A Welcome Addition To The Historical Landscape of Richmond

From the Virginia Daily Press: Ground was broken in Richmond yesterday for a monument near the site of a notorious slave jail. The slavery reconciliation plaza will feature a 13-foot bronze sculpture of two figures embracing. It also will have benches representing slave ships and a fountain meant to symbolize the waters crossed by Africans so long ago. It’s the last of three similar monuments placed at international locations central to the slave trade. The monument also will anchor a four-mile path of slavery-related sites running through the former capital of the Confederacy. The project is planned at a downtown Richmond corner in an area where historians believe Lumpkin’s Jail may have once stood. According to historical accounts, Robert Lumpkin bought slaves and kept them confined before selling them to plantation owners in other states.

"Whites in general have buried history out of guilt, and I think African-Americans have buried their history out of shame. The design is telling the story." — Rev. Sylvester Turner, with the Richmond Slave Trail Commission.

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find a photograph.

A Plea To My Readers

I highly value the comments of my readers; however, I ask that you stop using the phrase ‘politically correct’ since I have no idea what it means.  It seems to be a quick way of stating some kind of disagreement, but as to its more specific content I admit to being clueless.  So I suggest that instead of referring to it you explain your position clearly and concisely. 

As many of you know I am very interested in questions relating to how public spaces have been used by various groups to maintain political control as well as control of the way we remember as a nation.  There is a very rich literature on this and I hope to add to it with my work on postwar commemorations and memory of the battle of the Crater. 

Feel free to voice your informed opinion, but if you expect me to respond make sure that you have an argument, and that means a set of assumptions followed by a conclusion.

Surveying My Audience

At approximately 11:20am I checked my Sitemeter and saw that there were 27 people on the blog.  It’s impossible to conclude much from the information that is provided, but of the 27 logged on at least eight were associated with a K-12 or college/university:

K-12 (Utah), University of Dayton, Auburn University, University of Baltimore, Ohio State University, University of Sussex, University of Sheffield, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I like that there seems to be something here for everyone – even for my friends in England.

Terrorist Lover, Who Me?

Hat-Tip to Ralph Luker at HNN

Here are the results of a quiz I took over at GoToQuiz that answers the question of whether you want the terrorists to win.  Unfortunately, it turns out that I do.  This is very surprising and just a bit disappointing.

Your ‘Do You Want the Terrorists to Win’ Score: 94%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day…. in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

This is not a good way to start a Monday.

In all seriousness, however, the scary thing is that these are the terms of our national political dialogue.

Thank You Keith Ellison

I couldn’t be more pleased with the decision of Congressman-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota who has decided that he will be sworn into office with the Koran.  [Here is the story from the Chicago Tribune.] Of course, the blogosphere quickly heated up following this announcement.  Here is one example from Dennis Prager: "He should not be allowed to do so, not because of any American
hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture."  Is there a passage in the Constitution that our strict constructionists can point to that outlines a Bible only swearing in ceremony? They were concerned about concepts like corruption, government power, sovereignty, and representation.  Sorry, but on this one it is safe to conclude that the Founders were "multiculturalists."

Thanks to Eugene Volokh over at National Review Online for pointing out the absurdity of Prager’s and other criticisms of Ellison:

Of course, some might care less about making the oath more effective, and more
about using the oath to reinforce traditional American values, in which they
include respect for the Bible (the “only … book” “America is interested in”)
over other holy books. That, I take it, is part of Prager’s argument, especially
when he goes on to say, “When all elected officials take their oaths of office
with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value
system underlies American civilization.”

Yet this would literally violate
the Constitution’s provision that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” For the
devout, taking an oath upon a religious book is a religious act. Requiring the
performance of a religious act using the holy book of a particular religion is a
religious test. If Congress were indeed to take the view that “If you are
incapable of taking an oath on that book [the Bible], don’t serve in Congress,”
it would be imposing an unconstitutional religious test.

What’s more,
the Constitution itself expressly recognizes the oath as a religious act that
some may have religious compunctions about performing. The religious-test clause
is actually part of a longer sentence: “The Senators and Representatives …
[and other state and federal officials] shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation,
to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required ….”
The option of giving an affirmation rather than oath reflects the judgment — an
early multiculturalist judgment — in favor of accommodating members of some
denominations (such as Quakers) who read the Bible as generally prohibiting the
swearing of oaths.

These doomsday cries have become all too common, but we should keep in mind that they are empirical claims; in other words, the burden is on Prager to show how someone’s faith other than Christianity constitutes a threat to "American culture." Last time I checked our Constitution protected freedom of religion.  Isn’t the idea that religion should not be a test for office part of our culture and history? 

I can’t help but think that this has little to do with culture and congressional history and everything to do with an irrational paranoia about Islam.  Does taking the oath of office on the Bible necessarily lead to a more responsible representative?  Do I even have to answer this question?  What I find even more interesting is the very real possibility that there have been at least a small number of public servants who have taken the oath with the Bible, but are not "true believers."  In other words, they just went through the motions.  Why does this not bother anyone?  Why isn’t an insincere oath not seen as a threat to our national culture.  Isn’t Ellison’s religious convictions and identification with the Koran at least worth the same amount of respect? 

I have no doubut that allowing Ellison to practice his faith openly without any of this irrational criticism can only help us on the long road back to reaching a position where we can actively and constructively engage the Islamic world.