Sina-cism: A Millbury soldier’s odyssey in the Great War

But did 19-year-old William Higginson really choose the Union Jack, or was he drawn to enlist by youthful ardor, visions of glory, and a simple desire to participate in a drama unlike any the world had ever known?
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

For families across our nation, the spring of 1919 was a time for homecomings. Imperial Germany had been defeated the previous November. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June, the “war to end all wars” would finally be over.

From the wastelands of a devastated France, millions who had served with the American Expeditionary Forces and survived washed away the mud and fatigue, bound up their wounds as best they could, and prepared to resume the interrupted lives of an interrupted generation.

On May 30, Millbury held the largest Memorial Day service the town had ever seen, honoring her returning soldiers and the six men then known to have perished — George Devoe, Edward N. Blanchard and Donald McCaskill, all of whom had been killed in action in France; and Warren T. Harris, Charles F. Minney and Charles H. Demers, who perished from disease.

A month after those observances, on the very day the Treaty of Versailles was signed, a seventh name was added to the list of the fallen when Charles Higginson of West Main Street received letters informing him of the details of his brother William’s death from cholera.

Last week’s Sina-cism: The right slant on the First Amendment

Sina-cism: The right slant on the First Amendment

Although the First Amendment may be back in vogue at The New York Times, at least for now, not everyone agrees with Matal v. Tam.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Last Monday was a very good day for the First Amendment. In Matal v. Tam, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the disparagement clause of the Trademark Act of 1946 is unconstitutional.

The case involved Simon Young, aka Simon Tam, the 36-year-old lead singer of “The Slants,” an all-Asian-American band whose members chose their name as expressive of three things — their views on life, their music, and their desire to reclaim and empower a phrase traditionally seen as derogatory.

After the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office sought to deny the band a trademark on the grounds that its chosen name was offensive, Tam went to federal court and won on appeal. The Supreme Court ruling affirmed that decision.

In the December 2015 appeals court ruling, Judge Kimberly A. Moore wrote: “It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys.”

In the minds of activists and their lawyers, of course, there are always other considerations, including the idea that trademarks are government speech.

Related Sina-cism: Muzzling the First Amendment on campus

Sina-cism: Freud, Worcester and ‘The White Hotel’

While there is much historical information about Freud’s visit, fiction has a role, as author Tim O’Brien puts it, “… for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

There’s nothing like encountering a reference to Worcester in a novel or film. There’s that flash of recognition of the places, people and events the author is describing. It can be a way of discovering something new about one’s native place through the eyes of an outsider.

The 2013 crime drama “American Hustle” offered that, with its scenes outside Union Station, inside the Worcester Art Museum and along Millbury Street.

Another work that references Worcester — less well known, perhaps, but of greater importance — is “The White Hotel,” a 1981 novel by D.M. Thomas. It begins with a series of fictitious letters, the first by Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi, who accompanied Sigmund Freud on his 1909 visit to the United States and attended his colleague’s lectures at Clark University.

The letter is headed “Standish Hotel, Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A. 8 September 1909,” and is addressed to Ferenczi’s wife. He tells her how “Brill and Hall are excellent fellows, and everyone at Clark University has overwhelmed us with kindness and compliments. Freud astonished even me with his masterly skill, by delivering five lectures without any notes …”

For insight into Freud’s 1909 visit, this is a promising start.

Mariano: In praise of our teachers

“When I was a student, teachers were generally treated with respect. Over the last several years, we have seen and heard about many of our teachers who were knocked to the ground, some literally knocked unconscious, by disruptive students.”

Sina-cism: Adieu, Paris accord, you meant so little

Sadly, the media doesn’t focus on the science at all, but almost exclusively on the politics of climate.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Much ink has been spilled and many BTUs of hot air generated since President Trump announced on May 25 that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord, but it wasn’t until Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty declared his support for the deal — joining dozens of other mayors nationwide — that I realized just how ridiculous the whole thing is.

Look, there is plenty of evidence that climate change, or global warming (or whatever term is in vogue this week) is taking place. I don’t want the Earth’s flora and fauna to die. I have nothing against residents of the Netherlands, 47 percent of whom are threatened by rising sea levels. And while I’ve never been to the South Pacific, I hope the low-lying island nations there do not sink beneath the waves.

But the Paris climate deal was never going to save the planet — and never will — regardless of what the United States does.

Sina-cism: The word on Trumpian truths from Assumption College

As Weiner (himself a former newspaper reporter) notes, “It is the media’s discomfort with objective truth that disqualifies it from being believed when it calls Trump on his violations of objective truth now.”
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The Spring 2017 issue of National Affairs contains a thought-provoking essay by Greg Weiner, assistant professor of political science at Worcester’s Assumption College, titled “Trump and Truth.”

Weiner lays out, in carefully reasoned prose, exactly why our current president’s difficulties with the truth matter.

His point is not — or not exclusively, anyway — to take issue with this policy or that pronouncement by the 44th occupant of the White House [Grover Cleveland, remember, served as president twice in nonconsecutive terms.]. I am sure that Weiner, like any thinking American (including many who cast ballots for Trump) has a qualm or two (or many) regarding the man’s comportment.

Anti-Trump screeds being as common as inane Twitter posts, however, Weiner wisely takes another, more interesting path. He returns to several touchstone authors of our Western culture — Aristotle, Thucydides, Madison and Orwell among them — to explore the fate of “logos.”

Or, to put it more plainly, the word. Language. And, by extension, political discourse and meaning in present-day America.

You may have guessed that Weiner concludes that language and meaning matter. The interesting part is how he gets there, and the stops along the way.

Mariano: Area Trump supporters have their say

“I often ask myself: How could anyone support this guy? What kind of a person would support someone who, to me, was such a ‘total disaster?’ … So I contacted my friends (who support Trump) and asked them to tell me why they supported Trump.”