Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lost Legends

One of my favorite lectures to give is our discussion on Roman legends and values. I use this as an introduction to Livy in my Greek and Roman History Class and as a discussion on Roman character in the World History Classes. I have several goals in mind. First to explain why Livy selected many of the events found in his 48 books of Roman history. A second would be to assess how little my students have been taught about their own Roman and particularly their American heritage, and finally to inspire them with the virtues of the great men whose stories make History valuable as a tool for building character and defending Western Values.

I always begin by asking them to tell me about Washington and the Cherry tree. Most students have no idea what I am talking about. There are always a handful, at least one, who will admit to knowing the story. I have this student recount the tale. There inevitably follows a condemnation of the story; the “it really didn’t happen” disclaimer. I usually retort with a, “well, I’m sure historians revising history for their unique agendas in the late 20th century knew more about it than Washington Irving.” I hope my sarcasm is not lost on them. I then ask them to explain the lessons of the Cherry Tree story.

“That great men are always honest,” is usually the answer we arrive at.

“And why is that an important lesson to teach and learn?” I ask.

“So we will be honest, and expect our leaders to be honest.”

At this point I tell the following story, strictly for comic relief;

A very upset father stumbles through the door of the one room shack he shares with his two sons. “Who pushed the outhouse off the cliff,” he demands. You see; to save them the trouble of re-digging the outhouse hole the old man built his master work on a strut out over a near by cliff. The two boys look at each other and responded they have no idea. Then their father tells them the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, ending with:

“And since George Washington told the truth his dad didn’t beat him. Now tell me, who pushed the outhouse off the cliff?” The boys look at each other and with a grin tell their dad:

“Okay, we did it.”

The father lit into them with a switch and beat them near to death, as the oldest brother goes down he cries out:

“But pa, when George Washington told the truth, his dad didn’t beat him!”

“Ya” says the old man, “and George Washington’s father wasn’t sitting in the cherry tree!!!”

I then ask if any knows the story of Abraham Lincoln and the pennies. Someone usually can recount the story of Lincoln’s journey to return a few pennies over charged to a customer, but most have gotten through ten years of American education without ever hearing the story.

Now comes the real tests. I ask if any of them have ever heard the story of John Paul Jones. None ever have. Here I launch into my indictment of the poor quality of their history lessons, and ask them how can they possibly learn what it is to be Americans if they don’t know our national legends. After telling the story of John Paul Jones, I ask them what the message is. They always know that it is that Americans never give up, that the tougher things get the harder we (Americans) fight. How painful that they have never been taught the stories that define their character, no wonder so many seem to have lost that attribute.

My final American example is always Nathan Hale. I almost never find a student that recognizes his name. Rarely, after I have told the story, someone will claim they have heard it; but even that fading link is growing rare. Once, Nathan Hale instructed a nation of young people on the “terminal value” of freedom, a treasure more valuable than life. I still get a bit emotional as I tell of his death. I find myself wondering how a generation of Americans who are growing up without their defining legends will survive.

We then go on to discuss some of the Roman legends that define Roman Character, attributes Americans once admired as they did the Republic built on the seven hills.

The stories include:

1. Romulus’ defense of Rome against any enemy, even his brother.

2. Brutus’ overthrow of the unjust king, Traquin, in response to the rape and death of Lucretia.

3. Horatius at the bridge, where one man saves his nation by courage and sacrifice.

4. The execution of Brutus’ sons, when the Council gives justice against those he loves the most in order to save his city.

5. Gaius Mucius who places his hand in the flames to show that torture can never move a Roman boy to betray his country.

6. Titus Manulus, who executes his own son for disobeying an order on the field of battle.

7. Cincinnatus who left his plow in the field to save his country from its foes and then returns to his humble farm, putting down the absolute authority of dictator, once he has served his country.

There are many other stories that craft the Roman and the American character, but more and more the stories students are taught belittle and villainise the great men of the past in order to fulfill modern political agendas. More and more the ideas that once bound Americans together are disregarded as our children are actually taught to be ashamed of American values and American accomplishments.

We are losing the common heritage that made us who we are and are losing the common values that made it possible for this nation to stand against its enemies. Consider this in the light of a statement from the film *Obsession – Radical Islam’s War against the West*:

Hussein Saad AL-Qassam, Brigades Commander in N. Gaza, December 2005 – from the Hamas Website -

“We succeeded, with Allah’s grace, to raise an ideological generation; that loves death like our enemies love life.”

