Most of us know of and many can even recite President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address delivered during the Civil War on November 19, 1863. And most of us know of and probably sometimes paraphrase his House Divided speech delivered when he was a candidate for United States Senator in Illinois (June 16, 1858). Lincoln lost to Stephan Douglas whom Lincoln later beat for the presidency in 1860.
The topic might be a little heavy for a short weekly newspaper column but with our country’s birthday this week and the country in a perpetual state of mutual invective I humbly submit it is worth our attention.
In an attempt to pare down the extremely complex and emotionally charged issues of our country’s Negro slavery, the Civil War, our current status in re civil rights and the cacophony of our public discourse, I will just refer to a few items: (1) The United States Constitution, (2) the Missouri Compromise, (3) the Kansas-Nebraska Act and, (4) the Dred Scott case as decided in 1857 by the U.S. Supreme Court. If you are still with me, I caution it gets worse.
Originally slavery was recognized as a States Rights issue, i.e., if a state wanted slavery and wanted to be part of the Unionthat was okay. But as a device to apportion the number of a state’s congressmen, the Constitution declared Negroes in eachstate would be counted as 3/5 of a person for census purposes. However, African Americans were not made citizens until the Civil War via the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Of course, Indians were not included, and women of any race could not vote until 1920 via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Because of the great divide between free and slave states, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was enacted, although many argued it was unconstitutional. The Missouri Compromise allowed for the admission of Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state and prohibited slavery north of a certain parallel (36°30’) but allowed it below that border.
This worked alright until heightened tensions arose between slave and free states so Senator Stephan Douglas in 1854 got the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed, which allowed for the admission of the states of Kansas and Nebraska to the union with the provision of slavery by popular majority vote of each state’s citizens. Of course, this was not within the spirit or the substance of the Missouri Compromise.
Then in 1857 the United States Supreme Court decided the Dred Scott case. Scott, was a slave whose owner had taken Scott with the owner to live in a free state then returned with him to Missouri. Scott sued for his freedom claiming that once he was in a free state he was then after always free.
Precedent as old as a decision from colonial times in 1772, the Somerset case, was clearly with Scott and most legal authorities, including the lawyer Abraham Lincoln, expected the Supreme Court to declare Scott free. How wrong he and many others were.
Chief Justice Roger Taney a former slave owner and fierce opponent of the Missouri Compromise, ignored established precedent and used Dred Scott’s case to declare no Negro could ever be a citizen of the United States and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Taney’s overreaching andpoorly reasoned opinion led directly to the Civil War four years later.
According to the historian Paul Finkelman who wrote the book Dred Scott v. Sandford, A Brief History with Documents:
“By the 1850s Taney was a seething, angry, uncompromising supporter of the South and slavery and an implacable foe of racial equality, the Republican Party, and the anti-slavery movement.”
See p. 29
Taney declared that Blacks:
“[A]re not included and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution… [T]hey were at that time (1787) considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings….”
ibid p. 35
Stephan Douglas held the position the question of slavery should be a matter of state option. Abraham Lincoln on the other hand foresaw that a nation half-slave and half-free, that is a nation divided against itself, could not survive. We are still working that out after 242 years. Happy Birthday!
I would like to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, you know, when you could turn on the television and not hear overpaid jerks shouting at one another,“You are lying!” Unfortunately, unless I watch re-runs of “I Love Lucy”, invective is the only fare available. As Anne Murray sings, 🎵”We sure could use a little good news today”🎵. Well, here is some.
My friends Glenn Curtis, Ray Kessler, Jerry King and Harold Morgan, Gentle Reader you might note a particular demographic here, all write a lot of good news. Glenn, Posey County’s Historian Emeritus, even drafts entertaining cartoons about current events and historical ones.
Harold Morgan has written several books on area history with a concentration on World War II. Ray Kessler in his Ray’s Ramblings has preserved many entertaining and enlightening stories while Jerry King, with his wife Marsha’s support, has taught us all a great deal about Posey County and the Civil War with a current emphasis on The Great War.
Posey County is a unique place. I wish we had more information on the Native Americans who first lived here, but from McFadden’s Bluff to 2018 we have some pretty good records, although much of our early information is via oral tradition.
On the other hand, we have several excellent professional historians, such as U.S.I.’s Emeritus Professor of History Donald Pitzer, who have researched and corroborated the deeds and words of Posey County residents who have made significant contributions in many areas.
Of course, tomorrow’s history is today’s news and we need new generations of historians to help preserve it. Chad Williams, the official Poseyville Historian who graduated from North Posey High School in 1988, is one who has joined in the responsibility of documenting our past and present. There are numerous others and I apologize to those who deserve to be mentioned but due to time and space are not.
Each of the people mentioned in this article can be located by name on the Internet. I respectfully refer you to their informative, entertaining and objective efforts to preserve our past and guide our future without resort to diatribe.
The National Judicial College has asked me to submit an article on Implicit Judicial Bias for inclusion in its magazine, Judicial Edge, because unfortunately, as proven by the #MeTooMovement, Ferguson Missouri, and our current political climate, implicit bias is all too explicit in the good ‘ole U.S. of A even in our courts. Therefore, I have submitted the following article to NJC and since judges throughout America may be wasting their time reading it, why, Gentle Reader, shouldn’t you? Here it is.
A syllogism: All sentient humans have learned implicit biases, all judges are sentient human beings, ergo, all judges have implicit biases. The issue is not are judges biased. The issue is how can judges guard the people affected by the judge from her/his particular biases.
Bias is a learned characteristic. Churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, news media, entertainment, sports organizations, hobbies, political parties, legal institutions, families and friends are just some of the many teachers. I discovered some of my own predilections as a law student at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington. In the entire student body there was one African American male, three white females, fewer than five Jews, no Arabs and one Oriental male. In 1968-1970 that mix seemed fine to me. Most students looked and sounded like me. Those who did not did not raise any issue about it nor did I.
As a practicing attorney for ten years I never appeared in front of a female, Black or Asian trial judge. I did appear in front of one Jewish trial judge a few times; it was okay. I realize the demographics of law schools and trial courts have changed greatly in fifty years. My concern is the learned biases may have survived the new order, at least in the general behavior of the judiciary. Or, if some implicit biases have withered in the face of changing faces, have those prejudices morphed into others?
When faced with trying a case with a Black protagonist or antagonist I sometimes remind myself of a case I prosecuted in 1974. The defendant was a coal-black, dreadlock wearing frequent flyer whom I had prosecuted for two prior felonies. His experienced white attorney pleaded for the defendant to not take the stand in front of the white judge and white jury and subject himself to my fiery cross-examination and the exposure of his unappealing rap sheet. However, the defendant loudly professed his innocence, of at least the crime in question, and demanded to tell his story. I was salivating.
George Willie …, the defendant, took the stand, looked each juror in the eye and said, “I may be a criminal, but I did not break into that building and steal that television.” Then he turned to me and said, “Redwine, why is you always after me? We should be on the same side, the white man stole your land!”
Well, the jury agreed with George Willie and I learned a lesson about my own implicit bias and George Willie’s. I just hope I never forget to apply this knowledge when I am judging others. I must acknowledge my implicit biases, bring them up in my analysis and then prevent them from affecting my judicial behavior and judgments. Of course, the knowledge a problem exists and the understanding it should be addressed do not guarantee a sentient judge will apply lessons learned to learned biases.
George Willie’s bias as represented in his assumption I was a Native American and therefore must be prejudiced against the white power structure was a revelation to me. I was born on the Osage Nation where Indians were an assimilated part of the power structure. My friends were Indian and white but to me they were just friends. Until George Willie’s bias placed me in a minority, I had never experienced the sense of being different or less than the majority. Thanks, George Willie. It was instructive that where I saw no difference in whites and Indians, I had learned in the segregated culture of Oklahoma in the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to make negative judgments about African Americans.
The following is another example, there could be many, of my own implicit biases. I served in a case in which a twelve-year-old African American girl claimed she was raped by five teenaged African American males. My instincts led me to believe her in that case of sexual misconduct because she was first of all female and secondly young. But, I regret to admit, because the defendants were young, Black males, I found myself almost apoplectically unable to fairly judge the young men who had been waived to adult court and faced many years in prison. Fortunately, the local Black community was not subject to my particular biases. Several Black witnesses stepped up and established the girl was more a juvenile Jezebel than an ingenue. As the evidence developed, I realized I could have easily allowed my prejudices to help create several grave miscarriages of justice. Fortunately, the jury saw things more objectively.
So, as a judge I endeavor to remember the all-white church where I spent my first eighteen years, the mostly white law school where I studied precedent while failing to recognize prejudice and the practice of law in which what I thought was open mindedness was nearer myopia. Today when judging I strive each day to unlearn those lessons.
As this is a family newspaper I cannot recite the W.C. Fields (1880 – 1946) actual quotation about why he did not drink water. However, after spending two full days removing a winter’s worth of sludge from Peg’s above ground pool I side with W.C. My first clue as to the toxicity of the greenish, quivering mass clinging to the Walmart plastic liner was when my friend Paul Axton, who is a Department of Natural Resources officer, stopped by to retrieve the racoon trap he had loaned me. Paul smelled the acrid fumes rising from the pool and walked over to investigate.
“Jim have you notified the E.P.A. about this concoction? It may require Congressional oversight to remove this junk. If this gets into the wrong hands terrorists may be able to use it for untold mayhem.”
“No, Paul, but Peg has already ordered me to get in that knee deep filth and prepare the pool for swimming. According to Peg, as the man of JPeg Ranch, the gods have ordained it is my duty. Peg has already cleared the disposal with the Health Department and the Department of Defense. Thanks for your concern; would you like to join me?”
“Gee, I would but I told my sister, Judy, I would help her with her racoon problem. But feel free to call me any other time.”
In past years Peg has just bypassed my reluctant involvement in removing the winter’s accumulation of dead organisms, crop dust, and floating debris. However, Peg thoughtlessly fell off the ladder when she started to clean it last week and re-injured the knee she broke skiing 22 years ago. She claims it hurts and Dr. Matthew Lee took her side and ordered her on bed rest for two weeks. To make matters worse, Dr. Lee then sent her to an orthopedic surgeon who agreed.
I gently reminded her she had skied on down a huge mountain in Utah when she broke her leg and maybe she could just ignore the medical profession’s opinion and the pain. I cannot repeat her response due once again to that family newspaper thing.
Anyway, my weekend was filled with two days of shop vacs, mops, Clorox, white vinegar, long handled brooms and water hoses. It was so gay to watch globs of unidentified multi-colored crude having the consistency and smell of the contents of used diapers ooze off the plastic floor through the vacuum, into the bucket then hoisted over the pool wall into the yard. My guess is every varmint within miles will think a grand smorgasbord has been laid out for them. Of course, the grass immediately began to wither and turn yellow.
Well, Gentle Reader, I know Peg’s injury and its unfortunate consequences may concern you, but, do not worry, I’ll be alright.
As President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his lead negotiator Kim Yong Chol over a possible summit, the 5.7 million Americans who served during the Korean War (1950-1953) continue to pass away. We have already lost about two thirds of them and on May 23, 2018 we lost another, Harold Lee Cox.
Harold and his brother-in-law Gene McCoy served in Korea at the same time. In September 2005 I wrote the following Gavel Gamut column about their service:
AN UNKNOWN VICTORY
You name the WAR:
Two countries are created from one by the greatest military power in the world and are monitored by the United Nations;
One country led by a ruthless dictator invades the other in spite of the United Nations warnings not to;
The Secretary General of the United Nations declares, “This is a war against the United Nations.”;
A United States President leads a coalition of world leaders to unite to drive the invaders out and re-establish the status quo;
An American general was placed in charge of the United Nations forces;
While many countries offered some help, the American military provided more than half of a million personnel in the war;
The aggressors were driven out of and liberty was restored to the invaded country; and
The mission for which Americans fought and died was accomplished.
If you said The Gulf War of 1990-1991, that is understandable. Almost all Americans supported that war and recognized that victory. However, I am talking about the Korean War of 1950-1953. It too was a great victory for American and United Nations interests and helped prevent World War III. We owe a huge debt to our Korean War veterans.
Two of those heroes (they just hate to be called that but, hey, it’s my column and facts are facts) are Posey County natives and brothers-in-law Harold Cox and Gene McCoy.
Harold fought with the U.S. Army’s 25th Division which suffered many casualties and bore much of the fighting in Korea. Harold was an infantry rifleman and was the jeep driver for his company commander.
