bookmark_borderBurning the Philadelphia

Today, in 1804, Stephen Decatur led a small band in a ketch to destroy a warship.  Horatio Nelson is said to have called it “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

Well, I can’t verify Nelson having said that, but if he did then he was blockading Toulon at the time.

What we can verify is that the USS Philadelphia wasn’t really captured in the first place, it got stuck on a coral reef and its captain surrendered.  Its Captain, William Bainbridge, is repeatedly quoted as having been a large man, six foot tall and heavily built, who also surrendered to the French.

Commodore Preble (the US didn’t have admirals at the time, the word seemed too aristocratic) said that it would have been more honorable if the crew had vowed to die fighting.  He concluded that courage might have saved them.

Well, Stephen Decatur was the kind of man who would die fighting.

Supposedly, a film is underway about the Tripolitan War, to be directed by Ridley Scott.  Will it be about Decatur?  Or about Eaton?  Will it feature the burning of the Philadelphia?

There are so many great scenes in that war that play in my head like a film.  Personally, if I were making it though, I wouldn’t choose Scott.  I’d choose an American director, and one who likes to read screenplays.

I loved Gladiator and other films by Scott, but they were very stylised.  I think Decatur would benefit more from a literalist, like Speilburg (or Hitchcock if it had to be a Brit).

So, what did Decatur do at the Philadelphia?  Well, that’s another story.

Anyway, I think Bruce Willis should play Eaton, or maybe Vin Diesel.  They have that same kind of attitude, without being too large to be believable.

For Decatur?  We need casting.  Russel Crowe is far too old, and so are most of the stars out there.

And for the music?  “Stuck in the mud” would work for the capture.  “The Roof is on fire” for the destruction.  If you want an old-timer, Tina Turner’s music might work.

bookmark_borderWho should play former President Richard Milhous Nixon?

My generation knows the 37th President of the USA through two sound bytes.

In the pro-Nixon camp, Dr. Spock famously advised us that, “Only Nixon could go to China.”  The Anti-Nixonites however, use Richard’s own words against him: “I am not a crook.”

Continue reading “Who should play former President Richard Milhous Nixon?”

bookmark_borderPedro de Soza

451 years ago today, Pedro de Soza was secretly murdered by the inquisition in Antwerp.

The official method of execution for “heresy” of being a male Anabaptist was being burnt to death.  However, the people of Antwerp didn’t like it when the foreign government killed innocent people. Many protestants, free thinkers, and tolerant Catholics could revolt at the sight.

This solidarity didn’t make heretics any safer.  Yes, burning by fire brought out a big light, and attracted attention.  So, the accused were often drowned in secret.

Some so-called Anabaptists were probably really Calvinists, but Calvinists were meant to be protected by treaty.  Anabaptists were considered a dangerous cult of communists and polygamists, although there is no evidence that Pedro or any of the other Anabaptists in Antwerp were engaged in either activity.

Pedro first heard about the Anabaptists in Spain.  There, he met a few Dutch workers who told him about the new religion.  So, Pedro went to Antwerp to practice it freely.

As Spain was the colonial power, some thought Pedro was a spy.  The local Anabaptists were very reluctant to accept Pedro as one of their own.  Eventually though, Pedro showed his sincerity.  Pedro was accepted, and he was baptised as an adult.  And this re-baptism was the heresy that Pedro and others like him were killed for.

A year after Pedro was drowned, the Anabaptist leader was tortured.  He was offered a full pardon if he gave up the names of other Anabaptists. but Joos Verbeck refused to give up any of his fellow religionists.  He proved, among other things, that the pain of torture is not as strong as the power of sincere faith and true friendship.  And Joos was burnt at the stake.

But his story doesn’t end there.  When they tied Joos up for the first public execution since the treaty of Cateau Cambrésis, he didn’t go down screaming with terror.  Joos refused to “recant” of his so-called heresy.  Instead, he sang hymns and recited scripture.  His performance was so moving that the executioner trembled and almost failed to kill him.  But, you got 30 stivers for executing a heretic in those days, and the only reason anyone would be an executioner was because they needed the money.  So, like Pedro before, his leader was killed.

In 1991, I first came to Brussels.  There, I attended the International Baptist Church.  Like the Anabaptists before them, the International Baptists also believed in baptism of adults at the age of 18 and did not believe in the baptism of infants.  I half-considered myself a member of their group, but as a teenager, I could not be baptised.  When I became 18 I didn’t go through with the ritual. And so, even if the Inquisition were in place, they probably wouldn’t have drowned me (although they may have tortured me to find out who the other International Baptists were.)

Well, the International Baptists weren’t communists or polygamists, at least not the ones I met.   They seemed strongly against both things, even against churches that hadn’t practiced either for 100 years.

The punishment for being baptised one too many times was being pushed underwater yet again.  And the punishment for those who condemned the “heretics” on paper is that they are condemned by history.