100 Years of “God Bless America”: The Anthem’s Foreign Origins

Irving Berlin’s anthem for the American nation turns 100 years old in 2018. Over the past century, the song has been appropriated by political partisans of all stripes, as outlined by the article posted below. Most interesting is its origin story: Berlin, a Russian Jew whose family fled persecution to America, penned the song as a volunteer recruit to fight in WWI. Borrowing the words of gratitude that his mother often repeated in their house, “God Bless America”, the song was written, but didn’t gain popularity for another twenty years.

Berlin himself led the crowd’s rendition of the song at the National Conference of Christians and Jews after first lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at the conference about the threat posed by the rise of European ethno-nationalism to the American nation, “Fear arising from intolerance and injustice constitutes the chief danger to our country.”

Charleston, SC: Confronting its Dark History

A symbolic resolution passed the Charleston city council this month, issuing an apology for the city government’s role in the slave trade. It is believed that nearly half of all individuals kidnapped/ trafficked in Africa, transported across the Atlantic, and brought to the North American continent as slaves entered through the port of Charleston.

The charming city of Charleston of today, in the beautiful state of South Carolina, should preserve its historically significant buildings, however dark the history they reflects, so that the region -or the country- doesn’t soon forget what transpired within them. Moreover, it must continue to find ways to remember and rectify this lasting legacy.


Deceptive Vacation Pictures: Historic Landmarks in Quotidien Surroundings

A recent article described the ways that photos of world-famous landmarks can be somewhat misleading, and ultimately result in disappointing a tourist who has traveled from afar. The photos that get circulated around the world tend to minimize the presence of normal, everyday people who live and work near these famous landmarks. And for some reason, a fabled location seems much less magical if we know that its gift shop employees eat lunch in the same places we would back at home.

Break-Dancing in North Africa

In Morocco, many youth find an outlet for their creative energies through the culture of hip-hop. Breakdancing in particular has become popular, where youth don’t often perform in public, but in behind-the-scenes locations. The Moroccan government has a history of supporting this type of activity for youth development, and other countries should follow suit.

Trafficked in Ohio

The PBS Frontline documentary series brought to television one case of human trafficking in an Ohio egg farm. Working inside the farm’s egg production plants/ hen-houses were Guatemalan minors who had arrived in Ohio by being trafficked. In addition to providing visual depictions of this story, the documentary helps clarify how such cases are possible: destitute poverty abroad, networks of smugglers, subcontracted hiring agencies, and lax oversight all around. More details will emerge about this case as the trial of one sub-contractor involved in the case proceeds to court. All in all, this story reveals that human trafficking is not something that only happens overseas, but also happens in our own communities.


19th century Italy: From Theocratic State to Constitutional Democracy

The Pope Who Would Be King, a new book by author David Kertzer, sheds light on the impact of Pope Pius IX on the formation of the Italian state and Catholicism as a faith. It was under his reign that the papacy was forever transformed. During his reign, the Papal States ceased to be a kingdom, a theocratic state in which citizens’ freedoms were severely restricted. It became an entity devoid of temporal power that was subject to the laws of Italy’s new constitutional democracy, which was created in 1870.
It was also during his restauration to power of the Papacy that he moved from the Quirinal Palace in Rome (today’s Italian presidential palace) to the Vatican, effectively re-centering the institution in the Vatican.

The author cites many of the actions of Pope Pius IX as evidence that this period marks a major transition in Europe from a medieval, theocratic mindset to the Enlightenment mindset. Such actions include his declaration of papal infallibility, a decision which was opposed by many bishops of the era. It also includes his theological declaration that reason is subservient to faith (Qui pluribus Encyclical), that allegiance to the Italian nation-state violates the Catholic faith, his forcing of Jews back into the ghetto of Rome, and most significantly, his 1864 encyclical the Quanta Cura.

In this encyclical’s famous Syllabus of Errors, he declared that violations of the Christian faith include notions of religious freedom, speech, association, or press, along with secular forms of government. In this way, Pope Pius IX relegated as un-Christian the most fundamental beliefs that undergird the modern democratic Western state.

In short, the continent of Europe and the Catholic faith have been forever changed by the decisions taken by Pope Pius IX. As such, this history is worth investigation.

The Return of the Bobcat: Wildlife Management Issues in SE OH

Southeast Ohio is witnessing a resurgence of its bobcat population. The animal was removed from Ohio’s list of endangered species, before being removed from the list of threatened species, all within the past ten years. Does this change in legal status then imply that the population is large and healthy enough to be made available for game? Researchers at Ohio University are undertaking a survey of the region’s bobcat population in order to get an accurate picture of the overall population. This important, government-funded work has implications for the local communities and potential trappers alike. It goes to show that complex issues of wildlife management are impacting communities not only in the American West or on the plains of Africa, but here in our own backyard.


2018: Solon Comets Breakout Year in Basketball

Incredibly, both the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams fought their way to the state championship game in 2018. In 2019, both will hopefully return and top the tournament.


The English Language: Multifaceted & Always Evolving

Contemporary dictionaries of American English now include words such as “to google”, “photobomb”, “bodice-ripping”, and “selfie”. The editor of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary discusses the criteria by which a word is admitted into their volume. Among these criteria are a word’s wide-spread usage and its staying power over time.

The editor also explains her reaction to receiving inflammatory and threatening communication from individuals who were unhappy with the inclusion or definition of controversial or politically-charged words. Such reactions point to the power of ideologies that are in circulation in the culture that bear on English and its usage. From the perspective of the editor, the job of the lexicographer is not to police the language, but rather to document how it is actually used by its speakers.


Cleveland NBA All-Star on the Importance of Mental Health

Cleveland Cavalier big man Kevin Love penned an article on the importance of mental health and on seeking professional help after admittedly suffering from a panic attack during a game last November. Such admissions from top-tier professional athletes are few and far between, but should be welcomed in the culture: even professionally successful, young, wealthy people are not immune to issues of mental and physical health.

Everyone Is Going Through Something