The Story of Hanukah

December 12, 2017

Hanukah begins at sunset today, so I thought I would write a little about this holiday. Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It is an eight day celebration which lasts from the twenty-fifth day on Kislev to the second day of Tevet. Since the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the days float around from November to December in the Gregorian calendar. This year the days of Hanukah are celebrated December 12-20.

English: Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanuk...

Hanukkah was not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar, unlike Passover or the High Holy Days. The festival has increased in importance among North American Jews because of its proximity to Christmas. There is even a tendency among Gentiles to regard Hanukkah as some sort of Jewish Christmas. This is unfortunate, since the backgrounds of the two holidays are quite different. The story of Hanukkah is one of the Jewish people fighting for their freedom to worship God in their own way. I think this story is inspiring and worth learning, both for Jews and Gentiles.

The history goes back to the time of Alexander the Great. He conquered the Persian Empire in one of the most remarkable military campaigns in history. Unfortunately, when he died in 323 BC, he left no provision for any successors and so his generals fought among themselves and eventually Alexander’s empire was divided among them. One of these successors was named Seleucus and he gained control of what is now Iran and Iraq. His kingdom is known to historians as the Seleucid Empire. This time is known as the Hellenistic Era.

Around 200 BC the Seleucids defeated the Egyptians and gained the territories of modern Syria and Israel. During this time the Jewish religion was tolerated and respected by the Ptolemies of Egypt. During this time, also, the Greek language and culture spread far and wide among the conquered peoples. Greek culture had become “cool” and everybody wanted to be a part of it. People who adopted Greek culture could be said to be “Hellenized” from Hellene, the Greek word for Greek. This caused no little consternation among the more traditional Jews. They were afraid that in the rush to embrace Greek culture, many Jews would fall into the worship of the Greek gods and so to idolatry. So, to some extent, the events which followed were as much a civil war as a war between the Jews and the Seleucids.

Antiochus IV

In the year 175, Antiochus IV Epiphanes ascended the throne of the Seleucids. Unlike previous Hellenistic rulers he seemed to believe himself a god and was eager that everyone in his realm pay divine honors to the Greek gods. For most of the people in the Empire this was no great burden as a few more gods didn’t matter all that much. For all but the most Hellenized Jews, this was an impossible demand. There was only one God. When fighting broke out between Hellenized and traditional Jews, Antiochus sided with the Hellenized Jews and in 167 sent an army to capture Jerusalem and compel the worship of the Greek gods. A statue of Zeus was placed on the altar of the Temple and the Jewish religion was banned.

This sparked a rebellion and a guerilla war which was led by a priest named Matthias and his five sons. The most prominent of these was Judas Maccabeus. Antiochus IV had many other problems, especially with the Persians to the east and the rising power of Rome to the west and could never spare the forces necessary to crush the revolt. By 165, the Maccabees were able to retake Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple of the defilement of the pagans.

According to legend, there was only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day, and yet miraculously, they were able to keep it lit for eight days, until more oil could be procured. These eight days became known as the Festival of Lights and to commemorate this victory and miracle, a nine branched menorah is lit. A more prosaic explanation for the origins of this holiday is that the first Hanukkah was a belated celebration of Sukkot. Whatever the truth of the matter might be, I wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah.

Advertisements

Roy Moore

December 10, 2017

I probably shouldn’t write anything at all about former Alabama Chief Justice and current Senatorial candidate Roy Moore and the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him. I do not know anything at all about the case and have no idea whether he is guilty of the accusations of sexually abusing a fourteen year old girl back in 1979. A lack of knowledge doesn’t seem to have kept anyone else from commenting on the events, so I might as well make a few general observations.

First, it is too bad we don’t have an unbiased news media made up of professional journalist determined to get to the truth no matter where it leads in this country. Instead, we have a collection of partisan hacks who are more concerned about getting Democrats elected than informing the public. For this reason, it is not absolutely crazy to suggest that Moore is the victim of a smear campaign using fake news. They’ve done this sort of thing before. Even if Moore is guilty, how can we really be sure?

