Thursday, April 29, 2010
Alice Keesey Mecoy, my esteemed friend and the great (3x) granddaughter of the real "Great Emancipator," John Brown (not that tall, bearded pretender with his own personal temple in Washington, D.C.), told me about this one folks:
eBay is currently featuring a John Brown action figure for sale under the title, "John Brown abolitionist Civil War custom 12" figure." Now get this, first of all the thing is going for $50. It's a 12-inch G.I. Joe for goodness sakes with a bathroom, for goodness sake. This so-called John Brown comes with a little rifle that looks like something that fell out of a G.I. Joe set, a gun and holster, pants, boots, and something that Alice aptly describes as an outfit from Star Wars. The folks selling it have the audacity to have it posed near a print of John Steuart Curry's famous painting of Brown--but the worst part is that the figure doesn't even resemble a young John Brown, let alone John Brown in the late 1850s. It's got brown hair and beard, but JB's hair was darker and streaked with gray by the time he got to Kansas in 1855, and virtually gray when he was there in 1858-59. Of course, Brown never wore a beard trimmed that close, and even his trademark long, white beard was actually cropped much shorter at the time of the Harper's Ferry raid.
At any rate, this has got to be the worst popular representation I've seen of JB in any medium and one cannot help but get the impression that somebody had a bright idea to make a "John Brown action figure" based on a lot of leftover pieces lying here and there in the toy factory.
Oh yeah, there's one other thing that's missing from this bogus John Brown action figure. Can you guess what it is? (No, not a noose. Look at a complete version of the Curry painting and you'll figure it out.)
Monday, April 26, 2010
John Brown, besides being a friend of freedom, was an animal lover. It is doubtful that he would subscribe to the contemporary presuppositions of "animal rights" activism (whether or not one believes in animal rights or human responsibility for animals has a lot to do with one's fundamental philosophy, but I won't address that here). Nor would he kiss his pets, have them sit at the dinner table, or put them in his will as some folks do these days. But as a thoroughgoing biblicist, Brown personified the Proverbial "righteous man who cares for his beast."[This complete entry is available only in the forthcoming book, John Brown: Emancipator]
Monday, April 19, 2010
Mr. Coates, an excellent author and senior editor for The Atlantic, has recently (Apr. 14) addressed the argument of another writer who contends that the Confederate General Robert E. Lee can be seen as a fine man, "warts and all," particularly in his capacity as a military leader in the cause of Southern secession. Coates responds:
I certainly agree. However, if Mr. Coates does not sanction the means of John Brown, I can only hope that he will read more closely on the Subject. Certain of Brown's actions may have been extreme, but he did nothing except in defense of his family and in the cause of the slave, over against racist, terrorist, and violent foes. In his Kansas career fighting racist thugs, Brown put five greasy villains in their graves, yet he is excoriated by professional historians as if he were a deranged serial killer. In contrast, on the basis of something as hollow as statesman's loyalty, Lee commanded multiple thousands in treason against this nation, and through his illicit command did such great harm against his own nation that he virtually sowed a myriad corpses like bloody seed across the landscape of this nation. Was he really a humble, noble, and salutary figure? If he was, then God save us from such "good" people!
I think the key problem here is the point that Lee's "great legacy is his defense of the system, through force of arms at a horrific cost." That system being a kind of all-encompassing white supremacy--a system of consumption--that did not just indict slave-owners, but poor whites and yeoman farmers that owned no slaves.
The question, though, is one of means versus ends. Can you admire the way someone lived, even if you deplore that which they were willing to give their life for? I don't know. I have deep-seated questions about the means employed by some people who I have, at various times, included in my pantheon. I question John Brown's means, but not his moral ends. I question Nat Turner's means, but not his moral ends. I'm hard pressed to come up with people admire despite deploring the great cause of their life.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Virginia did not secede over slavery," Buchanan said. "Virginia stayed in the union when Lincoln was elected. ... What took them out of the Union was when Abraham Lincoln said, ‘We want 75,000 volunteers, your militia and your soldiers in Virginia, to attack the deep South and bring them back into the union.’ They said, ‘We're not going to kill our kinsmen.’ That's how Virginia left the union."
The writers report that Buchanan then angered his host, Chris Matthews, by contending that Southern secession was based on a desire for freedom.
"They wanted to be free of the Union," Buchanan said. "They wanted to keep slaves," Matthews retorted. Finally, Matthews pushed Buchanan into a corner. "Who was right in the Civil War?" he asked. "I think in a way both sides were right," Buchanan responded. "Lincoln had a right to save the Union. I think they [the South] had a right to go free."
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Regarding "Confederate History Month" in Virginia
|The Practical Implications of "Confederate History"|
The Confederacy was a secessionist movement that formed for all the wrong reasons.
|A Confederate Family "Tree"|
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
When John Brown left Springfield after closing his wool business, he bid farewell to his fellow parishioners at the Sanford Street Church (today’s St. Johns Congregational Church), his many friends in the growing African-American community, and his respected cohorts involved in the local Anti-slavery movement.
|Author Joseph Carvalho III at Museum of Springfield History exhibit on John Brown he co-curated. The exhibit is on display at the museum at Chestnut and Edwards streets.|
From the pulpit of the Sanford Street Church, Rev. John Mars enjoined his congregation that the time had come to “beat plowshares into swords” to defend their families and their freedom.
For John Brown, “Bleeding Kansas” and the famous raid on Harper’s Ferry were to follow, two flash points that lead to the Civil War, and Emancipation. It is important to reflect upon Springfield’s place in his life and how the relationships formed during his stay here influenced the dramatic actions he took in the 1850s.