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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Many Faults of Douglas Whaley


Looking over my blog entries I notice that I seem to come out on top in far too many of the posts. Hmm. I suppose that’s natural enough for someone writing his own history, but it now seems time to confess some (but certainly not all) of my personal flaws.

1. Clumsiness. I’m not good at most physical tasks twelve-year olds can accomplish without thinking. For example, it should be illegal for me to touch tools given that a huge percentage of my past experiences ended with, say, blood and screaming. Consider two recent examples from a long ugly list.

“Doug and the Shelf.” I decided last year to put up a small shelf in my washer/dryer room. How hard could that be? Well, it took two days of steady effort and three trips to Lowe’s hardware store before the shelf was up, fastened firmly to the wall, and painted. Okay, I’d put it too low to operate the dryer without bending down and peering under the shelf to adjust the start dial, but I had no intention of taking it down and starting over—let the next owner of the house look at it and wonder what kind of idiot would put a shelf there. Even worse, the next time I was in the laundry room I dropped something on the floor, bent over to get it, and wacked my nose on the corner of the shelf (which is where blood comes into this sad tale). My friends all shook their heads sadly on hearing this all too typical incident. Knowing I would likely encounter that prominent sharp corner edge again, I called my good friend Tom, told him I’d decided to cut off the offending corner, and asked if he had a jigsaw that would do the job. Since he well knows my history with tools, he said warily, “Well, yes, Doug, but I think I’ll want you to first sign a waiver of liability.” “No,” I replied, “you misunderstand. I have no intention of using the jigsaw myself—I was hoping to talk you into doing it for me.” Good friend that he is, he promptly came over and had the corner sawed off in five minutes. I’m proud to say I was then able to paint the rounded edge without injuring myself in any way, and I remain ridiculously proud of that stupid shelf, admiring it whenever I pass by (to appreciate its beauty for yourself, see photo).

“Doug and the Scales.” My heart-care regimen requires me to weigh myself every day, and since my existing (and almost never used) scales were so old that the read-out displayed Roman numerals, I bought a fancy new one. I put it down on a chosen spot in the bathroom, carefully telling myself to be aware of its location (the old one had lived in the cabinet under the sink, covered in dust). Then, looking around the bathroom, I realized I needed to fetch a box of tissue paper, so I walked to the laundry room where such things are kept (on my new shelf!), picked up a box, walked back into the bathroom, and immediately tripped over the scales. It hadn’t been a full minute.

2. Lack of Visual Appreciation. I simply can’t care about visual things, and have no talent for making visual decisions. This means a number of unfortunate things. Firstly, I have absolutely no taste, and for decades have depended on the kindness of others to help me select clothes, furnish the condo, buy a car. Left on my own I always end up with some version of Charley Brown’s Christmas Tree, which I proudly show off to friends, only to have them shake their heads in despair. When I direct plays for the local community theaters I make sure to have first rate people designing the sets and costumes lest when the curtain goes up the audience gasp in horror before the actors say a word.

It also means that I have no interest in purely visual experiences, which is regrettable. I can’t enjoy art museums, ballet, or any other cultural experience that is purely right-brained, having no left-brained content to speak of. Most people travel happily to see beautiful sites and strange places. Well, due to my nomadic upbringing as an Air Force brat, plus being a sailor in the Navy, and a professional traveler all over the country for the last forty years, I’m done with travel for travel’s sake. Show me the travelogue video of, say, Victoria Falls, and I’ll comment sincerely, “It’s impressive.” If I went there physically, I would observe it and also comment, “It’s impressive.” I don’t need to travel to see something I wouldn’t appreciate, beyond noting its obvious beauty, that I could have seen on my TV with my feet up, drink in hand. When I do venture out into the world for pleasure it’s to do things: play bridge in tournaments, go to the theater in New York, gamble in Las Vegas, etc. Such activities have an intellectual content and I much enjoy myself (well, that’s assuming my bridge isn’t crummy, the show a turkey, or my gambling luck eating painfully into my entertainment budget).

3. Borderline Innumeracy. Okay, I can do simple math just fine sitting in my office before class. But let me get into the classroom teaching something that involves figures (such as the computation of damages for a breach of contract), and my math anxiety kicks into panic mode so that I stumble embarrassingly doing even basic arithmetic. One way I alleviate this is to confess to the class this flaw before we start into any math-containing issue, and that frequently helps. At least they’re warned. There was a bad episode last month when I was substitute teaching for a faculty member who’d broken his leg. The answer given by the book’s authors to a problem posed in the day’s assignment was $40, but it worked out to $30 under the formula I’d told the students to use, and I insisted on that number. There were protests that I was wrong, but I confidently beat them back, only to think it over later that night and finally realize I’d made an ass of myself again; even under my own formula it was $40. So I apologized the next day, clad in sackcloth, covered with ashes. At one similar debacle twenty years ago, it happened that the answer I gave was right and I knew it was right but couldn’t seem to explain why. Students kept raising hands and pointing out my supposed error. Frustrated, I finally asked the class if any of them agreed I was right and could explain the answer better than my bumbling attempts. One student raised his hand and said, “You are right, Profressor. The explanation is simple, but do you mind if I use the blackboard to demonstrate?” I happily invited him up the front of the room and his lucid explanation then closed down all protest and we moved on.

4. There are many more Douglas Whaley flaws, but one more should be mentioned: hedonism. I inherited this one from my father, who was also a champion hedonist. The problem is the inability to practice moderation. If there is plate near me of twelve doughnuts and I must spend the day in their presence, all twelve will be gone by the time the sun sets. I cannot (and neither could Dad) eat just one. “If Doug wants it, Doug ought to have it,” appears to be the nutty operating principle. On the other hand, I am very good with rules. I can have NO doughnuts without it being a trial, but that has to be my firm assumption before I ever see them. I was on the Atkins Diet for seven years, lost 50 pounds and kept it off for that period, rigidly sticking to the diet’s rules until I got tired of the blandness and difficulty of it all—essentially you weren’t allowed to eat anything. I’ve still not gained back much of that weight; my heart trouble of the last decade was a major incentive to be careful. Now that I have a new heart, the current incentive is not to waste the precious gift of life given to me by the donor and his wonderful family.

Thus ends this current confession, but next blog I’ll talk about my final two formal confessions made to priests inside actual confessionals. It will be entitled “Catholicism and Me (Part Two).” Should you care to read it, Part One was posted on March 13th of this year.
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Related Post:
"Life's Little (But Important) Rules," April 23, 2010
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bob Whaley: Boy Lawyer


My father was born in a small town in southern Indiana, but he found major entertainment there by going down to the courthouse and watching trials. At a very early age he decided he would become a lawyer, and decades later he recommended the same career path to his only son. Sitting in those courtrooms he fantasized being one of the lawyers; in high school he staged mock trials.


Alas, along came World War II, and he left Indiana University towards the end of his senior year (1941) to volunteer for the Army Air Corps (which by the end of the war became the U.S. Air Force). A lot of college seniors joined the military, but Indiana and other colleges awarded them their diplomas anyway. But once Dad was in the service, married and with two children, it became too risky resign his commission as an officer and go to law school as originally planned. So he stayed in the Air Force until retirement at age 48. That is not to say he didn’t have quite a legal career up until then. He had almost two hundred trials under his belt fairly early in his military service. That came about as follows.

What the rule is now I do not know, but in those days the Military Code of Justice allowed an accused to choose anyone he liked as his defense counsel, even someone without a law degree. When one of Dad’s men was arrested for some alleged crime, he asked for Lt. Whaley to represent him. The Military Code then required that person, if willing, be released from other duties until the end of the case. Well, from the first Dad was very, very good at representing clients. He prevailed in the first case, and suddenly everyone in the brig wanted him. Then, as in later life, when Bob Whaley was out to win anything he always did the unexpected, which threw the other side (and often the judge too) into confusion. For example, Dad not only read the relevant statutes with an eye to detail, but the regulations issued there under, plus the case opinions on point. No other defense attorney was preparing with that degree of complexity, and so Dad was always standing up in a trial and telling the judge that the prosecutor could not pursue the line he intended because it would violate such and such a rule of law, and he would present the law book saying so to the judge. What could the judge then do but rule in the defendant’s favor?

Dad told me in later life that the military system of justice in this country is the fairest in the world, even better than civilian courts (I heard F. Lee Bailey, a famous lawyer in the 1970s, say the same thing in a speech), but first you had to figure a way around what is called “command influence.” This term means that some higher-up in authority is pulling strings and has the court martial panel firmly under his control. Most military lawyers will tell you that it’s almost impossible to counter that.

Dad had a case early on in which he knew that the members of the court martial panel were all in the pocket of the base commander. So what did he do? He called the base commander as his first witness! Considerably angry, this colonel took the witness stand (he would have no choice as to that), but immediately asked the Law Judge if his testimony could be postponed until an hour later, which request was, of course, promptly granted. Then the colonel called Dad into his office. “Lieutenant,” he said, with Dad standing at attention in front of the man’s desk, “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen next in that trial. As soon as I resume the witness stand you will inform the court that I was called in error and should be excused. Do I make myself clear?” Dad answered, “Yes, Sir. Very clear. I understand perfectly.” So when the trial resumed and the base commander took the stand again, Dad began by saying, “Did you just call me into your office and demand that I excuse you as a witness called in error?” The room went deadly silent, but the colonel was under oath and suddenly his career was on the line. “I’m sure you misunderstood me, Lieutenant,” he began, but Dad interrupted him immediately and repeated the question using the exact words that had been directed at him. At this the man relented and replied in the affirmative, apologizing to Dad and the Court. Dad kept him on the witness stand for over an hour, examining step by step what had been done to queer the military process against the defendant. Years later Dad said to me, “I’ve never seen a witness so glad to get off the stand as that man.” “Didn’t he then cause trouble for you and for the defendant?” I asked. Dad shook his head. “He wouldn’t dare,” he said. “His misbehavior was now a matter of record, and to save his career he had to keep hands off of this case, other cases, and me.” He paused. “He was particularly not willing to deal with me again.”

This sort of thing led to Dad participating in nearly two hundred courts martial, including two in which the Judge Advocate General, tired of losing to this upstart, had Dad do the prosecution.

But then he was transferred to a new post, and that all stopped. In the late 1940s Dad was given a new assignment teaching ROTC courses at the University of St. Louis. The school had a night law division and Dad signed up at once. At the end of two years he’d amassed 42 credit hours and was second in his class. Then he was transferred again, and let his law school education drop. When it came time for him to retire (he was only 48), he informed me that he was going to sell insurance or real estate on the side, but mostly he and my mother were devoting themselves to playing golf. “No, you’re not,” I replied firmly. “You’ve always wanted to be a lawyer and so you’re going back to law school.” I bullied him into taking the LSAT, on which he made a respectable score, and then I bullied the University of Texas Law School, where I was finishing my third year, into admitting him. The school allowed him to transfer those 42 hours from St. Louis, and even forbade him from taking those courses over, even though, for example, constitutional law had changed dramatically during the Warren era.

So in the spring of 1968 I graduated from law school and moved to Chicago to begin practicing law, and Dad started as a second year law student at Texas (where he became really tired of being Doug Whaley’s father, as in “Aren’t you Doug Whaley’s father?”). There are great stories about Dad in law school—here he was, a retired Air Force colonel in school surrounded by students who were mostly hippies—but those stories are for another day. Also for another day are the many stories about Dad’s subsequent ten years as a prosecutor in Dallas, Texas. On his death bed (at age 61!) he said to me, “Doug, thanks for talking me into going back to law. In the last ten years I’ve put a lot of people in jail who should be in jail!”

