Rod Dreher

E-mail Rod

Lessons Of The Great Flood

Flooded home as classroom: Sequitur faculty and students mucking out a house
Flooded home as classroom: Sequitur faculty and students mucking out a house

The following is a guest post by Brian Daigle, headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy, the classical Christian school in Baton Rouge. As I wrote last week, from the beginning of the flood, Brian has been in action to help flooded-out families from Sequitur, and others. (And not only Brian: Thomas Achord, head of the rhetoric school at Sequitur and teacher of ancient Greek, took his bass boat out as part of the Cajun Navy, and rescued people from their rooftops.) Brian has led a team of boys from the school in mucking out people’s houses. They were even present to save the life of a Sequitur mom, who was overcome by a heat stroke while they were mucking out her house. The team used ice to help keep her cool, while some of them took a boat across the floodwaters to pick up paramedics, and ferried the paramedics with their patient back across the water to the ambulance. She survived.

My sons were part of that group. St. Benedict, in his Rule, calls the monastery “a school for the Lord’s service.” In our time, I believe that classical Christian schools, at their best, serve this same purpose. I knew that by sending my kids to Sequitur, they would not only be getting a good education per se, they would also be getting a good education in virtue. I could not have known that the first lesson of the year would be so vivid.

If we’re looking for “a new — and quite different” — St. Benedict for our age, as Alasdair MacIntyre said we should be, I suggest that we look to folks like Brian Daigle and others in the classical Christian school movement. As I’ve found in my research for the Benedict Option book, classical Christian schools are leading the way forward through this new Dark Age, often dragging local churches and Christian families along in their wake. Something very important is happening in this country in the classical Christian school movement. If you’re looking for a Benedict Option, there it is!

Here’s Brian Daigle’s essay:

Over the past four months, Baton Rouge has seen its fair share of storms, social and natural. First, there was the Alton Sterling shooting. Then there were the protests which set the stage for the fatal police shootings. After that came water. Lots of it. If this were a well-written classic, water would mean what water always means: rebirth. There is an Author to this all; we need to watch the kind of cleansing that will occur from this historic flood. Still, all this loss, tension, and disaster has made me reflect more deeply on my work as a classical Christian educator, a proponent of great literature and the resurrection of curricula long since forgotten.

Of course, you have the practical questions: when do we go back to school? How many of our families were affected by the floods and how greatly affected? Then you have the philosophical questions: should our students be studying right now or serving hot meals to refugees? In a community with this much need, what is the purpose of a great education? While tearing out dry wall from a flooded home, I got to thinking: classical Christian education is one of the only places in our society where students will truly be equipped to deal with these kinds of disasters, to be a calm in the manic and an able and willing hand in the reconstruction of the city, both literally and metaphorically, locally and nationally.

Consider for a moment those institutions in our society. Consider even the “religious” ones. Not one of them, including our academic institutions, have the moral fabric, rigorous demands, and goals required to raise future men and women, truly matured from adolescence and able to serve something greater than themselves. Our modern youth group model doesn’t challenge students to think well, communicate clearly, or work hard, despite the extemporaneous and helpful service projects done a few times a year. Think for a moment of our present definitions and modes of shaping masculinity, shaping future men who love, understand, and pursue courage. It’s gone, flooded and crumbled worse than any house here in South Louisiana.

Many people ask if classical Christian education is practical. “It sure is philosophical and heady,” they say after looking at a little less than half the curricula. There is no better test for the practicality of this kind of education than to see how classical Christian education is building a generation of men and women who will be best equipped as leaders and workers in the most practical situations.

I am not at present using this flood as an opportunity to ax grind, to find yet another crease we may pry open and say, “Aha! Classical Christian Education. Told ya!” My goal here is to make some very important connections between what our communities need at various times and how classical Christian academic institutions are some of the only institutions poised to provide for those needs:

Defining tragedy and disaster. In learning logic and rhetoric, our students are taught to think clearly through all topics. This doesn’t go out the window when the ant hill is kicked. That is, when a society goes into panic mode, thinking clearly is needed more than ever. As Rudyard Kipling said, “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” Requiring our students to think and hear well in all their courses means we train them to consider a proportionate emotional response in all situations, arguments, and relationships, and not just the emotional response required of them by their neighbor or the media, or even the circumstances. This means they can see beyond the immediate frenzy. They know the police shootings are difficult; they know the flood damage is hard and painful. They also know these events are neither tragic nor “Mother nature’s wrath,” because our students know history, and they should know the difference between a tragedy and a comedy. They know what man has gone through before and the context of these events to all others. By studying widely and deeply, they have a wide view of society and our place in the human story. Our students can then consider the right words to describe the current events, without simply repeating what the news anchor or politician says.

Rigor. True learning is difficult. It is enjoyable. It is natural, but it is not easy. I often tell my students, especially Rhetoric School students, “It’s easy to look smart; it’s hard work to be smart.” Schools who get education right will not shy away from mental sweat, late study hours, or academic stress. We want men and women with a work ethic, and that means a child’s studies ought to build a proper and rigorous work ethic into them each and every week. As was once said, not all rigor is mortis.

Love your neighbor. From sexual identity to choosing literature, the twittery academic trends right now all point to the glorification and affirmation of the individual student. These are the times, and these are the prevailing winds in our age. Nearly every institution our children visit, from Sunday School to Pre-school and Kindergarten to College, tell them one loud creed: you are the most important being in the universe. This is the exact opposite of what a classical Christian education teaches both explicitly and by its pedagogical choices. “You are far less important than you think,” we say. “We don’t quite care about you expressing yourself; we want you to beautifully express the truth,” we teach. A true education will teach the student that proper and right studies are not for beefing college transcripts or proving one’s intellectual worth but rather for serving one’s neighbor. When that is instilled on a weekly basis and in every class, something as practical as disaster relief becomes yet another extension of the academy.

