Thursday, May 28, 2015

Anti-Chinese Sentiment in Early Fullerton

Now that I’m on summer break from teaching, I’ve decided to return to my local history project, The Town I Live In: a History of Fullerton.  Yesterday and today, I spent a few hours in the Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library, looking at microfilm of the Fullerton Tribune from the years 1893-1894.  Fullerton was a small but growing community at this time, inhabited mainly by farmers and merchants.  The local paper, edited by a man named Edgar Johnson, was probably fairly typical of small-town newspapers of that time.  A weekly paper, its slim pages were filled with national news, local gossip, advertisements, and items of local interest.  Pressing local issues included the Temperance Movement, the establishment of a local high school, incorporation as a city, lots of crop-related issues…and disturbing anti-Chinese sentiments.

In 1892, the Geary Act passed, which extended the infamous 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for another ten years.  This act and its consequences are one of the more unpleasant aspects of American history.  Basically, what the Chinese Exclusion Act did was severely limit immigration of Chinese into America, provided for an apparatus of identification and deportation of Chinese people, denied Chinese people citizenship, and limited their rights in other nefarious ways.  Chinese exclusion was a really big deal in California, particularly, because there was a fairly large Chinese population here, in part due to the recruitment of Chinese labor to build the Central Pacific Railroad a couple decades earlier.  

In 1893, America was hit by a great economic depression, known as "The Panic of 1893," and jobs became scarce.  The Chinese Exclusion Act was seen as a way to protect the jobs of white people, at the expense of the Chinese.  It is an unfortunate fact that recent immigrants are often the first to suffer in times of economic uncertainty, both in the past, and today in America.

As I scrolled through the microfilm of the Fulllerton Tribune of 1893-1894, I noticed a running trend of articles dealing with the topic of Chinese Exclusion, all of which heartily supported it.  It’s amazing to me how, in this small newspaper, the line between news and opinion was so blurred.  Edgar Johnson was not shy about giving his views on the topic of what to do with the Chinese.  In an article from May 20, 1893, he suggested the U.S. use its war ships to transport the Chinese back to China: “What have we got all these war vessels for if they are not to transport Chinese upon?  If they will just begin moving these fellows, it won’t be very long before there be some room left for white people in this country.”

On October 7, 1893, Johnson reported that “Two Chinamen were arrested at Santa Ana Tuesday and taken to Los Angeles to go before Judge Ross on a charge of violating the Geary act by not registering within the tine prescribed by law.”  On Jan 6 of 1894, Johnson called it a “well-known fact that the Chinese do not make desirable residents in this country.”  Edgar Johnson often refers to Chinese people with the racist term "Chinamen."

On February 17, 1894, Johnson reported an event that happened in Fullerton.  Apparently a mob of 40 locals forced some Chinese workers to leave town.  This event is a disturbing precursor to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Fullerton in the 1920s.  Here’s a screen shot of this article and its opening paragraph:

From the Fullerton Tribune (February 17, 1894) courtesy of Launer Local History Room



Moby-Dick Chapter 6: The Street

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.  This will (hopefully) culminate in a large book report on the whole book.  I will also include illustrations I find on the internet or in books.

After breakfast, Ishmael takes a stroll around New Bedford, to see the sights.  It is, indeed, a fascinating town.  Because it is a prominent sea-port, there are strange characters from all over the world.  It sort of reminds me of the Mos Eisley space station from Star Wars—weird and shady characters from distant places gather there.

Another peculiar feature of New Bedford are its opulent mansions.  Before the discovery and use of crude oil (from the ground), the main heating fuel in America was whale oil.  Greed for this oil is what prompted New England ships to scour the world’s oceans for whales, almost driving some to extinction.  One could actually argue that this discovery of crude oil “saved the whales,” though it created its own set of problems.

Because New Bedford was a whaling port, a lot of wealth flowed through it, and into the coffers of the owners of ships and whaling companies.  Ishmael is startled by the great wealth of these local whale-oil barons.


The Qur’an Surah 50: Qaaf

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.

I recently got into a conversation with my dad about the Christian doctrine of what happens when you die.  The popular belief is that, when you die, your soul goes to heaven (or hell).  But this is not exactly the picture we find in the New Testament.  In the book of Revelation, for example, there is the belief that, at the end of time, all the dead will be bodily resurrected from their graves to face a final judgment.  The belief that your soul separates from your body at death is arguably a more Gnostic than orthodox Christian belief.

It is this latter view, that the dead will be bodily raised at the end of time, which the Qur’an adopts.  Surah 50, Qaaf, is concerned mainly with emphasizing this belief.  In the Qur’an, the belief in bodily resurrection is so important that it is what separates true believers from unbelievers.  This belief was also super important to early Christians.

The question then arises—what happens to people between death and final resurrection at the end of time?  To my knowledge, neither the Bible nor the Qur’an explicitly answers this question.  One could reasonably infer that, in this interim period, you are simply dead.  If you are somehow alive during this period, what need would there be for resurrection?

I guess my point is that both of these major world religions leave us with some unanswered questions regarding what happens when you die.

"The Resurrection of the Dead" by Michelangelo

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moby-Dick Chapter 5: Breakfast

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.  This will (hopefully) culminate in a large book report on the whole book.  I will also include illustrations I find on the internet or in books.

In the morning, all the sea-men staying at The Spouter-Inn gather together for breakfast.  They are an impressive, motley crew.  Ishmael is surprised by the fact that these great whale-men, who have seen more of the world than most, eat together in almost total silence.  He describes the scene in this way:

"I was preparing to hear some good stories about whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man maintained a profound silence.  And not only that, but they looked embarrassed.  Yes, here was a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas--entire strangers to them--and dueled them dead without winking; and yet, here they all sat at a social breakfast table--all of the same calling, all of kindred tastes--looking round as sheepishly at each other as though they had never even out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green Mountains.  A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid warrior whalemen!"

This scene reminds me of veterans of World War II, many of whom were reticent to talk about their war experiences.  The implication is that, what they experienced away from polite society was too intense and profound to discuss over a meal.  The scene also implies that these whalemen are cut from a different cloth than the rest of society.  They are men of action, not words, and find themselves out of place, fish out of water if you will, when home among the comforts of shore-life.  Queequeg, humorously, uses his harpoon to spear helpings of rare beefsteak.





The Qur'an Surah 49: The Private Rooms

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.

This is a Medinan surah, which means that it is mainly concerned with guidelines for maintaining a healthy community.  In this regard, the surah gives three main commands:

1.) Do not shout at the prophet, but rather treat him with respect, with a lowered voice.

2.) Seek to reconcile community members who are fighting.

3.) Don't gossip about community members behind their backs.

Persian Qur'an Manuscript (19th century)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Anti-Club Bob Dylan Night!

On Friday night at The Anti-Club (aka Mulberry St. Ristorante), my friend Bobby and I played a "Bob Dylan Night" set, spanning the full breadth of Dylan's career, plus musicians and bands connected to Bob Dylan in some way.  Here's our set list. Check it out!

“Thunder on the Mountain” by Bob Dylan (from Modern Times)


“Move It On Over” by Hank Williams


“Wallflower” by Bob Dylan (from The Bootleg Series)


“Across the Great Divide” by The Band 


“Most Likely You Go Your Way” by Bob Dylan and The Band (from Before the Flood)


“All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix


“Shake Shake Mama” by Bob Dylan (from Together Through Life)


“Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter


“Golden Loom” by Bob Dylan (from The Bootleg Series)


“It Ain’t Me Babe” by The Turtles


“I Want You” by Bob Dylan (from Blonde on Blonde)


“Time is On My Side” by The Rolling Stones (from 12 x 5)


“She’s Your Lover Now” by Bob Dylan (from The Blonde on Blonde sessions)


“The Story of Bo Diddley” by The Animals


“Sittin’ on a Barbed Wire Fence” by Bob Dylan (from The Highway 61 Revisited Sessions)


“Mr. Tamborine Man” by Chad and Jeremy


“Tell Me That It Isn’t True” by Bob Dylan (from Nashville Skyline)


“Love Minus Zero/No Limit” by Joan Baez


“Father of Night” by Bob Dylan (from New Morning)


“Catch the Wind” by Donovan


“Diamond Joe” by Bob Dylan (from Good As I Been to You)


“Come and Go With Me” by Lightnin’ Hopkins


“Pay in Blood” by Bob Dylan (from Tempest)


“Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” by Cat Power


“Idiot Wind” by Bob Dylan (from Blood on the Tracks)


“Christ for President” by Billy Bragg and Wilco


“Most of the Time” by Bob Dylan (from Oh Mercy)


“Froggie Went a’ Courtin” by Bruce Springsteen


“Jokerman” by Bob Dylan (from Inifdels)


“Going Going Gone” by Bob Dylan and The Band (from Planet Waves)


“Brownsville Girl” by Bob Dylan (from Knocked Out Loaded)


“Changing of the Guards” by Bob Dylan (from Street Legal)


“Silver Dagger” by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (from The Bootleg Series)


“Mississippi” by Bob Dylan (from Love and Theft)


“Moonshiner” by Bob Dylan (from The Bootleg Series)


“Cold Irons Bound” by Bob Dylan (from Time Out of Mind)


“Isis” by Bob Dylan (from Desire)


“Heart of Mine” by Bob Dylan (from Shot of Love)


“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan (from Highway 61 Revisited)


Moby Dick Ch. 4: The Counterpane

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.  This will (hopefully) culminate in a large book report on the whole book.  I will also include illustrations I find on the internet or in books.

Ishmael awakes beside Queequeg, whose arm is affectionately thrown over him: “Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner.  You had almost thought I had been his wife.”  This funny image contrasts with Ishmael’s fear of the “savage” the night before.  Contrary to social mores, the Christian and the pagan have become friends and bedfellows.

However, Queequeg’s arm over Ishmael presents a challenge—how can he get up without waking him?  The scenario reminds him of a childhood experience.  Once, when he was “grounded” to his room, he lay in bed and suddenly felt some strange supernatural hand in his—an experience he found terrifying.  This experience of the divine was like what Old Testament prophets experienced.

Finally, Ishmael succeeds in waking the “savage,” who proceeds to get dressed and ready for the day.  Humorously, Queequeg uses his harpoon blade to shave his face.