Esquire Writer’s Embarrassing Historical Ignorance

Political commentators should leave historical observations to historians.

When writing political commentary, it’s always walking on shaky ground to engage in hyperbole, but it’s doubly problematic to employ historical analogies, especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about. Case in point: in a recent political rant in Esquire, Charles P. Pierce wrote:

The Republican Party as it is presently constituted is the greatest threat to the American republic since Appomattox.

Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, Dec. 3, 2018

I’m sure Mr. Pierce thought he was making a clever observation about the American Civil War, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865 represented the end of the war, not the beginning. Did he really mean the end of the Civil War and the surrender of the CSA represented a threat to the American republic? I’m pretty sure he thinks the exact opposite of that.

His Civil War analogy is even more awkward because it was President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party who prosecuted the war to its conclusion and the Southern Democratic Party that tore the country apart with secession. Oops.

But that’s the danger when someone with a cursory knowledge of history tries to make a historic analogy.

In June, President Trump’s pick for our representative at the United Nations, Heather Nauert (then State Department spokeswoman), cited D-Day as part of our long history of close relations with Germany. Of course, we were at war with Germany when Allied soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches during the D-Day invasion.

While Nauert might be forgiven for making a stupid observation while speaking off the cuff, it’s hard to give Esquire’s Charles Pierce any leeway because he had time to sit down and think through his argument while writing it. His column has been up on the website for over a week without any correction.

Pierce’s rabidly partisan column contains so much exaggeration, fear mongering, and wild accusations it’s hard to take seriously anyway, but his tenuous grasp of American history tells this history buff he engaged in zero fact checking before hitting the “submit” button, and you know the editors at Esquire are asleep at the wheel.

Old Union Cemetery’s Ethereal Glow

A forgotten graveyard squirreled away in the cornfields of central Illinois makes for good storytelling, and almost all have their ghostly tales. Old Union is no exception. This cemetery first received attention on Troy Taylor’s website, Prairieghosts.com, and he later included it in Weird Illinois (2005).

Though he failed to disclose its location, Old Union Cemetery is clearly marked on cemetery and plat maps available to the general public through the DeWitt County Genealogical Society.

A history of the cemetery is difficult to find, and several sources appear, at first glance, to be fractional or contradictory. Troy Taylor provided a general overview on his website, but Genealogytrails.com, in an excerpt from an article entitled, “The Disciples of Christ History,” filled in some of the details.

According to the article, Old Union Church was established 10 miles west of Clinton on October 13, 1831 near a large, white oak tree. The stump of the tree, and “the gravestones of the cemetery which grew around the house of worship” are “silent sentinels of faded joys and departed glories,” the article opined.

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A Review of Mark Ames’ Going Postal

Mass shootings have been in the news a lot lately, but they are certainly not new. Neither are the debates about what instigates them. In 2005, Mark Ames, an ex-pat and founder of the Moscow-based irreverent rag the Exile, published his controversial explanation in Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond.

In Going Postal, Ames compares modern day office shootings to the slave rebellions of yesteryear, and skewers the culture of greed and cruelty that he believes breeds massacres like Columbine. Ames divides his 280-page book into six parts, each dissecting an aspect of the American culture of office and school violence.

The layout takes the reader on an eye-opening ride through the experience of an office massacre, back to the days of slavery, the history of office shootings and their ties with Reagan era economic reforms, the corporate culture that breeds such violent reactions, and finally, how that culture has infected our schools and children.

It is important to examine mass shootings in historical context because they seem so much a part of modern life people forget mass shootings were extremely rare prior to the 1990s. They started in the ’80s, and didn’t become a national phenomenon until the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Guns and violence have always been a part of life in America. What changed in American culture to bring about such dramatic expressions of violence in places long considered “off limits”?

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Amazon Allows Profanity in Products but not in Reviews?

I received this email from Amazon this morning regarding my review for All That Remains album Victim of the New Disease. The album’s first song is called “Fuck Love.” I tried to comment on the song by using asterisks to mask the profanity, even though the song title is clearly displayed on Amazon’s website.

The alleged profanity is the only thing I can think caused my review to be rejected. It just doesn’t make any sense that Amazon would allow profanity on its website but not in its reviews. A reviewer ought to be able to use the text of the product to comment on the product.

Battle of White Plains Historic Site in White Plains, New York

The hustle and bustle of city life obscures the grounds over which two armies fought one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776 during George Washington’s retreat from New York City during the Revolutionary War. Washington positioned his depleted Continental Army on hills near White Plains, New York. British General William Howe, with 13,000 men, drove the Continental Army off strategic high ground, but poor weather allowed them to escape. Today, the battle is memorialized by several small monuments and interpretive signs at a park.

In late October 1776, following the battles at Harlem Heights and Pell’s Point, General Washington withdrew northward to counter an attempted encirclement by General Howe. He established 3-mile long defensive positions, including two lines of earthworks, anchored by swampy land near the Bronx River on one flank and Chatterton’s Hill on the other.

The British plan was to attack the Continental’s right flank at Chatterton’s Hill. Hessians under the command of Colonel Johann Rahl crossed the Bronx River and occupied a hill on the extreme right while British cannon pounded the defenders on the hill. After fierce fighting, the Hessians outflanked Continental positions, and a charge by cavalry dragoons drove them off the hill. Heavy rain delayed further attack, and by the time General Howe advanced on November 1, Washington’s army was gone.

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