Honourable Means, writing at The Bonnie Blue Blog posts and comments upon CS Lewis' Review of "The Fellowship of the Ring" by JRR Tolkien.
It is well timed, to my mind, and he explains --
I posted this here for a few reasons:
1. I love Tolkien and CS Lewis, and find their works "ennobling", inspiring, and spiritually uplifting.
2. I celebrate individual works of great achievement: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Silmarillion constitute one man's "lifeblood" -- the sum total of a massive synthesis of imagination and scholarship sustained and created over (literally) 60 years of effort. His books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, the Return of the King, and The Silmarillion are the most impressive work of fiction of which I am aware (includes Frank Herbert's Dune; I'm sure you can think of others).
He succeeded in what he consciously set out to do:
“set myself a task, the arrogance of which I fully recognized and trembled at: being precisely to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own.”
He started writing the original tales or notes for tales in the trenches of France during the First World War, and the Silmarillion was published in 1977, four years after his death.
3. There have been setbacks and ups and downs in the patriot blogosphere of late.
One very big up is the excellent job that David Codrea and Mike Vanderbeogh have done on the Project Gunwalker scandal.
On the other hand, some posts lately have spoken of burnout or frustration at our apparent lack of numbers, or the apparent futility of our efforts.
What Tolkien described in his works about the end of the Third Age of Middle-Earth applies to our era as well:
“there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain.”
Somehow, I feel that the efforts of the patriot blogosphere are like what Lewis said of the quests and efforts of the heroes of the Tolkien story:
"Not wholly vain -- it is the cool middle point between illusion and disillusionment."
"Some posts lately have spoken of burnout or frustration at our apparent lack of numbers, or the apparent futility of our efforts."
I can't help but think that maybe he was thinking of this post by Pete at Western Rifles Shooters (who posts under the name of Concerned American) which I must confess disturbed me more than a little when I read it.
Having been completely enmeshed in Gunwalker and other related issues as well as Absolved, I couldn't take the time to respond, but it bothered me greatly. I have had my share of honest differences of opinion with Pete of late, so I forwarded the link to a mutual friend and asked him to give me his thoughts on it to see if it bothered him as much as it bothered me. I still don't have time to respond to Pete, but I think Rick here has said it all for me.
Rick responded thusly:
Becoming your enemy is not the way to win. When I read this, I immediately thought of the scene in J.R.R Tolkien’s Return of the King wherein Denethor rues that Faramir has allowed Frodo to head for the Morgul Vale – and not brought the Ring of Power back to Minas Tirith. Gandalf, rightly discerning the Steward of Gondor’s character, challenges Denethor’s criticism of Faramir’s choice. [See excerpt following commentary.]
I think CA’s Friday, 18 February, 2011 post is a reflection of his personal frustration regarding the potential for restoration - which doesn’t mean that he is wrong in his observations and impressions (“… the good guys are deeply and perhaps irretrievably disadvantaged by their own rule-set”), although I think perhaps this assertion is over-stated.
I do think he is wrong in his conclusion (or at least my understanding of his conclusion). “Our gang” cannot afford to adopt the relativistic tactics of our enemy. Doing so has gotten us where we are today. Team Restoration must maintain the duality of principled Christian morality necessarily coupled with the tenets of British constitutionalism (inherent self-worth of the individual; legitimate government is a servant of the public good, not that master of its people; government’s powers and authority are limited, subject to the Higher Law of a Sovereign God) -- as these are the essential core of this uniquely American experiment in ordered Liberty. The Constitution’s republican forms cannot be divorced from the distinctly Judeo-Christian principles of natural law espoused in the Declaration of Independence. “Our gang” needs to understand this and put such principles into operation to combat our statist enemies’ machinations. And yes, even to hold firm against the underlying amoral social-contract rationale of many of our libertarian, ‘neo-conservative’ or agnostic Team Restoration co-belligerents…
(Notwithstanding Billy Beck’s accurate assessment that this present “conflict in American politics is individualism vs. collectivism in all its pretense forms and manifestation.” – the underlying premises of the individualist position are important to the restoration…)
CA falls into Denethor’s Trap. I do not blame him; I am prone to the same conclusions. Remembering that there is a higher purpose to History is the only thing that keeps me from despair. We do what we ought; we do what we must, regardless -- the end-game of history is written despite our efforts. Even if the glory that was the West goes down to utter ruin (as part of Almighty God’s master plan for the end times), we cannot, if we are to be true to our God and to our duty, true to America’s promise of ordered liberty and to our free heritage, do anything less. Yet in being true to our principled heritage we cannot fall into the tactics or adopt the unprincipled stance of our opponents.
I am concerned that CA, and others sharing his frustration, are advocating that direct actions be taken by Team Restoration – before the necessary breaches of the peace can legitimatize such actions … Yet see my response to his “We’re losing, Mike” comment in the post below. We have never been closer to awakening that remnant of actual Americans; we are still not past Ms. Wolf’s “awkward time.”
