Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

The Clown School

(Red Skelton and Lucille Ball)

When my daughter told me she was going to go to clown school, I thought, Okay, what new adventure is this? Is she going to join the circus? The rodeo? What’s up with this?

After a few chuckles, she explained to me what clown school is — a school for performing artists to learn the intriguing history of clowns, a variety of new acting skills, and a way to incorporate playfulness and fun into theatrical acting.

The Clown School, located in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California, is one of the top clown schools in America. People from TV and film attend the school in order to further their careers. My daughter, who is a professional singer and performer, has been taking their online classes, and she loves it.

One famous TV clown was Red Skelton, but Lucille Ball was also considered a clown. Her comedy routines, playfulness, and ability to make people love her and laugh, are legendary. I Love Lucy re-runs are still on traditional TV and streaming.

Clowns have been around for thousands of years. In 2400 B.C., Ancient Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty saw priests assuming the role of clowns in order to promote social and religious concepts. Jesters were common in China as early as 300 B.C. They were used in India as interpreters in 100 A.D.

Greek and Roman theater featured clowns and mimes. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance period, fools and jesters entertained members of the public and the royal courts alike. They were often used to promote religious concepts for the Church. In the 14th century, clowns began to appear on tarot cards.

The Aztecs were employing court jesters for entertainment when the Spanish arrived in 1520 A.D. The Commedia del Arte established the tradition of the three Zannis in 16th century Italy, which included the character of Harlequin.

Among Native Americans, clowns were used to make social and religious statements. Their antics made people laugh and think about the message the clowns were trying to deliver.

The first circus clowns were brought to England by Philip Astley in 1768. And Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837), a British entertainer, expanded the role of the clown and earned the title “Father of Modern Clowning.”

For more information about The Clown School, click here: http://www.theclownschool.com.

Have a fun-filled, happy day!

Dawn Pisturino

September 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

In Memoriam: Queen Elizabeth II

(Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Mary Eastman, 1953)

Today, we mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Whatever people may think of monarchy, royalty, and the ruling classes, one thing is certain: Queen Elizabeth was a strong, stable, and enduring presence on the international stage. She was a remarkable woman who helped to guide the British nation through World War II as a war-time princess and the economic struggles of the aftermath as its Queen. For decades, she has been a beloved symbol of British strength and determination. She WAS Great Britain, and her passing begs the question: what happens now?

The Queen will not be forgotten. She will live on in the hearts and minds of her people. She will continue to be a symbol of strength and endurance as Great Britain continues to evolve as an independent nation and her people grapple with ongoing issues.

O God, give rest to this beloved soul, this strong woman, who dedicated her life to her beloved nation and her beloved people. May you richly reward her for her service to You and to others on this earth. Amen.

(Personal Note: I will not be posting on Monday because my husband is having knee surgery. Thanks!)

Dawn Pisturino

September 9, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

27 Comments »

Japanese Invasion of China and the Tokyo War Crimes Trial

(Photo from the National WWII Museum)

The Japanese Invasion of China, 1937-1945

       After the First Sino-Japanese War, when Japan gained control of Korea, Japan continued to grow militarily and technologically, eventually embarking on the invasion of China on July 7, 1937 (U.S. Department of State, 1943, pg. 1).  The invasion resulted from a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese soldiers outside Peking (Beijing), North China.  Japan never formally declared war against China, and the invasion forced opposing forces within that country—the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists—to band together against the Japanese (U.S. Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).

       “In 1935, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Hitler’s Germany, laying the foundation for the creation of the Axis (Fascist Italy would join the following year)” (Mankoff, 2015, pg. 1).  With the backing of Germany and Italy, Japan sought to conquer China.  Japanese forces had already seized Manchuria in 1931 and Jehol province in 1933.  The Japanese military “adopted a policy of deliberate savagery in the expectation that it would break the will of the Chinese to resist . . . [however], the Chinese Army . . . put up strong resistance to Japan’s armies, . . . [prompting the Japanese to engage in] an orgy of murder, rape, and looting that shocked the civilized world” (Pacific War, 2021, pg. 1).

       After taking Shanghai in late 1937, the Japanese moved on Nanking.  “Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the removal of nearly all official Chinese troops from the city, leaving it defended by untrained auxiliary troops.  Chiang also ordered the city held at any cost, and forbade the official evacuation of its citizens” (History, 2019, pg. 2).

       A neutral zone was established inside the city, managed by the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone.  Once the Chinese Army left Nanking, “all remaining citizens were ordered into the safety zone for their protection” (History, 2019, pg. 2).

       Japan’s Central China Front Army entered Nanking on December 13, 1937.  Rumors of their atrocities had already preceded them – including stories about “killing contests and pillaging” (History, 2019, pg. 2).  The Nanking Safety Zone was ignored.  Over six weeks, thousands of Chinese soldiers were murdered and buried in mass graves, families slaughtered—including infants and the elderly— and thousands of women raped.  At least one-third of the city was destroyed (History, 2019, pg. 2).

Tokyo War Crimes Trial

       On April 29, 1946, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) gathered “to put leaders from the Empire of Japan on trial for joint charges of conspiracy to start and wage war” (Burton, 2020, pg. 6).  The Allies were immediately accused of seeking a “victor’s justice” against Japan, so judges from non-Allied countries were recruited to partake in the trial.  The United States arrested 28 Japanese leaders, who stood trial between May 3, 1946 and December, 1948.  They were charged with “war crimes, crimes committed against prisoners of war, and crimes against humanity” (Burton, 2020, pg. 6).

       As a result of the Potsdam negotiations, Japanese Emperor Hirohito and his son, Prince Asaka, were protected from prosecution; no testimony was allowed that implicated them; and Japanese media censored all information that portrayed the emperor and General Douglas MacArthur in a negative light.  Furthermore, only limited evidence was allowed in court, and media coverage was restricted (Burton, 2020, pg. 6,7). 

       Twenty-five defendants were found guilty. Two had already died.  One was hospitalized for mental illness.  Eighteen were sentenced to prison.  Seven were executed by hanging, including the General of the Imperial Japanese Army, Hideki Tojo.  After the Tokyo trial concluded, 2,200 more trials were held, and approximately 5,600 additional war criminals were tried (Burton, 2020, pg. 8).

       The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials “created a new standard of international justice” (Burton, 2020, pg. 9) that holds political and military leaders accountable for their actions and helps the countries of the world to avoid another World War.

Pufendorf, Vattel, Accountability, and Punishment

       [Philosopher] Samuel Pufendorf believed that humans wanted to live in peaceful, organized societies and “that actors [must] refrain from harming each other while pursuing their own interests and provided a universal right to punish those who violate the law” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 146).  He further emphasized that states bound by treaties and friendly relations are perfectly capable of living together in peace.  In fact, he saw this as a necessity for survival.  Some theorists have extended this idea to mean “that Pufendorf’s law of nations ‘involves an obligation on the part of one social group not merely not to harm, but actively to promote the welfare of all others’” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 147).  Pufendorf, therefore, called for stricter rules when it came to waging war against sovereign states (Glanville, 2018, pg. 146, 147).

       He recognized, however, the three traditional causes for just war: “to preserve ourselves and our possessions against injury; to claim from others the things that are rightfully ours if they refuse to provide them; and to obtain reparations for past injuries and guarantees that they will not be repeated” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 148).  Pufendorf insisted that “lust for fame, domination, and riches ought never to be considered just causes for war” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 148).

       By Pufendorf’s standards, Japan was wrong to invade China because Japan did not have an absolute right “to receive a benefit from others [China] in the form of trade, passage, hospitality, or settlement . . . and should not be considered subject to enforcement [by force]” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 149).  Japan’s motivation for invading China was domination, a reason that does not support Pufendorf’s guidelines for just war.

       At the same time, Pufendorf rejected the idea “of a universal right of punishment” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 150) unless punishment is rendered by the sovereign who has power over the guilty party.  That said, he would have made an exception in the case of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials because the Nazis and the Japanese committed atrocious acts and “all men had a right to punish those persons who placed themselves beyond the jurisdiction of any courts of justice and [behaved] as if they are the enemies of all others” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 150).

       The Chinese had not done anything to deserve the invasion of their country, and they had a legitimate right to defend themselves against the Japanese invaders.  Pufendorf fully supported the right of a state to defend itself from aggressors as a fundamental cause for just war (Glanville, 2018, pg. 148).  Not only were the Japanese waging an unjust war against China, but their atrocious jus in bello behavior was unjustified and unnecessarily cruel.  Their behavior justified the Tokyo War Crimes Trial conducted by the Allies later on since “belligerents [and] their savagery motivates present or future enemies to act in kind” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).  It was absolutely unjust to protect the emperor and his son from punishment since they must have been aware of the tactics used by the Japanese military and its policy of total war.  They were certainly in charge of Japan’s imperialist ambitions in China.  And, even if military leaders ordered the butchery of the Chinese, individual soldiers were responsible for making a game out of it (killing contests) and carrying it out (History, 2019, pg. 2).

       [Philosopher] Emmerich Vattel developed the idea that sovereigns should be treated as “one treats others, whether a person or a state” (Christov, 2018, pg. 157).  He fully recognized that not all nations or people would follow this rule.  “If there were a people who made open profession on trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

       The Japanese invasion of China would fall under this category of a rogue nation that has no respect for the rights of other nations and must be neutralized.  Since Japan did not officially declare war on China and refused to engage in peace negotiations with the United States, Japanese leadership violated the rights of China and the Chinese people.  They, therefore, became subject to punishment and international justice at the hands of other nations who wanted to rectify the situation and restore peace (U.S. Department of State, 1943, pg. 1).

