What It Was All About

On this, the 150th anniversary of the second day of the War Between the States, let us pause to reflect what it was all about. But this has been done so many time before, you say. Yes, but we still take opportunities like great round number anniversaries to reflect. However, it is also relevant because of the various civil wars currently raging in the Middle East. It is further relevant because of the cadre of newly elected officials in Washington who align themselves with the Tea Party movement.

The War of Northern Aggression, or as it is sometimes called, Mr. Lincoln’s War, was about one thing. Political self-determination. There is no question that the issue of slavery divided the country, but the war wasn’t about what divided the country. It was about what to do with a divided country. And it is all well and good to look back with 20/20 hindsight and make the moral judgement that the lives of 600,000 men and boys was worth the speeding up of the emancipation process, thus laying the groundwork for the hostility of many whites toward blacks for the next hundred years. However, justifying the war by the result does not explain why it happened in the first place.

Mr Lincoln was only interested in one thing. His single goal was to save the Union. A friend reminded me recently of his letter of August 22, 1862 to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune:

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don’t believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be error; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

The turn of phrase “save the Union” sounds very noble, but what does it mean? It means that people who freely chose to associate themselves in a particular political arrangement were no longer free to change that arrangement. They bound future generations in perpetuity.  In Mr Lincoln’s view, the Constitution abrogated to words of the Declaration of Independence:

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Mr Lincoln had no regard whatsoever for the consent of the governed. The men of the Confederacy were not anarchists.  They had lawfully constituted and constitutional state governments. This was not good enough. Thousands upon thousands of young men were marched to their deaths to restore the national authority – to enforce at the point of a bayonet that Washington DC, not Montgomery or Jackson or Little Rock or Nashville or Austin or Richmond, was the source of civil authority.

This was made all the clearer during the so-called Reconstruction, when the Southern States, which according to the Northern States had never (and could have never) left the indivisible Union, were run as military departments. Their constitutional governments were suspended until such a time as it was determined that they had been re-created in the way the victors demanded.

Since this time, the power of the national authority has been steadily increased. The Supreme Court often gets the blame for this, but all the branches of government have played their part. Almost every day I come across provisions in the U.S. Code that should be left to the States. And those who decry the executive acts of the Obama administration overlook decades of incursions and usurpations of state sovereignty but administrations of both parties.

At the height of the hypocrisy is the support for self-determination in other countries by a government that refuses to follow its own Constitution and limit itself to specifically delegated powers. This is the legacy of the War Between the States.

Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

First it was the Tea Party and now it is the Revolution.  Apparently that is the new thing. I’ve been told by more than one person that they are preparing for the next Revolution and I’ve started to see it all around the conservative blogosphere. I used to be the firebrand around here. Now I’ve turned into the voice of reason.

Apparently Obama has gone too far and Revolution is the answer. It’s all leading to armed uprising. So go ahead and have your revolution.  The biggest problem I see is figuring out what to revolt against and what to put in its place. I’m afraid this is where it’s all gonna fall apart.

Some people are mad at Obama. I’ve heard people say they think he’s on the verge of becoming a military dictator. Some people think it is whole “Ruling Elite” of both parties. Regardless of elections and even changes in party power on Capitol Hill, the same machinery of government rolls along, so apparently they will all have to be throw out by force.

But no one seem to know who’s gonna do the throwing, from whence they will derive the authority to do the throwing, where they’re gonna throw them, and what they are going to put in their place.

There have been two American revolutions. One succeeded and one failed. However, both had something in common. They had recognisable governments already in place.

In 1775, there were established, properly elected colonial governments. A year before the first shots were fired, these colonial governments had already sent delegates to the First Continental Congress.  In 1861, there were properly elected state governments.

In the first American revolution, the colonists had no forum of redress for their grievances against the central government. They were able to change the form of government from monarchy to republic. Have the new revolutionists come up with a new form of government they think works better? That would seem incompatible with extolling the virtues of the US Constitution, which they all seem to do. Nonetheless, the mechanisms within that Constitution to change the government, left virtually unchanged other than the direct election of senators, do not seem to satisfy. And I don’t hear anyone clamoring for revolution over dissatisfaction with the 17th Amendment.

The Second American revolution, that war between the states known to most of my ancestors as the War of Northern Aggression, was fought after a nation was divided by different political views and one side felt helpless as the deck had been stacked against them.  The new President didn’t openly threaten to change the entire structure of the economy and the society, but there was a lot about his background that made them gravely suspicious. This is probably a better model for predicting the outcome of any future conflict.

The citizenry of the South were well-armed and morally outraged. All my friends with AR-15s will tell you that this is why they have their assault rifles and boxes of ammo. To defend themselves against the government.  The thing is, weapons have moved on a bit since 1861.

Now let’s say this Third American revolution is so organized as to have entire states willing to secede. And let’s say that the governors of those states were able to maintain control of all the resources available to them in the National Guard and State Guard units. If so, they would have some proper military weapons, including some aircraft. Now there’s your revolution. The thing is, though, they would be so far outmatched by the regular US military forces that comparisons to the Recent Unpleasantness wouldn’t hold up. There’s not a single red state that has an aircraft carrier.

But let’s say we go ahead have a civil war. At the time of the last one, the population of the United States was about 31 million. Today is it roughly ten times that. The number of deaths is generally estimated at about 620,000. It would be nice if it were just a matter of multiplying by 10 and saying a new civil war would result in 6.2 million deaths. However, modern wars are much better at adding collateral damages. You know, civilian deaths. But let’s say we keep those to a minimum. Let’s keep the total deaths at 10 million.

Surely this is a small price to pay for an insurrection against a President and Congress that refuse to stop all the illegal immigrants from coming in and won’t catch and send back all the ones already here.  If you consider that he’s also put us on the road to European-style health care, you’d be willing to sacrifice a few sons – and considering the collateral damage, wives and daughters – for the cause, wouldn’t you? The constant fear of bombardment and food rationing would only be for a few years at most.

There are, after all, some people who have gotten innoculations at the free clinic when they weren’t entitled to do so, and maybe even some food stamps. And some of them haven’t learned English. If we give up the lives of a substantial part of the 18- to 30-year-old men in combat and a few million non-combatant men, women and children, there won’t be any illegals working on construction sites, cleaning houses or mowing grass. That’ll show ’em.

And one thing’s for sure: during this new American revolution, it will be much more dangerous north of the Mexican border than south of it. It will be safer for these dastardly immigrants to put up with the drug cartels. They won’t want to be sneaking into a country torn apart by war. Not only that, but since the federal government won’t be there to protect them, anybody that doesn’t like them will probably be able to kill them with impunity. There’s the motivation they need to leave Arizona.

