History Is Not “Bunk”

Ed Raymond

Henry Ford Was Wrong

Over 100 years ago the inventor of the Model T had a rather unusual opinion about the study of history, which, like the famous albatross, settled around his neck for his long lifetime. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune he uttered these fateful words: “Say, what do I care about Napoleon? What do we care about what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across and I don’t care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”  For many years Ford was asked about his mortal words about history. He later responded: “I’m going to start up a museum and give people a true picture of the development of the country. That’s the only history worth observing, that you can preserve in itself. We’re going to build a museum that’s going to show industrial history, and it won’t be bunk.”

We keep hearing from very smart people that if we have no knowledge of our history we are bound to repeat all the mistakes made by our ancestors. In a recent Minneapolis Tribune article writer Karen Wolf attacked Ford’s approach to the study of history: “Most best-selling history books are written by non-historians. But like medicine, law, or engineering, history is a profession for which scholars spend years learning crucial skills and absorbing bodies of work that help them to interpret the past. While we can and must encourage more people to dig into our past and work better to understand it we also must understand how critical the specialized toolbox of historians is to getting the past right.”

As an example of mistakes made by non-historians, Wolf commented on what happened to National Public Radio’s Cokie Roberts, when discussing abortion in the past, when she said she couldn’t find any examples of abortion advertisers in 19th Century newspapers. Real professional historians presented her a tsunami of ads about abortion in those newspapers. There were thousands of ads—but Cokie did not know the specific language covering abortions. Historians knew “abortion” language.  Wolf: “Perhaps women of that era did not know the scientific physiology of reproduction that we do today, but they did want to control reproduction and sought out means to do so. In reality, historical understanding isn’t static any more than knowledge in any other field. We wouldn’t expect our doctors to convey the same information that our parents received from doctors decades ago. The same holds true for history. New sources—texts, objects, images, or oral histories — become available all the time, along with new methods and fresh perspectives on the past. Such developments shape what we know about the past.” In other words, there are all kinds of new things in orbit around the sun.

A New Revised Ireland Is Now Orbiting the Sun

Less than 50 years ago Irish smugglers were prosecuted for selling condoms in a country that banned all kinds of contraceptives. Ireland was considered to be the “most Catholic” of all countries on the planet. About a decade ago the Irish recalled their ambassador to the Vatican after the revelations about the treatment of Irish women in the Magadalene Laundries and public and private schools that were then run by the Roman Catholic Church. Irish women were tired of going to England for abortions. Not only has Ireland elected a gay prime minister who has married his same-sex partner, the Irish voter, by a landslide, has legalized abortion so it is available in 22 of 26 counties. Over 200 doctors now perform the service—with minimum backlash from abortion protesters — and what little is left of the Catholic Church.

Abortion in Ireland is basically free and is provided by general practitioners to all women up to nine weeks pregnant. Hospitals are required to perform abortions between nine and 12 weeks. After 12 weeks abortions are permitted in exceptional circumstances because of the health of the mother or fetus. Abortion does remain banned in Northern Ireland but women can get an abortion for paying about $400 by traveling to Ireland. The historical record of the Roman Catholic Church brought about by new sources and a thorough study of Irish history under the power of the Vatican has dramatically changed the lives of all of the Irish.

The Vatican’s Idea Of Natural Law

The gender theory proposed by the Vatican is based on the idea that there are only two genders and the rest of humanity under the LBGTQ banner are “intrinsically disordered.” It proclaims all humans have choice in the selection of gender. I guess that’s why the Vatican thinks 10% of our population is under the power of Satan. The Vatican document depends on philosophers, theologians, and old church history and ignores LGBTQ people and their families, as well as new discoveries by biologists, genetic scientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Catholic theology and “natural law” is evidently based on two very limited genders. But that is not what is happening in the real, historical natural world. Father James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer, in a response to the theories of the Vatican, demolishes Vatican natural law: “The Vatican ignores what we understand about the natural world, where we see men and women attracted to the same sex, men and women feeling a variety of sexual feelings throughout their lifetimes, and men and woman more on a spectrum than on any fixed place when it comes to sexuality and even gender.”      

The Vatican keeps saying that every human has a choice of gender. That’s 13th Century thinking. Martin responds to the idea of choice: “People who are transgender report that they do not choose their identity but discover it through their experiences as human beings in a social world.”  (If you wish to know more about transgenders, study the life of Bruce and Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic transgender track champion.)  Martin writes that the real natural law present in the world is based on new scientific discoveries about gender: “(The Vatican document) relies mainly on the belief that gender is determined solely by one’s visible genitalia, which contemporary science has shown is an incorrect (and sometimes even harmful) way to categorize people. Gender is also biologically determined by genetics, hormones, and brain chemistry — things that are not visible at birth. The Vatican’s document relies heavily on categories of “male” and “female” that were shaped centuries ago.” 

The director of the LBGTQ-supporting New Ways Ministry Francis DeBernado summarizes his organization’s position on the Vatican’s document on gender identity: “It is a harmful tool that will be used to oppress and harm not only transgender people, but lesbian, gay bisexual people, too. The document associates sexual and gender minorities with libertine sexuality, a gross misrepresentation of the lives of LBGT people which perpetuates and encourages hatred, bigotry, and violence against them. The only truth the document reveals  is that the Vatican remains ill-equipped to discuss gender and sexuality in the modern world.  By ignoring new scientific understandings of gender identity and by refusing to engage in dialogue with LBGT people about their lived experiences of self-understanding and faith, the Vatican remains in the dark ages, promoting a false teaching that relies on myth, rumor, and falsehoods. Because they have not consulted science or people’s experiences, the Vatican’s theology on gender is defiant and flawed. It relies on categories of male and female that were shaped centuries ago in oppressive and repressive cultures.

A Few Real Truths About Illegal Abortions In Washington, D.C. In 1966

All of the abortion incidents listed below were recently discovered by historians in a 1966 Washington Post series about D.C. illegal abortion practices.

• Dr. John Skilling, the chief obstetrical resident at Washington Hospital Center in 1966, described the most common abortion tool used in the Washington area at the time. It was a rubber catheter attached to a straightened wire coat hanger. He described just one of his many patients: “I had a 26-year-old girl here recently who did it that way herself lying on a bed with a mirror. She didn’t have $300 for an abortionist and couldn’t afford to lose her job as a keypunch operator. When a girl comes to our emergency room she’s usually bleeding massively, has a high fever, and often has an infection in the blood stream—or abdominal cavity—or a bowel obstruction.”

• Another patient had injected a soapy solution with a catheter and swallowed 30 tablets that she thought would make her womb contract. Because of this the four-month-old fetus and her entire womb was lost—including the loss of her hearing. The hearing loss was caused by powerful drugs used to save her life during a hospital stay costing $14,000.

• Another D.C abortion patient was a 16-year-old who drank lye to abort herself—and died on her bed. Over 10% of the admissions to Washington hospital obstetric units in 1966 were from spontaneous or criminal abortions.

• A hospital nurse took surgical tools home to “help” a neighbor. The nurse broke the membrane surrounding the fetus with a catheter to draw out the fluids which tragically created an air bubble between the womb and its lining. The air bubble was carried to the heart by blood vessels causing a fatal blockage.

• Many illegal abortions were carried out at hospitals by doctors for wealthy patients. They would take blood from the woman’s arm and squirt it into her vagina. When the blood seeped out the patient would be admitted to the hospital — registered as a “miscarriage.” Then the doctor performed a dilation and curettage to complete the abortion. The bill was  about $600 in 1966, or about $5,000 in today’s money.

When Will There Be No Abortions?

   Historians have recorded thousands of illegal abortions in the D.C. area in just 1966. I have reviewed abortion practices for years since the eternal battle over Roe vs. Wade. Women have been aborting fetuses for many centuries, utilizing mysterious herbs to animal manure, wooden sticks to metal coat hangers, from many poisons to other toxic materials, from lye to lighter fluid. Professional historians say the ratio of pregnancies to abortions has remained relatively the same over the centuries because of cultures, economics, and the fact that males are still valued over females on several continents.

   Over the long slow arc of our sexual history, abortions will probably cease to exist only when human beings adopt the sexual mores of the inhabitants of a world like the one illustrated by Aldous Huxley in his 1937 novel  “Brave New World.” Abortion will also end when all contraceptives are 100% effective—or when all humans are decanted in hatcheries and are electronically trained to separate sex from commitment, love, and family. In Huxley’s society motherhood is considered vulgar. Children are encouraged to participate in erotic play and all adults engage in recreational sex with very short-term partners. The slogan of the day is “everyone belongs to everyone else.” No fetuses or children, please.