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A Second Opinion

Pontiff’s visit a spiritual lift

First published: September 25, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: September 24, 2015 at 5:07 pm

We may not have known what the future held for the church over the long term, but to be a Roman Catholic in Chicago during the fall of 1979 was exhilarating.

Pope John Paul II’s decision to visit our city was a natural choice. With more than 2 million Catholics at that time, Chicago was the biggest archdiocese in the United States. It also was home to the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw.

And while he was the first pope to ever come to Chicago, the 1979 event wasn’t his first time there. According to an April 3, 2005, article in the Chicago Tribune, he visited the Windy City as a cardinal in 1969 and then again in 1976. Perhaps he enjoyed Chicago’s renowned deep-dish pizza!

As the Tribune article reported, Pope John Paul II spent a total of 37 hours in Chicago in 1979. He flew in the evening of Oct. 4, had a full day of events Oct. 5 and left the morning of Oct. 6.

But as brief as it was, it was a memorable experience. He seemed to be everywhere: Holy Name Cathedral, the seat of the Chicago Archdiocese; Five Holy Martyrs Roman Catholic Church, a predominantly Polish parish; and a Mass for more than 200,000 faithful in Grant Park.

I was a senior at a Catholic high school that fall, and we got the day off Oct. 5 so we could see the pope. In the midst of all his events, he planned a stop at a Catholic school on the city’s Southwest Side.

That’s where I saw him; he stood on the roof of Quigley Preparatory Seminary South. I lived a few miles south of the high school, so being able to see him so close to my home was extraordinary.

I grew up in a Catholic family at a time of tremendous change for the church. Pope John XXIII had initiated substantial reforms at part of the Second Vatican Council. I wasn’t yet 2 years old when he died, so I don’t recall anything about his time as head of the church.

But I remember Pope Paul VI’s tenure very well. He skillfully continued the changes started under his predecessor, including ending the practice of conducting the Mass in Latin.

Pope Paul VI’s respect for humanity stands out in my mind, especially his attempt to intervene in the kidnapping of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by a communist terrorist group known as the Red Brigades. Sadly, Moro was assassinated. But the pope’s outreach on his behalf shaped my view of the vicar of Christ’s role in the world.

Having a supreme head of our church was unique. For religious people to pledge their allegiance to a single authority was the source of discrimination that Catholics have confronted throughout history.

Growing up in an overwhelmingly Irish-American neighborhood, I was spared the ugly sentiments leveled against “papists.”

In my South Side Chicago community, here was the extent of ethnic diversity: You had your shanty Irish and your lace curtain Irish. Needless to say, our cultural heritage didn’t confront too much competition.

But I wasn’t so far removed from the bigotry against Catholics as to not know it existed. The parish I grew up in was the same one in which my father was raised, and its founding rubbed some people in the area the wrong way.

When the pastor of a neighboring church tried to buy some property to found a new parish, residents persuaded the city to designate the site as a park. But the priest found some available land a bit farther south, and the church was completed in late 1924.

The first Mass was celebrated there on Christmas morning. My father, who had been born more than two months earlier, was among the first group of infants to be baptized at the church that day.

The parishioners undoubtedly felt a sense of fulfillment while attending the first Mass in their new church. Their joy was tempered, however, when they exited the building that morning to see a row of burning crosses lining the street in front of the church.

Nevertheless, the parish persevered as did the Catholic Church — but not without its share of struggles. Money problems, racial conflicts, rebellious priests and the sexual abuse scandal tested the resolve of church officials in Chicago over the ensuing decades.

While Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit would obviously not settle all our problems as an archdiocese (some of which were only beginning to become public), it was a tremendous lift to our spirits. This pope was different, and we knew he would lead the church in many ways with a new approach.

The same enthusiasm has greeted Pope Francis this week as he made his first visit to the United States. The numerous people who saw him in Washington and the many more who will attend one of the papal events in either New York City or Philadelphia will never forget the experience. And based on the outpouring of affection the pope has received during his travels throughout the world, my guess is this trip will stick in his mind for years to come as well.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


White discomfort no excuse for discrimination

First published: September 18, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: September 18, 2015 at 8:24 am

Several years ago, a woman named Shoshana Hebshi was handcuffed and dragged off a Frontier Airlines flight before being strip searched and interrogated by law enforcement agents.

Hebshi’s ethnic background is both Jewish and Arab. This turned out to be the only reason she came under suspicion while flying from Denver to Detroit on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At different points during the flight, two Indian-American men she happened to be sitting next to had gotten up to use the bathroom. When the second man lingered there too long, some of the other passengers became alarmed. Because it wouldn’t dawn on the average white person that a nonwhite person who spends extra time in an airplane bathroom might not be feeling well, which turned out to be the case.

So the agitated white passengers notified the flight crew of their irrational concerns. These flight crew members alerted federal authorities in Detroit, who were there when the plane landed.

After a long wait, security agents with machine guns stormed the plane and dragged Hebshi and the two men off in handcuffs. Each was detained for hours, questioned extensively and finally released.

I couldn’t believe this story when I read it. The trigger here was that one of the Indian-American men, whom Hebshi didn’t know, remained in the bathroom too long for the comfort of the white people on board.

How could police justify detaining these individuals when nothing happened? By the time the plane landed, the threat of a hijacking or midair explosion was past. And connecting Hebshi with these men just because they were about the only nonwhites on board was even more egregious.

Earlier this year, Hebshi settled a discrimination lawsuit with the federal government for $40,000. I was hoping she would sue after being humiliated for no good reason. That whites were uncomfortable on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 didn’t permit the government to suspend the rights of other people solely based on the color of their skin.

