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Heavenly Criticisms

James Bowman and the Crusading spirit. Plus much more.

5.10.05

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HOW REVOLUTIONARY
Re: Philip Klein's The Spirit of '05:

This piece is hilarious but so clearly on target it's scary. Of course the irony would be totally lost on Libo-Democrats who appear incapable of neither reading nor being aware of any U.S. history prior to l967. You should print this for Spectator magazine readers to chuckle over too.
-- Howard Klein

TOUGH ROOM
Re: James Bowman's review of Kingdom of Heaven:

Unlike Ridley Scott, Mark Twain made his anachronistic hero a time-traveler. Bing Crosby as "A Connecticut Yankee" was more plausible than Mr. Bloom as a 12th century blacksmith. What gigs me is that Scott doesn't have sense enough to say: "Of course it is nonsense." No, he has to go on with his views about religion, something about which he has nothing worth to saying. Maybe he is just trying to tap into the blue-state, irreligious constituency.
-- John Schuh

I voted for Bush, and I tell you that taking the family to see Kingdom of Heaven on Mother's Day did not destroy our religion nor our allegiance to America, nor enroll us in Hollywood's evil plot against everything and everybody. It was an adventure story, and it will be taken as nothing more than an adventure story. Granted that the movie script takes liberties right and left with the facts -- but what movie script doesn't?

How many of John Wayne's movies were vetted for historical authenticity? Shall we hunt down those perverted Grimm brothers for all their psychosexual themes?

The entertainment industry has been full of rogues and lefties and libertines from its inception -- but that's art for you. And after all, they're Americans too, y'know. What would you have by way of "correction"? Nothing but historical lectures at some dreadful Soviet-style Palace of Culture? Sermons by Cotton Mather broadcast over loudspeakers a la North Korea?

I agree with the conservative point of view, mostly, but you guys need to lighten up. Conservative PC is every bit as silly as liberal PC. Try putting a slug of gin in the prune juice once in awhile, hmmm?
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

I always consult James Bowman's movie reviews because they are so informative. I do think that his review of Kingdom of Heaven was not one of his better efforts. The movie got the main points of a historical event correct but the film is loaded ridiculous anachronisms. Oh, the humanity!

Besides Hollywood epics, my knowledge of this period is based mainly on a series of lectures by Professor Kenneth W. Harl of Tulane offered by the Teaching Company. In it he states that the new leader of the Crusader Kingdoms, the Christian ones, as opposed to the Islamic ones set up in the late 7th century, did in fact ignore advice and took a shortcut across the wastes only to find that Saladin, the great Kurdish warlord, had place his army between them and water. Many great victories are due to the fact that someone did something stupid. After the battle, Saladin gave generous terms to the defeated kingdom because not only was he a noble man but mainly because he wanted to save his army for the real enemy, Arab competitors for power in the region.

James Bowman's idea of the Christian identity of the knights was also a little anachronistic. Before making great contributions to the Crusades, the Normans had in fact been at war with both the Pope and the Byzantine Empire and would later go on to sack Constantinople. Many Crusaders took up the Cross because it gave them a chance to establish an earthly feudal kingdom while being guaranteed heaven despite the most unchristian lifestyles that they intended to live to the fullest.

In general in this preliterate culture, a people's religion was often a function of their ruler's religion. One exception to this was that at the time of the Crusades, the majority of the population in the old Roman provinces around Jerusalem had yet to convert to Islam. Of course, these conquered peoples were relegated to second class citizenship and forced to pay extra taxes for the privilege of living in the Islamic Crusader state.

There is a great deal of information on the background of the Crusades here.

Finally, it one wants to deflate the Arab Jihadists while still accepting the reality of history, repeatedly stress the fact that it took a great Kurd to finally displace the Frankish kingdoms of the Near East.
-- Laurence

Regarding the helpful article on the Crusades movie:

An example of your style that makes the progression of your ideas difficult to follow: "Though without any particular expertise or knowledge about the Crusades themselves, I think a very basic historical knowledge should be sufficient to realize that it is mere nonsense to make the lesson they teach the virtues of liberal and secular governments in the holy land a good half a millennium before people had any idea of the existence of such things."

