Katie: Still pregnant. Barely. I’m pretty damned sure I’m going to be robbed of some expected knitting time. I’m pretty sure this thrills Kate. I am trying to be supportive.
Number of stitches on the needle: Approximately 500. I’m honestly afraid to count. I don’t know if I can take a really accurate countdown right now.
Number of skeins so far: 7 and about a third. (So much for whatever wild dream I had about this blanket being smaller than the others. I’m not sure how it happened either – I really did try to make this one smaller. I swear it.)
Number of skeins remaining: A not quite as comforting 2 2/3. I feel a little sweaty, though my math tells me it should be just fine. That said, I’m trying to not to think about what my math skills are like in general, and when it comes to blankets in specific. It gives me a horrible cramp.
Number of foul words I’m using right about now: I am running out.
Number of repeats of the edging I’ve knit: 24.5 of about 60. I knit the first 10 in two days, then bashed out the second 10 yesterday in a massive sprint, and I’ve somehow managed 4.5 today. I’m trying hard not to give into the urge to cancelling commitments like meetings, work, training rides (although I did do a rather spectacularly hard 130km one on Friday, which is totally what’s best for the ride, and cost me a whole day of knitting time) and sleeping and eating. This weekend I have to do my “back to backs” which is two rides, both over 100km, done on consecutive days. I keep hoping there will be a small flood or tornado so I can knit instead, but realistically – I think I need this done by then. The whole thing is giving me the willies.
What I muttered to Joe yesterday when (while I was taking a short break) he said “Hey, get back at it, that blanket’s not going to knit itself.”: I won’t repeat it here. He’s adopted a more supportive posture.
Attitude of knitter: Slightly desperate.
Status of Bike Rally Prep: Rough. I’m not yet at my fundraising goal (public, or private) but I’m still working on it, and thank you, thank you, thank you for all your help so far. I’d be beyond sunk without you. You’re amazing, and I’m so grateful it makes me a little bit weepy. The donations are still trickling in, and on Friday when I did that 130km ride, and there was wind and it was hot, and I was trying to ride with fast people (I remain about as fast as you’d expect a slightly dumpy 47 year old knitter to be) at one of the little breaks we took, instead of weeping in the bathroom, I took some advice Pato gave me. He’s got his phone set up so that when he gets a donation from one of you, his phone dings. I’ve done the same now, and I’m here to tell you, that little “ding” as you’re trying to climb a hill and your legs are burning – that ding makes it all okay. It’s easy to forget what’s really happening, and that little sound puts the focus right back where it should be. I heard it, and remembered exactly what I was doing it for. I’m so grateful.
Let’s do presents before I go knit again, okay?
Lauren Sarah has a very pretty pattern to give away, one copy each of her lovely Sea Dragons and Cockle Shells (a very nice one-skein project) that she’ll be sending off to Jane M, and Louise D.
Sarah House is a potter (and a knitter) and she’s donating the mug of Anne K’s choice to the greater good. She does beautiful work.
Big thanks to Cedar Hill Farm Company, who’d releasing 2 hanks of of Calliope, one in Pink Seahorse and one in French Lilac in to the wild. Well, not really the wild, I hope Amanda L makes good use of it. (It’s silk noil. Lovely stuff.)
Mindy Wilkes would like five helpers to have the pattern of their choice from her shop. She has so many pretty things to choose from I know that Liz R, Janice M, Susan M, Amanda B and Nora H will all find something they love.
Ruth is a lovely, lovely spinner and she’s parting with this beautiful skein of her very own handspun BFL. It’s about 490 yards, she says (and over 5oz) and so Laura G will be able to make something really great. Thanks Ruth!
Melissa, from the Prairie Dye Studio, makes gorgeous snag-free stitch markers, and she’s written to say that four lucky knitters will choose their favourites from her shop. The lucky helpers are Julie S, Emily W, Michelle C and Amy M.
Almost at the end (the blanket beckons) how about two little gifts for the spinners? Akerworks makes some very nifty things for spinners, including a bobbin for your wheel that packs flat – which now that I think of it, is darned handy. I hope that Kelly Y agrees, because the bobbin of her choice will be on it’s way to her.
They also make a drop spindle that’s pretty nifty. It comes together in parts, and you can add more whorls to make it heavier, which is handy, to say the least, but also – the whorl can be removed – even while you’ve got yarn on there, which, as a travelling spinner, I have to say is also pretty wild. I hope that Lisa K chooses a beautiful one.
Whew! That’s it for today – though I think I’m going to have to pick up the pace on these to get all the way through them before the Rally. (That’s just less than four weeks away. Not that I’m counting every minute.) Thanks so much for everything. I’ve got to knit an edging now. That baby is in a hurry.
“A Siwash Knot” — Charles Suimptken’s and Harriet Quinpitcher’s wedding announcement from Twisp, WA ran as a curio — I know! — in The Ledge (with which is incorporated the Boundary Creek Times), out of Greenwood, BC, on Thursday, September 28, 1911 (Vol. XVIII no. 11), on page 1 in column 4. (It’s reprinted from the Chesaw (WA) News.)
George Banner performed the service, whose vows were given in Chinuk Wawa, “and when assayed in cold type they appear thusly:”
Alia mesika tumtum mesika kwanesum mitlite kopa ikt illahie, pe okook saghalie tyee yaka kumtuks kopa mika waw waw, pe konaway okook tillicum yaka kumtuks, pe mika mamook delate okook kopa mika konaway moxt iskum lami; alta kopa okook Boston law, kopa Washington, nika waw waw mika man pe wife.
Volumes are spoken when you find Chinook published in the local paper with no one bothering to translate it into English. Know what I’m saying? Everyone who mattered understood it already. This claim certainly fits with my understanding that in 1911 the pidgin was only beginning its decline in this particular region. (See my dissertation.) In case any of my readers will benefit, here is my translation:
Now you folks’ heart is that you’ll stay in the same place, and this God hears your words, and all these people hear them, and you’ll make it happen with your joining hands; now by this American law of Washington, I say you’re a man and a wife.
It drives certain people crazy when colorful stuff like this is viewed with an analytical eye, but it would be a disservice to Chinook Jargon studies if I remained tacit about a couple of points:
This here, unlike a lot of what you find written down by white people, is some fluent Jargon as actually spoken.
I wonder if this Jargon was only the end of the service, or if it’s the whole short & sweet justice-of-the-peace treatment. (Been there.)
Alia is a simple typesetter’s error for alta.
…kopa ikt illahie… is a little ambiguous. It could have reasonably been heard as telling this Aboriginal couple to remain on-reserve, thus reinforcing the laws of the day. Ouch.
…yaka kumtuks kopa… is an unusual way of of expressing “he’s listening to”. From experience of Interior WA and BC Jargon I would expect hiyu kumtuks or k’olan as ways of indicating focused attention by a hearer.
…okook tillicum yaka… is straight street Chinook of that region, because it uses yaka in agreement with a plural subject. (See my dissertation.) In other regions, yaka is singular only.
…tillicum yaka kumtuks… for ‘they hear them’ [hear your words] uses the ‘null’, non-pronounced 3rd-person inanimate direct object pronoun. A sign of very good fluency. (See my dissertation.)
…mika mamook … mika … iskum lami…uses the singular ‘you’ mika, which either implies that the same vow (up to the last clause anyway!) was repeated individually to to the bride and the groom, or that George Banner was a white English speaker making a typical CJ grammatical mistake for his kind.
…konaway moxt… is a less common but perfectly clear strategy for saying “both” or “together” (otherwise konamoxt).
…kopa Washington… is also kind of vague because the ceremony was performed in Washington State; in Jargon, Washington of course commonly refers to the federal government.
…wife is transparently a recent English borrowing. As is normal in a case like that, it supplies a more specific synonym for an existing generic — kloochman ‘woman, wife, etc.’
Please let me know when you use these Jargon marriage vows in your actual wedding. Send me the video, I’ll blog it :)
I was on jury duty this week, and the greatest challenge for me was the “David Brooks temptation” to use the experience to expound on the differences in generations and the great changes in culture and character that technology and history have brought.
I did my first tour of duty in the 1970s. Back then you were called for two weeks. Even if you served on a jury, after that trial ended, you went back to the main jury room. If you were lucky, you might be released after a week and a half. Now it’s two days.
What most struck me most this time was the atmosphere in the main room. Now, nobody talks. You’re in a large room with maybe two hundred people, and it’s quieter than a library. Some are reading newspapers or books, but most are on their latops, tablets, and phones. In the 1970s, it wasn’t just that there was no wi-fi, there was no air conditioning. Remember “12 Angry Men”? We’re in the same building. Then, you tried to find others to talk to. Now you try to find a seat near an electric outlet to connect your charger.
I started to feel nostalgic for the old system. People nowadays – all in their own narrow, solipsistic worlds, nearly incapable of ordinary face-to-face sociability. And so on.
But the explanation was much simpler. It was the two-day hitch. In the old system, social ties didn’t grow from strangers seeking out others in the main jury room. It happened when you went to a courtroom for voir dire. You were called down in groups of forty. The judge sketched out the case, and the lawyers interviewed the prospective jurors. From their questions, you learned more about the case, and you learned about your fellow jurors – neighborhood, occupation, family, education, hobbies. You heard what crimes they’d been a victim of. When judge called a break for bathroom or lunch or some legal matter, you could find the people you had something in common with. And you could talk with anyone about the case, trying to guess what the trial would bring. If you weren’t selected for the jury, you went back to the main jury room, and you continued the conversations there. You formed a social circle that others could join.
This time, on my first day, there were only two calls for voir dire, the clerk as bingo-master spinning the drum with the name cards and calling out the names one by one. My second day, there were no calls. And that was it. I went home having had no conversations at all with any of my fellow jurors. (A woman seated behind me did say, “Can you watch my laptop for a second?” when she went to the bathroom, but I don’t count that as a conversation.)