The same sense of outrage came over me this week when I read about a ninth-grader from Irving, Texas, who was arrested Tuesday at his school and accused of bringing a “hoax bomb” with him. It turned out to be a clock that the young Muslim made.

And by treating it as a hoax bomb, it’s clear that school administrators and police investigators knew it wasn’t a real bomb. Police opted not to charge Ahmed Mohamed after determining he had no malicious intent.

Any suspicion that the device was a real bomb would have — or should have, anyway — resulted in the school being evacuated and a bomb squad called in. But that didn’t happen, so everyone figured the device was nonlethal. So if they knew it wasn’t a bomb, what would make authorities believe Ahmed was trying to frighten other people at school?

When he was brought in for questioning before a police officer he had never seen before, the officer said, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” The officer, armed only with the student’s name, had Ahmed pegged as a troublemaker despite the fact that the two had never previously met.

Rather than apologizing to Ahmed and his family for all the trouble they caused, school officials sent an insulting letter to parents absolving themselves of any wrongdoing.

They wanted to reassure parents that the safety of their children was of primary importance.

Never mind the blatant display of bigotry toward Ahmed and the message this sends.

On top of that, Ahmed was suspended from school for three days. He did nothing wrong, a fact confirmed by police, yet he was punished for being a scary Muslim.

It’s true that the zero-tolerance policies that public schools have implemented contributed to this event. Schools have doled out severe penalties against students who brandish weapons or make what are considered to be threats against others.

But bigotry plays a major role in this trend. Years of research have shown that minority students are much more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled from school and/or referred to the criminal justice system.

And Irving, Texas, hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to make Muslims there feel welcome. Mayor Beth Van Duyne jumped on the Islamophobia bandwagon earlier this year when she urged the City Council to back “a Texas bill that forbids judges in family law cases from using foreign laws if they violate constitutional or state protections,” according to a Wednesday story in the Washington Post.

Van Duyne allowed her anti-Muslim paranoia to get out of control. She falsely claimed that an Islamic arbitration tribunal being used by in civil cases by willing parties in the Dallas/Fort Worth area was operating as a court of law in Irving, the Post reported.

President Barack Obama saved the day this week by tweeting: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Finally, an authority figure in this saga who favors reason in lieu of fear. Schools should be places where curiosity, not mass hysteria, is encouraged and rewarded — regardless of how uncomfortable white people become.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


Laboring without a telethon

First published: September 11, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: September 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm
This martini glass, created specially to honor comedic legend Jerry Lewis, is a bittersweet reminder of Labor Days gone by.

While I’m not usually one to complain about a three-day weekend, my Labor Day was a rather empty experience this year.

There was no Tom Dreesen to put a smile on my face. No Norm Crosby, Liza Minnelli, Shecky Greene, Jann Carl or Tony Danza either.

My holiday weekend was deprived of both Cher and Charo. But worst of all, I had no J.Lew to lift my spirits.

Earlier this year, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced that it would no longer stage its long-running Labor Day Telethon. The MDA said that other methods of raising funds, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, were proving more beneficial than the telethon. So for television entertainment, I had to make do with On Demand and Netflix.

The demise of the annual fundraiser began in 2011 when MDA said it was severing its relationship with Jerry Lewis. Many people were outraged that the King of Comedy was being shoved aside after hosting the Labor Day Telethon for more than four decades and other fundraising specials for MDA since the early 1950s.

According to an Aug. 4, 2011, article in the Los Angeles Times, here is how the aforementioned Dreesen reacted: “I’m appalled. When they find a cure to muscular dystrophy, if they don’t build a monument to this man, there’s no justice. I know stand-up comedy — this man’s career was shortened because of the telethon. Jerry was a hot stand-up comedian. Once we saw the clown cry at the end of the telethon, we knew the rest of it, his show, was an act. That hurt his career. This is unconscionable.”

The same story quoted Albert Brooks as saying, “In the early days, you’d stay up all night just to see what Jerry would do at 4 a.m. There were telethon parties for that purpose. If he wants to do the show, there’s no reason on the planet he shouldn’t be allowed to do it. It’s his gig.”

Yes, it was his gig. I’m not sure what transpired between Lewis and the MDA, but perhaps the breakup was inevitable.

I give J.Lew tons of credit for the extraordinary effort he put toward raising money to cure muscular dystrophy and related diseases. Lewis obviously cared deeply about ongoing research into neuromotor disorders. But like other renowned entertainers attempting to relive the glory days, Lewis’s ego likely got in the way of his good works.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. A segment on “A Current Affair” back in the late 1980s filmed Lewis getting ready to host the Labor Day Telethon that year. One scene showed him standing next to an open freezer screaming about someone looting his stockpile of Eskimo Pies.

For someone whose job description includes thinking very highly of himself, it must be difficult for Lewis to grasp how petty such behavior appears to the rest of us.

Sure, they were Jerry’s Eskimo Pies. And no one else should be taking them without his consent.

But come on! Just slip some gopher a few bucks to run down to the store and buy another couple of boxes. This is no reason for a meltdown.

In an Aug. 16, 2012, piece for Time magazine, Richard Zoglin chronicled the division between J.Lew and the MDA.

“To be sure, dealing with Lewis … has never been a walk in the park. His annual Labor Day orgy of sentiment, self-regard and showbiz schmaltz was for many years something of a punch line. (‘You know why they love Jerry Lewis in France,’ a comedian told me not long ago. ‘In France, they don’t get the telethon’),” Zoglin wrote. “Still, he raised an estimated $2 billion for ‘Jerry’s kids’ over more than a half-century with the MDA, and a well-orchestrated, celebrity-studded farewell to him on the telethon might have been a fundraising bonanza.”

Beginning several years ago, MDA officials saw that changes in fundraising approaches were necessary. For decades, the telethon was broadcast over a period of nearly an entire day.

