Three Proposals to Address the Admission of New Refugees

As new refugees are admitted to the United States, here are three suggestions for assisting them to fully function as members of the American society:

1. Assimilation

The European experience teaches that a major issue with the admission of refugees has been their isolation into ghettos and their inability to assimilate to the culture of their new homes, leading to marginalization and often to violence. As one observer has warned, “immigration without assimilation is simply invasion.” To ameliorate this problem, attending regular classes in English and American Government should be mandatory for all refugees, and a condition for receiving any government assistance, whether federal, state, or local.

2. Sponsorship

To further assist in the assimilation of refugees, sponsor families should volunteer to either house or counsel new refugees. Churchs, synagogues, and mosques could greatly assist in aiding these new immigrants, as many have done before. Moreover, given the large number of protesters against President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration, many of those protesters should be willing to volunteer their time and assistance to new refugees. Both the Old and New Testaments teach the importance of assisting the resident alien. For example, in the Book of Deuteronomy, 24:17, it is written that “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice….Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.”

3. Job Creation

Both the European and United States experiences with new immigrants demonstrate the need to create jobs for them. Lack of employment is a documented source of marginalization and of potential radicalization. To address this issue, new refugees not otherwise employed should be required to participate in a program like the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps to work on maintaining public parks, roads, and forests, and on planting trees and constructing service buildings and trails. This would both provide jobs to unemployed refugees and assist in conservation efforts. Government at both the federal and state level should also consider creating tax credits or other incentives for private businesses to employ refugees who have attended the mandatory English and American Government classes mentioned above.

While these three proposals are not a panacea, they represent a modest start toward successful integration of new refugees into the fabric of our great Nation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Improving Our Infrastructure: The Trump Plans

Improvements to the nation’s infrastructure have been a major contributor to the success of American businesses throughout the course of United States history. In my new book, Politics and American Business: The Growth of Industrial America, 1860-1960, I document how three major infrastructure initiatives benefited American business. These three were the building of railroads and canals in the 19th-century, the construction of bridges, public buildings, highways, public parks, and airports under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deals in the 1930s and 1940s, and the construction of the interstate highway system starting in the 1950s.

Given the deteriorating infrastructure in the United States today, the Trump Administration has proposed a major infrastructure initiative with potential expenditures of up to $1 trillion. While the specific parameters of the Trump Administration infrastructure plan are presently unclear, Donald Trump, while campaigning for the presidency, proposed implementing “a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed the interstate highway system.” President Trump expanded on this in his inaugural address, pledging to “build new roads, and highways, bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.”

Elaine Chao, the new Secretary of Transportation, has announced plans to set up an infrastructure task force as one of her top priorities to flesh out a specific infrastructure plan. The model which is ultimately proposed is critically important. Will it be jobs-oriented, as the New Deal programs were? There is some suggestion of this in the Trump infrastructure proposal published during the election. That proposal referred to a purpose to “create thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing, and other sectors.”

Alternatively, or perhaps in combination with jobs creation, the ultimate proposal may attempt to expand business markets, as with the historical railroad and highway construction initiatives of prior centuries. Once again, there is some suggestion that any Trump Administration proposal will be sensitive to such a goal. Thus, during the campaign, candidate Trump indicated that there is a need “to build the transportation, water, telecommunications and energy infrastructure [which is] needed to enable new economic development in the U.S.”

Specifics thus become extremely important. As Rich Karlgaard of Forbes has aptly observed, there is “good infrastructure spending [and] bad spending. (Example: Road maintenance is good; bullet trains to the boonies are just dumb.”)

For another example, consider new highway construction. Constructing new highways must take into account what effect they will have on the economy. Will a new highway make it easier for businesses to transport goods to markets now difficult to reach by road? If so, such highway construction can expand business opportunities. Indeed, even the repair of older roads can assist businesses in ways which may not be immediately apparent. One good example of this comes from the testimony before the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 1, 2017, by Fred Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Federal Express. Smith testified that the present highway system is so substandard and in need of updating that drivers are paying some “$67 billion, or $324 per motorist, annually in vehicle repairs and operating costs.” Smith also testified that Federal Express is now replacing tires twice as often as it did 20 years ago because “the road infrastructure has so many potholes in it it’s tearing up tires faster than was the case before.”

