Monday, August 31, 2020





NOTES,  31 AUGUST 2020



Greetings, blog reader, on this the last day of August of 2020. Here is a wish that you and yours are safe and well. We are in a tumultuous time filled with dangers and uncertainties. It is easy to get overwhelmed and despondent about it all. One way we can help ourselves is to keep informed about what is going on all around us. This may be painful. However, I have always believed it is better to know the truth even if it hurts because this leads to understanding and wisdom. There are certain things beyond our control while there are some things under our control. It is important to know the difference. Thus, the last day of August is an appropriate time to take a quick survey and reassessment of where we are in our lives as a nation and society.

We are beset by multiple crises: pandemic, economic depression, social unrest, housing and food insecurities, and impending election. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly around the world and particularly in America. Early this year, some authorities predicted the virus would abate in the warm days of summer when people would be outside. This was what happened in the last pandemic, 1918. Then, there was a rise in the spring, a big decrease in the summer, and a huge spike in the fall and winter. This has not been the pattern of covid. The summer did not bring a respite of the disease, just the opposite. 

In the three months of June, July, and August, the cases of covid in the world jumped from app. 6,000,000 to 25,413,610, more than a four-fold increase. Deaths in the world arose from 380,000 to 851,079, more than double. In the month of August alone, world cases went from 17,511,607 to 25,413,610, app. a 50% rise. Death in August jumped from 677,540 to 851,079.

As it has been since the early days of this year, the United States continues to be the epicenter of the plague. In the three months of summer, cases skyrocketed from 1,880,000 to 6,175,008, more than a three-fold increase. Just in the month of August, reported cases jumped from 4,635,000 to 6,175,008. Deaths in the U.S. in the three months shot up from 108,000 to 187,227. In August, deaths increased from 155,306 to 187,227.

Our southeastern states fared worse than the U.S. as a whole. In South Carolina, reported cases of covid jumped from 12,415 to 118,324 in June, July, and August. This is nearly a staggering ten-fold increase. That is, there are nearly ten times as many cases of the disease in SC now as at the start of June. In the month of August alone, cases shot up from 87,572 to 118,324. Deaths in SC showed the same alarming rise. In the three months, deaths in SC climbed from 501 to 2,709. This is more than a five-fold increase. In the month of August, deaths arose from 1,667 to 2,709.

The figures from Alabama are equally unsettling. There, cases shot up from 18,771 on June 1 to 125,235 today. Thus, there are seven times as many cases in AL as at the start of June. In the month of August, cases arose from 85,762 to 125,235. Numbers of deaths from covid in AL went from 653 at the first of June to 2,162 now. This is more than three times. In August, deaths in AL arose from 1,565 to 2,162. It is clear than in both SC and AL, COVID-19 is running rampant with no sign of ending.

Charleston County continues to lead SC in numbers. There, cases went up in August from 11,245 to 14,000 as deaths increased from 154 to 235. As in the state as a whole, the summer saw a huge spike in the disease in the county. While numbers in the county increase steadily, the rate of the spread has lessened.

In conclusion, the pandemic exploded in the three months of June, July, and August in the U.S., particularly in the southeast. Far from being a respite, the summer months saw a vast expansion of the disease and its deadly effects. This was true no where more than in SC and AL. With cooler weather coming soon and more and more people staying inside, we can expect the pandemic to increase exponentially among us. It is going to get far worse. We should get prepared.

The other crises in our lives are also getting worse. There are now more than 30m Americans collecting unemployment insurance. The federal government has not renewed the $600 increase. The local unemployment benefits are temporary and will be running out soon. Over 100,000 businesses in the U.S. have closed permanently. The grants from the federal government to help small businesses are also running out. Moreover, the eviction moratorium has expired. This will put millions of Americans out of their homes. Food banks are straining to meet the public need for food security. All of this at the same time as schools are reopening, unsure of how to proceed with classroom instruction. To make all of this more intense, the very rich seem to be getting richer. Wall Street is on a roll and the people with money are getting even more. The rising economic inequalities are a big red flag for the future.

On top of all of this we Americans are moving into the last phase of the political campaign to elect a president, House of Representatives, part of the Senate, and countless state and local offices. I have already commented (too much for some readers) on this and will not belabor the point. I will just say we should keep all of this in the big picture. We are witnessing the crucial clash between the forces of the great democratic revolution of the late 20th/early 21st centuries and the reactionary counter-revolution. What makes this most intense is the certain personality of the standard bearer of the counter-revolutionaries, the sitting president. It is not an exaggeration to say the future of our nation hangs on the vote of 3 November.

Let us boldly move into the future as the Americans we are and the Christians we claim to be. We have the wind at our backs even though we are facing perilous seas. I believe we will make it through to safe harbor. Remember, we are all in this boat together, and all for a reason, for the living of this hour. We did not choose it; it was given to us. Peace.




Saturday, August 29, 2020





VIDEO OF THE DAY, 29 AUGUST 2020



One of the several crises in America today is the reckoning of four hundred years of racism. Ever since the police killing of George Floyd three months ago, there have been massive street demonstrations in nearly every American city and town as people demand an end to racial inequality, particularly in police actions. I for one have been moved by the eloquence of the black and brown voices speaking out in word and deed in this hour of necessary consciousness. In my opinion, the most moving of all of these many extemporaneous speeches was that of Doc Rivers, the coach of the LA Clippers, and the son of a policeman. Every white person needs to listen to what he has to say. Any reform in the future has to start with understanding of the problem. In my observation as a white southerner, that is where most white people are today. We must listen to our fellow citizens on what it is like to be black in America today. So, I ask you to watch and take to heart Rivers's poignant plea to all of us. No one could have said it better.