I would love to have written 800 words here on how New York character had changed since the 1970s. No more schmoozing. Instead we have iPads and iPhones and MacBooks destroying New York jury room culture – Apple taking over the Apple. People unable or afraid to talk to one another because of some subtle shift in our morals and manners. Maybe I’d even go for the full Brooks and add a few paragraphs telling you what’s really important in life.
But it was really a change in the structure. New York expanded the jury pool by eliminating most exemptions. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, judges – they all have to show up. As a result, jury service is two days instead of two weeks, and if you actually are called to a trial, once you are rejected for the jury or after the trial is over, you go home.
The old system was sort of like the pre-all-volunteer army. You get called up, and you’re thrown together with many kinds of people you’d never otherwise meet. It takes a chunk of time out of your life, but you wind up with some good stories to tell. Maybe we’ve lost something. But if we have lost valuable experiences, it’s because of a change in the rules, in the structure of how the institution is run, not a because of a change in our culture and character.
“We come against … hatred, oppression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God,” Bree Newsome said, high in the air above the statehouse grounds in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday.
Newsome was arrested — charged with defacing monuments on state capitol grounds — but only after she had climbed all the way to the top of the 30-foot flagpole and removed the state’s Confederate battle flag, which was affixed there by legislative decree in celebration of the state’s heritage of treason in defense of slavery.
The words Newsome recites as she descends the pole to surrender to the waiting police are from Psalm 27. If you’re a church-going evangelical, you’re probably familiar with the words of this Psalm, which have often been incorporated in praise choruses, hymns and “CCM” worship songs. But forget all of those.
Put those songs out of your head and re-encounter the words of this Psalm afresh through the lens of Newsome’s prophetic sermon and her vivid exegesis and exposition of the text:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
Bree Newsome preaches a sermon on the 27th Psalm in Columbia, South Carolina. (Reuters Media Express/Adam Anderson Photos pic snurched from Vox.)
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
The next three months are going to be really, really, really busy for me. I'm working on two comics, of course. I'm also finishing up the next QC book. I've ALSO got a big exciting family event and the biggest convention of the year (GenCon) within days of each other at the end of July. I'm ALSO working on moving to Canada in the fall! That is a VERY COMPLEX PROCESS. And once I'm ready to move I have to pack all my stuff and get it shipped up and all SORTS of other insanely complicated things. There is more stuff going on as well but those are the big important time-consuming things.
So basically I have a lot going on, a lot more than I usually do, and if I miss a comic update here or there I would appreciate your patience and understanding. My hope is that I WON'T miss any updates, but I am trying to be realistic about everything I have to accomplish in the next couple months. QC is and will remain my first priority, and I will do my best (as always) to update on schedule. I appreciate your support and understanding.
Man I used to write about my personal life ALL THE TIME here and now it just feels super weird. I guess that is what twitter is for.
No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. (Yet the Lord your God refused to heed Balaam; the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you.)
You shall never promote their welfare or their prosperity as long as you live.
One of the first newspapers in Washington Territory was the Seattle Weekly Gazette. For the benefit of new arrivals, its volume 1, number 25 (August 6th, 1864) carries a Chinook Jargon vocabulary on page 4, occupying columns 2 and 3.
Spoiler alert! It’s a ripoff. But that’s only typical, for the early literature on Chinuk Wawa.
There’s also plenty in it that came from the “Blanchet” dictionary, which we really ought to go ahead and attribute to its Portland publisher, the Irish immigrant and sometime mayor S.J. McCormick, because — like J.K. Gill’s later massively reprinted opus — it’s a pastiche of cumulated additions from many sources, none of which suggest Father Blanchet‘s involvement. (Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation goes into hayudetails about this question on pages 69ff.)
A huge clue that McCormick’s book is a major source for the Seattle article is the latter’s disclaimer about not possessing the proper typeface to show accents in words — because McCormick sprinkles accent marks, sometimes multiple times per word, like Rip Taylor uses confetti.
Let me make a side note for any readers who may be heading into Chinook Jargon research: The McCormick dictionary has not yet been deeply analyzed. Quite a number of its entries are absent, for example, from S.V. Johnson’s monumental dissertation that I mentioned, such as elamí ‘alms‘ in the English to Chinook section only. (Take note, this is super-frequent in old CJ dictionaries; if you don’t find the word you want under an English translation, try the listing by Jargon word instead.) I also notice coory for ‘run’, which matches the pronunciation preserved at Grand Ronde but in few other locales.
You’ll need to click over to view the full vocabulary at legible size. It’s a fun way to spend an hour with your iced coffee, and this weekend with the Northwest’s record high temperatures, that’a a highly recommended idea. Stay cool, Cascadians.
From helmets, to hairstyles, to high heels, style over the centuries is about so much more than function. This week we are taking a look at some intriguing reads about style history, quite literally from head to toe.
Head over Heels
As history buffs we are quite familiar with the work of archaeologists, but what about a hairdo archaeologist? Janet Stephens, a hairdresser, found herself taking this unusual path when she became enamored with images of intricate ancient Greek and Roman hairstyles. Other experts believed these must be wigs, but Janet used her research, both historical and practical to show that these elaborate hairstyles were possible with a person’s hair when using a sewing technique. Read all about the fascinating research journey of this hairdresser turned published historian. You can even watch some of Janet’s YouTube videos that show how she recreates the ancient hairstyles, like this one featuring the hair of Rome’s Vestal Virgins.
Women may have adorned their heads with intricate hairstyles for centuries, but men also adorned their heads: with helmets. More than just functional, Ancient and Medieval helmets were also a beautiful expression of culture. From simple and functional to elaborately carved, a recent article aptly titled A Head for War gives us a look at some of the most impressive head protection. My personal favorite is the Mycenaean helmet made entirely of boar’s tusk (pictured left), but the Murmillo Gladiator helmet embossed with battle scenes is also a sight to behold.
The Agony of Being Well-heeled
Like the helmet, shoes were conceived as a way to protect fragile human bodies, in this case the feet. Over the time this form of protection actually inflicted more pain in the name of style. In “The History of Shoes Has Been Frivolous, Ridiculous and Extreme” we learn about the lengths, or rather heights, people will go to for the sake of fashionable feet. The article highlights some of the more extreme shoes men and women have subjected their feet to, including the chopine a 16th century Venetian platform, that isn’t too different from many platform shoes seen on the runways today (pictured right).
How NASA Broke The Gender Barrier In STEM | Fast Company (June 23): “The convergence of open data and female leadership has the potential to challenge traditional decision making across sectors and facilitate more data-driven and collaborative approaches in creating new ventures and solving problems. Datanauts was born out of NASA’s open-data priorities as a means to bring more women to the open-data table. While the program is intended for women and men, the founding class is made up entirely of women to encourage other female techies and makers to take the “data leap,” as Beth Beck, Open Innovation program manager at NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, calls it. Future classes will include men.”
Fuck the Internet Shame Spiral | Gizmodo (June 23): “Once the tone police arrive, we’re no longer talking about how disturbing it is that one of the top scientists in the world thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to work in labs because he might fall in love with them. Instead, we’re talking about whether it’s appropriate for women to mock his comments by posting pictures of themselves on Instagram.”
I’m a female scientist, and I agree with Tim Hunt. | Medium (June 14): “Science is based on observations, which are the same thing as universal proof. Even I know that, and I’m just a woman whose brain is filled to capacity with yoga poses and recipes for gluten-free organic soap. Once, I was lured into a trap in the woods because I followed a trail of Sex and the City DVDs for three miles into a covered pit. Do you really think I could do something as complicated as thinking about science?”
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, a historic culmination of two decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay rights generally.
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage. …
The states affected by Friday’s ruling are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Here’s the updated marriage map:
And here’s the giddy, joyous song that’s now playing in my head:
My great-grandma would put a few drops of turpentine on a sugar cube as a cure-all for any type of cough or respiratory ailment. Nobody in the family ever had any obvious negative effects from it as far as I know. And once when I had a sinus infection my grandma suggested that I try gargling kerosene. I decided to go to the doctor for antibiotics instead, but most of my relatives thought that was a perfectly legitimate suggestion.
In the not-so-recent history, lots of substances we consider unhealthy today were marketed and sold for their supposed health benefits. Joe A. of Human Rights Watch sent in these images of vintage products that openly advertised that they contained cocaine or heroin. Perhaps you would like some Bayer Heroin?
This alcohol and opium concoction was for treating asthma:
Cocaine drops for the kids:
This product, made up of 46% alcohol mixed with opium, was for all ages; on the back it includes dosages for as young as five days:
A reader named Louise sent in a recipe from her great-grandma’s cookbook. Her great-grandmother was a cook at a country house in England. The recipe is dated 1891 and calls for “tincture of opium”:
The recipe from the lower half of the right-hand page (with original spellings):
Hethys recipe for cough mixture
1 pennyworth of each
Tincture of opium
Oil of aniseed
Essence of peppermint
1/2lb best treacle
Well mix and make up to Pint with water.
As Joe says, it’s no secret that products with cocaine, marijuana, opium, and other now-banned substances were at one time sold openly, often as medicines. The changes in attitudes toward these products, from entirely acceptable and even beneficial to inherently harmful and addicting, is a great example of social construction. While certainly opium and cocaine have negative effects on some people, so do other substances that remained legal (or were re-legalized, in the case of alcohol).
Often racist and anti-immigrant sentiment played a role in changing views of what are now illegal controlled substances; for instance, the association of opium with Chinese immigrants contributed to increasingly negative attitudes toward it as anything associated with Chinese immigrants was stigmatized, particularly in the western U.S. This combined with a push by social reformers to prohibit a variety of substances, leading to the Harrison Narcotic Act. The act, passed in 1914, regulated production and distribution of opium but, in its application, eventually basically criminalized it.
