Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Myth of the Anti-Environmentalist

I intend to write at length about E. O. Wilson’s novel Anthill, but I want to take a moment to throw the bullshit flag:

“Well, what about all the churches?  [Raphael asked.]  Don’t they care about the environment?”

Robbins shook his head again.  “Believe it or not, a lot of folks on the Christian hard right around here are dead set against nature reserves.  They think saving the wild environment is just an all-around bad idea.  Don’t get me wrong.  Most evangelicals I know are for conservation.  They believe God means for us to save the Creation and God’s good green earth in general.  But a few extremists are absolutely convinced God means us to do the opposite.  They’re saying, ‘Use it all up, the faster the better, because Jesus is coming.  The End of Days is almost here.  He’ll show up as soon as the planet’s messed up a little bit more.  The devil wants to keep us all here on earth, and Jesus wants to take us on up to heaven, at least He wants to take the true believers up.’  They say that’s all written in the Book of Revelation.”

Now, America is a large and religiously diverse country, and I will stipulate up front that everything has been said on every subject at least once by somebody.  But I’ve read several liberals who claim the existence of Christian fundamentalists who advocate environmental destruction as a means of hastening the second coming, and they all share the same disability:  an absence of citations.  And not just an absence of books or articles or even websites actually making this advocacy, but a lack of any kind of verifiable reference like the name of a preacher or church.

So I’m throwing out a challenge:  support this allegation.  Give me something – anything – that would let me find somebody who actually believes this.  Wilson appears to acknowledge that such people are marginal figures, but I’m beginning to suspect that Harvard types like Wilson are circulating the same urban legend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fun: “My Big Hit TV Show”

In case you missed Megan’s link yesterday, this story at I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing is, true or not, a hilariously good yarn.  The story starts about 20% into the post.

Now, it is perhaps a testimony or a condemnation to the way that I've lived my life that at no point during my conversation with this hooker calling me from my office and asking for payment does my wife for EVEN AN INSTANT think that perhaps, yes, she should be concerned that a hooker is calling her husband at home asking for payment.

This reminds me of the time back at boarding school in Latin America when I got caught sneaking out of the dorm at night.  In the course of chewing me out, the dorm mother said, “Normally, our primary concern about a young man breaking curfew is that he’s sneaking off for a tryst with a young lady.  Of course, we realize that in your case that’s not very likely.  But still . . . .”

I was never entirely sure how to take that.

Butt-kicking Babes

Steve writes:

The tepid reaction to Knight and Day is reminiscent of the complaints about Kate Capshaw’s performance in Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom as a nightclub singer whose only contribution to the roaring action is to squeal. I can’t recall how many nerdy guys complained to me that Capshaw was a poor feminist role model compared to Karen Allen, who beat up bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Ouch!  That smarts!

Okay, look:  obviously, I have no brief for feminist role models.  I rolled my eyes at Sigourney Weaver’s over-the-top butchiness in Aliens, and I’ve never been a fan of the butt-kicking-babe fetish as exemplified by Lara Croft.  But yes, I was among those nerds who saw Capshaw (and ToD generally) as a significant comedown from Allen in Raiders.  For one thing, like most children, I liked my adult heroes and heroines to be faithfully monogamous, especially when the personalities were as well matched as Indiana and Marion.  I still like that.

And for another, it’s one thing to discourage women from usurping male leadership or denying them the expectation that they can routinely outfight men twice their size.  It’s quite another to say that helpless squealing the is apex of femininity.  Courage and resourcefulness ought not be exclusively male virtues.

Marion was brave.  Marion generally kept her head, if not always her composure, in the face of danger.  Marion was, or at least tried to be, an asset to Indiana in their joint efforts to recover the Ark of the Covenant.  Wilhelmina, in contrast, was none of these things.  But contrary to Steve’s assertion, I don’t recall Marion actually “beating up” any Nazis, nor performing any other feat beyond the realm of plausibility.  I would say the same balance was achieved by Ripley from the original Alien movie and Evelyn from The Mummy.

I haven’t seen Knight and Day yet, so I have no opinion to offer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bazelon on Phoebe Prince

Well, well, well . . . .

Normally I wouldn't trust Emily Bazelon as far as I can spit, but while I'm still working my way through it, her Slate article makes some arguments that seem refreshingly out of character. For instance, she indicates early on that the civil rights laws under which Phoebe Prince's alleged tormenters are being prosecuted are being tortured; that Phoebe had a history of psychological and social problems going back to Ireland (in confirmation of "Newcomer Dan"'s allegations in the comments); and that "Irish slut" is, forensically, not far from the mark.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Humane Eugenics

What with a 200-post backlog in my Google Reader, I haven’t been keeping up with my blogroll.  Unfortunately, because I still can’t get Google Reader to carry it, Hit Coffee tends to be the last thing I read.  So I missed this exchange when it originally came out  (my comments will follow):


The [American] Prospect’s theme is that it’s not really the male gender that’s been dealt a blow — it’s lower-class (they call it “traditional” or “working-class”) style of masculinity. So we turn to the question of whether that’s a bad thing. If the economy doesn’t need that kind of man, does society? I was brought up to hold myself above lazy men, violent men, and most of all, dumb men. That didn’t come from shadowy gangs of feminist Illuminati. That came from a dad who grew up without an indoor toilet.


I think the question here is “What is society for?” or perhaps “Who is society for?” I am extremely uncomfortable with the notion that because we don’t need a particular type that we should not lament their inability to participate in life. Or, when possible, to help them do so.

By “participate in life” I mean have children and get married, at least for those that wish to do so.

This isn’t just about blue collar men. It’s also why I am uncomfortable with the notion of prohibiting those on welfare to reproduce. To me, that’s a part of life. Just because you are not productive enough to supply for yourself does not mean morally that you should not be able to have a family. It may practically mean that if there is not enough money to help these people, but an inability to help these women have families strikes me as unfortunate just as we are incapable of helping men who cannot have families (because they can’t get married).


I look at it not in terms of morality, but in terms of social utility. If you think people on welfare are substantially capable of having contributing offspring, then your philosophy makes sense. If you believe they aren’t, it makes sense to limit their reproduction for the social good.

Furthermore, if anyone who has a child is entitled to taxpayer support, it’s no stretch to realize there are many people who won’t see an incentive to work to support their children.

Will, do you know what percentage of people receive cash aid? It’s close to 20 percent. And as I’ve explained before, more than 50 percent of new babies nationwide receive food assistance through the Women and Infant Children program. So more than half the babies being born are born to parents who, according to federal guidelines, can’t afford to feed them adequately without taxpayer assistance. This is not something that just started because of the recession; it’s been going on for some time. Does that seem too high to you?

I have bad feelings about every one of the people I grew up with whose parents were on welfare, or who received it themselves (when they became teen parents). Every single one was dishonest, conniving, and abusive, albeit sometimes fun. That’s not to say there weren’t *non*-welfare receipients for whom I had bad feelings, too.

On the other hand, the welfare state *creates* jobs for people. What would a society be like in which the bottom 20 percent just disappeared?


Pretty bad for that twenty percent.

Can we square this circle?

Here are the three principles with which I approach the problem:

1.  American society is for Americans. All Americans, not just for some Marin County subculture. And not for foreigners.  Trumwill gets this point.

2.  Children are for people paying their own way.  If you’re a long-term net drain on the public fisc and a negative externality in general, then be assured that we don’t want more people like you.  Sheila gets this point.

3.  The social order must be sustainable.  On this, all participants agree.

In Herbert Spencer’s heyday, life operated according to straightforward Darwinian principles:  if you couldn’t support yourself by your own talent and energy, then your genes didn’t survive.  You died of disease and malnutrition, or you didn’t mate, or you left no surviving offspring.  Either way, natural selection bred a better European.

Life hasn’t worked that way in a while, and libertarian fantasies to the contrary, it’s in no danger of making a comeback.

But that’s just it.  Sheila, while not exactly cheering the reduction in marriage and mating prospects of economically marginalized “proles”, is certainly indifferent to it.  Fair enough.  But we mustn't ignore this salient fact:  men don’t make babies.  Women make babies.  And the long-running thrust of government power has been to use civil-rights laws, affirmative action, and public dole to “liberate” women from their economic dependence on husbands.  Thus freed, women mate with and reproduce by the very “dumb, violent and lazy men” Sheila holds herself above.  Until we address female behavior and incentives, Sheila’s and Trumwill’s discussion about men will be entirely beside the point.

Of course, including women in our consideration only makes the problem harder.  Never mind natural selection:  pursuing a policy of voluntary sterilization is advocated by exactly nobody of stature comparable to William Shockley, who was roundly condemned for it when it would primarily have affected blacks.  Does it really become more likely when it affects whites, too?

But as commenter Maria points out, there is another side to this problem: 

The country needs a manufacturing base and that means blue-collar workers. So to say that the economy doesn’t “need” that type of man is wrong. The globalized economy with outsourcing to the lowest labor cost doesn’t “need” blue-collar workers in developed nations. But do we “need” the globalized economy with outsourcing to the lowest labor cost?  We “need” a manufacturing base and blue-collar workers come with that. Without one, we are just consumers of debt and products who have no real wealth to speak of.

Trumwill seconds:

Well, we need to produce. It is theoretically possible to have no manufacturing base by virtue of superior engineering and design. Add enough value through engineering and you can outsource the manufacturing and be okay by transferring wealth (either through welfare or through service industry jobs) from the engineers to those that don’t have the smarts for it.  The question is whether or not this country is capable of producing enough wealth through engineering that it can support everyone else (except for domestic production like food) through a robust service industry and welfare. That’s a pretty tough thing to do. Right now we’re not producing enough money to pay our government for the services (and service jobs) it is providing.

Maria finishes:

The welfare system may have been sustainable if it weren’t for mass unskilled immigration — I can’t say for sure. I do know it is not sustainable when we keep importing new customers for it from foreign countries via mass unskilled immigration.

I don’t mind helping out society’s losers, even permanently, but I really see red when it comes to importing poor people or children or elderly people for me to support from foreign countries.

In addition, importing millions of unskilled workers while at the same time we are exporting millions of relatively low-skilled jobs, is just plain stupid.”

Exactly.  An industrial policy that increases the supply of jobs that require only moderate intelligence, and an immigration policy that reduces the number of people needing those jobs, will go a long way to restoring the economic viability, and thus the reproductive viability, of America’s working class.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Movie Potpourri

Avatar:  I’m not sure what the big technical achievement was supposed to be.  The cat people did not look “real”, at least no more or less real than, say, Jar-Jar Binks did a full x years ago.  And its a shame to the erstwhile Lt Ripley, she of let-s-nuke-the-dangerous-alien-species-from-orbit, reduced to explaining that, well, only cute alien species deserve respect.

Marley & Me:  the Φ family got a puppy the year we got married.  By the time daughter #1 arrived, she had grown into a 100 lb Rottweiler, and would be at least as vexed as Mom when the baby cried.  By the time daughter #2 cried, the dog would simply walk out of the room.  But she was well trained, so it was frustrating to watch this family being jerked around by a mere golden retriever.  That said, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are just good-enough actors to make this story of an ordinary family and their pet come heartwarming without being melodramatic.

The Boys are Back:  A low-key movie about a widower with two young sons, unexceptional but for my favorite line:

I don’t have trouble finding women to do things with.  But I can’t find a woman I can do nothing with.

Inside Man:  Christopher Plummer is 80 years old.  Which means that he would have been a child at the time his character was allegedly a Nazi banker.  Hollywood had better start finding more recent nefariousness for its oldsters to be involved in before more people start noticing this kind of implausibility.  But otherwise, a well-paced, cerebral thriller that kept both Φ and Mrs. Φ engaged.

Shutter Island:  A good film (with a disappointing, nonsensical ending) about Cold War experimentation on mental patients.  How much of this actually went on that we really know about.  (Warning:  yet more Nazi references!)

Post Grad:  I saw trailers for this movie when I watched (500) Days of Summer.  The wasn’t exceptional either way, but I was struck by what I can’t help but regard as the irresponsible behavior of the female protagonist.  In the middle of a weak hiring market, she walks away with no notice from her dream job and flies off to the opposite coast to pursue a boy she wasn’t interested in when he lived next door.  This seems to happen a lot in the movies; I remember how Winona Ryder’s character in Reality Bites did something similar in the last recession.  Are girls really that irresponsible?  I’ve clung to the same company for my entire adult life and felt damn lucky for it.

Whip It:  I saw the trailer for the movie when I watched Post Grad.  I love Ellen Page, but it’s obvious that Drew Barrymore can’t direct.  Sometimes you can’t appreciate a skill until you see its absence.  Which is too bad, because substantively the movie has a lot of worthwhile things to say.

Adam:  I saw the trailers for this movie when I watched Whip It.  A touching portrayal of how crippling Asberger’s Syndrome can be for an adult.  But the romantic angle was implausible:  a girl, supposedly having just ended a “bad” relationship, initiates flirtation with an okay-looking guy with a personality deficit.

Surrogates:  If almost the entire population of the industrialized world is living their lives through the remote control of robots . . . then how are babies getting made?  The movie  also cheats by having Bruce Willis (55) married to Rosamund Pike (31).  The efforts to make her look older/uglier are, um, unsuccessful.

Sling Blade:  Outstanding performance by Billy Bob Thornton, and I especially liked the strong portrayal of religion in the South.  But are really supposed to think that Doyle deserved to be murdered for . . . well, for being an asshole?  Are we really supposed to think sympathetically of Linda for being bereft of responsibility for her own life?

Boondock Saints II:  Less interesting sequel to the 1999 original.  Pea coats are a SWPL fashion now; did that movie start the craze or follow it?

Disgrace:  It is a terrible thing to lose your country.

Annie Hall:  Supposedly, Woody Allen the director is much more “alpha” than the jittery neurotic character he created for himself.  Can anyone recommend a “making of” feature that shows Woody Allen in real life?

The Book of Eli:  Unsurprisingly, I emotionally identified with this post-apocalyptic story of a man fighting to protect the last known copy of the Bible.  But I’m curious:  I can understand why our popular culture is most comfortable with a therapeutic, post-modern, let’s-all-get-along version of God, but why is it more comfortable with a God of wrath and judgment than with the God of the gospel of Christ? 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Buyer Beware!

I came across the story of Gary Oldenkamp, who learned the hard way about the hazards of Russian brides:

“To understand this incident you have to know about the Violence Against Women Act of 1996,” said Oldenkamp.“There is a little piece in it that states if an immigrant is abused by her husband or other family member, and can prove the abuse, then they become admitted for permanent residence.Elana was going to get her green card with or without me.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

White Racial Profiling in College Admissions

Steve reports on a study examining college admissions that is disturbing on all sorts of levels:

A new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford is a real eye-opener in revealing just what sorts of students highly competitive colleges want -- or don't want -- on their campuses and how they structure their admissions policies to get the kind of "diversity" they seek.

. . .

The box students checked off on the racial question on their application was thus shown to have an extraordinary effect on a student's chances of gaining admission to the highly competitive private schools in the NSCE database. To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.

Anti-white discrimination, of course, is old news.  But the anti-poor discrimination surprised me:

At the private institutions in their study whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers. When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability).

. . .

When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.

Back when I was applying to colleges from Nowheresville, Latin America, all the brochures I received promised “needs-blind admissions”.  Do they still promise this?  Or were they always lying?

Steve argues that the preference for rich students is driven by the preference for rich alumni, which is a sad commentary on a school’s confidence in its own value-added.  But a disturbing possibility presents itself:  that a student’s class background is a better predictor than even his own academic portfolio; that admissions committees know this; and that we have truly reached the Brave New World end-state where parentage determines merit.

Arguing against this possibility is the fact that we now have anti-conservative, anti-Republican discrimination:

Besides the bias against lower-class whites, the private colleges in the Espenshade/Radford study seem to display what might be called an urban/Blue State bias against rural and Red State occupations and values . . . .  [W]hat Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call "career-oriented activities" was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sociobiology Game

Edward O. Wilson, renowned father of sociobiology, has published his first novel, Anthill.  Steve already reviewed it at length; I want to initiate a discussion about how, given the chance, Wilson applies his knowledge of Darwinism to recounting the courtship between the protagonist’s parents in 1976:

The FloraBama Restaurant was a famous establishment located on the coast precisely at the line between Florida and Alabama.  Out back lay a sugar-white beach and shallow turquoise water that stretched unbroken from Perdido Bay on the east all the way west to Fort Morgan at the entrance to Mobile Bay.  It was already famous in the 1970s as a center of Redneck Chic, where families could eat piled-up shrimp off paper plates, and men could drink American beer directly from longneck bottles.  Young lawyers and stockbrokers squeezed in at the bar among truck drivers and oystermen – among real people, in other words, the ones who actually produce and fix things for a living.

On a Saturday afternoon Marcia came to the FloraBama with a group of other Spring Hill College coeds.  One of the real people present when Marcia arrived was Ainesley Code of West Pirate Beach, Alabama, a graduate of Fairhope Senior High School and an expert automobile mechanic and part-time persimmon and strawberry picker.  He was seated at a table next to the bar with four of his friends, sipping beer and rating young women as they came through the entrance.  They were assigning scores from zero to ten for overall attractiveness, and planned to confer a crudely made imitation gold medal to the first one given a unanimous vote of ten.  After an hour and a half without a winner, the impatient judges were arguing over whether the requisite scores should be lowered to nine.

