Through much of time certain behaviors have been universally accepted as immoral – the exploitation of women (in particular) through pornography being among them. However, perhaps it’s my age showing, but when did “Since legislating morality rarely changes behavior, let’s eliminate such legislation” become the modus operandi? As a former teacher I knew some of my students would likely cheat, but I still had rules and consequences regarding cheating. As a parent I understood my children might decide that hitting one another was a good way of handling disputes, but I still taught proper means of dealing with conflict and used my parental platform to legislate against hostile behavior. The recent (albeit well intended?) legalization of child prostitution in California in order to “protect” them from the consequences of being caught just doesn’t seem to make sense, and continues our slide down the slippery slope of immorality. I could be a bit off, but my gut tells me something is horribly wrong.
It is with these thoughts in mind I was struck by the front page of The Reform Bulletin from March 1, 1929 (see below), which focused on an effort in the State of New York to pull back on the decade old legalization of “obscene literature.” What’s “obscene literature”? Should morality be legislated, and if so, who makes the call as to which behaviors are moral and which are not? Should government take a role in the personal affairs of its citizens? Has the government overreached in this area in the past? While the answers to these questions and similar are quite complex, I think most would agree we’re not headed in the right direction – and the consequences are guaranteed to be non-partisan.
The controversy over medical marijuana is nothing new in attempts to circumvent the law for outlawed drugs. Shortly after Prohibition became the law of the land in 1919, the “New York Times” reported in its Oct. 26, 1921 issue: “Beer As Medicine In Nine States Only” “New Treasury Regulations Inoperative in States Having Local Prohibition” “Thinks People of Nation Will Object When They See Drug Stores Handling Booze”. The article begins: “The brewers have several hurdles yet to make before medical beer is a reality…” with much more.
Eastland, Texas surged into the national spotlight in early 1928 when a time capsule, which had been entombed in the cornerstone of the old courthouse, was opened during the courthouse’s demolition. To everyone’s surprise out came a horned-toad lizard – still alive after 31 years! Hoax or not, a tour of the now legendary reptile included a visit to Washington, D.C. to meet President Calvin Coolidge. More can be read about Ol’ Rip via Wikipedia. The image shows the report of his “unearthing” which appeared in the New York Times dated February 20, 1928. Sadly, he would not survive another 12 months as he died of pneumonia on January 19, 1929 as reported in the New York Times of the following day.
When we think of college fraternity life, scenes of Animal House (whether we’ve seen the movie or not) likely play in our minds as we imagine, among other things, guys relentlessly exploring ways to covertly enter (and eventually exit) woman’s dormitories or sorority houses late at night. The young testosterone-inflamed males are always the pursuers, with the estrogen-nourished females the pursued. While the burning of brassieres marking the throwing off of gender roles and stereotypes did not become popular until the 1960’s, the front page of the New York Times for January 25, 1923 had an interesting article regarding the young woman of Oxford which foretold of things to come. Perhaps the idiom “You just can’t keep a good (wo)man down” is appropriate in this instance. Enjoy.
While I am certainly not an expert on Jewish sacred days, festivals, and special/holy celebrations, one significant event has always captured my imagination: The Year of Jubilee – referred to by some as The Golden Jubilee. It was such a celebration which led President Warren Harding to write a letter to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in response to their invitation for him to attend the Golden Jubilee Dinner in 1923. This letter was printed in The New York Times, January 25, 1923. While we often quote the phrase “Peace on earth, good will toward men”, few are aware of its roots (Luke 2:14) or its significance and/or relationship to the Year of Jubilee. While President Harding (a non-Jew) was certainly not a popular president, this is one instance where his “good will toward men” was well-received. His letter is as follows: