How one elderly woman took on Jim Crow in Washington – and Won


Happy New Year everyone!  I wish you all  the happiest  and the most prosperous of new years. 2017 has arrived!

Namaste,

Barbara

How One Elderly Woman Took on Jim Crow in Washington—And Woman

Portrait Of Mary Church Terrell
Library of Congress / Getty ImagesPortrait of a young Mary Church Terrell circa 1890

She launched her case almost six years before Rosa Parks helped start the Montgomery bus boycott and a decade before sit-ins rocked lunch counters across the South

In a city known for iconic buildings, Thompson’s Restaurant was unremarkable. Located a few blocks from the White House, it sat on a commercial corridor: banks, storefronts, streetcar tracks. Inside, it was the kind of place where customers stood in line with their trays, grabbed a slice of cake, and sat down at a table. If they were white, that is.

Mary Church Terrell, an 86-year-old charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was not white. Born in 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation, she was the daughter of former slaves. She was also an 1884 graduate of Oberlin College, a suffragist, and a veteran activist for civil rights. On January 27, 1950, she had lived in Washington, D.C. for sixty years.

At roughly 2:45 p.m., Terrell walked through Thompson’s double glass doors. With her were three hand-picked compatriots: Geneva Brown and the Rev. William H. Jernagin, who were African American activists, and David H. Scull, a white Quaker. Collectively, none of them made it to the dining area. The manager, Levin Ange, stepped in front of Jernagin and refused to serve him because he was “colored.”

Elsewhere in Washington, President Harry S. Truman was leading a worldwide crusade for democracy. The manager of Thompson’s, however, was invoking the decades-old logic of Jim Crow, with its architecture of racial inferiority. That outlook, Terrell knew, was a liability in foreign affairs, especially when Washington restaurants refused to serve dark-skinned diplomatic envoys, treating them as if they were American blacks. She had no intention of backing down.

“Do you mean to tell me that you are not going to serve me?”

The manager apologized, saying it was not his fault; it was his company’s policy not to serve Negroes. Terrell, who had once considered training as an attorney, flipped into cross-examination. Was Washington in the United States? she asked the manager. Did the Constitution apply there?

“We don’t vote here,” replied Ange.

Though refused entry, Terrell had gotten what she came for. Thompson’s had violated Reconstruction-era ordinances barring Washington restaurants from discriminating by race. Now she could go to court. And by challenging Thompson’s in the capital, she could upend the edifice of separate-but-equal. That’s because the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld Louisiana’s segregated railway cars, used as a rationale congressional mandates requiring segregated Washington schools: if Congress, which had jurisdiction over Washington, could require segregated schools in the capital, Louisiana could segregate train passengers. Terrell had her cause and her fight.

It was no coincidence, however, that Thompson unfolded in the nation’s capital, with its tangled history on race, or that the Court used Thompson to relay a signal about the demise of separate-but-equal. Carved from the slaveholding states of Maryland and Virginia, Washington coexisted with the slave trade until 1850. Only on April 16, 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln emancipated Washington’s 3,100 slaves (nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation liberated them in the Confederacy) did the capital rid itself of slavery. Racial prejudice was another matter.

Still, Washington was not always a Jim Crow town. During Reconstruction, black men in Washington enjoyed full citizenship and voting rights, like white men. Beginning in 1869, the capital’s lawmakers enacted antidiscrimination laws, banning restaurants from discrimination based on race or color, ordinances that were still on the books when Terrell had tried to eat at Thompson’s. By 1878, though, as Reconstruction ended, Congress had dismantled Washington’s local representative government and stripped all residents – black and white – of voting rights. Washington became the equivalent of a federal possession, ruled by presidentially appointed commissioners.

Over time, the Reconstruction-era ordinances fell out of fashion and into disuse, especially after 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson’s administration segregated the federal workforce. In 1950, black and white Washingtonians had long gone to separate playgrounds, restaurants and movie theaters. With the NAACP mainly focused on school desegregation, the capital might have stayed that way.

But it didn’t, because of Mary Church Terrell. What she started inside Thompson’s on January 27, 1950 was a conflict more than a century in the making. It was a challenge to the central hypocrisy in American democracy: the clash between the nation’s professed belief in equality and its practice of subjugating blacks. As postwar activists like Terrell knew, that tension resonated in the nation’s capital, the symbolic headquarters of American democracy.

