*Today is the memorial of Saint John Damascene, who lived in what is in now Syria and died on this day in 749, in a land that even back then, in the early days of Muslim expansion, lived under Islamic domination. A polymath, gifted in many subjects, he was a great foe of the then-rampant iconoclast heresy, claiming that any sacred images (indeed, images in general) were evil and idolatrous. So we can ask his intercession for Syria. It is said that the saint worked as the Chief Administrator for the Caliph before his ordination (John’s, not the Caliph’s), so may some degree of harmony once again exist between Christians and Muslims. We can also ask him for a restoration and revived appreciation of art in all its forms, especially in our own too-numerous iconoclastic Catholic churches, whitewashed, and filled with the off-tune sounds of treacly hymns.
*Alas, the era of Christian-Muslim harmony, insofar as it did exist to some degree in history, now seems far off, especially after the recent apparently-jihadi-motivated massacre in San Bernardino, California, just east of Los Angeles. At least fourteen dead, seventeen wounded, after a husband and wife stormed a Christmas party at the husband’s workplace with fully automatic rifles and pistols. Apparently, his fellow workers had just thrown their soon-to-be-murderer a baby shower, for their newborn. Now, that child will grow up an orphan, as his parents were themselves killed by police. Gratitude? Their own child, dropped off at his grandparents? Duty to one’s family and friends? Christmas? But jihadis think only of the ‘will of Allah’, brainwashed by a cult-like, or at least highly coercive, religion, in which all ‘infidels’ are evil, deserving of death. I ask: Is this what a good Muslim looks like? Or is there another interpretation? Who is following Muhammad? Who is to say?
*We may have to ‘get used’ to such massacres, as who knows how many ‘sleeper cells’ there are across the U.S. and Canada, and how many more after tens of thousands of Islamic refugees are let in across the border? William Kilpatrick has an insightful essay on the nature of early Islam, and the danger of any Muslim becoming suddenly ‘radicalized’, as seems to have happened in the husband-and-wife-Bonnie-and-Clyde above. One day, the ‘moderate Muslim’ realizes what Islam is really about, and what he, or now she, must do. So much for Barack Obama’s sneer about all those anti-immigration types fearing ‘women and children’.
*And our own culture continues its slow, or not-so-slow, decline. Just today, the U.S. government has ordered all military units to open all front-line combat roles to women. The Marines fought for an exception, claiming their jobs were too physically demanding and dangerous, but, alas, they too will fall. As I have written before, any civilization that asks its women to fight and die for its men, while the men sit at home, insofar as we still have ‘homes’, is not one much worth saving.
*Part of this is due to the otiose (and contrary to the sense of the U.S. tradition and constitution) of having a ‘standing army’ of ‘professional soldiers’. The military then becomes just another career-step, something to put on your resume, instead of a means to defend hearth and home from an invading enemy. In reality, we should have a militia, in which every man is trained and prepared to fight and die for his country, and called up in times of war. Now we fight sort of unreal wars, far away, half-heartedly, and most of the time our co-ed soldiers, the fairer sex with their ponytails tucked up under their berets, are at here at home, with really not much to do, collecting paycheques while marching around parade squares. The only thing most of them kill is time. Pilots now fly ‘drones’, polishing their posteriors in leather chairs somewhere in Nebraska, while killing people they see on fuzzy computer screens ten thousand miles away. Listen to the podcast of one former drone pilot for a glimpse into this macabre and surreal dimension of modern warfare.
*Speaking of bloated militaries, a retired Canadian Navy member is now receiving disability payments, claiming that his life in our maritime command, particularly its food, made him fat. When he enlisted, he was a svelte 160 pounds, and now weighs in at over 300. I am surprised our aged fleet can move that weight, especially if the sailors are all so debilitated. This says volumes (no pun intended) on the state not only of our military, but of our victim-oriented-it-is-always-someone-else’s-fault society. Has the man never heard of calisthenics, push-ups, sit-ups, controlling one’s food intake, that old notion of, what was it, discipline? Was that not once a virtue especially dear to the military? But that is archaic, along with chivalry, and, yes, men defending their women and children. Now the men need defending, even from the food. Alas. No wonder the Muslims have no fear of us.