Once, there was a war. In the midst of this war, there was a boy. The boy’s father, a merchant, had moved his family from their home in a now occupied city to a town behind enemy lines. Due to his age, the boy was able to obtain passes which, along with papers attesting to his being below the required age for enlistment, enabled him to travel to the occupied city to conduct business for his father (in most wars in human history, both sides required local merchants with connections.) The boy arrived on Christmas Eve, and though he planned to finish and depart in two days, the merriment of the season and charms of at least one of the young ladies of the city induced him to stay an extra night to attend a party.
Upon leaving the city the next day, a sentry of the occupying army inspected the boy’s pass and, given that the boy was leaving occupied territory and would have no more need of it, tore up the pass but otherwise allowed the boy to go on unmolested. A short while later another sentry stopped the boy because, as the sentry later said, the boy was traveling at a “suspicious angle” which made it appear the boy was headed for enemy territory. This was perfectly true, but now without the pass, the boy could not prove that he had permission to do so, and he was detained and taken back to the city under guard.
When questioned later by an officer the boy freely turned over a memo book which was found to contain, written in Morse code, information on the disposition of troops and defensive fortifications in the occupied city. Also found on his person: his line pass from the enemy army, his proof of age papers, a packet of letters from a number of young ladies in the city to his two sisters, and two locks of braided hair. One of the letters was found to contain the supposedly incriminating line “I shall be anxious to hear how Davie got through.”
A little over a week later, on January 8, 1864, David O. Dodd was hanged as a spy by the United States Army in front of St. John’s Masonic College in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had been tried and found guilty by a military commission, despite his not guilty plea and offer to take the oath of allegiance to the Union in exchange for pardon which Abraham Lincoln had offered just a month earlier to all Confederates, excluding only officers and government officials. The commission ruled that the offer did not apply to spies, and after a six-day trial sentenced Dodd to hang. On that cold January afternoon, as Dodd stood awaiting the noose, the executioner realized he had forgotten a blindfold. Dodd, pale but calm, was reported to have said softly, “you will find a handkerchief in my coat.” *
This story is important in the context of current political events for the simple reason that the Civil War is the one historical event that is allowed no “nuance” in public discussion: the Confederate states seceded illegally, and they all fought to preserve a despicable and uniquely Southern institution, period. Furthermore, anyone not immediately on board with, at the very least, moving all Confederate monuments to museums must harbor some hidden racist feelings. Why else but racism would anyone not consider all memorials to “traitors” as something that should be removed?
If nuance is important in other issues, surely it is important in discussing the defining conflict of our nation. Surely it matters that there are more monuments in the state of Arkansas memorializing David O. Dodd (despite his being a Texan by birth) than to not only any other Confederate but to any person associated with any war from Arkansas, which include Douglas MacArthur and Brigadier General William O. Darby? Surely it is understandable why some citizens of a state which simultaneously approved a convention of secession and sent more anti-secession delegates to it by a wide margin; who immediately elected an anti-secessionist as the convention president; whose elected representatives only voted to secede after President Lincoln demanded Arkansas troops be sent to fight the already-seceded Atlantic states and was refused by the Governor, a governor who would actually later threaten secession from the Confederacy over conscriptions; whose legislature was threatened with military retaliation on the one hand and economic retaliation on the other...surely it is understandable why some of these citizens might look unkindly on all of their ancestors being painted as men who only cared about slavery, that evil institution. Surely one can recognize that, for at least some of them, the issue is no more complicated than outside forces once again telling them what to do.
The answer would seem to be a resounding “no,” it does not matter. A century and a half is a lot of propaganda to wade through from both sides. History is usually ugly and unpleasant, because human beings are usually ugly and unpleasant, at least some of the time. One person says the war was fought over slavery, to which another retorts, yes, but due to electoral politics and not some moral desire to make slaves full and equal citizens, and the truth is that both are correct. The nation’s sin is much easier to address if secession is just declared (illogically) impermissible, and the winners can sweep their own culpability for the sin under the rug by pointing to the dead as the price they paid for absolution, and to the enemy dead as just the beginning of their penance. It is much more palatable to believe six hundred thousand died for a noble cause than it is to consider it was really about a pissing match between monied interests on both sides combined with one man’s desire not to be the man who lost the Union.
The story of David O. Dodd is ultimately not one of secession or slavery, of heroism or virtue. It is, in the end, a story about what lengths men and the governments made by men will go to when they believe their cause is just: the belief that hanging a 17-year-old boy, guilty of communicating a probably inconsequential message on the placement of a small number of troops and artillery (which he may have done merely as a favor to a friend, or for the affection of a girl), when all that is necessary to save his life is to administer an oath which he has made clear he will take, is the right and just decision is proof that even in the service of justice men can become monsters. To say that’s just the nature of war, or that Dodd was a spy for “traitors”...well, tyrants will always find a justification for their tyranny.
The case to remove monuments to government officials of the Confederate States of America seems reasonable, given the fact that the Confederate government did expressly defend the institution of slavery (although the failure to teach the true history of these men, such as that Jefferson Davis graduated from West Point, fought for his country in both the Black Hawk War and the Mexican-American War, served in both the U.S. House and Senate, was United States Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, and counseled against secession up until he received word that Mississippi had seceded, seems like a concerted effort to obfuscate any possible nuance to the issue of secession.) But the desire to remove monuments to soldiers, to the war itself...well, that smacks of an effort mainly to render illegitimate any belief that states are sovereign, and that siding with your state against Washington D.C. could be a choice made by brave and honorable men. It is largely of a piece with the belief pushed for 150 years that secession was and is treasonous: if the southern states had no legitimate, Constitutional right to secede (if the “Course of human events [when] it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” was just a historical one-off) then everything done to keep the Union together was wholly justified. If the VMI boys at New Market were traitors, then they cannot be heroes, and the last thing you want a conquered people to retain is its heroes.
There is no doubt that many Confederate memorials were erected not to honor but to intimidate. It must also be remembered that 1911 marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the war, and there still were veterans living, and that Reconstruction had left the South relatively bereft of funds for things like statues, so not every memorial or statue erected in that time frame can be assumed to have been for the latter purpose. The way to honor the dead on both sides, and more importantly to ensure the survival of the system of government their grandfathers and great grandfathers fought their own war to institute on this earth, and most importantly to continue to ensure that all men regardless of race have their say in how they are governed (the insinuation that the ancestors of slaves don’t deserve the right and the chance to vote the statues into museums should be seen as insulting), is to recognize that these issues should be decided only by citizens of the state or locality where the monument in question resides, and not the federal government or outside protesters or rabble rousers of any political stripe. Only in this way is justice truly served. And your fellow Americans, left to their own devices, might just surprise you.
*There is a lot of conjecture, rumor, and Apocrypha in many of the writings on Dodd. To avoid charges of cherry-picking from those that might have a pro-Southern slant I have included only the bare-bones facts, which all appear in one way or another in this post at the New York freaking Times.
Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
Twice in a row now, this has been a bi-weekly column. I hope to not make a habitof it, but I make no promises… I have, like, a job and stuff... For your regular update on “Where is Alex, and who is watching her children?” I spent last week at the beach with the girls, mostly (pretending to be) working while they were in camp, and then this week I was home and my husband was with them. I will be back at the beach at the beginning of next week, not, as any sane person would have done, heading to Paris with my sister to hang out with her boyfriend and his family (long story...you should ask me next week). So, let’s talk about Missouri, cats, trolls, kale, Misfits and Nantucket, shall we?
Submitted by: Harry Bergeron
I couldn't think of the Capital of Missouri the other day, and drew a series of blanks when I tried to look it up on Google. Google wanted to sell me maps of Missouri, vacations in the Ozarks, tickets to Branson, Tshirts, cars and homes instead of providing the Capital.
It finally dawned on me that Missouri might well be too careless, forgetful, poor, or backwards to actually have a capital! Would you look into this potential scandal? And if they do ever get a capital, should they call it "Missouriopolis??
That worked out just fine for Minnesota.
Thank you for your kind attention to this peculiar matter.
Missouri does, in fact, have a capital - the mostly forgettable Jefferson City. And while Missouriopolis has a nice ring to it, that would NOT mirror the state of Minnesota, where St. Paul (not Minneapolis) is the capital. The parallels you were looking for, of course, would be either Oklahoma City, OK or Indianapolis, IN.
Jefferson City is notable for a couple of reasons, though. First, it is one of 4 state capitals named after Presidents (Lincoln, Madison and Jackson, although Jackson was only a general when they named the city after him), and one of only four state capitals that does not have an Interstate Highway (Juneau, AK; Dover, DE; Pierre, SD). This, of course, means that Honolulu, HI does have interstate highways, which is probably worth a little bit of thinking. I also just learned that Pierre, SD is not pronounced like a french guy, but rather as “Peer”. Wikipedia says so, and Wikipedia would never lie. Since South Dakota named its capital after a Frenchie and North Dakota named its after a German, I am somewhat surprised that we have never seen a Great Dakota War...
As to your question about Missouri being too careless, poor, forgetful or backwards to have a state capital, I think you are being kind of hard on the Show Me State (note: worst state motto). It’s a little larger than average, ranking 18th of 50 states in population, and a little below average in most qualitative factors: 36th in per capita income, 39th in education, 28th in obesity, 40th in life expectancy. In other words, it is sort of a shitty state, but it’s nowhere near the bottom of the barrel (hey West Virginia and Mississippi...you’re up.)
You know where it punches above its weight, though? Major professional sports championships. Mostly on the strength of the St. Louis Cardinals 11 World Series Championships, the state of Missouri has won 16 Championships, which is substantially more than its relative size would predict. You know what other state punches above its weight on that list? Mass-a-fucking-chusetts, bitches!!! 17 NBA Championships, 9 World Series, 6 Stanley Cups and 5 super bowls means that we’re trailing only New York (which has 58 Championships) and California (42), and managed to do it with only four franchises! It took New York 13, and California 14 to win all of those rings. On a per-franchise basis, Massachusetts is pretty well the king of sports, and don’t you dare @ me because the only other State that is even close is Illinois (29 from five teams including two that went 88 and 108 years between wins respectively.)
I mean, if we are being really honest, we totally cheated...we got to use Bill Russell and Tom Brady and Bobby Orr.
There are only six cities that have won championships in each of the four major sports, which seems like not very many. New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. There are also a handful more that have won in all three sports in which they play (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore). San Jose is the largest US city, by population, to have never won a championship, checking in at about 14 times the size of the smallest city to ever win one - the 1922 and 1923 NFL Champion Canton Bulldogs. It’s almost ten times the size of Green Bay, which has won 13 NFL Championships and currently fields the NFL’s second best quarterback (you should be very proud, @molratty)!
Biggest underachievers? Texas and Florida seem to be low on that list based on their population size, but their populations (especially Florida) are young enough that they don’t really have long histories to rely on. There are nine franchises in Florida, but the oldest (the Miami Dolphins) is only 51 years old, and seven of them were founded after 1988. Given that, 9 Championships is actually not so bad. It is a similar story in Texas, which has 15 Championships, dominated by the Dallas Cowboys (6) and San Antonio Spurs (5).
No...the real winner for being losers has got to be Georgia. And really, given the most recent foray in almost-winning, I hate to kick you when you are down, but this is starting to get pretty embarrassing. The Falcons were founded in 1965 and the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. The Hawks began playing in Atlanta in 1968 and then two hockey teams came and went, the (now Calgary) Flames from 1972-1980 and the (now Winnipeg Jets) Thrashers from 1999-2011. That totals up to 171 seasons played and a grand total of ONE championship (the 1995 Braves). Rather than beat up on the poor peach-staters any more than I need to, I will just maybe leave this here.
Here then, in closing, is a Jesse Kelly-style list of State Capitals by cultural/political/financial relevance and national/international importance:
8. Salt Lake City
9. Oklahoma City
43. Carson City
Submitted by: Bo Cat
If my human does not change the litter in my litter box, is it permissible to pee in her bed as a demonstration of my displeasure at her inability to maintain a proper litter box?
What time is a good time to ask to be let outside? I was thinking maybe like 3 AM, but she doesn't seem to agree. Can you help?
Full disclosure: I hate cats. I mean, I really, really hate cats. I am deathly allergic to most of them, which doesn’t help, but I also think that I just plain don’t like them. You know why? Mostly because cats hate people, and what kind of nerve do they have to hate people who feed, house, clean up after and protect them?
This is limited to domestic cats, since I think wild big cats are pretty fucking awesome. I’ve documented my completely rational and not at all unhealthy fear of jaguars, and I’d love to be a lioness...that would be pretty boss. And, fun fact time...the unofficial scientific designation of “Big Cats” (also, Alex just invented the term “unofficial scientific designation”) includes the four largest species of the genus panthera - panthera tigris, panthera leo, panthera onca (jaguars) and panthera pardus (leopard). These four share certain physical traits that other large felines (including the other species of the panthera genus, uncia, the snow leopard, along with cheetahs, cougars, bobcats, lynx and others) do not have, the most notable of which is a unique larynx formation that allows them to roar. Which is really kind of the most important part, right?
Anyway, I’d love a pet ocelot, but domesticated cats are basically just fur-generating parasites that prey on the sympathies of lonely old crazy women. If it isn’t keeping you mice-free, that cat is really bringing nothing to the table beyond an appetite and a detached disdain for any humans it meets. (Memo: if you have rats, you can not get a house cat...they will kill the cat. You could, however, get a mountain lion. That will solve your rat problem quickly, but you have to be willing to kind of give up on ever using the basement again.)
You know who doesn’t hate people? Dogs don’t hate people. Dogs love people and will happily show that affection regularly. Your dog is the only person in your house who will always be happy to see you. For as long as there have been civilised human beings, there have been domesticated dogs to assist in hunting, herding, protection and general companionship, and there is no better testament to their usefulness than the fact that humans don’t eat dogs unless they have no other reliable sources of widely available protein. Really, if you learn one thing from Guns, Germs and Steel, it is that a societal decision to NOT eat large, domesticable mammals is a sign of extraordinary usefulness. Looking at a 1,000 pound horse that very, very few humans eat regularly kind of gives away the “Civilization’s Most Useful Animal” mystery…
(And if you have never read the book, you should. It’s fascinating in a super-dork kind of way and it’s got a million eye-opening observations.)
And dogs do so much for us, too! They sniff for bombs and drugs, they work with police and ride fire trucks. They herd sheep and cows and chase away predators who would eat livestock. They show blind people around!!! They may be saving the cheetah population. Is there anything cooler than seeing-eye dogs? Think about how amazing that is...a dog can learn enough about helping a person navigate their life as to largely free the person from being dependent on other people. And all the dog wants in return is a warm bed, food and the right to go into restaurants where his fellow dogs can’t!
This also reminds me of the time I saw ten little lab puppies on one long leash wearing orange vests that said “Please don’t disturb us, we are guide dogs in training”. Cutest thing I have ever seen? Definitely top five.
In conclusion, change your own litter box, you freeloading pee sniffer. Or learn to shit outside like a dog would...I mean, you’re not dumber than a dog, are you? You can figure it out.
Submitted by: Kurt Michaels
What is the proper etiquette for dispensing with Twitter trolls? Do you block, mock, mute, refute, ridicule or something else? What was your greatest victory over a troll?
I generally like to mock them. Jokes about the size of a male trolls genitals are always a good place to start...usually hits pretty close to the mark. Or jokes about their sad living situation and lack of female attention, cuz these guys usually live in Mom’s basement and definitely don’t have girlfriends. At least real girlfriends. Trolls tend to be really easy to insult because often their low opinions of themselves are what drove them to be trolls in the first place.
Really, my most common response is to just ignore them. I have muted a couple who just wouldn’t shut up and were cluttering my notifications. Generally, they have no interest in making a point, they just want to get a reaction out of you. Reacting just feeds the beast, and there is nothing to be gained by it.
I believe I have only ever blocked one person on Twitter, and it wasn’t because he was a troll. It was actually someone that I spent a lot of time interacting with and “knew” quite well. In the end, I blocked him because I felt like he had taken advantage of my better nature and wasted a lot of my time without ever really having any desire to make the changes necessary to fix the problems that he complained about. If you enjoy complaining about being miserable more than you desire not being miserable, at least have the common decency to admit it.
Interestingly, I am blocked by a relatively large number of people with whom I have never once interacted, or had like one really innocuous interaction a long time ago. Deray blocked me. A couple of the Buckleys have blocked me, likely by association, even though the only interactions we ever had were quite pleasant. The since-departed most annoying one blocked me because he thought I subtweeted him. Blocking someone who has never once interacted with you because you think she is subtweeting you takes a pretty special level of self-importance, but he is pretty well known as a true legend by that measure. Funniest part is that the tweet was actually directed at a former Misfit:-) There is one person that blocked me for reasons I don’t know and that bothers me...but c’est le vie, it’s Twitter, I guess.
Also...if someone at Twitter could let us easily see who has blocked us, that would be really helpful. Maybe get to work on that, @Jack?
Submitted by: Schultzie
Can I get Stockholm Syndrome from eating kale?
If you are eating kale, you probably already have it...why else would you be eating dirt-flavored construction paper? You have clearly been kidnapped by kale and psychologically tortured into sympathizing with your captor.
Or maybe you have been kidnapped by rabbits and you are sympathizing with them by liking rabbit food? Do you find yourself hopping around your backyard, popping out large numbers of kids and eating carrots, too? Those would be telltale signs…
I dunno...I could go either way on this one. Just to be safe, you should eat an ice cream cone.
Submitted by: Groupie
I need to learn more about the Misfits. Please sort them all by:
Thanks a lot!
Height: You’ll probably be surprised to know that Rex is over 7’0” tall and both @CDPayne79 and @Vixenrogue are about 6’9”. This is why we usually dominate in the Blog Wars Basketball tournament. She may look like she is normal height, but @molratty is actually only 4’3” tall, and is shaped roughly like a bowling ball. It’s quite a sight! Real answer: Rex and Marc are both about 6’0”, so they are probably tallest. @Blazermc88 is the tallest of the Beckys, and I think I am the shortest.
JR is pretty tiny, too, but she is taller than me to begin with AND she is so oppressed by the patriarchy that she wears Trump heels at every moment of every day so she looks more like 5’7” to anyone who has ever met her. Either that or she works professionally in some field that requires women to never, ever remove their heels under any circumstances...hmm...
Weight: Even though she is shorter than my seven year olds, Mo weighs somewhere near 350 pounds. Seriously...salad, Mo. Just once in awhile. And then there is the pregnant Misfit who is super gigantic these days, but that may still be a secret, so I won’t say who it is (spoiler alert: it’s @2009superglide). And again, JR and I are the tiniest
Age: This is somewhat irrelevant because we are all a part of a sunlight-averse cult of immortal wiccans. Also, we’ve been told that we all act like children on occasion, or at least teenagers (#MisfitMischief, #MischiefAfterDark, tonight!!!). Rex is the oldest, and the only Grandparent of the bunch. I’m actually not sure who is second oldest...Marc maybe? He, Daryl, Mo and @RebeccadeWinter are all in the same age bracket (at least as I think about them!!!). After that, Dan, Musket and @CDPayne79 make up the back end of Generation X, before you get to me and JR. @GentlemanRascal is the youngest of the boys, followed by Kayla and finally, the juniorest Misfit: @_CCHayes! She may still be on her learner’s permit.
Residential Elevation: Well, this is an odd question, but it one that I am prepared to answer!!! I should acknowledge that this is not terribly precise because I am not actually using anyone’s address.This is all based on the Google-reported elevation of the city or town in which each person lives (except my own, which is my address).
CC Hayes: 4,820
So, surprisingly, while there are five of us that basically live on the coast (or near enough), only one is really near sea level, and two of us are WAY, WAY up in the thin air. Also worth noting that this is a totally different answer than the one you would get for “Which is the highest Misfit”. Moving right along...
Income: What is “income” really? Is it just the money we earn from our jobs? Or is it all of the non-monetary rewards we garner from our life experiences? Is Rex’s income limited because he is retired, or is it in fact infinite because he owns the freedom of retirement? Daryl and CC may not gain much money from being in school, but how do we measure the value of knowledge and wisdom? And what does CDP even do? No one knows...NO ONE KNOWS!!!
Here I will list some amounts of money. Some of them may be my estimates of various Misfits’ incomes, and some may just be random numbers:
But I am not telling you who is who or which one of those is a real estimate. You’ll need to guess!
IQ: Funny you should ask this...we had a former member who loved to talk about his IQ, as if it were something that is measured in the same way that height or weight is (note: he was also short and fat). According to his version of his self-administered test, he was like the smartest person in the upper midwest and always had trouble in school because they didn’t have things that were capable of keeping someone of his intellect adequately engaged. But, since pure intellect will always win out, he is due to be promoted to behind the bar at Applebee’s any day now.
Funniness: Kayla says that she is fine being last in IQ as long as she can be top three in funniness. I strongly doubt that she is anywhere near last in IQ, but she is a safe bet to be top three humorist. @Marcannem96 is probably the funniest, but Musket and CDP are really funny, too, and truthfully we can all be pretty funny if the mood strikes. Daryl wins any Dad-joke contest...
# of Children/Grandchildren: Rex is the runaway grandchild winner, since he is the only one with any. There really isn’t anyone else who is particularly close...the next oldest children (Rebecca’s, Marc’s, Musket’s) are still in college and (hopefully) not working to make any of them grandparents imminently. On the children front: Marc has 3, Rebecca has 3 and Mo, Musket, Dan and I all have two, although those underachievers needed two pregnancies to do it. CC, JR and Kayla all have one and CDP, Rascal and Daryl just get to sleep in every day and wear clothes without (someone else’s) chocolate stains. And one of us is about to have another:-)
I think Mo is the champ here, since she is a JD, which makes her a Doctor...a Doctor of Laws! Beyond that, we have a bunch of graduate degrees, which mostly just means that we wasted time and money in school while Marc was busy golfing...
Submitted by: Daryl
What is there to do on Nantucket other than writing limericks?
This question made me giggle-snort...maybe Daryl’s best corny joke yet.
Also, for those that were maybe curious, based on all of the data available, men on Nantucket do not, in fact, have genitalia large enough that, in concert with their flexibility, they are capable of self-fellating. I mean, I can’t say that I have done a scientific study or anything, but,...you know what, I am just gonna move on from this.
Seems like as good a time as any to wrap it up here...until next week!!!
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.