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(Yes, I know I said below that I am trying to stay off normal bloggy topics during Lent, but I also said that I was doing so imperfectly.)

I have always maintained that one of the primary purposes in studying history is that you can’t possibly figure out where you’re going unless you have a clear understanding of where you’ve come from.

I know that this view is no longer popular and, indeed, is increasingly seen as reactionary, subversive and even dangerous.  But my jaw still drops when I read of, for example, the decision to scrub the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham:

When the metaphorical dust has settled on the Plains of Abraham – metaphorical dust being the only kind you’re allowed to kick up on the sacred sod a quarter-millennium on – the larger question remains:

What’s the future of the past?

That’s to say, the lesson of the last few weeks is that the latter depends on the former. In 1759, General Wolfe won a decisive victory that led to the end of French rule on this continent: that is what we used quaintly to call a “fact”. To take another unfashionable word, the “reality” of North American life today derives explicitly from that fact.

Once upon a time they used to teach Wolfe in schools. I don’t suppose, between diversity studies, anger management classes and Ritalin shots, he gets much of a look-in these days. Yet it is still startling to discover that to observe two-and-a-half centuries of this transformative event would be a ghastly social faux pas (pardon my French) in the province (pardon my English) of Quebec. When I first heard that the long scheduled re-enactment of the battle had been cancelled on “public safety” grounds, I roared my head off: the notion of a warrior nation now too fainthearted even to stage re-enactments seemed too obvious a parody of Canadian squishiness. But it turned out to be true. The British won the battle but the French won the re-enactment – which may yet be what counts. As the separatist bruiser Patrick Bourgeois couldn’t resist crowing, it was a glorious victory over the old enemy.

I say “separatist bruiser” but, of course, the pseudo-separatists never do separate and M Bourgeois will end his days a subject of the same Crown that has already inflicted 250 years of humiliation on him. “Je me souviens,” as the license plates say – although given Quebec’s advanced state of societal dementia maybe they could switch quotations to “A British subject I was born and a British subject I will die.”

In other countries, they epater les bourgeois. But in Canada les Bourgeois epater everybody else. I warmed up to Quebec’s newest hero after listening to everybody else’s response to him. The British victor’s successor as gauleiter of Quebec, the federal government, turned out to be a sheep Wolfe’s clothing, and abandoned the National Battlefield Commission to its fate. The Commission chair, Andre Juneau, conceded that it is “an extremely painful page in our history”, apparently mostly for the winning side, but he said a commemorative book would still be issued, and – who knows? – it may even be legal to distribute it in Quebec. A spokesman for the organizing group, the Quebec Historical Corps, said they might go ahead and hold the re-enactment in Ontario, which would be as funny as it gets, short of moving the venue to the garden of Buckingham Palace, where presumably it would fall foul of European Union “xenophobia” laws.

And what of General Wolfe, one of my great favorites?

[     ] General Wolfe’s historic victory is history in the robust sense of that useful Americanism: Aw, he’s history – as in fuhgeddabouttim; he’s gone, he’s over, put a fork in him – he’s done. John Robson wrote a splendid column arguing that not even Quebecers should be dumb enough to want to exchange 250 years under the British Crown for 250 years under absolute monarchy, the Revolution, the Terror, Napoleon, the Second Empire, the Fourth Republic, etc, etc. As for France, she was happy to trade “quelques arpents de neige” (a few acres of snow) for the security of her Caribbean colonies. How’d that work out? See the riots in Guadeloupe the other week? I mean, real riots, not just a staged re-enactment of riots from hundreds of years ago. Not so long ago, there were millions of people in every corner of the world who attended schools that taught them that the Britannic inheritance was on balance a good thing as opposed to the root cause of all the planet’s woes. Good for individual liberty, standard of living, constitutional democracy: See, eg, Canada, America, the Bahamas, India, Australia, and even a few francophone redoubts such as Mauritius. But then the alumni of Canada’s residential schools sued for “cultural genocide” (a novel concept), and on the whole you’re safer to steer clear of the whole business. The past didn’t change: It is what it is. But the present changed, and the future will be beyond recognition.

As for what that future will be, go read the whole thing.  It’s Mark Steyn, so of course you’ll laugh.  It’s Mark Steyn, so of course you’ll also cry.

charlie-brown3 My apologies if you are beginning to become bored stiff with my posting of late, which has been pretty much confined to the subjects of spiritual reflection and softball.  What with Lent, this is pretty much all that I am thinking about to any real extent at the moment.  Aside from an occasional mini-screed over at the Llamas, I am deliberately trying (granted, not completely succeeding) to avoid everything else for the season.  I promise to get back into more general blathering after Easter.

Nonetheless, for better or for worse my current intellectual diet keeps recalling to mind that exchange from Major League:

Serrano – “Ahh, Jesus! I like him very much.  But He no help with curveball.”

Harris – “Are you trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curve ball?”

Heh.  I certainly hope that He understands.

Anyhoo, tonight is my team’s second practice and here are a few thoughts wandering through my brain at the moment:

♦  It’s only supposed to make it into the upper 40’s this afternoon.  I had considered calling off the practice, but reckoned that we need all the time we can get, especially as once spring gets going in the Old Dominion it tends to rain a lot.  So I’m just going to tell the gels to suck it up.

♦  On the other hand, it’s times like this I wish our local little league spring training could be in Florida just like the Bigs.   This takes me back to college crew.  For some reason the girls’ team always managed to wangle spring break training in Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale or someplace, while we guys were marooned on campus and forced to wade up to our thighs in the icy Connecticut River.

♦  I got my first coaching compliment today, from the mom of the sweet, nervous, gawky little thing I wrote about last time: apparently, she had much fun at practice Sunday and is very excited.   Truth be told, that makes me feel pretty durn good.  And it’s gels like her to whom I intend to devote the most attention.

♦   I am hoping to meet my bull-pen today, neither of which gels could make it last Sunday.    I actually believe that the softball pitch is somewhat more complicated than an overhand baseball pitch, at least in the mechanics of the wind-up.  It certainly looks a lot more fussy than one would think it should.   I believe there is something of a trap there: Gels sometimes get so caught up in the choreography that they forget the main purpose is just to get the ball over the plate.  I’ve got my “strikeouts are fascist” line primed and ready to go as needed.

♦  One of my consuming desires for the season is to be able to turn double-plays.   I don’t know why, but to me a good 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 combo is the very essence of the game.    Today I think I’ll start working on the Short/Second mechanics.  Never too early to start!

♦  At the moment, I’ve got the batting cages available after both Thursday and Sunday practices.  Since they are literally right down the street, I had the brilliant idea of curtailing each practice slightly and taking half the crew over each time to work on their swings.  It’ll be more efficient if I’m only dealing with half the gels at once and it will also give a chance to those few gels who can’t make one or the other practice because of conflicts.

♦  Since I go straight to practices from the office on Thursdays, a bit of a sartorial question comes to mind:  Should I bring along a change, or should I keep on the ol’ shirt and tie?   The one would allow me greater freedom of movement, but I can’t help thinking that the other would command greater respect.   Certainly once the season starts up I intend to be the best dressed manager out there, but I wonder whether it’s a useful practice to adopt now.


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March 2009