Sir Roger Scruton on Intellectuals, Conservatism and President Trump


For many in both Kent and Talbot Counties, Washington College professor Joseph Prud’homme has been a very visible presence in bringing both communities unique public programming in his role as the Director of the Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. So while it wasn’t too surprising that he invited Sir Roger Scruton to Chestertown yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big thing. It is.

The reason being is that Scruton is one of those rare endangered species commonly called a conservative intellectual.  Similar to America’s late William F. Buckley, Jr., Sir Roger has reached a similar cultural status in Great Britain for his controversial writing on politics as well as art and music.

The Spy couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat with Mr.Scruton at the Brampton Inn a few hours before his campus visit to talk about a variety of subjects including what many consider to be a war against intellectualism in this country. Sir Roger also shares his thoughts on how the conservative label may also be at risk as the Trump presidency refines the concept itself.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington College please go here

GigaBit County: An Update on the Kent County Fiber Network


The optical fiber network spanning Kent County—which will enable gigabit (1000 megabit) internet access to every County facility and to any home or business that wants it—is nearly complete. Despite rumors to the contrary, the fiber buildout is on schedule and on budget, according to FTS President Adam Noll. In fact, virtually the only part of the backbone network that remains to be built are the fibers serving the towns of Chestertown and Rock Hall. Noll says that construction of Rock Hall will begin in the next 2 weeks, now that plans of the existing underground utilities have been found.

Meanwhile, the company hooking up individual homes and businesses to the fiber and providing high speed internet access, Think Big Networks, reports that it is already providing service to more than 100 customers, including Dixon Valve and La Motte—the County’s largest businesses—and has many more ready to install. Mark Wagner, CEO of Think Big, says that progress has been slower than he hoped, but that it is steady. He sees no reason that they can’t connect any Kent County residence.

The fiber installation in Chestertown has been delayed because Delmarva Power, which owns the above-ground power poles, has demanded a price that FTS considers way above market rate and refuses to pay. Delmarva Power can demand such fees because FTS is not a regulated carrier in the state of Maryland (it is in other states), but Noll says one solution is for FTS to apply for regulated status, which would guarantee access to the poles. Another possible solution is to use micro-trenching techniques to put the fiber underground. In any event, Noll says that Chestertown will soon get fiber too, one way or another.

One cause of the rumors—and a recent pause in the fiber buildout—was a management reorganization at FTS, which resulted in Noll becoming president and taking charge of day-to-day operations. But the buildout is not at risk; in fact, FTS’s prospects are much larger than Kent County and are best understood in terms of that larger context.

The Kent County fiber network is just the first of what FTS hopes will become a major business connecting rural counties—in Maryland and Virgina to start with. Central to that plan is the company’s planned fiber ring connecting a new undersea cable that comes ashore in Virginia Beach to the major internet hub in Ashburn, Virginia. The ring—one arm through Virginia and the other through Maryland’s Eastern Shore—would contain hundreds of fibers, enabling County governments, large internet data centers and other companies, and residential internet providers to access or provide high speed internet.

The new undersea cable connects Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach and provides an alternative to cables that go through New York City (and whose vulnerability was demonstrated by superstorm Sandy).  The cable is being built by Microsoft, Facebook, and the Spanish company Telefonica and will have the highest capacity of any undersea cable yet, capable of transmitting 16o terabits per second (roughly the same as 71 million high definition movies every second).  It is expected to begin operation in 2018, and its presence will transform the entire region, as well as underlie the business case for the FTS ring. The ring, in turn, will be the main revenue source for FTS, but it is what enables the County networks, where the financial return is slower.

For Kent County, says Noll, access via the FTS ring both to the internet hub at Ashburn and to Europe creates a huge opportunity to attract internet-based businesses and young, internet-savvy families.  And at least for now, Kent County is unique on the Eastern Shore in having that opportunity. FTS was negotiating a similar contract with Queen Anne’s County, but would face higher costs per foot of fiber installed (it’s a much larger county). Queen Anne was not willing to pay a higher price, and they additionally demanded that FTS provide a bond to guarantee completion. Noll says that it simply did not make business sense, and so FTS walked away; it will instead focus on building its larger ring and exploring opportunities in some Virginia counties.

In summary, FTS is a major internet infrastructure company that is currently building a high-speed fiber ring through Virginia and Maryland, that conveniently passes through Kent County.  Think Big is the local company that connects local businesses and residences to this high-speed fiber network.  This provides a wonderful opportunity for Kent County. The completed network may open the doors to economic development unlike any the county has experienced in living memory.


Carrie – A Halloween Hit!


Carrie, now playing at Church Hill theatre, is an appropriate show for the Halloween season. Based on the 1976 horror film “Carrie,” which draws its plot from a Stephen King novel of the same name, the story takes place in a high school in Maine – and ends with a thoroughly traditional horror movie amount of blood and gore.

A joint production of Chesapeake College and Church Hill Theatre, the play ran three performances at the college’s Cadby Theater, and opens at Church Hill for two more weekends beginning Friday, Nov. 3. Many of the cast members are members of the Peake Players, made up of current or recent students at the college. This works well, considering that a large number of the characters are high school seniors. And, as director Robert Thompson notes, this gives them an immediate sympathy with the feelings and problems of their characters.

King’s 1974 novel, his first to be published, was set in the near future, 1979, in a fictional small town. It used letters, fictional newspaper and magazine stories, and excerpts from Carrie’s own journal and poems to give the story an air of reality. Probably because of its use of a high school setting to generate a terrifying, blood-thirsty plot, it is one of the most frequently banned books in high schools around the country. The film, starring Cissy Spacek in the title role and Piper Laurie as her mother, appeared two years after the book.

