Saturday, August 19, 2017

Enough already on the Eclipse


unisex-child I Don't Care About The Solar Eclipse Funny Total T Shirt Tee 8 Purple
 A shirt on Amazon that I so wish I would have known about earlier.

I'm so sick of the eclipse it isn't even funny.

How, you may ask, can a person hold such a view?

Well, I do.

I'm sick of the hype.  I'm sick of the all sorts of this and that going into town to accommodate the huge influx of people, and I'm sick of the huge influx of people.  I'm sick of the approximately 10,756 t-shirt variants about the eclipse.  I'm sick of the odder marketing, such as the "adult camping" offered by a strip joint north of town.

And I'm baffled.

Is there so much spare cash in around that so many people can come from so far to see dark? Seriously?

I mean, I understand driving up from Colorado, or down from Montana.  But flying in from Japan?

Seriously?

I'll be glad when its over.

Lex Anteinternet: "The Confederate Monuments and Contemporary Strife...." Taking Down The Monuments, in Helena?

When I posted this last week I didn't think we'd see memorials coming down so fast, or maybe at all:
Lex Anteinternet: The Confederate Monuments and Contemporary Strife....:     The Virginia Memorial at Gettysburg .  This impressive memorial was only dedicated in 1917. I run more than one blog, which some ...
Well, since then they've started to.  First Baltimore, Maryland, and now Helena, Montana.

Helena Montana?

How on earth did Helena get a Confederate monument of any kind?  During the Civil War it was Indian Territory.  Fort C. F. Smith, established right after the Civil War, barely managed to survive the Hayfield Fight. What the heck?

Well, did have one. It was a fountain.  I don't know if the folks in Helena realized it or not, but it was a fountain of the horse watering type, which have featured on this blog before, and which were once fairly common all over the US.  A lot of them remain, with people in their respective towns having no idea what they were for.  Denver, for example, has one.

One local Montana resident, before it came down, expressed the same view I basically have:
“Rather than just destroy it and pretend like it never existed, we should use it as a teachable moment,” he said. “Kids should understand those things that we find so objectionable now, and the sins of the Civil War. … I don’t know how you do that without something to point to."
The fountain was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated in 1916.
Attardo acknowledged that the fountain may have been donated as part of the UDC’s attempt to rewrite the history of the South, but she believes it should be explained instead of removed. That is why she has been working with the city for the last two years to explain the fountain’s origins through a sign that would have been placed near the monument, an idea she proposed and the city commission approved in 2015.
“I wanted people to know: Why the heck did we have a Confederate monument in our park? Who put it there? And the national significance of it was, it was actually part of a larger campaign,” she said.
A sign would have been a good approach.  Indeed, I noted that approach in my entry of a few days ago.

But how did it get there?

I've noticed a few older graves in our local cemetery where it appears the deceased had Confederate service. Quite a few more had Union service.  I suppose it must be something like that.  And Montana went through a real period of nativist anti immigrant activity about this time, mostly directed at Slavic immigrants who were well represented in the mining population. Was that related in some fashion to this?  The rise of the KKK in the early 20th Century was connected to the influx of Catholic immigrants in the nation, allowing it to spread up into the north. Montana and Colorado both had signficant Klan presence at this time.  Perhaps a teachable moment indeed.

I wonder what will become of it?

Poster Saturday (but a magazine cover today). Judge; August 18, 1917.


Best Post of the Week of August 13, 2017

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Stop! Don't change that Church!

The Confederate Monuments and Contemporary Strife.

Rosy Views of the Past. . . Over Wrought Views of the Present. A Story About "Race", Racism, and its hateful irrational nature.

Lex Anteinternet: "The Confederate Monuments and Contemporary Strife...." Taking Down The Monuments, in Helena?

Get Inside the Tanks: Jagdtiger

Well done video on the Jagdtiger.  Particularly interesting sequence of a unit of them surrendering late war.


Inside the Tanks: The Tiger I - part II - World of Tanks

Inside The Tanks: The Panzer IV - World of Tanks

Nice video on the Panzerkampfwagen IV.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Rosy Views of the Past. . . Over Wrought Views of the Present. A Story About "Race", Racism, and its hateful irrational nature.

 W. E. B. Dubois.  He didn't become famous because everything was prefect at the beginning of the prior century.

I knew as soon as the violence in Chartlottesville, Virginia hit the news that in a few days we'd have overwrought op eds by people like Catherine Rampell, to be followed by overwrought op eds from those on the opposite side of the isle.

Rampell's articles are far from the worst on this topic, but they sort of symbolize the problem here. She's a whopping ten years out of Princeton, where she was a legacy graduate, and therefore has enough life experience to write about, well. . . pretty much nothing at all.  Indeed, you can find one of her really early articles from near the point at which she graduated defending her status as. . . a legacy student.  I could go on, but it would be well off the topic, so will abstain for the time being.

Now, that sounds snotty but Rampell comes across like a snot.  Much of the rest of the writing on this topic on the op-ed pages comes across as massively un-informed as to history.

Almost as ignorant are the comments by one poster on Reddit's 100 Years Ago Today Subreddit who thought that pretty much everything was better a century ago, no matter what it was.  Diet, health, living conditions in every fashion. . . you name it.  This came after a series of posts one day about terrible things happening during World War One.

World War One sucked. There's no putting a cheery face on World War One.

 Dead horses from air raid, World War One.  Okay, there's a lot about a century ago that fascinates me and that I even think might have been better than currently. . . but you can't look at this and say "oh look. . . a century ago the ponies had time to sleep!"  No, you cannot.

Two sides of the same coin.  One with a "it's a terrible grim present" and the other with "it was a really rosy past" side.

I've written on both topics here, but setting aside the topic just of race for this post, and putting it into the main focus of the blog, the world of the early 20th Century, we get a much different picture.  On race and how things were, and are, the question is this. Where do we start?

Well, before I really start, I'll start with this.  I'll concede that I do find some aspects of the past, indeed, quite a few of them, to be more appealing than the present in all sorts of ways.  I think we've endured a real loss of standards that really mean something over the past fifty or so years.  It think the Western World in general has become a lot more superficial.  I think our technology is rapidly overcoming us and we soon will not be able to handle it, assuming we can now.  I think the focus of economic activity since the 1970s has gone from personal and family centric in general (but not universally) to pure wealth acquisition.  I lament a world in which the average man can no longer enter the most basic of pursuits, agriculture, and one in which working in a cubicle or glass and steel office are becoming the norm.  I'm distressed by the fantasy of sex obsessed moderns that they are defined by their gender and can define their gender.

So I'll acknowledge that impulse, looking back romantically on the past, and I don't think it completely in error.

And I do feel we have a race problem we need to address. So, I'm not denying that.

But here's an area where our contemporaries don't seem to be remembering the past accurately, or grasping the present correctly.

So, let's dig in, and lets start with race.

Things were a lot worse, in regard to race, a century ago.  Indeed, things were a lot worse fifty years ago. That doesn't mean things are perfect now, but it does mean that things have tremendously improved.  Indeed, as I noted in my post of the other day, the mere fact that there are actually towns in Virginia, albeit ones that are apparently sort of islands in the general view of the state, taking down Confederate monuments, irrespective of whether they should or not, is stunning evidence of the degree to which things have really changed.  Monuments of that type were going up in 1917 all over the South.  Some went up as late as the 1960s.  In my own lifetime.


It's as if the Civil War has actually finally ended, in a way.

That might sound like a bit much, but consider this.  Between 1860 and 1865 this nation fought the worst war in its history over slavery.  The country went into the war over a single issue; was enslaving blacks because they were black, or even partially black, a morally acceptable thing to do?  Starting as far back as the waning days of the Colonial era an increasing number of Americans said no. The United States Supreme Court, which rightly gets dope slapped for its decision in the Dred Scott case (1857), had earlier declared it abhorrent to the Natural Law in The Antelope in 1825.  But the American South, including of course Virginia, clung to slavery as the planter economy switched from tobacco to cotton.  Ironically, in this regards, tobacco would have been a "healthier" crop for Americans as it was less labor intensive and the general late 18th Century belief is that cultivating it would continue on as slavery passed out of existence. Cotton changed all of that.

In spite of what latter day apologist have attempted to maintain about it, American slavery is almost (but not quite) unique in some ways in that it was race based, and based on nothing else.  Slavery, as latter day apologist like to point out, has been practiced by many cultures (and still is by some) but not in this fashion.  Generally slavery has been the result of war and economics, with economic slavery and POW status being by far the most common forms.  Islamic cultures, it is often noted, have practiced it extensively as well and often on the basis of religion, i.e., Muslims are not supposed to hold other Muslims as slaves, so there's a bit of an analogy there, and its important to note that Muslims were heavily involved in the slave trade that lead to slaves being sent to North America.  Islamic slavery is also a bit unique here, and also uniquely abhorrent, in that it not only include a labor component, ie., slaves as laborers, but sex slaves were a very large aspect of it and constituted its own market, for which raids as far as the coast of Ireland were conducted.

North American slavery, however, was all economic and all race based.  Unlike Islamic slavery there was no exception for members of the same faith.  Contrary to what some believe, moreover, not all slaves brought to North America were Muslims or Animist, so the old "we're bringing them to a Christian nation" excuse doesn't even universally work. Some slaves that were brought in from southern Africa were practicing Catholics when they were sold to European slavers and therefore were already Christians before they ever showed up.

No, race alone was the criteria for slavery.

That's particularly vile in some fashion as in order to keep a slave in the first instance there always has to be some sort of excuse.  In classical societies economic realities not only provided the excuse but actually provided the real basis.  In the ancient forms of some languages, such as ancient Greek, the word for "slave" and "servant" are the same word, reflecting that.  This is how you get examples like Saints Perpetua and Felicity, with one being a noble woman and the other being a slave, going to their martyrdom together.  In purely economic slavery, some slaves were basically in the class of low paid people today, which doesn't mean that slavery at the time was universally nice by any means.  It does mean, however, that American slavery is distinctly different.  Roman and Greek slaves were a disadvantaged class due to their economics, in many instances (if not POWS) and could hope tho work their way out of it and join regular society.  African American slaves could sometimes buy their freedom, but there was no way that they were going to join regular American society. Even if they became wealthy as free people, which on rare occasion they did, they weren't going to achieve that status.

Given this, slavery in North American had to be rationalized in a completely different and highly false fashion.  In the ancient world, and slavery had fallen out of existence in European cultures with the spread of Christianity and a slow increase in societal wealth by the 11th Century, slavery could be justified by the fact that the only alternative for the really poor was to beg (truly, some people got by that way) or to die.  Being a slave for economic reason was better than that. For prisoners of war, or other prisoners, it was better than simply being killed, which was often the only other alternative. Those options weren't great, but they were, and they reflected the times to a large degree.  They didn't reflect any of the times during which slavery was legal in North America.

In terms of North American slavery the real basis of it was simply that forced labor was cheaper than hired labor.  Slave holders came to believe, and fairly rapidly, that the economy would collapse without slavery, but the reintroduction of slaver into European societies, in North America, (and it was a reintroduction) was purely economic.  It could not be justified that way, however, as a person can't rationally say that this is just cheaper than the alternatives and have that suffice as an explanation, or certainly they shouldn't do that.  In a Christian society they clearly cannot do that.  So it was explained away purely on the thesis that blacks were inferior, indeed barely  human, and therefore slavery was their lot.

A lot was done to attempt to justify that.  Some, indeed quite a few, made recourse from the Bible but in a very poorly thought out way. The Bible, in spite of what some critics will say even now, does not sanction slavery but rather limits a slave holders conduct in regard to slaves. This is something that tends to be wholly lost on various readers of the Bible, particularly sections of the Old Testament.  Simply because somebody was referenced as being a slave doesn't mean that, ipso facto, slavery was a good thing.  Indeed, while not quite exactly on point, its sometimes noted that the Old Testament references men taking the widows of defeated combatants as involuntary brides, and therefore, the argument is made, that was sanctioned by the Old Testament.  No, what's noted is that this was in fact done by the Jews who are the admonished that, if they do it, to treat the widow decently, allow her to morn for her dead husband, etc.  Slavery is treated much the same way.  And of course, in ancient societies, as we've noted, slavery was going to exist.*

The reason that this matters is that North American slavery came to a state quite early on where it was simply reduced to race.  Slaves were black, and therefore their black status made them slaves.  As that is an inarticulate argument at best, it  had to be excused in another fashion, which ultimately and quickly came to be that blacks were naturally inferior humans.

As an argument, that's absurd.  Indeed, as we've dealt with elsewhere and will a bit here, skin color has absolutely nothing to do with culture or ethnicity.  Africans brought over as slaves were members of other cultures, and some of them members of Christian cultures at that (although those who were, were uniformly Catholics being imported into an overwhelmingly Protestant land).  But in very short order, with a generation or so, black slaves were American in culture, if part of an obvious subculture due to their status. Even today this development continues to pollute American logic as the overwhelming majority of Americans equate culture with skin color when, in fact, it has nothing to to with it.**

The logic of this, that Africans were somehow less human than Europeans, was failing by the late 18th Century and had failed by the mid 19th. By that time, however, the "peculiar institution" was heavily entrenched in Southern economics.  Ironically, by that time as well, the end of the legal importation of slaves meant that Southern slaves were fully American in culture and increasingly so, with elements of their subculture having been incorporated into the lower class white culture of the South. They were uniformly Christian, if not the same variants in all cases as their masters.***, ^

As noted above this view of blacks was failing in North America by the first half of the 19th Century at least to the extent that in the North slavery came to an end.  In the South, as noted, it did not until 1865.

 Individuals like Frederick Douglass were making it rapidly impossible to really regard blacks as anything less than whites by the 1850s.  This would not mean that everyone's attitudes would change over night and they still have not, amazingly enough, for some even now.

But when it came to an end the attitudes and views that had allowed it to exist did not.  These views were of course by far the most pronounced in the South but even in the North, where slavery had been abolished voluntarily, prejudicial attitudes that had allowed it to exist at one time did not disappear overnight.  A real effort, however, was made to fully equalize the legal and even the social status of blacks right after the Civil War and it was at first successful.  Unfortunately the assassination of Abraham Lincoln likely weakened it.  Imagined today as a figure who simply wanted to bring the rebel South back into the Union with a warm embrace, in reality Lincoln would have likely been far more likely to support Radical Reconstruction than his successor, Andrew Johnson.  Johnson, who if he had been free to act upon his own views, in his own mind, would likely have taken a radical approach, but much like Lyndon B. Johnson a century later, he imagined himself constrained by views that he imagined his predecessor to hold.  It's hard to imagine Lincoln, whose views had evolved a great deal in five years, botching Reconstruction as badly as Johnson did.

 Freed slaves with teachers, 1862.  During and after the Civil War, as long as Reconstruction continued on, there were real efforts, and some with real success, aimed at helping emancipated slaves receive the education they'd been lacking.  The Freedman's Bureau undertook this during Reconstruction as a matter of Federal policy.  American blacks never did get what they were hoping for, and what Radical Republicans would have caused to occur, which was land redistribution.   The dream of "40 acres and a mule" would have converted them into yeomen and have given them economic independence.

In spite of this, freed slaves in the South generally did quite will in spite of the challenges they had to face until the protection of the Federal Government was prematurely withdrawn in 1876.  After that, the same class that had held slaves only recently went back into power in the South and not surprising blacks lost the progress they had made over  the next twenty years. As we've already seen, starting in the 1890s these forces began to reinterpret the very nature of the Civil War itself and to erect monuments to men who had lead half the nation's territory into a war for slavery.

This takes us to the era this blog focuses on.  In the 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s, blacks were second class citizens in the American South and disadvantaged everywhere else, but not in the same degree.  In the West prejudice and disadvantage was at its lowest.  Indeed, in Wyoming blacks were serving on capitol murder juries by the early 20th Century, something that would have been regarded as abhorrent in the South.  The jury that convicted Tom Horn, for example, included a black juror.  Some blacks in Western towns and cities were successful politically and quite a few were successful in business in the greater white world.  Stories like this were less common in the North and of course would have been nearly impossible in the South.  This isn't to suggest that things were prefect as that simply would not have been true.

So, in terms of where we were, when we look back a century, to 1917, we are looking at a highly segregated America in which blacks were second class citizens of varying degrees throughout the nation.  That is partially symbolized by the fact that the Army the nation was putting together was segregated.  Black solders served in their own units, not in integrated ones.  But perhaps the fact that progress was around the corner is also symbolized by the fact that, unlike World War Two, some of those units had black officers.


Before we move on we should note that the situation generally regarding "race", or more accurately ethnicity was worse, sometimes much worse, in the early 20th Century than it is now in every way.

Irish Americans were just coming out of an era when they were regarded as a separate "race".  World War One would complete that process, almost, but it would not be until the early 1960s that Irish American Catholics really entered the American mainstream.  Irish immigrants to the United States were regarded nearly as poorly as blacks in most of the US, although they always enjoyed the rights of white residents, up until the Mexican War when that began to change.  The Civil War changed it enormously and for the first time in American history made it unpopular, in some regions of the country, to openly disdain the Irish for their religion.  World War One more or less completed the process although the incorporation into large elements of working class American society was achieving that as well.  It would take another war, World War Two, to open the doors to Catholics in general to higher education on a wide scale and Irish Americans would really exit the Catholic Ghetto with finality only in the early 60s. By that time their place was being taken by Puerto Ricans, another Catholic immigrant class.

Wars have had a strange impact on assimilation and acceptance of ethnicities and this is certainly the case for the Irish. The "Fighting 69th" remains to this day very strongly associated with the Irish in New York and seemingly nearly completed the beginning of their full integration into American society.

Italian Americans were very much their own "race" at this time, the early 20th Century, as well and would be up through World War Two when, like the Irish, they'd emerge out the back side into fuller participation in the American nation and no longer be regarded as another.  Hampered still by a reputation for crime, something that afflicts every underclass poor culture, that would linger on through the 1930s, they were helped in this era by American fascination with the Italian front during the Great War, where it seemed the Italians were putting up a valiant fight against Austro Hungary.  In part, they struggled in this era more than the Irish simply because they were more recent arrivals.

Another Catholic group, Hispanics, started to be the focus of bias for the first time during this era, although it would really increase after the Great War.  Hispanics in the United States, up until 1910, were mostly found in populations that had been present in the areas where they were located at the time the United States acquired them.  Never subject to the same sort of prejudice that blacks or Indians were, or even the Irish, they were seen as a static population into which the larger American culture was moving.  In some areas, but certainly not all, they were surprisingly well incorporated.  The Mexican Revolution, however, brought in groups of refugees and real bias against Hispanics in a distinct way really started to commence.  It really peaked during the Great Depression when Hispanics were subject to a repatriation effort which sent somewhere from 500,000 to 2,000,000 into Mexico, 60% of whom were native born Americans.  That stands as a pretty stunning example of a uniquely prejudicial action, to say the least.

Mexican refugees crossing into the United States in 1915.  There was not a lot of prejudice against Hispanics in the United States until the Mexican Revolution, which brought Mexican refugees into the country in notable numbers.  Indeed, the border between the US and Mexico had been basically open up until that time.  Starting with the Mexican Revolution border controls were established and the flow across the border was regulated.

We have not touched on Asian Americans either, at this point, although their interaction with prejudice has shown up from time to time in prior posts.  Their story is fairly well known, at least in regards to Japanese immigrants.  Both Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who originally were located principally in the far western United States and heavily concentrated into the regions in which they migrated, were seen as very foreign early on and subject to immigration quotas.  A long running fear was that they constituted a "yellow peril".  The Chinese seem to have been subject to the greatest degree of their prejudice in the late 19th Century, with the Japanese in the first half of the 20th Century.  Indeed, it was constantly feared that the Japanese immigrants were combining with various foreign elements to wage war on the United States, with fears running the range from the Mexicans to the Germans.  Prejudice against them, logically enough, peaked out during World War Two, which is after the period that we're focusing on.

Populations of Middle Eastern and Russian Jews came under particular stress due to World War One due to the Russian Revolution and the war in the Middle East.  Efforts were made in the US, often by Jewish communities that were receiving an increased influx of refugee immigrants, to address their plight.

The same could be said for Jewish Americans except that their religion guaranteed that they were held in greater suspicion and they seem to be uniquely subject to a particular brand of prejudice that pursues them everywhere. All of these groups would be targeted by the what are now termed "white nationalist" groups and they were all specific targets of the Klu Klux Klan.

KKK cartoon emphasizing its support for Prohibition.  The KKK was anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, and anti booze in the first half of the 20th Century.  It was also an entity that operated pretty darned openly and had social acceptance in much of the country.  It would peak in terms of national membership sometime after World War One.

Indeed it's worth remembering that the era immediately surrounding the Great War saw a massive revival of fortunes for the KKK.  The original KKK, which murdered and terrorized blacks immediately after the Civil War and which, in modern terms, was a terrorist organization seeking to preserve as much of the "peculiar institution" as it could had been fought by the Army during Reconstruction and, if not eliminated, greatly curtained.  Following the withdrawal of the Army from the South in 1876 it lots its point as more blacks started to loose their rights and openly Confederate organizations, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy, could beat the Lost Cause drum and achieve the same goals.  But in the early 20th Century it started to come back, and as blacks left the South, and as Catholics and Jewish immigrants filed the bigger cities and mining districts of the nation, it revived in what perhaps is an eerie precedent for what we are now seeing.  It even managed to briefly receive acceptability in no small part due to favorable portrays of it, such as that by D. W. Griffith in The Birth of A Nation or even, in closeted hinted at fashion, in Gone With The Wind.

The subtitle should have declared Griffith's work to be 100% unadulterated trash based on a novel that constituted trash by Thomas Dixon.  Unfortunately, it helped spur on recruitment for an organization that is based on hate and which, amazingly enough, is still with us today.  It's amazing to think that what Griffith's poster does here would be very little different, in modern terms, if the horseman was a member of ISIL.

Standing distinct and apart in this era were American Indians. Amazing as it now seems full citizenship for all American Indians did not become the law until 1924 and even now Indians are not afforded full Constitutional protections while on Reservations, something that most Americans are wholly unaware of.  American Indians are likely the most neglected of all of the nation's peoples and for many, but not all, the early 20th Century was one in which they were not even citizens in their own country.

Osage Indians with President Coolidge near the time at which they were granted full citizenship.

All this goes to show that, at least in some ways, the rosy view that some have of the early 20th Century doesn't work very well if race and ethnicity is considered.  The country remained a WASP country in very real ways.  Prejudice against people who were not of "Anglo Saxon" heritage could be openly maintained and was often openly celebrated.  But that was changing even during the period we're considering.

And it has changed, which brings us to our next point.

Things have changed in numerous ways, some good, and some bad. But it cannot be denied that race and ethnicity no longer are the basis for discrimination the way they once were. They aren't at all for entire ethnicities. Very few claims of being held back due to ethnicity are credible now, although for at least those demographics with darker skin, Indians, Hispanics and blacks that does indeed sometimes remain the case. For many, however, membership in ethnicities which were once so disdained that people made an effort to hide it is now a point of pride.

Real prejudice of course remains, but nowhere do any group of Americans face the sort of bias they once did in many instances.  Official interference with voting is not tolerated anywhere, in spite of claims to the contrary, and the real problem groups face is voter apathy.  The "Black Vote" is no longer suppressed in the South but courted, ironically mostly by Democrats which once made a determined effort to keep blacks from voting.

In every fashion, prejudice based on ethnicity has declined enormously since World War Two.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was a huge success.  Overall, the thing that holds any one ethnicity back at this point is retained prejudice by some people, location, and economics.  All of these problems are daunting but none of them are of the nature of institutional prejudice that one officially operated to hold people back.

Not that they do not need to be worked on. When blacks complaint of being held back economically, they're citing real valid concerns.  Moreover, when blacks, Hispanics and Indians complain of meeting with prejudice of a personal, or even closet, nature, they aren't making things up.  Plenty of Americans continue to harbor prejudiced views about others simply based on the color of their skin, which is bizarre, but which still occurs.

When blacks claim they fear the police, they are not only citing a real concern, but a valid one.  It's amazed me to read by some that this fear isn't valid.  African Americans, and likely Hispanics, are much more likely to have a really dangerous encounter with a policeman than a white, or likely Asian, American even though the number of black policemen has dramatically increased in the United States since 1970.

What all of this leaves us with, in terms of the contemporary story, is that much of the handwringing and angst we currently see is misplaced or even misdirected.  The old Civil Rights story informs the current era, but it cannot and should not direct it, as the problems are different.  The challenge today is how to fully integrate the minority populations in the country into larger society and to overcome lingering irrational hatred against these groups. For the most part, in spite of what some might like to think, that is taking place in much the way it always has.  Just as the press repeatedly reports that "white" Americans will make up less than half of the population at some point in the foreseeable future the growing demographic most responsible for that, Hispanic Americans, are becoming indistinguishable from whatever "white America" is.  That's because the term "Hispanic" has about as much relevance as "Irish" or "Italian".  At one time the Irish and Italians were not "white", and were their own "race", as they were not White Anglo Saxon Protestants.  Now, for many who use those terms, to be Irish or Italian may mean nothing more than a claim to a certain culture's food.  For others, who are more in tune with the reality of their cultural heritage, it may mean much more, but it doesn't mean that they are some special separate "race".  That's rapidly becoming the case for Hispanics as well.  A person can go to their local Catholic Parish and see immigrants who are from a different, albeit European" culture, but if you go to the local high school and see their kids. . . well that's not nearly as evident.

