Welcome to The Bridgehead!

Jonathon Van Maren

A bridgehead is defined as “a strong position secured by an army inside enemy territory from which to advance or attack.” In today’s culture wars, a bridgehead of truth and common sense is exactly what we need. As Ronald Reagan once said, “When you’re outnumbered and surrounded and someone yells ‘charge,’ any way you’re facing you’ll find a target.”The Bridgehead Radio Program does just that, bringing you cutting edge news, interviews, and insights from the frontlines of the culture wars, and engaging in a sweeping discussion on human rights. Featuring renowned authors, commentators, politicians, intellectuals, historical figures, and more, The Bridgehead talks truth and common sense in a culture where it is badly needed. Featuring conversations with everyone from Peter Hitchens, Mark Steyn, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Gavin McInnes to Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Illibagiza, Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank’s step-sister Eva Schloss, and Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, Bridgehead host Jonathon Van Maren takes a hard look at where our culture is and where we need to go.


Jonathon Van Maren is a popular speaker and writer who has been published in The National Post, The Times of Israel, The Jewish Independent, The Hamilton Spectator, LifeSiteNews and elsewhere, and has been quoted and interviewed by many prominent national publications as well as a wide variety of television and radio shows.

 

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This photo of a beautiful baby killed by abortion stopped me in my tracks. You need to see it, too.

By Jonathon Van Maren

I was stopped in my tracks today by a photo I had never seen. As a full-time pro-life activist, sometimes I think I have seen all the abortion victim photos there are. But I had never seen this one before, and the awful power of the photo grabbed me by the throat.

The photo is of a child’s severed head. The eyes are closed as if in sleep, the perfect lips pressed together, the face coated with crimson blood. The baby’s face abruptly ends at the forehead, which has been cut away, exposing the tiny brain. The back of the head has been reduced to a bloody smear, crushed by the forceps that killed this beautiful child. And yes, despite the fact that the small, peaceful face is framed by gruesome carnage, it is still obvious that the child was beautiful. I wonder, as I stare at it, what those closed eyes would have looked like gazing out at the world she never got to see. All I can think as I take in the little nose, her dainty ears, the mouth that never got to smile but almost, somehow, seems ready to, is that She’s so perfect. She’s so perfect, and we destroyed her.

I find it almost impossible to describe this photo in words. It simply hurts in a visceral way to look at it, as if the impact of the awful juxtaposition of blood and baby carve out an emptiness within that makes me inexplicably miss someone I have never met and never knew. That is why we must show people photos such as these: To strip away the soothing and insidious excuses for this slaughter and see, really see, the soft, severed face that was torn from the body of a beautiful baby with a silent scream. It is hard to look at this photo. It feels almost impossible. But look at it and let her broken head break your heart. Look at her face, on the only baby photo she ever had, and promise never to forget her.

And while you remember her, remember that this horror is yet unfolding. There are more forceps grasping at more beautiful children, and they are soundlessly slipping out of our reach forever one at a time, in the towns and cities where we go about our lives. We must do something about it. We must speak out. Look at her beautiful, broken face.

We really have no choice.

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Parents smeared as “homophobes” after objecting to a drag troupe known for obscene performances reading stories to children

By Jonathon Van Maren

The group Glitter Hole is a “drag collective” and “queer performance space,” and if you’re wondering what their name means, their logo is a purple sketch of a bare bottom with the word “HOLE” beneath it in all capitals. Their sexually explicit performances including miming sex acts, strapping on enormous fake genitalia, and other activities better left undescribed. One poster advertising their group was emblazoned with the slogan, “Keep the buggery going!” while another announced that they were “leather daddies and gay witches for abortion.” And, as the new Irish media outlet Gript recently reported, Glitter Hole was invited to participate in a “drag storytelling event” at Dublin’s Dun Loa Library.

Considering that this was billed as a “family event” and that children as young as three years old would likely be present, and considering the fact that this “drag collective” specializes in sexually explicit performances that push the boundaries of what even many adults would find tasteful or acceptable, one might wonder why Glitter Hole would be invited to read stories to children in the first place (one photo of the group featuring cross-dressing and one member sporting an enormous fake vagina has them posing in front of a banner reading “The Gay Agenda.”) However, when it was revealed that Glitter Hole was being invited, the library canceled the event.

READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AT LIFESITENEWS.COM

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Trans activists are promoting fake penises for girls under five to “pack” in their underwear if they identify as boys

By Jonathon Van Maren

As the phenomenon of “transgender children” spikes right across the Western world, there has been a boom in websites, instructional videos, and products marketed towards young children to help them pose as the opposite sex. “Packers,” for example, are prosthetic penises marketed to “trans girls”–some under five years of age–to put in their underwear in order to give them a “bulge” that helps them to appear as if they are male. While trans activists insist there is nothing sexual about this, the websites where these prosthetics (for children) can be ordered often insist that you be over 18 years of age in order to review their catalogues. One site even offers prosthetics for pre-pubescent girls that come with a harness so they can urinate while standing up, just like a boy. Again, these products were designed for children. They also offer underwear that helps young boys who identify as girls “tuck” their genitalia in such a way that they appear smooth, thus appearing more female. In case anyone thinks I am exaggerating–and this is a graphic material warning, as it deals with prosthetic genitalia–here is an instructional video for kids or “youth” who might want to use a “packer”:

For those who might say that this video was aimed at teens rather than children, I would point out that the same presenter made an entirely separate video on “packers” for “teens and adults.” One San Francisco company is selling their “packers” for “trans boys” (biological girls) ages four and up. Stop and think about this for just a moment: There are companies selling prosthetic penises for little preschool girls.

There are also many resources marketed towards girls who identify as boys–and it must be noted that this is far more common than boys identifying as girls among teens and young children. These resources include “binders,” which are worn by girls to flatten their chests and disguise their femininity, thus appearing more male. As even the instructional video notes, these “binders” can be very dangerous:

These websites–I won’t link directly to any of them, as many of them also sell a range of sexual paraphernalia–also include instructional manuals, children’s books promoting transgender ideology, and other equipment to assist children in disguising their so-called “birth sex” and appearing as the opposite sex. Many parents, it must be said, have been sucked in by transgender ideology, and have been informed by members of the medical community, school staff, or educators that they have no choice but to assist their child’s “transition,” regardless of any misgivings on their part and any understandable revulsion at providing small children with fake penises and other such equipment. As I noted recently–and I have also received heartbreaking emails to this effect–many parents are increasingly pushing back, but find themselves so demonized (parents have even had their children taken from them if they oppose transition) that they have been forced to meet in secret to desperately discuss what to do.

It is a simple and awful matter of fact that the transgender ideology is being taught to children, which is why Dr. Lisa Littman’s research (much-maligned by trans activists) has indicated that this phenomenon is a “social contagion.” Transgender Youtube stars, Jazz Jennings being among the most famous (Jennings’ video on transition has over 1.2 million hits and the channel has over 600,000 subscribers), have hundreds of thousands of impressionable viewers. As the available data indicates (and the British government is even conducting an investigation into why so many girls are attempting to transition into boys) this phenomenon is having a profound and widespread effect. This social experiment, with children as the guinea pigs and adults providing them with prosthetic genitalia, chest binders, and hormone drugs, is going to have a tragic impact that we do not yet fully comprehend.

It is essential that parents know what is going on. If you send your child to a public school, know that they will be exposed to this ideology, and know that there are many heartbroken mothers and fathers who have seen their children go down this road and were damned as transphobic bigots when they expressed concern about healthy girls getting double-mastectomies and their sons pursuing chemical or medical castration.  Stay vigilant and hold your children close, because our culture has gone mad and we will deeply regret not having done so.