Which brings me to the second point. The timing of these accusations is suspicious. This does not, of course, mean that they are untrue but If the Washington Post had run the story a month earlier, Luther Strange would now be the Republican nominee and the Republicans would be sailing to an easy victory. Instead the story came out when it is too late to change the ballot. Even if Roy Moore drops out of the race, his name is going to be on the ballot. Did the Washington Post sit on the story, timing its release for political advantage? It doesn’t seem improbable. Would they have waited until after the election if Moore was a Democrat? Would they have ever released the story if he were a Democrat? Who knows?

The next point I would like to make is that even if Roy Moore is innocent of the specific accusations regarding a fourteen year old girl, he still seems to like young girls, at least as young as sixteen, which happens to be the age of consent in Alabama. This predilection not only makes the claim that he had a sexual encounter which a girl below the age of consent, but doesn’t reflect well on Moore at all. It is more than a little creepy for a thirty year old man to seek out dates with girls still in high school. There don’t seem to be any recent claims of Roy Moore pursuing young girls, though. Perhaps he has changed. He may have been faithful to his wife, who he first met when she was a teenager,  since they married in 1985. He may have found religion and been saved, ending his old life and habits. This would be an inspiring story of sin and redemption that might go over well in the Bible Belt. So why isn’t he telling it? Instead, he is evading the issue to the point where even as sympathetic a commentator as Sean Hannity is suspicious.

Aside from the sexual misadventures of his relative youth, Roy Moore is an undesirable candidate for the Senate simply because he is kind of a nutcase. Going over his political positions, he comes across as a caricature of a Christian Conservative. He seems to be more of a Christian theocrat than a constitutional conservative. If I saw such a character in fiction, perhaps in a Saturday Night Live sketch, I would complain that he was too ridiculous to be believed, and yet there he is.

Roy Moore is most famous for his controversy regarding the ten commandments monument he placed in the Alabama Supreme Court building while he was Chief Justice and for twice being removed from that position when he refused to obey a federal court order to remove the monument. Now, I can’t blame Moore for going out of his way to spite the secular, anti-theist fanatics who recoil from every religious symbol as though they were vampires, and, as a private citizen, he is certainly entitled to his opinion regarding the importance of religion in our public life, but, as a judge, and the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he was obliged to obey the law and the decisions made by higher judicial authorities. A judge’s authority derives from the law and he cannot simply ignore rulings made by superior courts without undermining his own authority and the rule of law. A man willing to substitute his own opinions and judgements in place of the law ought, perhaps, not to be trusted to serve in the Senate.

If Roy Moore is a conservative caricature, than his opponent, Doug Jones seems to be a liberal caricature, at least on the question of abortion, he opposes any restrictions on abortion right up to the moment of birth, though he seems to be closer to the mainstream on economic issues and less of a crackpot than Moore. The problem is that, at present, the Republicans only hold a bare majority, fifty-two seats, in the Senate. If Doug Jones wins the special election, that majority is down to only one seat, and it may be easier for the Democrats to gain a majority in next year’s midterm elections. It’s not an easy choice considering the damage the Democrats might do if they get a majority in Congress.

I’m glad I don’t live in Alabama, though if I did, I guess I would reluctantly vote for Moore on the grounds that it is better to vote for the lesser evil of a bad man over a bad political party. It is more than a little discouraging to place political expedience over personal character, but the party of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy established the precedent years ago and fighting by Marquess of Queensberry rules against an opponent that cares for nothing except gaining power is a good way to lose every time.

Thanksgiving

November 23, 2017

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It is most unfortunate that this day has become little more than an excuse to gorge on turkey. Even worse, the obscenity known as Black Friday has begun to creep back into the holiday making what ought to be a day of giving thanks to the deity a day of frenzied shopping. We in America have perhaps more to be thankful for than any other nation in history and we are probably the biggest ingrates.

Well, anyway, the whole mythology surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday,with the turkey meal, etc is based on the Thanksgiving celebration held by the settlers of Plymouth colony in 1621. They had a lot to be thankful for. These Pilgrims had decided to immigrate to the New World so that they could practice their religion freely. They had intended to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River but their departure from England on the Mayflower had been delayed and the trip across the Atlantic had been rough. They reached America farther north then they had intended,at Provincetown Harbor in November 1620. While they did not really have a legal right to create a colony in what is now Massachusetts, no one really wanted to spend the winter at sea so on December 21, 1620 the Pilgrims began to build the settlement at Plymouth.

