Monette Bebow-Reinhard

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Zimmerman of the Old West

Posted by bebowreinhard on July 14, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Realize before you read this blog that I don’t care about Florida’s stand your ground law. It sounds about as stupid to me as allowing people to carry concealed weapons. I also can’t profess to know what happened between Zimmerman and Martin because I wasn’t there. Most of us weren’t. Martin may have been doped up and he may have seen Zimmerman get in his face and started shoving him around.

The point is that one had a gun and one did not.

One of the things I hear gun advocates say is that this country was given its freedom based on the weapons it carries, and many like to point to the “Old West” where good guys always carried guns. That could be a bit of a myth carried out of watching too much television, but let’s look at that in principle and see how it relates to George Zimmerman’s rights.

First, in the Old West, carrying a concealed weapon was something bad guys did. Everyone wore guns on their hips and if they hid one in their jackets, you could pretty much bet they were up to no good.

Second, if someone told you they were going to shoot you or challenged you to a duel, the best thing you could do was to drop your guns to the ground. Because in the Old West shooting an unarmed man was murder.

Really? Yes and no. There was a case that I know about where a man got away with shooting another man simply for provoking him, and yes, that does sound like Zimmerman, if we can believe that Martin, a kid, provoked this able-bodied man to the point he felt he had to shoot him.

In the case of the death of Judge J.P. Slough, a man of “bad temper,” W.L. Rynerson was considered a respected member of the New Mexico Legislature when in late 1867 he pulled a gun and shot Slough dead. Rynerson had been trying to get Slough removed from the bench, and in response Slough called him bad names in public.

Think for a second—which is more threatening: having someone try and get you removed from your position, or being called bad names?

Now Rynerson became offended by these names (which were not available in the historical references) and approached Slough in a restaurant, demanding an apology. Slough refused. Rynerson said apologize or be shot. Slough responded: “Shoot and be damned.” So Rynerson shot him, in full view of the diners at the hotel.

We know that Zimmerman did not hide his act, but did he stage it so that he could be found innocent based on Florida’s stand your ground law? There was no period of time for a man hunt in either case. Rynerson was immediately arrested and thrown in jail. He had his trial, and was found innocent on the grounds that he had been justified.

Rynerson wanted Slough removed from the bench. In this he was very successful. We could say, and in fact we fear, that Zimmerman walked around with a gun, aching for a reason to use it. In that, he too was successful.

Do we want to go back to the days of the Old West? Then I suggest we make concealed carry a crime, so that at least the Trayvon Martins of the world will know when they’re facing an itchy trigger finger.

 

Civil War Inevitable

Posted by bebowreinhard on July 2, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

A lot of historians are revisiting the reasons for the Civil War and concluding that it was a high price to pay for what was gained, that black freedom really didn’t have the intended result, or that war could have and should have been avoided.

But if we were to think about what would have happened if the South had successfully formed its own country at that time, we might see that avoidance of war was not possible. Yes, the war was over the right to keep slaves. But even more, it was over the western territorial settlements’ right to keep slaves.

The country had been hot for western progress since the end of the Revolutionary War and then the Lewis and Clark expedition really opened things up. But issues over making states free or slave held up this movement. Kansas and Missouri are symbolic of this struggle, and Lincoln’s assertion that a country divided against itself could not stand the perfect rhetoric of the time. Along with the Constitution’s support of slavery, we have industrial leaders or abolitionists wanting to destroy the southern plantation system for their own monetary gain. These things all add up to the need for war. Had the South successfully seceded, war would have been fought over the West between the two countries, instead of just the one divided against itself.

So the Civil War and the fight over the West was a progressive, industrial movement to expand the country and its holdings. A great number of progressive bills had been stalled up in Congress—even more, perhaps, than today.

Foremost of these was rail expansion. The North wanted the rail emanating west from Omaha to connect with the line heading east from Sacramento. But the South wanted a southern line, and so they had been stymied on rail bills in Congress. There seemed to be no way for them to agree before secession.  Then the southern states seceded, and in less than eight months Lincoln passed major reforms that had been stalled up. The Homestead Act. The Pacific Railway Act. The Morrill Act, which the South opposed as being “socialist,” offering free education to everyone. A freeing slaves clause to the Militia Act. These are just the more famous ones. There's also the Department of Agriculture Act, to carry farming needs west.

There was no real desire to win an instant victory over the South, because the North saw the opportunity to pass these measures in summer of 1862. Only after this do we see a real impatience for the war to end. And the volunteer recruiting office had been closed in April of 1862 because the North figured it had enough to win, but Lincoln kept making it hard for George McClellan to do anything that spring and early summer, until finally he opened the offices again and called for new volunteers. Even then, getting men to sign on was hard, which led first to a militia draft and then an open federal draft, first ever in the country, in 1863. But we might also see that appointing McClellan in charge of all eastern forces—a Democrat who only wanted to cut off the South’s supplies—had the intended effect of allowing the bills to get through Congress.

