Category Archives: Current events and history

An early post-mortem – and “a look at last year…”

Independent voters try to keep the Ship of State from keeling over – here, ‘too far to the right…'”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

My last post was On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, back on July 5, 2020.

Canoe on Manitou Bluffs regionMy “Adventurous Brother” and I completed the trip. (115 river miles down the Missouri River, from South Sioux City to Omaha, Nebraska.) We left South Sioux City at 2:30 the afternoon of July 9, and got to Omaha at 5:00 the afternoon of July 12. In between – and before, for that matter – there were distractions, complications and near-disasters. (An 80-mile-an-hour windstorm for one.) But we came through, “Mission Accomplished!” The only problem is that a full postmortem account will take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.

So, I decided to take a look at “this time last year.”

What I found was three year-old draft-projects that I never finished, so here goes. One project was “On partisan gerrymandering,” on the then-just-released Supreme Court case, Rucho v. Common Cause. (Of which more later.) The second unfinished project was the start of a new book – composed of a series of posts herein? – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” Of which the recent Missouri River canoe trip was an example. Meanwhile, the original title of this post was supposed to be “Wanna beat Trump? Laugh at him!” And it featured the “Independent voters … Ship of State” lead image and caption at the top of the page.

That unfinished post was based in part – and was a partial review of – a book, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, by Sean McFate. (“82nd Airborne veteran, former private military contractor, and professor of war studies at the National Defense University.”) 

The book offered ten “new” rules for victory, and Rule Five is “The best weapons do not fire bullets.” And one of those non-bullet new weapons was – humor. There’s more on other such weapons in the notes, but the key point came in this set of observations:

Google “humor as a weapon,” and you’ll get sites like Humor is a weapon – so you better learn how to use it. Which offered the following quotes:  “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter,” by Mark Twain. Also “Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.”  (Michel de Montaigne, the French writer (1553-1592) “one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight.) Then there’s this full quote:

Authority is a natural target the world over for comics. Remember it, cherish it, use it. People all around the world hate their leaders, their systems, the powers they have to labor under.  This humor is nihilistic – no one is too powerful or too pure to be beyond reproach. Just remember lots of people have sympathy for the underdog, so direct that hostility upwards.

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Now about that draft post – from a year ago – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” It had links to past posts on such adventures as my canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, and into the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as hiking the Appalachian Trail (in small part) and the Chilkoot Trail. In toto, that is, all 33 of the “meanest 33 miles in history.”

For the full set of links see the notes below, but I wanted to focus on one link I found. It’s on the adventures of other people in Old Age, The Top Ten Late Bloomers Of All Time | Psychology Today. And from which I draw inspiration. (Heck, I just turned 69 years old. Or young!)

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And finally, the third draft post from a year ago had to do with “SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (Rucho v. Common Cause). The main question: “Is North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander?” The Supreme Court basically punted, saying the issue was one for state courts. I concluded in turn that the net holding was not to allow such partisan gerrymandering in all cases. It merely “kicks the issue back to the states.” (“Much as would be true if the Court overrules Roe v. Wade,” which remains to be seen.)

And – I wrote – some states were beginning to do just that. (Outlaw partisan gerrymandering.) I cited Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida: “In its majority opinion Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court referenced Florida’s Constitution in asserting that states have the ability to solve this issue themselves.” I also cited Another View: Florida’s amendments thwart partisan gerrymandering.

Which made me thankful that our 50 states are now just the “laboratories of democracy” that may yet save this country. The phrase was popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932). The phrase describes how “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” See Wikipedia.

It springs in part from the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “all powers not delegated to the United States … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That is, the 10th Amendment “assigns most day-to-day governance responsibilities, including general ‘police power,’ to the state and local governments.” One positive result? Because of the “diverse patchwork” of non-federal governments, the several states and/or localities are free to try different public policies to solve problems. In turn, ” If any one or more of those policies are successful, they can be expanded to the national level by acts of Congress.”

Now, if we can just get a state to kick COVID‘s ass. Or get those Feds out of Portland

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Did the 2016 U.S. presidential election create a  monster? Time will tell…

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The upper image is courtesy of Yachting Keel Over – Image ResultsAccompanied by an article “Real-life Bond performs daring boat stunt off the Isle of Wight.”  See I’m 007 and I won’t keel over! Real-life Bond performs (March 2012, but also ‘Show-off’ businessman caused Isle of Wight boat crash, BBC News, from March 2017).  Click on I’m 007 and I won’t keel over!  Then the “Read it” icon.

Re:  Ship of State. See Wikipedia, noting the “famous and oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato [circa 400 B.C.] in Book VI of the Republic (488a–489d).”  But which can also be traced “back to the lyric poet Alcaeus (frs. 6, 208, 249), and it is found in Sophocles’ Antigone and Aeschylus‘ Seven Against Thebes before Plato.”  Sophocles appeared to be a relative contemporary of Plato, while Aeschylus and Alcaeus (“c. 620 – 6th century BC”), appeared to predate him by 100 to 200 years.  

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Re: “There’s more on other such weapons.” Here follows – down to the next four asterisks (****) – a lot of notes on McFate’s book that may confuse a reader or lead him astray – if not set off by the aforementioned asterisks. But note too that the next set of notes, including the source of other images, will begin with the next set of four asterisks. 

First, for our purposes, McFate noted the “declining utility of force” (as in Russia’s Putin “weaponizing refugees rather than threatening firepower,” indirectly, by bombing Syria, which drove tens of thousands of refugees into Europe and “stoking anti-establishment policies across the continent…  Right-wing nationalist parties, once shunned as neo-Nazis became popular … for the first time since the 1930s”.) Then McFate moved to “Warriors of the Mind.” As in, Get a Mac – Wikipedia, and Case Study: “Mac vs. PC” Advertisement Campaign – Hannah’s Media Leap BlogThe campaign had a huge impact, tripling computer sales and becoming iconic “to this day.” How did Apple do it? “The secret is simple: denigration. Going negative is powerful, but the trick is to make the target look like the wrongdoer… It’s beautiful ridicule, highly manipulative, and it works.”

From there McFate spoke of the “humor” weapon against ISIS, and others:

ISIS and its successors would shrivel like the Wizard of Oz if the Muslim world could belly laugh over them…  Putin’s cult of personality would whither [sic] under the power of denigration.  In fact, he’s easy pickings, given his naked bear-riding habit…  This works especially well against autocracies because they are often built on a cult of personality and the infallibility of leadership.  Make such leaders fallible.

He went on to note that one key is gaining information superiority, first through monitoring (“know your enemy”) and second through discrediting:  “pinpointing fake news, alternate facts … false narratives, viral memes and negative frames, and then exposing them.  Myth-busting must happen, otherwise people may start to believe the spin.  This task is especially critical for democracies…” And finally, counter-attacking, “and this is where Western countries grow weak in the legs.” (For that matter so do “polite” liberals and moderates.) Again, the prime method of counterattack is denigration, while looking like the good guy, conveying empathy, aligning with “preconceived knowledge” and being “funny but not stupid.”

For other reviews Google “the new rules of war sean mcfate.” Of particular interest: The new rules of war. Sean McFate – The Junior Officers’ Book Shelf, and Reviewing The New Rules of War – The Strategy Bridge (“A critical reader might also find inspiration here. As McFate presents them, however, the new rules are a starting point and far from the last word on victory or how to get there”).

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Re: “For the full set of links see the notes.” The first one listed in this post was Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.) That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015. See also On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I and On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II, on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve written about my Okefenokee adventures in several posts: Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17). And see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The lower image is courtesy of Laboratories Democracy States – Image ResultsThe image is accompanied by an article, If States are the “Laboratories of Democracy,” Then Young Frankenstein Runs California. The article was from Legal Insurrection, “one of the most widely cited and influential conservative websites… Our work has been highlighted by top conservative radio personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.” But see also Legal Insurrection – Media Bias/Fact Check: “These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.” Note the article was written before the “Covid,” so for an alternate view see California coronavirus: What the state is doing right – CNN

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Re:  The IsraeliteHarry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Thus the “Carolina Israelite.” I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia. 

Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  So anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s. He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.” (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.” But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life. As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life

For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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And finally, the original “laugh at him” post contained notes from an apparent “cultural elites” file. It was about those “cultural elites” that Trump supporters love to hate. The notes below are in rough form, include some personal observations, and are included solely for purposes of completeness:

acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites

sending ” those damn media types into a tizzy”

a given act is actually praiseworthy and brave if it draws condemnation from the despised left-wing media.

just another handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.

Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark

That portion of American society that has pretty much ruled America during the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well, up to Election Day, 2016.

Since the end of World War II, the rest of the world has looked at America as that “city on a hill” it has claimed to be since the beginning.  And America has responded – by and large – by accepting the mantle of world leadership.  And because America is a land of such promise, people from other countries keep trying to come here.  But – by and large – they are no longer white, English-speaking and mostly European.  Which frightens a large segment of American society.

Aside from that the mantle of world leadership is heavy.  It means not going off half-cocked.  It means being responsible, and thinking through what we say and do.  And many Americans seem to think we should act more like Russia, imposing our will on the rest of the world by sheer force.  Which – from all accounts – is what we used to do in the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

And it could be that the Americans who support Trump would love to see a return of a bit of American imperialism.  (On the other hand, if that’s true, why did Russia try so hard to get Trump rather than Hillary elected?)

Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump …

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.

Trump’s dislike of — and desire to be a part of — the ‘elite’

Trump has since made a name for himself — in New York City and, more unexpectedly, in Washington. As he reminded his Minnesota supporters, he won the presidency — which by one definition automatically puts him among the elites: “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.”

By all accounts, Trump supporters – or as Hillary called them, “the deplorables” – exercise the major share of authority and influence within the Republican Party, which is the governing party in the United States. The group’s values on racial issues, the economy, immigration and other cultural issues has a louder and bolder advocate in the Oval Office than at any other time in recent history.

But perhaps the reason it is difficult to embrace that definition is because Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

Elite – Wikipedia  a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the “elite” are “those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type

a relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers

Why a lot of Americans resent the cultured “New York City elite.”

I think this feeling was shared by some of the voters who went for Trump – as well as Brexit beforehand.  Trump, a masterful populist, has manipulated this very real bitterness, raising his 18-carat pitchfork against “liberal elites” for his own political gain.

a cultural elite may be disliked for reasons that are as not particularly economic: college professors, experts, NGO staffers and psychotherapists are not corporate titans, after all. It’s a new variation of an old-fashioned populism that is anti-intellectual and anti-expert.

Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they are, of course, preposterously upscale, living in Trump Tower, attending expensive private schools, flying about in private jets (now with in-flight Secret Service) and dining in five-star restaurants.

Republicans are benefitting from the cultural resentment of their non-elite electorate. They also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in “flyover” states.

On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down…

 Voltaire,  a new figure – the intellectual recluse” – during a time of “destruction let loose…”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

It’s Sunday May 10, 2020, and we’re at the end of eight full weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since wisdom begins with the definition of terms – as Socrates said – I’ll clarify.

To me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “‘stuff’ hit the fan” – back on Thursday, March 12. That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off. Also about that time the NBA, NHL and other major professional sport seasons all ended. (For what those college sports mean to me, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”)

So my definition of the “First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic” has it starting Sunday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 21. (Meaning we’re actually starting the ninth full week of the pandemic.) And that pandemic shows no signs of abating, which means we need continue adjusting to a “New normal.” (With social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds.) 

Which brings up the question: What did people do in the Olden Days when disaster struck?

For more on that see below, but for now let’s just say that I personally have been “busier than the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.” Aside from working three days a week – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful – I’ve been exercising eight hours a week.

That includes two hours of high-intensity exercise. (Stair-stepping 30 minutes a time, wearing a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) Plus an hour or so of yoga a week, plus calisthenics, sometimes interspersed with at least 200 minutes of medium-intensity workout. That can include kayaking or hiking an hour or so at a time.  But it also includes lots of time stretching and bending, while watching lectures from The Great Courses Plus.

I signed up on May 3, and been loving it. And putting my “shelter at home” time to good use.

Fundamentals of PhotographySome of the courses I’ve begun so far:

‘Fundamentals of Photography” (at left), “Understanding the Old Testament,” “Understanding the New Testament,” “Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques,” “America’s Founding Fathers,” “Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything,” and “Liberty on Trial in America: Cases That Defined Freedom.”

But the course I’ve latched onto most recently is “The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy.” And that course begins with this, that the “conquest and settlement of the American West transformed the United States from a regional republic into a continental power.”

The American West: History, Myth, and LegacyLecture One included a quote from Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the “most influential historians of the American West.” He said key elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier.

Domesticating the frontier … forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

And speaking of cooperation, he added that Americans taming the frontier learned to “adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) By such means as mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals, they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”

Needless to say, I was struck by the words “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I can only say, “What the hell happened?”

But enough of politics. (For a while anyway.) For the time being I’ve decided to revert to making this post more like a series of personal essays. That is, where the writer “explores his or her own thoughts, often as related to an organizing idea or subject.” Which brings back what I’ve learned about what people did in the Olden Days, when disasters like our pandemic struck?

One answer came from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. It opens with the hero – Candide – “living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise.” But from there things go downhill:

The work describes … Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide [by] advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden,” in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds.”

Or as Voltaire put it in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) And speaking of Eden – as in “a place or state of great happiness [or] an unspoiled paradise” – that seems to be what we used to have, before Covid-19. Or at least it seems so in hindsight…

Then there’s what historian Kenneth Clark said in his 1969 book Civilisation, about what some did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.) Writing about the violence brought on Europe by the Protestant Reformation, he said that whatever the long-term effects,

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of Europe] was full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.

So a great upheaval – with elements of panic and destruction “let loose” – can come from either other people (“bully boys”) or from nature itself. So what do we do, in the process of riding out this storm? Or as Clark put it, “What could an intelligent, open-minded man do in mid-sixteenth-century Europe?” Or for that matter, here in America this 2,020th “year of our Lord?”

His short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“)

Yet another answer is to “Keep on keeping on.” As in, “to persevere,” which means to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Or maybe “cooperate?” Or get back to “treating each other as equals?” Or at least with a bit more respect. See Treat each other with respect – Communication and Conflict. Of which more later…

Or as Voltaire once said, “Treat other people with respect, even the Dumbasses!

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The upper image is courtesy of Voltaire – Image Results. This particular image accompanies an article, “Rodama: a blog of the 18th century,” subtitled “Houdon: ‘Seated Voltaire’ at Les Délices.”

Here are some pictures of Houdon’s Seated Voltaire, the beautiful centrepiece of the Musée Voltaire at Les Délices in Geneva, which I was lucky enough to visit last Easter. This version is among the finest examples of Houdon’s famous statue, and is particularly unusual in that it is made of terracotta.

I chose this image because to me it seems most similar to what I might have looked like, had I gone through Voltaire’s particular trials and tribulations. (Instead of just my own.)

Re:  The full quote reads as follows:

Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential historians of the American West, argued that the distinctive elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier. Domesticating the frontier, Turner wrote in an 1893 essay, forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

Re: Personal essays. See also 7 Helpful Tips on How to Write a Memorable Personal Essay

Re: The ending of Candide. Wikipedia had the ending – “we must cultivate our garden” – translated into French, il faut cultiver notre jardin.” But see also Candide Conclusion Summary & Analysis from LitCharts, which worded the ending as “All that is very well … but let us cultivate our garden.”

Re: Kenneth Clark. The quotation from Clark is from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), at page 161. For an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

Re: The “dumbasses” Voltaire quote. See State Farm TV Commercial, ‘The Internet and French Model, and State Farm … Bonjour – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Treat Each Other Respect – Image Results. See also Live Life Happy – Inspirational Quotes, etc. 

 

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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One final note. While some indications show this essay was posted on May 11, 2020, I actually posted it about 8:43 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, 2020.

 

Thank God Jesus wasn’t conservative…

Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png

If Jesus had been conservative we might all be Muslim (i.e. and e.g.,no Battle of Poitiers“)…

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

What with the Coronavirus pandemic and the demands of working three days a week, it’s been tough to do posts on a consistent, timely basis. (See How Often Should You Blog in 2020?) But not for lack of topics or ideas. It’s because I blog mainly to learn, and for my own satisfaction. That means I “take enough time to do the job right,” not be consistent.

And I last posted here back on April 17, almost two weeks ago. So on this last day of April, 2020, I’m juggling four or five possible blog posts. Like “Memories of Lori,” based on listening today to  the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. (A movie that I saw back in 1980 with a lovely young copy editor at the St. Pete Times.)

Or a post on possible answers for really stupid Facebook posts. (Like my earlier Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook.) So for this quick-response post I’ll go back to some thoughts I revisited five months ago, that have been percolating a good long while.

The topic is a favorite theme of mine – or Meme – that goes, “If so-and-so had been conservative, we’d all be ____!” And by the way, I take issue with today’s conservatives only because a reporter’s job – and by extension a blogger’s – is “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

And today’s conservatives are definitely the “prevailing quacks.”

For one example, “If the Founding Fathers had been conservative, we’d all be singing ‘God save the Queen’ at the start of our baseball games.” (If we weren’t playing cricket instead.) The idea – and the irony if not the incongruity – is that today’s conservatives act like they’re the only real Americans. The problem is that our forefathers came to this country mostly to get the hell away from conservatives – the ones who tended to stay back home.

