Dresden, NY, Redux

April 7, 2012
How to travel if you’re me: Find the thruway and begin to get on the thruway. Realize you don’t have any munny. Make an illegal U-turn and go to Wal-Mart and buy that underwear you’ve been needing so you can also get some cash munny. Put on AC/DC’s High Voltage as loud as your radio will go. Drive an hour or so to your destination. Then realize that it’s still closed and does not actually open until Memorial Day.

I was prepared fully to have an awesome blog post for Blog Against Theocracy, about how I made it to the Ingersoll house and learned so much. I mean, I did learn a few things. Such as:

  • There is a kid who lives next-door to the Ingersoll House who may actually be Napoleon Dyanamite, just give him a few years
  • Golfers appreciate a nice car horn blast as you’re driving by
  • Cows appreciate it just as much when you lean out the window and yell “MOO!”
  • There are churches in Geneva, NY, that are so beautiful that they might almost make a guy like me believe in the Lord Jesus Christ

Oh, wait, here’s a picture:

Church in Geneva NY

Did this trip learn me anything about Robert Green Ingersoll? Not really. But the lake is certainly beautiful, so the drive is worth it anyway. But I reckon for today and tomorrow, I will have to stick to sharing with you what’s in Susan Jacoby’s excellent book, have I mentioned this book to you yet? Did you run out and purchase your own copy? Hmmmmmm?

*

There is an amazing thing about Mr. Ingersoll: He was a true progressive.

I mean, back in the day, you could be a forward-thinking, progressive, even a “liberal” kind of thinker and still think that Jim Crow laws were just dandy and that women shouldn’t oughtta be anywhere near a polling place.

Not Robert Ingersoll. I know, I know: “But he was a Republican!” Remember, though, the Republican Party of today is not even the Republican Party of the Reagan era. It sure as hell isn’t the Republican Party of Lincoln, which was the political party to which Ingersoll belonged. In fact, Ingersoll was a Republican mainly for two reasons: He was an abolitionist, and he believed in the gold standard. These were both once upon a time planks of the Republican Party, bleev it or not.

Jacoby: “In 1883, when a conservative Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875…Ingersoll issued a withering blast at the justices. Describing the decision as ‘a disgrace to the age in which we live,’ he declared that the high court’s opinion ‘puts the best people of the colored race at the mercy of the meanest portion of the white race. It allows a contemptible white man to trample upon a good colored man.’” Jacoby notes that it took 80 years hence for Congress to right the wrong Ingersoll spoke of.

To put Ingersoll incredible foresight into a hell of a proper perspective, let’s turn to the fact that this man, who died in 1899, had a position on the highly topical issue of CONTRACEPTION.

“Ingersoll, speaking before there were any reliable methods of contraception, nevertheless envisioned the day when science would ‘make woman the owner, the mistress of herself’ by enabling her ‘to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.’ Effective means of contraception, Ingersoll said, would ut an end to the poverty of families with more children then parents could support. ‘This frees woman,’ he declared. ‘The babes that are then born will be welcome. They will be clasped with glad hands to happy breasts. They will fill homes with light and joy.’

(This from Ingersoll’s last public address, delivered before the American Free Religious association, Boston, June 2, 1899.)

Another thing Ingersoll was: He was funny. Here’s how he recalled his Sundays growing up (his father was a Presbyterian preacher):

After the sermon we had an intermission. Then came the catechism with the chief end of man…We sat in a row with our feet coming within about six inches of the floor…After that we started for home, sad and solemn—overpowered with the wisdom displayed in the scheme of atonement. When we got home, if we had been good boys, and the weather was warm, sometimes they would take us out to the graveyard to cheer us up a little.

King of Late Night. I’m telling ya.

For tomorrow, I’m going to discuss why, perhaps, you have not ever heard of Robert Ingersoll. It was a factor he was aware of in his lifetime and it is indeed why the man never ran for office.

I’ll also include one of the most quotable statements the man made regarding the issue at hand, The separation of church and state.