Monday, November 28, 2022

The City of Truth versus the City of Bigotry

This is what I want us to look at.   It's an article from the Zanesville Time Recorder. I'm sure we're all subscribers. 

The TR is the paper for Zanesville.  If you're not a Buckeye, that name might not mean anything to you.  Zanesville is a city named for Ebenezer Zane, the man who carved Zane's Trail through modern day Ohio.  He gave his son a plot of land that eventually became Zanesville. 

What caught my eye was the opening sentence in the article:

"Had Sarah McIntire lived "in this day of woman's rights, she would not have been relegated to obscurity," wrote Helene Louisa Sullivan in 1892."

You see that/?  It's because of sexism, short version, that Mrs. McIntire was 'relegated to obscurity."  Who was Sarah McIntyre?  She was Ebenezer Zane's daughter.  She married John McIntire.  It was John who received the land that eventually became Zanesville. 

What did Sarah do?  According to  the article, she was a heck of a homemaker.  She was generous and kind. She did charitable work, which was hardly uncommon.  A nasty rumor over the years is that Protestant Christians in America laughed at charity.  Reality suggests otherwise of course.  She  also helped lay the groundwork for different projects and helped start a Methodist church in the region.  

In fact, here is a nice summary of her at the end of the article:

 Sarah "was a notable housewife, and a splendid cook," Sullivan wrote, and "having established themselves in their forest home, they dispensed hospitality with a liberal hand, all being welcome to their dinner table within the sound of their dinner horn."

After John died, Sarah remarried David Young, a minister, and later helped establish the first Methodist church in Zanesville. She funded the construction of both the Second Street and South Street M.E. churches in the city. "Sarah McIntire was truly an extraordinary woman," 

So what am I getting at?  My point is, I'm sure Ms. Sarah was a fine person.  And like so many in this world, a remarkable one in her own right.  But why would she be remembered beyond any one of a million men or women who did similar things?  Why assume it's only because of sexism (the backhanded assumption behind the statement 'in this day of woman's rights' is supposed to suggest) that she faded into obscurity? And then it dawned on me.

I don't think we realize just how Bigotry is the uber-narrative of history in our modern mindset.  That is, Bigotry is the great mortal sin.  It is the unforgivable, all defining sin. Bigotry is the template through which everything in history is explained.  Bigotry is why everything we think is right can actually be wrong.  This is because all of history is somehow the ones in charge who are necessarily bigoted corrupting the real truth and oppressing the ones who should be listened to. 

We see it in - everything.  The idea that all of history was corrupted by a global patriarchy dominated by men.  We see it in America, where anything and everything is the result of colonialism and imperialism and racism.  We see it in the gay rights movement, where the only reason we didn't realize how true homosexual normality is comes from ages of homophobic bigotry. 

In fact, it's sort of an ideological 'get out of jail free' card for progressivism.  Don't like something?  Want something new?  Want to change things?  Just say they're the result of some form of bigotry.  Sexism works since men and women have been around for ages.  But any form of 'this group v. that group' of bigoted oppression will work.  

There is no reason to think Ms. Sarah wouldn't have been obscure had things happened a hundred or two hundred years later.   Typically we don't know about the spouse of people who accomplish notable things.  Sometimes we do, based on circumstances. I learned about Martha Washington, Abigale Adams, and Eleanor Roosevelt.   On the other hand I know little of Teddy Roosevelt's wife.  I have little information about Catherine the Great's or Amelia Earhart's relationships because the focus is on what those women accomplished. 

It reminds me of the movie Hidden Figures.  I recall one of the morning news shows talking about the movie.  One of the anchors said when she was in school she never heard of the black women portrayed in the movie.  Cleary, the others on the broadcast concluded, this was due to our sexism and racism as a country.

No, it had nothing to do with sexism or racism.  When I was in school and learned about the space program, I learned about the astronauts.  The guys in the rockets.  That's because if something went wrong, they died.  So it was a brave thing to do.  And on that level, the level of basic information that schools give, that was enough.  I was only vaguely aware that anyone worked on the ground.  Until the movie Apollo 13, in fact, I didn't think much of the ground crews since they were never the focus.  And most of them were men.  It had nothing to do with sexism or racism.

Yet that is how we frame things today, isn't it?  That is the default template, the 'City of God' template, for our modern age.  If Augustine's The City of God attempted to frame history as the history of the Earthly City and the City of God, the modern version frames it as the history of the long silent Oppressed finally overcoming the bigotry of past Oppressors.  We can assume anything and everything was the result of oppressive bigotry.  Therefore anything and everything can likely be wrong.  

And it isn't new.  Look at that date in the quote from the article.  1892.  That's 130 years ago and already a woman was framing things  as 'clearly the problem was male dominated sexism' before we even entered the 20th Century.  Even if it had nothing to do with sexism, but merely the way the world works.  That's a long time to believe anything and everything in the past is likely the result of the wrong people oppressing right-people.  

As we see, it's a very powerful narrative.  By default, anything we assume to be true might only be the result of some oppressive group corrupting everything and keeping the real truth down.  Hence the speed with which people are willing to go to the mattresses over the cisgender bigoted idea that men or women exist or men can't have babies.  Why would we ever think there were men and women and women had the babies?  Why - Bigotry! 

