Home > History, Humour, Politics, Religion, Science, Uncategorized > A War Monkey Called Sue! (Further adventures on the Internet.)

A War Monkey Called Sue! (Further adventures on the Internet.)

Yesterday I read Charles Moore’s review of Stephen Spielberg’s latest film, War Horse. Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed the play, which I saw inLondon, 18 months ago, I read the review with some interest. Without going into details,Moore was less than enthusiastic, criticising Spielberg for the gratuitous sentimentality. What was perhaps more interesting, was the comment section, some of which dealt with aspects of the Great War and the vast tragedy attached to it.

One such comment referred to Lord Salisbury, who as Prime Minister at the end of the 19th century, had bent over backwards to avoid war, not just with Germany, but with the US as well. I was reminded of a comment I had recently in a book, Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, by US Republican Pat Buchanan, an excerpt of which is here. Surprisingly, for a Republican American of Irish extraction, Buchanan is very sympathetic to theBritish Empire and the benefits it brought to the world. It is worth reading the excerpt, just to hear what he has to say about, and how critical he is of American icons, Thomas Jefferson (‘all men are equal’) and Woodrow Wilson, (‘the right to self-determination’). What he said about Lord Salisbury also took me by surprise. He describes Salisbury as an appeaser, though rather than being critical, he admires him for it.

“In the summer of 1895, London received a virtual ultimatum from secretary of state Richard Olney, demanding that Great Britain accept U.S. arbitration in a border dispute between British Guiana andVenezuela. Lord Salisbury shredded Olney’s note like an impatient tenured professor cutting up a freshman term paper. But President Cleveland demanded that Britain accept arbitration—or face the prospect of war with theUnited States. The British were stunned by American enthusiasm for a war over a patch of South American jungle, and incredulous. America deployed two battleships to Britain’s forty-four. Yet Salisbury took the threat seriously: “A war with America…in the not distant future has become something more than a possibility.”

“Isolation is much less dangerous than the danger of being dragged into wars which do not concern us. Lord Salisbury,1896.”

Now there are many who will describe Pat Buchanan as a ‘right wing, religious anti-Semitic bigot’ and with some justification. He ran for President when I was living in theUS, and I watched him on various TV programmes, so I have some sympathy for that view. But at the same time, he does have the courage of his convictions and is not afraid to say what he thinks, some of which definitely needs saying. Most recently, “If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S.population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this the Democrats’ idea of diversity?”

In any event, I went to Buchanan’s Wikipedia site where I read more about him. That took me to a spat that he had with columnist William F Buckley, an interesting chap himself and from there to H L Menken,  also worth reading about. Mencken it was satirised the famous Scopes Trial, which he called the Monkey Trial.

Seeing how the Chariot carries few, if any creationists, I am sure that you will all have heard of the Scopes Trial.

“Scopes Monkey Trial—was a landmark American legal case in 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it unlawful to teach evolution.”

Given the nature of it, one can understand why it was open to satire. What I did not know was that the whole thing had been set up to test the law and that it was the prosecutors who were the instigators, not because they agreed with the law, but because they wanted to have it repealed. That was one reason. The other was that they hoped the publicity of such a trial would bring fortune to the little county.

“In Dayton, the Hicks brothers were regulars at the F.E. Robinson Drugstore, where the town’s professionals often gathered to socialize and discuss the issues of the day. In May 1925, the Hicks brothers and other regulars became involved in a discussion over an American Civil Liberties Union advertisement seeking a challenge to the Butler Act, a recently-enacted state law barring the teaching of the Theory of Evolution. Realizing the publicity such a case would bring to Rhea County, the group— who would eventually become known as the “drugstore conspirators”— decided to engineer a case that would test the constitutionality of the Butler Act. The group recruited local physics teacher John T. Scopes— a friend— to admit to teaching the Theory of Evolution. One of the conspirators, George Rappleyea, swore out a warrant for Scopes’ arrest on May 5, and charges were filed the following day.”

The prosecution won the day and Scopes was found guilty as had been their plan. They now hoped that the case would progress to the Supreme Court which would bring even more publicity to the town. However, the presiding judge had made a technical mistake. On the defendant being found guilty the judge had issued Scopes with a fine of $100. On appeal, the new judge declared that only a jury can issue a fine higher than $50 and since the judge had not consulted the jury. Thus Scopes escaped on a technicality. The new judge went on to state that since Scopes was no longer living in Tennessee, it was no longer in anybody’s interest to pursue the case further, much to the dismay of those seeking to have the law overturned.

So where does Sue fit in? Well, one of the ‘drugstore conspirators’ and a co-prosecutor was a man, yes, a man called Sue Hicks. He was a fine lawyer who prosecuted over 800 murder suspects.

“Hicks’ oddly feminine first name may have inspired the song, “A Boy Named Sue”, which Johnny Cash first performed in 1969. The song’s author, Shel Silverstein, attended a judicial conference in Gatlinburg,Tennessee— at which Hicks was a speaker— and apparently got the idea for the song title after hearing Hicks introduced. While Cash said he was unaware that Silverstein had any one person in mind when he wrote the song, he did send Hicks two records and two autographed pictures signed, “To Sue, how do you do?””

The song does contain the line, ‘Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July’ so there does seem to be truth behind the theory. I have been to Gatlinberg. It is the most tacky town on earth, though set in a very pretty part of the Appalachian Mountains, a stone’s throw from Dollywood!

Hicks was named by his father in honour of his mother who died in childbirth. He maintained that it was not given to him make him tough as is the reason given in the song.

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