Sunday, April 09, 2017


Today as I browsed the shelves in my favorite bookstore I came upon an anthology of early to mid century (the last one ) articles from The New Republic. I was drawn to those which reported on the Dayton, i.e. Scopes, trial, aka Trial of the Century, which convened long before the O.J. cartoon show of recent sad memory. Dayton attracted the ears of all serious journalists and legal scholars. In the dock was Mr. Scopes, a high school teacher who had tried to bring Darwin to the locals, the latter of whom took umbrage and sought to rid themselves of Satan's messenger. Scopes' plight caught the attention of Clarence Darrow, who went south with his copy of the Constitution. The prosecution called upon William Jennings Bryan, a fire breathing populist and progressive who in his old age had become a purveyor of ignorant evangelism not far removed from snake handling and talking in tongues, two favorite pastimes of the local true believers. Bryan preached biblical literalism, a doctrine at odds with our Founders' message. Darrow easily savaged this drivel, but was ultimately stymied by Deep South sympathies. The New Republic published many essays and editorials about the trial, its participants, and its implications. These articles are a who's who of liberal thought at mid century, and reading them now, one sees a reflection of one's own time and its passions. Whole paragraphs could be pasted into much of today's reporting, with no loss of continuity, but the real lesson, I think, is "time will tell." Mountains of ignorance cannot be bulldozed by millions of pages. One word suffices now as it did then: vote.

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