Luke 14:28-32

The Heresy of Exceptionalism

A Facebook friend recently posted a link to an article/newsletter by David Barton. Normally I am loath to read anything by Barton (the self-proclaimed “renowned historian” without even an undergraduate history degree or any clue about historical methodology), but since this had to do with Texas politics and particularly the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, I thought it might be worthwhile to give it a look. Barton’s contention is that Speaker Joe Straus isn’t really a conservative and not much of a Republican. Fair enough.

But what really caught my eye was an attack Barton made on one of Straus’ allies. After commenting on a piece of pro-life legislation that State Affairs Committee Chariman Burt Solomons prevented from reaching the floor of the House, he says, “Incidentally, as a reflection of Solomons’ philosophy, he had previously even objected to teaching that America is a blessed and unique nation – i.e., American Exceptionalism…” There’s no indication as to whether Solomons currently objects to this teaching, and the comment is a bit of the cheap ad hominem that is sadly found pervasively in conservative circles.

In my youth I imbibed heavily from the trough of American Exceptionalism and have held to it explicitly or implicitly for most of my life.  As a result, I have done the only logical thing: I have repented.

America has been a blessed and unique nation, but recognising this is not adhering to American Exceptionalism. Many nations have been blessed and all nations are unique, but this is not what David Barton believes. American Exceptionalism is the teaching that the United States is special above all other nations – that God has blessed America and likes America more than the others.

American Exceptionalism has been used as an exemption from the law of nations. The attitude is that international law may apply to the rest of you but it doesn’t apply to us, because we’re special and we don’t have to play by everyone else’s rules.  We will tell you what you can and can’t do in your country, but don’t you dare tell us. In fact, international law so doesn’t apply that we can violate the sovereignty of other countries and have done so with impunity. All countries are sovereign, but some countries are more sovereign that others. The sovereignty of other countries is always secondary to American interests.

This doctrine of American Exceptionalism is not something new. One hundred and seventy years ago it was called Manifest Destiny (though the term is often used for the period between 1812-1860, it was coined in 1839 and only came into common use around 1845). It was used to justify the expansion of the United States at whatever cost. The biggest acquisition was 42% of Mexico as a result of the Mexican War, which started as a dispute over the territory between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers in South Texas. This is a bit like taking an area twice the size of France as the result of a dispute about an area the size of, for example, Alsace-Lorraine. This area now contains over 16% of the US population, so it could be argued that we eventually needed the lebensraum.

It was also the justification to gain control of much of the central part of the continent that had been purchased from a European power which claimed it by right of conquest.*  Most of the inhabitants were completely unaware they had been conquered. When they objected to their lands being taken by white folks, the US Army brought this to their attention. They were, after all, savages, so it was okay to kill them. Having no concept of private property, they also had no property rights, so it was only right that it should be taken over and controlled by folks who understood their God-given right to plat and deed every inch land. Now it must be said that out of the goodness of their heart, the American government did reserve some of the Indians’ own land for them, force them to live there, and shoot them if they objected.

The most extraordinary thing about this American Exceptionalism is that it is generally agreed to have its roots in a thesis (it is often called a sermon, but we have no record of it ever being spoken to a gathering of people in church or otherwise) by John Winthrop, written aboard the Arbella on the way to Massachusetts Bay in 1630. The thesis was called “A Model of Christian Charity”. It is best known for the phrase “city upon a hill” which appears near the end.  I reiterate that this is an extraordinary thing, because there is nothing in Winthrop’s thesis that supports the idea of Exceptionalism or Manifest Destiny. If you doubt me, you need to read it. I welcome you to challenge my understanding of it.

“A Model of Christian Charity” is explicitly an exhortation of how the Massachusetts Bay colonists should behave toward one another. This is based upon their religious covenant to each other. Winthrop does say that what they are doing is extraordinary – not in founding a nation that would stretch from sea to shining sea, because they did not see themselves as founding a country nor did they have any concept of the size of North America. They saw what they were doing as extraordinary, so that living by the Golden Rule was going to be essential. The avoidance of usury was going to be essential. Being knitted together as the body of Christ was going to be essential while they struggled to hang on to an existence on the shores of New England.

I have outlined (barely) some of the practical results of Exceptionalism. I have demonstrated, if only enough to encourage you to read the original document (David Barton would be proud), that the connection with the Puritans and the “city on a hill” is non-existent. But none of that relates to the most important aspect of all and the reason I have titled this essay as I have. None of this is the reason I have repented.

Exceptionalism is a heresy. The more one tries to support it with a religious foundation, the more heretical is becomes.

Americans are not God’s chosen people. The Church is God’s chosen people. The Church includes some Americans. Americans do not even make up the largest fraction of national representation in the Church. (That would be the Chinese. Current estimates indicate that there are likely more Christians in China than there are people in the United States.) When St Peter said, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” he was referring to the Church.

In that oft-used phrase, John Winthrop refers to Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The “you” to whom Jesus is referring are His disciples – those who are hearing and following His teaching – the Church. Winthrop was referring to his fellow Puritan settlers as Christians living out the Gospel, not to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or a democratic Republic, which would have been the furthest things from his imagination.

With all due respect to Ronald Reagan, who co-opted Winthrop’s phrase in his Farewell Address, as well as by his own admission having use it all his political life, the city on a hill is not prosperity nor is it freedom. No, if we go back to the Original Document and Original Intent (I hope David Barton would be pleased), the city is the light of Christ. Inasmuch as it refers to freedom, we would have to cross-reference to John 8:38, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Has the United States been blessed? Certainly. Has the US as a nation done some good things? Of course. Has this blessing been because we have somehow fulfilled Winthrop’s vision for Massachusetts Bay? Absolutely not. It has been by the grace and mercy of God, despite some very terrible shortcomings as individuals and as a nation. How dare we say, “Our fathers expanded and built the United States this way and look at how God has blessed us – surely this is evidence of our righteousness!”

Everyone knows the bit of Winthrop’s thesis that says, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” The important bit follows: “So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake.”

As Christians we are the light on a hill. It is we who have a responsibility to live out the Gospel. Not because of what John Winthrop wrote and a connection we feel to the Puritan fathers, however tenuous that may be. Not because we are Americans. Because we are Christians. We have a responsibility to live charitably toward one another. Again, if you want to know the characteristics of the city on a hill as outlined by Winthrop, as true and biblical today for all believers, read the whole thing.