When Marcia walked in, Ainesley was startled, then riveted by the look of her.  First was her petite size, matching his own.  She was even smaller than Ainesley.  This was an increasing rarity in the well-fed South.  Most young women were his size or bigger, and they had big feet.  Marcia’s were much smaller.  Her clothing size, he was to learn later was petite small.  Then, in the two-second survey hard-wired in males, he saw in sequence:  nice shape, lovely face, well-groomed hair, neat clothes, graceful walk.  Summary:  a really great-looking young woman.  Moreover, she was talking with animation, flashing an orthodontically corrected perfect smile.

“Do you see that, the one on the left?” he said to his scruffy companions.  “Check it out.  A perfect ten, you gotta vote ten.  This one I’m gonna personally meet.”

With that, he stood up and walked across the floor to the girls, wh were settling at their table.  Ignoring the others, straightening his shoulders, he looked into Marcia’s eyes and assumed the winsome grin he had practiced so often in front of a mirror.

“Excuse me, miss.  My name’s Ainesley Cody and I live close to here and I come in a lot and I’ve just got to say, and the other fellows over there agree with me, that you are the prettiest girl that ever walked into this place.  You are just terrific!”

Marcia glanced nervously left and right, then back to Ainesley with a surprised “You mean me?” expression.  The other girls giggled.  Several, all larger than Marcia, were thinking they were just as pretty.

Ainesley, the talented fast-talker, abruptly shifted gears.  A sadness came into his face, and he continued in a calmer voice, shaking his head slowly, in mock remorse.

“Well, I guess I just made a fool of myself.  Believe me, I've never just walked up to someone like this before.  I hope you’ll forgive me, and I apologize to you, ma’am and to you all.”

Marcia stayed stock-still.  The girl to her right elbowed her in the side, laughing, then turned to Ainesley and said, “Do you mean me?”

Without answering, he walked back across the floor to rejoin his buddies and stood with them, making gestures and facial expressions meant to look both serious and concerned.  He cautioned the others not to laugh or raise their voices.  He knew Marcia and her companions would be looking his way in eager conversation of their own.  He kept them in view furtively, with sidewise glances.

Later, as the girls were heading for the door, none carrying the gold medal, Ainesley eased up to Marcia, making a pleading gesture with his hands up, palms forward, and fingers spread.

“Excuse me,” he said, then hesitated.  He knew what he wanted to say, but in an un-Ainesley lapse was beginning to feel confused.  The would-be ladies’ man and casual seducer felt a pang of sincerity.

“Could I say something?”

Marcia halted politely.  Two of her friends stayed with her as he finally put the words together.

“Listen, I'm sorry if I seemed rude when I came up to you.  But you do look like such a terrific person.  I’d appreciate if I could just talk to you sometime, maybe get a cup of coffee, like they say in the movies.  That’s all.  And then I’m gone.  I promise.”

Ainesley nervously handed her a pencil and two scraps of paper torn from the table mat.  One had his name and telephone number written on it, and one was for her to write hers.  Marcia was flustered.  This was not in her finishing-school playbook.  Trying not to be rude, she took the slips of paper and said, “Thank you.  Excuse me, I have to go.”  And walked quickly to the waiting van.

She thought, Ms. Rhodes at Hartfield [her finishing school] would have given me an A for that.  Or maybe not.  Did I just make a mistake?

Ainesley caught up with one of the girls who had stayed with her, and commanded, “Quick, what’s her name?  Please, I’m a good guy.  I just gotta know.”

“Marcia Semmes.”

With that innocent betrayal, Marcia Semme’s fate was sealed.

A few days later, with a telephone directory of Mobile and Pensacola, in which few Semmeses were listed, Ainesley quickly tracked Marcia down.

“Is Marcia there?” he asked on the telephone.

“No, she’s at the college today,” Elizabeth Semmes [Marcia’s mother] responded.

“Spring Hill College, I guess.”

“Yes.  You can reach her there.  Who shall I say called?”

“A friend.  I’ll call her there.  Thanks a lot.”

Knowing he wouldn’t be given her number at the school, Ainesley simply waited until the first holiday weekend and called her at home again.  This time she was the one who answered.


“Hi, is this Marcia Semmes?”

“Yes.  Who are you?”

“I’m Ainesley Cody.  We met at the FloraBama a month ago.  I sort of hoped you might remember.  I’m a senior at the University of West Florida, over in Pensacola,” he lied.  I hope you’ll forgive me, but I didn’t want to bother you.  After  saw you, I just wanted to talk to you, you know, maybe for a couple of minutes.”  He strained to sound casual.  “So here I am.  I won’t come around or bother you or anything.”

Marcia was intrigued.  After all, he sounded like a nice guy, who was really, truly interested in her.  She said, “Oh, no, no, that’s all right.  A couple of minutes is okay with me.”

Two weekends later, after several telephone calls, each longer and warmer than the last, the ersatz senior of the University of West Florida showed up at the Semmes home for a first date.  He was driving a new 1976 Chevrolet, on which he’d made a down payment the day before.  He wore his best clothes.  His hair was freshly cut and brushed.  In his pocket were two tickets to a bull-riding competition in nearby Chickasaw.

Ainesley was startled by the magnificence of Marybelle [the family’s antebellum plantation house], its colonnades, its spacious lawn and circular drive.  When he got out of the car and searched for the street number, unaware that great houses do not as a rule display their street numbers, he found instead a bronze plaque installed by the Alabama Historical Society identifying Marybelle as a state historical site.

While Ainesley waited anxiously in the main hall for Marcia to come down the spiral staircase, her father Jonathan stepped out of the library to speak to him.

“Isn’t bull-riding a rough kind of sport to take a young lady?”

Ainesley was prepared for this.

“Well, sir, I see your point, sir.  It’s been my experience, though, that young ladies among my friends sometimes get tired of going to concerts and stuff like that, and it’s a nice change of pace for them.  You can learn a lot from bull-riding.”

Jonathan was worried by this response.  He opened his mouth to probe some more, then let it pass.  He had documents to review, and an important meeting with a committee of state senators in Montgomery the next afternoon.

Marcia joined them at that point.  She was dressed in a vaguely cowgirl outfit of jeans, kerchief, and low boots.

“Oh, Daddy, I’m so excited!  Have you ever been to a real rodeo before?”

“Yessir,” Ainesley said.  “Nothing less than the real thing.”

What attracted Marcia to Ainesley was his vitality and self-confidence.  Despite his bantam size, he seemed strong, able to address her father as one adult to another.  That evening and later, he implied dark deals in his past he wished not to discuss.  He told stories, all with a kernel of truth even if they had happened to someone else.  All were richly embroidered.  To Marcia, Ainesley was a man above the callow youths of her acquaintance, with a deep and significant history relative to her own meager experience.  The highway was in his eyes, the airways, the sea lanes.  He had destinations, he had plans, and he had connections implied but still undisclosed to Marcia.  She tried to imagine, as he intended, how it would feel to be at his side during these adventures.

This persona of Ainesley was not deliberately false.  It was an accretion of stories and poses, at the center of which lived undisturbed his personal sacred code.  This much was unalterable:  he would always meet his obligations, if at all possible, and he would never tell a lie that could hurt his family or friends.  He would never assault another except in self-defense, and in conflict he would never bend to anyone if he knew he was right.

If all else came apart in Ainesley’s life, the code would remain.  It was the definition of his manhood and the safety net of his sanity.

What Marcia could not understand about Ainesley, nor could her parents, was that he was a commonly encountered denizen in the particular stratum of the world he inhabited, and that he was working his way through a biography appropriate to it.  He would in good time settle down, but not to the end that he imagined and wished the Semmeses of Mobile to believe.  Ainesley was endowed with powerful self-respect, but he lived one day at a time, and sought the pleasures awaiting him in each one.  He was not a man to put off rewarding himself.  Since his teenage years he had been a heavy smoker, although he could still cut back, as he now did in the presence of Marcia and her parents.  He thought sipping hard liquor and holding it well to be a masculine virtue.  He had occasional weekend binges, but none Marcia was allowed to see.

True to his culture, Ainesley was a gun lover.  His father and paternal grandfather had gathered collections of firearms as large as the law and household space allowed.  In his parents’ home at West Pirate Beach hung a photograph of his grandfather with two brothers standing behind a fallen black bear, cradling their rifles in folded arms.  The slain animal had been one of the last of the endangered Florida subspecies seen in Escambia County.

From early boyhood Ainesley enjoyed, along with excursions to hunt and fish, trips with his father to an abandoned farm in Jepson County to try out items from the family armory.  On those occasions he was allowed to fire an old army issue Colt .45 and a rifle used by a distant cousin during the Spanish-American War.  Ainesley, then and afterward, was awed by the spectacle of objects bursting into pieces at the pull of a trigger.

Ainesley was a patriot.  As a boy, he had a fantasy of wiping out pillboxes with a machine gun and grenades and marching in a victory parade down Government Street with a chest full of medals.  During the Vietnam War he tried as a seventeen-year-old to join the Marine Corps, but was turned away for reasons he preferred thereafter to keep to himself.

Finally, Ainesley was a racist.  But he had a way of squaring that with his code.  He was a separatist, he said.  He had a formula to recite when in polite company:  “I got nothing against colored people; I just want to be with my own kind.”  Otherwise, he stayed muted and ambivalent on the subject – except when drinking in bars and on fishing trips with like-minded white male citizens.

Ainesley did, at least, have a boast-worthy pedigree.  He and his close relatives claimed that there had been a Cody in every American war since the Revolution, and that might well have been true.  Several of his forebears were Hodgeses, one of the clans that settled Blakely and the fertile land of what was later to become Baldwin County across the bay from Mobile, when that city was still a mud village.  Another ancestor, John Tom Cody, along with his brother Lee, were among the Mobile hotheads who joined the Alabama Artillery as soon as they heard news of Fort Sumter.  Buck privates to the end, they helped lay the “hornets’ nest” of concentrated cannon fire that drove back the Union forces at Shiloh.  Lee was captured at Murfreesboro, but John Tom fought on despite an injured right leg.  He was captured at the last battle of the Civil War, fought the day after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and before the news reached the gathering battalions.  The battle site was providentially Fort Blakeley, in South Alabama, so that John Tom had only to shoulder his rifle and other belongings and walk home in a single day.  Settled back in Mobile, he married and fathered a large family.

Ainesley and Marcia’s courtship proceeded uneasily under the noses of the elder Semmeses.  Her parents were as beguiled as Marcia by Ainesley’s charm and unfailing good manners.  He returned her home on time, every time.  He told her parents he was a junior executive in his father’s business, and a sometime student at the University of West Florida.

Their surveillance of Ainesley was cursory.  They saw the image he projected, not the real young man remaining hidden.  They asked the mandatory questions, and were satisfied with the answers they got and the easy assumptions they made.

“Who are his people?  The Baldwin County Codys?  That’s a good  family,” Jonathan Semmes said to Elizabeth.

He was thinking of the Codys of relatively posh Fairhope, not the Codys who inhabited West Pirate Beach on Perdido Bay a short distance away.

To the Semmeses, Ainesley relentlessly displayed what he himself considered to be his three most genuine and impressive qualities.  He believed in himself, in what he said, and he was passionate about it all.  Truth was whatever Ainesley thought for the moment to be factually true – that is, true for sure or mostly true, or at least very possibly true.  His cocky self-confidence cut through the exaggerated good manners and foggy urbanities of Marcia’s own class.  Ainesley focused his energies on Marcia solely as a desirable woman.  He was sexually passionate but never forced himself on her.  He showed no desire to use her or her family to climb the social ladder, and, while polite to her parents, was otherwise indifferent to them.  He just didn’t care about anything but her, and that endeared him still more to Marcia Semmes.

Jonathan Semmes saw Ainesley’s intentions the same way.  He thought the young man rough cut but “up and coming.”  Marcia’s mother Elizabeth alone remained suspicious.  She called him a “zircon in the rough.”

No matter.  Marcia fell in love with this earnest man.

Marcia’s parents learned of the depth of her feelings too late.  they were uneasy about the match, but not enough to be openly hostile to so intense a romantic attachment.  In any case, most of the ambitions were invested in their son, Cyrus, ten years older than Marcia, and already a vice president of the family firm.  They hoped – in fact, they expected – that Marcia herself would soon end the affair and regain her freedom to meet other young men, this time of her own class.

They were therefore stunned when she announced upon returning from an evening date that she and Ainesley were engaged to be married.  She found them in Jonathan’s study and held up her left hand to display a diamond ring just given her by Ainesley.

“We’ve decided to have the wedding as soon as possible,” she said.

She paused to examine their faces, her face screwed tight in anxiety.  She was torn in loyalty between the two forces she was pitting in opposition.

Jonathan stood up,his mouth curling down and started to speak.  “Are you—”.

Marcia interrupted quickly, “Oh, no, no.  Nothing like that, Daddy.  I’m not pregnant or anything like that.  It’s just that we love each other and want to start our life together.”

She forgot to bring her left hand down, and left the ring posed in the air like a flag.

Elizabeth grabbed the arm of a chair to sit down.  Jonathan tried to speak again.  “Let me get this straight –“

But Marcia interrupted.  “We want to keep it simple, nothing too fancy.  I hope I haven’t upset you too much.  I’m real tired right now  Can we talk about this tomorrow?”

There’s a lot to work with here, but I’ll let my readers take the first crack at it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Older Son’s Burden

To recap:

11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

13"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father.
      "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[a]'

22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " [Emphases added.]

This parable has two parts.  In the first, it tells the story of the younger son’s fall and redemption; in the second, of the older son’s unforgiving attitude.  Regarding the second aspect, there are several real-world parallels to the brothers’ relationship.  We find here the attitude of the Pharisees towards the “sinners and tax collectors”.  We see the attitude of the Jews towards the pagan Gentiles that would soon flock to God’s worship.  And we are warned against an ever-present danger to the church in our own time.

The Meme

Obviously, although the parable cogently states the older brother’s grievance, there is much to criticize.  First, his sense of entitlement – “‘All these years I’ve slaved for you’” – ignores the need we all have for God’s grace.  Second, his hardness of heart – “refused to go in” – leaves no room for restoration.

But there is a meme about this parable that has crept its way into a couple of sermons I have heard over the years that I believe to be not just erroneous, but dangerously misleading.  The meme calls attention to the highlighted passages above contrasting Jesus’ narrative description of the younger son’s life of sin with the older son’s characterization of it.  This is alleged to say something bad about the older brother:  he makes an unwarranted assumption, and/or he betrays an envious attitude of his brother’s erstwhile un-chastity.

I dissent. 

The Problem

Regarding the first point, the assumption looks unwarranted only by ignoring the implausibility of the contrary assumption – that the younger brother went off to the big city for “wild living” that didn’t involve women of easy virtue.  Um . . . where’s the fun in that?  Speaking for myself, I don’t think I have to actually aspire to a life of dissipation in order to admit that, were I to lead such a life, I would certainly hope that it involved the attention of, if not professionals exactly, then dedicated amateurs.  What would be the point otherwise?

This brings us to the second allegation:  the charge of envy.  This is trickier; to wax Clintonian, it depends on the definition. Nothing in the narrative prevents the older brother from following the younger to the big city, but he doesn’t; instead, he chooses to remain loyal to his father.  Allowing that human motivation is complex, this is the choice we all make when we resist temptation.  We could give in to temptation, and certainly when the sin is un-chastity,  there are few external impediments preventing us.  But to the extent we are moral agents, when we instead choose the way of righteousness, it becomes difficult to lay against us the charge of really wanting to do otherwise.

To the extent that the narrative contrast in the parable has a point, it may be this:  that the older son was fully aware of the trade-off he had made.  The older son is saying, “hey, junior there had a grand ole’ time up there in the big city, while I’ve loyally slaved away.”  That this doesn’t imply what the older son thinks it does, doesn’t make it false; on the contrary, it is factually true:  the older son did choose  what in the near run was the harder path.  Yes, in the long run this worked out well – “‘everything I have is yours’” -- but that he, and we, give up treasures on earth in favor of treasures in heaven doesn’t mean that the earthly treasures don’t really exist.  Let’s face it:  if sin wasn’t fun, this conversation wouldn’t be necessary.

We are often assured that the wages of sin are paid in this life, that the way of immorality ends in earthly misery.  Often this is true.  The book of Proverbs certainly encourages us to think so, as does Jesus’ parable:  the younger son, after all, returns home broke and starved.  Likewise, it is easy to draw a straight line between sexual immorality and various unpleasantness like STDs and unwanted pregnancy.  But two quick points.  First, as morally satisfying as this aspect of the story is, it’s not especially reliable.  Many people don’t so much repent of their sin as simply outgrow it, with no noticeable ill effects.  Second, the benefits of righteousness are usually realized collectively.  The reason God told the Israelites that murder, theft, and adultery were crimes was because they undermine the social trust so necessary to a collective project such as conquering Canaan and building a nation.  It would be impossible for the soldiers on the front lines to fight bravely if they had to worry about what the rear guard was doing with their wives and property.  But the Israelites didn’t need a story about how the apparent ability of one person to lie, steal, or adulterate his way to advantage was somehow a product of false-consciousness.

