July 17, 2017

Trump in Warsaw

Warsaw, Krasiński Square, July 6, 2017

“This is the speech Mr. Trump should have given to introduce himself to the world at his Inauguration.” That’s how the Wall Street Journal put it the day after the President of the United States gave his “Remarks to the People of Poland,” as the White House described the speech itself. In truth, the remarks were directed at the people of the world, and offered for the first time, six months into Donald Trump’s first term of office, the core of what could become a governing philosophy, that is, in the WSJ’s own words, “a determined and affirmative defense of the Western tradition” and a far better form of nationalism than that of the inauguration address, a nationalism rooted in values and beliefs such as the rule of law, freedom of expression, religious faith and freedom from oppressive government.

Here are some key-passages from the speech:

Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.

But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do, indeed, want them to fail. (Applause.) They are doomed not only because our alliance is strong, our countries are resilient, and our power is unmatched. Through all of that, you have to say everything is true. Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we don’t forget who are, we just can't be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.

We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.

We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. (Applause.)

We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves. (Applause.)

And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.

What we have, what we inherited from our -- and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people -- what we've inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.

This great community of nations has something else in common: In every one of them, it is the people, not the powerful, who have always formed the foundation of freedom and the cornerstone of our defense. The people have been that foundation here in Poland -- as they were right here in Warsaw -- and they were the foundation from the very, very beginning in America.

Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face down evil together, only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values. We did not and we will not. We will never back down. (Applause.)

Maybe the WSJ is right, maybe not. In fact, one could argue that the two forms of nationalism—that of the inauguration speech and that of the “Remarks to the People of Poland”—are somehow two faces of the same coin, but this would lead us too far from the main object of this note.. What is certain, however, is that the speech is one that won’t be easily forgotten, nor should it. And this for a number of reasons, among which is the fact that, unlike at least two of his predecessors in the presidency—Barack Obama and George W. Bush—Donald Trump refused to sell the Americans and their Western allies the false ideology according to which all peoples have the same desires, all cultures are equal, and all faiths teach the same things.

This universalism, which conveys the myth of the portability of America’s political and economic principles, is at the heart of the biggest mistakes in U.S. foreign politics in the Middle East, and one reason why so many Western policy makers and opinion leaders fell head over heels for the Arab Spring. They saw the explosion as basically the result of a political crisis and as provoked by a thirst for political freedom, but the deepest roots of the “revolution” were most likely socioeconomic—let’s not forget that for several decades, the Arab world has had the lowest rates of economic growth of all regions of Asia and Africa and the highest rates of unemployment in the world. And they are not issues that can be settled with a new constitution or a mere change of president. They can only be settled through a radical cultural change, involving social, political, and economic structures. Something premature, to say the least. That’s why things went wrong. Take Egypt for instance: the protest movement was initiated by opposition groups, part of which were very radical, but the lead was soon taken by traditional political forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists.

Unlike George W. Bush and his neocon advisers, and in opposition to Barack Obama’s idealistic rhetoric about foreign politics, Donald Trump argued that what we call Western values, far from being universal, are a centuries-long and uneven process of acculturation and education. “In this context,” as David French puts it in National Review, “Judeo-Christian ideas have a specific value. The family as a core building block of the culture has a specific value. Constitutional governance has a specific value. They are not necessarily interchangeable with Islam, with alternative family arrangements, or with statism. Thus, a call to protect faith, family, and limited government is a call to protect the culture that has birthed freedom at home and abroad.”

The Warsaw speech also finds President Trump on the trail of Joseph Ratzinger and the lecture “On Europe’s Crisis of Culture” the then-Cardinal gave in the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, on April 1, 2005, the day before Pope John Paul II died. It was a very strong warning against “the cynicism of a secularized culture that denies its own foundations.”

By the way, one might ask why the West has turned on itself and seems to be refusing to take even the most rudimentary steps to protect itself against its sworn enemies. Of course there are lots of reasons, not just one: cultural Marxism, ennui, loss of faith in organized religion, the transformation of government schools into babysitting services for subsections of the populace with severe cultural learning disabilities, the marginalization of the very notion of excellence, the mutation of the Left into a suicide cult that wants to take the rest of us with it. This kind of illness being thus indicated, the antidote is also easy to prescribe: the antidote to this, as argued in a July 15, 2016 article by Michael Walsh—the author of The Devil’s Pleasure Palace—is a return to our cultural roots,

including the pre-Christian principles of Aristotle (passed down via St. Thomas Aquinas, among others) and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Those roots are neither race- nor faith-specific and in fact the genius of Western civilization is that its principles—not “conservative” principles but civilizational principles—have proven so successful that they resulted in the United States of America, the very embodiment of those ideas.
Which is, of course, why Islam and its ally of convenience, the Left, hate America so. We and our cultural heritage are the refutation of every satanic principle they hold so vengefully dear.
Western civilization has defended us for centuries. Isn’t it about time we defended it?

That’s exactly what President Trump did with his Warsaw speech.

Of course, Never-Trumpers, Trump-sceptics across Europe, and the Left in general didn’t like a speech in which the words “civilization” and “West” are each repeated 10 times. Sarah Wildman at Vox compared this battle cry—“for family, for freedom, for country, and for God”—to an “alt-right manifesto.” David Smith, Washington correspondent for The Guardian, wrote that the Warsaw speech “will be remembered not for a quotable zinger but for muddled thinking and dark nativism.”