In plain words, those old-time conservatives didn’t have the guts to put up with the challenges of creating a New World. It was the Independents and Dreamers who did all that.

Then there’s this, “If Jesus had been conservative, we’d all be talking Yiddish.” (“Oy vey,” to which might be added the Seinfeld meme, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

Or in the case of this post’s headline – “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative” – the Punch line thereof would be:  “Otherwise we Americans might all be Muslim.” 

But don’t take my word for it. Kenneth Clark said that in his 1969 book Civilisation: “Without Charles Martel‘s victory over the Moors at Poitiers in 732, western civilization might never have existed…”  And by western civilization he meant western Christian civilization.

Which again means that if Jesus had been conservative – as many ostensible Christians claim today – there would have been no viable force to stop the “Islamic advance into Western Europe.”

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There’s a bit of background in the notes about how I happened on to Clark’s observation…

But – to cut to the chase – here’s the connection between Charles Martel and Jesus not being conservative. The idea is that if Jesus had been conservative, He wouldn’t have started the New Religion – the “New Testament” – that eventually bore His name. And Judaism would likely have stayed a relatively small religious movement. (Without the proselytizing that is such a trademark of Christianity, it would have been confined to the fringes of the eastern Mediterranean.)

In plain words, there would be nothing to stop Islam from taking over Western Europe.

At page 17 in his first chapter, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Clark noted how close Western civilization came to be snuffed out. That is, with Fall of the Roman Empire, life in what we call the Middle (or “Dark“) Ages was generally nasty, brutish and short.

For one example, during those 500 years or so it was rare person indeed who could read or write. (“[P]ractically no lay person, from kings and emperors downwards, could read or write.”) And as Clark noted, it was only in the Church that reading and writing were preserved. “We survived because … for centuries practically all men of intellect joined the Church.” And it was Church scribes who preserved not only reading and writing, but also the classics of antiquity. “In so far as we are heirs of Greece and Rome, we got through by the skin of our teeth.”

Which is one reason to thank God that Jesus wasn’t conservative.

Another reason is that if Jesus had been conservative – and Judaism stayed a small religion without Christian proselytizing – there would be no Charles Martel, the French warrior-king (and “Hammer“) who saved Christian Europe. As historian Edward Gibbon noted:

[H]ad Charles fallen, the [Muslim armies] would have easily conquered a divided Europe… [T]he Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

See Battle of Tours – Wikipedia. But that didn’t happen. Instead – and again cut to the chase – after many long centuries of struggle, mayhem and death, we now have a clearly-defined separation of church and state. Which started (arguably) with Charles Martel, an effective combination of ardent Christian, powerful military leader, and Independent.

Although Charles Martel ( d. 741)  is one of the most noted heroes in Christianity when studying one of the many violent encounters between Christian and Muslim forces, Charles “The Hammer” Martel was no marionette of the Church. He was quite an independent and practical thinker as a military leader and as a politician.

To which we could add, “Martel was an Independent, just like Moses and Jesus!” (And like me, for that matter. See A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).”) 

Which is another way of saying that after Martel’s victory at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers) neither the Church nor the governments of Europe gained complete control. The result was a “dynamic tension” between the two forces, which turned out to be a blessing.

That is, Charles Martel “begat” Charlemagne – actually his grandson – who has been called “the father of Europe.” (He “united parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.”) Which again wouldn’t have happened without Martel’s victory at Tours.

The point is that in the fullness of time, Charlemagne traveled to Rome, where the Pope crowned him “emperor.” (At a Mass on Christmas Day, 800, “when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum (‘Emperor of the Romans’) in Saint Peter’s Basilica.”) Charlemagne later thought that episode was a mistake, in that it gave the pope a pretext of “supremacy” over him. (And future secular rulers.) Which led Clark to note:

But historical judgments are very tricky.  Maybe the tension between the spiritual and worldly powers throughout the Middle Ages was precisely what kept European civilisation alive. If either had achieved absolute power, society might have grown as static as the civilisations of Egypt and Byzantium.

(Clark, 20) And that – clearly – would have been the situation if Jesus had been either conservative or liberal. Instead, He and God seem to have worked together to maintain the Dynamic Tension that exists “even to this day,” between spiritual and worldly powers here in America. And why Jesus and God made sure that the foundations of American democracy included Freedom or religion and the separation of powers.

The result is that – whatever you might say about American democracy today – it is definitely not “static.” In short, if Jesus had been conservative, we here in America might have to see all our women togged out in those silly burqas, or otherwise covering themselves up…

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The upper image is courtesy of Umayyad invasion of Gaul – Wikipedia, rephrased in the main text as “Islamic advance into Western Europe.” The main point: “The Umayyad invasion of Gaul occurred in two phases in 720 and 732. Although the Muslim Umayyads secured control of Septimania, their incursions beyond this into the Loire and Rhône valleys failed. By 759 they had lost Septimania to the Christian Franks.” The caption for the painting: “The Battle of Tours” – also called the Battle of Poitiers – “in 732, depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours. Painting (1837) by Charles de Steuben.” See also the link Reconquista:

The Reconquista (Portuguese and Spanish for “reconquest”) was the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.

The photo to the left of the paragraph beginning “But don’t take my word for it” is courtesy of Kenneth Clark Civilisation – Image ResultsThe quotations from Clark are from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), pages 18 and 20. And for an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

As to “Christian civilization,” see How Sir Kenneth Clark Defended Christian Civilization on PBS.

And here’s some background on how I happened on Clark’s observations. I used to exercise seven hours a week. Over two of those hours included stair-stepping. (With a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) And those two or more hours of stair-stepping were exceedingly boring. So to pass the time – and aside from listening to music on my iPod Shuffle – I watch VHS tapes, hooked up to a flat-screen TV. And my VHS collection includes a Box Set of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). And some time ago – while stair-stepping an hour or so – I heard again Clark’s saying that Charles Martel saved western Christian civilization.  (It was like a “sign from God…”) A side-note: I now exercise some eight hours a week, but have cut down on the “weighted” stair-stepping.    

For more on the topic of Jesus-as-not-conservative, see The Story of the Law: Rene A. Wormser, 1962 paperback edition,  by Rene A. Wormser, at page 32. Briefly, Wormser used 29 pages to describe Moses’ role as “law-giver,” but only two to cover Jesus. Mostly, he wrote, because Jesus simply “preached what Jewish liberals had taught.” That is,”Jewish liberal thought had already produced the fine flowering of ethics which we now know best from Jesus’ lips.” For more on Wormser himself, see RENE A WORMSER, 85, LAWYER –  (Obituary) The New York Times.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

“Spanish flu” – Politically incorrect?

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston

A sign of things to come, or déjà vu? “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu…”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Back in mid-March (a month ago), we had a politically incorrect dust-up over the term “Chinese coronavirus.” See Tucker Carlson (at right): Racist for saying “Chinese coronavirus?”  (Another note: Coronavirus spreads anti-Chinese racism, xenophobia concerns.)

But aside from raising the twin concerns of spreading baseless “Conspiracy Theories” – and Scapegoating – the hubbub brings to mind another arguably “racist” disease: the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Two points. First, it was only called “Spanish flu” because Spain was the only major country that didn’t lie to its own people. That is, Spain didn’t censor bad news about the disease. Every other major country kept its citizens in the dark, lest their people panic.  (And maybe buy out all the store-stocked toilet paper?)  In plain words, they lied to their citizens and voters.

The other point? This one either puts things in perspective or gives us a preview of whatever bad news may be yet to come. For starters, as of April 15, 2020, there were some two million cases of Covid-19 worldwide. Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 cases top 2 million worldwide. To give us some perspective, the 1918 Spanish flu infected some 500 million people worldwide, making it “one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”

As for deaths, to date some 28,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.  The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.*  Worldwide there have been some 134,000 Covid-19 deaths. (Coronavirus Update (Live).)  Spanish-flu deaths worldwide? No one knows for sure, but at least 17 million:

Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.  The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million…

(See Wikipedia.  And as “noted” below,* if the present Covid-19 pandemic were to have a similar impact – in terms of population percentage – we’d have some 2,025,000 American deaths.)

Also – incidentally – the Spanish flu didn’t start in Spain. (No conspiracy theories please.) It got the name “Spanish flu” only because Spain was neutral in World War I. (Which was slowly coming to an end at about the same time.) That meant Spain didn’t censor the bad news about the disease. The nations actually fighting in World War I imposed strict censorship:

To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit.  This gave rise to the name Spanish flu.

Another note: “The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.” (Speaking of déjà vu.)