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For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

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Heartbroken parents must meet in secret to talk about trans teens for fear of attack by trans activists

If you want to get an idea of how totalitarian the transgender ideology actually is and how swiftly it has conquered our institutions, take a moment to read this heartbreaking account from the Post Millenial, written by a parent who had to use a pseudonym to protect her safety. The trend of horribly confused and despairing parents attempting to rescue their children from these cultural currents has been growing, as this collection of parental testimonies (“my once-beautiful daughter is now bearded, homeless, and sterilized,” one mother mourned) also illustrates. I must emphasize again that the transgender phenomenon has overtaken us so quickly that much of this did not even exist even five years ago, when I began to write about this new front in the culture wars. Anyhow, please give this a read:

At an undisclosed location somewhere in North America, a small group of parents met for a secret meeting. When they arrived, they were warned not to use their real names or reveal where they were from. Not that they weren’t trusted—they had been thoroughly vetted beforehand—but if real names or hometowns were not known, then no one could inadvertently let them slip.

The location of the meeting was also a concern. Three or four locations had already been considered, then eliminated, because the venue needed to know the purpose of the meeting. They finally settled on a nondescript hotel that did not ask too many questions located close to an international airport, convenient for those arriving by air.

This was a group of parents with teenage or young-adult children who had suddenly decided they were transgender. The parents came from a wide range of religious and political leanings, but all were intelligent, well educated and strong-minded enough to ask questions when something sounded wrong, even if it was coming from “respected” authorities. They had all independently researched their children’s issues, and each had arrived at the same conclusion: The experts were wrong

The parents were not buying the currently-accepted standards of care for their children: “affirm” them and send them down the path to transition as quickly as possible. They knew that there was no consensus among doctors as to the best course of treatment for their children. They knew there was scant evidence to support affirmation, social or medical transition. And they knew what little evidence did exist indicated that the affirmative approach had severely negative outcomes for their children.

The secrecy was necessary to avoid attracting the attention of transgender activists, who would picket, harass, attack or otherwise try to cause trouble, and to avoid attention from the media, whom they knew would only cast them as transphobic bigots.

The meeting lasted all weekend, with the parents sharing their stories, each one more tragic than the last. Almost all of their children, mostly daughters, had turned against their parents for not being supportive of their newfound identity. Some had cut themselves off from their parents entirely. Some had even called the police on their parents. Many of their children had started cross-sex hormones, and some had had surgery to remove their breasts and uteri, and create false penises.

There were tears and hugs and anger and anguish. Linda was there, too.  She spoke of her lonely quest; how she would go to the support groups put on by her local children’s hospital, searching for another parent like herself, who was skeptical of the rush to transition our children—only to end up being ejected from the group and having the police called on her. There was so much suffering, yet it was a relief to be among other parents who shared our pain and understood what we were going through. 

One of the highlights of the meeting came when Dr. Michael Bailey, a leading authority on gender dysphoria, skyped in to speak with us. He listened to our stories with interest and compassion, then assured us that our children did not fit into the traditional categories of gender dysphoria, which have been recognized and well-studied for many years. Rather, they were exhibiting a new kind of gender dysphoria that had never been seen before. Researchers had dubbed it Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), and it is so new that it has never been properly studied. Since the meeting described in this article, Dr. Lisa Littman has published the first ever study on Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria. Dr. Michael Bailey is working with Parents of ROGD Kids to publish another study which corroborates Dr. Littman’s findings.

It felt good to hear that our gut instincts—what we had known for certain right from the start—were correct, although it was disturbing to learn that we were caught up in a newly-identified syndrome. We drew some comfort in the fact that at least we had a name for it now.

It was out of that meeting, and the incredible support we found in each other, that our organization, Parents of ROGD Kids, was born. Our primary mission is to create support groups for other parents who find themselves in our situation, so that they may never feel so isolated and alone. 

And there seems to be many of us out there. Since the launch of our website, in the last 16 months, we have received over 800 emails from desperate parents all over the Western world—from Norway to Australia. We have created support groups in over 36 cities in North America, and affiliated Parents of ROGD Kids organizations have sprung up in the UK, Australia and Scandinavia. The great majority of the children of our members are girls between the ages of 9 and 18.

Our secondary goal is to provide a counter-narrative to the overly-simplistic stories presented in the media of the child who was sad, but then he transitioned, and now he’s happy! Our stories tell another, darker tale. 

Yet we must continue to operate in stealth. We meet in secret and approach every new email with caution. We know that aggressive transgender activists regularly expose, harass, intimidate, threaten and report those of us with views they find offensive. They would like nothing better than to silence us.

In her now-infamous interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson, Cathy Newman demands, “Why should your right to free speech trump a transgender’s right not to be offended?” We, the parents of ROGD kids know the answer to that question.  

It is this ideology, promoted at universities and now being enshrined into law, that stifles debate and stymies research. It is this ideology that allows politically-motivated activists to force their grossly-unethical and clearly-abusive policies on medical organizations and educational institutions simply by crying “offence!” It is this ideology that turns children against their families and encourages them to submit to dangerous, unproven and often traumatizing procedures. We, the parents of ROGD kids, are already living in the Orwellian world it creates.

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For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

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With Jason Kenney’s victory, Rachel Notley’s assault on Albertans of faith is over

By Jonathon Van Maren

It is a good morning for Alberta, and a good morning for Canada: Premier Rachel Notley’s accidental NDP government has been booted out of office, with Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party taking 63 seats and reducing the NDP to a mere 24. It is worth noting that Jason Kenney’s achievement here has been an incredible one, going as he did from being a federal MP, securing the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, achieving a union of the PCs and the Wildrose Party, and then running for and winning the leadership of the new conservative party before leveling the left-wing opposition and becoming premier of Alberta. Kenney is quite simply one of the most successful politicians in the English-speaking world.

There are a few important take-ways from last night’s election results. First of all, Rachel Notley, for all her cheery smiles and political wiles, ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in recent memory (although Trudeau will shortly be jockeying with her for that distinction.) She attempted to portray Jason Kenney and the UCP as a group of horrifying homophobes and white supremacists seeking to harm LGBT folks and bring racism to the halls of power. In the process, she was willing to smear any Albertan of faith who does not support her progressive agenda, including Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs, orthodox Jews, and more. The fact that Albertan voters roundly rejected her ugly fear-mongering should prove once and for all that demonizing socially conservative Canadians does not work, and conservative politicians should do a better job of calling this scapegoat tactic out for what it is: Playing one portion of the population off against another.

The second thing to note is that Alberta’s religious schools will finally get relief from the relentless witch-hunt they have been suffering from Notley’s Education Minister David Eggen. Eggen was threatening to withdraw government funding from a variety of religious schools this year, including Christian and Muslim institutions, for declining to embrace his “Gay-Straight Alliance” Clubs. (His government is being sued by a large number of Albertan schools.) Further to that, it is likely that Eggen would have attempted to shut these schools down entirely by withdrawing their accreditation. With Eggen on the way out, the genuine diversity of Alberta’s education system can finally flourish. It was nauseating to hear Notley and her NDP campaign on education and better schools with the knowledge that many teachers, parents, and children were wondering whether the government was going to come for theirs. Good riddance.