But then the hours started getting cut. The show was trimmed to six hours in 2011, three in 2012 and two in 2013.

Valerie Cwik, who was interim president of the MDA in 2012, told Zoglin, “It has to change because the American audience has changed. A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world.” That’s right! These damn young people and their InterWebs have ruined an entertainment legacy.

Where else but the Labor Day Telethon am I going to enjoy a Fred Travalena, Sammy Davis Jr. or Lola Falana? When am I now supposed to catch up with Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci? Have Leeza Gibbons and Ben Vereen exited my life forever? And what about Carrot Top and Elayne Boosler?

I should still be permitted to sample of slice of old school chuckles from the likes of Charlie Callas. Or if you prefer something from the new generation of entertainers, how about Arsenio Hall? With his youthful and hip persona, my sources tell me he’s very popular with the kids these days.

The telethon was a portal for us commoners to the best that Las Vegas had to offer. All it ever cost me was a telephone pledge to the MDA.

Frank Sinatra reunited J.Lew and Dean Martin on the 1976 Labor Day Telethon. Now that, my friends, was entertainment gold! You’re never going to experience something that special on a YouTube video of someone getting soaked with ice water.

It’s sad that some traditions don’t seem to be worth keeping. So with fake buck teeth in place and a cigarette dangling precariously from my lower lip, I raise my dribble glass to the man who still celebrates the Labor Day Telethon in his heart: Jerry Lewis. Au revoir, mon ami!

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


The wrong lesson learned

First published: August 28, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: August 27, 2015 at 5:44 pm

One of my college professors carried out a provocative experiment that, were it duplicated today, would likely result in a lawsuit and/or dismissal.

Shortly after one of his courses began, the professor became a tyrant. He made outrageous demands of his students and ruled with an iron fist.

He often treated students unfairly by altering course requirements, insisting they do more work than what was originally assigned. He rendered harsh punishments for anyone who didn’t abide by his rules.

After weeks of unrelenting pressure, many of the students were at wits end and didn’t know how to respond. The professor had a reputation as an exceptional scholar, someone who was fair and compassionate with all his students. Members of this class couldn’t comprehend why all of a sudden he had become something of an academic dictator.

But then they started connecting the dots and understood why the professor was using this class to posture himself as, well, an ancient pharaoh. This was a religion class, and the students were studying the biblical Book of Exodus. The professor was offering them a taste of what it was like to live under oppression, like the Israelites in Egypt.

I was not a member of this class but know students who were, and some of them were furious until they caught on to the professor’s antics. I took several courses with this professor and find it hard to believe he could go through with this. He was so gentle and upbeat an individual, someone who delighted in interacting with his students and exploring new ideas with us, that it must have pained him to take on such a harsh persona.

Once the students wised up to what he was doing, they went along. They pushed back and demanded more freedom, which he eventually granted them. I don’t know how all this played itself out in the classroom, but the professor’s experiment became quite popular on campus.

And they learned quite a bit by going through the experience, perhaps more so than they could have through traditional teaching practices. In hindsight, I’m sure most of the students appreciated the lessons imparted during the course — even if the method was unconventional.

But timing and location helped my professor pull off his stunt. This was a small, evangelical Christian college in the early 1980s.

It’s doubtful that the sensitivity police would be as forgiving of this kind of experiment in today’s academic climate. Imagine the offense many students would take at being treated like slaves.

The latest trend among college students has been to bring disciplinary or legal action against professors for less egregious behavior. Many professors now believe they have to teach while peering over their shoulder — and often self-censoring what they teach in class.

Students at a growing number of colleges and universities have insisted on trigger warnings be used in classrooms or on course syllabi. These are alerts about content to be presented during a class that could potentially trigger memories of traumatic experiences that some students endured.

Laurie Essig, an associate professor of sociology and gender studies at Middlebury College, writes this about the phenomenon in an article titled “Trigger Warnings Trigger Me” for the March 10, 2014, edition of The Chronicle of Higher Learning:

“Trigger warnings. I first encountered them about five years ago. We were reading a book about disordered eating. I showed images of high-fashion models next to pro-anorexic images to illustrate the idea that our culture’s ideal beauty is not really that different from an anorexic body. Two young women in the class told me I should have given a trigger warning since women with eating disorders could have experienced psychological duress from the images. It was my duty, apparently, to make sure no one was ever disturbed by my class. A couple of years later I showed images of Abu Ghraib in a different class. Again: Images of torture could trigger someone. I tried to make a joke. ‘You know what’s worse than images of torture? Being tortured.’ They didn’t laugh. Ever since then, I more or less try to avoid showing anything too upsetting.”

In the September edition of The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explore the damage that schools inflict on students by condoning this behavior. Their article, titled “The Coddling of the American Mind,” argues that rather than assisting those who have suffered something traumatic, trigger warnings may actually be making students less capable of dealing with difficult issues in the real world.

“It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong,” they write. “The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.”

This disturbing trend is curtailing academic liberty and free speech on campuses across the country. Students are graduating not only intellectually unprepared for life after college but also emotional regressed, permanently enslaved to their own sensitivities. How do they expect to carry on productive lives with such a mindset?

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


If you have to ask if it’s art ...

First published: August 21, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: August 20, 2015 at 5:25 pm

From the standpoint of satire, Mel Brooks hit on all cylinders with his 1968 masterpiece “The Producers.”

He parodied the theater industry with a story about how Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) devise a plan to raise a ton of cash for a play destined for failure as soon as the curtains part. Once offended viewers compel the play to close, investors will chalk their losses up to the vagaries of Broadway. The producers, then, would run off with the extra loot that they didn’t spend on additional performances.

