Category Archives: Republic of Letters

My father’s angel mother:Mary Munro

My father was educated in Scotland up to age 12 1/2. When my father finished the sixth grade in Scotland in 1927 his mother was told he had only two choices “the Army or the docks.” She was so horrified at this news that she reportedly answered angrily, “Och no, there is a third choice, America!.” So she decided finally to immigrate in October 1927 and they came on the SS Transylvania via Ellis Island. My father said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to America and to my angel mother.” Love wins out and endures.

I like to think if Mary Munro were looking down from heaven would see my wife and my daughter and daughter in law and say,:

    “Love conquers all. Faith never dies.
    One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever… The sun also ariseth….”

Mrs. Munro (Mary Munro) circa 1915 in Glasgow Scotland. She volunteered to work in a munitions factory after her two broths and brother in law were killed on the Western Front serving with the Highland Light Infantry.
Mary Munro circa 1920’s
family portrait March 17, 1915 St. Anthony’s. Her husband THOMAS MUNRO, SR was served in the trenches at Ypres. My grandfather had been listed as missing in action when my father was born on March 10. Mary Munro held off the baptism a few days until she heard the news her husband had been saved by Indian soldiers and his friend American Johnny Robertson.

Learning to Rest ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Later, of course, we find the commandment to keep the seventh day holy and free from trials and corruption. As the tablets commanded:

Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Again, my words can add little to this, but it is quite clear that the Sabbath matters, and it matters intensely. In part (only in part, but an essential part, nonetheless), the human person must rest on the seventh day.
— Read on

The Imaginative Conservative: 10 Years of Preserving & Advancing ~ The Imaginative Conservative

From the beginning of our existence, we have known that, to the best of our ability, we must try to do both. Our inspiration—and this is not meant to sound pretentious, just honest—came from the two greatest institutions of the Middle Ages, the monastery and the university. The one protected the best behind thick walls and even denser prayer. The other promoted the best through inquiry and scholarship. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, though, the monastery was indispensable to the very survival of classical civilization in the West. As Christopher Dawson explained: “Ninety-nine out of a hundred monasteries could be burnt and the monks killed or driven out, and yet the whole tradition could be reconstituted from the one survivor, and the desolate sites could be re-peopled by fresh supplies of monks who would take up again the broken tradition, following the same rule, singing the same liturgy, reading the same books and thinking the same thoughts as their predecessors.” Those books were everything from Platonic dialogues to Holy Scripture, and every breath of every monk preserved the best of the past for those who would never know them and sadly, almost certainly not praise them for their innumerable sacrifices over a thousand years. Sacrifice there was… in abundance.
— Read on

How Ray Bradbury Predicted 2020 ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Throughout his career, Bradbury spoke bravely and openly against “political correctness,” recognizing it for the evil and the tyranny it is. In 1953, it was against Joseph McCarthy. “Whether or not my ideas on censorship via the fire department will be old hat by this time next week, I dare not predict,” he wrote, but “when the wind is right, a faint odor of kerosene is exhaled from Senator McCarthy.” In the early 1990s, in Chronicles magazine, he stated: “Someone said to me recently, aren’t you afraid? No, I said, I never react in fear; I react in anger. As with graffiti, you must counterattack within the moment, not a day, a month, or a year later. All the politically correct terrorists must be driven back into the stands. There is no place for them in the open field of democratic ballplaying.”

In this dread year of our Lord, 2020, we have seen Killing Fields’ style public confessionals, policemen and politicians betraying their oaths to their respective communities, the wide-spread destruction of property, the killing of innocents, threats with the guillotine, and the tearing down of public monuments. Whether Bradbury is correct in assessing the government as a lesser danger than the mob, this much is certain: The mob hates dissent, hates liberty, hates individuality, hates personhood, hates God, and hates truth. Yes, there are traitors in our midst, more domestic than foreign.
— Read on

Happy Birthday, America! ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Happy 244th, America! The world wouldn’t be the same without you. It would be poorer, less ethical, less stable, and less humane had you never come into existence. Whatever America’s faults, her successes outweigh them all… (essay by Bradley Birzer)
— Read on

John Garth, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien

Serious fans and scholars of J.R.R. Tolkien need little introduction to John Garth.  His Tolkien and the Great War (2003) is among the best books of this century on the creator of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  With urgency and clarity, Garth laid bare the biographical and historical roots of Tolkien’s legendarium, along with the unique gifts and vision of the man who gave it life.

In the acknowledgments for The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, Garth promises that another major book on Tolkien’s creative process is in the works.  Until then, what an delectable hors d’oeuvre we have to sate our appetites!   Focusing on “the places that inspired Middle-Earth,” Worlds is gorgeously illustrated with snapshots, paintings and drawings from Tolkien’s life, along with many more maps, illustrations and stunning photographs (sampled below).   

But it’s Garth’s commentary — always accessible, always deeply empathetic  — that leaves us richer for the reading.  He probes much farther than any mechanical equation, i.e. “Tolkien saw this [location/building/natural feature] and this place from the legendarium was obviously the result.”  In fact, knocking down some of the wilder theories in play is part of his brief — the family names in the Shire don’t all come from two villages in Kentucky; the “two towers” aren’t a dystopian refraction of Birmingham’s dark satanic mills.  Instead, Garth strives to see Tolkien’s art as the holistic fruit of his life — the circumstances, people, environment, culture and education that shaped him, working together organically with his mind and heart, loves and hates, interests, friendships, education, vocations and travels.

The result can seem unsystematic, yet it’s satisfyingly thorough, surveying how Tolkien drew on the creation he knew to realize his sub-created imaginary world over six decades.  The chapter “The Land of Luthien: from Faerie to Britain” is perhaps Garth’s most delightful achievement here, tracing the evolving picture of Middle-Earth and its correspondences with this world from 1918’s The Book of Lost Tales through to The Lord of the Rings.  But there’s a great deal more on display, as Garth muses on the impressions that seas, mountains, rivers and lakes, forests, centers of learning and towers of guard made on Tolkien — not just in his early life, but throughout his years as a scholar, soldier, husband, father, linguist, storyteller, colleague and friend.  The penultimate chapter, “Places of War” focuses once again on the crucible of the Western Front; Garth is in his element here, digging ever deeper into how the Battle of the Somme and its aftermath refined Tolkien the man, ultimately unleashing Tolkien the legend-maker.

For all this, John Garth and the design team at Quarto Publishing deserve heartfelt thanks.  Words and images work in concert throughout The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, convincingly showing how the bardic depths of Middle-Earth are firmly founded on Tolkien’s experience in — and meditations about — the wonder and beauty of the fields we know.

To order The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien direct from the publisher at 50% off (ending June 28 at 11:59 pm EDT), click here.

— Rick Krueger





The greatest day of my young, innocent happy life

Spirit of Cecilia

By Richard K. Munro

Hank Aaron in the early 1960’s

When I was a kid (about 12) I wrote a short essay: “THE GREATEST DAY IN MY LIFE” It was about my friendship with Hank Aaron from afar. He knew me, in a way, I always had the same banner out there “NAIL ‘EM DOWN Hammerin’ Hank.” He always waved at us when he went out to right field.

And when the cop said, “This kid has your book on its first day out! What do you think? Could you sign it for the kid? ” Hank said, “What’s the kid’s name?”Rickey” , said the big good natured cop. The game was about tobegin. He signed it and they passed to book down the dugout from player to player and back to the cop and then to my dad and me. He signed it with my Dad’s scorecard pencil.


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Of Fallen statues and father Serra: the radical “cancel” iconoclastic movement of 2020

by Richard K Munro:

Personally, I have no trouble with renaming military bases whose time has come. Most of those bases in the South and elsewhere were named circa 1917-1920 to appease White Democratic segregationists. For the same reasons many federal institutions remained segregated until President Kennedy.. I have no problem with town councils or state governments deciding to remove pubic statuary if it is done in a democratic way with due process. Statues could be placed in museum and given additional context. But destroying the original inscription and defacing the statue or plaque seems sinister to me. Something out of 1984. For example many old Civil War monuments refer to “Negros” or “Colored troops”. In some cases these monuments were put up by ex-slaves themselves. At the time, “Negro” and “Colored” were the accepted and popular terms. Sometimes (in Winslow Homer paintings ) the word Ethiopian is used for African-American but that was not common. It makes no sense to go back and destroy every book, every document, every monument which uses non PC languages.

I am totally opposed however for iconoclastic mobs to deface and destroy in the dead of the night historical monuments and displays which are also public art.

This is not totally new. There have been attacks of Columbus Statues and the statues of Spanish missionaries before usually with red paint accusing them as colonizers killers and slavers. Columbus was certainly a master mariner and a colonizer but he never held a single black slave in his entire life not did he introduce Black slavery to the Americas. Similarly, Father Serra never held a Black slave either, in fact he prohibited slavery at the California Missions.

There was a controversy about the Mohave Cross a number of years ago not far from where I live. It was a World War One memorial to fallen local soldiers. It was shamefully in a box during the back and forth trials because people said they could see it from a public highway and that was offensive to them . The Mohave Cross finally triumphed like some other public war memorials or crosses but it was vandalized and destroyed by opponent AFTER the court case. It has been restored (and is on private land) but it is sad the original monument from 80 years ago was destroyed. The Supreme Court has upheld the legality of public crosses as memorials to the fallen. There are many many crosses in Arlington also but also symbols of other religions and some graves have no symbol at all. The reason is every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine designates his or her preferred religious affiliation. If the fallen warrior is Jewish it would have a Jewish symbol if Muslim a crescent moon etc. et. The reason there are so many white crosses at Arlington, Normandy, Anzio, Bastogne, Salerno is because the majority of the Americans who fell there were from Christian communities. Allowing them to be honored by crosses is free exercise of religion and in any case the cross has for many a non-religious meaning just the acknowledgement of the fallen warrior.