Finally, all of the right people are upset by Kenney’s victory. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and an assortment of other abortion activists are upset because Notley’s government was so aggressively allied to their cause, introducing coverage for the abortion pill and creating bubble zones around abortion clinics. (Incidentally, assisted suicides went up by almost 50% under the NDP according to Alberta Health Services.) Justin Trudeau is facing another hostile premier, and it is worth noting that left-wing provincial leaders have been dropping like flies, from Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne to New Brunswick’s Brian Gallant. It is unlikely that social conservatives will achieve what our devastated opponents believe we will, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. At a bare minimum, the NDP’s assault on Albertans of faith is over. Charles Adler must be rending his garments at what he surely deems to be the return of the knuckledraggers.

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In Europe, a “pro-life revolution” is brewing

By Jonathon Van Maren

I met 26-year-old Manuela Steiner at the Casa Antonio Pizzeria in the Erzabt-Klotz-Straße 9, a stone’s throw away from Salzburg University. It was a beautiful day. A handful of stylishly-dressed men and women stood at a waist-high table sipping white wine and students were devouring their large pizza slices on flimsy tables on the cobblestones in front of the large plate-glass window, eyes fixed to their homework. There was a faint breeze, a few birds could be heard, and the white walls of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, perched high above the city, gleamed in the spring sun. The fortress is a reassuring sort of presence, having cast its benevolent shadows on the city below since 1077. The residents are pleased to inform visitors that it is the only fortress in Europe never to have been conquered—not during the German Peasants’ War in 1525, nor during the Thirty Years’ War a century later.

Manuela works for the Austrian pro-life organization Youth for Life, which was formed in 1989 after Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s horrifying film The Silent Scream came to Europe. Abortion had come to Austria on January 1, 1975, and can be performed up to twelve weeks on demand and up until birth for the vaguely defined “health of the mother” or if the child has an “incurable problem.” (Today, a quarter of pregnancies in Austria end in abortion.) In response, pro-life Austrians organized silent marches in Linz, Salzburg, and Vienna. I have attended one silent march in Europe, and the symbolism is a powerful reminder of the murdered voiceless. Originally, Manuela told me, the Austrian pro-lifers thought that abortion would end in short order. They soon realized that they would have to escalate their activism, and these marches became a symbol of defiance, a reminder to their fellow citizens that not all Austrians had bowed to the Culture of Death.

In addition to the march, Youth for Life began an annual pro-life tour to raise awareness about abortion, giving media interviews and presentations, distributing fliers, and doing outreach with pro-life info tables along the way. The media often covered these efforts, pushing pro-life talking points into the European press. Last year, there were a 140 participants, and they are hoping for more this year with an International Pro-Life Tour for a Europe without Abortion under the motto “Making Abortion History” leaving from Bavarian Augsburg on July 27 and trekking through Innsbruck to their final destination in Bolzano, Italy. Manuela will be organizing this year’s march through three countries in three weeks, and up to hundred adults and teenagers are expected. It is not an easy hike, Steiner admits, but “we cannot just sit at home, knowing that every year many children are aborted.”

Youth for Life’s most effective work has been gaining access to schools, where they give two-hour presentations on the reality of abortion in religion and biology classes. Speakers explain the science of when life begins, the abortion laws in Austria, potential complications resulting from abortion, and show the students how abortion procedures work. When students see how tiny pre-born children are poisoned, pulverized, and pulled from womb, Steiner says, they are nearly always dead silent, watching in shock. Most people do not know how horrifying abortion is. Most are horrified when these facts are revealed. Surveys taken after the presentations indicate that 80% of students have some shift in their opinion, and 60% become opposed to abortion. This is the crux of what Youth for Life does: Young people speaking to other young people about what abortion does to the youngest people.

In addition to working for Youth for Life, a new organization was launched on March 24 out of Linz with Manuela as the president: ProLife Europe, an initiative to equip, train, and activate student groups across the continent. In contrast with Canada and the United States, where pro-life campus groups are common, most European campuses have no active pro-life club. ProLife Europe aims to change that, starting with three groups in Germany and nine in Austria and three active coordinators. In addition to a German coordinator and Manuela working as both president and the Austrian representative, Bethany Janzen, an American from Oregon who originally worked with Students for Life of America, has joined the team as an international coordinator. As Manuela and I walked across the campus of the University of Salzburg, with Manuela sitting down next to students enjoying the sunny day outdoors to hand them pro-life literature and ask them if they would be interested in joining a pro-life group, Bethany was connecting with students in Denmark. (When I asked a Danish journalist if there were any active pro-life groups in her country last year, she told me there were none that she knew of.) It is an uphill battle, but the girls of ProLife Europe are in possession of fierce determination and enthusiasm.

There are difficulties, of course. One major Austrian initiative has been a petition for Fairändern, which means, roughly translated, “Fair Change.” Pro-lifers demanded that the government offer more counselling, publish official abortion statistics, and provide better support for people with disabilities, among other policy changes. The Austrian government has not yet replied to the petition, and is instead soliciting a response from the devoutly pro-abortion Amnesty International and International Planned Parenthood, which is rather like asking a wolf to offer his opinion on veganism. One of the greatest difficulties facing pro-lifers in Austria and Germany, Manuela tells me, is that nearly everyone agrees that the pre-born are human, but most simply believe that the mother should still be able to choose whether that human lives or dies. In addition, the same eugenic mindset that has crept into other countries—I found this while doing presentations in the Netherlands—is present here, as well.

All that said, the coordinators of ProLife Europe are willing to do the heavy lifting it takes to get a student movement started, even if it means talking to students one at a time. Different regions come with different challenges—Manuela noted that Eastern Germany still has more entrenched views on abortion due to their decades-long experience under Communist rule—but steps are being taken to make the pro-life worldview accessible to all. Austria’s Youth for Life, for example, is an explicitly Catholic organization, while ProLife Europe is secular, hoping to attract those who respect fundamental human rights from all walks of life. The work has only just begun, but with less than a month of work under their belts, connections between pro-life groups already criss-cross the continent and the infrastructure of resistance is slowly coming into place.

After a long and productive conversation about pro-life strategy and swapping ideas and insights with Manuela, I walked back towards my hotel to find a place to work on my laptop. The blossoms were out, and they made the breeze fragrant as I headed through the streets and squares. Beautiful music was straining from windows high above the twisty, cobble-stoned alleys as musicians began practicing for the Mozart concerts that happen every night in Salzburg to celebrate the life of her most famous son. Nearby is St. Peter’s Abbey, founded in 696 by St. Rupert, which hosts the oldest restaurant in Europe—Charlemagne himself once ate there. Sleeping in the cemetery are Martin Luther’s close friend Johann von Staupitz, Johann Hadyn, and Maria Mozart. The oldest graves are from 1288 and 1300; the newest are from this decade. It is the perfect picture of today’s Europe: The ancient jostling for space with the modern.

Everywhere in Salzburg, there are unexpected reminders of the uglier elements of Austria’s past. Looking down at the sidewalk as I waited to cross the street, for example, I found that three golden plaques were embedded into the asphalt, each bearing the name of someone who had been murdered: 72-year-old Irma Her, deported to Theresienstadt July 30, 1942, dead less than four months later; 70-year-old Anna Stuchly, deported to the same camp on July 14, 1942 before perishing in Treblinka; Josef Witternig, an Austrian politician, who died in Salzburg on February 28, 1937. A nearby sign informed us that it was only a short thirty-minute drive to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, which is nestled in the Alpine peaks above the city—the men of Easy Company, which took Berchtesgaden in 1945, enjoyed the gorgeous view with drinks looted from the fine collection of the Nazi elites. And it is the story of an Austrian’s resistance to the Nazi invasion, the tale of the Von Trapp family singers that was immortalized in the 1965 musical The Sound of Music, that draws tens of thousands of tourists here each year.

Just before leaving Salzburg, I heard a story that I’d never come across before. The eldest Von Trapp daughter, Agathe, had apparently related how her parents made the decision to flee the country, after being warned that Georg Von Trapp’s refusal to join the Nazi fleet had landed the family on an very unpleasant list. Warned by a family friend who had joined the Nazi Party, the Von Trapps realized they needed to leave, but Maria Von Trapp wanted “divine approval concerning the move.” As Agathe recalled it, “Papá called us all together, opened the Bible, and let his finger pick a passage at random. Then he read it to us: ‘Now the Lord had said unto Abram: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.’” The decision was made, and the family departed (although in much less dramatic fashion than portrayed in the film.)

The story reminded me that at all times and in all places, good and evil are fighting for supremacy. In each era there are great evils, and in each era there are those who choose to resist. Sometimes those evils explode onto the scene accompanied by war and holocaust, and other times they slither into national consciousness disguised by the soothing rhetoric of personal choice and individual liberty. Sometimes the ugliness is apparent and the brutality is loud and jarring, and other times tiny lives are snuffed out silently and disposed of while people sip their cold drinks on sun-swept verandas and carry on with their lives while others end so swiftly their presence is almost an unheard whisper. The activists of ProLife Europe have made their choice and taken a stand. I hope others will follow their example.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Manuela Steiner at the University of Salzburg

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Teen girls walk out of school to protest biological males being permitted in their bathroom

By Jonathon Van Maren

The backlash against the relentless assault on nearly every civilizational institution by transgender activists seems to be slowly increasing as ordinary men and women realize the implications of the transgender agenda and the abolition of gender. Muslim parents in the UK pulled hundreds of children out of school, forcing a shutdown of recently-implemented LGBT programming. And as I reported back in February, students are pushing back, signing petitions demanding the return of their gender-segregated bathrooms and even suing their high schools in order to retrieve their right to privacy.

Last week, the debate erupted again in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Two groups of students staged a walkout at Abraham Lincoln High School over bathroom privacy, with the protest being sparked by a girl who stated that her privacy was violated by a biological male who “recently began to identify as a girl” using the female bathroom. She was joined by about twenty other high school girls who left the school at 10:30 AM and began “chanting for privacy in restrooms, saying they don’t want boys transitioning into being girls to be in the restroom with them.”

READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AT LIFESITENEWS.COM

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South Korea’s decision to overturn pro-life laws is a travesty

By Jonathon Van Maren

Last August, I reported on the protests against South Korea’s strict abortion laws, which at one point involved 125 women publicly swallowing abortion pills to challenge the government’s stance. South Korean pro-lifers have been pushing back, responding to a petition of 230,000 signatures demanding that abortion be legalized with a counter-petition of over a million signatures supporting South Korea’s pro-life laws. Over half of South Koreans still believe that abortion is murder, and abortion has been illegal there except in cases of rape, incest, the mother’s health, or severe genetic disorders since 1953.

Despite that, South Korean abortion activists have finally achieved victory via another route, with the constitutional court ruling that the nation’s abortion laws must be changed and ordering the national assembly to revise the current regime by the end of 2020. If the law is not changed by then, the court will simply void the current laws. Abortion activists had almost achieved this result in 2012, when four justices voted in favour of scrapping South Korea’s abortion laws and four had voted against, with the ninth seat needed to break the deadlock standing vacant.

READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AT LIFESITENEWS.COM

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Notre Dame’s burning spires force us all to face the truth about the West

By Jonathon Van Maren

With millions of others, I watched the sickening livestream yesterday of Notre Dame Cathedral ablaze in the centre of Paris. Just before it collapsed, the iconic spire was transformed into a flaming finger thrust upwards, belching smoke, and for a horrible moment it looked eerily like Tolkien’s Dark Tower of Barad-dûr. The crowd watched the inferno, most silent, some sobbing, one old man reaching towards the burning church helplessly. Later, young men and women knelt and sang and chanted as the heart of France crackled into ash. “Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents,” Douglas Murray mourned, “ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame.”

It now appears that the two main bell towers and the main structure have been saved, and so perhaps Rod Dreher and others were blessedly wrong when they mourned that theirs was the last generation that would ever see the beauty of Notre Dame. I saw that most famous of the medieval cathedrals (built on the ruins of two earlier churches) only once, in 2006. Perhaps it will rise again as Macron has already promised, despite the fact that we seem to have lost the ability to create such beautiful things. Even if it does—and French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault has already pledged 100 million euros towards that end—much of it is gone. The best news so far is that the stained glass windows, which last night were thought to have exploded with the heat, may have survived the blaze.

Like many others, the fiery images emitting from Paris made me think immediately of Victor Hugo. He was long a passionate lover of traditional architecture—several weeks ago I visited the home where he lived while an exile in Vianden, Luxembourg, where he championed the “sinister and magnificent ruin” of Vianden Castle. But Notre Dame was his muse, the “symphony in stone.” In his heart-wrenching but essential 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I first read in my early teens, he describes it this way: “Every surface, every stone of this venerable pile is a page of history not only of the country, but of science and art. Thus—to mention here only a few of the chief details—whereas the small Porte Rouge almost touches the limits of the fifteenth century Gothic delicacy, the pillars of the nave, by their massiveness and great girth, reach back to the Carlovingian Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. One would imagine that six centuries lay between that door and those pillars.”

It was inevitable that the searing images of the cathedral wreathed in flames, resembling a red-hot burning cross from the sky above, would incur end-of-civilization metaphors. They began before the fire was out. “If you were waiting for a sign concerning the scope and seriousness of what must be rebuilt in our age, and what will happen if not, this is it,” observed James Poulos. “If someone was writing a novel about the collapse of Western civilisation, Notre Dame would burn at this stage,” wrote Nick O’Malley of the Sydney Morning Herald. And it is true. In the despairing faces of those who watched the spire crack and fall seemed to be a recognition that the modern European lacks the beliefs and the values that sent such towers soaring skyward centuries ago. Indeed, only 18% of Europeans who identify as Christian still even bother to attend church services. The great cathedrals are now only tourist attractions, museums of a bygone era.

In perhaps the most ironic of responses to the tragedy of 800 years of history going up in smoke, progressive commentator Ian Millhiser tweeted that, “The fact that a human achievement that took a century to build can be burnt away in a few hours is such a horrible metaphor for democracy in 2019.” And it takes a rootless progressive to look at a burning church and conclude that the politics of the current year are being symbolized there rather than the relentless smashing of our collective Judeo-Christian heritage by progressives like himself over the past century. It is the progressives that have played the role of iconoclast and demanded that we do away with the beliefs that gave rise to the awesome spires of Europe’s cathedrals, and it is they that have cheered the destruction and warmed themselves by the flames. What they have not realized is that once you start a fire, you cannot always control where it spreads and you may not have the power to put it out once it begins to consume things that you wanted to keep.

Many people have been expressing shock that the loss of a building of stone has drawn such an emotional reaction from so many. People found themselves moved in a way that they could not have predicted. I think the reason for this outpouring of emotion is that the loss of towering stone edifices that stood for centuries shakes us because we thought they would always be there. Generations come and go, but these monuments to Western Civilization stand guard over those who rise and fall in their shadows. And when we see Notre Dame go up in one last red and orange burst of awful beauty, we are forced to face the sickening truth: Nothing lasts forever. Not even Western Civilization.