       Japan had no claim to China except through the use of military force.  When they invaded China, they were sending a message that “we prosecute our right by force” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160) – which is a corruption of Vattel’s definition of war.  Vattel would have considered the invasion an “illegal war, which would include ‘conquest, or the desire of invading the property of others’” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

       The invasion of China also led ultimately to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, dragged the United States into World War II, and may have influenced President Truman to order the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final stage of the war (U.S. Department of State, 2021, pg. 2; Compton, 1946, pg. 1-3).  This chain of events illustrates the importance of addressing conflicts early in order “to provide for our future safety by punishing the aggressor or offender” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

       Vattel also insisted that “there are limits on what states can do in war” (Christov, 2018, pg. 162).  He rejected unnecessary brutality against people and destruction of property, calling these tactics of warfare “of an odious kind . . . unjustifiable in themselves . . . [and] prohibited by natural law” (Christov, 2018, pg. 163).  He regarded the individuals who engage in this kind of behavior “as savage barbarians” (Christov, 2018, pg. 163).

       Since the Japanese behaved like “savage barbarians,” they deserved to be prosecuted and punished during the Tokyo War Crimes Trial.  Vattel explained this in his book, Law of Nations, when he wrote, “when we are at war with a savage nation, who observe no rules, and never give quarter, we may punish them in the persons of any of their people whom we take . . . and endeavor . . . to force them to respect the laws of humanity” (Christov, 2018, pg. 164).

       Therefore, Emperor Hirohito and his son, Prince Asaka, and all of the military leaders and soldiers involved, should have been punished – even executed – to the full extent of the law, as determined by the Tokyo War Crimes Trial.

References

Burton, K.D. (2020). War crimes on trial: The nuremberg and tokyo trials. National

       WWII Museum. Retrieved from

       http://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/nuremberg-and-tokyo-war-crimes-trials

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Compton, K. (1946). If the atomic bomb had not been used. Manchuria Document Set. Truman

       Library. Retrieved from http://www.trumanlibrary.gov/public/Manchuria_DocumentSet.pdf

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (145-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

History, The Editors. (2019). Nanking massacre. History. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.com/topics/japan/nanjing-massacre

Mankoff, J. (2015). The legacy of the soviet offensives of august 1945. Manchuria Document Set.

       Truman Library. Retrieved from     

       http://www.trumanlibrary.gov/public/Manchuria_DocumentSet.pdf

—-. (2021). The rape of nanking or nanjing massacre (1937). Pacific War. Retrieved

       from http://www.pacificwar.org.au/JapWarCrimes/TenWarCrimes/Rape_Nanking.html

U.S. Department of State. (1943). Peace and war: United states foreign policy, 1931-1941.

       (DOS Publication No. 1983). Retrieved from

       http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/WorldWar2/china.htm

U.S. Department of State. Office of the Historian. (2021). Japan, china, the united states and the

       road to pearl harbor, 1937-41. Retrieved from

       http://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/pearl-harbor

~

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 20, 2021; August 31, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

24 Comments »

Suez Canal Crisis, 1956

(Suez Canal, 1956)

Suez Canal Crisis, 1956

       When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser claimed control of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, he sparked an incident which changed the geo-political landscape forever in the Middle East and elsewhere; undermined remaining vestiges of the British Empire around the world; reinforced the positions of the United States and the Soviet Union as world powers; and utilized the United Nations for the first time in a peacekeeping mission (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1, 2).

       Although the Suez Canal was built on Egyptian territory, construction was facilitated by “the Suez Canal Company, the joint British-French enterprise which had owned and operated the Suez Canal since its construction in 1869” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).  President Nasser wanted to end British and French control over Egyptian interests.  He offered financial compensation for the company, but the British and French governments did not accept the offer (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).

       President Eisenhower wanted a diplomatic solution to the conflict.  “On September 9, 1956, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles proposed the creation of a Suez Canal Users’ Association (SCUA), an international consortium of 18 of the world’s leading maritime nations, to operate the Canal” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1), which did not succeed.  Behind the scenes, Britain and France prepared a military plan with Israel’s help “to invade Egypt and overthrow its president” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1, 2). 

       On October 29, 1956, Israel – which had been denied all access to the Suez Canal – invaded Egyptian territory.  British and French forces arrived two days later, taking control of the zone around the Suez Canal.  In response, Nikita Khrushchev condemned the military action and threatened nuclear war with Europe (History, 2021, pg. 2).

       President Eisenhower warned the Soviets against the use of nuclear bombs and condemned the British-French-Israeli coalition for the invasion.  He threatened to impose severe economic sanctions on the three countries.  Britain and France withdrew all troops by December, 1956.  Israel followed suit in March, 1957.  For the first time, the United Nations assembled a peacekeeping force, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), to oversee all troop withdrawals (History, 2021, pg. 2, 3).

       In 1954, Egypt and Britain had agreed upon a new treaty which would force all British troops off Egyptian soil in twenty months.  After Winston Churchill resigned from office in 1955, he was succeeded by another pro-Empire British official, Anthony Eden.  It was after all British troops had withdrawn from Egypt in July, 1956 that “Nasser abruptly announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company” Brown, 2001, pg. 2).  Outraged, Eden planned the invasion of Egypt.

       In the meantime, diplomatic negotiations failed to ease tensions between the offended nations.  Finally, Nasser rejected international interference in Egypt’s control of the Suez Canal, and the British-French-Israeli coalition proceeded with the invasion (Brown, 2001, pg. 2, 3).

