The following is an actual email exchange I had this week with a former undergraduate student of mine. He is still young, living in the Midwest. Kris had sent me the trailer for a film scheduled to be released next month, called “The Hunt.” In it, supposed “elites” from left-wing strongholds hunt “Deplorables” from interior states for sport. The trailer was extremely graphic and disgusting. For purposes of clarification, I made a few small changes in our exchange.
On 9 August, Kris emailed me:
Greetings, Fr. Paul,
I'm not sure if you have heard of this [new film] or not but it is an example of the extreme decadence coming out of our elites in this country. The video embedded in this page is very graphic so don't feel like you need to watch it. The idea behind it is enough to sicken a person.
I hope that you are well and I hope to get the chance to communicate with you again soon. May God bless you and yours.
My response later on 9 August:
Kris, what I saw is shocking, for the same reasons you feel it. If the hunted had been blacks being lynched, there would be a very loud outcry. And this film is called a “satire”? So such politically-motivated brutality is supposed to be humorous in some way? Yes, I had heard of it on Lou Dobbs, but had no idea that it was this graphic. I am “blown away” by what I just watched. It is sickening—literally.
I rarely indulge in any Hollywood productions, and when I do, they are old movies (say, from the 1930’s to 1950’s). I have no stomach for the nonsense generated by most of the Hollywood money-makers.
How can this country have a good future? The future is unknown, but I would not bet on the development of a real culture of life and nourishment in our country. No way.
God bless you, your wife, and your little ones,
P.S. I am still with Moses and Elijah
An additional note which I wrote a little later, as the images would not leave my mind.
Kris, that movie trailer for “The Hunt” was very disturbing.
For many years Hollywood has been glorifying violence, or using it to make big money. They are surely a major factor in the preference and taste for violence that keeps tearing families and communities apart. They sold hatred, and many bought it.
Kris responded the next day.
10 August 2019
I have found that as I grow older and more withdrawn from worldly allures, I find violent images and disregard of human life to be more and more unbearable. It was difficult to watch that video without turning my eyes away. A few years ago, I attempted to read the book that inspired the popular Game of Thrones series and could not stomach the graphic sexual descriptions and inhuman violence. Perhaps it is weakness of soul. Perhaps it is also a concern for the dignity of human beings. I do not know how I would react in a battlefield scenario. I would hope that I could do my duty without flinching and defend my family, home, and friends.
The reason this particular film stood out to me was its plot of progressive elites herding up Trump supporting “deplorables” and murdering them, scratch that, butchering them for sport. To these elites, any who disagree with their agenda (be it environmentalism, gender fluidity, sexual liberation, LGBT progress, unconditional choice, absolute progressivism, etc.) is not even worthy of being human and should be treated as animals; worse than animals for animals are our innocent friends and deserve to inherit the earth after human beings pass away into oblivion. This mentality of the elites has been growing steadily since the Obama era and came to a head with the rise of Trump. Now we see their hearts' desire portrayed in a film where they can finally rid the world of those who would hinder their progress. It is terrifying.
We do not turn on the television in our home and so our children are shielded from much of the media's influence. Every time I hear a news report or read an article in a mainstream publication, I think of the scene in Orwell's 1984 where the company workers are required to participate in the two-minute hate. An image of the enemy (Trump) is shown on the screen and all participators are required to curse, jeer, and yell at that image. It is no wonder that the extreme on both sides of the political spectrum are coming out into the spotlight.
I know that I am young (32) and I have not seen much of the history in our country, but has the polarization and conflict between the two parties ever been so poignant before? The rift between left and right, progressive and conservative, republican and democrat is so deep and intense that one is almost forced to choose a side. Could it escalate to a civil war? If so, do the conservatives have a hope of surviving? We feel as if we are constantly on the defense. What would happen if a conservative cause went on the offense? What would that look like?
Is there enough goodness left in this country to try to conserve?
After the conglomeration of big government and semi-socialism that we have experienced, is it possible to return to a republic of states grounded in enduring liberties? How long would it take to return to order and how much more will we lose before that happens?
When society falls, will the Church of Christ be strong enough to carry the survivors? If not, to what or to whom shall we turn?
The weight of the disorder is heavy and oppressing. How does one become more like St. Lawrence and laugh in light of the persecution? How do we stay light-hearted as much of the world seeks to tear us down?
The perplexities of a young father striving to find light in the darkness.
10 August 2019
I feel for your situation with a family and young children living in the midst of this culture of decadence, now intensified by sheer hatred and murderous thoughts. The trailer you sent did not change my thinking at all, but only brought a wave of anguished feelings into my heart. It is not just the scenario of leftists hunting down Trumpian “deplorables” as sport that so sickens me, but my recurring sense, previously noted, that Hollywood has immersed our population in scenes of violence, cruelty, hatred, and depravity for years now—all to make money, and to change us into the image that these movie-makers seek: a godless society without spiritual, intellectual, or moral standards. Hollywood has helped to tear down whatever has been good and noble in our people, much as leftist idiots have run loose and torn down historical statues of figures from our past now deemed “unacceptable” to their own “woke consciousness.”
I do not wish to alarm you, but you already voiced your strong and grounded concern for raising a problem in the midst of our culture morass. Often a thought returns to my mind, “America is dying.” If this is not what a decadent and dying society looks like, what could it be? What we are going through reminds me of Weimar Germany, and how it gave rise to National Socialism. Once God and right reason are rejected (and even hated), “all hell breaks loose.” The worst forces that dwell submerged in the human spirit come to the surface and find expression. Without either a genuine spiritual life or noetic controls (from right reason), what can hold a society together except force?
When I was a child, I probably did not object to seeing violence on the screen. But when I was ten or eleven, my father took my family to see “Psycho”, and soon thereafter another highly violent film called, I believe, “Homocidal.” And we viewed other such violent films. To this day, whenever I travel and must stay in a motel room, I have spontaneous flashbacks from “Psycho,” in which a blond woman is attacked and killed by repeated blows of a knife while taking a shower. One thing I learned is that these Hollywood money-making spectacles have real and lasting effects on human beings—on psyches and their lives. Such movies are not innocuous. There are various forces that have contributed to making our society a cesspool of hatred, violence, and various perversions, but surely Hollywood has played a leading role—and should give itself an Academy Aware for the most corrupting. You are wise indeed not to allow your children to watch television. My family gathered around the TV nightly. Some shows in the 1950’s were either harmless or even uplifting, but the standards and tastes kept sinking downhill. And now we have a movie about liberals hunting conservatives for sport. And we should think that such evil movies will have no effect on our citizens?
I share your concern that the political divide in our country is reaching a very dangerous point. As I see it, we are on the verge of tearing ourselves apart by hatred and violence. The divisions were indeed present and real during the Obama era, which you mentioned, but the hard core left in this country hates President Trump so vehemently and irrationally that they seem to be willing to stop at nothing to destroy him, or at least his Presidency. Their ferocity and viciousness is, I think, unrivaled in our country’s history. Or if such passions were nearly as strong before, the means to magnify and to implement hatred and other evils in human hearts were not nearly as great. The immense power of the State to spy on and destroy Trump, employed by highly partisan and lawless individuals in the FBI, CIA, and other departments and agencies, has never been used to the same extent before in our history, to the best of my knowledge, although some Presidents (FDR, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon) did use State powers against political opponents. Now the wickedness of Obama officials and leftist extremists (and a large part of the GOP establishment) has been joined by most of the mass media (NYT, CNN, ABC, and so on) in a steady and unashamed assault on Trump in every way they can concoct. In this sense, the leftists have been hunting down “deplorables” for at least three years now—but really much longer. We are repeatedly branded as “racist” and “white supremacists” just for appreciating a number of President Trump’s policies—as I surely do as a political scientist and as a citizen. We are smeared and vilified for supporting the President in any way. Perhaps you have experienced such smearing personally; I surely have. But I recall being branded as “an extremist” in my youth when I supported and campaigned for Barry Goldwater for President. The intensity and degree of the hatred and willingness to assassinate a man’s character (and the man himself, at least in violent speech) have reached a new depth of depravity. For just one example, think of the so-called “comedian” who carried around an image of a severed, bloody head of Donald Trump. Verbalizing assaults on him and members of his family have been frequent—and publicly tolerated by the leftist “elites.” Hence, the film showing leftists hunting down conservatives for sport is actually not unexpected. It is another case of left-wing, nascent totalitarian hatred for those who think differently than they do. These “progressives” have been engaged in “search and destroy” by other means up to the present. If you wish for a concrete example, think of the corrupt and wicked little FBI agent, Peter Strzok. When I listened to him testify before Congress, I saw a shrunken, deceitful, wicked little soul on public display, and seemingly getting away with his antics. Unfortunately for Strzok and other such “Progressives” (who can “smell” Trump voters), truth will out, sooner or later. Or so one must hope in order to see justice done. But to be honest, I am not holding my breath, because these “elite” types have protected each other for years. Again, leading GOP figures and party donors have shared in this charade.
What is one to do? Hiding one’s head in the sand, or packing up and moving, or trying to live in a cocoon are not viable solutions. One must prepare one’s soul, one’s mind, to be tested and under assault if one seeks to live a good life, to act justly, to speak the truth. You will suffer for goodness in a corrupt society such as ours. That much we know, and so one must be prepared. Lightheartedness is not, I dare say, a rational response to being roasted (as was St. Lawrence). But nor is defeatism or melancholy. What comes to mind is a teaching from the prophet Jeremiah to the effect that through struggle one must gain one’s soul. One finds the same in the Gita—life is a battlefield, in which one must do one’s duty and act aright, regardless of the personal consequences. Here is a real hero to study and to imitate: the Austrian farmer, husband, and father, Franz Jägerstätter. Without choosing to speak the truth, to act justly, to refrain from evil, over and again, one loses himself. And saintly and wise Franz was pressed even by his priest and bishop to play along with the Nazis, and he refused—knowing that his family would suffer. For not being willing to fight in a war of aggression for Nazi Germany, Jägerstätter, abandoned by the Catholic hierarchy, was murdered by the totalitarian regime.
You ask, “When society falls, will the Church of Christ be strong enough to carry the survivors? If not, to what or to whom shall we turn?” If by “Church” one means the official church, then I put far less faith in “the Church of Christ” than you may do. To gain my own soul and live in dignity, I had to withstand corrupt powers within the Church—and especially from members of the clergy. For nearly 40 years now I have served within the Church as a monk, and as a priest, but receive no benefits (pension or health care), in large part because I dared to uncover and speak out against a priest who indulged in various crimes, grand theft. He was given a pension and health care, and still functions in parishes. His bishop promised our finance council that this priest would never function again; the same bishop restored this corrupt man’s faculties a few months later. Why? Was the bishop bought off? No answer was given. You can imagine the agony that such clergy have caused many lay persons who know of the deceits, stealing, and cover-up. But If by the “Church of Christ” you mean Christ, his teaching, and the faithful who are genuinely struggling to live in Christ—such as my spiritual friend, Franz Jägerstätter—then yes, for them and with them we can have hope. But the hierarchy as an institution has shown itself to be as decadent as our American culture—and both are dying. (I often think that the Body of Christ must slough off the hierarchy as a snake sheds its old skin.) At times one must even bear with foolishness from Popes, as we frequently do even now. Again from Jeremiah, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man; blessed the man who trusts in God.” And the hierarchy is “human, all too human,” so beware of trusting it. If I am truthful, respect me for it, but please do not respect me because I am an “ordained priest.” The very title of “priest” has become a source of shame to me, given what I have experienced. Titles worth having are “courageous,” “truthful,” “just,” “reliable.” In short, “Beware of wolves who come in sheep’s clothing,” even when dressed in priestly clothes and fancy liturgical vestments.
So, dear Kris, if you have felt yourself hunted at times by self-styled “Progressives” and “elites,” and by the self-proclaimed “learned professors” and by clerical hierarchs, do not be surprised. If you have not felt the tentacles of corruption reaching into you, or even dwelling in your own heart, wonder why. “For out of the heart proceeds murderous thoughts…” The only cure for corruption is virtuous activity, and acceptance of the consequences for choosing life over death, and goodness over evil.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. Kris, if you do not mind, I will post our exchange on this video on my website. The only personal information on you is your first name; I omitted your wife’s name, and made no reference to where you live. As for me, the hunters know where to find me!
I do not know what my life would be like without the beauty and joy of magnificent music. Fortunately, recordings make so much great music available to one without leaving home, or in the car with playlists, and so on. I subscribe to Apple Music, and hence have access to millions of compositions and often as performed by various artists. One can also use YouTube, and listen and watch as some outstanding musicians share their art with us.
