Happy Birthday to Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale

1980-poster

It was the evening of 19 February 1980 that thirty-eight men gathered for the first rehearsal of the newly formed Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas Texas. At the time, the idea of having a men’s chorus which drew membership from and which would serve Dallas’ large, but not highly visible, gay community was a bold and daring notion, and far braver than one may readily conceive today. In the thirty-seven years which have passed since that day in 1980, so much has changed so dramatically that it is difficult to realize the very potent courage and powerful conviction that those thirty-eight pioneering singers expressed by daring to take part in that first rehearsal.

The idea to form a gay men’s chorus for Dallas was famously born as three friends chatted over cocktails one Sunday afternoon in Dallas. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus had been founded less than two years before as the world’s first musical organization specifically serving the gay community, and its initial successes and setbacks were much discussed in gay communities across North America. It had been more than a decade since the watershed Stonewall Riots, and the gay community was finding more acceptance than ever before. People wanted more social outlets than gay bars could provide, and many wanted to be a part of something which could provide both a creative outlet and a channel for community service. Musical organizations filled this need wonderfully, and many long-established gay and lesbian choruses and bands were formed in this era

Since the social and political climate in Dallas of 1980 was far from progressive, it was decided that the name of the chorus should reflect the area of the city from which much of its membership would be drawn, but would not include the word “gay.” For some years, this led folks in choruses who were more politically active to infer that the TCC was “in the closet,” yet this was never the case. The very first flyer promoting the first rehearsal of 19 February makes it quite clear; it proclaims the chorus to be created for gay men would like to sing and work with other gay men, and it notes that the first public performance had been planned for Gay Pride Week. The poster also emphasizes that “our purpose is good music,” and the chorus would be “an organization dedicated to enjoying and performing the finest four-part male choral music.”

It is not possible in this short narrative to give the history of the Turtle Creek Chorale the treatment it is fully due. But the highpoints can be noted. The Turtle Creek Chorale (“TCC”) gave its first public performance in April of 1980 after just 8 weeks of rehearsal, and its first formal concert was in June of that year. As is often the case with community arts groups, the TCC had its early struggles as it strove to develop its identity and to find the needed funding to keep the organization alive. Members who sang during the chorus’ first decade recall car washes and bake sales and other typical fund-raising efforts that kept the organization afloat. The early years of the Chorale coincided with the most devastating period of the AIDS crisis. The impact upon the chorus was huge, both emotionally and psychologically, and practically. Yet the organization persevered. The membership worked hard to support one another during a time when memorial services and funerals far outnumbered concerts. The impact of AIDS upon the Turtle Creek Chorale and the chorus’ response is memorably and movingly documented in the Emmy award winning PBS feature After Goodbye, which first aired in 1993.

The organization also worked hard to find leadership with the right combination of musical creativity, and experience, mixed with vision and energy. The chorus needed someone who could embrace and embody its core values of making beautiful music and building bridges among people of all walks of life. The quest was somewhat constrained by the simple fact that the Chorale had a miniscule budget from which to pay for the talent they needed! Yet, as some sage once observed, “The Universe provides,” and so it did in this case. Doctor Timothy Seelig, who had been dismissed from a church position in Houston when he “came out” in early 1987 decided that the Turtle Creek Chorale was an opportunity he wanted to pursue, despite the rather uncertain finances of the organization.

Dr. Seelig brought both outstanding musical credentials and remarkable vision to the TCC. For the next two decades, Dr. Seelig would direct the chorus as it attained one milestone after another. The chorus rose to international stature, its joint recording of John Rutter’s Requiem with the Women’s Chorus of Dallas reached the top of Billboard’s classical charts, and by the mid-1990s the TCC was recognized by Grammy Magazine as the most recorded men’s chorus in the world. The chorus performed for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Dallas, and for the Inaugurals of Texas Governor Anne Richards and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. The chorus frequently joined forces with other North Texas musical groups and consistently reached out to an ever-broadening definition of “community.” The Turtle Creek Chorale was invited to perform for both regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and performed concert tours across the US and abroad. The TCC was also featured in two award winning PBS documentaries in 1993 and 2005. On top of all these achievements, the chorus continued to devote thousands of man-hours every year to community service, and to remain a valuable asset for the city of Dallas.