This threat becomes particularly frightening when we consider that the present American generation is not being taught to love their country, their heritage, or their heroes. Instead they are being taught to be ashamed of the accomplishments that have brought freedom and prosperity to millions.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Friday, as school ended, one of my colleges came calling. I had not seen much of him this year. He is very busy with the new department he runs and all the kids he serves. He is a wonderful teacher. He is one of my favorite people; an old style liberal – a hippie. As some other folks were in for a visit, we got to talking; someone mentioned government. That’s a natural, as I am a Civics teacher. My old friend stated that he was, “against all governments.”

"Ya", I replied, “like the one that pays you pay check, the one that provides the roads you’ll travel home, and brings the water to your house?”

He retreated, “Well, I’m not against real government – you know the local one that does things I can really see.” Then he launched into his re-treaded, anti-war performance left over from our youth and the days of the Vietnam War.

I tried to point out that the people he despised were protecting him from enemies that would dearly love to kill him. He crooned the phrase, “Give peace a chance.” And then claimed flatly if we would just quit fighting wars they would go away, that we should all just love each other.

You can’t argue with such people. Peace does sound better than war. As for my friend, facts mean little to him; he is a relativist. Saying it always makes it so in his snug and smug little world. My friend has found political peace by giving up watching news, or reading newspapers and magazines. He has all the answers from the 60’s. He has his fantasy.

Friday night, late, after the play, I switched on Fox News. They were airing a “Special” on a documentary film just being released called *Obsession – Radical Islam’s War Against the West*. You can watch a twelve minuet version of the film on the internet. Both the film and the Fox News special are sobering. I wish my friend would crawl out of his fantasy long enough to watch. I can’t force him. I will have better luck with my Civics Classes!

I hope you will consider these excerpts. There is one word you need to know – Kuffar, this is the Koran’s word for a non Muslim. I will forego commentary. This evidence will stand on its own.

There were several commentators who presented background and explanation. I will begin these references by quoting three.


First, Walid Shoebat – Billed as a “Former” PLO Terrorist:

1. “When the terrorists attacked America on 9/11 – everyone asked, “Why do they hate us, Americans had no clue!”

2. “Muslims are also victims.”

3. “Jihad means to struggle – the struggle within – but so does Mine Kampf.”

4. “Radical Islam is way more dangerous than German Nazism because it is god not the Fuarer telling you to do this.”

Second, Khaled Abu Toamel – Palestinian Journalist:

1. “Radical Islam has declared War . . .”

2. “A campaign to bring down the West”.

3. “Islam has been hijacked”.

Third, Nonie Darwish – Daughter of a Shahid (martyr)

1. “When I saw the second airplane hit, I knew Jihad had come to America.”

2. “A down right declaration of war from Islam on Western Culture.”

3. “To conquer the world for Allah – That is Jihad.”

4. “They blame every little problem in the Arab world on the West.”

5. “We have been infiltrated by people who want the Koran to replace our Constitution.”

6. “. . . They are here to make Islam the law of the land.”

7. “America has to wake up because we are strangling ourselves with our political correctness.”

What follows now are direct quotes from Islamic Radicals. I have given names and dates when possible. Speakers are presented in the order of their first appearance, although many statements were presented by some later in the documentary.

1. Khattab – Chechen Terrorist Leader (Sept. 2004):

“From now on we will get our bombs everywhere! Let Russia await our explosions blasting through their cities. I swear we will do it.”

2. From a Lebanese Suicide Bomber Induction Ceremony (1996):

“We swear by the blood and severed bodies of our children and the torment of our prisoners, and we will reply blowing our bodies!”

3. Hassan Nasrallah – Hizbollah Sec. Gen. (2005):

“The most honorable death is by killing. And the most honorable killing and most glorious martyrdom is where a man is killed for the sake of Allah.”

“We consider [America] to be an enemy because it is the greatest plunderer of our treasures, our oil, and our rescores, while millions in our nation suffer unemployment, poverty, hunger, unmariageability, ignorance, darkness, and so on.”

“Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: Death to America.”

4. Hassein Suadd – Al-Qassam Brigades Commander (Dec. 2005):

“We succeeded, with Allah’s grace, to raise an ideological generation that loves death like our enemies love life."

5. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi (2001):

“We must educate our children on the love of Jihad for the sake of Allah. And the love of fighting for the sake of Allah.”

6. Little Girl on Palestinian T V:

“But I march quickly toward my death.”

7. Little boy on Palestinian T V:

“. . . And we swear to take vengeful blood from our enemies for our killed and wounded.

8. Jordanian and Palestinian School book (1998):

“This religion [Islam] will destroy all other religions through the Islamic Jihad fighter.”

9. 3 ½ year old Girl prompted by some adult (May, 2002):

“A - . . . Are you familiar with the Jews?

G - Yes.

A – Do you like them?

