Rhodes on sweaters, strange rituals and warnings of war on the anniversary of the Capitol riot

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

The Storming of the Capitol
The Storming of the Capitol

Today is the anniversary of the Capitol storming. You can hardly switch on telly or pick up a newspaper without seeing dire warnings that the United States may be heading for civil war. However, many of those warnings can be traced to a single expert, Professor Barbara Walter, author of How Civil Wars Start: And How To Stop Them, published today.

I can't recall a book being so perfectly timed and creating such a pre-publication furore. Walter undoubtedly possesses historical knowledge and insight. I bet she's got a hell of an agent, too.

It is worrying that US democracy produces divisive presidents like Trump and Biden and does nothing to control weapons. If civil war erupted in the States, there would be no need for any arms smuggling. The US already has about 400 million guns in private hands. God Bless America.

A researcher in Glasgow claims there's a connection between revellers linking arms to welcome the New Year in the song Auld Lang Syne and an old practice of Freemasonry. Singing with arms crossed was apparently a Masonic parting ritual. But other groups have been known to create strange ritualistic circles to invoke power.

I was once a member of a group which would form a circle and imitate canine predators as we pledged allegiance to monarch, deity and our leader. We were called Wolf Cubs and the ritual was the Grand Howl. Do cubs still do it?

In yesterday's gripping column I promised to reveal the connection between the choir of the New York Police Department and Aran sweaters. This conundrum originated in a sparky game of Trivial Pursuit when one answer referred to sweaters being made in the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. Half of our party insisted that Aran wasn't even in Ireland but in Scotland. Time to reach for Google. . .

Turns out that Arran (two Rs) is indeed Scottish, lying in the Firth of Clyde. The Aran Isles (one R), where the sweaters come from, are in the mouth of Galway Bay, and you can't get more Irish than that. The New York connection? In the Christmas hit Fairytale of New York: “The boys of the NYPD choir / Were singing Galway Bay.” One for next year's quiz?

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