Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Sign of Peace

“He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, to receive a mark on his hand or forehead so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark.” Rev. 13:16-17

Wanting to dress appropriately for the occasion, I checked out Glenn Beck’s Facebook page for some clue as to the type of tee shirts he might be selling for the Restoring Honor rally. There are Restoring Honor Tee Shirts on the Restoring Honor web page, but somehow I stumbled upon some tee shirts on his Facebook page.

One of them had a peace sign logo and some hippie flowers or some such nonsense and the words “Peaceful Resistance.” It was under his Facebook Photos tab. One Facebook friend wrote he wouldn’t wear it himself because it reminded him of an upside-down cross, which Christians consider an affront to Jesus.

That friend isn’t too far off. Glenn suggests that we usurp the Left’s ultimate symbol. But this is one symbol that can’t be transformed to the good and is better off left to the Left.

In the latter part of the twentieth century, the peace was sign, developed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a British nuclear disarmament movement. It was designed and completed in February 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a British professional designer and artist for the 4 April 4th march planned by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) from Trafalgar Square in London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, England.[1][2]

The symbol was later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Later, in the the 1960s the anti-war movement counter-culture adopted it until it became an iconic symbol for the Sixties generation.

Semaphore N

Semaphore D

The peace sign flag first became known in the United States in 1958 when Albert Bigelow, a pacifist protester, sailed his small boat outfitted with the CND banner into the vicinity of a nuclear test. The peace sign button was imported into the United States in 1960 by Philip Altbach, a freshman at the University of Chicago, who traveled to England to meet with British peace groups as a delegate from the Student Peace Union (SPU). Altbach purchased a bag of the “chickentrack” buttons while he was in England, and brought them back to Chicago, where he convinced SPU to reprint the button and adopt it as its symbol. Over the next four years, SPU reproduced and sold thousands of the buttons on college campuses.

The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. Superimposing these two signs forms the shape of the centre of the peace symbol. In the first official CND version (which was preceded by a ceramic pin version that had straight lines, but was short lived) the spokes curved out to be wider at the edge of the circle, which was white on black.

Holtom later wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, explaining the genesis of his idea in greater depth: “I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it." Ken Kolsbum, a correspondent of Holtom's, says that the designer came to regret the symbolism of despair, as he felt that peace was something to be celebrated and wanted the symbol to be inverted.

The original drawing by Gerald Holtom of the CND symbol is housed in the Peace Museum, in Bradford, England. Far-right and fundamentalist groups have claimed that the peace sign has communist, occult or anti-Christian associations. We’re such fanatics, don’t you know?

They can’t even get their story straight about how the design came about. However, all one has to do is compare the astronomical symbol for Earth with the peace sign, and it’s not hard to see that something is amiss. Whether the design was intentional or accidental, it’s unsettling, to say the least. The designer perhaps didn’t mean to create a symbol for the end of the world, but that’s what he would up with (even though he himself was dismayed by the despair he was creating):


It’s a bit of a stretch to go from the semaphore symbols N and D (for Nuclear Disarmanent) to a design inspired by a Goya painting to the familiar circular symbol everyone recognizes today. As a former astrologer and astronomy student, it looks more like the symbol for Earth – with the equatorial line bent down (as in submission).

Anyone with any sense will have nothing to do with this symbol. Don’t wear it, don’t display it. Don’t allow yourself to be marked with it. Glenn would hope to turn the tables on the Left by transforming it into some sort of conservative symbol of peace. But like Sauron’s Ring in the Lord of the Rings, it is wholly evil. It can never be used for good. As the character Gandalf observed (paraphrasing him), “Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity ... and the desire of strength to do good. And Elrond of the Elves in his turn notes, “We cannot use the Ruling Ring. The very desire of it corrupts the heart.”

We have no need to prove ourselves peaceful by word or sign. We should not be suing for peace when we don’t know what the terms of that peace are, taking upon ourselves an enemy’s symbol of peace that so clearly implies “surrender”, deluding ourselves into thinking we may somehow transform it.

Our test, our challenge here is not to demonstrate the transformative power of good; it is to recognize evil in the guise of good and reject it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The History of the Poor

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me,” Jesus. John 12:8

The poor have always been among us. At one time we were all poor, simple hunter-gathers, relying on the next deer we killed for our meal, and caves, or straw huts for dwellings. But then, Man got smart. Some men got smarter than others.

My mother says of the Great Depression of the 1930s that no one noticed if you wore hand-me-down clothes because everyone (or almost everyone was poor). Everyone was hungry. Everyone was worried. Everyone had lost jobs, houses, apartments. They’d lost everything but hope. Whenever anything went wrong in my life, my mother would tell me, “Never mind. Better days are coming!”

In 1601, the English Parliament passed the Poor Law Act, directing individual parishes (church communities) to administer the “poor rates” or taxes to support the indigent in each locality. In 1552, parish registers of the poor were introduced, establishing an official record of those who fell into the category of “poor.”

The first compulsory local poor law tax was imposed in 1572, making the alleviation of poverty a local responsibility. Some parishes being more generous than others, some vagrants exploited the law. The rate payers (the Tea Partiers of their day) raised objections and in 1662, Parliament passed the Settlement Laws.

In order to have a legal settlement in a parish, a person had to fulfill one or more of the following conditions:

• be born into a parish where the parents had a settlement

• up to 1662, live in a parish for more than three years; after 1662, a person could be removed within 40 days of arrival and after 1691, a person had to give 40 days' notice before moving into a parish

• be hired continually by a settled resident for more than a year and a day (this led to short contracts so people did not get a settlement)

• hold a parish office

• rent property worth more than 10 pounds or pay taxes on a property worth more than 10 pounds per annum (year).

• have married into the parish

• previously have received poor relief in that parish

• have served a full seven-year apprenticeship to a settled resident

After 1662, if a man moved to another parish, he had to provide a Settlement Certificate which guaranteed that his home parish would pay for his 'removal' costs from another parish back to his home parish if he became a claimant on the poor rates. Most parishes were unwilling to issue such certificates so people tended to stay where they lived — and where they knew that if the occasion arose, they could claim on the poor rates without any additional difficulty.

In 1723, an amendment to the Settlement Laws allowed the establishment of workhouses where poor relief would be provided, either by an individual parish or through a collection of parishes which would shared the costs. Parishes had the authority to rent or buy appropriate accommodation. The local justices of the peace (first authorized to raise compulsory funds for the poor in 1563) could also sub-contract the administration of relief to someone who would feed, clothe and house the poor for a weekly rate from the parish. Between 1723 and 1750, about 600 parish workhouses were established in England and Wales.

Anyone who applied for relief would have to enter the workhouse and work in return for relief. Entrance to a workhouse was to serve as a deterrent to irresponsible claims on the poor rates. Only the truly desperate would apply to 'the house'. This principle was adopted under the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

In 1776, the first official workhouse data indicated the existence of about 2,000 workhouses, each with between 20 and 50 “residents.” The cost of what was known as indoor relief (as opposed to “outdoor relief”, allowing residents to stay in their own home, but paying for their food and rent – what we call “welfare” today) was highly inefficient management, leading to increased social pressure for more sympathetic treatment of the poor and the passage of Gilbert's Act in 1782 (the formation of parish unions, as mentioned above). This was during a time of high unemployment and crop failures; some speculate that had these measures not taken place, Great Britain would have have suffered a popular revolution similar to the one in France.

Before the Reformation, it was considered to be a religious duty for all Christians to undertake the seven corporeal works of mercy (Matthew 25 vv. 32-46):

• feed the hungry

• give drink to the thirsty

• welcome the stranger

• clothe the naked

• comfort the sick

• visit the prisoner

• bury the dead

Prior to the Reformation, charity was considered part of a Roman Catholic’s obligation. But when the Catholics were driven out by Henry VIII, the government found itself having to assume the role of providing for the poor. One of the principles of the Reformation was that you couldn’t buy your way into heaven through good deeds, such as charity. The English also resented having to answer to the head of a church instead of directly to God (so they made the king/queen of England the head of the church instead…).

For more information on this, you can go to

Faith, hope, and charity. We find ourselves in much the same predicament as Elizabethan and Victorian England (and all the monarchs in between). Most of the Protestant religions and the Catholic Church, of course, disregard the business about buying your way into heaven when it comes to charity. Maybe you can’t buy your way into heaven by helping the poor, but you’ll almost certainly buy a one-way ticket to the “Other Place” if you deliberately ignore them.

The Elizabethan rate payers were suspicious of charlatans. They distrusted those would take advantage of charity, thus they did make life difficult for the poor. In fact when the Justices of the Peace, or Overseers of the Poor, were established, the poor were divided into three categories:

• those who would work but could not: the able-bodied or deserving poor. They were to be given help either through outdoor relief or by being given work in return for a wage.

• those who could work but would not: these were the idle or undeserving poor. They were to be whipped through the streets.

• those who were too old/ill/young to work: these were the impotent or deserving poor. They were to be looked after in almshouses, hospitals, orphanages, or poor houses. Orphans and children of the poor were to be given a trade apprenticeship.

Americans are said to be the most generous people in the world, particularly the wealthiest Americans. Yet, for all their charity, they’re still punished with the highest tax rates in the country. Americans see an entire subset of an able-bodied population that is of that second order, unwilling to work out of vengeance.

They can’t exactly be whipped through the streets. We had made some progress in diminishing the welfare rolls, but now, since Obama took office and the economy has not recovered, the ranks are increasing once again. Business, particularly small businesses, are being taxed right out of the country, seeking cheaper labor and favorable tax rates overseas.

So what is Obama’s answer? The complete takeover and subjugation of every industry. Yeah, that’ll make everything right. He would fain do away with property ownership (rent) and stock ownership (profit). Every man to his right labor, what he earns by the sweat of his brow, and nothing less and nothing more. All excesses would go directly to the government for the fair and equal distribution of wealth to all.

This would also do away with creativity, inventiveness, motivation to produce, succeed, learn, and grow. It would do away with independent thought and opinion. Like the olde English, we’d never leave our environs unless compelled to do so by the government, or if we wanted to, only by their permission could we leave one job, one locale, for another.

Yet he encourages the influx of thousands of illegal aliens over our southern border, at a recessionary time when jobs are going a-begging. Like the English of old, we consider them burdensome invaders who, if not publicly flogged, should at least be sent back from whence they came.

Over the decades, government incompetence and corruption has caused financial crises that overwhelmed religion’s ability to assist the vast numbers of poor that government itself had created through its misguided policies. Now we’re told we must look to the government for all the answers.

Religion has also been sufficiently demonized that the better “educated” congregants who would help support a church’s charitable causes no longer attend church or, in the Liberal camp, even believe in an Almighty being. The young figure the government has already taken over that role, so what’s the point in throwing good money after bad?

God, the Lutherans would tell us, plays by no rules, which are all concocted by man anyway. The rules are for men, not for God, who is perfect. Apparently, Obama believes he’s a god, not a man, that his system is perfect and so he doesn’t believe in playing by the rules either, nor do those would “game” the system, his followers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Working Class

In the classic work The Wealth of Nations, published ironically in 1776, Scotsman Adam Smith noted that in the natural state, the wages of labor belonged entirely to the laborer, the worker. The worker answered to neither boss nor landlord.

This natural state ended with the appropriation of land, the accumulation of stock, and the division of labor. Wealth could be accumulated in one of three ways: wages for labor, rent for land, and profit from stock (using money to make money).

The Communists want to return us to that original state, eliminating property ownership and ownership of stock, as well usury, earning interest on one’s money. That is what they mean by the “Workers Paradise.”

All property and stock ownership would revert to the state, to be distributed “equally” among the people. Workers would no longer have a choice in employment; they would be set to work for whatever the common good required and their skills could bring about.

The doctor who spent years on his education would receive the same wages as the factory worker who learned his simple trade in a week. Heads of families would no longer provide for the security of their families through savings and investments, leaving an estate after their death; the state would provide for future generations.

We would have ideal security and complete stagnation. There would be no incentive to be more productive or more inventive. No one would invent the machine that could do a job faster or more efficiently. No inventor would want to be bothered, because they’d receive no recompense or credit.

The division of labor and the liberty of the free market has allowed great advances in the world. The natural increase in population has diminished wages in some respects, but also provided more producers and more consumers. With the introduction of money, workers were freed from the restrictions of barter and could purchase what they wanted or needed.

Competition insured that prices would (barring accidents and other disasters) maintain a consistent level, taking into account the price of labor, rent, and profits. Where governments have intervened excessively, crises have followed and tyranny resulted.

The titular head of Government Motors sitting in his first production “green” car, returning us symbolically to that “natural state” is a dismaying portent for the future of America and free enterprise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Standing Up for America

It was something we hadn’t seen our audiences do for awhile: stand up as we played “God Bless America.” Our audiences are always very dutiful and patriotic. They immediately stand up for the Star Spangled Banner, with the men removing their hats, their hands over their hearts, as they should.

“God Bless America” is a popular number. We always play it as an encore and the audiences love it. But generally they don’t stand up for it. There was only one time in all my years with this band that I ever noticed that they did, and that was just after 9/11.

Someone swiped my part, so I wasn’t able to play it this particular evening. Instead, I stood and watched. As I did so, one of the other percussionists leaned over and noted, “They’re standing up.” I blinked. Yeah, so? Glad they are.

“They haven’t stood up for ‘God Bless America’ since 9/11,” he said.

He was right; they hadn’t, but I never gave it any particular notice. In any case, my attention was fixed on one particular member of our audience. A casual member of our band, he often marches with us, and sometimes plays concerts, and other times, as on this occasion, just comes to listen with his wife and children, and their dog.

They’d spread a blanket out and some lawn chairs. At the first strains of God Bless America, he sprang up, handing the dog’s leash to his wife. Then he grabbed his two daughters, about six and eight, I would guess, and picked them up in his arms. No easy feat, as he’s not a large man (he was so smothered in little girls you couldn’t see his face). But he did it, and then still managed to reach out for his wife’s hand. She looked puzzled but gave it to him.

I hadn’t noticed the rest of the audience stand up, but I noticed him. This man was a 9/11 survivor. He’d been in the South Tower, I believe, on an elevator, when the second plane sliced through the building and the elevator cable, sending the elevator car plummeting to the ground.

Or so I’ve been told. At the time of 9/11, I was the editor of the band’s newsletter. I asked him for his story, but he refused to tell me, and though curious, I understood why he didn’t want it published. Eventually, I got other band members to tell me the story on the promise that I wouldn’t publish it in the newsletter.

It was what they call survivor’s guilt. Only he and one other man climbed out of that broken elevator cab alive – and miraculously uninjured. I could understand why he didn’t want to publish his story. It would sound too much like a celebration of luck when so many had been injured or perished.

He would have been dancing on the bodies of all those poor people left behind in that elevator car who hadn’t make it, who weren’t so “lucky”.

In my office, we were working on the (very late) September issue of our magazine when we learned about 9/11. We were in a very busy part of the building, connected to the Public Affairs Department. As the news grew grimmer, people were searching desperately for an available phone to call some relative who was in one of the Towers.

One man’s daughter had been on her way to an appointment in the World Trade Center. She was on a bus headed downtown when the planes hit. She immediately called her father, one of our employees, to let him know she was all right.

Relieved, he stood in the middle of our editorial department, amidst the tide of people running around, telling the story of how lucky his daughter was and how lucky he was. Meanwhile, my boss was frantically trying to reach a friend and neighbor who worked at the World Trade Center.

I understood this man’s relief and joy that his daughter was alive, but I wanted to tell him, “Shut up! Don’t you realize there may be other people within the sound of your voice whose relatives may be dead or injured or will die if they can’t get out!?”

Being in Public Affairs, I said nothing, of course, and he finally went away. The women in our department wept when the news came that the North Tower had collapsed.

Our musician friend has always kept his miracle to himself. He never discusses 9/11, as far as I know. He lives cheerfully in the present with his wife, his son and daughters, his job, and his music. But this evening it must have occurred to him that it was okay to thank God for a miracle, that no one would notice.

Everyone stands for the national anthem and rightly so, for it’s a tribute to our nation and the courage it took to defend our banner through a dark night in 1812. God Bless America is a prayer, thanking God for the courage to defend freedom, through a sunny, but very dark, September morning.

Monday, July 26, 2010

See Something, Say Something

On September 11th, Americans and freedom-loving people worldwide saw something: they saw Islamic terrorists slam a hijacked commercial airliner into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

They said something, too: “Never again.”

