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Promoting Local History: Here’s What People Are Doing

It is difficult to keep up with all that is going on in the history community. There are newsletters and conferences but no one gets the news letters of every individual history organization nor can one attend all the conferences…or even the sessions at a conference. Many of the items in newsletters are standard in nature: a lecture, a new exhibit, an anniversary and, of course, funding requests. What I want to present here are some examples of what people are doing outside the regular routine and which may serve as examples or inspirations for others.

PASSPORT TO HISTORY (OLD COLONY REGION, MA)

One of the newsletters I receive is from Massachusetts Humanities. It has separate notices for each of the regions in the state of all the activities it funds. Many are of the routine nature as I noted above but sometimes there are special activities which stand out. One such notice from last year was a summer program from the July 4 to Labor Day weekends, prime tourist season, called Passport to History.

According to the notice:

The Old Colony History Museum announces the return of a collaborative museum program, Passport to History. Passport to History is a joint effort of eleven local museums, spearheaded by Old Colony History Museum, to share and explore the fantastic and diverse history of southeastern Massachusetts. Visitors will have a chance to explore eleven area museums and learn about the exciting and varied history of the Old Colony region. Take a photo at your favorite spot (or all of them!) and tag us with #PassportToHistory to share a piece of history!

According to the website

All of the museums participating in the program reside within the boundaries of what was known as the Old Colony. The term Old Colony refers to the area of southeastern Massachusetts that was once Plymouth Colony. Plymouth Colony existed as a separate entity until its merger with the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. Then the area became known as “Old Plymouth Colony” until it was finally shortened to “Old Colony.” Home to humans for at least 10,000 years before Europeans settled the area in 1620, the land today encompasses Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable counties. Bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, the Old Colony was richly endowed with well-protected harbors and a river system that made trading, and later industry, profitable.

The year 2018 did not mark the origin of the program, just the first time I became aware of it. I saved that notice for a future blog and the future is now. A new notice has been posted on The Old Colony History Museum website announcing the return of the program for 2019. Now there are 15 participating organizations and the program starts June 1.  Tourists are invited to stop at any of these sites to get their 2019 passport, have it stamped by the sites they visit, and share their experience at #PassportToHistory

Attention all tourist departments

Passport to History was developed by the Old Colony History Museum and funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism. This program is also supported in part by grants from the Berkley, Dighton, and Middleborough Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

Last year the Northeast AAA listed it in its publication.

For additional information go to:

Web: oldcolonyhistorymuseum.org
Email: info@oldcolonyhistorymuseum.org

Doesn’t this seem like something that should be done everywhere? Kudos to the Old Colony History Museum for initiating the program and to the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism for recognizing its value.

Perhaps other tourist departments are doing something similar and would like to share.

SARATOGA COUNTY HISTORY ROUNDTABLE FORMED

This item came to me through the New York History Blog, a daily blog of activities and events throughout New York State. I began writing for this blog and still send a notification to editor John Warren of new blogs for posting.  It is a great way to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the state.

Recently there was a notice about the Ballston Area History Roundtable changing its name to the Saratoga County History Roundtable.

The new name is in recognition of the expansion of the membership, programs, and community history-related projects of the group.

The mission of the organization is to deepen the understanding of local history through presentations, discussion groups and research by history buffs throughout Saratoga County.

The Roundtable in an independent group that functions in close collaboration with the Saratoga County Historical Society and considers Brookside Museum, 6 Charlton Street, Ballston Spa as their home base. Monthly programs are held there or at other locations throughout the county.

Besides just getting together to learn and network, the Roundtable has created two products of value. The first is a website of the programs in the county. It also serves as a vehicle through which presenters share information on their programs for the benefit of anyone interested in their topics. I just signed up.

[Second, t]he Roundtable has also re-launched The Gristmill – Saratoga County History Journal, originally published by Brookside Museum from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. The Journal is published quarterly and is available both online at the SCHR website and at local libraries, museums and community venues.

I wonder how many other such journals exists at a local, county, or regional level.

For more information, go to:

Web: saratogacountyhistoryroundtable.com
Email: SCHR Coordinator, Jim Richmond, SaratogaCoHistoryRoundtable@gmail.com

FUNDING HISTORY INTERNS

This notice came from Professor Michael Oberg, SUNY Geneseo. I wrote about him previously in Creating History Education Partnerships: Three Case Studies (March 21, 2019) due to a local history conference he had convened. One of the items for discussion at the conference was internships for college students with the local historians to incorporate local history into their education.  In April, he sent out a notice that he had recruited five interns for the summer program.

Earlier this month he sent out another notice on his latest quest: funding.

I am completing a grant application. If successful, the grant will provide funding for 14 internships over the course of the fall and spring of next semester.  Under the terms of the grant, I would like these interns to work with one of you [history organizations] on a project in local history.

I hope to publish the fruits of this research on the Geneseo Center for Local and Municipal History Webpage, which is still in the planning stages, and on the webpage of your organization.

I would like these internships to result in an original research project on an aspect of local history that you find compelling. I will place the highest value on opportunities where our students will work with you on research projects that tell stories that have not been told before, that add new elements to our local history, and result in the preservation of stories that might otherwise be lost.  This is a deliberately expansive description.  I want our students to work with you on original and innovative projects. Because the work would be done during the fall semester of 2019 or the spring of 2020, I need to know your availability.  You also need to be within reasonable driving distance of Geneseo, as most of our students live on or very nearby the campus.

For addition information on promoting local history at the college level, go to:

Michael Oberg
Distinguished Professor
Department of History
State University of New York, College at Geneseo
Geneseo, NY, 14454
oberg@geneseo.edu
www.MichaelLeroyOberg.com
(585) 245-5730

Imagine if more colleges did this. Maybe there are some that already are doing things to promote local and state history. It would be nice to hear from them.

Michael added a note with which I sympathize. He said only 52% of his missives are being opened. I would love to have 52% of the people on this list OPEN AND READ my posts…as well as having more people receive them in the first place. Increasing the distribution would be nice too!

Republican Party versus the Trumpican Party: The 2020 Elections

"Thank you Istanbul": A victory poster shows Mr Erdogan (R) and mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim (BBC.com)

When did you first know that Individual #1 would not honor the 2020 election results if he lost?

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WINS POPULAR VOTE

Technically, that headline is not really a news item. In the baby-boomer era of the American presidency, the Democratic candidate routinely wins the popular vote. The lone exception is the post-9/11 election in 2004. Otherwise the Democratic victory in this facet of the electoral process can almost be taken for granted. Obviously winning the popular vote is not enough to win the presidency.

Nonetheless, the Democratic popular vote victory in 2016 while expected also should generate questions. Consider two commonly asserted claims that combined should have undermined the Democratic popular vote margin:

1. The turnout of black voters in support of the Democratic candidate declined from 2012
2. White Obama voters switched parties especially non-college educated ones.

One might think therefore the chances of a Democratic candidate prevailing in the popular vote would be correspondingly reduced. So if the margin was still nearly 3 million votes, then imagine what it would have been if Democrats had been able to retain these 2012 voters in 2016.

But there is a piece missing. It is not one that has garnered a lot of attention. It is not one that I recall hearing on the talk shows or reading about on blogs or in newspapers or magazines. I am not saying it has not been discussed, only that it seems to have done so minimally at best.

To begin with, although Trump is president whereas Mitt Romney lost in 2012, look at the vote totals.  Trump actually received a slightly smaller share of the vote than Romney did — 45.95 percent for Trump versus 47.15 percent for Romney.

Let’s look at Wisconsin as an example to determine what was going on. This is the state that one candidate famously never visited while it is alleged the Russian violation of the United States may have made a difference. The vote totals tell a more complete story.

In 2012 the Democratic candidate received 1,620,985 votes. In 2016 that number declined substantially to 1,382,536. One might think a 238,000 drop would result in big gain for the other side. Think again.

In 2012 the losing Republican candidate received 1,407,966 votes while in 2016 the winning candidate received 1,405,284, also a decline but of only 2700. However this roughly comparable total to 2012 was enough to win the state in 2016 due to the precipitous Democratic drop-off.

As it turns out, there is more to the story than the presidential election alone. In the Senate election, the Republican candidate won with over 50% and over 3% margin compared to the miniscule presidential margin of .7%. This winning candidate had 1,479,471 votes, over 74,000 more than the presidential tally. That means 74,000 people went to the polls voted for the Republican senatorial candidate but did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate. By contrast the Democratic presidential candidate had about 2000 more votes than the Democratic senate candidate.  When the Democrats went to the polls they voted for both the Democratic presidential and senate candidates; when Republicans went to the polls they did not. Where did the missing Republican presidential votes go?

The issue of the missing Republican voters was addressed in an article entitled “Trump Is Driving Out Precious Voters” (NYT 2/17/19 printed edition). The authors are:

Sean McElwee, Data for Progress
Brian F. Schaffer, Tufts University, political scientist
Jesse H. Rhodes, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, political scientist
Bernard L. Fraga, Indiana University, political scientist.

The article opens with the well-known commonly accepted truths noted above: the Democratic problem with the Obama-to-Trump voters and the loss of popular vote by the Republicans in six of the last seven elections.  The authors then state a caution:

It has flown under the radar a bit [EXACTLY!!!], masked perhaps by the switch of millions of Barack Obama voters into Mr. Trump’s column, but in 2016 Mr. Trump did not receive support from a large segment of voters who pulled the lever for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In fact, the Wisconsin example reported above shows even people who went to the polls and voted for a Republican senator did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate.

The authors suggest based on their data that 5 percent of the Romney vote in 2012 stayed home in 2016. Another 5 percent voted Democratic. They provide no figures for people who voted Republican for some offices but abstained from voting for a presidential candidate. The implication of the numbers the authors provided is the 10% drop-off in Republican voters from 2012 to 2016 was compensated for by the better-known Obama-to-Trump shift by uneducated whites.

Are these shifts temporary or do they reflect the beginning of a permanent realignment. The congressional elections of 2018 witnessed a nearly 9% difference between the total house vote of the two parties. That is a huge amount if extended to the presidential election in 2020. According to the analysis, the authors hypothesize that based on the 2016 and 2018 elections, the Republican Party may have lost more than 40% of the Romney voters born after 1976. Ironically given the front runner status of Joe Biden and the continuing popularity of Bernie Sanders, it is the Republican Party that increasingly becoming the party of old white males!

The authors then ask: “Can Republicans solve their demographic problem?”

They express some doubt. They do so by comparing the political positions of the lost Romney voters with the 2016 and 2018 voters and detect a gap that probably cannot be bridged. Such people might still vote for Republicans at the local level as indicated in the Wisconsin Senate vote but even that becomes problematic when at the federal level all, or almost all, Republicans have abandoned being Republican.

Which of the following actions since the 2018 elections seem likely to win back the missing Republican voters in 2020?

Trump’s shut down of the government.
Trump’s obstruction of justice at least 10 times according to the Mueller report.
Trump’s nullification of checks and balances and assertion of rule above the law.
Trump’s exposure as the biggest financial loser in American history.
Trump’s North Korean lover building more bombs and firing more missiles.
Trump’s claim that winning trade wars is easy is exposed as fraudulent.
Trump’s thriving in insulting and demeaning people.
Trump’s laughter at the “joke” of shooting illegal immigrants.

The Panhandle has replaced Peoria. The old claim of as goes Peoria so goes nation has become as goes Panhandle so goes just enough of the nation to win in the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. In 2000 and 2016, it was not the intention of the Electoral College winners to lose the popular vote. In fact, in 2016 the winning candidate was just in it for narcissistic marketing reasons and did not expect to win at all. The circumstances have changed. Now for the first time in American history, a candidate in a two-major-party election is not even seeking to win a majority of the popular vote or even a plurality. Instead the focus is on the Electoral College. Individual #1 has no interest in winning back the lost Republican voters. That’s because at the federal level, there is no Republican Party, just the Trumpicans.

 

When Did You First Know Individual #1 Would Reject the 2020 Results If He Lost?

Will Robert Mueller Be Our John HancocK? (Image via Everett Historical / Shutterstock)

Eight months ago on September 7, 2018, I posted:

Suppose the very stable genius is wrong about the red wave. Suppose the Democrats win control of the House. Suppose the Democrats act on that basis and investigate all the items on the Republican hit list of potential problems where they are at risk. Will the President honor the election results? If a blue wave puts Democrats in charge will the President of the United States honor the results or will he demand a full investigation into the rigged results?

Suppose the very stable genius is wrong about 2020 (assuming he is still in office and chooses to run again)? Will the President honor the election results? Will the President leave the White House voluntarily? Will he demand a full investigation into the rigged results? Will he remain in the White House until the investigation by his Attorney General (not a stupid Southerner) is completed?

The big change since that prediction has been the replacement of the Attorney General with His Roy Cohn (HRC). With HRC in position, the chances of an aggressive assault on the rule of law increased substantially (Rule of Law: George Washington, Nimrod, and Today).

Then on March 17, 2019, I posted the following after the testimony of Michael Cohen (with a change to “Individual #1):

INDIVIDUAL #1 WON’T LEAVE THE WHITE HOUSE VOLUNTARILY

Back on September 7, 2018, I wrote [see above]

Those of you who read this blog, may I have thought I was off my rocker. I am pleased to note that five months later the Fixer, who well knows the personality of Individual #1 and what he is capable of, raised the exact same concerns in his Congressional testimony. There was not the chance to resolve this issue in the 2018 elections since the Democratic tidal wave was so huge. Even for someone living in an alternate reality there are limits as to how many Congressional districts can be contested. The situation is quite different at the presidential level.

Suppose in 2020, the Democratic candidate wins by the same small margin as the 306 electoral vote landslide in 2016? How many states would need to be contested to switch the national results? At this point it is impossible to know. Indeed we may never know if the margin is comparable to the Congressional vote in 2018. An almost 9% spread is difficult to finesse to an Electoral College victory.

There may be a preview of the 2020 crisis with his tax returns. Individual #1 will not voluntarily release his tax returns. It does not matter how the Democrats submit their requisition, he will not honor it. If his court rules in his favor, then the issue ends there. If the Supreme Court also has a traitor and the ruling is against Individual #1 he will not honor it. Instead he will claim Executive Privilege and that the Court has no authority over him. What will the Supreme Court do then? Or to update Andrew Jackson: “John Roberts has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

Now we have the May 4, 2019, interview of Nancy Pelosi with the New York Times. It’s déjà vue September 7, 2018, all over again.

Let’s begin with the Congressional election. Pelosi’s concerns mirror what I had written.

Few people outside Ms. Pelosi’s inner circle were aware of how worried she was that Mr. Trump would try to stop the opposition party from taking control of the House unless the Democrats’ victory was emphatic enough to be indisputable.

It is mind-boggling that everyone in the Democratic Party and all their talking-head spokespeople could not figure this out for themselves. This failure to recognize what should have been taken for granted exposes that the Democrats still did not understand their adversary.

“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election. He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat those people.”

Exactly. If you do not understand this then you do not understand Individual #1. This realization should have been a no-brainer.

The same issues apply to the 2020 elections.

In recent weeks, Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.

She said the victory in 2020 needed to be by a margin so “big” that it cannot reasonably be challenged.