Strictly speaking, the "Though..." phrase is a dangling phrase and has the disadvantage such phrases have.

Also, better to say: "it is mere nonsense to have the lesson that the Crusades teach turn out to be the virtues of...." The reader is slowed down by the fact that "they teach the virtues" looks like a sentence, whereas "virtues" refers back to lesson. Making "lesson" plural might have helped. And there are a number of other ways this sentence could be rewritten to make the sentence easier to follow.

As a person who admits to not being an expert on the Crusades, you might want to research exactly what threats were made regarding Jerusalem. Some reviewers seem to disagree with you about both what could have happened and did happen.
-- R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

I am a daily traditional Catholic communicant and an expert on the Third Crusade. The movie reviewer is about 2/3 off the mark. Not everyone in the Age of Faith had deep faith. The Sybil character, sister of Baldwin, true leper King of Jerusalem, was every bit the whore looking for crusader studs portrayed in the movie. The Third Crusade did stop at Messina Sicily as portrayed in the movie. Sal-Ah-Din did spare Christian lives as opposed to the July 1099 "kill 'em all" Crusader approach in the First Crusade.

Some went to the Holy Land not out of faith, but pursuit of riches. Only the eldest son could inherit and bastards could not inherit in Europe, but could in the Levant. The Evil Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem indeed did have a Ms. Patriarch, referred to openly as such. Godfrey of Bouillon in an earlier incarnation went to war against Pope Gregory VII for Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Many murderers and non-religious went on Crusade to atone for past deeds. Pope Urban II at Claremont France in June 1095 promised salvation for crusaders. For trained killers who struggled with chastity, this was a dream deal come true. Godfrey historically resented Knights Templar who committed terrorist acts against Muslims in the Levant to incite Muslims and prevent co-existence which was good for business. Capitalists at the American Spectator should understand markets like stability. To criticize its history and openly admit not knowing any is silly. Alexius Comenius of the Byzantine Empire made an alliance with Sunni Kurdish Sal-ah-Din against the Latin Crusaders. Machiavellian machinations existed in the Age of Faith

Guy of the Knights Templar did fall for Sal-ah-din "Rope a Dope" to go inland away from the safety of the walls of Jerusalem. He risked lack of water for he wrongly viewed the True Cross as a talisman. Richard III in 1091 will not make the same mistake, timed cavalry charges and crossbows correctly, stayed by the shore under naval cover from Genoa and Venice. The fall of Jerusalem was not inevitable, it was due to the historical Guy's view that the Holy Cross would solve all logistical problems, the same naive view as the Children's Crusade.
-- Richard N. Nicoletti

Re: The effect of the Crusades on Jews in Europe and Israel: Thousands of Jews were killed in Europe before the Crusaders ever left for the Middle East. After all, why wait to kill infidels in Israel when you could kill infidel Jews right in your own country. When the Crusaders did get to the Middle East, they enthusiastically burned synagogues with the Jews inside, in keeping with their European traditions.

Until the latter part of the 19th century the Muslim lands were the safest place for Jews to live. We weren't allowed to have a tree taller than an Arab's tree, nor ride a horse, and it was not a crime for a Muslim to kill or rob a Jew, but in comparison with the Christian world, Muslims were much safer to live with.

The Christian Crusades were anything but chivalrous. They were brutal mass murderers sweeping through Europe and the Middle East. Here is a bit of the bloody history in relation to the Jewish people of Europe...
-- Kori Lessing
Columbus, Ohio

WIDESPREAD OUTRAGE
Re: Jed Babbin's Overtime at the Iniquity Factory:

Indeed, Mr. Babbin, our outrage is tested daily. At what point does the vessel of our restraint fail from such daily testing? What will that explosion then look like? Where will its debris fall and on whom?

