Scrooge’s continuing Christmas gift: Appropriate words for seeing 2020 out

December 11, 2020

I wish it were not so. These words of Dickens’s through Scrooge, remain salient, damning and depressing, every day Donald Trump holds the Oval Office. Now Trump’s been impeached, but left in place, and defeated by American voters, but he still sits on his throne, messing up America in every way he can think to do it.

And so our annual post on the lessons we take from “A Christmas Carol.”

Roberto Innocenti, Scrooge on a dark staircase

Ebenezer Scrooge, up a dark staircase; “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” Illustration by Roberto Innocenti, via Pinterest.

It’s a Quote of the Moment (an encore post for the season, with a bit of context thrown in later), Trump’s platform, and life, edited down to just three words, in green:

Darkness is cheap,
and Scrooge liked it.

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave 1

Isn’t that the entire GOP platform in three words? “Darkness is cheap.” Substitute “Trump” for “Scrooge,” you’ve got the picture. Three more words than the actual Republican National Platform of 2020, but more accurate.

I think of that line of Dickens’s often when  I read of the celebrations of calumny that pass as discourse in Republican politics these days. Although, with the 2008 renewing of Limbaugh’s contract, with the 2020 coming of COVID-19, it may no longer be true that his particular brand of darkness is cheap. With the advent of Donald Trump’s insult politics, offending America’s allies and all American ethnic groups possible, with un-ironic calls to drop nuclear weapons, GOP politics is even darker than ever.

Cheap or not, darkness remains dark.

John Leach, Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want

Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want, the products of his stinginess (drawing by John Leech, 1809-1870)

Here is the sentence Dickens put before the quote, to add a little context; Scrooge was climbing a very large, very dark staircase.

Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

Speaking of darkness, a longer excerpt from a bit later in Dickens’s story, when the Ghost of Christmas Present ushers Scrooge to glimpse what is in the present, but what will be the future if Scrooge does not repent:

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, ‘but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit! are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!’

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’ The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

A Christmas Carol, Stave 3

Think of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, children abused in Central America and in the Middle East, fleeing as best they can, only to die, off the shores of Greece, on the southern deserts of the U.S., or be cast into incarceration after having achieved a nation whose very name promised them refuge, the United States. “Two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable,” Dickens described. Whose children? “Man’s.” Yours, and mine.

Christmas is a festival to celebrate light, what many Christians call “the light of the world?” If so, let us work to stamp out the darkness which the unrepentant Scrooge so dearly loved.

Darkness may be cheap, but it is not good.  Light a candle, and run into the darkness, spreading light. We need more light.

Hope you have a merry Christmas in the making for 2020. Let us remember, as Tom and the late Ray Magliozzi always reminded us, the cheapskate pays more in the end, and usually along the way. Is Darkness cheap? Let us then eschew it as too costly for a moral nation, too costly for a moral people.

Is Donald Trump as smart as Ebenezer Scrooge? Is his heart as good as Scrooge’s heart?

If Trump died, who would attend his funeral?

When we die, who will mourn our passing? Which spirit moves us to action?

God bless us, every one. Or gods, or family and friends bless us, as the case may be.

More:

Yes, this is an encore post, mostly. Fighting ignorance is taking a lot longer than anyone thought.

Yes, this is an encore post, mostly. Fighting ignorance is taking a lot longer than anyone thought.

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Mississippi flags fly for statehood, December 10, 2020

December 9, 2020

For statehood day this year, Mississippi has a new state flag.

Abandoning vestiges of the old Confederacy, Mississippi voters approved a new flag for the state in November, harkening back to its original flag featuring a magnolia tree. This flag is popularly called the “In God We Trust” flag, carrying the most recent of the “official” mottoes of the U.S. The flag change was prompted by Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd

U.S. Flag Code urges residents of states to fly U.S. flags on the anniversary of that state’s joining the union. Technically, then, the shortage of new flags shouldn’t impair Mississippi’s celebration of statehood.

Mississippi joined the union as the 20th state on December 10, 1817.

Do Mississippians celebrate?

More:

Mississippi Power raises new Mississippi flag with the U.S. flag, at its headquarters. Mississippi Power image.

December 3 is Illinois Statehood Day; let your flags fly for 202 years of US-ness

December 3, 2020

American Experience reminded us at Facebook that December 3 is the anniversary of the day Illnois was admitted to the union in 1818, the 21st state.

Under the U.S. flag Code, Americans should fly their U.S. flags on the statehood day of their state.

Illinois is 202 years old as a state today, December 3, 2020.

You flying ’em, Illinois?  You should be!

Map of the Illinois territory, about 1818, the year the state was admitted to the union, on December 3.

Map of the Illinois territory, about 1818, the year the state was admitted to the union, on December 3.

At the American Memory site at the Library of Congress, we get a good, brief dose of the events leading to statehood.

Land of Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois, 1867. Drawn from Nature. A. Ruger, 1867. Map Collections of the Library of Congress

Springfield, Illinois, 1867. Drawn from Nature. A. Ruger, 1867. Map Collections of the Library of Congress

Illinois entered the Union on December 3, 1818. The twenty-first state takes its name from the Illinois Confederation—a group of Algonquian-speaking tribes native to the area. An Algonquian word, “Illinois” means “tribe of superior men.”

Remnants of a much earlier Algonquin civilization thought the most sophisticated prehistoric society north of Mexico, are preserved at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in the southwestern part of the state.

French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette entered the Illinois region in 1673. Control of the territory passed to Great Britain in 1763. When the United States acquired the land that became Illinois Territory in 1783, most European settlers there were of French descent. In 1788, the Continental Congress received information concerning the inhabitants of the Illinois area. “There are sundry French settlements on the river Mississippi within the tract,” the committee reported:

Near the mouth of the river Kaskaskies, there is a village which appears to have contained near eighty families from the beginning of the late revolution. There are twelve families in a small village at la Prairie duRochers, and near fifty families—the Kahokia village. There are also four or five families at fort Chartres and St. Philips, which is five miles farther up the river. The heads of families in those villages appear each of them to have had a certain quantity of arable land allotted to them, and a proportionate quantity of meadow and of woodland or pasture. The Committee…referred the memorial of George Morgan…respecting a tract of land in the Illinois, June 20, 1788.
Documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789

Twenty years later, Congress organized the Illinois Territory. Pioneers from Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee settled the southern part of the territory, while New Englanders ventured to northern Illinois via the Erie Canal.

Land of Lincoln, the state slogan, pays homage to famous son Abraham Lincoln. Born in Kentucky, Lincoln came to Illinois in 1830. He was instrumental, along with his colleagues in the Illinois legislature, in moving the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Settling there in 1837, Lincoln married socially prominent resident Mary Todd, practiced law, and built the political career that brought him the presidency in 1861.

Chicago, a minor trading post at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan until the 1830s, developed into a railroad hub and industrial center. After the Civil War, industrialization attracted a new wave of immigrants. People from all over the U.S. and the world ventured to Chicago to work in the meat-packing and steel industries. Even the Great Conflagration of 1871 failed to prevent the Windy City from becoming one of the largest urban centers in the country. It remains the third most populous city and metropolitan area in the United States.

Learn more about Illinois:

Lotta history there.

U.S., Illinois and City of Chicago flags in a stiff breeze at the Navy Pier, Chicago. Photo by John Junker, at flickr.

U.S., Illinois and City of Chicago flags in a stiff breeze at the Navy Pier, Chicago. Photo by John Junker, at flickr. (copyright to Junker, too)

Even more:

This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

World Malaria Report 2020: Governments fell short of pledges, malaria poised to make a comeback.

December 1, 2020

World Malaria Report 2020 carries bad news. Despite remarkable progress against malaria, despite being on the verge of beating the disease and eradicating it from the planet, governments stopped supporting anti-malaria work.

Malaria is poised to come roaring back to kill millions.

COVID-19 complicates fighting malaria. But the real enemy of the fight against malaria is apathy, neglect and ignorance.

Cover of World Malaria Report 2020, WHO's annual accounting of the fight to eradicate malaria.

Cover of World Malaria Report 2020, WHO’s annual accounting of the fight to eradicate malaria.

Below, the full press release from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 2020 accounting of the war against malaria.

____________________________

WHO calls for reinvigorated action to fight malaria

Global malaria gains threatened by access gaps, COVID-19 and funding shortfalls

30 November 2020
News release
Reading time: 6 min (1645 words)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on countries and global health partners to step up the fight against malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that continues to claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year. A better targeting of interventions, new tools and increased funding are needed to change the global trajectory of the disease and reach internationally-agreed targets.

