Tag Archives: Civil War

GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who generously donate to help cover costs.)

RUSSIA, BRITAIN AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

This 1783 portrait shows the American delegation to the Paris peace talks. The British refused to pose with the Americans. Animosity was still running high more than a year after the war had ended.

With three young grandchildren in the house, including a baby that recently turned one year old, I’ve taken to watching silent movies on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).   There’s no dialog to hear, so surrounding noise isn’t a problem.

I started by watching the 1925 version of “Ben Hur,” which many consider the best of the three versions.  It certainly has the best chariot scene, made at a time when animal rights were not taken into consideration.  (Not that I advocate hurting animals – it was just so REAL!)

Recently, I watched “Love” with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, made the following year.   The two actors were more famous than Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio are today.

The movie was an enactment of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”   The title was changed thanks to the tabloids.  The gossip papers had revealed that, while making the film, Gilbert and Gabo had started their own relationship.  This enabled the movie’s producers to put the following on marquees across America:   “Garbo and Gilbert in Love.” The movie was a sensation, a bigger hit than anything Hollywood turns out nowadays.

It wasn’t only the title that was changed.   Producers chose to make the movie with two alternative endings.  They referred to one as the “Russian ending,” with Anna, as in the classic, killing herself in front of a train after an adulterous affair that led to her losing her son.   Another ending was made for Americans, with Anna’s husband dying, thereby leaving her free to marry her lover, Vronsky, and keep her son.  It was felt that American audiences couldn’t handle Anna’s death.   The “American” version missed the whole point of the novel.

Interestingly, the Russian ending was shown in New York and on the West coast.   It was only Mid-western sensibilities that they were concerned about.

If Hollywood can’t even get a novel right, why would we expect them to be accurate when it comes to non-fiction?

Another Russian “story” caused a problem for Hollywood a few years later, by which time sound had replaced the old silent movies. This movie dealt with “Rasputin and the Empress” (1932).   It’s depiction of Prince Felix Yousoupov, the principal murderer of Rasputin, was so inaccurate it led to a major lawsuit; since then movies carry the words “all characters in this film are fictional,” or similar, to protect themselves from expensive lawsuits.   Now, no attempt is made at accuracy.

I’ve yet to see a Hollywood movie depict the American Revolution with any degree of accuracy.   In Hollywood, everything has to be black and white.  Real life is rarely like that.   The Revolution was not Americans against the king; the country was equally divided — one third rebelled against the crown, one third were loyal and the other third couldn’t spell “crown.”   On the eve of Yorktown, 40% were loyalists, with support for the Patriots down to 30%.

Rather than the claim that the king was acting selfishly, it can be argued that the leaders of the Patriots were.   They were heavily in debt to British banks, following a bad crop in 1773 – one way to get out from under the debt was to ditch the Crown.   It’s not surprising that wealthy indebted landowners led the revolution – the only revolution in history where those rebelling were richer than those they rebelled against!   This issue was finally resolved after the war when the belligerents got together in Paris.

I was thinking about this over the Fourth of July, when I read a review in The Economist by their American correspondent.   He reviewed a book titled:   “Scars of Independence: America’s violent birth,” by Holger Hoock of the University of Pittsburgh.    Mr. Hoock “. . . concluded that selective amnesia took hold soon after the war, as victors told their version of history, and the British displayed their genius for forgetting defeats.  In the republic’s earliest decades, stone monuments charging the British with “cold-blooded cruelty” rose on battle sites from Lexington, Massachusetts to Paoli, Pennsylvania.   Meanwhile orators told Americans that their revolt had been unusually civilized:  one public meeting in 1813 declared the revolution “untarnished with a single blood-speck of inhumanity.”  (The American Revolution Revisited – a Nation Divided, Even at Birth)

I have an extensive library of books on the Revolution, all of which were written by Americans.  The following quote from The Economist is an accurate observation:

“Browse through school history books, with names like “Liberty or Death!” and the struggle to throw off British rule is sanctified as a victory of American patriot-farmers and artisans against battle-hardened British redcoats and foreign mercenaries, defending ideals crafted by orators in periwigs.  Yet go back to contemporary sources, and they called it what it also was:  a brutal civil war.” (Economist review.)

6% of America’s population died in the Revolutionary War, as against 2% in the War Between the States eight decades later.  (By 1861 the population was much higher, but the percentage gives an idea of the relative suffering of the people.)

Note the following:  “At the war’s end, about one in 40 Americans went into permanent exile, the equivalent of some 8m people today.” (ibid.)

The Revolutionary War was a civil war.   Most battles took place without the presence of British soldiers – brother fought brother, to death, with little mercy shown.   Ironically, if the Revolutionary War had not taken place, the “Civil War” would never have happened – the imperial parliament in London abolished the slave trade in 1808 and slavery itself 25 years later.   No battles were fought over the issue.   Additionally, states’ rights would never have been a factor or cause for conflict.   Canada was spared both civil wars.

So, what did Americans gain?

FACTS TELL A DIFFERENT STORY

Consider the following gleaned from a variety of books on the subject:

>>>American historian Gordon Wood, considered the foremost expert on the Revolution, wrote in his book: “The Radicalization of the American Revolution,” that England in the eighteenth century was the freest country in the world and that the colonists were even freer.  The king was the guarantor of freedom – never again could a commoner like Oliver Cromwell take power and become a dictator. Celebrations for King George III’s coronation in 1762 were greater in the colonies than in England.   So, what went wrong and why, then, did some Americans want more freedom?

>>>The French and Indian Wars were fought by Britain and the colonists to defend the latter against a French Catholic take-over. George Washington, serving “King and Country”, fired the first shots. The seven-year war left the British government with serious debts, which they tried to recoup by taxing the colonies.   Americans did not want to pay for the war.   Over two centuries later, Americans still do not like to pay for wars.

>>>Contrary to what is often thought today, all thirteen original colonies had a democratic form of government.   All property-owning males could vote, with a 90% turnout at elections.   After independence, there was no immediate widening of the franchise.   In 1789, when the first election was held, only 6% of the population could vote.   Both the United States and the United Kingdom extended the franchise during the nineteenth century and both gave women the vote after World War One.   America lagged behind England in voting rights, not catching up until the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

>>>The Right to Vote and the Right to Bear Arms were in force before 1776.   Indeed, the revolution would not have been possible without these rights.

>>>It has often been pointed out that the leaders of the Revolution were richer than the people they rebelled against.

>>>In 1772, the monumental Somerset Decision sent shock-waves through the American colonies.  A slave  had taken his owner to court.  The court ruled that nobody in the British Isles could be owned by somebody else.  If extended to the colonies, this would have ruined prosperous farmers who needed free labor.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:   “Somerset v Stewart 98 ER 499 is a famous judgment of the English Court of King’s Bench in 1772, which held that chattel slavery was unsupported by the common law in England and Wales.”

>>>Rather than the claim that the king was acting selfishly, it can be argued that the leaders of the Patriots were.  They were heavily in debt to British banks, following a bad crop in 1773.

>>> Paul Revere did not ride through Lexington, Massachusetts, shouting:  “the British are coming.”   This would have made no sense as everybody was British.   It would be like somebody today, seeing the police approaching, would shout out the warning that the Americans are coming.   Rather, Paul Revere warned that “the Regulars are coming,” a reference to full time professional troops.

>>>Geoffrey Wawro, a distinguished scholar of military history who teaches at the University of North Texas, led a discussion some years ago on “Global View” (History International Channel).   The panel concluded that the separation of England and America weakened the English-speaking world considerably.

>>>By 1800, almost twenty years after independence, Americans were paying more in taxes than they had ever paid under colonial rule.

>>>As the Patriots called themselves the “Sons of Liberty,” the Tories referred to them as the “Sons of Anarchy.”   Partly because of what happened a century earlier when England itself became a republic, many loyalists feared a total breakdown of law and order if the country became a republic, a country without a king.   A Biblically literate population was aware of the warning at the end of the Book of Judges:   “There was no king in Israel in those days; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 25:25).   No king meant anarchy!

>>>Many of today’s super-patriots, those who celebrate the 4th of July most vigorously, ironically, would probably have been Tories in 1780.   Conservatives don’t like change or uncertainty.

>>>This brings us back to the Russians.  Newt Gingrich’s book “Yorktown” brings out that Catherine the Great of Russia offered to mediate between the British government and those rebelling against it.   One idea proposed was that Americans would keep their unitary nation, but remain within the Empire.  On the eve of the final Battle of Yorktown, this was acceptable to most Americans, including members of the Continental Congress.  This would have resulted in America being more like Canada.   It would, of course, also have meant there was no need for Canada – loyalists would have stayed where they were.   Catherine’s mediation attempt got nowhere – the autocratic Russian Empress was hardly a credible mediator between two sides that both believed in democracy.

>>>The victory at Yorktown would not have happened without the French navy.   After the battle, the situation was unclear.   It wasn’t until the King asked parliament for more money to fight the rebellion that the war finally ended – parliament refused his request.

>>>Cut off from the empire’s trading system, the US struggled financially after independence.  Even in the 1930’s, the nations of the British Empire recovered from the Great Depression quicker than the US.  America was anxious to break into the imperial trading club without becoming a part of the empire.

The question remains:   what did Americans gain from independence?  One thing comes immediately to mind – that the new country was no longer bound by British treaties with the “Indians;” they could now expand westward.

Ironically, it was a British bank that financed the Louisiana Purchase and British investors who helped build the railways that opened up the West.   So the Brits did their part to make the country expand anyway.

On the other hand, if those treaties had remained in effect, California may never have entered the Union and Hollywood might not exist – some would say, those are two very good reasons for remaining loyal to the Crown!

So, why did Americans revolt and why did the rebels (patriots) win?

Decades after the American Revolution, the Anglo-Israelite movement believed that the British Empire and the United States of America were the fulfillment of a prophecy in Genesis 48; that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, would become a great company of nations (Ephraim; the British Empire and Commonwealth) and his brother would become a great single nation (Manasseh, the United States).   As the “company of nations” (Genesis 48:19) was united by the Crown, the great single nation had to break away from the crown, which is exactly what the United States did.   Note: ”He set Ephraim before Manasseh (verse 20)”. Britain was the world’s superpower before the United States.  In relative terms, Britain was also greater than its successor.  After the loss of the American colonies, the British went on to develop the greatest empire the world had ever seen.

In other words, God determined the outcome of the Revolutionary War in order to fulfill Bible prophecy.

AMERICA’S GROWING DIVISIONS

trump-and-obama

On the same day as the Inaugural in Washington, The Gambia was in the midst of a major constitutional crisis.   Gambia is a slither of a country in west Africa.   Until the weekend, it was ruled by the same dictator for over twenty years.

A recent election gave victory to Mr. Adama Barrow, but President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.

Neighboring countries in the region invaded to remove the former president and replace him with the new one.   Mr. Jammeh has now gone.

It’s different in America.   No coups or counter-coups were needed to remove President Obama.   Canadian and Mexican troops were not needed, either.

America has had smooth transfers of government for a very long time.   That is to America’s credit.

But some commentators, including some religious ones, are doing a disservice to the United States when they describe America as “unique” in this regard.   They also overlook an area of grave concern, deeply rooted in American history.

America’s peaceful changes of government are not unique.   England has had peaceful transfers of power since 1689, to name just one country.   Ed Morrow, CBS’s American wartime correspondent during World War II, marveled that, when faced with foreign invasion and possible extinction, the United Kingdom maintained a democratic system of government and people were free to criticize Winston Churchill.   He did not think America would fare so well when faced with similar threats.

It can truthfully be said that America is unique in one respect – it is the only presidential system in the world that always has peaceful transfers of power.   Others, like Gambia, have a bad history in this regard. It has taken over 50 years of independence for The Gambia to get a new elected Head of State – and the change was not peaceful.   Zimbabwe has had the same president for 38 years following its independence – there is no sign of change in the country, though people talk increasingly of “nature taking its course” – the president is well over 90 years of age.

So, credit to America.

But not so fast.

In 1860, the election was peaceful, but a few weeks later, fourteen southern states seceded from the Union.   Four years of civil war followed. 2% of the people were killed.

Go back even further, to 1775, and we see another civil war that claimed 6% of the people’s lives.   (The population was less then so the total number was less, but the impact was, arguably, greater.)   This war is known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence.   It lasted seven years.

Both wars saw incredible divisions in America.   Both saw “brother against brother.”   Both were truly civil wars of the worst kind.   Is another civil war possible?   It is not out of the question.

Again, we are seeing great division in American society.   Roughly half the voters supported Donald Trump, while the other half supported Hillary Clinton.   The latter seem no more inclined to accept the result than voters in 1860.   That is not to say there will be another civil war, but there could be a great deal of civil unrest; and, eventually, another civil conflict, this time between conservatives and liberals, with race as a contributory factor.

Hundreds of thousands, some would say millions, of angry women were out on the streets of a number of cities, demonstrating over threats to women’s rights; an issue that did not even exist in 1860.   The term “women’s rights” is a euphemism for abortion, the murder of babies.   There was no support for abortion in 1860 – that’s a new phenomenon that is directly due to the nation’s gradual rejection of Christianity.   Over 60 million abortions have been performed since legalization in 1973 – those children, who would now be adults, have been replaced by over 60 million immigrants, some from countries that are hostile to the United States.   It really doesn’t make any sense.

Many of those immigrants are now with the demonstrators against the new Administration.   This adds an ethnic dimension that did not exist in the two previous civil wars.   Some of the most outspoken critics of the new administration in Washington are Muslims.   Liberals come quickly to their defense. I even heard one prominent liberal on CNN yesterday extolling the virtue of an Islamic female leader who “is pro-gray, pro-LGBT.”   Do they really believe that?  The gay lifestyle is totally at variance with Islam.   Gays have no civil rights in any Muslim country.

These divisions in America, primarily over abortion (sorry, women’s rights) and race, will continue to worsen during the Trump presidency.   They have already resulted in some violence.   In time, they could explode into greater conflict.

Americans can pride themselves on being part of a presidential republic that has seen many peaceful changes of government, but America is not unique where peaceful change is concerned.   The challenge now is to make sure peaceful transfers of power continue. This is not likely to happen in a period of increasing diversity. Tribalism was a big factor in Gambia’s electoral disaster – tribalism is now a growing threat in America.

Diversity is just another word for “tribalism.”

We should not become complacent.   Jesus Christ warned that:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Matthew 12:25).

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS

gift-return

USA Today disclosed last week that the average family home in the US has 71 toys.   71?!?    I can only remember having two when I was a child — a farm set and a train set.   Admittedly, both had multiple pieces.   But 71?

Actually, I can believe it.   I always seem to be stepping on toys when I walk through our home.   Even at our daughter’s in Indianapolis, the living room floor is the favored spot for dumping toys.  My wife always said that toys were things to drag from the bedroom and dump on the living room carpet, and then the kids go out and play with a stick.

It wasn’t like this in Africa.   Most children there had no toys, unless a family member had made one from a used car tire or an old cardboard box.

When we first moved to the US, I was fascinated by how different American children are from African children; not for the better, I might add.  Too many American kids say bad things back to their parents and are more materialistic when it comes to getting things (toys and candy, mostly).

Part of the problem is television programs and commercials.   Children put incredible pressure on parents to buy them everything they’ve seen on TV and advertisers know this.   Credit cards enable parents to buy – few in Africa have CC’s.   One other factor I think all parents should think about – how many buy toys out of guilt?  With very little time to devote to children, parents over-compensate by buying lots of things.

I think their offspring would prefer time with Mom and Dad.  We didn’t have lots of things growing up, but our mother was always there, thankfully.

One other thing we should be concerned about is not to encourage materialism or greed in our children and grandchildren.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ (Matthew 6:19-21).

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It’s no surprise that Jimmy Fallon and Meryl Streep criticized President-elect Donald Trump Sunday night at the Golden Globes.

Fallon even commented that the Globes are now the only place in America where the “popular vote” counts.  Really?   I wasn’t asked to vote on the best movies of 2016.

The theater was full, as usual.  Many of those seated threatened to leave the United States if Trump won the election.   Canada seemed the preferred destination.  But they were there at the Globes.  Presumably they flew back for the evening!!!   Or, perhaps, upon reflection, when they saw how much they would have to pay in taxes in Canada, they decided to stay in the United States.

These people are unreal.  (Well, they are actors, after all.)  They rake in the millions or hundreds of millions and spend more money on face-lifts and breast enhancements than Donald Trump will ever spend on the military.  Their gowns alone cost more than the GNP’s of many countries.

Meryl Streep is a good actress.  So are some of the others in the audience.  They should stick to acting and stay out of politics, before millions of their fans turn away from them in disgust.

There was also an element of hypocrisy when Meryl Streep, commenting on Donald Trump, warned that violence begets more violence.  Hollywood has arguably done more to promote violence than Donald Trump or any other president could possibly do.

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alixs-kids

Diane and I have just been down to Indianapolis to see our eldest daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their four children.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing few days.

I was able to take our two granddaughters, Alyssa and Elena, to tour President Benjamin Harrison’s home in downtown Indianapolis.   It was well worth the time and money to tour the historic house.   I am pleased to say that both girls asked intelligent and perceptive questions.

President Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States, in office from 1889 to 1893.   He replaced Grover Cleveland and was succeeded by the same man, a Democrat.   Harrison was a prime example of Churchill’s later dictum:  “If you’re not a socialist (liberal) at 20 you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head.”  He started out as a Whig but later became a Republican.

Historians do not rate his presidency very highly, but it’s interesting to note that he was facing the same issues that confront President-elect Trump today.   He raised tariffs on imports to help reduce the federal deficit and built up the navy which had been neglected since the Civil War.  (Interestingly, the day we toured the home, a website revealed that, for the first time in decades, there were no US naval vessels on patrol anywhere in the world.)

President Harrison is remembered as the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, who was president for exactly one month. He gave a very long speech at his Inaugural in 1841, caught a cold which developed into pneumonia, and died.   The two Harrisons are the only grandfather-grandson presidents in US history.

The second president also saw six states enter the Union during his four-year term, a record number under any chief executive.

It was sobering to note that the three-story home had no indoor plumbing!

It was an interesting visit and I recommend it if you are ever in Indianapolis.

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On a different day I took the twins to McDonald’s for an ice cream sundae, followed by a visit to Meijer, a huge grocery store that also sells toys.  (The twins would probably describe it as a toy store that also sells groceries!)

When ordering ice cream for them, I asked for a hot tea for myself.   The man taking the order responded with “Excuse me?”  I repeated my request.  He said he had never heard of it!  (seriously!)   So I asked for the manager and, again, repeated my request for a hot tea.   He had at least heard of it.   I added a request that the bag be put in the cup before the water as it tastes so much better that way.   My order came five minutes later – a styrofoam cup with luke-warm water and a separate tea bag!

I’m pleased to say that Tim Horton’s is moving south – they have now reached Ft Wayne.  I think I will stay away from Indianapolis until they move the extra 120 miles!  At least the Canadian franchise makes decent tea – just stay away from the donuts.

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There was an interesting paragraph Monday morning from an Israeli paper:

“Religious Jews are more excited about Messiah’s return than Christians are,” Markell told WND.   “Muslims are more anticipatory about their Mahdi’s return than are Christians about Jesus’s return. This shows the deplorable state of the church today that is ‘majoring in minors.’   They have their finance seminars and marriage conferences but have shoved the idea of the Lord’s imminent return not just to the back burner, perhaps to the back yard.”   (WND)

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AIRPORT ATTACK

The latest terrorist attack at Fort Lauderdale’s airport is disturbing.  It highlights the danger that ISIS is spreading beyond Islam to non-Muslims.  The perpetrator of Friday’s attack was an American born Hispanic.   If ISIS spreads its influence to hispanics and other minorities in America, attacks like this will only become more common.

A Palestinian drove a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four and injuring dozens.   These truck (or lorry) attacks in France, Germany and Israel are also spreading.

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NEW YEAR, 1917

We were with Alix and Mike over the New Year’s weekend.   Mike came across a quote, supposedly from Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, who wrote on the last day of 1916, in the middle of World War I:   “1916 was cursed. The new year will surely be better.”   Those who know Russian history will be aware that the Czar abdicated in February of 1917, the country was plunged into civil war before the year ended and the royal family were all slaughtered.   The “quote” was tweeted by Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess player who now lives in the United States.   Whether it’s true or not, it should make us think!

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

queen-elizabeth-parliament-opening

According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

COMMON SENSE, WITH TACT

Donald Trump Muslims

After Donald Trump’s call for a temporary halt in allowing Muslims to move to America, there has been a great deal of “moral outrage,” as CNN called it.   Prominent members of the liberal intelligentsia have been appearing on the various news channels.   Accusations of Trump being “un-American” are constantly being yelled out, even though America had no Muslims in its infancy and few until a change in the immigration laws fifty years ago.

Donald Trump has called for a ban on immigration to the United States by Muslims.  TV talk programs seem to have discussed nothing else since his controversial call Monday, which he referred to as “common sense.”

The liberal media, plus almost all politicians of both major parties, have condemned Mr. Trump and called him a “racist” and lots of other bad names.

Methinks they protest too much!   Why are they so determined to see so many Muslims in America?

Let’s consider the facts ……

The US is the leading nation of the western world.   The country has experienced a number of terrorist attacks by Muslims, including San Bernardino, Boston, Chattanooga, Garland, Fort Hood and 9-11.

The number two economy in the western world is Japan, with 130 million people.   Japan has not had a terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims.   Japan has a very strict immigration policy, which does not encourage Muslims to move there.   Could there be a connection?
Mr. Trump lacks tact, a quality he needs and one that needs to be brought into this debate.

I remember a conversation with a member of the diplomatic service in an African country some years ago.   My wife and I were enjoying our visit to his country and I expressed the hope that they would have more tourists, which would boost their economy.   I told him that one thing they could do to help encourage tourism was to abolish the visa requirement for tourists.

He responded that the country had to require a visa, at a cost of $100, before any tourist could visit.   He explained that it was reciprocal. In other words, because the US insisted people from his country must get a visa to enter America, his country had to insist on visas for Americans.

The US requires peoples in many countries to get visas, to screen them before they visit and to weed out those who might visit and stay to look for work.

But my point is that visa requirements are reciprocal.

Can’t we do the same when it comes to immigration?

We should apply the same rules to people wanting to come to the United States, as their countries apply to Americans who go there.

As none of the 57 majority Muslim countries allows Americans to immigrate into their countries, we would effectively achieve the ban on Muslims Mr. Trump wants, but do it more tactfully.   The ball would be in their court!

Yes, there are Americans living in Muslim countries.   Some are married to locals in those countries, while some work there on contract, providing skills their economies need; but none have permanent resident status and will never be allowed to apply for citizenship.  Muslim nations know that Muslims and non-Muslims just don’t mix!

Quid pro quo.   Problem solved.   With tact, Mr. Trump!

There was also a lack of tact in the White House when Josh Earnest, White House spokesman, described Mr. Trump’s comments as “fascist,” forgetting that the most famous Democratic president of all, Franklin Roosevelt, interred Japanese, German and Italian Americans during World War II.

Meanwhile, a great deal of ignorance has been exposed in the media on this issue.   A number of news people have told us that Mr. Trump’s suggestion goes against the constitution.   It’s difficult to justify such a statement when there were no Muslims in the country at the time the constitution was written.   It wasn’t until after the Civil War that Muslims first came on the scene and the first mosque was built in Chicago as recently as 1929.

Nihad Awad, Executive Director and Founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, likened Mr. Trump’s comments to those of Nazis against the Jews, asking:  “Haven’t we learned anything from history, Mr. Trump?”   This blatant double standard went unquestioned.   It was a perfect opportunity to raise questions about attitudes toward Jews shown in some Muslim countries and during the Holocaust.

On the same day that this dominated the news, TIME magazine announced its choice of “Person of the Year.”   This year’s choice is Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, who opened Germany’s doors to allow in one million migrants this year, the equivalent of the US taking in four million.   The decision has already resulted in negative repercussions that must be borne by the German people.

The question arises – why is the media so determined to see the end of the European races?   At the same time as ridiculing Trump, most news sources are seen praising Frau Merkel for her decision.

Whatever you may think of Mr. Trump’s call to halt Muslim immigration at this time, Americans should be thankful the issue has been raised for one simple reason – any more attacks could easily result in a violent backlash against Muslims by other Americans. The population needs to be thoroughly educated on the religion and its goals toward the United States so that a responsible debate can take place.

 

 

 

 

DOWNTON ABBEY AND THE CLASS SYSTEM

Downton Abbey

The latest series of Downton Abbey is currently showing on PBS in the United States.   The hit series is set in an English stately home. It started four years ago with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.   We have gone through World War One with the Grantham family and are now witnessing events in 1924, when the first Labour government came to power.   Hopefully, the series can get us through to World War Two and its aftermath, before falling ratings finish it off.

As I come from England, I’m often asked if the class system so accurately portrayed on the program still exists.

The answer to that can be found at Highclere Castle, which is the real name of the fictional Downton Abbey.

Whereas Downton is supposed to be in the county of Yorkshire in the North of England, it is actually filmed at Highclere Castle, which is west of London.   It is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

A documentary on Highclere Castle was shown some time ago on PBS.  It showed the Earl and his wife are very normal people who are dedicated to preserving their ancestral home and its estate.   High taxes were a major factor in the decline of the aristocracy, starting with the 1906 Liberal government.   After World War II taxes on inherited wealth were so high that many aristocrats were forced to abandon their homes and property.  The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, owners of Blenheim Palace, Churchill’s birthplace, now live in the Caribbean; visitors can tour their home, ensuring its financial upkeep and giving the Marlboroughs enough to live on.

What about all those servants?   Downton’s plot lines involve those employed downstairs as much as Lord Grantham and his family.   Sadly, all those butlers, footmen, ladies’ maids and cleaning staff are no longer likely to be there. Some may see this as progress. However, before World War One there were three million domestic servants in Britain – not so long ago, that number was down to 68,000, with three million unemployed!

The documentary on the real Downton Abbey showed the present-day residents have just one butler, a really old gentleman who probably can’t handle all the hard physical work some of the younger staff did decades ago.   What was apparent is that the three of them, both aristocrats and their servant, work together as a team to preserve the historic house and ensure its continuity for members of the public who wish to visit it.   And for any television company that wants to hire it.

So, does England still have a class system?   Great Britain still has titles, but a title does not equate to wealth.   That was true in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Britain was the wealthiest country in the world.  Due to rapid industrialization and cheap food imports from its colonies, many aristocrats fell on hard times.   At the same time, the US had created many multi-millionaires in the aftermath of the Civil War.   Those millionaires often sent their daughters to England to find a titled aristocrat to marry.   The American heiress gained a title and the English husband was solvent again!   Winston Churchill was the product of the most famous marriage between a wealthy American and an aristocratic Englishman.

The question asked – if England still has a class system – belies a simple reality.   That reality is that all nations have an aristocracy. The difference in Great Britain is that British aristocrats tend to have titles. Not all do.   The wealthiest people in Britain today are not likely to be aristocrats, so much as oil sheikhs from the Middle East, Russian businessmen hiding from Vladimir Putin, rock stars, football players and, leading them all, J.K. Rowling, the wealthiest woman in the country, once a struggling single mother who could not buy more than one coffee at the local equivalent of Starbucks, until, that is, Harry Potter came along.   For years, Madonna came in at number two.   The Queen is not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in the country.

Today’s aristocracy is just as likely to be found in the United States as in Britain.

The Economist cover story on January 24th highlighted “America’s new aristocracy.”   An accompanying article showed that education is behind today’s inheritance of privilege.   Educated couples typically earn the most.   They then ensure their children get the best education so they, in turn, are at the top of society.   So an inherited, but untitled, aristocracy continues from generation to generation.   They may not have all the servants the Granthams had in Downton Abbey, but then nobody does today.

Although I’m sure there are good servants still around, I doubt there are many left like Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and even the old gentleman at Highclere Castle.   Being “in service” is no longer considered a calling – the great-grandchildren of the Granthams’ servants are far more likely to be enjoying life on the dole!

Progress indeed!