…Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…
1. Apologies for a lost Sunday. I was never able to get back to my computer yesterday. The combination of my responsibilities to the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as it celebrated its 46th year of operation against daunting odds, some pressing client matters and important family matters just overwhelmed my schedule, plus I was wiped out by the early evening. Of course, based on the blog’s traffic this month and the continuing ethics rot, I console my self in the message of the most famous song from “Ruddigore,” GG&SS’s student production for the anniversary…especially the final line…
“This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard, and if it is, it doesn’t matter.”
Ethics commentary in a nutshell.
2. However: The regulars came through in a pinch. The free swim produced at least four Comment of the Day quality posts, including a history of the Gettysburg address. Thanks everybody. The experiment was a ringing success, and I will have more open forums in the future.
3. This kind of thing is why I have a hard time taking environmentalist doom-saying seriously. We planted Bradford Pear trees, which are now blooming beautifully as is their wont, in front of our house almost 20 years ago. They have their downsides, to be sure, and you have to trim them back or they are likely to split or fall over. However, here is an environmentalist claiming that they are trees from hell, and who writes in part: Continue reading
(Do you remember when Saturday morning was fun? Stupid, but fun…)
1. Your cultural literacy note of the day. The Charles Laughton classic “Ruggles of Red Gap” was on Turner Movie Classics last night. The movie itself is wonderful—I recommended it in an Independence Day post here—but it is also a cultural literacy triumph. In 1935, when the film was released, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was in the process of falling out of the public’s consciousness. The film’s most famous scene, however, revived it. In a saloon, reference is made to “what Lincoln said at Gettysburg,” and all the cowboys in Red Gap ask each other, “What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?” Then, quietly, unexpectedly, Ruggles the English butler (Laughton) and the only foreign-born man in the room, recites the speech. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, in his post showing observations, revealed that when the film was first shown, audiences frequently stood and applauded Laughton’s rendition, and the Address itself became more widely known and quoted.
This is how popular culture works when it is in sync with national values, and not attempting to undermine them.
Here is the scene…for some reason YouTube doesn’t have it, but does have the entire film. The saloon scene begins at about the 56:09 mark:
2. The Atlantic-Kevin Williamson controversy. Unless you routinely plumb the depths of pundit wars and cultural bloodletting, you might well be completely unaware of this skirmish, but it is ultimately an ethics story. Continue reading
I was recently reminded about the origins of the Nazi swastika, ironically enough, during the Cincinnati funeral service of my dear friend, Georgetown classmate, lawyer and patriot Mitchell Dale, who died last summer. Looking down during a prayer, I was startled to see the Hindu version of the symbol in a mosaic imbedded in the church floor.
Oddly, the pastor and mourners weren’t arrested.
Yet last month, an unnamed Jewish student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on the bulletin board of his Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, in the university’s International House. The building had recently been the target of an unidentified vandal who drew three swastikas on the walls. After posting the swastika, the student stayed close to the bulletin board, intending to discuss it and the previous vandalism with observers. He briefly stepped away, unfortunately for him, and during that period a member of the student’s fraternity saw the swastika and called GWU’s campus police. They filed a report and took the swastika as evidence. When the student found out the police had been called, he immediately came forward to authorities and said that he had posted the image to spark a conversation about the ancient symbol, cultural appropriation, messages, perception…as in what used to be called “education.” He said he did not intend to offend anyone, noting in doing so that this was an Indian swastika, not a Nazi one. He had just returned from studying religion in India, and said he became fascinated by the idea that a symbol that was not one of hate could become so defined by hate.
GWU suspended the student and evicted him from university housing pending the outcome of five disciplinary charges. The university also kicked him off campus, and referred the incident to the District of Columbia police for investigation as a potential “hate crime.” He could face expulsion.
1. FIRE, Freedom for Individual Rights in Education, is on the case. Thank you, FIRE. FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn wrote,
“GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany. It’s ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place—that context is important and there’s much to be learned about the history of the swastika.”
2. Now the Hindu American Foundation is protesting as well. This is the wonderful aspect of diversity, and a warning to institutions and diversity hounds that diversity must cut in all directions, or is a sham. It is discriminatory for a university to demonize and censor an aspect of a world religion’s symbology and culture. Do you think the administrators at GW sufficiently understood this, or just didn’t care, going with what they perceived as the most powerful interest group?
3. The George Washington fiasco comes in the wake of other colleges responding to anti-Semitic swastika vandalism, but that shouldn’t have mattered. Continue reading