Reformers pushing for cocaine to be banned suggested that its effects led Black men to rape White women, and that it gave them nearly super-human strength that allowed them to kill Whites more effectively. A similar argument was made about Mexicans and marijuana:
A Texas police captain summed up the problem: under marijuana, Mexicans became “very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear, I have also noted that under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and that it will take several men to handle one man while under ordinary circumstances one man could handle him with ease.”
So the story of the criminalization of some substances in the U.S. is inextricably tied to various waves of anti-immigrant and racist sentiment. Some of the same discourse–the “super criminal” who is impervious to pain and therefore especially violent and dangerous, the addicted mother who harms and even abandons her child to prostitute herself as a way to get drugs–resurfaced as crack cocaine emerged in the 1980s and was perceived as the drug of choice of African Americans.
Originally posted in 2010.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Two things happen over these few page of the book. The surface-level thing is that Buck Williams talks to a customer service agent in the airline club and she helps him to charter a private flight to New York City.
Suddenly it was Buck’s turn at the counter. He gathered up his extension cord and thanked the young woman for bearing with him. “Sorry about that,” he said, pausing briefly for forgiveness that was not forthcoming. “It’s just that today, of all days, well, you understand.”
Apparently she did not understand. She’d had a rough day, too. She looked at him tolerantly and said, “What can I not do for you?”
“Oh, you mean because I did not do something you asked?”
“No,” she said. “I’m saying that to everybody. It’s my little joke because there’s really nothing I can do for anybody. No flights are scheduled today. The airport is going to close any minute. …”
Both Buck and the woman at the PanCon counter eventually recover their cheer and their charm and wind up having a fairly friendly conversation that results in the woman helping Buck find a charter pilot.
To appreciate the other dynamic at work in these pages, though, we need to step back and reconsider the backdrop for this flirty exchange of banter.
Taken in isolation, this is an unremarkable bit of conversation. The airport is completely shut down, so both Buck and the woman are a bit cross, a bit wearied by the inconvenience and the extra work that this shutdown entails for them. Yet despite this inconvenience, each is able to summon enough pluck to be civil and even cheerful. We’ve all faced unavoidable travel delays and we can all relate to how frustrating they can be.
The good cheer demonstrated by Buck and the PanCon woman might be seen as exemplary if the airport’s paralysis were the result of a freak snowstorm, or a power outage, or a computer glitch. Their glib, these-things-happen, whatchagonnado? playfulness might constitute a healthy attitude in such a situation.
But that’s not what’s going on here. That’s not why Buck and the PanCon woman are having a “rough day.”
The airport is shutting down, to their inconvenience, because of a fatal plane crash. That alone makes their conversation seem inappropriate and self-centered. That alone should be enough to cause the next person in line to interrupt with something like, “Gee, I’m sorry you’re having such a rough day and this is all so inconvenient for you, but think of that poor bastard who crashed his Piper Cub out there on the runway. Think of his family and how they must feel …”
But the tragedy shutting down the airport doesn’t involve just the death of one person in a small plane. It involves dozens of crashes on the runway. Dozens of crashes of giant passenger planes carrying hundreds of people. The death toll there at O’Hare could easily surpass 1,000. And, by the way, the same thing has happened at every airport, everywhere in the world. Tens of thousands are dead. Thousands more are injured, many of them still lying, untended, on the runways outside the windows of the PanCon Club where Buck and the woman are chatting.
Oh yes, and the children are gone. Everyone’s children. All of them. Just … gone. Without explanation.
That’s the background here. That’s the setting that LaHaye and Jenkins have created. It’s one of the most awful and awesome panoramas of human suffering ever imagined in a work of fiction. But the audacity of the wholesale suffering that L&J imagine is dwarfed by the greater audacity of their wholly disregarding the very scenario they have presented. The authors and their protagonists seem wholly unperturbed by all of this death and destruction, save in how it presents a logistical inconvenience and cramps the travel plans of our heroes.
Given this context, Buck and the PanCon woman cannot be described as merely playfully glib. Their glibness — their self-centered obsession with their own inconvenience — is monstrous, psychopathic.
I wish I could read this as a sly, intentional message of the book. I wish L&J were here trying to convey that our left-behind, and therefore unredeemed, protagonists are unreliable narrators whose unregenerate, sinful natures make them wholly incapable of basic human empathy or sympathy and the instinctive desire to help in time of tragedy.
But there’s no indication that this is what’s going on. Just as we are intended to believe that, despite his profoundly dense incuriosity, Buck Williams is the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time –
“I wanted to get into journalism,” the woman tells Buck. “I studied it in college.”
“If you really want to be a journalist,” he does not say in reply, “then why are you sitting here behind a desk that might as well be closed instead of getting your butt out there, on the other side of that window, where the biggest story in human history is unfolding even as we speak?” He does not say this because it never occurs to him.
– Likewise, despite his utter lack of courage and his unwillingness to help others in crisis, we are intended to believe that Buck is a good guy and a genuinely noble protagonist.
• Perhaps you’ve started watching season 2 of True Detective and you are, maybe, wondering if you’re quite prepared for a full season of this much intense, cinematic brooding by flawed, haunted protagonists.
Allow me to recommend a tonic/alternative: Terriers is streaming on Netflix. This one-season-wonder was the lowest-rated show in the history of the FX channel. But it was terrific.
The character-driven, surf-noir Terriers could be seen as a laid-back cousin to the new season of True Detective. It offers everything HBO’s prestige show has, but with more schlubby charm: Seedy underbelly of Southern California as setting for Chinatown-type grand conspiracy? Check. Divorced, alcoholic, self-loathing anti-hero as protagonist? Check. A self-deprecating sense of dark humor and a bulldog named Winston? Check.
“No, man, YOU’RE a flat circle.”
Those last two are things Terriers has that True Detective, so far, seems to lack. I think the HBO series would benefit from a dash of dark humor and/or a bulldog named Winston. But then, on True Detective, it would probably turn into a bulldog smoking Winstons, in a dimly lit bar, French inhaling in slow motion while staring into the existential abyss.
I like both shows because I like stories that give us something to ponder. But I prefer when they can do that without becoming ponderous.
• Darrell Dow shares a survey question used by fundamentalist author David Cloud for his book on “modesty,” Dressing for the Lord. Cloud asked fundie men to tell him:
“In your opinion, which of the following items of female dress cause a real potential for lust?”
long skirts with slits to the knees
low cut blouses and dresses
one piece bathing suits
We should treat this as found poetry. I would very much like to hear this poem recited, or perhaps even set to music, by Tom Waits.
(To understand Cloud’s survey and the modesty culture it advocates, just read that phrase “a real potential for lust” in the skeeviest, lip-lickingly moist way imaginable.)
• Since I’ve already mentioned Netflix and Terriers in this post, let’s put those two things together again and say this: Netflix should bring back Terriers for a second season of new episodes. Or Hulu, or Amazon, or Yahoo! or any of the other streaming services now bringing us original content and original series.
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* Initially, I was thinking of Franklin Graham, but instead I’ve decided this should be an audience-participation, fill-in-the-blank joke. It’s non-specific enough to work for almost anyone who seems to have difficulty distinguishing between their head and their hindquarters, or between their mouth and the orifice they sit on. But it’s only really funny if we punch up — filling in that blank with the name of some powerful butthead who uses their power to kick down at the powerless.
Katie: Still Pregnant, and hopefully fixing to stay that way.
Number of stitches on the needle: Approximately 850. I’m not counting those wee bastards again.
Number of skeins so far: 5 and 3/4
Number of skeins remaining: A rather comforting 4 and a quarter.
Number of rounds to knit before I start the edging: Zero! I actually should have started the edging last night, but suffered a crisis of faith in the edging I chose, and had to pick another. The one I really liked was worked close, that means that there’s lace patterning every row, and I started it, realized that it took all of my focus to do it, and was really, really slow, and imagined my future, and got promptly off the one way trip to crazyville. I chose another, but it was charted in the wrong direction, so I spend some time figuring out how to photograph the chart, flip it in my photo software, convert it into a pdf, and get it into my ipad where I can use it.
Number of foul words used while figuring that out: Approximately 346.
Number of repeats I have to work to edge the blanket: About sixty – plus whatever fancypants manoeuvre I’ll figure out to get round the corners. (I’ll have it figured by the time I get there, I think.)
Attitude of knitter: Less excellent, but I think I can fake it. (Would someone please go to the beer store?)
The governors of Virginia and South Carolina have now taken stands against the Confederate battle flag. So have honchos at Wal*Mart, Sears, Target, and NASCAR.
NASCAR! How could this cascade of reversals have happened so rapidly? Did these important people wake up one morning this week and say to themselves, “Gee, I never realized that there was anything racist about the Confederacy, and never realized that there was anything wrong with racism, till that kid killed nine Black people in a church”?
My guess is that what’s going on is not a sudden enlightenment or even much of a change in views about the flag. To me it looks more like the process of “pluralistic ignorance.” What these people changed was not their ideas about the Confederacy or racism but their ideas about other people’s ideas about these matters. With pluralistic ignorance (a term coined by Floyd Allport nearly a century ago) everyone wants X but thinks that nobody else does. Then some outside factor makes it possible for people to choose X, and everyone does. Everyone is surprised – “Gee, I thought all you guys wanted Y, not X .” It looks like a rapid change in opinion, but it’s not.
A few years ago in places like Ireland and Europe, people were surprised at the success of new laws banning smoking in pubs and restaurants. “Oh, the smokers will never stand for it.” But it turned out that the smokers, too, were quite happy to have rooms with breathable air. It’s just that before the laws were passed, nobody knew that’s how other people felt because those people kept smoking.
The same thing happened when New York City passed a pooper-scooper law. “The law is unenforceable,” people said. “Cops will never see the actual violation, only its aftermath. And do you really think that those selfish New Yorkers will sacrifice their own convenience for some vague public good?” But the law was remarkably effective. As I said in this post from 2009:
Even before the new law, dog owners had probably thought that cleaning up after their dogs was the right thing to do, but since everyone else was leaving the stuff on the sidewalk, nobody wanted to be the only schmuck in New York to be picking up dog shit. In the same way that the no-smoking laws worked because smokers wanted to quit, the dog law in New York worked because dog owners really did agree that they should be cleaning up after their dogs. But prior to the law, none of them would speak or act on that idea.
In South Carolina and Georgia and Bentonville, Arkansas and elsehwere, the governors and the CEOs surely knew that the Confederacy was based on racist slavery; they just rarely thought about it. And if the matter did come up, as with the recent Supreme Court decision about license plates, they probably assumed that most of their constituents and customers were happy with the flag and that the anti-flaggers were a cranky minority.
With the support for letting that flag fade into history, it looks as though for a while now many Southerners may have been uncomfortable with the blatant racism of the Confederacy and the post-Reconstruction era. But because nobody voiced that discomfort, everyone thought that other Southerners still clung to the old mentality. The murders in the Charleston church and the subsequent discussions about retiring the flag may have allowed Southerners to discover that their neighbors shared their misgivings about the old racism. And it allowed the retail giants to see that they weren’t going to lose a lot of money by not stocking the flag.
At Versailles, not only the Queen, but princesses of the royal blood were required to give birth in public. Why? To prevent any substitution of the infant in case he was destined to reign. I say “he” by design, because France’s unwritten constitution prevented women to step unto the throne in their own right, though they could, and often did govern the Kingdom as Regents.
Marie-Antoinette’s First Laying In
In the case of Marie-Antoinette, her first laying-in was all the more eagerly awaited that she had been married for eight years without presenting her husband with an heir. For a Queen, this was a glaring failure. Her sister-in-law, the Comtesse d’Artois, married to the King’s youngest brother, had already been delivered of two healthy little boys. Marie-Antoinette had attended the deliveries, as required by the etiquette, and deeply felt the political and personal humiliation of her own childlessness.
Now at long last she herself was pregnant. The stakes could not be higher: if the child were stillborn, or a girl, the heir to the throne would remain the Comte de Provence, another brother of Louis XVI. The Comte de Provence was cunning, ambitious, and probably the most dangerous enemy of the royal couple. Every year that passed without Marie-Antoinette giving birth to a Dauphin brought him closer to the throne (to which he would eventually ascend, decades later, under the name of Louis XVIII.)
Let us listen to what Madame Campan, First Chambermaid to Marie-Antoinette, tells us in her irreplaceable Memoirs: “The Queen’s laying-in approached; Te Deums were sung and prayers offered up in all the cathedrals. On December 11, 1778, the royal family, the Princes of the royal blood, and the Great Officers of State spent the night in the rooms adjoining the Queen’s Bedchamber.” This, by the way, was days ahead of time because the child would not be born until the 19th of December.
Finally, before noon, it became certain that the birth was imminent. “The etiquette,” continues Madame Campan, “allowing all persons indiscriminately to enter at the moment of the delivery of a queen was observed with such exaggeration that when the obstetrician said aloud: “The Queen is going to give birth!” the persons who poured into the chamber were so numerous that the rush nearly killed the Queen. During the night the King had taken the precaution to have the enormous tapestry screens which surrounded Her Majesty’s bed secured with cords; but for this they certainly would have been thrown down upon her. It was impossible to move about the chamber, which was filled with so motley a crowd that one might have fancied himself in some place of public amusement. Two chimney-sweeps climbed upon the furniture for a better sight of the Queen.”
Marie-Antoinette fainted. Was it simply pain? The body heat created by the crowd packed in the bechamber? The feeling of being exposed to strange eyes in a circus scene? Or the pressure to give birth to a boy? Apparently Marie-Antoinette and her friend the Princesse de Lamballe, Head of the Queen’s Household and member of the royal family, had agreed on a sign the Princesse would make to inform Marie-Antoinette of the child’s gender as soon as it became apparent. Normally that announcement would have been made more formally minutes later, and Marie-Antoinette wanted to know right away. And the child turned out to be a girl! Maybe the disappointment was enough to make the Queen lose consciousness.
The obstetrician decided that the patient needed to be bled (indeed what patient wasn’t in need of a good bloodletting in the 18th century?). More sensibly by modern standards, he called for the windows to be opened wide.
The King sprung to action. The windows had been stopped up (Versailles has always been notoriously drafty) and he rushed to force them open. Let us not forget that Louis XVI was a man of unusual height and strength.
The Court’s head surgeon then seized his lancet and bled the Queen. Whether thanks to his ministrations or more likely the rush of fresh air in the stifling room, she opened her eyes. At this moment the Princesse de Lamballe, who was much given to what was then called “nervous spasms,” added to the general confusion by fainting herself. She had to be carried through the crowd “in a state of insensibility.” Only then was it deemed necessary to empty the room of all idle onlookers. “The valets,” writes Madame Campan, “dragged out by the collar such inconsiderate persons as would not leave the room.”
“This cruel custom,” continues Madame Campan, “was abolished afterwards. The Princes of the family, the Princes of the blood, the Chancellor, and the ministers are surely sufficient to attest the legitimacy of a prince.”
Certainly it was an improvement, but that still left a few dozen people to attend every royal birth…
Catherine Delors is author of Mistress of the Revolution. She also keeps a fascinating blog on all things royal during the eighteenth century.
This post first appeared on Wonders & Marvels in March 2009.
Thank you, everyone who weighed in on the chicken thing!
I did not realize that they would prove so popular, or that so many of you were interested in owning one of my originals (even the wee ones.) I suppose I don't make many originals any more, but if people are enthusiastic about ACEO chickens (and worried birds, and at least one confused sheep) then I will have to do more in the future. (I did a couple more during D&D the other night, anyway.)
I'll take 'em to the con for $18 or $20, put a few in the art show as requested (and yes, there will be Game of Chickens mini-prints) and see about selling them occasionally on the internet if people are that interested.
There’s a revealing parenthetical aside in Al Mohler’s “The Heresy of Racial Superiority — Confronting the Past, and Confronting the Truth.” Mohler is trying to do two things at once, and he’s not quite sure he can do both. He wants to denounce “the heresy of racial superiority” as a heresy, but he also wants to say that the Southern Baptist Founding Fathers who espoused this heresy should not be dismissed as heretics.
The title page of Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies” (via Wikipedia).
In general, I’m inclined to go along with that fine distinction. I believe that no Christian has ever had the full and final ideal of perfect orthodoxy in all things. I believe that everyone’s theology is problematic, partial, and riddled with error. But that’s far easier for me to say, since unlike Al Mohler I haven’t built my entire career on the claim of being a stalwart defender of the One, True Orthodoxy against the onslaught of squishy liberals, modernists, post-modernists, and all of the other barbarians at the gate.
My understanding of “heresy” is also, in a sense, more Calvinist than Mohler’s — at least in the way that Mohler describes and ascribes this particular heresy among his Southern Baptist ancestors. In his view, the “heresy of [white] superiority” is a kind of appendage of error — a distinct extra thing that doesn’t belong. It is a tumor that hasn’t metastasized and can safely be excised without damaging or disturbing any of the surrounding tissue or any of the other systems in the body. But that’s not how sin and error work. They tend to be pervasive — metastasizing and infecting the whole. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. This is one of the profound insights of Mohler’s own Reformed tradition.
Yet here, somewhat understandably, Mohler seems to argue for something other than “total” depravity. This particular sin and heresy, he wants to say, can be extracted and removed without having to alter our understanding of anything else. In this case, he suggests, we can unleaven the whole loaf of bread.
Which brings us to that little side comment in Mohler’s post:
And now the hardest part. Were the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary heretics?
They defended all the doctrines they believed were central and essential to the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible and as affirmed throughout the history of the church. They sought to defend Baptist orthodoxy in an age already tiring of orthodoxy. They would never have imagined themselves as heretics, and in one sense they certainly were not. Nor, we should add, was Martin Luther a heretic, even as he expressed a horrifying anti-semitism.
Protestant Christians today still revere much of Martin Luther’s theology, even as we (mostly) reject his truly vicious anti-Semitism. Mohler is arguing, or perhaps simply hoping, that we can do the same with Boyce and Broadus and Manly — preserving and venerating most of their theology while rejecting their white supremacy as an unfortunate, unnecessary, tangent.
But I don’t think the example of Martin Luther argues in the direction that Mohler thinks it does.
It seems simple enough to regard Luther’s theology like a dim sum buffet. We’ll keep this, but not that. We’ll embrace his doctrine of justification by faith alone but reject his suggestions about burning Jewish schools and synagogues or prohibiting rabbis to teach. The former is a Good Idea and the latter is a Bad Idea, so we take the one but not the other. Easy peasy.
Alas, though, these two things are not quite as distinct and easy to separate as we might like to think. It turns out that Luther’s idea of justification by faith alone informed his anti-Semitism and, at the same time, that anti-Semitism informed his doctrine of sola fide. Both were tangled up with, among other things, Luther’s misunderstanding of the first-century Judaism of Saul of Tarsus and thus of his misunderstanding of the theology he taught after becoming the Apostle Paul. Untangling all of that turns out to be a very complicated business. It is no simple matter to reconstruct a “pure” theology of Martin Luther minus the anti-Semitism.
Likewise, it is no simple matter to reconstruct, or to abstract, a “pure” Southern Baptist theology minus the white supremacy.
Christian faith grew from spoiled soil, from a way of reading Scripture and understanding ourselves as followers of Jesus that was distorted almost from the beginning. This first aspect of racial faith emerged from forgetting that we were Gentiles. Christian belief in God begins with the astounding claim that we have met God in a Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth, a vagabond rabbi who came not to us but to his own people, Israel. The “us” in that sentence is Gentiles, those not of Israel, those not Jewish. And by Jewish I mean (generally speaking) all those inside the history of Israel, who would identify themselves, theologically or ethnically, inside that history.
