07/17/2005: Thought for the Day:
The Supreme Court's ruling last month upholding the right of the Texas State Capitol to keep a Ten Commandments sculpture - sponsored by that great theologian Cecil B. DeMille to promote his Charlton Heston epic - on its grounds as an historical artifact is arguable from a legal perspective. But to the amateur historian and professional ironist, it's a delight. Because I've been to the Texas State Capitol, and that granite Moses movie ad is one of the least offensive things there.
To wit: there are two creepy monuments dedicated to the Confederacy, one of which features hand-carved testimonials from Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee lauding rebel soldiers responsible for the Gettysburg deaths Lincoln would hope were not in vain.
Then there's the memorial festooned with a man gripping a muzzle-loader to honor the Heroes of the Alamo, the men who died trying to steal Tejas from the Mexicans, who had taken it from Spain, which had grabbed it from the Indians in the first place. If I remember correctly, not stealing is one of your Top Ten Ten Commandments. One of these Alamo heroes, Davy Crockett, is said to have advised the men there, "Pierce the heart of the enemy as you would a feller that spit in your face, knocked down your wife, burnt up your houses and called your dog a skunk!" Does it get any less "thou shalt not kill" than that?
Another statue honors the beloved Texas cowboy. I happen to be descended from one of these. My Texas cowboy great-great-grandfather, John Vowell, abandoned his newborn baby, Charles, when his Seminole wife died in childbirth. Is it O.K. if I break the commandment about honoring one's father to point out that my great-great-grandfather was a deadbeat dad fiend?
Young Charles, by the way, did not follow in his daddy's cowboy footsteps; by the age of 8, the poor kid was earning a living as a shepherd. Until the range wars, when some of those beloved cowboys symbolized by that statue gunned down all his sheep. Probably not on a Sunday, though. Heavens, no - that's the Sabbath.
I am picking on Texas and its State Capitol only because of the specifics of this Supreme Court ruling. The fact is, any state government in the U.S. is going to look a little phony tacking up Mosaic Law on its lawn next to statues of whatever Puritans or Hawaiian-queen-kidnappers are responsible for any given state's eventual statehood. Maybe phony is not the right word. Maybe the right word is sad.
Len on 07.17.05 @ 08:23 AM CST