Model of a 17th century English merchantman sh...

Would you spend any more time in a leaky ship like this than you had to? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first winter at the new colony was very hard. About half of the colonists had died by spring. By what must have seemed incredible luck or divine providence, the colonists were able to make contact with two Natives who could speak English. One of these was named Samoset and he had learned some English from English trappers and fishermen. He introduced the Pilgrims to the other man, Squanto, who had a truly remarkable life. Captured by Englishmen, he was taken to England and instructed in the English language in the hope that he could serve as an interpreter. When he was brought back to New England, he was captured again, this time by members of John Smith’s expedition who planned to sell captured Indians as slaves in Spain. In Spain, some friars learned of this plan and had the Indians freed and instructed in the Catholic religion. Squanto was able to make his way back to England and then across the Atlantic. There, he discovered that his whole tribe had been destroyed by the diseases, probably smallpox, that the Europeans had already unwittingly brought to the New World.

Squanto was willing to help the Pilgrims and taught what they needed to know to survive in New England.The harvest in the summer of 1621 was good enough that the Pilgrims did not need to fear starvation that winter. They had a feast that Autumn to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks to God. This celebration was not considered to be anything very remarkable. Thanksgiving celebrations were fairly common at the time, especially among people who had successfully made the difficult and dangerous voyage across the ocean. It was not really the first Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930). The First Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth in 1621. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were proclamations of thanksgiving at various times in American history, especially during the Revolutionary War, but the holiday we know of as Thanksgiving really began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. It might not seem that there was all that much to be thankful for in the middle of the Civil War but the tide was turning in the North’s favor after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that July and the country was continuing to grow in strength and prosperity despite the horrors of the war. Lincoln’s proclamation set the date for the national holiday that has been celebrated ever since. Franklin Roosevelt set the date a week earlier in 1939 in the hope that an earlier date would mean a longer shopping season for Christmas, thus helping the economy still mired in the Great Depression. This was not without controversy and in October 1941 Congress officially set the date of Thanksgiving on the fourth, and almost always the last, Thursday in November.

So,enjoy your turkey but please spare a moment or two to give thanks to the deity you worship. If you happen to be an American you really are one of the luckiest people on Earth.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2017

Today is Veterans Day. This day began as Armistice Day, November 11 1918 being the day that Germany signed the armistice that ended World War I. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day in 1919 to celebrate the courage of the men who fought and died in that war. The day was changed in 1954 in order to honor the veterans of all the wars of America.

I don’t have anything else to say except Thank You to all of the veterans who have served your country. You are better men and women than I am.

That Devastating Argument against Pro-Lifers

November 6, 2017

Patrick S. Tomlinson has come up with what he considers to be the argument that will silence the people who are against abortion once and for all. He puts forth his argument on Twitter, not, perhaps the best place to find reasoned debate, but here it is.

Whenever abortion comes up, I have a question I’ve been asking for ten years now of the “Life begins at Conception” crowd. In ten years, no one has EVER answered it honestly. 1/

It’s a simple scenario with two outcomes. No one ever wants to pick one, because the correct answer destroys their argument. And there IS a correct answer, which is why the pro-life crowd hates the question. 2/

Here it is. You’re in a fertility clinic. Why isn’t important. The fire alarm goes off. You run for the exit. As you run down this hallway, you hear a child screaming from behind a door. You throw open the door and find a five-year-old child crying for help. 3/

They’re in one corner of the room. In the other corner, you spot a frozen container labeled “1000 Viable Human Embryos.” The smoke is rising. You start to choke. You know you can grab one or the other, but not both before you succumb to smoke inhalation and die, saving no one. 4/

Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos? There is no “C.” “C” means you all die. In a decade of arguing with anti-abortion people about the definition of human life, I have never gotten a single straight A or B answer to this question. And I never will. 5/

They will never answer honestly, because we all instinctively understand the right answer is “A.” A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically. 6/

