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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Did You Notice?

• Did you notice the look on Mike Pence’s face when Arizona’s new US Senator, Krysten Sinema, chose to swear her oath of allegiance TO the Constitution ON the Constitution, instead of on the traditional Bible? Indeed, the Founding Fathers included the wording of the oath that members of Congress take in the 1789 Constitution, and neither it nor any other part of the Constitution refers to the Bible. Read it. And let’s talk about others following her lead and swearing their oaths to uphold constitutional principles on that very document.

• “Former state Rep. Troutman arrested for battery” was the headline at the top of page 2 in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times. It was an attention-getting report -- complete with a photo of the surly face of the balding white man from Polk County – but nowhere in the long article could the newspaper find ink to say what party he belonged to. He’s a Republican. What do you think are the odds that party affiliation would have been mentioned had he been non-white and a Democrat?

• And did you see the absolutely historic achievement in Nevada? It is now the first legislature in the world to have a majority of women in both chambers. True, it’s only by a fraction of one percent, but it’s real. Some political scientists see Nevada as a microcosm of the nation: it is urban and rural, has ethnic and gender diversity, a long history of both Mormonism and libertine behavior, as well as a fair amount of political corruption. Divorce was its main business back in the 1950s, when thousands of women from other states went to Reno for that purpose. It also was the first state to legalize (and regulate) gambling and prostitution. It will be very interesting to see the result of this female legislative majority in lawmaking. I’m betting on more attention to children, education, and health care.

• Finally, David Nir -- who is not only one of the brightest bulbs in the political horizon, but also has personally responded to my e-mails -- recently published a striking graphic of the consequences to those who led the charge in the US House to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. It showed the faces of two dozen Republicans – all white and almost entirely male – and where they are now. Of the 24, 16 lost their reelections; five chose to take their pensions and run; and just three won.

Hollywood and History

My dear colleague Joe O’Neill wrote recently: “If you only get to see one movie this holiday season, make sure you don’t waste your time and money with “The Favorite.” I’d already read a nationally syndicated review of it – published at ridiculous length by the only daily newspaper available to us – and had decided the film would be a lot of hooey. “The Favorite” is Lady Sarah Churchill, who was indeed a close friend of England’s Queen Anne in the early 1700s. PBS, probably “Masterpiece Theater,” did a series featuring these two women a decade or so ago, and it was an excellent portrayal of their political abilities. The new movie, however, apparently thinks the story will gain attention only if it includes overt scenes of supposed lesbianism.

I really doubt that Anne was a lesbian: She bore seventeen children, so she obviously spent a fair amount of time with her husband. Yes, seventeen full-term pregnancies – and none of these babies lived to succeed her. All died at birth or in infancy except for Prince William, who died at age eleven. I used to teach that as an example of 18th century medicine and especially the arrogance of early modern (male) physicians. I’m sure the queen would have been better off if she, like most women of her time, had just employed a midwife or two.

Her husband was Prince George of Denmark, and like the contemporary husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Phillip of Greece, he was a good-looking and pleasant guy who left governing to his wife. It is true that Lady Sarah influenced Queen Anne, but this does not automatically imply lesbianism, especially as Sarah’s husband, Sir John Churchill, was an outstanding military and political leader -- and at least as ambitious as his wife.

Ditto with Abigail Hill, or Lady Masham, who succeeded Lady Sarah as “the favorite.” Instead of focusing on sexuality, I’d like a movie that told the truth – not only about (at least) seventeen pregnancies, but also and especially about Anne’s huge success, when, in 1707, she amicably united Scotland with England. That ended ancient and terrible wars and began today’s United Kingdom. It’s shameful that such achievement is reduced to supposed sexuality.

Another Holiday Hollywood Mishap

I guess we should consider it progress that the movie gods churned out two holiday films featuring women, but the one that Daughter and I saw also was disappointing. “Mary Queen of Scots” is a tale often retold, perhaps because, unlike Anne, her real life did involve a lot of sex and violence. Mary lived a little more than a century prior to Queen Anne: Born in 1542, she inherited Scotland’s throne with the death of her father when Mary was just six days old. Her regents, including her mother, soon sent her off to France, largely because her Stuart family was Catholic, and Catholicism was the state religion in France.

She married its future king at age 17 and became queen of France with his 1559 coronation – but when he died less than a year later, she returned to Scotland to take up her original throne. She was not greeted with enthusiasm by those who governed in her absence, and moreover, Scotland had become increasingly Protestant during that time. John Knox led its Protestant revolution, and the movie accurately shows him whipping up rebellion against the queen by referring to her as “the whore of Babylon.”

Nor did she help herself, as she conducted numerous (heterosexual) affairs and probably planned the explosion that killed her second husband. She married again a month later, to the man most likely to have set off the fatal blast, and the country revolted. Worse, she continually tried to claim the English throne – something that did have some hereditary legitimacy, especially to English Catholics, but of course was a big annoyance to England’s very good monarch of the time, Elizabeth I. Mary ultimately was forced to abdicate in favor of her son, and for almost two decades, Elizabeth kept her under house arrest in various castles. Mary could not give it up, however, and after still another plot was uncovered, Elizabeth ordered her beheaded in 1587.

The movie begins and ends with that execution, omitting both her youth in France and her long house arrest, and so someone without a fuller knowledge of her life could easily be lost in this complex plot. Producers render further obscurity by rarely making it clear who the other players are: I frequently had to whisper to my daughter, the Harvard European history major, to ask who of the many men in her life this guy was supposed to be.

Daughter was offended by a long and fuzzy scene that took place in something akin to a rural laundry. Disguised by billowing white linens, Elizabeth and Mary finally meet – but that never happened. Although they were kin, and although they both played powerful roles in fairly close geographic proximity, they never saw each other in person. This setting was just weird, another example of today’s excessive cinematography.

Both of us, however, were most disgusted with the movie’s willingness to render false history in the name of political correctness. The average viewer would be led to believe that Elizabeth had an African man as a major advisor – but when she died in 1601, blacks were extremely rare in England and certainly did not hold policymaking positions. The same was true of an Asian who played the role of a lady-in-waiting: The first Asians arrived in Britain about 1760 – more than a century after the movie’s setting. Recognizing diversity does not mean that we should be complicit in lies about the past. History provides its own more-than-good-enough stories.

Goodbye, Amy Shimberg

Although I hadn’t seen her in a long time, I was saddened by the death of 94-year-old Amy Shimberg. We met through our mutual service on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the School Board back in the 1980s. Amy and her late husband Jim were wealthy enough that they could have sent their five kids to any elite private school, but she chose to work for the general good – and did so for decades, leading PTAs and supporting public education. She always was modest, too, and I didn’t know until I read her obituary that she had a master’s degree in education from Columbia University, which is the nation’s best in that field.

The obituary also said that she delivered Meals on Wheels until just a few weeks prior to her death – another thing that she certainly didn’t have to do. It didn’t mention the Judeo-Christian Clinic, but again from mutual service, I know that she helped raise funds to bring medical care to low-income people. Staffed by volunteer health workers, it began with the late Rev. James Holmes and St. John’s Presbyterian Church in West Tampa. Amy did much to make a more inclusive, less discriminatory world, and I shall miss her.


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