According to WHO‘s latest World malaria report, progress against malaria continues to plateau, particularly in high burden countries in Africa. Gaps in access to life-saving tools are undermining global efforts to curb the disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to set back the fight even further.

“It is time for leaders across Africa – and the world – to rise once again to the challenge of malaria, just as they did when they laid the foundation for the progress made since the beginning of this century,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Through joint action, and a commitment to leaving no one behind, we can achieve our shared vision of a world free of malaria.”

In 2000, African leaders signed the landmark Abuja Declaration pledging to reduce malaria deaths on the continent by 50% over a 10-year period. Robust political commitment, together with innovations in new tools and a steep increase in funding, catalyzed an unprecedented period of success in global malaria control. According to the report, 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million deaths have been averted since 2000.

A plateau in progress

In 2019, the global tally of malaria cases was 229 million, an annual estimate that has remained virtually unchanged over the last 4 years. The disease claimed some 409 000 lives in 2019 compared to 411 000 in 2018.

As in past years, the African Region shouldered more than 90% of the overall disease burden. Since 2000, the region has reduced its malaria death toll by 44%, from an estimated 680 000 to 384 000 annually. However, progress has slowed in recent years, particularly in countries with a high burden of the disease.

A funding shortfall at both the international and domestic levels poses a significant threat to future gains. In 2019, total funding reached US $3 billion against a global target of $5.6 billion. Funding shortages have led to critical gaps in access to proven malaria control tools.

COVID-19 an added challenge

In 2020, COVID-19 emerged as an additional challenge to the provision of essential health services worldwide. According to the report, most malaria prevention campaigns were able to move forward this year without major delays. Ensuring access to malaria prevention – such as insecticide-treated nets and preventive medicines for children – has supported the COVID-19 response strategy by reducing the number of malaria infections and, in turn, easing the strain on health systems. WHO worked swiftly to provide countries with guidance to adapt their responses and ensure the safe delivery of malaria services during the pandemic.

However, WHO is concerned that even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a considerable loss of life. The report finds, for example, that a 10% disruption in access to effective antimalarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19 000 additional deaths. Disruptions of 25% and 50% in the region could result in an additional 46 000 and 100 000 deaths, respectively.

“While Africa has shown the world what can be achieved if we stand together to end malaria as a public health threat, progress has stalled,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “COVID-19 threatens to further derail our efforts to overcome malaria, particularly treating people with the disease. Despite the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on African economies, international partners and countries need to do more to ensure that the resources are there to expand malaria programmes which are making such a difference in people’s lives.”

WHO response

A key strategy to reignite progress is the “High burden to high impact” (HBHI) response, catalyzed in 2018 by WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. The response is led by 11 countries – including 10 in sub-Saharan Africa – that account for approximately 70% of the world’s malaria burden.

Over the last 2 years, HBHI countries have been moving away from a “one-size-fits all” approach to malaria control – opting, instead, for tailored responses based on local data and intelligence. A recent analysis from Nigeria, for example, found that through an optimized mix of interventions, the country could avert tens of millions of additional cases and thousands of additional deaths by the year 2023, compared to a business-as-usual approach.

While it is too early to measure the impact of the HBHI approach, the report finds that deaths in the 11 countries were reduced from 263 000 to 226 000 between 2018 and 2019.  India continued to make impressive gains, with reductions in cases and deaths of 18% and 20%, respectively, over the last 2 years. There was, however, a slight increase in the total number of cases among HBHI countries, from an estimated 155 million in 2018 to 156 million in 2019.

Meeting global malaria targets

This year’s report highlights key milestones and events that helped shape the global response to the disease in recent decades. Beginning in the 1990s, leaders of malaria-affected countries, scientists and other partners laid the groundwork for a renewed malaria response that contributed to one of the biggest returns on investment in global health.

According to the report, 21 countries eliminated malaria over the last 2 decades; of these, 10 countries were officially certified as malaria-free by WHO. In the face of the ongoing threat of antimalarial drug resistance, the 6 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion continue to make major gains towards their goal of malaria elimination by 2030.

But many countries with a high burden of malaria have been losing ground.  According to WHO global projections, the 2020 target for reductions in malaria case incidence will be missed by 37% and the mortality reduction target will be missed by 22%.

Note to editors

WHO’s work on malaria is guided by the Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 (GTS), approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. The strategy includes four global targets for 2030, with milestones along the way to track progress. The 2030 targets are: 1) reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90%; 2) reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90%; 3) eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries; and
4) preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.

Near-term GTS milestones for 2020 include global reductions in malaria case incidence and death rates of at least 40% and the elimination of malaria in at least 10 countries. According to the report, the 2020 milestones for malaria case incidence and mortality rates will be missed:
Case incidence:  WHO projects that, in 2020, there were an estimated 56 malaria cases for every 1000 people at risk of the disease against a GTS target of 35 cases. The GTS milestone will be missed by an estimated 37%.
Mortality rate: The estimate for globally projected malaria deaths per 100 000 population at risk was 9.8 in 2020 against a GTS target of 7.2 deaths. The milestone will be missed by an estimated 22%.

WHO African Region Since 2014, the rate of progress in both cases and deaths in the region has slowed, attributed mainly to the stalling of progress in several countries with moderate or high transmission. In 2019, six African countries accounted for 50% of all malaria cases globally: Nigeria (23%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), United Republic of Tanzania (5%), Niger (4%), Mozambique (4%) and Burkina Faso (4%). In view of recent trends, the African Region will miss the GTS 2020 milestones for case incidence and mortality by 37% and 25%, respectively.

 “High burden to high impact” (HBHI) Launched in November 2018, HBHI builds on the principle that no one should die from a disease that is preventable and treatable. It is led by 11 countries that, together, accounted for approximately 70% of the world’s malaria burden in 2017: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania. Over the last two years, all 11 HBHI countries have implemented activities across four response elements: 1) political will to reduce the toll of malaria; 2) strategic information to drive impact; 3) better guidance, policies and strategies; and 4) a coordinated national malaria response

Malaria elimination – Between 2000 and 2019, 10 countries received the official WHO certification of malaria elimination: United Arab Emirates (2007), Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Sri Lanka (2016), Uzbekistan (2018), Paraguay (2018), Argentina (2019) and Algeria (2019). In 2019, China reported zero indigenous cases of malaria for the third consecutive year; the country recently applied for the official WHO certification of malaria elimination. In 2020, El Salvador became the first country in Central America to apply for the WHO malaria-free certification

In the six countries of the Greater Mekong subregion – Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam – the reported number of malaria cases fell by 90% from 2000 to 2019, while P. falciparum (Pf) cases fell by 97% in the same time period. This accelerated decrease in Pf malaria is notable in view of the threat posed by antimalarial drug resistance in the subregion.

A call for innovation Eliminating malaria in all countries, especially those with a high disease burden, will likely require tools that are not available today. In September 2019, the WHO Director-General issued a “malaria challenge,” calling on the global health community to ramp up investment in the research and development of new malaria-fighting tools and approaches. This message was further reinforced in the April 2020 report of the WHO Strategic advisory group on malaria eradication.


December 2020 flag-flying days

November 30, 2020

A

A “living flag” composed of 10,000 sailors, or “Blue Jackets at Salute,” by the Mayhart Studios, December 1917; image probably at the Great Lakes training facility of the Navy. Gawker media image

November offers several flag flying days, especially in years when there is an election.

But December may be the month with the most flag-flying dates, when we include statehood days.

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It’s not in the Flag Code, but public law (P.L. 103-308) urges that the president should issue a proclamation asking Americans to fly flags.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a federal holiday, and one of the score of dates designated in the Flag Code. If you watch your neighborhood closely, you’ll note even some of the most ardent flag wavers miss posting the colors on this day, as they do on Thanksgiving and New Years and Easter.

Other dates?

Nine states attained statehood in December, so people in those states should fly their flags (and you may join them).  Included in this group is Delaware, traditionally the “First State,” called that because it was the first former England colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution:

  • Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  • Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state)
  • Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  • Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  • Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  • Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  • New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  • Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  • Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, marking the day in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was declared ratified; but though this event generally gets a presidential proclamation, there is no law or executive action that requires flags to fly on that date, for that occasion. I predict there will be no proclamation from the White House in 2020.

Eleven flag-flying dates in December.  Does any other month have as many flag flying opportunities?

Have I missed any December flag-flying dates?  11 events on 10 days (Delaware’s statehood falls on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack).

Here’s a list of the 10 days to fly the flag in December 2020, under national law, in chronological order:

  1. Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  2. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7
  3. Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state) (shared with Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day)
  4. Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  5. Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  6. Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  7. Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  8. New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  9. Christmas Day, December 25
  10. Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  11. Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

Fly your flag with respect, for the flag, for the republic it represents, and for all those who sacrificed that it may wave on your residence.

Appropriate to a snowy December.

Appropriate to a snowy December. “The Barn on Grayson-New Hope Road. This barn with its old truck and ever-present American flag, is often the subject of photographs and paintings by the locals.” Photo and copyright by Melinda Anderson

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This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance. Plus, I like these photos.

‘ . . . always light behind the clouds.’ Quote of the moment

November 29, 2020

Google Doodle in 2016 for Louisa May Alcott's birthday on November 29.

Google Doodle in 2016 for Louisa May Alcott’s birthday on November 29. The Doodle pays homage to the characters of Alcott’s novel, Beth, Jo, Amy and Meg. Designed by doodler Sophie Diao.Via SearchEngineLand.

“Be comforted, dear soul! There is always light behind the clouds.”

♦ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, chapter 15, “A Telegram”

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832. Her ending this chapter with a note of encouragement perhaps makes up for the opening slam at the month of November.

November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year, said Margaret, standing at the window one dull afternoon, looking out at the frostbitten garden.

That’s the reason I was born in it, observed Jo pensively, quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.


With fondness, still wishing it were true in 2020: Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 23, 2020

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others. (Nast tended not to like Catholics, and especially Irish Catholics.)

In a nation whose emotions are raw from a divisive election, a year of protest for the right to live, a year of deadly plague, unwarranted, horrifying assaults on police officers, not to mention daily horrors reported from Venezuela, Central America, East Timor and Indonesian New Guinea, Syria and the Middle East, could there be a better or more timely reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing?

A Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition: Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving. History teachers should use the image — and if you’re teaching history at home to students working hard to avoid getting ill, you should use it, too.

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

“Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.” Other friends say both are Chinese.  Regional differences.  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your Thanksgiving week is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not, traveling or not, company or not. Stay safe. Happy Thanksgiving 2020.  And of course, remember to fly your flag!

More: Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

And in 2013:

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Veterans Day 2020 – Fly your flag

November 11, 2020

We fly our flags today, November 11, to honor all veterans, an extension and morphing of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I. The Armistice took effect on November 11, 1918.

Veterans Day parade in Aurora, Illinois, unknown year. Photo from EnjoyAurora.com.

Veterans Day parade features a nice jumble of flags in Aurora, Illinois, unknown year. Photo from EnjoyAurora.com.

Another very nice Veterans Day poster from the Veterans Administration, for 2020:

2020's Veterans Day from the Veterans Administration, a representation of veterans in many roles in American life, always helping others.

2020’s Veterans Day from the Veterans Administration, a representation of veterans in many roles in American life, always helping others.

In world history or U.S. history, I usually stop for the day to talk about the origins of Veterans Day in Armistice Day, the day the guns stopped blazing to effectively end fighting in World War I.

For several reasons including mnemonic, the treaty called for an end to hostilities on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918. Your state’s history standards probably list that phrase somewhere, but the history behind it is what students really find interesting.

Original documents and good history can be found at the Library of Congress online collections.

The Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France, at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, bringing the war later known as World War I to a close.

President Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day the following year on November 11, 1919, with the these words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” Originally, the celebration included parades and public meetings following a two-minute suspension of business at 11:00 a.m.

Co. E, 102nd U.S.A. Curtiss Studio, photographers, c1917. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

Between the world wars, November 11 was commemorated as Armistice Day in the United States, Great Britain, and France. After World War II, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both wars. Beginning in 1954, the United States designated November 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars. British Commonwealth countries now call the holiday Remembrance Day.

Online holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provide rich sources of information on America’s military, and on veteran’s day. NARA leans to original documents a bit more than the Library of Congress. For Veterans Day 2016, NARA featured an historic photo form 1961:

 President John F. Kennedy Lays a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of Veterans Day Remembrances, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, 11/11/1961 Series: Robert Knudsen White House Photographs, 1/20/1961 - 12/19/1963. Collection: White House Photographs, 12/19/1960 - 3/11/1964 (Holdings of the @jfklibrary)

NARA caption: President John F. Kennedy Lays a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of Veterans Day Remembrances, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, 11/11/1961 Series: Robert Knudsen White House Photographs, 1/20/1961 – 12/19/1963. Collection: White House Photographs, 12/19/1960 – 3/11/1964 (Holdings of the @jfklibrary)

For teachers, that page also features this:

For Veterans Day, explore the many resources in the National Archives about veterans and military service.

(Well, actually it’s for everyone. But teachers love those kinds of links, especially AP history teachers who need documents for “Document-Based Questions” (DBQs).

On one page, the Veterans Administration makes it easy for teachers to plan activities; of course, you need to start some of these weeks before the actual day:

For Teachers & Students

Hope your Veterans Day 2020 goes well, and remember to fly your flag at home.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


Be the man your father raised you to be, that your children need. Vote Joe.

November 2, 2020

I was fine on this until the last few photos of Joe and Beau.

Joe and Beau Biden, capture from Lincoln Project ad, “Men.”

It’s about doing the right thing for America. Please watch. Please vote.

 

“Men,” from the Lincoln Project

November 2020 days to fly the flag

November 2, 2020

The Major, a very large U.S. flag made in honor of Brent Major, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018. The flag flew at the mouth of Coldwater Canyon.

The Major, a very large U.S. flag made in honor of Maj. Brent R. Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018. The flag flew at the mouth of Coldwater Canyon. The flag is a quarter-acre in size, more than 100 feet on the longest side. North Ogden plans an annual celebration of the U.S. flag in early November. Photo by Ben Dorger, for the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper.

2020 is not exactly flying by — but November 3 will probably change our perception of how fast time moves, and how the year moves at all.

Do we even fly our flags during a pandemic? Sure we do.

Eight events spread over seven different days come with urgings to fly the U.S. flag in November: Six states celebrate statehood, Veterans Day falls as always on November 11, and Thanksgiving Day on November 26.

Did I say eight? Elections are dates to fly the flag. 2020 is a presidential election year — in Texas, May and other election dates for counties, cities and school boards were moved to November. (Some thought a pandemic would surely be over by November. Who knew?)

You may fly your flag at home on election day, too. (Yes, flags should be flown at all early polling places, on days of early voting, too — do you know of poll where that did not occur? Tell us in comments.)

Two states, North Dakota and South Dakota, celebrate their statehood on the same date. Washington’s statehood day falls on Veterans Day, November 11 — so there are only seven days covering nine events.

In calendar order for 2019, these are the seven days:

  • North Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state)
  • South Dakota statehood day, November 2 (1889, 39th or 40th state) (shared with North Dakota)
  • Election day, November 3 (all states; federal offices) — Go vote!
  • Montana statehood day, November 8 (1889, 41st state)
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Washington statehood day, November 11 (1889, 42nd state) (shared with Veterans Day)
  • Oklahoma statehood day, November 16 (1907, 46th state)
  • North Carolina statehood day, November 21 (1789, 12th state)
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November (November 26 in 2020)

Most Americans will concern themselves only with Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. Is flying the U.S. flag for statehood day a dying tradition?

More:

Polling station in South Carolina. SCETV image.

Polling station in South Carolina. SCETV image.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Fighting ignorance takes longer than we hoped.


Silence him. Vote.

October 30, 2020

Screen capture from Joe Biden ad, "Silence him. Vote by drop box."

Screen capture from Joe Biden ad, “Silence him. Vote by drop box.”

Another stellar ad from Joe Biden’s very good team of advertising makers, below.

Wish I’d gotten this up a couple weeks ago. But I like a good cartoon anytime. It’s not Tex Avery, not Chuck Jones — but it’s good.

(Yes, the Shannon Watts from Everytown and Moms Demand.)


In 1928 Boy Scouts campaigned to get out the vote

October 19, 2020

I haven’t seen a good Get Out the Vote campaign from a Scout Group in at least 40 years. From my perspective it appears Richard Nixon took the fire out of Scouts and Scout leaders to do a community wide, non-partisan drive to get out the vote.

Plus, in many of those years the Scouts pushed getting people to vote, while their parents and other voters probably suppressed voting from certain groups.

Still it’s great to see the history, that in 1928 voting was considered such an uncontroversial part of citizenship that it made the cover of Boys’ Life.

"Vote it is your duty," Boys' Life, November 1928
Boys’ Life Magazine, November, 1928. “Healthy moral values are the solution for happier kids & and a greater nation.”

Who reads magazines any more? Not enough people.


Was Darwin racist? My long ago answer

October 16, 2020

A cartoon of Charles Darwin and the crew of the HMS Beagle – believed to be the only image of the great naturalist on the voyage that inspired his theory of evolution – auctioned by Sotheby’s in December, 2015, for 52,500

The watercolour, painted while the Beagle was anchored off the Patagonian coast in 1832, around September 24, shows fossils and botanical specimens being hauled aboard for examination by Darwin, who commands the centre of the painting in top hat and tails. The event followed Darwin’s trip ashore at Bahia Blanca, Brazil. Painting is by by Augustus Earle, who was hired as shipboard artist by Capt. FitzRoy in October 1831, but had to quit the ship soon after this painting, due to ill health. From The Guardian.

No, Darwin was not racist.

I know many Darwin students, and science students, usually concede that Darwin was “racist by today’s standards,” but better than most of his pre-Victorian and Victorian colleagues. I think that’s an unnecessary and very much inaccurate concession. Darwin simply was not racist.

To come to that conclusion, one needs to read a bunch of Darwin’s writings, and see what he really said. Darwin was bound by English usage mostly in the first half of the 19th century, and that produces confusion among people who assume “savage” is a pejorative term, and not simply the pre-1860 version of “wild” or “aboriginal.”

But beyond that, a look at Darwin’s life should produce an appreciation of the remarkable lack of bias he shows to people of color — though he does demonstrate bias against French, Germans and Turks, and it’s difficult to understand if he’s being sarcastic in those uses.

We discussed this issue way back in 2007, at Dr. P. Z. Myers’s blog, Pharyngula, back when it was a part of a series of science blogs hosted by Seed Magazine, which has gone defunct. P. Z. took an answer I gave in one post, and made a freestanding post out of it.

I was surprised, but happy to bump into the answer recently — because it remains a good summary response. It would have benefited from links, but in 2007 I wasn’t adept at adding links in other blogs (didn’t even have this one), and links were limited, as I recall.

So I’ll add in links below.

Here’s my 2007 answer to the retort, “Darwin was racist,” with no editing, but links added.

Here’s the post from P. Z. Myers, featuring my answer.

Since Ed Darrell made such a comprehensive comment on the question of whether Darwin was as wicked a racist as the illiterate ideologues of Uncommon Descent would like you to believe, I’m just copying his list here.

  1. Remember the famous quarrel between Capt. FitzRoy and Darwin aboard the Beagle? After leaving Brazil, in their mess discussions (remember: Darwin was along to talk to FitzRoy at meals, to keep FitzRoy from going insane as his predecessor had), Darwin noted the inherent injustice of slavery. Darwin argued it was racist and unjust, and therefore unholy. FitzRoy loudly argued slavery was justified, and racism was justified, by the scriptures. It was a nasty argument, and Darwin was banned to mess with the crew with instructions to get off the boat at the next convenient stop. FitzRoy came to his senses after a few days of dining alone. Two things about this episode: First, it shows Darwin as a committed anti-racist; second, it contrasts Darwin’s views with the common, scripture-inspired view of the day, which was racist.

  2. Darwin’s remarks about people of color were remarkably unracist for his day. We should always note his great friend from college days, the African man, [freed slave John Edmonstone,] who taught him taxidermy. We must make note of Darwin’s befriending the Fuegan, Jeremy Jemmy Button [real name, Orundellico], whom the expedition was returning to his home. Non-racist descriptions abound in context, but this is a favorite area for anti-Darwinists to quote mine. Also, point to Voyage of the Beagle, which is available on line. In it Darwin compares the intellect of the Brazilian slaves with Europeans, and notes that the slaves are mentally and tactically as capable as the greatest of the Roman generals. Hard evidence of fairness on Darwin’s part.

  3. Darwin’s correspondence, especially from the voyage, indicates his strong support for ending slavery, because slavery was unjust and racist. He is unequivocal on the point. Moreover, many in Darwin’s family agreed, and the Wedgwood family fortune was put behind the movement to end slavery. Money talks louder than creationists in this case, I think. Ironic, Darwin supports the Wilberforce family’s work against slavery, and Samuel Wilberforce betrays the support. It reminds me of Pasteur, who said nasty things about Darwin; but when the chips were down and Pasteur’s position and reputation were on the line, Darwin defended Pasteur. Darwin was a great man in many ways.