This question absolutely evicerates their arguments, and their refusal to answer confirms that they know it to be true. No one, anywhere, actually believes an embryo is equivalent to a child. That person does not exist. They are lying to you. 7/

They are lying to you to try and evoke an emotional response, a paternal response, using false-equivalency. No one believes life begins at conception. No one believes embryos are babies, or children. Those who cliam to are trying to manipulate you so they can control women. 8/

Don’t let them. Use this question to call them out. Reveal them for what they are. Demand they answer your question, and when they don’t, slap that big ol’ Scarlet P of the Patriarchy on them. The end. 9/9

I wonder just how many people on the pro-life side Tomlinson has actually talked to, because it seems to me that almost everyone would agree to save the five year old child. I don’t think that anyone would dispute that the life of a child who can think and feel pain is worth more than the life of an embryo who has not yet developed a nervous system. After all, everyone, no matter how strongly pro-life, agrees that abortion is permissible to save the life of the mother precisely because the life of an adult women is considered to be worth more than the life of an unborn embryo or fetus. A great majority of people who oppose abortion concede that abortion is acceptable is cases of rape or incest. This does not mean, however, that the life of an embryo is worth nothing at all or that it is acceptable to abort an unborn baby for trivial reasons or for no reason at all. Mr. Tomlinson actually addresses this in a follow up tweet.

Because a lot of people are missing the point, it is not being argued the embryos are not alive. Nor is it being argued they are without value. All that is being demonstrated is their value is not equal to that of a human child. That’s it. That’s the point.

Good, then we are in agreement. However, it does not follow that if an embryo is of lesser value than a child that it is acceptable to abort or destroy the embryo for any cause short of preserving the life of a more fully developed human being. Nor does it mean that somehow arguing against abortion is lying or being hypocritical. It is possible to concede the relative lesser worth of an embryo while still being concerned to protect the life of that embryo. Notice,also, that Tomlinson uses the adjective human to modify child but not embryo, a subtle  suggestion that the embryo is somehow not really human.

Tomlinson also misses, probably deliberately,  the distinction between a difficult decision between two evils and  decision to commit an overt act which may be considered evil. To illustrate the difference, consider these two scenarios.

First, suppose there is a mother at home with her five year child and their cat. Suddenly a fire breaks out and engulfs the house. The mother only has time to save either her child or her cat. She cannot save both. I think that everyone but the most fanatic animal rights lunatic would agree that she should save her child. Why? Because the life of a human child is worth more than the life of a cat. This does not mean, of course, that the life of the cat is not worth saving, or that the woman is lying when she expresses concern for the life and well being of her cat.

Now for the second scenario. Suppose that a mother is at home with her five year old child and their cat. The child tells his mother that he is bored so to amuse the child, the mother takes the cat outside, lights it on fire, and they both have a good laugh as the cat runs around the yard burning to death. I think everyone would agree that such behavior would be reprehensible. Why? Because even a person who is not sentimental about animals would recognise that torturing a living thing for no reason is an evil act.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both cases the cat suffers a painful death by being burned alive. The cat suffers the same level of pain in both scenarios. Does it make any difference? I think it does. The difference is between a regrettable choice and a deliberate act. In the first scenario the woman is blameless. In the second scenario the woman might be a psychopath. The end result is comparable, as far as the cat is concerned, but the motive is different and that is what makes the difference. It is one thing to allow an embryo or even a thousand embryos to perish while saving a child, it is quite another to deliberately destroy a human embryo who, if left alone, will develop into a human child

That is the core of the controversy about abortion, whether or not abortion is the destruction of a human being, the one thing that no one on the pro-choice side wants to discuss. They prefer to use euphemisms like “women’s health” or impugn the motives of pro-lifers by suggesting they are not interested in preserving life but oppressing women or establishing a Christian Theocratic patriarchy, anything to change the subject. My advice is don’t let them get away with it.

Refuse Fascism

November 2, 2017

Be sure to mark November 4 on your calendar because that is the day the revolution begins. Massive street demonstrations all over the country will drive the Fascist Trump/Pence regime out of power. At least, that is what the good people at Refuse Fascism hope will happen.

