Category Archives: Resistance

Deja Vu All Over Again! Draft Exiles Streaming Out of Russia

[NOTE: the article below opens the doors of memory. The draft resistance exodus from Russia is the third such episode I’ve witnessed.

The first two I played a bit part in: during the 1960s Vietnam War, many U. S. Quakers “aided and abetted” (technically a federal crime) many young men who left the country to avoid being swept up in the military draft: I encouraged a few myself.
Others, such as Friend Ken Maher, helped many more, and Ken recounts his adventures on the new underground railroad of those years in this post, Then 35 years later, as the U. S. Invasion of Iraq wreaked its  vast destruction, I worked with dissident soldiers who left the country to refuse participation in an illegal, immoral war. The story, “Money for College,” here, grew out of that work.
This time, I’m but a spectator and cheerleader, from a seemingly safe distance. But while Putin’s cronies jeer at them, and his minions arrest as many as they can catch, I know their refusal is important. Many may languish in prison, others have to start over in exile, and there will be no parades or medals for either. But widespread draft resistance has an impact: it helps blunt the drive for war, saps the public compliance needed even in a Putin-style tyranny. To paraphrase, “They also serve, who refuse to serve at all.”]

The Guardian —  22 September 2022

‘I will cross the border tonight’: Russians flee after news of draft

Border guards cite ‘exceptional’ number of people leaving the country after ‘partial mobilisation’ announcement

Hours after Vladimir Putin shocked Russia by announcing the first mobilisation since the second world war, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to make his way to the local recruitment centre in Kazan, the capital of the ​​Tatarstan republic.

As a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, Oleg said he always knew that he would be the first in line if a mobilisation was declared, but held out hope that he would not be forced to fight in the war in Ukraine.

“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I had no time to despair.”

 

He quickly packed all his belongings and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.

“I will be driving across the border tonight,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday from the airport in Orenburg. “I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again,” he added, referring to the jail sentence Russian men face for avoiding the draft.

Backup at the Russian border with Finland.

Oleg said he will leave behind his wife, who is due to give birth next week. “I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am simply not letting Putin turn me into a killer in a war that I want no part in.”

The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

The Guardian spoke to over a dozen men and women who had left Russia since Putin announced the so-called partial mobilisation, or who are planning to do so in the next few days.

Options to flee are limited, they say. Earlier this week, four of the five EU countries bordering Russia announced they would no longer allow Russians to enter on tourist visas.

Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku, the capitals of countries allowing Russians visa-free entry, were sold out for the next week, while the cheapest one-way flight from Moscow to Dubai cost about 370,000 rubles (£5,000) – a fee too steep for most.

And so many, like Oleg, were forced to get creative and drive to some of the few land borders still open to Russians.

Border guards in Finland, the last EU country that still allows entry to Russians with tourist visas, said that they have noticed an “exceptional number” of Russian nationals seeking to cross the border overnight, while eyewitnesses also said the Russian-Georgian and Russian-Mongolian borders were “collapsing” with overwhelming traffic.

“We are seeing an even bigger exodus than when the war started,” said Ira Lobanovskaya, who started the “Guide to the free World”NGO, which helps Russians against the war leave the country.

She said her website had received over one and half million visits since Putin’s speech on Wednesday. According to Lobanovkaya’s estimates, over 70,000 Russians that used the group’s services have already left or made concrete plans to leave.

“These are people who are buying one-way tickets. They won’t be coming back as long as mobilisation is ongoing,” she said.

Many of those who are still in Russia will feel that time is running out. At least three regions have already announced they will close their borders to men eligible for the draft.

Border agents at Russian airports have also reportedly started interrogating departing male passengers about their military service status and checking return tickets.

After thousands of Russians rallied against the war and mobilisation on Wednesday, some took to social media to criticise protesters for not speaking out earlier, when their country’s troops were committing human rights abuses in Bucha, Irpin and countless of other towns across Ukraine.

