Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Friday, March 15, 2013
Beware the Ides of March
by David Trumbull -- March 15, 2013
Beware indeed! As we all know, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate House on the Ides of March of 44 B.C.
Of the number and names of all the assassins we cannot be certain. Plutarch, and other ancient writers record the following:
Publius Servilius Casca. "Vile Casca" who made the first cut.
Caius Cassius Longinus. That Cassius of the "lean and hungry look" who recruited Brutus to the conspiracy.
Marcus Junius Brutus. A descendant of that ancient Brutus who drove out the last of the Roman kings about 465 years earlier. Brutus was as a son to Caesar; his was "the most unkindest cut of them all." Brutus and Cassius both fell at their own hands after the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. According to some ancient account each did himself in with the very dagger he used to slay Caesar.
Decimus Junius Brutus also called Albinus, he was a distant relative of the other Brutus.
Caius Trebonius. As was true of many of the conspirators, he had been a beneficiary of the kindnesses of Caesar. It was Trebonius and Decimus Brutus who detained Marc Antony in conversation so that Caesar was without his principal bodyguard when he entered the senate house.
Lucius Tillius Cimber, called Metellus Cimber in the Shakespeare play, he was the one who gave the signal to commence the slaughter.
Cinna. We must be careful not to confuse the conspirator Cinna with Caesar's loyal friend the poet Cinna. The angry mob in Rome that Ides of March made that very confusion and, meeting Cinna the poet in the street, tore to pieces the wrong man.
Within a very few years Marc Antony and Octavian Caesar, the adopted son of Julius Caesar tracked down and killed the assassins.
The conspirators thought to restore the Republic. However, they lacked any cohesive plan for governing; mismanaged events in the days immediately following the assassination; and ended up plunging Rome into a disastrous civil war. Peace, but not the Republic, was finally restored when, in 31 B.C., following the defeat of Antony at the battle of Actium, Caesar Octavian emerged as sole leader --the Emperor Augustus.
The founders of our Republic knew well the story of the Roman Republic's failure, with resulting Imperial Rule. They left us a system of popular government with regular elections. Our Republic has endured, under our Constitution, for about two and a quarter centuries. The Roman Republic endured nearly five centuries. It's up to us ordinary American voters to determine whether we can match that record.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Rendering unto Caesar and unto God.
by David Trumbull -- March 8, 2013
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has announced that it will hold a briefing, in Washington, Friday, March 22nd, to examine recent legal developments concerning the intersection of non-discrimination principles with those of civil liberties.
Two topics will serve as starting points for a discussion involving religious liberties and non-discrimination rules and their broader implications for civil liberties: the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case and student group non-discrimination policies, including the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case. Also at issue are religious liberty claims under First Amendment provisions other than the Religion Clauses.
There will be two panels at the briefing. The first panel will be composed of scholars involved in the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC or Christian Legal Society v. Martinez litigation: Kimberlee Colby, Senior Counsel at the Christian Legal Society, Ayesha Khan, Senior Litigation Counsel, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Daniel Mach, Director, American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Lori Windham, Senior Counsel, Becket Fund.
The second panel will consist of experts who will discuss the broader conflict between anti-discrimination norms and civil liberties. Experts scheduled to appear on the second panel include Alan Brownstein, Professor, University of California at Davis Law School, Marc DeGirolami, Associate Professor, St. John's University School of Law, Leslie Griffin, Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School, Marci Hamilton, Professor, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Michael Helfand, Associate Professor, Pepperdine University School of Law, and Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center.
If you are concerned about current domestic threats to religious liberty, including the Obama Administration's attack on Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities, this is your opportunity to comment. Public comments are being accepted until April 21st. Lawyers and professors of law may dominate the Washington briefing later this month, but the public comment period is open to anyone who is distressed that our First Amendment Right to Free Exercise of Religion is being attacked by the very federal officials who took oaths to defend the Constitution.
Comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send written correspondence to:
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425
"We need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God -- generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ." --Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Legacy of President Washington
by David Trumbull -- February 15, 2013
I "am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire."
-- George Washington, in 1796, announcing his intention to retire after two terms as President.
Monday is WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY, a federal and state holiday to honor the hero of the Revolutionary War, the Father of His Country, and the first President of the United States. Much has been said and written about Washington's character, and his influence, for the good, on the founding, and maintaining in its first years, of our Republic. In particular, it has been noted that Washington's decision to step down voluntarily, rather than serve as President for Life, revealed not merely his personal humility, but his deep trust in our Republican form of government. Washington was persuaded that our Constitution, which he calls "sacredly obligatory upon all," would always guarantee that we'd be a free people. And so shall we be, so long as the people hold our officials bound to their oaths to uphold the Constitution.
Of the 43 men to serve as chief executive of the Union, only Washington is so singled out for honor with a federal holiday. That many persons now call the third Monday in February "Presidents Day" is an indicator of our lack of discrimination and devaluing of true accomplishment and fame. To put it in perspective, Catholics believe that each of the 265 popes was the Vicar of Christ on Earth, infallible in matters of faith and morals, and yet fewer than 80 have been added to the calendar of saints. No less erudite writer than Dante Alighieri placed some of the popes in Hell. "He who made the great refusal" in Canto 3 of Dante Inferno is general considered to be Pope Celestine V. Celestine's abdication of the Throne of Peter in 1294 was, in the view of Dante, an abdication of his responsibility to the Church and shirking of his duty to God. It lead to the election of Pope Boniface VIII, in Dante's opinion, a very bad Pope.
Washington's refusal to continue in office was anything but a shirking of duty. He knew that under our Constitution the President may change, but the People always are sovereign. He fulfilled his responsibility to the People, first by his conduct as President, and, finally, with his Farewell Address. It is his treatise on how to maintain the free popular government we enjoy as Americans. Every America should read and reflect on Washington's sage advice in that speech.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
by David Trumbull -- February 8, 2013
No, this column is not two months late. Nor will you find in it a word against the heartily shouted greetings of "Merry Christmas," "Happy Chanukah," or even "Saturnalia optima" that fill, or ought to fill, the air during the twelfth month of the year. Yes, December may be queen among the months as regards holidays, but February makes up for its lack of days with an abundance of festive occasions.
This year February brings, beginning on the 13th, that most unfestive of seasons, lent. But that comes after rowdy carnival time, culminating in Shrove Tuesday. And mid-month Valentine's Day reminds us, in the words of Irving Berlin, to "Be Careful, It's My Heart." That song is one of the many delightful Berlin confections in the 1942 talking picture, Holiday Inn. The picture plays on television every December showcasing the "mega-hit" White Christmas" as introduced by Bing Crosby. And well it should. But it merits a viewing any season, not the least for three big production numbers set in February.
In addition to the charming Valentine's Day offering previously mentioned, the film gives us Berlin's "Abraham," and heart-felt song-and-dance salute to the Great Emancipator (February 12th). "Der Bingle" in blackface rightly offends our politically correct sensibilities today. But at the time the picture was made, when African Americans were, by law, treated as inferior citizens in many of our States and even in our armed services, having major white stars celebrating the end of Negro slavery was quite enlightened. It reminds us that the quest for freedom and equality for all Americans has taken many years and continues as we learn to value each person for his unique worth.
February, and the movie Holiday Inn, have yet another treat for us. The witty, if just a bit precious, Washington's Birthday (February 22nd) number follows the theme of young George's fabled honesty --as recorded (invented?) by Parson Weems. The Berlin song is: "I Can't Tell a Lie."
Berlin, a Russian Jew who arrived as boy in America practically penniless, went on to be the most successful, and most American, of song-writers. He loved America for the unprecedented freedom she affords to every American, native-born or naturalized. And he understood the power of music both to admonish people to love what is good about our country and to move them to work to improve whatever is lacking in our national character.
Next weekend as you enjoy the long Washington's Birthday (or Presidents Day) weekend, take time to reflect on our history, on our current greatness, and consider how you will contribute to making our future even better.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The King's Good Servant, but God's First
by David Trumbull -- January 25, 2013
I did not watch the ceremonies attendant on President Obama's swearing-in as chief executive for a second term. It was not because I disagree with just about every policy of his and believe he is harming the Republic and is a danger to the liberty of every citizen, including the ones most lauding him. No, I'm just not that into it.
For his true "inaugural," that is his first taking of office, I attended a festive event here in Boston with great satisfaction in living to see the first African-America president, even though I knew then that his policies would be severely misguided. I attended, in Washington, the inaugural of his predecessor, George W. Bush, but I took little notice of the official commencement of his second term. So I'm an equal opportunity second "inauguration" snubber.
I missed the whole thing. The comments, in print and on radio and television, regarding his speech have warned me away from reading it for fear of elevating my blood pressure. I missed news coverage of the various gala balls, so I don't even know what the First Lady wore, which is probably just as well, as her past selections have been under whelming, or worse. From what I have seen, after the event, of commentary, the only note-worthy fashion statement came from a highly improbable source, United State Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Justice Scalia has set cyberspace atwitter with his selection of headgear for last Monday's inauguration ceremony. He wore a black hat, a replica of the hat depicted in Hans Holbein's well-known portrait of St. Thomas More. The hat was custom-made and was a gift, in 2010, from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia.
Thomas More, familiar to many from his depiction in Robert Bolt's play (and movie) A Man for All Seasons, was martyred by the tyrant Henry VIII of England when he stood against the King's pretended supremacy over the church.
As Matthew Schmitz, Deputy Editor of First Things wrote: "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both: Make of it what you will."
Monday, January 21, 2013
POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality
by David Trumbull -- January 18, 2013
With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been nominated for more Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards than any other motion picture of 2012. The picture is a dramatization of the rounding up of votes, in the United States House of Representatives, to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment passed by the necessary two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and was on its way to ratification by the necessary three-quarters of the States when Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, 1865.
Getting the amendment through the House (it had passed easily in the Senate) was a major effort, told in an engaging manner in the movie. Permanently ending slavery in the U.S. by means of Constitutional Amendment was, for Lincoln, an imperative. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued 150 years ago this month, did not free all slaves, being restricted to those in rebellious areas not under the effective control of the United States. Furthermore, as a proclamation based on Lincoln's wartime powers as Commander in Chief, it was uncertain how, or even if, it would have force once peace was concluded.
Limited as it was, the Emancipation Proclamation was the first step in what became an irreversible path toward, first freedom, and later equality, for Americans of African ancestry. In August of 1863 Giuseppe Garibaldi wrote from Italy to President Lincoln, declaring: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure."
The Thirteenth Amendment made African-Americans free. The subsequent Fourteen (application of the civil rights of U.S. citizens to the States) and Fifteenth (right of African-Americans to vote) promised to settled the question of equality. In reality, they marked merely the beginning of the quest for equality of all Americans. It would not be until the civil rights movement of the middle twentieth century that the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments would be effective in every State.
Monday we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose advocacy for nonviolence was essential to the success of the civil rights movement. Like Lincoln, King was assassinated (April 4, 1968) and, like Lincoln, King continues after death to inspire others to carry on the quest for freedom and equality.