But if “our gang” loses these underlying Judeo-Christian moral principles; coupled with the limiting ideas of British Constitutionalism - if we become like our enemy - we hasten the endarkenment; we do not prevent it or overcome it.
Tactical patience, study, practice, and recruiting are the watchwords of the day.
Despair and internecine fighting are not.
Team Restoration needs disciplined leadership; its leaders and advocates need self-reinforcing support.
It is time for a long-weekend retreat to recharge each man’s soul, agree on core principles and develop lines of action for future endeavors.
Else we fall into error or despair and our opponents win.
And given the course of history, they may still ‘win” – but only for a season. And after that, comes the final judgment.
Appended is this "Excerpts of despair" from earlier email exchanges between the three of us.
… and from my 17 January comment regarding CA’s response to K”
“We're losing, Mike. [I really want Pete to explain this, in detail – no waffling. Why are we losing? Says who? In what context? And while it may not be because of Kerodin, Pete and David better understand why Kerodin is dangerous to the necessity of expanding the legitimacy of a constitutional restoration through armed resistance to overt tyranny. But until that awkward time has ended, I think Pete is unduly pessimistic on our chances for limited constitutional reform. The mood of the country has changed. Consider the impact of the Tea Party. Granted 30-40% the electorate (defined as those who minimally bother to pay attention to politics, as opposed to the great unwashed who can’t be bothered to even know which party holds the House vs. Senate vs. White House), are ‘liberals’ in the sense of statist-progressives, and are therefore almost certainly not recoverable, 60-70% the country are still traditional Americans. Bureaucratized, overweening government tyranny, the inevitable, inescapable affects the coming debt-bomb and/or currency collapse notwithstanding, we are closer than ever before in the last 50 years, to actual Americans waking up to the problem of too much government.]”
“Come up with a way that the Resistance can be something more than a paper tiger -- for despite protests to the contrary, that is how it is perceived by the few that knows it exists. [One of the main
points of Kerodin’s writings, and one of Pete’s biggest concerns, is that the restoration project is a paper tiger, that there are too few who understand, and even among those who understand, who are morally courageous enough to act, if and when that time comes… I think this is the core reason Pete disagrees with you regarding Kerodin. Pete sees some value in Kerodin’s underlying theme. Kerodin’s writings exude the same visceral frustration – that all the writing and passion on the internet are just posturing; that there is no moral courage to act. ]”
also, other referenced link:
"I keep saying it: the basic conflict in American politics is individualism vs. collectivism in all its pretense forms and manifestation. I keep saying it because no arrangements of coalition electoral politics will address this fundamental schism: as the necessary economic implications become real, so-called 'democracy' becomes impotent to manage coalition demands, all while the force of 'law' becomes more arbitrary at coalition demand.
"I've been saying it for at least fifteen years: "The pace of this thing is picking up."
"I hate to keep saying it, because I know it's no fun to hear it and it just wears my narrow white ass out to keep-ass saying it, but the real problem under all this is fucking enormous
"I really don't think it can be fixed before it really goes the way of the pear. We're really in it. In our lifetimes."
Billy Beck, Two-Four - What Really Happened
Excerpt J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
“… a captain reporting to his master such matters as had often been heard before, small things of border-war that now seemed useless and petty, shorn of their renown.
Then suddenly Faramir looked at Pippin. 'But now we come to strange matters,' he said. 'For this is not the first halfling that I have seen walking out of northern legends into the Southlands.'
At that Gandalf sat up and gripped the arms of his chair; but he said nothing, and with a look stopped the exclamation on Pippin’s lips. Denethor looked at their faces and nodded his head, as though in sign that he had read much there before it was spoken. Slowly, while the others sat silent and still, Faramir told his tale, with his eyes for the most part on Gandalf, though now and again his glance strayed to Pippin, as if to refresh his memory of others he had seen.
As his story was unfolded of his meeting with Frodo and his servant and of the events of the Henneth Annun, Pippin became aware that Gandalf’s hands were trembling as they clutched the carven wood. White they seemed now and very old, and as he looked at them, suddenly with a thrill of fear Pippin knew that Gandalf, even Gandalf himself, was troubled, even afraid. The air of the room was close and still. At last when Faramir spoke of his parting with the travelers, and of their resolve to go to Cirith Ungol, his voice fell, and he shook his head and sighed. Then Gandalf sprang up.
‘Cirith Ungol? Morgul Vale?’ he said. ‘The time, Faramir, the time? When did you part with them? When would they reach that accursed valley?’