In less than a week, it begins; in 19 cities across the country, we will unite with courage and conviction, overcoming fear and uncertainty, to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence regime poses to the world. Only the people acting together in non-violent mass protest, raising the demand that this regime must step down from power, can end this nightmare.

We are right to do this. For the survival of millions of people around the world, we must do this. For the rights of women to determine the course of their own lives, we must do this. For a future on this planet for all of our children, we must do this. If we don’t want to see white supremacist mob rule, in the government or in the streets, we must do this. For every group that is demonized and targeted by this regime, for whom this regime is already a brutal nightmare, we must do this. Our actions reflect the values of respect for all of humanity and the world we want – in stark contrast to the hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime.

These days, whenever I see someone using the word “Fascism”, I cannot help but think of Inigo Montoya’s line from the Princess Bride. I do not think they have the slightest idea what Fascism actually is.

 


Fascism is not a general term of abuse to be hurled against Conservatives, or whoever you do not like. Fascism is a word that describes a particular social and political ideology. According to Dictionary.com, Fascism is:

a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

Politically, a Fascist state is a one party totalitarian state ruled by a charismatic dictator, in which the government claims total control over the lives of the citizen’s while those citizens have no rights the government is obliged to respect. Fascist economic policy is essentially anti-free market Socialism that while permitting private ownership of the economy controls it to such an extent that such ownership is largely nominal.

Is Trump a Fascist? Of course not. Trump has not suspended the constitution, abolished opposition parties, thrown dissidents in prison, or anything or the sort. Like it or not Donald Trump won the election and is the duly elected President of the United States.  Setting aside his often ill-conceived words, Trump’s actions as president have been entirely what one might expect of a slightly right of center president. If Donald Trump weren’t Trump, little of what he is doing would be controversial.

There are no mainstream figures in American politics who could even remotely be considered Fascists. There is no American Fascist Party. There are no politicians describing themselves as Fascists. The people who claiming to be fighting Fascism can go home. They have no one to fight.

I have to wonder what groups like Refuse Fascism hope to accomplish with these protests. The President’s term of office is set by the constitution at four years. Unless Donald Trump is impeached and convicted of a crime or resigns, he will be president in 2020 regardless of how many people are protesting against him. There is no constitutional provision for a do-over election. If both Donald Trump and Mike Pence resign or are removed from office, there is a clear line of succession  established by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. If the President and Vice-President are unable to serve, then the Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan becomes President. The Senate President Pro Tempore, Republican Orrin Hatch is next, followed by the Cabinet Secretaries, all appointed by Trump, in order of the creation of their department. There is no legal or constitutional means by which Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders gets to be president, even if both Trump and Pence are removed. At present every single person in the line of succession is a Republican, and presumably part of the Fascist regime. This will only change if the Democrats gain a majority in either House of Congress in the 2018 midterms.

Given that even impeaching Trump and Pence would only result in other members of the Fascist regime becoming president, there is no legal, constitutional way to remove the Fascist regime. How, precisely do they plan to go about it non-violently, and how are we supposed to select a new president, given that the constitution will have been discarded? Is it the plan to force a democratically elected president and his cabinet from power and replace him with a leader chosen by a mob?

Ironic is a word that is overused but there is something ironic going on here, since these people don’t seem to have studied history at all. Overthrowing an elected government by the threat of mob violence is precisely what Benito Mussolini did with his March on Rome in 1922 and Adolf Hitler tried to tried to do with his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. When you consider the very real possibility of violence breaking out at some of these anti-Fascist protests, based on the past history of violence by the Antifa, it might seem that the real Fascists are the ones protesting Fascism.

There is the irony. Refuse Fascism will not be able to force Donald Trump from the Presidency, but if they manage to create an atmosphere of disorder and chaos by continuous, daily, possibly violent, demonstrations they will succeed in creating the atmosphere that a real dictator can take over. Again, if they had actually bothered to study history, they would know that Fascist dictators like Mussolini and Hitler were preceded by chaotic, lawless conditions in their respective countries. If regular, constitutional government cannot maintain the order people need to live their lives, they will turn to the strongman who can.

