On New Year’s Eve, 2015, in Cologne, Germany, over 1,000 men of “Arab or North African origin” allegedly sexually assaulted and robbed hundreds of women, according to German police. From this night, German police have received over 676 criminal complaints, ranging from unwanted groping, physical harm, and rape. The incidents occurred at the Cologne train station, and in between the train station and the Cologne Cathedral, an area which forms a pedestrian-friendly zone in the city. These attacks have shocked the country of Germany, in part because Germany has enjoyed for decades peaceful city celebrations at night, and because in the last year, the country has welcomed nearly 1,000,000 immigrants from Syria and other Muslim-dominated countries.
Refugee Crisis from the Muslim World
In previous current event articles from The Classical Historian, we have explained in detail the reason why millions of refugees are fleeing countries of Muslim-dominated populations. For these articles, go here. Briefly, when the United States of America pulled all of its forces out of Iraq, a power vacuum was created. Terrorists in Iraq began attacking the free Iraqi government and began to seize land. In neighboring Syria, terrorists and Syrian rebels began a civil war against the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. President Obama threatened military action against Assad, if he were to use chemical weapons. Assad used the chemical weapons, but Obama backed down from his threat. In response to this, Russian President Putin has sent massive amounts of weapons and large numbers of soldiers to support Assad. With the resulting confusion and chaos in Syria and Iraq, millions are fleeing the area.
German Chancellor Merkel Welcomes Refugees
Modern Germany has two issues that directly relate to the refugee crisis of the Muslim world. The first has to do with German history. In World War II, Nazi Germany attempted to conquer Europe, dominate the world, and murder all Jews and others who did not fit the “superior race” model of Nazis. After the Allies defeated Germany in 1945, Germans have tried to redeem itself from the guilt of their horrendous past. This in part explains why German Chancellor Merkel has invited Muslims from the troubled areas of the Middle East to immigrate to Germany. The second issue Germany is dealing with, and most of Europe is as well, is that of a declining birth rate and population. The German population is slowly dying out, with the average German couple not reproducing numbers that will guarantee the continuation of Germany, long term. This means, that in a few decades, Germany will not have enough workers to pay for the retirees in Germany. For these two reasons, Chancellor Merkel invited Muslims from war-torn areas of the world to immigrate to Germany
The Values of Germany
Modern Germany can be described as a secular democratic-republican state, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and a country in which most people do not see themselves as belonging to any particular religion. This means that much like the United States of America, Germans enjoy many political liberties, including the right to vote, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. In addition, women enjoy political and social equality with men. In traditional, religious German families, Germans still believe that the role of the man is to act chivalrous towards women, to protect all females, and to be courteous and civil. In non-religious German families, Germans believe that women should be treated as equals, and that there should be no form of oppression towards females.
The Values of Islam
In Muslim-dominated countries, the legal policy of the state is sharia, a form of Islamic law. In the following countries Sharia is the law of the land: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Mauritania. And, in all the areas controlled by these radical Islamic terrorist organizations, Sharia is practiced: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, the Taliban. In many western countries where Muslims have moved, Muslims have set up local Sharia courts outside of the power of the country they live in.
In most cases, Sharia law is seen as strongly against women and against traditional liberties found in Western countries, like Germany. The following is a short list of practices followed sharia, and their punishments:
Germans See Problems with Mass Muslim Immigration to Germany
Because of the greatly differing values of Germans and Muslims, many in Germany are against Chancellor Merkel’s open door policy of allowing Muslims to immigrate in large numbers to Germany. They cite the recent sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, as evidence that Merkel’s policy is ruining Germany. There is also concern that the German media is not reporting incidents that are unfavorable towards Muslims. Hans-Peter Friedrich, a former interior minister under Angela Merkel, accused the public broadcasters of operating a “cartel of silence.” “There’s suspicion that they believe they don’t have to report on such assaults, especially involving migrants and foreigners, for fear of unsettling the public,” he said. The attackers in Cologne have brought a clear picture of the problems that occur when a society accepts hundreds of thousands of Muslim men from sharia-friendly countries.
