Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
In 1861 and 1865 war surged to Virginia farmer Wilmer McLean’s front doors. In 2017 and 2018, mass shootings rocked pastor Jim Crews’ communities.
McLean first: After Confederate and Union soldiers fought on his land the initial skirmish of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, McLean moved his family 120 miles south to a safe, out-of-the way village, Appomattox. Four years later a Confederate messenger knocked on McLean’s door and requested the use of his home for Robert E. Lee’s surrender to U.S. Grant. McLean reportedly said, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”
And Crews: Last year he pastored a church near the Las Vegas killing of 58 country music concertgoers. This year he planted a church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., across the street from the Borderline Bar & Grill. That’s where on Nov. 7 a gunman in a black trenchcoat killed 12 country music fans and then himself.
For more on that tragedy and one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history, please turn to Sophia Lee’s exceptional story about real people. Newspapers are also supposed to quote only real people, but on Nov. 8 the Houston Chronicle retracted or corrected 72 stories by political reporter Mike Ward, who has resigned. After readers wondered whether some people Ward quoted actually existed, the Chronicle found that 122 he quoted could not be found, even though “in this age of online records, including property ownership and court filings, almost everyone can be found quickly.”
On Nov. 13 CNN sued the Trump administration after Jim Acosta, its White House correspondent, broke the presidential press conference rules (ask a question and a follow-up, then hand back the mic) and ended up in “time out.” On Nov. 14 The New York Times criticized the organization that had replaced it as the nation’s most influential media giant, Facebook. The Times charged that Facebook, criticized for facilitating Russian misinformation and violating data privacy, had decided to “delay, deny, and deflect.” Sounds like what the Times has repeatedly done when accused of rampant bias.
Meanwhile, Campus Reform research into 2017-2018 political contributions found that college professors and administrators in Oregon, Missouri, Texas, and Florida gave 94 to 99 percent of their political contributions to Democratic candidates. Maybe such one-sidedness explains why students at the University of California, Berkeley, on Nov. 15 and 16 were still lambasting Isabella Chow, a courageous member of the university’s student senate.
Chow’s crime: not voting for a resolution condemning the Trump administration’s proposal to define “sex” in federal legislation as biological rather than anything a person decides. In a scene reminiscent of Soviet and Chinese Communism, students one by one had verbally blasted Chow during a large campus meeting. The Daily Californian, the student newspaper instrumental in the battle for campus free speech half a century ago, personally attacked Chow and refused to publish her Christian response: You can read it on WORLD’s website at wng.org/isabella_chow.
Sadly, by now we can expect mass killings, big fires, journalistic arrogance, and campus political correctness. The most surprising events of the fortnight—one terrible, one encouraging—occurred on Nov. 10 and 11.
The bad news: On Nov. 11, a white Chicago police officer shot and killed Jemel Roberson, 26, an African-American security guard who was bravely protecting restaurant patrons. Local police Chief Daniel Delaney called Roberson “a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation.” And now he’s dead, leaving behind a 9-month-old son and another child yet unborn.
The good news: On Nov. 3 Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson had said Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw, who lost an eye fighting Islamists in Afghanistan, looks like “a hit man in a porno movie. … He lost his eye in war, or whatever.” Many conservatives reacted angrily to such mocking. Crenshaw, though, was firm but gracious, and made a surprise appearance on the Nov. 10 SNL. There, Davidson apologized: Crenshaw (elected to Congress on Nov. 6) responded humorously and then spoke of “heroes like Pete’s father,” a firefighter who died on 9/11. The video on YouTube—type in Crenshaw, Davidson, SNL—received 8 million views during the following week.
It’s not as if SNL brought about a new armistice on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, but grace like that will help us avoid a second civil war in America. A century and a half ago, following the Confederate surrender, Union army officers grabbed as souvenirs any piece of McLean furniture not tied down. When he protested, they threw money at him. Union cavalry Gen. Phil Sheridan gave McLean gold coins equivalent to $320 today, took the table on which Grant had drafted the surrender document, and told George Armstrong Custer to carry it off on his horse. (The table is now at the Smithsonian.)
McLean later moved to Alexandria, Va., and worked for the Internal Revenue Service.