On this day millions of Americans will attend a church, and many will attend a “megachurch” over 2000 members. And yet most of Americans, regardless of religious interest, are unaware of the first megachurch.
At its zenith, this congregation attracted over 2000 people every Sunday–including politicians, businessmen, professors, socialites, common folk. They came to hear sermons by guys named Rev. Ralph, Leland and Boynton. Never heard of them? Me neither. The first megachurch wasn’t about a celebrity pastor.
It was a gathering of Christians inside our U.S. Capitol.
On DECEMBER 4, 1800 Congress approved the use of the Capitol for church services, following a proposal by Thomas Jefferson. Yes, THAT Thomas Jefferson. The “deist” or “agnostic” Jefferson. The “anti-Christian” Jefferson. The “separation of church and state” Jefferson. Which is why we need to be careful WHO we trust for our history. Thomas Jefferson was certainly no “giant” in his religiosity, but he still stood head and shoulders over most American Christians of our age. He was a religious man.
During the 1800s, people in the DC area flocked to the Capitol building to hear sermons, worship, pray and fellowship. Attendances swelled into the thousands, particularly in the post-Civil War years. But even before Jefferson’s proposal was approved, the U.S. Capitol building was being used for CHURCH SERVICES. A 1795 newspaper in Boston reported that in “our infant city (Washington, DC). Public worship is now regularly administered at the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o’clock by the Reverend Mr. Ralph.” The reason was simple: DC had no churches.
The Capitol Church drew many congressmen and U.S. Presidents, including John and Abigail Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln.
One of its most faithful congregants was, again, Thomas Jefferson, who religiously attended the Capitol Church. Jefferson rode to church services at the Capitol on his horse (regardless of the weather), while President Madison was notably more flamboyant. He arrived in a fancy carriage pulled by four white horses! One congregant journaled about her early 1800s Capitol Church experience that the hall was so crowded “the floor of the House offered insufficient space, [and] the platform behind the Speaker’s chair, and every spot where a chair could be wedged in” was occupied. Now that’s a full house! Sometimes the Marine Band led the song service.
For most the 1800s (1800-1857), the Capitol Church met either in the North or South wing, then Statutory Hall. In 1857 the Church moved into the House chambers (where today we view the annual State of the Union address). The hymnals were purchased by Congress. Can you imagine any of this happening today? Sometimes multiple church services (up to four) were scheduled by different denominations, particularly when a church building was being built elsewhere in town. The Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Unitarians all met there.
Today we think of our U.S. Capitol as a wholly secular facility and yet for its first 100 years a CHURCH, sometimes many churches, met in its hallowed halls.
It also confirms the intent of our Founding Fathers wasn’t to segregate religion or separate “church from state,” as many believe today, but rather to keep the state out of the churches. This was the real point of Jefferson’s assurance to a band of Baptists concerned the new U.S. Constitution would allow a particular Christian denomination to gain control. He was saying the Constitution separated the STATE from the CHURCH, not vice verse. Ironically, Jefferson penned those famous “separation of church and state” words and then two days later attended church services at the U.S. Capitol. If he truly believe that “church and state were to be separated” then his behavior is hypocritical.
Maybe it’s more reasonable to think we’ve missed Jefferson’s point.
It’s an INCONVENIENT HISTORY that secularists want Americans to forget.
They don’t want you to know the REAL Thomas Jefferson. They don’t want you to know the man who supported missionaries, attended church, and even created a special “Jefferson Bible” to better evangelize the Indian (not cut out parts he didn’t agree with, as we’re taught today). This Jefferson doesn’t fit their secular narrative.
THE TRUTH? From the beginning, Christianity and religion was woven into the fabric of America. And the fact our U.S. Capitol was once a GATHERING PLACE for Christians to worship and hear the Word of God proves how far off track we’ve gone.
Actually, a little RELIGION in the U.S. Capitol might do a lot of good. And you can’t spell “good” without G-O-D.
1. BOSTON CHURCH NEWS ARTICLE: Federal Orrery, Boston, July 2, 1795, p. 2.
2. THOMAS JEFFERSON’S CHURCH ATTENDANCE: Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard), The First Forty Years of Washington Society, Galliard Hunt, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13.
3. JEFFERSON’S ATTENDANCE BY HORSE AND IN BAD WEATHER: Cutler and Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 119, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803; see also his entry of December 26, 1802 (Vol. II, p. 114).
4. JAMES MADISON’S ATTENDANCE: Abijah Bigelow to Hannah Bigleow, December 28, 1812. “Letters of Abijah Bigleow, Member of Congress, to his Wife,” Proceedings, 1810-1815, American Antiquarian Society (1930), p. 168.
5. CROWDED CAPITOL SERVICES: Smith, The First Forty Years, p. 14.
6. HISTORY OF CAPITOL SERVICES: James Hutson (Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress), Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 91.
It could be the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision of our lifetime. Arguments are currently underway involving Mississippi laws that severely limit the practice of abortion. Both pro-choice and pro-life advocates believe it’s the case to reverse the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade.
But what’s really at stake?
Will abortion be outlawed in America if Roe v. Wade is reversed? Was the 1973 case an example of unconstitutional judicial over reach? Is it just a religious matter?
The legality of abortion rests on four primary points:
- Humanness: at what point is the fetus clearly human?
- Viability: at what point can a fetus survive outside the womb?
- Right to Privacy: does the U.S. Constitution protect the rights of the fetus or the mother? Or both?
- Accessibility: are abortion services a federal or state responsibility?
Roe v. Wade was a “landmark decision” because it fundamentally changed existing law and carved a new interpretation for the Constitution. Landmark decisions are often done without legal precedent (that’s why they’re “landmark” in their rendering). Essentially, the 1973 Burger SCOTUS in a 7-2 decision acted outside the established law at that time. This is not a debatable fact. Roe v. Wade was “landmark” for how the 1973 SCOTUS interpreted historical Constitutional law.
But who guided this Warren Burger SCOTUS?
The Burger Court included William O. Douglas (considered the most liberal SCOTUS justice in U.S. history), William J. Brennan, Jr. (the leader of the SCOTUS liberal wing), and fellow liberal justices Harry Blackmun (who wrote the Court’s opinion on Roe v. Wade) and Thurgood Marshall. Marshall once described his legal philosophy: “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up”
Consequently, the Warren Court was leaning left in 1973. A decade earlier the SCOTUS had ruled to eliminate prayer and Bible reading in public schools. With the transformative cultural changes of the late 1960s, every American institution was under attack. New religions, new lifestyles and new cultures were soaking the American landscape.
Abortion was a practice that was becoming newly acceptable in America.
Until 1973, abortion had been a matter of state legislation. Connecticut was the first state to make the practice illegal in 1821. By 1900 every state had abortion legislation. The biggest issues were accessibility and criminality. Historically, abortion providers were back alley, under the table and often dangerous options for pregnancy termination. It’s why many states legislated against their existence. There was no such thing as a medically “safe” abortion. In fact, it was a horrific practice often with horrific consequences.
Consequently, the women who pursued an abortion were desperate. They had no other options. And it didn’t take long for law enforcement to target the pregnant in their attempts to root out illegal abortion centers and their doctors (who faced stiff fines for performing abortions). However, women were also charged with crimes. In 1971, a hospital in Florida reported a woman for having an abortion and she was charged with manslaughter (receiving a two-year “house arrest” probation). The Florida Supreme Court eventually overturned her sentence.
The first state to legalize abortion on demand was California in 1967. There was no state line limitation. Consequently, women from around the U.S. flew to the Golden State to terminate their pregnancies. A particular flight from Dallas to Los Angeles was so popular for pregnant women that it was dubbed “The Abortion Special.” There were even prepackaged “non-family plan” trips. Abortion was a new industry in California. And it created new problems for other states.
In 1969 at Texan named Norma McCorvey learned she was pregnant. It was her third child and she didn’t want it. Her friends encouraged her to falsely claim “rape” in order to obtain an abortion (as many states allowed abortions for rape or incest). But Texas law was stricter. Abortions were reserved only to save the life of the mother. She became known as “Jane Roe” to protect her identity. The defendant was the District Attorney in Dallas named Henry Wade.
And that’s how “Roe v. Wade” came to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970.
Arguments for the case were scheduled for December 13, 1971, but the retirements of two justices (Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan) created pause. There were also other related cases (Doe v. Bolton, Younger v. Harris, United States v. Vuitch) that influenced how much jurisdiction the SCOTUS enjoyed. In the Vuitch case, the constitutionality of criminal abortion was at play, particularly using abortion as a medical procedure. When the Vuitch case was narrowly decided in favor of abortion, and the two SCOTUS openings were filled (by Lewis F. Powell and William Rehnquist) it opened the gate for a full hearing on Roe v. Wade. The Burger Court ultimately used their own precedent ruling (for Vuitch) to rule in favor of abortion as a federally-protected medical practice.
Many constitutional scholars at the time, and to this day, believe the Burger Court technically “legislated from the bench.” The liberal wing of the SCOTUS was progressive and radical, perhaps more than any Court before or since. As mentioned, Thurgood Marshall believed in judicial activism. Only Byron White and William Rehnquist (who was a newly appointed justice) dissented.
Between 1973 and 2019 an estimated 62 million abortions occurred.
However, since 1997 abortions have reduced by nearly half—from 1.19 million to 630,000. The high mark for abortions was 1990 (1.43 million) and the low was 2017 (613,000). In general, the use of abortion services has declined. In the 1980s, with the birthing of the “Baby on Board” generation or Millennials, America began a new chapter in how it viewed family planning, contraception and babies. It’s no surprise than the single largest drop in abortion occurred between 1997 and 1998, when abortions dropped under the million mark (884,000) for the first time since 1975. That’s the year the first Millennials turned 16 years of age. They had a different outlook on abortion. Many preferred adoption to terminating a pregnancy.
In the past half century, the ability to nurse a fetus outside the womb has dramatically improved. Furthermore, the scientific technology now allows us to better observe and track fetal development. It’s why few developmental biologists deny that human life is detectable (with a separate and distinct heartbeat) by the sixth week of gestation. It’s also why pro-life advocates continue to view abortion as the termination of a human life. Meanwhile, many pro-choice proponents argue that abortion should be legal all the way to birth, and some even suggest, immediately after birth. Finally, constitutional scholars continue to cite the Burgers Court’s decision to federally legalize abortion as judicial over-reach. Technically abortion services should be decided by the people and the legislators of each individual state.
So revisiting Roe v. Wade in 2021 is not necessarily a bad thing.
If the science has proven there is human life (just like there is dog life or chicken life) after a certain point, even up to conception, then Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision. Constitutionally, all persons (which would include unborn) have legal protections.
Second if medical advances have improved the viability of a fetus to increase his or her ability to survive outside the womb, then Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision. It would be a criminal act to terminate a pregnancy for any reason other than saving the life of the mother, including rape or incest.
Third if the Roberts SCOTUS disagrees with the Burger SCOTUS on the “right to privacy” for the mother, based upon pre-1973 legal precedents and a historical interpretation of Constitution law, then Roe v. Wade was a wrong (and rogue) decision. Essentially the Robert’s SCOTUS would return the SCOTUS to its historic position as a nonpartisan opinion that judges Congressional law (not state law) for constitutionality. The SCOTUS was not instituted to overturn or uphold rulings by the state Supreme Courts. It was created to temper the laws produced by the FEDERAL legislative and executive branches. Since the FDR administration, the U.S Supreme Court has increasingly became more powerful and even “legislative.” In some cases, and many contend Roe v. Wade is a prime example, they legislated and not judged.
Finally, there’s the matter of accessibility. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not end abortion services. That’s a red herring by pro-choice advocates. All it does is return, rightfully, the LEGISLATION of abortion services to the individual states. If California, Oregon and Washington desire to be states where abortions can be legally and safely administered, so be it. But if Idaho, Mississippi and Texas prefer all abortions services in their state to be illegal, that’s okay too. We are a more mobile culture in 2021. We can safely travel anywhere in the U.S. If a pregnant woman in Idaho wants to terminate her pregnancy, she can cross the state line and have the procedure done in Oregon or Washington.
Overturning Roe v. Wade will not make abortion illegal in every state. It will only make it illegal in states that prefer the practice to be illegal.
The winds are favorable for the SCOTUS to reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling. The conservative majority justices tend to rule via historical precedent and original interpretation of the Constitution. They see it as a fixed document until amended by “we the people.” The liberal minority justices tend to view the Constitution as a fluid document that shifts as culture changes (i.e., progressive). It was progressive justices that paved the way for this landmark 1973 decision (shifting how we looked at abortion in America) and, it seems now, that it will be constitutional justices who could correct the ruling. The only “precedent” case the current SCOTUS has was in 1992 (post Roe v. Wade)–a case that upheld abortion services using Roe v. Wade as precedent. However, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, all later rulings would also fall.
Progressive justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned in the argument phase: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Ironically that has been the argument against the Burger Court since 1973, that it “acted politically” rather than constitutionally. No matter how the current SCOTUS rules on this matter it will be either applauded or despised, just as it was in 1973.
Two conservative justices asked the most compelling questions regarding Roe v. Wade.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked, “Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this?” In other words, this is NOT a FEDERAL matter. It should be a state’s prerogative. The Burger SCOTUS was wrong to remove the right for individual states to legalize or criminalize abortion services. It does seem like over reach.
Justice Samuel Alito inquired, “Can it [be] said that the right to abortion is deeply rooted in the history and traditions of the American people?” In other words, is this a matter of recent history or has abortion always been part of “who we are” as Americans? One could argue slavery was, at one time, “rooted to the history and traditions of the American people.” It was “we the people” (through an amendment to U.S. Constitution that corrected that evil). One could also argue for Christian religion as a “right” that’s historically been a part of our national fabric. But abortion on demand? Before California’s legalization of abortion in 1967, the practice was nearly non-existent in America. It only became more desirable in a post-Pill contraceptive culture. In the era of 1960s sexual exploration and liberty, abortion was the most convenient way to resolve an “unwanted” problem. The question still remains: “Does that make it right?”
That’s why this isn’t a religious issue, even though religious beliefs play into the argument.
In the end, any decision to terminate a pregnancy is an ETHICAL choice based upon biology (is this growing fetus in the womb a human or not?), convenience (how easy, safe and affordable is the abortion option) and pragmatism (what will keeping or ending this pregnancy mean for the mother or the baby birthed)?
What the Robert’s SCOTUS will decide is whether that ethical choice is only for the mother alone. Does the fetus have a “right” to a voice, especially if its biological fact that he or she is clearly human? Regardless of the decision, abortion on demand will not end. Many, perhaps most states, will continue to offer abortion services. America is not going backward to “coat wire” back room, unsanitary abortion rooms. That’s another red herring.
But in the end, constitutionally, this probably is better decided by individual states. But that also means federal funding of abortion will need to end. And that’s probably what abortionists fear the most (the loss of federal funds). However, as many pro-life advocates argue, why should those who fundamentally believe abortion is a murder have to foot the bill for those who use abortion as a convenience, an easy out for “choosing” to engage in sexual relations. Is the privatization of abortion services a bad thing? Does this multi-million dollar industry need propped up by federal dollars? Could federal funds formerly targeted for abortion services be re-directed towards mental and emotional health services?
As for protecting women who conceived via rape or incest, this too is a difficult matter. There is evidence that the physical trauma of the act—especially rape—very rarely ends in a conception, let alone a full-term baby. Perhaps the only exception would be “date rape” where the partners somewhat know each other and and inconvenient and unwanted consequence can happen. Incest can also produce pregnancy, but it also creates genetic consequences too. These are difficult gray areas, but they tend to be exceptions. In general, most U.S. abortions are performed for reasons other than rape or incest (or to save the life of the mother).
Ultimately, the greatest consequence of reversing Roe v. Wade would be federal funding and some inconvenience. Otherwise, women who desire an abortion could still get it and states (populated with people who are more pro-life) can legislate against the practice.
That’s the way it was before 1973.
And perhaps the old way was better.
- “Roe v. Wade” (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
- Number of Legal U.S. Abortions: 1973-2019: https://www.statista.com/statistics/185274/number-of-legal-abortions-in-the-us-since-2000/
- U.S. Abortion Rates, 1960-2013: https://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/graphusabrate.html
Today is Thanksgiving Day.
It’s a day we’ll gather for turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, and pie. We’ll gather with friends and family, watch football and check the advertisements for Black Friday specials. Most of us will share gratitude for something or someone.
But in 1621, the first Thanksgiving feast happened for none of those reasons.
Here’s the REAL story. The story that you won’t hear on the History Channel, at the museum or in school. In fact, if you’re under 45, you’ve likely never learned what really happened with the pilgrims. You’ve been fed a history that one revisionist stated was how “noble-minded pioneers slaughtered Indians with little remorse, kept servants and slaves, and treated women no differently than cattle.”[i]
Many Americans believe Europeans originally settled America as part of a systematic “hostile takeover” of the native Indian (or indigenous people). The “white man” stole the land from the Indian, then enslaved the African Black.
But is that true? Were the Pilgrims evil white Christian oppressors? Or have we been taught the wrong story.
To understand this tale we need to begin in 1603 when King James I ascended the English throne. King James wanted a pure Anglican church and absolute obedience to civil authority. He drove dissident groups underground through imprisonment, fines and other persecution. In 1611, King James would even “authorize” his own Anglican translation of the Bible. Among these dissident groups were Puritan Separatists. Initially, they wanted to “purify” the corruption in the Anglican church but eventually found separating to be godlier. In 1607, an entire church (known as the Scrooby congregation) illegally migrated to Holland to escape King James.
Holland proved tolerant of religion, but also more heathen in culture and traditions. After a dozen years living among the Dutch, this Scrooby church noticed changes in their kids…and they weren’t good ones. It was time to move again. That’s when they heard about a new world called “America.”
In September of 1620 these Puritan “pilgrims” set sail for America. There are 102 on board, but only half were Puritans. The rest were individuals who wished to join these pilgrims and create a new colony. They had special vocational skills the Puritans needed. The two-month voyage across the Atlantic was a dangerous and life-threatening. Intense storms nearly tore the Mayflower ship apart. Originally the pilgrims planned to settle in Jamestown, VA but a winter storm pushed them further north into Cape Cod in modern day Massachusetts.
One of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower was William Bradford. He was barely 30 years old but already a respected leader among the Puritans. He volunteered to help explore the area with several other men. But first they needed to agree to what would become “The Mayflower Compact.” The Puritans knew settling in a different area than Jamestown could be perceived as defiance by King James. Consequently, they wrote out a simple constitution—the first for Americans—promising “all Submission and Obedience” to “King and country.” They also stated their purpose was a CHRISTIAN settlement “undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”
With the Compact signed, exploration parties commenced. Initially, they found no people. The cold November winds were chilling, the New England land barren, rocky and hard to traverse. On their third exploration the men discovered an abandoned Indian village. It was the former fort of the Patuxet Indians and it was now a graveyard of skulls and bones. Between 1616 and 1619, a deadly plague killed off the entire tribe. The tragedy of a tribe would be fortunate for these pilgrims seeking a quick home. But the young Bradford now faced his own tragedy. Upon his return to the Mayflower he learned his young wife had accidentally fallen into the cold Atlantic waters and drowned. It was the first of many misfortunes he’d face.
The abandoned Indian fort proved a Divine blessing for the pilgrims who began disembarking the Mayflower. Winter was approaching fast, and they needed food and shelter. By Christmas Day 1620 the settlers were rebuilding the old Indian fort. Unfortunately, starvation, freezing temperatures and sickness soon took its toll. At one point, Bradford collapsed from a sudden pain in his hip. Some feared he wouldn’t last the night, but he “miraculously” pulled through. Not everyone was that lucky. During March and February, two to three pilgrims died every day. By spring more than half the original 100 pilgrims were dead.
Many Puritans would later thank a hired soldier named Myles Standish for their survival in that first winter. Standish not only nursed Bradford back to health, but many others too. He foraged for food, reinforced the fort and kept the dying pilgrim community alive. He’d also be William Bradford’s right hand man…and a gift from God. For Bradford everything was a matter of Divine Providence. God was controlling this venture…and blessing it. Even when the Mayflower headed back to England and the ship’s captain begged the starving pilgrims to return, they refused. God had led them to America.
As for the neighboring Indians? Here’s the real story that’s not taught today.
On March 16, this surviving band of Puritan pilgrims had their first meeting with a native American. His name was Samoset and he was part of the Pokanokets tribe. His chief Massasoit had sent him to meet the white settlers and to their surprise he greeted them IN ENGLISH. The introduction grew into a friendship and eventually a mutual treaty to work together for the good of all. The Puritans and Pokanokets agreed to help each other and, if necessary, fight together. It was an alliance that likely saved the pilgrims.
The reason Somoset could greet the pilgrims in their English tongue is due to another Indian named Tisquantum. He was not a Pokanokets Indian. In fact, he belonged to that fateful Patuxet Indian tribe that had perished due to the plague. Tisquantum was kidnapped and taken to Spain to be a slave prior to the epidemic. Then he was sold to some Spanish Christian monks. These monks educated Tisquantum, taught him Spanish and English, as well as European customs. They also instructed him in Christianity and told him about Jesus…then they freed Tisquantum. The freed Indian left Spain and traveled to England (meeting Pocahontas) and then, in 1619, returned to his native America.
But Tisquantum returned to the same skulls and bones that the pilgrims would eventually discover. His entire village was gone. His family and friends were dead. His entire life and culture was finished. So he joined the Pokanokets tribe. He was the one who likely taught Samoset a simple English greeting. Because once in the door, Tisquantum quickly took the lead. He did all the translation work between the Indians and these white settlers. He even helped create the treaty. He lived with the pilgrims for nearly two years and proved an indispensable resource to Bradford and the colonists. Bradford said Tisquantum was “a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
The Puritans gave Tisquantum a different, shortened name. To them, he was known simply as “Squanto”—one of the most influential Indians in American history. Like Pocahontas and, later, Sacajawea, he was a trusted friend to the white settler.
Squanto singlehandedly equipped this struggling colony. He was their American “Moses”—leader, guide, interpreter, and advisor. He introduced the settlers to the fur trade and taught them how to hunt and fish. He showed them how to grow crops in the rocky Massachusetts’s dirt, including a new crop known as “corn.” At one point, a food shortage forced Bradford to take a treacherous expedition to trade some pelts. Squanto expertly piloted the ship through dangerous waters. But that expedition was also Squanto’s swan song, as he contracted “Indian fever” sometime during the trip. Within days, he was dead. Bradford tenderly cared for his Indian friend to his last breath. He wrote in his journal how Squanto was a “great loss” to him and the pilgrim colonists.
The year of 1621 proved a banner year for the pilgrims.
Despite the steep loss of human life in early spring, the colony had rebounded—thanks to the help of Squanto and the Pokanokets tribe. They now thrived in their new world. There was an abundance of wildlife and fish, not to mention trees for building homes. The pilgrims killed so much fowl and deer, and their crops grew so well in 1621, that they had more than they needed for the coming winter. It was time to party.
AND THAT’S WHAT THE FIRST THANKSGIVING WAS ALL ABOUT. Yes, there was gratitude towards the Indians. It why the pilgrims invited their chief Massasoit and several Indians to join their company of ninety for a good old-fashioned potluck dinner. They feasted for three days on wild turkey, venison, fish, fowl, fruits, nuts and vegetables. They also dined on a new dish known simply as “corn.” A pilgrim named Edward Winslow recorded his gratitude: And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time, with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Thanksgiving was about THANKING GOD for his “goodness” and his abundant provision. It was also gratitude for new friends, rugged individualism and freedom to live (and worship) as one desired.
It’s why those who wish to twist this Thanksgiving tale into a story of greed, theft and hate completely miss the point. The Puritans weren’t oppressors. They didn’t steal any land. In fact, every Indian tribe in the area could’ve done what these Puritans did but they did not. Why? Because their superstitions about death kept them far away from that plot of land. They feared inhabiting such a place would bring death upon their own tribe. So the abandoned fort was never inhabited again…until a hundred hungry European Christians desperately needed shelter one cold November day.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday with an amazing tale of survival. We should enjoy the bounty of what we’ve earned and produced. But don’t forget to be grateful for how God provided that opportunity, that job, that paycheck, that home, that food. And out of charity and gratitude, don’t forget to invite some friends to the table.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful, hopeful…and neighborly.
- Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis (New York: Avon Books, 1990): 20.
- Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation” by William Bradford (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing, 1898)
- The Pilgrim Fathers or Colony of Plymouth from 1602 to 1625 by Alexander Young (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841).
On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of five charges. Not guilty. His self-defense argument persuaded the jury. Unfortunately, outside the Kenosha courthouse doors, it was a different story.
So what did we really learn from the Rittenhouse trial? I watched hours of this trial, including the tearful Rittenhouse testimony and the exhaustive closing arguments by both sides. Here are my takeaways:
1. THIS TRIAL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. Other than the fact it occurred at a Black Lives Matter protest, not one person involved in the Rittenhouse matter was a different race. It was a “white on white” incident. Rittenhouse was white. The persons he shot were white. The lawyers were white. The judge was white. With exception to one person, the jury was white. And yet, many politicians (including President Joe Biden), celebrities and media pundits, still felt the need to inject RACE (read: anti-black) into this incident. It simply wasn’t true…and wrong.
2. CERTAIN MEDIA PREJUDICIALLY PROMOTED A FALSE NARRATIVE. From the beginning, certain media outlets (including national cable television channels and major newspapers) chose to vilify Kyle Rittenhouse. He was a white supremacist. He was the aggressor. He was actively looking to shoot people. He illegally bought a gun. He illegally crossed state lines with a gun. None of these allegations were true. In fact, they were completely false. These same media outlets also had Rittenhouse tried, convicted and hung…before he ever had his true day in court. It was a media lynching that our justice system stepped in to stop. In the end, it seemed that certain media were more interested in propagating a prejudicial narrative than reporting “truth” or protecting “justice.”
3. A LOT OF PEOPLE COMMENTING ON THIS TRIAL NEVER HEARD THE TESTIMONY NOR SAW THE EVIDENCE. In the aftermath of the verdict, many people rushed to their own judgement with opinions that didn’t match courtroom testimony and evidence. Many views were re-hashed media talking points or social media pablum. There were still commentators, even after the verdict, who claimed Rittenhouse was a white supremacist and shot people at will. Even President Joe Biden stood by his former statement that Rittenhouse was somehow connected to white nationalism. It’s just not true. To the president’s credit, he at least admitted that he had not watched the trial. Nevertheless, in the end, Biden still stood by the falsehood. The truth? There is absolutely no evidence that Rittenhouse had any ties, anywhere, to white nationalism (it wasn’t even brought up in the trial). As for the allegation that he was an “active shooter.” Rittenhouse had a 30 round clip for his AR-15. He used 8 bullets…four of them on one person (Joseph Rosenbaum). This was a major component for Kyle’s self defense argument. If he was a nefarious “bad” kid looking for trouble, he had ample opportunity to shoot a lot of people that night. He didn’t. He didn’t shoot aggressors who stopped chasing him. He only fired on those attempting to harm him. The video footage made this abundantly clear.
4. THE AMERICAN RIGHT TO SELF DEFENSE AND THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS WHAT’S UNDER ATTACK. The biggest argument against Kyle Rittenhouse was the fact a 17 year-old kid had a military style rifle in his possession and was willing and able to use it. One analyst said this verdict meant you can now rob a bank and shoot yourself out the door in self defense. Seriously? Is comparing Rittenhouse to an armed robbery a fair comparison? The facts in this case hardly make Rittenhouse the perpetrator of a crime (robbing a bank). There was no evidence nor testimony to suggest Rittenhouse was an aggressor at all. Some of the prosecution’s witnesses proved helpful to the defense on this point. In the end, both the video footage and the testimony confirmed that Rittenhouse was hunted down by a lone aggressive man named Joseph Rosenbaum (with a criminal record and mental health issues). It got to the point that Kyle finally shot Rosenbaum, who lunged at him, in self defense. When Kyle realized the situation, he quickly left the area (according to his testimony to turn himself into police) but was eventually chased by other men–also with criminal backgrounds. Rittenhouse quickly ascertained had no interest in apprehending him. One man clubbed him in the head with his skateboard. Another violently kicked him. Another approached Kyle with a handgun. There were no commands to stand down and wait for the police. This wasn’t a peaceful “citizen’s arrest.” No, as the video showed, these individuals wanted their own “vigilante justice” (something Kyle is accused of). They seemingly wanted to seriously injure, if not kill, Rittenhouse. Fortunately, he had the firepower to fight back…and that’s what bugs some people the most. The fact Rittenhouse proved able to stand against the mob is a problem for many people on the left today. Some Second Amendment experts believe this trial will likely create new anti-second amendment gun legislation in blue states. Stay tuned.
5. THE CRIMINAL IS NOW THE TRUSTED, RIGHTEOUS (VICTIM) HERO WHILE THE GOOD AMERICAN IS THE LYING, EVIL (AGGRESSIVE) OFFENDER. This was the most unreasonable part of the Rittenhouse trial for me. Why was Kyle even there that night? Was he looking for trouble? It’s why we wait to hear the evidence before making judgments. Rittenhouse lived just across the river, in a different state, but Kenosha was his home too. He had family there. He loved the city. It’s why he went that day to help. There’s a photo of Rittenhouse scrubbing off profane graffiti on the day of the incident. Later he was asked protect some property after nightfall (why he carried a gun). He also hoped to help anyone hurt in these violent riots. Kyle had some medic training and wanted to be a nurse. Strangely, on the night of the incident, Rittenhouse gave up his protective gun armor to a friend. Given the potential for being shot in these violent BLM riots (these were not the peaceful protests that, again, many in the media portrayed), Kyle was extremely brave. Or maybe he was a naive kid with extremely poor judgment. Either way, there’s no evidence to suggest Rittenhouse was a bad person. Unlike his attackers, he had no criminal record. In contrast, those who attacked him that night were the ones with criminal rap sheets. And they were also involved in VIOLENT, illegal activity (from vandalism to arson). The first man Kyle killed–a man named Joseph Rosenbaum–had checked out of a mental hospital earlier that day. He also had a criminal record, including sexual abuse of five young boys. The prosecution (State of Wisconsin), as well as several in the media, would call these thugs “heroes.” Beware when good becomes evil and evil, good.
6. THE AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM IS NOT BROKE. Former NFL quarterback and social activist Colin Kaepernick tweeted just after the verdict: “We just witnessed a system built on white supremacy validate the terroristic acts of a white supremacist. This only further validates the need to abolish our current system. White supremacy cannot be reformed.” Notwithstanding Kaepernick’s ignorance of American history and how our judicial system was founded, nor his insistence upon propagating a lie of Rittenhouse being a white supremacist, his tweet is problematic. Think about it. Kaepernick had no issues with “the system” in June 2021 when a white police officer (Derek Chauvin) was convicted and sentenced to 22 years of prison for the murder of George Floyd. He has no problem when “the system” works in favor of other black defendants or accusers. He only has a problem when it works against his racial prejudice, his political narrative and his worldview. In fact, the “system” worked in the Rittenhouse case just as it should. The burden of proof, beyond reasonable doubt, simply wasn’t there. The District Attorney failed to make the case. The evidence wasn’t there for conviction. In fact it never was there. In retrospect, the D.A. should never have tried this case. It’s why Rittenhouse lawyers cued the “mistrial with prejudice” argument and have the judge toss the case. Does that mean every verdict and every trial is JUST. Absolutely not. We have many people, of all races, rotting in prison today who didn’t do the crime. They were UNJUSTLY convicted. We also have criminals who did the deed and got off (thanks to loopholes in the law or the ability to buy a rich legal team). But that doesn’t mean the system is broken as much as its abused. All I know is it’s still the fairest justice system in the world, perhaps in all of history. I didn’t agree with the O.J. Simpson verdict (when a rich black man was acquitted of his white wife’s murder). In that case, I felt the testimony and evidence seemed to prove otherwise. However, I didn’t feel a need to burn down a building, loot a business or hurt those with whom I disagreed. Nor did I think we needed to torch the American judicial system. Frankly, I’d be curious to know what “system” Mr. Kaepernick would offer in its place?
IN MANY WAYS, THE RITTENHOUSE TRIAL EXPOSED ALL OF AMERICA’S PREJUDICES AND REVEALED OUR DEEP DIVIDE.
It showed the bias of the media and of Black America (yes, blacks can be racists too). It revealed the prejudice of those who want to abolish police departments, tear down our justice system and eliminate Second Amendment protections. It revealed the bias against good Americans–particularly those who are white, Christian and right wing. One black commentator audaciously stated if Rittenhouse was a “black Muslim” he would’ve been shot on sight by the police that night, somehow ignoring how many of the black thugs, regardless of religion, in the Kenosha riots weren’t shot by police…even as they committed crimes against property and humanity.
The tragedy is many Americans, including our younger generations, who actually think it’s still 1962 and we ALL live in Birmingham, Alabama. We don’t. And most of America never did. And with exception to those over 60 years of age who lived in the deep South between 1870 and 1964, most of us had no idea what a segregated life was like. We don’t have separate “white only” bathrooms, restaurants, hotels or parks. We don’t have segregated schools, buses or sporting leagues. We don’t even see lynching. The last lynching of a black in the United States was 40 years ago in 1981...and this lynching was news because it was rare. According to the Tuskegee Institute, the practice of lynching died out in 1964. And, for the record, there were THREE lynchings in 1964. Two of the three were white. Furthermore, since 1882 there were 4,742 lynchings. What’s not said? A third of those lynchings were white people, many of them southern white Republicans who wanted Jim Crow segregation abolished and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Black Americans. It’s funny how narratives get twisted.
NEVERTHELESS, THE RITTENHOUSE TRIAL REVEALED WHO WE REALLY ARE. THIS IS AMERICA IN 2021. We a nation DIVIDED…by race…by religion…by gender…by sexual preference…by the ability to protect ourselves…by state lines…by economics…by popularity…by power.
We are the people under a flag of our own colors….
Red. White. Black and Blue.
It was the football game that changed the rules of broadcasting.
It was the game that showed how the democratic, decentralized people’s voice could overrule the authoritative, centralized control of network brass. It was the game where a little girl in the Swiss Alps and superstar athletes toppled how we would watch live sports forever.
It’s known simply as the “Heidi Game.” The date was November 17, 1968. And here’s the story…
From the beginning of radio and television broadcasting, live sports were subjected to strict programming rules. Advertisers wanted their fair share of available air space. Networks wanted to create a broadcast matrix. The people wanted to listen and/or watch according to schedule. And “broadcast operations control” insured everything worked flawlessly. And generally it did. Even with scripted “live” television, there were marks and finishes.
Until the “Heidi Game” of ’68, it was common for live sports to shift to other previously scheduled programming when a game went long. But that didn’t happen much. Indeed, in regular season National Football League play, there were no overtime periods and ties were common. The NFL didn’t insert an “overtime” for regular season games until 1974. Overtime was common in basketball as well as extra innings in baseball, but these games were also played much faster. In fact, one of the reasons games stretched to three hours in length was due to television needing commercial space between innings. Consequently, if a game was going long, and they rarely did, the rule was to switch to “regular scheduled programming.” Even with breaking news, the viewer was shorted and forced to miss whatever content was played during the brief “break in” with news. Of course, if the “breaking news” was critical to the lives of the viewers, no problem. But “whoa Nelly!”…beware the ire when it wasn’t.
This was certainly true when the famous Heidi game was played between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders.
Broadcasted by NBC, the game was viewed as a delightful revenge match from the previous year, a football game considered “one of the most vicious in Jet history.” The bitter rivalry featured two elite quarterbacks: the flamboyant, playboy Joe Namath and the cool Daryle Lamonica. To say these two teams hated each other would be an understatement. Frank Ramos, Director of Public Relations for the New York Jets quipped, “When the Jets played the Raiders, it wasn’t a rivalry. It was war.”
Indeed a war is exactly what NBC wanted. And network brass salivated with the knowledge that sports fans would enthusiastically tune in. To sweeten the programming schedule that Sunday, NBC slated the popular children’s film Heidi to immediately follow the game as a nightcap treat. Get the dads and sons in the afternoon, then bring in the moms and daughters for the evening.
On paper it seemed a perfect idea. In reality it proved a nightmare.
Between penalties and thrilling gameplay, the contest soon pushed the limits of its two-and-a-half hour televised time allotment. It was the game that NFL fans wanted, and NBC executives needed for ratings. At halftime the Raiders were winning 14-12. The game went back and forth until it’s final minute of play. With sixty-seconds remaining the Jets precariously clung to a narrow three-point lead, but the Raiders had the ball. It was going to be a fantastic finish. Sports fans were on the edge of their seats.
But there was a serious problem.
