Category Archives: Culture

JUST DESSERTS

Sometimes social change arrives slowly.

Slavery was abolished and equal protection enshrined in the Constitution in the 1860s. Yet nearly a century would pass before segregation was outlawed in public facilities, and racial equality would begin to emerge as a fact.

Sometimes social change travels fast. Thirty years ago, 57% of American adults did not approve of sexual relations, let alone marriage, between gays and lesbians. Gallup did not begin to ask respondents about same sex marriage until twenty years ago. Before then, the issue was not considered controversial enough to warrant polling. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act went before Congress. Section 3 of the Act declared: “The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Two thirds of the Democratic senators and representatives voted in favor, along with nearly all Republican members. The Act became law when President Clinton signed it. At the time, Bill Clinton opposed same-sex marriage. So did his wife. So did every notable figure in both major parties.

Wedding

In 2008, when Barack Obama ran for President, he too opposed same-sex marriage, stating: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. He continued to oppose same-sex marriage until 2012. Hillary Clinton continued to oppose it until 2013.

That same year, 2013, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, effectively ending federal bars to same-sex marriage. Two years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that state laws banning same sex marriage were also unconstitutional.  Continue reading

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COMRADE DETECTIVE’S WELCOME PERSPECTIVE

Polls tell us that many Americans, particularly millennials, get their news from television comedy shows, such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. The same probably holds true for their knowledge of history. If that’s the case, then thank the Lord (or, in this case, thank Lenin) for Comrade Detective, the buddy-cop export from the dark side of the Iron Curtain. Though the show is a spoof, it does an astonishingly good job exposing the ideological fissures of the Cold War.

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LOOKING FOR TRUMP IN HENRICAN PLACES

Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 are now playing in Ashland at the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. These plays form half of Shakespeare’s tetralogy, tracing the careers of King Richard II; Henry of Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV; and Prince Harry, later King Henry V.

Ashland being Ashland, the two Henry IV plays boast a number of politically correct flourishes. Hotspur, that model English warrior, has become a woman, Thomas Percy’s daughter. Hotspur’s wife remains a woman; we are expected to believe that medieval England is cool with that. When Prince Harry and Ned Poins rob Falstaff’s gang, they disguise themselves by wearing Reagan and Trump masks because … well, it’s not clear why they are wearing Reagan and Trump masks but it gives the audience a chance to hoot at Reagan and Trump, which is a popular thing to do in a place like Ashland. falstaff-trump

But Shakespeare is a sturdy craft. Load it with all the trendy cargo one can muster and it still remains Shakespeare. It never fails to teach. Even without the PC touches, the Henry IV plays have much to say about our times, including our current President. Continue reading

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SPEECH KILLS: THE LATEST EXCUSE FOR CENSORSHIP

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them,” George Orwell famously said. We can add to that long list of lunacies a theory on freedom of speech and violence articulated by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of “How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain” in last Sunday’s New York Times.

Visiting the troublesome trend on college campuses today to protest, disinvite, and even violently remove controversial speakers, Professor Feldman maintains that the speech-suppressors have a point. Children may believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But Professor Feldman knows better.

…[S]cientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain – even kill neurons – and shorten your life.

free-speech

Speech can shorten your life? How? Professor Feldman explains:

Your body contains little packets of genetic materials that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They’re called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress.

Words that stress you out can rub you out, she maintains. Under her theory, the Middlebury mob that attacked Charles Murray and injured Allison Stanger (causing her a concussion) were not engaged in acts of unlawful violence. They were engaged in legitimate self-defense. Continue reading

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WHO IS WONDER WOMAN?

Wonder Woman continues to awe. Now in its third week of release, the movie has earned more than $500 million worldwide, surpassing superhero rivals The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The Sunshine Soldier.

Despite its title, the movie’s central character is never actually called “Wonder Woman.” She is Princess Diana – or, when traveling incognito in the World of Man, Diana Prince. Whatever her name, who is this mystery woman?  [SPOILER ALERT] Continue reading

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THE TRUMP MAGNET

During the Republican presidential primaries, 16 of the 17 candidates differed and bickered but agreed on one thing. They all agreed that Donald Trump was not a true Republican.  Trump, of course, won the nomination anyway.  And then he won the presidency. And then, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the 16 made their peace with him.

While a few Republican activists and intellectuals, known as “Never-Trumpers,” have steadfastly opposed him, most have supported him or kept silent.

Why? How has a man who has renounced long-held Republican positions on free trade, international relations, American exceptionalism, and a host of other fundamental issues managed to attract the loyalty of those who have long espoused those very positions?

Trump’s magnetic appeal to traditional Republicans can be analyzed the same way any magnets can. Magnets either attract or repel.

MAGNETS

The simplest explanation for Trump’s appeal to traditional Republicans is magnetic repulsion. Republicans are not so much attracted to Trump as they are repelled by his opponents. They are not so much pro-Trump as they are anti-anti-Trump.

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WHY WE ARE NOT THROWING AWAY OUR SHOT: A BRIEF HISTORY AND MODEST DEFENSE OF DUELING

 

The phenomenal success of the rap musical Hamilton has acquainted many theater goers with the custom of dueling.  Three duels take place in the story. To ensure the accuracy of their depiction, Lin-Manuel Miranda consulted Joanne Freeman, whose book Affairs of Honor he deemed “indispensable.” Dueling did not lead to a happy ending for the show’s namesake, or for his son Philip. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be said for the custom. A respectable – and not entirely facetious – argument can be made for its revival.

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