God does not love America more because some of the first white settlers of an area that eventually became a colony and eventually broke away from England were good Christian folk. (And just for the record, we have no covenantal connection to those good Christian folk of Massachusetts Bay, so we are not reaping what they have sown. But that’s an article for another time.) Nor does He love us more because a lot of people that were involved in the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention were Christians and even those who weren’t occasionally used Christian shop talk.  Nor does he love us more because we are a democratic Republic that has tried to spread our form of government around the world, whether other people wanted it or not.

I’m blessed to be an American, but that does not make me special to God, nor did it make the generations of my forefathers going back to colonial times any more special to God. Nations rise and nations fall. The United States hasn’t been around all that long and it won’t be here forever. God operates on a completely different time scale.

The exceptional thing is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, whether we were blessed to be born in America, Europe, Africa, Asia or anywhere else. As the Church, we are God’s special people and unique nation. That is the Gospel.

*Technically, it was purchased from a country (France) which acquired it in a treaty from another country (Spain) which had acquired it in a treaty from the first country (France), which had laid claim by conquest.

Bad Scholarship, Bad Behaviour and the Call to Something Better

Tonight I was looking for some books as presents. A couple of volumes that had been recently featured or recommended by Glenn Beck were suggested to me as appropriate for the intended recipient. I searched for them on Amazon and decided to read some of the reviews.

In both cases, the overwhelming number of reviews were accompanied by a five-star rating of each book.  Seems like a no-brainer. Everybody likes these books. Must be good. Why even bother with the couple of two-star ratings and reviews?  Maybe it was Proverbs 18:17 niggling in the back of my mind:

The first one to plead his cause seems right,
Until his neighbor comes and examines him.

In both cases, there was a very thoughtful, thorough, critical review. There was detailed analysis and no hint of ad hominem. However, it was only tonight I discovered that Amazon reviews are subject to their own reviews. Each one has its own comment section. That’s where the detailed analysis and lack of ad hominem ended. It’s just an extension of the blogosphere.

In both cases the source of the attacks was patently clear. They confirmed that I’m becoming increasingly disturbed by fortress Christian America. There is one narrow interpretation of history and anyone who questions it or one of its recognised spokesmen (I can’t use the word “scholars”) is a liberal, a secularist, and in all likelihood a homosexual. I’m just telling you what I’ve read from some very angry people.

Does this mean I’m disturbed by the idea of Christians being involved in politics at every level? No. Do I think Christians should exert their influence to bring the law at every level and in every area into conformity with Christian morality? Absolutely.

However, the idea that we can only gain the moral high ground by proving that everything of any importance in early American history was done by Christians operating out of a Christian worldview in the ultimate pursuit of promoting Christianity is wrong. It’s wrong because it isn’t necessary to operate from this presupposition and it’s wrong because it just ain’t true. I’m sorry folks. I’m happy to find Christians wherever  and whenever in history I can. I’m always pleased to see those whose heart and actions were set on building the Kingdom of God, whatever their calling, including statesmanship. But the idea is becoming pervasive in certain circles, mostly emanating concentrically from people like David Barton and Peter Lillback, that if we dig deep enough we’ll find that virtually all of the Founding Fathers were trinitarian Christians with good conservative Protestant theology. If we ferret out enough quotes, partial quotes, or buzz words, that must prove something, right?

All we prove is that there are Christians who are willing to be at best shabby, and at worst dishonest, scholars. And if book sales and the Texas State Board of Education are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who don’t care. They don’t care about the shabbiness and dishonesty, that is. As the Amazon review comments demonstrated, they care very much if anyone dares to call them on it. If Glen Beck endorsed it, that’s good enough.

Christians are called to something better than this. We do not need to engage in historical re-revisionism. We don’t need to prove that Christians formed a perfect country that secularists and liberals went and messed up. We don’t need to prove Original Christian Intent. We don’t need to be afraid of review and criticism.

In reading the Amazon reviews, as well as in reading the engagement in the comboxes of much more popular places in the blogosphere, I read lots of militancy and lots of anger. I see lots of name-calling. I see the exact same behaviour that I have seen from the secularists and liberals. It doesn’t look prettier because the mud is being slung in the other face. I’ll say it again: Christians are called to something better than this.

We are not going to achieve whatever our goal may be by cheating and bullying our way there. We have to strive for what is right and rely upon Divine Providence. As a Christian and as a historian I know two things. First, God wrote the history that has already happened. We don’t have to dig around and find Him in it. It is what it is and He did it how He did it. Second, He wrote the history that has yet to happen. What is true of the Gospel is true in everything: “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” In the history yet to be made, we labor faithfully, but God will determine the outcome of our labors.

Why I am a Reactionary

It is a term that is generally meant as a perjorative.  Reactionaries rebel against all the wonderful progressive ideas that all right-thinking people know make the world a better place. In a word, liberalism. Well, I am a reactionary. I react against all of the ideas that see separation from God as progress. That it because these ideas are not progress at all. Progress is to move toward God’s desire that creation be reconciled to Him.

In being a reactionary, I follow in some pretty big footsteps. When someone called me a reactionary recently, I began to think of other reactionaries among whom I am not worthy to be counted.

I think of that young Jewish boy 3000 years ago, not old enough to be drafted into the army, reacting against the challenge of a giant man who had defied the armies of the living God. He reacted with a stone in a sling.

I think of Elijah in the midst of a government that had rejected the historic worship of God for worship of Baal. He reacted by calling down fire from heaven.

Elijah was but one of the prophets who reacted against the apostasy, injustice, and bad governments of the day. The people still chose captivity, but it was reactionaries who warned them and showed them another option. Being a reactionary has long been a thankless task.

Then I think of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – usually known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  The government said bow to the statue. It’s not a big deal and you won’t notice any real difference to your everyday life. Just bow and everyone will be happy. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were reactionaries. They just weren’t willing to buy into the spirit of the age.

They had a friend called Daniel. When the government said all petitions must be made to the state and not to any god, Daniel reacted by opening his window the exact same way he always had (conservative that he was) and knelt down and prayed the same way he always had. It cost him a trip to the lions den, because the state doesn’t like to be defied when it has set itself up as the font of all blessing and the focus of worship.

And there was that carpenter from Nazareth. He reacted against “you have heard it said” with “but I say to you”. But wasn’t this progressive? No, quite the opposite. He peeled back all the Talmudic layers of Pharisaism and brought it back to the revealed truth. And when it came to moneychangers in the temple, He was very reactionary. You might even say He was reactionary after they killed Him. He reacted by rising from the dead, trampling down death by death. That was the ultimate reaction.

So while I will never be as significant or successful a reactionary as David, Elijah, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, Daniel, or Jesus, I will be a reactionary nonetheless.

Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.
Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,

‘ Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law, but rejected it.

Show Trial for a Scapegoat

The kangaroo court in Munich is now in session. John Demjanjuk, 89, in a wheelchair, half-conscious, and with no eye-witnesses testifying against him, is on trial in Germany for crimes alleged to have happened in Poland 66 years ago.

The chief question is whether the German state, in an illegal invasion of Poland, captured Demjanjuk and forced him to become a guard at Sobibor concentration camp. It is not the German state that is on trial, or even any Germans. It is not even alleged that Demjanjuk killed anyone. All of the 27,900 counts against him are for accessory to murder. By being a guard at the camp, he kept people from escaping so that Germans could kill them – in Poland, of which he is neither a citizen nor has he ever lived other than under the control of the German army.

The German are really grasping at straws to find non-Germans to prosecute in Germany for crimes perpetrated by a German government.

I made further observations back in April during the extradition proceedings.

Christians Charged for Knowing Too Much Islamic History

Here we go again. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were sharing their faith with one of the guests in the hotel they run, the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool. The guest was a Muslim woman. Seems they didn’t agree about Jesus or Muhammad. The guest was offended that they insisted Jesus is the Son of God and not a prophet of Islam.

In the course of the conversation, Ben Vogelenzang said that Muhammad was a warload. I teach about Islam for a living – been doing for six years – and I’d have to say that’s a reasonable observation based on the historical facts. It has nothing to do with whether or not he was a prophet. The story of Islam from the time of the Hijra until at least the conquest of Makkah (Mecca) by Muhammad’s army is one of battles fought and tribal groups subdued and the Arabian peninsula Islamified at the point of the sword. It is a legacy that Muhammad bequeathed to his successors as the spent the next 120 years doing the same thing through Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Clearly the Vogelenzangs’ guest was not well versed in Islamic history. Either that or the word “warlord” was not reverential enough for the false Prophet.

It didn’t help that Sharon Vogelenzang said that traditional Muslims dress for women is a form of bondage. This was just too much for their guest. Neither the guest nor the Merseyside Police think Sharon is entitled to express this opinion. It constitutes either harassment, alarm or distress in the wording of the statute. So does Ben’s enlightening the guest regarding her ignorance of history.

The Vogelenzangs were interrogated twice by police before being charged. They have appeared in court and are now awaiting trial.

When a Deal Is Not a Deal

The Atlantic Coast Conference has has reneged on its deal to host three post-season tournaments in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Inspired by the National Association for the Advancement of Cultural Poverty (the only thing I can imagine those initials represent), the conference has pulled out because South Carolina flies a Confederate flag at the Statehouse in Columbia. The legislators of the State of South Carolina did not decide to fly the flag after the ACC committed to the BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach, motivating some sort of response. In fact, it was after being bullied by the NAACP nine years ago that the flag was removed from the capitol dome and flown elsewhere on the grounds as a compromise.

Nonetheless, the National Association for the Annihilation of Constitutional Patriotism (I imagined another possible meaning of the initials, given that this was why the South had to raise arms against the Northern aggression in the Recent Unpleasantness) insists that anyone and everyone boycott South Carolina. It seems in more ways than one that when it comes to the NAACP, a deal isn’t a deal.

It is unfortunate that the NAACP has been able to bully the NCAA into meaning No Cooperation from African Americans and the ACC into Against Caucasian Culture. But that’s what they do. It’s based on the Marxist idea that you can’t advance one part of the population without pulling down another. That must be what it stands for: Neo-marxist Anger Against Conservative Politicians.

The ACC cannot blanket boycott South Carolina because Clemson University is one of its member institutions. However, what it does is consider each athletic venue on a case-by-case basis. It has given the NAACP veto power over any location it doesn’t like. The NAACP objects whenever an event is scheduled anywhere in the Palmetto State.

“Our baseball committee and institutional administrators awarded the championships to Myrtle Beach with the understanding that the event had the blessings of all parties within the state of South Carolina. It has become clear this was not the case,” commissioner John Swofford said. “It’s unfortunate that this miscommunication occurred, and since the original announcement, we have had productive conversations with members of the NAACP,” he added. “In the end, given the conference’s commitment to diversity, equality and human rights, our institutions have determined that this change should be made.”

This is open admission that the NAACP is a party that has to bless the actions of the ACC. Never Act Absent our Consent Party – I think we’ve sussed out the meaning of the initials now. The voiceover over near the end of college sports telecasts should now say, “Rebroadcast or retransmission in any form without the express written consent of the NCAA and the NAACP is strictly prohibited.” It is also a statement that South Carolina is not committed to diversity, equality or human rights because it recognises the historical realities of mid-19th century and doesn’t sweep them under the rug of revisionism.  The role of the ACC is also to take a political viewpoint and demand conformity to the mantras of the Left.

The deal that brought the ACC baseball tournament to the Grand Strand area of South Carolina would have benefited the people of Horry and Georgetown counties. Horry County is over 15% black. Georgetown County is nearly 40% black. Has walking out on the deal benefited them? National Association for the Advancement of… well no, clearly not. It obviously doesn’t stand for that.

Proud of Desecration and Theft

This is one of the  most outrageous things I have seen in a long time. Last Thursday, an Auburn, Alabama city councilman trespassed on graves in a cemetary and desecrated them. Then he stole from them. In broad daylight. In front of descendants of the those interred there. And he’s proud of it.  They are, after all, the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Arthur L. Dowell was offended when he saw the Confederate flags placed on the graves of veterans in preparation for Confederate Memorial Day, a state holiday in Alabama. His justification? “It’s offensive to me,” he said. “To me, it represents the Ku Klux Klan and racism.” So, Arthur Dowell’s complete lack of historical knowledge outweighs the law. That’s why he felt it was okay to snap the pole of the flag that was on Mary Norman’s great-grandfather’s grave as he was putting it into his car.

He stole four flags, but unlike most thieves, he didn’t hide his stash. He showed it off to the local press. Then he promised to go back for more.

Unlike the dastardly motives he assumes for those who were honouring their ancestors, he was quite open about his. “If I had my way, I would have broke them all up and stomped on them and burned them.” Seems to me that makes what he did manage to do a hate crime.

When local citizen complained that the police shold take action, the mayor issued a statement saying, “I believe it would be in the best interest of all involved to settle their differences privately.” Is he suggesting that in every case of theft and criminal damage, the police should not uphold the law? Or is it just when it also constitutes a hate crime that doesn’t happen to be against blacks? The only appropriate description of the mayor might cause this blog to get blocked by some filters, since it refers to the poo of certain farmyard birds.