Carrie – Queen of the Prom    Photo by Jane Jewell

Carrie happy dancing with Tommy – her first date!      Photo by Jane Jewell











The play debuted in 1984, with Lawrence D. Cohen reworking the screenplay he wrote for the film version which became a big hit.  It was more the movie than the book that made King a best-seller and jump-started his writing career.  In contrast, the first version of the musical stage play did not do so well. Michael Gore wrote the music and Dean Pitchford the lyrics – the two had made their mark with the music for “Fame.” Cohen was reportedly inspired by a performance of Alban Berg’s atonal modernist opera “Lulu.”  The original production was panned by critics, and despite sold-out houses, closed after only five official performances. It was revived in 2012 with the new script and several new songs, and while it too closed after only 48 performances, the authors said it had accomplished their goal of giving the play new life. More recent revivals, including one in Los Angeles in 2015, have received good reviews.

The plot revolves around Carrie White, a shy teenage girl who has become the target of the pranks and insults of her schoolmates. When she experiences her first period in the shower during gym class, she panics – having made it to age 17 without learning the facts of life from her mother, a religious fanatic who thinks menstruation is the result of wicked thoughts. This home life clearly gives Carrie little guidance in dealing with her life at school.

Teens prepare to torment Carrie with a bucket of fake blood.     Photo by Jane Jewell

The teachers make attempts to help Carrie, and another girl, Sue, arranges for her boyfriend Tommy, a popular athlete, to take Carrie to the prom. Carrie at first refuses, but convinced Tommy really wants her as his date, accepts the invitation. Her mother is furious – but Carrie stands up to her and goes anyway.

Carrie wreaks her revenge. Photo by Steve Atkinson

The twist in this otherwise fairly typical story of the teen misfit at the prom is that Carrie has telekinetic powers – the ability to affect and move objects by sheer mind power. When the stress reaches a peak, her psychic powers cause havoc – with the climax coming at the prom, when several of the mean students play a final trick on her.

Carrie The Musical is more than just a teen story or a horror movie transferred to the stage.  It is that.  And Halloween is exactly the right season for it. Horror movie fans will love it.  But it is also a close-up look at what can happen when idle pranks go too far and become cruel; when a lonely teen is seduced years ago and ends up a lonely single mother, embittered and hiding behind extreme religiosity.

Two of the guys dance around as the decoration committee gets the gym ready for prom.  

But don’t worry, it’s neither all horror nor all deep insight.  There are also light moments, poignant moments when a young teen watches her boyfriend ring the doorbell to pick up another girl for the prom. Even humorous moments as when the English teacher confiscates a joint from a student then takes a toke himself as soon as the student’s gone.

Shannon Whittaker, who has numerous CHT credits and who served as director of the CHT Green Room Gang this last summer, plays Carrie. With strong acting chops and a good singing voice, she makes the character both believable and sympathetic. Whittaker gives an excellent portrayal of a shy but sweet teen who finds her strength too late.  Her performance is outstanding.

Maureen Currin plays Carrie’s mother.    Photo by Steve Atkinson

Maureen Currin plays Margaret, Carrie’s mother. The character is possibly the least sympathetic character in the play, but Curris, who has appeared in a number of productions with the Tred Avon Players, gives it a strong interpretation.  Her aria, sung alone in her kitchen after Carrie defies her to go to the prom, is especially poignant, showing both insight into her own fallibility while clinging to her own religious mania.

Reilly Claxton, a first-year student at Cheaspeake, takes the role of Sue, one of three popular girls who lead the laughter at Carrie.  But as things get out of hand in the locker room, Sue begins to feel guilt and shame at her behavior. She tries to apologize to Carrie but isn’t believed, so Sue makes the ultimate teen sacrifice of getting her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom.  Claxton conveys all these emotions beautifully. While this is her first Peake Players appearance, she has many previous credits both at CHT and in TV commercials. Her experience shows – a nice job in an important part.

Sue convinces Tommy to take Carrie to the prom to make up for all the mean tricks.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Jacob Wheatley is well cast as Tommy, the boy who takes Carrie to the prom.  He is a good match for Sue. He’s one of the guys  – yet he, too, balks at the continued, excelerated bullying of Carrie.  Wheatley comes across exactly right as the all-American boy next-door, fun-loving but not really mean. Wheatley, a student at Chesapeake College, has acted in two previous productions there, including the lead in How to Succeed in business Without Really Trying.  Hope to see more of him on stage in future.

Olivia Litteral, a recent Chesapeake College graduate, takes the role of Chris, the “bad girl” who targets Carrie for her practical jokes.  Litteral shows the stubbornness and cockiness of a teen leader who won’t admit things have gone too far. A good job.

Brandon Walls, who has numerous credits both with the Peake Players and at CHT, plays Billy, Chris’s thuggish boyfriend. He does a fine job too, using his physical presence to give the character an air of menace while playing the disruptive class clown.

Among the other cast members, Samantha Smith and James Kaplanger are very good in supporting roles as teachers who try to take Carrie’s side and reign in the bullies.

The music is a challenge, which the cast mostly rises to, especially since much of the dialogue is presented in the form of songs. This requires the singers to enunciate very clearly – a challenge most but not all of them met at the performance I saw. The music as noted is more sung dialog than song, so the emphasis is on the words not pretty melodies – perhaps the influence of the Berg opera. The small band, directed by William Thomas, does a solid job, for which due credit.

Photo by Jane Jewell

The choreography, by Evelyn Paddy, is one of the show’s strong points, especially in the large ensemble scenes where several things can be going on at once. There are several particularly acrobatic performances by some of the cast members, notably James Kaplanges who executes a flawless, exuberant aerial maneuver in one of the dance scenes.

Spirits raised by Carrie’s psychic powers. Photo by Steve Atkinson

The use of masked dancers to represent the telekinetic spirits called up by Carrie lends an air of menace to every scene they appear in, lurking silently in the edges of the scene – and when they do break into action, it is especially powerful. Thoroughly spooky!

Costumes range appropriately from preppy to punk ’80s.  The prom dresses are pretty even on the the punk girls with punk purple hair.


“Carrie the Musical” is probably too intense – both in style, subject matter, and strong language – for very young audience members. But for anyone who isn’t put off by horror-movie material, it is worth seeing if only for the fine performances by a large cast of actors, many of them college age – a real testimony to the wealth of talent in the local community. And it’s good to see CHT willing to stretch the boundaries of “safe” community theater fare.  And if you stick around afterward, you can watch the cast and crew rise from the dead – as should happen in all good horror tales – and bring mops & buckets out and wipe up all the “blood” before the next show.

“Carrie” runs through Nov. 12, with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students. Groups of 10 or more qualify for special prices. For reservations, call 410-556-5867 or visit the Church Hill Theatre website.

Photo gallery below by Jane Jewell

Teens torment Carrie with a bucket of fake blood.


Margaret, Carrie’s mother, faces her own inner demons as she becomes aware of Carrie’s very real demons. 

Carrie’s “spirits” rise as her mother warns her about boys. 

Carrie and her mother just before the prom



Carrie calls her spirits – her revenge is coming…

Carrie realizes they are mocking her. Her mother was right!


















Carrie – Mopping Up Afterward for Next Show!




Reflections on Downrigging by Jamie Kirkpatrick


The tall ships have come and gone. Sultana sits in her home berth like a forlorn child whose best friends have all just gone home after the birthday party. Her mast is stepped, her sails securely stowed for winter. Another sailing season has come and gone.

Chestertown’s first Downrigging Weekend took place in 2001 with only two ships in port: our very own Sultana and the Pride of Baltimore visiting from across the Bay. This year, I counted more than 25 vessels of all shapes and sizes; I guess good ideas grow as quickly as summer grass. While Downrigging Weekend is surely a celebration of graceful tall ships, small wooden boats lovingly built or restored, and all things nautical, it’s also a celebration of who we are: our history, our river, our town. We love it here and Downrigging is our gift to ourselves.

The weekend officially started on Wednesday with the arrival of the first tall ship. (This year, that honor went to the Kalmar Nykel out of Wilmington). However, to be honest, my personal version of Downrigging Weekend began a day or two before when I first looked down river toward Devil’s Reach, then drove out to Quaker Neck Landing hoping to catch a glimpse of that first incoming topsail. By Thursday morning, I was in Wilmer Park cataloging the ships as they sailed in: Lynx (out of Nantucket), Pride of Baltimore, Lady Maryland, Sigsbee, and the Muriel Eileen (a restored Chesapeake buy boat). Sultana flew back upriver from her afternoon sail to join the party and suddenly I was a kid again, transported back in time, wondering what it must have been like for my seven-times-great grandfather when he dared to cross the Atlantic in 1760 on a ship like one of these. (Good thing there wasn’t a wall back then! I mean, after all, none of us—or at least no one I know—walked over here. But I digress…)

On Friday morning there were a few last-minute arrivals to welcome. In the afternoon, two of my mates and I headed down to the deck of the Fish Whistle to watch the maritime parade over a beer or two. It was good to see the Marina a) dry and b) buzzing with people marveling at our living display of nautical history. That’s the way the marina supposed to be—dry and lively—right?

By the time the spotlights blazed on Friday night, it was hard not to swoon at the sight of the assembled fleet. The controlled chaos of rigging and lines, the towering crow’s nests, all the pulpits and bows with their finely carved figureheads—it was a spectacular evening show often enhanced by a generous captain’s measure of grog. Fireworks added plenty of excitement to the festivities and this year’s grand finale awed the crowd on land and out on the river.

Saturday’s sails were another delight—a silent nautical ballet of canvas, wind, and light. (Well, maybe not quite silent; all the rata-tat-tat of that toy PT boat is a silly distraction.) I got in an early round of golf out at the club and the sight of all the tall ships on a downriver parade behind the 15th green provided a magnificent backdrop to golf on a bluebird day. Back in town, there was plenty of good music and food to add fuel to the celebration.

Sunday’s change of weather did little to dampen the town’s spirits. Weather is, after all, part and parcel of the magic of sailing; not every day can be sunny with a light southwesterly breeze. But there was also a certain bittersweet quality to Downrigging Sunday: the show was winding down, weekend visitors were heading home, crews were preparing to depart for distant ports (Lynx is on her way to her winter home in St. Petersburg, Florida for example), and as for those of us who remain in port, we knew in our bones that colder weather is a comin’. I guess we’ve learned to take our collective cue from the tall ships sailing away and set about some personal down rigging of our own: we begin to repair and stow our own gear for the few months before we all go sailing again in the spring.

See you at Tea Party.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is




Tall Ships and More


The tall ships crowding the Chestertown landing included in addition to the Sultana, the Kalmar Nyckel, Lady Maryland, Pride of Baltimore and A.J. Meerwald

Saturday, Downrigging 2017 was as near a perfect day as you could order up – clear skies, a nice breeze, and happy crowds in Chestertown to view the tall ships. In addition to the host, schooner Sultana, they had the opportunity to board – and if they were among those canny enough to get tickets in advance, to sail on – Kalmar Nykel, Lady Maryland, the Pride of Baltimore, and the A.J. Meerwald. The Chester River Packet was also doing a brisk business taking festival-goers out to see the river and the tall ships.

Smaller ships representing all kinds of craft were also on display at the docks.

But there was much more to be seen and enjoyed at Downrigging. A fine selection of smaller boats was available for inspection along the docks, including shipwright John Swain’s E.E. Moore, a Chesapeake Bay sharpie, and Pathfinder, a 1926 Elco cruiser that once belonged to a member of the Dupont family. Along the foot of High Street, a small flotilla of wooden speedboats vied for attention with an array of classic cars, including several vintage Ferraris. And just for variety’s sake, a group of cyclists came to the festival on their old-style “penny-farthing” two-wheelers.

