Sometimes Human Justice Gets in the Way: Lincoln and Grant

I’m no longer reading up on Lincoln. I’m reading up on Grant. Ted Putsch would like both, I think, and may already be well-versed. Both men were raised in lowly circumstances. Both were unusually humble and defenders of the lowly. Both were continually sneered at by elites. Both made emancipation of slaves their chief mission.  Both . . . wait for it  . .  found occasion to suspect habeas corpus. 

A younger relative of mine is libertarian. It motivates everything he does. The first factoid he ever learned about Lincoln was his suspension of habeas corpus. That was enough for him to permanently place Lincoln on his evil-person list. From there, he immediately bought into the invective that Lincoln didn’t give two hoots about freeing slaves—his sole concern was preservation of the union.

In fact, from the very beginning, Lincoln purposed that quenching the ‘rebellion’—such it was called at the time—would go hand in glove with destroying the

institution of slavery. But he could not 
just outright say it. He knew he had to first build a consensus. Many were the northern abolitionists who did outright say it, and they were immediately marginalized into a minority camp. Minorities don’t win at the human game of government. William Seward (by far the front runner leading up to 1860–everyone supposed he would be president, not Lincoln) also did say it, giving a lofty speech invoking a “higher law.” Not only was he marginalized by those to whom the sole mission of freeing slaves was insufficient motivation, but he was also marginalized by those who supposed there was no higher law other than the human experiment of ‘government by the people.’

The only way Lincoln’s Emancipation would fly in all the North, not just with the abolitionists, was for him to sell it as a military strategy. White northern troops fretted over who would mind the household while they were gone. White southern troops had no such concerns; their slaves could keep things humming. Free those slaves and the playing field was leveled. In fact, it was more than leveled: those slaves would begin to conspire against their masters.

Two sacrosanct, as human principles go—standards of justice took front and center stage in the Civil War years: state’s rights and habeas corpus. I can see Putsch railing against any infringement of either:

”Tyranny …. in soft measured voices, done in secret, and with powdered silk gloves is STILL TYRANNY.”

Oh yeah, I can easily see it! And I’d tend to agree, in a relative sense—but only a relative sense. Fact is, such lofty human principles stood squarely in the way of a far greater good: the liberation of hundreds of thousands of enslaved people. Robert E Lee personally loathed slavery. He had never owned a slave. But he took up the call of what he considered even more sacred. ‘State’s rights’ became his clarion call. Consequently, he signed on to command Southern troops, enshrining slavery as the ‘right’ of the state to decide, not some meddling Union to impose their standards from afar.

‘Man is dominating man to his injury’—even (and in this case, due to) when they run by their own self-invented concepts of justice. In the greater removed picture, looked at from our time, only the elimination of slavery matters. One Union should split into two? It’s like what Bud said when he threw away the anti-rattle clip he couldn’t figure out how to reinstall—“What’s more rattle on a Ford?” So it is with human self-government. What’s one more division of mankind in a sea of many divisions?

Here the two bedrock principles of American justice, habeas corpus and state’s rights, stood squarely in the way of real justice for hundreds of thousands of Blacks—for Whites too, for that matter, since Jefferson wrote of the South: “The parent storms [in domination of his slaves]; the child looks on . . . puts on the same airs . . . and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities.” 

One is reminded (a bone for science-fiction aficionados) of ‘Childhood’s End, in which the alien overlords paid no attention whatsoever to ‘state’s rights,’ immediately and decisively ending the cruel spectator sport of bullfighting. 

Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus was a measure he deemed essential to preserve the Union, which action would enable the freeing of slaves. Certain journalists were openly encouraging desertion from the Northern army. ‘I should shoot some guileless plowboy deserter and not the guileful propagandist who induced him to do so?’ he posed.

Grant’s suspension of habeas corpus during his presidency is more directly connected with the welfare of Blacks than was Lincoln’s. In the early days of Johnson’s presidency, the Ku Klux Klan arose. Reports were that it commanded the active participation of 2/3 of southern Democrats whites, and the tacit participation of the other third. By many measures, Blacks were worse off than during slavery. The white aristocracy manipulated them into situations just as oppressive but with no obligation to provide for them.

Unspeakable and well-documented atrocities became routine. Not only might Blacks be easily beaten or killed, but also white Republican southerners who aligned with them. Murderers could not be brought to justice. Witnesses were too intimidated to speak out, and with good reason; no jury of peers would convict Klansmen, and the retribution against witnesses would be severe. Grant sent in federal judges, and suspended habeas corpus in enough instances that Klansmen would turn upon each other in efforts to get off or gain lighter sentences for the crimes that a non-federal judge would excuse. Within a few years, he had broken the back of the Klan. It’s later reemergence is in name and ideology only (just as Baal worship kept coming back, even though guys like Elijah would clean it out from time to time.)

Habeas corpus and state’s rights—noble as far as human principles go, but not a guarantee that evil cannot, not only exist, but prevail. 

Anyone thinking that God works through America (or any other country—America being the only topic of consideration here) is invited to look at the Andrew Johnson administration. “Be Like Abe” flies, as does (to a lesser degree, but still doable) “Be Like Ulysses,” but not “Be Like Andrew.”

By the end of the war, Abraham Lincoln succeeded in bringing justice to Blacks. Andrew Johnson undid it all. Grant’s work was to undo the damage that Johnson had wrought and he largely succeeded, but only temporarily. What justice might have prevailed if Lincoln had been immediately succeeded by Grant, with no Johnson in between? 

Like Lincoln and Grant, Johnson too was brought up in lowly circumstances. He too was a self-made man. There the similarities end. Johnson was intensely racist. He was intensely vindictive (at first) to the former Confederacy, favoring severe punishment (akin to that imposed on Germany after WWI?) in contrast, Lincoln had been completely non-vengeful. Worse, vengeance was personal with Johnson. Vengefulness was a way of getting back at the aristocratic elites who had ridiculed and looked down upon him all his life. Northern abolitionists, who also (unlike Lincoln and Grant) favored harsh punishment for the South, at first thought they had found an ally in Johnson. But in fairly short order, he gave up despising the southern white aristocrats, and began kissing up to them, as though hoping to be anointed king of their club, his racist orientation a perfect match for theirs. 

God works through human governments? What if there had been no Johnson, and Lincoln’s ideals carried directly over to Grant. Shortly after the war, General Grant’s man told local transport companies in New Orleans that if they continued their practice of segregation, he would ban all that company’s cars from the road. According to Ron Chernow, author of Grant, “once the original hubbub over desegregated streetcars subsided, the locals had cheerfully adopted the new system and the excitement died out at once.” Chernow cites it as an example of the “startling early revolution in civil rights [that] would be all but forgotten by later generations of Americans.” What if Johnson had not come along to poison the well? Don’t you think if God ran the show through human government, he would not have?

A little bit on roll here. Sorry. I just wanted to kick back a little at those who think human standards of justice from the Founding Fathers are the bee’s knees. They're better than their absence, generally speaking, but sometimes they get in the way of true justice. 

To be continued . . .

******  The bookstore

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Observations on PBS’s China—Power and Prosperity: Treatment of Uyghurs & Social Credit Systems

Q: By now, most people have heard about the Uyghurs issues in China. There are supposedly concentration camps, torture camps,...thousands imprisoned, etc. When someone changed thousands to "for all we know, there might even be millions" the new number changed to "millions" without Western media even batting an eyelash. 

A: I saw a PBS show, China—Power and Prosperity not long ago. The unedited version of this runs almost two hours and is divided into seven or eight topics. The segment about the Uyghurs (toward the end) seems to back reports of harsh treatment—but is it thousands or “millions?” Several witnesses who lived through it are interviewed—ones now in “self-imposed exile” in Istanbul. One man tells of massive detention centers where he saw ones interrogated with “unbearable brutality,” one woman of her block mates taken for interrogation 15 at a time, and would reemerge “bruised and swollen.”

Q: my sense of right and wrong was outraged when I heard that they take children away from parents and re-train them in boarding schools where state propaganda is spoon-fed day and night.  

A: They testified as to this, too. They all assert that state video of helpful retraining is “staged and scripted.” The justification for all of it is some terrorist attacks from that ethnicity. It seemed convincing to me. Easy to find, if you have not seen it. Google the topic and bring up some YouTubes. The government spokesman who denies it all wonders “who is paying them?”

...There is something about a PBS offering, or any offering from ones of similar background. How to put it?

Q: they are forced to comply at peril of their life or a system that can take all their social credit away in one swoop.  This new social credit system is terrible and may soon come to the west

A: Interviewing one Chinese company spokesperson about this, the interviewer asks: “Does it work?” that is—does the system of incentives and disincentives serve to change people’s conduct? The woman seems flustered at this, and mumbles that “Of course it works,” before breaking away. “Something about our question disconcerted the hosts, who suspended the interview and withdrew,” says the narrator, “but our mics were still on and recorded what they next said privately” (not exact quote, but close).

The first thing the woman said privately to some cohorts was: (in the full version, not the edited one) “What kind of a question was that?” That had been my impression, too. What was disconnecting about the question was the sheer stupidity of it. Do incentives and disincentives serve to mold behavior? Of course they do! There is something so naive about persons who have been raised with “enlightened” views of discipline. The next backstage remarks are of how they can’t really refuse an interview, but they want to take care not to criticize the party, and of course, this is what the program seizes upon, as though their dopey question served to expose the underbelly of the beast. 

If a stove is red-hot, and people know it is red hot, will they touch it? Only in the West will moral revisionists question this, extrapolating the few who will indeed touch it anyway into the many. The truth is more in accord with Mark Twain’s observation that “a cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. Nor will it sit on a cold one—for they all look hot.”

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About Women. Part 1

Daily my adversary hammers at the door of women’s rights groups, hoping that they will cooperate with him in his efforts to make trouble for his former religion. He calls it a vigil, tweeting every 24 hours that yet one more day has passed since The Watchtower (December 2018) published advice harmful to women’s interests. This strikes me as an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to do: to bludgeon them each day, as though he understands their cause better than they. If they don’t take the bait, they don’t take it.

Lately he modifies his approach and says that he “respectfully asks” that they give attention to his beef. He changes tactics because so many of his own people began to accuse him of “man-bashing” that he took to blocking them. When I read he was doing that, I thought it was because of me. However, I had been behaving myself lately, so I returned to investigate, and I saw that it was some of his own people kicking back.

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer commented to Foyle, of the television show Foyle’s War, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to: that he was overconfident and not really too smart. He would overreach and fall of his own weight. She had seen it before. Am I not at least as much in tune with women’s interests as is my adversary? Have I not several times written: “The question to ask in any discipline is not: ‘Can women do it better than men?’ It is ‘How can they do it worse?’”

It is a single paragraph that he takes issue with, a paragraph that deals with woman finding themselves in abusive relationships. As he puts it: “In a section discussing marriages between Witness women and ‘unbelieving’ husbands, the magazine urges the women not to get a divorce under any circumstances partly because they could influence their husbands to convert. Apparently, that possibility is supposed to carry them through any and all problems in the relationship, including physical abuse.” The reason he uses the word “apparently” is that the article does not say what he wants it to. With an ‘apparently,’ all things are possible. He is “obviously appalled” at his own interpretation of the Watchtower article and hopes the women’s rights groups will be, too.

If the background facts were as he represents, one might concede that he has a point. But the background facts have been misrepresented in almost every case. I wrote up a reply and also sent it to these groups, though not every day. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day. The jury is still out as to which version they will prefer. Possibly they will say, “If we never hear again from either one of these two clowns, it will be not soon enough.” We may never know. After 52 days of pummeling, he discontinued.

The Bible that he now derides shows unusual respect for women, relative to its time of writing. Two examples follow. Both involve Jesus’s relationships with women. In themselves they are not decisive; one could easily say that they do not go far enough. However, in the context of the times, they are monumental. The Lord did not stamp out every injustice he encountered during his brief time on earth. Little would remain if he had. He mostly worked within the existing world as the laid down principles that would facilitate a better reality to come.

The Samaritan “woman at the well” that Jesus spoke with was the first person to which he entrusted directly the news that he was God’s chosen Messiah. Even his disciples had to jump through hoops to gather that bit of intelligence. From a Christian’s point of view, it the most significant announcement of all time. He told it to a woman (John 4:26). Moreover, she was not a woman with society’s stamp of approval. She was a woman who was “living in sin.” Woman’s groups today may disagree with definitions and values of that time, but they will nonetheless accede that Jesus first gave the most important news of all time to a woman of “ill repute” but underlying fine heart that only he could detect.

The second example is found with the angel that announces Jesus’s resurrection. Who does he entrust this second most important announcement of all to? Again, it is a woman. (Luke 24:4-11) At the time, the testimony of a woman was considered worthless in that male-dominated Greek, Roman, and yes, even Jewish world. Didn’t the angel show contempt for that male-dominated society by completely skirting it? Even Jesus’s disciples, immersed in that culture, did not believe the women. That was of no consequence to the angel; they’d figure it out in time, the big dopes.

Update to the present. The intent of detractors today is to paint Jehovah’s Witnesses as obsessed with the “submission” women are supposed to show to men. To the extent the religion, or the Bible, speaks of submission, it is essentially to acknowledge that in any ship, there is a captain. In the Christian model, God has assigned roles as best suited for the stability of the family, which for the most part, means the stability of the human race. There is no tolerance made for abuse. That is not to say that abuse has not occurred, but it occurs no less in places wanting nothing to do with Bible principles. Unless I am very mistaken, Harvey Weinstein did not go door-to-door telling people about “God’s magnificent purposes.”

It is a spiritual or family-based arrangement only. More women than not in the women’s groups mentioned will say that it is antiquated and that they have moved on from it for the best. Point taken. Let it be said, however, that in Watchtower facilities it is an absolutely unremarkable fact of life that women will exercise authority over men in any area where one may have better aptitude, for example, in design, computers, medicine, and law. If the men working under them ‘cop an attitude’ (which has happened) they will hear about it. Men are ever inclined anywhere to parlay their usually superior physical strength into attempted domination. Watchtower headquarters will not let them get away with it. Detractors will catch wind of a woman working in the furtherance of JW purposes, maybe law, and carry on about how she can endure in the midst of domineering men. She doesn’t have to. They submit to her in these pragmatic areas where competence is all that counts, and “submission” is completely irrelevant, being merely a spiritual or family matter of organization.

Women are not seething with discontent over there in Witness-land, as their enemies seek to portray them. Neither are there weak women whom tyrant men play like a fiddle. Of course, there are some weak women, but there are also weak men. On balance, they are about equal in numbers.

See About Women. Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!


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About Women. Part 2

When I used the capable female British Intelligence officer’s prediction to Chief Inspector Foyle that her swaggering male superior would overreach and fall of his own volition as a prediction that my enemy would do likewise, I missed the most important question from the standpoint of women’s groups, and everybody knows that I missed it. It is: Why did she have to play second fiddle to him if she was so capable and he was so inept? Why didn’t he have to play second fiddle to her? Why indeed? We both know the answer. She was consigned to play second fiddle because she was a woman.

Back in the days when all were more given to modesty, often was heard the expression: “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” Women’s groups will second this motion in a heartbeat, but they will also add to it. If she was so great, then why wasn’t she out in the forefront and the overrated bozo back home scrubbing the bathtub?

The one individual who probably did our family the kindest turn of all was a woman who co-owned a dental lab. My teenage daughter suffered a snowboarding accident that broke off half her front teeth—there they were embedded in the snowboard. This followed on the heels of my son’s accident and led me to vow to my wife that we should produce another child for spare parts. It also caught us at a time of financial embarrassment, and this businesswoman, a family friend who had taken a liking to my daughter, said she would make her dental replacements at no cost. She did so, and she worked as closely with our family dentist as he would allow. “It is important to install them in such and such a way,” she urged him, “so that there will not be a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline.” Alas, it turned out as she feared. “I’m not going to let any technician tell me how to operate!” he exploded, and now my daughter has a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline. “I worked so hard not to offend the little man,” she told me later.