On the other side of the fence, Victor Davis Hanson at National Review praises the speech as an implicit corrective to Barack Obama’s Cairo speech, that is as the antithesis to the fallacious, appeasing lecture Obama preached to the Egyptians on June 4, 2009. Whereas Obama had blamed the West for many of Islam’s dilemmas, he writes, Trump praised the singular history and culture of the West. Whereas Obama listed supposed cultural achievements of Islam, Trump rattled off examples of Western exceptionalism, its culture, values, achievements.. A great article indeed. In Warsaw Trump warned the West that it’s because of our prosperity, technological advancement, and cultural superiority that we are in great peril, amid failed enemies who hate those who are more successful.

In sum, Trump’s anti-Cairo message is that only a disciplined, strong West — confident in its past and sure of its present success — will deter enemies, appeal to neutrals, and keep friends. Trump should not have had a need to deliver such a self-evident but now rare message. That he alone had the courage to state the obvious — and was criticized for doing so — reminds us that the corrective to our Western malady is seen as the problem, not the cure.

But the most moving passages of the address are those which explicitly recall one of the greatest speeches given in Poland in the modern era: it was delivered in Victory Square in the Old City of Warsaw on June 2, 1979 by John Paul II, the Polish pope.

Warsaw,  Victory Square, June 2, 1979 

Europe was still divided between the politically free democracies of Western Europe and the communist bloc. John Paul celebrated Mass. Halfway through, as Peggy Noonan tells the story in her latest column in the Wall Street Journal, the crowd began to chant: “We want God! We want God!” Then the pope asked the crowd: What was the greatest work of God? Man. Who redeemed man? Christ. Therefore, he declared, “Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude. . . The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man.” The chant turned to thunder: “We want God!” It was the beginning of the end for the communist order in Poland.

And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down. (Applause.) They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: “We Want God.” (Applause.)
In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.
As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history. Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out “We want God.” (Applause.)
Together, with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God. And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live. You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls. And you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail. (Applause.)

What a great premise for an even greater conclusion:

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? (Applause.)
[…]
Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield -- it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.
And today as ever, Poland is in our heart, and its people are in that fight. (Applause.) Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.

A great speech. The gauntlet has been taken up.




P.S. An interesting little fact (or coincidence). From BreitbartNews.com:

President Donald Trump’s first photo-call in Poland after his arrival in Air Force One was with President Andrzej Duda and saw him sat beside an oil painting of a prominent figure in Polish history and folklore — the 17th-century king who kicked Islam out of Central Europe and is remembered as “the Hammer of the Turks”.
Warsaw’s Royal Palace, where the meeting took place — lavishly reconstructed after it was dynamited by Nazi German troops during the Second World War — benefits from a surfeit of grand rooms and hundreds of works of art.
From oils of kings and statesmen by artists such as Rembrandt to impressive murals and sculpture, the Polish authorities had a great deal of choice for where to host the symbolic first meeting of President Trump’s first European visit.
It may be seen as a remarkable coincidence, therefore, that of all the rooms and of all the paintings, they chose to sit President Trump besides a portrait of one of Poland’s best-known warrior kings. King Jan (John) III Sobieski is today remembered and celebrated in Poland, and elsewhere in Central Europe, for his pivotal role at the Battle of Vienna in September 1683.  [By Oliver JJ Lane, July 6, 2017]


A Portrait of King Jan Sobieski III hangs over President Trump’s right shoulder / AP IMAGE



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July 13, 2017

Along the River Sile

I must confess that I didn't know about this before… I've just come across a very beautiful video about Treviso—the town where I live—and its river Sile (among the longest resurgence rivers in Europe). Subtitled in English and narrated by Red Canzian, a popular Italian musician in a band named The Pooh, the video is titled “Sile, oasi d’acque e di sapori” (Sile, oasis of waters and tastes). Hope you'll enjoy it!






PS: Check out some of the following links to learn more about the river Sile:

  1. Park of the River Sile
  2. Treviso–Mestre. From the River Sile to the Lagoon
  3. Along the River Sile in Treviso
  4. Ancient trades on the banks of the Sile
  5. Along the Sile River by Bike



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June 3, 2017

Are We All Jay Gatsby?




Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


~ Francis Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.




Francis Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve always loved the ending lines of The Great Gatsby, not just the last sentence, which is the one that is quoted the most, but, say, the last four paragraphs, which I tend to regard as, essentially, more of a poem than a piece of prose—while the ending line is, even on a formal level, very close to poetry, due to both a wave-like alliteration with the letter b, as we read the monosyllabic words “beat,” “boats,” “borne,” and “back,” and to being written almost in iambics (as we well know, iambic is a meter, often used in Shakespeare’s writing, that alternates stressed and unstressed syllables to create a da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM pattern).

But apart from the lyricism of these lines, I must confess that the more I get older, the more I understand how much truth there is in them. To a certain extent, they connect Gatsby to all of us. After all, by ending the way it does, the novel makes Gatsby explicitly represent all humans, “boats against the current” whose fate is already sealed since the very beginning of the story: being “borne back ceaselessly into the past,” or alternatively being frustrated in our dreams to restore a past that cannot return. One way or another, we are all losers. You can’t escape it. That’s also why Gatsby, Myrtle, and George Wilson die, and why no one come to Gatsby’s funeral. It all feels kind of empty and pointless, especially after all the effort that Gatsby put into trying to recreate his and Daisy’s love … Well, that empty feeling is basically the whole point.

At the same time we must remember that this is one side of the coin. The other side is that while all human beings appear to be condemned to an inevitable defeat, there’s a chance that our defeat might be only apparent. Take the most inevitable of defeats, the one against time. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you are subject to the inexorable law of time, and yet, in a way, time is not, by necessity, the last word, in just the way in which, for us Christians, death is not a disaster, but a new beginning—Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In other words, death is not the last word for those who are believers in the resurrected Christ.

