Remembering Forgotten Histories

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1875: B.W. Thomas, Julia Jackson, Maggie L. Porter, Ella Sheppard, F.J. Loudin, H.D. Alexander, Georgia Gordon, Jennie Jackson, America W. Robinson, Thomas Rutling

Current events often inspire an itch in me to go back to history. Given the global situation, this means going through my own library, or diving into the internet for digitised offerings.

One such gem is The Singing Campaign for Ten Thousand Pounds by Gustavus D. Pike. This 1875 book covered the journey of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir of former slaves who toured the world to fundraise for education for freedmen and other black Americans:

And yet again, I found myself surprised that Scotland – Gourock itself – plays a tiny role in this amazing story.

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The Metastasis of Debate

There are some subjects I can discuss without fear or reservation. Scottish Independence is an obvious example. Nuclear disarmament another. Pacifism – as in real pacifism, not the pathetic “passivismstrawman beloved of warmongers with vested interests in presenting their insane idealogy as the natural state of affairs. Expressing these views has lead to disagreement, ostracism, even abuse over the years. Yet it wouldn’t even occur to me to keep those views to myself. Bravery doesn’t enter into it: to be brave, you have to overcome fear. I don’t have any fear discussing these subjects, so I can’t call myself brave in doing so.

I don’t know the mind of the First Minister of Scots, but were I in her place, I would view her repudiation of Steve Bannon and everything he stands for not as bravery, but as simple common sense.

The responses to the First Minister’s decision prove it.

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The Case For Banning Books

Banning books is a terrible thing, so I thought. I’m the sort of guy who still gets upset about the Library of Alexandria, the Maya Codices, and Scotland’s own National Records, so you can imagine how I feel about symbolic desecration of cultural heritage. Even though Ray Bradbury wasn’t thinking of censorship when he wrote Farenheit 451, the power of his narrative made it incredibly applicable – especially since the practise of burning literature still goes on, and many books are still prohibited on the basis that they might be dangerous, especially to those with suggestible minds.

Book banning & burning is a fixture of dystopian literature. After all, if people read subversive books, they may think subversive thoughts. They may find inspiration, even hope, within pages that whichever oppressive regime wants to redact from humanity’s collective consciousness.

But what about when it’s those oppressive regimes who are getting their inspiration from them?

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Monuments and Mythology – It’s Time to Let It Go: Guest Post by Jeffrey Shanks

(Special thanks to my most erudite and scholarly friend Jeffrey Shanks for allowing me to publish this piece, which I think complements my recent post on lost history: I think it neatly fills in the gaps in my knowledge regarding Southern/Confederacy heritage. It helps when it comes from an actual Southerner! All images & links except the above I have added for illustrative purposes.)

I want to try have a difficult discussion with my fellow white Southerners on the Confederate monument controversy. This is an attempt to help foster understanding about why many feel so strongly about this. I know that many of you white folks from the South, when you see people wanting to get rid of Confederate monuments and the flag, feel like you and your ancestry and heritage are being personally attacked. You don’t think of yourself as racist and you feel you are being accused of it. I’ve seen good people I know express that sentiment. I understand that – but I have a very different perspective. I want you know am not coming from a place of hate and I am not judging you or virtual signalling. I just want to provide some context for this issue to help you understand the other side of it. This is long so bear with me.

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Lost Histories

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…

It doesn’t walk in saying,
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
– Michael Rosen, “I Sometimes Fear…

I volunteer with a local heritage & arts group in Gourock: a wee forum where people who are interested in our Burgh of Barony’s past can discuss our history, culture, and future. This can range from the not-too-distant past of the 20th Century, all the way back to prehistoric times, and even the geological composition of the very rocks. Little stories abound, from the innovation of the original Red Herring, to the diabolical warlock Auld Dunrod, and the thing buried under St. Ninian’s football pitch featured on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

There are stories that aren’t quite so delightful: the death of Mary Lamont and others in the “witch-mania of Scotland”; the sectarian violence which cropped up again and again; the expulsion of Rev. Macrae by the Synod. One of the many hazards historians must navigate in the sea of history is that dark side of humanity: no town is without its sorrows, its hatreds, its evils. It can be very easy to repurpose shame or horror from your past into denial and outrage towards others.

I was struck by this facet of the events in Charlottesville: it’s illustrative in showing how easy it is for things to go wrong.

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How Misunderstanding Wrestling Explains The Mainstream Media

Dolph Ziggler, graduate of Kent State University with a major in political science & pre-law minor. Just before he tried out for the WWE, he was accepted to Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

I’ve been watching the wrestling with my two younger cousins since they were wee guys: just as I was entering my teens, they were starting to get into it. It was the early 2000s, just the tail end of the big wrestling boom of the turn of the century, the age of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, Triple H, the Hardy Boyz, the Undertaker. We enjoyed the pageantry, the grand guignol, the spectacle of this utterly preposterous theatre presenting itself as a competitive sport. Staying up to ridiculous hours to watch what amounted to modern gladiatorial combat-cum-telenova soon became a family tradition.

But it’s fake,” you cry. “It’s so clearly not real.” And I just sigh, and continue enjoying the bonding experience with my cousins.

But the continuing insistence of some quarters to use the “it’s fake, you know” cry as if it was some sort of stunning revelation more than 28 years after Vincent Kennedy McMahon testified to its true nature at the New Jersey State Senate reminds me of nothing so much as the mainstream media confusing its role of journalism with a self-appointed role as educator.

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