If the people planning to protest this Saturday really wanted to fight Fascism, they would protest Trump’s policies while acknowledging that he is the legitimate President and not a dictator. They would be putting their efforts into recruiting candidates for office in the upcoming elections and seeing to it that he is a one-term president. But, that would take knowledge and maturity, two characteristics not often associated with the Left. It’s easier just to have a giant temper tantrum.

 

Halloween

October 31, 2017

Today is Halloween. The name “Halloween” is actually derived from “All Hallow’s Eve“, that is the day before “All Hallow’s Day” or All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day was and is a Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, holy day which celebrates all the saints in Heaven and includes prayers for those in Purgatory.

Halloween, however, is not a Christian holiday. It seems to have come from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a summer’s end or harvest festival. The Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires to ward off evil spirits and sacrificed animals and sometimes humans to their gods. This pagan heritage has made Halloween controversial among Christians at times. The Protestant Reformers in England did not like the holiday and tried to suppress it because of its pagan and Roman Catholic origins. The Scots were more lenient and Halloween is celebrated there more than in England. The Irish, of course, still celebrated it as they remained Catholic and true to their Celtic Heritage. Halloween was not much celebrated in America until large numbers of Scots and Irish immigrated here during the nineteenth century.

As for the customs which have grown up around Halloween, it would seem that carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns is an American innovation. The Scots and Irish used turnips. Pumpkins, which are native to North American, turned out to be larger and easier to carve. Trick or treating seems to be derived from the Scottish custom of guising. Guising is the custom in which children would go from door to door in costume begging for treats and performing a trick or song in return. This custom was first noted in America in the early twentieth century. Trick or treating became the custom by the 1930’s. Haunted houses have also become popular since the 1970’s.

So, Happy Halloween, or Samhain.

For another view:

The KKK Mural

October 15, 2017

The Great American Cultural Revolution continues apace, this time at my old alma mater, Indiana University at Bloomington. According to WHAS News, the university will cease holding classes in a room with a controversial mural depicting a Ku Klux Klan rally.

 Indiana University says beginning next spring, it’ll no longer hold classes in a room where a mural panel depicts a Ku Klux Klan rally.

The scene that’s part of a 22-panel Thomas Hart Benton mural created in the 1930s hangs in Room 100 at Woodburn Hall on the Bloomington campus. The mural panels depicting Indiana history are spread over three buildings.

IU Executive Vice President and Provost Lauren Robel said in a statement Friday the room will have other uses beginning next spring semester.

Jacquline Barrie, a former IU student who started a petition calling for the mural’s removal that collected more than more than 1,000 signatures, told The Indianapolis Star she considers the university’s decision a “small victory.” She has said the scene is a symbol of hate.

I do not believe that the artist, Thomas Hart Benton was intentionally creating a symbol of hate or trying to glorify the Ku Klux Klan. He was commissioned to paint the series of murals to illustrate events in Indiana’s history and the lives of ordinary Hoosiers. At the time Benton was painting the murals, the Ku Klux Klan was powerful in Indiana, and his work depicted that unpleasant fact.

It might seem odd that Indiana was a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, since Indiana is not usually regarded as a Southern state. Indiana was never a slave state and it did not secede from the union. The fact is, however, that Indiana; at least the southern half of the state, tends to be culturally aligned with the South. The earliest settlers came from Virginia, either directly by travelling down the Ohio River or up from Tennessee and Kentucky. There were men who lived in Indiana who owned land and slaves across the river in Kentucky. During the Civil War, there was a great deal of pro-Confederate sympathy along the northern banks of the Ohio, both in Indiana and Ohio. So it was only natural that the Ku Klux Klan might find it easy to gain influence in the area.

It should also be noted that the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s was influential all over the country and not just in the South. This Ku Klux Klan was what historians call the second Ku Klux Klan which was active from around 1915 until 1944, in contrast to the First Ku Klux Klan which existed from 1865 to 1871 and the Third Klan from 1946 to the present. This Second Klan was unlike the First and Third Klans in that it was more widespread across the nation, having branches throughout the midwest as well as the south. There was even a Klan organization in California. The Second Klan did not only support White Supremacy but were anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic. They also saw themselves as moral guardians, protecting their communities against vice and political corruption, and were in favor of Prohibition. Essentially, they were part of the national desire to return to Normalcy after World War I and the Progressive Era. During the 1920’s the Ku Klux Klan was almost a respectable organization with a membership of around six million at its height in 1924.