A coda: At the 25th reunion of my law school class, I was standing at a cocktail party when an alum I didn’t recall but whose name tag said something like “John Smith” came up to me with happy greetings: “Doug! Good to see you again!” I had no idea who he was, but, glancing at the tag, I managed, “Good to see you, John. What sort of practice are you in?” “I do defense work in Dallas,” he replied, “and I had a number of cases against your father. I lost them all.” “Oh,” I said, pleased. John went on, “We were always depressed when we realized Robert Whaley was the case prosecutor. There was no way to prepare for whatever he was going to do next. On the other hand, we all liked him as a person, and knew that, unlike most of the prosecutors, he could be trusted to keep his word, which was very important.” So my new buddy John and I stood and talked for some time, and at my prodding he readily told me some amazing stories about Dad in the courtroom.

Some of those I’ll repeat in a future blog.
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Related Posts:
“My Competitive Parents,” January 20, 2010
"My Mother's Sense of Humor," April 4, 2010
“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010
“Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule,” June 26, 2010
“Bob and Kink Get Married,” June 2, 2010
“Dad and the Cop Killer,” July 19, 2010
“No Pennies In My Pocket,” July 30, 2010
“Doug, Please Get My Clubs From the Trunk,” August 20, 2010
“The Death of Robert Whaley,” September 7, 2010
"Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama," January 21, 2011
"My Missing Grandmother," December 26, 2010
"Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama," January 21, 2011
"The Death of My Mother," March 31, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Aging Gay Rights Activist



In January of 1976, when I came to Columbus as a Visiting Professor at the Ohio State University Law School, I also moved to the city to explore the gay world for the first time in my life (I was 32). I knew nothing at all about that world. How to find a gay bar, for example, was a puzzlement. I solved that particular problem by looking up “Cocktail Lounges” in the Yellow Pages [remember Yellow Pages? Most students these days don’t], picked out one on Gay Street (yes, there is such a downtown street), and phoned it. I knew it wouldn’t likely be a gay bar, but that didn’t matter. When the bartender answered, I asked him if this was a gay bar, and, surprised, he said darkly that it was not. “What’s the name of the gay bar?” I asked. After a brief pause, he snarled, “The Kismet,” slamming down the phone. That night I went to the Kismet (which I also looked up in the phone directory], but, not knowing that (particularly in those very homophobic days) gay night life didn’t start until after midnight, I arrived at 8 pm. The huge bar had only about ten people it: very strange people. Fellini could have cast a successful movie from the ten patrons lounging around in the Kismet at 8 pm on a Friday night. I beat a hasty retreat.

I eventually did figure out gay life, though in the beginning I stayed deep in the closet. Coming out is a gradual process: you tell this friend, and that friend, and soon you suspect that everyone knows, even at work, and it becomes an open secret. [There are many interesting stories here. They include how my now ex-wife Charleyne encouraged me to take the job at OSU and explore this new world. In one of the most magnanimous statements I’ve ever heard in my life she said, “Doug, it would be a terrible thing to be a homosexual and never know what that means.”]

After the early scary part of coming out, and the “no standards” wild phase, eventually I found love and acceptance in the gay world, and even started coming out to casual strangers if they innocently asked questions like, “You married?” In many parts of the country this casualness might seem routine today, but it was shocking in the late 70s. The Stonewall Riots that had started the modern gay movement weren’t ten years old until 1979. I came out whenever doing so was relevant for two reasons: I wanted to shock people into thinking about it, and—frankly—I didn’t care much about their reaction (unless it involved enforcing the heterosexual viewpoint with a baseball bat). As the Queer Nation agitators of the next decade put it, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

In 1981, I joined a fledgling gay activist movement in Columbus at its very start. It was then called “Stonewall Union,” and now, almost thirty years later is still the largest gay rights group in mid-Ohio under the name “Stonewall Columbus”(the photo is from a Gay Rights March in Washington, October 11, 1987; pictured are Craig Covey, first President of Stonewall Union, my partner Jerry Bunge, and me). There were major battles in those days, all captured in a DVD of the local movement’s history, where I can be seen addressing the annual gay pride march on the Ohio Statehouse lawn and teaching the crowd how best to deal with near-by protestors, holding Bibles and teaching hatred to their little children. Some of the battles were public (a near riot in the Columbus City Council meeting when a gay rights ordinance was proposed), some private (I was jumped by a gang of teenagers one night, and was kicked around, most violently in the testicles, which was—how shall I put this?—no fun). Interestingly, I learned how to handle phoned death threats from an unusual source: my mother. Dad by this time was a prosecutor in Dallas, and he was so good at it he’d been promoted to prosecuting “career criminals” (i.e., the Mafia). Mom would get phone calls telling her she and Dad would both die unless he stopped one of these trials from occurring, so she had some practical experience to pass on to her son. “What I do, Doug,” she advised, “is to say loudly, ‘Operator, this is one of those calls, please trace it.’ The caller hangs up immediately!” Then Mom added, “The opposite happened of what he’d planned. He called to scare me.” Of course, in those the days there were no such innovations as caller-ID, which (I hope) has made such calls rarer. I tried Mom’s method and it worked admirably.

But how much things have changed in a breathtakingly short period of time! When I began working for the cause, activists like me were fueled by a sense of anger. But today’s young LGBT leaders are motivated by a sense of entitlement: gays are Americans like everyone else and ought to be treated the same. What could be more obvious? And as hundreds of people, thousands of people, millions of people have come to think the same thing, why then—as if by magic—society does change and gays and lesbians are no longer the sinners/mentally-ill/criminals that they were labeled by ministers/doctors/lawyers not that long ago.

This difference in attitude was brought home to me six years ago. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had issued an opinion holding that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry as a matter of Massachusetts constitutional law. The whole country was suddenly in an uproar. The Massachusetts Legislature sent a question back to the court as to whether it would be acceptable to create “civil unions” for gays and lesbians instead of “marriage.” Before the court could respond, the LGBT law students at Ohio State (who have an organization amusingly named “Outlaws”) asked me to lunch with them and had me tell them about the not-so-good old days. The Massachusetts situation came up in the conversation and I shocked the students by saying that if the court said no to the question and demanded actual marriage, that ruling would unleash a firestorm raging for years and years. As one, all the students turned on me. “You call yourself a gay activist and you’re not in favor of gay marriage!!!” It was useless to explain what I meant; they had stopped listening.