And also speaking of deja vu, see the web article, America relearning the lessons of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  One big lesson?  Social distancing works, “but only when it’s imposed early. And it has to be sustained.” See US may have to endure social distancing until 2022 if no vaccine is quickly found. But the Number One lesson from the 1918 Spanish flu?  (According to the Fox News article.)  “Number one, give people the straight facts.”

And let the toilet-paper shortage fall where it may.

But there is one silver lining to this “Corona-cloud overhanging us.” Covid-19 has cut down on the number of mass shootings in the U.S. See  March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, and Coronavirus Stopped US School Shooting In March.

Just compare the image below with the same one from a year ago, in May 2019…

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The upper image is courtesy of Spanish flu – Wikipedia. The caption: “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston.”

The Carlson image is courtesy of Tucker Carlson – Wikipedia. Caption: “Immigrants’ Rights Rally in Washington Mall, 2006.” And BTW: Why not call it the “Trump Coronavirus?”

Another note, re: Carlson’s disease-name. See, Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – Wikipedia:

Nearly a century after the Spanish flu struck in 1918–1920, health organizations moved away from naming epidemics after geographical places. More modern terms for this virus include the “1918 influenza pandemic,” the “1918 flu pandemic,” or variations of those.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “As for deaths” is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. Caption: “Public venues like this playground in Hannover, Germany, have closed throughout the country.”

Re: “The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.”  The U.S. population in 1920 – the nearest census to 1918 – was set at a bit over 106 million. 1920 United States Census – WikipediaThe U.S. population in 2020 is estimated at a bit over 329 million. Population of USA in 2020The world population as of 1927 was estimated at some two billion. World Population by Year – WorldometerThe world population is expected to be 7.8 billion by 2023. World Population Clock: 7.8 Billion People (2020). Thus there was a three-fold increase in American population between 1920 and 2020, and a “3.9-fold” increase in world population in the same century. Thus for the present Covid-19 to have a similar impact – in terms of percentage of population – the numbers would be as follows: some two million, twenty-five thousand (2,025,000) American deaths; as for the worldwide rate of infection, that 500-million-people total would reach one billion, nine hundred fifty million (1,950,000,000) people. (As noted, roughly a “quarter of the world’s population at the time.”) 

Also re: Number of Spanish flu deaths in the United States, see Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths (New York Times).

Incidents in 2019The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings in 2020 | Gun Violence Archive. As noted, compare that with the “incidents in 2019” lead image for “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, shown at right.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

Meditations on “the new plague…”

a close up of a book: During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease. Their iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

“Their headgear was particularly unusual” – and the plague-rod helped “fend off victims…”

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Roseduration.jpgLast March 12, I went to the local library and checked out a copy of The Plague by Albert Camus. (In light our new Coronavirus pandemic.)  Which book, incidentally, I cannot now return, because that library and all others in the area are closed. (Possibly “for the duration.”)

At the same time I checked out a copy of What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills, for a bit more uplifting reading. And I also started researching more on this “plague” business.

One thing I learned was that the Coronavirus is not – strictly speaking – a “plague.” According to Wikipedia that term is restricted to the “infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.” (Symptoms generally include fever, weakness and headache, similar to the Coronavirus.)

The most familiar form is bubonic plague, one of three types of this plague:

Bubonic and septicemic plague are generally spread by flea bites or handling an infected animal. The pneumonitic form is generally spread between people through the air via infectious droplets. Diagnosis is typically by finding the bacterium in fluid from a lymph node, blood or sputum.

La Peste book cover.jpgThe good news: There is now both vaccine and valid treatment for the plague of in Camus’ novel, at left. (Like “antibiotics and supportive care.” With which the risk of death through treatment is “about 10% while without it is about 70%.”) Not so with Coronavirus.

Not yet anyway… (And “La Peste” is French for “The Plague.”)

I also learned the difference between epidemic and a pandemic.

The web article Difference between epidemic and a pandemic went into great detail on distinctions between the terms, a distinction “often blurred, even among epidemiologists:”

  • Epidemic refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected.
  • Outbreak carries the same definition as an epidemic but is often used to describe a more limited geographic event.
  • Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

The article also noted the term “plague” refers “specifically to a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, such as bubonic plague.”

But we seem to be splitting hairs here. I didn’t check out Camus’ book because it was exactly on point with the current situation. I wanted to see what similarities there might be between the 1940s Algeria described by Camus, and America today, in March 2020.

Written in 1947, The Plague describes a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” As noted in one recent review, the novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of the plague. The novel thus poses a number of questions on “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

For myself, in some ways my life is more relaxed with this new “plague on a community.”

With none of my sport-teams playing, there’s no “canary in a coal mine” aspect to my spiritual life now. I have no pressing need for the ongoing ritual purity and ritual sacrifice that have been such a big part of my life since 1989 or so. (See “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth – illustrated at right – and On my “mission from God,” from a companion blog.) 

What remains is a series of annoying but petty minor inconveniences…

The biggest example? No more dine-in lunches, or dinners, or stopping by a local bar for a beer or two before Wednesday-night choir practice. And no more choir practice, or church on Sunday either for that matter. And pretty much every morning I used to stop by a local McDonald’s for iced coffee. I liked to sip a bit out, then put in lots more ice. (From the ice machine in the dine-in area. Remember those?)

There’s no more of that, but I’ve adapted. I now bring cup-and-straw from the day before (“saving the world, one McDonald’s straw at a time”), and fill it with ice from my home-freezer.  As for dine-in, every three days a week at work now – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful,” still open as of this writing – I take my to-go order to the parish hall of my church, around the corner. (I’m the vestry person in charge of buildings, so I have a key.) There in the peace and quiet of the parish hall, I eat my lunch and read my hand-me-down Time magazines.

All of which is, I suppose, a metaphor of sorts…

But then again, even before this “new plague” hit I was pretty much a hermit, living in a rambling four-bedroom house on an isolated acre of woodland. (It’s so isolated that I don’t have any curtains or venetian blinds on any windows. Who the heck is going to look in?)

But back to The Plague by Camus. Here’s a quote from Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.*

Which certainly seems true of this latest pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise.

I’ll no doubt be writing more meditations on this “new plague,” but for now the Faithful Reader is probably wondering, “What the heck is that beaked get-up at the top of the page?”

For a summary answer see Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks:

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease… [T]hey covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… Plague doctors wore spectacles … and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils…” Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

So much for that question. It’s a good thing we don’t believe in those silly superstitions anymore. And it’s a good thing history doesn’t repeat itself. And that we can learn so much from the lessons of the past, but we’re digressing again. So, going back to that review “The Plague” I cited above, here’s one thing the reviewer said, that seems to be relevant:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. That is, the present “Coronavirus” might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.”

Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks. (National Geographic.) The article described the protective gear worn by “plague doctors:”

The costume [including the “beaked mask] is usually credited to Charles de Lorme, a physician… He described an outfit that included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather.

Re: “For the duration.” The image is courtesy of For the Duration – Wikipedia, about the 1991 album by Rosemary Clooney, “of songs popular during World War II.” 

Re: “Local branch of Keep America Beautiful.” See On “Mad Men” – Revisited, and a prior post cited therein, Whatever happened to … Cassidy?

Re: Why … those strange beaked masks (National Geographic). Here’s the full quote: 

In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… [The outfit] included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather. Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

Their headgear was particularly unusual: Plague doctors wore spectacles, de Lorme continued, and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak.”

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease. Their iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

The “pestilence” quote is from The Plague, Part 1, Vintage International paperback, 1991, originally published 1947, at pages 36-37. See also “Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “So much for that question” is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results. The image is accompanied by an article, “Solutions people came up with to try to protect themselves.” 

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. See also Plague Camus – Image Results, including the article accompanying the “american illiterati” image.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

Yet another review of “past Trump-posts…”

The 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Any connection to current events?

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

I just got back from a month in Portugal, hiking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago. Meanwhile, in the last few days since I got home, there’s been a lot of political hubbub in the news. As in Trump Impeachment Poll: Public Support Rises.

So before starting any posts on my recent adventure-pilgrimage, it might be good to review some posts I did in the past. About Donald Trump. Like the one predicting he’d “be impeached within two years.” (Which cited another past post, from before the election, asking if Trump might be the “new Maverick in town.” See April 2016’s “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”)

We missed that deadline, from November 2016. On the other hand we are coming up on three years into his first term. (Putting aside – “tabling*” – the question whether he’ll have a second term.) And yet many people still support him. Why? One possible answer might have come in last April’s On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes.” It came in turn from an article in the Jan/Feb 2019 National Geographic History Magazine, “Jesse James: Rise of an American outlaw.”

It seems that Wilde was in America in 1882 – in St. Joseph, Missouri – the week after Jesse James was killed. Thus he witnessed “firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.” That led Wilde to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

Which – as I said – could explain the continuing support of Donald Trump from a large part of “the sovereign people.” Then too, Americans tend to admire “rebels” as well, as explored in the post-election (11/16) post, Donald Trump – The new Johnny Yuma? Which included this:

I have to admit I’ve been pretty much stymied since the election, last November 8. The best I could come up with since then was “Trump is like a box of chocolates.”  [11/13/16…]  It’s as if the Muses have abandoned me. On the one hand I want to be fair and not cranky. (Like so many other people my age.) But on the other hand I have this deep sense of foreboding

Which sense of foreboding could be coming to fruition “even as we speak.”

And which brings up a common phrase in this blog, “past Trump-posts.” It could be related to another new word, Trumpgret. See New Word: Trumpgret! – debatepolitics.com. (A word “bandied about by many voters that now ‘regret’ having voted for Trump in 2016.”)

But getting back to Trump as a rebel. The Yuma post noted that I “Googled the words ‘Donald Trump rebel’ and got 46,300,00 results.” And that one such link was the article, How the Rebel Flag Rose Again – and Is Helping Trump(“That title pretty much speaks for itself.”) 

Which I suppose means that the current Democratic House of Representative’s moves to impeach Trump can be seen – by some Americans anyway – as the functional equivalent of “the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” as illustrated at right.* (If I’m being too subtle,  Trump is portrayed as the “heroic Jesse James.”)

Then there was another post from the past,  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night.” It asked the musical question:

50 years from now [could] that dulcet-toned lass [Joan Baez] be singing that ode to Donald Trump to the tune of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night[?]” Joan Baez sang the original song – about Joe Hill – most memorably at Woodstock, back in the summer of 1969.

That post noted that “in some strange way Donald Trump – educated at the New York Military Academy, then the Wharton School” and worth over three billion dollars* – “has somehow become a hero to the (white) American working man.” It also noted that comparing Trump to famed labor activist and union organizer Joe Hill might not be such a good thing.

That is, like Jesse James and other noted “rebels,” Joe Hill died young. (At 36.) In one line from from “Joe Hill,” Baez sang, “‘The Copper Bosses killed you Joe, They shot you Joe’ says I.” That is, in 1914 Utah officials charged Hill with murder, resulting in a trial that became a sensation:

The case turned into a major media event. President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller (the blind and deaf author and fellow-IWW member), the Swedish ambassador and the Swedish public all became involved in a bid for clemency. It generated international union attention, and critics charged that the trial and conviction were unfair. [One later organizer considered] Joe Hill to have been a political prisoner who was executed for his political agitation…

And again if I’m being too subtle, Joe Hill was executed by firing squad at Utah’s Sugar House Prison on November 19, 1915. (After a conviction arguably orchestrated by “the copper bosses.”)

Which could happen to Donald Trump, metaphorically anyway.

Even if impeached and convicted – and in all likelihood ever after he passes from the scene, possibly still in disgrace – he likely will still remain a hero to some members of “the American working man.” As the original “Joe Hill” song said, “Takes more than guns to kill a man…  Says Joe ‘I didn’t die.’” In the same way it may take more than an impeachment-and-conviction to tarnish the Donald’s reputation with some Americans.  

And so the final stanza of  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night” might go like this:

From San Diego up to Maine, In every mine and mill, Where working men defend their rights, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump!

It could happen! Meanwhile, the question “How much of this will be ‘deja vu all over again?'”

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Will this be the scene if the House of Representatives impeaches Donald Trump?

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The upper image is courtesy of Impeachment in the U.S. – Wikipedia. The caption:Depiction of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding.”

Re: “Tabling.” The term in the United States for a rule of parliamentary procedure under which a topic or motion is put aside, possibly indefinitely; “to ‘table’ usually means to postpone or suspend consideration of a pending motion.” The term has different meanings in different countries; “the American meaning is based on the idea of leaving the topic on the table indefinitely and thereby disposing of it, i.e. killing its discussion.” See Table (parliamentary procedure) – Wikipedia.

Re: “Dirty little coward.” The caption of the photo: “A woodcut shows Robert Ford famously shooting Jesse James in the back while he hangs a picture in his house. Ford’s brother Charles looks on.” James was living under the assumed name, “Mr. Howard,” and apparently “Tom Howard.” See Wikipedia on Jesse James and Question about Jesse James & h – Genealogy.com. Wikipedia further noted:

While his “heroic outlaw” image is commonly portrayed in films, [some late 20th century historians] have classified him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the American Civil War…  James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be reinterpreted in various ways according to cultural tensions and needs. Some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero.

Which may well become the legacy of Donald Trump? 

The lower image was courtesy of Hard Hat Riot: Tea Party of yesteryear – Daily Kos.  (Which image has since been “removed.”)  The caption refers to two prior posts from this blog: Is this “deja vu all over again,” and a repriseAnother “deja vu all over again?”  See also Hard hat – Wikipedia, as to the literal meaning of the term, and the Collins Dictionary, as to its cultural implications; i.e., “characteristic of the presumed conservative attitudes and prejudices typified by construction workers.”  (See also, Hard Hat Riots.)

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Past posts on Trump and his future include Some thoughts on “the Donald,” from two years ago, On Hard hats, Hell’s Angels – and Inauguration Day 2017, and Trump – The new Johnny Yuma?

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

A belated 4th of July meditation…

“American children of many ethnic backgrounds” celebrate July 4th.  (No “send her back” here…)

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United States Declaration of Independence.jpgWe celebrated July 4th over two weeks ago.

But any time is a good time to recall the reason why we celebrate that day.  (When the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.)

And to recall the Declaration’s “self-evident” truths:  1)  that all men (and women) are created equal,  2) that all Americans have a God-given right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,  3) that governments – especially American governments – get their power from and by “the consent of the governed,*” and 4)  that when any American administration tries to destroy those ends, the Sovereign People have the right – if not the duty – to alter or abolish that administration.

And “institute new Government,” in the form of a new administration.

Which brings up the 22d Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And with it the subject of term limits for the president – the chief executive – of these ostensibly-united states:

Prior to the ratification of the amendment, the president had not been subject to term limits, but George Washington had established a two-term tradition that many other presidents had followed.  [However, in] the 1940 presidential election, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first president to win a third (and later fourth) term, giving rise to concerns about the potential issues involved with a president serving an unlimited number of terms.

And what are those “potential issues?”  As Thomas Jefferson said over 200 years ago:  “If some termination to the services of the chief magistrate [the president] be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally for years, will in fact, become for life; and history shows how easily that degenerates into an inheritance.”

James Madison.jpgWhich is another way of saying that limiting the number of presidential terms is a “vital check against any one person, or the presidency as a whole, accumulating too much power.”  Or as James Madison (at left) added, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Which brings up a 2009 attempt to repeal the 22d Amendment.  The effect was – according to conservatives – to allow “Barack Obama to serve as ‘President for life.'”  See FACT CHECK: Bill to Repeal the 22nd Amendment.  It was introduced by New York representative Jose Serrano, and was the same bill he’d introduced nine times since 1997.  The response from conservatives?

Is THIS really what America wants or needs?  If the just introduced H.J. Res 15 passes, Barack Obama will LEGALLY be able to be our dictator for the remainder of his life.  I surely hope that all liberty loving patriots speak up to their Congressmen and women that 4 years of Barack Obama has been bad enough, we surely don’t need him around running America into the ground for another 40 years.

Another comment compared the Democratic Party with “the Nazis, the Communists, and the Fascists,” because they were ostensibly “moving to posture the U.S. Presidency for succession by one President.”  (But see Trump hints U.S. should nix term limits.)  The writer added, “That’s how Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini became ‘Leaders for Life.’”  Then another voice added:

“Will George W. Bush end up being the last true U.S. President?” asked Sher Zieve…  ”As I warned you on multiple times prior to the 2008 General Election, ‘Once Obama is elected, we won’t be able to get rid of him.’  Tragically, this warning is now being realized.  Not only has Obama established his election-fraud organization ACORN nationwide*, his adherents have now begun the process to repeal the U.S. Constitution’s 22nd Amendment.”

Which brings up the irony of the same lawmakers [being] slow to reintroduce presidential term limit repeal under Trump (“Trump has joked about repealing the 22nd Amendment, including while humorously suggesting that he likes the idea of being ‘president for life,’ a term used to describe Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently consolidated power in the authoritarian country.”) 

See also Do you think Trump will try to repeal the 22nd Amendment(The answer?  No, not effectively anyway.)  My point?  The shoe is on the other foot, metaphorically speaking.

