One of the great things about the Christmas season is Christmas music. Not modern Christmas music, of course. I shudder at the mere thought. I’m talking about traditional Christmas carols. O Little Town has always been one of my favorites.
Also, one of the great things about YouTube is that you can type in the name of a song and get a dozen different versions, each of them wonderful in its own way.
A Christmas Carol
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at him.
And all the stars looked down.
– G. K. Chesterton
Following hard on the deaths of Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong Il comes the death of someone who we do have good reason to mourn: Vaclav Havel. Yet I’d bet that many Americans and others have no clue who Havel was. Havel was not a communist dictator, nor a British ex-pat journalist who spent his life defending and promoting communist dictators. Instead he was an activist against communist dictators. He was a native of Czechoslovakia and became an activist against Soviet Rule during the 70’s and 80’s. He did time in prison and later fled to the United States, while his writings continued to inspire others to stand up to Soviet tyranny, and after freedom came to eastern Europe he returned to Prague and became President of his country.
In a perfect world, Havel would be acknowledged worldwide as one of humanity’s great heroes. He would, at the very least, be listed alongside Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who sacrificed tremendously while leading movements for freedom. His essay The Power of the Powerless would join King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail among the 20th century’s greatest writings on freedom and activism. Instead he is sorely neglected by the press and intellectual classes. The reason is not hard to ferret out. Havel was an activist against Soviet communism, something that many in the American ruling class supported in the 70’s and a few still have fond feelings for today. (Christopher Hitchens, incidentally, was among those.) Consequently most folks won’t pour too much effusive praise on Havel.
Humanity has lost a true hero and friend, and God has gained a man truly worthy of Heaven.
Following fast on the deaths of Moammar Gaddafi and Christopher Hitchens comes the news of the passing of someone who truly will not be missed. According to this report from the Los Angeles Times, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has kicked the bucket. Goodbye.
I woke up this morning and logged onto the internet and the first news I encountered was the death of Christopher Hitchens. Newspapers, magazines, and websites are overflowing with obituaries for him, and they will be for the next few days. All of them will mention that he was a headstrong atheist who proudly attacked religious believers with whatever insults came into his head. They will also praise him for his intellectual skill, principles, and writing talent. None, at least among the ones that I’ve written, will mention that he spent almost his whole life promoting communism.
When I was a child, my family subscribed to The Nation. From its pages, along with a few other sources and some assists from family members, I picked up the fact that communism was a pretty good system. That Lenin and Trotsky and Castro were decent fellows, that Stalin may have had a few flaws, but that Che Guevara was awesome. It was quite a surprise to learn, over the course of my college and graduate school years, that this was all false, and that all these men along with countless other communist dictators were actually brutal mass murderers. But that’s the truth.
Here’s another truth: Christopher Hitch was the number one proponent of communism in the USA for decades and he was durn proud of it. In his book Koba the Dread, Martin Amis mentions the odd truth that it American society it’s unacceptable to say anything nice about Hiter and the Nazis, but quite all right to praise Lenin and the Soviet communists. Exhibit A for this strange phenomenon is Christopher Hitchens. He spent many years at The Nation rolling out support for the Soviet Union as well as Red China and communist regimes all over the world. He obviously knew full well that these regimes were responsible for killing tens of millions of innocent people, yet he celebrated and promoted them anyway. He also viciously lashed out at anyone who supported peace and freedom anywhere. While the people of Poland struggled valiantly for freedom against the Soviet oppressors, Hitchens savagely attacked them for being Catholic, and he had nothing but insults for Pope John Paul II, the world’s leading freedom fighter. After communism fell apart, he ended up jumping to the neo-conservative’s flagship magazine, The Weekly Standard, where he helped drum up support for a war in Iraq that’s killed over a million civilians. It would seems that the only principle Hitchens clung to throughout his life was to always support whoever was doing the most mass slaughter.
We are, of course, ordered by Jesus to love and pray for our enemies. I will pray for Mr. Hitchens but I won’t feel all that much sympathy. That’s more reserved for the millions of people who were killed, tortured, or imprisoned by the regimes that he proudly supported.
A Child of the Snows
There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.
Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.
And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.
The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.
– G. K. Chesterton