I am totally against destroying or defacing WWII, WW, Civil War monuments in cemeteries or National Park battlefields. I am totally against the Spanish missions being destroyed or defaced. I am totally against all public art as to Spanish missionaries being destroyed or defaced. In San Francisco not only was Francis Scott Key statue toppled but a statue of Miguel de Cervantes was also vandalized (I am not sure of the extent of its damage). I also see in newspapers noble souls like Father Kino, Father Crespi and Father Serra being trashed as cruel slave holders who brutalized and exterminated the native Americans.

The fact is Father Serra -and we know a lot about his service and actions BECAUSE of his letters and the notes of Father Crespi did not allow any slavery at all in the Spanish Missions. Escaped black slaves in the Spanish Missions in Florida or New Mexico or California were considered free men Father Serra personally baptized Black persons in the Catholic church and married them to White Californios or Native Americans.

The most famous example is PIo Pico was the last Mexican governor of California. Pio Pico was legally “Spanish/Mexican” when California joined the Union but was of African descent. So Serra helped free slaves and did no allow for slavery in the Spanish Missions while he was the president of the missions.

We know from his own accounts and the accounts of Father Crespi that he disciplined Native Americans who broke Mission rules -stealing, getting drunk in one instance entering the sleeping quarters of the female neophytes (some as young as nine years old) and sexually assaulting and raping them. On this occasion -it was very rare for Father Serra himself to administer punishment -he did not like but on this occasion (well documented ) Serra publicly flogged the “renegade’. They had a strict discipline at the Missions those who stayed had to work and contribute and had to follow the rules. But it isn’t true that the Indians were press-ganged into the Missions. Many came because water (due to wells and irrigation) and food was more readily available.

Father Serra (St. Junipero) dedicated his life to defend the Indians and to teach them. He and the Franciscan Fathers taught them pottery, leatherwork, metallurgy, ranching, candle making, preserving foods in oil. He introduced many new plants and crops to California like citrus -lemons and oranges. He vastly increased food production through ranching of sheep and cattle. He vastly improved agricultural production by introducing irrigation. He taught the natives music and sophisticated musical instruments were constructed at the missions. He established the first libraries in the history of California. He instructed the Indians in religion and helped assimilate them to Spanish society by learning Spanish. Father Serra, St. Junipero, was a good man in his time. This does not mean he was a perfect person who advocated for woman’s suffrage, self-government, universal abolition of slavery, preservation of the environment and all native languages and customs. We have no knowledge if he advocated the independence of California or Mexico. As far as we know he was a loyal Spanish Subject who expected his missions to continue indefinitely under Spanish rule and under the Spanish monarchy. At the time he lived there was no Mexican nationality. The world Latin American did not even exist. We do know that Serra seemed to sympathize with the American Revolution but he was mostly concerned with his own region.

Very importantly Serra and the Spanish fathers saw to it that local women (Native Americans and Californios) married foreign immigrants and marred Spanish soldiers. So immigrants and mixed race people became Spanish citizens (subjects). The Spanish Empire was not a democracy nor a perfect society but it was a humane society where local peoples had rule of law, relative peace and prosperity. It was never a society that practiced strict segregation of the races. What evidence is there that the Spanish missions were not Nazi-style concentration camps of extermination?

I can think of two powerful pieces of evidence. One was this: when the Mexican government dissolved the Spanish Missions the Indians who lived there did not want to leave and wanted to stay with the Spanish fathers. Why would they stay if they thought they were being ruled tyrannically? And another is this. Why are there so man Mexicans, Peruvians (and Filipinos also?) Because the Indian/or native mestizo populations thrived and increased hugely in the years of Spanish rule.

It is true that the Spanish did not, usually (the Jesuits are an exception) teach or preserve the native customs or dialects. The Franciscans, in general, were not great scholars but practical workers and farmers. But what we know of ancient native languages and civilizations is almost entirely because of what Spanish missionaries documented and preserved. The native tribes of California would not have survived independently as hunter gatherers as California’s economy and agriculture developed. Their only hope for survival as individuals and families was in an around the Spanish missions and ranches. The native Americans and Filipinos had hundreds, probably thousands of languages and dialects. Some have survived Quecha, Aymara , Guarani and Tagalog have survived precisely because Spanish missionaries created grammars and dictionaries in those tongues (this was chiefly the work of Jesuits) and evangelized using those languages as well as Spanish. It is wrong to characterize Spanish rule as equivalent to Nazi rule and to compare Spanish Missions to Nazi concentration camps. It is wrong, it is unjust, it is a calumny to do so. It is a historical falsehood. In short much of the criticisms of Spanish rule and Spanish missionaries are just propaganda. They give a completely false, incomplete and distorted. view of Spanish culture and history.