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America is trending atheist, and that means politics is going to get uglier

By Jonathon Van Maren

While Christianity has been collapsing across Europe for the past half-century, with recent data indicating that a mere 18% of those who identify as Christian still attend church services regularly, the United States of America has traditionally been considered a far more Christian country. The electoral power wielded by the so-called Religious Right as well as the piety of many of America’s founders, settlers, and pioneers has infused America’s image with a religiosity that has defined the Shining City on a Hill for generations.

But a General Social Survey now indicates that for the first time in American history, atheists are the largest group in the nation at 23.1%, surpassing both evangelicals and Catholics as the largest portion of the population. Nonbelievers have increased a staggering 266% over the past thirty years, while mainline Protestant churches, which have largely embraced the Sexual Revolution and abandoned Christian orthodoxy entirely, have collapsed from 62.5% in 1982 to just 10.8% of the American population today.

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Man uses transgender arguments to explain why he’s a human dog

By Jonathon Van Maren

As a columnist reporting on the latest news from the culture wars in 2019, I often find it difficult to know which stories I should write about, and which stories I should pass by. Because the Sexual Revolution inflicted on the West over the past half-century appears to have metastasized and entered Stage Four, we are now forced to grapple with and discuss concepts and behaviors that would have made our grandparents flush in shame, recoil in disgust, or despair over the state of our culture—and very likely all three. But despite that fact, dealing with the moral confusion and transgender totalitarianism and mangled state of marriage is unfortunately essential.

The reason it is important to follow these stories is that if the last two decades have taught us anything, it is that things that are considered the far edge of the crazy fringe one day are immutable human rights the next. Ideas that we once laughed off as utterly unbelievable to any common-sense, thinking person have been embraced by the elites, who then promptly inform the rest of us that we are required to play along with the trendy new insanities. And if the progressives get their way, our entire society will be restructured according to their revolutionary (and mandatory) relativism. We cannot afford to ignore them, because they do not plan to ignore us.

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Charles Adler holds social conservatives in contempt. They should return the favor.

By Jonathon Van Maren

For days, the only story that progressives have wanted to talk about regarding the provincial election in Alberta is the “explosive” interview between radio host Charles Adler and United Conservative Party leader (and former Harper cabinet minister) Jason Kenney. The Canadian commentariat seems to be of a single mind on the resulting exchange: Charles Adler, good friend of Jason Kenney and staunch conservative, consistently body-slammed his errant friend on an assortment of LGBT issues and took him to task for leading a party full of “knuckle-draggers” and for attracting the sort of Albertan that progressives love to sneer at. Kenney and the throwbacks he represents were educated on exactly why they are bigoted, and the punditry and progressives have been giving Adler fawning praise ever since. He has spent days on Twitter retweeting it and hearting it while agreeing enthusiastically with their analysis of his courage.

Of course, with friends like Adler, one scarcely needs enemies—especially when those friends obediently follow the NDP script to a tee. Adler takes it for granted, for example, that to be pro-life is misogynist, and ignores the wide body of evidence provided to us by embryology that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a real human being that is being aborted. He also takes it for granted that anyone who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman—something every nation on earth believed prior to the year 2000—is a damnable bigot, and grew confrontational and sanctimoniously scornful whenever Kenney attempted (however ineffectively) to point out that parental rights and the freedom of schools to organize according to their own values are an essential part of Canada’s multicultural framework. In short, if you are an orthodox Christian, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, or Sikh, your views render you a hateful “knuckle-dragger” in Adler’s narrow mind.

Adler was utterly disinterested in discussing the nuances of issues such as parental rights in education, the right of private Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Christian schools to teach their faith traditions to their children, or even whether those substantially large populations of Albertans should have anyone who represents their views in the legislature. As far as Adler is concerned, the UCP and Jason Kenney specifically needed to be taken to task for not holding the same views on these matters as the NDP and, more importantly, himself. Adler repeatedly calls Kenney a friend, but apparently remained unaware of the fact that Kenney has an extremely well-known record as a social conservative stretching back decades, and even those who are not his friends are very well aware of the fact that he is a practicing Catholic. But Adler, with the condescension peculiar to those who know they will be praised to high heaven for courageously asking questions that everyone will approve of, graciously gave Kenney the opportunity to apologize for his views and past actions. If you are going to be a Catholic in public life, you see, Adler and his ilk insist that you be a shameless hypocrite.

If you think I’m perhaps being unfair—there are, after all, fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal—all you have to do is take a quick jaunt over to Charles Adler’s Twitter feed, where he is graciously accepting praise and tweeting furiously at Jason Kenney, hoping to keep his new status as a champion social justice warrior alive for a few more news cycles. To one woman, who complimented him on not being part of the “new ultra right-wing,” Adler responded that those people “don’t view me as a conservative. I am not angry all the time. I respect too many teachers, scientists & humanitarians. I don’t throw enough red meat. Heck, I don’t even eat red meat. Can’t be a real conservative.” Got that? Charles Adler, the “conservative,” describes conservatives—and not just the “knuckle-draggers” who believe the same things their parents and grandparents did—as people who don’t respect teachers, scientists, and humanitarians, and are angry all the time. This guy claims to be acting in good faith, while chortling all over social media about the red-meat-eating-angry morons who won’t let him be a conservative because he’s just too good of a person. What a joke.

I hope genuine conservatives of all stripes listen to the interview, peruse his Twitter feed, and learn a few important lessons about Charles Adler. First of all, he has no interest in discussing complex issues—he simply wants people to apologize and grovel for not holding precisely the same views as he does. Secondly, he is clearly not acting in good faith, as he is only too happy to caricature conservatives when talking with progressives. And finally, he views the enormous number of religious Canadians who hold different views on a wide range of issues—be it how we should treat human beings in the womb or whether parents have any say in what their children are taught—with utter contempt. In fact, he surged right past the Clintonian “basket of deplorables” and settled on the condescending “knuckle-draggers” when searching for a way to describe the unwashed voters he clearly despises. From now on, I suggest conservatives leave Mr. Adler to hang out in his carefully-constructed echo chamber of self-congratulation with those who will tell him what he wants to hear.

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Why progressives hate one of European history’s greatest naval heroes

By Jonathon Van Maren

After a morning speaking on pro-life apologetics to students at the Hoornbeeck College in Goes, I headed with a friend to visit the town of Vlissingen in the Dutch province of Zeeland, a village of seafaring people that hugs the coast of the North Sea. Fog was billowing in from the water, and as we walked along the rows of shops and terraces that are packed with tourists come summertime, it was difficult to make out the landmarks as we walked towards where the point juts into the sea. There was a statue of a severe-looking woman wearing a bonnet, a long dress, and an expression of resignation, gazing out over the water, a representative of all those wives and mothers who seen their men vanish into fog just like this and slip from their grasp forever. There were Napoleonic era cannons, mouths gaping silently seaward. And then, finally, the man I had been looking for: Michael de Ruyter.

He stood on a pedestal high above his North Sea, his gaze pointed downwards, a sacrilegious seagull perched impertinently on his head. The streaks of white in his black locks indicated that the great admiral was a popular resting place for seafaring birds, and perhaps it is only fit. The humble man certainly would not have minded. Other than that, he was dressed impeccably: High boots, long jacket, a sash, a cape draped over his arm. In one hand he carried a scroll, and on the base of the pedestal a plaque with the reliefs of several beleaguered galley slaves freed by De Ruyter, chains still fastened to their ankles and hands still clutching their oars, reach out to his disembodied outstretched hand in gratitude. On either side of him, cannons retrieved from the wreck of his ship have flanked him since 1905. Another plaque notes the great man’s donations to the poor people of Vlissingen, who he never forgot even after he reached the pinnacle of naval power. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Michael De Ruyter was born the fourth of eleven children on March 24, 1607, and it was said that he felt the sea “quickening in his blood” even as a boy, and his father, the beer porter Adriaan Michielszoon, despaired at his son’s refusal to dedicate himself to his schooling. As a child, one story goes, he actually scaled the tower of St. Jacob’s Church (where he was baptized and would later be married.) Despite numerous restorations, the Church still towers above the town, and I squinted at the steeple above the clock, shrouded in the mist. De Ruyter had apparently been trapped on the steeple when labourers unwittingly removed the ladders he had used in his ascent. To get down, young De Ruyter was forced to pry tiles off the church roof and drop into the building.

