“Free-born John” / Biography of John Lilburne / By Pauline Gregg /
Phoenix Press, London, 424 pp., 1961
John Liliburne was the great freedom fighter in 17th century Britain.
He was adamant about speaking his mind freely and courageously. He fought for justice, liberty and freedom. He read “The Prince” by Machiavelli to “clearly see through the disguised deceits” of his “potent political adversaries.”
1) Lilburne demonstrated time and again the meaning of democracy.
2) He consistently fought for civil rights.
3) He dared attack powerful figures like King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.
4) For his boldness, Lilburne was whipped and pilloried by the Star Chamber, imprisoned by the Long Parliament and twice put on trial for his life by Cromwell.
5) His party, The Levelers, fought for what today we call the “Little Guys.”
6) He called “liberty of conscience a glorious thing.”
His fearlessness extended to the Roman Catholic Church, then the most powerful force on earth. One of his pamphlets proclaimed: “I feare neither the Devill nor his Agents the Prelates.”
Yet he was a man who aroused deep and abiding affection. Even his enemy Cromwell held him in high regard.
Above all, Lilburne fought against oppression of any kind.
He died a Quaker in 1657, opposing violence and demanding truth. His epitaph was perfect: “Free-born John.”
Author Gregg aptly concludes: “The first English radical… a great-hearted liberal…a militant Christian…the first English democrat.”
She might have added: Lilburne was in the wonderful tradition of religious protestors like John Wycliffe, Thomas More, Martin Luther and William Tyndall. (Tyndall, translator of the Bible from Latin into English, was called a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church for making the “Holy Book” accessible to the masses.)
BOOK NEEDED STERN EDITOR
The book badly needed a demanding editor.
It’s much too long. The publisher did no editing of the vast amount of research that so often produced trivia. The book is filled with conjecture: “perhaps,” “probably,” “apparently,” “quite likely,” “might have done” and “it may be guessed.”
PhD Gregg, who wrote seven previous history books, would have profited greatly from reading Churchill’s three volumes of British history to learn terseness, crispness and how to write.
ISRAELIS NOW TAUNTING PALESTINIANS
Israelis have long been selfish, cruel and totally uncaring about Palestinian rights. Now it is taunting.
Pro-settlement Israelis held a festive barbecue outside Ofer prison in the West Bank where Palestinian prisoners are on a hunger strike.
The smell of cooking meat wafted into the jail–a deliberate provocation.
A spokesman for the youth branch of the National Union Party, which held the cookout, exulted: “We wanted to break them—make them hungry.”
The Israelis not only stoop to conquer, but ridicule the conquered.
BERKELEY MUFFS STUDENT FREE SPEECH
The Berkeley campus of the University of California has long been the citadel of free speech in America. So, when it denied a platform to Ann Coulter, conservative author, syndicated columnist and social media pundit, it was incredible.
A Wall Street Journal column rightly called it “thuggery against non-leftist viewpoints…soft totalitarianism.”
University administrators said the denial was necessary because of “security threats’ and concern about “the safety of Ms. Coulter.”
The Berkeley College Republicans sought the speech for April 27. When it was cancelled, they sued the University of California in federal court for violation of their constitutional right to free speech. They called it what it was: censorship.
After criticism, University administrators cynically allowed Coulter to speak May 2, the beginning of “dead week,” a week study before finals. She properly refused.
It was not the only time Berkeley ceased to be the citadel of free speech. Recently it refused to allow a talk by a right-wing speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos. It also turned down a bid by David Horowitz, a conservative activist, to give a pro-Trump speech.
Yes, some of Coulter-speak annoys liberals: “I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than me”…“Usually the nonsense liberals spout is cute but in wartime its idiocy is life-threatening.”
But a reminder to Berkeley administrators: these are “heckler’s vetoes” which have no business in any university let alone Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
PROBABLE LE PEN LOSS CHEERED
The New York Times headline said it all: “Rise of French centrist calms EU nerves.”
Marine Le Pen, fiery far-right candidate hostile to the European Euro, was bested by her main rival, Emmanuel Macron, pro-Euro, in the first round of the French presidential election.
Macron, an independent, won 23.8 percent of the vote, Le Pen, Front National Party, 21.5 percent. The French Ipsos poll gives Macron a commanding lead of 62 to 38 percent in the runoff Sunday.
Macron, 39, would be the youngest French president since Napoleon.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (Jake.firstname.lastname@example.org)