General Douglas MacArthur
As for time, if our body can’t help submitting to the laws of nature, the same cannot be said for our soul. Whether you want it to or not, the body gets old—sure, we may be able to slow down the process, but it cannot be reversed. On the contrary, the spirit may continue to be young, because, well, “youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” Or at least that’s the way Samuel Ullman put the whole thing in his poem “Youth.” But I couldn’t figure out a more eloquent and effective way of putting it, and general Douglas MacArthur—who hung a framed copy of a version of the poem on the wall of his office in Tokyo, when he became Supreme Allied Commander in Japan—probably couldn’t either.

“Youth,” the poet continues, “means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of 60 more than a boy of 20. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.” Yes, courage, adventure, ideals—isn’t that what being young at heart and in spirit is all about? The rest of the poem is a glorious crescendo of joy and confidence..

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spring back to dust.

Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what's next and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station: so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at 20, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at 80.

Samuel Ullman
What a great, simple lesson for all of us! Here, among these lines, is where F. Scott Fitzgerald’s melancholic and pessimistic view of life is bound to founder and, even more so, is proved to be wrong. And mind you, without calling into question metaphysical and/or religious beliefs, which are personal and subjective. If the inexorable law of time can be eluded, then there is still hope, nothing essential is lost. Or, to put it very simply, as Billy Graham says, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” It’s up to you to live life to the fullest, to follow your dreams and make the world a better place for you and everyone.



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May 21, 2017

Hypocrisy

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day about the topicality of Dante’s Divine Comedy. What we both agreed upon was that the first of the three canticles of the poem, Inferno, is by far the most topical one. Nowhere else is there a more perfect description of human nature, its weakness, passions, miseries and sordidnesses. And nowhere else is there a deeper sense of justice in the face of sin and evil. We also agreed that the most topic among all the sins mentioned in the Comedy is hypocrisy.

Detail of miniature of Dante and Virgil encountering three couples of hypocrites, clad in gilt hoods, while on the ground are stretched Caiaphas and Annas, in illustration of Canto XXIII. (Tuscany, Siena?), 1444-c. 1450
London, British Library, Yates Thompson, 36 fol-42b Hypocrites



And now, down there, we found a painted people,
slow-motioned: step by step, they walked their round
in tears, and seeming wasted by fatigue.

All were wearing cloaks with hoods pulled low
covering the eyes (the style was much the same
as those the Benedictine wear at Cluny),

dazzling, gilded cloaks outside, but inside
they were lined with lead, so heavy that the capes
King Frederick used, compared to these, were straw.

O cloak of everlasting weariness!
We turned again, as usual, to the left
and moved with them, those souls lost in their mourning;

but with their weight tired-out race of shades
paced on so slowly that we found ourselves in
new company with every step we took;


(Inferno, Canto XXIII)




In fact, if we look at today’s world—particularly in the fields of politics, media, religion, and academia—you can’t help seeing that we’re surrounded by hypocrites—for the record, the word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑυπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “jealous,” “play-acting,” “acting out,” “coward” or “dissembling.”

We live in a “do as I say, not as I do” culture that is slowly breeding an entirely new generation of Pharisees, blinder than those who killed Jesus, where double-standards ARE the standard and double thinking is routine. What applies to Obama, Clinton, Podesta, etc. doesn’t apply to Trump and his men (and women), and vice versa. The same exact behavior is bad when someone you don’t agree with does it, but great when someone you do agree with does. We preach dialogue but practice monologue. We preach brotherhood but practice Cainhood. Our eleventh silent commandment is, “Preach sugar and honey, practice venom and vinegar.” This whole thing would be a farce if it were not a tragedy—not a small one, but a major tragedy in the rapidly darkening fortunes of the Western world.

Back to the main story, as everybody knows, in Dante’s Inferno there is a level for each sin committed, i.e. different circles, with the depth of the circle (and placement within that circle) symbolic of the amount of punishment to be inflicted. As the eighth of nine circles, Malebolge is one of the worst places in hell to be—and the only circle that has a proper name. Malebolge means evil ditches, or evil bolgias, and this Circle is dedicated to the sins of fraud, and each ditch is for a specific kind of fraud.

Dante and his guide, Virgil, make their way into Malebolge by riding on the back of the monster Geryon, the personification of fraud, who possesses the face of an honest man “good of cheer,” but the tail of a scorpion. In Bolgia Six lie the hypocrites. They are forced to wear heavy lead robes as they walk around the circumference of their circle. The robes are bright and golden on the outside, and resemble a monk’s cowl similar to the elegant ones worn by the Benedictine monks at Cluny, but are lined with heavy lead, symbolically representing hypocrisy. Just as Jesus compares hypocritical scribes and Pharisees to tombs that appear clean and beautiful on the outside while containing bones of the dead (Matthew 23:27).

By the way, who knows whether Dante knew that the specific weight of gold is much higher than that of lead? ;-) Be it as it may, I wish poetry could cure our moral diseases! The Divine Comedy would be our salvation! And instead we cannot but recall Eliot’s famous response when I.A. Richards took up Matthew Arnold’s cry, “it may be poetry will save us”: “it is like saying that wall-paper will save us when the walls have crumbled.” (T. S. Eliot, “Literature, Science, and Dogma,” Dial, 82, 1927: 243)

Interesting stuff, isn’t it? Maybe next time we’ll talk about the ninth circle: Betrayers...


Historiated initial ‘N’(el) of Dante and Virgil in a dark wood, with four half-length figures representing Justice, Power, Peace, and Temperance, with the arms of Alfonso V below, at the beginning of the Divina Comedia, Italy (Tuscany, Siena?), 1444-c. 1450, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 1r



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January 30, 2017

Hannah Arendt, St. Augustine and the Problem of Evil

Friday, January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time for people to both honor those killed under the Nazi regime and prevent future genocide. As every year at this time, I wanted to post something on the matter, but had a particularly busy day and didn’t have much time to jot down some ideas. I took advantage of the weekend and what follows is the result.




