Mr. Wrestling

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

For many boys at the New York Institute, the man that made self-respect achievable was one Clyde L. Downs of Downsville, Maryland.

When Clyde Downs first came to the Institute in 1929 at age 21, the Institute did not have a wrestling program, and Downs did not come as a wrestling coach. He appears to have been a general physical education coach, engaging students in a variety of activities.

Overbrook School in Philadelphia has been credited with the first wrestling program for blind kids, started in 1929,[3] the very same year that NYI hired Clyde Downs. The Institute would sometimes compete against Overbrook. The Philadelphia-based program was an all-white program, while the New York Institute was integrated. When the two teams met, the Institute’s non-white players were not able to participate, so the Institute was subjected to a handicap. But it seems that in the early years Overbrook had a genuinely superior program. A February 1937 story in Time Magazine describes a 22–5 beating handed to the Institute by Overbrook. By 1942, however, New York Institute students and graduates began to appear at or near the top of regional and national tournaments to a degree that Overbrook never had.

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Standing up for Our Constitution

Among the marriage rights rallies held on November 15, was the rally here in San Jose. It was heartening to see two thousand citizens—including the couples pictured here—stand up for equal rights and the integrity of our state constitution.

A straight couple stands up for marriage equality.A straight couple stands up for marriage equality.

Honorary Homo

I was terribly nervous the night before election day. I had volunteered to work all day for the No-on-8 campaign. The training had been rather intimidating, and I was afraid that I might misrepresent the campaign. I might get sassy with some evangelical. Being straight and perhaps naive about what prejudice I might encounter, I worried that I might lose my temper.

As it turned out, I had a good time, though the work involved a lot of standing around.

I fondly recall the moment when a man passed by with his daughter. I humbly offered them a “No on 8” card. The little girl took the card and pointed to it, looked up to her dad and said “Obama!”

Now I’m not a the biggest Obama fan, but that was a sweet thing to behold.

The Bear Republic
Republic? Well, not exactly.

I also enjoy the memory of the “mature” lady who shook her index finger at me scoldingly. That wasn’t the only finger that was shaken at me that day. Every finger was a little birdie of liberation. It all felt great.

Then there was the older lady who stopped her car to inform me that my hand was blocking the “8” on my rally placard. Oops!

Late in the day, an equally elderly man stopped his car to cite the Bible and inform me that homosexuality is an “abomination”. I was a little fatigued, so I casually asked whether it was too much to let them decide whether they ought to “abominate” or not. Mainly I was just looking for an excuse to hear myself say “abominate”.

Then I heard the word “Obama-Nation” echo through my head like some demonic forbidden thought. Thankfully I was not the first white boy to think of it.

And all the horns honking and hands waving: I don’t remember ever being so popular with the ladies!

I think my favorite memory is of hearing the word “faggot” screamed from a passing car.

It’s not that such an experience entitles me to claim to know what it’s like to be gay. It’s more about this: when the civil liberties of one of my fellow citizens is systematically attacked, I might as well be the target, because when that person is threatened, we’re all threatened.

Evolution Embraced in Dixie

Cultural evolution will have to suffice for the present.

The southern Atlantic seaboard is a remarkable sight to behold this morning. Barack Obama has demonstrated his broad appeal from the outskirts of DC, through the Carolinas and Georgia, all the way to Key West.

South Carolina flag

This is certainly a sign of a broad nationwide appeal, largely due to widespread dissatisfaction with Dubya and the Republican Party, but I think it’s just as much a sign of cultural progress specific to the Southeastern region. Obama didn’t do quite so well in Alabama, the lower Mississippi Valley, Appalachia, the southern Plains States, Utah, or the Northern Rockies.

Let’s hear it for East-Dixie!

I wouldn’t be betting on a counter reconstruction this time around.

Marriage Against the Mob

Don’t let the mob insert discrimination
into the California state constitution!

Vote No on Prop 8

California is a republic! Not an anarchistic mobocracy!
Let’s defend our constitution!

I attended a No on Prop 8 “visibility” activity at San Jose’s Diridon Station this morning, and was very disappointed in the turnout: three people, including me, and I’m not even gay!

I am, however, a California patriot, and I’m afraid I’m about to see the constitution of my state stained by the graffiti of special interest groups.

In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.

—Adlai Stevenson

Who’s Behind Prop 8 (other than the Mormons)

It’s no secret that Mormons are a tremendous force behind funding for the Yes on 8 Campaign. According to Mormons for Proposition 8, 46% of contributions to the campaign (about $10 million) have come from Mormons. But there are other major players.

Of the ten principal contributors to the Prop 8 campaign, two are based in California. Clearly, this battle is not seen as mere California politics by many Americans. There are significant forces who are doing their best to push Prop 8 through, to see to it that government continues to evolve into a Church-of-State. Californians will have to overcome these powers of bigotry and big government to continue the progress of this land of liberty and equal opportunity; this state that has been said to be “America, only moreso.”

Vote No on Proposition 8!

The principal (non-Mormon) contributors to the the Church-of-State Campaign:

  1. National Organization for Marriage, Princeton, NJ: $1441k
  2. Knights of Columbus, New Haven, CT: $1150k
  3. Fieldstead and Co., Irvine, CA: $1095k
  4. Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, Holland, MI: $650k
  5. Former state senator Robert Hurtt & Container Supply Co., Inc, Garden Grove, CA: $527k
  6. American Family Association, Inc., Tupelo, MS: $500k
  7. Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO: $467k
  8. John Templeton Foundation, Bryn Mawr, PA: $450k
  9. Concerned Women for America, Washington, DC: $409k

Some notes on these principal contributors:

The National Organization for Marriage signs its checks as a resident of Santa Ana, CA, but that is only a branch. The headquarters is in New Jersey.

The Knights of Columbus is “the world’s foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society.”

Fieldstead & Company of Irvine, CA has been called the “Paymaster to the political right” by the Orange County Register.

The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation is funded with money from Prince Automotive. Edgar Prince co-founded the Family Research Council with neoconservative Gary Bauer. The current head of the foundation, Edgar and Elsa’s son Erik, is also the founder and owner of Blackwater USA.

Two separate contributors from reportedly from Garden Grove, CA, Robert Hurtt & Container Supply Co., Inc, appear to be one and the same: the former state senator from Garden Grove is a perennial contributor to conservative causes, and a big fan of James Dobson.

“The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values.”

The Templeton Foundation is noted for its Templeton Prize, which “honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” The founder, John Templeton, was interested in answers to questions such as “How large is God? How are finite beings related to the infinite? What was God’s purpose in creating the universe?” He was also interested in the question “what is the best way to live?” His answer appears to be that the best way to live is for government to dictate to citizens how they must live.

Concerned Women for America is dedicated to bringing “Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.”

Prop 8: Making Government into God

The upcoming election will give Californians an opportunity to declare that we are dedicated to the core American principle of non-intervention of government in personal and spiritual affairs. My fellow Californians, let us not place spiritual vows in the domain of the state. This is not China or Soviet Russia. Strike down Proposition 8.

Religious Tolerance in Ancient Persia

The Vendidad is the Zoroastrian book of laws that was supposed to have been authored, if not written down, roughly around the time of Christ. The content, though, seems quite ancient. There is very little in the Vendidad that suggests that it was written for a civilized (urban) people, or even a warring people; yet, it is supposed to have been authored after Iran had been civilized for over 600 years. It is because of the ancient character of the content that I’m inclined to believe it retained much from an older, primitive tradition.

Reading the Vendidad, one might nearly guess that the supposed author was aware of little more than his own tribe. There’s nothing in the Vendidad about national or intertribal government, kings, or even warfare, though the existence of unbelievers is acknowledged. There are several passages that indicate some discrimination against unbelievers; for instance, murdering an unbeliever does not appear to be regarded as a crime (as in Judaism, perhaps to distinguish murder from warfare), and it also seems that an unbeliever could be absolved of some crimes by converting to Mazdaism.

There are also indications that Mazdean law does not apply to unbelievers, and that would seem to be corroborated by history. The Parthian Empire was evidently a relatively tolerant, loosely-organized empire, and though the Parthians’ Sasanian (Sassanid) successors were quite strict with regard to treason, heresy, and apostasy, they appear to have sometimes permitted Jews and Christians to live somewhat autonomously under their reign. It is thought that the Sasanians were the first rulers to apply what became known as the “millet” system, wherein each recognized religious group would enforce its own laws internally.

“… under the early Sasanians much of the groundwork for the future was established. For example the authority over political and economic affairs of the heads of various religious minorities, famous as the millet system of the much later Ottoman Empire, seems to have been organized by the early Sasanians, as well as the tax system applied to minorities.”

The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian periods
Edited by Ehsan Yar-Shater
The Cambridge History of Iran
Page 132

‘It was likewise under Sassanid rule that the first agreement which can properly be called by the name of “millet” was concluded.’

Religion and Nationality
Werner J. Cahnman

“In 410 AD, during the rule of Yazgard I (399-420), Christians were recognized as a millet, or separate religious community, and were protected as such within the organization of the Sassanid Empire. The Sassanid law recognized that the Head of the Christian millet was responsible for upholding discipline within the millet and that the state gave formal backing and recognition to the Head.”

The Christians of Lebanon
Political Rights in Islamic Law
By David D. Grafton
Page 20

The millet system of Yazdagird I, the enlightened rule of other Sassanid kings like Hormizd IV, and the open rule of the Parthians were, in a sense, continuations of a more ancient tradition of interfaith tolerance; established a millennium earlier by Cyrus the Great.

Unfortunately, this and other gestures of Royal toleration were more than equaled by waves of persecution, usually driven by the Zoroastrian priesthood. This is no surprise, for the people most invested in the status quo (the priesthood and aristocracy), as well as the people that must have truly believed the doctrines of traditional Zoroastrianism would have been in natural opposition to religions like Christianity, Mazdakism, and Manichaenism. Irreconcilable beliefs about eternal salvation and damnation are bound to fall into conflict before long.

Still, the situation was not simple. Persecution against Manichaenism, for instance, only flared up after 30 years of royal support had allowed the young faith to flourish. Persecution against Christians, for their part, was often a reaction against Christian expansion efforts and refusal to respect the gods of other peoples.

The question I am attempting to find an answer for is: did Zoroastrianism help or hurt the situation? I am inclined to believe the latter. The dominant traditionalism was too strong to permit toleration for long, in spite of more enlightened aspects of the faith. It was typically the kings who sought tolerance, perhaps realizing a modest tolerance to be in the best interests of the Empire.