In the Kingdom of Ice is a masterful work of nonfiction detailing the tragic voyage of Captain George Washington DeLong and thirty-two adventurous men who attempted to reach the North Pole on the USS Jeannette in 1879. Written by the spellbinding Hampton Sides, its beauty and sorrow make for a powerful historical read.
In the context of our current political climate of name-calling and bitterness, this rather incidental quote leaps from the page:
One night the DeLongs were invited to meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes and the First Lady. Emma thought the President “a quiet, gentle man who did not impress me very much” –a description that more or less mirrors what everyone said about the milquetoast Ohioan. A Civil War hero, wounded five times, he had been elected–some said “appointed”–in one of the most acrimonious presidential elections in American history, losing the popular vote but winning the White House only after Congress awarded the Republican 20 disputed electoral votes. (Because of this, many Democrats refused to consider his presidency legitimate, calling him “Rutherfraud.”)
Researching a little further, I discovered that Republicans were accusing Democrats of suppressing their votes in the South in a failed attempt to prevent the election of Mr. Hayes, who believed in equal treatment without regard to race.
Hayes was an egalitarian and champion of civil rights. After his term, Hayes kept his promise not to run for re-election. He retired to his Ohio home and continued to advocate for social and educational reform. Doesn’t sound like much of a fraud to me.
Political ideals argued through name calling and acrimony are nothing new. And since we of the current moment had no stake in the outcome of the contentious election of 1876, the moniker Rutherfraud might allow us to take a step back from the way we’re going about “debating” the issues of today.
Christ said we must love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. He defended the dignity of society’s outcasts.
In this highly contentious time, we’ve all failed to listen to our opponents and treat them with respect. But it’s hard to believe that diminishing an opponent with an accusatory slam, tweet or meme qualifies as acceptable for anyone serious about following Christ.
We must do better.