Communicating and problem solving. One thing disasters teach is that intelligent and wise people are needed in all vocations—law enforcement, first responders, mothers at home, carpenters, etc. When we give our children a great general education, they may walk into any number of vocations and be prepared mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to use their gifts to the glory of God and service to their neighbor.

Those who mourn with hope. A distinctly Christian worldview, as encompassed in the Psalms, has no room for stoics. It likewise has no room for pessimists. The balance in the Psalms is lamentation in hope. If that is not instilled when there is no disaster surrounding our children, it will not be available when there is disaster. If we raise our children as God has called us to, we will find a generation who are truly human yet truly redeemed. They may weep with their neighbor over the loss of all earthly belongings, but they will say in the same breath, “Yes, but you will be having Christmas dinner again in this home before you know it.” Or to put it more theologically, “You may have lost all material goods, but God incarnate will soon be celebrated again in this brick and mortar.” Along this same vein is the incessant joy and value for humor provided by a classical Christian education. Laughter and joking trivialities are only reasonable in a world God declares good; we may then haul sewage-soaked insulation to the curb while singing a ditty and not a dirge.

Academic work by nature is contemplative work. It likewise is the kind of work which gives our children a mind to understand, eyes to see, and a heart to love. So, what do we do when we see so many practical needs around us? Hear Chesterton: “There has arisen in our time a most singular fancy: the fancy that when things go wrong we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things go very wrong we need an unpractical man. Certainly, at least, we need a theorist. A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning; but it is quite right to study the theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.” (What’s Wrong with the World, pg. 19)

Sequitur goes back to school today, just one week after the floods hit our city, and our goal is to raise a whole bunch of unpractical men and women, but not because we don’t think our kids should be a part of meeting our city’s needs. Quite the opposite. My colleague Thomas Achord recently reminded me of an excellent essay by C.S. Lewis. Without giving too much of the backstory, World War II hit England and many of the professors at Oxford were debating the question, “What hath Athens to do with Germany?” Should students continue their studies during war time or not? Should we fiddle while Rome burns? England declared war on Germany the 3rd of September, 1939; Lewis preached a sermon entitled “Learning in War-Time” on the 22nd of October of that same year. In order to answer the question whether or not we should tinker with learning while our city or country is on the brink of destruction, Lewis goes broader:

“[The Christian] must ask himself how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or to hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such contemplative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology. If human culture can stand up to that, it can stand up to anything. To admit that we can retain our interest in learning under the shadow of these eternal issues, but not under the shadow of a European war, would be to admit that our ears are closed to the voice of reason and very wide open to the voice of our nerves and our mass emotions.”

The whole essay is worth reading over and again. Its applications to our own situation in Louisiana are important:

1) We must think upon something other than the flood, and that means we must continue to be human while avoiding a kind of localism. As Lewis says, often times the closer we get to the front lines, the less we talk about the war. Intellectual and aesthetic activity will not sink, even with trillions of gallons of water.

2) If we don’t continue to have our children read good books and think rationally during these times, they will read bad books and think irrationally.

3) Our children must not surrender themselves to temporal claims “of a nation, or a party, or a class,” or a flood. We must offer all we do to God, no matter what we do. This is the difference between those working for good and working against good in this flood, whether or not you serve ten-thousand meals or no meals. To appropriate what Lewis says, if our parents have sent us to school and “our country allows us to remain there, this is prima facie evidence that the life we, at any rate, can best lead to the glory of God at present is the learned life.”

4) Most schools will return this week in vain, but that is because their work has always been in vain. They return this week or next week or next month in vain because their academic work has always been about their own glory. In that sense, flood or not, they are wrong to return to school. As Lewis states, “An appetite for [seeking knowledge and beauty] exists in the human mind, and God makes no appetite in vain. We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty, as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so…The intellectual life is not the only road to god, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanicai says, we may come to love knowledge — our knowing — more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.” If we return to a school which seeks neither truth nor beauty, we are not returning to any worthy education; we are not returning to education at all.

5) By returning to school, our students may not let their “nerves and emotions lead you into thinking your present predicament more abnormal than it really is.” Baton Rouge is a disaster zone right now, but so is the whole world each day. Our communities each day are ravished by the floodwaters of unbelief and sin. We are simply seeing now, more locally, the manifestation of what is a daily spiritual reality apart from Christ.

6) We return to our studies with societal sympathy. Because Sequitur is a half-day academy four days a week, we will severely limit our homework load in the coming weeks, encouraging our students to spend the afternoon in the community. Their morning will be devoted mainly to their studies, and their afternoons devoted largely to helping in the community. In this way, we recognize our studies are not obsolete in this kind of climate and we recognize there is likewise a need.

I type this as I sit in a CC’s Coffee Shop, right before I head out to another house with a team of students and parents to move rotten furniture, tear out dry wall, and pull insulation. At the table next to me sits a young man whose face is plastered to his phone. He’s playing a racing game. I don’t know if he will be doing work later, but I do know he is currently an all-too-familiar image, the image of a generation self-absorbed in their incessant demand for self-pleasure and entertainment while their community crumbles around them. This is all too often the pursuit of our schools, of college and career readiness, of standardized tests, of pedagogy and learning in general. When we raise that kind of generation, when our schools raise those kinds of men and women, we shouldn’t expect them to be able and willing to help in times of disaster. If we don’t daily do the work in our schools, our homes, and our churches, we can’t possibly expect to reap the fruit of a mature and Godly generation, especially in the most obvious times of need.