It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never ‘radical’, that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is ‘thought-defying’ […] because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its ‘banality’. Only the good has depth and can be radical.


~ Hannah Arendt, Letter to Gershom (Gerhard) Scholem, July 24, 1963.




When in 1961 Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Otto Adolf Eichmann, one of the major figures in the organization of the Holocaust, was taken captive in Argentina by agents of the Israeli government and brought to trial in Jerusalem, the German-born Jewish-American writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt saw an opportunity to confront the “realm of human affairs and human deeds . . . directly.” And so it was that she decided to undertake a reporter’s job and started to report on the trial for The New Yorker magazine. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, published in 1963, was the result of Hannah Arendt’s coverage of the trial, and one of the most controversial books of the 20th century.

Covering the trial Arendt used the phrase “the banality of evil,” a definition that has since become a classic. By the way, it wasn’t Arendt who first coined the phrase. In fact, in her correspondence with her mentor Karl Jaspers about the Nuremberg trials, the great German psychiatrist and philosopher highlighted a risk involved in the use by Arendt of the Kantian term radical evil to refer to the horrors of the Holocaust (her precise words, however, were that totalitarian terror had “the appearance of radical evil”): in his view it might endow perpetrators with a “streak of satanic greatness” and mystify their deeds in “myth and legend.” To escape this danger Jaspers emphasized the “prosaic triviality” of the perpetrators and coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to make his point. In reply Arendt agreed with this observation.

The distinction between radical evil and banality of evil is developed in detail in the above quoted letter to her friend Gershom Scholem, who along with many of her critics, accused Arendt of portraying Eichmann and other Nazi criminals not as hate-filled, anti-Semitic monsters but as petty bureaucrats, and of speaking openly about the role played by Jewish councils in the deportation and destruction of their own people. “It would have been very comforting indeed,” she wrote, “to believe that Eichmann was a monster […]. The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.” (Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, London: Penguin, 1994, p. 276)

Scholem, also known as Gerhard Scholem, a German-born Israeli Jewish philosopher and historian, accused her of not having a love for the Jewish people, of using a “heartless, frequently almost sneering and malicious tone.” “Your account,” he wrote, “ceases to be objective and acquires overtones of malice.” Explaining why the Jewish critics at least were so upset by the book, Scholem wrote: “In the Jewish tradition there is a concept, hard to define and yet concrete enough, which we know as Ahabath Israel: ‘Love of the Jewish people....’ In you, dear Hannah ... I find little trace of this.” “I have little sympathy,” he added, “with that tone—well expressed by the English word ‘flippancy’—which you employed so often in the course of your book. To the matter of which you speak it is unimaginably inappropriate.” Arendt’s reply was unapologetic:

You are quite right – I am not moved by any ‘love’ of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective – neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed ‘love’ only my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly, this ‘love of the Jews’ would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish, as something rather suspect…. I do not ‘love’ the Jews, nor do I ‘believe’ in them; I merely belong to them as a matter of course, beyond dispute or argument.

Arendt’s reply also shows that, although she had suffered herself and witnessed the suffering of other Jews, she was not inclined to let these experiences overcome her ability to critically analyze the facts. Actually, she brought an independent and probing mind to her coverage of Eichmann trial. And that’s perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of her approach to the whole thing.

But let’s go back to the point—the banality of evil. What did she really mean by that? What she certainly did not mean was that evil had become ordinary, or that Eichmann had not committed an exceptional and, to some extent, unprecedented crime. What she actually meant was that, as it is explained in the above quoted excerpt from her letter to Gerhard Scholem, there is nothing in evil for thought to latch onto. The banality of evil is its own lack of depth. What is banal are not the murderous deeds per se, but the lack of depth in the evildoer Arendt faced in Jerusalem, and by consequence in the horrors he inflicted on his victims and on humanity at large.

It is especially interesting now to note that St. Augustine’s idea that evil is not something fully real but only something dependent on that which is more real—his account of the original nature of evil in the contexts of ontology, society and divine providence—in fact provides the basis for Arendt’s analysis of the banality of evil in the individual, the social, and the political spheres. As David Grumett put it in an article published in 2000, “[a] small amount of attention has been given to Arendt’s work on Augustine, though surprisingly none has focused on the concept of evil.” Arendt’s concept of the origin and nature of evil, he wrote, “is usually attributed to her personal experience of totalitarianism and later coverage of the trial of the Final Solution bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann. This however fails to give a full account. Its intellectual roots are rather to be found in her doctoral dissertation on Augustine, published in 1929.” ("Arendt, Augustine and Evil," in The Heythrop Journal, Volume 41, Issue 2, April 2000)

Especially in his early works, Augustine identifies evil negatively. Take the Confessions (7. 12. 18):

And it was made clear unto me that those things are good which yet are corrupted, which, neither were they supremely good, nor unless they were good, could be corrupted; because if supremely good, they were incorruptible, and if not good at all, there was nothing in them to be corrupted. For corruption harms, but, less it could diminish goodness, it could not harm. Either, then, corruption harms not, which cannot be; or, what is most certain, all which is corrupted is deprived of good. But if they be deprived of all good, they will cease to be. For if they be, and cannot be at all corrupted, they will become better, because they shall remain incorruptibly. And what more monstrous than to assert that those things which have lost all their goodness are made better? Therefore, if they shall be deprived of all good, they shall no longer be. So long, therefore, as they are, they are good; therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil, then, which I sought whence it was, is not any substance; for were it a substance, it would be good. For either it would be an incorruptible substance, and so a chief good, or a corruptible substance, which unless it were good it could not be corrupted. I perceived, therefore, and it was made clear to me, that Thou made all things good, nor is there any substance at all that was not made by You; and because all that You have made are not equal, therefore all things are; because individually they are good, and altogether very good, because our God made all things very good.

