Monthly Archives: July 2015

I Can See and Read Better

Yesterday my ophthamologist removed my right eye cataracts and WOW, did my vision improve! Nothing short of amazing! I remember when, years ago, I visited the hospital room of a person who had had this procedure and I had to tip-toe into the room and be careful not to touch the bed as the recovering patient lay there with his head sand-bagged against movement. Not now, I was on the gurney for the operation by 7:15 am and home for breakfast. My wife did drive to the surgery center but by today’s post-op visit with the doctor, I could read lines on the chart that did not even show up before and I can safely operate a motor vehicle. Oh, the progress of medical science!

But my recovered eyesight is nothing compared to the politicos with the capacity to know what is in a document even before they have read it. Yes, on both sides of the aisle: Republicans just know that the deal with Iran is an unmitigated disaster while Democrats are as certain that the deal is the most significant foreign policy initiative since the Louisiana Purchase. And both sides know this without having read the agreement!

Is it too much to ask that some very small measure of rationality be introduced here? Congress has a couple of months to examine the agreement and make decisions. Such deliberations seem the least effort necessary unless the best interests of the US and World are to be decided on the basis of Party Political Prejudice. I’ll listen to whomever wants to present cogent arguments regarding specific and general provisions of the agreement but I have no time for legislators for whom only Kryptonite threaten their superhuman powers of insight.


Filed under Uncategorized

Pastors Need Protection?

Do clergy need protection beyond their Religious Freedom Rights guaranteed by the US Constitution?

Well, Rep. A. Nino Vitale, of the 85th House District of the State of Ohio apparently thinks so. He is trying to muster like-minded support for a measure that will assure that clergy cannot be sued or prosecuted for not performing marriages of same-sex partners. In a personal email correspondence with this legislator, he assures me that he thinks that such protection is needed to assuage the fears of pastors who have contacted him. If you do not know Mr. Vitale, he is a 16-year resident of Champaign County, who remains active in his community, has served as vice president of Champaign County Right to Life, a Cub Scout leader; Ohio Foster Family. He is also an NRA pistol instructor and an active member of St. Mary’s Church in Urbana.

I wonder if any clergyman/clergywoman has asked for protection so they are not sued or prosecuted for not performing a marriage of a divorced person? There are denominations and individual clergy who insist that divorced persons may not be married again. I would guess that Mr. Vitale is well aware that the priests of his Roman Catholic parish are bound by canon law to not marry divorced persons (unless granted annulments by his Church). Does he not think that these clergy need the protection of his measure? Why not?

Because Rep.Vitale knows full well that those clergy are already protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.

When I called this to Rep. Vitale’s attention in our email correspondence, he replied that he would prefer to have the Constitution defined by the dissenting minority of the recent decision for marriage equality. In other words, it really does not matter to Rep. Vitale just what the SCOTUS decides in its majority decisions, he and the like-minded of his constituency know the law better than the Supreme Court. They depend upon a loud minority to understand the Law of the Land.

I would only ask Rep. Vitale and those who want pastors protected, why they have not wanted to protect these clergy against the rages of the divorced suing them and their congregations or their being charged with an offense for not marrying divorced persons who have court-issued licenses to marry? That is a very easily understood answer: clergy need no protection other than what they already have. They are not required before the law law to do anything that their religion prohibits.

Opinions like Rep. Vitale’s make me wonder just what part prejudice and bigotry play in the effort to protect clergy?


Filed under Uncategorized

Furl the Banner

A friend from West Texas forwarded this article from “Big Bend Now” an internet expression of the ‘Big Bend Sentinel’ newspaper out of Alpine, Texas. Really could not say it any better than Lonn does:

A conquered flag whose time has come to furl


I am a Southerner by both birth and heritage. I come from a long line of poor white cotton farmers on both sides of my family. Three of my four great-grandfathers fought in the Confederate army. The fourth had been told by his parents that he could join the army when he turned 13; he was on his way from Texas to Virginia to do so when he met his brothers coming home on the road. They told him that Lee had surrendered and the war was over. My grandmother, who lived with us while I was growing up, was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and I was enrolled at the age of 6 in the Children of the Confederacy. I mention these credentials because of what I am about to say about the Confederate battle flag.

The flag that is causing such a furor was not “the Confederate flag,” as so many news reports have described it. It was a military flag, originally square in form, designed by an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard, William Porcher Miles, after the first Battle of Manassas because Beauregard thought that the Confederate national flag, which had a circle of white stars in a blue canton and three broad stripes, red, white, and red, was too easily confused with the Union flag in the smoke of battle. Miles’s battle flag was never approved by the Confederate Congress and never adopted as a national flag. It never flew over Confederate government offices, or over the capitol at Richmond.

It was not even prominent among the symbols of the Lost Cause that helped create the myth of the noble suffering South during the years after the Civil War, nor was it celebrated during those years as a hallowed symbol of the Southern past, as apologists for it claim. According to University of Mississippi historian Allen Cabaniss, writing in The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, it was seldom displayed at Confederate reunions or used by any of the societies of descendants of Confederate veterans. My grandmother’s United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter used the first national flag, the one that Beauregard thought could be confused with the Union flag, at their meetings, and she made me a small one out of silk to hang in my bedroom.

Cabaniss describes how the Confederate battle flag emerged “out of limbo” as a symbol of white supremacy and segregation during the Dixiecrat political campaign of 1948, when Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina ran for president on a platform of states’ rights and segregation after the national Democratic party adopted a platform with a civil rights plank. Newspaper accounts of the States Rights Democratic Party convention in Birmingham, Alabama in July 1948 describe delegates marching into the auditorium under Confederate battle flags as bands played “Dixie” and battle flags being waved on the floor in response to speeches invoking Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. This set the stage for the adoption of the battle flag by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils across the South as a symbol of their racist opposition to integration. The first time I can remember seeing a picture of the battle flag being carried in public was during the Clinton, Tennessee race riot in 1956, when hooded Klansmen descended on the town and paraded down the main street under it. When the Klan was at its peak, in the 1920s, its members paraded under the American flag.

The fact is that in the 1950s and 60s the Confederate battle flag was hijacked and dishonored by racists and white supremacists who were opposed to the Federal government’s implementation of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education supreme court decision ending public school segregation. Two years after the decision, in 1956, the Georgia legislature incorporated the battle flag into the state flag as a protest against integration. The battle flag was first raised over the South Carolina state capitol on April 11, 1961, to mark the beginning of the Civil War Centennial; in March 1962 the legislature voted to leave it there as a protest against the civil rights movement. Its 20th century symbolism is clear to anyone who examines the historical record, and it is not something to honor or revere. It may have stood for the valor of Confederate soldiers a century and a half ago, but it no longer does. That is why I applaud Brittany Ann Byuarim-Newsome, the young woman who scaled the 30-foot flagpole on the South Carolina state capitol grounds two weeks ago and took down the Confederate battle flag that was flying there.

In June 1865, two months after the Confederate surrender, a Catholic priest named Abram Joseph Ryan, a former Confederate army chaplain, published a poem entitled “The Conquered Banner.” Its seven stanzas urged Southerners to accept defeat and furl their flags. The final one reads

Furl that banner, softly, slowly!

Treat it gently – it is holy –

For it droops above the dead.

Touch it not – unfold it never,

Let it droop there, furled forever,

For its peoples hopes are dead.

The poem was once a standard recitation piece in Southern households, including my grandmother’s. The racists of the 1950s should have heeded Father Ryan’s advice. Now it is definitely time to furl that banner forever.

Lonn Taylor is a historian and writer who lives in Fort Davis. He can be reached at


Filed under Uncategorized

Is Blogging Blather?

At The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, N.Y., Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges spoke about how his new book, “Wages of Rebellion,” differs from his previous works. In this speech, Hedges gets specific about the nature of the rebellion/revolution he is calling for. It’ll take a while to watch it all, but it is well worth your time. You can find it here on YouTube:

During the Q&A following the speech, toward the end of the video, a young woman asks Hedges whether the person-to-person communication of phones/Internet is not somehow detrimental to the systemic change needed. His response blew this blogger away. He suggests that so long as we sit here in front of our computer screens or exchanging selfies, we are avoiding the face-to-face encounters that can foster movements that will lead to real change.

I recently posted to the effect that, as Pogo once so wisely opined, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” In that post, I allowed as how we are too comfortable to really want basic change. Now, having listened to Hedges, I have real questions about what I’m sitting here doing.

Yes, I know that there are a couple of dozen of you who read these posts, but is the writing and reading of blogs playing into the hands of the cabal we think we are protesting? They certainly prefer our prattle to having to deal with the real issues we raise. What purpose does blogging really serve? Yes, it gives us bloggers the sense that we are contributing to the dialogue. But are we really? Of course, were my ‘audience,’ my ‘platform’ much larger, what I say might be ‘heard’ by more, but what difference would it make, were I to reach tens of thousands?

I was once a pastor and spent countless hours in meetings of boards and committees. What I long ago realized was that these discussions in such meetings amounted to nothing, even if actions were adopted, unless the deliberated actions were actually taken. The problem was that those participating in such meetings seemed satisfied with talking about stuff. Then the next time the session assembled, more talk about actions, which actions were seldom really acted upon. Talk became a substitute for doing anything really significant.

HHmmm, rather like blogging and reading blogs, isn’t it. If we participate in virtual reality, we needn’t really do anything. It is enough to satisfy ourselves that what we’ve read or written or thought is enough.

The real world knows that our idle blather is not enough.


Filed under Uncategorized