Terrell’s battle would engage the nation’s attention in the years ahead, when legal proceedings in the Supreme Court would alter the country profoundly. It was both a local affair—a particular cafeteria on a downtown Washington street refusing to serve an elderly black woman—and a national one, with repercussions outside the capital, across the South, and beyond. After World War II, Washington was not just another southern town; it had become the focus of the world.

Mary Church Terrell’s story had roots in slavery and spanned civil rights from the Emancipation Proclamation to Brown. Her case against Thompson’s helped usher in Brown and school integration, impelling a fractured Court to confront segregation at its threshold. An almost ninety-year-old African American woman had brought change to the nation’s capital, and it was irreversible.

Oxford University Press

Adapted from Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital by Joan Quigley with permission from Oxford University Press USA. Copyright © Oxford University Press, 2016 and published by Oxford University Press USA. All rights reserved.

3 Genocides Erased from Western history


 

I am old enough that I remember the Chinese Genocide. I read a lot and I thought a lot. But today I don’t want to scare anyone but to remind us all that men and women who run governments are capable of killing their own citizens for power, greed, and money. If you have listened to any of the American election rhetoric, you  know candidates don’t always say what they mean but what they think think citizens want to hear. It is a concept as old as time.

 

The key to having power and money is not having people who are different. They should not look different or act different. They should not think for themselves. Citizens should not band together and create fraternal orders or unions. They should not be educated too much, just enough to do what is required of them. They should also have no or little to say in the government. It is the government of the leaders, and not the people.

 

With every life which is ended in Genocide, we, the human family, potentially lose great musicians, the cure for cancer, the next great art movement. We lose the scientist who may have been more intelligent than Einstein. We may loose the mathematician who invents flying cars or the biologist who figures out how to raise enough food to feed every person on the planet. We will never know what all the genocides have robbed from the family of  man.

 

What is important now is to be informed. If the media isn’t discussing something, get a book, look it up on the internet or ask someone who does know. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can lead to war and genocide and the marginalization of human beings.  If you think you are being lied to by your government, investigate. George W. Bush told us we had to go to war with Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq did not. Bush started his Presidency in the black. We had extra money and he left the White House terribly in debt. A debt President Obama  has been working to whittle down. Humans often try to change history to make certain acts and/or misdeeds more palatable. Be aware, look for the truth. Speak up when you know that the text books are not exactly telling the truth.

 

Namaste

Barbara

 

BJSquiggel

 

 

A chart of the genocides the world has endured and their severity

A chart of the genocides the world has endured and their severity

 

History tells us what may happen next with Brexit and Trump


Buchenwald survivors

Buchenwald survivors

In the four and a half years I have blogged, I have mentioned my grandfather and how, while I was a child, he taught me to never forget the past. For those who don’t know me well, he immigrated here from Croatia. He said they would be Americans now. He became a tool and dye maker and worked throughout the depression. He spoke English without any accent. I was 22 years old when he died.

 

He taught me to remember the past because if we didn’t it would happen again. I was nine when he first mentioned the Holocaust. I listened. He explained the camps to me. He taught me to respect other people and their customs. He bought me a book of black and white pictures of the carnage the Allies found when they freed the camps. I can still close my eyes and see those walking naked skeletons. I didn’t scar me; it made me care about others. It helped me emphasize with their pain. He gave me the desire to help make the world a better place. He taught me that evil can come in beautiful packaging.

 

I found this article and almost cried because he says many of the things grandpa used to say to me. So I am going to let you hear them now. Because history is lining up to repeat itself and we need to know how to prevent it or at least to fight it.

 

Namaste

Barbara

 

 

BJSquiggel

History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump

 by Tobias Stone, on Medium.com
La Peste di Firenze

It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals. I am sketching out here opinions based on information, they may prove right, or may prove wrong, and they’re intended just to challenge and be part of a wider dialogue.

My background is archaeology, so also history and anthropology. It leads me to look at big historical patterns. My theory is that most peoples’ perspective of history is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and grandparents, so 50–100 years. To go beyond that you have to read, study, and learn to untangle the propaganda that is inevitable in all telling of history. In a nutshell, at university I would fail a paper if I didn’t compare at least two, if not three opposing views on a topic. Taking one telling of events as gospel doesn’t wash in the comparative analytical method of research that forms the core of British academia. (I can’t speak for other systems, but they’re definitely not all alike in this way).

So zooming out, we humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another. This handy list shows all the wars over time. Wars are actually the norm for humans, but every now and then something big comes along. I am interested in the Black Death, which devastated Europe. The opening of Boccaccio’s Decameron describes Florence in the grips of the Plague. It is as beyond imagination as the Somme, Hiroshima, or the Holocaust. I mean, you quite literally can’t put yourself there and imagine what it was like. For those in the midst of the Plague it must have felt like the end of the world.

But a defining feature of humans is their resilience. To us now it seems obvious that we survived the Plague, but to people at the time it must have seemed incredible that their society continued afterwards. Indeed, many takes on the effects of the Black Death are that it had a positive impact in the long term. Well summed up here: “By targeting frail people of all ages, and killing them by the hundreds of thousands within an extremely short period of time, the Black Death might have represented a strong force of natural selection and removed the weakest individuals on a very broad scale within Europe,“ …In addition, the Black Death significantly changed the social structure of some European regions. Tragic depopulation created the shortage of working people. This shortage caused wages to rise. Products prices fell too. Consequently, standards of living increased. For instance, people started to consume more food of higher quality.”

But for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it. The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape.

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of theassassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving. See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America. Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening. Read this brilliant, long essay in the New York magazine to understand how Plato described all this, and it is happening just as he predicted. Trump says he will Make America Great Again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics. He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did — a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself. You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.

On a wider stage, zoom out some more, Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself. Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.

We should be asking ourselves what our Archduke Ferdinand moment will be. How will an apparently small event trigger another period of massive destruction. We see Brexit, Trump, Putin in isolation. The world does not work that way — all things are connected and affecting each other. I have pro-Brexit friends who say ‘oh, you’re going to blame that on Brexit too??’ But they don’t realise that actually, yes, historians will trace neat lines from apparently unrelated events back to major political and social shifts like Brexit.

Brexit — a group of angry people winning a fight — easily inspires other groups of angry people to start a similar fight, empowered with the idea that they may win. That alone can trigger chain reactions. A nuclear explosion is not caused by one atom splitting, but by the impact of the first atom that splits causing multiple other atoms near it to split, and they in turn causing multiple atoms to split. The exponential increase in atoms splitting, and their combined energy is the bomb. That is how World War One started and, ironically how World War Two ended.

An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this:

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions. European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honour

NATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia). Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. He annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action. Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into Eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does ISIS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?

This is just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one.

It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it. Historians will look back and make sense of it all and wonder how we could all have been so naïve. How could I sit in a nice café in London, writing this, without wanting to run away. How could people read it and make sarcastic and dismissive comments about how pro-Remain people should stop whining, and how we shouldn’t blame everything on Brexit. Others will read this and sneer at me for saying America is in great shape, that Trump is a possible future Hitler (and yes, Godwin’s Law. But my comparison is to another narcissistic, charismatic leader fanning flames of hatred until things spiral out of control). It’s easy to jump to conclusions that oppose pessimistic predictions based on the weight of history and learning. Trump won against the other Republicans in debates by countering their claims by calling them names and dismissing them. It’s an easy route but the wrong one.

Ignoring and mocking the experts , as people are doing around Brexit and Trump’s campaign, is no different to ignoring a doctor who tells you to stop smoking, and then finding later you’ve developed incurable cancer. A little thing leads to an unstoppable destruction that could have been prevented if you’d listened and thought a bit. But people smoke, and people die from it. That is the way of the human.

So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on. The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end — for the thousands of Turkish teachers who just got fired, for the Turkish journalists and lawyers in prison, for the Russian dissidents in gulags, for people lying wounded in French hospitals after terrorist attacks, for those yet to fall, this will be their Somme.

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves. We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear. Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

(Perhaps I’m just writing this so I can be remembered by history as one of the people who saw it coming.)

Why the 4th of July Does Belong to Slaves


 From the Daily Beast, by Alan Gilbert

 Blackguy with flag

As we know all too well, the Revolutionary War was not fought so that all men could be free, but its role in creating the seeds of abolition should not be forgotten.

A central myth of American history teaching is that the American Revolution was fought for the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” of each person. By each, Jefferson sadly meant mainly white farmers. This patriotic myth—what I call a Founding Amnesia—drove Frederick Douglass, in 1852, to declare that the Fourth of July was not for slaves. 

But perhaps in contrast to its long history of racist exclusion, the Daughters of the American Revolution should first honor black Patriots. As Georg Daniel Flohr, a German private who fought at the decisive battle Yorktown with the French Royal Deux-Ponts for the Patriots, noted while walking around the field of battle the next day: “all over the place and wherever you looked, corpses… lying about that had not been buried; the larger part of these were Mohren [Moors, blacks].”

And as I emphasize in Black Patriots and Loyalists (2012), the acme of freedom in the American Revolution was the gradual emancipation of slaves in Vermont (not yet a state) in 1777, in Pennsylvania in 1780, in Massachusetts in 1782, in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784, in New York in 1799, and in New Jersey in 1804. If we ask the central question in American history: how did there come to be a free North to oppose bondage in the Civil War, the answer is, surprisingly: gradual emancipation during and just after the American Revolution. Thus, black Patriots and their white abolitionist allies played a central, undiscussed role both in battle and in the deepening of American freedom.

Finally, why did the man believed to be the first martyr of the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave of black and Native American parentage who became a sailor, fiercely take on the Redcoats in the Boston Massacre? Attucks is part of a complex history that reveals how much the Revolutionary War and the Fourth of July are a day that belongs to African Americans.

1.  The violent fight against Imperial press-gangs

The first part of this story is the emergence of a violent revolutionary movement of self-defense among sailors in the 18th century. The Imperial Navy needed bodies for its expanding empire. But the crown had never relied on volunteers. Instead, it sent armed gangs to kidnap people at sea or in the street. But people did not go willingly. All around the Atlantic—in Antigua, Jamaica, Halifax, and Boston, for example—there were 604 uprisings against these royal gangs in the 18th century. 

Sailors often defended themselves with pikes or muskets. Soldiers and sailors were killed in such raids.

The greatest of these uprisings was a three day battle in Boston against Admiral Knowles’s gangs in 1746. In the Independent Advertiser in 1747, Sam Adams wrote that multiracial, multinational movement against press-gangs was a driving force in making a free regime: “All Men are by nature on a Level: born with an equal Share of Freedom, and endow’d with Capacities nearly alike.”

Whole communities rebelled against the gangs. Women, left behind, were called “Impressment widows.” Mary Jones, an Irish teenager, and her children starved after her husband was taken during the Falklands war scare of 1770. Mary was arrested for shoplifting a small piece of muslin.  Suckling one of her children even as the noose was put around her neck, she was hung. British “law” meant hanging and it was used depravedly against the poor. And in the colonies, it was worse.

Merchants and members of the Boston House of Representatives feared revolutionary crowds. They denounced “a tumultuous riotous assembling of armed Seamen, Servants, Negroes, and others… tending to the Destruction of all Government and Order.” The phrase, “Armed Seaman, Servants, Negroes, and others” became almost a formula in such denunciations. They would be echoed by many later historians.

But a vast, Atlantic-wide succession of rebellions against Impressment was the key feature of the run up to the Revolution. These rebellions mobilized sailors against the crown, motivated them to participate vigorously in other demonstrations about taxes, and taught them, their relatives and communities, in Lockean terms, the need for violent self-defense. In America, press-gangs made revolutionaries.

Now black escapees, like Crispus Attucks, often found freedom at sea. Sailors, notably blacks, would lead revolutionary crowds against press-gangs and other abuses.

In 1760 in Jamaica, Tacky’s Rebellion, the largest uprising against bondage until that time, lasted for 4 months. Between 1760 and 1775, the outbreak of the American Revolution, some 20 slave uprisings took place in Bermuda, Nevis, Surinam, British Honduras, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Vincent, Tobago, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts.

