Tag Archives: Civil War

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!”

Advertisements

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!

FERGUSON AND THE GREAT AMERICAN DIVIDE

Ferguson MO

Race is America’s Achilles heel.  It’s also the country’s biggest blind spot.

Both have been evident in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of an 18-year-old African-American male by a white policeman, in August. The decision by a Grand Jury not to send the policeman to trial led to serious rioting last night, which has continued into a second night.

Racial tension goes back to the very beginning of the nation’s modern history and not just between black and white.

The first British settlement on the shores of North America was at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607.   Twelve years later, the first African slaves arrived and continued arriving for almost two centuries.

Later in the century, the first major conflict in American history took place. King Philip’s War lasted three years (1675-78) and was, proportionately, the worst conflict the country has ever experienced, surpassing the Revolutionary War of 1775-81 (the second worst) and the North-South conflict (1861-65). All three were civil wars.   The first war resulted in the deaths of 10% of the population of the fledgling colonies. It was a war between the white settlers and Native Americans. Over the next two centuries there would be a great deal of further conflict between whites and Native Americans.

The country would also see more conflict between African-Americans and whites.

Discrimination against non-whites was a root cause of the violence.

In the 1960’s a new approach was favored. The Civil Rights movement addressed discrimination and efforts were put in place to make some fundamental changes. The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned all forms of discrimination. One year later, the Voting Rights Act made it much easier for southern blacks to vote, ending decades of discrimination.   Ironically, race riots erupted in the Watts area of Los Angeles the following day.   One month later, President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order that required government contractors to take Affirmative Action, granting favor to minorities in employment.

Riots were to continue throughout the decade, emphasizing the bad state of race relations.   Change was clearly necessary.

In 1971, a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism made some recommendations on assimilation in neighboring Canada. This is considered the origin of multiculturalism, the idea that all races, colors, religions and nationalities can live peacefully and successfully together.   The US picked up the ball and ran with it. Australia, New Zealand and the EU followed. Multiculturalism, sometimes called “diversity,” has been the guiding philosophy of western nations for the last four decades.   Perhaps its greatest achievement in the United States was the election of an African-American to the White House

However, what’s happened in Ferguson shows that diversity is not working as promised.

Not just Ferguson, of course.   America’s inner cities have experienced ethnic conflict for decades. New immigrant groups have battled African-Americans and other new immigrant groups in never-ending gang warfare.

This is where the “blind spot” comes in.

Americans like to think of themselves as a “melting pot,” a term that has been in common usage since 1908.   It’s a reference to how different ethnic groups have been assimilated and become one. However, the term was used to describe the various European ethnic groups that migrated to the country prior to the twentieth century. It is questionable that the melting pot concept is still working.   Some would say it never included African-Americans.

America is such a vast country that it’s easy for whites to escape big cities and move to isolated dormitory towns and suburbs, where they will rarely come into contact with other ethnic groups. So it is possible for people to believe that race relations are harmonious when others feel very differently. Ferguson is a classic example of this.

It’s not just white policemen shooting young black males. There are also frequent incidents of black males randomly killing whites. These are given far less attention by the liberal media. But both show continuing racial tension and conflict.

Trust is seriously lacking.

The United States is not the only country with racial problems.   Ethnic conflict between tribes is a daily occurrence across the continent of Africa; historic conflict between ethnic groups has been a primary cause of wars in Europe; and ancient animosities flare up regularly in Asia.   Is America worse?

Over twenty years ago, the Detroit Free Press sent one of its African-American reporters to South Africa to cover news there in the year leading up to the end of apartheid.   In his dispatches, he observed that race relations were better in apartheid South Africa than in the US, where he lived.   More recently, I viewed a discussion on British television on which a number of people of African descent who had lived in both the US and the UK were asked about their experiences. All agreed they felt race relations were better in Britain.   (It should be noted that Britain has had its share of race riots.)

Jesus Christ predicted rising ethnic tensions at the time of the end of the age. In Matthew 24:7, He said: “nation will rise against nation.” The Greek word used for nation is ethnos, a reference to ethnic groups.   Until a few decades ago, the lid was kept on much ethnic conflict by great powers that ruled over many ethnic groups.   Increasingly, those groups have splintered and now are turning on each other.

Perhaps we are about to find that diversity doesn’t work, that mistrust between the races is still very much a part of our culture and heritage, not just in the United States but elsewhere.   A serious rethink is needed on multiculturalism, as racial harmony cannot be achieved by legislation or coercion. There is a definite possibility that, as a consequence of Ferguson, more laws will be passed to force further integration, which could backfire.

Social programs should also be re-evaluated. LBJ’s War on Poverty, proclaimed fifty years ago this year, offered hope to all poor families, including African-American ones, by setting up a welfare system. However, it is now possible to look back and see that welfare has contributed to the breakdown of the family, a social trend that has been particularly devastating for black families. Nine out of ten African-American boys do not live with their father to the age of 16.   The lack of a significant male presence in their lives encourages criminal activity and is a reason why there is a disproportionate number of African-American males in the US prison system.

There will be more Fergusons. Sadly, more parents of young men, both black and white, will lose their loved ones in violent acts between the races.   More riots will result in more lives lost and more property damage, though there is no sense in driving businesses away.

Race remains America’s Achilles heel – ethnic conflict could bring the country down.   But there are also many examples of whites and blacks working well together. Clearly, more work is needed to improve race relations. The alternative is growing conflict in the years to come.

AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR

REV WAR

What was America’s worst war?

I mean in the sense of numbers of people killed as a percentage of the total population.

Many would say the Civil War (1861-65), when 2% of the population died.

In fact, three times as many people, proportionately, died in the Revolutionary War, sometimes called America’s First Civil War, which took place almost a century earlier.

6% of the population died in the earlier conflict and tens of thousands fled the country when the war was over.  As with the later conflict, families were divided, brother fought brother and there were intense feelings on both sides.

Both wanted freedom.  The Patriots (or Rebels) wanted to free the thirteen colonies from British rule; the Loyalists (Tories) were convinced that, without a king, there would be anarchy.  They referred to their opponents as the “sons of anarchy.”

Gordon Wood, an American historian who has written a number of books on the Revolutionary War and the events that surrounded it, brought out in one of his books that England was then the freest country in the world and that the people in England’s colonies were even more free; so why did some colonists want even more freedom?

It’s a good question.

There were legitimate grievances just as there are against any government, but the American Revolution is different from all other revolutions in that the people revolting were not the poor and dispossessed.  They were, in fact, the aristocrats of the colonies.   They were actually better off than the people they were revolting against.

It’s no wonder then that this was not a popular uprising as movies have sometimes suggested.  The country was very divided.  By some estimates, the division was a third, a third and a third – a third in favor of the revolution, a third who were loyal to the crown and a third that were largely indifferent.

Tired of war after six years of fighting, on the eve of the final battle, the number of people who were supportive of remaining under the Crown was higher than those who wanted to sever the tie and build a completely independent republic.

That final battle, the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, was to be decisive.

In their latest novel (2012), “Victory at Yorktown,” Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen are fair to both sides, until near the end when it is clear where their loyalties lie.

They bring out that, immediately prior to the battle, many in Congress wanted to negotiate with London on British terms.  Russia’s Catherine the Great had offered her services as mediator.  The proposal was that the new United States of America should remain within the British Empire but would maintain its newly created federation.  A total amnesty was proposed for those involved in the rebellion.

Washington had to persuade them to wait, to see first how the battle went.   If the battle was lost to the Continental Army, then a peace treaty would have been signed in Britain’s favor and the US would have remained within the Empire, under the Crown, similar to the way Canada is today.

If the sole combatants had been Washington’s Continental Army and British regulars, the British would have won.  But the French came in and made a big difference.  The British lost and their army surrendered.

Even then, the British could have simply sent another military force to continue the war.  Britain was the greatest military power on earth at the time but the parliament in London voted against further funds for the prosecution of the war.  The subsequent Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the new United States of America as a sovereign nation, albeit one without a sovereign!

The French paid dearly for their support of the rebel forces.  The country’s finances were in trouble as a result of the conflict and before the decade was out they had their own revolution, exacerbated by radical ideas brought back from America by French soldiers.

Following Washington’s victory at Yorktown, about 100,000 loyalists fled the country, mostly to Canada.  That was roughly 10% of the country.  Many loyalists remained – far more than left.  Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson came from an Anglophile, East Coast family that always toasted the king on his birthday, right up until after World War II (“Picking up the Reins” by Norman Moss, 2002, page 65).

In reading the book “Victory at Yorktown,” you realize how easily the battle could have gone the other way.  It’s too easy to say it was won because the French Navy was there.

There is also a biblical explanation.

Genesis 48 tells us that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to become “a multitude of nations” and a “great” nation.

Many people in Victorian times and the early part of the twentieth century believed this prophecy was fulfilled in the British Empire and the United States.  The British Empire comprised dozens of different countries, each different from the other.  They were all united by a common loyalty to the Crown.

If the US had lost the battle of Yorktown and remained within the empire, it would have been a part of the multitude of nations.  It had to be separated from the Crown even though, arguably, most did not want that separation in 1781.

The country went on to become what Winston Churchill called “The Great Republic.”

At the same time, the loyalists that moved to Canada made Canada the great Dominion of the British Empire, which it became.

The Battle of Yorktown was likely a foregone conclusion!