I was right, of course; that firestorm is still going on, but a large part of me wishes I was one of those youngsters, making perfectly justifiable demands no matter the consequences. And, in my defense, I always wanted gay marriages to happen, though at a perhaps slower rate to let society get used to the idea. But even in my current semi-retirement from gay activism, I’ve made a number of speeches and public debates pro-gay marriage. One of those debates occurring at the Unitarian Church here in Columbus became tense when the fundamentalist doctor I was debating brought with him a 30-person escort called the “Minutemen,” a group of supposedly religious people with a very bad attitude towards homosexuals. They took up the first three church pews, bibles in hand, scowls on their faces. There’s a DVD of that debate, but it’s a story for another day. [See "How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate," April 29, 2010]

What’s left of my activism? Well, now and then the current LGBT leaders remember us fogies and drag us out to drone on about the old days, but except for that sort of thing, I think my gay rights activities are over. Advancing age and too many scars surely give me the right to retire from the battlefield and happily leave it to the youngsters.
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Related Posts:
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How I Lost a Gay Marriage Debate,” April 29, 2010
“Straight Talk,” May 10, 2010
“Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010
“How To Tell if You’re Gay,” August 31, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
"How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?" November 8, 2010
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011
"The Homosexual Agenda To Conquer the World," February 8, 2011
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011
"Jumping the Broom: How 'Married' are Married Gay Couples?" July 17, 2011
"The Legacy of Homophobia," August 2, 2011
"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013
"The Presumption of Heterosexuality and the Invisible Homosexual," October 2, 2011
"Gay Bashers, Homophobes, and Me," January 27, 2012
"On Being a Gay Sports Fan," March 9, 2012
"Sexual Labels: Straight, Gay, Bi," April 15, 2012
"The History of Gay Rights in Columbus, Ohio," June 4, 2012
“I Support the Right of the Boy Scouts To Ban Gays,” July 24, 2012
Straight People: Thanks From the LGBT Community,” November 20, 2012
“Gay Marriage, DOMA, Proposition 8 and the Mysterious Supreme Court,” January 15, 2013
“Gays Will Be Able To Marry in All States By July of 2016 (and Maybe 2015): A Prediction,” February 14, 2014
"A Guide to the Best of My Blog," April 29, 2013

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Superstitions


Human beings are pattern-forming animals, a trait that has served us both well and badly since caveman days. Seeing a pattern in the behavior of an enemy tribe could lead to strategic planning countering a very real threat. Seeing a pattern in the bad behavior of some of our own tribe and a subsequent major damaging storm might lead to false conclusions about the anger of the gods and the consequential banishment of the supposedly offending tribe members.

We are all prey to superstitions, even ludicrous ones. Some have a basis in wisdom (don’t walk under a ladder), while others are just loony (step on a crack and break your mother’s back). Even worse, unless strictly watched and dealt with, a superstition can take on an amazing permanence in future behavior, even if irrational under any analysis. Playing Blackjack at a casino I sometimes notice that my luck seems to vary depending on how I stack my chips. This, of course, is nonsense. There is no possible causal connection between the two, but I have to take myself sternly in hand, deliberately violate the supposed chip-stacking rule, and get out from under the irrationality of it all, annoyed and embarrassed by this phenomenon.

I have become intolerant of superstitions, mine (which I quash immediately when observed) and others (about which I sometimes make comments that I almost always immediately regret). Here’s why. All my life, since I was quite little, I have always wanted to know what is true and what is not, and then live my life accordingly. Life is hard even armed with correct information, and no one needs the baggage of beliefs that are obviously wrong. And, alas, I’m impatient with those who aren’t similarly oriented. How can any rational human being—including many who I love and admire—believe in patent nonsense? Surely they need to have this pointed out, I stupidly say to myself, only to be proven wrong almost at once. No one is any the better for my having spoken up, which I then regret and promise to do no more.

So here I am, writing a blog about superstitions. “Stop that!” I want to say to my readers, knowing it won’t do the slightest bit of good. I get angry at people who believe in jinxes. For example, watching basketball I am peeved when the announcer says to the color commentator that a player on the foul line missed a basket because the announcer was just bragging about how good the player was at shooting free throws. One of my best friends, intelligent as human beings come, was at a professional baseball game, sitting in the stands and eating a hot dog when his team started doing amazing things on the playing field. Half joking, he pointed out to the fans around him that this had all started when he first bit into the hot dog. Immediately there was an outcry for him not to finish the “lucky” hot dog. People were genuinely worried about this, and he himself seemed to believe it! The legend of the lucky hot dog survives in his mind to this day.

A lot of the patterns we supposedly see are just coincidences. I hear people—intelligent people—saying that they don’t believe in coincidences. What? They don’t exist? Of course they do, even very bizarre ones. With billions (trillions?) of things on planet earth going on around us every minute, some are bound to align and produce jaw-dropping results. The ordinary and likely result simply can’t be what always happens; fluky things will certainly occur, whether it’s the storm of the century that wipes out a city or the skydiver whose chute does not open but somehow survives a thousand foot fall with only minor injuries. When the Andria Doria collided with the Swedish ship Stockholm in 1956, the bow of the latter plowed into the Andrea Doria, and emerged after a few moments with a 14 year-old girl and her bed, both plucked unharmed from her cabin and transferred to the forecastle of the other ship. Amazing? Yes. The hand of fate or God or something like that? No. Just an improbable coincidence. She was lucky? Yes, but her stepfather and half-sister who were in the same cabin perished along with 44 other unfortunate human beings, and fate/God/whatever was certainly unkind to them. Was she being rewarded while the others were punished? Perhaps some people thought so, but such judgments are nothing more than unthinking cruelty. What happened to this girl was just chance, like winning a super lottery. In every lottery, no matter how big the odds, some lucky soul wins while others tear up their tickets. The result isn’t a matter of reward for conduct (other than buying the ticket); it’s simply a product of the game and happens every lottery, time after time after time. Thanking God in these circumstances seems to imply that God endorses gambling for one person and condemns it for the rest, unlikely conduct for a fair deity.

Or take the supposed Sports Illustrated jinx. According to this jumbled thinking if an athlete/team appears on the cover of the magazine that means doom; their superior spot is about to disappear. Since this does happen over and over again, a false pattern is perceived: be on the cover of SI and watch your career take a nose dive! Why is this wrong? Because the reason someone appears on the cover in the first place is in recognition that they are at the top of their game doing something extraordinary, resulting in fame. But success at that level can’t go on long (with, of course, some exceptions as statistical analysis would also predict), and by the time the magazine comes out, almost all of that cover greatness has given way to more mortal status.

My advice: if you are the slave of superstitions and false patterns, get hold of yourself. Life is too short to be governed by the wrong rules.

There, I said it. Now let me hear from you. My email: dglswhaley@aol.com.
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Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clickers


One of the most valuable teaching tools to come along in recent years is something called “clickers.” These are handheld devices about the size of a cell phone, which are distributed to the students. The instructor then devises a program to be shown on a large projector in the room, all of which is tied to the internet. At the Ohio State Law School all large teaching rooms are now such “smart classrooms.” My program is a simple display: 1=YES; 2=NO; 3=ABSTAIN. Thus I ask a question in class, and the students all respond, and then I hit the space bar on the computer keyboard and a large graph appears showing the percentages of each choice and illustrating them by tall (or short) columns.

Why would this be an advantage over the old methods? First of all, students will not always (or even often) raise their hands when a question is asked, but they can all vote with their clickers. The clickers are randomly distributed and are anonymous. When I first have the students come up to the front of the room and pick a clicker out of a boxfull, I mention that if anybody doubts whether this is anonymous he/she should simply change clickers with someone else. Once the clickers are trusted, everyone will express an answer, and those answers frequently surprise not only me, but everyone in the room. At that point real discussion can start because each anonymous student now has a vested interest in an answer, and are assured to learn they are not alone. The instructor can then say something like “40% of you voted ‘NO.’ Let me hear from some of you. Why?” It gets the discussion underway immediately.

When in early February a law professor (my replacement on retirement, as it happens) broke his leg and required surgery and rehabilitation, I took over teaching the basic course in Contracts (a first year course which at Ohio State lasts from August, four days a week, until mid-March when spring break ends it). I thought I would only be teaching them for one week, possibly two, but his doctor barred him from the classroom until April 1, so it became my class for a whole month. Their usual professor had not been using clickers, and I missed them from my last years of regular teaching, where I found them most valuable. Here is where it first came up this past month while I was substituting. There is a case we study in Contracts where a house, supposedly haunted, is being sold. When the new buyers learn that the seller had first told the world the house was haunted but concealed this from the buyers, the buyers wanted to rescind the sale, move out, and get their money back (helpful neighbors having told all). I asked the students to raise their hands. “How many of you believe in ghosts?” was the question. Nobody raised a hand. “Come on,” I pressed. “Own up to your opinions. Some of you should have the courage to claim your belief in ghosts.” One student raised a hand, another immediately did so, and finally there was a third one. “Do I hear four?” I asked, auctioneering. The answer was no. “Just three,” I thought to myself, “That can’t be right.” The true percentage was hidden.

When I learned I would be teaching the course for a month, I had the law school staff distribute clickers to my students. Once everyone had them in hand I suggested a test run. I decided to re-ask the ghost question. You have to be careful how you phrase these things, so I settled for this: “Of course there might be ghosts, but there might also be unicorns or leprechauns as well. Here’s the question for you to respond to: is there a substantial possibility that ghosts exist? The result was eye-opening. 49% said “YES,” 37% said “NO,” and the rest abstained. Thus in spite of the three hands that were raised when I had first asked this question, it turned out that a majority of the class was in fact open to the possibility of unearthly spirits existing.

In past Contracts classes there is one case that always causes the class to get into a discussion so intense that, unless I cut it off, can last for two or more classes (and is not worth that amount of time). It involves a palimony suit (two people who split up after living together for a long time) in which the plaintiff was asking the court to avoid unjust enrichment by making the defendant cough up her share of the assets the couple had bought mostly with his money while she cared for their children and worked part time. Courts in different parts of the country haven’t reached agreement on the issue, but the case in our book is an opinion by the Court of Appeals of Michigan denying the woman any relief, saying that dividing the assets would be the equivalent of resurrecting common-law marriage (a doctrine from the frontier days when ministers were scarce, holding that a man and woman who lived together for a set number of years were legally married even without a ceremony). Michigan, the court noted, had abolished common law marriage by statute.

This case gets the blood boiling, particularly female blood. “It’s just male chauvinist bullshit,” one woman said in class. “Put women on that court of appeals and you’d get a different result.” Men frequently disagree (though not, of course, many). One male student who’d sat in the back of the room next to a female student for the first half of the course raised his hand. “The woman is at fault,” he opined. “She knew this jerk wasn’t going to marry her, but she still stayed on when she should have left. What do you think of that, Professor?” I replied, “Mr. Smith, I’ll try and hold them back while you make for the door.” The very next class he was sitting alone, his female friend sitting across the room. When I ran into him in the hall the next day I asked him if he’d come to regret his response. “You have no idea,” he said with a whipped dog expression on his face.

Once we had clickers we could find out what the students really thought. So the first class in which it was possible I had the students reply to the question: the court is right, yes or no? The bar graph showed that the class was split 50-50. “Now,” I continued, “women only.” The result was that 68% thought the court was wrong. When the men-only vote was taken the result was the opposite. That subsequent class discussion had to be stopped by me using a louder voice than usual.