G – No.

A – Why don’t you like them?

G – Because.

A – Because they are whats?

G – They’re apes and pigs.

A – Who said they are so?

G – Our God.

A – Where did He say this?

G – In the Koran.”

10. Sheik Dr. Bakr Al-Samarai (February, 2003):

“If Allah permits us, oh Nation of Mohammed, even the stone will say, ‘Oh Muslim, a Jew is hiding behind me come and cut off his head! And we shall cut off his head! By Allah, we shall cut off! Oh Jews. God is Great; Jihad for the sake of Allah!” (There were thousands shown cheering this speech.)

11. Little girl on Palestinian T. V.

“When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I’ll turn into a suicide warrior. I’ll turn into a suicide warrior. In battledress. In battledress.”

12. Sheidh Al – Bajrruni – Palestinian Religious Scholars Ass. (2004):

“Oh Muslim, as much as you yearn for death, so you will be given life”

13. Ahmed Abdul Razek – Palestinian Cleric (2002):

“Should we want honor the only way to honor is by jihad!"

14. Ibrahim Muderis – Palestinian Cleric (2003):

“America is the foremost enemy of the Muslim Nation because it wages war against the Arab, Islamic Nation.”

15. Nagi AL-Slihabi – Egyptian Newspaper Editor (2004):

“The truth is that the US wants to eradicate our religious and Islamic identities.”

“The only enemy of the Arab and Islamic peoples is the US and not only Israel.”

16. Saudi Cleric Aed Al-Qami (2004):

“Houses and young men must be sacrificed. Throats must be slit and skulls must be shattered. This is the path to victory.”

“Furthermore, reality shows that American is behind all problems.”

17. Al-Qaeda Operative, (In a hood) (2005):

“Come and join us. Join this blessed jihad. Come for the sake of Allah. Join us in the blessed jihad, with Mullah Omar and Sheik Osama bin Laden.”

18. Abu Hamza Al – Masri (1998):

“What makes Allah happy? Allah’s happy when (non-Muslims) get killed.”

“You see the Islamic rule, if a Kuffar (non-Muslims) goes into a Muslim country. And he’s walking by. He’s like a cow; boy, anybody could take him. That is the Islamic rule and this is the opinion of Islam. It’s not my opinion. If you read the books of jihad, you’ll see . . . A Kuffar is walking by, he walks inside – you catch him. “What are you doing here?” Then he’s a booty, you can sell him in the market. If Muslims cannot take him, you know, and sell him in the market then you just kill him. It’s okay.”

“It’s only a matter of time until we rule Earth, until we control Earth.”

“In the end of the day, Islam must control Earth whether we like it or not it’s a promis from the prophet.”

19. On Iranian TV– Momaoun Al-Tamimi – Political Consultant (May 2004):

“They [The Americans] are beasts in human form.”’

20. Voice over on Iranian TV (2004):

The Statue of Liberty slowly turns in above a sea of blood. “There she is, the unique symbol of freedom. American is the enemy of God’s unity and an affront to God.” The statue turns to reveal a death’s head.

While showing a picture of President Bush, “This is Satan, the source of tyranny.”

21. Palestinian TV - Suliman Sutari, before thousands of chanting fanatics. (July 8, 2005):

“Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists. They’re [God’s] enemies and the enemies of the religion. God, count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t even leave one.”

22. June 2005 – The Islamic Thinkers Society – a video voice over while young "Americans" are stamping on an American flag:

“In this country, one of the loopholes of this government is they allow the freedom of expression.”

“Indeed, it is He [Allah] who sent His messenger, Mohamed, with the Islam to dominate over all other religions; to dominate the United Sates; to dominate the world even though the non-Muslims may hate it.”

23. Some unnamed, turbaned figure speaking on a computer capture.

“Islam’s superior than the Jews, than the Christian, than the Buddhists, than the Hindus. Who ever seeks any other thing apart for Islam will never be accepted. And the Christian or Kuffar, you may think to yourself. No, No, No, they are innocent. No Kuffar is innocent.”

24. Another shouting computer image:

“From yourself we’ll make your destruction because Allah’s tradition will prevail on this earth.”

25. Mohanoud Ahmadinejan – Iranian President (July, 2004):

“The message of the (Islamic) Revolution is global, and is not restricted to specific place or time. Have no doubt – Allah willing, Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountains tops of he world.”

26. “Palestinian T.V, Ibrahim Mudeins (March 2005):

“We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again!”

27. Screaming demonstrator at a rally in Great Britain: (May 2005)

“One day this very flag will fly over the Parliament in London. We will see this flag that will fly over the White House, and we will see the Black House, the Kaaba [in Mecca] will take over the whole world!”