I’m not admitted to practice in Alabama, but it appears to me that Dowell should be charged with violating Alabama Code 13A-7-23 (Crminal mischief in the third degree), 13A-7-23.1 (Desecration, defacement, etc., of memorial of dead), 13A-7-26 (Criminal tampering in the second degree), 13A-8-5 (Theft of property in the third degree) and 13A-11-12 (Desecration of venerated objects).

It appears, however, that political correctness will be the deciding factor and he will not be charged with anything. Not only that, but despite the overwhelming disapproval of his actions, he will probably get re-elected because he represents a ward that was gerrymandered to insure a specific racial representation.


Turkey Continues to Dictate US Policy on the Armenian Genocide

President Obama campaigned hard to get the Armenian-American vote by taking a hard line on the Armenian Genocide. He even had a track record of complaining about the previous administration’s lack of recognition when Condoleezza Rice recalled the the US Ambassador to Yerevan, John Evans, because he publically used the word “genocide”. You can’t even use the “G” word when speaking to Armenians, as this is too upsetting to the Turks.

During the campaign, Obama said, “As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey’s acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.” Now Obama has decided that realpolitik is much more inportant than principle. The first Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day since Obama took office was last Friday. After all his bluster, when the White House issued a statement about the day, the word “genocide” was clearly left out.

Everyone noticed this, except of course the Turks, who were angry that any statement had been made. The under secretary in Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned to U.S. Ambassador  in Ankara to tell him that the Turkish government was uneasy about the statement because it didn’t mention the deaths of thousands of Turks during the rounding up of 1.5 million Armenians for extermination. Even in avoiding the “G” work, the Turks found some of Obama’s expressions “unacceptable”.

Who do they think they are? First of all, that the US Ambasssdor should be summoned by some second-rate bureaucrat is insulting enough. If the bloody Turks have a problem with the watered-down statement of the President of the United States, who has already flushed all of his principles to appease them, then why can’t the President or Prime Minister of Turkey can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and call them White House directly? At the very least the US Ambassdor should be asked to reply on behalf of the Administration directly to the President, Prime Minister, or Foreign Secretary. The Ambassador should have then had direct orders from the White House to explain into which bodily oriface the Turks can shove their revisionist denial of the slaughter of the Armenians.

Why do with let the Turks get away with this? What would happen if Germany decided to collectively deny the Holocaust? The US wouldn’t stand for that. Good grief, the US government is even trying its hardest to send an exonerated innocent man to Germany to stand trial for crimes he didn’t commit (that didn’t even occur on German soil) because the Germans have collectively forgiven themselves for anything they did during the Holocaust, just to show its committment to the cause.

This is even worse. This is like campaigning on the  promise of a Holocaust memorial, then denying the Holocaust once in office. If Obama had not taken a stand on this issue, it might be more understandable that he has bowed to the same pressure as every previous adminstration, letting the Turks dictate American policy. But to completely back down from promises he made to the Armenian disapora is reprehensible.

Rick Perry, Texas and Secession

I love that Texas Governor Rick Perry has stirred the liberal hornets’ nest over whether or not he said things supporting Texas’ right to secede from the Union. He is now saying that his comments were misinterpreted. What a shame. I thought the way the TEA Party crowd in Austin understood them was perfectly good. I say this realising that supporting Texas puts me on the Potential Terrorist List with Homeland Security. But then again, I suppose Rick Perry will have to be on the list for saying, “States’ Rights! States’ Rights! States’ Rights!” so I suppose I’m in good company.

Things didn’t work out so well the last time Texas seceded. Maybe it was because they were held back by all the other Confederate states. When that didn’t go to plan, I had relatives who moved to Cuernavaca rather than live under oppression from Washington.

I have enjoyed all the rantings in the comments to the CNN articles. Being the Commie News Network, it attracts a lot of lefties shrieking about treason. And then the silly comments like ” You can deal with Mexico on your own, as it will then be your neighbor and your problem – not ours” – yeah, because California doesn’t have a problem with illegal aliens and no one has ever trafficked into Arizona.

Or “Please separate from us. As a teacher, I am looking for creative ways to bring up our national average in education. Please leave by all means.” I wonder where that teacher lives and works. Maybe in California, which ranks 22 places lower in Moran Quintos “Smartest State” rankings. In fact Texas ranks above all of the enlightened Left Coast states. It also graduates a higher percentage from high school than all of them.

Then there was “We can pick up Cuba or PR to replace Texas so that we don’t have to change the flag.” Yes, it would be better to absorb a Communist country than have Texans who don’t believe in the dominance of central government. After all, Obama is lifting all the restrictions with Cuba and Castro has responded by saying he is willing to talk with the US about anything as long as it is on equal terms.  So it won’t be absorbed, but it is willing to be an equal partner. I’m sure Cuba is a model for the Obama administration – not just free health care, but government intimately caring about the lives of every individual. If Texas misses out on an opportunity like this, it will put Texas in the 2010’s and the rest of the US in the 1950’s.

If Texas can’t secede, then it should invoke it’s power in the Treaty of Annexation to divide into five states. That would give it ten US Senators and control over 18.5% of the Senate. This wouldn’t have an immediate effect, because the Democrats currently effectively control 58 seats and will probably have 59 when Al Franken is admitted. Eight added Republican seats would only give the Republican 49 of 108, but a 49/59 split is easier to overcome than a 41/59.

Quadruple Jeopardy

John Demjanjuk ought to be left alone. For the last 32 years, this 89 year old man has been fighting allegations that he was a Nazi collaborator and prison guard. First it was US federal prosecutors. When they couldn’t make it stick, the Israelis had a go. When that didn’t work, the US authorities had another shot. Now he is being sent to Germany.

In 1977,  Demjanjuk was accused by the federal authorities of having been a guard at Treblinka, after being identified as “Ivan the Terrible” in a photo during an investigation into someone else. After four years, they eventually could only get him for lying on his naturalisation application, so they stripped him of his citizenship. When he appealed and they couldn’t get rid of him, he was extradited to Israel. Under their Nazi-hunter law, the Israelis have entitled themselves to take anyone from anywhere in the world and put them on trial for their life.

An Israeli special tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death. It took seven years, but fortunately the Israeli Supreme Court overturned that in a 400-page ruling. After he was returned to the US, the Court of Appeals ruled that federal prosecutors had deliberately withheld evidence and they gave back his citizenship. A little thing like prosecutorial misconduct that’s not going to stop the Justice Department, so they turned around and made new allegations. It took another five years, but they got him stripped of his citizenship again. This time they tried to deport him to Ukraine, since that’s where he was born. He’s been fighting that since 2005.