As Lewis states, “The best defense is a recognition that in this, as in everything else, the war has not really raised up a new enemy but only aggravated an old one. There are always plenty of rivals to our work. We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable.”

Classical Christian schools are among those few institutions daily doing the work to raise a mature and Godly generation. May our gratitude be shown by our ongoing work in and support of these institutions, even if the conditions are unfavorable. Let’s get to work.

— Brian G. Daigle, headmaster, Sequitur Classical Academy 

I hope you will re-read Brian’s essay, contemplate it, and send it on to your friends. This is what classical Christian education is, at its best. I have a chapter in my forthcoming Benedict Option book dedicated to education, and integrating it into a fully Christian life, in the Benedictine sense. I hope that chapter expresses this vision even a fraction as well as Brian has done.

Not all education occurs in the classroom. Not all education helps you get into Harvard. All education, if it is truly education, forms not only the mind, but the heart. We are so lucky to have that in Sequitur. And I should say here that we are grateful to the Istrouma Baptist Church for letting our school use its empty classrooms during the week. Sequitur is five years old now, and still has no permanent building. The good people at Istrouma Baptist are an integral part of building our school community. This is how it works.

Finally,, Brian Daigle sent out a letter Saturday night to Sequitur parents. Looks like for the foreseeable future, service to those suffering from the flood will be part of the educational experience at Sequitur. The school does not have its own building, and meets in classrooms donated by Istrouma Baptist Church. Well, Istrouma, which is a very large church, will be from now till the crisis is over a distribution hub for supplies for flood victims. This means Sequitur will be moving to upstairs classrooms there. It also means that Sequitur’s leadership has decided that students will bring a change of clothes every day from now on, and after classes end at midday, will take off their uniforms, put on their work clothes, and go downstairs with their class to do whatever relief work Istrouma has for them to do.

I deeply love this. Hands-on service as part of the classical Christian educational experience. Part of the formation of the students’ character. I am so grateful that my children are part of this school!

Incidentally, readers, someone in the classical Christian school movement set up a Go Fund Me to aid Sequitur families who lost everything in the flood. We’re all throwing in together to replace school uniforms and books, but also to help beyond that. The need is enormous. The donations are not for Sequitur itself, but only for the direct aid of the families who lost things in the flood. We estimate that one-third of our students were profoundly affected by the flood. If you would like to help our community, please do.

Posted in , , , . Tagged , , . 24 comments

Here Comes The Crimson Tide

image1

IMG_6779

How about that! Two different Alabama readers sent me these images of folks today filling up the University of Alabama football team truck with supplies for Baton Rouge area flood victims.

There may be no fiercer rivalry in college football that that between the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. But it’s at times like this that you learn what people are really all about.

Thank you, Alabama. Thank you Coach Saban. Thank you all for your generosity to us. We might even let y’all win this year. 😉

UPDATE: I just got a $500 pledge from a couple in Atlanta. He’s a Crimson Tide fan; she’s for the LSU Tigers all the way. They’re giving to flood relief out of love. That’s a true SEC marriage!

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 3 comments

Poop Angels

My friend Luke Ash, who teaches guitar lessons to my son Lucas, was out helping his brother muck out his flooded house. At one point, they decided it was necessary to … well, look. Luke calls this “making poop angels,” because of all the raw sewage that was in the flood water.

You gotta laugh at this stuff, or you’ll fall apart. If there’s one thing folks in south Louisiana know how to do, it’s laugh.

#SpiritOfLouisiana

Posted in . Tagged , . 3 comments

‘This Thing Is Far From Over’

Ascension Parish, La. (Photo by Alan Cross)

Ascension Parish, La. (Photo by Alan Cross)

Alan Cross, a reader of this blog and sometime commenter, is here in south Louisiana doing relief work. He writes (and sends the above photo):

Was down in Ascension Parish today – Prairieville and St. Amant. It is terrible down there. Still flooding in places. People still can’t get in or out of some areas. Some small communities are still basically cut off. And, of course, where everyone can work, their belongings are piled high along the road. And, the smell. Dear Lord…

Just letting you know. Ascension has not gotten much help at all. Have the media just moved on already? This thing is far from over. Everywhere I went, people were telling me to get the word out that help was very much needed.

I typed “Ascension Parish” into Google News, and all I got were stories from Louisiana media. Today on CNN, Gov. John Bel Edwards said:

“Typically by this point in a storm, I think Red Cross would be receiving a lot more donations, I think there would be more volunteers signing up. Although we have some of that in place now, it would be very helpful if people would donate to the Red Cross, to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and also to come volunteer to help people get back in their homes as quickly as possible.”

Well, I think the Red Cross would be getting more donations if the media were down here showing America how bad it really is.

It’s so bad that Edwards, a Democrat, praised Donald Trump for his visit to Louisiana, saying Trump donated $100,000 to flood relief at a particular church (Trump also brought in a tractor-trailer full of relief supplies). From the Baton Rouge Advocate:

“I think … because it helped shine a spotlight on Louisiana and the dire situation that we have here that it was helpful,” Edwards told CNN’s Dana Bash.

Here’s a portion of a flood map produced by the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, showing how much of Ascension Parish was flooded. Looks like two-thirds of the entire surface area of the parish.:

ascension parish

 

UPDATE: More info from Alan Cross, down in Ascension:

Churches that I met are getting ready for teams to come and I’m not sure they are coming. It is really sad. People just aren’t tracking with this. They asked me to let people know what they are going through so they would help and I promised I would. Man, it is hard to hear that. Everyone is working hard, but they need help.

Posted in . Tagged , , . 12 comments

The Cajun Pocahontas

Catherine Font Bihm, delivering supplies to a flooded Louisiana friend (Via Facebook)

Catherine Font Bihm, delivering supplies to a flooded Louisiana friend (Via Facebook)

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 2.03.47 PM

Read the whole story about this badass south Louisiana woman.

Posted in . Tagged , . 4 comments

SEC Solidarity Is A Beautiful Thing

Last year, when Columbia, South Carolina was devastated by flooding, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks came to Baton Rouge to play the LSU Tigers. The Tiger Marching Band honored them in Tiger Stadium by playing their alma mater:

Now look at what the Gamecocks have done for us in Baton Rouge, to show solidarity. It’s the LSU alma mater:

You won’t get people in Baton Rouge to agree on Hillary or Trump, but you will get them to agree that University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban — who used to coach at LSU — is the Voldemort of the SEC. LSU and Alabama are archrivals. But Saban and Alabama are coming together to help us:

“When natural disasters occur, like the catastrophic flooding in South Louisiana, football and rivalries take a back seat to providing help to those in need,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “So many people came to the aid of the Tuscaloosa community following the tornado, we wanted to try and do something to give back to those who have lost so much in Louisiana. I’m very proud of our players and our organization for wanting to step up and help.”

Alabama football’s equipment truck that travels with the team throughout the season will be at several locations from Saturday, August 20, through Tuesday, August, 23.

God bless that man. I heard from an Alabama reader today who is headed down tomorrow to put supplies on the truck.

This is why a couple of years ago, when my son Lucas and I were watching on TV the national championship football game between Alabama and Notre Dame, he didn’t understand why I told him we were cheering for Alabama. Don’t we hate Alabama? he asked, reasonably.

“Son, we always cheer for the SEC team,” I said.

#SECSolidarity

By the way, a local guy, Corey Michael Schneider, designed this logo, put it on t-shirts, and was selling them for flood relief fundraising today in Baton Rouge. If I can find a link to a site where you can buy them, I’ll post it. Great image, though:

14054114_10157326865660319_4293071819054619291_n

Posted in . Tagged , , , . 9 comments

Eating Cake With Hillary Clinton

'Oh, darling,' said Louis, 'it's time to get dressed for the Clinton fundraiser.' (uzhursky/Shutterstock)

Check out this 2007 Hillary Clinton for President radio ad, in which she rips into George W. Bush, saying that Katrina victims were “invisible” to him, but aren’t invisible to her. How times change.

Here’s why Hillary Clinton cannot be bothered to come to Louisiana: she’s got a slew of fundraising events set up with coastal elites. From CNN:

What do Cher, Leonardo DiCaprio, Magic Johnson and Jimmy Buffett all have in common? They’re with her.

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, buoyed by rising poll numbers and a sputtering Donald Trump campaign, are using August to raise tens of millions of dollars in cash before the fall sprint.

Clinton will embark on a three-day, eight-fundraiser trip to California next week, headlining a mix of star studded events with tech icons, athletes and movie stars.

On Monday, August 22, Clinton will headline a top dollar fundraiser at the Beverly Hills home of Cheryl and Haim Saban, the billionaire owner of Univision and one of Clinton’s wealthiest backers.

Clinton and her aides will then head down the street to another fundraiser at the Beverly Hills home of Hall of Fame basketball player and businessman Magic Johnson. That event, which according to Clinton donors in California is expected to raise millions of dollars, will also be hosted by Willow Bay and Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation.

The next day, Clinton will headline two events in Laguna Beach, including a $33,400-per-person event hosted by Stephen Cloobeck, the CEO of Diamond Resorts.

Later in the day, according to invites obtained by CNN, Clinton will headline a fundraiser at the home of Leonardo DiCaprio, the Oscar-winning actor known for his roles in Titanic, The Revenant and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Scooter Braun, the agent that discovered Justin Beiber, and Tobey Maguire, the actor known for his roles in the Spider-Man series, will also host the star-studded event.

Sounds like fun for those celebrities and rich people, flooding the Democratic Party nominee’s coffers with campaign cash. Meanwhile, here in flood-ravaged Louisiana, preliminary estimates claim that as many as 110,000 people lost their homes (or at least suffered enormous damage to them), suffering nearly $21 billion in losses.

Obama golfs with celebrities, Hillary parties with them and takes their cash.

This should not be forgotten. These are the oligarchs who rule us. It’s despicable. Do not believe for one second that there’s any reason why Hillary Clinton cannot get here. Donald Trump got here, spent a few hours, then left. So could she, if she wanted to. But she would di$appoint her donor$.

This who Hillary Clinton is. It’s all about money and access. You know I’m not a Trump supporter, but I absolutely can see why people would vote for him to throw a rock through these people’s collective window.

Hey, it’s hard to know the difference between satire and the reality of the Clinton/Obama response to the floods, but here’s some actual satire:

Screen shot from The Babylon Bee, a satirical news site

Screen shot from The Babylon Bee, a satirical news site

Sheer awesomeness from the Babylon Bee, an Onion-like site:

OAK BLUFFS, MA—Carrying a 47-over-par performance to the 18th tee at Farm Neck Golf Club during his vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard Thursday, President Obama told golfing buddy Larry David that he was determined to “get one back,” sources reported.

After utilizing his 10th and final mulligan on an errant slice, the commander-in-chief hit a solid drive down the fairway from the red tees on the 435-yard par 5, leaving approximately 275 yards left to the front of the green. Then “the best couple of 3-woods [he has] ever hit,” along with a very lucky bounce, put him in a situation the leader of the free world has not seen in quite some time: a mere eight feet away from recording a birdie.

Recognizing the magnitude of the moment, David asked for permission to hole out his five-footer in order to set the stage for Obama’s birdie attempt, which the President granted.

“This one’s for all the poor folks down in the great state of Louisiana,” Obama reportedly said to David, before addressing the ball. The lefty then flawlessly executed his trademark outside-to-inside, wrist-heavy putting stroke, sending his customized Titleist skipping smoothly—right into the center of the cup.

Whole thing here. 

As I was finishing this post, my mother called with news of lifelong friends from Denham Springs. She had not been able to reach them all week, but they finally called. A retired couple. They’ve lost everything they own, and so have their two adults sons, and their families, all of whom live in Denham Springs. They won’t be able to give anything to any politician’s fundraiser, because they’re now flat on their backs.

I’m telling you now, if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama come down here now, they are likely to be booed. It won’t be racism, or being against the Democrats. Our governor is a Democrat, and as far as I can tell, he’s done a very fine job responding to this disaster. If Clinton and/or Obama is booed, it’s going to be for reasons of class. Mark my words.

UPDATE: You cannot make this up! Hillary Clinton is on Martha’s Vineyard tonight at a $100,000 a plate fundraiser at the home of Lady Rothschild:

The wife of British Sir Evelyn de Rothschild is hosting a dinner-party fundraiser for about 30 guests, who will pay up to $100,000 per couple.

The Democratic presidential nominee and her right hand, Huma Abedin, are expected to spend the night at the oceanfront home featured last year in Architectural Digest. Lynn is one of Hillary’s most fervent supporters.

By the by, I was just texted this photo of a Louisiana cemetery by a friend who is in Denham Springs doing relief work this afternoon. “Even the dead weren’t left alone by this thing,” he texts. Enjoy your dinner with Lady Rothschild, Hillary!

IMG_5708

Here is a new map showing the size of the flood here. It’s massive. Everything in blue is normally dry land that went under:

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.33.52 AM

UPDATE.2: The Baton Rouge Area Foundation tells me tonight that Hillary Clinton supporters have donated $400,000 to BRAF’s relief efforts after Hillary asked them too. BRAF is grateful for that, and so am I.

Posted in , , , . Tagged , , , , , . 129 comments

Flood Volunteer Opportunities in BR

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.33.52 AM

Above, an updated map showing flooding in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. Note that this is ONLY the Baton Rouge area; flooding was extensive also around the city of Lafayette, to the west. Please understand that what you are looking at in blue are not natural lakes. That’s flooding.

Readers in the Baton Rouge area, I’m passing on information that some of you have sent requesting volunteers.

Here’s one I received early this morning from a north Baton Rouge reader who spent the past few days with his elderly mother in a Baton Rouge hotel, because their house was flooded. I’ve redacted certain information for the sake of privacy, but if you are in a position to help this lady, e-mail me privately (rod — at — amconmag — dot — com), and I’ll put you in touch:

There is a lady who prepares the morning breakfast buffet here at the hotel who has been working every day.  Her house was deeply flooded.  The hotel won’t even let her stay here!  She has an adult son who had surgery just before the flood, and has no one to help her get things out of her house.  She was only able to go over to the house yesterday and it is a mess of course.

I am not asking you to take this on, but if you do know of any resources – if anyone has contacted you to get hooked up with someone who needs help or whatever – I am gonna give you her contact info, and if you can put her in touch, please talk to her.  Whomever helps will need to wear quality masks to avoid inhaling mold.

I have the lady’s contact information. E-mail me if you’re serious about helping, and I’ll share it with you.

Here’s another I received from someone at Our Lady Of The Lake College in Baton Rouge, the college attached to Our Lady Of The Lake Hospital. Unfortunately I got it too late to be included early this morning, but there’s still an opportunity on Sunday to help this college community restore its members:

If you can volunteer, I’m going to gather groups at two times: 8:15 and 9:45.  What I’ll ask you to do is show up in the parking lot of the Liberal Arts Building (5345 Brittany Drive).  Once I see who is there, I’ll divide people up into teams, give them supplies (tools, masks, gloves, food, and drink), give them an address, and send them out with a team leader.

Feel free to bring friends, spouses, or anyone else you know who wants to help.  If we work really hard, we can leave our friends and colleagues with a home that just needs to be renovated.  You should wear ratty old clothing and probably bring a towel to sit on for the ride home.  If you have your own work gloves, pry bars, utility knives, or masks, please bring them (if not, we’ll provide what you need).

For those in the OLOL faculty and staff, I need a few more supplies in the morning.

    • ​​I need two more coolers, with ice in them.  I’ll provide the drinks.
    • about 8 more pairs of work gloves.
    • If anyone has a dolly or wheelbarrow, please bring it — water laden stuff is extra heavy
    • Some more masks.  I’ve got enough for our visitors, but want to make sure everyone has one if needed.
    • Some more garbage bags.
    • Maybe a pump sprayer or two.

By the way, we will have some other volunteers coming on Sunday at 11:30, so if you aren’t available on Saturday, we’ll have a chance to help on Sunday.

I will keep this list up for rolling updates throughout the weekend.

Posted in . Tagged , . 7 comments

Populism And The Great Flood

Photo by Republican Party of Louisiana
Photo by Republican Party of Louisiana

I’m going to try one more time to express what I think the Louisiana flood and the response of our national media and national politicians (meaning Trump, Clinton, Obama) say about the state of the nation. I note here the news that came late this afternoon: that President Obama will finally visit us on Tuesday, after the end of his vacation.

He will be fortunate if he is not booed. He had better have his advance people find a guaranteed friendly audience. Had he come down any day this week, he would not have been booed. I hope he is not booed next week. But I’m telling you now, don’t be surprised if he is. And no, it will have nothing to do with his race, or his political liberalism, though I am sure that’s what the media and the liberal commentariat will claim. It will have everything to do with the fact that he wouldn’t leave the golf course while the people of Louisiana were overwhelmed by this flood that put 40,000 people out of their houses, and left those houses in ruins.

To put that number in terms Obama can understand: it’s as if four times the number of households in Martha’s Vineyard were destroyed. Or if 10,000 more households than there are in Cleveland Park, the upscale district of Northwest Washington DC, were ruined. Or if slightly more than two times the number of households in Takoma Park, Md. (“a nuclear-free zone”), were obliterated. Or if roughly the entire population of Berkeley, Calif., suddenly found itself homeless.

If Berkeley were wiped off the map, even with almost no loss of life, don’t you think the national networks would have been all over it from the beginning? Don’t you think the president would have found a way to get there, ASAP? Of course they would have, and of course he would have. Come on, don’t make me laugh.

A couple of weeks ago, Peggy Noonan wrote a really good column capturing the current mood. It was titled, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen.” Excerpts:

The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.

On Wall Street, where they used to make statesmen, they now barely make citizens. CEOs are consumed with short-term thinking, stock prices, quarterly profits. They don’t really believe that they have to be involved with “America” now; they see their job as thinking globally and meeting shareholder expectations.

In Silicon Valley the idea of “the national interest” is not much discussed. They adhere to higher, more abstract, more global values. They’re not about America, they’re about . . . well, I suppose they’d say the future.

In Hollywood the wealthy protect their own children from cultural decay, from the sick images they create for all the screens, but they don’t mind if poor, unparented children from broken-up families get those messages and, in the way of things, act on them down the road.

From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.

 

This.

More:

Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.

Read the whole thing.

In my earlier “Trump On The Bayou” post, I wrote that Trump’s visit to Louisiana today showed us respect — and that that meant a lot.  I am one of those conservatives who finds great fault with Trump, and who is not going to vote for him (or for Hillary), but who credits him with two things: 1) putting certain issues that the elites of both parties ignore on the map, and 2) all but destroying the Republican Party.

I quit calling myself a Republican after being infuriated by what George W. Bush’s handling of Katrina said about the GOP (meaning outrage that even after 9/11, the man Bush put in charge of FEMA was a political hack). That caused the levee to break inside, releasing a torrent of doubt and disgust with Bush and the GOP over Iraq. It was self-disgust too, because I had allowed myself to believe them, and to support the war.

I did not call myself a Democrat because I am not a liberal, for one thing, and for another, because the problems with the Republican Party do not correspondingly make the Democratic Party good. When the financial crash happened on Bush’s watch, a lot of people were very quick to blame him and the Republicans, and that was fair. But it was only partially fair. The deregulation of Wall Street that led to the crash was a project of the Congressional Republicans (chiefly Sen. Phil Gramm) and Bill Clinton. There’s a reason why Hillary Clinton is totally mobbed up with Wall Street, in a way Donald Trump will never be.

I have never been an Obama-basher, even though I didn’t vote for him either time. (I wrote in Wendell Berry as a protest in ’08, and didn’t vote for president in ’12 — not acts of political virtue, given that the Republican was guaranteed to win the states I lived in at the time). Obama has been a better president than I expected him to be, overall, and heaven knows the Congressional Republicans have far too rarely made one sorry that the GOP doesn’t have the White House.

I say all this to let you know that even though I’m a conservative, I don’t have much faith in politicians of the right, or the left. In fact, it’s hard to think of a major institution in American life that I do trust at the institutional level — not even the church, even though I am a devout and practicing traditional Christian. I wanted Trump to be a game-changer, and he has certainly been that, but again, the mediocrity and awfulness of the GOP and the Democrats don’t make Donald Trump into our political savior. He’s not. Once again, I don’t expect to cast a vote in a presidential election. I have no confidence in any of them.

I’m not asking you to share my dispiritedness. I’m just telling you where I’m coming from. But I digress.

So, let’s return to the quoted material from Peggy Noonan, especially this:

From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.

In that light, consider how people here in Louisiana would interpret the fact that on Tuesday, while local rescuers were still pulling people off of roofs, and after a long, hot weekend that stretched law enforcement in the city and region to the max (half of BRPD officers lost their houses to the flood), the Obama Administration issued a memo telling Louisiana agencies that we had better not be racist in providing disaster assistance. The administration says in the memo that there is ample evidence from Katrina, Rita, and disasters elsewhere that agencies at the local level discriminated against minorities.

If true — and I assume it is — the administration is right to be watching out for this. It shouldn’t have happened, and it must not happen again. But man! After spending a day in a shelter and around the city watching local law enforcement, the National Guard, and others busting their butts to help people of all races, to see that memo made me furious. It’s like, Is that really what you think of us? That we’re just a bunch of rednecks dying to discriminate? 

It’s like: The people of your Louisiana are not our countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions we must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.

In a Wednesday post, I looked at themes in the collected tweets of Obama, Clinton, and Trump since the floods started on Friday. If all the houses and businesses of Berkeley, Calif., had been washed away in a tsunami, would President Obama not have troubled himself to make a public appearance to talk about what happened? Wouldn’t his staff at least have tweeted out a semblance of sympathy? His staff, in his name, put out 14 tweets in that period of time. They were about:

Climate change: 2

Judge Merrick Garland: 5

DREAM Act (for immigrants): 1

Paid family leave: 1

Vehicle emission standards: 2

Gun violence: 3

Louisiana floods: 0

Obama doesn’t manage his Twitter feed personally. I get that. But he surrounds himself with people who didn’t see us. Nor did he see us. Not really. And this was noticed.