28. H. R. Saleen, Chairman of Muslim Youth Organization:

“You will take over USA! You will take over UK! You will take over Europe! You will defeat them all! You will get victory!! You will take over Egypt! We trust in Allah!”


Perhaps my hippie friend should find another audience for his “Peace Now!” lecture; an audience of Islamic Radicals. I wonder how long he would be singing “Just Give Peace a Chance” to them?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

School Play - For Real

The long awaited and much debated high school play is under way; my annual “artistic” effort. Since most are not be able or willing to attend it I will share a few specific ideas with those who care to read.

Before the play begins, I take advantage of the “captive audience” and set the scene. What follows is my “opening speech”:

“How could it happen? Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the play you are about to see, is based on “historic truth”. In 1692, the little girls of Salem went mad, and the superstitious, religious fanatics that ran Massachusetts followed them into enormous crime.

Miller tries to give an excuse for the girl’s actions – sexual passion and lust – but in reality they just went crazy. If you don’t fathom how, consider this. In the many summers I have worked at Boy Scout camp, the devil only “visited” once while the boys were there, but when the girls groups came to the mountains, things were always different. Year after year, telling scary stories around the campfire led to hysteria that required spiritual (priesthood) intervention.

The accusations of the girls of Salem would not have harmed anyone if their parents and community leaders had not believed their fantastic claims were indeed possible. The truth would have saved them all.

In the end, nineteen men and women had been hung and one old man, in his eighties, had been crushed to death under a pile of stones; an attempt to force him to lie.

These murders, motivated by ignorance and fear and fanaticism it brings, came upon the community in three concentric circles of destruction. The first to be accused were the homeless vagabonds and ner-do-wells of Salem. But soon the accusations spread to those who had conflicts with the parents of the screaming girls, and to those whose land was tempting to greedy factions in the community. The girls somehow knew whom to attack in order to improve their parent’s fortunes. The final circle called out as witches were any who questioned the supernatural powers of the girls. Thus the few reasonable citizens of Salem found themselves on their way to prison and death.

That most of the victims could have escaped their fate by lying confessions, but refused, speaks to their devotion to the truth.

In the end, supernatural testimony was disallowed in the Massachusetts courts, and hundreds that awaited the noose were freed. The fall of the witch court in Salem broke the power of the Puritan Church in America, and in many ways set the stage for the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Tonight I hope you will contemplate the evil that comes when fanaticism drives reason away. Consider that America is at war with religious zealots who stir up murder in the name of god. As in 1692 – Truth and reason are a shield against the evil of ignorance but they cannot protect us with out help of heroes.

This week (past week) we celebrate Veterans Day. We of cast and crew would like to dedicate our performance to the heroes who defend the freedom we have, that the people of 17th century Salem did not. Freedoms we could not enjoy without the sacrifice of our men and women in the military.”

Now back to the Agora:

Although all of you are invited to attend the play and all can surely read it for yourselfs, I feel to present a few powerful points and consider them with you. These gems of though are presented in order from the play.

1. The Reverend Hale has arrived with his books. Mister and Goody Putnam, frantic to find a supernatural cause for the deaths of their infant children, insist to the minister that one of the girls. . .


Thomas Putnam: “. . . cannot bear to hear the Lord’s name, Mr. Hale; that’s a sure sign of witchcraft afloat.

Hale: *Holding up his hands:* No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her.


Common sense tells us there is no such thing as a witch, but when “leaned” men; and their books say otherwise, blind faith in either can lead us to terrible foolishness.

2. It is interesting to me that, as the story progresses, reason is not used to evaluate the goodness or evil of the accused but rather they are judged by level to which they have conformed to the prevailing superstition of the Puritan Church.


Elizabeth. *With an attempt at a laugh:* You will never believe, I hope, that Rebecca trafficked with the Devil.

Hale: Woman, it is possible.

Proctor, *taken aback:* Surely you cannot think so.

Hale: This is a strange time, Mister. No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village. There is too much evidence now to deny it. You will agree, sir?

Proctor,*Evading:* I – have no knowledge in that line. But it’s hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil’s bitch after seventy year of such good prayer.

Hale: Aye, But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it. However, she is far from accused, and I know she will not be. *Pause.* I thought , sir, to put some questions as to the Christian character of this house, if you’ll permit me.

Proctor, *coldly, resentful:* Why, we – have no fear of questions, sir.

Hale: Good, then. *He makes himself more comfortable.* In the book of record that Mr. Paris keeps, I note that you are rarely in the church on Sabbath Day.”


What is good and evil has been reduced to meeting attendance statistics. Seventy years of goodness are nothing, but you better get your name on the role.

