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Posts Tagged ‘History’


Over 900 years ago the Crusades fizzled out . . . well, sorta. The Christians, Muslims, Jews, and whomever else was up for a fight spent a respectable chunk of history killing one another over whose beliefs were better than whose—essentially a playground brawl but with doctrinal rancor.

As I was rereading Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino I came across this statement from Isaac Asimov: “…religion is incompatible with civilization.” Asimov referenced the Taliban, who, in 2001 came to our shores as if to prove, once and for all, that their beliefs (as Pellegrino points out, “extremist” and “intolerant”) are the gold standard for humanity and America must be the poster child for their modern crusade.

And yet that same idea, the mere thought and words, fly in the face of certain moral intuition. Many an act of kindness—dare I say, of civilization—was borne of these same ideals which organized religion try to espouse.

Clearly, evidence would seem to suggest the very statement “religion is incompatible with civilization” is nothing less than a solid truth. Religious prejudice is no modern phenomenon, history is crystal clear on that point. But even the least educated among us could likely point out examples where people of strong religious convictions have done much to improve civilization around them; again, history illustrates this as well. I could prattle on about hope in its mythological context, or even in the biblical construct, but I think that would belabor the point.

To me this question of incompatibility boils down, as many things do, to the individual. An individual has a choice (at least in a democracy). Not so much in a theocracy, or perhaps any other ‘-cracies’. Reduce this concept down just a little further and see that each of us are born with a moral compass. The flaws of humankind are not small, however, and such a compass is easily corrupted. To wit, James Madison wrote “If men were angels government would not be necessary.”

Though many religions claim to be superior to others, to my knowledge there is no mandate by Providence that man or humankind must accept or affirm any single sort of structured, organizational sense of religion. Sure, certain sects boldly declare that God has, in fact, deemed all prior belief systems bunk and theirs is the chosen group. i still can’t bend my mind around so many sects believing in essentially the same Power of Nature, and yet having the stones to say their belief is the only real way to save ones soul.

Religion, as a system of ritual and communication, has throughout history served as both an emissary of good and a deliverer of unspeakable evil and cruelty. But the conduit for such delivery has always been mankind. If indeed there is a God, the preponderance of historical evidence would suggest that at some point He threw his hands in the air and let us continue to fight it out like tempestuous, argumentative children.

Given religion’s innate inclination to be a force of good, can it actually be said that religion is incompatible with civilization? Perhaps it is simply the other way around.

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Civil War era slavesI just finished reading James L. Swanson’s Bloody Crimes: The funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the chase for Jefferson Davis. If you like American history, it is well worth your time to read; if you are fascinated by Civil War history then this book can only serve to enhance your knowledge of these two men.

But this isn’t a book review. No, I read this for pleasure. And I found myself intrigued, unsettled, and fascinated by all I did not know.

I won’t devle into specifics, but one thing I have always found of interest is the perspective many people have about the cause of the Civil War. I recall my education as being a construct of:

• A) The South (13 states in all, I think) seceded from the Union
• B) The reason for 4 years of bloodshed: Northerners didn’t like slavery, Southerners did

That is the gist of what I recall, and it is tragically myopic. To be sure, as I have aged I have learned more, but only because I sought the information out.

The institution of slavery was, indeed, at the core of the matter. More ideologically, the issue of state’s rights held the political underpinnings.

I could write at length about the founding fathers and their approach to slavery. Most people know that almost all of them owned slaves, but Thomas Jefferson especially detested the trade.

But what I want to convey with this post is a single sentence that reached out and grabbed me by the throat.

Of all the postulation, all the debate, all the scholarship and decades of genuine study Americans have pursued regarding this war, many drawn out and convoluted conclusions have been presented, perhaps the weakest of which appear in the textbooks our children read in school.

How many people know that Jefferson Davis was appointed president of the Confederate States? How many people even knew they had a president?

In a nutshell, Davis, at what was essentially the war’s end, was captured and incacerated by the federal government for two years. He was freed on bail of $100,000. This staggering amount (for 1867) was posted by a group of six men, dubbed the “Secret Six,” in May of 1867.

One of these men, Garrit Smith, was a famed abolitionist and had backed John Brown. He laid the blame for the Civil War on both the North and South:

“The North did quite as much as the South to uphold slavery . . . Slavery was an evil inheritance of the South, but the wicked choice, the adopted policy, of the North.”