In 2016, Americans will choose candidates to represent the Democrat and Republican parties, and these two candidates will compete against each other in the general election in November. Each candidate has a tax policy that reflects their philosophy and ideas. To understand how tax policies impact a country’s economy, it is helpful to look at the actions and results of past Presidents.
The 2016 Democrat Candidates and Taxes
The two main Presidential candidates for the Democrats are Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both candidates favor raising taxes, especially on those Americans who earn higher incomes. Bernie Sanders has called for a top marginal income tax rate of 90% and to increase the death tax so that “Trump and his billionaire friends and their families will end up paying more.” Marginal tax rate means the rate on the next dollar that is earned. The death tax is paid by a person’s estate when they die. This means, there is a tax on dying.
The 2016 Republican Candidates and Taxes
There are many Republican candidates, but the top in polling seem to be Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, former governor Jeb Bush, governor Kasich and governor Christie. Each has their own tax plan, but they all intend to cut income taxes and business taxes from their current rates. One of the biggest tax cuts appear to be from candidate Ben Carson, who favors a 14.9% flat tax on income, and a reduction to “0” of all capital gains tax.
Goals of Taxation
One of the most recognized goals of taxation is to raise revenue to pay for government programs. The U.S. government supplies an army and runs social welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare. Some argue that it is unfair that others make more money than some, and thus, some politicians see taxation as a way to make people’s income the same.
Taxes, Presidents, and History
There may be differences of opinion on tax cuts and how they affect the government, but there is only one history. Since 1962, we have three instances in history where the U.S. government has drastically cut taxes. President John F. Kennedy cut the top tax rate from 90% to 71% in 1962. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70% to 50% in 1981, and then in 1986, he dropped the top tax rate to 28%. In the 2000s, President Bush cut income taxes from a high of 39.6% to 35%. In each of these largest tax cuts in the past 60 years during each President’s terms, revenue to the U.S. government grew, individual income grew, unemployment fell, and the gross domestic product grew over 3.5%. What appears to have happened is that because individuals were allowed to keep more of their money, they invested it into businesses or spent more on consumer goods. This seems to have increased the overall growth of the economy.
President Obama and Taxes
In the last 7 years, President Obama has raised taxes many times, including 22 different taxes including in the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). During his presidency, revenue to the U.S. government has grown, however, individual income has fallen, the number of people unemployed has grown to 92.5 million people, and gross domestic product has grown at a 2% rate. While there are other factors affecting the economy, tax policy is one of the most consequential.
On the third Monday of January, Americans celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, perhaps the most important leader of the Civil Rights Movement. King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, in an American society that had strict laws and customs that were based on the color of your skin. This legal policy called segregation separated whites from non-whites in nearly all public places and limited the ability of black Americans to completely enjoy the benefits that come with living in a free country. Raised in a strong Christian environment, Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that the best way to change the United States and end segregation was to win over the hearts of fellow Americans by following the teachings of Jesus Christ to “love your enemy” and by following the example of non-violent leaders such as the Indian Mahatma Ghandi. In large part due to Dr. King’s words and example, Americans ended segregation in the 1960s and today enjoy perhaps one of the freest societies of the world, where people are judged on their character and actions more than on their physical appearances. Tragically, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by confirmed racist James Earl Ray.
Racial segregation became a way of life in most southern states after Reconstruction ended in 1877. During Reconstruction, the U.S. attempted to “reconstruct” the Confederacy that had just lost the Civil War. Larry Schweikart writes in A Patriot’s History of the United States that in Reconstruction (1867-1877), the U.S. attempted to readmit members of the Confederacy, rebuild the South, and help the freed men and women to live and work in a hostile environment. When Reconstruction ended, the northern soldiers went home, and the southern whites enacted laws that separated whites from non-whites. In practice, segregation greatly limited black Americans’ ability to work, kept black Americans from voting, and created a permanent underclass where blacks did not enjoy the protection of the U.S. law. Economic and social mobility was nearly impossible for black Americans, and in many southern states, black Americans were in constant physical danger. They were terrorized, brutalized, and murdered in astonishing numbers. The Supreme Court, in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) legalized racial segregation. Segregation was the legal policy of separating the races, but it also meant that black Americans would always constitute a permanent underclass.
Childhood and Young Adulthood
Martin grew up in a strong, religious family. Originally named Michael like his father, he changed his name after the famous founder of the Lutheran religion, Martin Luther. His grandfather founded the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and when he died, Martin’s father became the pastor. Martin attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he skipped both the ninth and the eleventh grades. At age 15, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944. As a junior in college, he decided to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to become a pastor.
As a doctoral student of theology at Boston University, Martin met Coretta Scott, a singer and musician at the New England Conservatory. They married and eventually had four children. King received his Ph.D. in 1955 and became pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama.
In the 1950s, many in America realized that the policy of segregation was unjust and against the basic ideals of the United States. Many black Americans had fought and sacrificed in World War II and were currently fighting and dying in Korea. It seemed horribly unfair, then, that at home, black Americans did not have equal rights with white Americans. Those who wanted to change segregation were faced with many options. One was just to wait until things changed, somehow. Another option was to turn to violence and to force white America to change. Martin Luther King, Jr. chose a third option. A strong Christian and student of nonviolent methods, King believed that the most effective and just way to promote change in America was to love your neighbor and win over his heart. King’s choice was not an easy one, and he bore the pain and suffering of his decision. However, his way of nonviolence and love most likely saved the lives of many, and brought about immense change in the United States.
In 1955, a brave and simple act by Rosa Parks, a 42 year-old woman, began the Civil Rights Movement and the national leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In Montgomery buses, blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, and if there were no more white seats towards the front, blacks were supposed to stand and allow the whites to sit. Rosa Parks sat in the black section, but was ordered to stand by the bus driver because there were a few whites who had no seats. Parks refused to stand, was arrested, and fined. Black community leaders met and decided to fight the bus company. They chose Dr. King, Jr. to lead a bus boycott and force the bus company to change its policy. After 382 days of avoiding bus travel, enduring harassment, violence, and intimidation, the blacks of Montgomery forced the company to desegregate its buses. The Civil Rights Movement had begun, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the noted leader of peaceful, nonviolent resistance to the unjust system of segregation in America.
Dr. King, Jr. was involved in many more Civil Rights battles, was jailed, and was eventually murdered for his desire to see a color-free American society. A moving orator, King, Jr. is most recognized for his “I Have a Dream” speech given in Washington, D.C. in 1963. It is here where King spoke of his dream of an America where children would grow up in a country where they would be judged based on the quality of their character and not the color of their skin. Segregation officially ended in the United States by the passage of various laws in the 1960s.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King, Jr. was assassinated by white supremacist James Earl Ray. Ray fled the country, was found in London, convicted, and sentenced to 99 years in jail. In jail, he recanted his testimony, pled his innocence, and died in 1998.
Four days after Dr. King's death Congressmen began an effort to have a federal holiday in honor of him. However, some Americans felt that he was just one person of many in the Civil Rights Movement. And, some Americans were upset that segregation ended. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law holiday legislation, making the third Monday in January the day to honor Dr. King, Jr. Even after the federal holiday was declared, several southern states included celebrations for various Confederate generals on that day, and some states protested.