It can be argued that God’s grace make all earthly pleasures pale by comparison.  I would agree that the closer we draw to God, the less the emotional salience of the trade-offs we make to get there.  But stated categorically, the argument reminds me of the Tiger Woods episode on South Park:  everybody (the men anyway) pretending to be shocked, shocked, that Tiger had sex with a string of beautiful women.  Come off it!  It doesn’t compromise the moral judgment to say there’s no mystery to what motivated him.  It’s not envy to say that, yeah, we get it.

The Danger

This is no mere theological arcanum.  I am convinced that the meme described blinds us to the way this parable often plays out in real life.  To illustrate, let’s . . . tweak it a bit.

In Jesus’ version, the younger son comes home destitute.  I suppose one can analogize the “money” that his father gave him that he no longer has, but let’s suppose that money is just money.  Now let’s suppose the younger son comes home not destitute.  Let’s suppose that, in spite (or because) of his “wild living”, he now has a fortune that rivals or exceeds his brother’s.

Or, even more on point, let suppose the younger son comes home, maybe with money, maybe without it, but after reintegrating himself in the family he . . . steals his older brother’s girlfriend.  It’s not hard to see why.  Even if we accept his repentance at face value, the younger brother carries with him an aura of worldliness.  While admitting that the causality runs both ways, we can see that the younger brother is now experienced in, as Roissy would put it, the “dark arts”.  Maybe his intentions are now strictly honorable, maybe they aren’t, but the point is that the younger brother has directly parlayed his misadventures into attractiveness to women.  And suddenly, all the nose-to-the-grindstone young men who were regarded as perfectly adequate now seem hopelessly provincial.

I’m not making this up.  It is precisely the attendant social confidence that leads an otherwise decent man like Trumwill to abandon the ethic of chastity and eagerly anticipate the conquests of his own (future) sons.  I even had a female youth director at church (a relatively liberal, PCUSA church) say without shame that she hoped her future husband was sexually experienced.

Alas, this preference is not limited to liberals.  Granted, no conservative woman would state it that baldly, but . . . ye shall know them by their fruits.  A few years ago, I read a feminist blogger who, commenting on a young female chastity advocate, said something along the lines of:  “well, just make sure you marry a virgin.”  She intended this as a taunt, of course, but the remark succeeded in highlighting, if not hypocrisy exactly, then at least an incongruity between what female chastity advocates claim for themselves and the mate choices they make.  I challenged Spearhead blogger Hestia on this point last year and discovered that even conservative Christianity confers on its adherents little immunity to the rationalization hamster.

Likewise, the response to this from the Christian community at large is disappointing.  I have blogged before about my experience  at a large, urban, relatively conservative church, hearing twenty-something women complain about how the men in our circle were so . . . uninteresting, and then listening to church leaders say, basically, “yeah!”

Which brings us back to the meme.  It bodes ill for the church’s ability to apprehend the perverse incentives it is perpetuating.  It says, alternately, “shame on you for noticing!” and “none of this should matter.”  But that’s too pat.  Men have wanted women since Adam noticed he didn’t have one.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” i.e. a competent portion of the good things of this life, including the opportunity to find a mate.  I don’t want to exaggerate the extent of the church’s responsibility here, but young men aren’t (generally) stupid.  If they notice that the path to getting married routinely take them through promiscuous behavior, I promise you that we will get more promiscuous behavior.  This is injurious not only to social morality but also to the church’s ability to retain the loyalty of its young people.

No Easy Answers

Solving this problem will be hard.  On the one hand, the church has turned the doctrine of forgiveness into an inability to enforce social disability, let alone social ostracism, in any kind of sustained way.  On the other, it has no language with which to hold women accountable for their preference for social confidence and charm.  In isolation, each of these appears defensible.  But the church does itself no favors by refusing to acknowledge that their combination is poisonous. 

UPDATE: Lest I seem out-of-touch, I want to say that Ferdinand already posted at length on this topic.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Made in America

Good news from China?

I'm old enough to remember the fear of Japanese imports in the 1980s and the protectionist clamor it inspired. I suspect that much of the fear was stoked by Democrats looking for something -- anything -- for which to criticize the Republican ascendancy. But in any case, that fear dissipated in the early 1990s, partly because Japan moved some of its manufacturing to the U.S., and partly because the Japanese model didn't work out so great for the Japanese.

Fear of Chinese imports, notwithstanding their devastating impact on American textiles and small manufactures, has never reached that fever-pitch. This reflects a lack of political sponsorship: our political class is now united in its devotion to free trade. This itself reflects the fact that unemployed manufacturing workers were never as politically salient a constituency as, notably, the Big Three.

If the linked article can be believed, then some of that manufacturing may be headed home, not because of any improvement in the legal and business climate here in the U.S., nor because of advances in American productivity, but rather as an artifact of exchange rates and internal Chinese politics. In the medium run, this will be good for U.S. workers; in the short run, it will mean higher prices for darn near everything. This was eventually going to happen one way or another: we Americans have been living beyond our means for some time now, as reflected in our balooning trade and budget deficits.

On the other hand, perhaps the Anglo-American free-trade orthodoxy has once again been vindicated against mercantilist usurpation.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Do the Wagoner Kids Go to Six Flags?

According to Megan, disgraced former GM CEO Rick Wagoner made $8 million his last year of employment.

Yesterday I took my children to the sprawling roller coaster and water park out here in Flyover Country.  We got in at a substantial discount, but by the time we paid for parking, a locker rental, and dinner, we spent around $120; had we paid the full gate, it would have been closer to $210.  This, granted, is not a lot of money compared to my disposable income, but it seems like a lot when measured against my internal calibration of what I can pay for a day’s worth of entertainment.

Happily, the park was un-crowded compared to what roller coaster parks can become, and entry and egress were reasonably efficient.  But we nonetheless stood in 90° heat waiting in lines up to 25 minutes long.  And we all had a blast!  My girls didn’t care that it was 90°, and they didn’t care about the lines, and they didn’t care about the plethora of prole-ish beer bellies hanging out at the water park.  They were with their dad getting soaked and wind-whipped and having the time of their lives.

I bet the Wagoner kids would have a blast too, but it’s hard to imagine Daddy Wagoner – or the Soros, Buffet, or Gates fathers – putting up with this for ten minutes, let alone 12 hours. 

And yet what is the alternative?  Nowhere in evidence was some kind of VIP admission where for $10K you went straight to the head of every line and got followed around by a portable air conditioner.  Maybe the rich get together and hire the whole park for a “special event”, but once upon a time this would have been muckraker bait.  (Maybe the rich bought all the muckrakers.)

Or perhaps when your vacations are spent, alternately, on your family’s private yacht or snow-skiing in the Alps, your children don’t notice that they’ve never ridden a roller coaster.

. . . .

Parenthetically, nobody does it quite like D!sney.  This was my first non-D!sney park visit since I’ve been married, and while most of it wasn’t a big deal, I couldn’t help notice that the detailing just wasn’t there.  The operations infrastructure at D!sney is almost perfectly concealed behind its storybook facade; not quite true here.  There were a number of rides and services closed yesterday, not really a big deal; what was a big deal was that so many of the staff didn’t seem to know it, so you’d ask the guy running the sledge hammer where we could eat pizza, and he’d direct us to the opposite end of the park, whereupon we’d arrive and discover the place CLOSED, with a sign directing us to the first end of the park.  That kind of thing gets old fast when you’re hungry trying to get as many rides as possible in 12 hours.

What bothered me the most was the condition of the men’s changing room at the water park.  It was dirty in a way that nothing at D!sney is ever allowed to get caught dirty.

On the other hand, we attended an ice-skating show that rivaled the kind of shows D!sney puts on.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy Independence Day

I recently found out I am a direct descendant of Captain Benjamin Merrill:

In 1753, Benjamin Merrill moved from New Jersey to Rowan County, North Carolina. He was a Baptist, a gunsmith and farmed hundreds of acres not far from the Yadkin River in the Jersey settlement in what is now Davidson County. Merrill was a Captain in the militia whose primary purpose was to protect the settlers from Indians in the area. Indian warfare did not reach the Yadkin but the Militia became known later as the Regulators. The British appointed tax assessors, tax collectors and attorneys charged exorbitant fees of the settlers and if the settlers could not pay they would take cattle or other property from the farmers. The regulators attempted to correct this situation and stop the corruption. Merrill was in the forefront of the leaders in Rowan County and he was to pay dearly for that position.

In early March 1771, only two months before the Battle of Alamance, Merrill and 400 to 500 Regulators and sympathizers met in the woods between Salisbury and the Yadkin River to talk with some of the local court officers and leaders. The sides reached an agreement to arbitrate grievances. Governor Tryon later rejected this agreement which included compensation for overcharges made by court officers. Few, if any from this area was at the Alamance battlefield. Instead, they were with a large force of Regulators, including Captain Merrill, who came face-to-face in the Jersey area with a troop of other militia led by General Waddell. There was no fighting because General Waddell, who was on his way to join Tryon at Alamance, was badly outnumbered and he had lost much of his supplies to a surprise raid by Cabarrus Black Boys. Waddell returned to Salisbury and the Regulators returned to their homes.

On May 31, 1771, Governor Tryon issued a Proclamation offering pardon to all who would lay down arms, take the oath of allegiance and promise to pay all taxes due now and in the future. The exception to this pardon was Merrill and at least 13 others.

Tryon’s forces marched deeper into the Piedmont area after the Battle of Alamance to terrorize the Regulators and their families. All three of Tryon’s troops reached and camped in the Jersey area in the final days of May 1771. They not only camped but they also foraged and destroyed. Edmund Fanning, the notorious Hillsborough Court Official, who had been humiliated by the Regulators, was commander of a division camping on Merrill’s land. It was undoubtedly his troops who surprised Merrill at his plantation in Jersey, took him prisoner on June 1 and took Merrill to Hillsborough for trial as a traitor. Fourteen were actually tried on June 18. Two were found innocent and 12 guilty. Of the 12, six including Merrill were condemned to hang. The other six were reprieved until His Majesty’s pleasure be known.

In sentencing them, Chief Justice Howard said: “I must now close my afflicting duty by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law, which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place from which you came; that you be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive; that your bowels be taken out while you are yet alive and burnt before your face; that your head be cut off, and your body divided into four quarters, and this is to be at his Majesty’s disposal; and the Lord have mercy upon your soul.” This was the punishment prescribed by British law for traitors; however, it was seldom followed in this country. Mrs. Merrill and eight or ten of their children witnessed the execution; some say they were forced to witness it.

Before he was hanged, Merrill was given the opportunity to speak. He made the customary profession of faith and expressed his hope for salvation. He also said: “In a few minutes I shall leave a widow and ten children. I entreat that no reflection be cast on them on my account and, if possible, I shall deem it a bounty, should you gentlemen petition the Governor and Council that some part of my estate may be spared to the widow and Fatherless.” A Tryon soldier, commenting on Merrill’s words, said death by hanging would be considered an honor if all who suffered it were of Merrill’s character.

Tryon asked the colonial secretary in England to honor Merrill’s request and Governor Josiah Martin, who succeeded Tryon, received notice from the Earl of Hillsborough that it was “his Majesty’s pleasure,” to re-grant the lands and properties to the widow and children. The widow never recovered from the shock of watching here husband’s death and became blind for the rest of her life.

This historical marker was erected on the northwest corner of the square in Lexington, NC:


The historical marker below is at Hillsborough, NC where Merrill was sentenced to hang: