Rebels and rebellions…tennis shoes, flags and slavery…. a brief history lesson

“Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white;
that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

UShistory.org

Do you remember back in late June, just before our Nation’s celebration of the 4th of July?

If you’re anything like me, remembering last week can be challenging enough.

But let’s try it.
Let’s try to recall a current event that took place during that time.
It made all the news rounds.

The current event in question is how athletic apparel wear giant Nike had come out with
a commemorative shoe featuring what is known as “the Besty Ross” flag–
just in time for the 4th of July celebration.

And how then former football player and flag protester Colin Kaepernick told the
athletic giant not to sell the shoes because he believed the shoe’s flag
image was steeped in racism?

Remember all of that??

And do you remember that the athletic giant caved to his demands?

First of all, that story alone is enough to make me shake my head.

That a youthful former NFL player could tell a mega-money power company that they shouldn’t do
something and they actually listen to him and don’t do as he says is beyond my
small mind’s thinking.

Oh to be so powerful that the powerful quake.

But here’s the thing.

As an educator and one who had majored in history the majority of her time in college,
I could never allow the uneducated to perpetuate a lie.

I could not allow Betsy Ross, who is obviously not here to defend herself—
I could not allow her name to be forever sullied or associated with racism,
slavery or anything other than freedom.

And the funny thing is…we’re so all about #metoo and women’s rights and girl power,
yet we’ve actually allowed a woman to be painted into the ugly narrative of racism,
falsehoods and lies.

Is that what is known as hypocritical?

Let’s back up a couple of hundred years and let’s look at what that flag is all about.
However, let’s first back up even further and take a look at the woman in question.

Elizabeth Griscom, also known as Betsy, was the 8th of 17 children born to
Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James.
She was born in the colony of Pennsylvania, in the city of Philidelphia in 1752.

The Griscoms were a Quaker family and a family that ran an upholstery business.

Quakers were a religious group founded in 1652 in England by George Fox.
They were a split from the Chruch of England and were devoted to peaceful principals.
And most notably, they were pacifists.

(It might be of interest to know that President Richard Nixon was born to
Quaker parents…but that’s another story for another day)

Quakers, more often than not, married other Quakers.
If one opted to marry outside of the religious denomination then they would be “read out”
or cut off both emotionally and financially from one’s family and religious community.

Upon the completion of her formal Quaker schooling, Betsy’s father apprenticed
her to another upholsterer.
This is when she met John Ross, another apprentice, and member of the Episcopal Chruch.

The two fell in love and actually eloped.
They crossed the Delaware River over into New Jersey where they were married at a
near-by Tavern.

Obviously, the union led to Betsy being cut off from the Quaker community that
she had known since childhood.

She and John were happy and now worshiped at the Episcopal church, Christ Chruch.
The same church that George Washington attended.
There is church documentation that the Ross’ and the Washingtons occupied pews
across the aisle from one another.

This was also during the time that tensions had come to a head between the
Colonists and the British.

The Ross’ were busy with their upholstery business but as the tensions grew,
fabric supplies became scarce and the business all but dried up due to a lack of
demand and materials.

It was at this time that John Ross joined the Continental Army as a volunteer.

He was in charge of guarding a munitions cache.
At some point, the cache exploded, killing John— leaving
Betsy a young widow.

History tells us that at this point, Betsy went back to being a practicing Quaker.

However, this was also the time that there was a rift within the Quaker community itself.

Many of the members believed in the cause for freedom and actually split from the
Quaker body, forming the Fighting Quakers who joined the Continental Army.
Betsy and her new husband, sea captain, Joseph Ashburn, joined the side of the
Fighting Quakers.

Capt. Ashburn was in charge of bringing supplies back to the fighting colonists.
His ship, however, was eventually captured by British forces and he was taken, prisoner.

Joseph actually died in prison…a fact that Betsy would not discover until quite
sometime later.
It was a mutual friend of the family, a fellow sea captain named John Claypoole, who
came to Betsy with the grim news.

Betsy was a widow once again.

Betsy had had no children with her first husband John but had two with Joseph.
Sadly only one survived past infancy.
However, this would not be the end of Betsy’s married life nor that of motherhood.

Betsy married one final time.

This time it was to Joseph’s friend, John Claypoole.
A man, who to no surprise, Betsy convinced to retire from sailing.

The Claypoole’s went on to have 5 children of their own, four of whom survived to adulthood…
So 5 of Betsy’s children actually outlived her and were the ones who would
go on to leave a written testament to their mother’s contribution to
the Colonial fight for freedom.

In a signed affidavit, one of Betsy’s daughter’s recounted her mother’s
involvement with the creating of the unifying 13-star colonial flag.

Bety’s daughter tells of three men from the Continental Congress who came to call
upon her mother.

Robert Morris, the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania and the largest landowner,
Col. George Ross, the uncle to her late husband, as well as General George Washington.

Betsy knew the General quite well as she had not only worshiped alongside him and his
family at Christ Chruch, she had also done some embroidery and sewing work for the General.

Her daughter recounts:
That when the committee (with General Washington) came into her store she showed
them into her parlor, back of her store;
and one of them asked her if she could make a flag and that she replied that she did not know
but she could try.

That they then showed her a drawing roughly executed, of the flag as it was proposed to be
made by the committee, and that she saw in it some defects in its proportions and the
arrangement and shape of the stars.
That she said it was square and a flag should be one third longer than its width,
that the stars were scattered promiscuously over the field,
and she said they should be either in lines or in some adopted form as a circle,
or a star, and that the stars were six-pointed in the drawing,
and she said they should be five pointed.

That the gentlemen of the committee and General Washington very respectfully
considered the suggestions and acted upon them,
General Washington seating himself at a table with a pencil and paper,
altered the drawing and then made a new one according to the suggestions of my mother.
That General Washington seemed to her to be the active one in making the design,
the others having little or nothing to do with it.

That mother went diligently to work upon her flag and soon finished it,
and returned it, the first star-spangled banner that ever was made,
to her employers, that it was run up to the peak of one of the vessels belonging to one of
the committee then lying at the wharf, and was received with shouts of applause by the
few bystanders who happened to be looking on.
That the committee on the same day carried the flag into the Congress sitting in the State House,
and made a report presenting the flag and the drawing and that Congress unanimously approved
and accepted the report.
That the next day Col. Ross called upon my mother and informed her that her work had been approved
and her flag adopted, and he gave orders for the purchase of all the materials and the manufacture
of as many flags as she could make.
And that from that time forward, for over fifty years she continued
to make flags for the United States Government.

The affidavit is signed, notarized and still held as a historical document.

I believe the facts stated in the foregoing Article entitled
“The First American Flag and Who Made It,” are all strictly true.
This affidavit having been signed by Rachel Fletcher with violet ink,
the signature has faded, but is at this time, Seventh Month 24th, 1908,
still plainly legible.

Rachel Fletcher
I, Mary Fletcher Wigert, daughter of the said Rachel Fletcher,
recognize the signature in the rectangular space outlined in black above,
as the signature of my mother Rachel Fletcher.

Mary Fletcher Wigert

Signed in the presence of Mary W. Miller Philadelphia Seventh Mo. 24th, 1908

State of New York

City of New York SS

On the 31st day of July A.D. 1871.
Before me the subscriber a Notary Public in and for the Commonwealth of New York,
duly commissioned, residing in the said City of New York,
personally appeared the above named Rachel Fletcher,
who being duly affirmed did depose and say that the statements above certified
to by her are all strictly true according to the best of her knowledge and belief,
and that she is a daughter of Elizabeth Claypoole.
Affirmed and subscribed before me the day and year aforesaid.
Witness my hand and Notarial Seal.

Th. J. McEvily
Notary Public City & Co. New York

So what we know is that ‘the Betsy Ross’ flag is not a symbol of racism nor slavery.
But rather a symbol of freedom, democracy as it symbolized the birth of a Nation.

Yes the new Nation did have slave labor…as had the colonies prior,
as had the new land when the Spanish, the Dutch and the British had brought with
them slaves who had been in the Carribean and South America working the sugar plantations.

Slavery was not a new problem to a new Nation.
Nor was it a problem created by the new Nation.

It had been a form of “free labor” used by other Nations long before there were 13 colonies
and even before there had been a new land.

And the Quakers were actually one of the first religious groups to denounce the ownership of slaves
and vocally oppose the practice of slavery.

Betsy Ross, the Continental Congress, and the new flag had nothing to do with racism
or slavery…end of sentence.

It would take many more years of growing pains, struggle and eventually a
near-catastrophic internal conflict for this united Nation to come to terms
with what had long been part and parcel of the more negative part of her history.

But to look through the lenses of the 21st century back to a nation’s inception in the 18th century
and to cast condescending judgment is not only lacking in prudence and wisdom,
it is absolutely wrong.

Hindsight does that, doesn’t it?
It grants us the holier than thou ability to tell the past of its grievous mistakes.
But isn’t that how we learn??…from the mistakes of the past???

One day a future will look back on us and tell of our mistakes…
And one of those glaring mistakes will be that we do not know, nor care to
know the truth of our own history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Perhaps we might then say that a nation that does not know its past,
is doomed to repeat it…

It would, therefore, behoove our up and coming progressive-leaning millennial angst-ridden
generation to do a bit of studying before they continue their attempt at rewriting
our own history.

May God have mercy on us.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagaffs.html

Authority vs Power

“Another time of testing has come.
Another day of reckoning is here.
This is a testing and a reckoning…
that could prove even more decisive than earlier trials.”

Os Guinness

CIMG0617
(statue of St Peter stands looking over St Peter’s Square, The Vatican/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“The Kingdom of God is the realm of true authority; the kingdom of Satan is seen in the tyranny of raw power.”
(God and Churchill/ Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley

In his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence, written long before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the then former Chancellor of the Exchequer penned his bleak yet precautionary predictions for the future of not only Western Civilization, but the world at large.

Churchill’s essay was written post WWI, while the destructive images of a devastated Europe raged fresh in his mind just as the rumors of new wars festered along the horizon….

“Without an equal growth of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, Science herself may destroy all that makes human life majestic and tolerable. There never was a time when the inherent virtue of human beings required more strong and confident expression in daily life; there never was a time when the hope of immortality and the disdain of earthly power and achievement were more necessary for the safety of the children of men.”

Churchill’s opining of predictions were but a stone cast into a pond whose ripples were to reach to what he saw to be 1981…
however his words and thoughts, those ripples, continue to be relevant to our own day and time these 85 years later…well past the initial envisioned fifty years.
In fact his words ring more true today than they did in 1981.

I think we’d all agree that our times are exceedingly precarious.
Many an observer notes the almost tangible and even palpable fear that is presently running as an electric current throughout the world.
Radical Islamic Extremists,
global terrorism,
coups,
civil wars,
our own racial divide and unrest…
all of which has rocked this 21st century world.

There are many, myself included, who can’t help but to see the mirrored comparisons of a rising Adolph Hitler and his Nazi death machine compared to today’s current menacing death machine of Islamic fanaticism and its declared war or caliphate against the West and the Judeao / Christian foundation…of which has stood since the days of Constantine…

“We are confronted with another theme. It is not a new theme;
it leaps out upon us from the Dark Ages–
racial persecution, religious intolerance, deprivation of free speech,
the conception of the citizen as a mere soulless fraction of the State.
To this has been added the cult of war.
Children are to be taught in their earliest schooling the delights and profits of conquest
and aggression.
A whole mighty community has been drawn painfully, by severe privations,
into a warlike frame.”

(except of speech broadcast to Britain and the United States October 16, 1938)

Reading these words, not knowing they were spoken 78 years ago, in a different time and place, one would imagine them to be easily written today…
If we listen carefully we hear the ominous warnings…
warnings concerning the madrassas of today with their radical teachings to the youth of Islam…
we hear of the ongoing global teachings of intolerance for Western society…
we hear of the hate for the Christian and Jewish communities throughout the world…
warnings and reminders being echoed of the soulless citizens having lived or who are currently living under the blankets of communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships and the growing rise of socialism….
anything but democracy….

It would behoove us, as we stand on the cusp of the dire decisions and votes being cast…
with their often ominous results–
not only on a national level, but to the choices, votes and decisions being made globally,
to understand the difference between what is true authority verses what is power merely cloaked in a false authoritative shawl.

Authority shows itself in constructive power, whereas raw power is inevitably destructive, as Hitler and the Nazis amply demonstrated. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, but power is seized.
Authority is given to the humble, those under authority; power is snatched by the proud, who acknowledge no authority over themselves. Authority is sustained through relationship, which is why Churchill devoted so much time to communicating and to being among the people. Raw power, on the other hand, is sustained through four control mechanisms: manipulation, condemnation, intimidation, and domination, skills that Hitler and the Nazis honed to a sharp point”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Again, words written regarding a past time yet even more relevant today…

May we open our ears to the past as we open our eyes to the future as we currently wrestle with seeking
new governing leadership…
May we be mindful to look to those individuals who seek not to grab power but rather to those who seek to lead under the authority that has been granted from the only One who can truly grant authority to those who seek His counsel for those who which they are charged to lead….

The whole world is upborne and sustained by God’s Love, and each person was created as an act of love. This is truly incomprehensible to us because we can’t see clearly the breath, and depth, and enormous scope of such great love. God looked at each stage of Creation and said clearly that it was good: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish, and the plants. All is good, all is blessed, and all is an outpouring of Trinitarian love. When we were created, then God said that this was more than good, but very good. Very good! When will we live up to such a great calling, to such a great love: personal, intense, and giving the power to also create around us an expression of God’s goodness and love. Help us, O Lord, to fulfill Thy precious love in us and in all we touch and see.
Amen.
(offering prayer from the monks at St Isaac’s Orthodox Skete)
(http://www.skete.com/index.cfm)

Storm clouds gather on the horizon

“In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.”
Victor Hugo

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSCN6972
(clouds and sun vie for dominance over the skies of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is a lovely little blog I follow and I do believe I’ve made mention of it before. . .
Dominus mini adjuror (The Lord is my help)
by Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman
http://hughosb.wordpress.com

Father Hugh is an Australian Benedictine monk living at Douai Abbey in Woolhampton Berkshire England.
http://www.douaiabbey.org.uk/index.html

I happened upon Father Hugh’s blog quite sometime ago and despite my not being Catholic, I greatly enjoy reading his posts, as he speaks to not merely the Catholic faithful, but to all of the faithful Christian flock. The only caveat is that Father Hugh is quite a busy monk and can only post as his time and schedule permit.

Father Hugh tells it like it is and I, for one, greatly appreciate that.
In an age of overt political correctness–where we are so terribly afraid to say anything as it seems anything and everything these days causes great offense—as ours is a society constantly in mea culpa mode-it is almost refreshing that there are those who see the world, warts and all, and will offer honest and truthful observation without fear of reprisals, boycotts, assaults, condemnation, social media backlash, etc.

It is the knowledge that Father Hugh’s reflections, those based from his observations of life in this world, are rooted in the fact that his words are steeped in the Truth of the Gospel and that his words merely echo the words of Jesus Christ.

It is Father Hugh’s posting today, “Voices Speaking Silence” that has left my heart deeply troubled.

Father Hugh brings to light a need in awareness of the continued brutal persecution of Christians by the militant Muslim group known as ISIS—or now simply referred to as the Islamic State (IS). It is noted in his post that the News outlets of this world choose not to report on, or merely choose to overlook, the growing number of persecutions of Christians but rather focus their attentions on the brutality unleashed upon other ethnic groups, many varying sects of Islam, as well as the continuing assault in Gaza on the Palestinians (and my question is why have we not heard of the sufferings of the Jews?)— With World attention being brought to these other groups, Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran–as well as elsewhere in this fractured globe of ours, are being assaulted, tortured and killed in numbers that this generation has not witnessed—all going unnoticed, unreported, ignored.

Tortured, beaten, raped, kidnapped, crucified, beheaded. . .horrific atrocities that the World at large would normally rise up in arms against over such barbarism—and yet, what remains is only silence.

All of this, as the face of a young man, head shaven yet held strong and high, eyes tightly shut, mouth drawn down fighting the undeniable deafening fear that has welled up inside of him, is etched in my mind. The image of the young journalist James Foley, who in an orange prison jumpsuit, is kneeling at the hand of his executioner, who gleefully holds a knife. I have not, nor will I, view the video of his death as I am not drawn to witness the macabre—the image of him kneeling in the desert and of his resolute face, at the feet of a knife wielding man is enough to sicken me.

In this oh so modern, sleek, techno savvy and trendy 21st century of ours, that has our every need and whim complete and fulfilled at the touch of a finger, we unbelievably continue to witness the barbarism, such as beheadings and crucifixions, which belongs to the annuals of ancient history.

Not only are those of Western culture at risk for the reprisals and retributions of jihadist terrorism but it is the Global Christian Community that is at greatest risk— not for proselytizing, not for preaching, not for the distribution of clandestine Bibles, but rather simply for believing.

The broad scope and vast number of Christian deaths as a result of simply believing is at such a number that it rivals the days of the Roman Empire.
The following excerpt taken from an article in The Spectator, by John L Allen Jr. dated October 5,2013 echoes these numbers and statistics.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

My question for all of us is how much longer will we pretend that all of this is happening “over there” and has no bearing on our lives here–wherever here and there may be.
How much longer will we continue to ignore the statistics?
How much longer will we allow our Politicians to overlook and our News media to ignore the persecution of Christians as a real and present danger?
How much longer will we remain silent?

May we be mindful that persecution is not always physical.
Will the stifling of the Christian voice in America and throughout Europe, due to the rise of intolerable secularism, be a final straw. . .

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11