Looking Into Sanctuary

‘Sanctuary’ is a well-written impassioned essay, in two parts. It says some important things, and I wanted to examine a few of those.

In some ways the reading audience is the choir in the loft, many conservative bloggers are going to read it, think about it, and appreciate it, but in some ways I think its main intended audience is the Left, the Liberal.

There is a genuine question within this essay that is posed to the politically Liberal, “Please, won’t you explain yourself to me?” [ as seen in:”our elites – bored, pampered and without a glimmer of perspective – search the inside of our walls by night, looking for cracks to enlarge. I can’t pretend to understand this. It is simply beyond my ability to grasp”]

I hope that many would read it without their ideological force shields up, but that is a difficult habit to set aside.

So I’m going to look at some of the main points to bring them out for thinking purposes.

I should spend an hour a day prostrate and thanking God I was born an American. How many struggle and die for this privilege?

One main theme, I think, is the need for Americans to put aside our complacency and spoiled attitudes and give some time to gratefulness. It is the idea that we ought to take note of our blessings…. and this is a very important point. How can we properly preserve or esteem the good things that we have if we do not make efforts to appreciate our good fortune, count our blessings, and remember how costly and difficult it was to accumulate this heritage we enjoy. Even people that want to change things for the better will be better at that if they recognize, through gratefulness, the value of their freedoms and wellbeing.

A subnote to this is seeing people in official capacities differently, with gratefulness. How often do we not like the message and so shoot the messenger? How much of that is anger at the impotency we feel and just plain displacement? We don’t like the Patriot Act and instead of writing and lobbying for changes in how the policy is carried out, giving the poor Joe in airport security a hard time is the route of least resistance.

Really, there is not a lot of thought in how we display our displeasure this way. And the essay points this up.

I believe that in general, humans are good and kind. But some of us are beyond the laws and civility we have created inside our Sanctuary, hidden from the brutality of nature and lawless men.

A second theme deals with questions of good and evil. This runs throughout the essay, but it doesn’t have denouement… it continues the tensions of the questions with the discussion of what is probably the most dominant theme and that is the one of “Sanctuary”, which is very much the authors name for the old Greek Philosopher’s idea of “Civitas’.

We, in our Sanctuary, who sleep in warm, dry, safe places without a second thought of the men and women who shiver in the cold to keep us free and secure, are getting very far away from the forces that have threatened us for millennia and threaten us still, as potent as the black rage of an incensed mob of religious lunatics killing people in response to some real or imagined slight.

And much of the second part concerns the benefits of the Civitas.

But some of what I noted, especially in the discussion of the military matters is a struggle with the clash between reality and expectations. As long as there is a mutual compact, the rules of Conduct in the Civitas is maintained then all sides are ready to give as much liberality as is possible…. but it is when there is no compact, when -“They violate the Sanctuary of the Uniform. They violate the Sanctuary of Surrender” – it is obvious that an unevenness, a great inequity has become the new reality. And the rules are thrown out as the imbalances throw everything into confusion. And this essay cries out about this inequity.

But it isn’t new. It isn’t new, but it is something that is demanding to be faced. Not with tired hardline partisan talk, but with a mutual solution from within the Civitas. New policy with new cooperation.

I say it isn’t new because it is one more example of how difficult it is to fight guerrilla wars. Viet Nam had some aspects of this… you find it in the American Revolutionary History- remember when the Redcoats came marching in formation within their European rites of war? Only to be cut down by Indian fighting methods of the Revolutionaries? That was guerrilla warfare, too, and back during the Viet Nam era it was pointed out that this was how most modern warfare would be ‘on the ground’. I’m no military expert, but I remember the discussions of the day…. and during the Viet Nam conflict there was a lot of debate on war, the military, and the Civitas.

And the important thing that I think ought to be remembered is that this whole phalanx of people who are being appealed to for their blind opposition are people whose roots are in the thinking that came out of that era of discussion.

They, too, are holding to ideas of the Civitas….just some different ones: same Civitas ideal, but different parts of the application. And perhaps this clash of ideals that works so well in peace, but is so damaging in wartime, is at the root of the problem.

Both sides want the humane ideal of the Civitas they live in and love. But it is meant for mutual compact. A different reality than the one they are working with in the war.

But that given, this essay points out the terrible blindness that for ideology sake ignores degrees within atrocity. And that was something else addressed. This is a great iniquity, yet it is brushed aside, as if that part of being moral has no importance. And this is something that the Islamic community is guilty of across the board, along with those who sympathize with their case: the grievous acts of those Muslims who regularly murder and break truce and are guilty in so many countries of widespread unmitigated violence against the innocent. They are guilty when they applaud, and they have blood on their hands.

If you hold liberal ideals, it ought to be evident in all cases, but the silence on behalf of those who are murdered by your friends…. it speaks too loudly of your blind eyes.