Indiana was right at the center of the Second Klan. Under the leadership of its bright and ambitious Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson, the Indiana Klan dominated the state’s politics. By 1925, over half the members of the legislators as well as the governor,and many other state officials were members of the Klan. It was not possible to have a political career in Indiana without the support of the Ku Klux Klan. Stephenson himself hoped to use his influence to gain control of the Ku Klux Klan at the national level and began organizing his own Klan organization in the states he influenced. At the height of his power, Stephenson claimed, “I am the law in Indiana”.

It turned out not to be the case. It is said that pride goeth before a fall and that was certainly the case with D. C. Stephenson. In 1925, Stephenson committed an unforgivable crime. He abducted and raped a white woman, a state official named Madge Oberholtzer. His treatment of her was so brutal that she committed suicide and Stephenson was tried and convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Once in prison, Stephenson tried to obtain a parole from Indiana Governor Edward L. Jackson and when Jackson declined to grant him leniency, Stephenson began to talk to the newspapers. He released the names of all the Indiana state officials who were members of the Klan and discussed at length the many unsavory and unlawful activities in which the Ku Klux Klan leadership had been involved, More investigations and indictments followed, and the power of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana was broken. Stephenson’s fall was only the beginning of the end of the Second Ku Klux Klan as more financial and sex scandals erupted nationwide, revealing that far from being the public guardians of public morality, as many members had believed, the Klan leadership was corrupt to the core. Membership in the Klan declined precipitously and by 1930 the Klan had only around 30,000 members.

Such is the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. It is not a part of Hoosier history to be proud of, but neither should it be forgotten or whitewashed. If anyone is troubled by a realistic depiction of this unpleasant history, than good, they should be troubled. The fact that Indiana was a stronghold of the Klan in the 1920’s is something that should be troubling, not covered up out of a misguided crusade against “hate”.

But the odd thing is that these contemporary iconoclasts who have been busy trying to rid the country of “racist” statues are not trying to bury or forget the past. Instead they seem determined to bring to life every conceivable grievance or injustice that every group that could possibly claim to be victimized or oppressed. Why do this if they are so concerned about people being triggered or upset?

I believe the activists see history not as the shared story of a people or nation that unites us and teaches us lessons. Instead they seem to see history as a never ending source of grievances to be used to turn us against each other. They do not see historical figures as complex personalities to be understood in their historical context, but as figures of good and evil in a morality play. If this is the case, than the toppling of statues of Confederate generals and similar instances of iconoclasm are being performed not as acts against hate or attempts to ensure social justice, but a campaign to reopen old wounds and turn us against one another for their own purposes. We ought not to let them get away it.

 

Eye Tattoos

October 7, 2017

I do not like tattoos. Part of the reason for this distaste might be because I do not like being stuck with needles. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I am absolutely terrified of being stuck with needles. Whenever I see someone with their whole body covered with tattoos, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of being pierced with needles over and over again for hours. Another reason is aesthetic. I have not noticed that people appearance is much enhanced by having pictures drawn all over them. To put it bluntly, I think most tattoos are ugly. Still, that is just my personal opinion. To each their own. I wouldn’t care to get a tattoo, but I wouldn’t dream of keeping anyone else from getting as many tattoos as they want. I do have to draw the line at eye tattoos.

Eye tattoos? Yes, there really is such a thing. I didn’t know about eye tattoos either until I read this article from WHAS 11 News.

A Canadian model received a botched eye tattoo and is now warning others about the dangers of the practice.

Catt Gallinger, 24, went to get a scleral tattoo, which colors the white part of the human eye with ink, three weeks ago and things went terribly wrong.

The next morning Gallinger said she woke up with her eye swollen completely shut, according to a Facebook post. She was suffering from an eye infection.

She believes that “undiluted ink, over injection, and not enough/smaller injections [sites]” caused the infection.

“I am NOT sharing this with you to cause trouble, I am sharing this to warn you to research who you get your procedures by as well as how the procedure should be properly done,” Gallinger wrote in a Facebook post.

