October 31, 2016

Ye Hilton Head of Yore


Wow. As I told Steph when I saw this place, "Who needs a beach when you have a place like this?" It's a pleasure dome, with 10ft high built-in bookshelves with a ladder. I'm a complete sucker for libraries with a stepladder. Maybe it's the painting The Bookworm, or maybe just the symbolism of it, a library so big it needs a stilt.  I clambered up the ladder minute ten and picked up a book.

The dogs went crazy in the house when we arrived; they raced up and down and over and out like it was a racetrack. I took them for an immediate walk in the dark without "production", so when Max got back in the house he immediately pooped.  Then later we found Maris had pooped in a room upstairs. So goes life with dogs.

The rugs here are beautiful, especially when juxtaposed with the fine wood floors. I hope I'm not so shallow as to be swayed by mere rugs....but I could be. Plus there's just something about an A-frame cathedral ceiling to add interest.

Turned on the Buckeyes - it's 12-7 at halftime, and watched what looks like final game of Dodger-Cub playoff with Cubs in command at 5-nothing. Looks like it's going to be an Indians-Cubs World Series, which seems about as an unlikely a pair as one could come up with given their respective histories. Nice to see.


Beautiful day, 68 degrees, full sun. Chainsaws sound in the distance, clearing the aftereffects of Hurricane Matthew.

The sun pixilates on the deep green foliage - from the tropical bushes to the pines and palms to the oaks and "ghost grass", Spanish moss. This house is set in a forest, smack dab in it, but with an incomplete canopy that affords a decent amount of sun. More than I thought we'd get this far from the beach.

It's funny that the song "Dixie" was written by a New Yorker looking out a dreary rainy window. "I wish I was in Dixie," echoed in his head he said, and thus one of the most famous Civil War songs was inspired by the weather. The funny thing is how it took off originally in the North just before the War then caught fire as the Southern anthem as the states seceded. I can say honestly I'm glad to be in Dixie.

The houses here are tight-close but the woodland makes it less obvious. The "yard" is postage stamp-sized, but with the natural feel akin to German Village.

Speaking of postage stamps, there's a print inside the house featuring an old stamp of Ben Franklin from the early 1900s and it reminds me of my youth when I briefly collected stamps just like that one. Funny how something like that can take you back, just the mere sight of it. Maybe that's the point of vacation pictures and souvenirs and collections in general: nostalgia. I suspect that collectors who didn't start their collections when young are few and far between. Certainly the whole baseball card collecting craze was a nostalgia play.

After Mass & grocery, took Max on a beach run while Steph walked Maris. Saw the most dolphins I'd ever seen - about a dozen close to shore and one showed his head above the water. Magical.

Full sun and uncrowded beach. Did about thirty minutes on the run and then we put the dogs on long 30ft leashes and let them roam free. They water-frolicked a bit and sniffed clumps of sea debris.


High noon at the beach. Generous sun, and I feel grateful for this week though at the same time recognize there's no safety net after this - just relentless winter.

But that's tomorrow and I assume tomorrow will take care of itself. Just now I have the ocean for a footstool and I'm drunk on sun. I'm sure glad we pushed this to last week of October given the hurricane as well as how nectar-sweet the weather is at this late date. I've pushed the season back a week: it's 56 and cloudy in Ohio and 74 and sunny here. Good trade.

I always felt October too soon for a "winter vacation" but it's not terrible from a sun view.  As nice as this Hilton Head deck and house are, nothing is as relaxing as the beach instant relaxation recipe: sun and jazz. I nod off for ten minutes and waken with the tide a foot away.

Going to the ocean is a time-honored activity. Melville wrote 150 years ago in Moby Dick:
"[Ask yourself] Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy a coat, which he badly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach?"
Heard a big kerplunk this morning and went out to find doggie Maris had fallen into the pool and could not get out, despite steps a foot away. So I helped fish her out. We suspect Max "helped" knock her in by delivering a body blow.


Nothing could be finer than to eat at my own diner in the mooorning! And so I did, making French surrender toast and crisp bacon (achieved by leaving in microwave an extra minute).

2+ hours of music yesterday! Ready for some classical this morning thanks to pleasant "on hold" music of cable company.

(Later) Ended up staying 3 hours at the beach. Much enjoying the "quiet forest" that is our deck amid the dappled jungle. A couple of big trees stick out of the deck via big squares cut out of it.

So civilized, this time here, civilized in terms of weather and civilized in terms of leisure. I should call this trip log The Daily Cigar, for thus has been my habit. Steph came up with a grand idea for lunch: bean burgers cooked on the outdoor grill. Man they were tasty. Painless vegetarianism. The slight char of the grill on the burgers combined with blue cheese dressing and tomato slices and lettuce on a bun - yum.

The beauty of this setup is I finally get to stay at a place in Hilton Head set amid forest and thus have the best of both worlds: sea by day and forest by dusk and dawn. A fine mix, and having such a beautiful house to come back to makes coming back from beach early today a relief due to wind.


Come 4pm we take the dogs for their sea walk. About a mile only all told; 7 minute walk to the beach and then they scamper to and fro. They do three miles while we do one. Come 5pm we're back in the friendly confines and relaxation is heaped upon relaxation: I continue my cigar and have a beer.

Reading-wise, I enjoyed some of Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life. A light biography of the ultimate overachiever. Of the Founding Fathers I've read heavily on John Adams, some on Thomas Jefferson, and little on George Washington or Alexander Hamilton or James Madison. Good to read about Hamilton given I was born in the town he was named after.

This place as so many cozy writing nooks. I want to explore them all, sit in each and feel all writerly while I enjoy the frisson of "travel" (defined narrowly). I sample the bar today and the entrance way lounge chair. Their motto is let no small area next to a window go unexploited sitting-wise.


The dogs are of late treating dry dog food as a decorative item: "Oh cute, he's putting out food to let potential visitors know dogs live here."

Nice walk on beach to jazz. A mile or so, just enough to get a rhythm going. Later dug some classical; Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake hit the spot. Back-to-back days of 2-hour concerts. Followed up with 30 pages of the light Hamilton biography.

A symphony of sun / Even as I run-- / Time binds us all / Begotten of the Fall.

Took dogs on run thru Sea Pines and then did same thing on a more relaxing bike ride. There's just something about those thick pines on the trail that invites wonder.

Then more Alexander Hamilton, whose life invites a kind of wonder as well.

Purgatory is one of those subjects I try to avoid with a ten foot pole. I'm allergic to it the same way I'm allergic to the idea of opening my new house to the poor and homeless. But when the Medjugorje message guy sent an email with the latest visionary message, he included a link to a "must read" book from an Austrian visionary who is said to talk to souls in Purgatory. I downloaded a sample and have to admit it makes for compelling reading. Who knows if it's true; I've given up trying to even make that call. One small mark of authenticity, for me, is when she said God "sends" no one to Purgatory but souls elect to go there on their own in order to be more pleasing to God. This makes a certain amount of sense given the sudden clarity the afterlife brings, you'd think people might well volunteer to change in light of that light. They could long for their own self-improvement.

And yet as much as I don't like the subject, I do feel sort of cleansed just reading it. It momentarily realigns priorities and gives one relief from the "burdens" that really aren't burdens at all, like the thought I'll be going a loooong time after this without a vacation...

'Round 5pm I figured it was time to round up the cattle, I mean dogs, and so I took a beauty walk past the loblolly pines and gracious mansions and leashed the dogs and they forced-marched me like Sherman to the sea. Maris has the long line but Steph adds to the retractable leash such that she's never truly free. I let Max go but he trotted down the beach like a sled dog and stopped (fortunately) to greet a couple sitting on the beach. They held Max by the collar while I hurry-jogged to collect him.

By 6pm we're back in our lovely haunts. The time expresses, like a fast train; there's nothing quite like that gilded time, 11am to 1pm, when all the leaves are as glossy as Mae West lipstick.