So it was no wonder that De Ruyter’s father decided to pull him out of school and send him to work as an apprentice rope-maker with shipowner Cornelius Lampsins at the age of only eleven years old. Part of the building that hosts the Vlissingen Maritime Muzeeum (the awkward spelling a play on Zeeland) today is actually the old Lampsinhuise where De Ruyter once worked. The Lampsins were a phenomenally wealthy Dutch merchant family, and Cornelius (1600-1664), actually served as the Baron of Tobago with his brother Adrian from 1662 to 1664 and was heavily involved in the colonization of the Caribbean throughout the 1630s. One room features beautiful oil paintings of the various Lampsin scions: Cornelius cuts an impressive figure, a paunchy, solemn, middle-aged man with shoulder-length black hair, a black mustache, and a cross hanging around his neck. He is surrounded by the solemn faces of his relatives.

Next to him hangs Apollonius Lampsins (1674-1728), the Governor of the Dutch East India company and the mayor of nearby Middelburg—his head is sprouting an enormous, ash-gray wig, his mouth is pursed in a manner that is hard to read, and the artist has paid meticulous attention to his double-chin. It is the face of a man who was born to riches. The portrait of the porcelain but enchanting Constantia Lampsins is so real she appears to be looking back at you, with her black curls wisping towards her large hazel eyes. The label on her portrait says she died young—at only 27 years old—but I can’t find any information about her other than that. There are others, as well, including some full-length portraits of chubby, serious-looking children. The existence of these portraits alone indicates the fabulous wealth of the Lampsins, and it was this family that first hired De Ruyter and sent him where he always longed to be: Out to sea. He started off as a cabin boy, and would soar to the pinnacle of naval power.

By the age of fifteen De Ruyter had already risen to the rank of petty officer, and as a young teen De Ruyter briefly fought as a deck gunner against the Spanish in the Eighty Years’ War, joining the Dutch forces under the brilliant Maurice of Nassau, son of William of Orange. His whaling ship was conscripted to help break the 1622 Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom against the Spaniards, and several weeks later his ship was captured by Spanish privateers and De Ruyter’ face was slashed by flying shrapnel before he was taken prisoner. In exceptional feat, he escaped the pirates, swam to shore, and then managed to cross Spain, hike across the Pyrenees, wind his way through France, and eventually arrived safe back in the Netherlands. His exploits did not go unnoticed by the Lampsins, who promptly promoted him and sent him back out to sea aboard one of their ships.

Although Dutch sources say very little about De Ruyter’s life between his time fighting the Spanish and his marriage on March 16, 1631 to the farmer’s daughter Maayke Velders, some English sources place him in Dublin from 1623 on, acting as an agent for the Lampsins’ merchant house. He was known to speak Irish Gaelic fluently, and also sailed through the Mediterranean or up the Barbary Coast, occasionally acting as a privateer on the Lampsins ship Den Graeuwen Heynst. But we know for certain that when De Ruyter’s wife Maayke died giving birth to their daughter in December of 1631 and was followed into the grave by the little girl three weeks later, the 24-year-old De Ruyter was devastated. Alone once again, he returned to the sea.

For a while, De Ruyter worked as a whaler, serving as the navigating officer of the Green Lion and running expeditions to the Norwegian Arctic island of Jan Mayen in 1633 and 1635. In 1636, five years after Maayke’s death, he married Neeltje Engels, the daughter of a well-to-do burgher who bore him five children, four of whom survived. Adriaen was born in 1637, Neeltje in 1639 and Aelken in 1642. A second son, Engel, came along in 1649. There are no existing portraits of Neeltje, so we unfortunately have no idea what she looked like. Early during this same period, from 1637 to 1640, De Ruyter finally achieved the position of captain, and for three years he hunted pirates operating out of Dunkirk and threatening Dutch merchant ships. In once famous incident, De Ruyter greased the deck of his ship with rotten butter that had spoiled in the hold, outfitted his men in socks in order to ensure they would maintain their grip, and waited for the pirates to board. When they poured over the side, they promptly began to slip, scrabbling wildly at the deck. De Ruyter’s men then emerged from hiding, and the buccaneers were captured or pushed back overboard in short order.

By now a renowned seaman, De Ruyter accepted an offer from the Zeeland Admiralty to become captain of the Haze under Admiral Gijsels, fighting against the Spanish in an alliance with the Portuguese. The Haze was a man-of-war with 26 guns, and as third-in-command, De Ruyter forced a fleet of Spaniards and Dunkirkers to retreat in a sea battle off the coast of Cape St. Vincent on November 4, 1641. Following the victory, he promptly returned to life as a merchant sailor, finally purchasing his own ship the Salamander and traveling throughout Morocco and the West Indies. His reputation grew—he was known as a pious man and was much beloved by his men. He became renowned among Dutch sea captains as a godly sailor who regularly used his own wealth to free Christian slaves by purchasing or ransoming them, a fact that makes the recent slanders of De Ruyter particularly insidious. In 1650, tragedy struck again: Neeltje died. At the age of forty-three and with three young children, De Ruyter was a widower for the second time. Two years later, he married the widow Anna van Gelder, purchased a house in Vlissingen, and decided that it was time to leave the sea and dedicate himself to family life. His hard-earned retirement would last only seven months.

Two years later, the First Anglo-Dutch War exploded. A war fought entirely at sea, the Dutch had grown increasingly furious over English attacks on Dutch merchant ships, and De Rutyer was offered a position on a fleet of warships serving under Maarten Tromp. He refused the position, but the pressure continued and eventually he buckled. His brilliance as a sea commander soon became apparent, with victories at the Battle of Plymouth, the Battle of Kentish Knock, the Battle of Gabbard, and the Battle of Scheveningen, which ended the war but cost Tromp his life. De Ruyter was offered command of the fleet, and again after an initial refusal, agreed to become the Vice-Admiral of the city of Amsterdam on March 2, 1654. In 1655, De Ruyter moved his family from Vlissingen to Amsterdam. Years of relative peace followed, with the exception of a handful of military interventions and skirmishes with pirates. At one point, De Ruyter actually created a special troop of soldiers equipped and trained to attack enemy positions from the sea. He called them Sea Soldiers, and this was the first time this military tactic had been employed in the Modern Era. They would become known as the first marines.

But in 1665 the Second Anglo-Dutch War began with Charles II sending privateers to sink Dutch ships, destroy Dutch trade, and capture the colony of New Amsterdam (which was then promptly renamed New York.) In response, De Ruyter led his fleet of thirteen ships into Carlisle Bay near Barbados, hammered the English batteries with cannon fire, and wrecked many of the ships harbored there before retreating to repair the damage to his own ships. Sailing north and capturing several English ships along the way, De Ruyter actually briefly captured St. John’s, Newfoundland before returning to the Netherlands, where Johan de Witt, one of the most powerful leaders of the Dutch Republic, appointed him the commander of the entire Dutch fleet on August 11, 1665. To the Dutch people, De Ruyter was a home-coming hero. To his men, he was “Bestevaêr,” or “grandfather,” a term of affection bestowed on him due to his refusal to pay attention to hierarchy, a habit stemming from his own humble origins. In June of 1666, De Ruyter obtained victory in the Four Days Battle and fired Cornelis Tromp (Maarten’s son) after a near-disaster during the St. James’s Day Battle two months later.

De Ruyter recovered from a serious illness in time to take command before the infamous Raid on Medway in 1667, where De Ruyter sailed up the Thames River with 62 warships, 12 fire-boats, and 15 sloops-of-war, burning naval bases, torching seaside towns, and setting nearly the entire English naval fleet ablaze before sailing off with the king’s flagship, HMS Royal Charles, in tow. The symbolism of the Dutch capturing his flagship was politically devasting for King Charles, and the war was swiftly brought to an end with the Peace of Breda, which was enormously favorable to the Dutch. The Raid on Medway is still considered to be one of the worst humiliations in the history of the British Royal Navy and the British military, and is certainly the worst defeat ever suffered by the British in their own waters. Over two centuries later, Rudyard Kipling would commemorate the event in a scathing poem titled The Dutch in Medway:

No King will heed our warnings,
No Court will pay our claims—
Our King and Court for their disport
Do sell the very Thames!
For, now De Ruyter’s topsails
Off naked Chatham show,
We dare not meet him with our fleet—
And this the Dutchmen know!

As a result of these victories, De Ruyter’s stock soared so high that Johan De Witt forbade the commander to go to sea, fearing that he might be killed—although ironically, in 1669 a supporter of the sacked Cornelis Tromp incompetently attempted to murder him with a breadknife in the foyer of his own house.

The Third Anglo-Dutch War, in which he faced off against the English allied with the French, would be De Ruyter’s last. In nearly every naval battle, he achieved victory against all odds and against much larger fleets, including at the Battle of Solebay in 1672, the Battle of Schooneveld in 1673 and the Battle of Texel that same year. The brilliance and courage of his naval tactics stunned his enemies, who soon began to accord him unprecedented respect. In February, a new title was created specifically for De Ruyter: Lieutenant-Admiral General. (At one point, the French admiral Abraham Duquesne informed King Louis XIV in a report that, “The Dutch fleet under De Ruyter can enter a moonless night in heavy wind and fog and emerge the next day in a perfect line ahead.”) In 1676, De Ruyter engaged the French fleet in the Mediterranean. A French cannon ball tore off his leg, and when the French commander heard that De Ruyter had been wounded, he immediately called off the assault. Such was his respect for the Dutchman that he sent his two best ships to escort De Ruyter’s vessel back to the Netherlands, and King Louis XIV ordered every French battleship to fire a salute as De Ruyter made his final journey home. He died of gangrene along the way. On the top floor of the Vlissingen Muzeeum, De Ruyter’s death mask rests in a glass case. His mouth is slightly open, and his eyes appear to be as well. Although he is at peace, his face still appears worried, as if the burden of his nation still rests on his shoulders.

De Ruyter is not only a hero to the Dutch, although many give him credit for being the historical figure most responsible for ensuring the continued survival of the Netherlands as an independent republic. He is also a hero to the Reformed Christians of Hungary as a result of his actions early in 1676, just before he was killed. A group of Hungarian preachers were imprisoned on board Spanish galleons as rowing slaves for refusing to recant their Calvinist faith—their number had dwindled from 350 to 26 by the time De Ruyter arrived to free them from the ships in Naples. In the Muzeeum, there is a painting of De Ruyter, his long hair turning white, standing on the deck of his ship. Shirtless, emaciated men with unkempt beards are kneeling before him, clutching at his hands, their faces stricken with gratitude. De Ruyter was buried in the New Church in Amsterdam during an elaborate state funeral on March 18, 1677, and when I visited his crypt in 2017 on a trip to the Netherlands for the March for Life, there were wreaths lying atop his casket, placed there by Hungarian Christians who have not forgotten De Ruyter’s deeds all these centuries later.

The Vlissingen Maritime Muzeeum does an excellent job of bearing witness to the life of this great man, with glass display cases filled with the flotsam and jetsam of the noble seaman’s life. There was his seal, alongside a red cloth pouch with the name De Ruyter stitched across it that once held the letters he regularly wrote to his wife. There is a 1660 portrait of his last wife, Anna Velders, wearing a black bonnet and pearl earrings, her eyes soulful beneath dark black eyebrows. There are portraits of him, too, some of them painted during his lifetime: Wearing civilian clothes and a serious expression, wearing armour and a determined expression, in full naval regalia, his face tight with determination. There are a few things that have been excavated from his ship, too, as well as the white nightgown he died in. Another display case is loaded with the evidence that De Ruyter has achieved an unshakeable—and perhaps unmatchable—position in the pantheon of Dutch heroes: Pop bottles sporting his face, De Ruyter toys, De Ruyter medallions, De Ruyter games. He lived well, he died nobly, and he loved his God, his family, and his country. It is no wonder that this solid, stocky man still looms large in the national imagination.

It is for these reasons that a handful of Dutch left-wingers have attempted to scrabble pathetically around the base of his pedestal, insisting that De Ruyter was a “colonialist” and that he should thus be charged with the sins of the slave trade, regardless of the fact that he had no association with it, never had slaves on board, and freed slaves at his own expense. Even the Muzeeum does an admirable job of dismissing these ahistorical charges out-of-hand, but I noticed upon visiting his crypt that his detractors have managed to get a plaque put in front of his grave that adds this little line to a list of his accomplishments: “Nowadays his name is increasingly linked to the debate on the Republic’s slave trade.” Of course, it is only linked to the slave trade by them, and they are only doing so because De Ruyter is the sort of man that progressives today, with their glorification of vice and the derisive denial of masculinity, cannot understand. Worse, they know that De Ruyter would be profoundly ashamed of them.

It reminds me of something Hilaire Belloc once wrote about the iconoclastic progressive, most notably that he hopes “that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilization has slowly produced over generations of selection and effort, but he [has no] comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is ever marveling that civilization, should have offended him with priests and soldiers…In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this, that he cannot make: that he can befog and destroy but he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true. We sit by and watch the Barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.”

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What girls are saying about the porn culture they are forced to grow up in

By Jonathon Van Maren

Over the past several weeks in the Netherlands, I have been giving a number of lectures on abortion, pornography, and other aspects of the culture wars. At one event, I was detailing how pornography has largely transformed sexuality among young people, especially in regard to the sexually violent behavior that has now been mainstreamed. One middle-aged gentleman strenuously objected, noting that he had two sons, that they probably watched pornography, and that he was sure they would never do anything horrible to a girl. After all, he pointed out, don’t all people have the wherewithal to discern between fantasy and reality?

I responded by pointing out a number of problems with his question. First of all, if pornography has caused enormous numbers of young people to fantasize about sexual violence, isn’t that a problem in and of itself? Isn’t it also true that we have one brain, and that we don’t have a separate brain with which to court fantasy? And finally: Watching violent pornography is participating in sexual violence. In a movie when someone gets beat up or shot, they didn’t actually get beat up or shot. But in a porn flick when a girl gets choked, slapped, and abused, that is a real girl actually getting choked, slapped, and abused.

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The pro-life movement in Romania is exploding–and one medical student explains why

By Jonathon Van Maren

Earlier this week, LifeSiteNews reported on the “Babies Go To European Parliament” initiative, launched by a Romanian pro-life group, and noted that anti-abortion activism seems to be exploding there. This year’s March for Life, for example, is their ninth national march, and each year the numbers continue to grow.

