You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s a guy flooded out from his home, where he holds forth claiming climate change isn’t real, and if it is, isn’t a problem.
Will he accept federal aid to fix his home?
Annals of Global Heating: Karma, sort of. Pollute around, deny problems, and find outApril 14, 2023
You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s a guy flooded out from his home, where he holds forth claiming climate change isn’t real, and if it is, isn’t a problem.
Rosa Parks Sit Down to Stand Up for Freedom Day, December 1: “Why do you push us around?” Rosa Parks asked the cop. (Anyone know the answer?)December 2, 2022
Mrs. Rosa Parks asked a question of the policeman who arrested her for refusing to move to the back of the bus on December 1, 1955. In 2022, it is again, and still, a chilling question, to which we have no good answer.
Rosa Parks: “Why do you push us around?”
Officer: “I don’t know but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”
From Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), page 23.
Photo: Mrs. Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama; photo from New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress
Today in History at the Library of Congress provides the simple facts:
On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Blacks were also required to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.
Rosa Parks made a nearly perfect subject for a protest on racism. College-educated, trained in peaceful protest at the famous Highlander Folk School, Parks was known as a peaceful and respected person. The sight of such a proper woman being arrested and jailed would provide a schocking image to most Americans. Americans jolted awake.
Often lost in the retelling of the story are the threads that tie together the events of the civil rights movement through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As noted, Parks was a trained civil rights activist. Such training in peaceful and nonviolent protest provided a moral power to the movement probably unattainable any other way. Parks’ arrest was not planned, however. Parks wrote that as she sat on the bus, she was thinking of the tragedy of Emmet Till, the young African American man from Chicago, brutally murdered in Mississippi early in 1955. She was thinking that someone had to take a stand for civil rights, at about the time the bus driver told her to move to allow a white man to take her seat. To take a stand, she kept her seat.
African Americans in Montgomery organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. This was also not unique, but earlier bus boycotts are unremembered. A bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, earlier in 1955 did not produce nearly the same results.
The boycott organizers needed a place to meet, a large hall. The biggest building in town with such a room was the Dexter Street Baptist Church. At the first meeting on December 5, it made sense to make the pastor of that church the focal point of the boycott organizing, and so the fresh, young pastor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was thrust into civil rights organizing as president, with Ralph Abernathy as program director. They called their group the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). When their organizing stretched beyond the city limits of Montgomery, the group became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
- Montgomery Advertiser, December 6, 1955; copyright by the Montgomery Advertiser, via the Memory Project, Library of Congress
Litigation on the boycott went all the way to the Supreme Court (Browder v. Gale). The boycotters won. The 381-day boycott was ended on December 21, 1956, with the desegregation of the Montgomery bus system.
Sources for lesson plans and projects:
- Rosa Parks photo gallery at the Academy of Achievement site
- Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century, Rosa Parks
- Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development
- Scholastic.com resources on Rosa Parks
- “The Civil Rights Era,” The Memory Center, Library of Congress
- “We Shall Overcome,” music by Silphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, and Pete Seeger
- Highlander Center (successor to the Highlander Folk School)
- Mrs. Parks’s casket at the U.S. Capitol
- Biography of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Nobel Peace Prize site
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project at Stanford University
- Teaching King, lesson plans and other resources, Stanford University
- The King Center
- Long Island University Library tribute to Dr. King
- “With an Even Hand: Brown v. Board at Fifty,” Library of Congress on-line exhibition
Tip of the old scrub brush to Slacktivist, who gave this post a nice plug.
Fox News features a grand, two-minute description of Joe Biden’s great workAugust 25, 2022
We can be quite sure Fox did not intend to give air to a complimentary and good view of President Joe Biden’s months in office, but they did invite Jessica Tarlov (@JessicaTarlov) on to talk on August 20, 2022.
Talk she did. She told the truth, and didn’t let the hosts shut her up.
It’s unfair to reduce a thing that is unequivocally a good thing to just ‘oh it’s one good thing.’ There are a bunch of good things in there. Just because it’s not your politics doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.
It’s about green energy. It’s about saving people’s lives; it’s making sure they have health care — oh yes, health care saves people’s lives.
When history looks back at the first two years of the Biden term, they will see the American Rescue Act. They will see bipartisan Infrastructure, the PACT Act, the CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act.
They will see that al Zawahiri is dead.
They will see record jobs numbers and they will see low unemployment. And I’m not saying they will think that Joe Biden was God’s gift to the presidency. But do not reduce what has been accomplished in this term. And Democrats got that done with the slimmest of majorities.
Beto for Texas, 2022July 16, 2022
Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III introduces, Beto O’Rourke delivers.
You should listen.
“Green Book” story told at Ft. Worth Museum Science and HistoryFebruary 16, 2022
A museum display DFW school kids should get out to see, “The Green Book,” at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Press release from Texas Christian University tells the story well.
Gooding Works to Make History Accessible
February 10, 2022
TCU professor is curator of The Green Book, an exhibit launching this month at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
One of the ultimate freedoms is that of the open road – the simple act of driving a car when or wherever you want to go. But in Jim Crow America, a road trip for Black travelers was far from liberating. In fact, a drive outside of the neighborhood was dangerous, especially in the South.
“Imagine that it’s the 1950s. You are Black and your children are in the back seat of your car and you’re going on a trip,” said Frederick Gooding Jr., Dr. Ronald E. Moore Honors Professor of Humanities. “Think how much of a threat it was to find a safe place to eat and sleep in terms of avoiding humiliation or violence. Even a gas station could be a risky proposition. You needed a resource for your family’s safety and protection because the stakes were so high.”
That resource was the Negro Motorist Green Book, published from the 1930s until 1966, a mere two years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act financially penalized racial segregation for the first time. The handbook provided a state-by-state list of hotels, service stations, restaurants and other establishments considered safe for Black travelers.
The associate professor of African-American studies and chair of TCU’s Race & Reconciliation Initiative, Gooding is now helping to share the story about the book and its originator, Victor Hugo Green. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History approached Gooding to be chief curator of its new exhibition, “Fort Worth and the Green Book: Black Travelers Navigating Racism in Mid-Century Texas,” opening Feb. 11.
While the 2018 Academy Award-winning movie Green Book may have introduced the same title to many Americans, Gooding notes that the exhibit certainly takes a different path.
“Whether you’re 6 or 60, this exhibit will help set the tone for how bizarre and befuddling it was for African Americans to have to navigate a Jim Crow society and to heighten awareness of our relative progress,” Gooding said. “It’s been a treat to be part of the creation process as well as provide an opportunity for exposure.”
Morgan Rehnberg, the museum’s project leader, said it was clear that Gooding would be an ideal partner.
“His scholarship on race and culture, as well as his leadership at TCU in addressing the university’s history with race, has given him a unique perspective on Fort Worth,” Rehnberg said. “It’s been tremendously fun to see his enthusiasm shine into every aspect of the exhibition.”
After receiving a grant, the museum acquired the materials for the exhibit. As a historian, Gooding looked for ways to make it accessible.
“We started from scratch in creating a balanced exhibit that has many layers. That helps to bring The Green Book to life, and there’s something for everyone,” he said “It’s been an interesting ride looking to reconcile introducing people to a topic while providing them with enough tools to discover the truth for themselves.”
The exhibit is expected to be seen by close to 300,000, including many school groups, before it’s taken down in August. In conjunction with the exhibit, Gooding will present as part of the museum’s lecture series Feb. 21. His “Navigating the Road to Reconciliation” talk will explore how to leverage a multiplicity of voices and support the principles of reconciliation. For visitor information, visit Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Tip of the old scrub brush to TCU’s Twitter feed.
Thomas Nast in 1864: “The Union Christmas Dinner” pushed reconciliation in time of war, brotherhood in time of divisionDecember 25, 2021
Thomas Nast may have done as much as Abraham Lincoln to invent the Republican Party.
Nast’s illustration for Harper’s Weekly for the issue of December 31, 1864, expressed his great desire for an end to the Civil War, and offered a vision of what could happen when arms were put down.
We were alerted to the image by a Tweet from White House History; the image above comes via SonoftheSouth.net.
An explanation of the illustration comes from The New York Times Learning page (for teachers — you’re invited):
As the Union military advanced across the South in December 1864, making Confederate defeat seem to be only a matter of time, artist Thomas Nast drew a holiday illustration betokening mercy for the vanquished and sectional reconciliation for the nation. Under the Christmas proclamation of “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men,” President Abraham Lincoln is the gracious host who generously welcomes the Confederates—President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and state governors—in from the cold, and gestures for them to return to their rightful seats at the sumptuous feast of the states. Seated at the table are the governors of the Union states, and on the wall behind them appear portraits of leading Union generals.
Framing the main banquet scene are four circular insets that convey the message that if the Confederacy will lay down its arms, surrender unconditionally, and be contrite, then the Union will be merciful and joyously welcome them back into the fold. Viewing them clockwise from the upper-left, the symbolic figure of Victory, backed by the American Eagle, offers the olive branch of peace to a submissive Confederate soldier; the forgiving father from the biblical parable embraces his wayward son, whose sorrow for his past rebellion prompts the father to honor his son with a celebratory dinner; under the tattered American flag, the ordinary soldiers of the Union and Confederacy reunite happily as friends and brothers after the Confederate arms and battle standards have been laid on the ground; and, General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, bows respectfully and offers his sword in unconditional surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union troops. In the lower-center is a scene from a holiday table at which a Northern family drinks a toast to the Union servicemen.
While Nast could be partisan, as in his portrayal of Democrats as mules kicking down a barn, or Republicans as noble elephants, and Nast could be subject to bigotry, as in his frequent jabs at Catholics and his portrayal of Irish immigrants as near-gorillas, much of his work in illustration for Harper’s and other publications offered a vision of a much better America which welcomed everyone — as his later portrayal of “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” in 1869 demonstrated.
We could use more Republicans, and newspapermen, like the hopeful Nast, today (leave the bigotry behind).
Lyndon Johnson’s birthday, August 27, 1908August 27, 2021
President Lyndon Baines Johnson was born August 27, 1908. One of the most active, ambitious and controversial presidents, he competes with James Madison for the title of “best legislator” among presidents. Today is his 113th birthday.
Several groups in Texas and Washington celebrate LBJ’s birthday each year, an event he always liked to keep festive, partly because he had a huge ego, and partly because he just loved a good time with friends and cake.
- In 2020 the Austin American-Statesman commemorated a quirky cookbook put together to honor LBJ’s birthday by close friends and students — some great recipes; it’s not a book sold in stores
- Best Presidential Biographies blog lists some of the best biographies on Johnson, a very complex and often enigmatic character whose life Shakespeare would have put on the stage
Time for a nice, cold glass of Dunning-KrugerAugust 16, 2021
I wish there were a requirement for inventors of internet memes to sign their work. Who gets credit for this whisky advertising mashup?
Now there’s a video ad, from Dr. Rohin Francis.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Nish Gandhi, DO @supreme_doc.
Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the storyFebruary 26, 2021
Too few remember Paul Harvey now. In some ways that’s good — his columns for southern states of the old Confederacy were not the often-cheery dispenser of news and wisdom we heard at noon on ABC’s national radio network. Meaning, I found the columns too often-racist, and too seldom supporting freedom and civil rights. But Harvey hit on a good story-telling format that he marketed as “The Rest of the Story,” and selling hope, he was rarely racist and often informative.
“The Rest of the Story” was a five-minute insert, syndicated by ABC or someone else, often run in the afternoon on AM stations. Harvey would tell about a person who encountered a problem, and describe how the problem was solved and how happy it made people. Something like, ‘As an adopted immigrant child, young Steven didn’t take well to academic settings, coming close to flunking out of schools and finally dropping out of college, though sticking around campus to learn design, a topic the school didn’t have a major in.’ Then there’d be a lot more about things that sounded like failures, until young Steven started tinkering with building computers but got hammered by other computer makers in the market place, though people said they liked his machines. Then one day another worker at his company convinced him to build a phone, even though it was likely Steven would lose big in a market dominated by other legacy companies. But he introduction went well, and someone asked him what they’d call the phone to distinguish it from others. “‘We call it the iPhone,’ Steven said. And now you know the rest of the story.”
Harvey never used the format to criticize or denigrate anyone, which surprised me considering his newspaper columns. I wish someone had used the format recently when Rush Limbaugh died. You hate to say bad things about someone who recently passed; but Limbaugh was a special case. He created anger and division with his radio program, and he profited and reveled in that anger and division.
On LinkedIn, someone posted this story; and it fits the Paul Harvey format so well, and doesn’t really criticize Limbaugh that much.
Dan Price took the astonishing action of slashing executive compensation and dramatically raising pay for workers in his company. It was news for a couple of weeks. During that time critics of equality, like Limbaugh, lambasted Price and his company, and the idea of equity and equality in pay for workers. Then the story fell out of the headlines — except perhaps for snark from critics like Limbaugh.
Here’s what Price said in his Linked-In post:
Now you know the rest of the story.
Chess games of the rich and famous: T. Roosevelt, John Hay and Joe CannonFebruary 1, 2021
Descriptions of the drawing from the National Portrait Gallery only identify the people portrayed above the chess board. It shows Secretary of State John Milton Hay playing against House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon, while President Theodore Roosevelt looks on smiling.
It may be quaint today. I have found no description of issues portrayed in the drawing. But it’s a curious collision of now mostly-overlooked history.
NPG lists the drawing by Charles Davis Mitchell as circa 1905. We might presume it to be before July 1, 1905, since that’s the day John Hay died. If 1905, it’s after Roosevelt’s election in November 1904 — whether before or after his March inauguration, we don’t know.
Mitchell was famous for his drawings later, of women, for fashion magazines. We can assume he did other illustrations of political people — but those drawings don’t come up in quick searches.
Joe Cannon is a legendary Speaker of the House, after whom the first House Office Building is named (there are three: Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn). Early in Roosevelt’s first term Cannon complained that Hay had not consulted enough with Congress on foreign policy initiatives, but by 1905 that rankle had largely died down, as I read it.
John Hay may be the most interesting figure in the drawing. Hay was personal secretary to President Abraham Lincoln. He had been active in statecraft and politics after Lincoln’s death, serving in diplomatic posts and supporting James Garfield’s campaign, for example — but Garfield did not offer him a cabinet position, and Hay returned to private life and writing the definitive biography of Lincoln with Lincoln’s other secretary and Hay’s colleague, John George Nicolay. After Garfield’s assassination, Hay was much in the political wilderness for a few years. Hay and Nicolay published ten volumes of the history of Abraham Lincoln in 1890.
Hay returned to government as U.S. Ambassador to Britain, and then as Secretary of State in 1898, in the first administration of William McKinley. McKinley was victim of the third assassination of a U.S. president — Hay and Lincoln’s son Robert share an uncomfortable closeness to the three assassinations. When Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency in 1901 he kept Hay at State. Hay remained there until his death.
What does the illustration attempt to illuminate? Was this meant as a barbed cartoon, or did it illustrate an article on politics of the time? Details from the National Portrait Gallery do not say.
Delicious mystery. Was this image ever published? Does it have greater historical significance on events of 1905? Was either Hay or Cannon a chess player? Mystery.
Silence him. Vote.October 30, 2020
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.)
October 9, 2020 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their headOctober 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.
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. 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.
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.
- Today’s Saint(s): S. Denis, Bishop & Martyr (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
- The Basilica of Saint Denis (madameguillotine.org.uk)
- Basilica St. Denis (emarshall58.wordpress.com)
- Carissimi: Today’s Mass; St Dennis, Bp with Rusticus & Eleutherius, Martyrs (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
- St. Denis Beheaded (Cosmos + Sun)
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.
Signs of life; how we remember candidatesSeptember 26, 2020
Not sure where this sign is, but I want one for the hearings and Senate vote.
Women on the Senate Judiciary Committee improve things a lot. Especially true for Kamala Harris.
- Tweet from Sheila R. Gaston @SheilaG1970
“It’s mourning in America”May 15, 2020
Republican campaign consultants and others who want to save the Republican Party, and America, from Donald Trump, put a fine twist on the old Ronald Reagan campaign ad from 1984, “It’s Morning in America.”
“Mourning in America” came out of the The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who find Donald Trump to be unacceptable as a president, including Rick Wilson, the author of Everything Trump Touches Dies.
At their YouTube site, the project say:
Donald Trump’s failed presidency has left the nation weaker, sicker, and teetering on the verge of a new Great Depression.
News accounts say this video’s one actual broadcast, in Washington, D.C., was seen by Trump, who erupted in a fountain of angry Tweets indicating that the ad hit where its makers and funders wanted it to hit.
In just a few months, over 71,000 American lives have been lost to this deadly disease, a loss that stands in glaring contrast to the president’s assertion, just a few weeks ago, that it would just “disappear . . . like a miracle.”
Trump didn’t create this virus. But his failure to prepare the nation for the pandemic has directly contributed to the growing number of COVID-19 deaths as well as economic devastation.
As of Wednesday, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. Millions more will likely do so in the weeks ahead. The Paycheck Protection Program, intended to save small businesses across the country, instead distributed much of its funds to large corporations, leaving thousands of small businesses with little hope of survival.
Twain’s novel Huck Finn, published in the U.S., February 18, 1885; “Every fool in town”February 18, 2020
Today is the 135th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, another installment in the novelization with great embellishment of the childhood of Samuel Clemens in Hannibal, Missouri, before the Civil War. Earlier installments included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
It is THE great American novel. It is the novel in which America faces its coming-of-age, in the metaphysical ramblings of a 13-year-old boy in the dark, on a raft in the Mississippi River, with an escaped slave who is a good friend, and has saved his life. Huck Finn confronts reality: Should he do what the preachers say to do, or should he do the moral thing instead?
America, most of it, grew up with that realization, coming even as it did, a generation after the Emancipation Proclamation.
In a good school, one probably unaffected by the damage done to learning by George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act,” nor more recent purges of quality in the classroom such as “value-added teaching,” “Racing to the Top,” or Common Core State Standards or the folderol conservative backlash against education in general, Tom Sawyer is often a child’s introduction to Twain, and to book-length literature.
In my youth, Tom Sawyer was so popular with teachers, and reading aloud by teachers was considered such a great idea, I think I heard the book three times. I know Mrs. Eva Hedberg, in my third grade class in Burley, Idaho, read parts of it. My recollection is that Mrs. Elizabeth Driggs and Mr. Herbert Gilbert both read it to us, in fourth and fifth grade, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. (There were other books; I think I heard five of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books between those three teachers. Reading was golden to them. Mrs. Hedberg even gave me credit for reading encyclopedia, cover to cover, with each letter of the alphabet counted as a book. Our World Book volume for the letter S had disappeared; I’ve never been good at snakes.)
Twain once remarked that he didn’t think a youth could read the Bible and ever draw a clean, fresh breath of air again. Tom Sawyer can similarly haunt the life of a person, though generally to higher moral standards.
I had hoped they’d continue to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When they didn’t, I borrowed it from the Pleasant Grove Junior High Library and read it through. I read it in the middle of the modern civil rights struggle, between 1963’s horrors and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just as our Vietnam tragedy was really ramping up.
Wait. I remember Mr. Gilbert being stopped by a question on Huck’s father, Pap. This was in Deep Mormonia, in Utah County. Pap drank a bit. Well, that’s not accurate. Pap drank to excess, often. Most of my fellow students had no knowledge of the drinking of alcohol. Their parents didn’t drink, not in front of the children if they did, since imbibing alcohol was a violation of the LDS Church’s Word of Wisdom, a commandment that they treat their bodies as temples, not as amusement parks. That bodily purity rule put alcohol, tobacco and caffeine off-limits. Most of the parents simply didn’t drink. It would have put sugar off-limits, too, had there been enough sugar to abuse as late-20th century America did. Also, there was the issue of the LDS Church having significant holdings in the U & I Sugar Company (Utah and Idaho), which made sugar from beets, and blessed the church with a significant stream of income, from the Coca-Cola bottlers alone. But I digress.
Maybe we did hear some of Huck Finn. I didn’t hear all of it — mumps, or something. And I checked it out on my own later.
In any case, there is that point where Huck Finn grows up and becomes an American who recognizes the possible misfortune awaiting his decision to do something contrary to the advice of the moral poobahs of the moment. But there, on a raft in the middle of the muddy Mississippi, at midnight or near it, Huck decides to do the right thing instead of what the preachers tell him he should do. It’s a nation-turning decision.
. . . I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn’t come to nothing. I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn’t see no way out of the trouble.
After all this long journey, and after all we’d done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave, and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she’d be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she’d sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn’t, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they’d make Jim feel it all the time, and so he’d feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of me! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain’t no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn’t so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, “There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.”
It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway n***** Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ’stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.
Huck’s deciding he’ll stand by his friend, a great human being, and “go to hell” instead of turning his friend in to continue a life in slavery, is the moment America grew up.
Now Americans pretend to have forgotten that growing up and the lesson Huck learned.
Another line jumped out at me from the start. It is a powerful lesson in government and democracy.
In the course of the novel, Huck falls in with a couple of crooks, the Duke and the King. They make their swindles in land deals on lands to which they don’t have title.
In Chapter XXVI (26), Huck accompanies the two swindlers to an orphanage of sorts. The Duke and the King decide to sell the orphanage, and leave town before their purchasers discover the sales are frauds. Early on in their hustings they collect a bag of gold. Then Huck sits down to dinner with one of the girls at the place, and he meets a few others who all treat him rather kindly, and in the course of an hour or two he begins to have second thoughts, fearing for the fate of the orphans.
Meanwhile with investments coming in so fast, the Duke and the King ponder leaving town earlier than planned, with at least the bag of gold, fearing they might be discovered. In the course of their conversation, overheard by Huck hiding in the room, the King works to convince the duke that most of the town’s people remain bamboozled:
Well, the king he talked him blind; so at last he give in, and said all right, but said he believed it was blamed foolishness to stay, and that doctor hanging over them. But the king says:
“Cuss the doctor! What do we k’yer for him? Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
Savor that one, and let it sink in for a bit. “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson trafficked in democratic institutions at a metaphysical level, understanding men were no angels, as Madison put it, but with a bit of education a people should be able to rule themselves as well as, or better than, a tiny elite, even if that elite were educated. But they understood at the wholesale political level that a check was necessary on the people; in 1822 Madison defended free public education in a letter:
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governours, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
In Huck Finn, just over a half-century later, Twain was writing about applied politics, the theory, not the hypothesis, on a retail level. Without education for the masses, the group who cynically bamboozles for money or power wins once they’ve got every fool in town on their side.
We have a political system that is more subject to corruption due to lack of education than lack of money.
To an honest politician, this is a huge burden. You won the election? You got the vote of every fool in town? Then it’s up to you to act wisely, despite their foolishness. Robert Redford’s character in “The Candidate” pulls an upset win in a U.S. Senate race — the film closes with the candidate, rather scared, sitting down with the party-provided campaign advisor, and asking in all earnestness: “What do we do now?”
Happy anniversary, Huck Finn. Perhaps we should fly the flag today in honor of the publication of the book. We would fly it a bit nervously, perhaps.
What do we do now?
Twain himself hired E. W. Kemble to illustrate the first edition.
5 years ago my parents called me: “Rush is about to talk about you!” I was in the news for slashing my CEO pay to raise our min wage to $70k. I excitedly turned on his show.
Rush said: “I hope this company is a case study in MBA programs on how socialism does not work because it’s gonna fail.” I was devastated. My dad said Rush got it wrong. But it led to a flood of hate-mail against me.
Rush was right: we were a MBA case study. Harvard Business School concluded the $70k min wage was a huge success. Our revenue tripled. Retention & productivity skyrocketed. We were featured as success stories in the BBC & NY Times.
Rush incorrectly said everyone would make $70k when only me & a few new employees do. It’s a min wage. It’s not socialism; he knew that. He never agreed to have me on to give my side or do an updated story on our success.
His listeners still assume we failed. A top auto-complete search for our company is “out of business.” I’ve had 5 years to tell our story & prove him wrong but most people crushed with misinformation don’t have that luxury.
I’m sad he died & my thoughts are with his family. But I’m not sad his show is over. He hurt a lot of people with his words.