Category Archives: History

A Confluence of Commemorative Events

On Saturday, Passover begins and Jews around the world will commemorate their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt.  On Sunday, Christians will celebrate Easter Sunday, remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Saturday is also the anniversary of the 1889 birth of Adolf Hitler.  Neo-Nazis will surely celebrate this event with a stream of hate and rage at their “enemies”.  The confluence of these events leads to reflection on the world that was and the one we live in today.

In 1933, the world was in the middle of the Great Depression and German democracy was weak, similar to some of today’s eastern European countries or Central American countries.   Weak government coalitions fought incessantly, oligarchs fought to preserve their economic privileges and political extremists fought in the streets.

Then an opportunist appeared promising law and order, the restoration of national pride and economic prosperity.  In 1933, as in any year, most people were not political extremists. But after watching the career politicians bicker themselves into deadlock, they were willing to vote for a political outsider while ignoring his hooligan supporters and his more outrageous rhetoric.

Besides, rhetoric that blamed an enemy whether Jews (Nazi Germany), democratic Western Europe (Putin’s Russia), Imperialist America (Nicolaus Maduro’s Venezuela), or Jews, Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, women and independent journalists (today’s America), made sense to people who were angry.  Angry people want to lash out against their perceived impotent inability to change their circumstances.

All they need to fan their sense of injustice is a seemingly strong leader blathering hate that feeds their anger. But populists aren’t strong; they are cowardly schoolyard bullies. They incite others to violence. They stay in power as long as they can shower their closest associates with money and privileges. Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria) and Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) were recently deposed when they could no longer guarantee wealth and privilege to their inner circles.

Today’s populists will cause untold misery before they too burn out. But they will fade away because hate is a dead end.  As people around the world celebrate the confluence of this weekend’s commemorative events, it’s important to remember that two of those celebrations are of hope.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Telling Time

We recently adjusted our clocks to spring forward into daylight savings time.  This annual ritual reminded me of the cultural assumptions that underpin how we tell time.  What year is it?

In the western or Christian European tradition, it is 2019 AD. The AD is Latin for “in the year of our Lord” and is based on the birth year of Jesus. Of course, no one really knows when Jesus was born so early church leaders simply selected a year.  The centuries of human activity pre-dating the birth of Jesus were dubbed Before Christ (BC).

These designations are being replaced with the Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE).  These terms were first used in the 17th and 18th centuries by European scholars of the Enlightenment who wanted to remove overtly religious symbolism from scientific study.  Today CE and BCE usually signify an attempt to be more culturally inclusive.

For observant Jews, we are currently living in Year 5779.  This date was calculated by rabbinic scholars who added up the ages of people in the Bible back to the time of creation.  Rabbinic scholars know the universe is older than 5700 years but establishing the age of the universe is not their goal. Their goal is measuring time from the beginning of Judaism.

Muslims base their calendar on a traumatic event in the life of Prophet Mohammed.  In the Christian year of 622 AD/CE, the Prophet Mohammed fled from persecution in Mecca and moved to Medina. This event is known as the “hijra” or emigration and every year since is designated as “after Hijra” (AH).  In the Hijri calendar, we are living in 1440 AH.

Whether Christian, Jew, or Muslim, our calendars are linear, anchored to a designated point in time.  For the Chinese, time is cyclical following a 12-year zodiac cycle. This is currently the Year of the Pig.  This calendar system is credited to the emperor Qin Shi Huang who unified China and founded the Qin dynasty in 246 BCE.  He is best known today for his magnificent terracotta army that guards his tomb.

When we tell time, we immediately signal to others our cultural affiliations and assumptions. Accepting these differences makes the world a much more intriguing and exciting place.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Food as a Weapon of War

Using food as a weapon of war goes back to the dawn of civilization.  Torched granaries are often found in the ruins of ancient cities destroyed by war.  In Medieval Europe, war usually meant laying siege to castles and towns until the enemy population was starved into submission.

Richard the Lion-Hearted used siege warfare to defeat his rebellious French barons.  Then he ordered that their fields be sown with salt condemning the local Gascony population to starvation because nothing could grow in salted fields.  That was the point for Richard.

In 19th century America, killing the buffalo was an intentional government policy aimed at destroying the primary source of food for the Plains Indians.  Eventually starving Indians agreed to confinement on reservations in return for regular rations of food.

Once they were on reservations, Indian agents routinely withheld rations from “hostile” Indians who objected to forced assimilation.  When starving Indians left their reservations in search of food, newspapers published lurid accounts of attacks on white settlers, conveniently omitting the reason why the Indians were off the reservation.  Then the military would hunt down the Indians and force them back onto the reservations….where their food rations were withheld because they were “hostiles”.

Today food is still used as a weapon of war from Yemen to Syria to Venezuela to the refugee camps run by the United Nations.  In Yemen and Syria, each side prevents the distribution of food to areas they consider hostile.  In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro’s regime gives food only to party loyalists and recently ordered the military to block the border with Columbia to prevent a convoy of food from reaching starving Venezuelans.  U.N. refugee camps are routinely blockaded to prevent food deliveries.

Another threat to U.N-supported refugees arises from the erratic behavior of the U.S. government. The current U.S. administration continues the practice of reducing financial support of the U.N. citing a variety of reasons. Since the U.S. covers about a quarter of the entire U.N. budget, a loss of American funding means that millions of Rohingyas, Palestinians, Yemenis, Darfuris, and countless others are threatened with starvation since less money means less food is distributed in refugee camps.

Using food as a weapon is usually justified as a suitable punishment for an enemy.  A starving enemy is too weak to fight. While undeniably true, this justification should be rejected as barbaric and inhumane.  Using food as a weapon of war is a collective punishment against civilians.  Collective punishment targeted at civilian populations is prohibited under the “crimes against humanity” laws enacted since World War II.

Individually we may feel helpless, but collectively we have the power to remind governments of their U.N. treaty obligations. Ending the practice of using food as a weapon of war is a humane and ethical goal. It’s also a pragmatic goal. After all, we may someday find ourselves on the “enemy” side of a war.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Who Decides What Constitutes History?

I love studying historical events and persons but I never do so without thinking of two assumptions about history.  The first assumption is that history is stale and has no relevance for us today.  The second assumption is that history is written by the winners.

The second assumption is true. Only literate individuals who survive conflict, disease, and natural catastrophes can write about their experiences. That’s why we know more about the effects of the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum than we do about the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 A.D. that wiped out entire provinces on the islands of Java and Sumatra.

The Scythians are still viewed as blood-thirsty murderers because we met them through their Greek enemies. Greek sources claimed Scythian women cut off one breast so that they could more easily wield a bow and arrows in combat.  After Scythian burial sites were found, the archaeological record proved that they were the finest goldsmiths in the world.  But the Scythians didn’t leave a written account of their culture so we’re stuck with the Greek version.

The fact that history is written by the winners underpins the first assumption that history is stale and irrelevant. Most history lessons consist of a catalogue of the achievements of men. That is not surprising since virtually every culture in the world is or was patriarchal.

America’s culture wars arise from the demands of women and minorities to be given equal historical value. That means having their stories included in the historical record.  As the search for non-white-male achievers picks up steam, each addition is quickly countered with a values test.  Is any woman painter as good as Michelangelo?  Why is Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” required reading in college but not Mary Wollstonecraft’s response?  Where would agribusiness be today without the research of George Washington Carver?

The culture wars will grind on and we will continue to debate what is worthy of being counted as part of our history.  That makes history exciting because we are always learning something new from the archaeological and historical records.  Eventually, the category of winners will expand to include people and events that were previously ignored.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Rededication

Channukiah-BLOG-3

Tonight, I will light three candles for the third night of Hanukkah. As I’ve written before, Hanukkah is a fairly minor Jewish festival.  It commemorates the victory of the small but mighty band of Maccabees who fought against the army of King Antiochus.  Antiochus wanted to outlaw the practice of Judaism.  When the Maccabees liberated the temple in Jerusalem, it had been desecrated and so needed to be cleansed.  The story goes that there was only enough oil to light the holy menorah over the altar for one night, but a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted for eight nights, enough to allow more oil to be prepared.

Every year I ponder why this festival is significant, and there are many explanations.  This year, I’m focusing on the concept of “dedication,” which is the translation of the Hebrew word “Hanukkah.”  In the case of the holiday, it refers to the Jews regaining control, cleansing and rededicating the temple.  For me, this year represents my rededication to myself.  There have been many dreams in my life that I’ve allowed to fall by the wayside.  I’ve focused on my family, my career and the many responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself.  But I’ve also begun to feel the urgency of time and the drive to revisit some of those old dreams before it’s too late.

I read a post recently on social media about the various famous people who had begun their careers later in their lives, many after already achieving success in some other profession.  It reminded me that regardless of my current age, there is still time and a place to realize some of my goals.  The key is to stay focused and to be realistic.  This year, I am dedicating myself to figuring out which of my early dreams to pursue and to create a plan to achieve them.

I also dedicate myself to letting go of those dreams that are the stuff of childhood.  I was a pretty dreamy child, spending my afternoons lying in the grass looking up at the clouds, creating stories about my life.  When I wasn’t outside, I was curled up with a book, imagining myself in the words of someone else.  As an adult, I have often felt disappointed that life isn’t the fairytales of my youth.

So now it’s time for me to separate the fairytales from the reality of my life.  What can I achieve?  What dreams do I want to hold onto and pursue?  What am I ready to let go of?  And, in this darkest part of the year, how will I find the light to guide me on my path?  Tonight, I will light three candles, and one more every night until all eight are illuminated.  And this week I will dedicate myself to remembering that I can carry that light with me all year.

dreidel

On more thing.  For those of you who followed my adventures in gardening this summer, I have a few final pictures.  The last pumpkins have been harvested, cooked and turned into pies and my sweet potatoes continue to fill us up.  Most recently, they were a yummy stuffing on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

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About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Feeling Thankful Amid the Chaos

Two days from now, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.  At first glance there seems little to be thankful for given the chaos in our society.

The working poor in America face daily hunger because their wages are not sufficient to cover rent, utility bills and food but they make “too much” money to qualify for public assistance. Not surprisingly, a rising number of people believe capitalism is a failed economic system that benefits only insiders, according to a recent survey in The Economist magazine. The most anti-capitalist are young people just entering the workforce.

Our recent mid-term election has brought the threat of more chaos. The prospect of Democratic control of the House of Representatives has caused our president to unleash shrill tweets filled with paranoiac fear and conspiracy theories about how everyone is out to get him.

On November 13th, the FBI released their annual report on hate crimes showing a 17% increase from 2016 to 2017.  The most common hate crimes are based on race, ethnicity or ancestry. The second most common category is religion, closely followed by sexual orientation. These statistics are borne out by recent mass shootings against religious and ethnic minorities.

Last week the National Rifle Association sued Washington State to block a new law that bans the sale of fully automatic weapons to anyone under the age of 21.  The NRA apparently believes an 18-year-old kid should be allowed to buy a weapon that can kills dozens of people in minutes even if that same kid can’t buy his own beer for another three years.

All of these headlines left me feeling deeply depressed and wondering why I should feel thankful on Thursday.  But then I took a closer look.

Social engagement has increased with hundreds of groups trying to solve problems ranging from climate change to eradicating hunger to opposing intolerance.  Younger people are more relaxed by racial integration and sexual orientation.  White supremacists and other haters are a tiny percentage of the population who cannot win their battle against demographics and decency.

Political engagement has also increased as voters actually showed up to vote and mostly rejected the nuts of the left and the right.  Most importantly, young voters showed up at the polls in large numbers for the first time, having finally recognized that marches aren’t enough; voting is what counts in a democracy.

I see many dark days ahead as our society struggles to adapt to gut-wrenching economic, political and social changes. But amid the chaos, I am thankful this year because I also see signs of hope for our future.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Why the Time Change?

Every spring and every fall, as we “spring ahead” or “fall back,” people all around the country ask, “So am I gaining an hour or losing one?” It seems there is always confusion. And then there’s the question of why we do this at all. Why don’t we just leave the clocks alone and keep to “standard” time? Wouldn’t it just be easier? Well, get ready because it’s changing this November 4th.

I’ve always had some vague notion of the how and why we change our clocks, but I thought it had a much more recent history. I also thought it had to do with kids getting out of school and helping with farm work or something. I can’t tell you where I got that. You may already know it, but Daylight Saving Time (DST) is used to save energy and make better use of daylight. It was first used in 1908 in Thunder Bay, Canada. Many say the idea was actually conceived by Benjamin Franklin. Yep, our Ben, considered the “Father of Electricity.” According to timeanddate.com, however,

“Many sources also credit Benjamin Franklin with being the first to suggest seasonal time change. However, the idea voiced by the American inventor and politician in 1784 can hardly be described as fundamental for the development of modern DST. After all, it did not even involve turning the clocks. In a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, which was entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”, Franklin simply suggested that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. What’s more: Franklin meant it as a joke.”

The U.S. is one of about seventy countries around the world that use Daylight Saving (not SavingS) Time. Not every state in the country subscribes to it though. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gives every state or territory the right to opt out of using DST. For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states. Florida wants to have Daylight Saving Time year-round and Governor Rick Scott has signed off on a bill, the “Sunshine Protection Act,” asking congress to make it happen.

So, remember noticing a time change in the time change? I do. All of a sudden, the spring change came earlier and the fall change came later. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law on August 8, 2005 and it changed DST dates.

The Energy Policy Act extended the yearly Daylight Saving Time (DST) period in the United States by several weeks.

  • The beginning of DST was moved from the first Sunday of April to the second Sunday of March.
  • The end of DST was moved from the last Sunday of October to the first Sunday in November.

The law came into effect on March 1, 2007, and the new DST schedule was first applied on March 11 of the same year.

Some pros and cons of DST (Again, from timeanddate.com,):

Pro: Longer Evenings

Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight, but it causes the Sun to rise and set at a later time by the clock. So, when we spring forward an hour in spring, we add 1 hour of natural daylight to our afternoon schedule.

  • Proponents of DST argue that longer evenings motivate people to get out of the house. The extra hour of daylight can be used for outdoor recreation like golf, soccer, baseball, running, etc. That way, DST may counteract the sedentary lifestyle of modern living.
  • The tourism industry profits from brighter evenings. Longer nights give people more time to go shopping, to restaurants, or other events, boosting the local economy.

Con: Doesn’t Save Energy

A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight was a good thing because it meant less use of artificial light, helping to save energy. Modern society, with its computers, TV-screens, and air conditioning units uses more energy, no matter if the Sun is up or not. Today, the amount of energy saved from DST is negligible.

Pro: Less Artificial Light

One of the aims of DST is to make sure that people’s active hours coincide with daylight hours so that less artificial light is needed. This makes less sense close to the equator where the amount of daylight does not vary much in a year or near the poles where the difference between winter and summer daylight hours is very large.

However, at latitudes between these extremes, adjusting daily routines to the shifting day length during summer may indeed help to save energy. A German analysis of 44 studies on energy use and DST found a positive relationship between latitude and energy savings.

Con: Can Make People Sick

Changing the time, even if it is only by 1 hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For some, however, the time change can have more serious consequences.

Pro: Lighter = Safer

Safety is a good argument for keeping the lighter evenings of DST.

Con: Costs Money

It is hard to determine the economic cost of the collective tiredness caused by DST, but studies have found that there is a decrease in productivity after the spring transition.

  • The City of New York invested 1.5 million US dollars in a dusk and darkness safety campaign for the DST change for the fall of 2016.
  • There is an extra cost in building DST support into computer systems and keeping them maintained, as well as manually changing clocks.

The debate over DST is ongoing. I figure, we made up “time” anyway, so, if we want to change it to suit us, why not? The sun will rise when she’s ready and set the same way.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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An Immigrant Story

 

Once upon a time, two men named Christian and Jacob lived in a country devastated by war. The war had been going on for decades and the economy was wrecked, destroying their livelihoods as farmers and tradesmen.  Military press gangs roamed the countryside and towns looking for young men who could be forcibly recruited into military service.

The government of the day legitimated its rule by collaborating with the majority religion to stamp out the “heretics” who were considered political and religious subversives.  Christian and Jacob belonged to a religious minority that practiced pacifism.  As a result, they faced a constant threat of imprisonment, torture, and death.

They moved from place to place with their families trying to survive.  Eventually word spread through their community of a country where they could practice their religious beliefs without fear of persecution and support their families without fear of war.

Christian and Jacob chose to make the dangerous journey to the new country.  Healthy, unmarried young men are usually the first family members to emigrate because they are considered better able to take care of themselves and find jobs quickly.  After the young men are established, they can pay to bring other family members to safety.  Then as now women risked sexual exploitation, including rape, during their immigrant journey.

Christian and Jacob made their immigrant journey in the early 1730’s, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They came for religious freedom and economic security.  Under today’s rules, they could be classified as either refugees or economic migrants.

Refugees fleeing religious or political persecution are eligible for asylum and eventual citizenship. Economic migrants are considered a threat to the existing workforce and so are returned to their country of origin as quickly as possible.

Christian and Jacob never learned English but that didn’t stop them from becoming productive citizens. I am forever grateful for their courage and energy in making the dangerous immigrant journey.  I am one of many descendants of Christian Rutt (maternal ancestor) and Jacob Schurch (paternal ancestor) who are now citizens of the U.S.

Every family living in the U.S. has a story like this whether they arrived centuries ago or just last week. To honor the memory of Christian and Jacob, I welcome all new immigrants.  They may seem different now but they’ll fit in quickly.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Dirtiest Political Campaign Ever

 

 

This year’s midterm elections are dominated by racist, misogynistic, and anti-immigrant mudslinging that may sink lower than the lows set in the 2016 presidential race. There is even speculation that we’re witnessing the dirtiest political cycle in the history of the country.

Are we really? Hurling half-truths, innuendo and manure at political opponents is an accepted tradition. Here are a few examples from past election cycles.

Thomas Jefferson’s 1803 presidential campaign was dominated by stories of his children fathered with his slave, Sally Hemmings.  Jefferson never responded and his silence allowed his supporters to deny the self-evident truth. (His meticulous records for Monticello plantation prove he was the father.)

Misogyny and east coast elitism played a part in the bigamy allegations against Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel.  Their first marriage ceremony predated her divorce from her first husband. The oversight was remedied long before Jackson ran for president but that didn’t stop his political opponents.

In the 1850’s, politicians occasionally took time out from arguing about slavery to argue that no more Irish should be allowed in the country.  In the 1890’s, every politician who pledged to strip Chinese immigrants of American citizenship and civil liberties got elected. In the 1930’s, Father Coughlin used his weekly radio show to support politicians who agreed with his virulent anti-Semitism.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had an early electoral success driving around in a car with a giant teapot strapped to the roof.  Their political opponent was distantly connected to the Teapot Dome Scandal (a bribery scandal during Warren G. Harding’s presidency) but never overcame the innuendo caused by a giant teapot on a car.

In 1960, many voters were swayed by the argument that the Pope would run the country if a Catholic, John F. Kennedy, was elected president. You’ll hear an echo in the current election cycle arguments that Muslim-Americans shouldn’t be elected because they aren’t “real” or “loyal” Americans.

Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign was famously sunk by one TV commercial which showed a little girl vaporized in a nuclear explosion. Everyone was afraid that his hardline conservatism made him so irrational that he would literally blow up our world.

All of these political dirty tricks were amplified by the partisan press. Until recently, every city and most towns had at least two local newspapers which represented the major political parties.  The conservatives read “their’ newspapers much as they now watch Fox News. The progressives and liberals subscribed to “their” newspapers and today they watch CNN or MSNBC.

Obviously we, the voters, like this trash because it sells lots of advertising and air time. If we really hated the negativity and falsehoods, we wouldn’t tune in to the pundits blathering on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC and we wouldn’t vote for the politicians pedaling this manure.

But thinking about issues is not easy. The News Hour on PBS features politicians having a rational discussion about the effect a trade war will have on the economy or the trade-offs needed to support today’s retirees while also preserving resources for future retirees. Few people tune in on a regular basis. It’s so much easier to consume dirt in 30-second sound bites. That’s the worst dirt of the election cycle.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and on history, see History According to Norma (www.normashirk.com) which publish on alternate Wednesday mornings. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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We’re Better Together

On Saturday, July 14th, about one billion people watched France win the FIFA World Cup.  No other sport draws as big an audience and only the marriage of British royals can draw a similar global audience.  July 14th is also Bastille Day, a celebration of the French Revolution when France transformed from a monarchy to a democracy.

Both events demonstrate the benefits of globalization. Football (soccer to Americans) is the most popular sport in the world. Players leave their country of origin to compete in the top leagues in the world which makes them better players when they represent their country at the World Cup.

The winning French squad included individuals who play their club football in Spain, Germany, and England. Croatia, their opponent, has stars that play in Italy, Spain and England. The English Premier League is expected to suffer a loss of top talent after Brexit due to immigration barriers and the loss of passport-free movement around Europe.

The U.S. also benefits from this international trade. Several of our top players are honing their skills in European leagues against the top players in the world. Our domestic league, Major League Soccer, has many stars who are national team players in their countries of origin.  (The same is true for our national women’s team and league.)

The other big French event, Bastille Day, symbolizes the globalization of democracy.  The French revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity flowed across Europe with their armies and eventually around the world.  The concepts inspired popular uprisings in 1830 and 1848 as oppressed Europeans fought to overthrow oppressive governments.

The “losers” of these European revolutions fled to the U.S. where they became soldiers in the Civil War, homesteaders, business owners and politicians.  They helped build the U.S. into a world economic and political power.

After World War II, the U.S. used its economic and political power to create a global system anchored by democracy.   Political stability is maintained through the United Nations and similar international organizations. Economic stability is supported through the World Trade Organization and multilateral trade agreements.

Unfortunately, the benefits of globalization are being undermined by populists.  Like the royalist forces in 1789, 1830 and 1848, they believe in an illusory past glory when they were the “winners” and the condition of others was irrelevant.  If the populists succeed, I expect to pay more money to see a lousier game of football.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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