See how darn easy that is?  Remember, not a few Christian scholars will readily concede latent sexism, patriarchal oppression, even racism and homophobic bigotry in the truth claims of the Bible (at which point logic suggests they can no longer be called the 'Holy' Scriptures).  That's not just a Catholic thing.  I've read scholars from all three major branches, to some degree or another, accept the premise.  Nor is it some radical leftwing thing.  Even conservatives will be caught shuffling feet or explaining away biblical teachings that run afoul of progressive dogmas, appealing to some 'they didn't know any better because ancient bigotry' version of the past. 

What a powerful premise this is.  If you don't think that model of history is a powerful force, just think about how quickly we're now fighting for the right to perform sex change procedures on minors since obviously everyone in the past was wrong about gender - because Bigotry!.  And all this in barley over a decade.  That's because for over a hundred years we have assumed anything we think is true might not be, because bigotry and oppression.   Think on that. 


  1. It's Amelia Earhart. Her husband, George Putnam, was her business manager and crucial to promoting her exploits and monetizing them. Earhart was of interest because she was a woman engaged in derring-do. There was nothing unique about her activities per se. A two digit population of men were doing what she was doing and establishing benchmarks she worked to meet. Note, she was a member of the 99s, a corps of women aviators. There were other women doing things she was doing at the time, but they did not have George Putnam keeping their name in the papers and arranging their book contracts and speaking engagements. The American Experience documentary on Amelia Earhart issued in 1993 included interviews with Elinor Smith, another member of the 99s who was given the opportunity to say her piece on Earhart. Among her complaints were that Earhart's technical skills were inferior to other women in the 99s and she wasn't getting in enough flying time to keep them up and extend them. Another complaint she had was that many of AE's activities were a waste of time and resources, especially the circumnavigation flights which got her killed. ("There was no scientific value to any of it...every leg of it had been flown before").

    1. That goes to show the reason why we know some people can be many things beyond just bigotry. I was never that interested in the Earhart saga beyond her role as a cultural icon, obviously. Sort of a female aviator version of Harry Houdini. Someone I know the name of and a few flashcard facts, but not much else. Again, not because of bigotry, but merely interest on my part.

    2. I've no problem with "There was no scientific value to any of it...every leg of it had been flown before". People have done things through all of history not because of scientific value but because of human determination. Some people don't see any value in that. Tough because I do and many others do. People can repeat a feat done before but it doesn't make it make it useless or worthless because SOMEone deems it so. It is important to someone. I agree Dave that AE is someone I know the name of and a few facts but doing what she did, on her own, in her day says much to me about her character. Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. That's what he wanted to do and he did. AE wanted to circumnavigate and tried and failed. If AE's motivation was to better a man then she failed. I her motivation was to accomplish a feat to prove herself TO herself then she succeeded more than those who criticized her because they were better qualified. At least she tried.

    3. Sorry Dave. It's Bob again on that last 'anon' reply above.

    4. Bob, I think that's a good point. Whether it was a failure or not is depending on why she did what she did. I don't think it need be about downplaying these people. I mean, we hear about some we don't about others. That's life and history. But the point I was making is we shouldn't assume when we don't hear about people or know certain things it's all about bigotry or sexism or racism.

    5. "we shouldn't assume when we don't hear about people or know certain things it's all about bigotry or sexism or racism"

      You are right Dave buy I'm afraid that is the soupe du jour.

    6. Bob, yep. That's my point. And this soup has been served for well over a hundred years. I just don't think we recognized the recipe.

  2. The movie Hidden Figures took a set of computational technicians and promoted the idea that the whole space program was crucially dependent on their work. Research papers by a couple of these women were published in professional journals over the course of their careers. They were people of circumscribed but real accomplishment. They weren't irreplaceable and they weren't doing anything more dramatic than what this nation's 17,000 actuaries do every day. The racial neuroses of our idiot media class require they be presented as something they were not. (Note, digital technology has largely automated their work, so they have no latter-day counterparts).

  3. Art:
    On one level all hard work (especially if it requires risk or some level of creativity) is to be acknowledged. On another, doing hard work is pretty common in the world. It should be enough to treat such people decently (and pay them decently), thank 'em and move on. We may be irreplaceable in God's eyes, but very few of qualify in the world's. If in the past some workers were recognized more than others for the same work, by all means set the record straight, but it doesn't require a parade of breast-beaters.

  4. Most women in the past did not deem it virtuous to be center of attention or even remembered. Sometimes our forgetting is unfortunate, as in the case of Mary Katherine Goddard - the only woman who appears on the Declaration of Independence as she was the PUBLISHER, and Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who is responsible for Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Hale, who edited a national magazine after she was widowed, still believed raising a family was the most important thing a woman could do for the good of humanity. A job well done was its own reward.

    1. That is the opposite of the feminist message. I remember a college philosophy class (c. late 1980s) in which the very male professor boldly declared that a woman who devoted herself to raising kids would never be a full person. The idea of sacrifice for others is almost anathema in our society that loves to act as if it really values the sacrifice of others. In fact, that is the thing. We love sacrifice - of others. Just not ourselves. And feminism has been a leading banner carrier for that for as long as I remember.


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