We Gentiles were outsiders to Israel. We were at the margins. So our engagement with Jesus was engagement from the margins, not from the center of power or privilege. In fact, anyone in Israel who connected themselves to Jesus moved to the margins. They became what theologian Shawn Copeland calls “a thinking margin.” Thinking from the margin is thinking from the site where one can see the operations of power and oppression and spy out the possibilities of freedom. To be a thinking margin means that one always claims the identity of one who others didn’t imagine would be included and one who never forgets the feeling of being the outsider who was included by grace.
Somewhere, probably in many places and many times, Gentile Christians got tired of remembering that they were a thinking margin that had been included in Israel’s promise. They decided — we decided — that those who followed Jesus were the only people of God and that Jewish people, Israel in the flesh, were no longer the people of God. We also decided that we should look at the world as though we were at the center of it and not at the margins with a Jew named Jesus. We forgot we were Gentiles, the real heathens. A Christian world was turned upside down and remade in our image.
Jennings’ prescription is implicit in his diagnosis. He doesn’t tell us how to separate a pure, abstract orthodoxy from the contaminants of heresy. He doesn’t tell us how to separate the loaf of our traditions from the leaven of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. He doesn’t tell us what to keep and what to discard, or what to think or what to believe or what to affirm. He tells us where to go.
Go to the margins. Start there. Not here.
This is, again, what Daniel José Camacho is getting at when he writes, per James Cone, “The black church that the white theological builders had rejected was actually the hermeneutical cornerstone for properly understanding God and Jesus.”
It’s there, on the margins, that we’ll find those who are getting it right when those at the center of power or privilege are getting it wrong. Go to a church on the far side of Boundary Street and you’ll encounter a Christianity that got right everything that Boyce and Broadus got wrong.
I want to sing Jacques Brel and read you a passage of lesbian steampunk romance adventure from my forthcoming novel, Everfair. All you have to do is show up at Gay City in Seattle on Thursday, July 2, 7 p.m. and listen.
The problem with Al Mohler’s attempt to grapple with the white supremacy of his Southern Baptist heroes can be seen in the title of his post: “The Heresy of Racial Superiority — Confronting the Past, and Confronting the Truth.” There, and throughout his essay, Mohler cannot quite bring himself to confront the whole truth by describing that heresy more precisely. The sin and theological error in question is not simply “racial superiority,” but specifically white superiority.
This problem pervades and limits Mohler’s entire discussion. He seems oblivious to the whiteness of white things.
Thus, for example, Mohler writes this:
More humbling still is the fact that many churches, churchmen, and theologians gave sanction to that ideology of racial superiority. While this was true throughout the southern churches, Southern Baptists bear a particular responsibility and burden of history. The Southern Baptist Convention was not only founded by slaveholders; it was founded by men who held to an ideology of racial superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous theological argument.
Rather than writing this:
More humbling still is the fact that many white churches, white churchmen, and white theologians gave sanction to that ideology of white superiority. While this was true throughout the white southern churches, white Southern Baptists bear a particular responsibility and burden of history. The Southern Baptist Convention was not only founded by white slaveholders; it was founded by white men who held to an ideology of white superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous white theological argument.
This proves to be immensely important later in Mohler’s essay, when he writes this:
I gladly stand with the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in their courageous affirmation of biblical orthodoxy, Baptist beliefs, and missionary zeal.
As we’ve just seen, this is not precisely true. Which is to say that it is precisely not true.
The founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary did not affirm biblical orthodoxy, Baptist beliefs, and missionary zeal. They affirmed white biblical orthodoxy, white Baptist beliefs, and white missionary zeal. Like Mohler, these 19th-century white Baptists did not perceive any distinction between those things. They saw no difference between “biblical orthodoxy” and white biblical orthodoxy, and thus were unable to perceive or conceive of any way the latter might not live up to the former.
It’s a picture of a cow eating grass. And also a picture of Southern Baptist orthodoxy.
This blindness is conveyed by the title those 19th-century white Baptist founders gave to the core theological statement they bequeathed to Mohler and all their other white Southern Baptist heirs. It’s called the “Abstract of Principles.”
The oblivious precision of that title is almost beautiful. It perfectly captures the unwitting arrogance of their claim to be wholly abstracted from their circumstance, their culture, their ignorance and assumptions.
Here is the step that Al Mohler cannot take and cannot imagine. He has — commendably — acknowledged the whiteness of the “ideology of racial superiority” passed down to him by Boyce and Broadus and Manly and all those other white patriarchs of his white Baptist tradition. And he has — also commendably — recognized that “one cannot simultaneously hold to an ideology of racial superiority and rightly present the gospel of Jesus Christ.” But he cannot or will not face the whiteness of the understanding of “the gospel of Jesus Christ” that was also passed down to him by those same white forbears.
Mohler can see the white supremacist ideology at work when Boyce and Broadus enlisted as chaplains in the Confederate army defending slavery. He can see that ideology at work in Manly’s whipping of his slaves. But he cannot concede that the same ideology might have been at work in their understanding and articulation of their theological Abstract of Principles.
That Abstract, Mohler wants to say, is exactly that — abstract. It is a Platonic ideal of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” in no way influenced or infected with any of the particularities, sins, injustices, biases, errors or blindnesses of the white men who composed its formula.
The Abstract of Principles is a good tree, Mohler insists. The bad fruit must’ve come from somewhere else.
That claim is implausible. But it would be even more disturbing if it were believable. Understand what that would mean. If the formulation of “biblical orthodoxy” of Boyce, et. al., were something both correct and wholly distinct from their ideology of white supremacy, then we would have to conclude that right and proper biblical orthodoxy is wholly impotent and irrelevant. We would have to conclude that such perfect orthodoxy could do nothing to preserve us from the prevailing sins of our culture or age; that it can never compete with personal bias or personal preference or economic convenience; that it bears no relation at all to any form of orthopraxy.
That is not, as Mohler imagines, an argument in defense of traditional Southern Baptist theology. It is an argument against the first epistle of John. It is an argument that says the principles of religion are so very abstract that they mean nothing.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
To Mohler’s credit, he genuinely seems to be trying to do that — to confront the past and the truth, and what it means for him and his institution to be carrying on the legacy of men he acknowledges were, undeniably, white supremacists. He’s not just whistling Dixie here. Mohler takes a (mostly*) forthright look at the reality of his conservative Southern Baptist heroes of the past and attempts to being grappling with what it means that they were so thoroughly, enthusiastically, sinfully wrong on a matter of great and central importance.
Here’s the heart of Mohler’s post:
More humbling still is the fact that many churches, churchmen, and theologians gave sanction to that ideology of racial superiority. While this was true throughout the southern churches, Southern Baptists bear a particular responsibility and burden of history. The Southern Baptist Convention was not only founded by slaveholders; it was founded by men who held to an ideology of racial superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous theological argument. …
I gladly stand with the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in their courageous affirmation of biblical orthodoxy, Baptist beliefs, and missionary zeal. There would be no Southern Baptist Convention and there would be no Southern Seminary without them. James P. Boyce and Basil Manly, Jr. and John A. Broadus were titans of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
But there is more to the story. Boyce and Broadus were chaplains in the Confederate army. The founders of the SBC and of Southern Seminary were racist defenders of slavery. Just a few months ago I was reading a history of Greenville, South Carolina when I came across a racist statement made by James P. Boyce, my ultimate predecessor as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was so striking that I had to find a chair. This, too, is our story.
These are the 19th-century Founding Fathers of Mohler’s seminary and his denomination. For more than 20 years, Mohler has devoted himself to reshaping that seminary and that denomination in their image. These are the men who wrote the “Abstract of Principles” that Al Mohler used as a cudgel when he became president of Southern Seminary in 1993, casting out the supposedly “liberal” and “moderate” faculty and explicitly, forcibly aligning the school with the theology of Boyce, Broadus and Manly.
So I appreciate the candor and courage of what Mohler is attempting to do here. He’s basically the president of the Boyce and Broadus Fan Club, and he doesn’t wish to step down from that post. His own legacy is defined by and inextricably linked to the legacy of the very men he here condemns as “heretics.”
He pulls that punch, a bit, at the end, with a technical argument about charges of heresy requiring that the heretic be personally “confronted” with the charge. But it doesn’t seem like he expects this technical defense to convince anyone else any more than it seems to convince himself. He sees the core problem, and seems to realize that it is a fundamental problem for fundamentalists like himself:
And now the hardest part. Were the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary heretics?
They defended all the doctrines they believed were central and essential to the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible and as affirmed throughout the history of the church. They sought to defend Baptist orthodoxy in an age already tiring of orthodoxy. …
But I would argue that racial superiority in any form, and white superiority as the central issue of our concern, is a heresy. The separation of human beings into ranks of superiority and inferiority differentiated by skin color is a direct assault upon the doctrine of Creation and an insult to the imago Dei — the image of God in which every human being is made. Racial superiority is also directly subversive of the gospel of Christ, effectively reducing the power of his substitutionary atonement and undermining the faithful preaching of the gospel to all persons and to all nations.
To put the matter plainly, one cannot simultaneously hold to an ideology of racial superiority and rightly present the gospel of Jesus Christ. One cannot hold to racial superiority and simultaneously defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Readers of this blog know that I bear little affection or respect for R. Albert Mohler Jr. But I respect this statement and the attempt he seems to be genuinely beginning here.
We’ll come back to this in more detail, but I don’t think Mohler yet recognizes the full scope of what it means when he says, correctly, that “one cannot simultaneously hold to an ideology of racial superiority and rightly present the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The truth of that depends on a deeper understanding of both of those things, and I don’t think Mohler recognizes the full scope of either one — neither the “ideology of [white] superiority” nor “the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
One cannot properly understand Cone’s claims about Black Power and God being black without understanding how Christianity got wrapped up with White Power in the first place — and made God white.