(Later): Spectacular meal tonight. Steph bought fresh grouper - pricey ($25) but oh so good. Cooked it on the grill and it just melted in your mouth. I'm starting to think that fresh fish is to "normal" fish as fresh tomatoes are to store-bought - it's almost like it's a different fruit or meat. Adding to the delight was freshly mashed potatoes and green beans.


Listening now to Holst's Jupiter in front of the ocean. The music seems to fit this sea as much as the distant planet. Which makes sense, both being colossals.

Reminds me of that nature show where they just let cameras run in remote South American village or something. Sunrise Earth on Discovery

The membrane between the present and past fades on vacations and maybe it was on a day like today Papa took me home from school. Funny how persistent it is in memory - perhaps because it was rare. No wonder most Christians fail to see the Eucharist for who it is - we're jaded by His ubiquity.

Read some Hamilton bio. A lustful cad he was; Abigail Adams called him the very devil and of a highly lascivious nature. And doesn't "lascivious" sound like what it means?

Rested till about 4:30 when I brought the hellions down where they raised hell. Max got a burr stuck in his butt so Steph doctored him up. Max later stepped down into a sea hole and went under water, looking none-too-pleased. Held his ear at ninety degrees trying to get water out. He's not too much the water dog although he obliges me when I get in with him.


Our last day, alas!

From Keith Mano novel I'm reading presently:
"Flames and moving water settle me - they're images of the holy spirit because they can envelope. There is no shape, no matter how odd or recalcitrant, they can't lap around."
Caressed shoreline with my soles. Feel full up and ready for the work grind again. Steph said she felt bored in beginning, wondering what she was going to do all week, but that dissipated when the rhythms of sea and relaxation began to predominate and she relaxed.

Tide coming on in: The clean uncluttered look of packed sand and simple sea.

Driftwood from Hurricane Matthew look like turds in the sand.

October 20, 2016

And Poe Said...

Long time readers and first time callers will recall the famous raconteur Ham of Bone, most notably as the principal participant in the Bobber Beer Test.

Turns out the fruit of his decade-long obsession with Edgar Allen Poe has born fruit in the form of this book!  Awesome to see; he spent many a hoary hour poring over the 19th century Baltimore newspapers for historical research purposes*.

Get a copy while supplies last!

* - which kept him off the liquor and thus saved him from Poe's fate.

October 19, 2016

This & That

Sowing the seed. That was the gospel at Sunday's medicinal St John's Byzantine liturgy. I've heard or read that passage maybe a hundred times but today for the first time I heard it not as a forever binary thing, as if each of us is predestined to be either good soil or bad, and so less as a threat of Hell but as a reminder of the present moment. That the seed is not just down once and it's all over, but that God is continually speaking to us and our hearts may be stony or weedy or good soul in that particular moment.


Quote happened across..."Here is the authentic voice of the Slav. These people hold that the way to make life better is to add good things to it, whereas in the West we hold that the way to make life better is to take bad things away from it."


Valuable homily the other day about how there's no certainty like inner certainty, meaning the Spirit speaking to us from within. There are no external proofs to understand, for example, the problem of suffering. It takes a going inward not outward.  The homilist said that at first, when he was just out of seminary, he thought his experience was unique as far as receiving some quasi-mystical of experiences of certainty - but he said after hearing many confessions he realized it was a "universal experience".


Went to a talk by a visiting Monsignor/professor on the subject of voting. He emphasized the legitimacy of single-issue voting on the pro-life issue.  In fact, the whole talk was geared around policy issues, while the elephant in the room for me is character. How can you possibly make a decision between two of such questionable and scary character?  I should've asked it in Q & A.


Provocative passage from Dr. Keith Mano novel. He recently died and was a writer for National Review back in the '80s:
I learned one thing this morning - the disconcerting power of nakedness. Flesh signals to us. It engages the mind, the endocrine system - and, yes, even the spirit. All the resonance of Christian symbolism - cross and crucifixion, bread and wine - is gathered, it would seem, to counteract and answer the image of a single naked woman.