TrumpConservatives wish – and liberals dread – that without the 22d Amendment Donald Trump might well end up “our dictator for the remainder of his life.”  (As he himself has “joked.”  See Trump Jokes About Being President for 16 Years. Or Googletrump joke president for life.”)

Which isn’t going to happen.  Whether by vote in 2020 or operation of law in 2024, Trump will end up leaving the White House.  What happens then?  Aside from the cheering, the dancing in  the streets, the fireworks and parades, a new nightmare will begin – for Donald Trump.

Aside from likely fraud prosecutions in states like New York and California, he will no longer automatically be the center of attention.  He will no longer be able to have his face on the “front pages” of American media.  Eventually he’ll simply be ignored, a harsh punishment – for him – in and of itself.  Then there is Trump’s desire to be a part of the “elite.”

Trump doesn’t just have a problem with those in the exclusive club of elites.  It sounds as if he’s expressing frustration that he is not a part of that select group.  His boasts about his residence, bank account and intelligence sound like someone who wants membership in a club that has repeatedly rejected him.

So by either 2021 or 2025, Donald Trump will no longer have the protection of the White House.  He will no longer be part of the “ruling elite.”  He will be – simply – just one more ex-president.  And he’ll then have to face the reality that a great many Americans loathe him.  More to the point, a great many Americans will no longer see him as “a winner.”

Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

And that anger may well be returned by the very “deplorables” who ardently support him now.  Like, when they finally realize how little he has actually done for them.  “Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they … also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in ‘flyover’ states.”

People might even say, “and great was the fall thereof.”  (But the Republic will live on…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Independence Day (United States) – Wikipedia.  I borrowed it from the 2017 post July 4th: “God save the Queen?”  It noted that Puck magazine was noted for its satire, “which is another way of saying that any real American will always retain his or her sense of humor, up to and including the ability to laugh at himself.  (Or herself.)  And that’s another way of saying that no real American will ever be too thin-skinned to do his job.  (Or hers.)

“Not that that observation applies to current events or anything…”  

The full text of the Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence (Wikipedia):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,  That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation upon such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”  (E.A.)

Re:  “Consent of the governed.”  See also Popular sovereignty – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Chief executive.”  See SparkNotes: The Presidency: The President’s Roles:  The president is “head of the executive branch and is responsible for running the federal bureaucracy and enforcing the laws passed by Congress.”  He – or she, eventually – has the appointment power to nominate members of the cabinet, along with “heads of agencies, federal judges, and about 2,000 lesser jobs.  The Senate must approve these nominations.” 

Re:  Accumulation of power quote.  See Separation of Powers: A System of Checks and Balances.  See also, TOP 25 TYRANNY FOUNDING FATHERS QUOTES.  Another relevant quote from Madison:  “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

Re:  “Acorn nationwide.”  See ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy – Wikipedia.  In 2009, conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe secretly recorded activities at the offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a non-profit which – for nearly 40 years – had been involved in “voter registration, community organizing and advocacy for low- and moderate-income people.”  After much media ballyhoo one federal investigation found ACORN hadn’t violated “any federal regulations in the past five years,” but that O’Keefe and Giles “may have violated Maryland and California laws banning the recording of face-to-face conversations without consent of both parties.”  In 2010 the Brooklyn District Attorney‘s office found the videos were “‘heavily edited’ to give a misleading impression,” and that there was no criminal wrongdoing by the ACORN Brooklyn staff.  A law enforcement source added, “They edited the tape to meet their agenda.”

Re:  “And great was the fall thereof.”  See Matthew 7:27, according to the Douay-Rheims and English Revised Version of the Bible.  Which leads to the lower image, courtesy of House Built On Sand – Image Results.  See also Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders – Wikipedia, which “illustrates the importance of building one’s life on obedience to the teachings and example of Jesus.”

A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter…)”

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpg

Washington Crossing the Delaware – before political parties could lift up “the unprincipled…”

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I had an interesting conversation last May 2d, at a Saturday-afternoon soccer game.  My Georgia niece’s husband – “nephew by marriage” – was sounding out my political views.

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]He’d been goaded by having read – under protest no doubt – the paperback version of my just-published e-book, No such thing as a Conservative Christian(I’d given the two a copy of the paperback version for Christmas.)  He asked if I was conservative or liberal, and I gave him my standard answer – at the time.  I said I was a “Contrarian,” which translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”

Then just the other day someone on Facebook called me a “liberal.”

Which again threw me for a loop, temporarily.  Being out of practice – away from home for three weeks in Israel, then two weeks on the road trip to Massachusetts – I was tempted to respond that I was a Moderate.  The problem is that these days that sounds wishy-washy.  I also thought of pointing out that I’m a fiscal conservative but a social liberal.  (“Like most real Americans,” I added.  It seems you have to be a bit “over the top” on Facebook these days.)  Then too – somewhere between last May and now – I toyed with the idea of calling myself a “seeker-after-truth.”  But that sounds a bit pompous.

So as it turns out, none of the three answers I toyed with sounded right, until I remembered a post that I did two years ago – for July 4th – called The Independent Voter.  That post noted the growing number of Independent Voters in this country.  That is, “those voters who don’t align with either major political party, Republican or Democrat:”

An independent is variously defined as a voter who votes for candidates and issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship;  a voter who does not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party;  a voter who does not usually vote for the same political party from election to election;  or a voter who self-describes as an independent.

To me, the problem with both Conservatives and Liberals is that they both have a “one size fits all” set of standard answers for all of life’s problems.  They each have a preconceived notion of “What is Truth.”  And so – rather than digging out the real Truth – they try ever so hard to find answers to all of life’s problems in a pre-boxed set of canned answers. 

On the other hand, there is that quote from Virgil, “Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.”  In other words, the one who understands why things happen.  In that way he is much better prepared to keep Reality from coming up and biting him on the ass!  (Metaphorically or otherwise.)  And that – to me – is the big difference between an Independent and either a Conservative or Liberal.  An Independent wants to find the real truth…

Then too there was my post from June 2017, Last year at this time.  It noted that Independent Voters –  “who don’t align with either major political party” – could well have taken their cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

Which also makes for the biggest problem we Independents Voters always face:

“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”

The point is:  Life isn’t “black and white,” the way ardent liberals and conservatives alike believe.  Everyday life is full or gray areas, as noted in Learning to see things grey:

Turns out that life is full of grey situations.  Life is full of uncertainty.  Full of situations that are neither “Yes” nor “No,” but subject to one of the endless variables in that grey area between black and white.  As humans, we are limited by our subjective perspectives…  Given this limitation, not everything can fit into one of our neat little boxes that we have in our minds and with which we would like to interpret all the situations we encounter in our lives.

And it’s those “neat little boxes” that Conservatives and Liberals alike turn to, for solutions to all of life’s problems.  Or maybe I just don’t trust canned responses, “predetermined responses to common questions.”  Which is why – at one point over the past few years – I considered “Contrarian” to be the best label for me and what I believe.

See for example, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian:

I think I was pre-disposed to become a Contrarian.  For one thing, I was a public defender for 24 years – before I retired – so I got used to saying things people didn’t like to hear.  For another, I like the idea of a “Devil’s advocate,” which is one of the “see alsos” in the Wikipedia article on Contrarians

But as I found out, in its original meaning a “Devil’s advocate” did holy work.  He too was a “seeker after truth,” albeit with a much more memorable title.  See for example Contrarian – Wikipedia, with a link included therein on “Devil’s advocate:”

The Advocatus Diaboli … was formerly an official position within the Catholic Church;  one who “argued against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation evidence favoring canonization.”

In other words, the job of the Advocatus Diaboli was to find the truth, which was the same thing Superman came to stand for.  (See Truth, Justice, and the American Way – Wikipedia.)

The problem is, going after the real truth – the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” – can often get you into a lot of trouble.  For example, there’s the Social gadfly concept.  That term refers to a person “who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potentially upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities.”

Then too finding the truth is just half the problem.  Then you have to make it comprehensible.  There’s a lot of “truth” that’s largely beyond the comprehension of many Americans.  (Especially those who need persuading that Donald Trump is “less than meets the eye.”)

Which is – as it turns out – just the problem that Moses, Paul and Jesus all had to face.  (And Socrates as well, as shown at right.)  They all had to “dumb it down” and – in my view – do so mostly for the more conservative among us, then and now.  Or as Colin Powell put it:  “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Even conservatives…

So anyway, Plato used the term “gadfly” to describe Socrates‘s relationship with the people around him and of his time.  He was an “uncomfortable goad* to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse.”

Which sounds pretty appropriate these days as well.

