HAPPY JUNETEENTH.

This is a day of freedom for all Americans; slavery makes slaves of us all, and one who believes that our life on earth is only a prologue to eternity may be forgiven for supposing that the slaveowner spends a longer time in more discomfort. In honor of the new federal holiday, here are some articles that have appeared in the Historical Spectator on the subject of slavery:

Slavery Is the Original Sin

The Real Motives of the American Colonization Society

Slaves of the Baker

Runaway Phil

A Frenchman Looks at American Race Relations

Now, here is an interesting exercise in historical research. How and when did the name “Juneteenth” come into use? It is quite possible that one of our readers knows, but Dr. Boli does not, and his sources of information have failed him. Wikipedia does not mention the question, let alone answer it. You can ask the Internet “Where did the name ‘Juneteenth’ come from?” and the Internet will helpfully tell you that it is a contraction of “June” and “nineteenth.” Yes, you guessed that, but where did that contraction come from? When was it first used? You will see people asking that in forums, and being told that it comes from “June” and “nineteenth.” When they politely remark that they knew that, but it wasn’t the question they were asking, they may be told the same thing in capital letters: IT COMES FROM “JUNE” AND “NINETEENTH.” There are articles with headlines that purport to explain the origin of the name, and they tell you that it comes from “June” and “nineteenth.”

But it is a distinctive contraction, isn’t it? It is not obvious that “June” and “nineteenth” should produce “Juneteenth.” We do not celebrate the Declaration of Independence on Julourth. It seems to Dr. Boli that some graduate student has a thesis topic here that would lead to some fascinating and fruitful byways of history. When was the name first used, and by whom? Dr. Boli will mention that the earliest use he could find was in 1890, but it seemed to refer to a celebration already well known by the name Juneteenth. Can anyone do better?

REFEREE’S SIGNALS IN AMERICAN FOOTBALL.

signals-01

If my head were a football, it would be right between the goalposts.

signals-02

I am a pretty, pretty butterfly.signals-10

You must be this tall to sack the quarterback.

signals-11

Insufficient muscular development. 10 yards.

signals-03

Well, really.

signals-24

Ev’rybody do that Footloose Strut.

signals-29

Illegal ambivalence. 25 yards.

signals-40

Applause, please.

NEW BOOKS FROM RUNCIBLE THIS WEEK.

Tractatus de Filibustro; or, The Art of Saying Nothing at Great Length and with Appropriate Conviction. By State Senator Henrietta Maria Stuart.

Faith’s Proctoscope: In Which the Recent Reform of the Reformed Church is Carefully Examined and Thoroughly Vindicated, and the More Recent Claims of the Reformed Reformed Reformers Are Utterly Demolished. By the Rev. Thaddeus Carton, D.D., D.D.S., M.B.A.

How to Recognize and Avoid Responsibility: An Essential Handbook for the Middle Manager. By the Interim Publications Committee.

The Antisocialite’s Companion: Party Tricks That Will Clear a Room so You Can Drink All the Punch Yourself. By Egbert Pound.

The Noble Gases: Their Pedigrees, Incestuous Marriages, Private Wars, Social Embarrassments, and Oppression of the Common Elements. By Amelia Stokes-Chapell Wallington-Carnaby-Fortescue.

The Collector’s Price Guide to Plastic One-Gallon Fruit-Punch Jugs. By Al from Herb’s Cooking for One.

The Voice of the Voiceless: How to Be an Advocate for the Consonants No One Wants to Talk About. By Prof. Hetta Picketts.

All from Runcible Books and Finer Meats, Squirrel Hill
Don’t Forget to Eat Meat While You Read

MORE INITIALS TO INTERPRET.

D for the Dermatologist you must see if you have a growth like this on your head.

E for the Ennui suffered by the bagpipe player who must keep up a constant drone for an hour.

L for the Liquor to which this poor man is addicted, causing him to see wild boars that no one else can see.

R for little Roberta playing the starring role in her third-grade play, Our Friend the Roach.

T for Throwing, a monkey’s favorite hobby.

X for Xerxes counting his million-man army and coming up with 999,997.

More fun with initials may be had on our page of initials in the Illustrations collection.

ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: So what should we really do about racism in this country? —Sincerely, A Man Who Thought “Racism” Meant NASCAR Until Quite Recently.

Dear Sir: First, we must understand that nothing can be legally done about private racism, which is to say the expression of insulting opinions by private individuals. Private racism is not, and must not be, illegal. In Dr. Boli’s opinion it is wrong, but not everything that is wrong can or ought to be made illegal. Dr. Boli has never come to terms with Calvinism, but it is openly practiced not half a mile from the Boli mansion. Likewise, private racism must be tolerated, and once again Dr. Boli finds it necessary to define tolerance. Tolerance is not approval. It is nearly the opposite of approval. We have no need of tolerance for things of which we all approve. Tolerance is my guarantee of your right to be wrong, in exchange for your guarantee of my right to be wrong. We tolerate racists, meaning that they have the right to rant as much as they like about the inferiority of Danes or Bhutanese or whatever ethnic groups they disapprove of.

We also need to distinguish racism from other things we disagree about. It is not racist to believe that a child born black in this country has the very same opportunities that a child born white has. The term for that is naive or hopelessly optimistic, not racist. It is not racist to believe that people of other cultures should conform to the standards of behavior or belief of one’s own culture: the term for that is narrow-minded or chauvinistic, not racist. Racism is not a question of behaviors: it is the belief that people of a certain ancestry should not have the same privileges as people of some other ancestry. It is aristocracy on a large scale, with all the absurdities of aristocracy—a word that actually means “rule of the best,” which should provoke a hearty laugh in anyone who has mingled with aristocrats.

Legally, what we can do about racism is limited. We can make laws that are blind to race, and demand judges who will enforce them. We can insist on equal treatment in public accommodations, regardless of the private views of the managers of such accommodations. Where we see injustice in government, we can shine a bright light on it, and we can vote for justice. But we cannot use the law to stop racists from being racist. We can only limit the scope of their behavior.

Morally, however, we have a doomsday weapon against racism. We can mock racists. Racism is the most mockable of all vices, because pride is the root of all racism, and pride is also the root of all comedy. When we have seen the proud cavalier displaying his pride in the first reel, we are ready to see him fall off his horse into a mud puddle in the second. The racist who believes he represents a superior race is inviting us to demonstrate exactly how he is wrong about that.

Therefore, dear reader, you know your duty. Go out and do it. No racist should be safe from your sarcasm. All lovers of justice and equality are depending on you.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SALON OF 2021.

Eli “Bonkers” Johnson: Diagonal Line #6: Anthraquinone Blue, Up­per Left to Lower Right, but Deviating Slightly About Three-Quarters of the Way Along Where a Fly Landed on the Artist’s Elbow. Acrylic on canvas.

Albrecht Kunsthammer: Venus Giving Cupid a Time Out After That Busi­ness with the Movie Star and the State Repre­sentative. Oil on Wood.

Crandall Pinsk: Untitled No. 2: Revenge of the Untitled. Stuff glued to­gether with a hook in the back for hanging.

Margaret Derby-Wallington-ffitch: Philadelphia Fleabane (Eri­geron phila­delphicus) Posed as an Allegory of Virtue. Crayon on construc­tion paper.

Boris the Dog: Paw Prints No. 38. Mud on the mistress’ best linen.

FAMILIAR APHORISMS.

A penny saved is a penny that will eventually be lost between the couch cushions.

Spare the rod and spoil the piston.

A lie can go around the world while the truth is still deciding whether a nice pair of slacks would be better than that green skirt she bought on sale at Target, or whether she should just go naked as usual.

The early bird gets the worm and begins to have serious doubts about her career choice.

Pride goeth before a fall into a cake. (Source: Mack Sennett.)

It takes a village to make a child into a provincial hick.

The acorn doesn’t fall far from the squirrel.

Red at night,
Sailor’s delight.
Red in the morning,
Sailor’s warning.
Red at noon,
Ship is probably on fire and you might want to do something about that.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, three in the tree, sixteen in the sky, and forty-five in the field guide on the desk.

EURIPIDES AND HIS AGE, BY GILBERT MURRAY.

 

The new Serif Classics edition of Euripides and His Age brings us a study of a Greek playwright by a famous classicist of a hundred years ago. And if that does not sound exciting to you, it is because it hardly sounds exciting to anyone.

That is why this book comes as such a delightful surprise.

Once again, Dr. Boli has contributed a short introduction, which by permission of the publisher he reproduces here.

There is a certain class of books that seem to be about one very small thing, but are really about everything. The Compleat Angler is about fishing, but it has been read with delight for centuries by people who have never dipped a hook into a stream. The Anatomy of Melancholy is about the humors and their effect of the disposition, but no one would care about an outdated medical treatise if it did not also happen to touch on everything that makes us human.

Here, likewise, is a book about an ancient Greek playwright; and yet if you have never read Euripides, or never liked him when you did read him, you will still probably enjoy this book. You may end up loving this book. You may want to pass it on to your friends and your enemies as the one book that explains everything.

Gilbert Murray had one of those great minds that can effortlessly find the universal in the particular; and this book, which is certainly a study of Euripides, is also a book about everything it means to be human. It is especially about what it means to be aiming for the stars when the great mass of humanity is desperately clinging to the earth—to be on the side of light in an age of darkness. We need only quote a few stray thoughts from it to make the point clear:

Every man who possesses real vitality can be seen as the resultant of two forces. He is first the child of a particular age, society, convention; of what we may call in one word a tradition. He is secondly, in one degree or another, a rebel against that tradition. And the best traditions make the best rebels. (Chapter 1.)

In every contest that goes on between Intelligence and Stupidity, between Enlightenment and Obscurantism, the powers of the dark have this immense advantage: they never understand their opponents, and consequently represent them as always wrong, always wicked, whereas the intelligent party generally makes an effort to understand the stupid and to sympathize with anything that is good or fine in their attitude. (Chapter 2.)

A man everlastingly wrapped round in good books and safe living cries out for something harsh and real—for blood and swear-words and crude jagged sentences. A man who escapes with eagerness from a life of war and dirt and brutality and hardship to dwell just a short time among the Muses, naturally likes the Muses to be their very selves and not remind him of the mud he has just washed off. (Chapter 4.)

We must distinguish carefully between the two notions, Enlightenment and Democracy. They happen to have gone together in two or three of the greatest periods of human progress and we are apt to regard them as somehow necessarily allied. But they are not. (Chapter 5.)

Irony is the mood of one who has some strong emotion within but will not quite trust himself on the flood of it. And romance is largely the mood of one turning away from realities that disgust him. (Chapter 5.)

After all they were a democracy; and, as Thucydides fully recognizes, a great mass of men, if it does commit infamies, likes first to be drugged and stimulated with lies: it seldom, like the wicked man in Aristotle’s Ethics, “calmly sins.” (Chapter 5.)

The Bacchae is the most formal Greek play known to us; its Chorus is its very soul and its lyric songs are as long as they are magnificent. For the curious thing is that in this extreme of formality and faithfulness to archaic tradition Euripides has found both his greatest originality and his most perfect freedom.

We are apt at the present moment of taste to associate together two things that have no real connexion with one another—sincerity of thought and sloppiness of form. (Chapter 8.)

In Gilbert Murray’s analysis, you are likely to find Euripides’ age startlingly similar to our own. It was obviously startlingly similar to Murray’s own age in many ways, and that is probably the secret of Athens and the hold it has over our thoughts. It is startlingly similar to every subsequent age, because at least the germs of all the thoughts that have been thought are there. All our modern virtues and all our modern vices are visible in the Athens of the classic period. Great thinkers dared to think great thoughts, in a profusion and a variety perhaps never again equaled. Of course, the common Athenians killed or exiled those great thinkers with distressing regularity, but that did not prevent the thoughts from being thought, or the thinkers from outliving their persecutors by two and a half millennia.

This is what makes Euripides and His Age a book about everything. You will see your own time in it, and you will feel some strong hints about how the enlightened citizen reacts to times like these—whatever times these are.

But perhaps the best thing that can be said about this book is that it will make you crave Euripides. It will make you scour your library for that half-forgotten translation of his plays that you know is lurking around here somewhere, or will make you scour the Internet for the best translation available. The number of academic critics who can accomplish that feat is very small, but Gilbert Murray is among them.

If you think now that you might like to read the book, you can certainly find the text on line. But for those who like to hold paper in their hands while they read, the Serif edition is neatly typeset and just the right size for taking with you everywhere.

Note that, for some reason, Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature is showing a different and much inferior edition of the book. You may be sure that the Serif edition is designed to a higher standard, as you can see from the sample below.

Euripides-sample