In the eastern time zone (where New York Jet fans lived), it was nearly 7 p.m. and that generated a conundrum for NBC executives. The Heidi movie was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EST. As game play exhausted valuable time in the second half, and this “live” sporting event was certain to extend beyond the scheduled time frame, NBC brass debated (and eventually decided) to delay Heidi to let the game finish. However, that change in protocol never got to the supervisor of Broadcast Operations Control. The reason? Jammed phone lines. As the 7 p.m. hour neared in the Eastern time zone, NBC phone lines were inundated with inquiries from nervous both football fans and impatient preteen girls waiting for Heidi. The supervisor who controlled the switch couldn’t get past the busy signal.
At 7 p.m., just as the Raiders received the kickoff for their desperate final march to victory, NBC Broadcast Operations Control cued the closing football theme music and switched to the start of Heidi. The NBC brass went nuts. They thought word had been relayed to let this riveting game finish. Football fans, particularly in New York, also exploded with outrage. The irony? The programming decision only impacted those in the Eastern and Central time zones. Viewers in the Mountain and Pacific time zones happily stayed with the game. They had no idea that all hell broke loose in huge eastern and midwestern market cities.
In retrospect, it’s probably better the angry New York Jets fans never saw the ending. Amazingly, the Raiders scored not one but two touchdowns in that final minute of play. Bob Valli, a reporter for Oakland Tribune, penned that “Television missed one of football’s most exciting and exhausting minutes of emotion. In that minute, Oakland fans saw despair turn to delirium.”
Unfortunately, NBC made matters even worse.
Again, following protocols and as a public courtesy to jilted football fans, NBC posted a scrolling bulletin to report the Raiders had won the game. Unfortunately, NBC chose to make that announcement during one of the most pivotal, emotional points in the entire Heidi movie. And now Heidi fans across the nation were ticked. What was NBC thinking? Do they have no shame? The phones at NBC (and even local police departments) rang off the hook. It got so bad that NBC installed special “Heidi” phones to handle all the irate calls. There was even a very public apology.
In 1968 America was coming apart at the seams.
The Heidi game was indicative of the wider cultural change happening. It also capped a hard, desperate year for the nation. Arguably, until the year 2020, 1968 could be America’s toughest year. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Riots broke out at university campuses as well as the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Forty-six Americans a day were dying in Vietnam, now considered a lost battle according to Walter Cronkite. Race wars tore apart urban neighborhoods while “black power” athletes sparked controversy at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Richard Nixon was narrowly elected in a heated contest.
Americans were on edge, weary and seeking some relaxation. All they wanted was a great football game. What they received was more agitation and fury.
Neither television nor live sports broadcasting would ever be the same.
As for the New York Jets? They would avenge the Heidi game with a fantastic underdog win, several weeks later, over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, a win “guaranteed” by the brash Joe Namath.
In 1997, the “Heidi Game” was voted as the most memorable regular season game in NFL history.
Indeed it was…if you actually saw it.
“As a former soldier, I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth-that there are no atheists in the foxholes. They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively turn to God for new courage and peace of mind. All the history of America bears witness to this truth. our faith in God, and through faith in themselves as His children, our forefathers designed and built this Republic…”
“If the State gives rights, it can–and inevitably will–take away those rights. Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first–the most basic–expression of Americanism.”
“Each day we must ask that Almighty God will set and keep His protecting hand over us so that we may pass on to those who come after us the heritage of a free people, secure in their God-given rights and in full control of a Government dedicated to the preservation of those rights.”
Ike’s encouragement of Judeo-Christian religion, as well as a national evangelical revival in the 1950s, truly created a new nation “under God” (two words added to our pledge under the Eisenhower administration). By 1960 church attendance had rocketed 20%! Essentially seven in ten Americans now attended church or synagogue services regularly (at least twice a month), the highest on record. And 97% of all Americans, even the less religious, still believed that God existed. It would be our faith in God and man that steeled us for the decade of the 1960s.
Eisenhower’s “Back to God” message, helped by the ministry of the Reverend Billy Graham, positioned America, in that decade, to eventually win that space race and put a man on the moon July 20, 1969. During the 1960s, we battled communism from Vietnam to Cuba and faced our darkest hours when assassin bullets took the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Bobby Kennedy. We struggled through civil rights, anti-war protests, duck-and-cover nuclear drills and hippie permissiveness. A new drug culture emerged, with “free love” (sexual promiscuity) in its wake.
Many attribute Eisenhower’s spiritual legacy and virtuous leadership to America’s ability to navigate these difficult and demanding moments. Indeed, it certainly did not hurt. America is a good nation and you can’t spell “good” without G-O-D.
It’s something to think about, even yet today, as we face our own dark seasons and difficult times.
As a result, Roosevelt moved the bar in how heads of State interacted with their subjects. But it took helpful new technologies for him to do so. Today both Panama and Puerto Rico can be reached within hours via jumbo jet. It took over half a month for Roosevelt to make his journey by sea. He was also aided by a new communications technology: the telephone.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This preamble to the U.S. Constitution, drafted in September 1787 and ratified on March 4, 1789, is the guiding document for the United States of America. The Constitution was the first attempt to “federalize” or “unionize” the states…and it’s been a source of national political conflict ever since.
But what if the “Constitution” (of 1791) was “unconstitutional” in itself?
Here’s a brief history…
Before the ink on the Declaration of Independence had dried (July 4, 1776), our Founding Fathers introduced the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” (July 12, 1776). It was our first Constitution and on March 1, 1781 was fully ratified.
Originally, our Founders envisioned the United STATES of America, and the Articles of Confederation reflected this grand idea. Under these Articles, the federal government had largely three abilities and that was to declare war, raise armies and negotiate treaties. The individual states retained all power to “constitute” (govern) their people as they desired, including taxes, education and commerce. These Articles were in effect throughout the Revolutionary War period (1777-1790).
It was the original desire of our Founders to craft a loosely-knitted confederation of states…each with a distinct flavor. This was particularly notable in religion. The fear of a national “church” was a reason why our Founders chose to “confederate” rather than “federalize” in 1776-1777. Every state had its “preferred” Christian religion. Maryland was Roman Catholic. Pennsylvania was Quaker. Virginia was Anglican. The vision of the Founding Fathers was to be a “Christian” nation without forcing any one particular sect of Christianity (with allowance to non-Christian religions–like Islam and Judaism–to live peaceably too).