And that brings up another problem.  We know what happened to Socrates, “in his defense when on trial for his life.*”  For that matter, something similar happened to Jesus when He too tried to “shake things up” and help His disciples resist the ongoing temptation to turn too conservative.  The point is, if you are neither a conservative nor a liberal, you don’t have a ready-made set of allies to back you up in a bar fight, metaphoric or otherwise.

“It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

But at the very least I have this:  If anybody asks, I now know what to call myself…

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Daniel Webster argues against the Devil…

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The upper image is courtesy of Washington Crossing the Delaware – Wikipedia.  The quote is from Quote by Washington “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely … to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”  (Can you say prescient?)  Then too, Washington could well be the first “independent voter.”

The “No conservative Christian” image is from Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks: Kindle Store.  The link in the text will take you to the paperback version.

Re: The Virgil quote.  See Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas – Wikipedia.  From Verse 490 of Book 2 of the “Georgics” (29 BC), by the Latin poet Virgil (70 – 19 BC), the phrase is variously translated.  For example, John Dryden – (1631-1700) the English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who became England’s first Poet Laureate – translated it: “Happy the Man, who, studying Nature’s Laws, / Thro’ known Effects can trace the secret Cause.”  (In other words, the direct opposite of the person who says “fake news” at every bit of information he or she can’t handle…) 

The “lesser of two weevils” image is courtesy of pinterest.com.  See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTubeLesser of Two Evils – TV TropesReader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Mi Dulce” and me being a Contrarian.  I must admit that there was also a bit of “getting her goat” with such a label, as explained in Phrase Finder:

A commonly repeated story … is that goats were placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When ne’er-do-wells who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, that is, they ‘got someone’s goat,’ [and] the horse became unsettled and ran badly.

For an alternate theory, see Definition of get (one’s) goat – Online Slang Dictionary.

As to the grey – or gray – areas in life, I Googled “real life gray areas” and got almost 11 million results.  Of related interest see Debate Quotes – BrainyQuote, and/or Quote by René Descartes: “If you would be a real seeker:  “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

Re:  Truth, justice and the American way.  An opposing view, Truth, Justice, or the American Way – LELA.  Or for a very long and convoluted – but intriguing – analysis, Truth, Justice, and the American Way | Alternative to AARPAmong other things, it noted, “After World War II, Superman’s foster Dad reminded his son that he must use his super powers ‘in the interest of truth, tolerance, and justice,’ and also that “personal liberty demands personal responsibility.  Liberty and Responsibility go hand in hand.”  From a rough reading I’d say that author too is a bit of Contrarian…

The Cambridge English Dictionary says that to “goad” someone is to “make a person or an animal react or do something by continuously annoying or upsetting them.”

Re: Socrates, and how he ended up.  He was tried and convicted of “both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety (asebeia, ‘not believing in the gods of the state’), and as a punishment sentenced to death, caused by the drinking of a mixture containing poison hemlock.”

One of Socrates’s purported offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of what he perceived as immorality … Socrates questioned the collective notion of “might makes right…”  Plato refers to Socrates as the “gadfly” of the state (as the gadfly stings the horse into action, so Socrates stung various Athenians), insofar as he irritated some people with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness.  His attempts to improve the Athenians’s sense of justice may have been the cause of his execution.

The lower image is courtesy of Lawsuits against the Devil – Wikipedia.  The full caption, “Daniel Webster argues on behalf of a plaintiff while the Devil whispers into the judge’s ear.”

An update on “why I don’t like Donald Trump…”

Reason # 1:  Trump thinks he’s above the law.  (Another thing:  he’s not Winston Churchill…)

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Back on March 20, I wrote about the beginning of Lent, 2019.  And about Lent’s generally including – as preparation for Easter – giving up things, and with doing things like penance, “repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  (See Early kayaking adventure.)

But while for many people Lent means giving up something, “some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

Like last year I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I did the same thing – for one thing, it netted the UTO some $25 in penalties, at 25 cents a pop.  But this year I felt the need to add something else.

To “add a discipline,” etc.  So for this Lent I’ll be trying mightily to add – i.e., to prepare – a reasoned, careful, logical treatise on precisely why I think Donald Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate, though not yet on par with the Civil War.  (Not yet.)  But beyond that, for my Lenten discipline I will try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him, without saying, “What are you, a bunch of dumbasses?”

That’s going to be the hard part…

So for this year’s Lenten period I added – as I have done before – some serious contemplating (As illustrated at left.)  

And as Wikipedia explained, contemplation means “profound thinking about something…  In a religious sense, contemplation is usually a type of prayer or meditation.”  And there’s this:

Within Western Christianity contemplation is often related to mysticism as expressed in the works of mystical theologians such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as well as the writings of Margery KempeAugustine Baker and Thomas Merton.

So in so “contemplating” why I despise the current president so much, I’d be in pretty good company.  (In good company while contemplating like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.)

To that end, on March 20 I “dedicated myself to write at least one blog-post on why I don’t like DT” for Lent, although “it may well take more than one such post.”  The problem is that I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to garner much on the subject.  Plus the fact that Trump himself is daily providing such ample fodder that the question becomes, “Where to I begin?”

I did note these thoughts, before March 20; that is, on March 6:

Just this morning (3/6/19) I started listening to the audio version of The Restless Wave:  Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations, by John McCain.  And it’s given me some good starting insights.  For example, I don’t mind that Donald Trump never served in the armed forces.  But I do mind that he routinely insults the brave men and women who have served, including but not limited to John McCain himself.

Which is another way of saying Trump has never served “anything greater than himself.”

As time went on I started running out of time.  Then one sleepless night about a week ago, I got up about 3:30 in the morning, got one more beer and started reading the Kindle version of the first volume of Winston Churchill‘s four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

That put it all together.  It gave me the main reason I don’t like “the Donald.”  The reason?  He think’s he’s above the law.  But the idea that he is not above the law goes way back.

Back to at least the time of the Magna Carta, or 1215.  (Over 800 years ago.)  That is, in his Preface to that first volume – THE BIRTH OF BRITAIN – Churchill wrote about the Magna Carta, the “Great Charter.”  And mostly – he said – the Great Charter was an “agreed statement of what the law is.”  Further, that Charter’s main point was a “broad affirmation of the principle that there is a law to which the Crown itself is subject.”  To which “the Crown itself is subject.”

Which is another way of saying that no man is above the law, or more precisely, No Donald, you CAN’T pardon yourself.  So if there is a law to which “the Crown itself” is subject, how much more does that long-established principle apply to a president who is limited by the Constitution to no more than two four-year terms.  Which is another way of saying that no matter how bad a president he may be, Donald Trump is only temporary.

There will again be a time when Donald Trump is not president…

(And as noted in CAN’T pardon – and aside from the maxim that no man is above the law, also known as the rule of law – there is also the long-established legal maxim that “no man can be a judge in his own case.”  In the original Latin:  “Nemo iudex in causa sua.”  Thus the “no pardon.”)

Getting back to Churchill, he said the Magna Carta affirmed the idea that the “king” is and always should be below both “God and the law.”  In other words, he has his “sphere of action,” but if he “steps outside it he must be brought back.”  And he steps outside the law if he ignores the “ancient Council of the kingdom,” or refuses to take the advice of his “wise men.”  And he steps outside the law if he tries to rule through his “Household” or his favorites;

In other words, personal government, with all its latent possibilities of oppression and caprice, is not to be endured.  But it is not easy to prevent.  The king is strong …  If the Crown is to be kept within its due limits some broader basis of resistance must be found…

For Great Britain, after the Magna Carta one “basis of resistance” became Parliament.  In America, that broad basis of resistance to a “King’s” personal caprice includes – but is not limited to – Congress.  (Which in turn includes but is not limited to the House of Representatives, which alone has the power to impeach.)  Another broad basis of resistance – to “kingly” attempts at personal rule and tyranny – is the Fourth Estate of the Realm; that is, the media.

And contrary to what Trump has said repeatedly, the free press is not the enemy of the people.  Instead it is – and should continue to be – the Fourth branch of government.  As Wikipedia noted, “The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility and the commoners.”

Which now brings up two good reasons I don’t like Trump as president.  First and contrary to centuries of ongoing law and tradition, he thinks he is above the law.  And second, despite how the Founding Fathers took such care establishing and protecting the Fourth branch of government, Trump thinks he is too good for probing scrutiny from the press.  See Donald Trump Thinks the Freedom of the Press Is ‘Disgusting.'”  (Except Fox News of course…)  And also All presidents (and candidates) deserve Trump-level scrutiny from the press:

No modern president, save perhaps Richard Nixon, who waged an outright war on the press, earned the scorn and suspicion that Trump has since the day he took office.  Let’s be crystal clear:  Trump deserves scorn and suspicion.  He is a liar and a huckster.  But so too does every person in a position of immense power, because power is inherently corrupting, and because the decisions presidents make impact so many people’s lives.