Anyone cognizant of the founding fathers’ moral vs. economic struggle with the institution of slavery can appreciate the stunning conciseness and irrefutable truth of that sentence.

Just under a century after we proclaimed ourselves a sovereign nation, with all its political, religious, and nation-building complexity so tightly woven into the fabric of our infancy, this one statement, all but shrouded by the ghostly mists of time, stands to properly point out the origin of a nation’s cancer as if viewed during an autopsy.

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Falling asleep in classNo, this isn’t about American Idol . . . sorry. If you’re already disinterested then I believe I can safely say you clearly fall into the collective dustbin of American freedom and liberty, the contents of which will soon be emptied into the wastebasket of history because nobody cares about it anymore.

My answer to the title of this post? I truly couldn’t care less.

Written below is my response to a post Joy Erickson had on her blog a couple days ago: Are History’s Lessons Being Neglected. (I tried posting this as a comment, Joy, but it wouldn’t show up!)

Her direct question to her readers was “Do you think history should take a back seat to math, and the science’s?” I didn’t address that question head on, choosing instead to reply to the comments instead. (oh, and I commented on Laura’s comment, too, but it didn’t show up either :^( )

Here was my comment:

If we don’t know our history, how can we possibly understand ourselves? Where will any country wind up if they have zero sense of their own posterity? History doesn’t repeat itself — individuals repeat the same mistakes made throughout history due to ignorance or sheer hubris; in our case we are in deep trouble mostly because of ignorance, a willful ignorance.

You can’t market history unless it’s in a souvenir shop stamped on coffee mugs, keychains, t-shirts, and other trinkets. A “culture” enamored with glitz and celebrity can hardly hope to stabilize its underpinnings of liberty unless prior lessons of history can be made commercially viable in the guise of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, or Survivor.

I don’t disagree that learning history in school is boring; as it was for all of you so it was for me. Just as Em and Nikki have attested, I, too, now love history, but not because of what I learned in school. I read books, watched documentaries, visited Wasington D.C. and saw with my own aging eyes what God Himself blessed our founders with . . . the inviolable knowledge of Nature’s Law, of the blessings of Liberty.

I do what I can to teach my son these things because I know the school won’t do it properly. I don’t expect him to read all the books I have, but he has assumed — in his own reserved way — the same spirit of patriotism I keep warmed in my own heart. That slowly glowing ember will burn hotter somewhere down the road, and I hope he will pass it on.

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The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the StitchesWhat’s red, round, and dirty when it’s brand new? Would you believe . . . a major league baseball? You might think it’s white, right? That’s just one of the things you’ll learn in this completely engaging book about the object our national pastime is named after: The Baseball – Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches.

Hample declares his book to be “a celebration of the ball” and fans of the game, and honestly, you would be hard-pressed to disagree with that assessment.

From the outset The Baseball just feels fun. It’s intriguing, informative, and most of all flat out enjoyable. Much has been written about most every other aspect of the game, but rarely have I seen the hardball so deftly front and center as Hample places it here. The introduction dances like a fly lure that’s jerked and teased upon the water, with lots of did-you-know items tossed in—yet it has a decidedly human feel to it, almost the same unmistakable feeling one gets as you walk into your favorite stadium and see the ball field below you, yawning, grand, and welcoming.

Ever wonder what the first baseballs were made of? What about (like me) how they’re made? As presented, the history of the ball is fascinating, from its humble beginnings to its decades long flux in composition (juice, anyone?); not only do we get to learn how to (gasp!) dismantle a ball, but we are also given an insiders tour of the Rawlings baseball factory in Costa Rica.

One of my favorite bits of ball-related trivia: It takes approximately 20,000 cows to provide the hides for the estimated 1.26 million baseballs used each season in the majors—go ahead, re-read that; I was amazed too. The first thought that popped in my head when I read that was “somebody is sure to raise a stink about that.” But Hample, in his own tongue-in-cheek manner, calls this ball as it crosses right over the plate:

“Let’s get something straight: cows are not killed to make baseballs. They’re killed because people like to eat them . . .”

No painted corners there—he serves it right down Broadway.

Watch or go to any baseball game these days—minor or major league—and you’d think the teams have always given away balls, but the truth is a foul ball wasn’t always a souvenir for a lucky fan; club owners saw things differently. Catching a foul ball during a game is an act most of us quietly hope for each time we pass through the turnstiles. One of the bonuses in this book is the ample section revealing the author’s best tips for tipping the odds of catching a ball in your favor. Even the casual fan will likely find this part interesting, and certainly useful if inclined to take up “ballhawking.”

For my money the first half of the book is the best. I eagerly turned page after page of stories about the evolution of foul balls, anecdotes regarding publicity stunts, and two unforgettable stories recounting grimace-inducing injury and the only death in major league history. Hample delivers all of this as if he’s sitting in the seat next to you, sharing it during the passage of a few innings. I wanted more, but I suppose that plays into his marketing plan for his other book about watching the game; guess I’ll be reading that one too.

Hample captures the essence of the game, and of the book’s namesake, with the purity and enthusiasm of every little boy who ever played Little League ball. His spirit is playful and sometimes funny, but always respectful of the game he clearly holds dear.

From worn shoe leather, to horsehide, to the staggering number of Holstein hides needed to cover this venerable sphere—even the stitch patterns and their differing colors—Hample walks us, good naturedly, from yesteryear to current day, from games played with a single ball to storing them in a humidor—just about everything you can imagine in-between awaits the curious and fanatical between the covers.

As always I thank Rhonda Sturtz and the New York Journal of Books for procuring a copy of this book for review. Thanks also to Anchor Books for the review copy.

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Bronze plaque from WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.
A veteran of World War II, he served in the Pacific Theater of Operations, eventually arriving in Okinawa, Japan, as thousands of troops did, just before the Enola Gay would drop her well-kept secret on Hiroshima. Having fought unimaginably hard to help take strategically important islands and atolls he bore witness to barbary which only mankind could unleash upon one another. He watched men die all around him.

Some sixty years later he would be traveling through Payson, Arizona, and encounter a group of youths entirely discourteous and disrespectful to those around them—assuredly a clash of generations but a bitter reminder of how faded our thoughts have become concerning those men who fought to bring wrong to right.

Mr. DeMayo would later show his daughter something he wrote down shortly after that encounter: “Before I went to combat I found a reason for putting my life on the line—to preserve the next generation. Had I known what their character was going to be, I would not have been nearly so eager to put myself in harm’s way.”

This had bothered me for quite some time. My father had served in Europe (as I note below), and yet I have never probed about his war experience. I do know he had no love of Paris at that time, but I won’t repeat his description of it here as it was a long time ago and likely not indicative of Paris today. But Mr. DeMayo’s words resonated with me, and not in a pleasant way.

When my son and I go to a ball game and the national anthem is played—I get choked up most every time. I stand and applaud with thousands of others each time they recognize men and women who are currently in service to our country—and yet that is pitifully short of proper gratitude for what they sacrifice; it is wholly shameful to my father, grandfathers, Mr. DeMayo, and every other soul who has worn the stars-and-stripes on their shoulder. I felt like I needed to let this man, my father, and posthumously, my grandfathers know that while we are an almost disgracefully quiet majority we indeed value and are deeply grateful for what they have done for us and our beloved country.

I assure you, we vastly outnumber the reckless, disrespectful few.

Below is the letter I wrote to Mr. DeMayo, now 85-years-old. It is perhaps a small whisper amid the din of everything else in our lives . . . but it is heartfelt.


If Hell is, as philosophically defined, the impossibility to reason, then war is the horrific struggle to bring logic to chaos, to try and strike a noble balance between the casualty of misguided power and the just cause of Natural Rights.

Mothers lose their sons and daughters; children their mothers and fathers. In answer to any question of rectitude of man’s nature one must fully consider the sacrifice, the indescribable purging of soul and spirit both sides of the familial unit endure. Is the greater iniquity that of loss to families, or to that of a higher cause if all ideals are dissolved for more transient, impermanent matters?

My father and both grandfathers served during World War II: dad in Europe in a support capacity with the Army, and both grandparents as airmen who flew over the coast of Normandy on D-Day. I know precious little about my father’s military stint outside his old tattoo and Army-issue rifle. I knew nothing of my grandfathers’ participation in the invasion until well after they both passed. None of these men spoke of war with us. I would bet that had we asked, once adjudged to be of proper age, they would have answered each and every question, however sparingly.

Neither I nor my brother has served in the military. This fact, I certify, does nothing to diminish our consummate respect for those who have served. My approbation and heartfelt gratitude extend to all who have answered their nation’s call to duty. Sadly, I know there are people bold—and egregiously wrong enough—to call themselves citizens, who detest or ostracize those who served on their very behalf. To marginalize any man or woman who has served, in any capacity, in any conflict, is surely a moral stain, a melancholic blight, an act of untenable turpitude.

To the degree which our children are inoculated against these conflicts is an indication that we, as a collective, are blithely willing to let them repeat the same mistakes, to declare the value of history as a zero sum, and to inflict dishonor upon those who participated—in short, an act of impersonal despotism.

On December 4, 1776, the man who penned Common Sense, a pamphlet which arguably lit a tinderbox of patriotic passion under an increasingly lethargic colonial population, published his follow-up, The Crisis. With the patchwork army badly dispirited, haggard, and ailing, and after a solid string of defeats since the prior August, Loyalists were all but rejoicing the ultimate demise of independence; once stalwart patriots were absconding to the British side in droves; the public sentiment toward the cause as a whole had taken on the figurative stench and staleness of a rotting carcass. Just across the Delaware river, opposite Trenton, New Jersey, the exhausted army scattered into several encampments as a brutal winter begun to settle in. Enlistments were expiring for almost half the soldiers and more were deserting every day. Thomas Paine, in concert with a stirring, impassioned plea from Gen. George Washington, managed to help rekindle the barely glowing ember of patriotism and respect for the men, and restore faith and vigor amidst a dubious public. His essay started with the most appropriate statement of gravitas:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

My point to all this, Mr. DeMayo, is that while I understand your incisive resentment regarding post-war sentiment of returning vets, I am bothered, moreover, moved to declare, with the utmost urgency and exertion, that I am not one of the pathetically oblique. As surely as Providence guides my heart I can attest that I am not singular, but rather representative of millions who are equal in my discernment—proof exists not in me alone, but in your venerable daughter as well.

I cannot, with any imaginable veracity, begin to comprehend the horrors you have experienced at the nadir of humanity’s violence and Death’s remorseless culling. I have seen grass die and leaves fall; I have witnessed the quiet passing of my grandmother; but I have never known the adrenalized anguish of comrades and friends falling in the wake of God’s own thunder. I cannot conceive the encumbrance of such demons, resolved to claw at my soul and tatter my dreams until my last breath. Such corruption of hope and splintering of faith in man can only be assuaged by our better angels, but only if we are receptive to them.

I genuinely respect your opinion, Mr. DeMayo, and will—as your daughter would attest—fight with every and any gift in my arsenal for your deserved right, your suitably justified prerogative to hold fast to your convictions, regardless of my perspective. Most importantly I owe you, my father and grandparents, and every man who served with you, a debt I could never possibly repay.

It may be impossible to mend the hearts of those put in harm’s way, but it is entirely proper and fitting that we should—if I may step into Lincoln’s words for a moment—take increased devotion to that cause, to those soldiers, who gave their last full measure of devotion for our mutual benefit. It is, indeed, far above my poor power to add or detract to the atrocities you and other veterans have suffered.

My work here is arrived at a most sincere, if deficient conclusion: Thank you for your service, sir. My benediction is delivered as not just any obtuse citizen, but as a grateful American.

Sincerely,
J.W. Nicklaus

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Book cover for The Liberty Bell by Gary NashLiberty. One word—an idea, really. One which doesn’t simply process in our brains to bring context to a sentence or meaning to the words around it, but more implicitly resonates and travels deeper into our cores, where every stirring notion of patriotism simmers. One word that immediately evinces two striking icons of the American essence: the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty.

As Gary Nash conveys in The Liberty Bell we long ago dismissed the idea that these icons were mere objects showered with our jingoistic ardor, but rather we have imbued them with a kind of reverence and love only the vestment of our souls could provide.

Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty thro’ all the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” Daresay a solid number of Americans know these words as inscribed upon the bell, but perhaps more telling might be how many don’t know the passage, or only know the names Pass and Stow from the movie National Treasure. Nash’s scholastic approach to relating the Liberty Bell’s history leaves little doubt of its staggering relevance and gravitas as an enduring icon of our cherished founding principles.