Cone’s project is not simply about experience but is a direct assault on theology’s entanglement with white racism. Cone was critiquing whiteness before virtually anyone in the theological academy realized what it was or the fact that it was a problem.
… How was it that the black church went ignored so long? Cone rethought U.S. church history by seeing it in light of the crucified. The black church that the white theological builders had rejected was actually the hermeneutical cornerstone for properly understanding God and Jesus.
… Some have juked Cone’s theological critique by blaming the problem on ethics. In other words, “Orthodox” theology is faultless but has been at times simply misapplied or not faithfully lived out. These critics say we should be sympathetic to Cone’s passion but reject his answers as “unbiblical and untenable.” But part of Cone’s brilliance was to avoid such an unhealthy disconnect between theology and ethics. If Cone is right (and I think he is), then we can’t keep using the master’s theological tools as they are to dismantle his church. If the theological well keeps yielding poison, we need to question that well and remember that God is the source of life.
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* Mostly. He flinches a few times in this piece and occasionally lapses into his usual habits.
For example, after first mentioning the trio of James P. Boyce, Basil Manly Jr. and John A. Broadus as “titans of the faith” without whom “there would be no Southern Baptist Convention and there would be no Southern Seminary,” he goes on to say that “Boyce and Broadus were consummate Christian gentlemen, given the culture of their day. They would have been horrified, I am certain, by any act of violence.” What happened to Manly, there? Well, he was known to have whipped “his” slaves and thus the whole “consummate Christian gentleman”/benevolent-trafficker-of-persons shtick Mohler offers in partial defense of Boyce and Broadus won’t work for him.
And, apparently, neither Boyce nor Broadus was so “horrified” by Manly’s violence against enslaved persons that they expressed any qualms about working with this slave-whipping theology professor to found their seminary.
In the aftermath of Dylann Roof’s racist murder, some cities in the South are reconsidering their relationship to the Confederate Flag. Should it fly? Be in a museum? Burn? The discussion raises larger questions of how to move forward from ugly histories without simultaneously whitewashing a city’s past. And, as well, how do we know when something is truly in our past?
I was thinking about just these questions a couple weeks ago when a friend of mine walked me by the monument to the Crescent City White League in New Orleans. The conical stone was erected to commemorate the return of white supremacist government two years after a lethal insurrection against the Reconstruction state government in 1874. In that insurrection, thousands of former Confederate soldiers attacked the city police and state military. They killed 11 members of the NOPD and held city government buildings for three days before federal troops arrived and they fled.
Two years later, the white supremacist politicians were back in power and they placed the monument in a prominent place where Canal St. meets the Mississippi. The monument, to be clear, is in honor of cop-killing white supremacists.
Here it is in 1906 (source, photographer unknown):
So, what to do with the thing?
In 1974 — one hundred years after the insurrection and 98 years after its erection — the city added a marker nearby distancing itself from the message of white supremacy. It read:
Although the “battle of Liberty Place” and this monument are important parts of the New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans.
In 1993, some of the original inscriptions were removed and replaced with this slightly more politically correct comment:
In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place. … A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.
It was also moved to a new location. Today it sits between a flood wall, a parking lot, and an electrical substation. If you wanted to give a monument the finger, this is one way to do it. Here’s how it looks on Google Maps streetview:
So, the question is: What to do with these things?
I’ll admit that seeing the monument tucked into an unpleasant corner of New Orleans was somehow satisfying. But I was also uneasy about its displacement. Is this an example of New Orleans trying to repress knowledge of its racist history? (And present?) Or is it a sign that the city actively rejects the values represented by the monument? Conversely, if the city had left the monument at the foot of Canal St. would this be a sign that it took history seriously? And, thus, responsibility for its past? Or a sign that it didn’t take an anti-racist stance seriously enough?
This seems like an obviously difficult call to make, but I’m glad that we’re using the horror of Roof’s massacre to begin a discussion about how to handle symbols like these and, maybe, truly make them a part of our past.
Meet the Woman Helping Gamergate Victims Come Out of the Shadows | Time: “Shannon Sun-Higginson was investigating sexual harassment in gaming before Gamergate was even a thing. She almost single-handedly made GTFO: The Movie, a documentary about women in gaming debuted SXSW in March, stoking an ongoing debate over accusations that gaming culture is sexist. The film was released for the general public on iTunes last week and TIME caught up with Sun-Higginson to talk about the reactions she’s been getting, why gaming matters, and what surprised her about the trolls.”
Revenge Porn: A Serious Issue Is Finally Being Taken Seriously | Privacy Perspectives: “On Friday, Google announced it will honor takedown requests in Google Search related to nonconsensual pornography. Shortly after that, Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-CA) office announced that next month it will introduce federal legislation on revenge porn. And on Sunday night, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” dedicated most of his episode to cyber-harassment and nonconsensual pornography.”
23 Games from E3 2015 with Badass Playable Female Characters | The Mary Sue: “E3 2015 was one of the best years for playable female characters in recent memory – especially after the bleak, sad stubbly white dude landscape of 2014. This year’s conferences gave us lady protagonists that were not only the traditional elves and clerics, but also engineers, astronauts, tanks, and more. Here are twenty-three games straight from E3 with kick-ass women we can’t wait to play.”
We have a few link trends this week. First off, increasing the visibility of women’s historical contributions to STEM:
The women whom science forgot | BBC News: “Many female scientists in the past were not given the credit they deserved for their achievements. As a result, their names have all but disappeared from public consciousness. Here are just a few.”
ENIAC Programmers Project: “The ENIAC Programmers Project has been devoted for nearly two decades to researching their work, recording their stories, and seeking honors for the ENIAC Six—the great women of ENIAC.”
Lady Science no. 9: Women in Computing, Part 1: “Silicon Valley (and The Social Network and many popular books on the history of Silicon Valley) would have us believe that women and computing generally do not – and have not mixed. Let’s set the record straight.”
Continued response to Tim Hunt’s comments about women in science:
Sexist Scientist: I Was Being ‘Honest’ | The Daily Beast: “Some media organizations have stepped in to defend Hunt’s comments, which he now claims were an attempt to be entertaining. As a co-panelist sitting next to him at the luncheon, I heard a different story. His speech, he told me, was rooted in “honesty,” not humor.”
“Just” Joking? Sexist Talk in Science | PLOS Blogs: “The parts of his statements that portray women as difficult in the scientific workplace because of gender characteristics are sexist. That’s not dependent at all on whether the statement is a joke or not. If it’s not said with malice, then it’s just less hostile: but it’s still sexist.”
A couple interconnected pieces about women’s participation in Magic: the Gathering competitions:
Women In Magic: the Gathering | StarCityGames.com: “There are barriers to women playing competitive Magic – unnecessary and difficult issues that prevent potential competitors from ever leaving the “kitchen table” – and these are issues we can and should address.”
I’m not sure how much you may want to debate this…: “That’s what this conversation is about. Women make up 38% of Magic players yet this isn’t remotely reflected in in store play. Why? What factors are causing this to be so? And if it’s going to change, it requires those of us in the majority to stand up and say, “You know what? This isn’t right. We need to change this.””
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• “This is the fiction evangelicalism is predicated on: there is this plain reading of the Bible and anyone who sincerely sits down and reads the Bible, regardless of their education, regardless of their background, can get it. But you end up getting problems.”
• Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan spun a web of Spider-Man references in her ruling on Kimble v. Marvel, including a footnote citing “S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “SpiderMan,” p. 13 (1962) (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility”).”
• Having to resign as senior pastor of a mega-church because you got caught having an adulterous affair is Not Good. But that doesn’t lower my respect for Tullian Tchividjian as much as this, from his non-apology “statement” to the media: “As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair.”
Pretty sleazy. Old school — “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree …” — but still sleazy.
...I wouldn't get your hopes up about the confused chicken originals, people. Here's what we're talking about:
They're basically ACEOs (except for a few where I get funky, like the triptych ACEO above) so 2.5 x 3.5, made from random stamps and paint I have lying around the studio with random quotes and drawings of chickens or small worried birds. I don't know what to charge for them--$20 seems high, so maybe $15, I dunno.
One of the important conversations that has began in the wake of Dylann Roof’s racist murder in South Carolina has to do with racism among members of the Millennial generation. We’ve placed a lot of faith in this generation to pull us out of our racist path, but Roof’s actions may help remind us that racism will not go away simply by the passing of time.
In fact, data from the General Social Survey — one of the most trusted social science data sets — suggests that Millennials are failing to make dramatic strides toward a non-racist utopia. Scott Clement, at the Washington Post, shows us the data. Attitudes among white millennials (in green below) are statistically identical to whites in Generation X (yellow) and hardly different from Baby Boomers on most measures (orange). Whites are about as likely as Generation X:
to think that blacks are lazier or less hardworking than whites
to think that blacks have less motivation than whites to do well
to oppose living in a neighborhood that is 50% or more black
to object if a relative marries a black person
And they’re slightly more likely than white members of Generation X to think that blacks are less intelligent than whites. So much for a Millennial rescue from racism.
All in all, white millennial attitudes are much more similar to those of older whites than they are to those of their peers of color.
At PBS, Mychal Denzel Smith argues that we are reaping the colorblindness lessons that we’ve sowed. Millennials today may think of themselves as “post-racial,” but they’ve learned none of the skills that would allow them to get there. Smith writes:
Millennials are fluent in colorblindness and diversity, while remaining illiterate in the language of anti-racism.
They know how to claim that they’re not racist, but they don’t know how to recognize when they are and they’re clueless as to how to actually change our society for the better.
So, thanks to the colorblindness discourse, white Millennials are quick to see racism as race-neutral. In one study, for example, 58% of white millennials said they thought that “reverse racism” was as big a problem as racism.