‘I parted with them in the morning two days ago,” said Faramir. ‘It is fifteen leagues thence to the vale of the Morgulduin, if they went straight south; and then they would be still five leagues westward of the accursed Tower. At swiftest they could not come there before today, and maybe they have not come there yet. Indded I see what you fear. But the darkness is not due to their venture. It began yestereve, and all Ithilien was under shadow last night. It is clear to me that the Enemy has long planned an assault on us, and its hour had already been determined before ever the travelers left my keeping.’
Gandalf paced the floor. ‘The morning of two days ago, nigh on three days of journey! How far is the place, where you parted?’
'Some twenty-five leagues as a bird flies,' answered Faramir. 'But I could not come more swiftly. Yestereve I lay at Cair Andros, the long isle in the River northward which we hold in defence; and horses are kept on the hither bank. As the dark drew on I knew that haste was needed, so I rode thence with three others that could also be horsed. The rest of my company I sent south to strengthen the garrison at the fords of Osgiliath. I hope that I have not done ill?' He looked at his father.
'Ill?' cried Denethor, and his eyes flashed suddenly. 'Why do you ask? The men were under your command. Or do you ask for my judgement on all your deeds? Your bearing is lowly in my presence, yet it is long now since you turned from your own way at my counsel. See, you have spoken skilfully, as ever; but I, have I not seen your eye fixed on Mithrandir, seeking whether you said well or too much? He has long had your heart in his keeping.
'My son, your father is old but not yet dotard. I can see and hear, as was my wont; and little of what you have half said or left unsaid is now hidden from me. I know the answer to many riddles. Alas, alas for Boromir!'
'If what I have done displeases you, my father,' said Faramir quietly, 'I wish I had known your counsel before the burden of so weighty a judgement was thrust on me.'
'Would that have availed to change your judgement?' said Denethor. 'You would still have done just so, I deem. I know you well. Ever your desire is to appear lordly and generous as a king of old, gracious, gentle. That may well befit one of high race, if he sits in power and peace. But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death.'
'So be it,' said Faramir.
'So be it!' cried Denethor. 'But not with your death only, Lord Faramir: with the death also of your father, and of all your people, whom it is your part to protect now that Boromir is gone.'
'Do you wish then,' said Faramir, 'that our places had been exchanged?'
'Yes, I wish that indeed,' said Denethor. 'For Boromir was loyal to me and no wizard's pupil. He would have remembered his father's need, and would not have squandered what fortune gave. He would have brought me a mighty gift.'
For a moment Faramir's restraint gave way. 'I would ask you, my father, to remember why it was that I, not he, was in Ithilien. On one occasion at least your counsel has prevailed, not long ago. It was the Lord of the City that gave the errand to him.'
'Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself,' said Denethor. 'Have I not tasted it now many nights upon my tongue foreboding that worse yet lay in the dregs? As now indeed I find. Would it were not so! Would that this thing had come to me!'
'Comfort yourself!' said Gandalf. 'In no case would Boromir have brought it to you. He is dead, and died well; may he sleep in peace! Yet you deceive yourself. He would have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.'
The face of Denethor set hard and cold. 'You found Boromir less apt to your hand, did you not?' he said softly. 'But I who was his father say that he would have brought it to me. You are wise, maybe, Mithrandir, yet with all your subtleties you have not all wisdom. Counsels may be found that are neither the webs of wizards nor the haste of fools. I have in this matter more lore and wisdom than you deem. '
'What then is your wisdom?' said Gandalf.
'Enough to perceive that there are two follies to avoid. To use this thing is perilous. At this hour, to send it in the hands of a witless halfling into the land of the Enemy himself, as you have done, and this son of mine, that is madness.'
'And the Lord Denethor what would he have done?'
'Neither. But most surely not for any argument would he have set this thing at a hazard beyond all but a fool's hope, risking our utter ruin, if the Enemy should recover what he lost. Nay, it should have been kept, hidden, hidden dark and deep. Not used, I say, unless at the uttermost end of need, but set beyond his grasp, save by a victory so final that what then befell would not trouble us, being dead.'
'You think, as is your wont, my lord, of Gondor only,' said Gandalf. 'Yet there are other men and other lives, and time still to be. And for me, I pity even his slaves.'
'And where will other men look for help, if Gondor falls?' answered Denethor. 'If I had this thing now in the deep vaults of this citadel, we should not then shake with dread under this gloom, fearing the worst, and our counsels would be undisturbed. If you do not trust me to endure the test, you do not know me yet.'
'Nonetheless I do not trust you,' said Gandalf. 'Had I done so, I could have sent this thing hither to your keeping and spared myself and others much anguish. And now hearing you speak I trust you less, no more than Boromir. Nay, stay your wrath! I do not trust myself in this, and I refused this thing, even as a freely given gift. You are strong and can still in some matters govern yourself, Denethor; yet if you had received this thing, it would have overthrown you. Were it buried beneath the roots of Mindolluin, still it would burn your mind away, as the darkness grows, and the yet worse things follow that soon shall come upon us.'