Some other ponderables about this scandal within a scandal: What is Paul Volcker hiding? Why is he so lenient with Kofi Annan? Is this another case of partisan bickering in Congress leading to the appointment of an apparent 9/11-type whitewasher? Does perfidy extend to Canada, then North Korea and back into Iraq?

How far does this go?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

BLAME TO SHARE
Re: The Prowler's Democratic Offensives:

Indeed, it's easy to imagine Sen. Reid and his Demo-buddies continuing to trash Mr. Bush about Operation Iraqi Freedom. Truth be told, they also still speak about his stealing of the elections of 2000 and 2004.

Interesting, too, is the senator�s' reference to 1,600 American soldiers dying in Iraq. As of May 6, according to the Pentagon, the ratio was approximately 3-to-1 combat to non-hostile.

You wonder: If the senator and his party colleagues were to investigate the non-combat deaths worldwide for the U.S. military since the invasion of Iraq -- in training or other situations, including what we might all call life -- what would they find? Whatever they did find, would they then blame the president for those deaths because he is commander-in-chief. Too, would they then call for the dissolution of our Armed Services?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

RECENT HISTORY
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder's Love Is Blind, Deaf, and Dumb:

I think the recent piece on Jewish people and the Democratic Party misses fire. The real issues are much more recent than Harry Truman. What about the anti-Semitism of the party's civil rights leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton? Jessie Jackson? Anyone remember Crown Heights, where a rioting mob of (black) Americans murdered Yankel Rosenbaum? Or Hillary's alleged "Jew bastard" remark?
-- John Lockwood

DESPERATE DOOM
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Milking the Horse, and the letters in Reader Mail's How Funny Was She? , Lightened Up, and (under "Laura One Last Time" ) Up to Speed:

I heard Mr. Pleszczynski on Michael Medved today. I too was totally shocked over First Lady Bush's comedy routine. It just shows the shallowness and hypocrisy of an administration without any moral fiber of understanding of the world. Just what's in it for me and Cheney and the rest of the immoral imbeciles running our country. We are headed for doom because half the country really is watching "Desperate Housewives" just like the Bushes!
-- unsigned

NO SOCIAL CON
Re: Gene Wright's letter (under "Stand Up") in Reader Mail's The Joys of Republicanism and Michael Van Winkle's Whose Crisis Is This Anyway?:

Gene Wright (sure he's not Brubeck's former bassman?) nailed it with his Monday letter -- where are we disappointed to go?

I doubt if, in good conscience, I'll ever be able to vote for another Democrat (I've known and liked several governors who were good people, but that was 20+ years ago in Alaska), but strongly resent even opening those Mickey Mouse fund-raising letters from the GOP -- they're sick.

And, while I hardly agree with much (if any) of Barney Frank's agenda, I would certainly trust him a whole bunch more than Pat Robertson or the sanctimonious James Dobson. Or Jerry Falwell. And Jimmy Swaggart.

To perhaps make matters worse, some ultra-right backers of the "moral" Republicans (like Medved as just one example) put down the "Losertarians" at any/every opportunity -- but, really, the Libertarian Party is about the only political entity that offers anything for people like me; gutless Republicans fail to stop those Democrats' blockings, Dubya's spending goes up - and up, and government continues to grow while the borders are akin to colanders. Principle.

Mr. Wright's right. And, to make matters worse, those presently receiving entitlements are going to outnumber the US producers quite soon, and my usual optimism is failing fast....

One good thing, however -- at least I was fortunate in moving from the stifling Socialist Soviet of Seattle, home to a virtual plethora pseudo-sophisticates and would-be intellectuals, to the Texas Gulf Coast where my congressman is Ron Paul, one of the very few voices of sanity in D.C.
-- Geoff Brandt
Quintana, Texas

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