For some reason, I was also thinking of the explanation for some of the alienation many of the Left feel. I believe at least some of this comes from the fact that the Civitas produces an ideal, and that when humanity breaks with that ideal there is a lot of disillusionment. Everyone hates a hypocrite- once exposed. To try to reach a perfection and to fail is not the same as being a hypocrite, and I think that is what gets lost in the Left. The person who breaks the code is not the same as flaunting the code altogether- and I think this is some of what was expressed in the discussion on uniform and surrender in war.


But I think in the end, the difficulty that is going to come with meeting together to decide the course is going to center on the blindspots of both sides. There was a push in the Viet Nam Era:”My country right or wrong”, and that was not a sufficiently moral reason for people then, and it is not for now.

I do believe the clarion call to mind the danger within the gates is one to seriously heed. However, it will take a great deal of willingness to be honest, and I don’t know how that will go. To honestly realize we can’t have false types of sentimental ‘sensitivity’ and be so politically correct in mincing about. It isn’t sufficient for the challenges of our day. So I hope many will read the entire essay in both parts, and do some serious thinking about whether we value our way of life in this country or not.

======edited to add clarification=====

A look at the definition of the idea of Civitas seems useful for continuing in the discussion.

A quote from Philip Sherrard, ‘The Greek East and the Latin West’ :

“As soon, however, as this principle embracing both the formal and the formless, the rational and the irrational, was lost sight of, and the Divine came to be regarded as a static and abstract order, essentially rational in its nature, it followed that what was formless, in movement, and irrational was felt to a corresponding degree to lack divine qualities; it was felt to lack reality and even to be entirely negative and evil. Plutarch, for instance, goes as far as to say that unadorned and formless matter prior to the generation of the world possesses an evil soul and it is this evil soul which is the principle of movement and irrationality in created things chaos has a soul, and since chaos is the opposite to the cosmos (κόσμος), which is good, this soul must be bad.Plutarch, De Virtute morali, 3; De Animae procreation, 28. Hence, there was a radical depreciation of all that is changing and irrational, and this applied particularly not only to the affections of man, but also to the whole natural and sensible world. In other words, just as man’s natural affections are felt to be outside the sphere of the Divine, and hence unreal, and even dominated by the evil soul of matter, so also, and to a greater extent, is the whole natural and sensible world; and both are considered only to achieve positive value and to partake of reality to the degree to which they are subjected to the reason and to rational, and static, form. It is in the imposition of, and obedience to, such a form that the perfection of human nature is thought to be achieved, and for this reason it is considered that only in a rational, man-made society, through social institutions and laws that embody, so to speak, the general and universal laws of the cosmic order, are, as Aristotle says, human potentialities to be realized. The realization of the ideal of a purely human and rational excellence necessarily implies, therefore, the civilization of man, for only the civil and social order can reflect the norms of rational order which alone can both satisfy the demands of individual human nature and allow the secular, and only, perfection possible to mankind. Again as Aristotle remarked, the man who first invented the state was the greatest of benefactors.Aristotle, Politics, i. 2. 1253 a.

It was, then, in this exterior form that Rome inherited from Greece the dominant conceptions of her own philosophy, and it was these, and all the consequences which issue from them, that underlay the historical life of the Roman Empire.”
-included because I think we have a from of that going on in our secular society, and flowing over into the religious identity of some.

“Civitas has common roots with the Latin words for “civis” meaning citizen and “civilitas” meaning the conduct and behavior expected of a good citizen. Civitas is now a perfectly good but seldom used English word, with two related meanings: (1) It means a political community or government, especially as found in a republic, and (2) it means the kind of citizenship a republic requires. I wish to speak of the lessons that Americans must learn about both of these meanings of civitas: the kind of education necessary for perpetuating and strengthening republican government and the kind of education that best promotes democratic citizenship.
…..”Each generation was to acquire the civic knowledge and commitments of “civitas.” This was also the view of discerning founders of the American Republic and of their successors who decided that the responsibilities and the rights of American citizenship in a democratic republic should be defined by law and nourished by a common civic education and civic culture rather than by kinship, ethnicity, race, religion, class, or hereditary status.”” -R. Freeman Butts,William F. Russell Professor Emeritus in the Foundations of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

6 thoughts on “Looking Into Sanctuary”

  1. Ilona, this is a lovely essay, but there is one underlying concept that separates those who would largely nod at “Sanctuary” vs. those who he is protesting against.

    One side believes in perfectibility, and the Whittle side doesn’t.

    One side buys into the mindset that if someone becomes violent we have caused it by some action or inaction of ours and so can alleviate that without war or violence. One side believes that all violence stems from outward injustice or unkindness or emotional wrong, the other side believes that injustice is born in each human soul.

    Much as I sympathize with that mindset (and I do believe we have not done well in all of our actions in the ME), it refuses to accept evil.

    Evil is a reality. The problem with their underlying belief is that it is not realistic, because it believes that man alone, by himself, can theorize his way out of evil and he cannot. If you look at the huge massacres of the last century, underlying them all was that same belief. All of them were based on utopian ideals, and the light so dazzled those leading each experiment that the most horrible crimes became acceptable in the service of their wonderful goal.

    I don’t see, Ilona, how one can reconcile those two world views. The Christian worldview and any culture derived from it is entirely opposed to the idea that man can perfect himself in perfect freedom. Read that BuzzFlash interview I posted. That is really how they think.

  2. I’m going to have to really think about what you are saying. There are elements of utopianism, but I tend to see that on both sides. I’ll look at it again.

    I agree with what you say about “Christian worldview and any culture derived from it”, but I question how far our society is from its derivation, how much has actually been substituted from secular utopian views.

    If what I come up with is short enough it goes here- if post-length- I think it would be worth another post. Thanks for your input…I’m now putting my thoughts through the wringer and see how they come out.

  3. Ilona, this is extremely problematic.

    First, this essay ignores the elephant in the livingroom – the question of whether coalition troops should be in Iraq or not. It treats the objections of those opposed to the war as the petty niggles of silly people who’re opposing things for the sake of it…from their yachts in the Caribbean, no doubt. If one starts from the premise that it was wrong to make a pre-emptive strike against a country who was little danger to you, the terms of engagement are completely changed.

    When you start from “This war was illegal/immoral/a bad idea” it’s not possible to maintain the idea that Abu Ghraib was “brave decent lovely kind gentle soldiers so hard-pressed by evil terrorists that they occasionally are forced to make them simulate anal sex at gunpoint”. Abu Ghraib, in some senses, is not that important. It doesn’t make the invasion bad if you thought it was good. If you didn’t think the invasion was good, it is a terrible thing amongst a whole host of other terrible things, and only worthy of attention because it is so grotesque.

    If it was wrong to invade Iraq, then it also makes nonsense of this “Sanctuary” business. If your town is under military occupation by a foreign force, what sanctuary have you? If your house can be invaded at a moment’s notice and your family members taken away, if you can be shot when you drive up to a checkpoint, if there’s danger in the streets and danger in the home and armed soldiers who don’t even speak your language patrolling the streets, are you expected to play by Queensberry rules? Would the US, if invaded by China, require the entire resistance to wear uniforms, try no tricks, surrender when asked to and be sure to do what they are told?

    This isn’t to make a moral judgement about the worthiness of either cause, it’s a simple statement of what human beings will do under certain situations. The man who wrote that article is living under the old UK imperialistic code where it’s fine for us to shoot at Johnny Foreigner but just not cricket when he starts to shoot back. This is confusing his judgement.

    I did agree with him that US forces and US policy are not “Nazi”. The people who use that kind of terminology have let their emotions outrun their common sense. It’s like people who sling around “fascist” and “communist” at the slightest provocation – silliness, and degrading to debate.

  4. To continue:

    If he wants an explanation from the Left of any position it holds (or some of it holds, the Left being a broad church) he only has to ask. You interpreted it as a plea to hear what the Left has to say. This is quite doable, but he is required to listen.

    As for the identification of “the Left” with rich elites, that is rather surprising. I don’t make much more than minimum wage. Few Leftists I know are rolling in cash. A lot of people here of all social backgrounds were opposed to war on Iraq.

    Finally, a rather obscure historical point. He said:

    “no doubt free of the irony caused by the Bolsheviks naming themselves “Majority” when they were a minute fraction of the pre-Soviet revolution”

    That isn’t why the Bolsheviks were called the Bolsheviks. That dates back very pre-Revolution to 1903, when during their Second Congress the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party split into two factions, led by Martov and Lenin respectively. Lenin was actually on the side of the losing faction in the final analysis, but felt events throughout the Congress justified the name Bolsheviks. You can translate it as “maximalists” rather than “victors” and it makes slightly more sense.

    It wasn’t a cheap attempt at a power grab just before the Revolution, as he implies here.

  5. Vash, wasn’t at all sure you were online-welcome to the discussion.
    (Before I answer I have to state for other readers that Vash is not American, but UK, otherwise people will assume things. Not sure what, but it happens.)

    you said:
    “If it was wrong to invade Iraq, then it also makes nonsense of this “Sanctuary” business. ” which I think illustrates the Civitas code portion that the Left feels is breached.

    In America there are still some who believe that our nation retains Sovreignty, and that it has rights to view the nations that support Islamic terror as a national enemy. There are many, mostly Left ( if not all), who have moved from this idea in the Civitas to the idea that we must move in conjunction with other nations… that the sovreignty is a shared one.

    One is an idea that we are answerable to one “Right Standard”, although there are philosophic contentions on where the “right” of that stems from… and the idea that “right” wells from a compromised consensus being worked out ( longhand for an evolutionary morality).

    The European view is farther along the secular spectrum than America as a whole. And you will see this as either good or bad depending on your starting point.

    There is no consensus in America on this point yet, it is part of the present culture war, still.

  6. “If he wants an explanation from the Left of any position it holds (or some of it holds, the Left being a broad church) he only has to ask.”

    I think what you are missing is the complete breakdown of the platform of discussion between the Right and the Left. You noticed it at campaign time, I’m sure… but it isn’t merely politics as usual- there is a real ideological force field that goes up on both sides. There is little of the field left in the discussion arena. It is now bold plays for power that both sides are rolling their political dice for.

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