Theodore Roosevelt: The American Boy

>> Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hello all,

Theodore Roosevelt is a man that has much to teach our culture today, especially when it comes to leadership and "manliness". This is not an endorsement of everything he said or did necessarily, but I do think that the good in his life and beliefs far outweigh the bad or not so good.

The Strenuous Life is Roosevelt's previously well known collection of commentaries (essays) and public addresses on "what is necessary for a vital and healthy political, social and individual life" and is specifically addressed to men and young men.

Today, while doing some research, I had occasion to read Chapter X of The Strenuous Life and found it refreshing and challenging. It's not often we hear so boldly and unabashedly declared masculine virtues. But then, it's not often we have a Teddy Roosevelt in our midst. :-)

I won't post the entire address, but I would like to copy a few of my favorite portions of it and highly recommend that you read the rest. It hardly bears mention I would think, but do keep in mind that some of the words and their meanings were used differently today than Roosevelt's day. Just making sure we're clear there. :-P

THE AMERICAN BOY (by Theodore Roosevelt)

OF course what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won't be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.

There are always in life countless tendencies for good and for evil, and each succeeding generation sees some of these tendencies strengthened and some weakened; nor is it by any means always, alas! that the tendencies for evil are weakened and those for good strengthened. But during the last few decades there certainly have been some notable changes for good in boy life. The great growth in the love of athletic sports, for instance, while fraught with danger if it becomes one-sided and unhealthy, has beyond all question had an excellent effect in increased manliness. Forty or fifty years ago the writer on American morals was sure to deplore the effeminacy and luxury of young Americans who were born of rich parents. The boy who was well off then, especially in the big Eastern cities, lived too luxuriously, took to billiards as his chief innocent recreation, and felt small shame in his inability to take part in rough pastimes and field-sports. Nowadays, whatever other faults the son of rich parents may tend to develop, he is at least forced by the opinion of all his associates of his own age to bear himself well in manly exercises and to develop his body—and therefore, to a certain extent, his character—in the rough sports which call for pluck, endurance, and physical address.

Of course boys who live under such fortunate conditions that they have to do either a good deal of outdoor work or a good deal of what might be called natural outdoor play do not need this athletic development. In the Civil War the soldiers who came from the prairie and the backwoods and the rugged farms where stumps still dotted the clearings, and who had learned to ride in their infancy, to shoot as soon as they could handle a rifle, and to camp out whenever they got the chance, were better fitted for military work than any set of mere school or college athletes could possibly be. Moreover, to mis-estimate athletics is equally bad whether their importance is magnified or minimized. The Greeks were famous athletes, and as long as their athletic training had a normal place in their lives, it was a good thing. But it was a very bad thing when they kept up their athletic games while letting the stern qualities of soldiership and statesmanship sink into disuse. Some of the younger readers of this book will certainly sometime read the famous letters of the younger Pliny, a Roman who wrote, with what seems to us a curiously modern touch, in the first century of the present era. His correspondence with the Emperor Trajan is particularly interesting; and not the least noteworthy thing in it is the tone of contempt with which he speaks of the Greek athletic sports, treating them as the diversions of an unwarlike people which it was safe to encourage in order to keep the Greeks from turning into anything formidable. So at one time the Persian kings had to forbid polo, because soldiers neglected their proper duties for the fascinations of the game. We cannot expect the best work from soldiers who have carried to an unhealthy extreme the sports and pastimes which would be healthy if indulged in with moderation, and have neglected to learn as they should the business of their profession. A soldier needs to know how to shoot and take cover and shift for himself—not to box or play foot-ball. There is, of course, always the risk of thus mistaking means for ends. Fox-hunting is a first-class sport; but one of the most absurd things in real life is to note the bated breath with which certain excellent fox-hunters, otherwise of quite healthy minds, speak of this admirable but not over-important pastime. They tend to make it almost as much of a fetish as, in the last century, the French and German nobles made the chase of the stag, when they carried hunting and game-preserving to a point which was ruinous to the national life. Fox-hunting is very good as a pastime, but it is about as poor a business as can be followed by any man of intelligence. Certain writers about it are fond of quoting the anecdote of a fox-hunter who, in the days of the English civil war, was discovered pursuing his favorite sport just before a great battle between the Cavaliers and the Puritans, and right between their lines as they came together. These writers apparently consider it a merit in this man that when his country was in a death-grapple, instead of taking arms and hurrying to the defense of the cause he believed right, he should placidly have gone about his usual sports. Of course, in reality the chief serious use of fox-hunting is to encourage manliness and vigor, and to keep men hardy, so that at need they can show themselves fit to take part in work or strife for their native land. When a man so far confuses ends and means as to think that fox-hunting, or polo, or foot-ball, or whatever else the sport may be, is to be itself taken as the end, instead of as the mere means of preparation to do work that counts when the time arises, when the occasion calls—why, that man had better abandon sport altogether.

No boy can afford to neglect his work, and with a boy work, as a rule, means study. Of course there are occasionally brilliant successes in life where the man has been worthless as a student when a boy. To take these exceptions as examples would be as unsafe as it would be to advocate blindness because some blind men have won undying honor by triumphing over their physical infirmity and accomplishing great results in the world. I am no advocate of senseless and excessive cramming in studies, but a boy should work, and should work hard, at his lessons—in the first place, for the sake of what he will learn, and in the next place, for the sake of the effect upon his own character of resolutely settling down to learn it. Shiftlessness, slackness, indifference in studying, are almost certain to mean inability to get on in other walks of life. Of course, as a boy grows older it is a good thing if he can shape his studies in the direction toward which he has a natural bent; but whether he can do this or not, he must put his whole heart into them. I do not believe in mischief-doing in school hours, or in the kind of animal spirits that results in making bad scholars; and I believe that those boys who take part in rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play in school. While they study they should study just as hard as they play foot-ball in a match game. It is wise to obey the homely old adage, "Work while you work; play while you play."

A boy needs both physical and moral courage. Neither can take the place of the other. When boys become men they will find out that there are some soldiers very brave in the field who have proved timid and worthless as politicians, and some politicians who show an entire readiness to take chances and assume responsibilities in civil affairs, but who lack the fighting edge when opposed to physical danger. In each case, with soldiers and politicians alike, there is but half a virtue. The possession of the courage of the soldier does not excuse the lack of courage in the statesman and, even less does the possession of the courage of the statesman excuse shrinking on the field of battle. Now, this is all just as true of boys. A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature; but, after all, he is hardly as contemptible as the boy who dares not stand up for what he deems right against the sneers of his companions who are themselves wrong. Ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness, and it is sometimes incomprehensible how good and brave boys will be influenced for evil by the jeers of associates who have no one quality that calls for respect, but who affect to laugh at the very traits which ought to be peculiarly the cause for pride.

There is no need to be a prig. There is no need for a boy to preach about his own good conduct and virtue. If he does he will make himself offensive and ridiculous. But there is urgent need that he should practise decency; that he should be clean and straight, honest and truthful, gentle and tender, as well as brave. If he can once get to a proper understanding of things, he will have a far more hearty contempt for the boy who has begun a course of feeble dissipation, or who is untruthful, or mean, or dishonest, or cruel, than this boy and his fellows can possibly, in return, feel for him. The very fact that the boy should be manly and able to hold his own, that he should be ashamed to submit to bullying without instant retaliation, should, in return, make him abhor any form of bullying, cruelty, or brutality.

There are two delightful books, Thomas Hughes's "Tom Brown at Rugby," and Aldrich's "Story of a Bad Boy," which I hope every boy still reads; and I think American boys will always feel more in sympathy with Aldrich's story, because there is in it none of the fagging, and the bullying which goes with fagging, the account of which, and the acceptance of which, always puzzle an American admirer of Tom Brown.

There is the same contrast between two stories of Kipling's. One, called "Captains Courageous," describes in the liveliest way just what a boy should be and do. The hero is painted in the beginning as the spoiled, over-indulged child of wealthy parents, of a type which we do sometimes unfortunately see, and than which there exist few things more objectionable on the face of the broad earth. This boy is afterward thrown on his own resources, amid wholesome surroundings, and is forced to work hard among boys and men who are real boys and real men doing real work. The effect is invaluable. On the other hand, if one wishes to find types of boys to be avoided with utter dislike, one will find them in another story by Kipling, called "Stalky & Co.," a story which ought never to have been written, for there is hardly a single form of meanness which it does not seem to extol, or of school mismanagement which it does not seem to applaud. Bullies do not make brave men; and boys or men of foul life cannot become good citizens, good Americans, until they change; and even after the change scars will be left on their souls.

The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy—not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy. I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean he must love the positive virtues also. "Good," in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave, and manly. The best boys I know—the best men I know—are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrong-doing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless. A healthy-minded boy should feel hearty contempt for the coward, and even more hearty indignation for the boy who bullies girls or small boys, or tortures animals. One prime reason for abhorring cowards is because every good boy should have it in him to thrash the objectionable boy as the need arises.

Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable. If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society. He cannot do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice, and fair dealing.

In short, in life, as in a foot-ball game, the principle to follow is:

Hit the line hard; don't foul and don't shirk, but hit the line hard!

I think the above thoughts are very thought provoking. Our culture has come far since the times of Roosevelt, sometimes progressing for the better and often regressing for the worse, but young men are still basically the same.

Our culture would do well to reconsider how we raise our boys, specifically the sort of "strenuous life" we commend to them. We need to encourage and nurture our young men to do hard things and live a Rebelutionary lifestyle.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Public Discourse: The Ethics of Fetal Pain

>> Monday, November 8, 2010

Hello all,

As anybody who reads this blog knows, I am strongly pro-life and believe the abortion issues is far and away the single biggest moral and cultural crisis this country is currently facing.

One of the aspects of the abortion debate that doesn't get a whole lot of attention in the large media outlets but does get a good deal of attention in the front lines of the battle, where the rubber meets the road, is the issue of fetal pain. Specifically, whether or not, and when, fetuses feel the pain of the abortion process.

This is an important question for two relatively obvious reasons. 1) If the fetus feels pain it must be a life, and since it is comprised of distinctly human DNA, it would then be a human life and abortion would be murder. 2) If the fetus feels pain then the cruelty and injustice of abortion would be greatly exemplified and amplified by that pain.

A friend on Facebook linked an article today by E. Christian Brugger about the fetal pain issue. It is posted on Public Discourse, titled "The Ethics of Fetal Pain" and I believe it really cuts to the core of the matter. The author’s main/basic premise is that abortion should be unthinkable in the face of uncertainty. He argues that, regardless of where you stand on the issue, the fact that there is scientific uncertainty should dissuade us from condoning and/or allowing abortion.

The following is the portion of the article that is best sums up his larger point[s].

"Let us say for the sake of argument that rigorous data is inconclusive. I am then left with a doubt as to whether or not levonorgestrel might render the uterine lining inhospitable. According to my practical knowledge, informed, let’s say for the sake of argument, by the best available evidence, I might kill an embryo if I use this drug in such and such a way. The possibility that my action will cause a death gives rise to the duty, stemming from the requisites of fairness, to refrain from that action. I would need to be reasonably certain that it will not cause death before purposeful action is justifiable. This reasonable certitude can also be called moral certitude. And reasonable doubt and moral certitude about the same fact are mutually excluding.

Let me propose one more example. If reasonable doubt existed as to whether the new device known as the “Mosquito,” which emits a high-pitched noise to disperse loiterers, not only caused minor auditory discomfort but severe pain, the burden of proof would fall upon the manufacturer to give evidence that it does not before the device should be approved for general use. Proof, of course, would be simple to arrive at: ask those exposed to the “Mosquito.” Since fetuses cannot yet provide self-report in language we cannot simply ask them whether they feel pain.

Yet I think the principle still stands: the burden of proof would fall upon defenders of the “Mosquito” to rule out a reasonable doubt that the device causes severe pain before its common use was approved, or to take action to assure that this possibility is mitigated.

The burden falls on the one who might be doing wrongful harm to rule out reasonable doubt that they are. If you were hunting in the woods and saw something moving in the distance, but were unsure of whether it was a deer or another hunter, you would be bound not to shoot until reasonable doubt was dispelled that what was stirring in the distance was not another hunter. When a doubt of fact bears on settling whether an alternative under consideration is immoral (e.g., it would be immoral to shoot in the face of reasonable doubt), one should withhold choosing till the fact has been settled.

So the question to be settled is whether or not reasonable doubt exists concerning a fetus’s capacity to experience pain. Since empirical certitude is not available, I propose, in light of what I said above, the following principle: that the judgment that fetuses do feel pain need only be a reasonable explanatory hypothesis in light of the settled evidence. Whereas the judgment that they do not requires moral certitude before providing a speculative ground for normative judgments about how to act.

I think the author hits the nail on the head and would encourage my readers to read the rest of the article. Pro-choice advocates would be hard pressed to overcome that reasoning. It's actually very much in line with legal thinking/reasoning concerning standards/burdens of proof.

Hopefully this post was informative for you. Pro-life advocates need to give close attention to these questions of ethics and values. These are the issues that are contested in the trenches and upon which this battle will be decided.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


(Book Recommendation) Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative

>> Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hello all,

I just finished reading Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative and though I don't have time to write a thorough book review, I would like to recommend it to you and include some information and commentary that might pique your interest in reading it.

When I first read about this book, the one word most consistently used to describe it was "provocative". Initially, this description discouraged my interest in reading Republocrat as I have a low estimation of most "provocative" books, articles and essays. In the culture of today, what is passed off and described as provocative more often than not would be better described as poorly reasoned, hyperbolic, leering opinion splats. But reading descriptions of the content and subject of Republocrat piqued my interest in the book and overcame my word association.

I am glad it did. In Republocrat, author Carl Trueman sets out to challenge the thinking of political establishment conservatives, offering pointed insights and critiques of their party, institution, thinking, working and behavior.

Republocrat is indeed pointed and provocative, but it is constructively pointed and genuinely and thoughtfully provocative. This is not to say that it is perfect, not by a long shot. There are several instances in which I believe the author fails his own standard of logic and reasoning. For instance, Trueman's criticisms of Fox News and Bill O'Reilly (his critique of Glenn Beck I agreed with almost entirely) are largely legitimate but often seem disproportionate. All major news networks are a mixed bag, a fact the author acknowledges later in the book but seems to have forgotten when addressing Fox. His critique of what I term "institutional" conservative views and understandings of Marxism, Totalitarianism and Socialism often ignore what shapes their view and instead focuses on the technical incorrectness of common terminology. He views Marxism primarily in socio/economic/contextual terms and his sharp criticisms of institutional conservative views of Marxism seem to miss the fact that conservatives view Marxism in primarily religious/philosophical/productive terms. The point is not to say either view is right or wrong, only to highlight one of my disagreements with the author.

There are other areas and instances where I disagree with the author, but the book is nonetheless worthwhile, and being a relatively short book, would not take much of your while.

I particularly appreciated and agreed with his thoughts on the secularization of America (covered in Chapter 2: "The Slipperiness of Secularization") and his critique of the state of political discourse and communication (covered in Chapter 5: "Rulers of the Queen's Navee").

Peter Lillback, President of the Providence Forum, has this to say of the book and its author:

"What we really have here is a lonely thinker who longs for the truth of a better city that he cannot find on either side of the Atlantic. He lampoons the cherished political idols that dominate our political landscape. I couldn’t suppress chortles of laughter, alongside shocks of disdain and disagreement, all the while admiring Trueman’s unmasking of the well-camouflaged foolishness on all points of the political spectrum. This historian-turned-pundit, with all the force of a prizefighter’s left jab and right hook, leaves the left, right, and center (or centre) reeling on the ropes. Therefore, I heartily recommend that you read this book, but you do so at your own peril. Its intensity, as well as its pointed, provocative, and persuasive prose, will force you to look at the Vanity Fair of politics from a pilgrim’s perspective. It’s just possible that you, too, will begin to yearn for a better city.”

Additional reviews can be found on Republocrat's Amazon page.

Overall, this is a book I highly recommend, especially to my conservative and evangelical friends. :-)

For those interested, here is an interview of Carl Trueman. For those particularly interested in knowing Mr. Trueman's views on abortion, they are explained in the imbedded video at about the 9 minute mark.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


(via The Population Research Institute) ObamaCare: The Facts on Abortion

>> Monday, November 1, 2010

I know this debate is supposed to be settled...but it's not and this is far too an important an issue to be silent on.

I found the following video, produced by The Population Research, Joe Carter's First Thoughts blog. I've posted material before briefly detailing how ObamaCare can/would be used to fund abortion, but this video is the best I've seen in that category, thus, my posting it.

May we never rest while there are still helpless and precious lives to defend!

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


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