       A ceasefire arranged by the United Nations, under pressure by the United States, halted the conflict.  Nasser ordered the destruction of forty-seven ships and blocked the Suez Canal (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).

       The invasion diminished the standing of both Britain and France on the world stage.  Israel emerged as one of the “most potent force[s] in the Middle East” (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).  The Soviet Union and the United States consolidated their positions as world powers, with the Soviet Union condemning continued “western imperialism” (Brown, 2001, pg. 4).  Prime Minister Eden resigned from office on January 9, 1957.  President Nasser became a hero in his own country.  And countries around the world gradually shed the yoke of English and French control (Brown, 2001, pg. 3-5).

Who should have Controlled the Suez Canal

       In my opinion, Egypt had the right to control the Suez Canal, based on its location.  But the British and the French already had legal ownership and control of the Canal, a privilege they had enjoyed since 1869.  Instead of suddenly announcing that he was taking possession of the Canal and Suez Canal Company, Nasser should have negotiated with Britain and France for that control.  He could have brought in the United Nations and the United States to help with a diplomatic solution.  Nasser’s aggressive stance inflamed tensions in the Middle East and ultimately led to a military confrontation.  Furthermore, Egypt had deliberately blocked Israel from access to the Canal since the establishment of the Jewish state.  This act of anti-Semitism brought Israel into the military conflict (Brown, 2001, pg. 3).

       [Philosopher] Immanuel Kant enthusiastically supported both the American and French revolutions.  He would have agreed that British and French imperialism should come to an end so that sovereign nations could chart their own destinies (Orend, 2018, pg. 169).  The British and French had not violated Egypt’s rights since they had legally owned and operated the Suez Canal since 1869.  It was President Nasser’s personal ambition for Egypt to control the Canal.  Once he took control of the Suez Canal Company, he violated the rights of its British and French owners and threatened British and French interests.  When the British-French-Israeli coalition invaded Egypt, however, Egypt had a right to exercise Kant’s principles of “the defense, protection, and vindication of the fundamental rights of political communities and their citizens” (Orend, 2018, pg. 170).  Either Britain and France should have accepted cash reimbursement for the Suez Canal Company, or the three countries should have continued to negotiate with the help of the United Nations and the United States.

       [Just war ethicist Michael] Walzer did not support the invasion of Iraq and would not have supported the invasion of Egypt, because he does not believe “in regime change as a motive for intervention” (Brown, 2018, pg. 213).  He would have supported Egypt’s right of autonomy and right to control the Canal since President Nasser had offered to buy that control.

A Shift in the International Order

       President Eisenhower was angry at Britain for not revealing its intention to invade Egypt, so he did not support the action or take Britain’s side (History, 2021, pg. 2).  He also worried about Soviet intervention in the conflict, so he tried to settle the dispute through diplomatic channels.  The British-French-Israeli coalition was determined to take military action and to overthrow Nasser’s presidency, however, and proceeded without the backing of the United States or United Nations (History, 2021, pg. 2).

       The United States was not directly threatened by the conflict and had no obligation to get involved.  Walzer’s position, in my opinion, is that Egypt was a sovereign nation, and the British-French-Israeli coalition had no legal right to invade the country – let alone overthrow Nasser’s presidency – since “Egypt possess[ed] political sovereignty and territorial integrity . . . [and] attacks on the latter are acts of aggression which the victim is entitled to resist, to enlist the aid of others in so doing, and later to punish the aggressor” (Brown, 2018, pg. 207, 208), which Nasser did by blocking the Canal with sunken ships.  Even today, the United Nations Charter only stipulates self-defense as a legitimate basis for war.

       Even though Immanuel Kant was eager to see the old regimes fall in his own lifetime and would have been pleased to see the end of British and French imperialism in our own time, his basic belief was that self-defense was the primary just cause for war.  He would have supported a peaceful resolution to the conflict.                                                                                                                                       

       It’s clear that President Eisenhower was interested in avoiding a larger conflict.  Egypt had a right to the Canal since it was located on Egyptian territory, and President Nasser had offered to make full restitution to the British and French owners of the Canal.  But Britain and France were both invested in keeping at least some of their colonial territories and were not willing to give up such a valuable possession.  They were protecting their own interests while ignoring President Nasser’s ambition to make Egypt independent of British and French influence (Brown, 2001, pg. 1-5).

       President Eisenhower was wise to end the conflict and support Egypt’s autonomy even though it meant the temporary closure of the Suez Canal.

References

Brown, C. (2018). Michael walzer (1935-Present). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (205-215). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Brown, D. (2001, March). 1956: Suez and the end of empire. The Guardian. Retrieved from

       http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/mar/14/past.education1

Department of State. Office of the Historian. (2021). Milestones: 1953-1960: The suez crisis,

       1956. Department of State. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/suez

Orend, B. (2018). Immanuel kant (1724-1804). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (168-180). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

History, The Editors. (2021). Suez crisis. History. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/suez-crisis

~

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 11, 2021; August 24, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

25 Comments »

How the Prophet Muhammad Changed the Arab World

(Photo by Jeff Jewiss, Unsplash)

How the Prophet Muhammad Changed the Arab World

At the time of Muhammad’s birth around 570 A.D., Mecca was an important trading city which guarded the trading route between Yemen and Jerusalem. Mecca had also become an important religious center where pilgrims traveled to bring offerings to a wide variety of gods and goddesses housed inside a haram (sanctuary) called the Kaaba (Esposito 3-5). Muhammad’s religious fervor threatened the very foundations of Meccan society because he believed that the worship of the one God, Allah, took precedence over personal prosperity and tribal power.


The ruling tribe of Mecca – the Quraysh – had grown rich, decadent, and powerful. “Only two generations earlier, the Quraysh had lived a harsh nomadic life in the Arabian steppes, like the other Bedouin tribes: each day had required a grim struggle for survival” (Armstrong 132). Their newfound wealth undermined “the old tribal values” of muruwah (communal survival) (Armstrong 132-133), leading the city of Mecca into materialism, greed, and selfishness.


Women, in particular, received harsh treatment in Meccan society. They were considered property and became part of a man’s estate when he died. Male heirs could marry the women, if they so desired, or marry them off to other men without the women’s consent. Men could marry multiple wives and divorce them at will. The birth of a girl was considered a misfortune since a girl could not fight or contribute much to the family’s fortunes. Female infants were buried alive in the desert sand (Salahi 51-52).


The harshness of life in the Arabian desert discounted the possibility of life after death. Once someone died, they remained dead forever. Anyone preaching resurrection was scorned and mocked as a lunatic (Salahi 52). Charity towards orphans, widows, and the poor gradually slipped away, leaving an underclass of helpless beggars who struggled to survive.


Tribal warfare was an accepted part of everyday life, and the richer Mecca became, the more different tribes fought to gain power and wealth. “Muhammad was convinced that unless the Quraysh learned to put another transcendent value at the center of their lives and overcome their egotism and greed, his tribe would tear itself apart morally and politically in internecine strife” (Armstrong 133).

Islam developed out of the tribal tradition that placed the needs of the tribe over the needs of the individual (Armstrong 134-135). Muhammad gradually incorporated modified versions of tribal traditions and beliefs into a new monotheistic religion after he began to have revelations from Allah (the Arabic word for God) when he was 40 years old. He also legitimized his new religion by incorporating modified versions of Jewish and Christian stories into the Qur’an. For example, the Hebrew prophet, Abraham, became the ancestor of the Arabic tribes based on the Old Testament story of Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael was adopted as the progenitor of the Arabic tribes and, in particular, Muhammad’s own tribe. In the Qur’anic version, it was Ishmael and Abraham who built the Kaaba to honor Allah. It was Muhammad’s view that later peoples and tribes corrupted Abraham’s monotheism by adopting pagan polytheistic gods and goddesses. Muhammad sought to return to (what he perceived to be) the original monotheism and gave special attention to Jews and Christians because of their belief in monotheism. But he also declared his brand of monotheism to be the final religion of God —and himself as the final prophet of God (the Seal of the Prophets) (Salahi 1-21, 125, 289, 583-584, 678-680, 725, 741; Armstrong 140, 152, 154).


The Qur’an prescribed new rules about women, inheritance, and marriage, giving women more autonomy and equality, while preserving the role of men as their protectors. The murder of female infants was outlawed, giving women a special place in Islamic society (Armstrong 157-158). Rules about food, prayer, and relationships between people were addressed. A kinder, charitable, and nobler society was demanded. The bonds of blood, which were so important in tribal Arabia, were replaced by bonds of religious faith. Islam gradually brought together the warring tribes of Arabia into a united political and religious power which sought to spread its leadership and message to the rest of humanity (Salahi 218-219, 377, 518).


The caliphate began after Muhammad’s death when Abu Bakr was chosen khalifa (successor) by members of the Islamic community. After suppressing opposition within their own territory, Abu Bakr’s military campaigns brought the rest of the Arabian Peninsula under Muslim control (Esposito 11). As the caliphate’s military forces grew in numbers and strength, they began to invade both the Sasanian and Byzantine empires, eventually establishing a brand new Islamic Empire in the Near East (Esposito 13). With political power came religious power, and Islam began to spread among non-Arab people.


Political and religious conflicts broke out over how caliphs could claim legitimate leadership. These conflicts led to the First and Second Civil Wars. The Islamic community became permanently split between the Kharijites, who wanted to choose leaders based on piety and righteous behavior; the Shiites, who wanted to elect descendants of the Prophet as leaders; and the Murjia, or Sunnis, who represented mainstream Islam (Esposito 14-18).


By the end of the Second Civil War, the Islamic community had fully defined itself as a monotheistic community, separate from Jews and Christians, which was “engaged in a common effort to establish, in God’s name, a new and righteous regime on earth” (Esposito 19). Political power brought new economic power, and Islamic culture began to flourish throughout the empire. Islamic communities began to exhibit ethnic and racial diversity as new converts were made and local customs and traditions were incorporated into Islamic practice. Distinctive new forms of art and architecture appeared. As the caliphate began to wane, independent states arose which made their own contributions to Islamic culture and law. Family dynasties arose and disappeared. Persian and other languages stood equal to Arabic. Islam was well-established as a major religion (Esposito 59-61).