October 07, 2016

Justice & Mercy - First Things Link

Interesting commentary:
Wild promises of a “Francis Effect” have not materialized. Certain traveling salesmen have used the catchphrase to hawk changes in Catholic practice on divorce and remarriage and more: If only the Church would soften its tone and adjust its practice, the millions of Catholics who have left it would come rushing back.

Now, one need not resort to regression analysis to puncture these predictions. Common sense should establish that the Great Pumpkin has not arrived—but where common sense is lacking, one may draw on the data. This is what I did last week in an op-ed for the New York Times. As survey findings from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reveal, notwithstanding the immense publicity attached to the idea of a Francis Effect, in America, at least, the downward trends in Catholic life have only continued during the current pontificate.

I view mercy and judgment as working naturally together; they tend to see them as being in conflict. Pope Francis himself often speaks as though the two are opposed. On the debate over communion for the divorced and remarried, he almost seems to think that it is counter to forgiveness to tell someone to go and sin no more. No doubt Francis and his defenders would say their account has room for both judgment and mercy, just as I would say that there is a time and place to speak of mercy rather than judgment. Still, the basic difference between our views remains. How to resolve it?

One answer comes from Bernard of Clairvaux, whose Sermons on the Song of Songs I have been reading. In the sixth sermon, Bernard describes mercy and judgment as the two feet on which Christ swiftly runs to meet us. “Beware that you do not neglect either of these feet,” he says. Instead, we must be grateful for the imprints left by both mercy and judgment in the Christian heart. Bernard then commences a rhapsody of praise:
No longer of judgment alone or mercy alone, but of mercy and judgment I will sing to you, O Lord. I shall never forget your precepts, mercy and judgment will be the theme of my songs in the house of my pilgrimage, until one day when mercy triumphs over judgment, my wretchedness will cease to smart, and my heart, silent no longer, will sing to you. It will be the end of sorrow.
We require both judgment and mercy. My conviction on this point does not stem from a feeling of superiority, or a pedantic obsession with doctrine and rules. It comes instead from the experience of my own human frailty. I know that I have sinned and deserve punishment. I also know that I am redeemed by grace. If the Church ceases to speak of either one, how can it reach me with the comfort of God’s love? To support me in my weakness, I need a Church that stands with both of Christ’s feet, on which Mary poured out her nard.

Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of First Things. 

October 04, 2016

Three Days in Birmingham, 'Bama

So I decided to take my parents to Birmingham since my Mom's long been interested in EWTN.

And it started with a flop, for my parents at least. They could've gotten to China more quickly than from Cincinnati to Alabama.

My situation went well enough - everything on time. Waited in line at TSA check-in behind a young priest I've heard say Mass downtown several times. I didn't want to bother him by introducing myself, figuring he gets enough attention with the roman collar. Overheard him say later that he was traveling for a retreat.

Dad calls tells me the improbable news that his flight was delayed for hours due to mechanical difficulties and he would miss the connecting flight to Birmingham. They couldn't promise to get him to Alabama till 11:30pm.  Then the backup flight to Atlanta had problems. Bad news.

On my Delta flight I ended up sitting behind the young Dominican on the flight and overheard him have a long talk with the stranger seated next to him about God's love and Heaven and Hell. A priest is ever on duty, offering homilies even outside Mass.

I had Friday on my own now, so Uber'd to EWTN studios where a Franciscan gave the tour, starting with a half-hour documentary on the life of Mother Angelica. Then went to the small studio where they film about 90% of EWTN shows and I was shocked by how small it looked. Tall ceilings, for sure, to accommodate the galaxy of light fixtures and cameras but the place was tiny! Everything looks bigger on TV. It's sort of like the Wizard of Oz - you'd think you'd see this great big operation and here the filming is done in this plain space with facades and backdrops like movie sets.

Our group of about dozen went down a long hallway with many little rooms that do different tasks, like film editing or archives or Spanish language or subtitles. Then we went to a window that looked out over the giant satellite dishes that ping servers way up in the atmosphere. There is a whole huge garage that serves as a backup power supply in case of lightning strikes, and to further guard against them there are these small fuzzy-wires that deflect and "encourage" lightning to fall outside the property. This has the unfortunate side effect of making properties around EWTN more prone to lightning strikes.

I saw those seven huge satellite dishes and thought of the power they represented in terms of shooting a message or image all over the world, but later saw the exposed Eucharist in the Adoration chapel and it looked like a different kind of satellite dish, the Power behind the power.

The Franciscan guide seemed a bit underenthused about his task. I think he was stressed by the fact the main route to the studio was blocked by construction, which meant he had to lead two groups to the studio based on those who could walk and those who couldn't. He golf-cart'd some of the group who were too elderly to walk up the hill and around the construction. It was an impressive grade I must say, but then I live in flat Columbus where every grade is impressive.

Walked outside and felt amazement at how summery it felt. Nothing like going to Alabama in late September to experience the complete reversing of autumn. Saw a funny sign that said, "As A Penance Do Not Smoke on Monastery Property." Then Uber'd back to downtown Birm.

The driver was talkative if a bit Trumpian. He was an older gent who went from security guard to Uber driver yet had "three successful businesses" over his lifetime. Since he's driving a Uber in his advanced old age, I assume the same three businesses must've sadly became unsuccessful.  Back to the hotel by 5pm, I went in search of beer and food but ended up touring the Birmingham Public Library and its impressive reading room. Then walked by Linn Park and the statuary and fountain, to St. Paul's, an old Catholic church that was (naturally) closed tight, and then to the closest grocery which was named prosaically "Family Supermarket".

It's not too far from downtown but it felt dicey enough. The vibes were definitely rough neighborhood, but the search for beer that could be purchased cheaply overruled any thought of danger. There were a lot of guys loitering around a sign that said "No Loitering", I wanted to take a picture of them with the sign in the background but of course I'm not that stupid. I went in quickly, picked a six-pack (no fu-fu craft beer here, that's for sure, ha). Saw a paper plate doubling as a sign that said, "If You Get Caught Stealing, You'll Go to Jail".


Day two and surprisingly jam-packed it was. From seeing stone art created by Brother Joseph of a local monastery, to seeing the otherworldly EWTN church complete with inaccessible cloisters, to a ghost tour telling us that our hotel (and the rectory on the church grounds we're visiting tomorrow) is haunted. Never a dull moment.

I had planned on uber-ing to EWTN convent and church grounds but instead we called an audible given the outrageous price tag of $140 less $20 coupon. For that price we could rent a car and have plenty of flexibility with plans, and I was never more grateful for the fact later, when having a car meant the freedom to get off the road at 2pm and get a Snickers and coca cola. Because I was 'xtremely hungry by then. Man does not live on breakfast alone.

We trekked to Enterprise rental after breakfast at 10am. The front desk was staffed by a single soul, and every time the phone rang a little part of me died. Patience is a virtue, but on a vacation with the precious minutes tick-tick-ticking...

But then a crazy thing happened - it was our turn up and then an even crazier thing happened - she suddenly went up to the key rack and gave us keys to a car. Just like that. One minute we were waiting, the next we were checking out our new Jeep without all the paperwork that makes a car rental look a lot like getting a mortgage.

It was an ebulliently summer day in fall Birmingham and the roads were clear all the way up I-65 north to Hanceville. An easy ride if off the beaten track; you certainly don't run into the Shrine accidentally. We came to rolling hills with horses and white fences that led up to a magic kingdom: a large Spanish castle which contained a huge gift shop and conference room and then we explored the large colonnade and piazza leading to a magnificent church.

Everything in the 380 acres seemed top notch: clean and sparkling as Disney World. Immaculately maintained pavers and scenic grounds. Inside they even provide pull-overs and trousers for people who wore shorts or something sleeveless to the Shrine church. They take modest dress seriously here.
We spent some time in church while an unseen nun led a Rosary from behind the gild cloister. Then everyone sitting in front of us in church suddenly got up and walked left, sort of like how a flock of birds suddenly switch direction based on some unheard/unseen signal. Since it was four minutes till noon Mass, the smart money said that Mass would not be in the church but might be in some undisclosed location. I followed the crowd and the crowd was right - doors opened to allow us into the lower church (which is where Mother Angelica is buried in a mausoleum crypt). And where Mass shortly began.

It was a weekday Mass long in duration and the first Mass I'd ever been to where the priest skipped the Sign of Peace but the people did not - the mostly Mexican and African-American congregation shook hands while the Agnus Dei was prayed.

After, we walked over the church grounds and I looked for ways to get into the cloister because it was forbidden (joke). We saw a Nativity grotto where a woman with an empty holy water bottle asked where it might be found - a large holy water fixture was in the front to the right. Was it odd the holy water was up front? Or that the woman missed the very large fixture? Who could say. Mom didn't see it either.

The JP II Eucharistic Center wasn't open till 2, so we decided to skip that. So at 1:30 we headed off to a new adventure recommended by Aunt Joan, a "little Jerusalem" carved by monks. On that information alone we were able to find the location of what the 'net called Ave Maria Grotto, a roadside attraction actually featured as a certified Roadside Attraction. It was only 12 or so miles away so we went and I was surprisingly impressed by it. It had a sort of magical quality, this wonderland of miniature carvings of St. Peter's and Marian shrines and the Holy Land. The folk-ish art had a cumulative effect.

Next up I snuck in the Abbey church and walked boldly past the altar into one of the monk's carols, checking out their reading material (handsomely produced Latin hymnal books) and taking pictures. I saw a monk at a side altar in front of the Blessed Sacrament and tried to walk oh-so-slowly so as not to disturb him, something unlikely at best given the squeak of tennis shoes. Or maybe I was doing the godly thing and just exercising his patience so he'll have a higher place in Heaven.

Next we traveled back to towards the hotel after that stop for that lifesaving candy bar at a grocery bar that sold no beer. That's so not Ohio.

By 4pm we were back in the land of Birm and we had drinks on the hotel patio. Who does not love drinks on a patio in summer weather? Nobody ever born. We had dinner and then headed out on the Historic Ghost Walk.

The ghoulish guide was as eccentric as you'd expect a ghost-man would be, telling us he had two human skulls, a tooth from a local murder victim (a pendant around his neck), and a human heart in formaldehyde. This is the definition of oversharing. But I have to say he was extremely good at his job - very entertaining, talked loud enough, ooozed enthusiasm. Different from the Franciscan who showed us around the EWTN studio, although admittedly the material is a lot different. Hard to get too excited about how sound editing versus ghost-haunting.

He started talking about our very hotel and it seems the 4th and 6th floors are haunted, making us very glad we were on the 3rd and 5th. The hotel was previously the site of an 100-yr old apartment complex, with the obligatory history of mayhem.

(Surprisingly, the guide never said why Birmingham is called "The Magic City".)

We learned about the church we're going to Sunday, how the priest who married a young woman to a Catholic was shot and killed by a Methodist Ku Klux Klansmember and the killer got off the hook given how the Klan was large and in charge then. There's a movement locally to see the priest as a martyr for the faith given the circumstances.

We saw another old hotel nearby that is said to be haunted by Old Hank, Hank Williams Sr., who spent his last night alive in this hotel drinking himself to death (couch: "but what a way to go!").

The tour was great if a half-hour too long. In these days of short attention spans, he's really a throwback to an earlier age given the 130 minute talk/walk. Which actually was truncated from what was intended to be 150 minutes but for a Latino street festival.

Sunday, last day of vacation already. As always I think one more day would be nice, no matter the length of the trip.