The problem is some states governed differently than others and that produced unintended and terrible consequences. For example, in Massachusetts the Shay’s Rebellion (1786-1787) sparked concerns when thousands of angry farmers (who couldn’t get lines of credit) rioted and nearly brought the state down. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, their legislators passed a bill to abolish slavery (March 1, 1780) while other states like Virginia and Georgia used their sovereignty to strengthen their slavery laws. This is what eventually created the “free” and “slave” states of the American Civil War.
In the 1780s, a group of “federalist” Founding Fathers, who believed we needed to strengthen FEDERAL control and be the UNITED States of America, flexed their political power. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison penned a work known as “The Federalist Papers (1787-1788)” to promote a more “federal” government. But that didn’t sit well with other Founding Fathers. Anti-Federalists like Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and James Monroe vehemently disagreed. We are the United STATES of America, they argued, and pointed to the “perpetual” (non-changing) nature of that first Constitution. This disagreement would become a political wedge that remains to this very day.
The only way to change things was to revise the original Constitution.
And so they did.
On May 25, 1787 a Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, PA to sort the mess out. As you might expect, the debate was raucous and deeply divided. In fact, some delegates were so frustrated they headed for home. Consequently, a call to retreat, reflect, pray and read the Bible was suggested. And that’s what these delegates did. For hours the Founders prayed for our young nation. They read Scripture. They went to church. They started every session with a chaplain’s blessing and prayer (a tradition that continues to this day).
In the end a “peace” was found and an improved “democratic republic” was born. The Federalists won the argument and a new federal U.S. Constitution was drafted, then sent to the states to be ratified. This new Constitution gave the federal government more control but still recognized the sovereignty of individual states. But that didn’t stop the disagreement. Even though every state eventually ratified the new Constitution (a few begrudgingly), problems still remained. How much sovereignty does a state enjoy? For example, Southern states would later employ their “state’s right” to use slavery as part of their commercial and private interests. Texas and California simply solved the problem by constituting as “republics.”
And what about that one little word in the original 1776 Constitution: PERPETUAL? If the ORIGINAL Constitution is a PERPETUAL one, could it be changed at all?
Abraham Lincoln echoed this problem in his inaugural address (March 4, 1861): “The union is much older than the Constitution … the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778.” And yet, even Lincoln realized the only answer to slavery was a FEDERAL and UNION solution. There are some issues bigger than one particular state’s preference and sovereignty.
Federalism flexed its muscles with the abolition of slavery, but it’s been seen in other ways too. A federal government purchased new western frontiers, created national transportation systems (trains, interstate highways), set aside national parks, instituted a national income tax, oversaw alcohol regulation, social security, public education, and other American interests. A federal government would send our sons to war in Europe, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
But the STATES RIGHT (libertarian) idea has never fully died either. The ability for a state to sovereignly govern as its population desires is what sparked movements to abolish slavery, give women the right to vote, recognize gay marriage and legalize marijuana. It’s also what made some states “bluer” and others “redder.” It was states rights that led the Southern rebellion and secession to commence a Civil War. It still drives how individual states handle Covid-19 through mask and vaccination mandates. How much reach and influence does the Federal Government have on the individual state?
So the constitutional question has never gone away. It truly has been a “perpetual” sticky wicket.
Are we the UNITED (federalist) States of America?
Or are we the United STATES (confederation) of America?
It’s WHY “we the people” are always attempting to create a more “perfect union.”
Even though it’s truly an “inconvenient” process.
No sport framed 20th century American culture more than baseball.
In fact, America’s story–how we worked, what we believed, the battles we fought and the glory we shared–is found in the game. From the rise of a new industrialized economy to racism (against Jew, Italian, blacks) to celebrity culture, baseball was there. And every time life seemed bleak–when America (and her game) seemed off the rails–something happened (or somebody happened) to restore the public’s affection.
That was year of the famous “Black Sox” scandal where eight White Sox players–including the legendary hitter Shoeless Joe Jackson–worked with gamblers to throw the World Series to the lesser Cincinnati Reds. The scandal tarnished the game as “fixed” and unwholesome.
The year 1919 also ended of the dead ball ear in baseball, when great pitchers (like Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson) dominated the game. But it was also the same year that a new breakout superstar emerged. A legend who’d change the game (and America) forever: Babe Ruth. By the end of the 1920s baseball was truly the American pastime.
No contest is more important to baseball than the “World Series.” The fact it was called a “world” series in 1903 shows 20th century American hubris on full display. After all, it wasn’t until 1992, the end of the 20th century, that a non-U.S. team appeared in (and won) a World Series: the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be seven decades (1969) before baseball had a non-U.S. team (Montreal Expos). And while baseball enjoyed a multi-national European flavor for most of its early hey-days, blacks (from any national origin) were excluded from he major leagues until Jackie Robinson in 1946. And yet the Japanese would wait another five decades to finally (and truly) make America’s game a “world” game.
But 1903 is also a significant year…not just in baseball but for America’s influence.
That’s the year America came out to the world…and not just in baseball. In the same year that baseball’s FIRST World Series was held, America also made it’s first transatlantic radio broadcast (to England), the first multi-racial labor union was formed, the Ford Motor company and Harley-Davidson were founded, the U.S. gained rights to the Panama Canal and the Wright Brothers famously flew their plane.
You could argue that 1903 was America’s coming out party to the world. It was the opening of the American century.
In the coming decades, despite a deep national Depression and crises (like Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination and the Challenger explosion), America played the 20th century like a baseball game. We might’ve got two strikes down but we still found a way to get on base. We might’ve been buried early by the other team but we found second life and a way to comeback. America fought in two World Wars to save Europe (and other places) from evil fascists and vicious tyrants. We invented (or improved) the technology in transportation and communications that reimagined civilized culture. We created Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Wall Street. We carved our presidents faces in South Dakota rock, put a man on the moon and brought down the Berlin Wall.
It was quite a century for America.
And baseball was there for the entire story. In fact, baseball pretty much told the story.
From 1903’s launch of a World Series to to the infamous Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa race to beat the Babe’s single-season home run record in 1998, its an inspirational American tale of exceptionalism. From the Cy Young to Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio to Jackie Robinson to Willie Mays to Pete Rose to Ichiro Suzuki, it’s an American story of breaking down barriers and building new legends. From the “dead ball era” to “eight men out” to “a league of their own” to “moneyball,” it’s a classic Hollywood feature.
Baseball and America…mom and apple pie…country music and rock ‘n roll….Saturday night dances and Sunday morning church…this is US…the United States.
This is America.