Chesterton is just so great!

Chesterton is just so great! November 19, 2016

Something for the impending holiday.

“A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels in so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.” — G. K. Chesterton

Also, Chesterton said, “In America, they have a feast to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrim. In England, we should have a feast to celebrate their departure.”

Not unrelatedly, he sagely observed that America is a nation with the soul of a Church. It is the only nation founded on a creed instead of an ethnos. That is the heart and soul of why the Alt Right–an ethno-nationalist movement–is so wrong and ultimately so doomed as an “American” movement.

I don’t mean that it could not gain great political power. It already has. But it is stone blind to what it means to be an American (let alone a Christian) because it seeks to refound America, not on a creed, but on a ridiculous notion of some “true” American ethnicity and protect it from “dysgenic” pollution by lesser races. You can have an America founded on the credal assertion of the Founders or you can have an America founded on the eugenics of the KKK and Margaret Sanger. But you can’t have both.

This is, in no small part, why Chesterton said of KKK-dominated 1920s America: “The average American is alright. It is the ideal American who is all wrong.”

The average American was already a product of a thoroughly stirred melting pot held together by a creed. Exactly the sort of mutt Chesterton admired and loved. No superman. Just an ordinary person feeding his family, combing her little girl’s hair, getting drunk, having fights, making friends, mourning death, earning a buck and wondering about God and why the ivy twines.

The Ideal American was a white superman keeping the wops, dagos, Romanists, yellow peril, and black man at bay through the ministrations of the Knights of the Confederacy and a generous application of the rope and burning cross. For him, Chesterton reserves essays like thing in his book The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic wherein he looks at America in the hour of the Monkey Trial and writes:

In so far as there is something merely antiquated about a certain type of doctrinal narrowness, it is much more characteristic of Dayton, Tennessee, than of Louvain or Rome. And in the same way, in so far as there is something antiquated about all these antics in masks and cloaks, it has been much more characteristic of the Ku Klux Klan than of the Jesuits. Indeed, this sort of Protestant is a figure of old-fashioned melodrama in a double sense and in a double aspect. He is antiquated in the plots he attributes to us and in the plots that he practises himself.

As regards the latter, it is probable that the whole world will discover this fact a long time before he does. The anti-clerical will go on playing solemnly the pranks of Cagliostro, like a medium still blindfolded in broad daylight; and will open his mouth in mysteries long after everybody in the world is completely illuminated about the illuminati. And though the almost half-witted humour of the American society, which seemed to consist entirely of beginning as many words as possible with KL, has been rather abruptly toned down by a reaction of relative sanity, I have no doubt that there is still many a noble Nordic fellow going about hugging himself over the happy secret that he is a Kleagle or a Klemperor, long after everybody has ceased to klare a klam whether he is or not. On the political side the power of these conspiracies has been practically broken in both Continents; in Italy by the Fascists and in America by a rally of reasonable and public-spirited governors of both political parties. But the point of historical interest remains: that it was the very people who accused us of mummery and mystery who surrounded all their secularising activities with far more fantastic mysteries and mummeries; that they had not even the manhood to fight an ancient ritual with the appearance of republican simplicity, but boasted of hiding everything in a sort of comic complexity; even when there was nothing to hide. By this time such movements as the Ku Klux Klan have very little left which can be hidden or which is worth hiding; and it is therefore probable that our romantic curiosity about them will be considerably colder than their undying romantic curiosity about us. The Protestant lady will continue to resent the fact that God does not share with her his knowledge of the terrible significance of tea and macaroons in the Catholic home. But we shall probably in the future feel a fainter and fainter interest in whatever it is that Kleagues do behind closed–or perhaps I should say Klosed Doors.

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