Now the Germans have filed 29,000 counts against him for being a guard at Sobibor, a prison camp that closed 66 years ago, run by a regime that ceased to exist 64 years ago, on soil that it occupied illegally, and of which he was not a citizen. The basis of their jurisdiction is that he briefly lived in Munich – not at any time when any offense is alleged to have occured. He just lived there once. He is being deported this week and will be held in prison awaiting trial, unless he is too ill, in which case he will be held in a clinic. It is expected to take several months after his incarceration before his trial begins.

As trial courts seem very willing to convict Demjanjuk, even with prosecutors who have no qualms about doing whatever they have to do to get that conviction, there will no doubt be a lengthy appeal process. He could be well into his 90s before this round of prosecution is resolved, though obviously the chances of him surviving it are slim.

This once again highlights one of the problems with current developments in international law, the over-extension of criminal jurisdiction. Nations feel free to pass legislation saying that even non-citizens can be prosecuted for acts committed outside that country. This has most recently been used by the US  to detain people at Guantanamo Bay and by the British to stop sex tourism in Thailand, though it was also used by Spain to arrest Pinochet in Britain for things he did in Chile as president of Chile. The justification is that these are bad people, so it doesn’t matter how you get them, as long as you get them.

The only country that should be trying anyone for anything done at Treblinka or Sobibor is Poland. Both were on Polish soil, both then and now. If the Poles aren’t interested interested in pursuing quadruple jeopardy againt Demjanjuk, the whole thing should be left alone.

Obama Throws Churchill Out of the White House

We are already learning what’s in and what’s out with the change of administration in Washington. Brits have noticed one thing: Winston Churchill is definitely out. The whole “special relationship” thing between the US and UK is on thin ice anyway, but Churchill has left the White House.

After 9/11, the British Government loaned President Bush a bronze bust of the former Prime Minister, a Jacob Epstein creation worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It had pride of place in the Oval Office. After all, US Presidents like to quote Churchill, as noted in one of the most viewed stories on the Daily Telegraph website. Presidents, that is, other than Barack Obama.

Obama’s view of Churchill is coloured by his grandfather’s alleged torture by the British during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in 1953 when Churchill was Prime Minister. So when the British Government offered to extend the loan of the Churchill bronze, Obama declined. He sent Winston packing.

The Brits didn’t exactly know what to do with him. They tried to avoid reporters questions until they found an suitable alternative location in residence of the British Ambassador to the US.

So Obama has moved the racist Churchill out of the Oval Office and replaced him with the racist Abraham Lincoln. Of course the difference is that only academics know Lincoln was a racist – since they are the only ones who bother to read what he actually wrote – and nobody would believe them. People who surely know better – like the well-educated Mr Obama – dare not bring it up.

But Mr Obama has a lot to look up to when it comes to following the example of Mr Lincoln. It was Mr Lincoln, after all, who took advantage of a very difficult time in history to aggrandize the power of the Presidency and the Executive branch. Mr Lincoln trampled over the power of the sovereign States.

Lincoln’s actions led to deaths of over 600,000 Americans. Yet such is the re-writing of Yankee hagiography that he is was recently ranked the best president in a survey of 65 historians. Mr Lincoln gets credit for freeing slaves, even though no action of his ever freed a single one. I’m sure Mr Obama will find things to take credit for that he’ll have never done either.  I just hope he isn’t responsible for as many deaths in the meantime.

So it’s out with Mr Churchill and in with Mr Lincoln. God help us all.

A Film I’m Destined to See

I don’t know how this one slipped under my radar, but a book I read a number of years ago has been made into a film. Stone of Destiny is current showing in Scotland and will be released across England on Friday.

It is the true story of the Scottish students who stole – or perhaps re-appropriated – the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve, 1950. The Stone had been used for the coronation of every Scottish monarch  since at least Kenneth MacAlpin in the mid ninth century (it may have been used as early as 574 when Aedan was anointed and crowned King of Dalriada by St Columba) until it was stolen by Edward I in 1296. It had been fixed under the St Edward’s Chair (the coronation throne) since that time.

This incident prompted the only ever closing of the border between Scotland and England, as police searched for the 336 lb rock. The cops were unsuccessful and the Stone was only recovered in April 1951 after the students chose to leave it at Arbroath Abbey.

I’ve seen the Stone three times, twice in Westminster Abbey and once in Edinburgh Castle, where it sits since it was sent back to Scotland by the last Conservative Government in 1996. It stays there with the understanding that it will be returned to London for future coronations.

The film has received a number of favourable reviews. I doubt that I will get a chance to see it before we leave for Christmas. I hope it is still in cinemas when we get back. It is not often that I specifically want to see something on the big screen, but this is one of those times.

UPDATE: There is a good article in the Daily Telegraph about Ian Hamilton, QC, who was the ringleader of the students. It was his book that inspired the film.

Endless Research

I’ve been a bit scarce of late, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. The creative juices have really started to flow with my novel and I have been spending every available moment doing research. I even have the tentative first couple pages drafted.

Do you know how difficult is it to find out the price of a train ticket from Nashville to Algood, Tennessee in 1912?

And what about the statutory interpretation of a 1881 Jim Crow law that railroad companies were “required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates”. If a white person and a black person were to both buy second-class tickets, could they then ride in the same car? And before you think that there wouldn’t be provision for black people to go first-class, the law was amended in 1882 so that railroads were “required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates.” It’s not the sort of thing a lot of people need to know.

And what was travel like in a day car? Photo archives that I’ve seen only show the inside of first-class carriages. I have a fight to stage and I need to know what I’m working with here.

Enjoying Research

When it came out, many of my friends Stateside raved about Gods and Generals, the prequel to Gettysburg. Being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I was a bit out of the loop. The film went to DVD and I went on to other things and it drifted from my mind.

As I was doing work on my own Civil War novel that I hope will one day be picked up by a big Hollywood studio (or Ted Turner, as was the case with those two), I though about it again and thought it might be helpful in working on my mid-19th century dialogue. One of the online discount DVD stores had both in a boxed set for £5.99 with free shipping. No-brainer.

So late to the party, here’s my review of Gods and Generals: it’s a pretty good film, even if they left Sharpsburg on the cutting room floor. I would have watched the as of yet never released director’s cut of over 6 hours. The film is really about Stonewall Jackson, and I don’t mind that at all.

The film certainly gives justifiable attention to Jackson’s Christianity. While very serious about his religion, the general is not portrayed as dour as he is often thought to have been. His was not a miserable faith.

The only glaring problem I saw with the film was when a bunch of Confederate officers sang “Silent Night” around Christmas of 1862. While the music was composed in 1818, the English lyrics were not written until 1863. They certainly would not have been available in the hymn book handed to Stonewall’s adjutant by his soon-to-be fiancée.

I’m sure there were other liberties taken with history, but they didn’t jump out at me. The thing to remember is that it is the adaptation of a novel, not a documentary.

Ninety Years

At eleven o’clock this morning, the class I was teaching paused for two minutes of silence. Actually, it was a couple of minutes after eleven, because it took a couple of minutes to achieve silence. Thus while we were being silent, there was noise around us. There was no bell to indicate the time so that everyone was in synch.

Even though Year 9s cover the Great War in history, it is not until the summer term. The Year 9s I was teaching didn’t even have the benefit of knowledge to help them grasp the significance that we were observing the moment that exactly ninety years before has seen the end of the most devastating war up to that time.

When I was growing up in the States, we didn’t think much about that war. But then the US lost a mere 116,708 soldiers with 205,690 wounded. That may sound like a lot, until you realise that the UK with half the population at the time lost 994,138 with 1,663,435 wounded, it puts it into perspective. That’s why there is a war memorial in every village in the UK. They were engraved with the names of local boys lost in First World War with most of them amended with a smaller list from the Second.

Though my pupils sat through a Remembrance Day assembly a couple of hours before, it focused on those who served in all wars since 1918. Ninety years is a long time, after all. Most of my students don’t know who their great-grandparents (or reaching back to WWI, often great-great-grandparents) were, not to mention whether they took the King’s Shilling in the Great War. I doubt that even one of them remembered somebody during that 120 seconds at eleven o’clock who served in the War to End All Wars. It might as well have been the Wars of the Roses – history with no connection to the present. History only for the historians.

May enough people continue to care so their memory might be eternal.

Necessary Intention

Following on my previous post, I have had further thoughts on the use of language.

Without intention, language has no meaning.

In my teaching I often refer to the Shahadah – the statement of faith that is the first pillar of Islam. Saying it publicly is a requirement for becoming a Muslim. I say it publicly all the time, but that does not make me a Muslim, because I have no intention of becoming a Muslim.

I can read the Liturgy aloud and this does not transform any bread and wine present, even if it is on the Holy Table, into the Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood. Even if I was a priest, this would still be the case. Nothing would happen. There is no intent.

Likewise, I can use unacceptable language and if I do not have an unacceptable intention, it is not evil. I do not punish my children if they say a swear word that they did not know was a swear word. When they said it, it was nothing more than an association of sounds. Once they know the meaning and that it is unacceptable, then they are liable.

Thus we arrive back at the things we call people. Further to my discussion in the previous post about the historic inoffensive use of the word “nigger”, the very extensive Wikipedia article about the word is quite useful.  Nomi, a commenter on the previous post, has a very interesting article of her own how to refer those who are bi-racial. I won’t go into the historic terminology and whether it would solve her quandry, but as a bi-racial person, she doesn’t include it amongst modern options.

I don’t know if it unique to matters of race and ethnicity, but it seems strange that perception overrules intention, even when a term is used outside the vocative case. I’m not sure how a group of people with common genetic characteristics decide that certain terms can or cannot be used, and particularly how they change they can the value of a term from acceptable to unacceptable in a matter of a few years.

Because intentional language has meaning, I will usually not use the term “African-American”, unless I’m referring to Barack Obama. As I’ve said before, most black people I know are American Americans. Their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and almost certainly as far back as their great-great-great-great-grandparents were born in the United States. They are not ethnically African. There have been attempts by some to re-Africanise with the adoption of faux-African clothing, African language names, and made up holidays like Kwanzaa (the celebration of communist principles made up by convicted violent felon Ron Everett) notwithstanding, their culture is entirely unrelated to and does not measurably derive from anywhere in Africa.

If people want to use it to refer to continent of ancestral origin, then I’m happy to use African-American if I am also using European-American to refer to people who ancestry can be principally traced to Europe. I wouldn’t use it for myself, because almost all of my ancestors for at least seven generations have been in the United States. I have the odd English ancestor who immigrated in the 1820s or so, but by and large my ancestors were in the US (or what became the US) for at least a couple of generations prior. I could refer to my children as European-Americans, because they are dual citizens of a European country and the US.

I think language should be accurate and avoid intentional offense. I also think it is important not to try to find offense.

Keeping History in Context

At the same time as the election of Barak Obama, in GCSE history we are covering race relations in the United States 1929-90. I’ve never taught this in an American school, but imagine the approach of the syllabus would be roughly the same. We look at the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the effect of the Depression on blacks, segregation in the Second World War, Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock, Ole Miss, Rosa Parks, MLK, and the key events of the Civil Rights Movement. The key idea is that white people, especially but exclusively Southern white people, hated black people (though we aren’t authorised to cover that they were only called “black” for a brief moment in time in the shifting language from Colored to Negro to black to Africa-American). Whites were mean and evil to them, but somehow the black people passively resisted all the white people and eventually Barak Obama was elected.  That last bit falls outside the time period, but it is too good to not mention.

I was commenting on another blog about the relationship between Obama and the legacy of slavery, an institution which the blog owner referred to as an atrocity, saying the same thing I told my students when introducing the background of slavery in the US: we have to be careful in imposing the values of the present day upon the past. People in the mid-19th century lived within a completely different frame of reference. It is very possible that people living 130 years from now will be tempted to condemn aspects of the present day which we cannot imagine would be any other way.

C.S. Lewis says as much in his well-known introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

Thus I think about my cousin Melba. Melba was my dad’s first cousin, born in Kentucky in 1915. I got to know her before she died and I don’t think there was an unkind bone in her body. I don’t think I ever heard her speak an unkind word.

Melba and her husband were tobacco farmers. Her husband had died not long before I met her as an adult (we had visited in their home when I was a very young child) and she was winding down the farming. Being the family genealogist that I am, you can imagine that I took in every story I could about living through the 20th century as a tobacco farming family. Tobacco farming is very labour-intensive. Melba spoke with affection about the niggers that worked for them, especially one man who worked for them for many years.

My late 20th century ears were a bit shocked at first. After all, this was a word for which I received corporal punishment from the school principal when I was in the second grade back in 1972. (In my defense, even then, I didn’t habour any ill feelings for the black pupil. I was only saying it because my friend Scott was saying it, but it was a offense of strict liability.) Then she referred frequently to a nigger woman that had been her domestic help until recently.

I don’t for a minute think that she thought of any of these people as equals. But neither did she habour any ill will. It was just the society in which she was raised. She probably supported segregation as long as it lasted in the Bluegrass State. I don’t remember her speaking about it in any negative way. That was just the way it was. On the other hand, I never heard her complain about integration. Maybe she did at the time, but by the time we talked, that was just the way it was.