Smith summarizes the problem:
For Millennials, racism is a relic of the past, but what vestiges may still exist are only obstacles if the people affected decide they are. Everyone is equal, they’ve been taught, and therefore everyone has equal opportunity for success. This is the deficiency found in the language of diversity. … Armed with this impotent analysis, Millennials perpetuate false equivalencies, such as affirmative action as a form of discrimination on par with with Jim Crow segregation. And they can do so while not believing themselves racist or supportive of racism.
Series disclaimer: This post is part of a series on adoption I’m running this summer. I believe adoption is so, so worth it and is a wonderful way to build your family. But I run in circles where adoption is often described in glowing terms and I think sometimes it helps to also pull back the veil and reveal the reality of what it can be like to parent kids from hard places–we were as prepared as possible when we brought home an almost-three-year-old daughter from China and it was still really complex (we don’t us our kids’ real names online, by the way). My hope is to give people around us in real life as well as pre-adoptive and other adoptive families a space to communicate in better ways about what is hard–and what is good–about adoption.
I’m beginning with the really tricky part. All adoption is born out of loss. On most days, the grief doesn’t come up, but it has colored every aspect of our lives since adopting our daughter. I wrote a blog post called “Entering the Grief” months before we went to get our daughter in China; we knew on an intellectual level what we were getting into when we adopted. We didn’t shy away from it. And we are lucky–our daughter was well-loved and well-provided for in many ways before she came home at almost three. Her grief at leaving her home was profound, which was a good sign of attachment.
It’s hard to explain that sentence: we were lucky our daughter grieved so hard.
In China and the first few months after we brought Fei home, she slept in two hour stretches or less. She couldn’t relax her body. I have such compassion for her, looking back; she registered the shock of adoption in visceral ways. She sweated profusely when she was stressed, even in the winter, and often sweated through her clothes, soaking both of us in the process. During the day she played warily with her big sisters, who were over the moon to be with her, but at night the grief manifested as rage. I can still remember the feel of her rigid body throwing fits as I desperately tried to keep her from waking up the big girls in a tiny (TINY) hotel room in China. There was no use trying to let my husband sleep; both of us were always up.
Looking back, I have compassion on her, but I also have compassion on my husband and me. Those weeks in China were some of the most difficult I’ve endured. We had other griefs working on us; right before Fei’s adoption trip, some things happened in our lives that hurt us profoundly. We tried to remain positive with each other on no sleep with jet lag for two weeks in China then many weeks home after that. By the time we left China, I was so sick with strep throat I could barely move. We had to fly separately for visa reasons; it was amazing how a 20+ hour trip with a 6- and 4-year-old while I had a fever and strep throat felt like a spa vacation when contemplating my husband’s solo trip with a grieving, raging, non-sleeping toddler (the less that is said about his trip the better).
Needless to say, staying positive didn’t win. I’m still not sure how my husband and I made it through those weeks. They are a blur. I can say that we learned to fight well rather than fighting dirty, which, looking back, was a very big deal. If marriage is about knocking off each other’s rough edges as iron sharpens iron, we did more work in two months than we might have done in twenty years. We are closer, more committed, more flexible, more understanding, more able to listen to and love each other deeply because we walked through the fire of that time.
Fei had her grief, which she couldn’t begin to articulate and wouldn’t for months, but which ruled her every emotion. And we had our griefs. We grieved the dream of adoption, the precious multicolored family we’d always pictured, as we faced the reality of the daily struggle just to keep our new little one alive and dressed and regulated at least five minutes of the day. We grieved the loss of our easygoing family. We grieved how much time we had to spend away from our big girls. We worried all the time that we were hurting us, hurting our biological children, hurting Fei.
For those first few weeks, if I were totally honest, it was more like adopting a wild chimpanzee than a toddler. The release of limitations, the fear, the grief, the rage–the emotions poured out of our daughter’s tiny body in a relentless stream. I grieved the cute toddler in my head, conjured by the smiling match picture which I’d shown everyone, while contemplating the mind-boggling messes made by the raging toddler in my kitchen.
Those early days are marked by our grief. People often asked us, “Aren’t you so excited she’s home?” And we were. But that first Christmas, four days after we got home, I kept thinking of all that she had lost more than I thought of all that she had gained. I knew in my head that a family was significantly better in the long term than growing up in an orphanage, but I couldn’t help but sympathize with this grief-stricken little being. We could intellectualize and look at the big picture and come at it from several sides. She had no words but thousands of complex emotions. Every muscle, every nerve, was screaming at her that this was dangerous, awful, wrong. The two rooms she’d lived in for almost three years were, without any ceremony, suddenly stripped away. The crib where she’d stood and contemplated the world, where her friends were in easy reach, where her identity was formed, was on the other side of the world. The food she’d had every day three times a day in big heaping spoonfuls was gone, replaced by so many different types of food that her body couldn’t begin to digest it (we limited her food, but still). Her little friends and the aunties who cared for her, the ayis, were gone, unceremoniously, just ripped out of her life from one day to the next.
The markers of what made Fei herself had all been taken away by this crazy white family singing songs and playing games and trying to teach her how to open presents and sometimes sit still in a chair.
No wonder she responded like a wild chimpanzee. It was the only logical choice to make. And it was only the beginning of our journey of dealing with this grief together.
Nostradamus, the celebrated sixteenth century prophet, has a reputation that any modern day pollster, hedge fund manager, or bookie would envy.His mysterious verses have been credited with predicting an astonishing array of future events, including 9/11 and the death of Princess Diana.Only the Arthurian Merlin, (who had the unsporting advantage of being a wizard and living backward) could claim a better record for infallibility.
Catherine de Medici
But how accurate were Nostradamus’s forecasts in his own lifetime, and what was the effect of having so great a seer available for private consultation on the landmark developments of the day?To answer these questions it is necessary to examine the influence of Catherine de’ Medici, queen mother of France, amateur occult enthusiast, and Nostradamus’s most important sponsor, on the great man’s body of work.
It is not an exaggeration to say that without Catherine, Nostradamus’s famous prognostications might well have been consigned to the dustbin of history. It was she who plucked him from obscurity, singling him out from the multitude of other would-be soothsayers gripped by visions (medication was not an option in the sixteenth century); she who dragged some eight hundred members of the royal court all the way from Paris to Nostradamus’s home in Provence so that she could question him directly and hear the wisdom of the ages from his own lips; she who acted upon and broadcast his augurs to her fellow sovereigns around the world, thus ensuring his enduring celebrity.
And of course, the queen mother of France wasn’t much interested in the tragic car accident that would take the life of the divorced wife of the Prince of Wales five hundred years in the future.Catherine wanted to know what was going to happen now—or rather, then.So he told her.
He told her that her fourteen-year-old son Charles IX, king of France, would marry Elizabeth I, seventeen years his senior, and live to be ninety.Elizabeth I demurred, and Charles died at twenty-four.
He told her that in two years there would be world peace, and that the kingdom of France would be particularly tranquil.The Netherlands rebelled against the Spanish, prompting a bloody conflict that involved most of Europe.At the same time, horrific violence between Protestants and Catholics, known as the Wars of Religion, broke out in France.
He told her that all four of her sons would be kings, a prophecy that drove Catherine’s foreign policy. Yet her youngest still went to his deathbed only a duke.
Luckily for him, Nostradamus died soon after making these predictions, so he never had to explain what went wrong.Judging by his experience, it would seem that accuracy in the past has very little to do with renown in the future!
Nancy Goldstone‘s latest book, The Rival Queens: Catherine de’ Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom, will be published in June by Little, Brown and Company.
W&M is excited to have three (3) copies of The Rival Queens in this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on June 29th to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).
Please note that, at this time, we can only ship within the US.
This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.
Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.
This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belliwas neither vague nor hard to comprehend:
...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states, including Mississippi:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…
As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.
Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.
...in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states....
None of this was new. In 1858, the eventual president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis threatened secession should a Republican be elected to the presidency:
I say to you here as I have said to the Democracy of New York, if it should ever come to pass that the Constitution shall be perverted to the destruction of our rights so that we shall have the mere right as a feeble minority unprotected by the barrier of the Constitution to give an ineffectual negative vote in the Halls of Congress, we shall then bear to the federal government the relation our colonial fathers did to the British crown, and if we are worthy of our lineage we will in that event redeem our rights even if it be through the process of revolution.
It is difficult for modern Americans to understand such militant commitment to the bondage of others. But at $3.5 billion, the four million enslaved African Americans in the South represented the country’s greatest financial asset. And the dollar amount does not hint at the force of enslavement as a social institution. By the onset of the Civil War, Southern slaveholders believed that African slavery was one of the great organizing institutions in world history, superior to the “free society” of the North.
Free Society! we sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists? All the Northern men and especially the New England States are devoid of society fitted for well-bred gentlemen. The prevailing class one meet with is that of mechanics struggling to be genteel, and small farmers who do their own drudgery, and yet are hardly fit for association with a Southern gentleman's body servant. This is your free society which Northern hordes are trying to extend into Kansas.
The last sentence refers to the conflict over slavery between free-soilers and slave-holders. The conflict was not merely about the right to hold another human in bondage, but how that right created the foundation for white equality.
You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us.
Black slavery as the basis of white equality was a frequent theme for slaveholders. In his famous “Cotton Is King” speech, James Henry Hammond compared the alleged wage slavery of the North with black slavery—and white equality—in the South:
The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South.
We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves. None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations. Yours are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation.
On the eve of secession, Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown concurred:
Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense of the term his equal. He feels and knows this. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men. He black no masters boots, and bows the knee to no one save God alone. He receives higher wages for his labor than does the laborer of any other portion of the world, and he raises up his children with the knowledge, that they belong to no inferior cast, but that the highest members of the society in which he lives, will, if their conduct is good, respect and treat them as equals.