But that’s why I love clickers. And my new temporary students do too. Last week when a Gilbert and Sullivan snatch of song spontaneously came to mind to illustrate a point (“The Law is the true embodiment of everything that’s excellent,” sings the Lord Chancellor of England in G&S’s “Iolanthe”), I jokingly asked the students if I should sing it to them. “Sure,” said a wag in the first row, “we have our clickers.” I decided to move on to something else.
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Related Posts:
“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
“The Summer Bar Review Tours,” June 15, 2010
“The Sexy Promissory Note,”August 17, 2010
"Mortgage Foreclosures: The Disaster of Unintended Consequences," October 27, 2010
"Update: Mortgage Foreclosure and Missing Notes," November 16, 2010
"Women in My Law School Classroom," January 8, 2011
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011
"One More Story From Law School," February 27, 2011
"I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover," April 8, 2011
"Bob Whaley Goes to Law School," June 3, 2011
"The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver," April 11, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011
"What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties," October 11, 2011
"How To Write and Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19,2011
"Funny Law Professors," January 15, 2012
“How To Take a Law School Exam,” November 30, 2012”
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Catholicism and Me (Part One)

My mother was one of nine children: eight girls, one boy, all devout Catholics. These children had lots of children too, though many could not afford the large families they had anyway. I have something like 41 first cousins (but none at all on Dad’s side; he was nominally a Protestant, but cared little about religion).

As a boy I started out being quite religious: going to mass each day while in the first and second grade and weekly on Sundays thereafter, and attending Catholic schools when available as we moved through an Air Force family’s nomadic life. [Kindergarten in the Mohave Desert in CA; first and second grade in St. Louis; third and fourth in Omaha; fifth in Jasper IN while Dad was in training for the move to Japan; six, seventh and first half of the eighth on Yokota Air Force Base in Japan; last half of the eighth and first three years of high school in a suburb of Nashville, and senior year in Yorktown VA—after which I joined the Navy to see the world, as described in last February’s “My Year in Bermuda” post].

In the Catholic schools we were taught by nuns and sometimes priests, the vast majority of whom were splendid people. The fourth grade Omaha nun who took me aside in the fourth grade and told me that I was capable of big things was one of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever met, and she was a major effect on my life. One exception to the rule in the first sentence above was the Mother Superior under whose tutelage I fell during the last half of the eighth grade. This woman was a truly terrifying figure, tall and intimidating, cruel to the children (she would swat their hands with rulers when they misbehaved, and even hit her students with the oversized rosary that hung around her waist). She made us promise not to talk in the lunch line (I don’t know why), and, being eighth-graders, we of course would chatter away to each other, at which point she would come swooping down on us like a giant bat, rosary swinging, yelling, “Hypocrites! Hypocrites!” It wasn’t until a couple of years later I figured out that “hypocrite” did not mean “lunch line talker.”

During high school, both the first three years in Nashville and the fourth in VA, there was no Catholic school nearby, so my sister Mary Beth and I went to public schools, but this meant that we had to go to Catechism Class one evening every week (Wednesdays, I seem to remember). For some reason, perhaps chance, the classes I attended in both places were taught my men. Catholic priests are of two types: sharp and intellectual or dumb as sticks. The Nashville priest, alas, was of the latter variety. He was a bad teacher, uninterested in his students or the subject matter, and consequently boring and hard to follow. Since I was annoyed at this forced instruction, I would amuse myself by asking detailed questions about the various doctrines he was supposedly explaining. Poor baby, he had no stomach for such explanations, particularly as to some of the more peculiar things Catholic are taught to believe (no birth control, for example, or a permanent residence in “limbo” for the unbaptized through the milennia). As a law professor I was always pretty good at Socratic dialogues [see the Jan. 31 post “The Socratic Dialogue in Law School”], and even as a teenager I wasn’t bad at mining for truth through questions and answers. Invariably this would end up badly for him, and he would retreat into a pet phrase: “It’s one of the mysteries of the Catholic Religion.” When, over the course of months, he said this one too many times, sarcastic brat that I was I commented that this religion seemed to have “an awful lot of mysteries.” That night my parents received a phone call from him asking that I not return since I was “disruptive” to the class. That pleased me to no end, and for most of the Nashville years I was happily spared further religious instruction.

Then in 1960 Dad was transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and my mother received a notice from the base’s Catholic Chaplin’s Office that Mary Beth and I would have to again attend catechism classes, starting at once. [Frankly, as a lawyer, I’m disturbed by the government spending large amounts of money on some favored religions—but not all—to create churches and chapels right on the military bases and put ministers on the federal payroll—sounds like a violation of church and state to me, but it’s not my field of law, so let it pass]. The first night Beth and I went, the class was held in the small Blessed Sacrament part of the chapel (where the consecrated hosts are kept in a tabernacle in full view of the pupils, who sat in the pews). When we were all seated (about twenty of us, all of high school age), the priest entered. He was a tall man, wearing a long black cassock, and he was filled with energy, very interested in what he was teaching, which this night, of all things, was the Catholic take on evolution! I was at attention immediately since I’d been doing a lot of reading on the subject in my determined quest to understand how the world really worked. The priest explained that Catholic doctrine allowed of two views: the Adam and Eve version or Darwinian evolution (with God endowing the human race with a divine soul at some point during development). In a booming voice he explained that he himself thought that Adam and Eve was the likeliest explanation, since it was described in detail in the Bible. I thought that story merely an ancient fabrication to explain something those ancients didn’t understand, so I leaped right into the conversation, and the Socratic dialogue began. It was just the two of us for about ten minutes, until I said something like “But what about the fossils---where did they come from?” His reply was that God had simply created the fossils when he created the earth. “Why would God—of all entities—be in a hurry?” I protested, astounded. At this, the priest turned his back on us, knelt down before the altar on which the tabernacle rested, and, arms spread wide in supplication, intoned, “Lord, forgive these children! They know not what they do!.” I rose to my feet, saying to Mary Beth, “Up! We’re going.” We made a fast exit.

When I told our parents about this, Mom was horrified and Dad secretly amused. My mother, very worried and embarrassed by me, kept expecting to be contacted by the Catholic authorities and perhaps—what?—excommunicated?, but no notice ever came about this event, nor any further demands that I return for more instruction, which was certainly fine with me. Interestingly, in both cases Mary Beth was also mysteriously excused from these weekly lessons. Perhaps she was judged tainted by association with her apostate brother.

I had two later contacts with the Catholic Church (once in college and once in law school), both involving Doug going to confession. I’ll write about them in a future post, which, trust me, won’t be boring however heretical you may find them to be.
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Related Posts:
“Superstitions,” March 21, 2010
 “Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
 “I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012

“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Letter to Andrew's Parents

Readers of this blog may have seen the other letters mentioned below that I exchanged with the parents of the donor of my heart [if not see the posts "About That Heart Transplant" and "My Heart Belonged to Andrew"]. Here is the latest installment:

March 10, 2010

Dear Barbara and Byron:

I was so pleased to receive your wonderful letter about Andrew. I gather that my letter, written before yours, has also reached your hands, so they in effect crossed in the mails.

First of all, your letter was very hard to read, being both well written and an evocative recreation of your son Andrew. I am not someone who cries easily, but I didn’t make it through that letter without being a weepy mess. Since then I cannot look at Andrew’s photo (what a handsome and vibrant young man!) without a tremendous conflict of emotions: sadness at his early death, tremendous thanks to all three of you, and a sense of wonder that his heart is beating inside me as I type this. It was one thing to say to myself I had a heart from anonymous donor, and quite another to have a name and face to go with the very strong pulse I feel inside me. I didn’t sleep that night, and, finally, so I would stop looking at them, I put the letter and photo up in an album, bringing it out only to share with family and friends, all of whom had trouble staying dry-eyed.

Knowing that the heart belonged to Andrew has changed things for me in a number of ways. Before your letter I was working very hard at making sure my body did not reject the new heart (and it has not). My doctor told me that some people are afraid of their new hearts, and it occurred to me that such an attitude would lead to a bad mind set and possibly (due to the mind/body connection) rejection. So I developed a mantra: “It was once somebody else’s heart, but it’s my heart now!” I said this a couple of times each day. But now I know that the heart belonged to Andrew, and my new mantra is about taking good care of that heart for his sake as well as mine. This leads me to very useful questions. Contemplating eating something stupid like a cheeseburger, I ask myself, “Would Andrew be pleased that I was subjecting his heart to this junk?” That helps a lot. I owe a duty to take good care of that heart and not waste the gift of life it has given me.

And health-wise things are going very well for me. Last fall I couldn’t walk twenty feet without stopping to let my failing heart catch up with the rest of me. Today I’m in heart rehab and doing 50 minutes on aerobic machines, and, at home, weight training on my universal gym machine (I was a minor-level body builder until about three years ago when my health made me stop, so working out is something I’ve done for decades). Now that there’s no problem with ice and snow I began feeling very guilty about using my handicapped placard when parking (why do it?), so I’ve now resumed parking in the unreserved spots like everyone else. My doctor and rehab trainers have made it clear that it’s good for me to walk as much as possible. So I’m a new man, and I have Andrew and the two of you to thank for that.

Andrew and I share certain characteristics. First of all, no one who knows me thinks I am a quiet and shy person, loving as I do good company, getting my classes into deep discussions, and showing off by doing community theater, playing tournament bridge, and even writing a novel. While no cook, I am known for the “Whaley Martini” far and wide. As it happens, my nephew graduated from Kenyon two years ago. And both Andrew and I have a major connection with Ohio State, where I taught law for thirty years (and most recently was back in the classroom substituting for a colleague who fell on the ice in February and broke his leg, a task I wouldn’t have been able to undertake last fall).

I am very sensitive to the distress you both must still experience from the loss of Andrew, and I have no desire to aggravate it. But if you are interested in talking with me at some point, I see no reason not to give you my email address: dglswhaley@aol.com. I should particularly like to know his birthday so I can celebrate it every year, which I would do while drinking a good cocktail (another indulgence I had to give up because of the old heart). And, unless it would bother you for reasons of privacy or painful remembrance, it would be useful to know something about his death. I received a call that OSU Ross Heart Hospital had a heart for me on the morning of Monday, November 23, and by midnight the operation was over. I assume Andrew died either on that Sunday or early Monday.

In any event, there is no reason at all to reply to any of the above. My curiosity can simply go unsatisfied. I write mainly to thank you for the most extraordinary letter I have ever received.

I would send out this letter physically and sign it in ink, but that would delay getting it to you, so I will send it by email to Jenny Hoover and ask her to print it out and forward on to you.

You have my deepest sympathy, gratitude, and profound admiration.

Douglas Whaley
________________________________________
Related Posts:
"About That Heart Transplant," January 24, 2010
"My Heart Belonged to Andrew," February 17, 2010
"A Toast to Andrew," May 2, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"The First time I Nearly Died," August 3, 2010
"Rehabilitating Doug," June 12, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"1999-2001: A Dramatic Story, " December 15, 2010
"Naming My Heart," March 24, 2011
"Report on Old Doug: Health, Theater, eBook, and More," June 28, 2011
"Mama Cat Saves My Life," October 23, 2011
"Walking Away From Death," February 29, 2012
"Doug Update: Health, Acting, Book Readings, and Snowbirding," September 6, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Inadvertent Tattoo


I’ve never wanted a tattoo nor even thought about the possibility. Other people’s tattoos are their own affair, and don’t bother me one way or another. Some are handsome and some tattoos should have been given a second or third or even fourth thought before being permanently applied. Thus it surprised all of my family and friends when I elected to sport a major tattoo back in the 1990s. Here’s why I did it:

As a result of major medical procedures earlier in life, I have large ugly scars across my chest. This made me self-conscious in places like swimming pools or locker rooms. Mentioning this to a friend in Dallas who is a professional artist, I was startled to hear him suggest an obvious answer: cover the scars with a tattoo. “But of what?” I asked him. We were sitting at a restaurant table, and he whipped out a pen and began drawing on a napkin. “Flames!” he said, passing the drawing to me. It showed huge flames seemingly erupting across my upper chest.

The idea began to appeal to me, so when I spent a year in Boston as a Visiting Professor at BC, another artist friend took the original napkin and suggested changes. He even drew his version of the flames on my chest with a magic marker so I could see what it would look like. I approved and we took a photo of it. Since in those days Massachusetts did not allow tattooing salons, when I went to Las Vegas that next February I decided to have it done there. A friend steered me to “Ray’s Desert Ink” (a word-play on the now-defunct Desert Inn Casino), located in the same Vegas strip mall for the last 23 years. [And—trust me—that’s what you want in a tattoo artist: someone who has been doing it in the same spot for a long time and obviously knows how to handle a hot needle.] Ray himself greeted me in the rather large showroom of his establishment, and when I showed him the Polaroid taken in Boston (remember Polaroids?), he was impressed. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” he said enthusiastically, and then added, “But it has to be in color! Let me draw it on your chest for you.” He did that; it did look better in color; so after three artists’ working of the design, the flames tattoo was finally inked onto my chest. This took four hours, but, as Ray assured me, you do get used to it once the initial screaming dies down.

Alone that night in my casino hotel I stood before the full length mirror and marveled at how I now looked and the permanence of it all. “I’ll die with this tattoo on my chest!” I remember remarking to myself. That’s true, but I’ll be a more interesting corpse because of it.

The tattoo worked too. No one has ever noticed the chest scars since then (nor can you see them in the photo above). And my tattoo was been the talk of the hospital in November of last year. Reactions from others has been generally favorable (or at least they so pretended). My son Clayton, who was then in his late 20s, was astounded. “Dad, you told me I should never get a tattoo!” he protested. I replied that when he was in his 50s and I was dead, he could have as many tattoos as he liked.

The most interesting comment was from the woman who runs my life, Barbara Shipek. At an earlier age she had actually been a biker chick. “Doug,” she said with a shake of her head, “for most people getting a tattoo is a zen-like experience. You got one for a practical reason. That is so like you!”

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“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goodbye to St. Paddy’s Day

According to Whaley family lore my great-great-grandfather Noah Whaley came to this country with his brother from Ireland in the late 1840s during the time of the great Irish potato famine. He originally went to Virginia, but eventually moved to southern Indiana, supposedly leading a horse carrying his pregnant wife while walking the whole distance himself. He established a farm there and eventually went off to fight in the Civil War when the trumpets sounded and Abe asked for volunteers. It is also been passed down that he took his nine year old son Irvin with him on the ride to Evansville, about 30 miles away, and then tied the boy to the horse. With the slightest bit of guidance from the rider the horse knew the way home, so Noah slapped the horse on the rump and sent Irvin back home while he went off to fight with the Union Army. Frankly that sounds like child endangerment to me, but I’m glad it worked out well since Irvin is my great-grandfather, and lived to be a very old man. When my grandfather (John Whaley) died, his brother Emerson (a big man, a farmer, with a great laugh and many a good story) and I got to talking about the family history. I asked him if he remembered Noah Whaley, and he said, “Of course, I do! He was my grandfather! Small redheaded guy with an Irish accent so thick it was hard to understand him!”

So I was Irish on Dad’s side (my maternal ancestors were all pure German), and annually I threw myself into St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with enthusiasm: teaching while wearing an offensively bright green tie, saying “Erin Go Braugh” (“Ireland forever”) loudly to passersby, sporting “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons, etc.

Thus it was a shock when my sister Mary Beth became interested in genealogy and found out the truth. “Yes,” she said to me on the phone from Las Vegas where she lives, “I’ve heard the story about Noah and his brother coming from Ireland and all that, but it isn’t true. Noah really did fight in the Civil War, but he was born in southern Indiana in 1820, and his father, William, was born in Georgia in 1780, and his father was Nathaniel Whaley, born in Maryland in 1760. As far as I can tell they were all English, with not a drop of Irish blood in the lot.”

Well, you know, it was a blow. I felt like such a fraud—saying I was Irish when it wasn’t true, and, indeed, I had gone over to the Irish’s ancient enemy, the English! On the other hand, it was interesting to contemplate that the Whaleys had been on this continent before the United States of American even came into existence, and all those Whaleys could have voted for every President elected, starting with George Washington.

It also meant that the family history was not only wrong, but that Uncle Emerson—the rogue—had lied to me about the redhaired, Irish brogue-speaking Noah Whaley! How dare he mislead trusting youngsters like that!

But Noah Whaley had been a soldier in the Civil War, and Mary Beth also had details on that. He joined the Indiana 49th Volunteer Infantry on November 21, 1861, until mustered out November 29, 1864, fighting with Grant at the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1863 (with that battle being won within a day that the Union Army triumphed over Lee in Pennsylvania at Gettysburg). The idea of me, Douglas Whaley, going off to join the infantry to fight in the Civil War seems preposterous beyond belief (particularly in light of all the histories I have read about the horrors of those times), but my great-great-grandfather did just that. He was 41 at the time the war broke out, so he was older than most of the volunteers and consequently was made a corporal. The Indiana 49th has a website [http://www.kiva.net/~bjohnson/49th.html] and, in addition to a history and diaries of the soldiers, it includes a roster of the regiment’s personnel. The regiment was divided into companies, and, since I didn’t know what company Noah was in, I clicked on the alphabetical possibilities until I found him in Company I, listed as a corporal (most of the men were privates).

It was spooky looking at that roster, knowing it wasn’t fiction.

So, in a desire not to perpetuate the fraud any longer, I sadly bid goodbye to my accidental Irishness, and now leave St. Patrick’s Day to those who can legitimately claim it.

But I certainly wish them well. Erin Go Braugh! [And Rule Britannia too.]
________________________________________


Related Posts:
“My Competitive Parents,” January 20, 2010
“Bob Whaley, Boy Lawyer,” March 28, 2010
"My Mother's Sense of Humor," April 4, 2010
“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010
“Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule,” June 26, 2010
“Bob and Kink Get Married,” June 2, 2010
“Dad and the Cop Killer,” July 19, 2010
“No Pennies In My Pocket,” July 30, 2010
“Doug, Please Get My Clubs From the Trunk,” August 20, 2010
“The Death of Robert Whaley,” September 7, 2010
"My Missing Grandmother," December 26, 2010
"Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama," January 21, 2011
"The Death of My Mother," March 31, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013