At the same time we can be glad that everyone in the United States has the same civil rights and participation in the political process, and appreciate that common attitudes have changed, we need to be careful how we characterise the nature of those developments and the broad strokes with which we tend to paint history.

Vandalising History

From The Times:

Castles, monasteries and stately homes that have survived battles, the Reformation and the elements are falling victim to a more modern adversary — drunken youths.

Vandals have caused hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage at historic buildings around Britain in more than 170 incidents during the past year.

Germany Legally Invades Britain

The case of Dr Gerald Toben is extremely disturbing. Dr Toben is accused of publishing materials “of an anti-semitic and/or revisionist nature”. This is a crime in Germany. The only problem is that Dr Toben wasn’t in Germany at the time.

Actually, another problem is that Germany has a law like this at all. Free speech or a free press are not particularly valuable commodities with the Germans. While I have no sympathy with Dr Toben’s views concerning the Holocaust, I have less sympathy with the Germans, who say that any discussion of history which suggests anything other than the officially approved story must be punished with imprisonment. Dr Toben already did a nine-month stretch in 1999 for being a denier.

Now he has been arrested in the UK and is being held – not for anything done in the UK, but simply for passing through Heathrow Airport on his way from the US to Dubai with a German warrant for his arrest, issued for being a Holocaust denier outside of Germany. That’s the impact of a 2003 agreement signed by EU member states.

In essence, this means that any law passed by any EU country can create a crime that can be committed anywhere in the world which has to be enforced by any member state. Theoretically, the Reichstag Bundestag can pass a law that any criticism of Germany, at any time in any place, is illegal and every other member of the EU will have to be on the lookout for anyone crossing its borders to deport them to Berlin.

It is just me, or does this disturb anyone else?

Ancestral Lands

Since I have been visiting my parents, where much of my personal library is located, I have had a chance to read a book that I got many years ago when it was withdrawn from circulation by the Gonzales Public Library, an establishment that was a regular haunt of mine in my college days.

In what has been one of the more popular posts on this blog, I talked about my Uncle George Littlefield. The book I am reading is George Littlefield: Texan by J. Evetts Haley, published in 1943 by the University of Oklahoma Press. At the time I acquired it, I knew that I was related to Uncle George – and he was always referred to as Uncle George Littlefield by my mother’s family – but I hadn’t made the exact genealogical connection. I just knew that he had put my great-grandmother through college.

Since, as you might expect, the first chapter of the biography covers his family background, it has been very interesting to read about my great-great-great-grandparents (his parents) in a real book (not a self-published genealogy-driven tome) with real footnotes referencing a wide range of primary source materials. The book details both real and personal property they possessed, acquired and sold. Through my genealogical research, I knew where some of this land was.

The personal recollections of former slaves continues to confirm my understanding the positive relationship they shared with my family. Because that is relevant to the novel I am intending to write, this has been particularly helpful.

During the years I lived in Gonzales County, I had thought it would be a nice place to settle. River bottom being the most desirable and fertile real estate, I had always wanted to own the land at the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. I figured if one river made for good land, two must be so much the better.

Having never read that book I bought from the Gonzales Public Library, I had no idea my great-great-great-grandmother thought the same and not only acquired that land, but also moved there from the original plantation where she had settled with my great-great-great-grandfather located about 15 miles up the Guadalupe.

Were I to someday win the lottery or perhaps become a wildly successful writer – though the lottery win is the more likely of the two – I might yet buy that land.

Summer Reading Progress

It is only two weeks into the summer holidays and I have finished half of my reading list.

Thanks to a mention by Elizabeth over a year and a half ago, I finally read The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History by Andreas Andrepoulos. I recommend it highly. It is very readable.

The anecdotal and historical parts of the book only take up the first 42 pages. The rest of it focused on the general needs for signs and symbols, the idea of the sign of the Cross as a prayer in and of itself, and some speculative ideas – in particular, juxtaposing the spiritual power of the sign with New Age ideas.

I finished Bernard Cornwell’s The Pale Horseman in the wee hours of this morning. It is the second of four books in his Saxon Stories series, set in the reign of Alfred the Great. It was a situation where I could hardly stay awake, but I couldn’t put it down. Even though Cornwell shows Alfred (and Christianity generally) in a not-so-favourable light, and downplays his contribution to literature and law, it is clear at this point why Alfred is called “the Great”.

Cornwell always tells a great story with interesting characters. As with the Starbuck Chronicles set nearly 1000 years later during the War Between the States, his principle characters are fictional but play a key roles in otherwise historical battles. For those unfamiliar with the period, he provides a helpful historical note at the end of each book to help the reader distinguish the fact from the fiction.

The history of this period is fascinating enough that I’m added a couple of books to my reading list,
Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources and The Anglo-Saxons edited by Campbell, John and Wormald.

Russian Genocide Deniers

The Russians are angry with the Ukrainians. Nothing new there.

Seems the Ukrainians are insisting on bringing up the past. In particular they are bringing up the time the Russians murdered millions of Ukrainians during the Holodomor of 1932-33. Estimates of the number of unnatural deaths during this period range from a conservative three million to a frequently referenced seven or even ten million.

It all started earlier than that. The attack on Ukrainian nationalism began in 1928.  First the Russians eliminated the cultural elite – academics, writers, and significantly most of the Orthodox clergy who had separated from the Moscow Patriarchate. With the leadership out of the way, the Russians then starved the rest of the population.

How did they starve the breadbasket of Russia? The agriculural collectivism of communism meant that all grain was state property. The grain was shipped off to Russia or simply allowed to rot. Stealing any amount of grain was a capital offense. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, capital offenses were not subject to a lengthy process of judicial review. Whole villages were taken out to dig their own graves and then shot to fill them.

But Putin and his puppet president don’t want anyone to mention this and they most certainly don’t want anyone to blame the Russians. They have become genocide deniers. Perhaps this is offensive to Russian-ness like admitting the Armenian genocide is offensive to Turkishness.

I have written about the Holodomor in a previous blogging identity, but this was brought to mind again by a extensive article in today’s Dail Mail. Definitely worth a read.

39

It was 39 years ago today that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon. It will be another 12 years before anyone goes back.

I’ve just never understood that. I know there’s a lot of money involved, but the overall benefits of Lunar research far outweigh the costs. I was five years old at the time of the first landing and I’ll be 55 before the next one.

After Columbus reached the new World, what if the Spanish (or any other European power) had waited 50 years to go back? Or to put it into a better perspective – one of technological advancement – it would be like waiting from Columbus until Charles Lindberg to cross the Atlantic again.

How much opportunity has already been lost? How could this world have been different if that one had been used effectively?