“We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” as she discussed her concern that Mr. Trump would not give up power voluntarily if he lost re-election by a slim margin.

As it turns out, even with the 9% spread in the 2018 Congressional elections, the margin is quite thin. If those Congressional votes had been presidential votes then the Electoral College results would have been 329-206. Those numbers are deceiving. While Democrats won the House vote in Florida, they lost the state votes for Governor and Senator. That shift leaves an electoral vote even less than the landslide vote in 2016. It is reasonable then to anticipate the possibility of legal challenges in Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and any other states the Democrats manage to flip including those with Republican governors in control.

Pelosi may only be thinking of the legal challenge. With HRC going full-speed to deny the validity of any such election results, we should recognize that the danger is far more than legal. Certainly HRC will drag out the challenges well beyond what happened in 2000. We can see now in Venezuela what can happen when there are two claimants to the presidency. In Venezuela, the military stands with the loser who rigged the game against democracy. In America, the military should not be expected to act on American soil against Americans. That still leaves open who will physically remove him from the White House, take back the nuclear codes, and prevent him from doing something really dangerous during the interim.

I also wrote on March 17,

Will Individual #1 unleash his muscle in his militias, military, police, and Second Amendment people to protect him from the greatest threat to the United States ever?

How long would it take the Supreme Court to adjudicate all the legal claims filed?

If his Supreme Court betrayed him, would Individual #1 honor its ruling?

Who would actually extract Individual # from the White House?

At that time, I thought his income taxes would be the moment of truth. In anticipation of the refusal to turn them over, I expected the legal battle to reveal whether or not the rule of law prevailed in the nation’s capital or not. Now it seems we may have a quicker example. Will Individual #1 order HRC to refuse to let Mueller testify? We may know the answer fairly soon. If Mueller is ordered not to testify what will he do? We may know that answer fairly soon as well. If Mueller disobeys a direct order from HRC will there be additional civil disobedience?

So exactly how will America celebrate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution? What will the legacy of our birth be in the present? Who will favor the Patriots? Who will favor the Loyalists? After all, there were mighty fine people on both sides. Will We the People have the experience of directly participating in the revolt against King George III by having one of our own starting May 15 with Robert Mueller in the role of John Hancock? What will happen in 2020? Who knows for sure? But as Pelosi said we have to be prepared.

Community Outreach: Lessons from the Organization of American History (OAH) Conference

Fake History (Mother Goose and Grim)

This blog represents another in a series reporting on the sessions at history-related conferences. Sometimes I am able to attend such conferences, sometimes I am not. The OAH is one I did not attend. Unfortunately the online program does not include abstracts as the National Council on Public History (see conference report). It would be nice if all conference abstracts were posted online.

The first blog on the OAH conference addressed content sessions. The second blog below encompasses outreach and education by history organizations. Once again, these sessions provide an example of what is being discussed and may offer suggestions for sessions at local, state, and regional conferences.

Many of these content sessions are on early American history. That may be a reflection of my own personal interests. If you are interested in reviewing all the sessions at the conference go to
https://www.oah.org/meetings-events/oah19/

WHAT CAN COLLEGES DO?

Here is a session that should be possible at any statewide or regional history conference. After all, where aren’t there two and four-year colleges? Note the mention of engaging the local community in the description. One item not mentioned but critical to the success of these endeavors is the state curriculum: are local and state history an integral part of the school curriculum or an option at the discretion of the individual teacher? If the former is true, then that would necessitate changes to teacher certification programs and therefore to the classes offered at colleges. If the latter is true then the odds are we have the current situation where teachers have to go outside the norm to bring local and state history into the classroom or to be able to visit the related sites outside the classroom.

Outside Support: Creating and Maintaining Community Outreach and Engagement Endorsed by the Western History Association

This roundtable discussion examines how both two and four-year institutions of higher learning embraced their local communities through program partnerships, shared course objectives, and assignment of specific programming. The participants recognized the importance of including their local communities in history education and provide practical hands-on learning experiences for their students. The discussion’s goal is to share their insight into the ways each of them have incorporated local communities into their student learning objectives, as well as learning from audience members their own best practices and community involvement experiences.

Chair and Panelist: Marc Dluger, Northern Virginia Community College
Panelists:

Katherine Macica, Loyola University Chicago
Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana
Adam Shprintzen, Marywood University
Kacey Young, Northern Virginia Community College

WHAT CAN SCHOLARS DO?

This session addresses the issue of the risks involved when scholars and the public interact at history sites and museums. One of the presenters was Marla Miller, the president of the NCPH. She was one of the co-authors of the NPS-commissioned study on “Imperiled Promise” which documented the shortcomings in current NPS practices in history. That report was the subject of a series of blogs here. In the current political atmosphere, the odds on the NPS implementing any of the recommendations are non-existent. My impression from the brief description of this session is that great care needs to be taken when engaging the local community in a discussion that risks changing the accepted narrative.

Collaborations and Contestations: At Intersections of Early American and Public History
Solicited by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)

This roundtable explores the importance of various forms and sites of public history to scholarship on early North America, and vice versa, particularly around the theme of inclusivity. Marla Miller explores what museums and historic sites are doing to operate with a more inclusive lens, while Tiya Miles reflects on the collaborative research process that shaped her recent book, and the community conversations following its publication. Barbara Clark Smith considers the potential downsides of public practice, pondering contemporary misrepresentations of the past by groups not structurally marginalized. And Brian Murphy weighs the impulse to trace through-lines and illuminate current conditions against the imperative to explore the past on its own terms.

Chair: Serena Zabin, Carleton College
Panelists:

Barbara Clark Smith, National Museum of American History
Tiya Miles, University of Michigan
Marla Miller, UMass Amherst
Brian Murphy, Baruch College, City University of New York

CULTURAL VALUES AND HISTORY MUSEUMS

These sessions relate to current issues in the presentation of history to the public. Given the cultural wars, what should history museums do when they are connected to events and people who are the source of contention in the world today? One such topic in this quadricentennial year of slavery in what became the United States is freedom. It did not apply to everyone here.

Fluidity in Freedom: African Americans in Colonial and Revolutionary America
No pre-registration required

A crucial feature of the American character—the notion of freedom—is so entrenched in the cultural and national consciousness that the evolution of this notion is often taken for granted. Students of history miss a foundational understanding of the American value of freedom when they are unaware of how it has been transformed, defined and expanded by agents of history. Join education staff from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to investigate the fluidity of freedom in the colonial and revolutionary periods through the material culture and legal history of people of African descent who utilized the courts to claim the freedom they believed was due to them. Using the stories of individuals such as Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), Quock Walker and Rachel Findlay, we will explore the arguments for universal freedom, the development of race as a factor in freedom and the role of the legal system in expanding the concept of freedom. Designed for educators of grades 3–12, this workshop will enhance content knowledge, provide resources for the classroom and open a discussion about the nature of freedom and race in the fledgling United States.

Chair and Presenter: Candra Flanagan, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.

Another sensitive subject is religion. The following session does not address the issue of religion in general but in specific case studies. In this regard, it would be beneficial to have an abstract from Randall Miller as his presentation on religion at national sites also would apply to state and local sites and museums.

