The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 18, 2020
In 1868, Charles D. Blake took advantage of the interest in President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment by writing a polka in honor of the occasion. Since he added no words, we don’t know how the composer felt about the POTUS or his trial. However, the fact that he wrote a dance tune might suggest either that he was in favor, or that he was delighted for a chance to cash in — the most American stance of all.
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VIRGINIA IN THE NEWS…
Equal Rights Amendment. Both houses of Virginia’s General Assembly passed the Equal Rights Amendment this week, fulfilling a promise that helped Democrats win control of the legislature and marking a watershed moment in the nearly century-long effort to add protections for women to the U.S. Constitution. Virginia is the pivotal 38th state to pass the ERA, the final one necessary for ratification. Passed in 1972. U.S. lawmakers set a deadline of March 22, 1979, for three-quarters of the states (38) to ratify the ERA, which was later extended to 1982. But since the deadline was not in the original amendment, supporters say it is not constitutional. Several efforts are underway in Congress to either extend or restart the ratification process.
Brouhaha over Guns. A sense of crisis has been growing in Virginia’s capitol this week. In anticipation of a rally planned for Monday (Martin Luther King holiday) to protest proposed gun control legislation in the statea. When intelligence warned of white supremacist violence, Gov. Ralph Northrum declared a state of emergency and temporarily enacted a weapons ban on the grounds of the state capitol. Then the FBI announced it had arrested three men connected with a neo-Nazi group who had obtained weapons, including an assault weapon they fashioned, and planned on attending the rally. [Update: three more have been arrested]. Online groups have been fanning the flames by calling Monday’s event a “boogaloo,” a crisis event designed to accelerate the race war they anticipate. Militia members from across the U.S. have said they will attend the rally. Virginia’s now Democratic-controlled legislature is proposing sweeping new legislation that would place new regulations and restrictions in the state’s gun laws. Is this a foreshadowing of the kind of rancor we might expect in the political year ahead?
In other gun news: The TSA reports that 4,432 firearms were confiscated at U.S. airports last year. 87% of them were loaded. 278 airports were involved, led by Atlanta’s Hartsfield, where 323 guns were seized.
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100 YEARS AGO — PROHIBITION
NY Times: A century ago Friday, the 18th Amendment came into effect, outlawing the production, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages. Ever since, that day has been celebrated — or mourned — for formally ushering in the Prohibition Era.
Except that it didn’t.
Contrary to popular imagination — including recent coverage of the amendment’s centennial — there was no mad dash for hooch on the night of Jan. 16, 1920, no “going out of business” liquor store sales on Prohibition Eve. The United States had already been “dry” for the previous half-year thanks to the Wartime Prohibition Act. And even before that, 32 of the 48 states had already enacted their own statewide prohibitions.
“With little that differed from normal wartime prohibition drinking habits, New York City entered at 12:01 o’clock this morning into the long dry spell,” this newspaper solemnly noted. A few restaurants and hotels held mock funerals for booze, but the city’s saloons had long since been shuttered, and “the spontaneous orgies of drink that were predicted failed in large part to occur.” What with debates over ratifying the Peace of Versailles and a war scare with Bolshevik Russia, the 18th Amendment was barely front-page news.
That the final triumph of prohibition was met with shrugs, rather than the outraged street protests we tend to imagine, says less about prohibition back then and more about our inability to understand it today. The entire idea of prohibition seems so hostile to Americans’ contemporary sensibilities of personal freedom that we struggle to comprehend how our ancestors could have possibly supported it.
For decades now, popular histories have concocted false stories that the majority of the public had never supported prohibition, or that prohibition was conceived by a “radical fringe” of Bible-thumping, rural evangelicals trying to codify their Puritan morality. We use the same language to vilify prohibitionists as we do to describe ISIS or Al Qaeda: calling them “deeply antidemocratic,” “extremists” and “zealots.”
