in Heaven. I may have a stop in Purgatory along the way but, right now, it feels like hell is creeping in on every side. Maranatha!

  • Light reading, from Boys’ Life magazine, March 1, 1911 — the beginning of a story about (and for) schoolboys:
    “Throughout the whole term there had been fewer lines and impositions arising from dormitory irregularity than had been known throughout the whole modern history of Hailsham. It arose from no increase of virtue among the fellows themselves. On the contrary, dormitory feuds and raids as well as dormitory banquets had grown even more general than they had ever been before.
    “If any Hailsham fellow had been asked the reason of this welcome state of affairs he undoubtedly would have attributed it solely to Faversham’s scouts. Faversham himself, the originator of this renowned body, had an elder brother, who, after several years’ residence at the cape, had served his country throughout the late Boer War in the ranks of the National Scouts. The romance surrounding the elder brother’s career had so impressed itself upon the younger Faversham that during the next term he instituted at Hailsham such an extensive system of sentinels and espionage as to reduce the danger of surprise visits, both to the authorities and of rival dormitories, to a minimum. The corps that bore his name did not wait long to establish its reputation.”
    Examples of the vocabulary in this slight and humorous story: perambulation, stealthy, bolsters (noun), chary, diligence, waxed (meaning: grew), doleful, reputable, subaltern, balk, daresay, meaningly, communicated with (meaning: was connected to), render, opaque, sententiously, scrum, manipulated, inexplicable, contemporaneously ….

  • Another article, for mere boys, March 1, 1911: on work — the first in a series, this one on being a cowboy:
    “I must begin with a warning straight from the shoulder, that American boys who want to be cowboys have very little chance of getting wages. The splendid trade, which has bred the finest breed of manhood under the sun, is dying, and year after year hundreds of ranches are being cut up for farms or turned into pasturage for sheep. The railway companies charge so much for carrying cattle to market that they get the whole of the profits, so that the ranchers cannot earn a living and the cowboys are turned adrift.”

    “But while an American youngster has scarcely any chance of becoming a cowboy in the old Rocky Mountain pasture or on the great plains of the West, I hear that in Australia the trade still prospers. However poor the wages, however hard the work, there are things to be had on the Australian stock range which are worth more than wealth or ease. A stock-rider gets a real education in manliness, self-reliance, honorable conduct, generosity, cleanness of heart, and I would not discourage any fellow from seeking these things in preference to money. Money is not everything.”

    Now then — there is not a newspaper in America that features writing as linguistically sophisticated as that, let alone the subtle irony, the wistfulness, and the moral acuity. There is no editor in the country who would allow these sentences to pass. They are not dumb enough for us.

  • Kathy

    It was a time I remember well. How sad at what has become reality in our country. Indeed, our only answer is to turn to God.

  • Madonna Muscarello

    “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound…”

    Almighty God, grant that we may avail ourselves of your superabundant grace in these days wherein sin lurks in every corner.

  • Diddian

    “These doorsteps seldom have a visitor.
    The warping boards pull out their own nails
    With none to tread and put them in their place . . .

    “As I sit here, and oftentimes, I wish
    I could be monarch of a desert land
    I could devote and dedicate forever
    To the truths we keep coming back and back to.
    So desert it would have to be, so walled
    By mountain ranges half in summer snow,
    No one would covet it or think it worth
    The pains of conquering to force change on.
    Scattered oases where men dwelt, but mostly
    Sand dunes held loosely in tamarisk
    Blown over and over themselves in idleness.
    Sand grains should sugar in the natal dew
    The babe born to the desert, the sand storm
    Retard mid-waste my cowering caravans” –

    – excerpted from “The Black Cottage,” North of Boston, Robert Frost

    “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. – Genesis 21.33

    The tamarisk is capable of producing 2.5 million tiny, wind-dispersed seeds. They are short-lived, have no dormancy requirements, and germinate within 24 hours. For ecesis, they need a moist, fine-grained substrate.

    A tamarisk jeweled in natal dew:

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  • Dear Professor Esolen,

    I wish I had your intellectual acumen and I wish I had been educated as you have been. I have chosen to homeschool with the hopes of providing a more solid and deeper education to my children: one that will give them the tools to reason, to think, to appreciate beauty, truth and God; one that will teach them real history so that they can understand life today in context…

    Reading this article today saddened me. Your words describe so poignantly how I feel: disgusted. And, oftentimes, I am disheartened by my own self because I cannot help but “shrug” at the sludge. It seems those of us who are “conservative” and concerned for the future of our country – and this world – are vilified non-stop, and it works to the point of making me question sometimes whether I am just on the wrong side. I know I am not, if only for the turning of my stomach when I read the news. But, I admit, without pride, that I have learned to ignore it most of the time.

    I dream of an awakening, of an Innisfree. Of course, you are right, though. Where else is there to go?

    In any case, I hope to teach my children to be like you and the Buckleys of this world. I hope I can raise my boy (the apple of my eye and cause of my grey hairs) to become a good and moral man, and my daughters to become educated future mothers of our world. (That sounds regressive, doesn’t it?)

    Reminds me of C.S. Lewis: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

    Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring writing.


    Andrea, Los Angeles

  • Reminds me of Malcolm Muggeridge:
    “So the final conclusion would seem to be that whereas other civilizations had been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions and providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense.

    Thus did Western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down.

    And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.”

  • Wow. Just wow. (We have a little corner — not called Inisfree. Where we raise our children unmolested by the world, and where we raise our beans in peace… so far. But I would never, ever share where that is, where we are. God all here, and prayers that you can all find your Inisfree and have the courage to go there.)

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  • Mary Sue Daoud

    Hi Dr. Esolen,

    I’ve reread this article maybe five times over the past three months, and finally sat down and wrote a response to it. I’d really be honored if you would care to read it and give me your feedback. A couple of years ago I’d have agreed with you wholeheartedly, but now I can’t help thinking that maybe things aren’t as bleak as all that. I hope you find my response at least a little encouraging 🙂



    Mary Sue Daoud (from PHC, with the thing for Eliot and Yeats 🙂