In 2013, 23 cities in Romania participated with individual marches. In 2014, that number rose to 40, and an entire “Week for Life” was introduced. In 2015, 77 Romanian cities participated, joined by 2 from the Republic of Moldova. In 2016, the numbers spiked even more dramatically, with 110 Romanian cities and 20 Moldovan cities joining and the “Month for Life” being declared. In 2018, a total of 300 cities and villages throughout Romania and the Republic of Moldova joined. And this year, that number rose to 600.

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The strange pull of the Old World

By Jonathon Van Maren

Over the past several weeks, I have had the extraordinary privilege of being able to give pro-life presentations (and several other lectures on various aspects of our current culture wars) in the Netherlands. I was given the opportunity by the Joseba Foundation, and have also been able to meet with a wide range of different pro-life organizations to exchange ideas about strategy, learn from their work, and share what we at the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform have been doing in Canada. (I’ll be writing more about that later.) One of the reasons that I was so thrilled to be able to do some pro-life work in the Netherlands is because both my family and my wife’s family are originally Dutch.

This is where my family’s roots are. On a Saturday morning, I drove with my wife and daughter to visit the widow of my Opa’s brother and two of my cousins. She is the last surviving member of his family. After the visit, we spent some time walking the village of Waardenburg where my Opa Van Maren and his siblings grew up. Watching my little daughter play on the cobblestones of Stienbrick factory where her great-grandfather had played as a boy and her great-great-grandfather had once walked to work in the factory—the mossy cobblestones are all that is left of the buildings now–a line from Ecclesiastes came to mind: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

There was the little house where my great-grandfather Gijsbert Van Maren was born, the Sluishuis where he lived with his wife Jantje and their children after the war, the little school—now long since converted into a commercial building—that my Opa attended as a boy, and from the dyke we could look across the Waal river to Zaltbommel, where the tower of St. Martens Kerk soars over the city skyline. It was this place that my Opa left behind in 1953 to come to Canada with my Oma and their first (of eleven) children. You can see the Zaltbommel Bridge, too—it was bombed by the Germans during the war, and it was because my Oma’s father ending up working on the reconstruction of the bridge that my Opa met my Oma. In their nineties now, their love is an ever-present example for their many descendants.

We walked through the Waardenburg graveyard, too. It was a reflective time together as we walked from headstone to headstone, reading the names of Van Marens who had passed on before. Some of them I had briefly known, when they were old and I was young and visiting the Netherlands. Others I had never met, and knew only by the black-white-photos hanging on the walls of homes back in Canada and stories from my parents, aunts and uncles. It struck me, as I slowly moved through the cemetery, that the last time I visited this place fifteen years ago it had been with two of my Opa’s brothers. Now, they are both buried here as well. The realization made the weight of history suddenly feel like a solemn burden, and the silence there was heavy and pregnant with memory.

A few minutes away stands the small red-brick Waardenburg Castle, first built in 1265 by Rudolf de Cock. It was this castle, demolished in 1574 by the troops of William of Orange before being rebuilt in 1627, that gave the village its name. Count Louis of Nassau, the brother of the Silent Prince, was forced to smash his way in because the fierce widow who resided there—Catharina van Gelre, who was actually the illegitimate daughter of Karel van Gelre, a nobleman brought up under the guardianship of Charles the Bold and Emperor Maximilian I—was resolutely pro-Spanish and imperiously refused to surrender. The massive lock, it was said, never recovered from the invasion. By 1800 the castle entered the van Pallandt family, whom my grandfather would work for in the surrounding orchards before immigrating to Canada.

Waardenburg Castle was badly damaged during the Second World War and underwent a restoration between 2006 and 2009. It is still surrounded by a wide moat today, and black coots skimmed across the surface and a suspicious stork eyed us as it strutted through the nearby orchards. Back when my grandfather was a boy a baroness still lived here, and my cousin told us that the Van Maren boys would race down the path to the impressive stone entrance to ask her for candies, struggling to remember that they needed to snatch their caps off once they entered her presence. The Baroness van Pallandt actually visited my grandparents on their little houseboat just before they left the Netherlands for Canada. Four years later in 1957, the castle was declared uninhabitable, largely due to the destruction it sustained during the Nazi bombing of the Bommelse Brug. And it was this bridge that my maternal great-grandfather would be hired to work on, resulting eventually in his daughter—my Oma—marrying my Opa.

There is something about the Netherlands that feels familiar, even though I was not born here. The cities here are infinitely older than anything we have in the New World. Zaltbommel is over a thousand years old, and it has aged gracefully. It is the sort of place with a town square, and the sort of square that people still use. It has a beauty that is not decorative—the sort of thing that is so normal here that those who pass it every day have long since stopped noticing it. In front of the ancient church, some crocuses were pushing up through the carefully tended grass, and a few yellow daffodils nodded their heads lazily in the wind. In one of the omnipresent canals, a duck facing bottom-side up rippled past.

We drove through the countryside to Maren-Kessel, the tiny village that my family was named after during a time too far back to trace. Today it has scarcely 1,300 residents, and I noticed many “for sale” signs hammered into the neatly manicured front yards. The Dutch build solid, sturdy brick houses that are clearly intended to last, and their hip-roof farm buildings and stepped-roofs are instantly recognizable as being from somewhere, an enormous contrast with the sprawling McMansions that dot the Canadian countryside. Here and there, a lovely house has been morphed into an eyesore by a massive solar panel fastened to the roof, and the roads are lined by straight, orderly rows of trees. The pink blossoms were out, too. With the exception of the water, nature has been entirely subjugated here.

We headed for the little terminal where a ferry big enough for about a dozen cars would take us across the Maas back to Gelderland, where we were staying. As we pulled up, I spotted the first group of children we had seen all day, in a pasture behind a tall hedge the lines the back of a row of red brick houses. They were playing soccer, laughing, and one little blond girl was dodging to the side to peel off her jacket, flushed red even though it was cool out, tossing it on the grass. Some waterfowl watched them warily from nearby. The birds were out in full force, as the water has spilled from the rivers in over a dozen places and covered the fields and pastures. Trees rose from the waves, and they appeared somehow unflappable. It was not a battle with the sea, exactly, but there are certainly still skirmishes.

There is something about this country that feels like home. Perhaps it is the fact that my family’s history in North America is so recent, and that for nearly all of the great events of the twentieth century and far before, my family lived here. Their experiences were those of the Old World, not of the New. There is a bakery on my mother’s side of the family, for example, that was opened in 1887, only twenty years after Canada became a country. It is still in the family. The towns and villages where my relatives have their roots—and many are buried–were founded long before Europeans even discovered North America. Perhaps that is why re-crossing the ocean and rediscovering these things is always such an incredible experience for me.

For tradition, as G.K. Chesterton once put it, is so strong “that later generations will dream of what they have never seen.”

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How the media covers up the crimes of the abortion industry

By Jonathon Van Maren

We have not seen this much discussion about abortion in the United States since the Center for Medical Progress broke the news that Planned Parenthood sells baby body parts back in 2015.

The Democratic Party’s insistence on supporting abortion right up until birth—and their refusal to condemn the practice of killing abortion survivors—is likely to keep the issue front and centre right through the Democratic primaries and on into 2020 election. Donald Trump, with his canny ability to seize on the weaknesses of his opponents, seems to have realized that the extremism of his opponents is not popular with the public, and thus will most likely make abortion a campaign issue.

READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AT LIFESITENEWS.COM

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