Istanbul, we have a problem

I like a good nickname.  Today the best ones seem to belong to athletes, but royalty used to have some pretty sweet ones too.  I don’t know much about the Byzantine emperors, but in my Western Civ textbook I’ve found two emperors with good nicknames: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos (Wikipedia translates this “purple-born,” which is OK, but I like the way that the Greek sounds) and Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer (disclaimer: I have nothing against Bulgars).  Basil’s nickname is a reminder that we are much more cautious about glorifying the killing of our enemies than people were centuries ago.  It’s hard to see an American president wanting to be known for his animosity toward an entire people.

With the Ottoman Empire, lots of people now note that there’s a trope of “decline” after Suleiman’s death in 1566 that’s probably overstated.  After all, the Ottomans nearly took Vienna in 1683 before the Poles came to the aid of the Habsburgs (Poland was repaid by Austria, Prussia, and Russia partionining partitioning Poland out of existence in the 1700s).  But there seems to have been a decline in leadership after Suleiman.  Some of the nicknames of the great sultans: Mehmet the Conqueror, Selim the Inexorable (or the Grim), and Suleiman the Magnificent.  Then, you’ve got Selim II the Sot.  So when you go from the Magnificent to the Sot, that seems like a big part of the problem.

Constitution Day 2008 Speech on the Bill of Rights

–         When the Constitution was signed 221 years ago today in 1787, it had been created to make a stronger federal government that could direct the new nation to face its economic and diplomatic challenges.

–         It’s important to remember, though, that while many people today ask what the government can do for them, the bigger concern in the late 1700s was that there were certain things that the government couldn’t do.  People’s freedom was always at risk from the government, they believed.

–         So the framers of the Constitution didn’t want a government that was too powerful.  They had rebelled against the British to preserve their liberties and establish a government that was responsible to the people it governed, and so they gave the government only limited powers in the new constitution.

–         As they attempted to convince people to approve the new constitution, one of the major criticisms was that it had no language to protect the rights of the people.  What if the new government took away the rights of people, with nothing in the new constitution to prevent that from happening?

–         The supporters of the Constitution, the Federalists, argued that a Bill of Rights could actually limit people’s rights by writing them down.

–         But promising a Bill of Rights helped to convince the various states to ratify the Constitution, and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution were approved in 1791.

–         Now a recent study found that more people know the five main characters of the Simpsons, than knew the five freedoms of the First Amendment: freedom to practice your religion without being forced to recognize an official church for the nation, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government.

–         Remember that the Bill of Rights protects us against searches without warrants and cruel and unusual punishment.  Remember that it protects our rights to know the charges against us and to have a trial in public and with a jury of our peers, so that there is accountability.

–         So the Bill of Rights contains many of the freedoms we value most.  Familiarize yourself with your rights.  And perhaps just as important, stand up for others when their rights are endangered.  The founders believed that keeping our freedoms required people to pay attention, and that insight is just as applicable today.

Welcome, Readers

My name is Scott Kistler.  I’m a community college history instructor who is interested in how a historical perspective can aid us in our Christian lives by giving us insight into Scripture, our faith, and the world in which we live.

This blog might be bad and/or boring for a bit as I get used to blogging.  I hope that it won’t stay that way.  I’d value any suggestions on improving the quality or the appearance of this site.

You can find out more about the title of the blog on the About page.

Anyway, I hope to write some reflections as I read and teach.  Most of my posts will be on history.  Some will be on other subjects of interest to me, like human trafficking, church-state relations in America, and the Chicago Cubs.