Or Eighty-three Different Questions (6 “On Evil”):

Everything which is, is either corporeal or incorporeal. The corporeal is embraced by sensible form, and the incorporeal , by intelligible form. Accordingly everything which exists is not without some form. But where there is form there necessarily is measure, and measure is something good. Absolute evil, therefore, has no measure, for it lacks all good whatever. It thus does not exist, for it is embraced by no form, and the whole meaning of evil is derived from the privation of form.

But Augustine’s best known and most quoted definitions of evil are the ones he gave in Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapters 3 and 4:

And in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present—namely, the diseases and wounds—go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance,—the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils—that is, privations of the good which we call health—are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else. [Emphasis added]
[…]
From this it follows that there is nothing to be called evil if there is nothing good. A good that wholly lacks an evil aspect is entirely good. Where there is some evil in a thing, its good is defective or defectible. Thus there can be no evil where there is no good. This leads us to a surprising conclusion: that, since every being, in so far as it is a being, is good, if we then say that a defective thing is bad, it would seem to mean that we are saying that what is evil is good, that only what is good is ever evil and that there is no evil apart from something good. This is because every actual entity is good. Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity. Therefore, there can be nothing evil except something good.

In the light of the similarities between Augustine’s and Arendt’s concepts of evil, according to Philip Reiff, we are allowed to speak of “Arendt’s theology of politics.” (The Theology of Politics: Reflections on Totalitarianism as The Burden of our Time," Journal of Religion 32, 2, 1952, p. 119) As David Grumett puts it, though Arendt is not a specifically Christian thinker, “she in places laments the decline in acceptance of aspects of a Christian world-view.” “She does not, for instance, hold divine grace or the mediation of Christ as components of her thought, as Augustine does,” Grumett explains, “[s]he rather brings Augustine’s world-view, explored in her early study of Augustine, to bear on the modern and contemporary human condition.”

Perhaps it was from Augustine that Arendt learnt the importance for political thought of properly recognizing human sinfulness and worldly facticity if it is to confront the problem of the origin of evil. This is what makes her concept of the origin of evil and her existentialism valuable and believable.

To conclude, in David Grumett’s words, Arendt’s and Augustine’s “recognition of the existence of great evil in the world and of the facticity of human existence in the world” is far from pessimistic. “On the contrary, it is precisely by being content to live in the world that a human may do his or her part to safeguard its reality and protect it from evil.”



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January 24, 2017

A Chance Encounter


This morning I had a chance encounter with an old priest—an 80-something-year-old man—whom I had known when I was in my twenties. At the time, he was a teacher at the Seminary of the Diocese of Treviso, but he also served as vice-parish priest in my then parish church in Treviso. I remember him as a very cultured, good-natured and amiable person. That’s also why I was really pleased to meet him after all this time. But the main reason why I was so happy about the chance encounter was that all these years I have always remembered something he told me once about how to read publicly the Word of God with effectiveness. Even then I was appalled by the sloppiness of so many lectors (and priests), so I asked him for some guidance on that matter. And he gave me what I asked for, and it was actually a great lesson. “The Word of God,” he told me, “is to be neither ‘recited,’ nor merely ‘read.’ It is to be ‘proclaimed.’” Proclaimed, with all that this implies (which is a lot of things, as you can easily figure out).

I told don Andrea (for such is his name) about this memory of mine, and he seemed to be pleased with that.

Sometimes it’s incredible how a simple sentence can become a sort of personal brand, to the extent that, in the mind of another person, a man perfectly coincides with a sentence he uttered decades ago. That’s also why we should be always very careful about what we say.. You never can tell what might become “your brand” in someone else’s imagination and memories!



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January 23, 2017

Facebook Friends Lists


Recently a friend wrote in her timeline, “Evidently I've been talking to myself since Christmas. All my FB posts were privacy set to ‘Only me.’” That did automatically ring a bell for me, because something similar happened to me as well in the past—I don’t want to be too specific on that… Actually, it was frustrating and comic at the same time.

Nevertheless, such events have the power to bring attention to the wide range of opportunities Facebook offers us : you can decide—either once and for all or on a case-by-case basis—who (and where and when) can see your posts: Public, Friends, Friends of Friends, Only me, Custom (lists of friends, etc). Most users have their Facebook privacy set to Friends only or Friends of friends. As a rule I personally prefer the “Public” option, but from time to time and for specific purposes I may make exceptions—most of the times for reasons of respect and elegance.

However, and apart from specific preferences, what matters most is to make the best out of one’s Facebook account. For this purpose here are some suggestions and tips.





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November 14, 2016

An Open Letter to My Social Media Friends


Dear Social Media Friends,
A few notes on my birthday, which occurred just yesterday. First, let me say a huge thank you to all of you that have been kind enough to stop by at my Facebook page and other social media, and leave your birthday wishes! All included—Facebook (timeline and chat), Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—I received as many as several hundreds of birthday wishes from almost all over the world, especially from the United States of America, the UK, and the European Union. Let me just let you know that I appreciated each and every one of them and that I’m both grateful to you for your friendship and happy for the wonderful opportunities the new information and communication technologies offer to us. Especially for people of my generation, the state of the art of the ICT—which I consider a true blessing and a gift from God—is a continuous source of wonder and excitement.

However, I must say that what amazes me most about yesterday, is that my presence in the social media, and on the Internet in general, is not of the common kind, my most frequent posts being about political, philosophical and cultural issues: a bit boring for a lot of people, I’m afraid. At the same time I cannot but congratulate myself for choosing the right people to be friends with!