When Lincoln found he couldn’t push McClellan any harder—McClellan had his own ideas and was already headed to Richmond—and he couldn’t fire McClellan—at least not yet—he decided to try and force the states to give up secession by claiming that the slaves were now free in all states in rebellion. He never accepted secession; he believed they were still in the Union, and most of the people in the southern states didn’t want secession anyway. Whether or not the Emancipation Proclamation intended it, the result was that slaves began to drop their hoes and walk off the plantations, headed for the northern armies where they felt they’d be protected. This alarmed a lot of people, including Lincoln, so that for the rest of 1862 he thought he’d have to send them to other countries because what else could they do with them? Industry hadn’t yet reached a point where it needed that much freed labor in 1861.  The war, however, brought them to that point.

This is what the South believed—that the war was fought because the North wanted cheap labor. That’s not quite right, though, because they were the ones who seceded. They seceded because they thought the North wanted to end slavery so they could get cheap labor. But the North likely DID want access to southern resources, and wanted to expand industrially. The South saw the country as retaining its Jeffersonian climate that they had established. The best way to get northern vision and destroy southern vision was instant freedom for slaves.

This demonstrates two very different visions for the country that only war could solve. That war lasted so long, and took so many lives is the one thing we continued to be amazed about. But we shouldn’t be amazed, at all, that it happened in the first place. Even those fellows who wrote the Constitution knew they were causing trouble for the country at some point in the future.

 

Political Compromises

Posted by bebowreinhard on November 7, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I know I made some people mad this political season. But hopefully I had good reasons.

I have always been a passionate person. I think it helps carry me through writing a novel. It helps me get things done when I really believe in what I’m doing. I’m not the type to just shrug my shoulders and go back to watching TV.

But this presidential election I became fearful, and that’s never a good thing when it comes to voting. It’s never good to say, oh my god, if we let that guy win we’re all doomed! I saw many Republicans doing that and swore I would not let fear dominate me.

Honestly, I don’t know what they were afraid of. We’ve already lived through Obama’s first four years and the next four can only get better. But when you hear some companies say that they will lay people off if Obama gets re-elected, then you get some idea where their fear comes from. Many companies, for instance, fear Obamacare, but they don’t want to wait and give it a chance to work.

My fear came from a completely different area. I am editing a book for my co-partner in Dancing with Cannibals, and it is all about oppressive regimes in Africa. We all know America has had a less than stellar history in messing with other countries, installing dictators who are friendly to our resource interests. It’s not a good thing to do, and for the countries in Africa, after colonialism ended, the regimes didn’t care at all about making improvements to the country but just took the money they made on resources and kept it for themselves. We know this is happening, but editing this book of Dicho’s has thrust me right into the middle of it.

The problem is, once those dictators are in there, how do we get them out? How do we know the next one won’t be just as bad? Should we depend on the internal uprisings, and support them? We never supported Fidel Castro overthrowing our Juan Baptiso, or whatever his name was, back in 1959. And that has made our relations with Cuba so strained. There was talk that Kennedy was going to try to improve relations with Castro before he was killed. That would have been the right thing to do.

Anyway, as a Democrat, I heard all the talk about how all the rich people and companies and Koch Brothers, etc., are supporting the Republican Party, and that seemed to me like another attempt of the rich to take over another country and make the rest of us poor – kind of like creating a third world country right here. That’s why there was so much talk about defending the middle class in America. Because without unions and good public schools, our country is lost to oppression.

So yeah, put all that together and you can see why I got a little passionate this election.

Then there was my husband, who I encouraged to run for state assembly. He was asked during the height of his busy season on the golf course and was inclined to say no. But I told him they want you, and you’ll never get another chance if you say no. The Democrats were trying to get as many people as they could to run against incumbent Republicans, who dominate the assembly in Wisconsin. I knew I would have to do most of the work until his season ended, but I also gave him ideas that he could handle when he wasn’t busy. Finally, after knocking on some doors and getting my teeth kicked in, and seeing he wasn’t making the phone calls or otherwise worrying about it, I turned my attention to other ideas.

Nothing I tried worked very well, and I can’t say it’s because we didn’t have Democratic assistance. I’m very grateful to the people who tried to help us. But the insistence on fund raising was contrary to our abilities. I don’t like to think we have to have money to win in politics. I know they all say we do. But Joe did not want to call people and ask for money. And I could not. With his over a decade as town chairman, he should have called a lot of people asking for support, but he didn’t. He didn’t get anyone to write him a letter of support to the newspapers. The day before the elections he finally went door to door by himself, and he had a great time. If only we’d known that sooner!

So for the most part, we hoped that a Democratic win by the others in our state would pull him and other assembly candidates into the win column. For that reason, too, I really pushed, at least on Facebook, to convince others to vote Democrat.

And now I’m exhausted—I’m like the balloon with the slow leak that’s about out of air. I think we all have to direct our passion where it suits us best. I think worrying that whoever wins is going to lead the country down the wrong path is the wrong thing to do.

But one thing I will add, before you go. The Tea Party must go. The people who insist on mixing religion with politics must stop. This country is one of diversity and freedom of religion. It must stay that way. Religion and politics do not mix. You do not have to be Christian to be a good person.

If we can agree on that, we might actually be able to reach all kinds of political compromises, the kinds that help this country grow.

Oh, and Republicans? Try to find a better candidate next time. Maybe change your platform image a little? Seeing Romney talk was kind of like what I would imagine George McClellan trying to tell the country the war was wrong, after he lost so many as General after Antietam.