And speaking of Richard Nixon, he was perhaps most famous for his Enemies List.

The official purpose of that list was to “‘screw’ Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service,” and through “litigation, prosecution, etc,”  In further words, it was made to “maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration;  stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

One noteworthy point:  “The IRS commissioner, Donald C. Alexander, refused to launch audits of the people on the list.”  So here’s to that unsung “Hero of the Realm,” who died in 2009 but kept his honor and integrity.  That is, his opposition resulted in a “string of attempts by Nixon to fire him.  Early on in his tenure as Commissioner, he dismantled the IRS Special Service Staff, which had been used to pursue detractors of the administration and its policies in Vietnam.”  Another noteworthy point, people justly too pride in being on the list:

Newsman Daniel Schorr and actor Paul Newman stated, separately, that inclusion on the list was their greatest accomplishment.  When this list was released, Schorr read it live on television, not realizing that he was on the list until he came to his own name.  Author Hunter S. Thompson remarked he was disappointed he was not on it.

Which brings us back to Winston Churchill, and another noteworthy point he made:

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Winston Churchill – Image Results.  The lower image accompanies an article, “World war II in Pictures” (World War II in Pictures – Filminspector), on “Churchill, a Man of All Seasons.”  The article noted mainly that Churchill “did more with less.  He bounced back from adversity more often, and to greater effect than anyone else during the 20th Century.  Just for starters, Churchill was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.”  Trump on the other hand has done less with more, has never experienced true adversity, and I doubt any country will make him an “honorary citizen.”  (An “honorary comrade,” perhaps…)

Re:  Lent.  See also My Lenten meditation, from my companion blog.

The image “contemplating” is courtesy of Wikipedia on contemplation.  Caption:  “A woman places rosary beads on a devotional image mounted on the wall beside her bed.” Walters Museum.

The Magna Carta image is courtesy of King John Signing Magna Carta – Image ResultsIt is accompanied by an article, “Magna Carta, signed by King John of England:”

The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world.  Magna Carta was important in the colonization of American colonies as England’s legal system was used as a model for many of the colonies as they were developing their own legal systems.

In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not generally limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.  It influenced the early settlers in New England and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

Re:  The “king” and his caprice.  Such rule by “personal government” – as Trump seeks to create – could also be called as a Banana republic, a “pejorative descriptor for a servile dictatorship that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture.”

Re:  The quote in the lower image.  According to some sources, it came from Victor HugoSee 9 Quotes From Winston Churchill That Are Totally Fake, and also Victor Hugo: “You have enemies?:

You have enemies?  Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea.  It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines.  Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats.  Do not bother yourself about it; disdain.  Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes…”

Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg

As far was we know, nobody yelled out “Shut up, you filthy sodomite” to Oscar Wilde

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I just finished reading the January/February 2019 National Geographic magazine.  I came across this comment from Oscar Wilde, about Americans – and their unique hero-worship.

Wilde was visiting America – specifically, St. Joseph, Missouri – a week after Jesse James was killed.  (By the “coward Robert Ford,” illustrated at right.)  Wilde thus “witnessed firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.”  That led him to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

(Not that has anything to do with current events…)  

That led me to Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character.  I wanted to verify the National Geographic quote, and maybe get some additional background.  Which led me to this:

In Leadville, Colorado he was winched down into the depths of a silver mine and delivered a lecture to the miners on the ethics of art.  “I read them passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and they seemed much delighted,” he said.  “[But] I was reproved by my hearers for not having brought [Cellini] with me.  I explained that he had been dead for some little time which elicited the enquiry, ‘Who shot him?’

It turns out that “some little time” was over 300 years.  That is, Cellini (1500-1571) was an “Italian goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, and artist.”  (He also wrote the “famous autobiography” that Wilde read to the Colorado miners.) 

And in turns out that nobody shot Cellini…  That is, despite his various escapades – sexual and otherwise, described further below – he lived to a “ripe old age.”

I’ve written about Wilde before in Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies,” On Roy Moore – and Oscar Wilde, and Imitation Game” – Revisited.  And when I started work on this blog-post, I planned to review those past posts on Wilde.  I also planned to write more about Americans today, VIS-À-VIS their habit of “always tak[ing] their heroes from the criminal classes.”

But as it turns out, Cellini was way more interesting…

For one thing, he was “one of the most important artists of Mannerism.”  (Which includes a variety of approaches “associated with artists such as Leonardo da VinciRaphael, and early Michelangelo.  Where High Renaissance art emphasizes proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, Mannerism exaggerates such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant.”)  And he’s “remembered for his skill in making pieces such as the Cellini Salt Cellar and Perseus with the Head of Medusa.”  (Seen at left.)

But that’s not the interesting part.  The interesting part involved Cellini’s “active social life,” if not his frequent run-ins.

For example, he boasted in his memoirs of killing five people.  There may have been more but no one knows for sure:  He never got convicted.  (He got pardons from various church officials, including popes.)  But he did have to bounce around a lot:  From Rome to Florence to France, back to Florence, then to Venice, and so on.

For an example of that (and other things):  In 1548 – he was 48 or so (being born in 1500 helps) – a woman in Florence accused Cellini of sodomizing her son, Vincenzo.  To escape the charge he fled to Venice.  “This was not the first, nor the last time, that Cellini was implicated for sodomy.”

And this – Wikipedia noted – illustrated his strong homosexual or bisexual tendencies; (“once with a woman and at least three times with men during his life”).  As for penalties:  As a young man “he was sentenced to pay 12 staia (bushels) of flour in 1523 for relations with another young man…  Meanwhile, in Paris a former model and lover brought charges against him of using her ‘after the Italian fashion’ (i.e. sodomy).”  Later still, in 1556 (at age 56):

Cellini’s apprentice … Montepulciano accused his mentor of having sodomised him many times while “keeping him for five years in his bed as a wife.  This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medicis.  In a public altercation before Duke CosimoBandinelli* had called out to him Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!  (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!)

Cellini described this as an “atrocious insult,” and tried to laugh it off.

But he wasn’t done.  (For one thing, he outlived Bandinelli by 11 years.)  In 1562 – after briefly trying a “clerical career” – he married a servant, with whom he claimed to have five children.  In 1563 he was named a member of the “prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence, founded by the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici … under the influence of the architect Giorgio Vasari.”

So aside from being a talented artist, he knew how to make some pretty influential friends.

And finally, when he died in Florence in 1571 he was “buried with great pomp in the church of the Santissima Annunziata.”  As to what caused his death, some modern readers may think that was a result of his lifelong various escapades, sexual and otherwise.

But the fact is that despite all those turmoils, run-ins and escapades, he lived to the ripe old age of 71.  And this was at a time when the average life expectancy was 30 to 40 years(See for example What was life expectancy in the 1500s – answers.com, and/or Life Expectancy From Prehistory to Today.)  And from all this we might glean two points of note:  For one thing, “I’m sure there’s an object lesson here, but darned if I can figure out what.”  For another:

Who says history can’t be fascinating?

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On the other hand – as far as we know – Cellini never got tried for “gross indecency.”

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 I borrowed the upper image from Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies.”  In turn, the image is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.”  Here’s what Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character said about the photo:  

The most iconic images of Wilde we have today [including the image at the top of the post] were actually taken in New York at the studio of Napoleon Sarony at 37 Union Square.  It was in America that Wilde perfected his image, and it’s ironic that this image was the subject of a lawsuit that changed US copyright law forever.  Sarony successfully sued a company that had reproduced 85,000 copies of this picture of Wilde, claiming ownership over the copyright of a photograph for the first time in legal history.

And re:  Wilde’s comment on American hero-worship.  It was on page 88 of the paper edition of the “January/February 2019 edition of National Geographic magazine.”  See National Geographic History – January 2019 Free PDF, for an electronic version, and/or National Geographic (Ebay) for an image of the paperback cover.  Also, the web article Breaking Character” did in fact verify the quote:

Wilde lectured in Saint Joseph, Missouri two weeks after Jesse James had been murdered there and found the whole town in mourning.  “Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes,” he observed.

For more on Cellini, see 13 surprising facts about Cellini – DorotheumArt, How many people did benvenuto cellini kill? | Yahoo Answers, and The Bedevilment of Benvenuto Cellini – EsoterX.

Re:  The “Bandinelli” who called out to Cellini, “Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!”  He was a “Renaissance Italian sculptor, draughtsman and painter” (1488-1560).  He had a “lifelong obsession with Michelangelo,” but was also – according to Giorgio Vasari, “a former pupil in Bandinelli’s workshop” – he (Bandinelli) “was driven by jealousy of Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo.”

The lower image is courtesy of Sodomy Trial Oscar Wilde – Image Results.