Of course, as always happens, birthdays are a great, if not unique, opportunity to unfriend and be unfriended... this time they were half a dozen, in addition to those—at least another half a dozen people—who have unfriended me in the last few weeks. But I don’t complain about that: I knew that supporting Donald Trump would have some consequences. Well, in a sense, I am grateful to them: I have never unfriended anyone on Facebook for political reasons, and never will, that’s contrary to my beliefs, but perhaps they were right in doing so. In other words, as we say in Italy, they pulled my chestnuts out of the fire.

Also, ever since I started supporting Trump things have cooled down with some of my best friends. No surprise at all, but then again every choice has a cost. I’m sorry about that, but I did what I had to do, and I’m proud about that. Do what is right, not what is easy. That’s integrity, I presume, or at least as much integrity as possible.

By the way, I want to point out one thing about the recent presidential election: Hillary was absolutely right when, in the immediate aftermath of her defeat, she said, “I want you to remember this: our campaign was never about one person or even one election…” That’s perhaps exactly the reason why so many people in America and around the world (including me) have spent their time and energies in fighting against her, her supporters, and what they stand for—the “values” they share, and the vision they hold—with all means at their disposition. The lesson is: whenever and wherever it’s needed, we’ll be there. 😏

That being said, thanks again, dear Friends, the special ones—those whom I have a certain degree of intellectual and/or spiritual affinity with—and all the others, which I deeply respect and appreciate. And may God continue to bless you and keep you in His loving hands forever.



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November 5, 2016

The Craziest Sermon I Have Ever Heard

The Prodigal Son (Orthodox Icon)

Yesterday afternoon I attended the funeral of a neighbor—a 80-something-year-old man, and a very kind and good person. I didn’t know the priest who celebrated the Funeral Mass, the only thing I know about him is what he said about himself in his homily, namely, that he is 74 and that in the long-ago he had lived in that parish, that he was a lifelong friend of the man and his family, and that he was familiar with most of those attending the ceremony.

It was one of the craziest, most unpredictable and memorable homilies I had ever heard. He talked in spurts—as many basically shy but very intelligent people often do—with sudden and vivid flashes of lightning, so to speak, rather than complete sentences, as if he was trying to say something pretty profound and at the same time a bit too difficult to put in words. So he danced around the issue the whole time without saying anything explicitly “religious.” He talked about “backing home”—his own’s and his friend’s. He talked about friendship, work ethic, dedication to the family, but the true meaning of the whole speech was, “hey, your friend, husband, father, etc., isn’t really dead, because he simply can’t die..” He was uttering the most touching and profound Christian truths without ever appearing to do so. A homily full of faith and hope without ever pronouncing the words “faith” and “hope,” as if there were no need to explicitly mention what everyone already intimately knows. Because hey, you folks know how things really are.., don’t you?

A poet, a humble but great man, a street philosopher and a man of God. I regret not having the opportunity to listen to his homilies every Sunday, but thank God for having had the chance to listen to him yesterday.



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October 30, 2016

About Poking on Facebook

Times are tough, I know, but let’s talk about something a bit more cheerful than my normal rants, let’s talk about Facebook, the most popular of all the social media platforms. There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask someone in the know—you’ve just received a Facebook poke, and the first thing that comes to your mind is, “What is this, and what does it mean?”

Of course you may have an idea about the likely meaning of this specific event, in the light of the literal meaning of the word “poke”—“to push your finger or something thin or pointed into or at someone or something” (Merriam-Webster). But to dispel any doubts, an investigation is needed. Thus I googled for answers.. and found hundreds and hundreds of questions and answers.

First of all, what I learned from my search is that a very beloved feature—a button called “Poke”—was enabled since the day Facebook launched in 2004. The button didn’t come with any explanation or rules. Mark Zuckerberg, then 23, said he just wanted to make something with no real purpose..

Secondly, I learned that the Facebook poke was once considered to be a creepy flirting tool, but now it has evolved into something very different. In fact, the most common answer is that a poke on Facebook is more or less the equivalent of tapping someone on the shoulder to say a quick “hello.”

Another popular interpretation is that it is a way to let other people know that you are thinking of them without going through all the trouble of sending private messages or posting publicly to their online wall. A very simple and kind way of saying things like “Remember that I’m here if you’re in troubles, if you feel worn out, or if you need anything,” or just “I miss you,” or “I want you to know that I care about you and what you're going through.” Interesting, isn’t it? Well, of course you might say, “Wouldn’t it be better to just pick up the phone and call her/him?” To which one could reply, “Yes, but sometimes (not to say always) life is more complicated than we would like!” A very strong counter argument, in my view.

Thus, Facebook makes it easier to express our inner feelings and thoughts. Which is not a small thing, above all in these harsh and troubled times.

That being said, however, it is clear that you shouldn’t poke people you don’t really know, especially because you can’t always predict the consequences, if you understand what I mean.., and certainly you shouldn’t take a poke too seriously—remember that 99 times out of 100 a poke is meant to be just for fun.

In any case, and to conclude, I’d say that the main result of my investigations on this subject may be stated as follows: there are no rules for this kind of thing—instinct, common sense, and good taste should guide us here. My viewpoint, for what it’s worth, can perhaps best be summed up by the cartoon below.. ;)

Keep up the good poking!