But this portrayal of prohibition as some reactionary, cultural-religious movement runs into a bevy of uncomfortable historical questions. How could such an “ultra-conservative” prohibition movement win its greatest victory during the middle of the Progressive Era? How could organizations like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union champion progressive issues like the expansion of suffrage and civil and labor rights alongside supposedly reactionary prohibition?
If the victory of prohibition was all about Bible-thumping morality, why was there no evangelical revivalism at the time? If prohibition never had popular support, how did the 18th Amendment pass with a 68 percent supermajority in the House of Representatives and 76 percent support in the Senate, and then get ratified by 46 of the 48 states, all in record time? None of this adds up.
In reality, the temperance movement was anything but pinky-raising Victorians forbidding society to drink. Temperance was the longest-running, most widely supported social movement in both American and global history. Its foe wasn’t the drink in the bottle or the drunk who drank it, but the drink traffic: powerful business interests — protected by a government reliant on liquor taxes — getting men addicted to booze, and then profiting handsomely by bleeding them and their families dry.
…One legislator called for prohibition “for the safety and redemption of the people from the social, political and moral curse of the saloon.” That zealot was Abraham Lincoln, rising to support Illinois’s statewide prohibition in 1855. Similar sentiments were expressed by Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, William Jennings Bryan, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many other progressive leaders.
…For a better understanding of temperance and prohibition, forget Bible-thumping “thou shalt nots.” Think instead about a major industry making outlandish profits by getting people hooked on an addictive substance that could kill them. Maybe that industry uses some of those profits to buy corrupt political cover by currying favor with government and oversight bodies. Let’s call this substance “opioids,” and the industry, “Big Pharma.”
This is the same type of predatory capitalism that the temperance-cum-prohibition movement fought 100 years ago. Should big businesses be able to use addiction to reap tremendous profits from the poor? If your answer is no, and you were around 100 years ago, you likely would have joined the vast majority of Americans calling for the prohibition of liquor traffic.
For another look at a take Chaplain Mike had on Prohibition, read When Christians Won the Culture War.
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MUSIC GOES TO THE DOGS
Spotify has launched playlists for dogs left home alone, after discovering that 74% of UK pet owners play music for their pets. According to Reuters, the streaming music service has also “launched a podcast featuring soothing music, “dog-directed praise”, stories, and messages of affirmation and reassurance narrated by actors to alleviate stress for dogs who are home alone.”
By the way, 4 in 10 owners say their pets have a favorite kind of music, and 25% report their pets dance to it.
In other music news: After reports that Nissan Motor boss Carlos Ghosn was smuggled out Japan by concealing himself in a musical instrument case, Yamaha Corporation tweeted: “We won’t mention the reason, but there have been many tweets about climbing inside large musical instrument cases. A warning after any unfortunate accident would be too late, so we ask everyone not to try it.” So there.
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QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
How do I respond to sexual dreams? (Hey! John Piper has biblical answers!)
Can a Christian smoke marijuana? (Refreshingly, no biblical answers here)
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MY THOUGHTS ON CHEATING IN BASEBALL
Is baseball by nature a cheating enterprise? I don’t think so, but it seems to me that every competitive endeavor provides ample temptation to try and gain advantage over one’s opponent, within or without the rules. And, as in every realm of life, better technology always brings with it new and more devious ways to succumb to that temptation.
And so we’ve come to baseball’s latest cheaters (who got caught) — the Houston Astros. While their cheating comes nowhere close to a Black Sox scandal, a Pete Rose gambling transgression, or a steroids debacle, I’m glad MLB is addressing and punishing it.
I just wish I was young enough to drill a fastball into Alex Bregman’s ribs.
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ON MY WINTER PLAYLIST
Don’t stop trying to find me here amidst the chaos
Though I know it’s blinding, there’s a way out
Say out loud we will not give up on love now
No fear, don’t you turn like Orpheus, just stay here
Hold me in the dark, and when the day appears
We’ll say we did not give up on love today
by Sara Bareilles