About Corazon

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Colonial Halloween

Did the citizens of colonial America celebrate Halloween? The answer is yes, but not in the way you may think. An historian with Colonial Williamsburg points out just how different Halloween was for our colonial ancestors:
With the arrival of European immigrants to the United States of America, came the varied Halloween customs indigenous to their former homelands. However, due to the rigid Protestant beliefs which characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited in that particular area of the country. Halloween festivities were much more common in Maryland and the colonies located in the South. As the customs practiced by these varied European ethnic groups meshed with traditions employed by the native American Indians, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest. At these gatherings, neighbors would share stories of the dead, predict each others' fortunes, sing and make merry with dancing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and general mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th Century, annual Autumn festivals were quite common, but Halloween was still not yet celebrated throughout the entire country.

During the second half of the 19th Century, America became flooded with a new wave of immigrants. These new arrivals...especially the millions of Irish nationals who were fleeing from the Potato Famine of 1846...helped greatly in popularizing the celebration of Halloween on a country-wide level. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to don costumes and journey from house-to-house asking for food or money (the probable forerunners of today's "trick-or-treaters"). Young women held the belief that they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by performing tricks with yarn, apple peelings or mirrors.

happy halloween kat Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: The Anatomy of Fascism

The Anatomy of Fascism. By Robert Paxton. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Pp. xii, 220).

In our post-World War II society the word fascism has come to symbolize the epitome of evil and totalitarianism. Its association with the destructive forces of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy has caused many in our society to view fascism as the embodiment of malevolence. And while it is both appropriate and correct for the mainstream populace to interpret fascism as a negative force, the actual understanding of what fascism is has been terribly distorted. In his book, The Anatomy of Fascism historian Robert Paxton seeks to uncover the true definition of what fascism truly is, and how it is brought to fruition in world governments. Simply put, Paxton's book attempts to "rescue" fascism "from sloppy usage" in today's often ignorant pop-culture (21).

Instead of seeing fascism from the perspective of a concrete set of core beliefs, Paxton argues that fascism, as a movement, is a fluid "cycle of five stages" (23). These five stages are given a detailed breakdown and analysis in Paxton's book, as he dedicates the bulk of this work to their development. In the first of these five states, Paxton discusses the creation of fascist movements, by arguing that fascism cannot be understood as "a linear projection of any one nineteenth-century political tendency" but should instead be understood as a radical conservative movement. Paxton stresses the fact that we must understand fascism as an intensified form of conservatism as opposed to the more liberal agendas of socialism (44). Paxton also argues that fascism requires the fertile soil of nations immersed in crisis (as was the case with Adolf Hitler's Germany and Benito Mussolini's Italy) in order to grow into a legitimate movement. It is in this first stage (the initial planting/creation) that fascism is at its most vulnerable. As Paxton points out, most fascist movements die at this point, usually failing to gain any sort of momentum in their respective nations. In other words, the overwhelming majority of fascist movements fail to take root and grow, simply because they are extremely hard to plant and nourish in the modern political climate.

In the second of Paxton's five stages of fascism, the instability of nations in crisis causes the downtrodden of society to fully embrace a leader(s) who appears to represent and relate to their afflictions and struggles. At this stage, the fascist leader may not even fully embrace fascist ideas at this point, but upon gaining political power through the support of the masses, the leader "evolves" as do the political structures surrounding him/her. This rooting of fascist ideology into the political system of a nation essentially becomes the "make-or-break" moment for the newly sprouting fascist seedling. It is here that fascism will either quickly wither away or receive the popular backing (delivered to the masses by an effective and charismatic leader who represents their needs) of the people to become a legitimate national movement. According to Paxton, if the fascist movement is able to take root in this fashion, it will flourish by creating parallel structures of organization to that of the state. For the fascist, these new parallel structures will make the case that they can accomplish the same goals of the state governments, but with more efficiency (85). Simply put, the fascist leader is able to paint government as the source of the nation's problems, while at the same time garnering more political power for himself/herself via the newly established parallel government structures. In other words, the stage is set for a legitimate seizure of power under the disguise of popular liberation.

In Paxton's third stage, the "seizure of power," fascist leaders seize power via the traditional channels of their respective nation. Using Hitler and Mussolini as illustrations, Paxton shows how both men never gained power by an overthrow of government but instead used the regular channels of government (87). Paxton reminds the reader of Hitler's failed attempts to seize power, which landed him in prison in 1923. Instead of leading glorious coups, Paxton argues that fascism is only able to infiltrate nations via the established government avenues. It is only by building alliances with key military, business and civic leaders, and by offering alternatives to a demoralized citizenry, that fascism can have a chance at life. Once power is achieved via these means, the newly entrenched fascist government is able to use its political clout as a means of control and persuasion, essentially shutting the door on any would-be opponent. The popularity of the new government becomes the final deterrent to any and all protestation against the fascist leader. Simply put, opposition to the leader becomes opposition to the state, which becomes the unpardonable sin of anti-patriotism.

After effectively seizing power, the newly-created fascist government begins to exercise its authority in a dramatic way (the 4th stage of fascist development). In this stage, the fascist exercise of power involves a coalition of leader, party and the traditional government institutions (147). In essence, the fascist leadership takes the "popular pulse" of its citizenry by pushing its agenda right to the breaking point. Once popular resistance is met, the fascist party backs off by directing all unpopular attention to the traditional government institutions. In so doing, the fascist party is able to avoid the unwanted scrutiny while at the same time continuing to condemn the traditional government as the source of the problem. By consistently "pushing the envelope" and using government as its scapegoat, the fascist party is able to effectively shape popular support for further and more dramatic changes to the nation.

In Paxton's final stage of the fascist cycle, Radicalization v. Entropy, Paxton makes the case that the fascist regime is eventually faced the dilemma of either increasing its radial agenda or simply fading away into oblivion. In other words, the fascist party cannot and will not survive without its natural nourishment: further radicalization. Once denied, the fascist government cannot long survive. Paxton points out that war and genocide were textbook examples of how fascism breeds radicalism in the nation. For Hitler and Mussolini, World War II became the perfect well of radicalization since, "war generated the need for more extreme measures and popular acceptance of them" (155).

To conclude his work, Paxton suggests that the world has not seen the end of fascism. Paxton points out several modern day examples of where fascism met a favorable climate but was never able to fully flourish. Examples such as the Italian MSI of the 70s, Slobodan Milosevic's genocidal rampage, Pinochet's tyrannical rule of Chile, Franco's rule in Spain, and many others are examples of how fascism has reached at least partial growth in the post-Hitler/Mussolini world (205). However, Paxton is also quick to point out that while small examples of fascism have popped up from time-to-time, there has not been an example of a fascist movement reaching all five stages since Hitler's Germany. Even Mussolini didn't achieve all five stages. For Paxton, this is due to the overwhelming difficulty that fascism faces in order to achieve all five levels of development. In addition, this is why Paxton adamantly opposed the lackadaisical usage of the word fascism in today's politics. Fascist regimes are rare anomalies to be sure, but not improbable in today's world. Instead of constantly throwing up the fascist flag at the mere sight of any questionable political event, it is important that we first recognize and understand what fascism, at its core, really is. Anything else is just simple ignorance.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking With Corazon, Episode VII

Southwest Style
Pumpkin Soup

Ok, so I have never in my life tried pumpkin soup. In fact, the mere idea seemed strange to me. However, since I have accepted the fact that the majority of my meals over the years have been boring I was willing to give it a shot. The problem I faced was not knowing which direction to take this soup. I've read some recipes that were sweet and others that were more on the spicy side. Well, after talking it over with my cousin, Sarah (who is a professional chef in California) I decided to do both: make a sweet version AND a spicy one as well. Today I chose the SPICY:

I was really worried about this soup. After all, who has ever heard of a spicy Southwest pumpkin soup! And being that this was my first experience eating and making pumpkin soup, a part of me felt doomed to immediate culinary destruction. With that said, I am happy to report that this soup was AWESOME!!!! I loved every last bite.

Just FYI, this soup is a little on the spicy side. The Chipotle powder will put some hair on your chest if you don't respect it. However, the sweetness of the pumpkin and the brown sugar certainly do help to cancel a lot of the heat out, leaving just the flavor. And the flavor of this soup is OUTSTANDING! Like I said before, I loved every single bite. Here's the recipe:

1 tablespoon oil
1 red onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder (careful, she bites back!!!)
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups pumpkin puree
1 12 oz. can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 10 oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes & green chilies
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 handful cilantro (chopped, optional)
1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Add the onions and saute together with the garlic, chipotle powder, and S&P. for about 6-7 minutes.
3. Add the chicken broth, pumpkin puree, black beans, tomatoes and brown sugar and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Add freshly chopped cilantro and baked pumpkin seeds as garnish (optional)
5. SCARF!!!

For the pumpkin seeds I simply cleaned and dried them overnight and then baked them at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, with a little oil, salt, and yes, CHIPOTLE CHILE POWDER! (I love the heat in case you can't tell). But go light on it!

Up next: the sweeter version of pumpkin soup (thanks again, Sarah!).

A Typical Morning

Every morning, without fail, our bedroom is hijacked by two alpha-males, who end up shoving me aside to be next to their mom. They both fight like mad to see who gets to be closer, which is usually the noise that awakens our slumber EVERY SINGLE MORNING!!! Most of the time, I just give up and let them commandeer my bed. It just better end by the time they are 16!

I'm not sure why Jaxson was wearing a coat this particular morning. Usually he does come into our room wearing something different that he found.

Our crazy Spartan warrior!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pure in Heart: Mormon Zionism and the Market Revolution

As I have mentioned in my previous post, the Market Revolution of the early 1800s forced Americans to adopt a different outlook on religion. By "establishing capitalist hegemony over economy, politics and culture," the Market Revolution introduced American society to the tempting world of profit-seeking and worldly wealth (Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution, 5).

As attractive as the quest for monetary wealth was for the common American, an increasing number of citizens rose in opposition to the Market Revolution’s dramatic upheaval of traditional practices, claiming that its influence was a detriment to society. One young man in particular, who was destined to become the founder of one of America’s fastest growing religions, stood defiant against the Market Revolution’s doctrine of economic individualism. While in his youth, Joseph Smith became a fateful witness not only to his family’s financial woes, but also to the economic plight of the average citizen. While living in New York, Smith also observed first-hand the dramatic surge in religious revivalism that sought to oppose the presumed evils of the Market Revolution. As the founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, like so many other religious leaders of his time, took an antagonistic stance against the encroaching forces of capitalism. In an effort to safeguard his followers from the fires of capitalist corruption, Joseph Smith endeavored to create a religious Utopia, or as he called it, Zion. Though originally conceived in the economic quandary of his childhood family and his alleged communion with the supernatural, Joseph Smith’s concept of Zion was to be further molded from its original role as a physical safe haven from the evil influences of the Market Revolution, into an eternal object of heavenly aspiration for his followers.

One of the best ways to understand the roots of Mormon Zionism is to understand the place in which they were born. While still in his youth, Joseph Smith and his family decided to move to Palmyra, New York, which was a small community that fell victim to the sweeping fires of religious enthusiasm. It comes as no surprise that the great 19th century evangelist preacher, Charles Finney, would nickname the region as "The Burned-over District." Though still in his youth, Joseph Smith was keenly aware of the religious fanaticism that was sweeping the countryside. As he would later write in his personal history:
There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of the country, indeed the whole district of the Country seemed affected by it and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division among the people…Priest contended against priest, and convert against convert so that all their good feelings one for another were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 269-270).
Western New York was not only a witness to a spiritual revival, but also a capitalist one as well. As mentioned before, the sweeping changes of the Market Revolution were quickly spreading across the American landscape. In New York, thousands of immigrants hoped to find an economic solace that had been lacking in other regions of the republic. With the construction of the Erie Canal completed in 1825, the interior lands of New York -- including Smith's hometown of Palmyra -- were quickly catapulted to the forefront of economic affairs. New York quickly passed other port towns like New Orleans and Charlestown to become America's premiere economic juggernaut.

As is often the case with any major change, a large percentage of the American populace began to see the Market Revolution as a destructive force. The communal subsistence culture, which had tied family members and neighbors together in a tight web of economic and social interdependence, was quickly being replaced by the profit-driven mentality of the Market Revolution. As a result, hundreds of American families sought to reclaim the "lost" communal dependence and purity of the pre-Market Revolution era.

For a young and ambitious man like Joseph Smith, the religious atmosphere in and around western New York must have been intoxicating. With scores of "fire-breathing" ministers flooding the "Burned-over district" with their doctrine of hell, fire and damnation, it comes as no surprise that Smith would be confused about the eternal future of his soul. As Smith stated, "In the midst of this war of words, and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what is to be done? Who of all these parties is right…and how shall I know?" (Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 271).

After experiencing a number of alleged visions and communications with the divine, Joseph Smith later proclaimed himself to be a prophet. By so doing, he set himself up as the quintessential 19th century leader of his time. After all, experiencing heavenly visions and claiming to have communed with God was anything but atypical of Smith's time. As mentioned before, western New York was a literal hotbed of religious radicalism in the early years of the nineteenth century. Religious enthusiasts like Ann Lee, who became the founder of the Shaker movement, inspired her followers to embrace a communal lifestyle of celibacy and nonresistance, claiming that she had received a divine manifestation of Christ’s impending return. Jemima Wilkinson, who founded the Community of the Publick Universal Friend, also claimed divine revelation, and insisted that Christ had chosen her as his personal messenger, sent to prepare the world for millennial glory. Like Ann Lee, Wilkinson also established a communal order of celibacy and economic equality. The New Israelites, led by a man named Winchell and Oliver Cowdery, also preached divine revelation that pointed to an impending millennial apocalypse. When put in the light of his contemporaries, Joseph Smith’s paranormal claims seem less atypical and more mainstream.

Having endured the struggles of economic poverty and religious uncertainty, Joseph Smith's prophetic appeal resonated with literally thousands of others that had endured the same hardships, or as Smith biographer, Richard Bushman put it, "He had endured the agonies of thousands in his generation and could speak to their sorrows" (Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 55). His alleged visitations had solidified Smith's resolve to follow God's admonition to "Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion" (Doctrine & Covenants 14:6).

In addition to his personal revelations regarding the establishment of Zion, Joseph Smith's Utopian ideology was further molded by his alleged translation of the "Golden Plates," which later became the infamous Book of Mormon. As one of its central theses, The Book of Mormon relates the tale of two rival societies, whose peace and prosperity are solely determined by the communal faith and devotion of their respective populace. On numerous occasions, The Book of Mormon makes specific mention of how God intends to grant specific blessings, which are exclusively reserved for those that seek to establish Zion:
"And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb" (1 Nephi 13:37).
In addition to everlasting life, the God of The Book of Mormon promises worldly protection against the foes of his elect people:
"And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it." (1 Nephi 22:14)
Despite these promises, the God of The Book of Mormon does not neglect to mention the punishments that await the unfaithful disciple of this Utopian community:
"But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish…Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!" (2 Nephi 28:24).
For a young man who had endured economic turmoil and religious fanaticism while in his youth, the doctrine of The Book of Mormon provided both clarity and purpose. The Market Revolution’s emphasis on personal gain and worldly wealth was now shrouded in the evil vanities mentioned in The Book of Mormon. For Joseph Smith and his followers, God’s biblical admonition to, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" took on a new meaning in the emerging capitalist climate of the early nineteenth century (1 John 2:15). By placing their faith in the idea that, “the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it,” scores of downtrodden citizens found a glimmer of hope in the newly emerging doctrine of Mormon Zionism (2 Nephi 24:32).

For these early Mormons, establishing a communal society proved a much more daunting task than initially thought. The emerging market society of western New York, combined with its hostile reception of the doctrine contained in The Book of Mormon forced Joseph Smith and his followers to look elsewhere for their blessed Zion. In response to these problems, Joseph Smith again laid claim to divine intervention that commanded the Mormon prophet to move his flock west into Ohio (Doctrine & Covenants 38:32) In response to Smith’s alleged revelation, hundreds of early Mormon converts sold their homes and made their way to the town of Kirtland, Ohio, where Smith promised his followers the communal peace they had longed for. A short time later, Smith claimed to have received another revelation, which proclaimed Jackson County, Missouri to be the place for God's holy Zion (Doctrine & Covenants 57: 2-3).

To further the special nature of this holy land located on the fringe of American society, Joseph Smith claimed that God intended Zion to become a “New Jerusalem,” where he would prepare the world for the anticipated return of Christ and the commencement of his millennial reign. As Joseph Smith stated in his Thirteen Articles of Mormon Faith, "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent." (Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 437).

The idea of a “New Jerusalem” brought additional meaning to the Mormon concept of Zion. In a manner similar to John Winthrop’s proclamation of Massachusetts as a “city on a hill,” Joseph Smith’s “New Jerusalem” was to not only be a communal society of pious disciples, but an “ensign unto the people” of every nation (Doctrine & Covenants 64: 42).

With such a bold proclamation as to its heavenly purpose, it comes as no surprise that the quest to establish God’s “New Jerusalem” became the premiere doctrine of Mormon Theology. The drive to establish a Utopian world free from the discord of worldly affairs was an appealing alternative when juxtaposed with the cutthroat nature of the emerging market society. It is therefore no surprise that the Mormon community found scores of new converts that were willing to embrace a communal lifestyle, which shunned the malevolence of the world around them. In conjunction with their anticipation of millennial ecstasy, the Mormon message became a powerful beacon of hope in a world of cruelty. The Mormon hymn O Saints of Zion provides an in-depth look into how these feelings of millennial anticipation and communal devotion helped shape Mormon identity:
O saints of Zion, hear the voice Of Him from courts on high.
Prepare the pathway of the Lord; His reign on earth is nigh.
Prepare the supper of the Lamb; Invite the world to dine.
Behold the mighty Bridegroom comes In majesty divine.

Behold the glory of the Lord Sets Zion’s mount aglow.
For Zion is an ensign pure; All nations to her flow.
O Saints of Zion tread the paths Your faithful fathers trod.
Lift up your hears in gratitude And serve the living God
One can only imagine the feelings of excitement and apprehension that gripped the earliest Mormon settlers of Zion. Their arrival to Independence, Missouri, which was nothing more than a remote outpost on America’s frontier, must have reminded many of them of their Pilgrim ancestors who had migrated across the Atlantic to establish a religious Utopia of their own. With only a handful of fur trappers and Native American traders, Independence was a far cry from what the Mormons had experienced in Kirtland. Though most of the state was still considered frontier land, the early advances of the Market Revolution had begun to take hold in Missouri as well. Thanks to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state, thousands of slave-owners migrated west in an effort to stake their claim. In addition, scores of zealous fur traders, who anxiously hoped to expand their business westward, used Missouri as an access point of sorts. As a result, Missouri’s population swelled to roughly 140,000 in 1830. By 1840, the population had more than doubled to over 300,000. Missouri’s reputation as the “Gateway State” obviously had an appeal that included much more than the Mormon population. Joseph Smith’s Utopian hopes had yet again landed the Mormons in the center of an emerging market-centered community (For a detailed look at the census records of Missouri in the early 1800s click here).

To help “persuade” these religious “radicals” of their errors, the Mormon opposition in Missouri resorted to violence. Mormon churches, homes and businesses were regularly destroyed and then blamed on the Mormon leadership. Joseph Smith and other leaders were routinely imprisoned, tarred and feathered, and given poison while incarcerated. Mormon women, some of whom were still in their youth, were the unfortunate victims of mob rape. One woman in particular was left bound and naked in a Mormon church, where sixteen men repeatedly raped her (Hyrum Smith "The Testimony of Hyrum Smith," from History of the Church, vol.3, 422). The persecution eventually became so intense that the Missouri government prohibited Mormons from voting or owning property. This anti-Mormon sentiment even permeated the executive office of the state, where Governor Lilburn Boggs declared that, “the Mormons must be subdued…and if it should become necessary for the public peace…should be exterminated or expelled from the state” (Governor Lilburn Boggs to General Lucas, Oct. 27, 1838, from History of the Church, vol.3, 422).

With mounting persecution and no means to seek redress, Joseph Smith and his followers were forced to abdicate their landholdings in Jackson County. Those who had willingly given up all of their property and assets for the construction of Zion were left completely destitute with little to no prospects of reclaiming their wealth. Understandably, a large number of these early Mormon converts forsook their faith and returned to their roots. After all, Zion had been the principle component of early Mormon theology. In many respects it was the equivalent of what the Kaaba is for the Muslim or the Vatican is for the Catholic. For many Mormons, Zion’s defeat essentially signified a defeat of Mormonism. Virtually all of one’s faith, hope and salvation were dependant upon Zion’s success, or as one revelation put it, “For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (Doctrine & Covenants 78: 6). Simply put for the faithful Mormon, without Zion there could be no salvation.

Faced with such a daunting challenge, it comes as no surprise that Joseph Smith, yet again, received a divine manifestation that would forever change the scope of Zion’s appeal. After the loss of their lands in Missouri, Joseph Smith claimed to have received a holy revelation, which proclaimed Zion to be an indestructible institution, where the faithful would forever bask in the glory of God himself. As the revelation stated, “Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there” (Doctrine & Covenants 97: 19) But how could this be? Zion’s demise in Missouri had been a certain outcome of mob violence and political negligence. How could Zion possibly return in the wake of such hostility? It was here that Smith’s alleged revelation made a startling proclamation that forever changed the concept of Mormon Zionism: “Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—The Pure in Heart.” (Doctrine & Covenants 97: 21). On the surface, Smith’s revelation seems to be nothing more than a play on semantics. A deeper inquiry, however, reveals that this simple proclamation, “The Pure in Heart,” was actually a complete overhaul of the Mormon conception of Zionism. Instead of being conceived as a palpable reality of the physical world, Zion became a metaphysical object of personal and heavenly worth. In essence, “The Pure in Heart” signified an individualistic approach to becoming one with both God and community.

Uncovering the true motivations behind Mormon Zionism is a difficult undertaking to say the least. In posing such an inquiry, one naturally desires to question the validity of Joseph Smith’s alleged revelations, along with his self-proclaimed prophetic mission. Naturally, there are those who will proclaim Smith to be nothing more than, “a mythmaker of prodigious talent,” who sought nothing more than to redeem his family from financial distress (Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, ix). Others, however, will insist that Smith’s life was spent in the labor of his fellow men, as a true prophet of God. Determining the validity of either argument is unquestionably a futile effort, and therefore becomes an irrelevant argument to the historical inquiry. Instead, Joseph Smith and the movement he created should be understood from the perspective of their era. The explosion of capitalist economics at the beginning of the nineteenth-century set the foundation upon which Joseph Smith would construct his Utopian philosophy. The economic plight of his childhood became the initial string of rebellion, which Joseph Smith would eventually weave into a tapestry of capitalist defiance. With the addition of his alleged heavenly revelations and prophetic destiny, Joseph Smith effectively established a utopian doctrine of communal dependence and market defiance. The widespread appeal of his message helped Smith effectively establish a Mormon safe haven in Zion, where the faithful were nurtured in a spirit of communalism. Once confronted by market enthusiasm and anti-Mormon hostility, Smith’s quest to establish Zion was transformed from a physical place of refuge into a heavenly object of eternal desire. By successfully adopting a new concept of utopian existence, Mormon Zionism was equipped to survive into far into the 21st century and beyond.

Religion and Capitalism in Early America

One of my favorite books during my time in graduate school was, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 by Charles Sellers. In this book, Sellers attempts to discover the roots of American capitalism by analyzing first the roots of the American subsistence and bartering economy, which was both highly localized and an extremely intimate means of tying neighbors together in a communal relationship of trust. However, Sellers argues that this communal system of economics was quickly replaced by the emergence of market capitalism during the early years of the 19th century. He writes:
By 1815 the combined influence of Federalism and entrepreneurial Republicanism had completed an essential stage of the market revolution by committing the commercial states to the political economy of capitalism (40).
As a result, the means by which goods were bought, shipped, sold etc. had been changed, catapulting the new nation into a frenzy of capitalist expansion. States like New York were quick to take advantage of this capitalist explosion. The completion of the Erie Canal for example, illustrates just how much the United States had changed in the ways in which it conducted business since the founding era. Goods were now being shipped across the nation and the Atlantic as farmers, merchants, etc. converted from their traditional bartering system by embracing a capitalist mindset to the production and sale of their goods.

Not everyone, however, was happy with this change. After all, the communal/bartering system of economics, which had literally tied neighbors and towns together in a web of mutual dependence, was being pulled out from under their feet. Scores of impoverished families who had fallen victim to the swift changes brought on by market economics sought refuge and understanding in the wake of their local disaster.

As is often the case during difficult times, these downtrodden masses sought the security and reassurance of religion to alleviate their troubles. And since the American religious landscape was already caught up in a storm of Christian revival -- i.e. the Second "Great Awakening" -- citizens did not have to look far to find a pastor that was ready and willing to hear their plea. As a result, many pastors resorted to castigating the Market Revolution as being the fruits of greed and personal selfishness. Originally spawned by the passionate late 18th century pastors like Johnathan Edwards, Samuel Hopkins and others, the "New Divinity" hoped to capture the minds and hearts of its followers by presenting a creed based on "disinterested benevolence," which shunned personal gain in favor of communal security. As Sellers states:
For intensely pressured Yankees, the New Divinity's apocalyptic utopia was an irresistible fantasy of surcease from market pressures. Amid "universal peace, love, and general and cordial friendship." Hopkins (and others) promised "no unrighteous persons" would "invade the rights and property of others." Invoking one of the subsistence culture's favorite Biblical images, he declared that "every one shall securely sit under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid." Lawsuits, luxury, and waste would cease. There would be "such benevolence and fervent charity" that "all worldly things will be in great degree common, so as not to be withheld from any who may want them" (207).
For a people caught between the "tug-o-war" of capitalist economics and religious communal Utopianism, this division became extremely personal. As could be expected, those who reaped success from the newfound opportunities of the Market Revolution saw their personal gain as the result of hard work, dedication, and divine intervention. Those on the "losing" end of the equation, however, were quick to accept the new doctrine of communal economics that pointed the finger at emerging Market forces as being, "the Biblically predicted time of rampant discord and worldliness that would immediately precede the Millennium" (207).

Of course this cultural "back-and-forth" between personal economic gain v. the prosperity of the community was nothing new in early America. For decades, Americans had argued that the personal greed often associated with capitalism would lead to the undoing of the whole by eventually concentrating the majority of wealth into the hands of the few. Even Adam Smith, the so-called "father" of capitalism understood just how polarizing the ideals of capitalism could be on the masses when he wrote:
The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor...The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess...It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion
In a letter to Benjamin Vaughn, Benjamin Franklin also pointed out his distrust of the elite having too much money and power in their hands. Using an analogy to prove his point, Franklin writes:

When by virtue of the first Laws Part of the Society accumulated Wealth and grew Powerful, they enacted others more severe, and would protect their Property at the Expense of Humanity. This was abusing their Powers, and commencing a Tyranny. If a Savage before he enter’d into Society had been told, Your Neighbour by this Means may become Owner of 100 Deer, but if your Brother, or your Son, or yourself, having no Deer of your own, and being hungry should kill one of them, an infamous Death must be the Consequence; he would probably have prefer’d his Liberty, and his common Right of killing any Deer, to all the Advantages of Society that might be propos’d to him.

And while the early years of American capitalism were clouded in a fog of religious and popular skepticism, it is clear that today's American capitalism has been "piggy-backed" with the belief that God sanctions capitalism above all others. When and how this transition occurred is, well, another topic for another day.

***Tomorrow's Post: What the emergence of market economics meant to the early Mormon Church.***

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking With Corazon, Episode VI

Pumpkin Pie

A special thanks to the Closet Cooking blog (awesome food blog, BTW) for this recipe. And in all seriousness, this recipe is as easy as...PUMPKIN PIE:


2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar

This was pretty good. Not overpowering. Nice and smooth like a milkshake should be.

Colorado Springs Zoo is THE BEST!

Here's some older pics from last year. I'm still moving some of the older family pics over to my new blog, so I apologize for not posting anything new. It will happen...just give me time. These pics are of one of our many trips to the WORLD FAMOUS Colorado Springs Zoo, which really is one of the coolest zoos I have ever been to.

Jaxson checking out the tigers!

The Colorado Springs Zoo just finished its newest exhibit, which features three grizzly bears. It was pretty impressive!

With the water tank next to the glass, the bears are very easy to see.

Zakary having a blast!

Hanging out with Mom!

Jaxson on his favorite ride.

Zakary's first time on a ride of any kind.

Checking out the gorillas.

Over Christmas, this mother gorilla gave birth to a new baby! At first the baby was not expected to survive, but as you can see, the baby is thriving today.

Jaxson and Zakary saying hi to a "distant cousin."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trip to the Colorado Railroad Museum

**This is from a year back or so, but since I am trying to convert all the family stuff over to my new blog I thought I would go ahead and post this**

This past week, our family paid a visit to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. Here are a few pictures and videos from the trip:

Here is the entrance to the Colorado Railroad Museum. Inside there is a LARGE assortment of toy trains that are sure to make your three-year-old drool with delight. The building also houses a number of smaller artifacts and exhibits from the early days of Colorado railroading.

Here are Jaxson and Mom standing next to the oldest train in the museum. For a boy that plays and dreams about trains 24/7, this museum was like heaven on earth!

Jaxson working hard as the conductor for the day.

This is a 19th century passenger car that was exclusively reserved for the "Jet Set" passenger. The seats actually reclined to about the same degree as the coach seats on an airplane (which as we all know is not much).
Here is the first of two videos that we took. Like I mentioned before, Jaxson was walking on air the whole time, as you can tell from the video.

Dad and Jaxson hanging out in one of the many engines.

Playing with all of the gauges and buttons of an old engine!

Jaxson and Zakary taking in all of the sites!

Jaxson was not the only one that enjoyed the museum. Though only a year old, Zakary could not be contained!

Zakary hanging out with his most favorite person in the world. Yes, he is the biggest "Momma's boy" I have ever met!

Jaxson playing on the caboose. Not as cool as an engine, but it will do.

Dad and Jaxson uncoupling the train cars.

The little man going the wrong way.
And here is the final video:

So, if you are ever passing through Golden, Colorado keep in mind that the town has a lot more to see than the stupid factory for Coors beer. The Colorado Railroad Museum is sure to not disappoint, especially if you have the imagination and energy of a three-year-old!

Conference on Ellen White and the Seventh-day Adventists

Over at the Religion in American History blog, historians Randall Stevens and Amanda Porterfield have written a couple of interesting posts on the Conference of Ellen White, which took place this past weekend in Portland, Maine. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ellen White, she was an extremely provocative and influential figure of American religious history (one of the few women who can lay claim to such a distinction), who helped to shape the Christian landscape of 19th century America.

As co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, White's life and legacy are of paramount importance to the doctrine and beliefs of over 15 million adherents world wide. In fact, her works (often referred to as the "lesser light") are regularly read in conjunction with the Holy Bible ("greater light") and are accepted as official doctrine of the church.

And though most of my historical interests center on the religious history of the 17th and 18th centuries, I think it would be a mistake to omit Ellen White and the Adventists from the ongoing inquiry into religion and the founding. The Adventist Church has become both a powerful and influential movement in American history. Their devotion to medicine and education is profound to say the least. They are certainly worthy of further research and discussion, and this Conference on Ellen White provides a unique chance to do just that.

At this conference, a group of specialists on Ellen White and the Adventists, have collaborated on a joint book effort (to be published by Oxford University Press), which they hope will help shed light on this often forgotten figure of American religious history. As Randall Stephens (who attended the conference) states:
I know so little about White and Adventism—something I found on further investigation that I share with other participants Spencer Fluhman, Peggy Bendroth, and some others—that I hesitated to take part at first. But the organizers hoped that those outside the field would ask broad questions about research and writing. I rushed to my library to read Ron Numbers’s bio Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White. Yet, I only had time to crack the book. So, into the breach. The papers/chapters have been fascinating. I never knew how much White, and her contemporary Adventists, was wrapped up in sex reform, visionary mysticism, the shouting Methodist tradition, hydrotherapy, vegetarianism, creationism . . . and on and on. Panels have been asking about the 19th-century context of Adventism, the legacy and influence of White, and the role of emotion in religious experience.
In addition, Amanda Porterfield posts two of the more provocative questions brought up during the conference:
Randall Stephens posed the question, how did Ellen White build a movement out of the discredited wreck of the Millerite movement, and in the face of public scorn? Part of the answer is that her husband and other handlers enabled her success. Her own interpersonal and organizational skills obviously contributed to her authority, and to the authority of her visions. Her emphasis on the Saturday Sabbath enabled believers to separate themselves from others, and also to raid mainline protestant groups for recruits. Both recruits and longtime members relished the perfectionist discipline that promised to bring them into close relationship to heaven. This dynamic allowed for reversing scorn visited on Adventists back onto others.

Spencer Fluhman asked the question, why was Ellen White reproached and vilified by people outside of her movement? Clues to the answer might be found in protestant narratives that instantiated the fiction of mainstream Christianity and used Adventism, like Mormonism, as a foil against which “American” Christianity could be defined. White participated in this dynamic with some enthusiasm, even as her self-proclaimed alterity exerted its own pressure on American society, and on protestant denominations, especially with respect to temperance, diet, and health.
Interesting questions on an important and often ignored religion that has had a dramatic impact on American Christianity.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The "Melancholy" of Meriwether Lewis

The study of mental health is, for the most part, a relatively new field of science. For centuries the human race has had little to no understanding of how the mind processes or responds to the various stimuli and experiences of an individual's life. For the most part, the common understanding of mental health throughout history has been to categorize individuals as "lunatics," "insane," or "melancholy." This lack of knowledge regarding the proper diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues often led to tragic tales of individuals locked away in asylums, or of men and women taking their own lives out of desperation.

The early American republic, despite its great advances in government and politics, was still a world of ignorance when it came to medical and mental science. Doctors possessed little to no understanding of the causes or treatments of mental illness. As a result, many early Americans were forced to deal with the various forms of mental illness on their own.

Such was the case for the heroic early American explorer, Meriwether Lewis. As a young man, Lewis was labeled as being, "prone to long bouts of melancholy." In fact, Lewis' good friend, Thomas Jefferson, described him as, "a man of good sense, integrity, bravery and enterprise" but also, "prone at times to sensible depressions of the mind...that seem to persist in the family."

Even during his infamous trek across the American countryside, Lewis seemed troubled by what his subordinates called "deep bouts of melancholy." Though Lewis never mentioned such troubles himself, one can easily see a pattern of highs and lows in his journal. For instance, Lewis would go weeks without writing a single thing down (even though President Jefferson had insisted that he keep a record of every day), while on other occasions he would fill several pages with his ramblings on mundane issues. In addition, William Clark and others noted how Lewis would refuse to get out of bed one day, while being the first to rise and go full throttle on another.

By most standards, it appears that Lewis suffered from Bipolar Disorder. One of the typical features of this disorder is a pattern of extreme highs and extreme lows. The individual will commonly experience a profound period of deep depression, in which they are unable to cope with common daily issues. After a period of time, the individual will experience a complete change in their emotional state, in which the depression is replaced by a state of extreme euphoria. During this period, the individual may feel that they can literally conquer the world. Again, after time, this stage will cycle back to depression.

And while "psycho history" is virtually impossible to document with any degree of certainty, Meriwether Lewis appears to be a textbook case for this disorder. During his "low" times, Lewis was inconsolable, often seeking seclusion from society. During the "high" moments, Lewis was a fireball of energy and ambition. Throughout the trek west, Lewis would commonly attempt to cross several dangerous rapids or stare danger in the face without flinching. At other times, he was virtually impossible to motivate or talk to.

When it came to religion, Lewis' apparent struggles with depression often got the better of him. On a number of occasions, Lewis' friends (including Thomas Jefferson and William Clark) would urge the brave explorer to rely more on the power of God to overcome his "melancholy." Not understanding that Lewis' problems stemmed from a chemical imbalance, those who suggested prayer, fasting, etc. as a cure for Lewis' problems were inadvertently pouring gasoline on a fire. As a result, Lewis was known by those closest to him as agnostic or even profane when it came to his religious beliefs. One can only wonder how Lewis' struggles with depression could have effected his communion with God.

Unfortunately, Lewis's mental illness would eventually get the better of him. On the night of October 11, 1809, while his party stayed the night in the cabin of a Mrs. Grinder, the life of Meriwether Lewis came to an abrupt and tragic end. According to Mrs. Grinder, Lewis appeared to be in a state of profound depression. The depression was severe enough that the men accompanying Lewis that night actually contemplated tying him to the bed for the duration of the night. Mrs. Grinder stated that she witnessed Lewis "pacing around the home...speaking to himself in a violent manner."

Later that evening, while preparing to retire, Mrs. Grinder heard a shot ring out, and Lewis shouting, "O Lord!" Lewis had shot himself in the chest. In the early hours of the morning, Lewis finally succumbed to the self-inflicted wound.

Though the story of Meriwether Lewis ends sadly and abruptly, it serves as a wonderful illustration to historians of the realities of mental illness. By no means are these illnesses exclusively reserved for the modern individual. We would all do well to remember that people of the past, just as they do today, suffered greatly from the afflictions of the mind.


Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuler Inc., 1996.

Frank Bergon, ed., The Journals of Lewis and Clark. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.

Richard Dillon, Meriwether Lewis. New York: Cowart-McCann Inc., 1965.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cooking With Corazon, Episode V

Glorious Rice Pudding

I am a freak for rice pudding. But since I am a novice at this cooking thing I needed an easy recipe that I could both understand and EXECUTE. Well, here's a great one for all that leftover rice you may have. And remember, God intended for us to eat rice as RICE PUDDING!!!

The recipe is crazy easy. Here ya go:

2 cups leftover cooked white rice
3 cups milk (any kind)
1/2 cup sugar
small pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
pinch nutmeg, optional

Combine rice, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla and raisins. Cook until just about all of the milk is absorbed (25-30 minutes). Stir in cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if using.

Oh, and SCARF!!!!!!! And remember, this really is how God wants us to eat rice!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What is Evangelicalism?

And How Does It Apply To
The "Christian Nation" Debate

For anyone that has read my blog at any length, you are aware that one of my favorite topics is the "Christian Nation" debate. In today's pop-culture, everyone from religious leaders to politicians have weighed in on the topic. And while I do not believe that America is "Christian Nation" (such a belief sounds quite anti-Christian in my opinion) I do recognize that many groups do. And of course one of the main groups that advocate such a belief are American Evangelicals. But what exactly is their role? And, perhaps more importantly, what is Evangelicalism? Now, of course most people have a general idea of what Evangelicalism is. The doctrines are easy to find and easy to understand. With that said, I want to dive a little deeper into a different interpretation of Evangelicalism and particularly its role in developing the "Christian Nation" thesis.

At first glimpse, Evangelicalism may appear to have nothing to do with the Christian Nation debate. However, when we realize its massive role in developing a general consensus amongst a variety of different faiths, we can see that Evangelicalism is at the very heart of the debate. And when we understand how Evangelicalism breeds a particular definition of what it means to be "Christian," we can see how so many people are able to accept (albeit incorrectly in my opinion) how the founding fathers were, in their opinion, Evangelical Christians themselves.

Webster's Dictionary defines "Evangelicalism" as:

1: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels
2: protestant
3: emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual

Personally I take issue with these definitions NOT because I consider myself to be an Evangelical but rather because I am NOT an Evangelical. These definitions could relate to a number of religions that are clearly not unique to only Evangelicals. In addition, the 2nd definition makes the assumption that all Protestants are Evangelicals, and this is simply not true for a number of self-proclaimed Protestants who outright reject the "Evangelical" label.

So here, in my opinion, is a better definition:

A wide-reaching definitional “canopy” that covers a diverse number of Protestant groups.

I realize that this definition is perhaps too simplistic and much more could go into developing a better definition of Evangelicalism. It's also worth noting that the term has meant different things at different points of American history. For example, during the Great Awakening, Evangelical religion/teaching was understood to mean "revivalistic" religion. Pretty much the same is true of the enthusiastic revivalist preachings that took place in the early years of the 1800s. At the beginning of the 20th century Evangelicalism essentially was seen as a pro-Christian but anti-fundamentalist faith. And in our days -- since roughly the 1970s -- Evangelicalism has come to mean -- at least for some people -- a group of politically conservative Christians who are active on social issues.

Now, it's not my intention to really debate the accuracy of these definitions. After all, they are just labels that were given over the course of history. I do, however, want to look at how Evangelicalism has grown to play such a prominent role in developing the "Christian Nation" thesis that they so vehemently defend.

One interesting way of understanding how and why Evangelicalism was able to interject itself so well into the "Christian Nation" debate -- and in addition was able to cross over so many Christian faiths with opposing views -- is to see modern Evangelicalism as more than just a religious set of beliefs, but as also an ECONOMIC venture. As Dr. Bart Barber states:

I suggest that, for the period from around 1970 through the present day, Evangelicalism is broadly conceivable as a primarily economic term. Evangelicalism is an industry containing Focus on the Family, Compassion International, Contemporary Christian Music, major Christian publishing houses, dating services like Equally Yoked, and myriad other business ventures.


As an economic market, Evangelicalism has done a lot of good. The variety of music, literature, film, and other media available to North American Christians is greater today than in days past largely because of Evangelicalism. For that I am thankful. Also, the likelihood of Christians obtaining justice for the unborn and others in our society is much greater because of the political influence that has come through the consolidation of Christian political influence under the banner of Evangelicalism.

However, Dr. Barber also acknowledges that this recent trend has produced some negative traits as well:

It is in the interest of Evangelicalism to pretend that theological concepts that have been important for thousands of years are no longer important. Because no individual denominational market is big enough to sustain modern Evangelicalism, the movement must de-emphasize denominational distinctives. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, Christians have not tended to divide in the past over minutiae. The nature of salvation, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Trinity, the church—Evangelicalism must relegate these things to relative unimportance in order for the market to coalesce. So, it emphasizes other things—things that are important themselves—to the exclusion of these "divisive" issues. The measure of a doctrine's importance becomes not its scriptural emphasis or theological gravity, but its ability to unite the core market.

Now, I am not saying that the current "Christian Nation" debate is purely motivated by economic forces, nor do I believe that Evangelicalism's #1 goal is to make money as opposed to defending and preaching their beliefs. That would be pure nonsense. However, I do think that Dr. Barber's argument can help us understand how the "Christian Nation" movement has become so large and wide-spread amongst a number of different churches. Movements like the "Moral Majority" and others had to find a way to build bridges with a number of different Christian faiths. So did the modern "Christian Nation" movement.

I don't think there can be any doubt that Christian conservatism has become a very powerful political force in recent years. I think this can be attributed -- at least in part -- to the efforts of modern Evangelicalism to cross theological barriers and build upon common beliefs. I believe that the same can be said of the "Christian Nation" debate. In today's debate over the founders and religion, we can easily see Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, non-denominationals, etc. all embracing a common religious and historical heritage. Men like David Barton, D. James Kennedy and others have regularly been guests in Southern Baptists chapels and in Mormon chapels as well. Yet these churches still maintain certain divisions based on theological differences. How then could they argue that the Founding Fathers were "Christians?"

It's my argument that despite these differences in theology, Evangelicalism, in general, has helped to shape the way people define "Christianity." Though a Presbyterian may insist on the doctrine of predestination, he/she can still accept the idea of a non-denominational going to heaven, since they share a general concept of Christianity. Is the same standard being given to the founders? I think so. Men like Washington and Jefferson -- Anglican/Episcopalians by birth -- are accepted into the "Christian" fold, despite the obvious differences that exist between the Episcopal Church and the other "Evangelical" churches.

Now, I recognize that small divisions on a few theological issues does not necessarily mean that one Christian denomination condemns the other of heresy. However, it would be silly to simply dismiss these differences entirely. They exist for a reason, which is why we have so many faiths. For the "Christian Nation," this can be a blessing. Perhaps Washington never took communion, never prayed on his knees, adopted a more unitarian tone in his "God talk," and may have even rejected the traditional Christianity of his day, but he was, for these Evangelical apologists, a Christian. Maybe Ben Franklin had doubts as to Christ's divinity, lived a life of questionable morals, etc. but he was, by their definition, a Christian. Maybe Patrick Henry and James Madison differed greatly on their understanding and practice of religion, but both men were, by their definition, Christian men. Maybe Thomas Paine hated priests and pastors and wrote scathing commentaries on religion, but he was, by this definition, a Christian. In other words, the somewhat hazy definition behind Evangelical Christianity allows a lot of "wiggle room" for the founders to be considered Christians. And it also affords the "Christian Nation" apologist plenty of leeway in claiming the founders as Christians.

So I guess my point is this: A large number of Protestant faiths, despite their differences on various theological points, are able to accept the founders as "Christians" thanks in part to the impact that Evangelicalism has had on creating a generalized template for what qualifies a person as a "Christian." Though the founders held to a wide range of beliefs, all are able to qualify for the "Christian" label in some way.

Perhaps this means that the term "Christian Nation" is too generalized and we need something a little more specific? I think so.

Cartoon Propaganda/Racism: Volume XI

Soviet Cartoon, "Someone Else's Voice," 1949:

This one is great! The best Soviet cartoon I have seen to date. The obvious symbolism of the magpie who had gone off to "foreign lands" only to become corrupted by style, fashion, worldly good (like the Magpie's necklace) is pretty funny! I also liked seeing how the Magpie "sang it's own song," which of course made the other birds of the forest mad since she wouldn't sing in "harmony" with everyone else.

Great stuff!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Newt Gingrich on the Founding Fathers: Ugh...Here We Go Again!

Over at one of my favorite blogs, Historiann comments on the ongoing (and never ending) "custody battle" over the legacy of the founding fathers. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's comments that the founders of this nation "would all be appalled" by the Obama Administration's spending spree has caused some historians and fans of early America to cry, "foul!"

Yes, these two intellectual "heavy hitters" (Hannity and Gingrich) have succumbed to that ageless American tradition of proclaiming to one and all that early America was a perfect Utopian world free from political strife, where all Americans embraced political unity and shared in the superior intellect and understanding that was exclusively unique to only that generation of Americans.

Only one problem: early America wasn't all a "happy, happy, joy joy" time. As Historiann points out:
Let’s not romanticize the early Republic, m’kay? This is a period in which the modest revolutionary promise of the 1770s was thoroughly and utterly strangled. Maybe this is why I’ve never been drawn to do research in this period: I find it to be an utterly depressing and demoralizing period in American history, but many people like to pretend it was totally awesome for every American, when clearly, it wasn’t: there’s ethnic cleansing of Native Americans in the Northwest Territory and later in Cherokee country, Anglo-American women are being told to shut up and sing louder about how awesome things are, and get this: slavery is going to become even more dehumanizing and unendurable! More African American families will be further destabilized because of the invention of the Cotton Gin and the expansion of cotton culture into the Old Southwest. States like Maryland and Virginia that have been aggressively farmed since the seventeenth century discovered that their most profitable export crop would be slaves.
And though I certainly do not share her utterly depressing view of early America (I am probably biased...it's my favorite era of history to study) I do agree that the founding era of this country is often misrepresented in our current pop-culture. Life wasn't pure bliss for many women, poor families, Native Americans, Blacks (free and slave), immigrants, etc. Now, with that said I also agree with historian Gordon Wood who states in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, that of all the places to live on planet earth in the 18th century, the American colonies/early America was probably at or near the top of the list. Let's just be careful with assuming that it was a PERFECT society, shall we!

And then of course there is Newt's "brilliant" statement that ALL the founding fathers would be united in their disgust for the current Obama Administration. Now, perhaps Newt is right in part. The founders would be utterly shocked to see a Black man as president. After all, they lived in an era where African Americans had zero say in government affairs, so I guess Newt is right in a roundabout way. However, if we put the racism of early America aside, I think Newt gets this one wrong.

Sure, several of the founders would be appalled at the current economic plan of the Obama Administration (and the Bush Administration before him). Thomas Jefferson and James Madison certainly come to mind. Jefferson was, among other things, passionately against government involvement in almost every facet of life. He strongly believed that government intervention in the affairs of man could be equated to slavery. In essence, Jefferson was very much a Libertarian. However, there are others who would be extremely happy with America's massive bureaucracy and federal involvement with the economy. To be certain, Alexander Hamilton is probably not be rolling over in his grave with anger but is instead smiling with glee. After all, this is the man who essentially proposed America's first ever "bail out" (a topic I have written on before and which you can read by clicking here). In addition, most of the Federalists would probably be close to as happy with things as Hamilton.

And this brings me to an important point: this whole argument over government intervention v. individual autonomy is far from new in the American experience. In fact, it's as old as is the nation itself. It was this debate which caused Vice President Jefferson to openly attack his "superior," President John Adams, who in return passed the unconstitutional Alien & Sedition Acts which he hoped would squash any and all of his critics. It was this basic issue that caused Jefferson to dramatically reduce federal spending in virtually all arenas during his presidency, and which caused his successor, James Madison, to confront the British in the War of 1812 with almost zero military of any kind. It is this basic issue that even caused the "father" of our nation, George Washington, to create the unpopular but economically driven Jay Treaty with Britain; a treaty that cost Washington a great deal of political support as his critics (again, led by Jefferson) openly questioned the president's bold decision.

In conclusion, I have no problem with Gingrich's questioning of Obama. I myself am against massive government spending. With that said, whenever I hear someone exclaim "What would our founding fathers do if..." or "I'm sure the founding fathers would be flipping in their graves over..." it tends to get my blood boiling. Like today, there was no consensus in early America over these and other issues. In reality, early America was arguably one of the most contentious eras we have ever seen (with an obvious exception being made for the Civil War of course).

So, let's quit "hijacking" the legacy of the founders just to make us feel better or to garner support for our respective positions. Chances are, no matter what you believe, that there are SEVERAL founders out there who would disagree.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cooking With Corazon, Episode IV

Asian Style
Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Have you ever been to P.F. Chang's? If so, chances are you have tried their very popular chicken lettuce wraps. These wraps are the top selling item that P.F. Chang's produces. Personally, I LOVE them!

Well, this past week I attempted to recreate the lettuce wraps myself (sure beats paying $12.00 for them). Here's the final result:

Ok, so the presentation may not be as nice (I still like my presentation though) but the taste was pretty darn close. To be honest, I couldn't even tell a difference. These wraps were AWESOME! This is, for sure, my favorite meal that I have cooked to date. Here's the recipe:

Main ingredients:

3 tablespoons oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cup water chestnut (2 cans)
6 tablespoons chopped onions
2 teaspoon minced garlic
6-10 leaves iceberg lettuce

Special Sauce:

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon hot mustard
2-4 teaspoons garlic and red chile paste

Stir Fry Sauce:

4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar


1.) Make the special sauce by dissolving the sugar in water in a small bowl.
2.) Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil.
3.) Mix well and refrigerate this sauce until you're ready to serve.
4.) Combine the hot water with the hot mustard and set this aside as well.
5.) Eventually add your desired measurement of mustard and garlic chili sauce to the special sauce mixture to pour over the wraps.
6.) Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan.
7.) Cook chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or done.
8.) Remove chicken from the pan and cool.
9.) Keep oil in the pan, keep hot.
10.) As chicken cools mince water chestnuts to about the size of small peas.
11.) Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.
12.) When chicken is cool, mince it as the mushrooms and water chestnuts are.
13.) With the pan still on high heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil.
14.) Add chicken, garlic, onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms to the pan.
15.) Add the stir fry sauce to the pan and cook the mixture for a couple minutes then serve it in the lettuce cups.
16.) Top with "Special Sauce."

Give it a shot! You'll LOVE them! I promise. A+ all the way around on this recipe!

**Special thanks to Recipebazaar.com for the recipe! It was Grrrrrrrreat!