TBT: Blind In One Eye

Lots of good historical stuff for today.

In 1898 Kellog invented the corn flake, pretty much single handidly inventing the health food market. His idea was that crazy people needed bland food to chill out. It'd be another hundred years before we started worrying about carbs. Not a bad little run.

1898 also happens to be the year that my scottish ancestors left London and arrived in New york City, though I don't know if there was any connection to bland food.

In 1935 Penguin published it's first book which lead to the explosion of paper backs. I thought that was nifty seeing as how I'm working on my particular papeback right this minute. But there's nothing new going on there either.

But . . . as I was scrolling through all the different things that happened on July 30th, I kept rolling this one little tid-bit in my head.

On July 30th, 1863, President Lincoln issued the "Eye For An Eye" military order that stated for every black solidier prisoner killed, the Union would kill a confederate prisoner. And for every black prisoner sold back into slavery, a confederate soldier would be sentenced to a life time of hard labor.

I don't remember that particular part of Stephen Speilberg's movie.

Not sure if I ever even learned about that.

I also don't remember that from the movie "Glory" which is what we watched in the eighth grade instead of reading a book.

That sounds sad at thirty nine, but at thirteen, it was awesome.

I remember not liking that teacher very much anyway.

Anyway . . . an eye for an eye has been around for a long time.

The theory . . . not the actual practice.

It leads to the idea that we should let the punishment fit the crime. Like . . . you know . . . if you poke out my eye than I get to poke out yours.

So popular an idea that it's repeated throughout the Old Testament/Torah in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy . . . though times were tough back then . . . cause let's say I raped your daughter . . . after you finished stoning her to death . . . I owed you a camel.

Eye for an eye indeed.

Leviticus is a scary place.

But then the New and Improved Testament comes around and gives Jesus a little say in the matter.

He says something like: "I know you've heard an eye for an eye . . . but let me tell you what god really wants.  If a man hits you in the cheek, you do not have permission to hit him back, instead, offer him the other cheek to hit."

Like if you're punched in the face, you're not allowed to punch back, you're supposed to tell the guy he missed a spot.

That sentiment has been watered down into "Turn the other cheek." Which we all think of as just looking the other way, and not Jesus's original intention of "Gimme More"

Sounds like extreme pacifism until you get a few lines down when he tells you to pop out your eye if you lust after your neighbor's wife.

So much eye gouging.

Seems arcane, but just yesterday an ultra Orthodox jew was arrested in Jerusalem for stabbing five people at a Gay Pride Parade. No working on the sabbath, no touching of pigskin, just, you know, being gay in the same general area.

F@#$ing Leviticus.

I hope he's got enough camels.

Anyway, Lincoln always struck me as a WWJD kinda guy . . . more Temple on the Mount than dropping frogs from the sky, but he'd been pretty haggard by 1863 and so was probably in an Old Testament mood.

Maybe if he'd had a good night's sleep and a decent cup of coffee he might've been like . . . hey  why don't we make a fair trade . . . one of your guys for one of ours? In fact . . . had he been reading that first part in Matthew, he might've gone like: Hey, why don't I trade you two guys for one of ours?

That's probably what Jesus would do.

But this is the real world, sorta, and god isn't in the same ballpark of judgement that history is.

He needed this whole Civil War thing to wind down, and every soldier off the field is a soldier not fighting and a soldier not dead. (There is a lot more to it than that, but lets just think in generalities rather than specifics).

But the confederates were taking black soldiers and killing them outright, or selling them back into slavery, which is perfectly reasonable behavior in prehistoric Mesopotamia.

F@#$ing Leviticus again.

And Lincoln had to figure out a way to make that stop.

And since you can't reason with the ultra Orthodox . . . you have to speak their language.

Eye for an eye.

Everyone's familiar with that one.

Two caveats. One, scholars have come to the conclusion that it wasn't racial equality Lincoln was shooting for, he was just trying to violently intimidate the Confederacy.

I think that's a little cynical, but my Historian License is still in the mail.

The other caveat is that it didn't work.

Black soldiers were still either killed or sold into slavery.

Which is probably why it's one of those pieces you don't read about until you go looking.

And if you do go looking, make sure you avoid eye contact with your neighbor's wife.

No matter how good looking her corn flakes are.

Even Jesus thinks she's trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment