Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Religious faith and diversity on college campuses

Slavery in the 18th-century Caribbean

Were we made for civil war?

Where is the labor history?

Barbara Spindel reviews David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Presidents of the United States and baseball

The Texas Senate race and history

The history of childhood and youth

The history of daylight saving time

Teaching the early republic in red-state America

Evangelicals on immigration

Fear and evangelicals

Honoring the lives lost in Pittsburgh

Worse than Willie Horton?

Eric Foner on Trump and birthright citizenship

A biography of the Book of Revelation

5 thoughts on “Sunday Night Odds and Ends

  1. I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. But when the US President, commander of the most powerful military in history, says “They want to throw rocks at our military — our military fights back. We’re going to consider it, and I told them, consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police I say consider it a rifle.” You really don’t think that gives cover for other militaries to do the same?

    But, in the same post, I must admit, we now have a few days to see the result and it looks like it did not provide much cover. Because the international community had no trouble condemning both Nigeria and Trump. It even looks like it backfired on the Nigerian military, in that it brought more international attention to their atrocities by mentioning Trump. It’s enough to restore some hope in humanity. But don’t tell me the fact that nobody takes America seriously anymore is the reason why you disagreed with the notion that President Trump’s comments provided the Nigerian military cover!


  2. Alex: Valid questions.

    As to your first one, when considering the regime we are dealing with — which has historically engaged this sort of thing with impunity, long before Trump came on the scene — I think we would be free to conclude that whatever pretext they are using to justify their actions, is exactly that. An ex post facto attempt to link this to Trump, or to claim that his rhetoric provides “cover” for this, is in my view without merit.

    As for whether this has any precedent, I would urge you to look up the various unsavory groups and totalitarian political movements who have used Jefferson’s words: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” — to justify all manner of brutality and murder. Was Jefferson thereby complicit? What would you say if an Islamist terror organization used Obama’s frequent comments about the Crusades (you know: we need to get off our “high horse” because as recently as 52,000 weeks ago the forces of Christendom committed atrocities in (mostly defensive) wars with Muslims) to justify jihadist retribution on American citizens? Would Obama bear responsibility for that? I would hope your answer in either case would be a resounding no.

    Is it your argument that the international community cannot respond to the murder (we’ll save for another day a discussion of exactly what the international community would propose to do in any case) of unarmed human rights demonstrators because of a Trump tweet? If so, I would say it is unpersuasive.

    I can’t speak to how you should feel as an American. You will get no argument from me, as I’ve stated here repeatedly, that Trump says many reckless and inflammatory things. He should not do that. But my larger point stands: attempting to link him in any way with what the Nigerian military did, or what a Trump-hating anti-Semite did in Pittsburgh, is in my view absurd, and done solely for political advantage; this reinforces the belief of many that the media long ago abandoned any pretense of objectivity or neutrality in its ongoing, Pavlovian war against the President.

    I appreciate the civil back and forth on this, even though it appears we do not agree. Which is perfectly fine. I’m glad John provides a forum where people can discuss these issues without resort to the acrimony and personal attacks which have come to typify our public discourse.




  3. Tony, those are fair criticisms to a comment I didn’t make.
    Aren’t you are curious what a Historian has to say about a foreign government using a US Presidents words as a defense for their crimes? Is there a precedent? Has that ever happened before?

    And how would you, as a lawyer, argue against their defense? How can the international community respond to hold the Nigerian military accountable, without alienating Trump?

    And how should I feel as American knowing Trump made these comments about the US military only 3 days AFTER the Nigerian army massacred West African protesters?

    Are these valid questions?


  4. Alex: let me get this straight — comments Trump made 3 days AFTER this massacre, make it his fault? Even though this type of thing has happened repeatedly in Nigeria, like in 2015 when the military killed over 300 protesters.
    This is beyond a stretch.

    I agree with you and John that Trump’s rhetoric is often reckless. It is appropriate to call him out for it. But I would also suggest that attempting to blame him for what happened in Nigeria (and Pittsburgh and [pick an atrocity du jour]) is not justified, and one of the main reasons people ignore the media’s 24/7 attacks on him.

    When everything is Trump’s fault, nothing is.


  5. Are going to try to put into historical context the Nigerian military using president Trump’s rhetoric to defend their massacre? I’m surprised it hasn’t even made your “Morning Headlines” list.


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