Is “Le Pen” French for “Trump”?

In my latest National Post column I say that closing ranks to defeat Marine Le Pen while ignoring the sources of the discontent she taps into would be to forget the lessons of Donald Trump if, indeed, people ever learned any.

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Wish I’d said that – April 21, 2017

“Eleanor [his wife] and I speak at various conferences; we know so many people who, if they had to do it over again, would never have left their first marriage. The grass always looks greener on the other side. But the grass is greenest where you water it most.”

Paul Henderson in an interview in Cardus Convivium Vol. I #5 (November-December 2012)

 

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Sorry, professor, we don’t tolerate diversity here

In my latest National Post column I question the coincidence of Jordan Peterson being suddenly refused a federal government grant after he questioned radical gender orthodoxy.

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Wish I’d said that – February 15, 2017

“To corrupt family relations is to poison fountains; for the sources of the Commonwealth are within the households, and errors there are irretrievable.”

Edmund Burke, quoted by Andrea Mrozek in Cardus Comment Summer 2016

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Marry Me and Schtum – It Happened Today But Nobody Knew, January 25, 2017

To return to the topic of weddings that bring tears to your eyes, and again a royal one, would you cry if the king insisted on marrying you without telling anyone? Or might you just flee instead?

I have a feeling Anne Boleyn did neither on November 14, 1532 when she tied the knot surreptitiously with the dreadful Henry VIII. Anne was clearly in over her head, an ominous phrase in this context. But the young woman (we aren’t sure how young; she may have been born in 1501 or 1507) appears to have been a clever and confident schemer who wrongly thought she knew exactly what she was doing.

They were publicly married on January 25, 1533, leading to a ruckus of which you may have heard. The new Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, formerly the Boleyn family chaplain, declared the marriage null and void on May 23 of that year and, five days later, mysteriously changed his mind. Henry VIII could do that to you.

And to himself; when Anne proved unable to give him male heirs he had her convicted of high treason, as well as adultery and incest and perhaps witchcraft, by a jury that included her own uncle who lived to tell the tale largely, one suspects, because she did not (along with five men framed as her lovers). Cranmer then conveniently realized Anne’s marriage had been invalid after all. Gosh.

Henry had married Anne secretly because the Pope was still trying to figure out whether to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. (And when it became public excommunications flew.) So he wanted to have things both ways. And Anne ought to have realized that when Henry VIII thinks he’s using you and you think you’re using him, he’s right.

So I don’t have a lot of wedding advice to offer women other than don’t make the bridesmaids wear seafoam green. (They don’t have to look awful for you to look nice and nobody will ever wear that outfit again.) But I would urge you to reject any suitor who proposes that you marry him and move into his bed without mentioning it to anybody.

Especially, and I cannot stress this too strongly, if his surname is Tudor and his title is King.

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A Stiff Upper Neckerchief – It Happened Today, January 24, 2017

On January 24 of 1908, in what does seem a vanished era of tranquility and earnestness, Robert Baden-Powell organized the first Boy Scout troop. But those days were not as tranquil as they seem, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are still enormously popular, and the mission of forming character is not as obsolete as some might suppose.

To begin with, Baden-Powell formed the Scouts in the wake of the (Second) Boer War, which had proved far more challenging for the British army than anticipated and which concluded less than a decade and a half before the outbreak of World War One. During the conflict then-Colonel Baden-Powell became a hero for his successful conduct of the defence of Mafeking, aided by the Mafeking Cadet Corps formed by Lord Edward Cecil.

Deeply impressed by the Corps, Baden-Powell wrote Scouting for Boys, based on his earlier Aids to Scouting, a brief guide to military scouting and wilderness survival that, he noticed, was exceptionally popular with boys. A huge success, currently the fourth best-selling book of all time, its tone might seem outdated. But the spirit of self-reliance, duty and cheerfulness it inculcated clearly helped Britain and Canada win World War I.

The scouts have changed enormously since 1908, mostly in good ways. Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes created the Girl Guides just two years later (after a group of girls showed up at the first Scout Rally in 1909 in uniform and informed Baden-Powell they were the “Girl Scouts,” a commendable exhibition of initiative that evidently struck “B-P” as he is sometimes known as favourably as it does me. Agnes also created the Brownies (originally Rosebuds) for younger girls while Baden-Powell’s wife took over as president of the Girl Guides in 1920.

Among other changes, the uniform has been adapted over many decades for greater practicality as well as a not necessarily beneficial greater casualness. And at least some branches have dropped God from their pledge. But while one must I suppose move with the world, not too far or too fast. And sometimes one must stand against the world.

So it is worth reading the words of Baden-Powell, then nearly 80, at the Scouts’ 1937 World Jamboree, in the shadow of Hitler in a world in which racial prejudice was taken to be so normal one faced ostracism for not sharing it. The Scout uniform, B-P declared proudly, “hides all differences of social standing in a country and makes for equality; but, more important still, it covers differences of country and race and creed, and makes all feel that they are members with one another of the one great brotherhood”.

Surely that surprisingly modern sentiment casts a different and more favourable light on the supposedly stuffy, naïve, chauvinistic and even jingoistic “stiff upper lip” tally ho chaps ambiance of Edwardian England. Just as the scouts’ methods for promoting self-reliance and cooperation simultaneously is strikingly up-to-date for something from that vanished era.

So here’s a confession. I have never read Scouting for Boys. But I think I’m the worse for it, and intend to track down a copy.

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Here comes 2017 – again?

In my latest National Post column I argue that while history doesn’t repeat, its lessons do… especially for those not paying attention.

(Due to an editing mishap, at the end of the 3rd paragraph, between the sentence ending “great and small.” and the one beginning “Regrettably, as with…”, the sentence “But I am sure we’re not going to fight World War One again.” was omitted.)

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