The video of the day:


Friday, August 28, 2020





NOTES,  28 AUGUST 2020



My best wishes to you, blog reader, on this Friday, the 28th day of August 2020.

Our time of crises continues. The Covid-19 pandemic is spreading unabated. Over 30m Americans are out of work. Thousands of businesses have closed. Racial tensions have put the country on edge. Parents are torn between sending their children back to school and keeping them home. Moreover, we are moving into the most divisive and important election of most people's lifetimes. Interesting times indeed.


PANDEMIC. According to the figures in our usual source, Worldometers, there were 1,767,176 new cases of COVID-19 in the world last week (August 21-28) for a total of 24,658,857. This is a rising rate of 8%, the same rate as the previous week (August 14-21). There were 38,633 deaths last week, a rate of 5%, the same as the earlier week. 836,304 people in the world have died of the disease.

The United States continues to be the epicenter of the world in this pandemic. With just 4% of the world's population, it has 25% of the world's cases. Last week, 331,871 Americans came down with the virus. This is a rising rate of 6%, the same as the previous week. 6,048,404 Americans have contracted the virus, nearly 2% of the population. As for deaths, 7,396 Americans died of the disease last week, a rising rate of 4%, the same as the earlier week. In all, 184,834 Americans have died of COVID-19. Thus, last week saw the pandemic spreading in the world and the U.S. at the same rate as the previous week.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our local states. South Carolina reported 5,278 new cases last week, a rising rate of 5%, the same as the earlier week. The state is now reporting 114,598 cases. As for deaths, 227 people died of COVID-19 in SC last week, a 12% increase. The earlier week had reported 10%. In Alabama, there were 8,574 new cases last week, an 8% increase. The earlier week had reported 7%. AL is now reporting 121,023 cases. Deaths in AL were 102 last week, a 5% rate, up from the 4% of the earlier week. in all, 2,076 Alabamians have died of the coronavirus.

Charleston County continues to show a slowing down of the spread. Last week it reported 441 new cases, for a total of 13,503. This was a 3% rise, the same as the previous week. As for deaths, 14 people died of the disease in the county last week, for a total of 231. This was a 6% rise, up from the 4% of the earlier week. However, the state health department estimates the actual number of cases in Charleston Co. at 91,297, a fifth of the population.


LITIGATION. Three years! Three years this month since the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized 29 of 36 parishes and Camp St. Christopher as property of the Episcopal Church. How much of the property has been returned to the Church? None. The circuit judge who was supposed to implement the SCSC decision decided he could reinterpret it. The Church side is appealing this incredible attempt to nullify a supreme court decision. It is unimaginable that the higher courts will stand for this judge's act. Meanwhile we are still waiting on Judge Dickson to say whether he will order a stay pending appeal and on the SC Court of Appeals to say if they will send the appeal on to the SC Supreme Court. Also, still no news from the U.S. Court of Appeals that is entertaining an appeal of Judge Gergel's order.


POLITICAL CRISIS. The two parties have now had their conventions and named their candidates. The presidential campaign season traditionally begins at Labor Day. That is just 10 days off. All signs indicate an extremely contentious campaign this year.

The two party conventions confirmed my theory of contemporary American history, that is, the clash between the prevailing great democratic revolution and the resistant counter-revolution. In their sessions, the Democrats fully embraced the evolving democratic revolution, particularly as it related to race, and specifically to the relations between law enforcement structures and the black and brown communities among us. On the other hand, the Republicans did little but talk of fear of the revolutionary changes. They did two things this week, 1-declare themselves squarely on the side of the counter-revolution, and 2-declare their party to be an autocracy. For the first time in memory, a Republican convention refused to discuss, let alone adopt, a party platform, thus giving carte blanche to the would-be dictator to make his own policies and procedures at will. The Republican Party has become completely the party of Donald Trump.

We are just over two months before the general election of 3 November. I predict we are in for a wild ride from now until inauguration day, 20 January 2021. President Trump is already rejecting the validity of mail-in ballots. He said explicitly that if he loses the vote, the election will be illegitimate and unacceptable. By whatever means, the Republicans are preparing to overturn their electoral defeat at least in the courts. The president of the United States wields an enormous amount of power. I am bracing for street violence.

In my view, we are approaching the moment of truth, the crossroads of contemporary American history. We are about to have a showdown between the two great opposing forces of revolution, championed by the Democrats, and counter-revolution, championed by the Republicans. What complicates this is that one party is also offering an extra-constitutional autocracy. The Republicans are offering to combine backlash and authoritarian rule. What this says to me is that the counter-revolutionary forces in America (e.g., white working class men, southern whites, evangelicals, Wall Street gang) have given up on stopping democratic reform in the established institutions and have turned to attacking the institutions that created the democratic changes. The reactionaries now see a strong man as their best hope for stopping the hated democratic revolution. They are betting on Trump to be their savior and he is basking in their adoration. This is an alliance: he gives counter-revolutionary rollbacks to his followers, and his followers give authoritarian power to Trump.

The two campaigns are playing to draw the votes of moderate, or middle of the road, Americans who are not ideological and not really aligned with either side. The Republicans very cleverly won enough of these people in certain states to give Trump the victory in the Electoral College in 2016 even though he lost the popular vote by 3m. What the Democrats are offering to these people are two things, continuation of the democratic reforms, especially to improve race relations, and the preservation of our constitutional governing system. What the Republicans are offering these people is "law and order," that is, security based on old racial orders. This will come through authoritarian-driven force of arms. So, how the middle votes will depend on whether they see their future more in terms of social reform or of social rigidity. I have a feeling the majority of these people want to continue the ongoing democratic reforms. The huge street demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement over the last few months are strong evidence of this. Moreover, I also believe the moderates blame Trump, and his party, for the disastrous mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. has by far the most cases and deaths in the world. Trump and his administration have been grossly incompetent at handling this public health crisis. If anything, this shows that the Trump style of government can lead to destructive outcomes for society. It may well be that the virus is Trump's Waterloo. This is how it appears to me at the moment. So, the big issue on which this election will be decided is whether the mood of the country is for more reform or more reaction. The Democrats are for reform, the Republicans for reaction. The side that wins will dominate the field and steer the direction of the country in the foreseeable future. There is a big difference between the two sides; and that makes this election the most important at least since that of 1968.


Now, on a lighter note, a couple of pictures from my garden. Life goes on, and does so wonderfully and beautifully in my garden. It is late summer now and many plants are putting out their last, full displays of growth and color as if making a defiant stand before winter's cold arrives and they go to sleep for months.

Japanese Pea Shrub (Lespedeza thunbergii). One of my favorite perennial shrubs. Produces a profusion of small purple flowers from frost to frost. If you have a sunny spot and need some color from a low-maintenance shrub, choose this one.


To me, there is nothing more beautiful in a garden than the butterfly, one of the most glorious little creatures God created. I believe this one to be a male monarch. He is feeding on one of his favorite plants, lantana. According to the experts, monarchs have suffered a severe decline in numbers in recent years. Nevertheless, one can attract butterflies to the yard/garden by giving them plants they like, as lantana and "butterfly bush," and a water source low on the ground. Monarchs migrate southward starting in late summer. I do not know if this one is in migration but I am delighted he is in my garden. Did you know that monarchs may travel 3,000 miles in migration? Amazing. My other favorite garden residents: hummingbirds, mockingbirds, bluebirds, cardinals, and hawks (keep down rodents).


My best wishes to you, blog reader. We are in a dark hour with crisis on crisis upending our lives. It is easy to feel that everything is out of control. None of us wanted this. But, that choice was not ours to make. We are here for the living of this hour. May we all find the strength and courage to push ahead faithfully. Peace.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020





GONE WITH THE WIND



At 8:22 a.m., today, August 26, 2020, the giant column that once held a colossal statue of John C. Calhoun, came crashing down in Marion Square, in downtown Charleston. The statue had been removed in June. The base of the monument is to be removed later. For anyone who knows anything about Charleston, the demolition of the Calhoun memorial is a "monumental" change in the city. It would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. It is hard to imagine driving down Calhoun Street and not seeing the dark figure of John Calhoun high in the sky as if a god overseeing his world. For several years I drove down Calhoun Street twice a day on my way to and from the public library, a few blocks east of the square. I was a librarian in the South Carolina Room. Of course, if anyone wants to visit John Calhoun, his actual grave is a few blocks away in St. Philip's cemetery. It still has the bayonet gashes from the Civil War. The removal of the 124-year-old colossal monument to Calhoun is controversial, but I for one see it as progress toward a more equitable and just society. It is time to put our dark past behind us and move toward the light of racial reconciliation.

Find the Post and Courier article about today's event here .

Tuesday, August 25, 2020





WHY IS SHE SCREAMING?



All the talk today is about the woman who screamed her way through a six-minute unhinged speech last night in the Republican National Convention. In fact, she got louder and louder as she got more hysterical. See for yourself:

Long version:


Short version:


No one will be able to top that through the rest of the convention, nor should they try. My question is why she screamed for so long into an empty room. Here are possibilities:

---her red dress was so tight it cut off circulation to her brain.

---her spike heels were pinching her toes.

---she had way too much coffee before going on stage.

---she did not know how a microphone works.

---Trump, in the next room, had misplaced his hearing aids.

What do you think?

I can't wait for Saturday Night Live, or for Sarah Cooper. This is a gift. As she says, "The best is yet to come."

Anyway, I think we should all thank Ms. Guilfoyle (and her boyfriend Don Jr.) for this unexpected moment of levity. We needed it.



Monday, August 24, 2020





SHOULD WE DEFUND THE POLICE?



The topic of defunding the police has been in the news a great deal in the past few months. It really boiled up in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent Black Lives Matter public demonstrations. While I am not an authority on law enforcement, I do have a personal experience that I thought I would share with you as we contemplate the difficult problem of the nexus between the police and society.

To be honest, I am not clear on what people mean when they say "Defund the Police." If they mean abolish the police department, I would say that is a non-starter. I do not know any reasonable person who thinks we should abolish law enforcement. If they mean reduce budgets for certain aspects of policing, then we are open to discussion. If they mean replacing police officers with other social contacts, again, this is open for discussion. Obviously, a lot of work needs to be done to improve relations between the police and black and brown minorities. Black lives do indeed matter. I am just not sure defunding is the best approach to solving this problem.

While I have never been in law enforcement myself, I have a good deal of second-hand experience in it. My father was the chief of police of the Pensacola FL police department in the 1960's and 1970's. He started as a civilian guard at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the big navy base there, in the Second World War. After the war, he became a common beat cop in the City of Pensacola police department. At that time, the Pensacola waterfront was a run-down, seedy slum filled with unsavory bars and all sorts of illegal activities. Dad spent a lot of time dealing with drunk sailors. Soon, he moved up to "Desk Sergeant," the one who presided over the office side of the police department. He was an intelligent man with a forceful personality and soon made himself known to the important people in town. He was a great believer in police public relations. He would go talk to any group that invited him. He even starred in a weekly local TV show about police work. He was a natural leader: 33rd degree Scottish Rite Freemason (only six in FL), chair of his church's Board of Deacons for 50 years, officer in many civic clubs. When the job of chief came open, he was the natural choice to run the 100+ police department.

Police work is difficult now, but I can assure you it was much harder in the civil rights era of the 1960's and 70's. The police were pulled by white supremacists on one side and civil rights reformers on the other. Our telephone rang off the hook morning, noon, and night. Whether the call was about a riot or a parking ticket, Dad never refused to talk to the caller. Some days were frightening. A rock went through our car window one night; death threats; menacing intimidation; and plenty of public criticism over seemingly every move. Through it all, Dad managed to keep the police department on an even keel, and even to introduce landmark reforms. He started the first professional standards for the department. These have been developed ever since. Today, the Pensacola Police Department is a respected local institution with relatively good relations throughout the city.

I realize that times have changed. Police work is somewhat different today, particularly thanks to modern technology. What used to be the radio dispatch is now the software rich computer. And, as we all know, everyone has a cell phone, so practically every move of the police can be recorded and displayed on the media.

So, back to our problem. The issue is how to improve the relations between the police and the black and brown communities among us. Here are my suggestions:

1---Pay. Police are underpaid everywhere. They are on the same level as firemen, nurses, and teachers. It is hard to recruit well-qualified, young officers on low salaries. We have learned in the pandemic that all of these professions are essential to society. We ought to pay them what they are worth which is a lot more than they get now.

2---Apparently, we need better screening of applicants to weed out in advance those psychologically or otherwise unsuited to this profession. We also need the best in supervision of younger officers and lots of ongoing training, particular in race relations. Police work is dangerous and demanding. Officers often have to make split-second decisions of life and death. The more preparations they have for the enormous stresses of this line of work, the better.

3---Society expects too much of police officers. They often have to be psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors, and nurses. Most officers are high school graduates, not well-prepared to function in all these capacities. I do agree with the "defunders" that more money needs to go to pay for these services and take them off the backs of the police.

4---Stop using the police as a military institution. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, some police departments have developed more as military units sent out to stop citizens that may be only exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly. 

4---We have gone a long way, but we need to continue developing strong local ties between the police officers and the local neighborhoods they serve.

5---While demanding ethical and moral behavior of the police, and punishing those officers who act contrary to these, society must uphold its law enforcement institutions. Police men and women put their lives on the line every day, every time they put on that badge and walk out the door. They cannot be sure they will return home alive. Officers need to know that the community they are serving values their service and will have their backs. When there is an unsolvable doubt, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the officer on the scene. Only he or she knows the full context of what happened in any given incident.

So, should we "defund" the police? If we mean to abolish the police department, the answer must be "No." We need to increase funding but to do it wisely and to the best effect. George Floyd and a long list of black and brown victims of police misconduct tell us loudly and clearly that something is wrong in our law enforcement. We must right what is wrong. Doing away with the police department would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. We would be worse off. We must not disband our police departments. We must improve them. It can be done. I know from experience, from a remarkable father who lived to be 96 years old.

Saturday, August 22, 2020





THE HERO OF THE HOUR



The hero of this moment in our dark hour is not a famous and powerful politician, entertainer, or any other important public figure. He is a heretofore unknown 13 year old young man with all the courage in the world. During the Democratic national convention, Brayden Harrington went on national television in spite of a stutter. He lifted and inspired everyone watching. He certainly brightened my day, and he will yours too. Here is our video of the day:


Friday, August 21, 2020





NOTES,  21 AUGUST 2020



Greetings, blog reader, on this Friday. August 21, 2020. My best wishes to each of you. Hundreds of people click onto this space every day. Some of you I know by name. Most of you I do not know. My aim here is to raise issues that I think are of importance to us and to provide information on these as a guide to these uncertain times. Today, I have several topics to offer:


---PANDEMIC.
Today's figures from Worldometers show that COVID-19 continues to spread but at a lessening rate. This is true across the board.

In the past week (August 14-21), 1,787,042 new cases were reported in the world, for a total of 22,891,681. This is an 8% increase, down from the 10% of the prior week. As for deaths in the last week, 39,609 were reported for a total of 797,671. This is a 5% rise, down slightly from the week before.

The United States continues as the world's epicenter. In the past week, 329,705 new cases were reported in the U.S. for a total of 5,746,534. This is a 6% increase, down from the 8% of the earlier week. As for reported deaths, there were 6,999 in the week, for a total of 177,438, a rise of 4%, down slightly from the previous week. At present, 1,000 Americans are dying every day from the coronavirus. At this rate, 200,000 will be dead by mid-September. By the end of the year, we can expect 300,000 dead. This number will probably be much higher as fall and winter set in and there is no vaccine in sight. Meanwhile, there is no national policy or program to combat the disease.

South Carolina continues to be a "hot spot" in the U.S. although the rates of spread and mortality have fallen dramatically. In the past week, there were 5,411 reported new cases in SC, a rising rate of 5%, well below the rate of the earlier week and below the national average. This is a welcomed break in a long trend. As for deaths, SC reported 215 in the last week, a 10% increase, for a total of 2,401. It is too soon to tell if SC has turned the corner but the charts show rates falling in the past few weeks.

As SC, Alabama continues as a "hot spot." In the last week, there were 6,892 new cases reported, a rise of 7%. AL reported 84 deaths in the week, for a total of 1,974. These figures are well below of those of the past few weeks. As SC, there is a long trend in the right direction in AL although it is too soon to draw conclusions. In all, 112,449 Alabamians have contracted the virus and 1,974 have died of it.

Perhaps the best news of all comes from Charleston County. It reported a modest 431 new cases, for a total of 13,062, a rising rate of 3%, well below the state and national averages. However, the state health department estimates that the true number of cases in the county at 90,939, or about one in five residents. The county also listed 8 new deaths, for a total of 217. The most hopeful news is that the rates in the county show a long term downward trend.

In sum, COVID-19 continues to spread in the world, particularly in America while there are pockets of improving rates here and there. Still, we must lament the fact that 1,000 of our fellow citizens are dying in this pandemic every day. This should not be happening in the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. It is a failure of our national leadership.


---DIOCESAN CONVENTIONS.
The annual diocesan convention meetings will be "virtual" this year, that is, online. The new Anglican Diocese of South Carolina will go on the computer on October 3. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina will hold its 230th annual meeting on November 20, also online. Also, apparently, next year's general convention of the Episcopal Church will be on the computer. 


---SEARCH FOR BISHOPS.
The Episcopal diocese of SC has announced the resumption of its search for the XV bishop of the diocese, having suspended such last April. It projects an election in early 2021. See the diocesan press release about this here .

The new Anglican diocese of SC announced several weeks ago that it expected to choose a bishop coadjutor soon. The new bishop will succeed Mark Lawrence as the second bishop of this association. There has been no news about this lately.


---LITIGATION.
No news on this either. I expect vacation times of August have put the legal issues on hold for the moment. We are awaiting three court actions: 1-Judge Dickson to rule on whether to grant a stay of his decision pending the appeal; 2-the SC Court of Appeals to rule on whether it will pass the appeal on to the SC Supreme Court; 3-the U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, on the Anglican diocese's appeal of Judge Gergel's order of last September.


---POLITICAL CRISIS.
The United States is moving into a worsening political crisis as we approach the general election of November 3, 2020. I believe this is the greatest crisis the nation faces at the moment. Since early in the year, the U.S. has endured several crises: the pandemic, the economic depression, the social unrest (street demonstrations), and the constitutional crisis. Only the third (social) has receded, at least superficially. The other three are worsening. In my view, the constitutional crisis is the most important for the future of the country. President Trump has said explicitly that if he loses, the election will be illegitimate, that is, he will refuse to accept the results of the election and will not concede his office or his power. The crisis is already occurring.

Here is my take on our political crisis. Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my overall theory of contemporary history. In the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries, America witnessed a great democratic revolution that worked on two levels. There was a social democratic revolution that gave African Americans, women, homosexuals, and others liberty, equality, and justice. There was also a political revolution that incorporated these newly freed groups into the constitutional process, really for the first time. The monopoly on political power of the old white male power structures began to crumble.

A revolution in history is always followed by a counter-revolution, or backlash, led by elements that felt most threatened by the revolutionary reforms. In this case, white working class men, southern whites, evangelicals, and the Wall Street crowd saw the changes as dangerous threats to their perceived social, cultural, and economic interests. The counter-revolution began in 1968 with the "southern strategy" and culminated in the election of Donald Trump in 2016. From 1968 to 1990, while dividing up revolution/counter-revolution, America was forced into union by a common external threat, the U.S.S.R. When that state failed and disintegrated in 1990, the Cold War ended and America emerged as the world's one and only super power. However, the necessary bond of union was the victim of this. After 1990, there was no common threat to force the nation together. The internal divisions erupted in the 1990's, particularly in the Clinton years. This growing disunion may have been abated by the 9-11 attack, but the national leadership squandered this possibility by devising a needless and useless war on trumped up charges. The divisions increased again. The election, and reelection of the nation's first president of African ancestry greatly intensified the clash between the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces and prepared the stage for an over-the-top manipulator of counter-revolutionary rage, the demagogue Donald Trump, a master showman with no political experience. Trump rode a huge wave of racism (counter-revolution) to a victory in the Electoral College (not in the popular vote).

Trump has combined two forces in his unique presidential administration. On the one hand, he has handed the economic conservatives an enormous tax break for rich individuals and corporations. Wall Street loves Trump. On the other hand, he has developed an authoritarian governing style that hands out cultural counter-reforms. There is a very long list of roll-backs carried out by his administration, mostly by direct orders. The counter-revolutionary elements love Trump too. In fact, in my observation, there is a cult-like following. A recent, and highly disturbing manifestation of this phenomenon, is the QAnon movement, based on the belief that Trump is a messiah here to save the country, and the world, from satanic (Democratic) forces that enslave and cannibalize children. Apparently, millions of Americans buy into this appalling insanity. When asked about QAnon, Trump only gave it approval, equally shocking. This reveals just how far some people in the counter-revolutionary backlash will go in their quest to stop revolution. In my view, the great weakness in Trump's order is his foreign policy that confronts allies and cozies up to adversaries. This has caused him a good deal of opposition and really little to no support from his electoral coalition.

Trump was sailing right into reelection, at least according to the bookies in Vegas, when this year began. He had survived triumphantly the Mueller investigation and impeachment, no mean feat. In January of 2020, Trump seemed unbeatable. Then the coronavirus appeared. Everything changed. For the first time in thirty years, a common enemy stormed the gates forcing the nation to unite to protect itself against a deadly novel virus and its pandemic. This was the moment when Trump could have sealed his reelection once and for all. If he had created a strong, unified, and well-coordinated national response to the pandemic, he would have won the votes of most Americans. He did not do that. He squandered the opportunity as he denied the threat , then minimized and bunged the crisis. The virus exposed the fatal flaws in Trump as a political leader. It brought him down as Mueller and impeachment had not done. Trump proved to be incompetent at handling a national crisis. The national mood blamed him. Public opinion turned against him. Virtually every poll since has shown Trump losing the election by significant margins. Seeing his impending defeat, he is now attacking the election itself. 

In my view, there are several important reasons why Trump must be defeated for reelection. In the first place, the democratic revolution must proceed. In the second place, the U.S. Constitution must remain sacrosanct. Without it, we will not have the country we have known. In the third place, we must demand a government of moral and ethical principles. This is even greater than the first and second points. Without a strong sense of right and wrong, American society will devolve into amoral chaos and violence. The Trump administration is arguably the most corrupt in American history because it has no firm commitment to moral and ethical principles. Just yesterday, a close political advisor to Trump was arrested and charged with a felony. Steve Bannon joins a very long list of Trump insiders who have been hauled into court, some convicted and some in prison.

The national election arriving in two and a half months will be a crossroads of American history. I see three huge issues at stake: 1-revolution versus counter-revolution, 2-the U.S. Constitution, and 3-moral and ethical government. Altogether, this is about as serious as it gets. What comes out of the upcoming election will impact on the country as nothing since the Civil War. Our future as a democratic, constitutional republic, and cohesive society is hanging in the balance.

As an historian, particularly one of revolutions, I see the eventual victory of the revolutionary reforms with some moderation. This is the historical pattern of great revolutions of the past. However, there is a big question of when and how this would come about. Right now, the national election is entirely uncertain. If Trump loses, as the polls now indicate he will, we can expect a great crisis, possibly even mass violence in the streets. Following the model of the 2000 election, the outcome will go to the courts. In 2000, a 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court awarded the election to the man who had clearly lost the election. I see no reason to believe the court would not do the same again. At any rate, we are in for a national crisis, and one that may last for over two months, from Nov. 3 to to inauguration of January 20, 2021.


We are in a dark hour. There are worsening crises all around us. Nevertheless, I see plenty of signs that we will triumph over these. There are lots of good people out there working hard to make this come about. We are all here for the living of this hour. We will make it through the night, together. Peace. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020





DID GOD CAUSE
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?



The coronarivus pandemic has been going on in earnest for six months now. People are falling sick and dying all around us. Along the way, I expect every one of us has asked, Why is this happening? Did God cause this plague? If so, for what reason? To punish us? To warn us of the last days? If not, why does not He/She intervene to stop the suffering and death? These are perfectly legitimate questions. We all wish we had the answers.

The problem of why bad things happen to good people is the oldest known question in recorded history. The earliest extant written story is the Sumerian text of the Epic of Gilgamesh, nearly four thousand years old. The answer to the Sumerians was---there is no answer. The universe is chaos. The gods act on whim. The monotheistic Hebrews reinterpreted this story to say that the universe is orderly, the creation of a divine force. However, God's work may remain enigmatic to humans. At the time of trial, we may not know why it is happening. The Black Death of the Fourteenth Century and the Holocaust of the Twentieth Century were prime examples of post-Biblical catastrophes. I would argue that God caused neither of these. The first was an act of nature. God and nature are not the same. The second was caused by human beings who made evil choices. Nevertheless, God dwelt among and with the victims suffering unspeakable hardships. He did not abandon them any more than he had Job. He/She will not abandon us today.

I am not a theologian and do not claim to be. I claim to be an historian, not a very good according to my critics, but I try my best anyway. I suppose nowadays, the best read Anglican theologian is N.T. Wright, the author of a shelf of books on New Testament interpretation. His latest book is God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and its Aftermath

(I must admit I have not read it. My reading list right now is political in anticipation of the upcoming national election. I just finished Mary Trump's book Too Much and Never Enough. And, you thought your family was dysfunctional! I am now into A Very Stable Genius, by Philip Rocker and Carol  Leonnig. They prove Trump is anything but. I digress.) 

Meanwhile, we have N.T. Wright himself summarizing his book. Here is our video of the day (23 minutes):


You may listen for yourself what Wright has to say about this problem. I will not presume to tell you what he says. I will just say my view is that God did not cause the pandemic but is with us in our hour of need.

Friday, August 14, 2020






DIOCESE OF ALABAMA TO RESUME
IN-PERSON WORSHIP ON 6 SEPTEMBER



The Rt. Rev. "Kee" Sloan, bishop of Alabama, announced today that churches of the diocese may resume in-person worship on September 6, 2020. Find the bishop's letter here . 

Churches of the Diocese of Alabama (the upper two-thirds of the state) have been closed to inside services since March 13. This is the longest Episcopal churches have been closed in the state in the history of the diocese. Episcopal churches in the state were closed, briefly, once before, and that was by federal authority right after the Civil War.

Bp. Sloan is following the guidance of Dr. Fauci and of the CDC in setting standards for re-opening:  no congregational singing, no coffee hour, seating every other row and six feet apart except for family groups, and communion by bread. 

Most churches in the diocese have been conducting services on-line for several months now. They may choose to continue this. Today's directive gives an option. Local churches are free to have in-house and/or online worship services.

It will be interesting to see how the local churches in Alabama handle this restrictive re-opening. A cursory observation of churches in South Carolina shows that most continued on-line only services. Relatively few resumed in-person services. Of the few I observed that did resume inside services, the congregations appeared sparse. It seemed as if most people were reluctant to return to congregational worship. 



NOTES,  14 AUGUST 2020



My beloved grandparents always insisted the first two weeks of August were "the Dog Days" of the year. No one knew why these weeks were called this. It was just tradition. It was a bitter sweet time of the year as I was growing up and remains so. The daylight hours are noticeably shorter, heralding autumn's cooler air not far ahead. Yet, by August, most southerners were suppressed by four or five months of relentlessly hot and humid weather. A sad note at this time is that the mockingbirds do not sing in the Dog Days because they are molting. Other birds may sing but none compares to the quality and quantity of the mockingbird. I have lots of birds in my garden because I provide them all with their favorite fresh foods. My neighbors have bird feeders. I do not, yet the birds prefer my garden and I am glad.

I wish I had some good news to impart to you, dear blog reader, but, alas, I have not. Our hard times are getting harder all along. Millions of people face hunger, eviction from their homes, and loss of jobs. The economy is in a depression. Life as we knew it has been turned upside down in almost every aspect. The pandemic is growing worse by the minute. 

In the Dog Days (August 1-14), three and a half million people in the world fell victim to the coronavirus. According to Worldometers, there are now 21,104,426 reported cases in the world. As for deaths, 80,522 people died of the plague in the last two weeks, for a total of 758,062. The trajectory of cases and deaths in the world is upward.

The United States continues to be the hottest spot in the world for COVID-19. The U.S. has by far the most cases and deaths; and the trajectory is up. In the Dog Days, 781,603 new cases were reported in the U.S., for a total of 5,416, 829. At this rate, the U.S. will soon reach an infection rate of 2% of the population. In the same period, the U.S. listed 15,133 deaths in the pandemic, for a total of 170,439. This averages to slightly more than 1,000 deaths a day in the U.S. We can expect this to worsen as fall and winter arrive.

South Carolina continues to be a "hot spot" in a "hot spot." Cases there jumped 19% in the Dog Days, up 16,337 to a total of 103,909. This is above the national average. Deaths in SC in the two weeks numbered 519, a 31% jump, to a total of 2,186. Deaths in SC were three times the national average.

The pandemic is also soaring in Alabama, as it is in all of the lower south. In the first two weeks of August, AL reported 19,795 new cases for a total of 105,557. This is well above the national figures. Deaths in AL numbered 325 for a total of 1,890. The death rate in AL is twice the national average. Both SC and AL should sound the alarm to take stronger measures to mitigate this highly contagious and deadly disease. 

Infections and deaths continue to rise in Charleston County, but at a much slower pace. In the last two weeks, the county reported 1,386 new cases for a total of 12,631. This is about 100 new cases a day. In this period, 55 people died in Charleston Co. of the virus, for a total of 209. This was a shocking 36% rate (for 2 weeks!).


On another note, what about the litigation in SC? As of yesterday, there had been no movement on the three issues pending action:  1-whether Judge Dickson will grant a stay pending appeal, 2-whether the SC Court of Appeals will agree to expedite the appeal to the SC Supreme Court, and 3-whether the U.S. Court of Appeals will hold a hearing (or go straight to a written decision). I have not a clue on when any of this will occur. We simply have to wait for the very slow wheels of justice to turn.


My best wish is that all goes well with you and yours. Life goes on, even in the hard times. My one grandchild is preparing for the school year at Lugoff-Elgin High School, in Kershaw County. There, students have the choice of attending class in person or doing the work at home on the computer. On another personal note, happy anniversary to my wife Sandy. It was fifty-four years ago today that we stood before the Rev. Lex Matthews in the Chapel of the Resurrection of the Episcopal Student Center at Florida State University in hot and humid Tallahassee. What an adventure we have had.

So, what to do as the dark night darkens? First, we must care for ourselves and each other. Millions of people out there are hurting. We must do what we can to see them through. At the very least, we could send money to our local food banks. Use your imagination to come up with creative ways for being God's people in the world. This is the time of need. This is the time to act.

And, always remember, friend, we are here for the living of this hour. May we all find the strength and courage to march onward through whatever trial stands ahead. Peace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020




NOTES,  11 AUGUST 2020



Greetings to you, blog reader, on this Tuesday, the 11th day of August 2020, in the midst of the worst health crisis in a century. Here's a wish that you and yours are safe and secure.

It is time to look at the course of the pandemic in the last week, August 4 to August 11. As usual, we are relying on the data from Worldometers. 

Reported cases in the world have passed 20m, 20,281,691 to be exact this morning. This is an increase of 1,806,501, or 10%. In the week, 41,570 people in the world died of COVID-19, a 6% rise. The total of the dead in the world now stands at 739,785.

The United States continues to be the epicenter of the world in the pandemic with by far the most cases and deaths. This has been true for the past five months. The U.S. is now reporting 5,251,997 cases, an increase of 389,484, or 8%. In the past week, 7,233 Americans died of the plague, or 5% rise, for a total now of 166,201 dead since the start. At this rate, the U.S. will reach 200,000 dead within the next thirty days.

South Carolina continues to be a "hot spot" of the pandemic, with numbers higher than the national figures. The reported cases in SC in the last week jumped 8,209, to a total of 101,159. This was a 9% increase. Worse was the rise in the number of deaths, 256 in the week, a rise of 14%. The total number of reported deaths in SC is now 2,049.

Alabama is trending in an even worse direction. In the last week, it reported 10,359 new cases, an increase of 11%. AL now lists 103,020, more than SC. Deaths rose by 10%, as 164 added to the total of 1,797. It is clear than in both SC and AL, COVID-19 is spreading at will.

If there is a glimmer of hope, it is in the numbers for Charleston County. The figure of reported new cases here was 656. This was a 6% increase, for a total of 12,353. The rate of increase is on a downward trajectory in Charleston Co.

It is clear from the statistics, from whatever source one uses, that the COVID-19 pandemic is running rampant in America, particularly in the southern tier. There is no national plan or policy to combat the disease. Infections are spreading exponentially. Deaths are increasing all along. There is no end in sight. This will continue until a vaccine appears and that will not be for several months at the very least. In all probability, the worst of this plague is yet to come, in the fall and winter.

All of this is hard to take. It is very hard. People are falling sick and dying all around us. Our health care institutions are groaning under the burden. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs with little to no hope of finding new ones. Thousands of businesses have closed. Food banks are running out of food. Our national leadership either cannot or will not lead the nation through this nightmare. The president is incompetent. So, times are bad. Let us not fool ourselves to think otherwise.

As a student of history, I can assure you people in the past endured hard times too and survived. It was not very long ago that our nation faced a terrible trial in the Great Depression and the Second World War. That period makes what we have now now look like small potatoes. Yet, Americans survived, and I would argue arose magnificently to prevail over the challenges of the day. They proved their mettle. After it was over, America was a much greater place than before. 

So, do not despair. We will get through this long, dark night and we will do it together. And, always remember we are here for a reason, for the living of this hour, as hard as it may be. Peace.  

Monday, August 10, 2020





THE PARISHES AND THE SCHISM



Yesterday, 9 August, I posted a note about the latest membership numbers of the new Anglican diocese of South Carolina. The data indicate relentless decline in the communicant numbers in the diocese as a whole since the schism of 2012. Today, let us look at the individual parishes to see how they have fared in membership since the schism.

In this survey, we will take the official numbers of communicants, first for the last full year before the schism, 2011, and then for the latest official numbers, most for the year 2019. This way we can get a good indication of the growth or decline of the individual parishes that went along with the schism. This will give us at least a general idea of the effect of the schism on the individual churches.

Perhaps the most meaningful guide is the percentage change in the communicant numbers of the local church from 2011 to 2019. We will start with the greatest percentage loss and work down to the greatest percentage gain.


NEGATIVE

ST. LUKE'S, Hilton Head
2011 --- 951
2019 --- 266  (-72%)

TRINITY, Myrtle Beach
2011 --- 595
2019 --- 172 (-71%)

HOLY CROSS, Stateburg
2011 --- 177
2019 --- 60 (-66%)

ST. DAVID'S, Cheraw
2011 --- 113
2019 --- 40 (-65%)

CHRIST CHURCH, Mt. Pleasant
2011 --- 1,117
2019 --- 350 (-63%)

OLD ST. ANDREW'S, Charleston
2011 --- 962
2019 --- 406 (-58%)

ST. HELENA'S, Beaufort
2011 --- 1,737
2019 --- 827 (-52%)

HOLY CROSS, Sullivans Island
2011 --- 2,540
2019 --- 1,271 (-50%)

ST. PHILIP'S, Charleston
2011 --- 2,677
2019 --- 1,370 (-49%)

GOOD SHEPHERD, Charleston
2011 --- 302
2019 --- 154 (-49%)

HOLY COMFORTER, Sumter
2011 --- 525
2019 --- 268 (-49%)

ST. MICHAEL'S, Charleston
2011 --- 1,847
2018 --- 976 (-47%)

TRINITY, Pinopolis
2011 --- 184
2019 --- 103 (-44%)

HOLY APOSTLES, Barnwell
2011 --- 91
2019 --- 54 (-41%)

REDEEMER, Pineville
2011 --- 82
2019 --- 49 (-40%)

ST. BARNABAS, Dillon
2011 --- 47
2019 --- 35 (-32%)

REDEEMER, Orangeburg
2011 --- 265
2019 --- 184 (-31%)

TRINITY, Edisto
2011 --- 183
2019 --- 134 (-27%)

ST. MATTHIAS, Summerton
2011 --- 128
2019 --- 95 (-26%)

ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S, Hartsville
2011 --- 160
2019 --- 122 (-24%)

ST. JAMES, Charleston
2011 --- 612
2018 --- 500 (-18%)

RESURRECTION, Surfside
2011 --- 282
2019 --- 245 (-13%)

ST. MATTHEW'S, Darlington
2011 --- 139
2019 --- 124 (-11%)

CHURCH OF THE CROSS, Bluffton
2011 --- 1,701
2019 --- 1,631 (-4%)

CHRIST/ST. PAUL'S, Yonges Island
2011 --- 330
2019 --- 318 (-4%)

ST. PAUL'S, Conway
2011 --- 270
2019 --- 257 (-4%)

ST. PAUL'S, Summerville
2011 --- 773
2019 --- 750 (-3%)

CATHEDRAL, ST. LUKE AND ST. PAUL, Charleston
2011 --- 305
2019 --- 300 (-2%)

ST. JOHN'S, Florence
2011 --- 453
2019 --- 441 (-2%)


POSITIVE

PRINCE GEORGE WINYAH, Georgetown
2011 --- 450
2019 --- 451

CHRIST CHURCH, Florence
2011 --- 49
2019 --- 51 (+4%)

ALL SAINTS, Florence
2011 --- 144
2019 --- 151 (+5%)

ADVENT, Marion
2011 --- 27
2019 --- 30 (+10%)

ST. JOHN'S, Johns Island
2011 --- 566
2019 --- 620 (+10%)

ST. JUDE'S, Walterboro
2011 --- 200
2019 --- 227 (+13%)

OUR SAVIOUR, Johns Island
2011 --- 195
2019 --- 223 (+14%)

EPIPHANY, Eutawville
2011 --- 75
2019 --- 87 (+ 16%)

ST. ANDREW'S MISSION, Charleston
2011 --- 38
2019 --- 50 (+32%)

ST. MATTHEW'S, Ft. Motte
2011 --- 71
2019 --- 97 (+37%)

HOLY TRINITY, Grahamville
2011 --- 98
2019 --- 141 (+44%)


SUMMARY.
Of the 40 local churches in the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina listed above, 29 reported losses in communicant numbers after the schism. Several large parishes, as St. Philip's of Charleston, St. Michael's of Charleston, and St. Helena's of Beaufort, reported losses of about half their communicants after the schism. Thus, about three in four of the local churches that went along with the break lost communicants. Eight parishes lost more than half of their communicants. Two parishes lost more than 70% of their communicants.

About one in four of the local churches reported gains in membership although these were mostly modest increases.

In conclusion, it is clear that the schism led to a decline in numbers of communicants in the big majority of the local churches that went along with the break. Thus, both the diocese as a whole and most of the local congregations declined in active membership after the schism of 2012.