Yikes. May 22 is another of those cursed dates where ethics rot was in the air. For example, in 1958, rock superstar Jerry Lee Lewis admitted that his new bride was a child. He even lied while doing that, “admitting” she was 15 when Myra Gail Lewis was actually only 13 years old,and also Jerry Lee’s first cousin. Another detail Lewis didn’t mention was that the loving pair had married five months before his divorce from his second wife. Jerry Lee insisted the second marriage wasn’t legally valid because that one had taken place before his divorce from his first wife.
Other ethics low points on this day:
- In 1939, Italy and Germany agreed to a military and political alliance, giving birth to the Axis powers, which would eventually include Japan.
- In 1856, Southern Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beats Northern Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber. On May 19, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner began a two-day speech on the Senate floor in which he attacked three pro-slavery colleagues by name, one of whom, South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler, was sick and absent from the proceedings. Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina, decided to defend the honor of his kin. Wielding a cane, Brooks entered the Senate chamber and began beating Sumner at his desk, which was bolted to the floor. Sumner’s legs were pinned by the desk so he could not escape, and the beating continued until Senators subdued Brooks. Brooks supporters cheered the vicious act and sent him many replacement canes. Sumner could not return to the Senate for three years while he recuperated from his injuries.
- In 2017, right after pop star after Ariana Grande finished the final song of her May 22 concert at Manchester Arena in Great Britain, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 116 more. ISIS claimed responsibility.
- In 1868 the “Great Train Robbery” was pulled off, with seven members of the Reno Gang getting away with $98,000 in cash from a train’s safe in Indiana.
And a special Happy Birthday to Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” born this day in Evergreen Park, Illinois in 1942. Yes, we’re still keeping him alive; after all, he only murdered three innocent people (he maimed or injured 23 others.).
1. The Great Stupid, International Strain: The Globe Theatre, Great Britain’s famous reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse where William Shakespeare had his works first performed, has launched a project to “decolonise’ Shakespeare’s plays, the centerpiece of Western literature. The Globe has been listening to experts who conclude that his work is ‘problematic’ for linking whiteness to beauty. Another academic maintains all of Shakespeare’s plays are “race plays’ as they all contain ‘whiteness’. For example, the first line of the 1595 comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” famously opens with Thesus saying: “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace.”
The Horror. Why any “expert” who makes an argument like this isn’t regarded exactly as if she had appeared in public naked, painted blue and wearing a squid on her head is beyond me. As Great Stupid break-outs go, this one is pretty trivial. Shakespeare plays have been routinely debased by absurd adaptations and meat-axe editing for centuries. The only reason this example is noteworthy is its source. You’d think the keepers of the Bard’s flame in England would have more sense, not to mention respect. [Pointer: Other Bill]
2. Sexualizing…LEGOS??? LEGO, the iconic Denmark toy company, for some reason thinks sex needs to be on the minds of children using building blocks. There will be a new LGBTQ-themed set of LEGOs called “Everyone Is Awesome” in time for “Pride Month.” The set contains faceless figures colored to match the Gay Pride rainbow, with one purple figure in a beehive wig , according to the set designer, Matthew Ashton, “a nod to all the fabulous drag queens out there.”
I hope LEGO loses a bundle on this cynical pandering and indoctrination exercise.
3. I was happy to read this in an essay about the dubious priorities in our culture’s fitness obsession:
“The elevation of fitness to the highest of attainments is a sure sign of a culture grown neurotically inward and stunted. It’s a sign of diminished aspirations. When “self-improvement” entails not learning German but doing star jumps, we’re aiming to clear the lowest of bars. We’re not producing superheroes, but gym bunnies. In the end, no matter how much agony we undergo to build our biceps, those perishable muscles will still atrophy in old age and then end up on the scrap heap — at which point, what have we got to show? We could stand to demote the press-up back to the floor where it belongs.The whole purpose of maintaining a functional body is to be able to do something else: write books, invent new software, land a rover on Mars. Theoretically, Michelangelo could have spent all his time on chin-ups and never have got round to the Sistine Chapel.“
It reminded me of this passage, which I wrote here in 2009:
“It’s time; indeed, it is past time. I think there is even a case to be made that a fat individual may be overweight for ethical reasons. You can spend a couple hours a day jogging and pumping iron—14 hours a week, 56 hours a month, 672 hours a year—or you can spend the same time on pursuits that benefit people other than yourself, like your family, the poor, or society. Extra weight may be a form of sacrifice, a badge of honor. … If Oprah Winfrey wants to call herself fat, fine, but who can criticize how she uses her time? She cares about other things more than the scale and the mirror. Good for her.“