However, their play turns out to be a hit. Now Bialystock and Bloom are on the hook to make good on all the shares of the play they agreed to sell, impossible to do since they overvalued the percentage of each investment. They sold 25,000 percent of the play to the little old ladies with whom Bialystock was shamelessly cavorting.

If Brooks’s film were merely about the destructiveness of greed, it would still be great. The lengths to which his characters go to line their pockets make up some of the funniest moments in movie history.

The movie, though, followed another concept to its absurd extreme: how people value artistic expression. Bialystock and Bloom could only succeed if they teamed the most dreadful actor and the most dreadful director to present the most dreadful play. And what could be more appalling than a play titled “Springtime for Hitler”?

The question of how appropriate some forms of artistic expression are under specific circumstances has been raised a couple of times this summer in the north country. One story involves the toilet gardens that a man displays in Potsdam, and the other pertains to a fringe-political theatrical production offered last weekend in Clayton.

Frederick J. “Hank” Robar Sr., who owns rental properties throughout Potsdam, has been engaged in a feud with the village for more than a decade. Dunkin’ Donuts offered to buy land he owns at 82-84 Market St., but officials refused to rezone the property.

So Mr. Robar began putting toilets around some of his plots of land. He even put flowers in them to make them look nice!

Well, the flowers weren’t enough to pacify anyone in the community. He was ticketed on two occasions for leaving “bulky waste” on his land. The first case was tossed out in 2008 because the village’s code enforcement officer failed to file the proper paperwork.

Mr. Robar insisted on going to court in the second case, and Village Justice Joseph T. Welch conducted a bench trial in 2010. Mr. Robar’s attorney argued that his client has a First Amendment right to display his artwork.

But three months after the trial ended, Justice Welch still had not delivered a ruling. He abruptly resigned in December following allegations of cocaine use. The village has not issued another ticket to Mr. Robar, but officials and residents are still upset that he has yet to dismantle his displays.

Mr. Robar’s decision last year to sell some Market Street land to Clarkson University was music to his critics’ ears. But then he decided a few months ago to create another toilet garden at 28 Pierrepont Ave., which disturbed even more residents. They have repeatedly complained that the display could decrease the value of their property.

The second artistic expression incident involves a theatrical production titled “Hacked: The Treasure of the Empire,” presented last weekend by the Caravan Stage Company at the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton. Most who came to view one of the three shows expected family-friendly entertainment featuring thrilling acrobatics and dazzling light displays.

What they got, however, was a disturbing story about malevolent corporate executives tormenting pirate hackers to reveal what they did with all the gold they stole from a large global bank. Based on speaking to a few people who attended the show as well as reading reviews of previous performances, I got the impression that “Hacked” is a radical leftist fantasy about the evils of capitalism and intolerance.

The show offended many who spent $20 per ticket to see it. More than a few walked out before the show ended, and Clayton was not the first setting where that has happened.

“Hacked” actually sounds like a brilliantly horrendous play, and I regret not seeing it. One of the true pleasures in life is coming across a performance that is so dreadful, it’s hilarious.

The only thing missing from this “exquisitely awful” experience was Dan Ackroyd closing each performance in Clayton by reprising his “Saturday Night Live” character Leonard Pinth-Garnell, who hosted such high-brow television programs as “Bad Conceptual Theater,” “Bad Red Chinese Ballet” and “Bad Cabaret for Children.” Ackroyd could have identified with disgusted audience members at the ABM with his trademark, “There! That wasn’t so good now, was it?”

Whether it’s a left wing diatribe against global trade, a public display of toilets adorned with flowers or “a gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden,” artistic expression often is motivated by protest. And the closer we identify with the cause in question, the more likely it is that we’ll appreciate the art — regardless of its actual merit.

So to rephrase an old adage, beauty is in the eye of the malcontent.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


Lord Stanley, pray for us!

First published: August 14, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: August 13, 2015 at 4:25 pm

The comments some readers left regarding the wonderful shots taken Tuesday by Johnson Newspaper Corp. photographer Melanie Kimbler-Lago of the Stanley Cup at the Massena Arena expressed the sentiments of many.

“Is this not why we (as adults) coached, reffed, and cheered the game of hockey? The look on these kids faces is priceless!” Blaine Webber commented on our Facebook post displaying a photo of several children admiring the NHL trophy.

“How awesome!!!! The kids certainly look like they are loving it,” added Barbara Hansen.

And, indeed, the many children and adults who took time to view the Stanley Cup while it was in the north country reveled in observing hockey’s most prized sign of achievement. I spoke with some of them while I was in Massena covering the event.

A key point I made in my article was that as a native Chicagoan and lifelong Blackhawks fan, being there Tuesday was special for me. It was thrilling to see the Hawks win the NHL championship this year. And viewing the Stanley Cup in person made up for the fact that I couldn’t be with family and friends in the Windy City during the finals.

We love sports so much because we enjoy becoming wrapped up in a cause. Our deepest affections are invested each season in this cause, and most of the time our hearts get broken.

The passion we develop for sports is a double-edged sword. Each new season gives us reason for hope. But an ugly incident involving one of our favorite athletes can leave us feeling betrayed.

All the young people staring admiringly at the Stanley Cup come to mind whenever I read a new report on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane. Many of the people who came through the doors of the Massena Arena sported hats, shirts and jerseys from other NHL teams, so I knew they came primarily to admire the trophy rather than revere the Hawks.

But what about all the Blackhawks fans who have to contemplate what Kane may have done? How will they reconcile their devotion to this team and their rejection of something potentially so horrific?

Police in Hamburg, N.Y., are investigating accusations that Kane sexually assaulted a woman earlier this month. He grew up in the Buffalo area and owns a residence in nearby Hamburg, which he uses during the offseason.

I don’t usually get too caught up in scandals involving professional athletes. Word that some sports superstar was discovered cheating on a spouse never surprises me, no matter how highly regarded the athlete is.

These people are the best in their sport; they belong to a very elite class. They have adopted a commitment to perfection.

But they also are driven by huge egos, which help them dominate their rivals in the field of competition. It’s when they give in to these egos once the game is over that they get into the most trouble.

It’s no wonder many professional athletes cheat, gamble, drink, fight, philander and/or get high. They’ve been made to feel as though they deserve anything they want, and their resources are such that they don’t have to deny themselves such pleasures. So I don’t usually blink at most of the unsavory incidents that sports stars carry out.

Kane’s situation, however, is disturbingly different. He is under suspicion of violating a woman sexually, an act of barbarity that has no excuse.

It should be noted that Kane has not been charged with any crime at this point. And from a legal perspective, he deserves the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty.

That, though, will be enforced in a court of law. Out here in the court of public opinion, the cloud hovering above Kane is ominous. It’s difficult compartmentalizing the unsubstantiated incident and the suspect.

This scandal has me very conflicted.

As a Hawks fan, I want to see them continue to succeed. Kane is integral to the team’s future, so part of me hopes this whole thing just goes away.

But as a member of a civil society, I can’t abide that Kane’s wealth and influence may grant him a pass. There have been rumors that a huge settlement has already been offered, although no official statement to that effect has been made. If this incident actually occurred as reported, the kind of justice that Kane’s victim deserves is for him to be imprisoned.

NBA great Charles Barkley once said, “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” He’s correct; we can’t expect sports legends to reflect our personal values. Barkley was never involved in such a scandal as this or exhibited the callousness of some of his colleagues.

But when you have children idolizing professional athletes, it’s difficult to maintain Barkley’s position. It’s human nature for us to draw inspiration from people who excel at what we want to do. And the younger we are, the trickier it is to separate athletic brilliance from personal behavior.

When sports stars put themselves in situations where they may compromise their integrity, they risk their reputations and that of their teams. And Kane certainly isn’t alone when it comes to accusations of violence made against professional athletes. When I reflect on the beaming faces of all those young hockey fans fantasizing about winning the Stanley Cup, I can’t help but feel that they’re being let down and their legends need to do much better.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


The foolishness of the past

First published: August 07, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: August 06, 2015 at 6:00 pm

In examining how social progress has been made in our country, it’s interesting to look back and see how resistant people were to change.

“The women folks have just held a convention up in New York and passed a sort of bill of rights affirming their right to vote, to become teachers, legislators, lawyers … and do all and sundry the lords now do. They should have resolved at the same time that it was obligatory for the lords … to wash dishes, handle the broom, don stockings, wear trinkets, look beautiful and be as fascinating as those blessed morels of humanity whom God gave to preserve that rough animal, man, in something like reasonable civilization.”

Wow! Could this newspaper editorial have been written in an even more condescending manner? So, the girlies have their place in society — but it’s certainly not in the voting booth, boardroom, courtroom or even, at this stage in our nation’s history, the classroom. Their role is to adorn each household like a bauble while keeping it clean.

The editorial was published in the Lowell (Mass.) Daily Journal & Courier in 1848 in response to the news that about 100 people met in Seneca Falls, N.Y., that July to discuss women’s rights. This was the first convention ever held in the country for such a purpose, and it resulted in a Declaration of Sentiments outlining the objectives of those attending the convention.

The statement sought, most of all, to earn for women the right to vote. The activists understood that people who possess the elective franchise have a greater voice in how laws affecting them will be written and implemented.

It would, however, take reformers another 72 years to ensure women had the right to vote. The stubbornness of those clinging to “traditional” concepts of gender roles in society proved incredibly difficult to overcome.

But perseverance won out, and women finally claimed this right for themselves. They still confront unequal treatment in some respects, but since 1920 they have used the ballot to bring about even more change.

What’s astounding is how people could hold the views on display in the Lowell Daily Journal & Courier’s editorial. It’s tempting to laugh at how primitive those ideas now sound. But the humor of it quickly subsides when considering the abuse that many women suffered at the hands of their “lords” and how powerless they were to stop it since they couldn’t vote.

There are, no doubt, some people who still believe women have crossed the boundaries of their proper roles in society. But humans have a natural instinct for equality, and our system of government provides a mechanism for pursuing it. These kinds of changes are inevitable, and history has shown that those who oppose them are fighting a losing battle.

Recent events have proven the power of this trend with the legal recognition of equal rights for gays and lesbians. It was just a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court declared that denying same-sex couples the option of marrying was as wrong as withholding the vote from women.

Opponents of the high court’s ruling made in June have difficulty comprehending the rationale behind allowing same-sex marriages. I don’t know why because it’s actually pretty simple.

In classifying some marriages as legal, governmental agencies confer tax benefits to these couples. They believe these lifelong relationships offer tremendous advantages to society, and financial incentives are a good way to encourage them to continue.

Another benefit that governments offer to married couples is the ability to move from one state to the next without having to reapply for marriage licenses. Now, such licenses are provided on the state level just like driver’s licenses. But while couples must make a trip to their local department of motor vehicles to obtain new driver’s licenses, states recognize the validity of marriage licenses obtained elsewhere.

The Supreme Court found it to be legally untenable for any state to recognize the validity of marriage licenses given to heterosexual couples but not to same-sex couples. How could Texas say it would honor only some marriage licenses issued by New York state but not others? The court found this practice to be a clear violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and ruled it unconstitutional.

Arguments offered in defense of marriage inequality have no legal standing.

n Marriage has traditionally been defined as the union between one man and one woman, so we shouldn’t change it:

There is nothing traditional about our modern form of marriage. It has been redefined time and again. Under the centuries-old practice of coverture, women lost their legal identities when they became married; their husbands assumed all their rights and obligations. Women were not equal partners in marriage; they were the property of their husbands. And traditional marriages of yore often consisted of the union between one man and one woman, and another woman, and another woman, and … well, you get the idea. Polygamy was a familiar practice in many ancient cultures, including among the biblical Israelites. But this ain’t the way we do marriages today in the United States, is it?

n Marriage is the foundation of a strong society, and heterosexual relationships offer the most stable environment for raising children:

This is true, but it’s not legally binding. We don’t require heterosexual couples to promise that they’ll raise children in issuing them marriage licenses, so demanding this of same-sex couples is a double standard and, thus, a violation of the 14th Amendment. We also don’t withhold marriage licenses from heterosexual couples based on what kind of parents we believe they’ll make. Yes, a household with both a mother and father is better for children emotionally. But this doesn’t mean that other types of households cannot foster nourishing environments as well.

It’s easy for us to see how ridiculous it was 167 years ago to argue against gender equality. How will future generations view our foolishness in continuing to oppose marriage equality?

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


Through trial and inerrancy

First published: July 31, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm
John T. Scopes

In 1925, several conspirators decided to stage a national controversy like a Broadway production.

Now, controversies don’t normally follow the course of advance planning. A vigorous dispute develops according to the actions and reactions of all parties involved.

A debate evolves through the natural struggle of participants striving to place their views on top. When it comes to the argument left standing, it’s a matter of survival of the fittest.

But the events that took place 90 years ago this month in Dayton, Tenn., were carefully crafted through intelligent design. All the players knew exactly when the controversy would begin, what would propel it forward and how it would end.

The so-called Scopes Monkey Trial began as a grand marketing scheme by several Dayton residents. They hatched their plan that spring in a drugstore owned by Frank E. Robinson, who chaired the school board in Rhea County.

The Tennessee Legislature earlier that year passed the Butler Act, which banned from public schools any teaching that contradicted the Bible’s account of how humans were created. It also assessed a fine of between $100 and $500 for those engaging in this misdemeanor.

George W. Rappleyea noticed an ad in the May 4 edition of the Chattanooga Times placed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The group offered to defend anyone accused of violating the Tennessee law, with the eventual goal of having it nullified by an appellate court on constitutional grounds.

Rappleyea and Robinson plotted with School Superintendent Walter White and local lawyer John Godsey to stage a criminal trial unlike anything ever seen in Dayton. But they all knew that the most important actor to be cast in this drama was the defendant.

So they asked John T. Scopes, 24, if he would take on the starring role. He actually taught math and physics as well as coached football at the local high school, according to Edward J. Larson’s book “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1998. But as a substitute teacher, Scopes filled in for the principal — who usually taught biology — while he was out ill.

It’s most likely that Scopes never taught evolution, particularly the offending bit about humans sharing a common ancestor with all other living creatures. But Rappleyea was not going to be denied his dream of concocting an event that would have Dayton teeming with tourists.

The state had previously approved the textbook “Civic Biology” by George W. Hunter for use in its public schools. But it included a section on human evolution. Many districts had not yet replaced Hunter’s textbook with one more in line with the new law.

Rappleyea reasoned that since this book was part of the curriculum for biology in public schools, and since Scopes had used the text in his very short time as a biology teacher, he was — albeit in the broadest sense possible — guilty of violating the Butler Act. Scopes signed on for the ride.

“Scopes presented an ideal defendant for the test case. Single, easygoing and without any fixed intention of staying in Dayton, he had little to lose from a summertime caper — unlike the regular biology teacher, who had a family and administrative responsibilities,” Larson wrote. “Scopes also looked the part of an earnest young teacher, complete with horned-rimmed glasses and a boyish face that made him appear academic but not threatening. Naturally shy, cooperative and well-liked, he would not alienate parents or taxpayers with soapbox speeches on evolution or give the appearance of a radical or ungrateful public employee. Yet his friends knew that Scopes disapproved of the new law and accepted an evolutionary view of human origins.”

When he agreed to stand trial for teaching human evolution, Scopes likely understood that the event would be a major draw for Dayton. But he couldn’t have imagined that he would need to make room in the spotlight for even bigger stars.

Having spoken out against human evolution across the country, William Jennings Bryan agreed to join the growing prosecution team in Dayton. He applauded Tennessee legislators when they passed the Butler Act, although he had previously advised them not to establish any penalty.

Clarence Darrow had originally been reluctant to become involved in the Tennessee case, and ACLU officials didn’t want him near the scene. But when Bryan joined the prosecution, Darrow couldn’t resist. So against the wishes of the ACLU, Scopes agreed to have Darrow lead the defense.

When I first read Larson’s book years ago, Bryan’s character really stood out for me; he was neither narrow-minded nor anti-intellectual. The devotion he had for his Christian faith showed through in the deep love he had for others. He earned a reputation as the Great Commoner, and he championed many causes for the betterment of ordinary people.

Darrow, on the other hand, came off as contemptuous and dismissive. He and Bryan were once political allies; as a congressional candidate, Darrow had campaigned for Bryan when he ran for president. But with the pending trial in Dayton, the renowned agnostic relished the thought of humiliating Bryan for his religious views.

This event was a true study in contrasts: Bryan was committed to opposing what he considered to be bad ideas, while Darrow was bent on crushing those he considered to be bad people.

Even though my views on evolution would not align with Bryan’s, I can understand his motivation. The development of the human species through a purely natural and often random process, just like every other living creature, would leave little room for divine intervention.

And once humans lose their status as being specially created by God, what’s the point of clinging to faith? Bryan believed this would destroy an integral human instinct and lead to even more depravity. And if most people in Tennessee wanted public school courses to reflect their religious principles when it came to the origins of humans, why should they be denied?

Bryan couldn’t grasp that many people experience joy and meaning in their lives absent a relationship with God. And Darrow resigned himself to the notion that people may be worth salvaging but not necessarily redeeming.

To no one’s surprise, the jury found Scopes guilty July 21. The defense appealed and got the conviction tossed, but not for the desired reason. While upholding the law, the appellate court declared that Scopes’s penalty of $100 should have been set by the jury, not the trial judge.

The fate of the two leading figures also is ironic. Darrow, the pessimist who believed death would be the ultimate relief, lived for another 12 years following the events in Dayton. Bryan, the optimist who faithfully embraced whatever life had to offer, died five days after the trial ended.

The lingering effects of what occurred in Tennessee that July loom large.

“Indeed, the issues raised by the Scopes trial and legend endure precisely because they embody the characteristically American struggle between individual liberty and majoritarian democracy, and cast it in the timeless debate over science and religion,” Larson wrote. “For [modern] Americans, the Scopes trial has become both the yardstick by which the former battle is measured and the glass through which the latter debate is seen.”

The criminal prosecution of Scopes resulted in what has often been called the Trial of the Century. It featured intellectual giants using their oratorical skills to debate some of the most serious issues confronting our society.

But it’s too easy to pit religion against science, faith against reason when summarizing this event. It involved a larger issue that divides us more often than it should.

It’s worth debating the merit of important ideas, but we court trouble when we accept that any ideology is infallible. The concepts we espouse, then, tend to become more valuable to us than the people with whom we’re arguing.

I’ve often been guilty of this and have no excuses for behaving in such a manner.

We can ponder as many of the world’s ideas as possible. But no human struggle for survival will eliminate our need to share them with others.

Whether by chance or design, Bryan and Darrow soured the relationship they once shared. The Scopes trial should serve as a blueprint for the rest of us on how to avoid that trap.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


Donald Trump’s pseudo-candidacy

First published: July 24, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 23, 2015 at 5:06 pm

How much sense would it make for someone with no experience in the financial industry to be hired as the chief executive officer of the world’s largest bank?

What about someone who knows nothing about the automotive industry overseeing the world’s largest carmaker? Does that sound like a good idea?

How comfortable should we be in handing the reins of these corporations over to someone who isn’t well-versed in the concepts behind running these companies? Let’s face it: Experience counts.

But many people would be thrilled to toss the keys to the world’s premier superpower to someone who has no experience in government. What gives?

I speak, of course, of Donald Trump’s latest venture into electoral politics. He announced earlier this month that he is running for president. For some peculiar reason, he is once again electrifying masses with his always blunt and often misguided talk of what ails America.

The support that people continue to heap on Trump the politician truly puzzles me. Those who flock to his pseudo-campaigns should by now realize that he has no intention of actually running for anything. As soon as it comes time for him to truly commit to becoming a candidate for elective office, he’ll bail, just like he’s always done in the past.

Trump has dangled his name as a presidential candidate at least twice before. And let’s not forget the fraud of a campaign he mounted last year for the office of New York governor.

Yes, Trump’s antics in the 2014 race should tell us everything we need to know about how serious he is for public office: Not at all.

Here was the quintessential Trump. He acted like a spoiled rich brat who insisted he be handed the GOP nomination on a silver platter.

I have no doubt that he would like to wield political power, but he doesn’t want to demean himself by actually earning it.

So why does Trump have so many supporters? They have fooled themselves into believing that this time he’s in it to win it!

No, he’s not. Long before Trump has to face any competition from other candidates, he’ll be out of the race. His unblemished track record of bailing out before he has to carry out the grimy business of conducting a political campaign should make this pending fact crystal clear.

And Trump is already at work establishing the flimsy excuse he’ll likely use when he calls it quits this time. Just about every day, he says something so outrageous that he garners many headlines and lots of criticism.

A former co-worker of mine said that if Trump exits this presidential race, it will be the result of the media playing their “gotcha games” with poor Donald. And there is the meme.

Trump will grow so forlorn over all the abuse he’s taking in the court of public opinion that he simply won’t be able to go on. Boo-hoo!

Trump escaped having to campaign in the New York governor’s race last year because he made a demand so ridiculous that no one would be able to guarantee it. He told state GOP leaders that he would run as a Republican as long as everyone else stayed out of the primary. There was no way he would remain unchallenged, and now he had his excuse to bow out.

So I’m baffled why he is on a lofty perch in GOP polls. What do his supporters not see in his repeated history of never following through on his alleged desire to achieve elective office?

And if Trump were to actually run for president and win, he would have to give up the two things that motivate him the most: operating his business empire and controlling his sources of income. He admitted that he burned through his first two marriages because of his obsession with this work.

And that is what else makes me wonder why he has such popularity. He’s never put together a government budget, never drafted nor implemented a public policy, never operated a series of government agencies, never commanded military troops and never negotiated agreements with foreign leaders, some of whom control an arsenal of nuclear missiles.

It’s not that Trump doesn’t possess any talents. If overseeing the executive branch of the U.S. government consisted primarily of constructing expensive condos, buying and selling real estate, opening casinos and developing luxury hotels and resorts, he would be a natural for the job of president.

But it entails none of those things. Being president involves many tasks that Trump has never attempted. Let’s not forget that his companies have filed for bankruptcy four times since 1991, so he’s had a few big failures.

It’s true that most presidents have taken over the job having not done many of the things on this to-do list. But they’ve done at least some of these tasks and have had a basic understanding of how the government operates.

Trump flirts with political campaigns because of his enormous ego. Anyone who runs for president has an ego just as large, of course, but many of them possess something that Trump lacks: An unquenchable desire to do whatever it takes to win the next election.

Trump merely wants to feel like a winner without putting forth the effort. He’s a bigot who appeals to people’s more vile impulses, and his ongoing popularity is pathetic.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to


A symbol of racial tyranny

First published: July 17, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: July 16, 2015 at 5:15 pm

The First Amendment permits Americans to be provocative, even in the extreme.

In fact, it’s the most unpopular expressions that need the greatest protection. If the First Amendment was drafted to safeguard anything, it’s those ideas that serve only to repulse the public at large. As long as the opinions we can’t stomach retain a place in our national discourse, freedom of all speech will be ensured.

So, far be it for me to question the rights of a couple from Canton to fly a Confederate flag in front of their home. They are exercising the liberty guaranteed them by the Constitution, and any attempt to dissuade them from doing so other than through persuasion would be unjustified.

That being said, there is an argument to be made that Lindsay A. and Eric J. Walrath should reconsider their decision. If they want to publicly declare their reverence for this flag, they should come up with a rationale that would satisfy the relatives and descendants of a few people.

Consider, for example, Addie Mae Collins. At the age of 14, Addie was murdered along with three other girls — Carol Denise McNair, age 11, and Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, both age 14 — when a bomb exploded Sept. 15, 1963, at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Another American the Walraths should keep in mind is Emmett Till, who also was murdered at age 14. While visiting relatives in Mississippi, Emmett was accused of disrespecting a 21-year-old white woman in August 1955. He was abducted and taken to a barn, savagely beaten and shot in the head before his body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River.

In addition, the Walraths should reflect on James Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 20; and Michael Schwerner, 24. They were civil rights workers attempting to register black people to vote in Mississippi when they disappeared the night of June 21, 1964. Their bodies were discovered more than a month later in an earthen dam; they had been pulled over by law enforcement agents and shot to death.

This list also includes civil rights leader Medgar Evers. At 37, Evers was shot in the driveway of his home June 12, 1963.

The common denominator with these assassinations is that they all were carried out to advance the cause of white supremacy. And that’s what the Confederate flag represents. Many of those who committed these murders proudly marched under this flag to proclaim their racist ideology.

But these deaths occurred long ago. Should we continue to ascribe a malevolent mindset to a symbol for violence carried out decades before?

Well, here are a few more names that the Walraths should reflect on when gazing upon their Confederate flag: Cynthia Hurd, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson. They all died nearly a month ago in Charleston, N.C., while holding a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

Their killer, Dylann Roof, made no bones about his hatred for black people. He wallowed in his bigotry by displaying the Confederate flag in a photograph. He also wore a jacket adorned with flags representing the former oppressive white regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa.

Roof understands what these symbols mean. The Walraths have argued that the Confederate flag is part of our history and removing it would be to ignore this aspect of our nation’s past.

The problem with this claim is that many Americans are woefully misinformed about what the Confederacy stood for, despite having the flag fly in prominent places. So its ongoing presence in our society has not done the job of accurately portraying our history.

Shortly after the shootings in Charleston, The Atlantic magazine national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates documented in an article titled “What This Cruel War was Over” what some of the Southern states declared about their decision to secede from the United States. Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas all pointed out that maintaining slavery was one of their chief reasons for seceding from the Union.

Here is a portion of what Mississippi stated: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the Earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin ...”

Alexander Stephens, who was vice president of the Confederate States of America, proclaimed in his “Cornerstone Speech” in March 1861: “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. ... (I)ts foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.”

The Confederacy sought to preserve slavery and advance white supremacy, and this flag eventually became its key symbol. There were other economic and political factors that went into secession. But slavery was the foundation upon which the South’s economy was built, so any argument for secession led back to this horrific practice.

The South had a lot riding on slavery. Roger L. Ransom, a professor of history and economics at the University of California at Riverside, wrote in an article titled “The Economics of the Civil War” for the website of the Economic History Association that by 1860, four out of every 10 people in the 11 Confederate states were owned by other people — 4 million slaves worth nearly $3 billion!

It’s true that the U.S. flag also symbolizes the oppression of black people. Slavery was entrenched in our culture long before we became a country, and it would take nearly a century before our Constitution was amended to outlaw the brutal institution.

But the difference between the two flags is that one represents a system designed to eventually root out what’s bad. Spoiler alert: I’m not talking about the Confederacy here. The U.S. flag has been redeemed to some extent because of the political mechanism to expand the spirit of liberty upon which we founded our nation.

I agree with the Walraths that we should not discard portions of our history because they are offensive. But there is a proper context in which they should be displayed, and this is where the Walraths have erred.

To fly the Confederate flag on a pole in front of their home is to accord it the dignity and admiration that should be reserved for those who profess its message. Unless the Walraths subscribe to the abominable notion that black people are subhumans who should spend their lives in chains as the property of whites, displaying the flag in this manner is simply wrong.

This is the challenge that Lindsay and Eric Walrath must wrestle with as long as they choose to adorn their residence with the quintessential symbol of racial tyranny. They’ll have to envision the mangled bodies of the four girls in Birmingham, a lifeless Medgar Evers in the driveway of his Mississippi home and the nine dead church members in Charleston.

This, of course, is in addition to the oppression experienced by countless slaves throughout U.S. history who were captured, sold, whipped, raped and coerced into lives of degrading servitude. Even after slavery ended, the Confederate flag stood for the Jim Crow era where black people were kept in substandard living conditions, denied their basic rights and lynched if they dared protest. The Walraths owe it to the memory of all victims of the Confederate mentality not to trivialize the terror this flag represents.

The Confederacy was a part of our history, but it was one of the worst parts. There is a proper way to reflect on the role that the Confederacy played in our nation’s development. But displaying such a vulgar idol in so honorable a fashion is not it.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to

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