Archive for October, 2017

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.

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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.


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