Muhammad’s quest to transform Mecca into a more just society was the beginning of a new religion and a new social activism that has transformed the Arab world.

References

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.
Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Salahi, Adil. Muhammad: Man and Prophet. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 17, 2018; August 17, 2022

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

Boudica’s Soliloquy – A Poem

Boudica’s Soliloquy

by Dawn Pisturino

Foul deeds of war have broken me.

Come, smell the blood! Hear the moans of the dying!

The corpses of my daughters lay silently at my feet,

Shamed and murdered by our Roman tormentors.

Colchester and London — what glorious victories! —

The blood flowed freely from Roman wounds.

They howled in rage as they died. How we cheered!

But Rome’s crawling legions caught us in their snare,

And now, we are vanquished.

Britannia is no more. Weep for a chastised people!

No longer Queen, I am marked for death.

No longer Mother, I will not be consoled.

No longer Wife, I burn with revenge.

I lift the flask of poison to my lips, tasting the bitterness in my mouth.

I will lie here with my daughters, my shield across my breast

And my spear by my side, and welcome Death with honor.

~ Dawn Pisturino ~

Published in Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology, June 2022. #1 Amazon bestseller in New Releases of Poetry Anthologies. Available now! Get your copy today.

July 29, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

38 Comments »

Martial Arts and the Boxer Rebellion

(By Peter d’Aprix – http://www.galleryhistoricalfigures.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13275101)

       The Boxers were a group of martial arts practitioners who formed a secret society called the I Ho Ch’uan (Fists of Righteous Harmony).  They “opposed foreign influence and [were] strongly anti-Christian” (Plante, 1999, pg.1).  When Northern China experienced a series of natural disasters in the 1890s, farmers and workers joined with the Boxers to harass “Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries” (Plante, 1999, pg. 1).

       Originally, the Boxers staged rebellions against the Qing dynasty in the late 18th and early 19th centuries” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  They wanted to destroy the Qing dynasty and all the Western foreigners who had set up “spheres of influence” in China with the full support of the Chinese government (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The American government wanted a piece of the action in China, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected that proposal (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretly, she supported the Boxers but “promised the Westerners that she would stop the Boxer efforts” (University of Washington, 2021, g. 2).

       United States Secretary of State John Hay “contacted the governments with Chinese spheres of influence and tried to persuade them all to share trading rights equally, including the United States” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  The other governments declined to sign any agreements, but Hay charged that the governments had all agreed in theory to his “Open Door Policy,” which represented a legally-binding agreement (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).

       In 1900, the Boxers led a peasant revolt against all foreigners in China.  “In Beijing [Peking], the Boxers burned churches and foreign residences and killed suspected Chinese Christians on sight” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  In response, foreign-led forces took control of the Dagu forts.  Empress Tsu-Hsi ordered the murder of all foreigners in China, as a result (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       The Boxer rebellion posed a threat to Hay’s Open Door Policy.  Foreign ministers refused to leave China, even though the Empress had declared a state of war.  On June 20, 1900, the Boxers and Chinese combatants attacked the city of Beijing, with the foreign ministers and their families barricaded within the Legation Quarter (Plante, 1999, pg. 2,3).

       The United States sent troops into the area “to relieve the legations in [Beijing] and protect American interests in China” (Plante, 1999, pg. 3).  Beijing was taken by a coalition of foreign forces, including the United States, and the Boxer Protocol was signed in September, 1901 (Plante, 1999, pg. 4).

China’s Internal Matters: Support for the Boxers.  Should the Chinese Government have Supported the Boxers in their Rebellion?

       By all appearances, Empress Tsu-Hsi was playing both sides in order to direct aggression of the Boxers away from the Chinese government.  Economically, China benefited from the foreign “spheres of influence,” but foreign influence was undermining Chinese culture and society.  “Christian converts flouted traditional Chinese ceremonies and family relations; and missionaries pressured local officials to side with Christian converts . . . in local lawsuits and property disputes” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).

       If the Chinese government had formal agreements with foreign governments, they should have kept their agreements.  China was a sovereign country with an established monarchy.  However, the Western countries were more technologically advanced, aggressive in their quest to exploit Chinese resources, and showed no respect for Chinese culture and authority.  In this regard, the West posed a threat to the Chinese and, according to las Casas (2018), “Every nation, no matter how barbaric, has the right to defend itself against a more civilized one that wants to conquer it and take away its freedom” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 96).

       Empress Tsu-Hsi exploited the Boxers against the foreigners but undermined her own government in the end.

China’s Internal Matters: Negotiation.  Should the Chinese Government have Attempted to Negotiate a Peaceful Resolution to the Conflict?

       By all appearances, neither Empress Tsu-Hsi, the Boxers, nor the Chinese civilians were interested in peace.  People were suffering economically, Chinese society was being disrupted by foreign influence, and the push to remove all foreigners from China was too strong.  The Empress actually backed the Boxers against the foreigners, ordered the murder of all foreigners, and declared a state of war (Plante, 1999, pg. 1,2).  If the Chinese wanted to negotiate, they could have done so at any time.