Policemen detaining protesters in central St. Petersburg
Policemen move in to detain participants of an unauthorised protest against partial mobilisation in central St Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday. Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA

“I understand people’s frustration,” said Igor, a 26-year-old IT professional from St Petersburg, who is planning to fly to Vladikavkaz and drive to Georgia, another popular fleeing route used by Russians, next week. “I attended the anti-war protest when Putin launched his invasion, but the authorities just jail everyone.”

Some of the protesters detained in Moscow have subsequently been given draft notices while locked up, according to the monitoring group OVD, further underlying the dangers average Russians face when taking to the streets.

“I think the only way I can personally help Ukraine right now is by not fighting there,” Igor said.

There have also been calls for the EU to support Russians who are looking for a way out of the draft.

The EU Commission spokesperson on home affairs, Anitta Hipper, said that the bloc would meet to discuss the issuance of humanitarian visas to Russians fleeing mobilisation. The three Baltic states said on Thursday, however, that they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russians fleeing the draft.

Even those without any military experience – men who Putin vowed not to call up – are packing their bags.

Russian police detaining a protester
Russian police detaining a protester against the partial mobilisation. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

They point to the ambiguity of Putin’s mobilisation law and point to previous broken promises that he would not call for one.

“Putin lied that there will be no mobilisation,” said 23-year-old Anton, a student in Moscow, referring to the president’s International Women’s Day address on 8 March, when he insisted that no reservists would be called up to fight in Ukraine. “Why would he not lie again about this partial mobilisation?”

Fears have grown after independent website Novaya Gazeta Europe reported, based on its government sources, that the mobilistation decrees allow the Ministry of Defence to call up 1,000,000 people, instead of the 300,000 announced by the country’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, on Wednesday.

For now, Lobanovskaya said, the majority of Russians leaving are men.

The Guardian also spoke to a number of women, mostly medics, who similarly decided to leave the country after reports started to trickle out that Russia was calling up health professionals to the front.

“I know medics are supposed to treat people, that is our duty,” said Tatayana, a doctor from Irkutsk, who bought a plane ticket to Baku for next week. “But I believe the sooner this horrible war stops, the fewer people will die.”

The mobilisation also appears to have spooked some of the very people on whom the regime relies to sustain its war efforts.

“For me, mobilisation is the red line,” said Ilya, 29, a mid-level official working for the Moscow government. “Tomorrow I will be in Kazakhstan.”

One man, the son of a west-sanctioned oligarch due to come back to Russia after his studies abroad to work for his family business, said he no longer planned to do so.

“Well, one thing is clear,” he said, in a brief interview by text message. “I won’t be coming back to Russia anytime soon.”

 

Putin’s Mobilization: Preparing for a bigger, more desperate war on Ukraine

Overview: Russia begins massive Ukraine war call-up, spurring some men to flee

Reuters: KYIV/NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Russia pushed ahead on Thursday with its biggest conscription drive since World War Two, prompting some men to rush abroad, while Ukraine demanded “just punishment” for a seven-month-old invasion that has shaken the world.

President Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilize another 300,000 Russians escalates a war that has already killed thousands, displaced millions, pulverised cities, damaged the global economy and revived Cold War confrontation.

The mass conscription may be the riskiest domestic move of Putin’s two decades in power, after Kremlin promises it would not happen and a string of battlefield failures in Ukraine.

Anti-war protests in 38 Russian cities saw more than 1,300 people arrested on Wednesday, a monitoring group said. Some had been served summons to report to enlistment offices on Thursday, the first full day of conscription, independent news outlets said.

Prices for air tickets out of Moscow soared above $5,000 for one-way flights to the nearest foreign locations, with most sold out for coming days. Traffic also surged at border crossings with Finland and Georgia. Continue reading Putin’s Mobilization: Preparing for a bigger, more desperate war on Ukraine

On the Brink of Autumn: Quote of the Season

 

Joe Biden, 09/15/2022, United We Stand Summit, at the White House:

George Floyd mural, Minneapolis

“Too much hate that’s fueled extremist violence [has] been allowed to fester and grow.

Heather Heyer, spontaneous memorial, Charlottesville

You know, as a result, our very own intelligence agencies — our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America, have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.

I’ve been around a while.I never thought I’d hear that or say that.

Enough.”

Paul Krugman on Ukraine vs MAGA Machismo

[NOTE: Modern war, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.  The  Ukraine war shows this in the case of economics columnist Paul Krugman. He’s a wonk, not a warrior, but his career has some intriguing parallels to that of Army General Mark Milley, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No wait — consider: they both served early on at Princeton & MIT.  Of course, later their paths diverged a bit: while Krugman wonked out publishing 27 books, Milley was accumulating about as many ribbons & medals. Milley wound up earning four stars; Krugman settled for a Nobel Prize.

But comes the Ukraine invasion, and their paths converged, sort of: while the Ukrainians’ courage and fighting skill properly get most of the attention, their battlefield prowess rests on a vast flow of imported weapons, and all those guns and drones and shells cost money. Further, we are told that soon winter will bring  a full-on continental energy crisis to Europe, where the most crucial battle, to include tens of  millions of civilians, will be to keep warm.  And capturing  this warmth too will be, above all, about money.

Krugman doesn’t know much about drones or AR-15s. But he knows about money. The dominant idea about money among Russian authorities from Putin on down (and their U. S. MAGA cheerleaders) seems to focus on stealing it. Ukrainian officials are no angels, but  their army leans more on using it to get the tools for winning battles. Combine that with guts and brains, and they have survived a brutal invasion and are currently on a roll.

Krugman explores this conjuncture here, from his ivory tower redoubt. I expect general Milley gets more vivid briefings; but even economists — well, they also serve who mainly crunch the numbers.]

PAUL KRUGMAN — Sept. 12, 2022

Ukraine Deflates MAGA Macho Myths

Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

On Aug. 29 Tucker Carlson of Fox News attacked President Biden’s policy on Ukraine, asserting among other things: “By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine.” Carlson went on, by the way, to assert that Biden is supporting Ukraine only because he wants to destroy the West.

Carlson’s timing was impeccable. Just a few days later, a large section of the Russian front near Kharkiv was overrun by a Ukrainian attack. It’s important to note that Putin’s forces weren’t just pushed back; they appear to have been routed. As the independent Institute for the Study of War reported, the Russians were driven into a “panicked and disorderly retreat,” leaving behind “large amounts of equipment and supplies that Ukrainian forces can use.”

The Russian collapse seemed to validate analyses by defense experts who have been saying for months that Western weapons have been shifting the military balance in Ukraine’s favor, that Putin’s army is desperately short on quality manpower and that it has been degraded by attrition and missile attacks on its rear areas. These analyses suggested that Russian forces might eventually reach a breaking point, although few expected that point to come so soon and so dramatically.

Continue reading Paul Krugman on Ukraine vs MAGA Machismo

Some Non-Elizabethan Weekend Images

This blimp is three shirts to the wind . . .

 

Covering up? Or bringing issues together around a central focus . . .

 

What’s that? I can’t hear y’all over the sound of chains and the cries of their lost children . . .

 

Looks like the spitting image to me, with the right color suit too . . .

 

A cannon aimed directly at all who challenge 45 .. .

 

Somebody’s singing the Michigan Fight Song . . . Or maybe the one from Kansas.

More War Statues Coming Down— Different Wars, Different Targets

 

BY VANESSA GERA — August 31, 2022

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In the Latvian capital of Riga, an obelisk that soared high above a park to commemorate the Soviet Army’s capture of that nation in 1944 was toppled last week. It crashed into a pond to the cheers of those watching.

Days earlier in Estonia, a replica of a Soviet tank with the communist red star was removed by cranes and trucked away to a museum — one of up to 400 destined for removal. And in Poland, Lithuania and Czechia, monuments to the Red Army have been coming down for months, a belated purge of what many see as symbols of past oppression.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has given a renewed push to topple the last remaining Soviet monuments in nations that regained their sovereignty from Moscow more than three decades ago. These countries now belong to NATO and the European Union and are staunch supporters of Ukraine.

At the end of the communist era, when Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia regained their independence from the Soviet Union and Poland and its neighbors rejected Moscowbacked communism, those nations began renaming streets and purging the most hated symbols, including statues of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin and other communist bosses. Many of these relics are now housed in museums.

In Warsaw, authorities in 1989 quickly toppled a monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat who organized the Soviet secret police after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Under his rule, the Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB, was responsible for a wave of terror.
A Soviet-oriented war monument in Latvia comes down.

Such changes followed the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who died in a Moscow hospital on Tuesday at the age of 91.

But memorials to Soviet soldiers or their role in defeating Nazi Germany remained in many places, met with indifference or respect for the ordinary soldiers who died fighting Adolf Hitlers brutal regime.

The war in Ukraine, however, has triggered memories of how some of those soldiers also raped local women and carried out other war crimes.

Krista Sarv, the research director for the Estonian History Museum, said after statues of Lenin and other leading communists were toppled in the 1990s, people could largely ignore the other memorials. But views changed suddenly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and now the memorials “scream loudly about occupation and annexation.”

Karol Nawrocki, the head of Polands Institute of National Remembrance which is overseeing the removal of the monuments, says “before our eyes, history has become a living experience.

“Dressed in the uniforms of the Russian Federation, with Lenin and Stalin in their heads and hearts, Russian soldiers ‘liberate’ Ukraine by murdering women, children and killing soldiers,” Nawrocki said.

“Let it be clear: There is no place in the Polish public space for any commemoration of the totalitarian communist regime and its people,” he added.

A 2016 decommunization law had already called for a purge of communist symbols and names, but some municipalities did not have the money for that, so the institute has stepped in to help. Since February, the Polish institute has identified 60 monuments for removal — and has toppled more than 20.

In Lithuania, a number of remaining Soviet memorials have been removed since the spring to little protest. But in Latvia and Estonia, which have sizeable Russian minorities, the removals have stirred greater emotions, with local Russians — and the Russian government — seeing it as an offense against their war heroes.

Dmitry Prokopenko, a Russianspeaking Latvian who opposed removing the Riga obelisk, said his grandparents fought and a greatgrandfather died in the fight “for freedom against the Nazis. To him, the memorial honored their sacrifice.

“Latvia is a land where Latvians and Russians live together,” he said. “I think that one part of the state, one part of the country, should respect also the rights of the other part.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday released a lengthy statement denouncing the demolition of Soviet monuments in the Baltic countries as “barbaric” and threatening Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia with retaliatory measures.

In an apparent slap against Poland, Belarus last week reportedly leveled a memorialcontaining the graves of Polish wartime soldiers.

Polish officials declared that action barbaric, given that Poland has a policy of not disturbing the graves of Soviet soldiers. Rafal Leskiewicz, a historian with the Polish remembrance institute, explained “as Christians, we treat graves as holy ground. It doesnt matter who is in the graves.”

In some cases locals support keeping Red Army memorials because of its role in defeating Nazi Germany. Some fear the erasure of historical memory, or see an affront to their own ancestors who fought alongside the Soviets.

In Polands northern city of Gdansk, theres been a heated debate about a Soviet T34 tank on Victory Avenue, and the city has decided not to remove it. The tank commander was a Polish lieutenant, and Polish soldiers played a key role in freeing the former German city of Danzig from the Nazis.

In an open letter, two descendants of wartime Polish soldiers expressed their indignation at the removal of monuments.

They recalled that Polish soldiers died fighting with the Soviets to free Poland from the Nazis and that the Soviet victory resulted in Poland receiving a swath of defeated Germanys territory and cities including Gdansk and Wroclaw. They also noted it was the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz, Majdanek and many other Nazi death camps.

“Had it not been for the victory of Polish and Soviet soldiers in May 1945, Poland might not have existed at all,” said the letter by magazine editor Pawel Dybicz and historian August Grabski.

But many other Poles note that World War II broke out after Soviet Union and Nazi Germany agreed secretly in 1939 to carve up Poland and the Baltic states. Only after Germany betrayed and invaded the Soviet Union did the Red Army begin to fight the Germans.

Even before Russias war in Ukraine, the monuments have been a source of tensions.

In 2007, the relocation of a World War II monument of a Red Army soldier in Tallinn, Estonia, sparked days of rioting.

In 2013, an artist put up a statue depicting a Soviet soldier raping a pregnant womannext to the Gdansk tank. The unauthorized sculpture was quickly removed. After Russia invaded Ukraine, a different artist covered the tank with a large handsewn Ukrainian flag to protest what he called the “tyranny” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In March, as Poland was figuring out a timetable for taking down Soviet monuments, a resident of the northern city of Koszalin took matters into his own hands. He drove an excavator onto a cemetery and toppled the statue of a Soviet soldier being hugged by a girl.

Nawrocki says the official removal of Soviet monuments in Poland is progressing at a very fast pace, but it is a matter that should have been settled long ago.”

 

More Cartoons: “Forgive Us Our (School Loan) Debts Edition

Their CVs all list “Trump U Law School” . . . .

But at least the party still has some rock-solid beliefs . . .

But give this guy a break– he’s running for Q-Anon shaman in Arizona, and has a tough race . . .

File this next one under “Circular Firing Squad,” Continued . . .

Gotta repeat this message; like every half hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to bring us back, um, down to earth . . .

Science Strikes Back: Is Mark Robinson Learning?

Who says blog posts don’t have impact?

Yesterday, August 24, we shared a post:  Our Work Cut Out For Us – A Preview of 2024 Governor’s Race in NC.”

It got close to 40 “hits,” small stuff on the big web, but not bad for a “local” news item.

The book.

The post concerned a new book that will be out next month, by NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, a very conservative Republican who is preparing a likely run for governor in 2024.

In the book, We Are the Majority, Robinson declares that, as part of his efforts to clean up public education in the state, he would drop studies of science and social studies from curricula through fifth grade:

“In those grades,” Robinson wrote, “we don’t need to be teaching social studies. We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to talk about equity and social justice.” 

There’s more, much more, in the text and the post (as a local paper said, Robinson “has a reputation for making incendiary and controversial comments.”)

But that particular declaration seemed to raise eyebrows and hackles. Less than 24 hours after our post was up, and a longer report was on WRAL TV, — well, Robinson was singing something of a different tune.

As noted in the August 25  Raleigh NC News & Observer:

NC’s Mark Robinson backs off his call to stop teaching science  in elementary school

BY LUCIANA PEREZ URIBE GUINASSI UPDATED AUGUST 24, 2022

When North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson spoke on education at a round-table event Tuesday night in downtown Durham, he didn’t publicly broach a topic likely to have been on many attendees’ minds: a call in his upcoming book for eliminating science and history from the first through fifth-grade curriculum and shuttering the State Board of Education.

Duke’s clinical Research Institute, Durham NC. There’s no skimping on science here.

In the book, set to be published on Sept. 13, Robinson writes that schools should “demand proficiency in reading, writing, and math in grades one through five. In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies. We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to talk about equity and social justice.”

Following the public panel, The News & Observer asked him about that stance.

Robinson said he didn’t want to discuss the book at the event and that he or his representatives would talk separately.

Science March, Raleigh 2017.

But shortly afterward, in comments to CBS-17 at the event, he appeared to backtrack from at least one statement in the book. He told the station he was not saying that science, at least, should be eliminated from the curriculum, but instead that proficiency in reading and mathematics should be the priority.

“We’re not talking about not teaching science to elementary school children,” he said Tuesday. “What we’re talking about is putting reading, writing and arithmetic – making that paramount in elementary school.”

Robinson, who is the top Republican in North Carolina’s executive branch, has a reputation for making incendiary and controversial comments. A viral 2018 speech on gun rights started his political career, and just two years later he was elected by voters as the state’s first Black lieutenant governor.


RTP’s bird logo, symbolizing the flocks of thousands of scientific researchers gathered there every day.

It’s apt that Robinson, er, adjusted his statement in Durham. He was speaking just a stone’s throw from science-intensive Research Triangle Park, which modestly claims to be “the largest research park in the U.S.,” and only a block or two from the mammoth high-rise Duke Clinical Research Institute; to mention only a couple the city’s science-related landmarks. One could also mention that “social studies” are the focus of several other local institutions, such as the art museum with its striking civil rights mural.

For that matter, in Raleigh, the town Robinson hopes to take over in the 2024 election, science also seems to be, you know, a thing. In 2017, when science, especially government science, was under assault from a know-nothing White House occupant, Raleigh hosted a stunning and inventive pro-science march.

It begins to look as if Robinson might be making some last-minute revisions to his book text; lucky for him, science has made it possible to do such things even as the presses are getting ready to roll.

So science in Carolina may save Robinson’s bacon this time. And science in Carolina is something the next governor better not ignore or slight, from kindergarten up. I’m pretty sure some would-be candidates already understand that.

Science march, Raleigh 2017.

 

 

 

One More Expert Analysis: What Putin “Really” Wants from the Ukraine Invasion

The Guardian — Mon 22 Aug 2022

After six months of bloody and terrible war, what exactly does Putin want from Ukraine?

Russia is trying to demonstrate that Nato is powerless to stop it. Whether it succeeds depends on the west’s political will as energy prices soar?

Nearly six months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is still widespread disagreement in the west on Vladimir Putin’s motives.

This is of more than academic interest. If we do not agree why Putin decided to invade Ukraine and what he wants to achieve, we cannot define what would constitute victory or defeat for either of the warring sides and the contours of a possible endgame.

At some point, like all wars, the present conflict will end. Geography condemns Ukraine and Russia to live beside each other and that is not going to change. They will eventually have to find a modus vivendi. That also applies to Europe and Russia, although it may take decades before the damage is repaired.

Why, then, did Putin stake so much on a high-risk enterprise that will at best bring him a tenuous grip on a ruined land? Continue reading One More Expert Analysis: What Putin “Really” Wants from the Ukraine Invasion

Memo to Florida Gov. DeSantis: DON’T You DARE Read This!

NOTE: “Don’t Say ‘Gay’”? Smacking around Disney’s Mouse?? Bullying teachers??? Squashing Drag Storytime?? Hectoring trans folk???

William Prynne (1600-1669)

Guv, you must have a secret stash of the more colorful works of William Prynne (1600-1669).  Back in The Day, old Willie P. Knew how to put the Pew and the Pure back into Puritanism. Let’s hear a bit more about him . . .]

In 1633, the irascible [but indefatigable] Prynne published Histrio-Mastix, a thousand-page attack on stage plays, actresses, the magistrates who permitted them (plays and women in them ) and the spectators who viewed them.  Women had long been banned from the stage, which evoked much cross-dressing and falsetto flouncing by male actors. But don’t call them the first drag queens, particularly if you’re a teacher in Florida, Texas, or other neo-Puritan jurisdictions: the anonymous tiplines will soon be buzzing with your name and address.

Part of the title page, which goes on and on . . .

Prynne settled for calling females who acted onstage simply “notorious whores.” He also denounced long hair on men as “unseemly and unlawful unto Christians”, while it was “mannish, unnatural, impudent, and unchristian” for women to cut it short.

Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. They were not amused by William Prynne’s condemnation of such abominations as long hair on men, stage plays, women in stage plays, and women in stage plays who actually dared to speak. But while they lacked modern tools such as Twitter, they had other means to express their displeasure at bad reviews, as Prynne learned.

But this polemic about women on stage, among other horrors, earned the royal displeasure from the King (Charles I) who had enjoyed watching his queen (Henrietta Maria) perform at Court. In fact, just about the time Prynne’s doorstop tome appeared in print, the queen herself had starred in an elaborate dramatic masque, “The Shepherd’s Paradise,” along with several of her ladies, who even  <gasp!> broke new ground in public shamelessness by speaking actual lines.

“Paradise” was notorious, all right, and not only because of the women’s speaking. It was also one of many very expensive royal indulgences: it called for elaborate sets, enough for nine scene changes, and lasted for seven to eight hours.  The “plot” was something about a mythical

“pastoral community dedicated to Platonic love
[don’t ask], refuge for unrequited lovers of both genders [do ask: and all orientations?] — “a peaceful receptacle of distressed minds.” The Shepherd’s Paradise is ruled by Bellesa, “beauty,” who was certainly played by Henrietta Maria. . . .” [Wikipedia]

“Paradise” wasn’t a hit, except, it seems, with the royal couple. But the rule then was, “Don’t Say Nay”: and in those days, even without Twitter, the ones in power had ways to make critics rue their effrontery and ill manners, ways that today’s neo-Puritans can only envy and dream about (so far).

For his published insolence Prynne was sent to the Fleet prison [where William Penn was later confined], spent three days shackled in the public pillory, and while in it had both his ears partly cut off.

The pillory. Prynne spent 3 days in it.

Fleet prison also played “host” to “Freeborn John” Lilburne, a “Leveller” agitator for religious and political liberty. He was imprisoned there in 1638 for distributing “unlicensed” [aka censored] publications—not coincidentally, perhaps, one of Prynne’s own—and for which was whipped while being dragged behind an oxcart from the Fleet prison to the pillory at Westminster.

[Lilburne] later thanked God (in defiant verse) for sustaining him through his ordeal:

When from Fleet-bridge to Westminster,
       at Carts Arsse I was whipt,
Then thou with joy my soul upheldst,
       so that I never wept.

Likewise when I on Pillory,
       in Palace-yard did stand,
Then by thy help against my foes,
       I had the upper-hand.”

Prynne was similarly punished but not deterred. He published at least 200 pamphlets & books, upholding presbyterianism and culturally strict Calvinism, and calling for the monarch to rule over all religion in England. He also strongly opposed a plan to permit Jews to return to and settle in England (after being banned since 1290).

In 1654, he took time to issue a blast against a rising new movement, titled, The Quakers Unmasked, and clearly detected to be but the spawn of Romish frogs, Jesuites, and Franciscan fryers; sent from Rome to seduce the intoxicated giddy-headed English nation . . . [yada yada]

It was William Prynne’s fate (and  William Penn’s, ours; and that of Gov. DeSantis) to live in what are called “interesting times.” Prynne passed through years of religious conflict in England, which led to three civil wars, a revolution which overthrew the British monarchy and established church; and a failed attempt to build a “Commonwealth” in its place. The Commonwealth’s collapse was followed by the restoration of the monarchy and the official church. Quakers, among other surviving Dissenters, then faced and, at high cost, survived decades of persecution.

William III giving his Royal Assent to the Toleration Act, 1689.

By 1689, some of the “interesting” trends had begun to simmer down, enough that several generations of continuing religious turmoil finally produced an Act of Toleration. It wasn’t ideal, but opened the door to legal status for dissident groups like Quakers, and ushered in a long period of often “uninteresting” Quietism among them; which ultimately produced more interesting times. But by 1689, Prynne did not object, as he had been dead for twenty years. (William Penn, OTOH, saw the inside of several more prison cells in those last pre-Toleration decades.)

Prynne and Histrio-Mastix are pretty much forgotten today; but some of the penalties he faced, and even practices he supported, seem to be having a kind of revival. His attitudes are also recognizable; he wasn’t exactly a apostle of critical thinking and open inquiry. I see the impact of these echoes in, for instance, the numerous and credible reports of a nationwide teacher shortage. 

Clearly, low pay and respect from officials are big drivers here; but my sense is that the push from culture war zealots and extremists is making it worse. Beyond schools, libraries and other forums for public expression are feeling the pressures. Too many among us show symptoms of being part of what Prynne deemed an “intoxicated giddy-headed English [or American] nation,” drunk on the brew of revenge, race and reaction.

What are the rest of us gonna do?

Well, one thing: keep this article away from DeSantis, and his ilk. It will just give them some new bad ideas; and they’ve got plenty of those already. And otherwise, bring everyone out to vote pro-democracy; then get ready to tough it out, on every front.

 

Thanks to — Andrew Murphy for material adapted from his biography of William Penn, and help from Wikipedia.