In 2007, after 20 years of service embracing fully 2/3 of the history of the chorus, Dr. Seelig stepped down as artistic director. It would be easy to understand if he simply chose to “rest of his laurels” and to bask in his two decades of landmark accomplishment, but, characteristically, he has thrown himself into new projects and today, as Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, continues to provide leadership and service to his many communities.

Following Dr. Seelig’s tenure, an extensive nationwide search in 2006-2007 found Dr. Jonathan Palant, who served as the TCC’s Artistic Director through the 2011 season. Dr. Palant brought impeccable musical credentials and energetic embrace of the chorus’ mission to his role as artistic director, the chorus continued to accumulate accolades and to achieve notable milestones, including a concert tour of Spain in July of 2010. Significantly, community service remained a core value for Dr. Palant and the chorus, as exampled by 2010’s “Voices For Haiti,” a fund-raising concert for Haitian Earthquake Relief. Doctor Palant felt that the TCC simply had to find a way to help and he worked with many organizations and artists to make this happen in an astonishingly short time. This concert was a 6-hour “marathon” featuring several musical groups and performers from North Texas, and was hosted by Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope. After Dr. Palant’s departure in July of 2011, then Assistant Professor and Director of Choral Activities of Eastern Michigan University, Trey Jacobs was selected to serve as Interim Artistic Director of the Chorale. Though the job was originally conceived of as “interim,” it became immediately apparent upon his taking the podium that his position should become permanent, and in March of 2012, Trey Jacobs was named Artistic Director.

Under Trey Jacobs, the TCC remained a key element of Dallas’ artistic culture. In July of 2012, the Chorale delivered a highly acclaimed performance at the GALA Choruses Festival in Denver, Colorado, and in December of that year, the TCC broke new ground with a holiday concert series that featured two complete and completely different concert offerings. In March of 2013, the chorus was honored to take part in choral Clinics for the American Choral Directors Association convention in Dallas.

At the end of the 2013-2014 season, Trey Jacobs informed the Chorale of his intention to return a career in music education in Tennessee; the TCC’s long-time Assistant Director Sean Baugh was named Interim Director for the 2014-2015 season. Sean, of course, had some impressively large shoes to fill, and he was more than equal to the challenge, so shortly after leading the TCC in an outstanding concert celebrating the chorus’ 35th anniversary, on 4 March 2015, Sean was named Permanent Artistic Director.

Under Sean’s leadership the chorus continued to be a significant contributor to the Dallas Community and to the LGBTQ Community world wide. In June of 2016, just two days after the tragic news of the massacre in Orlando, Sean led the Chorus in a widely acclaimed concert for support and healing. Two weeks later, the TCC performed a joint concert with Germany’s Schola Cantorosa in preparation for the 2017 GALA Choruses Festival in Denver. In Colorado, the chorus delivered another bravura performance on 6 July 2016. The chorus ended 2016 with a historic “personal best” for the TCC; for its first time ever, the TCC performed a fully sold out concert series for “A Not-So-Silent Night.” The concerts received rave reviews.

Naturally, I have left out immense amounts of information in this short piece. There are so many key contributors I have not mentioned, and vital, dedicated people I do not name here who have made the Turtle Creek Chorales what it is and has been these past thirty-seven years. As I say, it is impossible in one brief essay to adequately cover thirty-seven years in the history of such a vital and vibrant organization. Any errors or omissions are my own doing.

Suffice it to say:

Happy Birthday, Turtle Creek Chorale! Here’s to many, many more!

— Jamie Rawson

2016-03-20-10-54-10

Armadillo Day Is Just Six Months Away!!!

Wow! It is the Second of February already! That means that Armadillo Day 2016 is exactly SIX months away! I can hardly stand the excitement!!! But today belongs to a different forecaster. The much-celebrated and ballyhooed Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning thereby foretelling six more weeks of hard winter weather. Well, here in North Texas the winter has been rather mild, days averaging the mid-sixties. But for those who set store by the groundhog-as-weatherman, Phil’s shadow is most unwelcome.

So why is today identified as Groundhog Day? What’s that all about anyway? And what about the fact the February 2nd was known as Candlemas in olden times? As with so many apparently simple things, the explanation is a bit involved and convoluted.

An old English rhyme states:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

In the Liturgical Calendar of the Church, the second of February was designated “the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.” The Mosaic Laws of the Old testament decreed that a woman was “unclean” for seven days following the birth of a male child, and that she must stay away from the Temple for a further 33 days, making the period for ritual cleansing a total of forty days. (The period was twice that long if the baby was a female! Gender equality was decidely NOT an Old Testament concept.) At the end of this term, the mother would return to the Temple to make a sacrifice concluding her purification, and to present her child to the Temple community.

From the very earliest days of the Christian Church, the feast of The Presentation (or Purification) was an important event on the Liturgical Calendar. By the end of the Fourth Century A.D., the date of Christ’s birth had been set as December 25; calculating forty days from that date produced February second as the date for The Presentation. So far, so good?

Because this Feast celebrated the entry of The Christ – The Light of the World – into the Temple and the greater world, it became traditional by the Eleventh Century to bless the candles that were to be used in the upcoming year. Originally, just the official church candles were blessed, but eventually household candles were included as well. The Priest would bless all the candles presented, intoning the words: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israel” (A Light to reveal You to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”)

Possibly because the theme of this Feast was the entry of The Light into the world, or possibly because of older pagan traditions about mid-Winter – opinions are highly diverse about this – there was a tradition in lower Germany that if a certain animal should see its shadow on Candlemas day, it presaged six weeks of severe Winter weather. Again, details are hard to come by, but some sources specify that the animal in question should be a badger, others state that it should be a hedgehog. (Both of these animals “hibernate” in the Winter and very often are not awake to be looking around at shadows in early February.)

When William Penn invited German immigrants from the Pfaltz to settle in his new colony, Pennsylvania, the new arrivals carried their homeland traditions with them, including the notion that February second was an important day for weather forecasting. Hedgehogs not being found in the New World, and Badgers still sleeping away their Winter typically, a local substitute was found: the humble woodchuck or groundhog (Marmota monax.)

The first extant mention of Groundhog Day can be read at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center. It says: “Last Tuesday, the 2nd, (February 1841) was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

In any case, the tradition was a highly localized phenomenon, and not widely observed in Colonial America, nor during the years leading up to the Civil War. But, as so often happens, a good promotional campaign took a local tradition and turned into a national event. A couple of Pennsylvania newspaper publishers decided to make a genuine event of “Groundhog Day,” and Pennsylvania’s first formal celebration of Groundhog Day began on February second, 1886 with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper’s editor, Clymer Freas.

Because of the novelty of the celebration and its homegrown character, early telegraph news services spread the story as human interest “filler” for their subscribers. By the late 1890s, Groundhog day was known across the United States. In the days when radio was the major mass medium, Groundhog Day was duly reported, but it took the advent of television to make a real national spectacle of the occasion. For Groundhog Day 2001, an estimated 35,000 people gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania just to see what the Groundhog would see.

And, just FYI: no meaningful correlation has ever been made between the Groundhog’s prognosis and the actual weather subsequently recorded! But, I must ask: what else would one expect from a giant rodent?

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” — Percy Bysshe Shelly

Two Hundred Twenty-Five Years Ago: The Bill Of Rights

It was 225 years ago, 15 December 1791, that the United States Congress approved the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, permitting The Bill of Rights to become an integral part of American Law and life. The Bill as originally submitted actually included twelve amendments but only ten were passed on this date.

The Bill of Rights, perhaps more than any other component of the United States Constitution, ensured that America’s bold experiment would have a unique and enduring place in the annals of human progress and human freedom. No previous government had ever explicitly and forthrightly placed such fundamental constraints upon its power, and certainly never at its very outset. True, there was precedence in this area – Magna Carta is often cited as the conceptual ancestor of The Bill of Rights, and the 17th Century English Bill of Rights was clearly influential as well – but nothing of this scope and scale had ever been established before.

As other nations revolted against their colonial rulers, particularly in Latin America, similar limitations were incorporated into new constitutions. Few have been as enduring and as influential as our own Bill of Rights, however. The notion that the government derives its just powers from the consent of the govern had been proposed long before the American revolution, but the notion that a government would itself limit its own powers was a new thing under the sun, and this made the beacon of America shine even more brightly in a world yearning for freedom.

We really should applaud the courage and integrity of people in government who, well remembering the abuses against which they had revolted, decided to hold true to their values and ensure that their new government could not lapse into the old tyranny.

Just to note, the Eleventh Amendment was never ratified. The proposed Twelfth Amendment was finally ratified 7 May 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment!

——————-
Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

— Thomas Paine

Modified 12/16/16

The Letter G …

ruga

So, what, you may ask, does the Letter G have to do with 14 December? In truth, nothing that I know of. But because it has been a while since I’ve posted here, I have decided to go off-theme and simply include an interesting if undated bit of history: the letter “G” is unique among all of our other letters because we know who invented it! (Probably.)

Modern scholarship has determined that the invention of writing occurred just three times in Human History, each independently.

The oldest source of an alphabet is considered to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. These predate the oldest known Chinese pictographs by close to a millennium. The oldest Chinese writing is found on the so-called oracle bones which date to about 2000 BC. Chinese writing and Egyptian writing arose independently. In the Americas, the Maya created a writing system around 700 AD.

Now, we certainly know that there are many, many other writing systems in the world today, many more than just three “ur-scripts.” But all variations derive from one of these three sources. For example, Korean and Japanese each use modifications to the classical Chinese `alphabet’; Phoenician, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Roman/Latin, and Cyrillic, and even Norse Runic scripts, all derive from Egyptian demotic.

There have been cases of intentional invention of new writing systems based upon the example of an alphabetic model. These invented scripts often have little resemblance to the model scripts, yet they are nevertheless derivative. Examples of this include Cyrillic, created by the Greek monks Cyril and Methodosius who made extensive modifications to the Greek alphabet in order to represent the many distinct sounds of Old Slavonic; the Cherokee Alphabet created by Chief Sequoyah (whose name is immortalized in the redwood genus, “Sequoia”) and the Korean Hangul Alphabet created by the Chos[eou]n King Sejong and officially promulgated in 1446.

It’s pretty rare to know who invented a writing system. Hangul and Cherokee were both invented in historic times, but most systems are really older than written history, and so the geniuses who created them are unknown to history. However, the Chinese have several different mythic attributions for the author of their writing system, and the Greek myths credit the Greek alphabet variously to Hermes, Perseus, Cadmus, Palamedes, and even Homer. Basically, no one knows who the credit belongs to, and of course it is really deserved by the Phoenicians in the first place.

The Romans were cognizant of the fact that their alphabet derived from the Etruscan model, and — perhaps less poetic or less romantic than the Greeks — they never attributed its creation to a mythic source. However, the Romans were keenly aware of the benefits that an alphabet provided, and from the very early days of Rome, they recorded events in their history on tablets and stones. The oldest known Latin inscription was long thought to be the Praeneste Fibula, an ornamental cloak clasp that had been dated to the very earliest days of Rome (7th century BC.) However, its authenticity has been challenged recently, and most sources now describe the “Lapis Niger,” “Black Stone” as containing the earliest extant Latin writing. The dating for the Lapis Niger is between the 7th and 5th Centuries BC. Some sources offer a different early inscription, the Duenos Inscription as the authentic oldest surviving Latin writing. The Duenos Inscription has been confidently dated to the 6th Century BC. In any case, the Romans had been writing for a good long while.

The Roman alphabet had many fewer characters in the early days than it finally ended up with. Originally 20 or 21 letters, it was expanded with borrowings from Greek in the Late classical era when they tacked on Y and Z to spell Greek-derived words in Latin. The original Latin alphabet had no “G” character, and used “C” to represent it. In classical Latin and earlier, the “C” and “G” were always hard, as in “coat” or “goat;” never soft as in “cyst” or “gist.” Oddly enough, they had three ways to express the “C” sound (always hard, as “K”.) They used C, K, and Q. (K before a, Q before u, and C before e, i, and o, though by classical times K was only used in Greek loan words.)

Originally, Latin pronunciation made a limited distinction between “C” sounds and hard “G” sounds and so a single character sufficed. (We often hear hard “C” and “G” crosses: “example” pronounced as “egzample” or “significant” said “signifigant.”) As the Latin language evolved and pronunciations changed, the lack of a written distinction between “C” and “G” was proving problematic. The praenomen “CAIVS” was pronounced “Gaius” and “CNAEVS” was pronounced “Gnaeus.” (This is why Gaius Julius Caesar is often abbreviated C Julius Caesar.) Yet there was no way to make clear to the reader the distinction between “CVSTOS,” guardian, and “GVSTOS,” tastes.

In the third century BC, a Latin schoolmaster established the first formal Roman school for tuition-paying students. He is well known in the surviving literature because he was recorded to be the first Roman to divorce his wife! But he is also known to have developed a regular and standardized curriculum for smaller children. Discovering that the “C/G” confusion was a stumbling block for his pupils, he added a cross stroke to “C” to indicate when is was to be pronounced as “G.” Thus — uniquely among our Roman alphabet — we know who invented the letter “G,” and we should be thankful to Spurius Carvilius Ruga for this useful contribution.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

It is fine to write what one thinks; it is the privilege of man.

— Voltaire

Nota Bene: some ancient sources attributed the creation of “G” to Appius Claudius Caecus, famed for the first aqueduct (“Aqua Appia”) and the first long-distance paved road, (“Via Appia” or Appian Way.) Appius lived about a century before “G” shows up in surviving inscriptions, and he is credited with many legacies that are demonstrably not his doing (he did sponsor the aqueduct and the road) because he was responsible for so many improvements in Rome’s infrastructure. The earliest textual sources attribute the creation of “G” to Ruga, and Appius is only given credit later. As Ruga was a commoner and Appius a patrician Claudian and consul, it seems to be a case of trying to steal the credit from an ordinary citizen. Cicero, Plutarch, Scaurus, and Pliny, among others, felt the credit was due to Ruga.

Remembering Our Veterans On Armistice Day

ws

AT 11:00am on 11 November 1918, an armistice took effect which effectively ended World War I – or “The Great War” as it was then known. The world had never seen carnage on such an immense, global scale. So great were the number of the dead that Europeans basically abandoned the ancient traditions of open mourning, of donning black and retiring from society for a term, because virtually every family had lost someone, and so much ritual mourning could not be sustained, neither emotionally nor economically.

Too, the world had never seen valor on such a scale; a mere parade would not do to honor the people who had served in “The War To End All Wars.” And so throughout the world, a day of remembrance was instituted. In the United States it was originally called Armistice Day. But the hopeful epithet, “The War To End All Wars,” has proven too hopeful, and as we well know, many, many wars followed, including the far vaster enormity of World War II. In the wake of that conflict and others, the United States renamed the holiday “Veterans Day,” to include ALL who have served.

While we do rightly deplore war, it is nevertheless still a human reality, and I am deeply grateful to those who have served in the military and uniformed services. For all that some conflicts may stir political and social upheaval, and for all that some conflicts may seem unwise, nevertheless, those who serve do so for all of us, and they do also merit our gratitude. We in America have what we have today because our forebears not only wrote about freedom: they fought for it.

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans.

— Otto Von Bismarck, 1890

FURTHER READING:

Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman; Ballentine Books, 1994 ed.: ISBN: 034538623X

Absolutely EssentialL

Tuchman’s history of the start of World War I was first published in 1962. It was re-issued in 1994 on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the start of that War. This book has been called “the best history book ever written.” Masterfully researched and documented, it is as scholarly as any such work need be, yet it retains a readability — and excitement — that makes it as entertaining as any fictional thriller. Even after the passage of 50 years, this book remains essential reading for those who wish to learn about World War I.

The First World War, John Keegan; Vintage, 2000: ISBN: 0375700455

A Must

I am of the opinion that anything by Keegan is worth reading (I’ve not been wrong yet, to my way of thinking.) This is a highly readable and complete account of World War I from start to finish. Perhaps the best one-volume coverage of that war we have.

Of Interest:

In 2004, on the 90th anniversary of the start of World War I, there was a remarkable amount of publishing activity. All the following are good, but these are not aimed at the casual reader.

Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, David Fromkin; Knopf, 2004: ISBN: 0375411569

In this minutely researched volume, Fromkin answers his title question. The result is the well-known tragedy of a war that many wanted, but from which none saw the ultimate outcome. I must confess that though this book was well-regarded in the review I read in August 2004, I find it fairly tedious in its presentation. Scholarly, to be sure. But not an entertaining read.

Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy, David Stevenson; Basic Books, 2004: ISBN: 0465081843

This one-volume history of World War I is complete and as scholarly as can be, but at times the reading feels a bit too much like slogging along with those foot soldiers of the era, knee-deep in mud and growing ever wearier. Still, it is worth the effort, because Stevenson offers some fresh insights which offer a new perspective on the well-known truisms about World War I.

The First World War, Hew Strachan; Viking Adult, 2004: ISBN: 0670032956

Strachan’s one-volume distillation of his unfinished trilogy on World War I, this effort has many of the same virtues and limitations that I identify in Stevenson’s book: it is not “popular history” (whatever that might really be) and so it is not light reading. But it is likewise worth the effort.

The First World War: To Arms, Hew Strachan; Oxford University Press, 2003 ed.: ISBN: 0199261911

This is the first volume of a yet-to-be-completed trilogy about World War I. Strachan is a foremost authority on that war, and this book is a definitive account of the build-up to World War I. It is, however, so thorough and so comprehensive that it can be both daunting and — at times — almost tedious.

U. S. Election Day 2016

img_2791

For the United States of America, today is a national Election Day. It is election day in across all of the United States, from Nome, Alaska to Key West, Florida; people will go to the polls in Honolulu, Hawaii, Chula Vista, California, and Eastport, Maine, and here in my home of Flower Mound, Texas. Because of our system of a College of Electors, votes in some states have far more impact than votes in others, a legacy of the 18th Century compromise that led to the adoption of our present Constitution. Nevertheless, voting matters. As is the case with every Election Day, it represents an occasion to have important impact upon the future, and there is so much more at stake than just the immensely high-profile presidential race. Having that impact, of course, is only available to those who vote.

While the United States was still in the throes of the ferocious fighting of the Second World War, President Franklin Roosevelt took to the radio on 5 October 1944 to address a nation about the need and the obligation to vote:

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do that is by not voting at all.

The continuing health and vigor of our democratic system depends upon the public spirit and devotion of its citizens which find expression in the ballot box.

Every man and every woman in this nation, regardless of party, who have the right to register and to vote, and the opportunity to register and to vote, have also the sacred obligation to register and to vote. For the free and secret ballot is the real keystone of our American constitutional system.

The American Government has survived and prospered for more than a century and a half, and it is now at the highest peak of its vitality. This is primarily because when the American people want a change of Government, even when they merely want “new faces,” they can raise the old electioneering battle cry of “throw the rascals out.”

Roosevelt also frankly acknowledged the serious defects which then plagued America’s voting rights then, saying:

It is true that there are many undemocratic defects in voting laws in the various States, almost forty-eight different kinds of defects, and some of these produce injustices which, prevent a full and free expression of public opinion.

The right to vote must be open to our citizens irrespective of race, color or creed, without tax or artificial restriction of any kind. The sooner we get to that basis of political equality, the better it will be for the country as a whole.

Two decades would pass before Roosevelt’s ambition for equal access to voting would be made into law. For many Americans today, access to voting may be more difficult than it should be. Polling places are often fairly distant, lines will likely be quite long, and even registered voters may be challenged. But exercising one’s right to vote is a very worthwhile thing, and worthwhile things do not always come easily.

I have heard from many folks that they either have already voted, taking advantage of early voting options, or that they surely intend to do so today. I have also heard from a variety of folks who tell me that they have been praying and plan to pray about this election. That sounds like a good idea.

This conflation of voting and praying is wholly apt, as it turns out, at least from the etymology and origins of the word “vote.”

Our English word “vote” derives from the Latin VOTVM, which means a prayer, a wish, or a promise to God (this last is reflected in our words such as “devotion” and “votive” offerings.) The word VOTVM is in turn derived from the verb VOVERE meaning to pray, wish or to vow.

When we vote, then, we express our wish. Perhaps we avow our preference. Possibly we pray. And maybe – just maybe – our prayers will be answered.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-
Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:

1, To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy:

2, To speak no evil of the person they voted against: and,

3, to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those who voted on the other side.

– John Wesley

From The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M., Volume IV, 3rd edition, London: John Mason, 1829, entry from Thursday, October 6, 1774:

Politics, The Force of Arms, And Genteel Language

It was on this day, 28 October, in 1066 – nine and a half centuries ago – that Duke William of Normandy, known as “William the Bastard” due to his illegitimate birth, but later styled William The Conqueror, (Guillaume Le Conquerant) received the submission of the Saxons of Kent and their recognition of him as King of England.

William had landed on the English coast exactly one month before. The Norman forces met in battle with the Saxon troops of English king Harold II on 14 October 1066 at Hastings. There, after a long and pitched battle, King Harold was killed by an arrow through his eye, according to legend, and the Norman army proved victorious. Duke William moved quickly to consolidate his victory and to secure the acceptance of his rule among the vanquished Saxons of England’s rich and fertile south. Though the Norman invasion force was comparatively small, they quickly pacified southern England and William marched to London where he would be crowned William I, starting a period of Norman/French rule over England that forever changed England and her peoples.

Perhaps the greatest impact of this invasion and its aftermath is to be found in our modern English language. In 1066, England spoke Anglo-Saxon, a Germanic dialect very unlike what we speak today. William and his Normans spoke Norman French, and French remained the language of the Royal Court for more than two centuries. In the ensuing 950 years, the two more-or-less merged into what we speak today.

Because of the fact that the nobility spoke French and the peasantry spoke Anglo-Saxon, there is still a sense of refinement and niceness attached to the Frenchified way of saying things. This is perhaps most notable at our mealtimes; one does not eat “cow,” (Anglo-Saxon) rather “beef” (French.) And so it is with many meats: pig/pork, calf/veal, buck/venison, and sheep/mutton. For some reason, the pattern is not followed with birds, and it is not followed in vegetables and grains, most likely due to the fact that the meals of the nobility were preponderantly meat, those of the peasants coarse meal and legumes.

In other areas of our tongue this pattern of nicer French-derived words versus meaner Anglo-Saxon words still applies. For example, “Royal” is far more frequently used than “Kingly” (and “Regal”, derived directly from Latin is fancier still.) A mansion is finer than a house, a cottage nicer than a hut. Chivalry is more polished than mere Knighthood, garmentry more stylish than mere clothing. Larceny has a cleaner ring to it than theft, while courage seems elevated above mere hardihood. To deceive is done with greater refinement than to lie, just as to cry out is more genteel than to yell out. And such a list could run to many thousands of examples. Indeed, language is what people of attainment employ whereas a tongue is what the every-day folk speak.

Of course it is true that the Norman Conquest left us many other legacies in Government, Law, and Culture. But the linguistic heritage we received from this invasion touches us all, even today, hundreds of times each day.

**************************************************************************
Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

— Rudyard Kipling