These few examples are meant to underline the necessity for careful planning in any infrastructure proposal. Such planning should carefully study the successful experiences in the past with railroad construction, the New Deals’ public works programs, and the construction of the interstate highway system. Details on each of these previous successful infrastructure initiatives are documented in my Politics and American Business.

 

References:

Edward F. ManninoPolitics and American Business: The Growth of American Industry, 1860-1960 (WingSpan Press, 2016), available at www.amazon.com/books/edward f. mannino

“Infrastructure,” at www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/an-americas-infrastructure-first-plan, accessed January 22, 2017.

Rich Karlsgaard, “Trump Infrastructure Smart?,” Forbes, December 20, 2016, at 39.

Andrew Liptak, “Poor US roads mean FedEx is going through tires twice as fast,” The Verge, February 5, 2017, at www.the verge.com.

Melanie Zanona, “Trump’s infrastructure plan: What we know,” The Hill, January 13, 2017, at www.thehill.com.

 

 

 

 

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Significant Dates in New Mexico History

Many Americans are unaware of the rich and long history of New Mexico, which predates the English settlements at Jamestown and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here are some of the key dates in New Mexico’s history under Spanish and Mexican rule, culminating in United States statehood:

1510 – Vasquez de Coronado Expedition

1598 – Juan de Onate takes possession of New Mexico for Spain: “La Toma”

1607 – Santa Fe established

1610 – Santa Fe becomes capital of New Mexico

1610 – Pedro de Peralta becomes Governor

1630 – Fray Alonzo de Benavides’ History of the New Mexican Missions

1680 – Pueblo Revolt; Spanish driven out of New Mexico

1688 – Diego de Vargas named Governor

1693 – de Vargas restores New Mexico to Spanish rule

1706 – Albuquerque established

1821 – Mexico receives independence from Spain; New Mexico now ruled by Mexico

1821 – Santa Fe Trail opened to American trade

1846 – United States defeats Mexico; New Mexico becomes a United States Territory; Brigadier General Stephen Kearny arrives in Territory and establishes United States territorial government

1912 – New Mexico becomes the 47th State

1939-1945 – Atomic Bomb developed at Los Alamos under the Manhattan Project

Dates taken from Thomas E. Chavez, New Mexico Past and Future (University of New Mexico Press, 2006)

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My New Facebook History Publications Page

Friends:

I have just opened a new Facebook page featuring my publications on American History.

Please take a look on Facebook at Edward F. Mannino @ManninoHistory. This describes all my books, including the just-released Politics and American Business: The Growth of Industrial America, 1860-1960.

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Fray Angelico Chavez’s My Penitente Land

Manuel Ezequiel Chavez – better known as Fray Angelico Chavez – was a Franciscan priest born in northern New Mexico in 1910. He was a genuine polymath, known not only for his artistic talents, which explain his Franciscan name (a tribute to the famous Italian painter and priest), but also a novelist, a short story writer, a poet, a genealogist, a biographer, an historian, and even (like Saint Francis) a restorer of churches. He authored 24 books, and also served as an Army chaplain in both World War II and the Korean War. In World War II, he took part in the beach landings at Guam and Leyte Gulf. As a priest, he also served several poor villages and Native American pueblos in New Mexico. He died in 1996, and today his statue stands outside the Palace of the Governor’s History Library in Santa Fe, which was renamed in his honor in the year of his death.

This post reviews Chavez’s historical survey, My Penitente Land: Reflections of Spanish New Mexico (1974) (original edition; multiple new editions available). This book gives tremendous insight into the Spanish Castilian heritage of the peoples of northern New Mexico, where Chavez was born.

Throughout the book, Chavez repeatedly points out the similarity in landscape and atmosphere among northern New Mexico, Castilian Spain, and the Holy Land, all of which are situated on the same or similar degrees of latitude. This fortunate geographical congruence made the Spanish settlers of northern New Mexico quite at home. Their rugged new Mexico landscape lends itself mainly to the raising of livestock, particularly cattle and sheep, which today still can be seen when traveling in this part of New Mexico.

Chavez consistently makes biblical references, comparing the experiences of the Spanish Castilian New Mexicans with those of the Hebrews in Israel. Thus, for example, he analogizes the flight of the Hispanic New Mexicans from Santa Fe after the 1680 Pueblo revolt as a type of “Babylonian captivity,” which only ended with the reconquest of New Mexico by Don Diego de Vargas in 1693.