       If the Westerners were injuring China and the Chinese people, the Empress should have tried to negotiate terms in favor of her own people.  If the Empress did not want war with the Westerners, she could have negotiated with the Boxers to control the rebellion.  Instead, she supported them.  She was, according to Suarez (2018), derelict in her duty “to maintain order” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111) in the kingdom.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Troop Intervention.  Should Western Governments have Sent Troops to China to Protect their Citizens and Property? 

       By all appearances, foreigners were in China with the permission of the Chinese government.  But in 1898, “conservative, anti-foreign forces won control of the Chinese government and persuaded the Boxers to drop their opposition to the Qing dynasty and unite with it in destroying the foreigners” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  This implies that the Chinese government was not interested in peace or negotiations.  Once established, the Westerners refused to leave China, even in light of the increasing violence and threats of war.  When the foreigners sent troops into China, they had no legitimate authority to do so because China was a sovereign nation with a legitimate government.  According to las Casas (2018), “No ruler, whether king or emperor, nor anyone else, can exercise jurisdiction beyond his borders, since borders or limits are so called because they limit, determine, or restrict the property, power, or jurisdiction of someone” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97).  Before sending in troops, the Western governments should have tried to negotiate a peace deal with the Chinese government.  However, if the Chinese government was unwilling to control the Boxers and negotiate peace, the Western governments had no choice but to send in troops to rescue Western citizens.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Negotiations.  Should Western Governments have Attempted to Negotiate either with the Boxers or the Chinese Government Directly?

       After the defeat of China in the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan was granted the right to conduct trade in China.  This encouraged Western governments to also seek trading rights in China (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).  “Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and Russia all [claimed] exclusive trading rights with specific areas of China” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The United States wanted trading rights, too, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected U.S. proposals (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretary of State John Hay pressured the other Western governments into an unwritten agreement that had no legal status.  Hay insisted that the agreement was real and called it the Open Door Policy (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  Some of these Westerners claimed to own the land within their trading zones, which infuriated the Boxers and the local civilians (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).

       The United States had no legitimate authority to invade China, even if the other Western governments did.  They had no legitimate claim to take back the land because they did not legitimately own the land in the first place.  So, las Casas’s assertion that it was just cause “to take back formerly Christian lands held by unbelievers” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) does not apply.  The effort “to punish pagans who practice idolatry in provinces formerly under Christian control” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) also would not apply.  Las Casas (2018), however, does consider it a just cause to “wage war upon those who prevent the gospel from being preached within their jurisdiction” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 99).  If the missionaries had permission previously to evangelize in China, the Western governments would have a legitimate cause to send troops into China to rescue missionaries, converts, and government officials from persecution by the Boxers and the Chinese government.

Legitimate Negotiations. Given that the Boxers had No Legitimate Authority within China, could Negotiations have Occurred with them Directly under any Circumstances?  If so, how?

       The Boxers were fundamentalists who believed that “they had magical powers and were invulnerable to bullets and pain, and that ‘spirit soldiers’ would rise from the dead to join them in their battles” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).  With that kind of thinking, why would they negotiate if they were convinced that they could defeat the Westerners and already had the backing of the Chinese government?  From my point of view, only the Empress could have negotiated with both the Boxers and the Westerners.  For one thing, she was the only one with real authority to negotiate and control events.  She was the only one with real authority to declare war, per Suarez’s requirement that “war must be waged by a legitimate power” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111).

References

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2020, February 13). Boxer rebellion. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2021, July 25). First sino-japanese war. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/First-Sino-Japanese-War-

       1894-1895

Brunstetter, D.R. (2018). Bartolome de las casas (1484-1566). In D.R. Brunstetter & C.   

       O’Driscoll (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (92-104). Abingdon,

       Oxon: Routledge

Davis, G.S. (2018). Francisco suarez (1548-1617). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (105-117). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

University Libraries. (2021). Essay: The boxer rebellion. University of Washington. Retrieved

       from http://www.content.lib.washington.edu/chandlessweb/boxer.html

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 11, 2021; July 22, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

The Skeptic’s Kaddish – Poetry Partner #98

I am pleased and proud to announce that my poem, The Age of Elegance, has been published on The Skeptic’s Kaddish, and David ben Alexander has penned his marvelous response to it. Please visit his site here to read our poems and show your support.

Thank you so much!

Dawn Pisturino

July 17, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

(Destruction of Dresden, 1945)

[NOTE: A week ago, my father’s ashes were interred with full military honors in a military cemetery in California. The ceremony included a three gun salute, a bugler playing “Taps,” and the flag-folding ritual. Although my father served during the Korean War, he never saw live action. Instead, he was sent to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. My brother is also buried in a military cemetery and died of cancer at the age of forty. He was an Army medic and became a paramedic and German teacher after leaving the military. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. We honor all of our dead this weekend, but especially, those who have served, fought, and died protecting our country. War is hell, as any soldier will tell you, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil. Just ask the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their lives, their country, their freedom, and their sovereignty as a nation. Please take a moment to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives to protect YOUR country.]