Women, no matter how capable, had long had it rough in society. They have long had to put up with a lot. They are at last erupting, as the MeToo movement makes clear. The first female executive in the music recording business, Dorothy Carvello, recently wrote of her early days at Atlantic Records. As a new employee, ages ago, “one executive walked past my office every day and said, ‘Blow me.’ I hadn’t even met him…. [Another] grabbed my ass constantly. I hated it.” She put up with it though. She needed the job and she loved hobnobbing with celebrity clients. She credits the Catholic nuns from high school days with teaching her to hold her own and conduct herself with dignity under the circumstances, as she writes of 25 years in a “circus mixed with an orgy.” “I once went to a lawyer, who advised me that if I sued for harassment, I’d lose my job. Worse than that, I knew I’d be blackballed from the entire business,” so she never did sue for harassment and only wrote her account in 2018.

When the greater world at last wakes up to a problem, as it has with sexual harassment, it overswings. Sexual liaisons, involving various degrees of coercion and sobriety, are reinterpreted as rape. Harassment, and what was once called “getting fresh,” are equated with rape. Complementing a woman’s appearance is even interpreted as harassment by some. How will it resolve? It is too soon to tell. Suffice it to say that the Witness environment is one of the few environments on earth where men can be expected to behave. They will hear about it if they don’t. It is a result of their education at the Kingdom Hall. The occasional miscreant can expect serious chastisement.

That said, do Jehovah’s Witnesses help women to advance in their careers? It is a question not especially relevant. The women of Jehovah’s Witnesses are seldom career-oriented, but that is also true of the men. Both are far more likely to have a job, and not a career. Both feel that their overall career is their service to God. It is an odd view, by today’s standards, but hardly a destructive one.

An activist group becomes aware of an injustice and throws all its weight into correcting it. It grabs the wheel and jerks it around sharply. Those braced beforehand do fine. Nearly everyone else is swept off their feet. “How many women head departments over there in JW headquarters?” one detractor taunted me. Look, they are not activists over there, but they do try to keep up. I cited a few female attorneys, with the observation that those under them had better behave. Woe to any brother who tries to pull rank based upon gender; he will promptly be set straight from on high.

I know one of these female attorneys. On a forum devoted to complaining, some were carrying on about how women lawyers at Watchtower must suffer almost impossibly, ever having to kowtow to their male superiors. However, one of them recalled a woman named Jane from his Bethel days, and threw in his two cents that it could not have been that way with her—“she would not put up with that nonsense for one second.” “So he does know Jane,” I smiled to myself.

Jane showed up for her shepherding call long ago and she intimidated me. I recovered, of course, but I recall the feeling. She didn’t do it knowingly, I am sure. But—it has only happened three or four times in my life—sometimes you run across someone who is so stunningly capable that, well—it takes one’s breath away. The idea at the time was that everyone should receive a shepherding call, not just the ones who “needed” one. That way nobody would think they were in for corrective counsel should elders approach them. Share a few scriptures of mutual encouragement, and so forth—that was the intent.

As congregation secretary, I later drafted Jane’s letter of introduction to Bethel after she had applied. It was unusual for a single sister to apply for Bethel service at the time, where the work focused on heavy machine operation and farming. But they were getting away from that in the then-new age of computers. I felt the need to address undercurrents that I knew existed among some brothers to the effect that Jane (not her real name of course) had made progress in “working under the oversight of brothers less capable than she,” or something to that effect. I was annoyed to think it advisable to insert that, but I did so, nonetheless. Was it necessary? I’ll never know. The circuit overseer, before he ever met me or read my letter, pointed out that capable single sisters are always a gain at Bethel, so perhaps it was not.

She is a gifted woman, not merely a capable one. And she will not like the attention, probably. Of course, there are weak women within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, but no more so than there are weak men, and no more so than there are plenty of both in general society. If she was ever discontent over any male bias within the Christian society, she never gave any sign of it, but then, I might not be the one to know. When she visited our home for a gathering of friends, she said: “If I’m invited to the Harley home, I know it’s going to be a spiritually good time,” probably using words not quite so pious. Though no one in her family was a slouch, it was probably her influence that propelled the family business to million-dollar concern at a time that such status was rare among work-a-day Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They are not activists at Bethel headquarters, but they do, hopefully, skim the residual benefits from any reform movement. With regards to woman’s rights, they have let themselves be corrected whenever discovering that a prior practice was, not primarily biblical, as they may have thought at one time, but more cultural in origin. They don’t put themselves on the cutting edge of culture, but neither do they wish to be on the trailing edge, unless there is good scriptural reason to be.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'