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October 25, 2016

Feeling Compelled to Vote for Donald Trump


Have you noticed that the Mainstream Media—both in the U.S. and in Europe—is distrusted by growing numbers of people? Have you noticed that the cronyism between the Establishment and the MSM has become too blatant to ignore? It has been evident for years that the U.S. Establishment and their MSM cheerleaders have been manipulating a rigged political system to impose their self-serving politics. That’s why so many people—even among those who, until recently, were anti-Trump—feel compelled to vote for him. Here is an example. “Bias has always been a factor in journalism,” writes Derek Hunter, a DC based writer, radio host and political strategist, and “it’s nearly impossible to remove. Humans have their thoughts, and keeping them out of your work is difficult. But 2016 saw the remaining veneer of credibility, thin as it was, stripped away and set on fire.” “More than anything,” he continues,

I can’t sit idly by and allow these perpetrators of fraud to celebrate and leak tears of joy like they did when they helped elect Barack Obama in 2008. I have to know I weighed in not only in writing but in the voting booth.
The media needs to be destroyed. And although voting for Trump won’t do it, it’s something. Essentially, I am voting for Trump because of the people who don’t want me to, and I believe I must register my disgust with Hillary Clinton. […]
The Wikileaks emails have exposed an arrogant cabal of misery profiteers who hold everyone, even their fellow travelers deemed not pure enough, in contempt. These bigots who’ve made their fortune from government service should be kept as far away from the levers of power as the car keys should be kept from anyone named Kennedy on a Friday night. My one vote against it will not be enough, but it’s all I can do and I have to do all I can do.

The Project Veritas videos, he notes, “exposed a corrupt political machine journalists would have been proud to expose in the past.” The Wikileaks emails “pulled back the curtain on why that didn’t happen —journalists are in on it. I can’t pretend otherwise, and I have no choice but to oppose it.”
This, however, isn’t a call to arms for Never Trumpers to follow suit, says Hunter, “this is my choice, what I must do. Each person has to come to this decision on their own terms.” Yet, he observes,

A simple protest vote for a third party or a write-in of my favorite comic book character might feel good for a moment. It might even give me a sense of moral superiority that lasts until her first executive order damaging something I hold dear—or her first Supreme Court nominee. But the sting that will follow will far outlive that temporary satisfaction.
I oppose much of what Donald Trump has said, but I oppose everything Hillary Clinton has done and wants to do. And what someone says, no matter how objectionable, is less important than what someone does, especially when it’s so objectionable. A personal moral victory won’t suffice when the stakes are so high. As such, I am compelled to vote against Hillary by voting for the only candidate with any chance whatsoever of beating her—Donald Trump.



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October 12, 2016

The Sacking of the West

‘Saint Augustine writing’; illumination from Augustine’s City of God, 1459
 Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris

Sometimes we’re tempted to despair, also—but not only—because of the cowardice and hypocrisy of those who should be supposed to fight for what they say they believe in. But we simply cannot give in to this temptation, because, as St. Augustine reminds us, the City of Man will fall and be rebuilt, but the City of God is unshakable.

In The City of God—the writing of which had as its immediate historical context the sacking of Rome by Alaric in 410—he writes that “Rome, which was founded and increased by the labors of these ancient heroes, was more shamefully ruined by their descendants while its walls were still standing, than it is now by the razing of them.”

Yes, Rome fell internally before it fell externally. It was ravaged by an interior cancer—an internal rot of the moral kind—which left it hollow and brittle.


As the Author of this excellent Crisis Magazine article puts it, 

As we look around at these uncertain times, and ask how it came to choosing between these two candidates, it might appear, that the world is falling to pieces. It is not. The West might be, just as Rome did, but the world is God’s and God will not forsake it.

If, like me, you are tempted to accept all as futile, let us remember the words of Augustine in his preface.

“But God is my helper. For I am aware what ability is requisite to persuade the proud how great is the virtue of humility.”

The City of God will prevail, and God is our helper.



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September 21, 2016

America the Beautiful

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee 

To some degree, this is what could be defined as a blog-post on demand, in fact it originates from a request by a good friend of mine, who asked me about a decent Italian translation of “America the Beautiful,” the classic patriotic song that many Americans regard as a second national anthem. After a quick search on Google I realized that there is essentially nothing at all—except a few really awful automatically generated translations (or supposedly such). So I decided to translate it myself (look at the bottom of this post). But at the same time I thought that it would be great to seize the opportunity to get deeper into the subject. Which I enthusiastically did—by exploring the genealogy of “America the Beautiful,” its context, meaning and inner beauty—because I’ve always loved that song. So this post is the result of such an effort. And my humble tribute to such a magnificent example of poetic and musical talent, as well as, of course, of American patriotism.

In the beginning there was a poem.
Katharine Lee Bates
In the summer of 1893 a Massachusetts professor of English at Wellesley College, Katharine Lee Bates was giving a series of lectures on English literature at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. The writing of “America the Beautiful” was the result of that trip. “One day,” she recalled in her diary, “some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there.” It was “the most glorious scenery I ever beheld, and I had seen the Alps and the Pyrenees,” she wrote. “My memory of that supreme day of our Colorado sojourn is fairly distinct even across the stretch of 35 crowded years,” she wrote a year before her death in 1929. “We stood at last on that Gate-of-Heaven summit, hallowed by the worship of perished races, and gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse.” “It was then and there,” she recalled, “as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind”:

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!


Yet, “America the Beautiful” is not just a nostalgic evocation of a pastoral landscape. It’s also a tribute to the faithful courage and tenacity of the Pilgrims, who first tamed the wilderness,

Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!


and to the heroes who fought for freedom

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!


In a letter to friends, Bates also rebuked her fellow countrymen/women by observing that “countries such as England failed because, while they may have been great,” they had not been good. That's why, “unless we are willing to crown our greatness with goodness, and our bounty with brotherhood, our beloved America may go the same way”...

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!


The poem is also a hymn to the “dream” which is America herself, to the nation’s potential—including the gleaming modernity of its “alabaster cities” :

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!


“America the Beautiful” was published in three revised versions: the first on July 4, 1895, in a weekly church publication in Boston called The Congregationalist, the second on November 19, 1904, in the Boston Evening Transcript, and third and final one in her book America the Beautiful and Other Poems (1911).