3. And now the words of the Bible are used as a weapon against reason.


Hale . . . It’s said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true sir?

Proctor *-- he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even answering:* I know no what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world – although I cannot believe they come among us now.

Hale: Then you do not believe—

Proctor: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.

Hale” And you, woman?

Elizabeth” I – I cannot believe it.

Hale, *shocked:* You cannot!

Proctor: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!

Elizabeth, *to Hale:* I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.

Hale: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in –

Elizabeth: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none.

Hale: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel –

Proctor: She believe in the Gospel, every word!

Elizabeth: Question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not myself!


Reason is destroyed by blind faith in a book and by groundless superstition masquerading as righteousness.

4. Hale then confronts the husband of Goody Nurse, Francis, with an appeal to scripture in the face of reason.


Francis: You cannot mean she will be tried in court!

Hale, *pleading:* Nurse, Though our hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court – the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!

Proctor, *angered:* How may such a woman murder children?

Hale, *in Great pain:* Man , remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought his beautiful in Heaven.


Some times old respects and ancient friendships are the tools of reason – fear is always the weapon of evil.

5. Before the Judges, John Proctor pleads for reason in the face of another attack by blind faith in superstition. His life of goodness made nothing by tenants that masquerade as religion.


Danforth: You are in all respects a Gospel Christian?

Proctor: I am, sir.

Parris: Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month!

Danforth, *restrained – he is curious:* Not come to church?

Proctor: I – I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love.

Cheever: He plow on Sunday, sir.

Danforth: Plow on Sunday!

Cheever, *apologetically:* I think it be evidence, John. I am an official of the court, I cannot keep it.

Proctor: I—I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. I have three children, sir, and until last year my land give little.

Giles: You’ll find other Christians that do plow on Sunday if the truth be known.

Hale: Your Honor, I cannot think you may judge the man on such evidence.

Danforth: I judge nothing. *Pause. He keeps watching Proctor, who tries to meet his gaze.* I tell you straight, Mister – I have seen marvels in this court. I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them stuck by pins and slashed by daggers. I have until this moment not the slightest reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me. Do you understand my meaning?

Proctor: Excellency, does it not strike upon you that so many of these women have lived so long with such upright reputation, and –

Parris: Do you read the Gospel, Mr. Proctor?

Proctor: I read the Gospel.

Parris: I think not , or you should surely know the Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Able.

Proctor: Aye, God tells us that. *To Danforth:* But who tells us Rebecca Nurse murdered seven babies by sending out her spirit on them? It is the children only, and this one will swear she lied to you.


Reason against blind faith, and scripture misrepresented to sanction evil.

6. Hale demands that the Judges allow the arguments to be placed by lawyers, a last appeal to reason. The judge scoffingly replies:


Danforth: Mr. Hale, Believe me; for a man of such terrible learning you are most bewildered – I hope you will forgive me. I have been thirty – two year at the bar, sir, and I should be confounded were I called upon to defend these people. Let you consider, now -- *To Proctor and the others:* And I bid you all do likewise. In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself: granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims – and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confession. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?


Perhaps this is part of the reason that supplying a lawyer is no longer up to the judge’s digression in America.

7. Having ruled lawyers were not necessary, Danforth goes forward with the trial and soon show’s how wrong he is. There is evidence found in a poppet (a little doll) which is being used to convict Proctor’s wife of witchcraft. Proctor swears and sites witness that his wife has not kept poppets since she was a girl His call to reason and witnesses is answered by the Minister Parris, with this fantastic argument:


Parris: Why could there not have been poppets hid where no one ever saw them?

Proctor, *furious:* There might also be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it.

Parris” We are here, Your honor, Precisely to discover what no one has ever seen.


So much for the rules of evidence in the world of blind fanaticism.

8. Mary Warren tries to explain how religious hysteria can be mistaken for satanic manifestation.

Hathorne: How could you think you saw them unless you saw them?

Mary Warren: I – I cannot tell how, but I did. I – I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I – It were only sport in the beginning, sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits, and I – I promise you, Mr. Danforth, I only thought I saw them but I did not.


But neither reason or sworn testimony is adequate to stand against fanaticism and fear driven by ignorance. Marry Warren turns on John Proctor to save her own life. She joins in the lie, and Proctor is convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death by the supernatural testimony of hysterical children.

9. Three months later Hale comes to see Proctor on the day of his execution. Hale begs with Elizabeth to convince her husband to admit to witchcraft – even though they now both know there is no such thing.


Hale, *continuing to Elizabeth:* Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crown of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up Beware, Goody Proctor – cleave to no faith when faith brings blood. It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice.