Thus in the minds of these Southern nationalists, the destruction of slavery would not merely mean the loss of property but the destruction of white equality, and thus of the peculiar Southern way of life:
If the policy of the Republicans is carried out, according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, and the South submits, degradation and ruin must overwhelm alike all classes of citizens in the Southern States. The slave-holder and non-slave-holder must ultimately share the same fate—all be degraded to a position of equality with free negroes, stand side by side with them at the polls, and fraternize in all the social relations of life; or else there will be an eternal war of races, desolating the land with blood, and utterly wasting and destroying all the resources of the country.
Slaveholders were not modest about the perceived virtues of their way of life. In the years leading up to the Civil War, calls for expansion into the tropics reached a fever pitch, and slaveholders marveled at the possibility of spreading a new empire into central America:
Looking into the possibilities of the future, regarding the magnificent country of tropical America, which lies in the path of our destiny on this continent, we may see an empire as powerful and gorgeous as ever was pictured in our dreams of history. What is that empire? It is an empire founded on military ideas; representing the noble peculiarities of Southern civilization; including within its limits the isthmuses of America and the regenerated West Indies; having control of the two dominant staples of the world's commerce—cotton and sugar; possessing the highways of the world's commerce; surpassing all empires of the age in the strength of its geographical position; and, in short, combining elements of strength, prosperity, and glory, such as never before in the modern ages have been placed within the reach of a single government. What a splendid vision of empire!
How sublime in its associations! How noble and inspiriting the idea, that upon the strange theatre of tropical America, once, if we may believe the dimmer facts of history, crowned with magnificent empires and flashing cities and great temples, now covered with mute ruins, and trampled over by half-savages, the destiny of Southern civilization is to be consummated in a glory brighter even than that of old, the glory of an empire, controlling the commerce of the world, impregnable in its position, and representing in its internal structure the most harmonious of all the systems of modern civilization.
Edward Pollard, the journalist who wrote that book, titled it Black Diamonds Gathered In The Darkey Homes Of The South. Perhaps even this is too subtle. In 1858, Mississippi Senator Albert Gallatin Brown was clearer:
I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it. If the worm-eaten throne of Spain is willing to give it for a fair equivalent, well—if not, we must take it. I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican Stats; and I want them all for the same reason—for the planting and spreading of slavery.
And a footing in Central America will powerfully aid us in acquiring those other states. It will render them less valuable to the other powers of the earth, and thereby diminish competition with us. Yes, I want these countries for the spread of slavery. I would spread the blessings of slavery, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the uttermost ends of the earth, and rebellious and wicked as the Yankees have been, I would even extend it to them.
I would not force it upon them, as I would not force religion upon them, but I would preach it to them, as I would preach the gospel. They are a stiff-necked and rebellious race, and I have little hope that they will receive the blessing, and I would therefore prepare for its spread to other more favored lands.
Thus in 1861, when the Civil War began, the Union did not face a peaceful Southern society wanting to be left alone. It faced an an aggressive power, a Genosha, an entire society based on the bondage of a third of its residents, with dreams of expanding its fields of the bondage further South. It faced the dream of a vast American empire of slavery. In January of 1861, three months before the Civil War commenced, Florida secessionists articulated the position directly:
At the South, and with our People of course, slavery is the element of all value, and a destruction of that destroys all that is property. This party, now soon to take possession of the powers of the Government, is sectional, irresponsible to us, and driven on by an infuriated fanatical madness that defies all opposition, must inevitably destroy every vestige or right growing out of property in slaves.
Gentlemen, the State of Florida is now a member of the Union under the power of the Government, so to go into the hands of this party.
As we stand our doom is decreed.
Not yet. As the Late Unpleasantness stretched from the predicted months into years, the very reason for the Confederacy’s existence came to threaten its diplomatic efforts. Fighting for slavery presented problems abroad, and so Confederate diplomats came up with the notion of emphasizing “states rights” over “slavery”—the first manifestation of what would later become a plank in the foundation of Lost Cause mythology.
The first people to question that mythology were themselves Confederates, distraught to find their motives downplayed or treated as embarassments. A Richmond-based newspaper offered the following:
‘The people of the South,’ says a contemporary, ‘are not fighting for slavery but for independence.’ Let us look into this matter. It is an easy task, we think, to show up this new-fangled heresy — a heresy calculated to do us no good, for it cannot deceive foreign statesmen nor peoples, nor mislead any one here nor in Yankeeland. . . Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED, and for the preservation of other institutions of which slavery is the groundwork.
Even after the war, as the Lost Cause rose, many veterans remained clear about why they had rallied to the Confederate flag. “I’ve never heard of any other cause than slavery,” wrote Confederate commander John S. Mosby. The progeny of the Confederacy repeatedly invoked slavery as the war’s cause.
Here, for example, is Mississippi Senator John Sharp Williams in 1904:
Local self-government temporarily destroyed may be recovered and ultimately retained. The other thing for which we fought is so complex in its composition, so delicate in its breath, so incomparable in its symmetry, that, being once destroyed, it is forever destroyed. This other thing for which we fought was the supremacy of the white man’s civilization in the country which he proudly claimed his own; “in the land which the Lord his God had given him;” founded upon the white man’s code of ethics, in sympathy with the white man’s traditions and ideals.
The Confederate Veteran—the official publication of the United Confederate Veterans—in 1906:
The kindliest relation that ever existed between the two races in this country, or that ever will, was the ante-bellum relation of master and slave—a relation of confidence and responsibility on the part of the master and of dependence and fidelity on the part of the slave.
The African, coming from a barbarous state and from a tropical climate, could not meet the demands for skilled labor in the factories of the Northern States; neither could he endure the severe cold of the Northern winter. For these reasons it was both merciful and “business” to sell him to the Southern planter, where the climate was more favorable and skilled labor not so important. In the South the climate, civilization, and other influences ameliorated the African’s condition, and that of almost the entire race of slaves, which numbered into the millions before their emancipation. It should be noted that their evangelization was the most fruitful missionary work of any modern Christian endeavor. The thoughtful and considerate negro of to-day realizes his indebtedness to the institution of African slavery for advantages which he would not have received had he remained in his semi-barbarism waiting in his native jungles for the delayed missionary.
And in 1917, the Confederate Veteran singled out one man for particular praise:
Great and trying times always produce great leaders, and one was at hand—Nathan Bedford Forrest. His plan, the only course left open. The organization of a secret government. A terrible government; a government that would govern in spite of black majorities and Federal bayonets. This secret government was organized in every community in the South, and this government is known in history as the Klu Klux Clan...
Here in all ages to come the Southern romancer and poet can find the inspiration for fiction and song. No nobler or grander spirits ever assembled on this earth than gathered in these clans. No human hearts were ever moved with nobler impulses or higher aims and purposes….Order was restored, property safe; because the negro feared the Klu Klux Clan more than he feared the devil. Even the Federal bayonets could not give him confidence in the black government which had been established for him, and the negro voluntarily surrendered to the Klu Klux Clan, and the very moment he did, the “Invisible Army” vanished in a night. Its purpose had been fulfilled.
Bedford Forrest should always be held in reverence by every son and daughter of the South as long as memory holds dear the noble deeds and service of men for the good of others on, this earth. What mind is base enough to think of what might have happened but for Bedford Forrest and his “Invisible” but victorious army.
In praising the Klan’s terrorism, Confederate veterans and their descendants displayed a remarkable consistency. White domination was the point. Slavery failed. Domination prevailed nonetheless. This was the basic argument of Florida Democratic Senator Duncan Fletcher. “The Cause Was Not Entirely Lost,” he argued in a 1931 speech before the United Daughters of the Confederacy:
The South fought to preserve race integrity. Did we lose that? We fought to maintain free white dominion. Did we lose that? The States are in control of the people. Local self-government, democratic government, obtains. That was not lost. The rights of the sovereign States, under the Constitution, are recognized. We did not lose that. I submit that what is called “The Lost Cause” was not so much “lost” as is sometimes supposed.
Indeed it was not. For a century after the Civil War, White Supremacy ruled the South. Toward the end of that century, as activists began to effectively challenge white supremacy, its upholders reached for a familiar symbol.
Invocations of the flag were supported by invocations of the Confederacy itself. But by then, neo-Confederates had begun walking back their overt defenses of slavery. United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine claimed that...
Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Raphael Semmes and the 600,000 soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy did not fight for a “Lost Cause.” They fought to repel invasion, and in defense of their Constitutional liberties bequeathed them by their forefathers…
The glorious blood-red Confederate Battle Flag that streamed ahead of the Confederate soldiers in more than 2000 battles is not a conquered banner. It is an emblem of Freedom.
It was no longer politic to spell out the exact nature of that freedom. But one gets a sense of it, given that article quickly pivots into an attack on desegregation:
Since the Supreme Court decision of May 17, 1954, reversed what had been the Supreme Law of the land for 75 years and declared unconstitutional the laws of 17 states under which segregated school systems were established, the thinking people have been aroused from their lethargy in respect to State’s Rights.
In this we see the progression of what became known as the “Heritage Not Hate” argument. Bold defenses of slavery became passé. It just happened that those who praised the flag, also tended to praise the instruments of white supremacy popular in that day.
And then there were times when the mask slipped. “Quit looking at the symbols,” South Carolina State Representative John Graham Altman said during a debate over the flag’s fate in 1997. “Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies.”
Nikki Haley deserves credit for calling for the removal of the Confederate flag. She deserves criticism for couching that removal as matter of manners. At the present moment the effort to remove the flag is being cast as matter of politesse, a matter over which reasonable people may disagree. The flag is a “painful symbol” concedes David French. Its removal might “offer relief to those genuinely hurt,” writes Ian Tuttle. “To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred,” tweeted Mitt Romney. The flag has been “misappropriated by hate groups,” claims South Carolina senator Tom Davis.
This mythology of manners is adopted in lieu of the mythology of the Lost Cause. But it still has the great drawback of being rooted in a lie. The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. The embarrassment is not limited to the flag, itself. The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance. A century and a half after Lincoln was killed, after 750,000 of our ancestors died, Americans still aren’t quite sure why.