Letter From New England

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

The
Age of Email requires, at bare minimum, a phone hook-up wherever
one travels. But the very first day of my recent trip to the shores
of Rhode Island plunged me back to the ancient days of the early
1900s. The phone line was scratchy and crackly. The modem on the
portable laptop couldn’t make sense of the signal. Something was
fundamentally wrong with the phone line. There would be no email.

A
call to the phone company yielded nothing. It was Monday. They promised
a repairman the following Saturday. A six-day wait? How can this
be? The guy on the phone, with whom I quickly began to sympathize,
explained that all the unionized repairmen were on strike. Indeed,
the Great Verizon Strike was on. The workers were standing up for
their right to rip off the company, the stockholders, and the consumers.

It’s
amazing the damage these antiquated unions can do. There’s a scene
in the new Stars Wars movie when the communications system breaks down in the palace. An adviser to Princess Amidala explains: “Our power source is
down. That can only mean one thing: an invasion.” In the US, he
would have to say: “this can only mean one thing: the power is controlled
by a unionized public utility.”

Thanks
to federal protection and a general right to commit acts of violence,
these union guys can shut down all essential services that make
civilization run. They don’t hesitate to terrorize or otherwise
attack any workers who refuse to go along with their demands. What
monsters! And this was also the week of the Democrat’s Convention,
a party wholly in the pay of these thugs.

I
was also reminded that four years ago, Pat Buchanan shifted on a
dime to become the most pro-union candidate in public life. He saw
unions as his natural constituency. Recall the pictures of him back-slapping
with some of these thugs in a beer hall? What was he thinking?

It
was during the same period that Pat started invoking class-war rhetoric
and demanding some sort of national plan to prop up old industries
that make stuff that nobody wants anymore. He was just following
the inevitable trajectory from protectionism to unionism to central
planning. I’ve never met anyone who can make sense of it. Perhaps
that’s part of the explanation for his 1 percent in the polls.

With
email out, there was only one thing to do: drive to where
a fabulous old German Catholic parish was
holding a special evening liturgy on the feast day of the Assumption
of the Blessed Mother into Heaven.

We
were warned not to park in the Verizon parking lot next door: our
cars might be get smashed up. So we crammed into the tiny parking
lot along with more than a hundred others. Everyone was there to
attend a Latin Mass, just like the kind said all over the world
before the tin-ear reformers shredded ancient practice after Vatican
II.

Ah,
the Latin Mass! It was glorious. In fact, this liturgy did one better.
It included the “Third Confiteor” said by the altar servers before
Communion. Heavens, this little item was even eliminated before
Vatican II! How in the world does this parish get away with this
amazing display of ancient custom? The word is that the local bishop
gave this parish permission to unleash all manner of nostalgia,
probably because he was tired of hearing all the traditionalists
complain.

But
it gets better. The enthusiasts who put these Masses together enjoy
dipping into forgotten traditions that apparently never made their
way across the Atlantic. One example was on display this night.
Before Mass, the celebrant invited the faithful to bring fruit to
the altar where he incensed and blessed it in an elaborate ceremony,
for theological and metaphorical reasons explained in a handout.
The fruit was taken back home by the faithful and turned into decadent
desserts.

Catholics
love this kind of thing. Like Ash Wednesday and St. Blaise Day (“the
throat blessing”), this ceremony combines spiritual and physical
qualities as a reminder that the Christian faith is not only about
transcendence: the faith also embraces and sanctifies the world
too (“The Word Became Flesh,” as the Last Gospel in the Mass says).
It occurred to me that the “fruit blessing” could be resurrected
even in modern parishes that use the new rite of Mass.

Onward to the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which had an exhibit of Van Gogh paintings,
but it turned out that the lines and wait were too long to make
it feasible. That was ok: there was plenty to see in the museum
itself. Entering through the double doors, I had to make my way
through room after room of African masks and voodoo dolls dating
from no particular time, as well as clay pots and things crafted
by all sorts of third-world people.

I’m
happy for these people that they have their ways, though some of
it gave me the creeps. But I want to know: why is all this primitive
nonsense in a prestigious museum? Even more absurdly, why does it
take up the first three rooms in a place that surely lacks sufficient
space for exhibits? Clearly the nutty multiculturalists had prevailed
here.

But
the consumer had the final word. The third-world rooms were completely
empty but for people rushing through to get to the: “European Art,”
said the sign. Actually, it was what used to just be called Art.
You know, art art. A roomful of magnificent painting by all the
old masters.

What
treasures! Too bad they were hung floor to ceiling, 18 inches apart
from each other, such that no painting could be fully appreciated
as a single masterpiece. The museum managers created a visual cacophony
to make room for their rare and complete collection of 19th century
stone clubs.

Back
to Rhode Island, where the phone had been fixed thanks to some Verizon
manager who worked an 80-hour week. As we drove into the beach subdivision
where I was staying, I noticed something odd about the long row
of trees on either side of the road. They were all new tress except
for one old magnificent maple that stood proudly 20 feet in the
air with its branches gently shading the road.

Why
is this the only one? Inquiring further, this turned out to be the
result of fatal decision taken by the community’s board last year.
The lane was indeed lined entirely by old-growth maples. But some
priggish “environmental expert” told everyone that the trees were
diseased and had to come down. Blinded by science, the board agreed
to cut them all down, leaving only one maple for old-time’s sake.
A year later, guess what? The supposedly diseased maple cured itself,
just as all the others might have done had the wisdom of the great
tree expert not prevailed.

Clearly,
experts of all sorts run this community. Many people living here
would love to bomb the place with DDT or some other mosquito killer,
but the intimidating experts prevent residents from using any chemicals
to get rid of the nasty bugs. Hence, you would be nuts to step outdoors
here without first spraying yourself with “Deep Woods” bug killer.

Actually,
the experts prefer that you use some natural oil that supposedly
contains traces of a plant that deters mosquitos. But with the West
Nile Virus making the rounds among the chicken population, no one
was willing to take a chance.

Why, by the way, do people automatically
assume that this virus that supposedly kills chickens is also lethal
for humans? I had immediately had the feeling that this virus was
the equivalent of the maple tree disease: some expert making rarified
assumptions was whipping everyone up into a frenzy. No, I can’t
prove it. In any case, if it is lethal, the precautions I was told
to take–wear long pants, put on bug spray–were not going to stop
it.

Reading
this vacation was on the subject of Vatican I. It sheds all new
light on Vatican II, and indeed made it possible, both in the papal
powers accumulated with the declaration of Papal Infallibility and
also the reaction it prompted. For example, the anti-Latin movement
was hugely spurred by the fact that all the deliberations at Vatican
I were conducted in Latin, such that perhaps 1 in 10 bishops could
follow or participate in the discussions. It’s no wonder that a
demand for more “collegiality” arose afterward.

As
for the endless advisers and experts at Vatican II, this was a reaction
to the fact that the curia made it a MORTAL sin for any bishop to
share the schema with outside theologians. In retrospect it is clear
that the Vatican power grab couldn’t last.

There’s
no question that I would have been with the European Liberals at
Vatican I, not the Ultramontanists, who were all statists of the
worst sort and who, thank goodness, didn’t finally prevail. For Lord
Acton’s part, he opposed the Council bitterly, but came
to accept the declared teaching on grounds that the Church would eventually come around to trimming out the Ultramontanist spin on
Papal supremacy. As usual, he was right.

Watched
the Gore speech. Pure socialism. As Gore said he favored the people,
not the powerful, I was reminded of Commodus in the movie Gladiator.
Tyrants always invoke the people and denounce all intermediating
institutions as powerful and corrupt. If we had the right kind of
political culture, this guy would have been dragged off the stage.
We would simply point out that this is a republic, not a totalitarian
state, so he is not permitted to do all the things he claims to
want to do.

More
interesting, however, was this heavy mouth kiss he laid on his wife.
This, we were told, was a calculated move to show us that he, unlike
Clinton, is a moral man. Huh? I don’t get it. At least Clinton has the decency to keep his indiscretions private. I don’t see how the
nation’s youth morally benefit from seeing the presidential nominee,
on national television, make out with his tongue. Keep this rogue
out of office!

Did
some fishing. Now, fishing in the fresh water of my Texas youth
is wholly predictable. At 10 feet, you catch crappie and perch;
at 25 you catch bass; on the bottom, you catch cat. But sea fishing
is entirely different. You never know what kind of odd thing you
will pull up.

My
fishing partner called the first fish I caught a “junk fish”: a
hideous brown bug of a swimming thing. The second fish was a junk
fish with despicable wing-like orange ears. Yuk! Konked it on the
head and cut it up for bait. And it turned out that the flounder,
the fish fish, loved it! Took home a spectacular dinner.

Ah,
fishing: men catching and killing animals for food. What a great
sport! It’s only a matter of time before the environmentalists seek
to ban it. But how compelling will this bumper sticker be: Save
the Junk Fish!

New
England and the North generally get a bum rap because of the many
miseries of Boston and New York City. In fact, rural New England
is truly wonderful. You can see why Tocqueville fell in love with
it. Parts of it remind me of the Deep South, where everyone is friendly,
the communities are rooted and filled with character, and, so long
as you stick with the greasy spoons, you can’t have a bad meal.

Of
course you must deal with intense anti-Southern bias of the residents.
When I say I’m from Alabama, I get various looks of shock. “Isn’t
that one of the poorest states in the country?” they say, and “Don’t
you have a high illiteracy rate?” “Is the Klan active in your area?”

I
have several responses. “Actually, we’ve recovered quite well from
the Northern military invasion.” “Alabama is the most civilized
state of all, a place where people still have manners.” “The federal
agents who make up the bulk of the Klan have largely left us alone.”
I try various versions of such statements, but it doesn’t do anything
but quiet people down.

I
don’t mind Northern bigotry toward the South. It underscores the
fact that we are really separate nations. We should have separate
governments too. We could still visit each other, just as we visit
France or Spain. And we could still exchange emails, provided the
Yankee unions are willing to cooperate in this ideal form of internationalism.

August
22, 2000

Jeffrey
Tucker

is editor of The
Free Market
, a publication of the Mises
Institute
.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare