Archive for the ‘Political Statements’ Category

Feast of Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Symonds Foster (January 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  Liberty Farm, Worcester, Massachusetts

Image in the Public Domain



husband of


Also known as Abby Kelly Foster




I do not talk of woman’s rights, but of human rights, the rights of human beings.  I do not come to ask [for] them, but to demand them; not to get down on my knees and beg for them, but to claim them.

–Abby Kelley Foster, October 1850, at the first National Women’s Rights Convention, Worcester, Massachusetts


In short, in the harangue of Abby, she simply demands that men and women should be treated as human beings, all alike….

The New York Herald, October 15, 1850, criticizing Abby Kelley Foster and her positions


Abby Kelley Foster comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saint’s Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).  Stephen Symonds Foster joins her on the Ecumenical Calendar by virtue of being her husband and her fellow activist.  After all, one of my purposes in adding to the Ecumenical Calendar is to emphasize relationships and influences.


Stephen Symonds Foster, born in Canterbury, New Hampshire, became a radical, according to the standards of his time.  He, raised a Congregationalist, was a carpenter until the age of 22 years.  Foster decided to study to become a missionary, so he matriculated at Dartmouth College.  He eventually graduated, in 1838.  During his college years, Foster found a new direction in life and endured hardships.  He became an abolitionist.  He also went to jail for being in debt and spent time incarcerated with hardened, violent criminals.  This experience led to a movement that ended imprisonment for debt in New Hampshire.

Instead of becoming a missionary, Foster became an activist.  The three social causes for which he worked were feminism, temperance, and the abolition of slavery.  After graduating from Dartmouth College, he studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, in 1838-1839.  He left that institution because the leadership forbade him from hosting abolitionist meetings.  Our saint even rejected the offer of a scholarship in exchange for his silence regarding slavery.  Foster’s abolitionist activism led to his expulsion from the Congregational Church in 1841 and to a physical attack in Portland, Maine, the following year.  Our saint was outspoken in his criticism of religion that justified slavery.  He expressed himself in both writing and on the lecture circuit of the American Anti-Slavery Society.


Abby Kelley was also making the rounds on the anti-slavery lecture circuit.

Kelley, born in Pelham, Massachusetts, on January 15, 1811, became a radical, also.  She came from a rigid, conservative society with gender norms–separate spheres.  Women did not address mixed-gender audiences.  Schools were not coeducational.  Women’s suffrage was out of the question.  The Quakers, her denomination, had a mixed record regarding opposition to slavery, but they were more progressive than many other Christian bodies.  Abby, a teacher, joined the Female Anti-Slavery Society at Lynn in 1837.  The following year, she began to lecture.  Eventually, she became a full-time lecturer.  Kelley made the connection between the rights of women and those of African Americans, many of whom were slaves.  To insist on the rights of one group while ignoring the rights of the other was wrong, she understood.  This was a minority position within the abolitionist movement in the United States.


Abby Kelley married Stephen Symonds Foster in 1845.  Their marriage was, of course, unconventional.  They were a team of activists.  The Fosters purchased an estate, “Liberty Farm,” in 1847; their home became a station of the Underground Railroad.  After Abby gave birth to a daughter, Paulina Wright “Alla” Foster, in 1847, husband and wife took turns traveling on the lecture circuit, so that one parent would stay home with Alla.  More often that not, Stephen was a stay-at-home father.

Abby made her mark on the United States.  She helped to organize the first National Women’s Rights Convention at Worcester, Massachusetts, in late 1850, and spoke at it.  In 1854 she became the chief fundraiser for the American Anti-American Society.  After the Civil War, she advocated for the ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.  In 1868 she helped to organize the New England Women Suffrage Association.

The Fosters made their protest against the lack of women’s suffrage where they lived by refusing to pay taxes.  Their justification was the revolutionary cry,

No taxation without representation.

The local government sold Liberty Farm for unpaid taxes in 1874.  A sympathetic neighbor purchased the farm then sold it back to the Fosters.  This pattern repeated until both Abby and Stephen died.

Stephen, aged 73 years, died on September 13, 1881.

Abby, aged 75 years, died on January 14, 1887.


From my vantage point in the United States in 2019, the once-radical and marginal ideas becoming mainstream are mostly hateful and exclusionary.  They tend to be ideas such as white nationalism and Anti-Semitism, and frequently result in violence or other forms of abuse.  The radical and marginal ideas the Fosters espoused fall into a different category:  inclusion.  As the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta says,


The Fosters, ahead of their time, helped to create a better future.