Wooden boats were on display on their trailers – brought by their proud owners from all corners of the East Coast.

A couple dozen or more classic cars were parked on High Street by the town dock.

Downrigging is multidimensional – if you wanted to step into the Sultana Educational Center, you could enjoy a display of boat models, a booth by Tales and Scales with two live owls and a kestrel hawk, an art exhibit by Marc Castelli showing the building of Sultana, and kids’ activities. The Massoni Art gallery on High Street had another Castelli exhibit, “Swinging the Lantern,” with striking images of watermen at work.

There was music, too – a tent behind the Fish Whistle restaurant had a variety of local bands in rotation all day long, with food and drink available for audience members. Among the attractions were the High and Wides, Dovetail, the Lions of Bluegrass and the Chestertown Ukulele Club. At the High Street pier, WCTR had a booth set up with recorded music – and prizes for one and all.

The Lions of Bluegrass

Saturday night, the Pam Ortiz Band took the stage at Garfield Center, offering a selection of songs with nautical themes. Elsewhere in town, there were plenty of private parties for those inclined to stretch the celebration into the evening hours.

Sunday, the rains came – but Saturday was more than enough to make Sultana’s annual celebration a resounding success. If you missed it for some reason, don’t worry – there’s always next year!

Penny-farthings. big-wheel bicycles from the era of tall ships, were also at Downrigging.

Pirates and the Jolly Roger entertained all.

Boat models on display

The Downrigging Fleet at Dawn, previous year – photo by Chris Cerino

Stern of Sultana

Schooner Sultana under sail

Kalmar Nyckel figurehead

























Semper Fidelis by David Montgomery


My less conservative friends sometimes tell me “how Europeans think about the United States,” usually mentioning that we are obsessed with sex and more recently claiming that we are war-mongers intent on global dominance. The claim about sex (from the French, of all things!) most often refers to the adherence of many American Evangelicals and Catholics to traditional Christian teaching about abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and the nature of marriage. That is true, and the comment is only interesting because of what it reveals about the state of Christianity in Europe.

The European view of America as a militarist society intent on global domination is false and offensive, and therefore deserves a response from all of us who know how wrong it is.

A recent article in the usually level-headed Economist magazine is typical, though it is more personal and offensive than most in its derogation of the character of the men and women who serve in our armed forces. Its author uses the pseudonym “Lexington” (appropriate as the place where British fired on American militia) and claims to have been a war correspondent. To deepen the insult, the title he gave the article in the print edition was “Semper fidelis.”

The article itself is a lengthy recital of the author’s prejudices about American military personnel and the present Administration. “Lexington” accepts uncritically every accusation leveled at American forces or President Trump and invents whatever “facts” his ideology tells him should be true.

“Lexington” makes two idiotic claims: the American public suffers from a romantic illusion about the character of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and we irrationally support the intention of our government to dominate the world through military force.

A few excerpts will convey the tone, without subjecting my readers to the sick entirety of the article.

“No soldier expects the beloved chumps back home to understand what he gets up to. He just needs to feel appreciated.”

This based on Lexington’s dismissal of the cards and letters posted on bases in Iraq thanking our soldiers for “being over there to keep us safe.” He calls their senders “chumps” on the grounds that ISIS and Al Qaeda are fighting a defensive war, not threat to us a home. The vulnerability of all of the Levant to jihad, and its meaning for the West, seems never to have occurred to him.

“In 1990, 40% of young Americans had a military veteran for a parent; in 2014 only 16% did. But this dissonance has not, as the general implied, caused Americans to underappreciate the forces. To the contrary, it has encouraged, as [General Kelly’s] remarks also indicated, a highly romanticised view of military service, which is inaccurate and counter-productive at best.”

The romanticized view being that soldiers risk their lives and perform heroic actions for our benefit. Not denying that this is what soldiers in fact do, “Lexington” attacks their motives:

“Members of the armed forces are often patriotic. But many see their service primarily as a way to make a living…”

After all this denigration of the American soldier, Lexington does an about-face to express outrage at President Trump’s (quoted without context) words to the widow of a Special Forces sergeant killed in Niger. What I hear in the now famous phrase that “he knew what he signed up for” is President Trump paying the ultimate compliment to Sergeant Johnson’s courage and sacrifice – he knew that he might die and he went anyway. But Lexington’s bias makes him hear it in the worst possible way.

“Lexington” then claims that what he views as “uncritical soldier worship” and “America’s unthinking reverence for its fighters” lets our generals and politicians plan for global domination:

“Most obviously, it gives the Department of Defence an outsize advantage in the battle for resources with civilian agencies. Today’s cuts to the State Department, whose officers are not noticeably less patriotic or public-spirited than America’s soldiers, are a dismal case in point.” Nonsequitur of the first order, but a nice revelation of bias.

“The fact is, America’s foreign-policy doctrines envisage a degree of global dominance, based on military might….”

Thus a European intellectual looks down on the American public as romantic fools demeans our military as no better than mercenaries, and then plays to the prejudice of his European readers by confirming their suspicion that we aspire to create a new Roman Empire with our mercenary legions.

The Catholic Church is not immune to this disease. A disturbing article recently appeared in the Jesuit magazine La Civita Cattolica, written by its editor and another close associate of Pope Francis. The Jesuits make the same broad accusations about how we start wars and plan to dominate the world, but blame it on an alliance of Protestant fundamentalists and wayward Catholics.

The authors claim that “Religion has had a more incisive role in electoral processes and government decisions over recent decades, especially in some US governments. It offers a moral role for identifying what is good and what is bad” and has led our government into a moral crusade against Islam.