She had her eye tattooed purple but has been to the hospital three times since, she said.

“I was on antibiotic drops for the first week and a half and have been on steroid drops for four days now, with little success at bringing down the internal swelling,” Gallinger said after the procedure.

Gallinger has currently lost part of the vision in the swollen eye and is facing the prospect of living with irreversible damage, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Doctors said it is not likely she will completely regain her vision, reports said.

Why on Earth would anyone do this? Who could possibly think that injecting ink into the eyeball is a good idea? I can’t even imagine thinking that coloring the sclera would improve the appearance of someone’s eye. Who first came up with this idea? And who would agree to inject ink into someone’s eye?

The model has some good advice for anyone seeking to have this procedure.

“Just please be cautious who you get your mods from and do your research. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she wrote.

I have even better advice; do not allow anyone, under any circumstances to inject anything into your eye.

Trump and the NFL

October 2, 2017

Say what you will about President Donald Trump, he is certainly a master at controlling the national narrative, not to mention driving his opponents crazy. The leading news over the weekend ought to have been the Republican failure to repeal and replace Obamacare once again, news which does not reflect well on either Trump or the Republicans in Congress. Instead, by inserting a remark in a speech, that the NFL players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem ought to be fired, Trump changed the subject on everyone’s mind to an issue he can’t lose, placing his enemies in the media and in politics in the position of defending behavior that a great many Americans find indefensible.

This is not to say that Donald Trump is some sort of political genius. Since the Democratic Party has moved more and more to the extreme left and the cultural divide between the progressives and ordinary Americans has grown ever wider, it ought to be easy for any Republican to maneuver the opposition into such untenable positions. The fact that the Republicans have generally been unable to do so demonstrates Republican fecklessness more than Trump’s tactical genius.

The left has been trying to reframe this issue as a free speech issue. “How dare”, they exclaim, “this president infringe upon these athletes’ sacred right to peacefully protest injustice by suggesting they ought to be fired.” It is more than a little odd that the same people who have had no problem with tech companies firing workers who express dissenting views, social media censoring conservative opinions, or Antifa thugs rioting against certain conservative speakers on college candidate, and who called the peaceful Tea Party protests “political terrorists” are now concerned with freedom of expression, but let it pass. No one is arguing that these players do not have the right to protest. They absolutely do have that right. The issue is that there are appropriate times and places to conduct a political protest. Among the times and places where it is not appropriate to conduct a political protest is when you are on the job.

I have a right to express my political opinions on this blog and elsewhere, as long as I am on my time. If I am at work, however, I do not have an absolute right to express my opinions on social media when I am on my employer’s time. I am being paid to work, not express my opinions. In like manner, these athletes are being paid to play football, not engage in a political protest.  The people in the stands and watching on television want to watch a football game. They want to get away from politics. The athletes have ample opportunities to protest on their own time.

Not only is their protest inappropriate, but also counter-productive. Disrespecting the American flag or the national anthem is going to be offensive to many Americans, particularly the people most likely likely to be following football.  Refusing to stand for the national anthem is not easy to interpret as a protest against a particular issue, such as the treatment of African-Americans by the police. Most people are going to interpret such an action as protesting or disrespecting American in general. By not standing or kneeling for the national anthem, these football players are projecting contempt for their country, whether they intend it or not.

I cannot believe that offending people is a very good way to gain sympathy for a cause, no matter how noble or just. They could be kneeling to protest against mistreating puppies and kittens and people would still be angry. The fact that the leadership of the NFL had allowed the players to conduct these protests without considering the reaction of the fans demonstrates the growing divide between the elites who run our politics and entertainment and the great mass of deplorables who live in flyover country.

This is a divide that Donald Trump has been uncommonly good at exploiting for his own purposes. What is amazing is that his enemies keep walking into the trap, over and over.

This matter of athletes and the national anthem is not really a very important issue compared to the possibility of war with North Korea or the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, but it is sad to see how something, like sports or entertainment, that should be bringing Americans together and away from politics is now being used to pull us apart. Can there be no part of life that can simply be enjoyed for its own sake and not be part of the Great American Cultural Revolution? I hope so.


%d bloggers like this: