A Brief History
On September 24, 787, church leaders of the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church met at the Church of Hagia Sophia in Iznik, province of Nicaea ( province of Bursa in modern Turkey) in a conference known as the Second Council of Nicaea. The object of the Council was to resolve issues of difference between the beliefs and teaching of both branches of Christianity, notably, to venerate or not to venerate icons. (Some terminology: iconolater = one who venerates icons/holy images; iconoclast = one who prohibits against the veneration of icons; iconoclasm = the prohibition against worship/veneration of icons). Influenced by the Muslim proscription against worshipping the image of Muhammad and other icons, the argument amongst Christians helped worsen relations between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity that resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, leaving the Christian world divided to this day. This great debate is mirrored by the Islamic differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims that has resulted in many wars over the centuries that continue in violence even today. Incredibly, the percentage of agreement between both branches of Christianity and both branches of Islam are far greater than the differences between each side, and the same can be said for the schism between Catholics and Protestants, and yet, the killing, wars, terrorism and great distrust remain over relatively small differences. Today we will discuss some other areas of great debate, whether the points debated are of grave consequence or are in the big picture actually small potatoes. As always, feel free to nominate your own ideas about some of heated debates mentioned here or ones we failed to mention. Beatles or Rolling Stones? Sunnyside up or scrambled? Conservative or Liberal? Is golf a sport??? (We will refrain from God/No God, Abortion and Gay Rights topics, but readers are welcome to chime in.)
1. Critical: Slavery or No Slavery.
While Americans are mostly aware of the fact that the United States was a slave holding country until 1865 after the Civil War had been fought, our bloodiest war in American history, many other nations and places had engaged in the “peculiar institution” before and since 1865. Britain abolished slavery in 1834 but allowed a gradual ending of slavery in some of its overseas holdings over the next 6 years, but all slaves in British governed lands were freed by 1838. In 1794 Napoleon Bonaparte outlawed slavery in all French territories but reinstituted it in the Caribbean islands at the urging of his wife, Josephine, in 1804. That same year Haitian slaves rebelled against French masters and became the only country of slaves that freed itself by force. France finally outlawed slavery in its colonies in 1848. The United States remained a slave country longer than other Western nations, including Mexico. You may or may not be aware that the Battle of the Alamo (1836), much revered as a matter of pride by Americans, was fought because Texan-Americans wanted to continue to own slaves and Mexico (who owned Texas at the time) did not permit slavery. Pope Gregory I banned Jews from holding Christian slaves around 600 and history is loaded with such particular bans and permissions. Other forms of slavery have existed, such as serfdom and indentured servants, and although slavery is officially illegal everywhere in the world, the practice still exists. Arguments in favor of slavery have included racist views not just of actual race, but also of nationality under the banner of “race.” (For example, Hitler and his henchmen claiming Slavic people were fit only to be slaves.) Advocates of slavery claim the Bible allows for it and others claim some sort of natural order in a warped Darwinian sort of way in which masters are by nature worthy of holding slaves that are in positions as slaves not because of birth but because the “natural order” calls for some people to enslave others. Please give us your impressions of this “peculiar institution.” (By the way, the ancestors of this author were slaves in Europe as serfs. Make no mistake, serfs were slaves.)
2. Less Than Critical: Designated Hitter or Pitchers Bat.
In baseball, everyone playing a field position has their turn at bat, or at least they did until 1973 when the American League of Major League Baseball enacted the Designated Hitter rule to allow pitchers (mainly, but not exclusively) to have someone else bat for them to avoid the pathetic scene of pitchers futile flailing of their bats at pitches. (Babe Ruth was still a pitcher when he led the league in home runs in 1918!) The National League sees itself as the upholder of tradition (as the oldest major league) and refuses to join the American League in blasphemy. Thus, whenever teams from both leagues play in an American League ballpark, the DH rule is in effect, and when a game is played in a National League ballpark no designated hitter is allowed. The DH rule has allowed older, more battle worn sluggers a new lease on baseball life by sparing them the wear and tear of playing in the field. Teams with a particularly bad fielder can plop the fumble fingered player into the DH slot and replace him with a better fielding player. You tell us, are the extra runs and hits worth the change in traditional baseball rules? Goodbye strategy of pulling a pitcher for a pinch hitter! (We would tell you where we stand on the issue, but we do not want to taint the conversation, knowing readers would want to agree with us…)
3. Critical: Women’s Suffrage or Gender Suppression.
For thousands of years human society placed women and girls in a position of inferiority when it came to voting and making decisions concerning important things. Men ran the world and that was that. At least until the 19th Century when the Women’s Suffrage movement really took off, as well as other issues concerning women’s equality with men under the law. As early as the 17th Century women in scattered locations began voting in certain elections, but no country had universal women’s suffrage until Finland broke that ground in 1906. Other women voters were limited by whether or not they were landowners, head of a household, or even a widow, along with many other stipulations depending on country, state, province or locale. The United States finally passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 giving women the right to vote in all elections, though previously many states had already passed women’s suffrage for state and local elections. Saudi Arabia did not allow women to vote until 2015, the last holdout among countries in the world, although Vatican City (not really a country) continues to deny women the right to vote. (Since only men can be priests/clergy, by default women cannot vote for a new Pope.) All sorts of gender discriminatory practices have been implemented through the ages, including not allowing women to have a right to owning their own credit card in the United States until the 1970’s! Other places forbid women from entering into contracts, owning land and all sorts of prohibitions, including not allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia until 2018. Husbands could force themselves sexually upon their wives in the United States until 1993, although most states had outlawed marital rape by that time. Would the Equal Rights Amendment make all this discrimination in the United States against women go away or would it instead remove protections for females and make them compete with males to their own disadvantage? Should American women be subject to the military draft? We hesitate to expound on these contentious subjects, but you can!
4. Less Than Critical: Michael Jordan or LeBron James.
Statistics, championships, teammates, how they were treated by referees; all this and more factor into the heated debate over which player is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Not all basketball fans even narrow the question down to these two superstars, but they are a good place to start. LeBron is a consummate team player, capable of almost single handedly taking over a game. He is taller, heavier, stronger and a much better rebounder. He also plays a different position than MJ, confusing the issue. Jordan does have more championships (so far, but likely to stand up to the test of time), but LeBron is going to end up at or near the top in many NBA career statistics. Jordan may have been flashier, but he was allowed to travel on many of his spectacular drives to the basket, while LeBron has gotten no special consideration at all from referees, and even often does not get the foul call when he is mugged because his great strength makes him seem as though he was not affected by the foul. (Often times.) Both guys are/were good team players, but LeBron has shied away from padding statistics his entire career, often sitting out the 4th quarter of blowouts. We think LeBron could have scored many, many more points had he insisted on being allowed to do his own thing, but he has never been that kind of player. Both guys have great personalities on film and television and have avoided personal scandals, so likability does not interfere with this debate. We pick LeBron, but give us your opinion even if you pick MJ or someone else.
5. Critical: Capitalism or Communism.
Starting with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1800’s, people were presented with an alternate plan for the economy to the prevalent capitalism that prevailed in the world, especially the Western world. Communism was not really much a big deal until the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). The USSR not only slowly built their strength in spite of purges and various economic and social debacles, they also began a campaign in earnest to export communism to the rest of the world. World War II left the Soviets in a position of far greater military strength than before the war, and the Soviet communists jumped on the opportunity to impose their brand of government and economy on those nations in Europe occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II. This situation caused great alarm among Western, capitalist democracies, as the USSR helped the Chinese communists take over the world’s most populous country soon after World War II. The American atomic bomb was soon joined by a Soviet version of the nuclear threat, and a serious Cold War developed, including a ruinously expensive arms race and proxy wars fought in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and other countries where the Soviets and the Western Allies (led by the United States) both provided funds, weapons and sometimes manpower to the fights. The debacle that was the fall of the Soviet Union and most of their communist puppet states in 1991 seemed to vindicate the capitalist side of the argument, though a few communist countries remain, notably China. The argument between capitalism and communism continues, however, often re-stated as capitalism vs. socialism (socialism being a watered-down version of communism by some definitions). As with the religious debates, the critical points that are argued are actually less than the points of similarity between the governments representing both sides, as they have more in common with each other than not. There is no true communist country and no true purely capitalist country, as every nation is some sort of mixture between both and other ideas as well. And yet the world faced the nuclear annihilation of mankind over the argument for over 50 years!
6. Less Than Critical: Tastes Great vs. Less Filling.
A fake debate created for an advertising campaign for Lite Beer by Miller Brewing, the argument did have the benefit of allowing for a great many hilarious television commercials. If we have to watch television commercials (remember when we were promised cable TV meant no more commercials?) we may as well be amused by them. Same thing applies to the brand of beer to drink. In all honesty, the author cannot stand Budweiser or Bud Light (though he thinks Michelob and Busch are just fine, so go figure), but loves the Budweiser commercials. Comparative ads for diapers (baby and adult), not so much! Here is a shout out to those ad companies that make television commercials: Keep us amused or we will all get a DVR and speed through your ads. We mean it. (If you are still listening or reading, we would really rather not see commercials for intimate infections, stinky crotches and other revolting maladies or diarrhea, either!)
7. Critical: Health Care as a right. Or not.
Depending on your side of the debate, Obamacare (Affordable Health Care Act) is either a godsend or the world of Satan. While many Americans originally opposed the points in this law, a majority (according to polls) now are adamantly in favor of retaining the bans against lifetime limits on payouts and on bans against refusing insurance based on previous health conditions (pre-existing conditions). Of course, progressives remain highly disappointed that the health care debate in 2009 and 2010 did not result in a more radical restructuring of American health care along the European model where the government picks up the cost of health insurance for virtually all citizens, though at great cost in taxation. Since most employers now strive to hire only “part-time” workers instead of “full-time” workers that get vacations, sick days, holidays, and insurance benefits, many Americans are on their own when it comes to paying for health insurance. Obamacare outlawed scam plans that provided insurance so bad people may as well have had none, and yet many Americans were upset about the abolition of these miserable plans. Virtually all industrialized modern democracies have universal health care of some kind, and the US ranks pretty low on the list of industrialized countries as far as longevity and health goes. What is the solution? Who will pay for it? Is health care a “right?” Donald Trump the Presidential candidate promised repeal of Obamacare to be replaced by “better, more affordable” coverage. (“We’re going to have insurance for everybody.” “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”) Oddly enough, once in office the Trumpster admitted that health care is a complicated and tricky question with no easy answers, then went on to exhort for the repeal of Obamacare without offering even one single replacement idea. President Trump is right about one thing, health care is compicated. These questions and more remain a hot topic of debate. Throw us your analysis!
8. Less Than Critical: Paper dollars vs. dollar coins.
Canada and Europe do just fine without dollar bills and use coins for the Canadian Dollar and Euro Dollar without a bit of problem. The coins are more cost effective and inflation has made paper dollars a joke, so we need to grow up a bit and admit the Greenback is an anachronism that needs to go! Getting rid of paper dollar bills would save an estimated $16.3 billion if combined with getting rid of the penny (one cent coin) and changing the metal mix in the nickel (five cent coin). Think how much health care this savings could buy Americans! A dollar as of 2017 was worth what 25 cents could buy in 1975, and we did just fine using quarters back then. Traditions need to be put aside when real world considerations are more important, and this is one of those cases. (Please, please, please get rid of the penny already!!!) Polls show 70% of Americans want to make the switch to dollar coins, so hat are we waiting for?
9. Critical: Vaccinations or no vaccinations for children.
Please do not believe the conspiracy theorists that baselessly claim vaccinations lead to autism or that vaccinations are a government/power elite/new world order/Knights Templar/communist/Illuminati plot to subvert society! Vaccinations are a critical part of keeping society healthy. When people think they are protecting their children by skipping baby and child vaccines, they are not only endangering that child but also put the rest of us and our children at risk of epidemic. Smallpox has been just about made extinct in the wild through the use of vaccines, and only through the use of vaccines. In my parent’s days as children kids died of Polio, Typhus, Whooping Cough, Scarlet Fever, and all sorts of maladies that are nearly unheard of in the United States and Europe. Do people forget so quickly? Phony and erroneous “studies” are often cited by anti-vaccination crusaders, but they are wrong! This is one debate we actually take sides on. Read about the Bubonic and Pneumonic Plagues, or the great Influenza epidemics of history (1918 to 1919 which killed more people than World War I for example). We hope to never see this scale of death and misery again. Do you?
10. Less Than Critical: Blonde, Brunette or Redhead?
Ever since Clairol hair coloring products posed the question of the ages, “Do blondes have more fun?” Americans have debated the relative virtues of the attractiveness of hair color, especially vis-à-vis blonde hair versus other hair colors. Most studies indicate that people find blonde hair a more attractive feature on girls and women. Not just opinion polls, but real scientific studies. (Google the question and read the millions of words written on the subject if you want, but we are concisely saving you the time and effort!) So many factors go into what makes a human being attractive to another human being that narrowing down a hair color is a minor part. Plus, with the miracle of hydroxide and modern hair dyes you can experiment for yourself, just try several colors for your hair and see which shade leads to more fun. Then be sure to tell us your experience! (The author is currently finding out if grey hair will lead to more “fun” than plain old brown hair.) Of course, personal preference trumps any scientific study as far as we are concerned, so you like what you like and no one should tell you anything different!
Question for students (and subscribers): Give us your opinions on at least one debate listed here and at least one other debate not listed. (Gay marriage, Equal Rights Amendment, aluminum bats in the major leagues, whatever!) Should the United States stop issuing and using pennies? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Crane, Keith. The Truth About the Designated Hitter: Why the Criticisms Against the Designated Hitter are Unfounded. Amazon Digital Services, 2016.
Mansbridge, Jane. Why We Lost the ERA (Equal Rights Movement). University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Meltzer, Milton. Slavery: A World History. Da Capo Press, 1993.
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