Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sportsmanship



There's a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Empty House, which was made into a film by Granada, and starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes. Brett is the only Holmes, of that I will ever be sure. In the story, the honourable Ronald Adair is shot by an expanding revolver bullet, and since the authorities do not know by whom or even how it was done, they have an inquest. The questioner at the inquest is examining a witness who knew Adair through school, etc. The questioner at one point asks whether Adair was, "A good sportsman, in fact?" And the witness answers, "Absolutely first-class sportsman. Straight as an arrow." That question and answer got me thinking: America loves sports, but do we really know what sports are all about, and do we know what sportsmanship is all about? I do not think we do.

As a further preface, I should like to quote C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, in Book 3, Chapter 5, where he says, "If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither." Emphasis added.

Why would Lewis put spoiling sport right up there with hatred? I would claim he does that because most instances of spoiling sport are simply thinly veneered examples of pride, which is most certainly the chief of all the sins.

So let us study this concept of sportsmanship and spoiling sport, and see if we can learn anything.

Dictionaries will only go so far here, but they are a start. Here is Miriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition:

sportsmanship n (1745) : conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

So there we see several ideas involved with this concept. I think skill in whatever sport you are playing is also an element of the definition, but I should like to concentrate on the moral aspects. What does sportsmanship look like in practice?

Before the sport: respect for your opponent means practicing the skill yourself. You want to be a worthy opponent. As an example: I like chess. Gary Kasparov is one of the greatest players on the planet. At this point, I do not think it would be good sportsmanship to ask to play him. Why? Because it would be very difficult not to insult his abilities. To say that my poor skills are a match for his is chutzpah on quite a grand scale. Being a worthy opponent, while not impossible in the Kasparov example, is surely much easier when the skill levels are more even. So while I wouldn't say never play someone immensely better than you, be careful!

Contemplating playing the sport: consider it the greatest privilege to play someone better than you. That is where learning happens. Decide to play the best you can; doing any less is demeaning to your opponent. What if someone really good were to play you and let you win? Would you feel as though you had really accomplished something? Also involved is the idea of competitiveness. I say that it greatly depends on your reasons for competitiveness, as to whether it's a good thing or not. If you're just "into the game," then you're being a good sport. The goal is to win; let's have none of this modern nonsense of "making everyone feel good." Properly done, good sportsmanship knows how to handle losing. More on that later. If you're in it not so much to win as to make the other people lose, or not do as well as you, then you are committing the greatest sin of them all: pride.

Playing the sport: always have concern for the opponent's dignity. Play hard! And then help your opponent up if he falls. In Tae Kwan Do, this is more or less standard practice in sparring. At least, it should be. Fairness is important. I don't think any country has quite as well-developed a sense of fair play as do the English. It might be very well to study Marquis of Queensbury rules, for example, and other such examples of British fair play. I believe it was said of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that his sense of fair play was enough for him to be a referee in a boxing match, even though he never boxed.

What about winning and losing? A good winner is one who acknowledges the worthiness of his opponent. It is not what you see most of the time on TV, when a football player is asked to comment on the game after his team won: "Uuuuuh, wuuuhlll, we just, uhhh, played the best we could, and uuuuhhhh, everything came togethuuhh." That's like someone summarizing the War of Northern Aggression (as I prefer to call it) by saying that, "Problems arose." Good winners do not lord it over the loser, and parade around their accomplishments. It seems to me that usually, the winner is the first to extend the hand for the handshake. The loser should not hold it in anger that he lost, or bear a grudge against the winner. He should acknowledge the defeat. In sparring, there's one fellow named Calvin, who is not only the most accomplished martial artist I've ever seen, but is an impeccable sportsman. His ability to spar, even, allows him time to acknowledge any hits he receives by a quick pat on the hit area in real time. I wish I could do that. Alas, not yet.

One more idea I should like to bring forth, and that is the idea of kibitzing. By definition, this is someone who looks on and often offers unwanted advice or comments, especially at a card game. This is bad. The worst examples of this are Little League moms; apparently, this is such a common phenomenon that my mom has transformed those words into a byword, as in, "That woman has a Little League mom mentality." It's the tendency of the spectators to be bad sports. Cheering the team is one thing. Cursing the referee, and trying to make the game unfair to the visiting team (or other team) is quite another. At Virginia Tech football games, if the opposing team has the ball and it's third down, that is the definition of a "key play." All the Hokie fans get out their keychains, and yell and rattle their keychains in the hopes of getting an off-sides or something. I used to wonder why teams had so many off-sides; now I know. I view this is as bad sportsmanship on the part of the fans. I have also seen the Hokie fans' attitudes after losing a game. Silence.

So there's some of my thoughts regarding sportsmanship. I think lots of folks have seen violations of these principles. Probably the very worst violation I ever saw was a whole person: John Macinroe. He was quite the tennis player, but his sportsmanship was appalling. Do not be like him!

Let me close with another quote from Mere Christianity, this time about pride. It seems appropriate, considering that spoiling sport comes from pride. I quote from Book 3, Chapter 8. "We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity - as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble - delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off - getting rid of the false self, with all its 'Look at me' and 'Aren't I a good boy?' and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert."

And at the end, after you contemplate all this shtuff, you realize that you can't really do it, can you? Good sportsmanship is impossible, because its opposite, spoiling sport, comes from the great grandaddy of sins: pride. You are most definitely going to need God's grace on this one. Pray for it, and read your Bible, and go to church. Employ the usual means of grace.

In Christ.


 
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11 Comments:

At 3/20/2006 02:32:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Good sportsmanship is something I have long-admired. Growing up we had weekly "park days" and "gym days" with our homeschooling group, with varied degrees of sportsmanship displayed by all. I really admired those who made a conscience effort to include the younger kids, allowing them to occasionally pitch even if it meant losing the game.

Last year I played volleyball for the first time in a few years at a friend's graduation party. There were around 70 people there, and the teens and early twenties formed about 4 or 5 teams to rotate through tournaments. Given my general lack of sports skill and my long absence from the game, let's just say that I was not voted MVP ;).

The older guys especially (who were very skilled) were so sweet and helpful, encouraging me and others who were not well-versed in volleyball. They would purposely set a ball to me on occasion, even when they could have slammed it over the net themselves. They were also careful to include the younger kids (and there were a lot of them!), allowing them to participate in the rotation, serve the ball, etc. Later in the day there were also "older kids" games, in which the more skilled players competed. They recognized a good balance between kindness and competition, and incorporated both into the day's events. I did consider it a great privilege to get to play with many players more skilled than I was, and I appropriately chose to sit out on several games so that my presence did not become a nuisance, though no one had indicated that it was a danger.

One of my mom's friends recently said that a good way to get to know a guy while courting is to observe his conduct during a game like volleyball; she was speaking of her now son-in-law, whom my friend Lydia married last weekend :).

I think friendliness and competition are a hard balance to strike. I've known far too many people who take competitions way too seriously, complete with insults, grudges, etc., then others who always want to play only for fun. I admire those who can find a nice balance.

War of Northern Aggression, eh? You're not a rebel flag waver, are you? ;) Let's just say that I think both sides were wrong on many things, and yes, I agree that the North's method of lording over their victory to the South was wrong in zillions of ways. They really had a horrible plan for reconstruction. I do consider myself a Yankee, though ;).

Hokies? And I thought my Alma Mater had a dumb mascot. . .

 
At 3/22/2006 10:26:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Well, my blog entry had more to do with sports between more or less equally skilled opponents. The issue of allowing "younger kids" and less-skilled kids to play is another one entirely; one which is certainly not one to be ignored. However, I was talking more about when people get together to really try to play their best; kind of a no-holds-barred sort of thing. Then what does sportsmanship look like?

When you say, "I've known far too many people who take competitions way too seriously, complete with insults, grudges, etc.,..." what exactly do you mean? The reason I ask is that guys have this kind of insulting manner which is calculated to further friendship. It's joking around. Females don't always understand this very well; it's certainly not something I would do to a girl unless we had a very good understanding, and I knew she would not be offended at it. Grudges are something else. I would agree those don't belong in sports, although the idea of playing again later to "even the score" is just fine. What I'm saying is that there is nothing wrong with competitiveness, properly channeled and tempered with sportsmanship.

There's also some balance to be had between allowing the less-skilled to play, and recognizing true talent when it shows up. As you know, and as you do yourself, I do not throw away compliments. If someone isn't playing very well, I'm not going to stand there and tell them they are. Most likely, I think, at this point, I would either keep my tongue, or offer advice if sought.

Yes, I am a rebel flag-waver, though I do recognize that the South didn't have everything right. They were more in the right than the North was, and the North had no right to provoke war as it did.

Regarding Reconstruction, I would only say this: Lincoln and Johnson were both good men in this area. If Lincoln had not been assassinated, it would have gone far better for the South. Johnson thought the same way as Lincoln, but couldn't do anything to control Congress. They passed bill after bill with 2/3 majority, railroading right over his veto. So even though there are some things about Lincoln I don't admire, there are others that I do.

Let's play, my mascot is dumber than yours. ;-)

In Christ.

 
At 3/22/2006 09:41:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Okay, I guess there is a distinction between good sportsman-like competition and more inclusive-type games. I've dealt more with the latter or an abuse of the former, hence the focus of my comment :).

In answer to your question as to what sportsmanship looks like (assuming we are talking about competition now), I would say it is a rigorous, yet gracious competition. True sportsmanship recognizes that the opponent is made in the image of God and thus should be treated with dignity. True sportsmanship also realizes the importance of attending to the competition and not making dirt castles on third base (yes, I speak from frustrated experience. . . ). 'Tis a hard balance to strike, of course, which is why we can only do it with God's grace :). Of course, with my lack of sports skills, I don't participate much in true competition ;).

By "I've known far too many people who take competitions way too seriously, complete with insults, grudges, etc., . . . " I mean just that. I'm not talking about friendly bantering. I'm talking about some games that became way out of control with names flying, feet stomping, players sulking, people stalking off, etc.

I recognize that "your kind" has different ways of relating to each other, so I'm not dismissing all joking around. I remember watching Newsies (great musical, btw) with a friend for her first or second viewing, and she was marveling at how "mean" the boys all were to each other, yet how good-naturedly they took it. Boys (and men as well) seem to enjoy some friction, but like most things, there is a right and wrong way to do it :).

I agree that you shouldn't stand there and tell someone that they are playing well if they are not. I wouldn't do that either. But I do also see a benefit in pointing out things that a young child is getting right, in moderation of course. It makes me nauseated when someone oozes with praise over a child who just did a wobbly job of pitching a kickball. But a comment like "that was better" or "nice try" accompanied by "try to get it a little more to the right next time" is quite appropriate, assuming we're not engaged in strict competition. . .

Well, now your hatred for Indiana is explained. . . ;)

I'm debating whether I want to begin a North v. South debate. *thinks to self* Not really, actually.

Let me put it this way. I used to be 100% Yankee to the point of cheering during a reenactment of Sherman's march to the sea (which I now realize was a rather shameful Northern tactic). I also used to think that the Civil War was 100% about slavery. I've moderated my views quite a bit. Ultimately, though, God knew what he was doing when he let the North win, and it did lend a quicker end to slavery, which was a horrible institution, regardless of if it was the reason for the Civil War. All in all, it is not a bright spot in our nation's history, for the North or the South. . . I certainly don't relish the centralized government that has grown larger and larger since the defeat of confederatism, but I sure am glad slavery is gone :).

There are many sorts of rebel flag wavers, I will grant you, and I mainly recoil at those who find the following introduction to Gone with the Wind (particularly the bolded words), to be inspiring, rather than sickening.

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.

Okay, I get to start our mascot game.

My mascot is dumber than yours because. . .

It sure isn't a good advertisement for the academic rigor of UGA. If we can't even spell our own mascot, what does that say about the rest of the college?

"Come to my college! My fellow students can't spell, but they can sure hold their alcohol and play football!" *rolls eyes*

Actually, the UGA mascot is spelled "dawg" to blend in with the rest of southern culture. We might as well spell it like we say it, honey. Y'all got a problem with that?

 
At 3/23/2006 09:55:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan (who else?)

I had to laugh at "dirt castles on third base." Ja, there I would agree that that person is not being sportsmanlike. You have to pay the opposing team the compliment of playing at a high level. To do less is to insult their ability.

I have relatives, quite nice ones, in Indiana! I would not hold something against a state so long after it had been done. The Bible says something like "third and fourth generation of them that hate me, but showing love to thousands who love Me and keep My commandments." As it has been way more than three or four generations since the War of Northern Aggression, I'm not going to hold anything against anyone.

Sherman, as I understand, was quite an honorable fellow, until Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with Hood. Johnston had been following an extremely clever plan of retreat, which his soldiers liked because he was saving their lives. But the rest of the South was getting edgy, so they put pressure on Davis to replace him. Hood tried three frontal assaults, totally decimated his own army, and left the field open to Sherman. In revenge, Sherman did the march to the sea, something for which he should have been tried as a war criminal.

So what do you think the War was about? I'm inclined to think it was 100% about states' rights. Interestingly, for some time, all the states in the union had come together and re-ratified their right to secede from that union. The North did it as well as the South. Lincoln brought in the slavery issue in order to invigorate the fighting of the North.

Yes, God certainly did know what He was doing when He had the North win, even if I don't. ;-)

You're going to have to distinguish when it comes to slavery. If you're judging all slavery by Uncle Tom's Cabin, you will get an extremely one-sided view of it. History tends to be written by the victors, and this War is no exception. The truth is, there were some plantations where the slaves were treated extremely well (the majority of plantations, I would argue. Slaves were expensive, so it didn't pay to mistreat them), and a few where they weren't. Jefferson Davis's plantation was of the former kind. His slaves loved him greatly. If one of the slaves did something wrong, there would be a trial, and the jury would consist solely of fellow slaves. Davis could intervene, but only to lighten the sentence. In some plantations after the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves loved their masters and their way of life enough that they didn't leave, even after the war was over.

The Bible nowhere condemns slavery. I think, on the whole, the Bible does say it isn't the best method of paying your workers (make no mistake about it: keeping slaves properly was more expensive than paying hired hands), probably because the temptation to abuse is stronger. But I would also argue there are just as many opportunities for abuses in the normal salary system as there were in the slavery system. Naturally, the one biggie is that slaves can't leave, whereas a hired hand can quit.

All I'm saying is this: you can't go beyond what the Bible says, and you also can't trust all the Northern accounts of slavery, especially Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The quote you gave is inspiring to me, but not because of the slavery bit. My attitude towards slavery is a mild disapproval. Slavery would have ended by itself after a while. The cotton gin had just been invented, and it would have replaced the slaves. It's simply not practical to take care of all your people that way. It's the rest of the quote that is inspiring. We in this silly modern world have really lost sight of gallantry (the real stuff!), and knights and ladies.

Don't forget that "y'all" is singular, and "all y'all" is plural. I think you have already won the mascot game, though I would instantly claim that VT students can hold their alcohol much worse, and play football much better than UGA. So there.

In Christ.

 
At 3/23/2006 09:23:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Well, I have lots to say in reply (as always ;)), but I've been rather busy today, and I'd also like more time to ruminate, pray, and discuss with Family Dear. I hope to work up a reply sometime tomorrow. Stay tuned. . .

 
At 3/24/2006 02:27:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm, I'm already looking at 5+ pages of a Microsoft Word draft, and that's without even breathin' hard or finishing my thoughts. I still have further to go before it's complete. Is that going to paste into blogger well? I just keep adding to what I want to say!

 
At 3/24/2006 07:00:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Okay, here goes . . .

As I see it, there are two distinct (yet related) issues at stake here: (1) the cause of the Civil War (or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, or the Yankee Invasion, or the War for Southern Independence - pick your favorite label ;)), and (2) the justification and Biblical basis (or ambiguity, or lack thereof) for approval or condemnation of the American slave system. I might add that I think the first topic, while interesting, is not nearly as important as the latter.

I really walked into this debate, didn't I? Mother Dear laughed after my comment in which I said: I'm debating whether I want to begin a North v. South debate. *thinks to self* Not really, actually. I think I communicated the opposite with my ensuing words, Let me put it this way. . . , followed by three paragraphs of clarification. Now I actually do want to debate this (in a cordial, respectful, loving manner, of course), as your response gave me plenty of things I would like to think about and discuss.

Regarding reconstruction, yes, 'tis unfortunate that Lincoln was assassinated and Johnson was shoved between a rock and a hard place. The Congress immediately following the Civil War is no prize over which Northerners can brag. . . They obviously did not understand the idea of forgive and forget. It reminds me of poor Woodrow Wilson after WWI; he had a rather difficult Congress that did not agree with him on anything, causing stress that eventually resulted in his insanity and death. Not that I am necessarily in agreement with his plan for a society of nations, but you do have to feel sort of sorry for the man. Yet another reason why not to be president - everything gets blamed on you, even if it isn't your fault!

I agree with you that Sherman should have been tried as a war criminal because of his march to the sea. Not a way to leave an endearing lasting impression of the goodness of the Yankees. I find it interesting that you label Sherman an "honorable fellow" (pre-Hood), as I would not be that generous, though I am no doubt less-schooled in this area of history than you.

What I have heard of Sherman (and some other Northern generals) has not been flattering, even from the "Northern-biased" accounts I've read ;). Grant, for example, was no moral prize and would not have been my first choice as a president, but then, notice that most major American wars produced a president that was a war hero, so perhaps it was inevitable. Grant, incidentally, was a slave owner, as were some other Union generals, which does lend support to the idea that the Civil War was not 100% about slavery. I will give the South this; they certainly picked men of prayer and honor for some of their generals, though I disagree with them on other issues.

In response to your comment that the North had no right to provoke war as it did (two comments ago, but I failed to address it before), I am in semi-agreement with you. I remember reading about the Civil War in one of my elementary school history books (after having recently studied the Revolutionary War) and wondering why the colonies were justified in splitting off from England, but the Southern states were not justified in splitting off from the Union. I am fully aware that the North was varied in its justification for war, and I doubt whether secession was reason to attack the South. When I said, I still consider myself a Yankee. . ., I was referring to my roots, birthplace, and family background, as well as my disapproval of Southern views on issues such as slavery. I am not applauding all Northern actions in the war nor condoning the initial provocation of war by the North, though I would have to do more study before condemning it whole-heartedly.

When I said, Ultimately, though, God knew what he was doing when he let the North win, and it did lend a quicker end to slavery, which was a horrible institution, regardless of if it was the reason for the Civil War, perhaps I should have clarified. I find if only . . . interpretations of history to be contrary to the idea of God's sovereignty. We can point out the fact that the right side or the wrong side won (or lost), but ultimately it was all part of God's sovereign plan. I was merely pointing out one positive thing that came from the outcome of the Civil War, and not justifying its existence or all the outcomes.

I myself am very guilty of if only . . . views of history. I continually fight my if only . . . wishes to live in past centuries when "everything was better," yet, I know that not only were things not perfect in centuries past, but God, in His sovereignty, placed me here and now. As Betsie ten Boom said, There are no “ifs” in God's kingdom. His timing is perfect.

Hmmm, I've never heard that all the states re-ratified their right to secede from the union; was this just a movement, or did it become a reality? When did this take place, and how did Lincoln justify ignoring that?

I am in agreement that Lincoln was double-tongued in other ways, at the very least. It seems awfully strange to me that the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves behind Confederate lines. Slaves in border states or in states already recaptured by the Union had to wait until the 13 th Amendment, including Ulysses S. Grant's slaves.

To claim that the war was 100% about slavery is simplistic to me for a number of reasons, one being that Union generals (like Grant) owned slaves themselves. Why would they fight against a cause they obviously supported? Also, let's face it; the majority of Southerners did not own slaves, so most of the Confederate soldiers were not actually fighting for their right to keep their slaves, though I would add that many may have been fighting for their right to someday own slaves. It's comforting to people to know that there's room at the top. I also acknowledge that there were Confederate soldiers who were opposed to slavery. All the above is the primary reason I no longer believe the Civil War was 100% about slavery. There is just too much crossing-over of slavery views and North-South allegiance to justify such a claim.

I think that the Civil War was fought over a number of things. Most wars in history were not caused by a single thing. Try to explain in one sentence why the U.S. entered WWI; it's just not going to be a complete answer, unless the sentence is too complicated to diagram! I think declaring either slavery or states' rights (that's an exclusive "or") as the only reason for the Civil War is quite simplistic.

There were so many factors that led to that unfortunate part of our nation's history. We had all sorts of hurt feelings that had been brewing for decades between the North and South, and in fact I would submit that ultimately the great granddaddy of all sins – pride – was the ultimate reason behind the Civil War. The South had her pride hurt by some of the dubious policies placed on her by the North, so she up and seceded. The North, in her pride, retaliated by declaring war on the South. Yep, pride is the most original and deadly of all sins, and we're all guilty of it - yanks and rebs alike :(.

Now as for the more particular reasons behind the Civil War, slavery was one issue of contention, but so was trade (especially tariffs and other forms of taxation), industry, all sorts of other economic issues, governmental centralization, and yes, states' rights. By the way, what states' rights do you think the war was about?

I think you are also going to have to distinguish when it comes to slavery :-), but me first. When I refer to slavery, I am speaking of two different types: one general, one particular. I have general disapproval for the general type, and very particular disapproval for the particular type. Let me explain:

Slavery in a general sense (of one man owning another) has existed literally for millennia. Many of our Biblical heroes had slaves, and Peter and Paul (and Mary? ;)) both speak of slaves submitting to masters, etc. We must realize, though, that Peter and Paul are both writing to slaves when they command them to submit. The responsibility of the NT (and OT) slaves was to be content in their circumstances, but it was also the responsibility of the NT masters to be loving and gentle to their slaves who, incidentally, were often bondservants (much like an indentured servant).

I am arguing from the point of view of a master, not a slave, so the address is quite different. If I were speaking to a slave, I would charge him to continue to faithfully serve his master, as Uncle Tom did in Uncle Tom's Cabin. I am not speaking (even hypothetically) to slaves, though; I am arguing the justifications of the actions of the masters in the Southern slave system. Big difference.

There is also a huge difference between going "beyond what the Bible says" and applying Biblical principles to real life. I would think you would agree with me here :). One could use your exact reasoning to justify (or mitigate) bigamy, yet one can effectively apply Biblical principles to reach a strong opposition to that practice.

Remember that God provided a Year of Jubilee for slaves in OT times, a year in which the slaves were freed. Slavery, at the very least, was a temporary thing, not something that continued endlessly through generations. American slaves did not have a Year of Jubilee!

The American slave trade ended in 1807, yet slavery continued merely by reproduction for decades (until the 13th Amendment). American slavery was not continued by people (of all races) selling themselves into slavery or as slaves were captured in war; American slavery was continued by an inherited slave status that had no Year of Jubilee; it was a perpetual circumstance. In that sense, at the very least, the American system was unbiblical.

To equalize Biblical slavery and American slavery is fallacious, as they have so many differences. There have been as many varieties of slavery as there have been slave masters. One problem with the American slave system was that there wasn't any legal protection for the slaves, unlike in the OT (see the books of law) or in Roman times. Take a look at the rights granted slaves during these times to the rights (or lack-thereof) granted American slaves. American slaves had no legal rights; they were not even allowed to read or write by law. They could not legally marry or own property. They could be beaten to death with no retribution.

Many slaves in Roman times were paid for their work and eventually granted their freedom; my understanding is that this was much rarer in American slavery. Roman slaves were allowed to own slaves themselves, and they had social status, while American slaves had none. Many Roman slaves sold themselves into bondage to get out of debt, and many were indentured servants - slaves "for a time," not for life. In contrast, all American slavery was forced slavery based on race. It is one thing to speak generally of slavery, and quite another to justify a forced system based on the idea that Africans are chattel, sub-human, closely related to apes, etc.

The justification for the American slave system has consistently hinged on race; there is no way around it. I have never heard a white southern “good old boy” try to make the argument that American slavery for whites would also be okay. It always, always, always goes back to the issue of race.

I would like to first clarify that I am not a hopelessly PC, affirmative-action-promoting, racial-profile-hating liberal (I know, you probably had your doubts ;)). The spin that liberals put on racism can be truly nauseating. They treat diversity and tolerance as medals to be worn.

I admittedly prefer those that are closer to me in ethnic background and looks. I’ve always dreamed of marrying another tow-head and having 12 little tow-headed children. Is that racism? I don’t think so. It is a preference I have, and I realize that a family of 12 little black children is no better or worse than my dream family. That is the difference that the PC folk fail to recognize.

Just because I am generally more comfortable around those of my race doesn't mean that I don't have family and friends of different races whom I love dearly (I have a black aunt, three mulatto cousins, a Filipino aunt, a Filipino cousin, and someday, Lord willing, I will have a Chinese sister-in-law), but I do tend towards those of Caucasian origin. I do not however, believe myself or other Caucasians to be better than those of another race. There are two very different ways to respond to race, and as is often the case, the middle road is best.

I believe that Africans (and all other races) stand before God as our equals, not our inferiors. We are all created in His image, and we are all descendants of the same parents (Noah and his wife). The same blood flows through my veins that flows through the veins of my African brothers in Christ. Incidentally, race is a rather contrived idea, and skin color is merely a variation on the amount of melanin a person has in his skin.

I realize that anti-slavery folk (such as Lincoln) were also bigots, but they were not using their racism to justify any system we are currently discussing. Incidentally, Southerners tended to like individual slaves more and disdain the race in general, while Northerners tended to disdain individual blacks more, and claim a like for the race in general. There was a lot of racism on both sides.

My point is not that Southerners were racist and Northerners were not; my point is this: American slavery existed because of racism, and it continued because of racism. American slavery was justified and perpetuated by the notion that Africans were inferior to whites. White slavery was not even considered in the US as legal, yet Africans had to possess papers to prove that they were free. Therefore the very basis of the American slave system is inherently unbiblical and wrong. Thus my distinction between general slavery and particular slavery.

You said that the North had "no right" to provoke war with the South. What right did any American slave trader have to provoke war on tribes in Africa to capture prisoners, and what right did American slave traders have to purchase "stolen goods" from Africans who had enslaved others? If we are going to talk about justification, let's go all out :-). American slaves were stolen goods that were not legitimately sold or secured in the first place. As much as I abhor the idea of indentured servants or volunteer slavery, at least it is a possibly legitimate practice, albeit prone to error and abuse.

We can discuss the beauties of the plantation courts that were set in place by some masters, but ultimately it was just that: by some masters. Those masters who were loving to their slaves treated them justly, but those who were not could pretty much do whatever they wanted. Slaves did not have the option to walk out, as other low-class workers did. You can wax eloquent over the similarities of slave labor and other low forms of labor, but ultimately paid workers were free, and slaves were not! That makes all the difference in the world.

As you said, the temptation to abuse is stronger under the slave system than under a hiring system; if we lived in a perfect world then slavery wouldn't be all that bad. The problem is that we don't live in a perfect world, and over the millennia slavery has proved to be a system that can be highly abused, especially slavery that is based on race and coupled with no legal protection for the slaves.

Read firsthand accounts of the slave chain gangs or the slaver ships to get an idea of some of the things slaves endured. You can offer examples of "nice masters" all you want, but the fact is that not all masters were nice or kind, and many slaves lived in sub-human conditions, with no control over it. Read accounts of scenes that took place in slave markets, as a young child was torn from the arms of his mother or as a father was sold away from his family. Read firsthand accounts of a slave master coolly standing by, saying, You can always get another wife(or another child). Take a look at the vast numbers of multi-colored children that "appeared" on so many slave plantations. Many of our founding fathers had illegitimate children that were legally their slaves; it was a common practice. As a woman, I think one of the worst crimes of humanity is rape, and unfortunately so many slave births were the product of the rape of a slave woman by her master. No matter how frequently (or infrequently) these events occurred, they still occurred too often! No pictures of "nice, sweet slave plantations" can wipe those images from my mind.

Your example of slaves remaining with their masters after the Civil War is not evidence for a loving relationship between master and slave. I do not doubt that there were many slaves who remained because they genuinely loved their master, but there were also many other slaves that truly had nowhere else to go and nothing else that they had ever known. They did not know how to read and write, and they had lived their entire lives on one plot of land; the thought of leaving the plantation was more frightening than the prospect of freedom was wonderful.

As the Amish say, You can't miss what you've never had. I have heard so many accounts of Amish people who have remained in the Amish church community because that is all they have ever known, and because that is where their friends and family are. The prospect of a strange "English" world and certain shunning by their loved ones is enough to keep them in the Amish community, despite their disagreements with Amish practices. I would never use the high percentage of Amish young children who remain in the Amish community as justification that Amish people like their way of life and do not wish for it to change. I would also not use the large number of women who remain in abusive relationships as reason that they are in good, loving situations. There are so many more factors in play than just contentedness.

Just as one cannot trust all the Northern accounts of slavery, one can also not trust all the Southern accounts. Bias works both ways! I have read Uncle Tom's Cabin, which I thought was a good book, but I am fully aware that not all plantation owners were like Simon Legree. He was just plain cruel and economically illogical. I am not claiming that he is the quintessential slave owner, as I hope you realize. My understanding of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s purpose in writing the book was to expose evils of the slavery system, not to paint a broad brush that claimed that all slave owners were Simon Legree clones.

You said that the cotton gin had just been invented before the Civil War, but it had been invented over 60 years previous! The cotton gin had been around for several decades and had not begun to effectively suffocate American slavery. Slavery was a "peculiar institution" deeply ingrained in the Southern economy, and it would have taken much longer to end on its own, in my opinion.

I admit that other parts of the Gone with the Wind quote inspire me too, but it's rather hard for me to ignore the elephant in the room, or the slave bit in the middle of the quote, rather. Ask anyone I know, and they'll tell you that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the chivalric code, so don't get me wrong; I just can't stomach the connection that is drawn to slavery in Gone with the Wind.

I agree with you that it is sad that "knights and fair maidens" have all but disappeared, though they were not unique to the American South. Do you also find it ironic that the South, which was once a center for chivalry, is now the hotbed of the dancing-is-evil movement ;)? It makes me sad.

Just to clarify, of course y'all is singular (and all y'all is plural, y'all's is singular possessive, and all y'all's is plural possessive), though I admit I'm not a huge fan of all y'all. It just sounds ultimate hick. I've lived in the South since I was 4 months old, yet it took me until I was about 16 to finally give in and use y'all. Maybe if I'm still down South when I'm 32, I'll be comfortable with using all y'all. Plus, note that in my comment I was referring to my audience in the singular (see preceding sentence with singular term of endearment honey), so y'all was appropriate :).

I don't have the knowledge or care to dispute your claim that VT bests UGA in football. I admit I've never watched either VT or UGA play, unless you count brief, unintentionally-viewed clips on TV. I can't stomach the game myself, either watching or playing it. I just don't get the point! Basketball and volleyball are about the only sports I enjoy playing, and there are very few more that I enjoy watching, and even then, only if I actually know the people playing. America's obsession with sports is a real mystery to me.

In summary, though I am no rebel flag waver and, in fact, consider myself to have Northern allegiance, I am by no means claiming that the North was justified in their provocation of war nor that the South was unjustified in their secession. I have not the current knowledge to make such a blanket statement. I do have issues with some areas of Southern heritage, including a heavy reliance on slavery. My issue with the Southern viewpoint is not really the reasons behind the war, but an inevitable downplay of the horrors of slavery and racism. While I acknowledge that the outcome of the Civil War began a gradual decline of individual and state freedoms as the national government became more and more centralized, I also recognize that the outcome of the Civil War brought a swift end to slavery, which was itself a huge gain of individual freedoms for blacks.

I am well aware that my comment was insanely long, so take your time in responding or, if it is easier, feel free to respond in stages :-). Also know that I have said all the above as your Sister in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

 
At 3/24/2006 07:28:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

I do hope you won't be terribly disappointed in this reply, which probably won't do justice to your remarks. There; I've done what my mom says never do: apologize before saying something. Oh, well.

The fact is, I am in no way prepared to debate at that level on the slavery issue. *laughs* That means I will have to bow out, hopefully graciously. I find myself agreeing with you nearly everywhere. As to historical facts, I have not studied them in detail, and it appears you have, which means I might very well be mistaken. Any further study on my part will most certainly have to wait until I finish my degree, as I don't even put the time into it now that I should.

One thing that impresses me about you: your use of logic and clear thinking. I'm sick of people claiming that "emotions are feminine, logic is masculine." Neither is neither. Men might tend to prefer logic, and women might tend to prefer discussing their emotions, but both genders need both skills.

Hmm. Maybe I'll do a follow-up about sports-idolization. I think I know a reason for it: everyone needs some way in which they can excel. Young men need the equivalent of the bar mitzvah; sort of a rite of passage. Finally, it meshes well with the prevalent anti-intellectualism in America. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying sports require no brain power; far from it. However, when it comes to useful, practical technology and such disciplines, sports does not require the same skills. Those are some highly unformed thoughts about it.

God bless.

 
At 3/24/2006 08:41:00 PM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

Well, Adrian, I am a little disappointed that I won't have the joy of being a spectator in an interesting debate, but your bowing out was done graciously. :-) And I guess I should be content that you agree at least mostly with what Sister Dear said.
I wonder if there is a record for longest blogger comment, cause I think you just broke it, Sister Dear. There are such weird records... the last one I heard about recently was a news blurb about a guy going for the world record for kissing some kind of poisonous snake on the head however many times in however many seconds. How stupid. Let's get some real goals and challenges here. I don't know, maybe this was that guy's 'rite of passage'.

And maybe this isn't logical(considering this is coming from your illogical Sister Dear), but I think that those of us who enjoy sports a lot to some extent view sports maybe like you view knowledge, Su. You really enjoy reading and learning, even if there isn't much of a purpose. I know a lot of people just don't understand that. A lot of other people, myself included, get this unexplainable thrill while participating in sports - seeing that basketball slide through the hoop, driving the soccer ball through the defense and shooting it past the goalie into the net. I don't see sports as having to have a purpose other than having fun, learning to work with other people, getting exercise, enjoying being with friends, and bettering myself in the game. Sports when done correctly can be very beneficial to all parties. Granted, sports definitely can be taken too far, no doubt about that. (although, the acquisition of knowledge can as well)

 
At 3/24/2006 09:26:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Don't worry, Adrian; I'm not "terribly disappointed" in your reply :). I'm happy that you find yourself agreeing with me "nearly everywhere," and understand that you don't haven't unlimited time to peruse historical facts. My reply was only possible to compose in one day due to some previous background I had on the subject, and even then it did require quite a bit of time. Good thing I was free today! I never would have had the time to attend to such a lengthy comment mid-week.

Well, I must reciprocate your compliment regarding use of logic and clear thinking. I know that when we launch into a discussion or debate, though we may not see eye-to-eye on everything, there will be no name-calling or grossly-illogical reasoning. At the very least, if one does reason illogically (as I have done on occasion), in general the other points it out graciously and the first concedes the point :). You certainly made me reconsider my views on romanticism/primitivism.

I would love it if you do find time to do a follow-up on sports idolization. You can complete it in all your spare time ;).

Hmmm, Sister Dear, you'll have to do research on the longest blog comment. I doubt I surpassed it, though I probably was up there ;).

 
At 3/26/2006 03:29:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Hannah and Susan.

Thank you both for your kind words. I wish you could be a spectator in an interesting debate as well, Hannah. It just won't be this one, since my side is apparently not going to be terribly interesting. It was interesting how a discussion of sportsmanship got off on a tangent about the War of Northern Aggression. Well, since God is the Author of all knowledge, we should expect there to be connections everywhere, shouldn't we?

I'm also thinking of a post on women and logic, versus men and emotions. From what I know of you, it sounds as if that might be an interesting post, eh? ;-)

In Christ.

 

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