Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Is Western Culture Superior? Dinesh D'Souza and PragerU Say Yes

In this age of Political Correctness, it seems almost blasphemous to suggest that one culture might be superior to another. This is especially so if one asserts that it's the western culture which is superior. Yet that is precisely what PragerU does with this controversial, but thought-provoking, video.



According to Dinesh D'Souza, western culture (which of course forms the backdrop and context of the British Empire and the United States of America) is indeed superior to the other cultures of the world.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Killing England Debuts

Killing England, the newest edition of the Killing series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, has just been released. And I've downloaded it onto my Audible account. I'll be listening to it as I commute. When I'm done (no promises as to exact timetable), I'll post a review.

The title is jarringly inaccurate. The American revolutionaries of course didn't "kill" England. The British Empire didn't die or collapse during or after the Revolutionary War. The title is contrived to work the American War for Independence into the Killing series.

The Killing series is written as creative nonfiction with a widespread (read: non-academic) audience in mind. If you're looking for heavy scholarship, the Killing series is not for you. But they are enjoyable nonetheless and have inspired a greater interest in history for many people.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Were the Founders Racist and Pro-Slavery?

The momentum to take down (or vandalize) statues to Confederate leaders has now extended to statues and memorials to America's Founding Fathers. The premise driving this is, of course, that the Founders were (by consensus) racist and pro-slavery. Most mainstream academic texts either affirm this premise or ignore it. But David Barton, a controversial speaker and author, counters this narrative. 

What follows is the first part of a video presentation titled "American History in Black & White." This first part deals with the founding era. 


As always...civil comments are welcome. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Robert E. Lee and George Washington Are Not The Same

Robert E Lee's statue in Charlottesville, Va.
In a combative and frankly somewhat jaw-droppingly disjointed August 15 press conference, President Donald Trump expressed dismay at the removal of the statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia (that planned removal being the flashpoint of the violent protests which erupted this past weekend) and in doing so, seemed to compare General Lee to George Washington.

"So, this week it's Robert E. Lee," said the President. "I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?"

Let's agree that there are many in this country who, like President Trump, would make little to no distinction between Confederate generals and slave-owning Founding Fathers. These activists would like to see statues and memorials to any and all slave owners (Confederate or loyal American) removed, and they would like to see any schools, towns, cities, or states likewise renamed. This includes Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, and so on. President Trump is correct on this point, but...

He is wrong to encourage such linking or association. And he's wrong to suggest an all-or-nothing approach to statues and memorials.

There are indeed some similarities between George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Both professed to be Christians. Both were Virginians. Both were generals. Both led (depending on one's point of view) revolutionary or insurrectionist armies. And, yes, both owned and managed slaves. But... there are also several very meaningful differences.

Robert E. Lee emphasized loyalty to state over nation. By contrast, George Washington called for national allegiance. In his Farewell Address, President Washington declared: "Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." Despite post-Civil War "Lost Cause" mythology and propaganda, the southern states in 1860-61 (particularly in the Deep South), clearly centered their grievances around the issue of slavery. This was made clear in their speeches, editorials, proclamations, formal deliberations, and official resolutions. Their desire to protect the institution of slavery (as well as its expansion and the capture of slaves who escaped to the North) was what drove them to secession. (See Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens' Cornerstone Speech). Lee took up his sword to defend this cause.

In contrast, the Second Continental Congress listed out their grievances (17 of them) against the British in the Declaration of Independence. Not one of those grievances was the desire to guard or expand slavery. (In fact, despite popular misconception today, most of the Founders didn't own slaves and even many who did had deep reservations with the institution). Both Lee and Washington expressed moral disapproval of slavery, and yet one of them (Lee) took up arms to effectively defend (and, had he been successful, to advance) slavery. The other capped off his long career by freeing his slaves in his will and (in so doing) publicly adding his name to the cause of manumission.

On the issue of slavery, it should be noted that Lee may not have been the "benevolent" slave master that his defenders would have us believe. Wesley Norris was a slave owned by the family and estate of George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington. It was, as Norris said, the "general impression" of the slaves that when Mr. Custis passed, they would be freed. This understanding was no doubt inspired by the spirit of George Washington's will. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. When Custis died, Norris was informed he would have to remain a slave, under the authority of (at the time) Colonel Lee according to the "conditions of the will." Seventeen months into their 5-year extension, Norris and two or three other slaves escaped to Maryland where they were captured and returned to Lee. Norris' account of what happened next is damning. Though Lee privately denied these allegations, there is some compelling evidence to back up Norris' claims. But even if Lee is technically innocent of some of the specifics of what Norris says, the nature of the controversy speaks to the relations Lee had with the slaves on his and his wife's plantation. It also makes clear that the Custis family and Lee broke with George Washington's trajectory against slavery.

Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of Reading The Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, explains how Lee should be seen on the issue of slavery in contrast to George Washington. She writes:
The tragedy for Lee is that he never made the transformational leap that would recognize the fundamental human nature of the slaves. George Washington wrestled with it; Abraham Lincoln did as well. Neither of these men ever considered African-Americans their equal. Ultimately, however, they both grasped the fact that what was wrong with slavery was not an absence of sufficient laws, or a need for more humane treatment within an exploitative system. What was wrong with slavery was that it failed to recognize the brotherhood of the human condition. The entangled lives of the slaves and their masters, the emotional, historical, sexual, and communal connections, could mean only one thing: that these beings were equal as part of mankind; equal in their human instincts, passions, desires, and inclinations, including the desire for self-determination. Equal, as Lincoln said, in the "right to eat the bread without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns. . . ." Capable, as George Washington finally realized, "of a destiny different from that in which they were born." Robert E. Lee would never cross this threshold. He could embrace the need for justice, but it was a justice defined by unjust principles. His racism and his limited imagination meant that he never admitted the humanity of the slaves with whom he lived. In avoiding that truth, he bound himself to slavery's inhumanity.

Finally, though Lee verbally objected to secession (calling it "anarchy"), he ultimately took up arms against the national government when his home state seceded. Washington, on the other hand, responded to rebellion against the national government with a swift and overwhelming display of military force (even leading troops in the field himself while President). See the Whiskey Rebellion. He also reportedly told an English friend, after the American Revolution, that if the southern states (including Virginia) were to secede over the issue of slavery, he would move north and side with the Union.

Bottom line: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.

There are similarities, but there are also some very important differences -- differences that we should not miss today.

The President is right that some will seek to remove Washington's hero status (by tearing down statues in his honor and removing his name from schools and parks). Some are already doing this (and have been for a few years). Tearing down or removing Confederate statues is undoubtedly fueling momentum for downgrading the hero status of anyone associated with slavery - and that certainly includes men like Washington. But...

It's fallacious to say that we should keep up statues to undeserving historical figures so that we don't lose our statues to deserving ones.

We should not honor the Confederacy as a noble cause. Anyone who reads Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens' infamous "Cornerstone Speech" should agree. For this reason, I understand - and will not oppose - the removal of statues to Confederate leaders from public grounds. Confederate flags and statues belong on cemeteries and museums - not in public squares. Not in 2017.

But we should honor our nation's Founding Fathers. And I will oppose (vigorously so) any attempt to dishonor our nation's Founders.

This is how, I hope, most Americans today feel.



Monday, June 12, 2017

Bill O'Reilly Primed to Tackle The American Revolution

Bill O'Reilly turns the attention of his mega-bestselling Killing series to the American Revolution. In September 2017, Killing England will go live. According to its preview Amazon listing: "Told through the eyes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Great Britain’s King George III, Killing England chronicles the path to independence in gripping detail, taking the reader from the battlefields of America to the royal courts of Europe."

Of course, the title isn't accurate. The Founding Fathers weren't trying to kill England. Indeed, they didn't even want to separate from England initially. They simply wanted the British Empire to live up to the principles of its own constitutional heritage and to honor the promises of its colonial charters. Even when war came, and the Declaration of Independence was later signed, they still didn't want to destroy the British Empire. They only wanted to be left alone. Many of them, including Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, were actually rather fond of the British and pushed for closer British ties after the war.

O'Reilly and Martin Dugard have, of course, received a great deal of criticism for errors and sensationalism for their Killing series. But I think it's unfair to hold the Killing books to the same level of scrutiny one reserves for true historical texts like the mammoth John Adams biography by David McCullough or the classic The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood. The O'Reilly-Dugard books aren't works of scholarship. They are best understood as being in the genre of "creative nonfiction." If you want deep scholarly analysis, they are not for you. But if you want an enjoyable read that transports you into the era they each profile, they accomplish their task. Some of the Killing books are better than others, but I've nevertheless enjoyed reading most of them.

As a Revolutionary War buff, I can't wait for this new book!

Friday, June 09, 2017

What Part of 'No Religious Test' Does Senator Bernie Sanders Not Understand?

The U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids any "religious test" when it comes to people holding public office or public trust in the United States. Somehow, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) forgot that part of the Constitution or chose to ignore it when questioning President Trump's nominee to be the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders vociferously objected to the nominee's views on salvation.

Here's an article I wrote over at the American Creation blog on the subject...

Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Reminder from Mount Vernon on Star Wars Day

The fine folks at Mount Vernon have posted this brilliant meme inspired by Star Wars Day. If you don't "get it," you need to watch the original Star Wars trilogy and pay close attention to the end of The Empire Strikes Back. :-)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

YORKTOWN, Va. — Artillery salutes and flag-raising ceremonies. Fifes and drums and military dragoons. Brass bands and color guards. Historians, military veterans, re-enactors, entertainers and enthusiasts reveling in the Revolution will come together March 23 to April 4 to present 13 days of festivities showcasing the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

The Grand Opening Celebration of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will feature a patriotic salute to America’s 13 original states, a dedication ceremony on April 1, tours of expansive gallery exhibits, and military music and 18th-century interpretive experiences in the newly expanded Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm.

The Grand Opening culminates the museum’s 10-year transformation from the Yorktown Victory Center. Through immersive indoor gallery exhibits with nearly 500 period artifacts, experiential films and interpretive living-history experiences, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown presents a renewed national perspective on the meaning and impact of the Revolution.
Ceremonies honoring the legacy of the first 13 states in the United States of America will take place each day in the order that they ratified the Constitution – Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. A dedication April 1 will officially launch the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

Daily programs recognizing each state will begin midday with ceremonial welcoming remarks and presentation of the state flag, followed by an Honor Guard procession along the Grand Corridor to the outdoor re-created Continental Army encampment’s artillery amphitheater for a flag-raising ceremony and artillery salute. Visitors will be able to learn more about each state’s Revolutionary War history through a variety of educational programs, new exhibition galleries, and interpretive programs in the newly expanded Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm. Children’s games and family friendly activities will round out the festivities.

For more information, visit http://www.historyisfun.org/grandopening/

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Was America Founded on Socialism?

This video from Prager University (aka PragerU) explains the socialist - yes, socialist - origins of colonial America...

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Why the Electoral College?

The Electoral College remains in place over two centuries after the framers of the Constitution empowered it to select presidents. Though occasionally maligned, this system of electing a chief executive has been incredibly successful for the American people.
To continue reading this piece from Jarrett Stepman, click on the following link...