  4. Watch for the notorious quote mining of Emma’s remark that Charles was “a bigot.” It’s true, she said it. Emma said Charles was a bigot, but in respect to Darwin’s hatred of spiritualists and seances. Darwin’s brother, Erasmus, was suckered in by spiritualists. Darwin was, indeed, a bigot against such hoaxes. It’s recounted in Desmond and Moore’s biography, but shameless quote miners hope their audience hasn’t read the book and won’t. Down here in Texas, a lot of the quote miners are Baptists. I enjoy asking them if they do not share Darwin’s bigotry against fortune tellers. Smart ones smile, and drop the argument.

  5. One might hope that the “Darwin-was-racist” crap comes around to the old canard that Darwin’s work was the basis of the campaign to kill the natives of Tasmania. That was truly a terrible, racist campaign, and largely successful. Of course, historians note that the war against Tasmanians was begun in 1805, and essentially completed by 1831, when just a handful of Tasmanians remained alive. These dates are significant, of course, because they show the war started four years prior to Darwin’s birth, and it was over when Darwin first encountered Tasmania on his voyage, leaving England in 1831. In fact, Darwin laments the battle. I have often found Darwin critics quoting Darwin’s words exactly, but claiming they were the words of others against Darwin’s stand.

  6. Also, one should be familiar with Darwin’s writing about “civilized” Europeans wiping out “savages.” In the first place, “savage” in that day and in Darwin’s context simply means ‘not living in European-style cities, with tea and the occasional Mozart.’ In the second, and more critical place, Darwin advances the argument noting that (in the case of the Tasmanians, especially), the “savages” are the group that is better fit to the natural environment, and hence superior to the Europeans, evolutionarily. Darwin does not urge these conflicts, but rather, laments them. How ironic that creationist quote miners do not recognize that.

P. Z. closed off:

Isn’t it odd how the creationists are so divorced from reality that they can’t even concede that Darwin was an abolitionist, and are so reduced in their arguments against evolution that they’ve had to resort to the desperate “Darwin beats puppies!” attack?

Sadly, many of the posts in that old home for Pharyngula eroded away as the old Appalachian Mountain range eroded to be smaller than the Rockies. Time passes, even the rocks change.

Darwin’s still not racist. Creationists and other malignant forces revive the false claim, from time to time.

More:


October 9, 2020 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head

October 9, 2020

Dear Reader: My apologies. As Cecil might say, we’ve been fighting ignorance since 1974, and it’s taking longer than we thought.  My hopes to retire this post have not been realized.  Heck, it doesn’t even need much editing from past years. Saints save us, please!

We might pause to reflect, too:  Recent years have seen the media rise of actual beheadings. This practice, which now strikes many of us as barbaric, occurs in reality as well as memory and literature; unlike St. Denis, those beheaded do not usually carry on to do anything at all; like St. Denis, they are martyred. Vote well in your local elections, and national elections. Your vote should be directed at preventing anyone’s losing their head, even just figuratively.

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who? He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people. Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche). He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

A later painting of the martyring of St. Denis. Though I can find a couple copies of this painting, neither lists who was the painter, nor where the painting is.

A later painting of the martyring of St. Denis. Though I can find a couple copies of this painting, neither lists who was the painter, nor where the painting is.

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Donald Trump, Bill Barr, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no? In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives. You catch my drift. In 2018 we added a raft of people: Marsha Blackburn, Ryan Zinke, Sid Miller, Denny Marchant, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. We’ve left 253 Republicans off for lack of space.

Who would you nominate to pray about for 2020?

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache. St. Denis seems to be our man. Or saint.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.” Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


Sign of the times: Bodega’s had enough of that COVID-19 stuff

October 5, 2020

Everybody is weary of the COVID-19 shutdown. Some show their weariness by refusing to mask up, daring other people to call them out and daring the virus to put them down. Others show weariness in their no-nonsense ways of working to keep the virus at bay.

From an anonymous bodega in New York City (I think). Here with some risk of losing our “family-friendly” rating.

You have been warned!

Tip of the old scrub brush to jeffb on Twitter.


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