They blame this development on “evangelical fundamentalism” to which American Catholics have become allied. Though I am a Roman Catholic now, I was brought up in that tradition, and I can state with confidence that their account of its history and leaders is completely fictional. Nor can I figure out how to reconcile the claimed political dominance of evangelicals and orthodox Catholics like me with our inability to stop abortions, redefinition of marriage, etc.

Nevertheless, the authors go on to describe the terrible effects of our domination of American politics. They accuse us of “stigmatization of enemies who are often ‘demonized’” – in particular, “the migrants and the Muslims.” Further, “Within this narrative, whatever pushes toward conflict is not off limits. It does not take into account the bond between capital and profits and arms sales. Quite the opposite, often war itself is assimilated to the heroic conquests of the “Lord of Hosts” of Gideon and David. In this Manichaean vision, belligerence can acquire a theological justification…”

Here we see two common prejudices of the European intellectual community. First the Marxist view that our military ventures are really being arranged by capitalists to profit on arms sales, and have nothing to do with actual defense of the West against Islamic terrorists and jihadists. The fundamentalists and their Catholic allies help convince the masses to support this military expansion by giving it a religious justification.

The authors in the Jesuit magazine conclude their diatribe with “We must not forget that the geopolitics spread by Isis [sic] is based on the same cult of an apocalypse…. So, it is not just accidental that George W. Bush was seen as a ‘great crusader’ by Osama bin Laden.”

Thus we end with the conclusion that there is no real difference between Islamic terrorists and U.S. foreign policy. Sadly, the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal endorses the Jesuit’s article, characterizing it as “giving voice to how non-American Christians and Catholics around the world are perceiving the U.S. situation.” Another European point of view is revealed.

Were it not for the position of the authors in the informal hierarchy of the Vatican, the silliness, inconsistency and historical inaccuracy of the article would make it just another example of bad editorial judgment in the world of Jesuit publishing. As things stand, the article serves as another example of the depth and pervasiveness of prejudice against America among the European intellectual elite.

Where for Lexington it was our “uncritical soldier worship” that supports imperial ambitions, for the Jesuit authors it is the power of fundamentalist religious leaders. That smart Europeans could be so deluded about the United States is a staggering thought.

I write on this topic today to urge my readers not to be deceived by these European prejudices or to see European disdain for American values and accomplishments as a sophisticated worldview worthy of emulation. Europe as a whole is in decline, and the moral basis of its decline is clearly apparent in these attitudes toward all things American.

We are an exceptional country, with not only the most effective and disciplined but the most generous fighting forces in the world. Even when misguided, as it may have been to intervene in Vietnam and Iraq, there is no notion of world domination behind our use of military force. Perhaps an unrealistic belief in the power of democracy to improve the lives of citizens of every nation, but not a wish to rule them.

Our military personnel face fear, hardship, and death in order to protect the innocents in the countries where they serve from Islamic terrorists and tribal warlords. They provide humanitarian aid while watching their backs, and must distinguish instantly between whom to protect and whom to kill. And they are our first line of defense against militant and expansionist Islamic movements and countries. European second-guessers who question their motivations and self-sacrifice deserve only our contempt.

We need to celebrate the sacrifices and accomplishments of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines — and remember them when we stand up for the National Anthem on November 11.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor by George Merrill


I’ve been around and on the water most of my life. I was born on an island, vacationed on another. Now I live on the Eastern Shore that is surrounded by water and for all practical purposes, is an island.

I’ve been seasick twice. The first time was crossing the English Channel from the Hook of Holland to Dover and the other sailing off Tortola in the Virgin Islands. Being seasick is a miserable experience. You think you’ll die and at times, wish you would.

A seasoned sailor once told me that the best way to stave off seasickness is to keep your eyes fixed on the horizon. As tumultuous as the sea can get, the horizon will appear steady and affords a stabilizing orientation that helps to make us feel balanced when everything around us is heaving.

I think of the socio-political climate I live in today as heaving. I feel tossed this way and that. It’s as if I spend my days trying to stave off the queasiness that frequently arises in my stomach when I look at my country and a world that seems to be going mad. It’s as if we were on a ship with a malfunctioning compass, a contentious crew and an ailing captain. We’re sailing under a cloudy sky that occludes the sun or stars so we can’t orient ourselves. I sometimes feel frightened, uncertain, lost.

As I write this, next to me sits a copy of The Week magazine. Like many magazines, the last page (The Last Word, this magazine calls it) offers reflective columns that deal with human-interest issues. The October 20th edition ran a piece on Mr. Rogers of the famous Mr. Rogers Neighborhood series that first ran on television in 1968. A picture of Mr. Rogers accompanies the article. He’s in his cardigan sweater, seated, smiling, as he puts on his sneakers. Rogers radiated an aura of benevolence that was infectious and from all accounts he was in real life the same kind, gentle, and caring man, as he appeared to be in his programs. He is an example of how character counts and how it can make all the difference in the lives of others. He had been a part of that horizon we seek as the world pitches and roils around us.

When I first saw the column I wondered, why now? Rogers died in 2003 and, although his program was shown for some years after his death, I assumed that he had become more like an old attic piece that may once have been loved and treasured and then wound up tucked away and forgotten. His reemergence is prophetic.

Prior to seeing this recent article, Mr. Rogers first came to my attention at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. The horror of that senseless slaughter rippled through the country and it was front-page news for weeks.

At that time someone posted one of Mr. Roger’s comments online, a comment made years before on one of his programs. In his skillful way, he was discussing with his television neighborhood how when scary things happen and we feel all alone, it is not the end of our world. “My mother would say to me,” he told the children, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers –so many caring people in the world.”