May their ethic of recognizing the image of God, or as their Quaker theology put it well–the inner light–in others then acting accordingly inspire us to do the same.


Loving God, who has implanted your image and inner light inside all people,

we thank you for the lives and legacies of your servants,

Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Symonds Foster,

who affirmed the inherent human dignity in those whom

society defined as non-citizens or as second-class citizens.

May we, in our times and places, affirm the image of God in all human beings and treat them accordingly,

so that a moral revolution of values may lead people to define all your children as insiders.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 1:27

Psalm 97

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 10:29-37









Nobody Should Be Above the Law.   Leave a comment

The following two statements are principles I affirm:

  1. Nobody should be above the law, and
  2. Mercy should temper justice.

In other words, sometimes mercy on a person, such as a battered woman, should mitigate how one handles a technical violation in the judicial system.  Making someone more of a victim is unjust.

Even though Boo Radley attacked Bob Ewell in defense of the children, the sheriff made the correct decision by declaring that Ewell fell on his own knife.

Justice also conquers cynical abuses of power and dismissal of objective reality as “fake news” and of honest, legal investigations by men of sterling character as “witch hunts.”  In the United States of America, nobody should be above the law.  The legal theory of the President as a unitary executive above the law, which found a home in the White House during the administration of George W. Bush, thrives again.  The theory is inherently specious.

Nobody should be above the law, but, practically speaking, some people are.  I refer to cases that tug at the heartstrings–cases in which arresting and/or prosecuting people would be to victimize victims further–but to the powerful who, through their perfidy and corruption, damage lives and societal and political institutions, who undermine republics, and seek to evade the proper consequences of their actions.

In the United States, a sufficient number of people can hold them to account via constitutional and legal means.  May they do so.




Contemptible   Leave a comment

Donald Trump is contemptible.  His contempt for the freedom of the press is old news.  His racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism are also old news.  Now they are fresh news because of some more tweets directed at women of color (almost all of them native-born citizens, so how can they go back where they came from?) who disagree with him.  Trump thinks that real Americans agree with and support him.  “Real Americans, ” then, are a minority population.

I know the feeling of hearing that I am allegedly not a real American–not a real patriot, at least.  As I have written at this weblog, the administration is not the nation-state.  There is a higher loyalty–adherence to the highest ideals, such as toleration of peaceful dissent.  Official violations of that high ideal in the United States is at least as old as the Sedition Act of 1798.  Political labeling of the other side as unpatriotic, un-American, et cetera, is both old and current.  It is especially rampant during wartime, when peace activists become targets of jingoisitic attacks.  I take great offense at all suggestions that my peaceful dissent makes me less American, un-American, less patriotic, or unpatriotic.

I am convinced that, if Trump thought Congress would pass a modern-day counterpart to the Sedition Act of 1798, which criminalized, among other things, criticism of the President, he would push for it then sign the bill into law.  (Trump does like dictators, after all.  Life for him would be easier if he were one.)  Lindsey Graham would vote for the bill, too.




Objective Reality   Leave a comment

I live in a polarized, postmodern society in which many people want to have not only their opinions but their own facts, also.  This is shameful.  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, people are entitled to their opinions, not their own facts.  I, as a student of history, rely upon a body of objective evidence.  History, strictly speaking, is the interpretation of that evidence.  Interpretations vary, but the evidence remains.  To quote John Adams,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider a recent news story from Boca Raton, Florida, O reader.

William Latson, the Principal of Spanish River Community High School, had an exchange with a parent in April 2018.  The topic of the exchange was the state mandate (dating to 1994) to teach about the Holocaust in Tenth Grade world history classes.  Latson told her that, at his high school, that one-day lesson was optional because some parents did not want their offspring to participate.  The anonymous mother replied,

The Holocaust is a factual, historical event.  It is not a right or a belief.

Latson answered her,

Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently.  I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.

Latson has apologized and visited Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Holocaust was real.  The Third Reich documented it thoroughly.  Survivors told their stories.  Soldiers who liberated death camps saw the evidence.

The Holocaust should fill every human being with moral revulsion.

The unwillingness to admit something documented so thoroughly speaks ill of those who either deny or minimize the Holocaust.

One of the main ideas in the study of history is that we do not have to respect every opinion.  We have no obligation to respect any opinion that depends on fallacies.  Whenever I can contradict someone’s opinion solely by reciting accurate, objective information, I encounter an opinion for which I properly have scorn.  Holocaust deniers and minimizers exist; the Internet amplifies their opinions, unfortunately.  I heap scorn upon them and their counterfactual and anti-Semitic opinions, as I should.

We cannot repeat the past, for time does not play on a loop.  We must, however, be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past in different circumstances.  The first step is learning the proper lessons from the past.  We cannot do that as long as we confuse the categories of the objective and the subjective.




Oh, the Irony!   Leave a comment

Chris Thile, host of Life from Here (formerly A Prairie Home Companion), said that the only soft and tender thing to come out of the City of New York was Donald Trump’s ego.  That soft and tender ego has long been on display.  Recently, when certain members of United States team at the Women’s World Cup expressed their opinions of him and said they would reject any invitation to visit the White House, the Big Blustery Baby criticized them for their lack of respect.  The irony was rich!  Trump has risen to high office primarily on his policy, which I summarize in the Anglo-Saxon expression,

Up yours.

No politician who builds campaigns on contempt (in Trump’s case, xenophobia, nativism, racism, et cetera) has a moral right to complain when people have contempt for him.  (Being the target of contempt comes with public office.  One who cannot stand the heat should stay out of the kitchen.  As Harry Truman said, anyone who wants a friend in Washington, D,C., should get a dog.) Trump could change his personality and respect people, but I am not holding my breath; I would die of asphyxiation.  He is reaping what he has sown and continues to sow.

I want the following statement to be clear:  I respect many people (including politicians) with whom I usually disagree.  I am a student of history; I respect many deceased people with whom I usually disagree.  Respect is something a person earns by having proper character.  As much as I have much respect for many people (living or deceased) with whom I usually disagree, I have little or no respect for many people (living or deceased) with whom I usually agree.  I strive to avoid being a partisan hack.

Here endeth the lesson.



Abandoned Storefronts, Vidette, Georgia   1 comment

Image scanned from Angela Lee, Images of America:  Burke County, Georgia (1996)


My mother, father, sister, and I lived in Vidette, Georgia, from June 1980 to June 1982.  He was the minister of the Vidette, Greens Cut, and Friendship United Methodist Churches in rural Burke County, about the size of Rhode Island.

The buildings in the photograph above were still standing as late as February 1999, as Google Earth proves:

Now, however, only two of the five buildings remain.

Photographer Brian Brown posted an image of the two remaining buildings to one of his weblogs, Vanishing South Georgia, in 2014.

I remember the five buildings.  Look, O reader at the top photograph.  I recall that that building second from the right had been a bank.  I remember standing inside that structure as a child.

The decline of small towns such as Vidette is sad.  Although I have no desire to live in such a small, rural town again, I care deeply about disparities in society.  According to demographic predictions I have heard recently, 87% of Americans will live in cities and in eight states in 2040, thereby exasperating the rural-urban divide.  The truth of rural areas belies one of the many recent lies of the current, temporary occupant of the Oval Office; America is not full.  Rather, it has many empty spaces.  Many of them are in rural Georgia.

I want small, rural towns such as Vidette to be lively and economically vibrant.  We, as a society, cannot leave the rural areas behind and be the best we can be.




Realism in Politics and Policy   2 comments

I am, like most of my fellow Democrats, contemplating which candidate to prefer during the upcoming primary season next year.  The number of fine candidates is numerous.  Even the not-so-fine candidates are better on their worst days than Donald Trump is on his best days.

I have been reading about some of the candidates.  I have been reading at websites for which experts in domestic and foreign policy write.  A recurring theme, especially regarding Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, has been realism.  Warren, according to a longtime friend quoted in an article, has manifested a

data-driven worldview,

and changed her mind to fit the facts.  Biden, according to foreign policy writer James Traub, has demonstrated a realistic, not ideological, foreign policy.

I do not expect responsible policy-makers to remain consistent if consistency requires them to ignore date.  No, to ignore data would be to decide irresponsibly.  Actually, I seek a mature (in the highest sense of that word) President of the United States.  The more mature (in the highest sense of that word) he or she is, the better.  Particular policy matters may take a back seat to maturity as I ponder for whom to vote.  Besides, certain matters are ones best left to societal changes affected as people change their minds–what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a radical revolution of values

–than to court rulings and other acts of government.  Passing laws is necessary sometimes, but one should never imagine that doing so ends the offending actions.  (I wrote about this matter, with its subleties, here.)

I have seen a bumper sticker that reads,


I have not arrived at that point of political desperation, but have concluded that I may get there eventually.  Trump has lowered the bar so far that is has fallen to the floor.

The United States of America and the world deserve much better.  May we all have it on January 20, 2021.