 “Faith in Public”: Interpreting Religion at American History Museums and Historic Sites

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH), and the Western History Association

Chair: Laura Chmielewski, State University of New York at Purchase
Commentator: Edward Linenthal, Indiana University

Overcoming Barriers to Interpreting Religion Barbara Franco, Independent scholar

Interpreting “America’s Pastor”: Evangelicalism, Public Commemoration, and the Many Meanings of Billy Graham Devin Manzullo-Thomas, Messiah College

The Gods Are Not All around Us: Finding Religion at National Public History Sites and Museums Randall Miller, Saint Joseph’s University

TRAINING HISTORY STAFF IN HISTORY

One of the critical points in the Imperiled Promises study previously mentioned was the training or lack thereof for the history staff at the NPS. In my blogs, I always noted that the same considerations also applied to state people at state historic sites. A simple example is attendance – are these people even able to attend history conferences in their own state or region? This session focuses on the training of government historians as historians. People are most familiar with the government staff who directly meets with the public, that is, gives the tours. What about the people behind the scenes who prepare the material on which the tours and exhibits are based? What training do they receive? How do they stay current with the history field? Are there even historians on staff in state organizations?

HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT HISTORY STAFF
NPS 101: Historical Research and Writing for the National Park Service
Solicited by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration

Historians from the National Park Service and historians with experience preparing studies for NPS will introduce the major types of NPS historical studies and explore how these documents are both similar to, and different from, each other and from historical monographs and articles intended for scholarly journals. Panelists will discuss project planning, methodologies, audience, expectations, the review process, and the characteristics of a strong and useful study. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the cooperative agreement between the OAH and NPS, this session will illuminate the challenges and rewards of collaborations between historians within and outside the National Park Service to produce studies that contribute to the preservation and interpretation of historic buildings and landscapes.

Chair: Susan Ferentinos, Independent historian
Panelists:

Evelyn Causey, Independent historian
Douglas Sheflin, Colorado State University
Ron Cockrell, National Park Service, Midwest Regional Office
Bethany Serafine, National Park Service, Northeast Region

THE 250TH BIRTHDAY OF AN EXPERIMENT

The founders of this country regarded it as an experiment. They knew what had happened to the Greek city–states and to the Roman Republic. They were aware of the great size of the proposed United States America: it dwarfed any previous such attempt at a republic. They also were aware of the great diversity of peoples who comprised the country, a diversity of a magnitude far beyond that of the ancient city-state republics. What is easy to forget is that they genuinely did not know if the experiment would work. For John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of their handiwork, the continued existence of the United States was miracle enough. Imagine how they would have felt if they knew the country could reach its 250th birthday still intact. At this moment efforts are underway to begin to prepare for the 250th anniversary. We already had and are having events from the 1760s that reached 250 years. In 2020, additional events will come of that age. The 250th provides an opportunity for the United States to become a country of We the People where all its citizens remember and celebrate the birth of their country. Will that happen?

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 250TH
Museum of the American Revolution
The American Revolution: Getting the Best New Scholarship to the Public and Guided Tour Solicited by the OAH Committee on Teaching

The past decade has seen a flourishing of historical scholarship related to the era of the American Revolution. This panel examines how to share this new scholarship with the public through museums and high school classrooms. The participants—professors, museum professionals, and teachers—will discuss the challenges and opportunities of incorporating cutting-edge scholarship. The panel will take place at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and will incorporate a tour of the museum which will enhance the conversation. Advance registration and a fee are required for the tour and session.

Chair: Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University–Camden Panelists:

Zara Anishanslin, University of Delaware
Kathleen DuVal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Philip Mead, Museum of the American Revolution
Thomas McGuire, Teacher, Malvern Prepatory School
Jessica Roney, Temple University

This concludes the review of the recent NCPH and OAH conferences. Again, it would be useful if conferences would include the abstracts of the presentations on the conference website. It would also be useful if there could conference reports on sessions of interest. I refer here not simply to the hot-button topics but to the sessions related to k-12 education, history museums, and history training that are important to the people who teach in our schools and colleges and who work at our museums be they privately owned or public. Perhaps some of these conference sessions can be replicated at the state and/or regional level.

Rule of Law: George Washington, Nimrod, the Tower of Babel and Today

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (http://www.booktryst.com)

On April 10, 2019, Politico posted an article entitled “Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon.” The article recounted a visit on April 23, 2018, by the French and American Presidents to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

According to Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, the tour guide for the Presidents, the Macrons were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the American President. France, of course, contributed to America’s victory in the American Revolution with the assistance of Marquis de Lafayette and Count Rochambeau, the first but not the last time foreign intervention helped elect an American President.

By contrast, the American President is renowned for not reading a book and being historically ignorant (Canada burned the White House, the Baltic States were responsible for the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and 306 electoral votes is a landslide). It was easy for the trained guide to rapidly discern that the American President was completely bored. Drawing on his experience with school visitors who similarly had no interest in the Father of the Country, Bradburn attempted to engage the person before him. As reported by Politico, the former history professor with a Ph.D, “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house. So he drew on his bag of tricks and informed the uninformed President that Washington had been a real-estate developer.

That approach did the trick. Now the guide had the President’s attention. Not only was Washington a real-estate developer, but for his times, he was one of the richest people in the United States. In today’s terms, he could be compared to Gates, Buffet, and Bezos and not to a comparative pauper like the President. (No, Bradburn did not say that!)  Again according to Politico, “That is what Trump was really the most excited about” said a source.

At that point, our narcissistic President responded to the news in the way that defines him as a person

[H]e couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself. “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”

In other words, unless you make your name great, you are not great and will be forgotten.

The concept of making your name great is familiar to biblical students referring to another book he has not read.

Genesis 12:1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

In the biblical tradition, a person does not make his name great, the Lord does.

It should be noted that in ancient times the people who made their name great were kings. Lost in translation is the recognition that the way one made one’s name great in ancient times was by the king building something. To the deep regret of biblical archaeologists, ancient Israel did not partake of this royal tradition of kings building things with their name on it.

By contrast, Ramses II, the traditional Pharaoh of the Exodus of Passover fame, did make his name great. He built extensively. And when he had not built it, he still carved his name into it. It would be a little like our having the Trumpire State Building or Mount Vertrump. And Ramses did achieve lasting fame. By having approximately 100 children, a condom was named after him so his name is remembered all the time.

Mesopotamian kings followed a generally similarly path. Kings built stairways to heaven (ziggurats) at the cosmic center (the capital) where they ruled the universe from sea to shining sea (the Upper Sea or Mediterranean to the Lower Sea or Persian/Arab Gulf; there maps are oriented at a 90 degree rotation from ours). The baked bricks used in these constructions bore the name of the king.

Nimrod is the first king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. He is the first king mentioned before Abraham encounters various kings. To understand what he is doing there one must put aside what the name means colloquially today and in rabbinic tradition and focus on the biblical text itself. In the original version of the story:

Genesis 10:8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, and Calneh [Calah] in the land of Shinar.

These verses are descriptive, not accusatory. Nimrod is to be praised for his achievements not condemned. Indeed, he is a figure to be emulated given his success as mighty man or warrior before the Lord. He was the ruler of the Mesopotamian universe.

As biblical archaeologists and Assyriologists eventually learned, Nimrod was not an individual but an exemplar. He was not Sumerian Gilgamesh of Uruk (Erech) as had been originally thought. He was not Akkadian Sargon the Great of Accad, he was not Amorite Hammurabi of Babylon, and he was not Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta of Calah to name other candidates. Instead he was all of them; he represented that Mesopotamian way of life.

To understand the Nimrod story, it is necessary, I think, to connect this story of the four cities with the inserts of the four rivers in the garden (Gen, 2) and the four kings of the east (Gen.14). A single author supplemented an existing narrative with these episodes. This author thought globally as he also did in transforming local flood songs (Songs of Miriam and Deborah) into a global one. That action undermined the Egyptian-based perspective of the Exodus story and the Canaanites who became Israelites. Having Nimrod be a Yahweh-worshipper long before Moses at the burning bush also undermined the position of Moses and therefore of his priesthood.