The post reportedly went viral. It must have generated interest for millions in the country. The comment captured the national imagination. I believe it spoke to a deep need and a national hunger. It was an inspired statement from a man long gone, a statement recalled in the fullness of time, as if, as they say of angels, that the wounded and needy were being ministered to by messengers of God. America is facing ugly and scary things. We are reminded that there are helpers, people who are there for us in the darkest hours to aid and comfort us.

I remember at the time of the bombing there was a lot of television coverage focusing on people who suddenly appeared from nowhere to be available and help. One physician – perhaps participating in the marathon, ran to the hospital to make himself available to the wounded.

Anthony Breznican, the author of The Week article, recalled Rogers speaking those words of assurance when he had been a boy. Years later he found solace in those words as he struggled through personal crises of his own in adulthood.

I was curious that the journalist would write about Mr. Rogers now in the present atmosphere where threats of nuclear war and the mass shootings are the norm. We’re not having wonderful days in the neighborhood. There’s the bellicose rhetoric coming regularly from Washington. The recollection of Mr. Rogers was as if Breznican looked at the distant horizon and saw the person of Fred Rogers, and he felt calmed in the storm.

Loving-kindness will orient us in tumultuous times. Caring gets easily eclipsed in the tempests roiling in our world today. I suspect Mr. Rogers is speaking to his neighbors again, a voice beyond the grave, pointing us to the horizon of hope and comfort, the way prophets’ voices once spoke to a people who’d lost their way.

His message is as eternal as it is simple:

“To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers –so many caring people in the world.”

There are a lot of good people left in our neighborhood.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

“Songs for Our Future” by Pam Ortiz


Pam Ortiz Band – Phil Dutton (keyboard), Ford Schumann (guitar), Bob Ortiz (percussion), Nevin Dawson (violin), Pam Ortiz (guitar & lyricist)           Photo by Jeff Gruber, Blue House Productions

It’s Fall, and Downrigging Weekend is right around the corner — with a featured concert by the Pam Ortiz Band at the Garfield Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, Oct. 28. This has been a very active year for the band, and the Spy thought it would be a good idea to catch up.  Following the article is a photo and video gallery of the band by Jeff Weber. Here’s the story of this year’s activities in Pam’s own words.  — Editors.

It was three days after the election of 2016.  I had several friends who were showing clear signs of PTSD.  Beyond the kvetching and rending of garments, many people I ran into were staring blankly into one another’s eyes, googling “Sweden” or “Canada” and figuring out when and for how long they would have to go “news dark” in order to maintain their hold on life.

My husband, Bob Ortiz, and I play original music in a five-piece band.  After an interesting but exhausting year, I had suggested we take a bit of a hiatus.  We had done our annual show at the Sultana Downrigging Festival at the end of October, and, with that commitment behind us, I was looking forward to some downtime.  Then the election hit.

My immediate thoughts turned to those groups of people who would be vulnerable going forward.  And the critical rights, those rights that leverage other rights – the right to vote, the right of free speech, and others – all of which were now at risk.

On November 11th, I wrote the following to my band mates, Nevin Dawson, Ford Schumann and Philip Dutton:

I know I said I felt like I wanted to take a break, but the events of this week have caused me to reconsider.  I sat down after the election and made a list of: i) rights to protect; ii) people to protect; iii) people to support; and iv) people to challenge or stop.  I came up with 12 to start with and put organizations that do that work by each one.  So I have a list of 12 organizations I want to support.  I was thinking Bob and I would write some puny checks (which we will indeed do, which is about what we can do). Then tonight I thought about how everyone around us is anxious to DO something and thought:  we could host a series at Bob’s shop of monthly concerts and each one would be designed to address one of those issues and support one of those organizations.  

Within days, the group convened to plan what became the Songs for Our Future concert series.  Ultimately, we narrowed down the list of organizations to seven. We planned one concert each month, to be held between January and July, 2017.  Here’s what our final list looked like [with all proceeds going to the listed organization]:

JANUARY – A Concert to Protect the Right to Vote  – NAACP Legal Defense Fund 

FEBRUARY – A Concert to Protect the Rights of Immigrants  – National Immigration Law Center 

MARCH – A Concert to Highlight Climate Change & Clean Energy (2 events) – 

APRIL – A Concert to Protect the LGBTQ Community  – FreeState Justice 

MAY – A Concert to Protect Our Muslim Neighbors  – Council on American Islamic Relations 

JUNE – A Concert to Support Women’s Reproductive Rights  – Planned Parenthood 

JULY – A Concert to Protect the Right of Free Speech  – ACLU of Maryland 

My husband is a furniture maker.  His studio is a large, funky space in Chestertown, Maryland, a town in a rural county on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Amazing things happen in that space.  People stop by all week for counseling, advice, help with a project, or just to check in.  We have hosted a myriad of concerts, parties and special events there over the years, so it seemed a natural place to host the series.  We initially planned six events.  When former director of The Mainstay, Rory Trainer, asked if they could participate, we added a final, culminating show to be held there in July.

We invited special guests to join us for each show — poets, artists, musicians and singers who had a connection with the group or right we were supporting. – Sombarkin, Meredith Davies Hadaway, Sue Matthews, John Schratweiser, Capt. Andy McCown, Howard and Mary McCoy.  Guest bassists Tom Anthony, Mark Dykeman, and Jeff Davis each joined us for several events.  Salvadoran songwriter and artist , Fredy Granillo, joined us for our show to support immigrants. Our friend and frequent collaborator, poet Robert Earl Price, became our “house poet,” but we had others too – James Allen Hall, Mary Azrael.  A high school friend and professor of Arabic read Arabic poetry at our event to support our Muslim neighbors.  And she helped us make a connection with a young Syrian immigrant who came and spoke eloquently about his experience – as a Syrian dissident, as a refugee, as a young man isolated from the community and far from his family.  He spent four years in a Turkish refugee camp. Of his family, he was the only one who got a Visa to come to the U.S.  His mother and sister are in Sweden; his dad remains in the refugee camp.  When asked if he could talk or Skype with his family, he said, “Of course.  But I can’t do this.” And he proceeded to come over to me and give me a big hug, like you might give your mom who you hadn’t seen for 3 years.  Our collective hearts broke.