Professor Nash moves sure-footedly from the pre-bell story through its period of actual use and into the larger, almost epochal journey through generations who venerated the Liberty Bell as a symbol of our democratic culture. Unless you are a historian (or history buff) you may not have known the State House Bell (or Old Bell), as it was known until around 1835, was removed from its tower in Philadelphia in 1776 and hidden in another town for fear the British, who came to occupy the city, would have melted it down for ammunition.

Many citizens don’t know of the bell’s near demise—along with the old Pennsylvania State House—in 1816, under a “Gothic mist of ignorance and vice”; just two of the rich, significant historical allegories Nash relates. Schoolchildren were inculcated with fabricated, emotionally charged stories of its use on July 4, 1776—a stigma which actually aided the tocsin in its rise to almost ephemeral reverence.

A generous amount of the book is allocated to seven separate trips the bell made over a 35-year span. If there is a singular quibble I have about the book it would be the amount of detailed information given about each and every trip—every stop, how many people showed up, etc. Without doubt there is value to such data, and in this case it serves to highlight the increasing popularity of the relic and how it served to bolster patriotism at crucial times when it was needed. I view this (very minor) discontent on my behalf as indicative of my wanting to learn the next piece of lore or passionate affect upon a new generation.

Appropriately, an in-depth look at the anti-slavery movement and the chimer’s role in it exposes the reader to many instances in which liberty was pronounced and exercised within close proximity to the bell, often at the expense of slaves.

A story from 1851, involving 33 blacks and five whites, furnished the reverberating overtones for caustic feelings from slaves being brought to trial in Independence Hall, mere steps from where the bell hung. Fugitive slaves had escaped into Lancaster County and these thirty-eight people defended them during what was termed the “Christmas riot” in which a Maryland slaveowner had pursued one of his own fleeing slaves and got caught in the turmoil and was killed. Abolitionists extolled the group as following the example of “Washington and other American heroes” in 1776. But outside Independence Hall a crowd of whites called for justice and punishment for those responsible for the killing and for “taking the lives of men in pursuit of their recognized and rightful property.” The Leviticus proclamation on the bell would seal its fame and its catapult into the world of causes—in a most moral and vitally important way.

Nash has given a beloved, if muted, icon a solid, well-researched biography, one which puts right generations of embellished legend and sets into a proper framework the genuine gift to American the Liberty Bell has become. Iconic history at its sonorous best.

As always I thank Rhonda Sturtz and the New York Journal of Books for procuring a copy of this book for review. Thanks also to Yale University Press for the review copy.

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Jesus playing football with a child
Rant Ahead!

Unless you’ve been under a rock the last few years, or haven’t followed any form of media whatsoever, then you probably have at least heard the name of Micheal Vick—an NFL star player who was convicted for dog fighting. Ring a bell now?

This little tirade is not about all that stuff . . . however, keep that little nugget in the back of your mind because it indirectly relates to the followig soapbox bluster.

There is an organization named the Southeastern Virginia Arts Association (SEVAA). These folks have publicly stated they are holding a fundraiser to (and here’s where the fun begins!) “honor” Michael Vick. Is that great or what! But wait, it gets better!

They are honoring him because they feel he epitomizes the word “hero.”

A Quick Digression

In a post I wrote just over two years ago (If We Could Be Super) I stated the following:

We love our heroes because they showcase all that’s good about ourselves. I believe the majority of us are innately good and we want to believe in the ultimate good of humanity.

A few months later I posted Of Admiration & Noble Qualities, in which I elaborated upon ‘heroism’ as a construct:

When you read or hear the word hero the immediate thing that likely comes to mind is probably the hero of comic book or movie variety: Superman, Batman, Capt. Jack Sparrow, Robin Hood, Luke Skywalker, etc. . . . But true heroes are not those who punch, shoot, pummel, vaporize or otherwise vanquish their enemies in the name of fulfilling a storyline. They are genuinely men and women of profound moral convictions.

The main gist of the post was to draw the defining line between ‘hero’ and ‘idol’. I made the assertion that heroes are people to admire, people of noble qualities.

Please take a moment and absorb that. Or better yet, take a few minutes and revisit those two posts. I’ll wait . . .

Back To Our Evolving Rant

If you read my blog then I take a measure of comfort in the idea that I don’t need to completely flesh out the subtext for you. I can sum it up in a tidy little statement and move along—the SEVAA is going to honor a convicted dog killer.

Okay, I purposely embellished that a little bit . . . sorta.

Michael Vick did do his time. He completed his sentence as the law dictated. By most accounts he is genuinely remorseful for what he did and is truly working to put it behind him. I give him credit for that. He played very well for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, and the NFL awarded him Comeback of the Year. He actually had to earn his spot on the team when he returned from prison, it wasn’t handed to him. I’m not defending him, just setting the facts out there in the interest of fairness.

As I said, the Vick conviction/past is not the underlying story here. A mere three words bridge the preceding story and the one to come: honor and convicted felon.

This is a good point to introduce you to SEVAA president Michael Muhammad. What Mr. Muhammad lacks in knowledge he more than makes up for in chutzpah, good ol’ big-time American balls. You see, the SEVAA are intensely proud of their fundraiser and its namesake. In a press release, the group says it chose Vick because of his “resilience in overcoming obstacles” and becoming “a true example of life success for all to emulate.”

[imagine your favorite cricket chirp here — make it two, to heighten (or dull) the drama]

Clearly they left out the part that tells the story of how Vick’s circumstances were not something life dealt to him; they were a choice he made and paid the price for. The “obstacle” was of his own doing. But I guess that’s the fast track to heroism these days.

And This One Time, At Band Camp . . .

Surely, if you have any sense of my tendency for wordiness you realize I haven’t arrived at the true sticking point yet. A car won’t overheat until it gets good and warmed up, right? It doesn’t blow right away; Yellowstone’s Old Faithful even takes a while to build up pressure before unloading.

Mr. Muhammad must have been poked a few times with the media stick because he felt compelled to justify his organization’s honoree selection as follows:

People talk about Michael Vick as a convicted felon, well so was Jesus Christ, yet he was able to do things above and beyond the naysayers to the point that we all recognize him today as Lord and Savior.

Forget that the structure of that sentence is mangled to the point of roadkill. That’s the least of my annoyances. Allow me to go to the opposite extreme and say that I’m not all uppity about a reference to Jesus. For Christ’s sake, John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and they made out alright.

The Honorable President Michael Muhammad gets this so very wrong from a factual, and empirical, perspective. That really punches my card. But the real kick to the groin is yet to come. Let’s cover a little history here, shall we?

Through The Hostile Sands Of Time

Around 5-6 A.D. a delegation was sent to Caesar Augustus in Rome fervently requesting that Rome annex Judea to the empire. Judea had long been under Rome’s domination, but it wasn’t officially part of the empire. Judea was a critical piece of Middle Eastern real estate as it sat smack dab between Syria and Egypt. A burgeoning Roman empire meant lots of soldiers and citizens to feed, and with three grain crops a year coming out of Egypt the mighty Augustus couldn’t afford to let Persia (modern day Iran) muck things up by conquering Judea. So he annexed it.

What followed, as part of the annexation process, was a census. This is where Joseph and Mary come into the picture. You all know this part of the story.

Around 35-36 A.D. a man name Pontius Pilate was made provincial governor of the region. As is customary during the week of Passover he traveled into Jerusalem with a small contigent of Roman soldiers to make sure the various ethnic factions didn’t get out of control. He was just about done for the week when the Sanhedrin showed up demanding that Pilate take mortal action against Jesus.

Shut The F*** Up!Yoo hoo, Mr. Muhammad . . . I understand what you are trying to achieve here, but you’re completely wrong in referring to Jesus as a convicted felon. Get your damn facts right, lest you earn the ever-popular Have-A-Cup badge of Honor—’cause I know you’re really into the whole ‘honor’ thing.

I’ll help you out here, since apparently nobody in your group grasps the biblical enormity of your stupidity: Pilate himself tells the crowd that Jesus had commited no crime whatsoever under Roman law, and since the locals are the ones who asked to be placed under Roman law then Jesus was clearly innocent. Pilate requests to be shown proof that the man had broken the law. I won’t keep you in suspense: no proof was given.

Fact 1: Under Roman law, Jesus Christ had broken no law, given not the least offense. Ergo, he was definitively not a felon.

The Sanhedrin tried pulling the blasephemy card—they had met amongst themselves and declared him guilty of such charges. Again, Pilate reminded them that blasephemy was not a crime under Roman law. The council insisted that they could not put him to death themselves, only Rome could. For the Jewish people to do so would be to commit murder, which would violate Roman law.

Fact 2: Even Jesus hates the Yankees!. Woops . . . how did that get in there. What I meant to say was even though Jesus wasn’t a Roman citizen he had certain individual protections under its laws.

Someone in the crowd yells “He goes around calling himself King of the Jews!” The Sanhedrin nod and pat one another on the back, telling Pilate this is treason, which is an act punishable by death under Roman law. They threaten to notify Caesar Tiberius of Pilate’s refusal to mete out proper punishment on treason charges if he didn’t comply with their demands.

Understand that Tiberius has been likened to Joseph Stalin based on his level of paranoia of those around him. Tiberius would swiftly execute any governor who was weak on treason. So Pilate was sensibly concerned. But he remained absolutely convinced of Jesus’ innocence. He sent one of his staff off to find a loophole, something he could use to get himself and Jesus off the hook.

Fact 3: Jesus was a teacher. In case you can’t wrap your feeble mind around the concept allow me to clear it up for you: he was a tee-chur. For the record (and future reference) so were Socrate, Budhha, and Confuscious. All teachers, all figures who have had almost incalcuable impacts on the history of mankind. Not a one of them wrote a book, believe it or not. Nor did they play football. Imagine that. Now look at those four names again—those might be better suited to be honored as “heroes.” I’m sure Virginia has a large number of military vets who have served our country who would equally qualify for such honors. But they’re not famous. I get it.

The only thing Jesus did was show up the Pharisees. In their absence he would preach at masses. The difference was that people began to listen to Jesus and even follow him; he had a certain Gallilean je ne sais quois. The more people followed him the more the Sadducees and Pharisees took notice. They viewed him as a political and ecumenical threat to their very existence. Try as they might they couldn’t pin anything truly criminal on him. Best they could do was shoot the moon with the treason charge.

Eventually Pilate’s officer returned with just the loophole he needed; an obscure tradition wherein the governor could pardon one prisoner per year during the feast of Passover. But by this time the crowd had been whipped into a cold-blooded frenzy and clamored for the true convicted felon, Barrabas. Vick wasn’t near the crinimal Barrabas was, I’ll grant you that, Mr. Muhammad.

Fact 4: The Jewish rabble collected before Pontius Pilate unanimously chose Barrabas—the real convicted felon—to be released by Pilate. Pilate never convicted Jesus of any crime. To be sure I am clear I shall repeat myself again: Jesus was not convicted of a crime by Roman authority; he was sacrificed by his own people. That does not satisfy the definition for “convicted felon” Mr. Muhammad.

Pilate had Jesus flogged to try and quell the crowd’s blood lust. It was accepted at the time that forty lashes with a whip would likely be fatal, so Pilate sentenced him to 39 lashes. When Pilate asked Jesus to respond to the charge of treason the bible tells us he asked “Are you the king of the Jews?” Different books give different answers, but Jesus in essence replies “If you say I am.” Pilate desperately wanted to help Jesus, but after the crowd chose to have Barrabas pardoned his hands were tied. The general practice of crucifixion was the only option Pilate had.

The View From 33,000 Dollars
(you thought I was going to say “feet” didn’t you)

What the hell does thirty-three large have to do with any of this? Funny you should ask.

Turns out the good (if not entirely brilliant) folks of the SEVAA held a little soiree, the Afr’am Festival, about a year ago, and hired out police officers and Sheriff’s deputies to provide security. They still owe these gentlemen, you guessed it, $33,000. They’re banking on the $100-a-plate fundraiser to be a huge success so they can pay the officers back. I’m not against holding a fundraiser to pay down your debts. Not at all. But I am completely against the offensive manner in which they approached this one.

The SEVAA invoked (via mouthpiece Muhammad) Jesus in analogy to Vick. As if that weren’t distasteful enough, Rhodes Scholar Muhammad slanders a beloved figure like Jesus Christ, and for what . . . $33,000?

I have publicly stated before my stance on organized religion—it’s not my thing but I understand it works wonders for some people. I’m amazingly comfortable with that. I prefer to carry my faith and belief with me instead of strapping on the dogma and almost draconian constraints of a ruling theological body. Having said that, even I wouldn’t be so stupid as to slight an iconic figure like Christ. You can make fun of most any other iconography you like, from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny, Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods to Tony the Tiger, but you don’t mess with figures which have done more to spread a positive message and assist mankind in not eradicating itself over differences of opinion.

Jesus, people . . . think before you say something stupid!

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