8:30 it was at St. Paul's Cathedral. Gothic and suitably impressive, we headed back to the hotel for the end of the free breakfast period. Very nice hotel - great staff, ubiquitous and free 24-7 coffee, decent breakfasts.

Afterward we rolled via rental car to the EWTN studio chapel, the one that televises masses and did so the morning we were there.  We coulda been on TV.  We coulda been a contender! Wonder how early we would've had to have got there to have gotten a seat given how small the chapel is. But cameras were everywhere - at least 5, maybe more. And then we went to leave and - what! - we were locked in! But then I tried a different door and it was open, so we narrowly escaped being stranded in an empty church, missing our flights, and dying of thirst.

Next up was to return the rental car, so drove to Enterprise and Dad offered to wait with the car till they opened while Mom and I walked to the Museum of Art on another beautiful sunny day. We strolled for about 20 minutes or so when Dad texted cryptically: "Is mom in the room?". I said she was at the art museum with me but the text drove Mom crazy, wondering where Dad was and why he asked that question. So I ended up calling Dad after Mom's prompting and found out that he'd broken into Enterprise and the police had come! Or that he had walked into an open Enterprise at noon only they weren't there yet - they'd forgotten to lock up the night before. So Dad set off an alarm accidentally, which caused the police to come and look around the property before releasing him on his own recognizance. 

The Uncowed Pastor

First Things editor R.R. Reno comments on race here:
In recent decades, the white educated class in America has become minutely trained in racial matters. We’ve developed all sorts of code words and scripts to signal our purity. The less educated—and demotic personalities like Trump—often run afoul of this etiquette. For instance, some journalists cite Donald Trump’s mangling of the name of the new African-American heritage museum in Washington as a sign of his race “problem.”...

Today there is a strong consensus in our educated class that careful and delicate talk about racial matters, as well as other explosive topics, is indispensable for social harmony. The strength of this consensus is one reason why educated white Republicans find Trump discomforting. They worry he will damage the fragile gains of recent decades and stoke racial animosity...

Are we really going to change racial dynamics in American with community-based policing and multicultural sensitivities? Perhaps. But white Americans find race a dangerous topic. We do our best not to think about it, one way or another. In an odd way, therefore, this remarkable moment—one candidate accusing another candidate of the cardinal sin of American public life [racism]—may be inconsequential. Most blacks have already made up their minds about racism in America. Most whites are so paralyzed by fear of moral turpitude that they speak (and think) about racism in highly ritualized ways that don’t connect with anything substantial in their outlooks or lives.
Which makes the following post by a local white pastor all the more impressive for his willingness to "go there":
It seems like God is using the news to get our attention, again.  The question is will we recognize the message?  The troubles in the black community should get and hold our attention.  Is there any population in our country that is under more duress (admittedly much of it self-inflicted) than the black community?  There is more violence, poorer schools, a weaker family structure, higher unemployment, more abortion clinics, higher drug use and on and on.  The controversy over the phrase "Black lives matter" is probably missing an obvious, prophetic point.  I believe the black community is a special target of Satan because they have a crucial, God-ordained role to play in the flourishing of our nation.  The black community is a gift from God to our nation and the trouble they face, I believe, reflects their special place, that Satan recognizes but we often don't, in God's plan for our country.  Could the black community be a "Joseph" among us?  "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable", says Paul (1 Corinthians 12:23).  Jesus said, "the last will be first".  There are riches from God invested in the black community which we (and they) fail to see.  The fact we are all so blind to this is just par for the course.  I believe God is trying to awaken our nation to recognize the assault of the Enemy of our souls on our brothers and sisters in the black community.  I urge every follower of Jesus to make the black community in our nation a special focus of fasting and prayer until there is a breakthrough and turning point in this national tragedy.  "Jesus looked at the crowds and had compassion (not contempt!) on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:36-38).  Lord, awaken us and help our brothers and sisters who are suffering.  Use us in whatever way possible to see this tragic situation reversed until the black community across our nation is flourishing in every sense of the word.  Have mercy on us, Jesus.