The poem became quickly popular. “No one was more amazed than I at the way the hymn was taken up,” the poetess once explained. “When I found that you really wanted to sing it, I rewrote it in some respects to make it a bit more musical.” The poem was sung to many different tunes for years—many simply started singing the words in the tune of a folk song, such as “Auld Lang Syne”—until, finally, it followed the melody of Samuel Augustus Ward’s “Materna,” which became the standard melody still used today. So “America the beautiful” became the great patriotic anthem that we all know and love :

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


Over the years, the song has been recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson.


Since the very beginning of it all, many citizens have lobbied Congress to make the song the national anthem of the United States of America. On July 4, 1993, an “America the Beautiful” plaque was installed on the top of Pike’s Peak to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poem.

The plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of "America the Beautiful"


AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
- ITALIAN VERSION -

O bella, per i cieli spaziosi
Per le onde ambrate di grano
Per la maestà di montagne color porpora
Sopra la pianura fruttuosa!
America! America!
Dio ha sparso la sua grazia su di te
E corona il tuo bene con la fratellanza
Da mare a mare splendente!

O bella per i piedi dei pellegrini
Il cui severo e appassionato sforzo
Ha tracciato una strada di libertà
Attraverso deserti e terre selvagge!
America! America!
Dio ripara ogni tuo difetto,
Rafforza la tua anima nell’autocontrollo
E la tua libertà nella legge!

O bella per gli eroi che hanno mostrato
Il proprio coraggio
Nella lotta per la libertà.
Che hanno amato il proprio Paese
Più di sé stessi
E la misericordia più della vita!
America! America!
Possa Dio raffinare il tuo oro
Fino a rendere nobile il successo
E divino ogni guadagno!

O bella per il sogno dei patrioti
Che vede al di là degli anni
Brillare le tue città di alabastro
Non offuscate da lacrime umane!
America! America!
Dio ha sparso la sua grazia su di te
E corona il tuo bene con la fratellanza
Da mare a mare splendente!

ORIGINAL TEXT

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!




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September 17, 2016

Love Letter



Happy Birthday Princess,
We get old and get use to each other. We think alike.
We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.
You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.
Happy Birthday Princess.
John


~ Johnny Cash, Birthday letter to his wife, June Carter Cash, 1994




Country music legend Johnny Cash wrote the above quoted love letter in 1994, on June’s 65th birthday, while he was in Odense, Denmark. Voted the greatest love letter of all time by the readers of the Daily Mail in the U.K.—topping romantic missives from, among others, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to his wife, poet John Keats to his next door neighbor, musician Jimi Hendrix to a mystery woman, and actor Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor—the letter proved once and for all that The Man in Black was not only a talented performer and songwriter but also a man of deep feelings and extraordinary sensitivity. The pair married in 1968 and remained together for more than 30 years. June died in May 2003. Johnny passed away just four months later. As many know, the sometimes tempestuous, but always profound and genuine love story between Johnny and his wife has been chronicled extensively in the movie Walk the Line—a pretty good one, not a masterpiece, though.




To conclude here is a video that illustrates—perhaps in the best possible way—what true love is all about. It is a bit sad, I know, or that's how it might seem at first glance, but this is part of the mystery which is Love itself.




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August 22, 2016

Magnificat

What are your favorite New Testament passages? One of mine is Luke 1:46-55 (The Magnificat). These verses are one of the Marian texts par excellence and one of the most notable prayers in all of Scripture. I’ve always loved them, but the more the time goes by the more I find myself in love with the meaning and even the sound—especially, I must say, in Italian, my mother tongue—of such wonderful and inspiring words. Here is the text in English and Italian.

The Visitation by Lorenzo Monaco (1409 ca)
The Courtauld Institute of Art - London


My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded
the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

(King James Version)



ITALIAN


L'anima mia magnifica il Signore
e il mio spirito esulta in Dio, mio salvatore,
perché ha guardato l'umiltà della sua serva.
D'ora in poi tutte le generazioni mi chiameranno beata.
Grandi cose ha fatto in me l'Onnipotente
e Santo è il suo nome:
di generazione in generazione la sua misericordia
si stende su quelli che lo temono.
Ha spiegato la potenza del suo braccio,
ha disperso i superbi nei pensieri del loro cuore;
ha rovesciato i potenti dai troni,
ha innalzato gli umili;
ha ricolmato di beni gli affamati,
ha rimandato a mani vuote i ricchi.
Ha soccorso Israele, suo servo,
ricordandosi della sua misericordia,
come aveva promesso ai nostri padri,
ad Abramo e alla sua discendenza, per sempre.

(Versione Ufficiale C.E.I.)


Johann Sebastian Bach's Magnificat, in turn, is one of the most magnificent works in the whole choral repertory—and one of my favorite music pieces ever!

Magnificat in D major, BWV 243
Netherlands Bach Society
Jos van Veldhoven, conductor:




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June 7, 2016

Western Identity



It is because of America, its success, its conflicts, and its symbolic importance in the world, that the question raised by Spengler is still with us: the question of Western identity. Take away America, its freedom, its optimism, its institutions, its Judeo-Christian beliefs, and its educational tradition, and little would remain of the West, besides the geriatric routines of a now toothless Europe.



~ Roger Scruton, Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged.




Taking part in a radio debate and discussing how America has retreated as a world leader, English philosopher and writer Roger Scruton recently said, “It’s certain that President Obama will not be seen as a strong president.” Then, as a man with a foreigner’s perspective, he added, “What are we, the rest of the world, to do without American leadership?”

The above quoted excerpt from his preface to Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged might be of some help in explaining his concerns about the future of the world.



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