To all our Canadian readers, Happy Victoria Day! Or, as the pseudo-secessionist party of Quebec amusingly renamed it a few years back, la journée nationale des patriotes. Whatever...
~And greetings to our New Zealand readers upon the somber 70th anniversary of the capture of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino after a hellish five-month struggle to take an all but impregnable fortress from the Germans. Other Commonwealth forces from Britain, Canada, India and elsewhere took part, but the Kiwi casualties are always sobering to me, and from a tiny country with a population just a tad over one and a half million. The battle for Cassino's railway station cost the 28th (Maori) Battalion 60 per cent of their men. Mauri Gordon was one of those who stayed on for two years after the war to find and bury their fallen comrades. There are a lot of them:
Flanked by New Zealand veterans with long rows of medals pinned to their chests and greeted by Maori chants and ceremonies, Prince Harry paid tribute to the terrible price paid by Kiwis who fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino in the Second World War.
The Prince laid a wreath at a tall Cross of Sacrifice in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in the town of Cassino, where 456 New Zealand soldiers are buried and another 55 commemorated on a memorial because their remains were never recovered.
Including prisoners and wounded, the New Zealanders suffered nearly 1,400 casualties in the battle, one of the most brutal of the European theatre.
Some 40 or so survivors made the trip to Italy for the official observances. The New Zealand Herald's account gives a sense of how they still feel:
Looming over the cemetery was the squat, fortress-like monastery of Monte Cassino, which became an object of fear and hatred for many Allied troops during the five months that they tried to take it from the Germans in 1944.
Looking up at the stone abbey, which was built in the sixth century but was bombed into oblivion in the war and rebuilt afterwards, Charlie Kenny, 92, who served with the 23rd Battalion, said: "I would blow the bugger up. It was the toughest part of the war for us.
We were living in filth."
The former infantryman, from Timaru, was visiting Monte Cassino for the first time since he fought there 70 year ago.
"Our tank crews got "cooked up" and I still can't stand the smell of roast pork. There was a smell of death that I will never forget," he said.
These men did not choose soldiering, but simply accepted it as an obligation of citizenship. They were not, pace Tom Brokaw, "the Greatest Generation", but merely ordinary men - farmers, salesmen, clerks - called upon to do and to suffer extraordinary things. They're in their late eighties and nineties now, and at family gatherings, as they listen to grandchildren and great-grandchildren chirrup about the burdens of today, they must occasionally wonder what it would take to rouse our generation to do what they did. "Our tank crews got 'cooked up' and I still can't stand the smell of roast pork."
~But enough of these stoic nonagenarians. They had it great compared to the traumas of our time. The New York Times, currently waging its own "war on woman", reports on "trigger warnings". If you're a member of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, don't worry, "trigger warning"'s nothing to do with walking through the shattered buildings of Cassino and your mate yelling "Down!" a nano-second before Jerry on the roof across the street start firing. No, it's far worse than that:
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Should students about to read "The Great Gatsby" be forewarned about "a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence," as one Rutgers student proposed? Would any book that addresses racism — like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" or "Things Fall Apart" — have to be preceded by a note of caution? Do sexual images from Greek mythology need to come with a viewer-beware label?
Boy, I wish I had your problems.
At Oberlin College in Ohio, a draft guide was circulated that would have asked professors to put trigger warnings in their syllabuses. The guide said they should flag anything that might "disrupt a student's learning" and "cause trauma," including anything that would suggest the inferiority of anyone who is transgender (a form of discrimination known as cissexism) or who uses a wheelchair (or ableism).
"Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression," the guide said. "Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand." For example, it said, while "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe — a novel set in colonial-era Nigeria — is a "triumph of literature that everyone in the world should read," it could "trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more."
I experienced colonialism in Bermuda and enjoyed it enormously. Two thumbs up!
Discussing this exquisitely refined Post-Modern Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Ed Driscoll points out:
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction contains, according to one reviewer's estimate, at least 69 uses of the N-word. My local 24 Hour Fitness routinely plays rap music on the gym Muzak system containing the N-word amidst an endless variety of crudely sexual and misogynistic "lyrics." My local supermarket occasionally plays on their Muzak "Pump It Up," Elvis Costello's rockin' ode to masturbation.
No "trigger warnings" for the Price-Chopper Muzak system, but we need them for The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. How about Leave It To Beaver? Shameless scenes of white people not "checking their privilege".
By the way, those guys at Monte Cassino "checked their privilege" big-time. Or doesn't that count?
~Meanwhile, the feeble American press corps has checked its privilege in the maintenance shed at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. The pool reporter from The Houston Chronicle assigned to cover President Obama's golf game never got to see the President because he agreed to sit out the game in the maintenance shed. A year or two back, when an Orlando Sentinel chap covering a Joe Biden event consented to be locked in a closet for the duration, I recalled Hillaire Belloc on Fleet Street:
You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do unbribed
There's no occasion to.
And I modified it for the court eunuchs of the Obamamedia:
You cannot hope to twist or bribe
The US monodaily scribe.
He's so cooperative, I posit,
He'll let us lock him in the closet.
No wonder they can't see Benghazi or the IRS or anything else.
~YOUR MONDAY MOHAMMED: Sudanese judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa is nothing if not merciful:
An Islamic court in the Sudanese capital has said that a pregnant woman sentenced to hang for apostasy after she married a Christian man will be allowed to give birth before she is executed.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim is married to a US citizen, Daniel Wani. The grant of citizenship to the spouse of an American is effectively non-discretionary, although the sclerotic US immigration bureaucracy can take years to process the application. But, in a sense, Mrs Wani is an American-in-waiting. So, technically, she's more "our girl" to Mrs Obama than the #BringBackOurGirls Nigerian schoolgirls are. In fact, she's "my" girl, in the sense that her husband apparently lives somewhere in southern New Hampshire. Has my Governor or Congressional delegation spoken out on this atrocity yet? [UPDATE: Both senators have.]
That's the issue in plain English: Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa is about to hang the wife of an American citizen. I mentioned Lord Palmerston and Don Pacifico en passant the other day, but this really is Obama's Don Pacifico moment. If he wanted to underline what's at stake, he might have US Immigration fast-track Mrs Wani to citizenship and dare this basket-case thug-state (albeit one with which his brother is extremely cosy) to carry out their barbaric sentence.