As we put these shows together, over and over again, people came out of the woodwork offering to contribute or participate in some way.  Everybody wanted in.  Our friend and potter, Marilee Schumann, made “Resist” mugs which folks could have for an additional donation.  Her daughter, Brooke, made “Resist” soap.  Volunteers came forward to help set up the shop, transport chairs, carry equipment, help at the door.  When we celebrated women and raised funds to protect women’s reproductive health, Marilee and her sister-in-law, Jamie, made pink pussy hats for the audience. Videographer, Jeff Weber, set himself up to film most of the shows.

And we sold out every show.  We ended up raising over $18,000.  All this from our small town of 5,000 people in a county of fewer than 20,000.  Not everyone thinks the same in our small town. We have people from every walk of life and point of view.   I’m sure not everyone agreed with what we did.  But we did it in a way that was inclusive.  We framed these events as celebrations of what we stood for and who we are – not what we hated or who we were not.  And I think that is what made the difference.  Folks who came to these events – and many old friends came from far and wide for every show – told us time and again how powerful it was to be a part of this effort.

I had a sense that we were building community through art.  The arts provide us with a language when we do not have the words to express how we feel.  The arts give us a way to voice our discontents without being mired in despair.  Under the armor of the arts we have the courage to fight for something that seems impossible.

I am sharing this because it is my hope that as a nation we can find a way to reclaim who we are and what we stand for.  Maybe your community will host a concert series, or maybe you’ll gather people for a special exhibit or theatrical performance that allows people to feel they are part of building something new – something that challenges the diminished vision of America we see in the mirror of the media —  and in our leadership.

I leave you with these words, which I hope will inspire you as they have guided us. When we launched our series my husband read this to the audience.  It is a framed quote we have in our house, from Spanish cellist and composer, Pablo Casals.

“I am a man first and an artist second. As a man, my first obligation is to defend human dignity. As an artist, I will fulfill this mission through music — the unique weapon which God has given me – and that which transcends the boundaries imposed by language, politics and national borders. My contribution to world peace will be humble, but at least I will have given all for this ideal which, to me, is sacred.”

Pam Ortiz,      Chestertown, MD

Photo & Video Gallery Below by Jeff Weber.  Video is from the final “Songs of Our Future “concert at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD last summer.

Phil Dutton, Marc Dykeman, Nevin Dawson, Pam Ortiz, Ford Schumann, Bob Ortiz         Photo by Jeff Weber


Pam Ortiz       Photo by Jeff Weber

Bob Ortiz       Photo by Jeff Weber

Phil Dutton       Photo by Jeff Weber

Ford Schumann Photo by Jeff Weber

Nevin Dawson photo by Jeff Weber


Return of the Tall Ships! – Downrigging 2017


Tall Ships Sailing on the Chester River, Photo by Chris Cerino

Downrigging Weekend begins this Friday, Oct. 27, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 29. Now in its 17th year, Downrigging has grown, in just a short time, to become one of Chestertown’s most popular festivals, with visitors from all over coming to see the tall ships and the many activities taking place around the nautical theme.

Downrigging began in November 2001, shortly after schooner Sultana’s inaugural season. Joining the Pride of Baltimore for an end-of-season sail on the Chester River, the two ships marveled at the fall foliage and brisk sailing weather. The two captains decided to do it again the following year — and so a tradition was launched.

Schooner Sultana

Pride of Baltimore










Downrigging is Sultana’s celebration, but she’s joined by tall ships from all over the Eastern Seaboard. Among the participating ships this year, in addition to Pride of Baltimore, are Kalmar Nyckel, Lynx, A.J. Meerwald, Lady Maryland, and skipjacks Ellsworth and Sigsbee. Festival attendees will have several opportunities to tour the various ships for free at their docks along the Cannon Street pier, and there are ticketed sails available on most of the ships. Prices range from $25  to $55 per passenger; click here to reserve tickets. Don’t delay, because many are already sold out!

In addition to the tall ships, there are any number of other events, including lectures, concerts, art exhibits, and much more.  Among the highlights are music by the Pam Ortiz Band Saturday at the Garfield Center, a talk by Jonathan Boulware on New York’s South Street Museum (of which he is the director), a Classic Car parade of vintage Ferraris, art exhibits by Marc Castelli at Massoni Art and the Sultana Center, and fireworks a display Friday night along the waterfront. This year introduces a new event – the Friday evening Parade of Lighted Boats down High Street starting at 6:45 pm. See the complete schedule below for many other events!  More information at the Sultana Downrigging website.

The Schooner Sultana

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tour the Tall Ships (select ships only)
12:00-2:00pm / The Chestertown Waterfront – Free

Pub Fare on the River Packet
12:00-5:00pm / Onboard the River Packet at the Foot of High Street

SAIL THE TALL SHIPS (select ships only)
3:00-5:00pm / Departing from the Waterfront

Private Boat Arrival
3:00-5:00pm / Visible from the Waterfront

The Tall Ships Parade Home
4:30-5:00pm / Visible from the Waterfront

Food & Drink on the Waterfront
5:00-9:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Music: Shelby Hotwire
5:00-7:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Exhibit:  Marc Castelli – Swinging the Lantern / Oyster Bar
5:00-7:30pm / Massoni Art

Downrigging Weekend Fireworks, photo by Michael Wootton

Opening Reception:  Building Sultana – A Selection of Marc Castelli Paintings
5:00-7:00pm / Havemeyer Hall / Sultana’s Holt Center / 200 South Cross Street

Open-House at Sultana’s Holt Center
5:00-7:00pm / Sultana’s Holt Center / 200 South Cross Street

River Packet Fireworks Cruise and Dinner
6:00-8:00pm / Boarding at the Foot of High Street / $60

Tall Ships Illuminated
6:30-9:00pm / The Chestertown Waterfront

Lighted Boat Parade on High Street
6:45pm / Visible Along High Street

7:30pm / The Chestertown Waterfront

Lecture: Street of Ships – The Recovery and Rebirth of New York’s South Street Seaport Museum with Jonathan Boulware, Executive Director
8:00pm / The Garfield Center for the Arts / 210 High Street

Music: The High & Wides
9:00pm – 1:00am / The Fish Whistle Restaurant

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dock Dogs
8:00am – 5:00pm / Kingstown Farm, Home and Garden / 7119 Church Hill Road, Chestertown

Tour the Tall Ships 
9:00am-10:00am / Chestertown Waterfront – Free

A 1955 Morgan +4 Drophead Coupe will be featured as part of Downrigging Weekend’s new Keels & Wheels exhibit

Classic Cars and Boats – Ferrari Day
9:00am-5:00pm / Ferraris Arrive at 11:00am / Foot of High Street

Exhibit:  Building Sultana – A Selection of Marc Castelli Paintings
10:00am-4:00pm / Havemeyer Hall / Sultana’s Holt Center / 200 South Cross Street

Children’s Activities at the Holt Center
10:00am-4:00pm / Sultana’s Holt Center /  200 South Cross Street

Model Boat & Ship Exhibit at the Holt Center
10:00am-4:00pm / Sultana’s Holt Center /  200 South Cross Street

Exhibit: Marc Castelli – Swinging the Lantern
10:00am-7:00pm / Massoni Art / 203 High Street

River Arts Studio Tour
10:00am-5:00pm / Various Locations

Ship’s cannon

10:30am-1:00pm / Departing from the Waterfront

Ferrari Parade Down High Street with the Ferrari Club of America
11:00am (approx.) / Visible Along High Street

Food & Drink on the Waterfront
11:00am-5:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Music:  The Dovetail Trio
11:00am-1:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Book Talk: Jay Fleming on Working the Water
11:00am / The Book Plate / 112 S. Cross St.

Fish Fry & Drinks on the River Packet
11:00am-4:00pm / Onboard the River Packet at the Foot of High Street

Crab Skiff Rumble
11:30am / The Chestertown Waterfront

Stern of Sultana

Tall Ships Parade Home
12:30-1:00pm / Visible from the Waterfront

Music: The Chestertown Ukulele Club
1:00-2:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

2:30-5:00pm / Departing from the Waterfront

Music: Hurdy-Gurdy at the Foot of High Street with Brian McCandless
3:00-4:00pm / Foot of High Street by the River Packet

Music: The Lions of Bluegrass
3:00-5:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Book Talk:  Wendy Mitman Clarke on Still Water Bending
3:00pm / The Book Plate /  112 S. Cross Street

Lions of Bluegrass

Crab Skiff Rumble
3:30pm / The Chestertown Waterfront

The Tall Ships Parade Home
4:30-5:00pm / Visible from the Waterfront

Book Release:  Marc Castelli, Building Sultana
6:00pm / Swain Geography Classroom / Sultana’s Holt Center / 200 South Cross Street

Tall Ships Illuminated
6:30-9:00pm / The Chestertown Waterfront

View the Fleet Cruise & Dinner on the River Packet
7:00-9:00pm / Departing from the Foot of High St. / $40

Kalmar Nyckel

Concert: Pam Ortiz Band
8:00pm / The Garfield Center for the Arts / 210 High Street / $15

Music: Levi Stephens and the Working Class
9:00pm – 1:00am / The Fish Whistle Restaurant

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dock Dogs
8:30am – 2:30pm / Kingstown Farm, Home and Garden / 7119 Church Hill Road, Chestertown

Chester River Challenge 5k & Half Marathon
8:00am Registration / 9:00am Start / Wilmer Park


Classic Cars and Boats
10:00am-4:00pm / Foot of High Street

Sunday Brunch Cruise on the River Packet
10:00am-Noon / Departing from the Foot of High St. / $30

Tour the Tall Ships
10:00am-Noon / The Chestertown Waterfront – Free

River Arts Studio Tour
10:00am-5:00pm / Various Locations

Food & Drink on the Waterfront
11:00am-4:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Music: Dovetail Trio
11:00am-1:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

Exhibit: Marc Castelli – Swinging the Lantern
11:00am-3:00pm / Massoni Art


Exhibit:  Building Sultana – A Selection of Marc Castelli Paintings
11:00am-4:00pm / Havemeyer Hall / Sultana Education Center / 200 South Cross Street

John Smith’s Chesapeake: An Interactive Voyage
11:00am/ Swain Geography Classroom / Sultana’s Holt Center / 200 S. Cross Street

1:00-3:30pm / Departing from the Waterfront

Music: Benji Price 
1:30-3:00pm / Festival Tent Behind the Fish Whistle Restaurant

John Smith’s Chesapeake: An Interactive Voyage
2:00pm/ Sultana Education Center / 200 S. Cross Street

Tall Ships Parade Home
3:00-3:30pm / Visible from the Chestertown Waterfront


Cruise & Dinner on the River Packet
4:00-6:00pm / Departing from the foot of High St. / $30

Music: Eastern Shore Wind Ensemble
4:00-5:00pm / Emanuel Church / 101 N. Cross Street

The Downrigging Fleet at Dawn, photo by Chris Cerino


Tall Ships Illuminated
6:30-9:00pm / The Chestertown Waterfront