"Annie Oakley Festival Celebrates 50 Years"

Dantes' Bullwhips
The Confederacy of Dunces is Back

Bullwhips are no longer allowed on Washington State's Olympic College campus after an email complaint from a professor about 'the historical use of whips and their meaning to her as well as other students.'

The student newspaper's story,"Bullwhip controversy inspires a forum," can be seen at http://www.ocolympian.com/news/article_28654240-919d-11e2-b471-0019bb30f31a.html#.UUuDAGySGLk.

In short, student Jason Harris would sometimes crack a bullwhip on campus as a hobby -- until professor Karen Bolton sent out an email saying that, as a person of color, she felt offended by the recreational practice because of the historical context of the whip and itís (sic) origins in slavery.

A public forum on the issue, attended by OCís President Dr. David Mitchell, gave students, staff and instructors the chance to share their feelings about bullwhips, both as dangerous weapons and from their racial standpoint in relation to Bolton's email. (I do not know if any whip experts were present at this discussion.)

Reading this, I could not believe that in this day and age, such ignorance and prejudice could rule at an institution of higher learning.

I tried to see the issue from Professor Bolton's perspective. A few weeks ago, I watched a TV special about "Roots." In one scene, a black slave was beaten with a bullwhip wielded by another black slave under the watchful eye of a white overseer.

It is a wrenching scene emotionally, but it was theater. The whip technique was wretched, with the vicious cracks obviously added in a "sweetening" session in the editing room.

This 30-second scene was not intended to be a history lesson about bullwhips, or it would have discussed the physics of the apatosaurus' tail, the whips found buried with Neanderthal hunters, the whips drawn on the walls of the pyramids as symbolic of royal power. It also did not note the significance of whips in Australian culture, where children take part in contests at county fairs, vying for honors that recognize their skill and artistry in whip routines. It certainly did not address the growing feeling among many whip crackers around the world that the day is nearing when whip cracking will have a place in future Olympics.

Consequently, I wrote this letter to the student newspaper's editor, Allysen Dyrness:

Is this story for real or is it an early April Fool joke?
I am astounded, because Washington is home to David Morgan, the internationally renowned maker of the whips used in the Indiana Jones films, and home to Restita de Jesus, founder of the Snapdragon Whip Enthusiasts, a respected organization in the world of martial arts. It just goes to show, I guess.
Personally, I had no idea that my entertaining and exciting bullwhip shows are only echoes of historical oppression -- and apparently, neither have my audiences over the years.
Respectfully yours,
 -Robert Dante-
 3- time Guinness World Record holder (Most bullwhip cracks in one minute)
 Author of "Let's Get Cracking! The How-To Book of Bullwhip Skills"
 Professional bullwhip artist and teacher

 A few days later, I received this reply from Ms. Dyrness:

 Dear Robert,
 My name is Ally Dyrness and I am an editor of The Olympian. This is indeed a true story and is a topic which is still being discussed. If you would care to share your view on the situation we would love to hear it and I am sure we could set up an interview. Let us know what time works for you and we will see what we can do about it.
 Thank you for your time and concern,
 Ally Dyrness

 
After a bit of thought, I replied:

Dear Ally,

 Thank you for your invitation to comment. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your note to David Morgan and Restita de Jesus, noted below. I am on the road this week and I am not able to sit down with a phone until this weekend. I imagine you are on a deadline, so you are welcome to reprint my original letter (also below) and/or to speak with these other two whip experts who live in your area.

 I am sure that one or the other would be happy to speak with you shortly.

 Respectfully yours,

 -Robert Dante-

Whether coincidentally or not, a few hours later, I got this note from Jason Harris:

Mr. Dante,
 
I wanted to thank you for something that you did for me - you spoke up about the Bull Whip fiasco that happened at a Washington State College (I was the individual involved in the ruckus). I was shown the E-mail that you sent in about the incident, and was honored that you took the time to speak up about it.

Thank you again, Mr. Dante; it meant a lot to me.
 
~Jason Harris

 

I think Jason Harris has handled himself well in this matter. While we may not have control over a situation (even when it is unfair), we still have control over our reactions. And that, in turn, gives us control over the situation. In this entire ridiculous matter, he has shown himself to be a class act.

Under the guise of political correctness, what we have here is a confederacy of dunces, as Jonathan Swift wrote: "When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him."

So that's my say. If you'd like to toss your own two cents into the pot, write to Ally Dyrness, an editor of The Olympian, at olyeditor@olympic.edu.

 

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