Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How Our Presidents Promote Tolerance

February 13, 2016

The United States was founded just as the European Enlightenment swept through. The Enlightenment occurred after two centuries of religious wars had exhausted not only Europe's population, but also its intellectuals. Ordinary people were not theologians; they simply retreated to the various sects accepted by their families or rulers. Southern Europeans remained Catholic, while the more economically progressive north (England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and northern Germany) and their rulers favored Protestantism.

The 17th-century Pilgrims brought with them a form of Calvinism that was neither tolerant nor compulsion-free. Their zeal flagged over the next two centuries so that by the actual founding of the new country at the end of the 18th century, the Enlightenment shaped it. The Founding fathers, Enlightenment men all, forbade state support for religion. Religion was permitted to flourish, but without compulsion. Religion without official force is a wobbly thing; people may join---or leave, something entirely new in the world. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, new sects flowered, some of them native-born, but some of which eventually burnt out.

American presidents have over the centuries worked to keep religion separate from government, yet they adopting the values that most of the population cherished. The Quakers, for example, with a British faith, came to America and were persecuted by the Calvinist Pilgrims. Over time, however, their values spread and they amassed a following that urged abolition of slavery. They succeeded in doing this in England in 1833; but it took thirty more years before slavery was abolished nationwide.

But, back to our beginnings as a country. The Dutch ruled New York (New Amsterdam) in the 17th century. When a shipload of Jews arrived fleeing Catholic persecution in Brazil, they sought refuge. The governor, Peter Stuyvesant, tried to bar them, but because the Dutch government had recently enacted the first legal religious toleration for Jews and Protestant dissidents, Stuyvesant was overruled by the home country. America's first Jews had arrived and lived, for the first time in 2,000 years, in freedom.

The Jews were granted full Dutch citizenship when a group of Jewish pirates brought to Holland the entire Spanish gold fleet they had captured at sea. Read this fascinating story in Edward Kritzler's: Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, 2008.

During the Revolutionary War, one Jewish friend of General George Washington gave his entire fortune to support the war. This loyalty was not forgotten. Upon the retirement of President Washington, he wrote a letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, promising that religious “toleration” would give way to religious liberty, and that the government would not interfere with individuals in matters of conscience and belief.

“Every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. For happily, the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” [Italics mine.]

Presidents Obama and Bush have been dealing with another bout of bigotry that both have tried to nip in the bud. Because Militant Islam carried out a deadly attack on this country on 9/11/01, President Bush hastened to distinguish between criminal Muslims and ordinary Muslim citizens. He insisted that “Islam is a religion of peace,” asking Americans not to brand all Muslims as terrorists.

His intentions were good. We have too many bullies ready to bash heads of the innocent when stirred up. But Islamist lone-wolf attacks continued.

This month, President Obama did the same. He visited a mosque and assured Muslims that they are welcome and do belong in this country. He, too, means well. However, since 9/11, Militant Islam has burrowed among the Muslim population, carrying out (or trying to) murderous attacks. President Obama, aware of this, echoed George Washington that this minority should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. Muslim spokesmen resent that they are being held to a standard that other immigrants have not. Other immigrants did not require it.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or  

US Election Dysfunction Has Solutions

March 26, 2016

The US Constitutions says nothing about how candidates will be selected for our elections process. Our current practice of holding primaries came about to “democratize” the process of nominating candidates for office. The old system (by tradition) was to have political parties in each state select candidates and then in a nominating convention choose from among them. The Constitution does not mention political parties either. Our first president, George Washington, did not like them, fearing factional dysfunction. We can imagine what he would think of today's factional parties!

One of the great strengths of the United States is its ability to change those things that have gone wrong. We finally corrected the terrible institution of slavery, but it did take a horrific war to do so. Earlier, President Jackson thought that giving the vote to all white males was an improvement over the elite system that preceded it, white (educated) property owners. His intention was to spread political power to the people, not including, of course, women or Blacks. Uneducated voters with no skin in the game (property, for example) could be, and certainly were, bought. Following Jackson, our national politics were rife with corruption, and after the Civil War ended, rife with power to the very rich, the age of the Robber Barons.

Political parties, as written in my column of 3-19, are not cast in stone. We have, by and large, functioned with two major parties, fringe or third parties not able to gain direct tractions. The one exception to this was the collapse of the Whig Party (1830-60) and the birth of its spinoff, the Republican Party, which elected Abraham Lincoln. We may be approaching a repetition of this process if many Republicans defect from selecting Donald Trump as their 2016 candidate for the presidency.

There is a fever of anger and frustration loose in the country now, unhappiness with today's political dysfunction. A vocal minority feels betrayed by their parties not doing what they think right. Both the Tea Party on the far right and the far left Democrats detest any sort of cooperation in governance that compromises their “principles.” They are out of step with the idea of working across the aisle, negotiating those issues upon which they can agree. The rival parties have come to hate each other rather than considering each other as partners in governance.

Because we have a political system that can self-correct, there are a few things that we can do to make our election process better. I don't like the present primary system that gives a few states an undue benefit in selecting candidates. This could be remedied by holding the primary elections on the same day, nation wide, giving the state political parties more power in vetting candidates. People who work in the political system certainly know candidates better than most of us take the time to do.

Although the American press reaps great benefits from our long election process, playing up, as they have this time, spectacle over thought, most Americas should consider an election cycle of two months instead of nearly two years! Almost every other democracy in our time does this. And once more, the nominating conventions would return to doing the heavy lifting rather than just rubber-stamping the survivors of a grueling public circus.

There are candidates who feel, as Hillary Clinton confessed at a recent town meeting, that she does not have the pizazz on the podium that her husband and President Obama have; and she would much rather be doing the work than providing spectacle. The same can be said for Governor John Kasich, who has had difficulty generating rowdy mob appeal. Only a few gifted candidates can do both. Others are just spectacle, without substance, and most often, simpy demagogues.

Finally, the next Congress would do well to undo the disastrous Supreme Court judgment that money equals free speech. Having shorter election cycles, same- day primary elections, and protection against the contamination of dark money, we could do much better as a democratic republic.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    


by Benjamin Landis

I have just read and reread the article “The Global Civil War: Will the West Survive?” by Bertil Häggman in the Spring 2015 edition of the Comparative Civilizations Review.  I am amazed that a scholarly journal published such an article, an article that is certainly not scholarly.  In fact, the thoughts expressed therein are very much confused, even hysterically so, and in large part unsubstantiated.
Mr. Häggman’s thesis is that “A civil war characterized by revolution and counterrevolution has raged since 1789…The world civil war started when the kingdom of France was abolished, and the Bastille, a prison filled with insurgents and criminals, was stormed on July 14, 1789.”  These statements create three problems.  First, Mr. Häggman without any justification redefines the term “civil war”.  Per Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English language” a civil war is “a war between political factions or regions within the same country”.  Mr. Häggman gives no explanation whatsoever as to why the definition has to be changed.  Second, he states that the “world civil war” began when the “kingdom of France was abolished” and when “the Bastille…was stormed…”  Unfortunately, these two events were not simultaneous.  The storming of the Bastille occurred on July 14, 1789; the kingdom of France ceased to exist in September 1792 with the declaration of the First Republic.  Third, he writes that the Bastille was “filled with insurgents and criminals”.  In fact, the Bastille housed at the moment of the storming only 7 prisoners: four forgers, two members of the nobility for immoral conduct, and a murderer.  What?  No insurgents? To deem the Bastille as “filled” by seven prisoners would seem to indicate that it was about the size of a small Parisian row house.      
In support of his thesis, Mr. Häggman cites other subsequent elements of the “global civil war” since the French Revolution.  “…two more insurgencies developed inspired in some respects by Jacobinism, namely Communism and Nazism…”  We need now to look at what “Jacobinism” is.  Per the dictionary cited above, “Jacobinism” has two aspects, one which died a long time ago, and one still alive.  First, the dead one: the beliefs of a person who “in the French Revolution [was] a member of a radical society or club of revolutionaries that supported the Reign of Terror and other extreme solutions, active chiefly from 1789 to 1794…”  The alive one: the beliefs of “an extreme radical, especially in politics”.  Mr. Häggman’s lumping Communists and Nazis together as Jacobins is quite an intellectual feat.  Admittedly both fostered dictatorships, but the Nazis were hardly extreme left-wing radicals; they were not even extreme right wing radicals.  They were xenophobic racists..  Nor does he in any way substantiate his claim that Communism and Nazism were “inspired in some respects by Jacobinism”.  As he did for the term “civil war”, in order to sustain his thesis, Mr. Häggman appears to have redefined “Jacobinism” to mean “a radical ideology of either the far right or the far left which is based upon genocide as a means of attaining and maintaining power”.  
Mr. Häggman’s definition of the supposed “global civil war” is “…the concept is used to describe simultaneous civil conflicts happening at many locations with little regard for national boundaries.”  A few sentences later he does modify this definition somewhat by indicating that “…national boundaries are relevant…”  Note that Mr. Häggman states that the global civil war comprises “simultaneous civil conflicts”.
How does he substantiate his thesis?  He claims that the opening phase of this global civil war began in France in 1789 and ended in 1815 by the military defeat of Napoleon’s France.  With the advent of the French Revolution, well before the Jacobins came to power, the European monarchies went to war to restore the Bourbons to their throne.  And this war continued, well after the end of Jacobinism as a political force in France, until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.  Mr. Häggman links Napoleon and the Jacobins as fellow-travelers, i.e., “A war had to be carried on until the Jacobin advance was stopped and Napoleon defeated”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Mr. Häggman needs to present proof for this claim.
The next phase in the global civil war appears to be, according to Mr. Häggman, the Paris Commune of 1871.  So there was apparently a lack of simultaneity of 56 years in his global civil war.  Mr.Häggman once again needs to verify his facts.  Although there was no reason to bring it forth, he writes that there were more than 20,000 deaths during the 72 days of the Commune.  This is quite inaccurate.  The number estimated by a number of historians is about 7,000.  I will be happy to furnish Mr. Häggman references.    
  He cites as evidence of this civil war, which he characterizes as “global” the French Revoluyion beginning in 1789, the Napoleonic wars, the Paris Commune in 1871, the First World War, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Second World War, and the seizure of power in China by the Chinese Communists in 1949, and September 11, 2001, since “when radical Islam has waged war on the West in the spirit of the French Revolution”.  This is a strange mix.  What common thread does Mr. Häggman see that links the Napoleonic wars to the Paris Commune and then to the First World War and then to the Russian Revolution and then to the Second World War and then to the Communist takeover of China in 1949?  Admittedly, these were all wars, but they were of different natures.  European monarchies against the First French Republic.  The European monarchies against the French Emperor.  The people of Paris against the German conqueror.  Certain European colonial powers against other European colonial powers.  European nations and the United States against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.  Mr. Häggman needs to explain how these wars of different natures are part of his “global civil war”.  Another problem Mr. Häggman needs to face and explain is the lack of simultaneity, which he indicates is a feature of the “global civil war”.  
Mr. Häggman in writing about the Russian Revolution of 1917 mentions a “European civil war”, yet does not identify what civil war he is writing about.  It may be that he is using the term to indicate the First World War, which only Mr. Häggman could consider to be a civil war.  There was no clash of ideologies.  There were only nation-states asserting their territorial ambitions.  Examples of his use of the term are as follows: “It was in connection with the Bolshevik Revolution that the mass murders of the European civil war were initiated”.  “…the European Civil War cost even more lives”.
He later writes “…in the 1930s a new phase of the European civil war started: Germany and Italy attacked the rest of Europe”.  Once again Mr. Häggman transforms a conflict between nation-states into a civil war.  However, this time instead of being monarchies fighting against the leftist French Republic, it is European and American democracies and Russian Communism fighting against reactionary dictators.  Mr. Häggman does not mention that the Soviet Union, which he obviously considers to be one of humanity’s adversaries in his global civil war, fought alongside the “democracies” to defeat Germany and Italy and it was supported militarily and financially by the Western democracies.  Mr. Häggman has created a terminological and ideological hodge-podge that is simply incomprehensible.    
Mr. Häggman’s sub-thesis is that Jacobinism has been rampant since the French Revolution and represents one of the ideological bases fomenting the global civil war.  “The war had to be carried on until the Jacobin advance was stopped and Napoleon defeated”.  “…two more insurgencies developed inspired in some respects by Jacobinism, namely Communism and Nazism…”  “The Russian revolutionaries used …the Jacobins as their models”.  Mr. Häggman needs to explain more fully how the German Nazis were inspired by Jacobinism.  His statement to that effect is thrown out into the public winds without any substantiation whatsoever except that he, Mr. Häggman, said so.  The same holds true for his statement that the Russian revolutionaries used the Jacobins as their models.  What happened to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels?
Unfortunately, neither Mr Häggman’s thought processes nor his writing are coherent.  For unexplained reasons he leaves out of his effort to substantiate his thesis a large number of civil wars that he apparently doesn’t believe fit his concept.  I cite the English Civil War of 1642-1651, the American colonies revolt against the British monarchy of 1776-1783, the American Civil War of 1861-1865, the numerous revolutions and civil wars in South America starting in 1808 and continuing intermittently to the end of the Twentieth Century.  I further cite the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.
There are other blatant errors in Mr. Häggman’s article.  He writes: “A period of economic and political warfare was initiated in 1982-83 by the United States that led to the freedom of a number of oppressed peoples”.  I ask Mr. Häggman to name some of these oppressed peoples that were liberated by the American policy.  In fact, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 there were none.  Also, the idea that the United States government began its economic and political warfare against the Soviet Union only in 1982-83 is a total misreading of history after the end of the Second World War.
This has become too long.  I will make one last major point and one last minor point.
Toward the end of his article Mr. Häggman proclaims that the “global civil war” continues: “Radical Islam wants, in cooperation with evil, rogue states like Iran and North Korea, to crush the West or to at least weaken it”.  First, if Mr. Häggman has any information indicating that North Korea is in cahoots with radical Islam he should immediately get in touch with the CIA.  Second, how does he define a “rogue state’?  I would propose that a nation that gratuitously invades other nations which represent no danger to it are “rogue states’.  An example would be the United States of America that invaded Iraq and bombed into destruction the Libyan government.  Third, he claims that “…North Korea is believed to have 5,000 tons of biological and chemical weapons…”  He offers no substantiation for that claim.  With respect to islam, I humbly suggest that Mr. Häggman read my article at (At the home page click on “Archives” and on the next screen click on “L”, then scroll down until you find the article entitled “The Islamic World Faces Its Future”.)
I apologize.  I need to make another point.  Mr. Häggman’s article is unfortunately full of errors of fact and judgment.  He states “…radical Islam has waged war on the West in the spirit of the French Revolution”.  Probably to Mr. Häggman’s surprise, the French Revolution was waged to attempt to free the French people from a tyrannical monarchy and to establish a democratic form of government.  There is no indication, to my knowledge, that this is the spirit that motivates radical Islam.  I ask Mr. Häggman for proof.  
Now to the minor point.   The title of Mr. Häggman’s article is: “The Global Civil War: Will the West Survive?”  The entire article is devoted to conjuring the spector of this so-called “global civil war”.  Mr. Häggman devotes absolutely no words to a response to the question: “Will the West Survive?”
In conclusion, I state emphatically that there never was and there is no “global civil war.”  Mr. Häggman has failed to prove his thesis.  He simply presumes that all wars are civil wars and tries to construct an unsubstantiated thesis based on this assumption.
I am more than surprised that a “scholarly” review would publish Mr. Häggman’s rantings .  Was this peer reviewed?  Who were the peers?