Monthly Archives: March 2004


An Annunciation Hymn

Yet another song nobody but me will ever sing. Just to make things really special, I’ve once again written it to an Irish tune version which doesn’t seem to exist on the Web. Heigh-ho.

Ttto: “The Blackbird” (Irish version)

Oh, she was the white doe without a spot on her
And she was the lily in Eden might grow
But like any young girl she lived with her relations,
Till God told an angel, “To Mary now go.”

Said the angel, “Hail, Mary. You are highly favored,
And you’ll bear the messiah foretold in God’s plan.”
“Oh, how can this be?” she asked, although frightened.
“For I am a virgin and do not know man.”

“The Spirit of God will throw o’er you His shadow.
And if you should doubt that such marvels you’ll see,
Your cousin thought barren is with child now, Mary,
For with God there is nothing that can’t come to be.”

Then brave Mary told him, “I am the Lord’s servant.
Let it be done to me just as He may will.”
Then the angel departed, and God came to Mary;
The Word became flesh while her yes echoed still.

Oh, she is the white doe without a spot on her
And she is the lily in Eden might grow,
And she says, “Have no fear of the serpent and dragon;
Only listen to my son wherever you go.”

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Happy Medieval European New Year!

Yes, it’s Annunciation time once again, the feast that determined the date of Christmas. And yes, this was once the beginning of Europe’s year, until the Gregorian calendar came in. (The Saxons and Germans had to be different, and started the year on December 25.) Here’s a good page on the old Julian calendar.

The reason this was once considered the beginning of the church year is that Mary’s yes to God undid Eve’s no. Human history began again as the new Adam was conceived; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in Mary’s womb.

May we also give God our trust, cooperation and service.

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On Responding to Annoying New Liturgy Elements

Yesterday, Barbara Nicolosi posted some comments about the latest silliness propagated by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the charming fascist way her parish’s priests and ministers were promoting this bizarre interpretation of the GIRM regulations. I really did feel for her, particularly about the latter; and I’m so glad my archdiocese has actually followed the intent of the GIRM and not made me stand around. But I stand by my comments in Amy Welborn’s comment box: there is a lot to be said for just offering it up.

Sometimes we can and must act. Sometimes we cannot. But either way, we have an obligation not to brood about our wrongs. We are not supposed to tell over the beads of our Miseries, meditating on either the Crowning of Liturgists or the Slapping of the Ruler. Conservative and liberal whining is equally stupid. It does not produce progress or peace; it only gives us high blood pressure and a sense of other people’s sins.

(Also, moaning and poning about Latin has been going on all my life. I love languages and naturally felt sympathetic initially. If I can stay away from hearing people whine about it, I can remember how much I like Latin myself. But I think everything has already been said about five zillion times, so you’re not only giving yourself high blood pressure; you’re giving it to me! Whining alone has affected my sympathy for your cause.)

This is not to say that some people do not genuinely suffer at the hands of some other people in the Church. This is not to say that real abuses and even some sillinesses should not be fought; they should. But Catholics should always act in respect, courtesy, and love — sometimes tough love, sure. And before or after action, we need to give ourselves and our troubles to God, not give ourselves to our troubles. If those troubles are not so great and terrible as others’ are, we need to keep them in perspective. And then, we might just offer up our own suffering as a prayer for the relief of those who have it worse.

So don’t whine. Don’t dwell. Don’t get distracted. Offer it up!

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The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This is a wonderful movie about love and how people hurt each other, and all adults should see it. Some of the details of the romance are rather…problematic (and of course the main character live together — Hollywood believes that only sex after marriage is wrong). Still, the movie itself is so good, and has such a pro-life, pro-true love, pro-commitment message, that it seems churlish to punish the rest of the movie for not knowing any better. One could in fact argue that the living together bit is exactly what the target audience is doing, and therefore that anything else would be an unrealistic examination of the problems of modern romance.

Mostly, though, this is a movie about the problem of pain. If you could remove all unpleasant experiences from your brain, our society says that would be a good and healthy thing. This movie says we have to have risk and unpleasantness or live sterile, unloving lives. The same people who love us will at some point hurt us, and we aren’t going to be all that nice to them, either. Love is all about forgivemess, reparation, and trying again.

Mostly, though, this movie is amazingly fun, emotional, and interesting. Even the music is wonderful. I enjoyed it very much. Go see Jim Carrey submerge himself in the character of a normal guy, and Kate Winslet create an impulsive young woman you’ll like and never forget. This is science fiction for people who hate sf, and I don’t begrudge it them. Don’t keep reading this blog. Go!

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Who’s on Ninth?

Christopher Eccleston will play the Doctor on the new season of Doctor Who starting in 2005!

(Happy dance, happy dance) He’s back…and it really is about time!

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A Week of Joy

It’s past the halfway point of Lent this weekend. Yay! Also this week, we had St. Patrick’s Day (Lamh laidir!) and the feast of St. Joseph (we’re freed up from Friday fasting and abstinence, and nobody told me?!). It was a gala week.

But in Iran, it was more than that. The mullahcracy told Iranians they had to mourn, since this year the lunar mourning month of Moharram is now — despite the fact that Nou Ruz, the traditional Persian new year, is on the spring solstice. Also, they announced that Chahar Shanbe Soori, the pre-new year celebrations weren’t Islamic (which they’re not — they come down from the old Zoroastrian society and maybe before), and nobody should celebrate them. They said this to a populace already torqued off.

Chahar Shanbe Soori involves playing with fire. Jumping over bonfires, setting off firecrackers, all that sort of thing. And the mullahs tried to play with Chahar Shanbe Soori. Poor things. if the holiday’s been celebrated for more than two thousand years, and by members of every faith in Iran — and even by the Kurds! — Iranians are not going to give it up now.

So Wednesday was Chahar Shanbe Soori, and Friday was Nou Ruz, and the next two weeks are going to be one continual round of visits by Iranians to other Iranians. The whole thing wraps up with a picnic out in the country on the 13th day (Sizdeh Be-dar). The little grass sprouts folks have been growing (similar to the Adonis sprouts and “resurrection grass” used to celebrate Spring throughout the mideast from ancient times) get flung away, and bad luck and the old year are flung away with it. Unmarried women wish to bring a husband with them next year. (I really love all the Nou Ruz customs. Frankly, I think Americans are very likely to adopt at least a few — like Chahar Shanbe Soori! — because they’re fun.

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With Deepest Sympathy

I’m afraid that I forgot yesterday to blog about the bombing in Madrid. I’ve long known that ETA was a sick and disgusting group, but this was low even for them. They’ve tried it before; this time they succeeded. They are trying to disrupt Spain’s elections. But the people of Spain will not surrender democracy to terrorism, I know. They’ve fought too long and too hard this century to give up tamely. Let us all stand by Spain today and in the days to come.

May St. James the Greater (Santiago) intercede for the police and military seeking the evildoers. May St. Isidore of Madrid and St. Teresa of Avila pray for those seeking answers to such horror. May St. John of the Cross pray for those who suffer and need healing. May Our Lady pray for those who mourn. May the ten Madrid martyrs, also murdered in the name of politics, pray for all those who died, that they may come safely home to God. And may God, who knows all who were murdered and all the murderers, preserve freedom and bring both justice and healing to the noble and beautiful land of Spain. Amen.

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Archbishop Pilarczyk on “What Were the Bishops Thinking?”

I went to UD last night instead of choir practice, because I wanted to hear what the archbishop had to say from his own lips. He spoke for about thirty minutes and answered questions for about thirty minutes. I’m going to comment on both.

However, first I’m going to comment on some of the reporters’ stories.

Tom Beyerlein’s story for the Dayton Daily News is excellently done and has no factual errors. There are also some decent photos. I am pleased with this story.

Reid Forgrave’s story for the Cincinnati Enquirer is pretty good. There’s a slant, but he sticks to facts, and he strives to catch the mood. One big booboo, though, which was clearly indicated in both the program and many remarks during the talk. Forgrave describes this as “the opening lecture for a three-semester-long series at the University of Dayton addressing the abuse scandal”. In fact, Pilarczyk was the third speaker in “The Wounded Body of Christ: Sexual Abuse in the Church”. The first two were Anna Salter, a psychologist talking about abusers, on February 3, and Craig Martin with Lief Noll, talking about abuse victims, on February 29. (The last speaker will be Kathleen McChesney, an ex-FBI agent working for the USCCB on child protection, talking about the new reports — on March 29, if you’re interested.) Basic fact-checking or an editor with a copy of the series flyer would have prevented this.

I showed up an hour early and got a good seat on the side, close to the podium. Too bloody close, I’m afraid. I ended up getting on the TV news, apparently, which was not my plan. I may have inadvertently been sitting in some kind of victim section…but if that’s what it was, it wasn’t posted at all. There was a large section down in the center reserved for UD teachers and students, and I didn’t sit there. Anyway, I was in the front row between a couple of people about my age who’d been abused as children, and an older couple from out in God’s Country. I got the impression that one of them may have been abused, but maybe they were just sad, concerned Catholics.

A lot of people were sad; a lot of people were angry. The poor abused lady sitting next to me was both. I couldn’t blame her. We talked a bit beforehand, since she was also there very early. She was very nervous and wrought up, so I also let her read one of the books I’d brought along, which all of a sudden seemed really appropriate to hand her. (A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn. I would’ve given it to her, but she wouldn’t let me.) My old choir directors (who work at UD) were there also, to help out with the prayer service after the talk. (Mrs. Stock sang the “From Out of the Depths We Cry to You” psalm. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sing better, and to step up like that in such difficult circumstances….) I felt very uncomfortable during the talk, though, as she brought out a small folded sign and held it up for the archbishop and the cameras to see. I never even saw what she’d written on it, and judging from some of the comments she muttered during the talk, it might not have been all that nice. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do.

As for my own impressions…hmm. Well, I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve seen Pilarczyk in person before. He acted pretty much the same way last night as at Confirmations and other visits to places in his archdiocese. He definitely talked the same way. He doesn’t have a monotone, but he does have a lecture rhythm. Buh-dump buh-dump buh-dump buh-DAH, buh-dump buh-dump buh-dump buh-dump buh-DUN. Every sentence he reads tends to have this swing. It overwhelms the natural expressiveness of his words and takes out all the drama. Also, he didn’t actually tell a joke before his presentation, but he did make a few lighthearted remarks about his one-time summer job at UD as a kid. I think this was a mistake, as folks weren’t in the mood. Furthermore, although he warned people ahead of time that he couldn’t comment about specific cases, he said this in more of his normal lecture tone than as “I really would like to get into this stuff, but I can’t.” Again, showing a bit of emotion would have helped, as people felt disappointed to get nothing but ‘lawyer talk’ when (inevitably) they asked for comments on specific cases. This is a shame, as my impression was that the Archbishop was not really being cold.

This became more clear in the summing up of his presentation. With the bleakness of deep emotion held off by main force, he said that he was deeply sorry and “I expect I will carry that sorrow with me to the grave.” (You will probably see this quote on the TV news if you see anything.) If he had made a similar comment with similar emotion at the beginning of his talk, it would probably have helped. (Although the Archbishop might have had a lot more difficulty getting through his talk.)

There was a lot of stuff in the archbishop’s talk about the prevalent psych theories at various times, the way law enforcement reacted, and what the situation was in canon law. As resentful as the people in the audience showed themselves to be later about abusers who are still on the diocesan payroll, Pilarczyk seemed to be acutely unhappy (in his dry way) about his canon law duty to provide “sustenance” to all the creepy priests that haven’t yet been kicked out by due process. In the question period, one man asked when they’d all be gone and all the victims would get justice. In a rare moment of letting his emotions show, and with considerable grim satisfaction, the archbishop promised that “That day will come.” He qualified it with “Maybe not tomorrow,” though. This didn’t go over particularly well, but…I think Pilarczyk was really being honest there.

The major thrust of the archbishop’s summary, however, was that he believed that the majority of the mishandling of the Scandal was a tragedy. Not the tragic flaw kind, either, but the kind where each person tries to do the right thing, but everything works out wrong. I thought this sounded like a fair summary of the situation in our archdiocese, but as we’ve found out, there are other places where the rot went a lot higher. Still, the archbishop said in the beginning that he couldn’t talk about what all the bishops were thinking; he could only talk about the rationale among bishops he’d worked closely with and himself.

The question and answer period went much as angstily as you’d expect, with the Archbishop responding much as you’d expect from the above. Stupidest moment in the question period: a guy from Channel 19 in Cincinnati asking everyone who’d been abused to stand up. A few people sprang to their feet, but all the other abused people stayed seated and a lot of shocked hissing at the reporter ensued. My mother commented rather bitterly about the reporter when I told her about this afterwards, “He must have been a man.” The archbishop ended up having a chance to lecture the reporter on abused people’s right to privacy, which was ironic and amusing (to me, anyway). The rest of the press did not use the Q&A period, as they seemed to realize it was for the people, not them.

There were a lot of people who just wanted to ask why, as you’d imagine, and others who brought up their own specific cases and their dissatisfaction with them. The father of two victims said Pilarczyk would have dealt with the whole thing sooner if he’d been a father. Another woman refused to believe that parents would have covered things up, even in the past. (The old folks who’d been abuse victims from back in the forties looked dubious at this.) One gentleman said that he’d told Pilarczyk at a meeting about being abused by a specific priest, and that Pilarczyk had said he hadn’t known about this guy before, but that it turned out later that the archbishop had known about the abuser from a previous case. He accused the archbishop of lying. A parishioner from St. Christopher’s in Vandalia reported that a visiting priest had scandalized the parish by announcing in his homily that he was still friends with serial abuser David Kelley. (For a moment, the parishioner couldn’t remember Mr. Kelley’s name, which was interesting in light of the previous accusation of lying.) Anyway, the parishioner’s pastor had said that he wasn’t going to talk to the visitor about it, and so the guy wanted the archbishop to say something to the visiting priest. The archbishop looked very much astonished and said he would. The other comment that astonished him was a woman who pointed out that all the parishes and people, not just the victimized ones, could use some counseling on dealing with the Scandal.

Also, one of the guys from my choir (also playing hooky) stood up and asked the archbishop to forbid Voice of the Faithful from using parish facilities for their activities. I then got to witness the local VOTF leader snarking in hushed tones with my compadre in the hallway afterward. Too bad you won’t get a transcript of that, ’cause it was an education. Oh, and there was a non-Catholic gentleman who apparently wanted to ask about the 80% of the molestation being done by homosexual priests and banning gay priests, but didn’t quite manage to get it said. The archbishop explained the Church’s teachings on homosexuality (orientation vs. behavior). Then the guy asked whether the archbishop thought homosexuality could lead to “bad behavior”. The archbishop said he did, and that heterosexuality also led to bad behavior. This got a chuckle from just about everybody.

I really don’t know what to say about it all. I’m glad I went, I’m glad to know there was some kind of rationale, but…it breaks your heart to see so many people hurting so much. I was very moved by the archbishop’s description of how he felt like the captain of a ship sailing on stormy seas. But I think he’d have a bit more luck if he didn’t do quite so much of the Hornblower “isolation of command”, “never show your true feelings even if folks think it inhuman”. Just a suggestion.

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Spanish History for Bujold Fans

Presumably most Bujold fans are aware that her two most recent fantasy novels, The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, are set in an alternate fantasy world version of Spain. People who are interested in learning how things turned out for Iselle might wish to read Washington Irving’s Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. As Irving explains in his foreword, the book is a popular history which includes both references to a fake historian (as in Scott’s novels) and real footnotes referring to real period chronicles. Irving also wrote the Legends of the Alhambra. For something a bit more rigorous and scholarly, try William H. Prescott’s History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic. However, be aware that historians often show a great deal of anti-Catholic (or anti-past) bias against Isabella and Ferdinand. They were Renaissance rulers, sometimes better, sometimes worse than their peers. Here’s a short version of their lives, while this page has some nice portraits of the two of them.

The military orders portrayed by Bujold were inspired by the four great Spanish military orders: Santiago de la Espada (red cross), Calatrava (red Greek cross with M for Mary making fleur de lys-shaped ends), Alcantara (dark green, same as Calatrava), and Montesa (black with red, same as Calatrava).

So you want to cheat and have all the equivalent characters spelled out for you? Okay. Spoiler-riffic equivalents below!

Chalion = Castile
Roya Orico = King Enrique IV (the Impotent) of Castile
Royina Sara = Juana of Portugal, Henry’s queen
March Martou dy Jironal = Beltran de La Cueva, duke of Albuquerque
Roya Ias = King Juan II of Castile, son of Henry III of Castile and Catherine of Gaunt
(one of John of Gaunt’s daughters)
Dowager Royina Ista = Isabel of Portugal, exiled second wife of the late Juan II of Castile
Lord dy Lutez = Alvaro de Luna
Royse Teidez = Prince Alfonso of Castile, Isabel’s son
Royesse Iselle = Princess Isabel of Castile
Ibra = Aragon
The Fox of Ibra = King Juan II of Aragon
Roya Fonsa the Fairly Wise = King Alfonso X (called the Wise) of Castile and Leon
The Golden General = Muhammad Ibn Yusuf Ibn Nasr, founder of the Nasrid dynasty. He reconquered Granada for the Moors.
Brajar = Portugal
Darthaca = France
South Ibra = Catalonia?
Yiss = Navarre? Andorra?
Cardegoss = Toledo


Lady Betriz = Beatriz de Bobadilla

Bergon = Ferdinand (yeah, you and I both knew that).