Nearly nine years later, they see something else: a hole in the ground, where the base of the memorials is slowly, torturously (according to a wife of one of the construction workers) being built. A memorial that could and should have been built long ago but for the stalling of bureaucracy. The people said something, but no one listened.

The customs agent at the Portland Airport saw something: a man who looked like a terrorist. He wanted to say something, but was afraid because he feared he’d lose his job for violating the agency’s politically correct guideline of not judging people by their appearance or ethnic background.

Now Americans see that a suspected terrorist supporter is planning to build a grand mosque/community center two blocks from Ground Zero on Park Place. Originally it was to be called the Cordoba House, and the project is still entitled, “The Cordoba Initiative”. Fortunately, someone said something about Cordoba and how Muslims build their mosques on the conquered temples of other religions.

They’re saying something, in great numbers: that the mosque is an affront to the families of victims who died there. The secular politicians see it too, but they say the very Islamic radicals who wish to destroy American principles are protected by them.

They say that whether we like it or not, Muslims have the right to worship where and when they please. This is, after all, America. The building this group plans to raze already serves as a mosque in between an Amish market and a bar.

A community board member, speaking on WOR radio this morning, said the same group that approved the mosque (though not as overwhelmingly as it seems, he says; many members abstained from voting) will also determine the building’s landmark status.

From what he says, because the building is already a mosque, they would be giving landmark status not only to the building’s architectural history but its current status as a mosque. Furthermore, there was no way they could have legally denied the building’s use for religious purposes.

A more courageous political body would have taken them on and denied them the right to build this new mosque, Constitution or no Constitution. The one avenue open to opponents is the benefactor’s dubious history as a supporter of terrorism. For some reason, he has not been obliged to reveal the sources of his funding, even though it would seem that would be excellent grounds for denying a permit.

You would think their motives would be obvious, given the huge hole just steps away from where the mosque is to be built. Two short blocks. But we can’t be sure, claim the authorities. We have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The customs agent was obliged to give Mohammed Atta the benefit of the doubt. The laws said so. I’d love to ask Mayor Bloomberg if he were given a camera with a telephoto lens and he saw what looked like a group of innocent construction workers in some sensitive area, what would he do?

The camera is capable of focusing in on faces at a distance. Would it be his imagination if he thought he saw someone on the FBI’s Most Wanted List? Could he be sure without having the list in front of him? The only thing to do is call the authorities.

Only – they couldn’t have gotten where he sees them without the permission of the authorities. The evidence is there, but to whom do you say something? Of course, it’s not your problem if you say something but they don’t do something. But the fact that it is happening in plain sight where they should be able to see it is not an encouraging sign.

Sort of like today. In this case, Mayor Bloomberg is the authority.

We see a hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to stand. Every year, we see their families come to mourn their lost loved ones. We see very slow progress on the memorial and the construction of the other buildings. We say we’ll never forget.

We see a building two blocks away, that had been a clothing store, that was damaged by a piece of one of the hijacked planes on 9/11. We see that St. Nicholas Church hasn’t been rebuilt. But we do see a new subway station. We see that building that was damaged has been converted to a mosque, with plans for an even grander monument to that religion, one that is to debut on Sept. 11, 2011.

We see it all very clearly and ominously and we are saying something. However, the answer we’re getting is that this is America, the land of the free, and they can do anything they want. We mustn’t judge them, anymore than the customs agent should have judged Mohammed Atta (although he was forced from his job afterwards for not doing that job).

The authorities say we must be tolerant and open-minded of the Muslims. We mustn’t judge them, even though their religion has usurped and overturned free democracies all over the world. We mustn’t say anything that would upset them or deny them the freedom to destroy freedom because we might destroy freedom ourselves in the process.

I see something similar to what I saw nine years ago. A purportedly “innocent” project perpetrated by some well-known bad actors in public view, ignored or undetected by security officials who didn’t see anything and certainly didn’t say anything.

We see them now building their mosque and we’ll see them later. We will watch in impotent silence when they one day bow down at the future World Trade Center memorial to honor not the slain innocents, but their own dead heroes who brought about the calamity in the name of Allah. And we must not say anything.

Because we’re Americans.