For blacks and Indians, however, the problems of economic disadvantage, and all that goes with that, is very much alive.  The process that has worked for other immigrant groups is clearly not going to, or not going to very quickly, for some sections of these populations. Their history is too unique and as populations they are too burdened.  That needs to be specially addressed.  But when it is, addressing it in the fashion that some groups would, by co-opting the problem into the goals of some wider group's politics, or in co-opting it into a mushy imagined view of the problem, needs to be avoided.  Getting these groups over the final bar of their disadvantage will not be easy.  But, on the plus side, things have improved so much that we, at least, aren't in 1917 in regards to this, or even 1967.


Hope for the future.  Racism is irrational.  It's particularly irrational in the case of the longest running American examples.  Black Americans are part of the original American demographic and are a lot more American than some of the folks who have recently been running around acting like neo Confederates.
We don't naturally hate each other.  That's learned behavior and people should knock it off.
___________________________________________________________________________________

*But even in those societies there were those who railed against it. Saint Augustine of Hippo regarded it as a product of the Fall and contrary to God's design for humans.   In his era slavery was common.

**Indeed today many Africans are highly conservative Europeans in culture who are culturally oriented to a much more traditional European view of the world than many Europeans.  Hispanics are completely European in culture even though many are of mixed ancestry, Spanish and Native American.  Due to the legacy of slavery Americans have an exceedingly difficult time grasping this.

***In most of the South the Episcopal Church was the dominant church, reflecting that Southerners traced their ancestry to the English in higher percentages than other Americans then did.  The Presbyterian Church had a strong representation in some areas, reflecting Scotch and Scotch-Irish immigration, which also interestingly gave rise to whiskey production in those regions.  Irish immigration had started to come in, in some areas, although it was nowhere nearly as prominent as it was in the North and the Irish were looked down upon in part because they were Catholic, and they tended to be regarded in t he South and the North as their own peculiar "race".  In Louisiana, however, the Catholic church was strong and there were Catholic slaveholders.

Interestingly, in the Protestant regions of the South, which was most of it, the slaves were not members of the same Protestant faiths.  Whites worshiped in in their own churches and slaves worshiped on their master's ground.  Generally slaves made up, therefore, informal slave congregations served by black ministers, the birth of the black church.  In Catholic regions however, black slaves were Catholic, something that contributes to an ongoing black Catholic population in those regions.  Some imported slaves in the 18th Century were Catholic when they were brought in, as noted.  Following emancipation, Catholic slaves remained Catholic, having already been incorporated into that faith.  Protestant slaves, however, formed their own congregations and indeed denominations, to the surprise of whites who expected them to now join the local white congregations.

^Contrary to an image that's been popularized since the 1960s, African slaves were not Muslim at any point.  It's become popular due to depiction of popular media and also due to religious movements within the African American population to imagine this, but it was not the case.

The reason for this is fairly simple.  There were black Muslims in Africa, but the populations that contributed to the slave population in North America did not draw from those populations.  Most African slaves would have been animists.  Some where Christian.  Muslims did participate significantly in the slave trade, including black Muslims and Arabs, but as slave traders, not as slaves.  Indeed,  Islam prohibits the reduction of free Muslims into slavery, so Arab slave trading was always geared towards non Muslim populations.

This does touch on the bizarre nature of the slave trade at this time which, like North American slavery, stands apart from the slavery of classical antiquity.  In European antiquity raids for slaves, while they did occur, did not supply the bulk of slaves.  Slave raiding was conducted by the Vikings, in their era, specifically for economic purposes and also by Arabs for the same purpose, in the early Medieval period.  In the period we're looking at many of the slaves, perhaps most, were reduced to slavery due to warfare by competing tribal groups but a pronounced element of that was slave raiding by competing groups which then sold the slaves to slave brokers.  Warfare for the purpose of supplying slaves became a feature of the slave trade.

Friday Farming: Blog mirror; Vietnamese migrants overcome years of struggle to succeed in Australian farming

Vietnamese migrants overcome years of struggle to succeed in Australian farming

Families of Vietnamese heritage have shown remarkable resilience to build farming and the fruit and vegetable businesses in the 40 years since they fled war-torn Vietnam.

In the 1970s, many Vietnamese people fled their homeland to Australia to escape the conflict and oppression associated with the Vietnam War. . .

Friday Farming: Blog mirror; Retired Doctor Holds on to Dwindling African American Farming Tradition

Retired Doctor Holds on to Dwindling African American Farming Tradition 

About 65 cattle roam Dr. Thomas Cooper’s 100-acre farm. Walnut trees and cow patties dot the pasture, which dips into a small lake in the middle.. .

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Confederate Monuments and Contemporary Strife.

 
 The Virginia Memorial at Gettysburg.  This impressive memorial was only dedicated in 1917.

I run more than one blog, which some folks who stop in here know. Amongst those is our companion blog Some Gave All.  Some Gave All is a blog that was originally dedicated to war memorials, but it's expanded out to include memorials for those who "gave all", in some fashion, beyond service in war.  Like our blogs Churches of the West and Courthouses of the West, it got started as we get around a fair amount.  

It nearly lacks, however, any depictions of Confederate memorials. Nearly, but not completely. That may be because my trips to the South either preceded, by and large, my creation of Some Gave All or because most of my recent trips to the South have been to Texas and I haven't run into any Confederate memorials there.  Indeed, curiously, the one I ran into most recently was at Ft. Fred Steele in Wyoming, and I frankly have some questions about that one, and indeed some that directly tie in to contemporary times and the topic of this entry.


The biggest collection of them I've ever run into were at Gettysburg, where there are a collection of impressive ones.


North Carolina's early (post 1917) monument to her Confederate forces, at Gettyburg.  North Carolina had a large black population in the 1860s, and at the time that this monument was placed. What did they think?

In order to grasp the contemporary story, it's necessary to grasp the the history of the monuments themselves which is somewhat complicated.

Contrary to what people tend to think, they didn't go up right after the Civil War.  By and large, they went up well after.  And that has a bit to do with how the Civil War itself was actually fought, and by whom.

The Southern states that attempted to secede from the Union did so over one singular issue alone, slavery. That's it.  Debates about leaving the Union at the time were clear on that point.  Moreover, the class that supported that movement was largely that class that was well off financially, in relative terms, or that depended heavily on slavery, such as the planter class, both of which are the classes that owned slaves or benefited from the social order that tolerated slavery. The white class on the outs, and often on the other side of this effort, was the yeoman class, which actually constituted a majority of Southern whites.  In some areas, but not all, the yeomanry was very hostile to secession.  Ironically, the yeoman class would do the bulk of the fighting for the South during the war, although Southern leadership was always vested in the more monied and propertied classes.  The slave owning class, which was most responsible for succession, actually benefited from the broadest service exemptions in the South in yet a further unfair irony.

When the war ended, most Southerners feared that the North would treat those who had served the CSA, voluntarily or not, as traitors.  And, at least at law, they clearly were.  In the immediate aftermath of the war, at least according to contemporary accounts, the yeoman class and the non monied white class in towns accepted the results of the war and what that meant and got along relatively well with the newly freed black slaves.  Indeed, one contemporary account by a Union solder noted how an assistance line in one town that had been segregated into white and black reformed itself into a mixed line, all the distressed together, independently.  It wasn't long, however, before the monied and propertied classes began to resist Reformation in all sorts of ways, including violently.  Indeed, that same soldier noted that the whites in the aforementioned class were basically harassed back into line segregation by the classes of which we've been speaking.

This story is well known, but less well known is that in some areas of the South a second civil war between yeomanry and propertied classes smouldered for years as the two contesting sides fought it out over land rights.  The propertied classes became more restrictive on the use of land and more possessive of political rights after the war and increasingly so.  The Southern yeomanry could never get around to seeing blacks as really equal to whites and so their combined political power, which could have been real, was never realized.  The South became a sort of white planter/monied oligarchy in the years following the war.

Southern political leaders, coming from that class, were not dense to the the divisions in their own land and by the 1890s were working to overcome it. As they defeated the yeomanry in various ways they realized that they needed to unite Southern whites in some fashion and they undertook to do it.  Part of that was the creation of The Lost Cause.

The Lost Cause myth presented a noble, mythologized, view of the Southern states and the war.  Emphasizing in part the yeoman nature of the Southern combatant, the better qualities of some Southern officers, and the genteel nature of the planter class, a myth was born of a uniformly brave, well lead and manly army in a democratic cause that was defeated in battle simply because it was outnumbered and outgunned.  While enough of that was true to make the myth believable, in reality it was far from the overall truth of an oligarchic state organized around wealth that used the poorer members of its society to fight in order to keep people who were enslaved due to race enslaved. The democratic argument of the South indeed is basically a lie if we consider that a large percentage of the population in every Southern state could not vote, because they were black, or did not vote due to economic disadvantage.  Had all native born Southerners voted on succession, irrespective of race, rather obviously there would have been no succession.

 

The monied political class's embracing of the Lost Cause effectively managed to embrace the yeoman class that fought it, deserted from it in stunning numbers, or even fought against it, at the very time at which the old combatants and deserters were growing old and in need of assistance.  Not only, therefore, did memorials come, but stipends to elderly men who could prove they'd fought for the CSA, irrespective of what they'd thought of that at the time.  No pension was going to come from the Federal Government, to say the least, but it did come from the various Southern states, extending not only to the old veterans but to their spouses and children as well, resulting in payments that stretched on nearly throughout the entire 20th Century.  The last confederate pension receiving widow died in 2008.  Freed slaves, by contrast, ended up largely getting. .  .nothing.  Particularly after Reconstruction ended in 1876.

The effort was, no matter what it otherwise was, a stunning success.  By World War One the white Southern population had united behind the Lost Cause myth and Southern blacks were completely disenfranchised.  Many in the North, which had changed a great deal economically and demographically since the Civil War, embraced the romantic vision as well.  Portrayals like The Birth of a Nation  (the 1915 one, not  the 2016 one) fueled it.   Southern participation in the Spanish American War helped repair northern views over the South and its loyalty and Woodrow Wilson, who hailed most recently from Princeton but who was a Southerner, was elected to the Presidency over two competing Yankee contestants.  And monuments to the rebel army and its leaders went up everywhere in the South.

But wars and history keep on, keeping on.  Rising with the Progressive movement was the old civil rights movement dedicated to blacks and their position in the United States.  Woodrow Wilson may not have supported it, but many did.  The Great War saw blacks serve or attempt to serve in ways that were often heroic.  During the 1920s and the 1930s they kept on as support for civil rights slowly increased in most of the country outside of the South, even as romanticized portrays of the Antebellum South continued on in such things as Gone With The Wind.  World War Two came and basically made it impossible for a nation that had seen the horrors of racism carried to its extreme to keep on with racism in its own country in an official form and it began to crack in numerous ways. By the 1960s the game was really up even as Southern Democrats waged a rearguard effort to keep it, adding the old blood stained flag to state flags and threatening independent political movements of their own.  Neal Young decried the Southern Man while the South's own Lynyrd Skynyrd straddled both sides of the fence in Sweet Home Alabama.
In Birmingham they love the Gov'nor, boo-hoo-hoo
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth.
Well the northern answer to Skynyrd's question was clearly "no", they weren't bothered existentially, at least on this, and the political and economic situation of American blacks improved enormously, even though it isn't apparent to younger generations now.  

But something weird is going on currently.

It's hard to peg what it is, but over the last decade racist elements that never really went away have been sort of bizarrely resurgent.  It might be attributable to the usual suspects in this category, those being economic stress and the like.  Or perhaps its more complicated than that.  What is also clear is, and also surprisingly, for the first time ever sufficient numbers of residents of Southern states no longer look upon the Southern heroes of the Civil War as heroes, or look upon the Southern cause as noble.  Indeed, during the twenty four hours during which I started this post, and then resumed typing on it, Baltimore, which was not in a state that bolted the Union but which was strongly Confederate in sympathy during the war, took down all of its Confederate monuments.  I'd never have thought I would have seen a thing like that. Charlotteville, Virginia, population 50,000, which has of course been in the news over the past few days, changed the name of the park where its Robert E. Lee statute is located to Emancipation Park about a year ago and clearly Marse Robert is coming down.

The Stars and Bars started coming off of Southern flags some time ago.  All of a sudden, and very surprisingly, states and towns began to take down Southern memorials, such as noted above.  It's really shocking, if simply because its so unexpected.  At the same time three, or maybe four, elements have risen to oppose the removal of the monuments.  Two or three are likely genuine, and one likely is not quite so much, or in the same way.

One is the one we saw strike out violently this past week.  This group is the last one mentioned in the paragraph above. They identify with the Confederate memorials in the same way, to a degree, that the KKK did with the Southern lost cause at its core. They're racist and they're celebrating the racist nature of the Southern cause.  That the South had a racist cause cannot be doubted, so in a way, they're celebrating what secessionist in 1860 would have welcomed.  If Robert E. Lee would have found them vile, maybe, many Southern politician would not have, or not have clearly.

A second group, however, would be Southerners who hold on to the Lost Cause myth but who are not racists today.  That's undoubtedly a larger group.  Having grown up with the myth and having embraced it, they see the Southern cause as one for the democratic rights of states.  For northerners its very difficult to grasp it as we can't understand how they work around the racist elements of the Southern cause.  I.e., how could the war have been for State's Rights if a large population in the state didn't have rights?  It's impossible for us to grasp, but that's how they see it.  Figures like Lee are particularly heroic to them as Lee isn't strongly associated with slavery and some suggest he opposed it, although the history on that is not very clear.  If so, he certainly was willing nonetheless to violate his oath of service to the United States and serve as an effective general in slavery's cause.  We'll come back to this group in a moment.

Another group here are those who identify, oddly enough, with the Southern yeoman.  The Stars and Bars has become for them what it never was for the original Southern armed combatant, a symbol of rural yeomanry.  This class doesn't think much about the slavery aspect of this at all, but rather looks upon the late Southern small farmer as models of independence and as sort of aggressively opposed to effete urban culture.  There are varying degrees of this and greater or lesser attractions to the South depending upon where the person is, but this explains why the same person can have a "Cold War Veteran"  and a "Stars and Bars Fighting Terrorism Since 1861" sticker on their truck and not think they're being inconsistent, or that this even makes sense.

The irony for this last group is that, in the South, this group was actually add odds with the people who lead the South into the Civil War. Economically, politically and culturally that class, the Yeomen, were highly independent but often not disloyal to the Union. They felt oppressed, because they were, by the big monied elements in Southern society.  In some cases they took up arms against the South with the example of "The Free State of Jones" being one such example, but not the only one, and they struggled against the resurgent Secessionist class after the war, ultimately unsuccessfully.  While this group may identify with Confederate symbols today, it didn't when the CSA was alive, or a fresh living memory.

A fourth, and final, group doesn't sympathize with the Confederacy at all, or if they are Southern they may have some attachment to it but recognize what the Southern cause stood for and are repelled by that, but worry that removing monuments does violence to history itself.  I'm in that group.  I don't hold romantic views about the CSA at all, and I even somewhat sympathize with the basic motivation of those who would take these monuments down, but I worry that it does violence to history and our recollection of history.

Indeed, the Baltimore monuments, which came down last night, sort of symbolize that for me.  I've been to Baltimore and I think it's safe to say that whatever views that city's father's held that caused it to put up memorials to Southern officers from that state (of which Lee was one in a way, Arlington was his property) are long gone.  Baltimore was a Southern city, although Maryland did not leave the Union (with an occupying Union Army right there, it couldn't) , but it isn't any more.  Not like that, anyhow.  Most people probably don't begin to think of it  that way.  There's no earthly way the town would spring for Confederate monuments now.

But there was a time when it would, and by removing them, we are removing the evidence of that. And that's something to remember.

All over there's been a movement to remove monuments that were erected in earlier times to things that now are recognized as morally wrong.  Yale University, for example, has been fighting over the removal of symbols that demonstrate that some of its early donors were slave holders.  But removing them won't change that fact.  At least one other university went through something similar as well.  Probably almost any Eastern university has some money that came, originally, out of human trafficking and something that recalls that in honorific form.  Removing that causes that to be forgotten, it doesn't change the fact that it occurred. And it needs to be recalled that it occurred, and that something about earlier generations even celebrated it, or at least could but it out of mind.  Taking the evidence away doesn't correct the wrong, it just dulls the memory until it is erased entirely.

Indeed, such monuments, in my view, can serve as monuments to a greater historical reality, and that's what's occurred in my region of the country.  There are a lot of monuments put up in the early 20th Century to people and events involved in the Indian War that were massively one sided and even racist, as we'd view that now.  Some have come down, such as the "First White Man's Cabin" marker here in Natrona County.  But most have not. Rather, efforts have been made to correctly name things, such as changing the Little Big Horn battle ground to that name (which was always used here, oddly enough) form Custer Battleground, and where older monuments exist new explanatory ones have been added that enhance the understanding of what actually occured.


Monument at the Fetterman Battleground, placed in the early 20th Century.  The battleground itself has a large number of very good explanatory signs that explain the battle and what occurred there.

 
Of course, while that might make sense, making sense after things go badly awry is difficult to say the least.  And that's where we are now at.

Because of the first group, "white nationalist", or whatever they are called, things have now developed to where addressing this in a manner that doesn't do violence to history is probably impossible.  The monuments have been co-opted and adopted by these racist and almost nothing now can be done to address that.  People like me who would wish for the monuments to serve as historical lessons about the things I've discussed here cannot really argue for that in the face of such vile conduct by such hateful groups, as we do not wish to be associated with them in any way.  Those in the second group, cannot really either as even though they may hold romantic notions about the South, they don't hold contemporary racist views and can't effectively argue any position. So the monuments are likely doomed, and perhaps need to be, all things considered. 

And while this is occurring the further scary polarization of American politics continues on.  The "Alt Right" isn't a conservative movement, as fascism isn't a conservative movement.  It may not even be a right wing movement, showing the unfortunate nature of left right characterizations in politics.  A conservative movement would not be racist as it couldn't be.  Blacks form part of the original culture of the country that American conservatives seek to conserve.  But the Alt Right has managed to confuse the line between it and the legitimate "Right" which isn't aided by the incorporation of figures like Steve Bannon in the Trump Administration.  Trump's own inability to effectively speak on anything, an amazing lack of talent for somebody as well educated and successful as he is, only fuels this.  On the left, the extreme left, which is a sort of Alt Left in and of itself, has managed to further boost the blurring of the lines to discredit conservatives, to their horror and no doubt to the delight of the Alt Right, which proves Jean Shepherd's observation that what fanatics truly love is fanaticism, to some degree, and that fanatics admire each other in their fanaticism.  American politics, in the meantime, risks being buried beneath the rubble of wherever the old Confederate monuments end up.

The Big Picture: 4th Ohio Ambulance Company, National Guard United States at McKinley Monument, Canton, Ohio, August 16th, 1917


Lex Anteinternet: It's Fall

Yesterday I posted this?
Lex Anteinternet: It's Fall: Earlier this week I posted an item whining a bit about the "it's sure been hot" comments I was, up until recently, hearing i...
This morning it was so cold that I broke down and turned the heat on in the bathroom when I was shaving.  Just too darned cold.

Not that everyone appreciates this.  My wife doesn't believe its cold as its summer and she's always hot.  It'll be hot, in her view, until October, which is one of the reasons that I suffer in Spring and Fall.  The windows will all be open all night.  It wouldn't matter if polar bears were lurking around those windows, it'll be "too hot" to close them.

And down at work the blower for the air system is on.  Every morning recently I've come in with temperatures in the 50s and its still on.

But it's cold.

Early reports, by the way, have some clouds for Monday, the day of the eclipse.  We've had rain every day for days.  Yesterday we got a big rain storm in the morning, and a torrential one in the afternoon.  Casper's been billed with a place that has a high likelihood of being sunny.  Not so much this year.

Free Time

Fairly recently, I posted an item referencing fishing.*

This got me to thinking about free time.  More specifically, it got me to thinking about it on a then vs. now basis.

When I was a kid, my father was always very hard working.  But he did manage to incorporate a fair amount of time for his favorite pursuits.  He never took prolonged vacations (and frankly, I don't now) but we did go hunting and fishing a lot, and in the summer, he grew a substantial garden.  It seems to me, moreover, that this was close to the norm.  Quite a few men here hunted and fished a fair amount (and still do). Growing a garden was common.  People who pursued the winter sports found time to do so.  What this means is that even busy people managed to have their evenings and weekends off, usually.

I don't seem to be able to manage finding as much free time, and I think this is the norm now.  Indeed, sociologists say that this is the case.  Americans now don't even take their full amount of allotted vacation days.  Something is going on, and that something isn't good.

Believe it or not, this was originally drafted for publication in 2014. But I didn't get around to finishing the post, so I'm doing it now.   Does that say something about free time?  Probably not really.  It all probably says something about me.

Maybe this entire post actually does, in concert with the general topic.  I probably don't have as much free time (most of these posts are done early in the morning before I go to work) because I'm bad at creating free time for myself.  But also, societally, people have less, maybe, because of the encroachment of technology into everything, which has brought work with it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Fall


This past week, a couple of days ago, I had the chilliness I'd been experiencing confirmed to an extent by the National Weather Service, which reported:
You may be thinking that it really doesn't feel like August? For Cheyenne, in the 2000s this is the coldest start to August, having an average high temperature of 75.4 degrees. This beats out the runner up in 2014 by almost a 5 degree difference!
It's been cold.

Now, that's Cheyenne. We're 150 miles to the north and I'd be surprised if our average high temperature was 70F.  I wouldn't be surprised if its been a lot colder than that.

And its been wet.

Indeed, it's raining right now and it has every day for days. Cold, wet, . . . it's mid September. . .temperature wise.  I wouldn't be surprised if we saw snow any day now.  

Indeed, I'd be surprised if we didn't. 

At least people are now acknowledging it.  I've been hearing a lot of comments about how cold and wet it is.  

What I haven't heard people start to worry about much is if the weather we're having this week, we'll have early next week, when all sort of eclipse related tomfoolery is scheduled.  It was so dark yesterday afternoon that the street lights were on by 4:00.  Who knows. . . .

Curious Caps I. An early logo cap?


Lex Anteinternet: Mid Week At Work: Children Processing Tobacco. A...: 

 
 Boys working tobacco, ages 9 and 11. 

I got to looking at it, and I noticed the boy's hat on the left.

Let's take a closer look:


Hmmm. . . .

That cap sure appears to say "Coca Cola" on it.

This is a surprise.


But I frankly would never have guessed that there were logo caps out there at the time, let alone one advertising a brand name. 

It appears, however, that there were.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Related Threads:

Caps, Hats, Fashion and Perceptions of Decency and being Dressed.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Yup.

August 13, 2017

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Stop! Don't change that Church!

From our companion blog, Churches of the West:
Churches of the West: Stop! Don't change that Church!:
Now, normally this is just a photo entry, linking in one of the pasts posts, and generally going from the oldest slowly towards the newest, from that blog.  But here we're doing something different. For one thing, we're linking in a new post, which is very unusual. Secondly, we're posting a commentary post from that blog, and those are unusual.  And thirdly, as this is a commentary post, it's not actually in the category of a comforting Sunday morning post so much as one that might be upsetting to some people, and depending upon who actually reads it (which will not be that many people, after all) definitely will be upsetting. 

So here we go, the text of the linked in blog post:
A theme, if not always an obvious one, of this blog is architecture.

And  nothing does more violence to traditional, serviceable, and beautiful architecture, than "updating" it for any reason.

Just don't.

A case in point.




The photograph above, unfortunately not entirely in focus and in black and white, dates from November 1958.  It depicts St. Anthony's of Padua Church in Casper Wyoming on the occasion of my parents wedding.

Now, St. Anthony's remains a beautiful church today, but if we had a picture of the interior (which I don't from this angle) and if we had this picture in sharper focus (which it isn't) and in color (which it is not), we'd notice some changes right away.

And they aren't good ones.

The altarpiece and the altar are all still there.  The cross painted on the wall behind the altarpiece is also still there.  But many other things have changed.

Most obvious, the beautiful marble altar rail in this photograph, a gift of the Schulte family when the church was built, is gone.  I was told that a part of it can be found now in a local restaurant, which I hope is not true.  If it is true, I've never seen it, so it must be some place I don't go to.  It's not clear here, but the gate for the altar rail was marble with heavy brass hinges.  A true work of art in every sense.

The heavy brass lanterns hanging from the ceiling are also gone.

What appears to be a marble ambo is gone as well, replaced by a very nice wooden (walnut?) one.

The statute of St. Patrick moved across town to St. Patrick's, which sort of makes sense. The funds to build St. Patrick's came from St. Anthony's donors, many of whom were Irish, to that we'd ultimately send the statute of the Patron Saint of Ireland over there, which we did only fairly recently, does square with the general them there.. The statute of St. Anthony has been moved to a different spot, but it looks good where it is.

I'm not certain what sort of floor covering we're looking at here, probably carpet, and of course we have new carpet.  But what would strike anyone looking at this photo about what is next to the carpet, the pews, is that the pews are now cantered to face towards the center of the alter.

Okay, what's up with all of that, and was it an improvement?

Well, I suppose that's in the eye of the beholder, as all such things are, but in my view, the answer is a very distinct "no".

It's funny how these things work.  I can remember all of the features depicted here, including the altar rail, even though I was very young when at least that feature came out.  But, at the time, I don't think I thought much about it, if I thought about it all.  I don't remember the Mass being in Latin at all, although when I was very, very young, it must have been.  Anyhow, while these things didn't bother me at the time, or the one change that I recall from when I was a bit older, the cantering of the pews, didn't bother me much, now they do.

That may be because I now have a greater appreciation for history and tradition than I did when I was just a boy, although I had a sense of that at the time.

The cocked angle of the pews, remnants of a decision made by a Priest in the 1970s or perhaps early 80s,  has been something I've never liked, even if I understand the intent behind it.  Not visible in this
photograph, a row of pews that were in the middle of the church were taken out to facilitate twice as many Communion servers.  It's awkward and always has been and should not have been done.  Indeed, as this was the only Catholic Church in town with it was built, it was probably jam packed nearly every Mass and they seemed to manage to get by just fine. For that matter, I've been in plenty of packed Catholic churches where everyone came up to the front of the church and it always worked just fine as well.  Having said that, changing the angle of the pews didn't do a great disservice to the church even if it didn't really help it any.

Another matter, however, is the altar rail.

Now altar rails turn out to be a surprisingly hot button item to people not familiar with them.

All Latin Rite Catholic Churches and Anglican Churches had altar rails. Chances are very high that other churches close in form to the Catholic Church also had them, I just don't know. Their purposes was to provide a place for communicants to kneel when receiving communion.  Prior to Vatican II (1962 to 1965) all Latin Catholic in modern times received communion on the tongue.  Communicants would kneel at the altar rail and receive communion.


You'd think that finding a public domain photograph of communicants receiving communion at an altar rail would b easy, but it isn't.  This almost illustrates it in a better fashion, however.  British solders lined up, as if there is an altar rail, and receiving communion in the field in North Africa.  Off hand, I suspect that this is an Anglican service.

Now, before we get too far down this road it should be noted that people can get really up in arms about this in all sorts of ways and some traditionalist will insist that communion can only properly be received kneeling and on the tongue.  This doesn't seem to be true and certainly wasn't universally the case.  Indeed, originally, the very first Christians, received communion in the hand and you can find very early writings that effect.  However, traditionalist will hotly dispute what those writings and the other evidence actually means. Given as I'm not getting into that debate, I'm not going there and that isn't the point of this entry.

What is the point is that altar rails were an integral part of the design of churches for an extremely long time. Take anything out of a well designed building and you risk subtracting from its design. That's exactly what I think occurred here.

Which isn't to say that I feel that St. Anthony's is a bad looking Church now, far from it. It's still a beautiful church. But it was more beautiful before the marble altar rail was taken out.

Indeed, the problem with making alterations to these well designed structures is that any time that this is done it risks giving into a temporary view in favor of a more traditional element that was integral in the design of the structure while doing damage to its appearance.  All Catholic churches up until the id 1960s were designed to have altar rails.  Taking them out may have served what was, and perhaps is, the view of the day in regards to worship, but it also means that a major feature of the interior of the building, to which careful consideration had been given, was now missing.

And it turns out that, contrary to widely held belief, they did not have to be removed.

Most people believe that the altar rails were taken out as it was somehow required post Vatican II.  It wasn't.  Rather, for whatever reason changes in the Mass now allowed them to be.  They didn't have to be.  Theoretically it was apparently up to individual Pastors on whether they thought an altar rail should be removed, but given as in Wyoming they are nearly all missing, it might have been the case that the decision to remove them was made at the Diocesan level.  The motivating thought here was that the altar rail served to act as a sort of barrier to connection between the people and the Offering of the Mass, and those who supported altar rail removal often felt fairly strongly about that (as we'll see below).  This was, I think, part of an overall change in the Mass at that time, when it went from Latin to the local vernacular, as the Celebrant had faced Ad Oreintum while offering the Mass.  That is, the Priest faced his altar, as a rule, with his back to the Congregation.  

Now all of this gets into some fairly complicated symbolic matters.  There's some truth to the view held by those who argued for the new position and removing the altar rails, in at he "we're all one together sense". There a counter point, however, that maybe the Ad Oreintum orientation actually served that better, as the Priest was facing the same direction for significant portions of the Mass that the parishioners were.   That is, by way of a poor example, if somebody faced you in a large group they're more likely to have some elevated authority over you than if somebody has their back to you, in which case they can be argued to be working with you.  Interestingly in recent years there's been a slow return in some areas to the Ad Oreintum orientation, particularly following Cardinal Sarah's suggestion that this was a better form. The Cardinal occupies a high position at the Vatican and therefore his views cannot be easily discounted.  As has been noted in regards to this there's actually never been an official position on which orientation is better, and in some ancient and modern churches the Ad Orientum position is actually impossible.

In any event, what that did was in part to remove an item that was closely connected to the church and hence the parish and the parishioners.  In this case, the altar rail itself had been a gift from a family early in the parish's history.  In Catholic parishes the pastor is usually there for about seven years and bishops can be in office for long or short periods. However, as the parishioners are often there for decades, that means the traditional in which they participated was removed by individuals who were there on a more temporary basis.  It was certainly "legal", if you will, but it might not have been well advised.

The same is true of most, but not all, of the interior changes to the church. A person can debate the aesthetics of the heavy brass lighting, but the church was built with it in mind and the features that once decorated where it attached to the building remain there to this day.  The removal of one confessional, the relocation, in an awkward fashion, of a place for "music ministers" to stand that resulted, and all of that, were done in a heartfelt fashion, but often to the ascetic detriment of the church which was not built with remodels in mind.

This touches, moreover, on the larger topic of church architecture itself, which as been addressed in another one of our rare commentary threads here.  These older churches are better looking as the architecture and design that came in during the 1970s was not as good as earlier architecture, and according to some focused more on the congregation than on the Divine.  This blog was at one time going to avoid all such churches in general, but as time has gone on its put up posts of quite a few.  Many of these churches are just not good looking. By the same token, many alterations to older churches are not good looking either.

As I noted when I started off, a lot of this stuff did not bother me when I was a child and experiencing it, but it does now.  Indeed, the removal of the altar rail in this church frankly makes me mad when I think of it.  I wish it could go back in.  It won't, of course, but the whole thing upsets me.  I'm not alone, I think, on this sort of thinking and I think it reflects a generational befuddlement with the generations immediately preceding us which seems to have had, in many instances, low respect for tradition in general.  In civil society, in terms of structures, this is probably why we now see all sorts of effort to restore the appearance of old buildings whose owners in the 50s, 60s, and 70s didn't give a second thought about making them ugly through renovation. A prime example of that is the Wyoming National Bank building in Casper Wyoming which was made to look hideous by the additional of a weird steel grating in the 1950s to its exterior which was supposed to make it look modern.  It mostly served to house pigeons and was removed in the 2000s when the building was redone and converted to apartments.

Now, not every one feels this way, I should note.  Particularly in regards to churches.  When I posted this same photograph on Facebook, a friend of mine with a few years on me posted this reply (I hadn't commented on the altar rails in my original post):
So happy that the railings have come down and the hats came off! The church is still so beautiful.
I agree that the church remains beautiful, and I agree that the women wearing head coverings is a tradition that I don't miss, but I don't feel that way about the altar rail at all.

I suspect my friends comment goes to a "spirit of Vatican II" feeling that she's old enough to have experienced and which I not only am not, but which I don't really share enthusiasm for.  It's important to note that Vatican II and "the spirit of Vatican II" are not the same thing.  "The spirit" thing was a zeitgeist of the times which took a decidedly more liberal and less traditional view of things, no doubt an "open the windows and doors and let some fresh air in". Some of that was likely needed but as is often the case with people who are in a "let in the fresh air" movement the realization that cold winds high winds can come in through the same windows and doors and do damage is rarely appreciated. 

And its all too easy when traditions which are simply traditions are tossed to begin to toss out with them things that are more than tradition.  I'm not saying that occurred here with altar rails but I will be frankly that the 1970s saw a lot of innovations, some of them very local poorly thought out that were, in some cases, quite problematic. The generation that thought removing the altar rails was a good idea proved willing to entertain a lot of things in this area that turned out to be big problems for everyone else.

Part of that is because traditions are anchors in a way; moorings to the the past.  People of a "fresh air" bent will claim that a person shouldn't be bound by the past. That's true, but tradition is also in some cases the vote, or the expression of experience, of the dead and should not be lightly discounted.  Not only does casting out traditions tend to sever anchors, but all too often the severing simply puts people adrift in seas that they're not well prepared to handle. At its worst, the severing of traditions is a rejection of the long and carefully thought out in favor of the temporarily current and the poorly thought out.

Which is why, for many people of the post Vatican II generation the "Spirit of Vatican II" generation, when moored in their own changes, can seem now old fashioned.  Ironically younger generations have been busy for some time "reforming the reform", which means in the mainstream keeping the reforms that proved worthwhile and reversing those that did not.  Tradition has, in some instances, come back in the opened door after having been swept out it, but with a younger generation.

All of which is well off point on what this thread started out being about.  And I'm not going to start a "restore the altar rail" movement, locally or on the internet.  But I feel it was a shame that it was taken out, and to the extent that alterations that should not have taken place for ascetic reasons in regards to older structures can be repaired, they ought to be.
Okay, you may be thinking, this is all interesting or boring enough, but it's limited really to Catholics and the peculiar battles that go on between "progressives" (increasingly an older demographic in the church), "conservatives" (increasingly a younger demographic in the church), traditionalist and "rad trads".

Well. . .  yes. . . but it's more than that.

The post itself went into a bit of this, but what this post does, more than anything else, is to complain (yes, its a complaint) about ignoring tradition and architecture.  More particular than that, it's about ignoring tradition in architecture, which has given us, since the 1970s, a host of ugly and sometimes dysfunctional buildings.

 
St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Gillette, Wyoming.  In my original caption I stated the following:  "This is St. Matthews Roman Catholic Church in Gillette Wyoming. It's unusual contemporary design, unlike most of the churches featured here. It's quite hard to photograph, due to the large trees at the front of the church"  Let's be frank in this post here.  It's ugly from the exterior.  I have no idea what it looks like inside the church, but from the outside, it is not an attractive looking church.

First Lutheran Church in Watford City, North Dakota.  Watford City has never been a large town.  Notice the contrast with the church immediately above?

Now, in this post here, I don't want people to get the wrong idea.  Even if this is a Sunday morning post, I'm not limiting my comments to church architecture by any means.  Courthouses, another category of building that have long been subject to very traditional architecture, ceased to be so subject starting with the Boomer influenced everything of the 1970s.  As a result, there are now some powerfully ugly courthouses around.

 Laramie County government complex in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I don't feel that this courthouse is ugly, but it's blah, in my view.  My original caption stated:   "This is the Laramie County government complex, which houses the District and Circuit courts of the 1st Judicial District. This fairly new building is quite modern in design and appearance."  That was being polite, it's nice enough but it doesn't have the feeling of a courthouse so much as an excessively sterile government structure.  But wait, it could be worse.The Federal District Court of Cheyenne is so blah I haven't even posted a photo of it on that site, or at least I can't easily find it.  It's just a big office building.

Natrona County, Wyoming, Hall of Justice, which formerly housed the county court (it no longer does) and which still houses the city court.  Not a horrible looking building, but it doesn't look much like a court.

Indeed, if anything, courthouses may have been more subject to this trend than churches.  There's a lot of courthouses around that look more like the headquarters for Innertrobe than courthouses.  It's as if every architect post 1970s felt that he positively, absolutely, had to make everything look "modern" by making it look like an ugly office building, including office buildings.  

In recent years part of what has sort of oddly driven this is the feeling that all courthouses must have technological updates.  This has, unfortunately, begun to afflict churches as well. This has been a very unfortunate trend in the law (and in churches) and a very misunderstood one, combined with a failure to incorporate technology into the practice of law that would actually be useful.

 
Lawrence County Courthouse, Speerfish South Dakota.  There's no doubt what purpose this building serves.

This sounds like something stated by a Luddite, I'm quite aware, but frankly a lot of "let's update this old structure with new technology stuff" is fairly detrimental in some circumstances and indeed, the "let's build a new building with the latest nifty technology" can be as well.

In the law, for some time the trend has been to incorporate computer and visual technology in an apparent effort to distract and bore jurors.  Jurors actually expect a trial in the courtroom, but lawyers have gotten to the point where they apparently wish to present a giant intensely dull video game. Every lawyer who wins a case using technology is now convinced that the technology won it, which drives the possibly erroneous unsupported belief that it does.

This is in part because trials are battles and like armies in battle the commanders of those armies believe that they absolutely must have the latest weapon or they will loose, and if they win, they'll attribute it to that.  Its the same reason that we hear so much about tanks in regards to the Second World War but don't hear much about cavalry, which was used in it. Or that we hear about helicopters in regards to the Vietnam War but not all that much about artillery.  As another odd example, the French while fighting in Algeria actually found the war to be embarrassing as the equipment that proved to be best suited for it was regarded as obsolete while the latest military technology was pretty useless. The French, for example, resorted to using surplus American World War Two light bombers in the war as the latest Mirage jets didn't cut it for the war they were fighting, which didn't keep them from wanting them.  Anyhow, a person who wins at trial is going to believe that the technology did it.

This is aided by the fact that anyone who has every used an audiovisual aid imagines in their own mind that it looks like the best one every done, which it hardly ever does.  In the mind of the presenter they come on looking like a movie star and present a stunning cinematic presentation that carries the day.  More often than not, however, the presenter spends five minutes trying to get the technology to work in the first place, then stumbles on to their files of cat gifs and shows the jury fluffy sleeping upside down on his head, before stumbling through little league photos and on to something about the trial. The jury, in the meantime, is pondering lunch.

Not that technology should be ignored. But when a nifty new courtroom is built and equipped with tiny counsel tables, or the old counsel tables in an old courtroom are shoved aside in favor of a giant screen, things are going wrong.

That's true as well for churches but if anything the presentations of this sort of technology are much worse.  I've been to Masses where the pastor thought, for some reason, that a gospel that was originally designed to be a letter read to a congregation by a Priest is accompanied by an illustration or set of illustrations put up on a screen that look like they were drawn for children's books in the 1950s.  Not good.  If the original audience, which no doubt included the illiterate, was able to grasp what are sometimes extremely deep theological points by having the letter read to them, a modern audience with nearly 100% literacy sure can.  Diverting attention with bad illustrations, or photographs of sunrises, isn't going to serve to get the message across. The projection screen, however, will serve to detract from the appearance of the church.

Indeed, if a person really wanted to have illustrations that were tired to the message of the Gospels it would like cause a lot of people in the pews to gasp, which is why it won't be done.  Consider, for example, St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians:
Do you not realise that people who do evil will never inherit the kingdom of God? Make no mistake -- the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites,
thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.*
This could in fact be effectively illustrated, and it wouldn't have to be with pastel cartoon like prints recalling the 50s.  It'd be easy to do it with modern photographs or even snippets from popular televisions shows, and really drive a point home.  Followed, quite soon, with by protests. Shoot, you could illustrate this just through slides of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Sex In The City, Vanderpump Rules or Below Deck.  Pretty much any modern popular media, or even snippets of the trendy in the news, would do.

Now, having said this, it should not be taken to mean that every church or courthouse or older building of any type must remain exactly the way it was.  Far from it.  For one thing, heating and cooling have enormously improved and, given that I work in an old office building (vintage 1917) and I can attest that old heating, in particular, is bad.  Updating heating is good.  The same is true, I'd note, for cooling.  Modern appliances, wiring for the internet, etc., are all well worth doing and indeed  are modern necessities.  Modern windows are so far superior to old ones it isn't funny.

But things that impact the architecture itself?

Well, proceed with caution.

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*Not surprisingly there are various translations of St. Pauls letter to the Corinthians, all of which are upsetting to various modern people.  This is so much the case that one local Univeralist minister dismisses St. Paul's letters as just his opinions, which pretty much dismisses the concept of divinely inspired text entirely in favor of . . .well whatever you like.