I suggest that the author the Nimrod story and these supplements was a Benjaminite/Yaminite Aaronid priest. He wrote not as a scribe or priest but as a player in the political arena. He ended the first cycle of stories (aka the primeval cycle) with Nimrod and a table of nations leading to Abram leaving Ur to start the second cycle. The torch had been passed to a new location. The temple in Jerusalem was now the cosmic center. The Israelite king in Jerusalem was advised to rule like a Mesopotamian king at the new cosmic center. He was to make his name great as Solomon did in building the temple.

So at least claimed one political party in ancient Israel. However, there was another political party, the Levites or Mushites who claimed the law came first. They objected to the claim that Yahweh had sanctioned the royal way of life in Mesopotamia as the Nimrod author had written. Yahweh had first appeared at Sinai to Moses and the law was revealed there. They mocked the Mesopotamian way of life by writing the Tower of Babel story. Look at those mighty stairways to heaven! They all were built for naught. All those mighty and grandiose empires crumbled into dust, lost to history until recovered by archaeologists. It was the law which endured and ruled even when kings and temples were no more.

Exodus 1817 Moses’ father-in-law said to him…19”Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; 20 and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

The Babel author highlighted the folly of the Nimrod story ambitions. This author was anti-Aaronid (golden calf story) and anti-monarchy (the Jethro constitution).

Jethro and Nimrod offer two different models of political organization: the rule of law and the king who makes his name great. Two political parties offered two different versions of how society should be organized: one based on the rule by a king and one based on the rule of law. The result was an original narrative now separated into two narratives with different endings to the first cycle of stories. Nimrod and Babel are inconsistent because they originally part of two different narratives based on a common core. Only when they were combined centuries later were the inconsistencies juxtaposed. Imagine having to combine Confederate and Union descriptions of Lincoln and Lee in a single narrative! Again, that was a political process and not a scribal one.

For the first centuries of Israel’s existence, it had had no king. Therefore no one was in a position to abuse power. Only when Israel had a king could someone be a law unto himself. We will never know if ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia debated the powers of a king when he first ascended to the throne in Egypt and descended to the throne in Mesopotamia. But we do know the debates ancient Israel had on the powers of the king. It decided there should be checks and balances on the power of the king. No one was above the law. Even David could be called to task: “Thou art the man.” And when he was confronted he repented.

The best time for the initial battle over whether Jerusalem had replaced Mesopotamia as the cosmic center occurred when Israel could if it were so inclined think of itself it such grandiose terms. This happened when Egypt and Mesopotamia were weak (and Pharaoh’s daughter was an Israelite queen). It happened before the time of Sheshonq and Assurnasirpal II.

This approach is based on the stories originating in a political context as Levites, Aaronids, and Jebusites battled for power. Even stories set elsewhere were always about internal politics. Obviously this scenario is speculative and cannot be proven but it does illustrate how a political approach can produce a different historical reconstruction.

This ancient Israelite dialog on the rule of law and the rule by the king continues on in the United States. In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense:

…that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.

Once again as in ancient Israel and during the American Revolution, the issue of the rule of law versus the rule by king is being played out. Will the United States be governed by the Constitution or a Nimrod?

 

For more on the stories of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel see my book Jerusalem Throne Games: The Battle of Bible Stories after the Death of David.

What’s New at the Organization of American Historians (OAH)

The Organization of American Historians (OAH) held its annual conference earlier this month. The OAH was founded in 1907and is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history. It represents more than 7,800 historians working in the U.S. and abroad. Its members include college and university professors, precollegiate teachers, archivists, museum curators, public historians, students, and a variety of scholars employed in government and the private sector. Its mission is to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and to encourage wide discussion of historical questions and the equitable treatment of all practitioners of history.

This blog represents another in a series reporting on the sessions at history-related conferences. Sometimes I am able to attend such conferences, sometimes I am not. This one I did not attend. Unfortunately the online program does not include abstracts as the National Council on Public History (see conference report). It would be nice if all conference abstracts were posted online.

This conference report will be divided into two parts. The first, below, covers content sessions. The second encompasses outreach and education by history organizations. Once again, these sessions provide an example of what is being discussed and may offer suggestions for sessions at local, state, and regional conferences.

Many of these content sessions are on early American history. That may be a reflection of my own personal interests. If you are interested in reviewing all the sessions at the conference go to
https://www.oah.org/meetings-events/oah19/

I start with some general discussion sessions such as on a new book or about a big theme. These sessions are better served by a YouTube video than an abstract for people who were not present. Nonetheless, they reveal the types of discussions the historians are having.

Considering Synthesis and Narrative: Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of
the United States Solicited by the Society for Historians of the Early Republic (SHEAR)

Jill Lepore’s These Truths is the first major narrative history of the United States to be published in recent years. It is also the first of its kind authored by a woman and by a person of Lepore’s generation. Lepore has written extensively on the problems of narrative and interpretation facing U.S. historians, and she has also written successfully for a very broad audience in both her books and in essays for the New Yorker. This session brings together scholars with very different specialties and interests to reflect on Lepore’s approach and her achievement.

Chair: David Waldstreicher, City University of New York
Commentator and Panelist: Jill Lepore, Harvard University
Panelists:

Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School
David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
Malinda Lowery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jeff Pasley, University of Missouri
Claire Potter, The New School

Rethinking Early America: New Perspectives and Enduring Questions
Solicited by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

The recent publication of John Murrin’s Rethinking America: From Empire to Republic (Oxford, 2018), which brings together essays written over four decades, affords an opportunity to take stock of some of the central categories that structure our understanding of vast early America: empire, the Atlantic world, politics, and Anglicization. Participants will offer a series of brief paired remarks (Fred Anderson and Elizabeth Ellis on empire; Alison Games and Max Mishler on the Atlantic world; Caitlin Fitz and Daniel Richter on politics; Andrew Shankman and Kariann Yokota on Anglicization) to highlight the multiple perspectives on key categories.

Chair and Commentator: Jane Kamensky, Harvard University
Panelists:

Fred Anderson, University of Colorado Boulder
Elizabeth Ellis, New York University
Caitlin Fitz, Northwestern University
Alison Games, Georgetown University
Max Mishler, University of Toronto
Daniel Richter, University of Pennsylvania
Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University–Camden
Kariann Yokota, University of Colorado, Denver

State of the Field: Early America in Broad Perspective

Each scholar in this session, focusing on a different region and, to some degree, topic within the history of early North America, ponders the relationship of a wide geographical frame and its capacity to illuminate structures and systems to methodological challenges. From ethical approaches to the far-reaching archives of slavery and ongoing concern with generating a textured social history of enslaved people, to the ways analyses of culture, gender, and region fit within global interpretations of colonialism and the continuing struggle to integrate the northern regions of New Spain into early America, the panel evaluates the balance between early America and the intimate histories of colonial places and processes.

Panelists:

Marisa Fuentes, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Susanah Romney, New York University
Brett Rushforth, University of Oregon
Steven Hackel, University of California, Riverside

This next session is the type of session I enjoy. It address how we remember people and events in history and how those memories help construct and define our identities as Americans. This is a session where it would be very useful to have the abstracts to get some idea of what each presenter said.

Taking Liberties: Memory, Myth, and Identity in Early America
Endorsed by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH), the Western History Association, and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)

Chair: Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University
Commentator: Michael Hattem, New York Historical Society
 
“Tortured for no other crime than their knowledge”: Public Memory of Puritan Persecution in New England Congregationalist Political Culture during the Imperial Crisis J. Patrick Mullins, History Department, Marquette University
Contested Memory: Fashioning History in Early America Amanda Rumba, Purdue University / Ivy Tech Community College
Obnoxious and Disliked: How John Adams Constructed His Own Historical Narrative
Marianne Holdzkom, Kennesaw State University
Clamoring for a National Eschatology: Cultivating Visions of the Future Surrounding the War of 1812 Eran Zelnik, California State University, Chico

These next two sessions cover two sacred settings in American history – the Civil War and baseball stadiums. In both cases it would be useful to have the abstracts of the presentations. The baseball session is the type of session where people relax and have some fun; the Civil War session likely was more serious in tone.