Alas! Lois McMaster Bujold stops by my blog, and it’s a mess! Well, that’s Murphy for ya….


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The Columnist Side of Drury

While Drury was working as a reporter in DC, he also wrote columns for the Palo Alto Times, the Waterloo Courier, and occasionally for other newspapers. Some of these columns and some excerpts from them are collected in Three Kids in a Cart: A Visit to Ike, and Other Diversions. It is a remarkable collection of insight, foresight, and sometimes (in his retrospective comments) hindsight.

“A Gray Day at the Beach” (December 7, 1951)

It was a half-cloudy day and we were coming home from church. Somebody said brightly, “Turn on the radio and let’s see if if we’re at war with Japan.” We did, and we were. Later we drove out to the beach and looked at the Pacific. It was as though we had never seen it. It looked gray and hostile. It didn’t look as though it belonged to us anymore.

For a while, it didn’t; and then after a while, it did again. We were all brave, with a bravery it is hard to conceive of or imagine now. Some of us were so brave as to put the rest of us under obligation forever. But eventually the bravery was no longer necessary, the dark and mysterious and terrible things no longer took place on the other side of the sea.

Where did it all go, the dedication, the unity of feeling, the hopes, the determination? How did we let it get away? Whose was the fault, where the error?

Well, it is all gone now. Across the same gray sea the terror is on again….For what purpose, and to what end?

Sometimes it is hard to see. We work and we strive and we worry and we hope, and it ends in nothing, or what seems to be nothing. We take refuge in cliches: we say, “Well, it is all very well to have hindsight.” Or we say, “Well, it is only human to make mistakes.” Or we say, “Would you have done any better?” Or we talk about the will of God, as though it were His fault that we have ruined the world.

This is how we hold off the raving madness of what we had, and what we lost, and what did and did not do.

Is this the way out?…It is possible to wonder. Perhaps this is the cowardly way, the way foredoomed to failure. Perhaps it is time for bravery again.

Perhaps it is time to look upon the last ten years with the eyes of absolute candor, flinching at nothing, rationalizing nothing, excusing nothing. Perhaps it is time to analyze the universal guilt. observing how each of us contributed to the weakening, the wavering, the glib glossing-over, the deliberate hiding from reality, the great national pretending that peace could be automatic and painless even when we knew in our heart of hearts that it would exact continued sacrifice and restraint and forebearance and daring and imagination. Perhaps we should start with the knowledge that to some peoples history has given the privilege of of placing all the blame on their leaders, but not to us. In our nation, we are the leaders…

…first comes humility. After that, we may possibly begin to approach salvation.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And here’s Drury in a prophetic mood, for all those who don’t think it’s appalling that many Democrats want all their conservatives and moderates out…as well as being an admonition to those Republicans who’d like to drive all the liberals out of the GOP’s big tent.

“Divide and Conquer” (Sept. 13, 1948).

….According to this theory it is often said that it would be a desirable thing to have a political realignment which would put all those on the left in one party and all those on the right in another. There could be no greater tragedy for America. With such alignment would come an end to the talent for compromise which is the foundation of our country. The talent would die because it would no longer have an opportunity to function. As people became pushed more rigidly and inescapably into conflicting compartments, a steady decline in social and political relations between them would occur. All or nothing would soon become the slogan; and those who succeeded in getting all would find themselves holding nothing.

Diversity of opinion on the part of individuals and within groups is one of the great checkreins on American government. Given sufficient diversity, there has to be compromise, for only by compromise can anything constructive get done. End the diversity and you end the compromise.

And here’s a useful explication of American foreign policy as it should be, and will be, until and unless America is no longer America:

“A Shocking Proposal” (June 30, 1950)

So we can dismiss all the mistakes, running all the way back to Yalta and beyond…nobody is going to profit from a rehash. Probably nobody is even going to profit from one basic truism which underlies everything else — namely, that the United States of America has always fought, and if it remains worthy of its heritage always will fight, in defense of human liberty, freedom and decency.

If that fact could just once be accepted by the leaders of other powers, none would dare to even begin the series of steps which inevitably lead to war with America. If it could just be accepted by the leaders of America, none would ever have to awaken…to find the country with its back against the wall starting the long road back through an inexcusable war…

Time after time…the jeering questions have come back: “Are you in favor of going to war? Are you in favor of sending American boys to die?” And not once have the critics had the guts to come back with the obvious answers:

“Yes, we are in favor of going to war, if that is the only way to preserve human integrity. Yes, we are in favor of sending American boys to die, if…that is the only way human freedom can be saved.”

We are always too cowardly to state the principle — and we are always too brave to let the principle go down to defeat.We have always fought for it. We are fighting for it now. And please God, we always will fight for it.

…As far as the final reality is concerned, it doesn’t matter in the least whether we approach this truism…with all sorts of crawfishing, dodging and self-serving rationalizations, or whether we simply announce at the end of one war that if human freedom is challenged we will fight another. As a matter of fact, we have never tried the latter policy…But…it is exactly what we have done.

We cover up our one consistent national principle under words and phrases and diplomatic double-talk until…no dictator will believe it until too late. We confuse our enemies no less than we confuse ourselves…

…Many believe…that the one way to break the pattern is to bring the truth into the open and simply say, “If you attack the free, we will fight. We give you our word, supported by our entire national history. Attack at your peril. We will destroy you if you do.”

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The Blogger Side of Drury

NOVEMBER 21, 1943. There was a soft warm haze over the city when I got into Union Station at 4 this afternoon. In it the Capitol loomed up massive and domineering across the Plaza. Behind me as I stood in the doorway looking out the great station echoed with the fretful rendezvous of trains, the murmurous clatter of many feet, the hectic excitements of arrival and departure, while down from on high magnified ten times over came the imperious voices of women calling the place-names of America. Around me in unceasing flood passed the travelers. Daily they come in their thousands and daily the city absorbs them, vomiting forth other thousands to make room. Night and day unceasing, humanity on the move, closing in on this focus of its hopes, desires, ambitions, fears and worries from all over America and all over the earth.

I for one am here to see what I can, and appraise it as best I can; disillusioned like all Americans about their ruling heart, not too certain that it is taking us in any very worthwhile or consistent direction, yet possessed still of some inner faith and certainty of its essential and ultimate purposes. We muddle, we blunder, we fall on our faces, and we survive; how, or by what peculiar grace, no man can say exactly. This is where it is done, however, and this is where I shall watch it, fascinated I know, encouraged perhaps — perhaps even, now and then, inspired.

NOVEMBER 22, 1943The House guards are informal, hasty, unconcerned, slap your pockets, slap your coat, and pass you. The Senate police are much more formal, making you get in line, spreading your coat out on a table, challenging servicemen to show their furlough papers or passes, and generally being more officious. It is much easier to get a good seat in the House gallery than it is in the Senate, which does not seem to be any too well constructed from an audience standpoint.

The late Allen Drury was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and a good observer. But I never knew just how good until now.

You see, I got the sudden urge to reread his novels. Since they didn’t have them at my branch of the library, I had to go down to the Main one and get them hoiked out of storage in the basement. But the catalog also listed some nonfiction books by the guy, and I decided I might as well check them out, too.

A Senate Journal: 1943-1945 is literally that. Drury had been a newspaperman in California, went into the Army during the war, then got wounded and sent back to the US. He decided to go to DC and try to get hired on there. But one of the first things he did in DC was to go to Capitol Hill and watch the Senate at work. He seems to have fallen in love. Somebody very wise at UPI not only hired him, but assigned him to be their Senate correspondent. Drury went to work, with the kind of delight and fervor I only wish every reporter could have. Meanwhile, he wrote down his impressions and saved them to show his family and friends.

JUNE 6, 1944. D-Day came today, for me at 6:30 in the morning when the office called. “Al,” said someone on the desk laconically, “the show is on.” Color at the Capitol might be needed, he said; I departed for the Hill forthwith. Subsequently it was decided that I would write none, for indeed there was none to write. Just a beautiful cool morning, the flag rippling in the wind, the sun slanting across the front of the huge old building, a few cars passing early from Union Station, green grass glistening, an air of quiet peace. Elsewhere time hung suspended and young men who would never see another day plunged into hell.

The result is that A Senate Journal reads very much like a political blog from the late days of FDR and the early days of Truman. It’s fascinating reading, especially since most of us got very little information in history class about the end of World War II and the beginning of the postwar peace. I had no idea that the power struggle in Advise and Consent between the President and the Senate was based on actual events in 1944. Along the way, all the famous people are pen-sketched with the same skill as in his novels. So I watched in fascinated horror as truly scary legislation was introduced by the administration and then defeated by Senatorial determination, delay, or simple human whim. I found out that Yalta wasn’t the beginning of Western concessions of territory to the Soviets, but rather the conclusion of a process. I met Truman when he was running his committee, saw him become vice president and learned that wasn’t necessarily a powerless position, and then saw him become president as the nation reeled. Finally, I saw the UN begin.

JULY 27, 1945. For the first time something of the world’s agony and its terrible tragedy were brought into the debate today as Walter George, overcome with emotion and the memory of his lost son, spoke for the Charter. It was not one of his best speeches, it didn’t hang together very well, it wasn’t very well-connected or rounded, but it came from the heart, and it was profoundly moving. There were moments when he was unable to speak at all, when he stood fighting for control at his desk, one hand gripping it tightly, the other tracing nervous patterns over the surface. There were times when he would begin to speak and then have to stop, too choked to go on. There were times when, almost dazed, he repeated himself and wandered in his words. But from Walter George, more than from any other who has spoken to date, there came the reason why it is such a desperate need and such a desperate hope that something, anything, prevent another war. When he had finished Tobey proposed that the Senate rise in silent respect and sympathy. Saltonstall and Hart, both of whom have also lost sons, passed by George’s desk to shake his hand.

Like most people of my generation, I’ve been taught to see World War II in black and white, with a more heroic sort of American than the lesser mortals of our time. There is something immensely reassuring about learning that yesterday’s Senate was not really all that different from today’s, as well as something frightening about knowing that liberty and justice have always stood a hairsbreadth from tyranny in this land. And yet…and yet, we have not stepped over that hair, because ordinary Americans will not have it, and because even our statesmen have been ordinary Americans. Drury, in his journalism as well as his novels, often paused to sing the wonder and beauty of everyday democracy. I think these anecdotes show us good reason to sing.

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The Works of Allen Drury

Allen Drury was dang good, yet his novels are disappearing from the shelves of our local library. Right now, when his ideas and observations are more cogent than ever, I would like to encourage you to read lots of Drury!

Policy Review ran an article on “Allan Drury and the Washington Novel”, and the Washington Post on “Allan Drury, Father of the D.C. Drama”. Also, here’s a bibliography of Drury’s works, both fiction and nonfiction. If you’re wondering why an sf site would list Drury, it’s because many of his works fit comfortably as science fiction. In fact, Drury was one of the few to predict the Soviet Union’s sudden collapse — though only as a best-case scenario. 😉 Remember, political science is a social science, too!

Anyway, I’m not the only person who appreciates Drury. And thanks to that Power Line post, I found this post on A Mind That Suits, written by one of Drury’s nephews. Pretty cool, no?

(And if the nephew comes here — yes, I know I’m quoting huuuuuge chunks here, but it’s so hard to pick out isolated quotes! And besides, I can’t exactly convince people by taking my library books to their houses and reading out the good bits…well, unless there’s an audiobook release of all the books. Hey, and wouldn’t that be great? Dramatic readings on CD…yum….)

The best thing is that A Mind That Suits is busy archiving and protecting his uncle’s papers (either these or whatever Drury didn’t give to Stanford — and it’s not uncommon for an author to have several sets of apers around!), apparently in preparation for a book on him. Obviously I think a biography is badly needed. But I am also envious of the nephew’s good fortune. There is something strangely intimate about going through someone’s papers, as I learned as an archives intern. The little doings and thoughts of a stranger can become part of your life, and their times your own — for a while. To do this service for a relative is overwhelmingly interesting and bittersweet. In point of fact, I couldn’t bring myself to do it when I was asked to type out my grandfather and dead grandmother’s WWII letters. It just got to be too much. (Well, that and I honestly couldn’t read Grandpa’s handwriting.) So I give A Mind That Suits my kudos for taking this on.

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