Again and again I return to certain compositions, including the set of Beethoven’s “Late String Quartets,” which number five or six, depending on how one counts the Great Fugue. These quartets constitute the bulk of Beethoven’s last compositions, composed the two years before he died (26 March 1827). For some reason, it is especially the slow movements that have most appealed to me. They bespeak a spirit at rest, after the turmoils of one’s earlier years are over. Here one does not hear the storms and outbursts of younger Beethoven, but soulful meditations composed by a man living on the edge of eternity. The listener is drawn with Beethoven into a realm that is not altogether of this world. And it is quiet bliss into which one enters. I truly thank God that Beethoven suffered as he did, and rose above his sufferings into sublime peace and transcendental love. How far Beethoven’s spirit advanced beyond the rage of the Eroica (Symphony #3 in E-flat, a truly revolutionary accomplishment) into the sublime language of the late Quartets.
As I listen to chamber music such as these string quartets, I often recall the words a fundamentalist preacher spoke to me one day in Iowa. The man was a farmer and a minister, who had attended college, and purportedly had a degree of education. One day when I mentioned the pleasure I take in chamber music, he asked me, “Why would you ever listen to chamber music?” He asked as if I were engaged in some truly bizarre activity, such as bungee jumping off a bridge with nothing but sharp boulders below. His question utterly puzzled me. How does one answer such a question? “Why do you love the ocean?” “Why do you enjoy viewing the greatest works of sculpture?” “Why would you ever read Shakespeare?” The questions are similar: If asked without a living appreciation of such beauty, the one asking is apparently dead (or numb) to the experience of beauty or truth in great works of art or nature. For me, such questions are incomprehensible. “Taste and see for yourself,” perhaps I should have said to him. But he would not have known how or where to begin in order to awaken his appreciation for such works of art. It requires hard work, and many are unwilling to make the effort to climb the mountain.
So much is lacking in American education. I wonder how many adults in Montana, where I live, would be willing to sit and listen to a late Beethoven Quartet, or to a Schubert Trio, or to a Brahms Piano Quartet, or a Bach Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord. Not many, I dare say. Many here think nothing of drinking beer even to the point of drunkenness, or of driving pick-up trucks speeding down a road, or of yelling themselves hoarse at some high school basketball game. But sitting still and listening to musicians perform some of the masterpieces of musical composition is probably beyond the limits of their imagination. They simply have not been exposed to such works, nor have they made the effort to discover them. As I just stated, so much is lacking in American education. We do not know or care to know how dead we are to so much beauty, or to works of philosophy, or to achievements of science. “Professing ourselves wise, we became fools.” Most sadly, education in America often means instruction, if not propagandizing and brain-washing; it rarely means inspiring a human being to seek the truth for himself or herself.
In reality, one must choose to educate his own mind, his own soul. There is no substitution for self-education, and its work requires a lifetime of devotion and hard work. As I reflect back on my years in high school, college, and graduate school, although I am truly thankful to a number of my teachers and professors for the learning they shared, I am also strongly aware that much of what I gained from formal education was done outside the classroom, through browsing library shelves of books, through listening intently to great music, from visiting museums, from sharing thoughts with fellow students, and so on. Formal education is at best a shell, a skeleton. If one is to flesh one’s learning, one must spend years educating oneself in the best that human minds and spirits have brought forth over time. And that requires a searching mind, and discipline, and one of the greatest of all gifts: a genuine love for learning, grounded in a humble awareness of one’s own ignorance, and need for right education. The day one thinks, “I am an educated man,” that day one’s true learning ceases. Learning is watered by the disturbing sense of one’s ignorance and shortcomings, not in pride in one’s accomplishments. “Seek and you will find,” not “Think that you have found, you have arrived.” As I see life: “Baby, you’ve just begun!”
Now, to what shall I turn my attention? There is so much lacking in my knowledge of truth and appreciation of beauty, how shall I begin? Who or what can guide me on the quest out of relative darkness into a greater light, into a deeper and fuller vision of the whole of reality? What little steps shall I now take on this journey of a thousand years?
—Wm. P. McKane
3 August 2019
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