Alumni News

Very pleased to see Hannah (Mayo) Harris ’13 today in Tarpley Hall. Hannah was a history major and member of Reinhardt’s women’s basketball team while a student, and she now teaches English and coaches basketball at Murray County High School. Hannah is currently completing an online MAT program from Pittsburg State University. She was showing Reinhardt’s campus to one of her students who is hoping to play basketball here.

Thanks for sending people to us, Hannah!

Symbolism

Two recent news items.

Wikipedia.

1. From Huffpost Canada:

Canada’s Coat Of Arms Needs Redesign To Include Indigenous Peoples: Petition

Randolph Shrofel, a retired educator from Manitoba, says it’s “just one more piece of the puzzle.”

TORONTO — Randolph Shrofel isn’t exactly sure where he was when he first took a good look at the front of his passport, only be struck by what was missing.

The retired high school guidance counsellor from Sandy Hook, Man. travels a lot these days with his wife Ruth, a former elementary school principal. Like many Canadians, Shrofel suspects, he never paid much mind to the golden coat of arms on the front of those ubiquitous leather booklets.

The emblem is one of nine official symbols adopted by the government of Canada to spark national pride. It can be found everywhere from official government documents and buildings to the prime minister’s plane and the rank badges of some Canadian Forces members.

“Over a period of time, I noticed there is no Indigenous content in the coat of arms at all,” he told HuffPost Canada. “And that started to make me think.”

In early December, Shrofel launched an electronic petition calling on the federal government to revise the coat of arms to “include representation of the Indigenous peoples of Canada (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) as co-founders of Canada.”

The e-petition is being sponsored by Manitoba Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette, who hails from the Red Pheasant Cree First Nation and was a leading voice pushing for Indigenous languages to be translated in the House of Commons.

Ouellette suggested going the route of a grassroots petition, Shrofel says, where 500 valid signatures over a period of 120 days will trigger an official government response.

I agree with this, although I did not include this critique in my short history of Canada’s coat of arms. The shield should be reduced to the maple leaves alone, but I’m in favor of retaining the banners of the Union Jack and the arms of France on each side, since they represent past sovereignty. But that means that we really should acknowledge Native sovereignty too. What to do? Would one pan-Indian symbol suffice? (Does such a thing even exist?) Or do we need to acknowledge every tribe in Canada? (This would get pretty aesthetically unwieldy.)

I would not be against changing the supporters to being native fauna – say, a moose and a polar bear, and I would not be against these creatures wearing collars and pendant badges referring to Indians and Inuit, in as inclusive a manner as possible. I would not be in favor of a stampede whereby every discrete group in Canada demands the right to specific acknowledgement in the coat of arms.

2. From the Washington Post:

A new Mississippi flag has a surprising champion: A segregationist’s grandchild

 Things are slow to change in this Old South bastion. The brass bird cage of an elevator in the Mississippi State Capitol that Laurin Stennis used to ride as a 6-year-old coming to see her daddy was still operated by hand when she stepped into it one day in early January, a 46-year-old coming to shake things up. Or at least nudge things along.

“Ground floor, please, sir,” she said to the operator.

But some things have changed. The lawmaker who greeted Stennis in the grand marbled lobby below was an African American woman, something unheard of when Stennis’s father, John H. Stennis, was a member of the nearly all-white, all-male state legislature and her grandfather, John C. Stennis, was a legendary champion of segregation in the U.S. Senate.

“I’ve already filed your bill,” state Rep. Kathy Sykes said after hugs. “I’m just waiting on the number.”

It was the start of a new legislative session, and Sykes, a Democrat from Jackson, had once again introduced legislation to replace the Mississippi state flag — the last in the country that still incorporates the Confederate battle flag — with a design widely known as the “Stennis Flag.” It features a big blue star on a white field, encircled by 19 smaller stars and flanked by red bands.

It’s graphically pleasing and increasingly popular. If the Stennis Flag eventually replaces the old banner — its supporters aren’t expecting much to happen this year, with state elections looming — the banner might help alter the view the world has of Mississippi, a state with a brutal history of Klan murders and racial oppression. It could alter the reputation of one of the state’s most famous political names, as well.

A great design, both aesthetically and symbolically (the big star represents Mississippi, the nineteen smaller ones represent previously admitted states to the Union). I confess that I still prefer the Magnolia flag, though.

UPDATE: I am in favor of getting rid of the current Mississippi flag, but I feel compelled to state that I object to such sentences as this, which come so easily to journalists at the Washington Post:

the banner might help alter the view the world has of Mississippi, a state with a brutal history of Klan murders and racial oppression.

I can think of a few “views” that Group A might have of Group B, which to the mainstream media cannot possibly be the fault of Group B, but can only be the result of stereotypes held by Group A and are thus streng verboten. I’d also like to point out that, for example, Illinois, the Land of Lincoln himself, also has a brutal history of Klan murders and racial oppression.

MLK Day

For MLK Day, the Pan-African Flag flies from my deck:

This flag is often used as an African-American flag – although not often enough, as far as I’m concerned. People fly Confederate flags all the time. They have every right to, and rather than getting angry with the fact that there are folks in this country who don’t share your values, fly your own flag as an answer to theirs.

Cycloramas

Interesting article on Jstor daily (hat tip: Funk Heritage Center):

Cycloramas: The Virtual Reality of the 19th Century

Immersive displays brought 19th century spectators to far-off places and distant battles. The way they portrayed history, however, was often inaccurate.

In the fall of 1886, New Yorkers were transported to the Battle of Gettysburg. That is to say, they flocked to a circular structure in downtown Brooklyn. The inside walls of the curious room were covered with a 360-degree painting, on which soldiers charged and cannons fired. As Scientific American described at the time, the floorboards were covered with sod and “real trees, evergreens and others, with shrubbery, portions of fences, and the like are set about, and tufts of grass, wheat, and similar things, lend their aid to fill up the scene.” Skylights illuminated the canvas and props while leaving the spectator area dark, and mannequins were posed alongside the painted scene. So convincing were these dummies that the police got called one evening to stop a robbery and apprehended two fake soldiers.

This immersive installation, known as a cyclorama, was one of several that popped up around the United States and Europe in the nineteenth century. Civil War scenes were popular, but so were Niagara Falls, the Biblical Crucifixion, the Chicago Fire of 1871, and the Battle of Waterloo. They were the virtual reality of their time, combining art, lighting, architecture, and installations to convey viewers to exotic locales or the recent and distant past.

Irish painter Robert Barker is often credited with introducing what he described as a “picture without boundaries” in 1787, debuting his invention with a cylindrical panorama of Edinburgh. Cycloramas arrived in the United States by the end of the 1800s, and took off in the mid-nineteenth century. Because they required a specially-designed circular building, they tended to be long-term exhibitions. “Typically, a cyclorama stayed at one place until the local public lost interest in it and ticket sales dropped,” explains scholar Charles G. Markantes in Military Images. “Once the novelty wore off, some owners went bankrupt and were forced to abandon their paintings. Cycloramas remained viable attractions only where the location itself continued to attract visitors, such as the battlefield of Gettysburg or Atlanta.”

We visited Atlanta’s Cyclorama in 2015, and I’m pleased to say that it will be reopening next month at the Atlanta History Center.

Hebrews and Egyptians

Four statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. Wikipedia.

The traditional date of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt is 1250 BC,* which would place it during the reign of Ramesses II, the greatest pharaoh of New Kingdom Egypt. Ramesses II is famous for his lengthy reign of sixty-six years, and for siring nearly a hundred children (between 48 and 50 sons, and 40 to 53 daughters). He is also remembered for his numerous military campaigns both against the Nubians in the south, and the Hittites to the north – and for being a signatory to the world’s first peace treaty.

In another attempt at linking up Biblical with Egyptian history, people have also claimed that the Hebrews settled in the Nile Delta during the second intermediate period under the Hyksos, but then “there arose a new pharaoh who knew not Jacob” – perhaps this was Ahmose of Thebes, who reconquered the Delta around 1550 BC, reunifying Egypt, founding the New Kingdom – and enslaving the Hebrews, who remained in this condition until Moses led them out of Egypt some three hundred years later.

(Then there is Sigmund Freud’s theory that Moses himself was a priest of Atenism, Akhenaten’s failed attempt at introducing a monotheistic religion in the 1340s and -30s. The Hebrews got their idea of one God from the Egyptians!)

Of course, this all doesn’t quite work. New Kingdom Egypt controlled Palestine – the border with the Hittite Empire was established at Kadesh, in what is now northern Lebanon. In fact, Ramesses II himself was still on the throne, if the Hebrews left Egypt around 1250, and spent forty years in the Sinai desert, before beginning their conquest of Canaan under Joshua in 1210. The Bible records no fighting against any Egyptians during this time, however; certainly not against Ramesses II. The Wikipedia article on The Exodus says that Biblical details:

point to a 1st millennium BCE date for the composition of the narrative: Ezion-Geber (one of the Stations of the Exodus), for example, dates to a period between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE with possible further occupation into the 4th century BCE, and those place-names on the Exodus route which have been identified: Goshen, Pithom, Succoth, Ramesses and Kadesh Barnea – point to the geography of the 1st millennium BCE rather than the 2nd.

It is possible that a group of people that later merged into the Hebrew nation had Egyptian origins in the late Bronze Age, and whose story was elaborated and then incorporated into the overall narrative. But apart from some ambiguous references to the Habiru, no non-Biblical evidence has yet come to light about such a group.

* Coincidentally also traditional date of the Fall of Troy.

A Recent Local Event

Near where I live is a mosque, called the “Masjid Quba.” It is in a strip mall on GA-20, off I-75. They have a sign over their storefront, and a two-part sign on the strip mall index by the road. The top reads “Masjid Quba” and the bottom is in Arabic script.

Or rather, was. As I drove by today I noticed that “Masjid Quba” had been removed, and only part of the Arabic script sign remained.

And on the other side, the Arabic was completely gone, although “Masjid Quba” remained.

Were they moving out? Probably not – Pakiza Grocery and Chuska Restaurant are no longer in the strip mall, yet their signs are still up.

The broken sign at the foot of the index indicates violent removal.

Could it have been the wind? Not likely – for the wind to take out both sides of the same sign, while leaving everything else intact, would make for a very freak wind.

The fact that one broken part of the fallen “Masjid Quba” sign was placed directly in front of the mosque’s entrance suggests that human agents were responsible, and that this represents an act of vandalism. The metal pole in the photo above was likely the instrument used.

So what is going on? A friend thinks they did it to themselves to get sympathy. Another posits that it was intra-Muslim factional violence, or that they may have owed money to someone.

But given the fact that this was directed against a mosque, in a part of the country where the overwhelming religion is evangelical Christianity, suggests that it is an example of what the newspapers call a “hate crime.” If so, it is rather disappointing.

And, I regret to say, it’s not first time that the Masjid Quba has been targeted:

Mosque Vandalism Includes ‘Racial Slurs’

The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and FBI are investigating possible hate crimes.

By Brande Poulnot, Patch Staff | Apr 15, 2011 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stepped in to assist detectives in determining whether acts of vandalism at the are hate crimes, which are federal offenses, Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said.

The mosque twice has been the target of vandals in the past few weeks. The first incident, on March 18 or 19, involved messages such as “Muslim Murders” and what deputies called racial slurs.

The morning of March 19, a worker at an adjacent business noticed several windows had been smashed along the front of the building on Merchants Square. Two messages, including a drawing of the Star of David, had been written on the windows, and concrete and bricks that had apparently been thrown through the windows contained “racial slurs,” according to the incident report.

In the second incident, deputies Tuesday retrieved four large rocks used to damage the center the previous night or early that morning. Four glass doors and windows in the front of the building were damaged.

Of course, this is pretty small potatoes on the grand scheme of things. Muslims in Cartersville, Georgia do not have nearly as much to worry about as, say, the Copts in Egypt do. But it’s still an ugly and shameful incident. It’s a free country, dammit! Their rights are your rights. Don’t do stuff like this!

ADDENDUM

I snapped this picture in 2015, of a church sign on GA-140, illustrating an attitude that (I guess) is all too common around here. Of course, the fact that Muhammad is dead is the entire point of Islam, and I still maintain that you don’t need to run down someone else’s religion in order to promote your own, especially in a place where the only presence of that religion is single mosque in a strip mall.

Arthuriana

• My friend Christopher Berard’s book Arthurianism in Early Plantagenet England from Henry II to Edward I was published yesterday by the Boydell Press. It represents the “first full-scale account of the use of the Arthurian legend in the long twelfth century.”

The precedent of empire and the promise of return lay at the heart of King Arthur’s appeal in the Middle Ages. Both ideas found fullness of expression in the twelfth century: monarchs and magnates sought to recreate an Arthurian golden age that was as wondrous as the biblical and classical worlds, but less remote. Arthurianism, the practice of invoking and emulating the legendary Arthur of post-Roman Britain, was thus an instance of medieval medievalism.

This book provides a comprehensive history of the first 150 years of Arthurianism, from its beginnings under Henry II of England to a highpoint under Edward I. It contends that the Plantagenet kings of England mockingly ascribed a literal understanding of the myth of King Arthur’s return to the Brittonic Celts whilst adopting for themselves a figurative and typological interpretation of the myth. A central figure in this work is Arthur of Brittany (1187-1203), who, for more than a generation, was the focus of Arthurian hopes and their disappointment.

• At Medievally Speaking, Kevin Harty interprets the movie Aquaman as an Arthurian tale:

The Arthurian elements are established by the title character’s first name, and by a variation on the traditionally problematic or unusual Arthurian parentage: for Ygraine and Uther read Atlanna and Thomas.  Aquaman, like Perceval in multiple versions of the Arthurian legend, initially defeats a knight in red armor—here, of course, a sea knight. While King Arthur’s last battle is usually with his illegitimate son Mordred, Aquaman’s last battle with his half-brother Orm is a close enough parallel.  Mera is part Guinevere, part good Morgan le Fay.  Vulko serves as Aquaman’s Merlin, and the Trident is, of course, the film’s Excalibur.  Malory has it that “whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born.”  In Aquaman, the ability to retrieve the Trident similarly guarantees who is “rightwise king born” of Atlantis. Aquaman’s interrogation by the Karathen at times recalls that of Arthur and his knights by Mighty Tim in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  In John Boorman’s Excalibur, Arthur learns that the secret of the Grail is that the land and the king are one.  In Aquaman, the title character declares that the land and the sea are one.

-eum

The original Museum was the “hall of muses” in Alexandria, and the original Mausoleum was a memorial to the Persian satrap Mausoleus at Halicarnassus, which was so impressive that it was designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Lyceum was a school founded by Aristotle in the grove of Apollo Lykeos, while the Athenaeum was a school in Rome that was named after a nearby temple to Athena. Finally, the Colosseum (also spelled Coliseum) was a venue for gladiatorial combat in Rome that took its name from a colossal statue of Nero.

All of these “-eum” words have become general words in English. Museums and mausoleums are all over the place, and a lot of cities have coliseums (although lyceum, as “lycée,” is much more common in French*).

Plenty of other such words have not become general ones. Either they still refer to specific buildings, or specify types of buildings, in the ancient world only. I jotted down a few:

Ramesseum – the memorial temple of Ramesses the Great
Mithraeum – a temple to the god Mithras
pyreum – a Zoroastrian fire-altar (from Greek pura = fire)
Serapeum – a temple to Serapis in Egypt

And -eum is simply the Latin equivalent of the Greek -eon, which we also see from time to time, as in Odeon (a venue for the singing of odes) or Pantheon (a temple for worshiping all gods).

* It’s interesting how “lycée” is common in French but “academy” is common in English. The Academy, of course, was Plato’s school, in opposition to which Aristotle founded the Lyceum. But I’ve always considered the French to be far more Platonic than Aristotelian, and the English more Aristotelian than Platonic.

Georgia Guidestones

Raynah Roberts.

Reinhardt’s Provost Mark Roberts recently enjoyed a visit to the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia. From Wikipedia:

The monument is 19 feet 3 inches (5.87 m) tall, made from six granite slabs weighing 237,746 pounds (107,840 kg) in all. One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it. A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned. An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the guidestones.

A set of 10 guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts.

The message is presented in a different language on each side of the four exterior stones: Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Spanish, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. In this language it reads:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Who would have sponsored such a thing? No one knows! The story of how one R.C. Christian appeared out of nowhere, commissioned the monument from Elberton Granite Finishing, paid for it, and then disappeared, never to be seen again, is detailed in an interesting Wired article from ten years ago now. People surmise that “R.C. Christian” is a reference to “Christian Rosenkreuz,” the alleged founder of Rosicrucianism, and that the deliberately lowballed total human population number is intended as advice for the survivors of a nuclear war (this was a concern in 1980). Of course, the prescribed One-Worldism, the appeal to Enlightenment-style “reason,” and the seeming endorsement of eugenic practices are objectionable to a lot of people, especially around these parts. That Yoko Ono found it inspiring probably doesn’t help on this front. Some people have called the Guidestones a “sinister site,” the “Ten Commandments of the Antichrist,” and “of deep Satanic origin,” and vandals have occasionally attacked them.

But Elbert County, which owns the monument, has no plans to tear it down. In fact, locals appreciate the fact that they have such an enigmatic tourist attraction – one that, if nothing else, showcases the county’s granite, its most well known product.

Also…

• Many people ask me if there are opportunities for “extra credit.” The answer is always no. The idea that you can just “play till you win” is corrupting of education.

• It is true that you are all paying a lot of money to come here (or maybe you are; I am not privy to whatever deal you happen to be getting). But whatever you are paying, it is not coming to me, I assure you. And it is not useful anyway to see your professor as a service industry worker. Do not think of me as your masseuse, your waiter, your accountant, or even your lawyer. No, the only way that I can have any effect on you is if you consider me your boss. If I want something done, I want it done! And I do not want to hear anything about how you are “paying for this.” I want you to pass, but it is not actually my job to pass you. It is my job to grade you honestly.