My Penitente Land often refers to the Hebrew and Spanish concepts of hesed (loving kindness or compassion) and castizo (pure [blood] or genuine) in describing his forebears in northern New Mexico. He sees the Castilian world view as one which combines the contradictory approaches of “rugged realism and rigid idealism,” often referring to Don Quixote on this point. In Chavez’s view, his people are neither romantic nor logical. They rely more on symbols (consider the popular folk art in retablos and bultos), than on text. Consequently, unlike the post-Reformation “Aryan” “new peoples of the book” in Europe, they are not “text-bound.” Indeed, they are “more given to exaggerating the concrete symbols of faith,” often portraying the crucified Christ in a more bloody, and therefore more realistic, depiction that the sanitized crucifixes so often seen in other European and American countries. They starkly identify with the suffering servant Christ, emphasizing personal penitence, sometimes taken to extremes, as in the “exaggerated penitential spirit” of the Penitentes.

Chavez is critical of the American takeover of New Mexico with the arrival of General Stephen Kearney in 1846. He sees the American influence as diluting, and threatening to overwhelm, the Castilian Spanish heritage of his northern New Mexico people.

My Penitente Land  is a well-written and informative work which deserves a wider audience for its compassionate understanding of the Castilian-rooted Spanish peoples of northern New Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Politics and American Business: Adversaries or Allies?

Are business and government allies or adversaries? What is the proper relationship between the two? These questions are important issues for the upcoming presidential, congressional, and state elections. They are also the subject of my new book, Politics and American Business: The Growth of Industrial America, 1860-1960, just published by WingSpan Press. The book is now available for orders at Amazon.com and BN.com in both soft cover and electronic versions. The electronic version is also available on other sites selling ebooks.

In researching and writing this book, I have drawn on my more than 40 years of experience representing businesses in litigation and counseling, as well as on my seven years of teaching American History at the University of Pennsylvania and Chestnut Hill College. My teaching experience showed me that the previous books typically assigned in survey courses on American History placed too little attention upon the proper relationship between politics and business, tending to demonize business and failing to appreciate its importance to the economic vitality of this country.

We outline in this book exactly how government can either assist, or hinder, the appropriate growth of American businesses. We identify five critical factors which recur over history, including alternating cycles of regulation and deregulation; the critical importance of infrastructure; the impact of armed conflicts as a business stimulant; the government role in funding and protecting technology; and the key importance of providing ready access to the courts to protect business from excessive and unwarranted regulation.

By focusing on the time period from the Civil War to the Cold War, it is possible to identify the political and other factors which contributed to the United States assuming worldwide industrial dominance in that time period. We bring this analysis up to date in the Conclusion, pointing out how, in several critical respects, current governmental policy has fallen short. As such, attention to the five key factors we identify is highly relevant to evaluating the respective platforms of the various political parties in this important election year.

The book begins with a review of how the Civil War removed the obstacles placed by the Southern Slave Power on the development of industry in the country, tracing how the Republican Administrations in the latter part of the 19th century facilitated industrial growth by imposing tariffs and building infrastructure, particularly in railroads. We then examine the opposition to business dominance of politics by the Populists, and then by the Progressive Movement, which inaugurated tighter regulation on business growth and operations.

The height of regulation of business during this time period was reached during the three full terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, particularly in legislation enacted in his First and Second New Deals. Roosevelt instituted what has now become the Administrative State, under which business is heavily regulated by alphabet agencies which promulgate detailed regulations constraining business operations.

The book also details how wars and defense spending have had the incidental effect of assisting industrial development by creating new markets, by facilitating technological improvements, and by increasing employment. We examine the relationship between government and business in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, detailing how the need to enlist business in the war effort softened government regulation and greatly improved business profitability, as well as fueling government expenditures to fund research leading to development of materials to assist in prosecuting wars. These same developments would later be utilized by businesses, including IBM, Google, and Apple, to create new products and to expand operations.

Finally, the book examines in detail how legislation protecting all varieties of intellectual property, including patents and trade secrets, as well as providing ready access by business entities to the courts as a safety valve against oppressive regulation, have both been critical factors in protecting business in this country.

Politics and American Business provides a concise treatment of an important subject. It is a work written for a general audience, totaling slightly under 200 pages of text, with an additional Chronology and References for Further Reading. If you work in or own a business, or are involved in politics, you will gain new insights into the proper role of government when it legislates in areas affecting the growth and health of American businesses.

 

 

 

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Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and the Future of Abortion Restrictions

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No. 15-274 (June 27, 2016), the Supreme Court struck down two provisions of a Texas law relating to the regulation of abortion clinics in that state. Those provisions required, first, that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles from their facility, and, second, that the facilities themselves satisfy the minimum standards for ambulatory surgical centers under Texas law. By a 5 to 3 margin, the court found that both provisions placed substantial obstacles in the paths of women seeking pre-viability abortions, and thus constituted an undue burden on their access to abortion.

Whole Woman’s Health marks a notable change in emphasis in the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. In two important ways, it shifts the focus from the approach taken in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the court’s previously most recent abortion decision. To begin with, Justice Breyer’s opinion for the majority repeatedly refers to the need for the trier of fact to weigh the burdens imposed upon access to abortion against the benefits flowing from the regulations in question. This risk-benefit type of approach requires detailed findings of fact, and those supporting the challenged regulations will need to present detailed evidence regarding the specific benefits of those provisions. This evidence would include identifying deaths and serious injuries experienced by women attending abortion clinics in the particular state, and further indicating how the legislation at issue will address those types of incidents. Such detailed evidence will be particularly important given the fact that the majority opinion puts two thumbs on the scale against upholding any abortion regulation of the type involved in Whole Woman’s Health. Thus, the majority emphasized the safety of abortion compared to other procedures (abortion is “safer… than many common medical procedures”), and dismissed the contention that the Texas law would address the type of gruesome infanticides experienced in Kermit Gosnell’s  Pennsylvania abortion clinic. On the latter point, Justice Breyer opined that while “Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong…, there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior.”

A second significant change from prior Supreme Court abortion decisions relates to the level of deference that should be afforded state legislation. Gonzales v. Carhart held that fact-finding is subject to a “deferential standard,” indicating that “where it has a rational basis to act, and it does not impose an undue burden, the State may use its regulatory power to bar certain procedures and substitute others, all in furtherance of its legitimate interests in regulating the medical profession in order to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn.” By contrast, Whole Woman’s Health substitutes a burdens versus benefits analysis, cautioning that it “is wrong to equate the judicial review applicable to the regulation of a constitutionally protected personal liberty with the less strict review applicable where, for example, economic legislation is at issue.”

These changes made by Whole Woman’s Health are particularly important because of the solid five justice majority in the case, including the joinder of Justice Kennedy, author of the Gonzales opinion, in the majority opinion. As such, it makes little difference as to the jurisprudential approach to abortion regulation of the new justice who eventually replaces Justice Scalia. In light of these changes, particular emphasis in future cases will be placed upon the factual findings relating to burdens and benefits made by the trial court. Thus, it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will review more abortion cases in the near future, but will, in all probability, simply vacate and remand other cases for reconsideration under Whole Woman’s Health.

One critical question that does remain open, however, is the type of cases as to which the burdens versus benefits approach is mandatory. Thus, for example, will state legislation mandating that a woman undergo an ordinary ultrasound before she procures an abortion be subject to this standard? In addition, if that standard does apply, what are the relevant “benefits” to be weighed in such a case? Should, for example, those benefits include the benefits to both the state and woman regarding making an informed choice as to whether she wishes to abort the life she sees on the ultrasound? Thus, Gonzales v. Carhart implies that, even if the burdens versus benefits approach does apply, the state has a legitimate interest in promoting “respect for life, including life of the unborn.” Finally, is any burden imposed upon the woman by the requirement that she undergo an ultrasound a “substantial” one which also places a “burden on access to” abortion?

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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Pharmacists’ Religious Exemption Claim

Regulations issued by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy require all pharmacists to provide emergency contraceptives, specifically mandating that no one may refuse to do so based on religious grounds. In Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman, No. 15-862 (June 28, 2016), the Supreme Court declined, over three dissents, to hear  a local grocery store and pharmacy’s appeal, joined in by two other pharmacists, from a Ninth Circuit decision upholding the regulations against a First Amendment challenge. The appellants based their challenge on their religious belief that life begins at conception and that employing emergency contraceptives  “is tantamount to abortion.”

In an opinion dissenting from the denial of certiorari on behalf of himself, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justice Thomas, Justice Alito observed that the case provided “an ominous sign,” reasoning that “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

There were several key factors identified by Justice Alito which made the case a good candidate for Supreme Court review in the eyes of the dissenting justices. First, the importance of the case was underlined by the fact that some 38 national and state pharmacy associations urged the court to hear the case, contending that the regulations at issue constituted “a radical departure from past regulation of the pharmacy industry,” and might cause small, independent pharmacies to close, reducing patient access to medication. Second, the case placed “important First Amendment interests at stake.” Third, there was strong evidence of a discriminatory legislative intent aimed at religious believers. Thus, for example, the State Human Rights Commission made threats of personal liability against the board members if they passed a  regulation permitting referral to another pharmacy for religious or moral reasons. In addition the Governor indicated that she could remove the Board members after the Board initially voted to permit a conscience exemption. This, plus additional evidence, persuaded the trial court after a 12 day hearing to issue an injunction against the enforcement of the regulations.

Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion provided additional reasons for the Supreme Court to review the case. He pointed to several factors indicating that women seeking emergency contraceptives could obtain them with ease, given the presence of more than 30 other pharmacies located within 5 miles of the appellant, and the widely-utilized and -accepted practice of “facilitated referral,” under which all types of pharmacies referred patients to other pharmacies to obtain a drug they did not stock. The record in the trial court indicated that other pharmacies not involved in the litigation used the facilitated referral option “at least several times a day.”

Finally, even though the authorities vigorously and successfully lobbied against providing a religious exemption recognizing the conscience rights of some pharmacists, the regulations did provide certain other, secular exemptions, including a pricing provision which would permit pharmacists to decline to provide drugs to Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates.

While Justice Alito therefore provided strong grounds for the court to hear the case, it is likely that such Supreme Court review would have resulted in an opinion upholding the Ninth Circuit. In all likelihood, the Supreme Court would, at this time, refuse to mandate a conscience exemption under the First Amendment, particularly where the liberal cause of providing contraceptives, at all times and under all circumstances, was implicated. Indeed, the cause of religious liberty may have been severely compromised based on several factors. These include the death of Justice Scalia, and his likely replacement at some future time by a more liberal justice, and the unpredictable views of Justice Kennedy, who stated in Obergefell that opposition to same-sex marriage might be limited to advocacy or teaching. The prior voting records of the four dependably liberal justices would further darken the prospects for a Supreme Court opinion upholding conscience rights. On this point, one need only read the Hobby Lobby  dissenting opinions, which would have required closely-held corporations to provide contraceptives despite religious objections to doing so by their owners.

There is no doubt that this important issue of conscience rights will ultimately reach the court in a different case if, as, and when the Supreme Court again reaches its full complement of nine justices.

 

 

 

 

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Caravaggio and the Knights of Malta

To become a great artist does not guarantee that one will also become an admirable person. A prime example of this was Michelangelo Merisi, better known to history by the name of the Italian town where he spent some of his childhood: Caravaggio.

Caravaggio was widely recognized as Rome’s greatest artist at the beginning of the 17th century. Some of his most famous religious paintings were done in this period, including Judith Beheading Holofernes, Supper at Emmaus, St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness, and The Calling of St. Matthew. Unfortunately, despite his artistic successes, Caravaggio was also known for his hot temper, and he participated in a number of brawls not only in Rome, but also thereafter in virtually every place in which he lived. One of the Roman altercations resulted in the death of a young man in a sword fight in May of 1606, following an argument over a gambling debt owed by Caravaggio to that man. Fearing potential prosecution as well as retribution from the family of the dead man, Caravaggio was forced to flee from Rome.

He next took up residence in Naples in 1606, where his artistic career continued to flourish. During this period, he produced more magnificent paintings, including Seven Acts of Mercy, Christ at the Column, and David with the Head of Goliath.

Caravaggio’s next move was the most significant for this post. In 1608, he took up residence in Malta, where he made several paintings for the Order of Malta, including one of its Grandmaster. For his artistic efforts, Caravaggio was invested as a Knight of Malta in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. His most famous painting for the Order, and one which many consider his masterpiece, was the Beheading of the Baptist, which still is on display in the St. John Museum in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The Beheading was the only painting Caravaggio ever signed, and he did it in a most graphic way, beneath the blood from the severed head of St. John.

Why is it that Caravaggio, at the height of his artistic powers, left Italy for Malta? While the answer is not free from doubt, it is likely that Caravaggio believed that the Knights of Malta could assist him in clearing his name and obtaining a pardon for him for the Roman homicide, and could also give him aristocratic status as a Knight of Malta. Unfortunately for him, another brawl in which Caravaggio injured a fellow Knight in yet another sword fight led to his expulsion from the Order “like a rotten and putrefying limb.” Caravaggio was incarcerated for his offense, but somehow escaped from the virtually impregnable fortress prison at Castel Sant’Angelo in Valletta, using a rope supplied by an unknown ally to scale the prison wall.

Caravaggio’s next port of entry was Syracuse in Sicily. His painting successes continued, including The Death of the Virgin and The Burial of St. Lucy. Moving next to Messina, he again was forced to leave for Palermo because of another brawl.

Eventually Caravaggio returned to Naples where he produced more famous paintings, including David with the Head of Goliath, Salome Receiving the Head of John the Baptist, and The Martyrdom of St. Ursula. It was also at Naples that he finally received his long-sought pardon for the Roman homicide.

Caravaggio’s luck finally ran out in Naples. Under circumstances that remain unclear today, he died in 1610, perhaps by foul play, or perhaps from lead poisoning from the paints he had used all his career. Caravaggio was 38 years old when he died.

References:

For a comprehensive biography, see Peter Robb, M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio (Henry Holt, 2000)

For a short biography, see Francine Prose, Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (Atlas Books, 2005)

For excellent reproductions of Caravaggio’s paintings, see Giorgio Bonsanti, Caravaggio (SCALA, 2014)

For additional reproductions, see www.caravaggio.com.

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From Cain to the Good Samaritan: The Conversion of Ivan Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is generally considered one of the greatest novels ever written. It tells the story of three brothers, Alexei (Alyosha), Dmitri, and Ivan. Alexei is the good brother, a follower of the saintly Orthodox priest and monk, Father Zosima. Dmitri is a drunk, a military man, and a womanizer who loves poetry. Ivan is a nihilist who, at first, believes everything is permissible. Much of the plot revolves around the murder of their father, Fyodor, a thoroughly depraved and highly unsympathetic character. Dmitri is arrested, tried, and unjustly convicted of the murder, which actually was committed by Pavel Smerdyakov, who lived in the father’s household, serving as a cook, valet, companion, and general handyman, and who may have been the father’s illegitimate son.

While each of the sons, as well as the father and several other characters, has been analyzed by many commentators, this post looks at Ivan, focusing particularly on his movement from nihilism to compassion.

How Ivan Was:

At the beginning of the book, Ivan is committed to a position of extreme nihilism. He believed that every man was a law unto himself, and rejected the concept that he was his brother’s keeper: “What have I to do with it? Am I my brother Dmitry’s keeper?” Moreover, he did not believe in life after death or immortality. In his view, this absence of a future life meant that “nothing then would be immoral, [and that] everything would be permitted.”

How Ivan Changed:

Ivan’s metamorphosis occurs in the context of discussions with Smerdyakov regarding why the cook killed Ivan’s father. Smerdyakov tells Ivan that he was only Ivan’s “instrument,” and that Ivan is “the only real murderer” because he convinced Smerdyakov that all it is permitted, and that nothing is wrong. As such, “it was following your words I did it.” This accusation strikes Ivan to the core, and he admits that he wanted his father’s murder and perhaps was even prepared to assist in it. Ivan says “I put him up to it,” and “I am the murderer too.” He even goes so far as to testify at Dmitri’s trial that “I am not mad. I am only a murderer.”

Based upon these self accusations, Ivan changes. This change is shown most dramatically by his actions after he confronts a peasant and knocks him into the snow-covered ground, leaving him unconscious. At first, he simply goes away, leaving the peasant in the snow. But later, on his way back, he sees the peasant still lying there. Instead of leaving him on the ground again, he lifts the peasant up, takes him to a police station, and pays for a doctor to see the peasant. In these actions, Cain becomes the Good Samaritan.

How Ivan’s Conversion Reflects the Themes of the Book:

The change in Ivan demonstrates the force of Father Zosima’s teachings in Book VI, Chapter 3. He cautions that we cannot view our actions in isolation. Instead, “all is like an ocean,” and “a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth.” As such, each person is responsible for every other person: We are our brothers keeper. There is only one way to salvation, and that is to “make yourself responsible for all men’s sins.”

Ivan’s metanoia is graphically captured in another teaching of Father Zosima: “No one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime.” Nevertheless, God will save the sinner Ivan because God “loves you with your sin, in your sin.”

In starting on his journey of conversion, Ivan mirrors the path of Saint Augustine, who said “See who I was in myself and by myself. I have destroyed myself, but He who made me remade me.”

 

 

 

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