Allied Bombing of Dresden

The British RAF began dropping bombs on Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. Over the next few days, British and American Allies dropped approximately 4,000 tons of bombs onto the city, killing 25,000 people, and destroying the center of the city (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

Prime Minister Winston Churchill questioned the attack, saying, “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

But, was the bombing justified?

Summary of Theories and Concepts of Pufendorf and Vattel

Pufendorf claimed that the enemy’s aggression “allows me to use force against him to any degree, or so far as I may think desirable” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). He explained that the people fighting a defensive war may use any force to put an end to the threat against them, receive reparations, or “secure guarantees for [their] future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). It was not, he explained, a priority to gauge proportionality but to ensure “the defense and assertion of [their] safety, [their] property, and [their] rights” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). The people on the defensive, therefore, may use whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy.

Vattel, on the other hand, believed that “now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals, whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations. Such is the foundation of those common duties – of those offices of humanity – to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other” (Christov, 2018, pg. 159). But he also allowed for the possibility of nations that would violate the law of nations and violate all the civilized rules of warfare: “If there were a people who made open profession of trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . .the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Was the Allied Bombing of Dresden Justified?

At the time of the bombing, the Eastern Front – “where Nazi Germany was defending [itself] against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union” – was only 155 miles from Dresden. According to Luckhurst (2020), Dresden “factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). It was a major city through which German “troops, tanks and artillery traveled through . . . by train and by road” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The attack was intended to bolster Soviet efforts on the Eastern Front (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3).

RAF planes were equipped with both “high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4). The United States Air Force completed the attack with daylight bombings which were directed at the city’s railway yards” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4).

The Nazis denied that Dresden had any military function and exaggerated the death toll at 200,000 civilians. They claimed that Dresden “was only a city of culture” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Worldwide, Dresden was considered a tourist attraction. British Members of Parliament questioned the attack, and the Associated Press accused the Allies of using terrorism against the people of Dresden (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Allied military leaders defended the attack as necessary to further cripple Nazi Germany and end the war. A 1953 report done in the U.S. determined that “Dresden was a legitimate military target” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9), and the attack was no different from previous attacks on other German cities.

The debate continues, with some people viewing the bombing as immoral – possibly a war crime – and others defending it as necessary to help end the war with Germany (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9).

My own view is that Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories both justify the bombing of Dresden. Pufendorf is correct when he says that the side waging a just war (in this case, the Allies) may use any means necessary to secure the peace and “secure guarantees for . . . future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). Nazi Germany was a rogue nation that had invaded other countries, murdered millions of people, and imposed authoritarian rule against the will of the people. They were guilty of “trampling justice under foot . . . [and] despised and violated the rights of others” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160), in Vattel’s own words. So, Vattel is also correct when he says that “the interest of human society [should] authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy [in this case, the Allies] in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation – the Germans] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Is Preservation of Cultural or Artistic Enemy Cities Relevant in War – Or are they Secondary?

My personal view is that preserving cultural and artistic enemy cities is secondary because defending the safety of Allied nations, property, and human rights takes precedence and aligns with both Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories of just war and the right of self-defense. Germany was the aggressor. It was not the duty or priority of Allied forces to save their cultural and artistic centers (Christov, 2018, pg. 160; Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).

Is it Justifiable to Bomb a City to Weaken the Enemy Civilian Morale – Even if the City has Marginal Industrial Significance?

Although the Nazis claimed that Dresden was only a cultural center, the Allies considered it an important transportation center for the Nazis and sought to help Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by destroying it (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The bombing weakened civilian morale but also undermined the Nazi’s efforts on the Eastern Front. Since civilians in Dresden supported the Nazi cause, they were also enemies of the Allied forces and subject to punishment by Allied war efforts. In my opinion, Vattel would have seen the bombing of Dresden as necessary “in order to humble and chastise the delinquents” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Works Cited

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (144-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Luckhurst, T. (2020, February). Dresden: The world war two bombing 75 years on. BBC.com.

       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51448486

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 10, 2021; May 27, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

29 Comments »

“Wounds I Healed” Anthology Acceptance

I’m pleased and proud to announce that my poem, Boudica’s Soliloquy, has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology. I want to thank Gabriela Marie Milton (editor), Ingrid Wilson of Experiments in Fiction (publisher), and Nick Reeves for their hard work and dedication in bringing this project to fruition.

As you may have guessed, the poem is about Boudica, the fierce Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe who reigned in the East Anglia region of Britain. In 60 C.E., she led a revolt against the Romans. Bravely driving a chariot against Roman forces, she fought for the liberation of her tribe and vengeance for the rape of her two daughters by Roman soldiers. Although defeated, she went down in history as a tragic figure and a British folk hero.

For some reason, when I heard about the anthology, Queen Boudica immediately popped into my head. She was a woman who lost everything but died with dignity and honor.

Please visit these sites:

Gabriela Marie Milton (Short Prose)

MasticadoresUSA//Gabriela Marie Milton, editor

Ingrid Wilson, Experiments in Fiction

Nick Reeves

Thank you!

Dawn Pisturino

May 9, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

49 Comments »

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