Gene was a combat engineer with the Army’s 84th Engineers Battalion and, also, served as a courier/mail deliverer.
Harold was on the frontlines and Gene was building wooden bridges about 1000 yards behind those lines. Gene says Harold had it a lot rougher than Gene.
Both suffered the 20 below zero cold, the stifling heat and humidity, the loneliness, home sickness and fear in what those not there called a “police action.”
Harold said one of his worst memories, outside of dodging enemy mortar rounds for a solid year of combat, was the stench of the human waste the impoverished Koreans would save all winter and fertilize their rice paddies with in the spring. Gene, also, mentioned that nauseating smell and the mud and flooding caused by the lack of vegetation due to constant shelling.
When Gene first arrived in Korea they put his outfit on a train which stopped frequently. Each time it stopped the young soldiers were given a few rounds of ammunition and ordered out to guard the train from sabotage. Gene said this initiation to Korea was more than a little unsettling.
Harold told me that the traffic signs in the war were a bit more to the point than those back home. On one particularly dangerous stretch of road a sign advised:
“Get your ____ in gear and
drive like ____! The NK
can see you.”
Harold paid attention.
Harold and Gene came home and re-started their lives. Harold served as Mt. Vernon’s Water Superintendent for several years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Gene served as a Mt. Vernon City Councilman and the Posey County Recorder. Gene is currently Posey County’s Veterans Affairs Officer. They both raised families and went on publicly as if there had been no Korean War. However, privately what General Douglas MacArthur called “the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield” never left their consciousness.
Of course, there was a Korean War and it helped save you and me from another world war. It was a largely unappreciated “mission accomplished.” Thank you Harold and Gene and all your fellow Korean War veterans.
It is only human to question the value of any military endeavor. But when one considers that our Korean War veterans of sixty-five years ago encouraged today’s world leaders to sit at a negotiating table rather than send more soldiers into new battles we owe our veterans the honor of saying thank you as we say goodbye.
Mothers of sons frequently assume, often rightly so, that attention to detail is not their son’s strong suit. Daughters of fathers often assume, frequently to their chagrin, that their father’s strong suit is attention to detail. In situations calling for responsible action a mother of a son usually looks to her dad instead of her son. If given a choice between youthful exuberance and supposed tempered judgment a woman, say the mother of a bridegroom, will lean on experience, say the grandfather of that bridegroom, when important wedding tasks (safekeeping of the wedding rings, for example) must be performed.
This was the dilemma facing our daughter, Heather, last Saturday when she worried her son, Alec, might lose the wedding rings if they were entrusted to his care. As I was going to be performing the ceremony at Alec and Arielle’s outdoor wedding at JPeg Ranch, Heather believed she could rely on me to be the keeper of the rings. It had already been decided that the tall grass and uneven land militated against using a child ring bearer. So, it came down to which semi-adult male of the wedding party should be entrusted with the rings. Heather chose me. Hey, I did not volunteer.
However, once the mantle was cast upon me I approached the task as most males would have. I promptly put the matter out of my mind and concentrated on the large albino catfish that Adrian, the brother of the bridegroom who was supposed to be getting formally dressed as a member of the wedding party, caught in our pond before the wedding. See you have already forgotten about the rings too.
Anyway, as I took my place on the antique, moveable bishop’s stand about 10 minutes before the start of the wedding and looked at the podium where I had casually placed both Alec’s and Arielle’s rings, the sense of happy serenity that had pervaded my psyche turned to panic. The rings had blown off into the tall grass.
Oh, I could have called for help but then Heather would know, and life is already too short for me to face that. So, I did what any man would do. In my suit and black judge’s robe I got down on my hands and knees in front of the assembled congregation and proceeded to sift through the foliage. It was hopeless of course but what choice did I have?
Just as I had decided to fake the whole ring thing by using my own wedding band for Arielle to place on Alec’s finger and then covering both of Arielle’s and Alec’s hands with mine as he pretended to place nothing on Arielle’s finger, the heavens opened up and a ray of blazing sun glinted upon bright shiny objects resting against the bottom edge of the wooden bishop’s stand. My first thought was I had better pay this good fortune forward. My next thought was it really wasn’t that big of a deal as All’s Well That Ends Well and Heather might now never know.