Hale has realized too late the flawed nature of faith without reason.

10. For a while, John Proctor considers giving the lie that he has seen the devil to see. But when the court attempts to use him to accuse others, when they attempt to recruit him into their fanaticism, he withdraws his confession and accepts death.


Hale: Man, you will hang! You cannot!

Proctor, *his eyes full of tears:* I can. And there’s your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. *Elizabeth, in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand.* Given them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!


Proctor and the others die, victims of ignorance, superstition, religious fanaticism and fear; they die heroes of Reason!

So once more we return to the claim I make before each performance; that Reason is the only cure for fanaticism and fear, but that while there are so many under the sway of ignorance, we owe our freedom and our lives to those who are willing to sacrifice both for sake. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for “a bunch of pampered Americans who do not understand the wonder of their freedom, the dangers that beset it; or the sacrifice necessary to maintain it”. To keep the evil of Salem in the distant past, in far of lands, and on the high school stage; the line between darkness and light must be maintained by those who are willing to fight for the survival or reason and truth.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


From Plato’s “Apology”; Socrates Speaking:

“If you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, [the man who was calling for Socrates execution.] and you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to enquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die; - if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall never cease [to question]. . .

For know that this is the command of God; and I believe that no greater good has ever happened in the state than my service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. . .

Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am the gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me and therefore I would advise you to spare me.”


I can see how it went. The “camp friend” visited his troop just as he had been trained. He made small talk with the leaders and boys. One leader said he knew me.

“Oh yah,” says my guy.

“Yah,” replies the scout leader, “I used to go to church with him; he is a loud mouthed trouble maker.”

The camp staffer was feeling “bad” when he told me. He didn’t know how I’d take it; I’m such a pleaser at camp. But I am a Loud Mouth Trouble Maker, most of the time. I explained that to him. He’ll be Okay when he gets older.

I used to go to Sunday school; I used to teach the class. On a day a wise old bishop asked me into his office; on another day a young bishop would do the same. They both wondered why I always had to ask so many questions in Sunday school; did I have a testimony? I answered them both the same. I suggested that a testimony that can hold through a flood of questions is a better thing to have than one kept safe in ignorance.

I can honestly say that after each and every Sunday school “discussion” I have stirred up, some class members have thank me for making them think. But I am sure more of them have been angry at me for forcing them out of the usual, “pray, go to church, read the scripture”, formula for righteousness. They have had all the answers down since Primary, why arouse them? So I quit going.

I can imagine some of my friends and foes alike asking: But why, Lysis, can’t you just shut up? Why can’t you go to class and sit there like everyone else and recite the mantra? You have known it (pray, go to church, study the scripture) since you were a child. If Prophets and Seminary Teachers have agreed, why do you question?

A young friend, visiting from California, talked me into attending Sunday school one last time this past spring. I made the teacher cry. Now don’t be so hard on me. She was teaching the “Samuel ragging on Saul” lesson; you know the one were Saul is thrown out as king for disobedience. Why hadn’t he killed all those wicked goats and sheep!!? Don’t worry, I won’t go back.

In his “Apology” before the five hundred and one Athenian judges Socrates replied:


“Some will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end? To him I may fairly answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or of a bad. Whereas, upon your view, the heroes who fell at Troy were not good for much, and the son of Thetis [Achilles] above all, who altogether despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to slay Hector, his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself – ‘Fate,’ she said, in these or the like words, ‘waits for you next after Hector’; he, receiving this warning, utterly despised danger and death, and instead of fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonour and not to avenge his friend. ‘Let me die forthwith,’ he replies, ‘and be avenged of my enemy, rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a laughing-stock and a burden of the earth.’ Had Achilles any thought of death and danger? For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything but of disgrace. And this, O men of Athens, is a true saying.

Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidaea and Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me, like any other man, facing death – if now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfill the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise."


For years I have attended Larae Larkin’s History Seminar at WSU. I have learned a lot and found the presenters, for the most part, to be informed and interesting, and with few exceptions capable of handling questions. Many actually conducted seminars rather than “Sunday School” lessons. I have great respect for Professor Larkin and the program she has crafted at the University – but . . .

On October 25, 2006 – the seminar leader was Omar Cater. (I am sorry, I have tried to check the spelling of his name, but for all his fame and influence I cannot find anything. My bad I’m sure.) Larae’s glowing introduction promised a man of deep experience and ability. There were a good number of his fans; interns from his business I suppose, in the room. Who would have guessed he had brought along a cheering section?

His own comments about his various activities and accomplishments soon left Larae’s praise of him in the dust. Discussions, held in the last week or two, with four-star-generals and kings sounded very impressive. But then he turned to the course for the night. He wrote the number 650,000 on the board and announced that that was the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the “American Invasion”.

