Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are people just getting dumber

I had two funny things happen today in class while I was giving an exam, I thought I would share. One students came up to me after we handed out the test. She asked if she could give her test back and study a bit more and then start the test over. In the same class I had a student come up with a question about one of the questions. He said he was not in class the day we talked about the Constitution and so wanted me to give him help to answer the question. I guess if you don't ask you never know. But come on, are people just getting dumber.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remember Goliad

Kids at Fannin Memorial

Fannin Memorial
Church inside the Presidio La Bahia

KIds inside the Presidio La Bahia

Kids at The Battle of Coleto Memorial
Being that it is spring break the family decided to go camping. I love camping and so does my oldest, but this was the first time for my youngest who is 19 months. We have been putting if off for a while, but decided we needed to get out. There is much more of our trip on my wife’s page, what I wanted to talk about was where we went.

Three hours northeast of us is Goliad, TX an important spot when it comes to the history of Texas’s independence. When the Texas troops beat the army of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto they yelled Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. However, most have seemed to forget the Goliad part. In 1836 when the Texans decided to break away from Mexican control two armies were formed, one at San Antonio under command of Lt Col William Travis. This group used a small church known as the Alamo as their headquarters. The other group took the more important position at Goliad under the command of Col James Walker Fannin. What made Goliad so important was the Presidio La Bahia, the only real fortification in Texas.

When the Mexican dictator, General Santa Anna, decided to quail the rebellion in Texas he marched his forces up to San Antonio to deal with Travis. At the same time to protect his flank he sent General Jose Urrea up the coast of Texas to Goliad. Santa Anna arrived first, and most know that story. Not only was Travis defeated, but all his men including Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie. The story of the Alamo is an amazing one and deserves its place in American history, but I believe having celebrities die like Crocket and Bowie have made it so big that it has kidnapped the story of Texas and left the story of Goliad untold. When Travis sent for help when he realized his position was impossible, the main person he was hoping would come was Fannin. Fannin did leave the safety of the Presidio La Bahia and began the march towards the Alamo, but his poor planning made them leave late and shortly after they began the march they received news that the Alamo had fallen and that a large Mexican force was marching towards them. Fannin brought his men back to Goliad. With a large Mexican force arriving, Fannin sent out a detachment to assist settlers fleeing out of General Urrea’s path. When the first detachment did not return he sent out a second. What Fannin did not know was that both detachments had been captured and that all who surrendered where executed. On March 14th Fannin received word from the new supreme Texas commander Sam Houston that Goliad was isolated without the Alamo and that he and his men should burn the Presidio and fall back and join Houston. Fannin, not knowing the fate of his two detachments, waited for their return a little too long. He also, once again had logistical problems with leaving.

When Fannin and his 350 men did leave, Urrea was only two hours behind them. When Urrea’s Calvary caught up with Fannin at Coleto Creek, Fannin decided to fight. The Texas army fought well and bravely all day against increasingly larger odds. The Texans knew they could break through the Mexican lines that night, but also knew they would have to leave their wounded, including Fannin. With a determination to stay and fight, the Texans began the next morning, but quickly realized that the Mexican reinforcements brought up over night were too large and that they were surrounded. The Texans asked for a parley and were given generous terms of surrender by Urrea, but reminded that the ultimate decision was up to Santa Anna. The Texans were promised to be treated as prisoners of war, medical care to their wounded, and eventual release to the U.S.

Unfortunately for Fannin and his men, Santa Anna was not in a giving mood. Santa Anna order Urrea to execute all the surviving men. On Palm Sunday, 4 days from today, General Urrea marched the Texas out of their encampment in three separate groups in different directions and had his men shoot them down. Around 40 men were left and executed one by one at the Presidio, with Fannin being the last to die. In the end around 340 Texas soldier were massacred, adding to the legend of the brutality of Santa Anna. How this story is not more known I do not know. Again the story of the Alamo is inspirational, but 340 men surrendering, believing to be treated as prisoners is devastating. This story was not lost on the men who defeated Santa Anna’s army when they charged yelling Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. We have all remembered the Alamo, unfortunately we have forgotten Goliad.

My family and I had a great few days camping out, but what made it most memorable was visiting those historic places that helped shaped the story of Texas and his nation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What can the Great Depression tell us about today

I had an interesting discussion today about possible social consequences of the current economic times. In class we are discussing the Great Depression and all the hardships that went along with it. I always like to look at culture during any time period, because I believe culture is influenced by the social and political events . What we see during the Depression is a major conservative backlash against the liberalism of the 1920s. The roaring 20s was a decade of decadence and a laxing of rules, but as the economy fell so did moral decay. This was clearly visible in Hollywood where they forced to censure their own work. The famous example of the shock of movie goers is at the famous line in Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” Audiences were angered by swearing on film, something they could have gotten away with in the 20s. Another Hollywood example was the actress Hedy Lamarr who at a young age made the German film Exstase in which she appeard completely nude. The movie was a hit in Europe and won awards, but was completely banned in America.

The question I was asked in class was if we continue to slip into a depression will we have a conservative backlash? My answer is I do not know, but looking at history tells me yes. There has been a constant flow between liberalism and conservatism over the past hundred years and the reasons for those changes are all different. The 1920s was a very liberal period, followed by a very socially conservative decade of the 1930s. The 1950s was very socially conservative but then the 1960s and 70s were extremely liberal. The 1980s were conservative, while the past 10 years we have been moving closer to Sodom and Gomorra. Note that I sometimes said socially conservative, because in the 1930s they were socially conservative , but FDR and his politics were anything but.

It seems like cosmic forces makes sure we never get too far one way or the other. As a Christian I have to wonder what role God plays in all this. I am not one to make the claim that God created the Depression or our recession to humble us, but I am not one to say that he did not either.
If we do follow a similar pattern as the great depression, it could be good news for some Democrats. The liberal policies were very popular in the 30s. Though the people were conservative, many were economically liberal. With Obama throwing around money and playing to the sympathies of the people, if the recession continues or get worse, he may make another four years if he could convince the people he tried. FDR did not fix the depression and easily won reelection, twice. People were happy that he tried. Other Democrats like Pelosi will not be as happy. If the trend that I see follows, then most of the new Democrats elected will be conservative Democrats socially. They will want to help the poor but not throw all social values to the wind. These are the kind of the Democrats that will be elected during a depression. And so even though the Democrats may be able to keep the power, it would be a socially conservative Democratic party, which will allow Republicans to go even more conservative.

As a historian I do believe we can predict trends from looking at the past. And from studying the Great Depression I predict that if the economy gets worst, we will become more conservative socially, but not economically and if the Democratic party can understand that they can win many more elections. If however their power base of old line liberals fight it, they could find themselves out of power.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hip-Hop GOP

I worry about the future of the Republican Party; I worry so much I am finding it hard to call myself a Republican. I felt this way during the primaries last year as McCain was able to beat the two conservative candidates and capture the nomination. But what I saw two nights ago I found even more disturbing. There were two different interviews being conducted at the same time, one on Fox news with Mike Huckabee interviewing Russell Simmons (founder of Def Jam Records) and on CNN with D.L. Hugely interviewing the new RNC chairman Michael Steele. Both parts of the interview that I saw were about the same subject, how Republicans need to bring hip-hop into the party. I believe there is nothing further from the truth. I have not seen the interview yet, but I believe that Rush Limbaugh and Steele even got into an argument over a similar argument. I do not always agree with Limbaugh, but I completely do on this subject. I have hated watching the Republican Party feel like they need to move away from their roots to capture future voters.

I believe moving away from what we believe will be the downfall of the party. Republicans controlled the white house for 32 of the past 44 years. They did it by standing for something better and attracting people towards them. If we lessen our principles to bring in new voters, or change our beliefs to fit current fads, we will lose many of the voters we already have. I know everyone is concerned that the GOP is too old and needs to attract younger voters, but it is impossible to mix conservative values with hip-hop. The two ideas are at polar opposites. Hip-hop is about being gangster and respecting no one but thugs. If you watch the videos and listen to the music they celebrate violence, drugs, and a pimp attitude towards women. I know rock-n-roll was seen as sex and drugs in its early years, but that is a far cry from a song I heard in the gym a few months ago where the singer was asking “where are my F**king N***ers at”, or how we need to slap a ho. The attitude of conservatives and the attitude of hip-hop can never truly blend. If the Republican Party wants in any way to go hip-hop, it will no longer be the party for me and other conservatives.

I have talked about this before, but the current GOP got its start by courting what became known as the silent majority. In the 60s they were the ones who did not make a lot of noise, but turned out to vote. I believe the silent majority is still out there today. We do not hear from them because they are busy going about their daily lives, working and taking care of their families. There are plenty that still believe in traditional family values and want a party that supports those values. If the GOP tries to incorporate any type of hip-hop than we are not giving the silent majority any alternative to the Democrats. Instead go the other way, don’t be Democrats light, be conservatives. Why would anyone vote for Democrats light (like McCain) when you can vote for the real thing, a real Democrat? The Republicans need to be conservative. They need real conservatives to stand up and take the leadership.

In the late 1900s, it is difficult to distinguish the differences between the Democrat and Republican parties. It took a third party, the Populists, to shake things up. The Populists stood for something completely different from the main two parties. Only after the success of the Populists did the Democrats, who had not won an election in years, change their political philosophy to capture voters. I wrote about the 1896 election back in November if you want to read more about it here. I am not sure, but if the GOP keeps trying to move close to the Democrats, something like a new Conservative party may need to rise up. The Liberation party has the feel of the old Populists party. A small grass roots movement and over time had real followers. I do not agree with the principles of the Liberation party, just like most could not get behind the radical stance of the Populists, but when the Populists and Democrats merged, the Democrats took some of the good ideas and dropped the radical ones. We still have time to save the GOP, but if they keep going astray from conservative values, a fusion with the Liberations may be the only hope of victory in the future.

In the end I believe the GOP needs to stand for its traditional values and not try to change itself to incorporate any new hip-hop values. I believe even many of the young will come to appreciate and respect these values. We should not change to meet new electors, but sway those electors that what we believe is correct.