Holy Grounds: Religion and the Meaning of the American Founding in the Civil War Era
Solicited by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH)

Chair and Commentator: Emily Conroy-Krutz, Michigan State University
 
Higher Principles, Common Law, and the Constitution: Transcendentalism’s Evolving Democratic Theory Benjamin Park, Sam Houston State University
The Foreign Roots of American Spiritual Exceptionalism Joel Iliff, Baylor University
“That Thy way may be known upon earth”: Appropriating Covenant Theology for a Confederate Republic Pearl Young, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stadium Wars: Sports Venue Construction, Urban Politics, and Social Change in the 1960s
and 1970s

Chair and Commentator: Bruce Kuklick, University of Pennsylvania
 
Does Downtown Matter? Dodger Stadium and the Battle for Modern Los Angeles
Jerald Podair, Lawrence University
The Astrodome and the Promise of an Integrated Houston Seth S. Tannenbaum, Temple University
Building Stadiums to Become Big League in Kansas City and Oakland
Matthew Ehrlich, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The final session here was based on the commercial movie The Green Book but as a documentary on the conditions at the time the Green Book was published. The Green Book was included in two previous blogs:  Negroes and the American Dream: Hidden Figures, Open Dreams (3/11/18) and Fifty Years an African-American: Is It Time for a Change? (4/3/18).

FILM SCREENING
The Challenges of Driving While Black: The Green Book and Other Coping Mechanisms

The panel will include a new National Endowment for the Humanities–funded film on the Green Book Travel Guide for African American drivers in the 1940s and 1950s. They hope the film will be a catalyst for discussions about race and law enforcement, since the idea of driving, vacationing, and taking to the road generally seem to resonate with a wide spectrum of Americans—not just with people of color. The panel will expand the discussion beyond the green book to other challenges facing African American travelers in the twentieth century and more recently.

Commentators and Panelists: Craig Wilder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Thomas Sugrue, New York University
Panelists:

Gretchen Sorin, Cooperstown Graduate Program
Ric Burns, Steeplechase Films, Inc.

In a conference the size of the OAH, any selection will inevitably reflect the interests of the one selecting. These sessions alone are not sufficient in number or time to justify the expense and travel to attend a conference in a distant location. In the second conference blog, I will turn to a different type of presentation that speaks more to the history organizations than to the history scholar.

Rule of Law: George Washington, Nimrod, and Today

On April 10, 2019, Politico posted an article entitled “Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon.” The article recounted a visit on April 23, 2018, by the French and American Presidents to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

According to Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, the tour guide for the Presidents, the Macrons were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the American President. France, of course, contributed to America’s victory with Marquis de Lafayette and Count Rochambeau, the first but not the last time foreign intervention helped elect an American President.

By contrast, our President is renowned for being incapable of reading of book and being historically ignorant (unless he saw a movie). It was easy for the trained guide to rapidly discern that the American President was completely bored. Drawing on his experience with 7th graders who similarly had no interest in the Father of the Country, Bradburn attempted to engage the person before him. As reported by Politico, a former history professor with a PhD, Bradburn “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house. So he draw on his bag of tricks and informed the uninformed President that Washington had been a real-estate developer.

That approach did the trick. Now the guide had the President’s attention. Not only was Washington a real-estate developer, but for his times, he was one of the richest people in the United States. In today’s terms, he could be compared to Gates, Buffet, and Bezos and not to a comparative pauper like the fake billionaire President. (No, Bradburn did not say that! At least not the last part.)  Again according to Politico, “That is what Trump was really the most excited about” said a source.

At that point, our narcissistic President responded to the news in the way that defines him as a person

[H]e couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself. “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”

In other words, unless you make your name great, you are not great and will be forgotten.

The concept of making your name great is familiar to biblical students referring to another book he has not read.

Genesis 12:1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

In the biblical tradition, a person does not make his name great, the Lord does.

It should be noted that in ancient times the people who made their name great were kings. Lost in translation is the recognition that the way one made one’s name great in ancient times was by the king building something. To the deep regret of biblical archaeologists, ancient Israel did not partake of this royal tradition of kings building things with their name on it.

By contrast, Ramses II, the traditional Pharaoh of the Exodus of Passover fame, did make his name great. He built extensively. And when he had not built it, he still carved his name into it. It would be a little like our having the Trumpire State Building or Mount Vertrump. And he did achieve lasting fame. By having approximately 100 children, a condom was named after him so his name is remembered all the time.

Mesopotamian kings followed a generally similarly path. Kings build stairways to heaven (ziggurats) at the cosmic center (the capital) where they ruled the universe from sea to shining sea (the Upper Sea or Mediterranean to the Lower Sea or Persian/Arab Gulf; there maps are oriented at a 90 degree rotation from ours). The baked bricks used in these constructions bore the name of the king.

Nimrod is the first king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. He is the first king mentioned before Abraham encounters various kings. To understand what he is doing there one must put aside what the name means colloquially today and in rabbinic tradition and focus on the biblical text itself. In the original version of the story:

Genesis 10:8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, and Calneh [Calah] in the land of Shinar.

These verses are descriptive, not accusatory. Nimrod is to be praised for his achievements not condemned. Indeed, he is a figure to be emulated given his success as mighty man or warrior before the Lord. He was the ruler of the Mesopotamian universe.

As biblical archaeologists and Assyriologists eventually learned, Nimrod was not an individual but an exemplar. He was not Sumerian Gilgamesh of Uruk (Erech) as had been originally thought. He was not Akkadian Sargon the Great of Accad, he was not Amorite Hammurabi of Babylon, and he was not Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta of Calah. Instead he was all of them; he represented that Mesopotamian life. Now with Abraham leaving Ur and settling near Hebron (David’s first royal capital), the torch had been passed to a new location. The Israelite king in Jerusalem was advised to rule like a Mesopotamian king at the new cosmic center. He was to make his name great as Solomon did in building the temple.

So at least claimed one political party in ancient Israel. However, there was another political party, the Levites or Mushites who claimed the law came first. They objected to the claim that Yahweh had sanctioned the royal way of life in Mesopotamia as the Nimrod author had written. Yahweh had first appeared at Sinai to Moses and the law was revealed there. They mocked the Mesopotamian way of life by writing the Tower of Babel story. Look at those mighty stairways to heaven! They all were built for naught. All those mighty and grandiose empires crumbled into dust, lost to history until recovered by archaeologists. It was the law which endured and ruled even when kings and temples were no more.

Exodus 18:17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him…19”Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; 20 and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Jethro and Nimrod offer two different models of political organization: the rule of law and the king who makes his name great. Two political parties in ancient Israel offered two different versions of how society should be organized: one based on the rule by a king and one based on the rule of law.

For the first centuries of Israel’s existence, it had had no king. Therefore no one was in a position to abuse power. Only when Israel had a king could someone be a law unto himself. We will never know if ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia debated the powers of a king when he first ascended to the throne in Egypt and descended to the throne in Mesopotamia. But we do know the debates ancient Israel had on the powers of the king. It decided there should be checks and balances on the power of the king. No one was above the law. Even David could be called to task: “Thou art the man.” And when he was confronted he repented.

Bonespur Boy is no David. He is no George Washington either who also is remembered for having left the presidency voluntarily. And even though he is no mighty man and is not before the Lord, he still is a Nimrod.

 

For more on the stories of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel see my book Jerusalem Throne Games: The Battle of Bible Stories after the Death of David.

 

Game Not Over: Flying Monkey Barr versus Dorothy Democrat

Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men

Remember the good old days of Matthew Whitaker? He does not seem so bad in retrospect.

As it turns out, I was completely wrong about William Barr. I had written (The Mueller Report: Paula Duncan, William Barr, and the American People):

We know how Paula Duncan reacted when she was exposed to the truth. What will Barr do when he has his OMG moment?  What will Barr do when he learns that the slimiest and sleaziest real estate developer in New York operated and operates identically when he moved his business to the White House? Barr is a career officer of the court who will have taken an oath to the Constitution to serve the American people. He knows that he will not have taken an oath to be loyal to the President. So when he has his OMG moment will he like Paula Duncan vote to convict, that is, release the report or will he put the wishes of the President first? There is no way to know for sure but I suggest that it is quite likely that when the OMG moment occurs justice will trump loyalty.

It would be hard to have been more wrong about William Barr and his moment of truth although he did release the Mueller report.

So far the reaction has tended to focus on how he let the American people down. There has been little attention directed towards how he blindsided the President. One wonders if it ever occurred to him how he will be remembered in history for his decision not to tell either the American people or Individual #1 the truth.

Consider the situation before the report went public. At that point, it is reasonable to conclude that Barr had read the entire 448-page report with no redactions. That means he know what the report contained.

That Individual #1 never told the truth.

That Individual #1 instructed others not to tell the truth.

That for Individual #1 t law is irrelevant in his decision-making process.

That the White House was dysfunctional.

That White House staff and “friends” of Individual #1 routinely disobeyed instructions from “the Boss” or simply ignored such instructions.

That there were at least 10 examples of obstruction of justice by Individual #1.

That the only reason Individual #1 had not been indicted on obstruction or specifically charged with obstruction in the Mueller report was because of department policy.

That the Mueller report invites Congress to do what it could not do and charge Individual #1 with obstruction.

That there are multiple additional investigations (unidentified to the public but not to Barr) underway that guarantee a steady stream of bad news for Individual #1 for months to come possibly right through to the election.

Finally, that We the People shortly would know all of the above after the report was released.

So how did Individual #1 learn about the contents of the Mueller report?

He did not learn about it from reading the report itself.

He did not learn about it from just reading the summaries.

He apparently did not learn about the devastatingly negative portrayal of himself for his lack of character, morality, and management skills from Fox.

His actions and words during the morning and into the early afternoon were those of a person who had won, who had been completely vindicated, and who was having once of the best days of his presidency.

Then while basking in the glow of his complete and total triumph, he began to watch the Fake News shows.

SURPISE! SURPISE! SURPISE!

Suddenly and without any warning and preparation, he was exposed to the truth of the Mueller report. Since that moment of revelation, he has not attacked the Fake News stations or the Fake News reporters or analysts who have appeared on those shows. Even though he himself has not and will not read the actual report, he takes for granted that Fake News outlets like CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post have accurately reported what is in the Mueller report even though it contradicts what William Barr had told him.

Barr knew the truth of what the Mueller report contained and he chose not to inform the President of the United States about it. Forget about how he misled the American public and concentrate on that shirking of his duty and responsibility. He chose to spin the President. He chose not to disclose what the report really said about him. He chose not to prepare the President for the firestorm to come once the report was made public. He chose to allow Individual #1 to bask in the sun for hours enjoying the glory of his triumph while knowing that at some point later that same day, the truth of report would become known. In so doing, he failed the President.

For a subordinate to bring bad news to a boss always is difficult. It is particularly difficult with our immature child-president who inhabits an alternate reality. One can easily understand and indeed sympathize with the challenge Barr faced with he became aware of the truth of the Mueller report. Even in the best of times, it would not have been easy to inform a boss of such a report. It was a report about to go public and become part of the historical record. It was a report that documented that Individual #1 was a dishonest, immoral, and incompetent person who was saved (for now) from removal from office and jail time because his staff and friends refused to follow his instructions and department policy prohibited indicting a sitting President (but might indict him once he left office!).

Putting aside all the political polemics, Barr was not in an envious position. While he never will be a profile in courage it is understandable why he would throw the President under the bus and not tell him the truth about what the Mueller report contained. Better to let CNN and MSNBC be the bearer of bad news than for him to be. Barr correctly gauged that when the truth came out, Individual #1 would direct his ire towards the people he knew who had told the truth to Mueller rather than be loyal to him. And, of course, to the 18 angry Democrats engaged in a witch hunt who should have been investigating Crooked Hillary and the cover-up of her collusion with the enemy… not that asking for information from the Russians is wrong, mind you. Better to be a coward and deceive the boss then be the one to tell him the truth.

Barr’s CYA helped himself but did not do Individual #1 much good. True, it allowed Fox and its Congressional Friends to demand an apology for the witch hunt and call for moving on. That would work if the Republicans were still the majority in the House and Nunez the Clown was still in charge. But Individual #1 did a superb job in helping Democrats take back control of the House. The result is a guaranteed steady beat of bad news. There will be public testimony by people Individual #1 does not control, new evidence, and new charges. The immature child will fixate on all these goings on and never move on.

I am not suggesting that Barr could have prevented this from happening. The only way he might have was to suppress the report in its entirety. I am saying that given the release of the Mueller report, he failed the President of the United States by not informing him of the truth. All this makes one wonder how often government people choose not to tell the President the truth out of fear he can’t handle the truth except to have a tantrum.

Now is the moment for Congress to demonstrate it can handle the truth. The eyes of the world are still upon us.

At a polling station in central Jakarta, Trianasari Arief… said the ex-general [Prabowo], known for his quick temper and unpredictable behavior, reminded her of President Trump and his upset victory in 2016. “I don’t want what happened in the United States to happen in Indonesia…and [we] get the orange-skin guy into office.” (Richard C. Paddock and Muktit Suhartono, “President of Indonesia Re-elected, Polls Indicate,” NYT 4/18/19)

Demographics and Local History

Courtesy dailykos.com

Local historical societies and museums, like local schools, local libraries, and, indeed, local communities, depend on there being a sufficient population to survive and thrive. Obviously that is true but what is the situation today?

The front-page above-the-fold headline in my paper this Easter Sunday is “Estimates Show Population Loss in NY.” The article amusingly begins:

More state residents are saying “I Leave NY.”

The reporters have transformed the very popular and widely known “I Love NY” of tourism fame into an expression of what is really going on: people are voting with their feet to leave the state .

Population losses, which have previously been concentrated in the upstate, are now spreading to the five boroughs, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley.

New York is not the only state to experience losses in population.

The demographic decline can be more fine-tuned.

Over all 80 per cent of American counties encompassing 149 million people experienced a decline in the number of residents ages 25 to 54 between 2007 and 2017 (Neil Irwin, “As New Yorkers Retire, Fewer Are Available to Take Their Place,” NYT 4/4/19).

The article reports that many parts of the country are experiencing “Japanese caliber demographic decline.” Between 2010 and 2017, 42 upstate New York counties (out of 53 depending on how “upstate” is defined), experienced population decline.

Typically, the results of the loss of people is considered in political terms. For example, New York will lose at least one and more probably two Congressional seats with the 2020 census. In New England, Rhode Island will lose one. By contrast, Texas will gain three and Florida, two. The Texan total will more than double the New England total while Florida, thanks in part to transplanted New Yorkers, will continue to surpass the former political powerhouse New York by an increasing margin. New England’s 12 Senators will help to maintain the region’s collective political power since Texas will still only have two.