“That’s a bogus number!” I said.

He rushed across the room and roared in my face, “That’s bullshit!” There was some applause from my fellow class members. Many of them have no doubt wanted to swear at me for a long time. I’m sure Omar expected me to be cowed by his anger and the fact that he had just talked with generals. But I have attended too many Sunday school classes to be so easily scared into submissive acquiescence.

“I know how they came up with those numbers, and they aren’t legitimate.” I explained.

“They are!” He was almost screaming at me. I have noticed that when neo-libs get cornered, their defense mechanism is often to scream, use vulgarity, or if they are writing, to spread out the exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!)

“The numbers are from the “Lancet” I said and the method of coming to those numbers is not legitimate. They may as well make them up out of the air.”

Coming right up into my face, he yelled I didn’t know what I was talking about and returning to the board, he informed the class that the war was killing more people than Saddam. I thought that would be the end of the clash. Omar went on to show slides of the numbers of people killed in the twentieth century. Having established that the Communists killed the most, he suddenly turned back to me.

Looking back, I can see now that Cater was already off track in his “lecture”. He had intended to point out that the “methods” of dealing with killing used in the 20th century had not worked and then lead the class haply down the “UN is the answer” trail. But now he was distracted. He was still thinking of his dust up with me; his mind wandering off course. At this point he demanded I explain what was wrong with the numbers provided by the “Lancet”. I am fairly certain he was confident I would not know. Thanks to our adventures here in the Agora I was ready. I explained the BOGUS methods employed, of sampling small and uncontrolled neighborhoods, where killings were frequent, and where people could fabricate at will, and casualties be counted again and again by different reporters. Then these numbers are presented as representative of distinct and factual victims. Those numbers are then multiplied by the total number of people in Iraq and a fantastic BOGUS number concocted. Cater even gave an example of how it could work. If a family of nine had been killed in a neighborhood, and five persons were polled; asked if they knew anyone who had been killed, and answered nine each, “Lancet” would then report 45 killings in the neighborhood.

“Yes,” I said, “and multiply that number by the number of people in Iraq to get a fantastic number that bares no resemblance to reality.”

Let me explain how the Agora might conduct a similar study. Killer X is a Democrat, he has killed 10 women. We then take the number of people who voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election, roughly 59,000,000 and come up with the number of people murdered by democrats in the US to be around 590 million people. The fact that there are barely 300 million Americans would not matter, because as Mr. Cater explained – ‘they have a methodology based on real numbers!!!!!’

Mr. Cater asked me what number I would accept. I said that the number of Iraqis killed counted by the Iraqi government is around 45,000 – “Iraqi Body Count” puts the number at around 47,000. He was indignant. He admitted that the 650,000 was not necessarily accurate, but that people believed it to be, caused the US great harm.

I pointed out that it is the enemies of the United States that use such a BOGUS number like a club to beat the war effort with; that those who know the truth should challenge such false “statistics”.

He replied that it didn’t matter how many had been killed – even one killed by American troops made us enemies all over the world.” He then erased the 650,000 number from the board.

By this time Cater had lost control of the room. He tried to bring the discussion back to the United Nations; but was now challenged by several of my colleagues. His analysis of the Christian Right’s support of Israel was questioned by a teacher from the local Christian academy. His attempt to push the UN as a solution to all wars was questioned by several with references to the “Oil for Food” scandal, and failures in Iraq and with North Korea.

I asked him to give one example of a success of the UN in negotiating peace. He tried to go back to Camp David.

When I asked him why Arafat had rejected the peace agreement offered by Israel, Cater insisted that there had never been any written offer to the Palestinians by Israel and that the “Peace Talks”; which he hinted that he had been involved in; failed because Arafat was not a good negotiator. That Arafat was in essence “tricked” by the Israelis.

Having failed to establish any creditability for his “negotiations through the UN will solve all” theme, Omar spent the majority of the rest of our two and one-half hours insisting that he had nothing against President Bush but that Bush was taken in by bad advisors. This mantra, right out of the neo-lib talking points for the week, did not impress me. He attacked Rumsfeld and Cheney as though saying their names would anger the mob; and at last, as the minutes of the “seminar” ran out, said:

“You saw this week, didn’t you, that Bush says he never said stay the course?”

“That’s not what he said,” I said.

Once more “mad” Omar was in my face. “I was a Bush lover,” he screamed. There was some more applause from the class. “I had a right to my opinion, but I couldn’t lie.”

Interestingly enough this was exactly what I was pointing out about his presentation.