If all of Takoma Park burned to the ground in two days, wouldn’t Hillary Clinton’s staff cared enough to tweet about it? Of 84 tweets she and her staff put out in her name in that same time period, exactly one had to do with the Louisiana flood (in it, she recommended that people donate to the Red Cross). She tweeted congratulations to US women Olympians three times, and tweeted out about immigration seven times.

As for Trump, it was what you would imagine. Nothing about Louisiana’s floods, but ten of his 35 tweets in that time period were him whining about how unfair the media are to him.

Look, I get it: social media is not real life.  The real work of rescue and recovery was and is being done at the local level. Yay, little platoons! But what presidential candidates talk about, on social media, on TV, and in their speeches, reflects their priorities, political and otherwise.

… At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling….

 

Mad virtue signaling. You can just see the Hillary social media staff thinking, “Let’s tweet about female Olympians to show that Hillary really cares about women’s empowerment.” At least with Trump and his signaling (vice-signaling?) there is no real pretense of interest in the lives of his countrymen, except insofar as he can see his own reflection in them.

But: Trump got to Louisiana before Obama or Clinton. And in so doing, he struck a chord resonating profoundly with the emotional and political climate of the moment. The president is coming down on Tuesday, but he’s missed his moment. Trump got here first. When Obama arrives, the thing a lot of people will be thinking is, “You’re the President of the United States. What took you so long? How come you let Trump beat you here?” As for Hillary, forget about it.

The Baton Rouge Advocate is not a particularly conservative newspaper, ideologically speaking, but it is temperamentally very conservative. Today, unusually,  it hit Obama with a second editorial today, denouncing his absence. Excerpt:

After Hurricane Betsy ravaged Louisiana in 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson flew to New Orleans to comfort the victims. Standing in one evacuee shelter darkened by an electrical outage, LBJ shined a flashlight into his face so that his fellow Americans could see the leader of the free world who had come to bring them hope. Speaking into a megaphone, he offered encouragement to residents who had lost everything.

“My name is Lyndon Baines Johnson,” he told weary listeners. “I am your president. I am here to make sure you have the help you need.”

Those were the days. Then again, LBJ grew up in rural Texas.

Here is the world Obama and Hillary live in. It’s a link to a pathetic column by an SJW turning the flood into a chance to beat his own, um, dead horses. Excerpt:

In launching these critiques, some have contrasted the coverage of the flood with wall-to-wall coverage of the Olympics, the ongoing presidential sideshow, and the riots in Milwaukee. Having your suffering ignored or cast aside only intensifies the pain you feel. And, yet, comparing one’s suffering with the suffering of others, calculating them according to hierarchies of pain, reinforces the logic of oppression. In other words, the standards that determine what belongs on the news (so-called “news values”) are deeply rooted in oppressive ideologies—regional biases, financial capital, racism, classism, sexism, and more—which constantly rank whose lives (and deaths) are more valuable, more “newsworthy,” more profitable for mass distribution.

Comparing the newsworthiness of our suffering to that of others is the precise method by which the news devalues the lives of black, brown, poor, immigrant, transgender, and queer people.

I am not, in other words, only frustrated by the lack of national news coverage or public awareness of the floods in Louisiana. I am frustrated by the lack of coverage and awareness of how the floods in Louisiana do now and will continue to disproportionately affect poor people, immigrants, people of color, people affected by de facto segregation, homeless people, and queer people.

How, exactly, does this guy know anything about the demographics of this flood? Does he know that Livingston Parish, the hardest-hit parish in the entire state, is 95 percent white? He should; his mother lives there, though he concedes that he’s only visited the house once. How, exactly, does this flood disproportionately affect queer people? He’s gonna queer this flood? The Baton Rouge area doesn’t have many immigrants, relative to many other cities. There were some at the shelter I worked at on Sunday — a few Vietnamese folks, a handful of Latinos, but the shelter’s population looked like this region of Louisiana: a bit more than half white, the rest black. But God forbid that demographic facts should get in the way of progressive prejudice. He concludes:

I hope these will not be the only stories the media will miss. I hope there will also be stories of renewed awakening and commitment to the liberation of all people; stories of Louisiana finding ways to rebuild that don’t compound its histories of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism; stories of people joining together to address systemic injustice; stories of a recovery where no one is left behind.

The story of the Louisiana flood is of people joining together to address the fact that 100,000 people, more or less, suddenly didn’t have a place to live, and have lost almost everything they own. But this guy can’t see that, because he’s not looking. I don’t believe that Obama and Clinton are quit so ideological as that, but I think that’s how they see the world. And there’s no place for a lot of us in that world.

Trump is Trump: he only sees himself. But the Republican Party elites may well go back to their own blindness, their own not-seeing-us, after Trump passes. Republican commentator and bona fide #NeverTrumper Pete Spiliakos warns:

Let me tell you about some of the Trump supporters I know. They aren’t the cartoons you see on the internet. They would sooner cut their own throats than send a tweet. They don’t believe that Trump is going to Make America Great Again. They are undeceived about Trump’s many flaws and they aren’t shy about admitting them.

What they see in Trump is someone who has at least some hope of getting a response out of a sluggish political system. They would agree with Martin Gurrithat Trump is a wrecking ball, but they would argue that only a wrecking ball will get the attention of our comfortable and self-serving political elites.