But the reapportionment is not limited to between states, it will occur within states as well. Just as there is an ongoing shift of electoral votes to other states while the total remains the same, so too there will be a shift within states as rural counties are hollowed out. Using myself as an example, I currently live in the 37th Senate electoral district, the Westchester suburb of New York. District #1 is in Suffolk at the eastern most portion of the state and District #63 is in the Buffalo region in the west.  It is reasonable to expect that thanks to the growing population of the city, that the redistricting will mean more of the 63 Senate seats will be concentrated in the greater New York City region and fewer will be in the more rural upstate regions. Maybe I will end up in district 39 or 41. Similarly in the Assembly.

Besides political considerations, the population drops have economic implications. With the decline in birth rates and the departure of young people for colleges and jobs never to return except on holidays, the labor force is affected. As the populations ages, the need to care increases. If you are in a rural county, how far do you have to travel to get the medical care you need? All the way to Florida as it turns out!

These changes have implications for local history. How old is the membership of your non-profit organization? How many members do you have in that 25-54 age group cited above? Remember when you were in your forties and were the young person in your organization? Remember when you were in your fifties and still were the young person in your organization? How about in your sixties or seventies? The typical local and therefore small historical society depends on volunteers; the population source pool for those younger groups is shrinking…and they were not joining in the first place.

For local history, these trends present problems, all bad. First, in many local communities there are people who are descendants of the founders of the community. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge and love for the community, a knowledge and love that cannot easily be replaced if at all. For example, I live in the town of Rye, over 350 years old, and the village of Port Chester which just celebrated its sesquicentennial. To the best of my knowledge there is no one in the town with ancestry dating back to the 1600s living here. In the village, there is a funeral home that advertises its 1867 origin, one year before the village was created within the town. Right now we are trying to revive the dormant historical society including with the assistance of people younger than 70 like one law school student! Naturally we are all in this for the money! ☺

One could extend this analysis even further. As we begin to prepare for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, how many sons and daughters of the American Revolution are there in your community? One could continue this series of questions through more and more recent times including to where we you when the Towers fell. That question replaces the older question of where were you when Kennedy was shot. The point is that historical memory is being lost. It is being lost in rural communities experiencing population decline and loss of political power. The growing or more dominant cities have less and less connection to the local and state history. That means less and less funding, not that there is a lot of funding at present.

Consider the situation in New York. So much of the state history involves upstate areas. The French and Indian War, the War of 1812, the Erie Canal, the Underground Railroad, and the Seneca Falls Convention were all upstate. The one upstate movement that has generated the most Manhattan interest has been Hudson River Art. The Thomas Cole and Frederic Church history organizations based upstate have many members located more than 100 miles away because of the art connection starting with Jacqueline Kennedy. By contrast, the historical links by the newcomers to the city itself do not stretch back very far.

I regret that there is no good news in this blog. It is not as if the history community has it easy at present in the first place. The trends are not positive. Still we endure and persist and struggle because we do love what we are doing. But we also are part of a larger world and there is nothing to gain by being in denial. Perhaps when global warming forces all those Floridians to move north the population trends will shift. In the meantime, let’s not overlook all those second homeowners from the city who may want to become involved in their new community.

Republicans: Mueller Report Confirms Putin Deserves Congressional Medal of Honor

In an unexpected development, Republicans today unequivocally declared that the Mueller report conclusively proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Vladimir Putin deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty on behalf of the United States of America. The Mueller report documents Putin’s sustained, systematic, and comprehensive violation of the United States of America presidential election on behalf of the Republican candidate. His relentless attack on Crooked Hillary helped to save America from a fate worse than death. All true Americans owe Putin a debt of thanks for his efforts. We the People are grateful to Robert Mueller for showing to the American People what Putin did on behalf of this country. It is altogether fitting that in return we award him with highest medal we are capable of bestowing on a true hero of this country.

PERSON #1 CALLS FOR REPUDIATION OF THE 22nd  AMENDMENT

As everyone knows, FDR was elected 4 times to the office of President and served 16 years. Now Person #1 has had the greatest first two years of a presidency in the history of the United States. Why then should he be denied the opportunity to serve for 16 years as well? It’s not as if the proposed amendment would enable someone to be president for life like his autocratic cronies. After all Person #1 might is still likely to be alive at age 84 despite being clinically obese. The extra time will provide Person #1 with the opportunity to groom Madam President for her position as his successor. She will then be the first female president and together they will be the first father-daughter presidents…and Person #1 won’t even have to leave the White House. Plus he can count on being pardoned if the statute of limitations has not expired and he is convicted of everything. Reversing the 22nd amendment is all part of God’s plan to save America.

PERSON #1 TO DISCLOSE HIS TAXES NOW THAT THE IRS AUDIT IS COMPLETE

At long last the IRS audit of the income taxes of Person #1 has been completed.  As a result, he is now free to disclose his taxes to the American public just as he was in favor of all along in the first place. Since he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and not lose any of his supporters, he has no concerns about releasing his tax returns.

So what If they show he is not as wealthy as he claimed to be?

So what if they show he has not earned as much as he claimed to have earned?

So what if they show he has used every trick in the book and some that aren’t to minimize his taxes?

So what if they show his income comes from laundering funds from the Russian mob through banks on the sanctions list?

So what if New York State will now begin an audit of his taxes? Do you think he paid property taxes on the alleged value of his properties in New York State as claimed to insurance companies and banks? Think of how much he owes Cuomo!

His worshipers don’t care about process crimes. So what if he doesn’t pay his taxes and his income is criminally earned? It’s all part of God’s plan.

PERSON #1 TO REVEAL HIS SAT SCORES AND GRADES

Person #1 is the smartest person in the room when in a morgue. He is a very stable genius. Remember how he figured that the solution to the forest fires in California was to MAKE AMERICA RAKE AGAIN. All those experts with all their degrees and experience could not figure out what he could. Only he can solve our problems. He is finally tired of people making fun of him for being a stupid ignorant moron. How many Americans know the difference between the Balkans and the Baltics anyway? Canada, England, what’s the difference. The White House was burned. It’s hard enough keeping track of where his father was born so how can be expected to know that 306 electoral votes is not a landslide? The time has come once and for all to prove that he is not the bozo SNL portrays him as being and so many foreign leaders, elected officials, former cabinet and administrative officials, and real estate developers in New York know first-hand from their working with him. Person #1 will now razzle dazzle us with his SAT scores and his grades. He will show us that Daddy Dear did not have to buy his child’s way into Wharton like those La La land Democrat parents did so their loser children could get into college. In fact, Person #1 will even deliver a 30-minute speech on a single topic without saying “Lock her up,” “Build a Wall,” or “Who is going to pay for it.”  He will deliver a coherent 30-minute talk thereby proving he is at least as well-spoken, intelligent, and thoughtful as a porn star or a Playmate and is not some 7th grade smart-aleck dumb aleck. And he will do that on Fox as soon as his network stops giving time of old socialists. He will do this soon, very soon, you’ll see.

PERSON #1 TO SUE ALL THE WOMEN WHO CLAIM HE HARASSED THEM

During the 2016 campaign, Person #1 promised to sue each and every single woman who had falsely accused him of improper behavior. As we all know, he is a stickler for keeping his campaign promises. Since he has not sued anyone so far it must either be because none of the accusations are false so there is no one to sue or else he has been too busy with the Russher thing to have the time. Now that he has been completely exonerated, he has so much free time he is even bored watching TV all day or playing golf.  Person #1 finally has the time and lawyers with nothing else to do so he sue all these women.

PERSON #1 EAGER TO ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS, TELLS NADLER TO BRING IT ON

With this President, everyday is April 1. It’s his Groundhog Day.