For elementary through high school:
Answer these questions from the text:
1. When was Dr. King, Jr. born?
2. What was his original name?
3. Why did he change his name?
4. What was his wife’s name and how many children did they have?
5. What grades did Martin skip in high school?
6. What was Dr. King, Jr.’s occupation?
7. Was religion important to Dr. King, Jr.? Explain your answer:
8. What was segregation?
9. How did the Civil Rights Movement begin?
10. Who were Dr. King’s role models and how did these role models affect Dr. King, Jr.?
Questions for junior high and high school students:
New Year’s Day in the United States of America has been celebrated for over two hundred years, but the history of New Year’s Day goes back thousands of years. In 2000 B.C., Mesopotamians celebrated the vernal equinox as the beginning of a new year. This practice continued through the Middle Ages, with many countries of the world celebrating the New Year on March 20th. However, in 1752, the British and their colonists in America adopted the Gregorian calendar, and from this time on, Americans have celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1st.
What is the Vernal Equinox?
Vernal means “Spring”, and equinox means “equal night”. On the vernal equinox, March 20th, the sun is located above the equator and day and night are about equal length. For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, March 20th marks the beginning of Spring. After this day, there is an increasing amount of sunlight every day until the beginning of Summer, June 21. For ancient people, celebrating the vernal equinox as the New Year was very logical. People were moving away from darkness into the light. Agrarian people rely on the power of the sun in growing crops. For the ancients, the vernal equinox was a time to celebrate birth, sunlight, and fertility. Romans would exchange gifts and make promises they would try to fulfill in the new year.
Why Do We Celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st and not March 20th?
The United States of America and most Western countries trace much of their cultural heritage to the Roman Republic and to Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices. Before Julius Caesar, Romans celebrated March 1st as the New Year because March is the first month in the Roman calendar. Romans had a festival to honor their god, Mars (God of War). In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar and changed the celebration of the New Year to January 1st, in honor of Janus, the Roman god who January is named after. The god Janus was always shown with two faces, one looking to the past and one looking ahead. On this day, the Romans exchanged gifts and promised to be better with each other in the new year. Romans also celebrated this day by throwing parties food, drink, and dancing.
The first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great (272 – 337), kept the Julian Calendar, but turned New Year’s Day into a day of prayer and fasting. Christians were encouraged to use the day as a beginning to live better lives. From the seventh century on, January 1st was celebrated by Christians in the Roman Calendar as a day honoring The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Christian Church attempted to change the parties of the Roman times into a time of prayer and reflection.
New Year’s Parties Abolished
In 567 at the Council of Tours, Christians abolished the celebrations of January 1 because they considered them pagan. Instead, they celebrated the new year on December 25th , the day the Church chose to honor the birth of Jesus. However, there weren’t mass celebrations of the new year, as knowledge of the exact date was not widespread.
Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored
In 1582, much of the Western world reformed the Julian Calendar because of its inaccuracies and adopted the Gregorian Calendar. Named after Pope Gregory III, the calendar restored January 1st as the New Year Day. Great Britain kept the Julian calendar until 1752, and it was at this time that the English colonists started celebrating January 1st as New Year’s Day.
How do Americans Celebrate New Year’s Day?
Americans celebrate New Year’s Day in a variety of ways. On New Year’s Eve, there are gatherings of friends and family the evening before to remember the year past and to look forward to the new year. There is revelry and merry making that takes place in private and public places. Some Americans make New Year’s resolutions, with promises of working harder, losing weight, or enrolling in a class. Other Americans carry on the religious traditions of New Year’s Day, as well. Anglicans and Lutherans mark the day as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, remembering the Christian belief that Christ was circumcised 8 days after birth. Roman Catholics celebrate this day remembering Mary as the mother of Jesus.
1. When did Mesopotamians celebrate the new year?
2. What does the Vernal Equinox mean for those living in the Northern Hemisphere?
3. Who changed the celebration of the new year to January 1st in 45 B.C.?
4. Why was the date of the new year changed?
5. How did the Romans celebrate the new year?
6. How did Constantine the Great change the celebrating of the new year?
7. From the seventh century on, who did Christians using the Roman Calendar give honor to?
8. Throughout the first eight centuries, why did most people in the world not celebrate the new year?
9. When was the Gregorian Calendar adopted by most of the Western world?
10. How do people of various Christian faiths celebrate the new year religiously?
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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