But Trump is not just a wrecking ball. They also see Trump as a businessman who has actually done things. This is what can’t be erased by all the talk of Trump’s bankruptcies. While some of Trump’s companies went out of business, he still built those companies. He built residencies in which people lived, and casinos in which they people were entertained. Even if some of those businesses eventually went bad—even if all of those businesses had gone bad—Trump would still compare favorably with politicians whose only visible skills are giving speeches and cashing checks. These Trump supporters suspect that, one way or another, things are going to end badly with Trump. But they are absolutely certain of being utterly ignored by any of the conventional politicians who ran for president this cycle.

That doesn’t make these Trump supporters right about Trump. He is too unprincipled, reckless, and malicious to be trusted with any kind of public authority. But it also doesn’t make them wrong about the unresponsiveness of the political system. As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, increasing immigration is very unpopular with both the general public and Republican primary voters, and yet most of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates supported increasing immigration.

Now we have (some) anti-Trump conservatives arguing for a purge and humiliation of Trump’s current supporters. Political consultant Rick Wilson’s twitter account produces a steady stream of Trump criticism. All of it is deserved, but Wilson goes too far when he promises:

So when it’s over, Trumpkins, remember: You’re not purging us. We’re purging you.The problem is that there are far more Trump supporters than conservative dead-ender Trump opponents. (Disclosure: I am a conservative dead-ender Trump opponent.) Any center-right majority is going to involve former Trump supporters as a majority or near-majority of the coalition.

A bigger problem is the smug and unjustified moralism. Wilson says that the lessons of the “detailed” 2012 Republican National Committee autopsy were ignored. But that autopsy was not so detailed that it offered any advice on how the Republicans could update their obsolete and rich-centered economic agenda. That part must have slipped their minds.

Read the whole thing. Elitism is not just a problem with the Democrats. As Peggy Noonan said. I was e-mailing with an anti-establishment conservative friend the other day, who said that the real danger is that after Trump flames out, there’s a very real risk that the GOP will learn all the wrong lessons from the Trump phenomenon. Yep.

I wish I could adequately express to you how exciting it has been to watch and to be part of the little platoons all over this region, not waiting for the government to tell them what to do, but getting busy helping their neighbors. I’m just finishing up writing the Benedict Option book, in which I talk about the politics of our future being localism and the “anti-politics” of Vaclav Havel, Vaclav Benda, and the Czech dissidents. This flood experience feels vindicating.

 

Posted in , , , , , . Tagged , , , , , , , , . 114 comments

‘Please, Please, I Can’t Stay Here No More’

14064216_10102892553231946_8413923696647945471_n

My friend Father Peter Kang from Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville wrote this beautiful tribute to Grace’s pastor, Father Roman Roldan, pictured above. Here’s what he said:

Since its doors opened and began taking in flood victims, Fr. Roldan has been tirelessly volunteering at the impromptu shelter in Celtic Studios. I went in with him yesterday after a clergy meeting in Baton Rouge and caught a glimpse of the important work he and other volunteers are doing.

When I first walked in to Celtic Studios, I was a little overwhelmed with the sheer number of people – thousands of displaced victims, hundreds of community volunteers, hundreds of personnel from the military, police, red cross, FEMA, Verizon, Duracell, Tide… All compressed into a slowly shuffling, shifting, sitting, sleeping sea – of people. Where does one even begin?

Yesterday, as I understand it, there was a small altercation between evacuees in one of the housing locations. (I actually think that with so many people staying together in one place, still reeling from the trauma and stress of the past week, it is amazing there aren’t more such incidents).

In a cot near the scuffle sat an elderly woman. “You might want to go check on that one,” Fr. Roldan was told, “she looks a little shaken up.”

She had been in the shelter since it opened 4 days ago – no family nearby, no savings to speak of, and seemingly nowhere to go. Like so many others, she had lost everything – all her worldly possessions – soaked through and destroyed in the flood.

In the course of their conversation, Fr. Roldan (a trained clinical social worker) realized that she had already qualified for housing assistance, that there were state resources available to relocate her, and that there was no reason for her to be in the shelter aside from the need to submit the proper forms and documentation.

“Please, if you can, get me out of here.” She sounded desperate. “Please, please, I can’t stay here no more. Please get me out of here.” With a big smile and some jovial hand gestures, Fr. Roldan assured her: “Don’t worry, my friend, I will help you. I’m going to get you out of here.”

It took hours. Navigating red tape and bureaucracies like a ninja, by the end of the day she was out of the shelter and into a new apartment. She had only two pillows and a blanket from the shelter – no bed, no chairs, no dishes, cups, pots or pans – but she was grateful nonetheless just to have a place of her own. Fr. Roldan then put out the call and tonight she sleeps on a donated air-mattress and has some basic provisions to see her through the coming days. There’s still a ways to go, but this is at least a start.

With so many people in similar situations, so much unmet need, so much heartache and frustration – a case like [this] may seem only a drop in the bucket. And in the big picture, we may ask, what difference does such exhausting effort actually make? I suppose for the statistician, it’s true, it does not change grand totals very much. But for this woman, I am sure, it makes a world of difference.

It can be hard sometimes when beholding events of such magnitude to remember – that behind every number is a face, a particular individual, a person created in the image of God, of irreplaceable value and worth, whom we are ever called to love. And despite what we may think or desire, none of us has the power or ability to move the seas, to re-form the world. But all of us can put a drop in a bucket, and in so doing, make a world of difference.

Amen. God spits in the mud and rubs it on our eyes, and we can see. I love these stories! Pass them on — they’re happening everywhere around us here in south Louisiana these days.

Posted in . Tagged , , , . 4 comments
← Older posts Newer posts →