“Have you ever read the article; did you listen to the Stephanopoulos interview?”

“You just love Bush, but you can’t lie.” He snarled.

“It doesn’t matter if I love President Bush or not, I love the truth!” I replied.

“What did he say?” Omar demanded. He didn’t think I knew, but battles in the Agora had prepared me.

“President Bush said, ‘we’ve never been stay the course, George. We have been – we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but were constantly adjusting our tactics, constantly.’ That’s what he said. He never said ‘I never said stay the course’.”

“News papers don’t lie!” Omar yelled, bending into my face. By this time the class was leaving; herding themselves out the doors. He stepped back to say goodbye to the few “seminar” attendees still in their seats and received some polite applause.

I gathered my papers and left.

When brought before the Athenian court, Socrates attempted to explain to his judges why so many disliked him. He recounted the visit of his friend, Chaerephon, to Delphi where Chaerephon was told that ‘no man was wiser’ than Socrates. Socrates, accepting that the God could not lie, still set out to find a man wiser than himself to see if he could refute Apollo. Here is how he recounts his search and the anger it stirred against him:


“I should say to him [Apollo], ‘Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.’ Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him – his name I need not mention [perhaps it was Omar]; he was a politician whom I selected for examination – and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise, and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is, -- for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another who had still higher pretension to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made another enemy of him, and many others besides him.


A week passed and I was rushing to the classroom at the college. My play practice duties and a quick stop at my favorite restaurant – Maverick – had made me almost late. As I rushed, panting, to the door I was met by Professor Larkin.

She said we needed to talk. What happened “last week” was unacceptable. Omar was a famous man who talked to kings and it wasn’t right to ambush him. She said she had had phone calls and the blow up was all over campus. Omar had brought some of his friends and interns to hear the presentation and they were angry. She pointed out that many in the class were new teachers. She had been told by someone that they came to hear two and a half hours of Cater, not half an hour of some crank.

I explained that I didn’t care if Omar was a king, that it was impossible for me to sit there and let him lie to the class. I love truth and learning it. Hard to do when the teacher is telling unchallenged lies. He had every opportunity to answer my questions and validate his points.

Dr. Larkin explained that there had been swearing and shouting. I reminded the Professor that I had neither sworn nor shouted; it was Omar that had done that.

Well, we can’t have you challenging the professors any more. These are new teachers and they are here to get the information the presenters bring for them.

I fear her greatest concern was that some of the folks in the class said they would not attend if I were there disrupting. I must admit that the possibility that her efforts might suffer through acts of mine was painful to me.

She said some nice things about me, complemented my intellect, and said she had often appreciated my questions, but…

She asked if I would agree to sit in the back of the class and save my questions and comments for the breaks or for after the lectures. I felt like I was back in the bishop’s office; maybe in front of the Five Hundred and One

I explained I could not do that. I told her how much I appreciated the classes and how much I had learned over the years, but that I could not sit back and listen to disinformation.

It seems odd to me that she would choose controversial subjects and book controversial speakers and then want to avoid controversy.

I was reminded of when BYU brought in the “Kiss” by Rodin and then allowed the prudish hypocrites in the student body to have the work removed because it titillated their dying passions.

Now we had a bunch of “teachers” demanding my silence because my questions tweaked their dying minds.

Such judgment of them may be rather a conceit from me. Perhaps they are just tired of my stupidity, my arrogance, my nasty disrespectful harangue. It is hard to judge ones’ own statements. We are often like the makeup covered fools who only see themselves as the perfectly sculptured image presented in their morning mirrors. They carry that image of themselves about in their minds all day while the grease and powder slump and slide into a grotesque.

Anyway, I told Professor Larkin that I would not attend under the conditions she had set down. That I did not need the class, nor did I want to listen to unchallenged lies pushed by agenda driven presenters. I love folks with agendas, but only if they can be challenged. “You won’t come in and sit down?” she asked.

“No. Don’t flunk me.” I said.

“I won’t,” she promised, looking quite relieved. She had no doubt been expecting some nastiness. Such is my reputation. "If you ever want me back, you know were to find me.” I said, and I left the University.

As gadfly or crank, I have made my share of enemies. I can see how my disruptions in Sunday school could draw the ire of those who seek only the conformation of their Faith, but I had thought that in a University class; filled with teachers non-the-less; I would be tolerated. At least I could provide a path to truth, a way for those I challenged to let the brilliance of their ideas show as they shot down my questions to their claims. I was wrong.

Did I feel like Socrates holding the cup? Well, maybe a little.

Socrates ends his “Apology” like this:

“But I see clearly that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be released from trouble; wherefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason, also, I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm, although they did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. . .

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”