Seized without compensation, forced to abandon their families, sailors on British ships often identified with slaves. They took the word to London and Boston. In 1760, J. Philmore talked with mariners on London docks, and wrote the memorable Two Dialogues concerning the Man-Trade. In the broad abolitionist movement in England and America, Philmore’s 1760 pamphlet marks the most thorough transition politically from fighting for the basic “rights of an Englishman” to natural, universal or what we name today humanrights. Unlike non-abolitionist authors, Philmore replaces the commonly labeled “slave trade”—a pro-bondage appellation which falsely legitimizes owners, merchants, and hunters—with the shocking but true name: the Man-trade. James Otis wrote a similar pamphlet in Boston. These ideas would be discussed in every poor people’s tavern in the 11 years leading up to the Revolution and shape rank-and-file abolitionism.

Integrated riots against press-gangs marked the pre-Revolutionary period as well as protest against taxes on tea or stamped paper. In Newport in June 1765, 500 “seamen, boys, and Negroes” rioted after five weeks of impressment. In Norfolk in 1767, Captain Jeremiah Morgan retreated, sword in hand, before a mob of armed whites and Negroes. “Good God,” he wrote to the governor, “was your Honour and I to prosecute all the Rioters that attacked us belonging to Norfolk there would not be twenty left unhang’d belonging to the Toun.” According to Thomas Hutchinson, the Liberty Riot in Boston in I768 was as much against impressment as against the seizure of John Hancock’s sloop. To understand this militancy, we might say that a second and deeper emancipatory revolution against bondage surged from the Caribbean via sailors into the U.S. and London, and shaped the revolution for independence from Britain.

In 1776, the crown authorized large numbers of press warrants in London for bodies to fight the American Revolution. But sailors, armed, marched together “having resolved to oppose any violence that might be done to them, and rather die than assist the Royalists in shedding the Blood of their American Brethren.” This was a startling example of democratic solidarity or internationalism from below, anti-patriotic, despising the Royalists’ haughty colonialism.     

2.  Lord Dunmore’s Proclamations and massive black Toryism

Freedom for blacks did not come about initially on the side of those who opposed the British. From 1772 on, Royal Governor Dunmore of Virginia had threatened rebellious Patriots. “It is my fixed purpose,” he said, “to arm my own Negroes and accept all others whom I shall declare free… and I shall not hesitate at reducing [Patriots’] houses to ashes and spreading destruction wherever I can reach.” By the time he issued his Proclamation on Nov. 7, 1775, thousands of blacks had flocked to the British side to join his Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Because of Dunmore and the High Court’s 1772 Somersett decision that bondage was outlawed on English soil, the Southern states seceded from Britain to preserve slavery. In his 1775 “Taxation not Tyranny,” Samuel Johnson, the great English essayist, rightly quipped: “How come we hear the greatest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”

But Dunmore’s black troops suffered smallpox; he was eventually forced to retreat to Manhattan. One of his soldiers, Titus, however, became Captain Tye, the leader of successful multiracial guerrillas operating in New Jersey. In addition, every English commander recruited blacks. And thousands of the unorganized followed every command, gradually being recruited to become soldiers or pursue jobs around the camps.  

In 1779, the commander of British forces in the colonies, Sir Henry Clinton, issued a Proclamation welcoming  blacks in any occupation. A huge number of escapees, perhaps 40,000, ultimately joined the Loyalists; many became regular troops, including at Yorktown. Britain did not have so many Redcoats in America so they had to rely on black troops. In 1781, Murphy Steele, a Black Pioneer, reported a vision to an aide of Sir Henry Clinton. A voice had come to him—God’s voice, he said—telling him to tell Clinton to tell General Washington that he must surrender or Clinton would recruit every black man in America to fight. Steele’s was wise strategic advice. But Clinton did not listen.

Before the Civil War, American abolitionist authors did not discuss the central role of the Empire as the freer of the most oppressed for fear of being thought unpatriotic. Afterward, this matter has long been eschewed as, in Gary Nash’s apt phrase, “the revolution’s dirty secret.”

3.  Black Patriots as the best American soldiers

Free blacks and slaves fought in every American battle. Initially, George Washington sought to discourage black recruitment. But he soon realized that Lord Dunmore’s strength might grow against him, “like a snowball in rolling,” and become an avalanche. It was thus military competition which produced a major impetus to recruit black Patriots.

In 1778, Governor James Mitchell Varnum of Rhode Island wrote to Washington that he could not find enough recruits among whites and wanted to form a black regiment. Washington agreed. Promising to purchase the freedom of black volunteers, the governor formed the First Rhode Island Regiment of some 250 blacks and Narragansett Indians. Most militiamen fought for only nine months. In contrast, these Rhode Island soldiers, who did not desert or were not killed, fought for five years. They became, as Baron von Closen, Washington’s advisor, observed in the march to Yorktown in 1781, “the most neatly dressed,the best under arms and the most precise in maneuvers” among Patriot soldiers. Another black unit was recruited in Connecticut and another in Massachusetts. According to von Closen, these composed one-quarter of the American forces at Yorktown.

In 1855, the black abolitionist Henry Nell reported in his Colored Patriots of the American Revolution that 5,000 African-American soldiers fought for the Patriots. This number has been echoed by American historians ever since. But multiracial protest has finally forced the Daughters of the American Revolution, hesitantly, to count. In their 2008 Forgotten Patriots, Brianna L. Diaz and Hollis L. Gentry list by name 6,600 black and indigenous soldiers. Their dedication is to known and unknown nonwhite Patriots. With more research, this number will increase.

4.  That genuine freedom is freedom for all

The revolutionary struggle in the United States was led by sailors and artisans, black and white, slave and free. It produced gradual emancipation in the North. It also inspired a deeper sense of liberty from below. For instance, General Washington had promised farmer recruits that their lands would be there when they returned. But soldiers from the Northeast came back to find their farms threatened with seizure for debt by banks. Led by Captain Daniel Shays, they rebelled in 1786-87.

These soldier-farmers of Western Massachusetts also protested the Constitution because it sanctioned bondage. Here are the words of three of these men in The Hampshire Gazette. As Consider Arms (a pseudonym), Malachi Maynard and Samuel Field put it,

Where is the man who under the influence of sober, dispassionate reasoning, and not void of natural affection, can lay his hand upon his heart and say, I am willing my sons and my daughters should be torn from me and doomed to perpetual slavery? We presume that man is not to be found amongst us: And yet we think the consequence is fairly drawn that this is what every man should be able to say who voted for this constitution.”

Their words prefigure John Rawls’s later modeling of an original position in which a moral judgment is one that empathically puts ourselves in the position of “the least advantaged.” The ardor of revolutionary soldiers like John Laurens extended this vision even into South Carolina. The movement that created gradual emancipation in the North would eventually explode bondage and, a century later, segregation in the South. As Black Lives Matter and Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s powerful dissent this June in Utah v. Strieff show, the fight for a decent, multiracial America continues to this moment. The long struggle before, during and after the Revolution on the Patriot side was a great and heroic beginning, and deserves, at last, to be widely known.

Alan Gilbert is John Evans Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and author of Black Patriots and Loyalists; Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence, University of Chicago Press, 2012 and “Slave-gangs, Press-gangs and Emancipation in the American Revolution.” 

H/t Jesse Lemisch, Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh.

 

 

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The Power of Soft Power


Up in Arms
The Power of Soft Power
Sing On!
Healing Art
Punching Above Our Weight
THINK TANK
WELLNESS
PLANET TUFTS
NEWSWIRE
THE BIG DAY
DEPARTMENTS

Up in Arms
THE BATTLE LINES OF TODAY’S DEBATES OVER GUN CONTROL, STAND-YOUR-GROUND LAWS, AND OTHER VIOLENCE-RELATED ISSUES WERE DRAWN CENTURIES AGO BY AMERICA’S EARLY SETTLERS

BY COLIN WOODARD, A91
ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN STAUFFER
Last December, when Adam Lanza stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with a rifle and killed twenty children and six adult staff members, the United States found itself immersed in debates about gun control. Another flash point occurred this July, when George Zimmerman, who saw himself as a guardian of his community, was exonerated in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. That time, talk turned to stand-your-ground laws and the proper use of deadly force. The gun debate was refreshed in September by the shooting deaths of twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard, apparently at the hands of an IT contractor who was mentally ill.

Such episodes remind Americans that our country as a whole is marked by staggering levels of deadly violence. Our death rate from assault is many times higher than that of highly urbanized countries like the Netherlands or Germany, sparsely populated nations with plenty of forests and game hunters like Canada, Sweden, Finland, or New Zealand, and large, populous ones like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. State-sponsored violence, too—in the form of capital punishment—sets our country apart. Last year we executed more than ten times as many prisoners as other advanced industrialized nations combined—not surprising given that Japan is the only other such country that allows the practice. Our violent streak has become almost a part of our national identity.

What’s less well appreciated is how much the incidence of violence, like so many salient issues in American life, varies by region. Beyond a vague awareness that supporters of violent retaliation and easy access to guns are concentrated in the states of the former Confederacy and, to a lesser extent, the western interior, most people cannot tell you much about regional differences on such matters. Our conventional way of defining regions—dividing the country along state boundaries into a Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest—masks the cultural lines along which attitudes toward violence fall. These lines don’t respect state boundaries. To understand violence or practically any other divisive issue, you need to understand historical settlement patterns and the lasting cultural fissures they established.

The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Isles—and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain—each with its own religious, political, and ethnographic traits. For generations, these Euro-American cultures developed in isolation from one another, consolidating their cherished religious and political principles and fundamental values, and expanding across the eastern half of the continent in nearly exclusive settlement bands. Throughout the colonial period and the Early Republic, they saw themselves as competitors—for land, capital, and other settlers—and even as enemies, taking opposing sides in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way.

The precise delineation of the eleven nations—which I have explored at length in my latest book, American Nations—is original to me, but I’m certainly not the first person to observe that such national divisions exist. Kevin Phillips, a Republican Party campaign strategist, recognized the boundaries and values of several of these nations in 1969 and used them to correctly prophesy two decades of American political development in his politico cult classic The Emerging Republican Majority. Joel Garreau, a Washington Post editor, argued that our continent was divided into rival power blocs in The Nine Nations of North America, though his ahistorical approach undermined the identification of the nations. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Hackett Fischer detailed the origins and early evolution of four of these nations in his magisterial Albion’s Seed and later added New France. Russell Shorto described the salient characteristics of New Netherland in The Island at the Center of the World. And the list goes on.

The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps—including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history. Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities, a phenomenon analyzed by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing in The Big Sort (2008). Even waves of immigrants did not fundamentally alter these nations, because the children and grandchildren of immigrants assimilated into whichever culture surrounded them.

Before I describe the nations, I should underscore that my observations refer to the dominant culture, not the individual inhabitants, of each region. In every town, city, and state you’ll likely find a full range of political opinions and social preferences. Even in the reddest of red counties and bluest of blue ones, twenty to forty percent of voters cast ballots for the “wrong” team. It isn’t that residents of one or another nation all think the same, but rather that they are all embedded within a cultural framework of deep-seated preferences and attitudes—each of which a person may like or hate, but has to deal with nonetheless. Because of slavery, the African American experience has been different from that of other settlers and immigrants, but it too has varied by nation, as black people confronted the dominant cultural and institutional norms of each.

The nations are constituted as follows:

YANKEEDOM. Founded on the shores of Massachusetts Bay by radical Calvinists as a new Zion, Yankeedom has, since the outset, put great emphasis on perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good, and assimilation of outsiders. It has prized education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment, and broad citizen participation in politics and government, the latter seen as the public’s shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants. Since the early Puritans, it has been more comfortable with government regulation and public-sector social projects than many of the other nations, who regard the Yankee utopian streak with trepidation.

NEW NETHERLAND. Established by the Dutch at a time when the Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world, New Netherland has always been a global commercial culture—materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience. Like seventeenth-century Amsterdam, it emerged as a center of publishing, trade, and finance, a magnet for immigrants, and a refuge for those persecuted by other regional cultures, from Sephardim in the seventeenth century to gays, feminists, and bohemians in the early twentieth. Unconcerned with great moral questions, it nonetheless has found itself in alliance with Yankeedom to defend public institutions and reject evangelical prescriptions for individual behavior.

THE MIDLANDS. America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in humans’ inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies like Pennsylvania on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German, rather than British, majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention.

TIDEWATER. Built by the younger sons of southern English gentry in the Chesapeake country and neighboring sections of Delaware and North Carolina, Tidewater was meant to reproduce the semifeudal society of the countryside they’d left behind. Standing in for the peasantry were indentured servants and, later, slaves. Tidewater places a high value on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics. It was the most powerful of the American nations in the eighteenth century, but today it is in decline, partly because it was cut off from westward expansion by its boisterous Appalachian neighbors and, more recently, because it has been eaten away by the expanding federal halos around D.C. and Norfolk.

GREATER APPALACHIA. Founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Appalachia has been lampooned by writers and screenwriters as the home of hillbillies and rednecks. It transplanted a culture formed in a state of near constant danger and upheaval, characterized by a warrior ethic and a commitment to personal sovereignty and individual liberty. Intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike, Greater Appalachia has shifted alliances depending on who appeared to be the greatest threat to their freedom. It was with the Union in the Civil War. Since Reconstruction, and especially since the upheavals of the 1960s, it has joined with Deep South to counter federal overrides of local preference.

DEEP SOUTH. Established by English slave lords from Barbados, Deep South was meant as a West Indies–style slave society. This nation offered a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor, and consumer regulations.

EL NORTE. The oldest of the American nations, El Norte consists of the borderlands of the Spanish American empire, which were so far from the seats of power in Mexico City and Madrid that they evolved their own characteristics. Most Americans are aware of El Norte as a place apart, where Hispanic language, culture, and societal norms dominate. But few realize that among Mexicans, norteños have a reputation for being exceptionally independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and focused on work. Long a hotbed of democratic reform and revolutionary settlement, the region encompasses parts of Mexico that have tried to secede in order to form independent buffer states between their mother country and the United States.

THE LEFT COAST. A Chile-shaped nation wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade and Coast mountains, the Left Coast was originally colonized by two groups: New Englanders (merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen who arrived by sea and dominated the towns) and Appalachian midwesterners (farmers, prospectors, and fur traders who generally arrived by wagon and controlled the countryside). Yankee missionaries tried to make it a “New England on the Pacific,” but were only partially successful. Left Coast culture is a hybrid of Yankee utopianism and Appalachian self-expression and exploration—traits recognizable in its cultural production, from the Summer of Love to the iPad. The staunchest ally of Yankeedom, it clashes with Far Western sections in the interior of its home states.

THE FAR WEST. The other “second-generation” nation, the Far West occupies the one part of the continent shaped more by environmental factors than ethnographic ones. High, dry, and remote, the Far West stopped migrating easterners in their tracks, and most of it could be made habitable only with the deployment of vast industrial resources: railroads, heavy mining equipment, ore smelters, dams, and irrigation systems. As a result, settlement was largely directed by corporations headquartered in distant New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, or by the federal government, which controlled much of the land. The Far West’s people are often resentful of their dependent status, feeling that they have been exploited as an internal colony for the benefit of the seaboard nations. Their senators led the fight against trusts in the mid-twentieth century. Of late, Far Westerners have focused their anger on the federal government, rather than their corporate masters.

NEW FRANCE. Occupying the New Orleans area and southeastern Canada, New France blends the folkways of ancien régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people they encountered in northwestern North America. After a long history of imperial oppression, its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy. The New French influence is manifest in Canada, where multiculturalism and negotiated consensus are treasured.

FIRST NATION. First Nation is populated by native American groups that generally never gave up their land by treaty and have largely retained cultural practices and knowledge that allow them to survive in this hostile region on their own terms. The nation is now reclaiming its sovereignty, having won considerable autonomy in Alaska and Nunavut and a self-governing nation state in Greenland that stands on the threshold of full independence. Its territory is huge—far larger than the continental United States—but its population is less than 300,000, most of whom live in Canada.

If you understand the United States as a patchwork of separate nations, each with its own origins and prevailing values, you would hardly expect attitudes toward violence to be uniformly distributed. You would instead be prepared to discover that some parts of the country experience more violence, have a greater tolerance for violent solutions to conflict, and are more protective of the instruments of violence than other parts of the country. That is exactly what the data on violence reveal about the modern United States.

Most scholarly research on violence has collected data at the state level, rather than the county level (where the boundaries of the eleven nations are delineated). Still, the trends are clear. The same handful of nations show up again and again at the top and the bottom of state-level figures on deadly violence, capital punishment, and promotion of gun ownership.

Consider assault deaths. Kieran Healy, a Duke University sociologist, broke down the per capita, age-adjusted deadly assault rate for 2010. In the northeastern states—almost entirely dominated by Yankeedom, New Netherland, and the Midlands—just over 4 people per 100,000 died in assaults. By contrast, southern states—largely monopolized by Deep South, Tidewater, and Greater Appalachia—had a rate of more than 7 per 100,000. The three deadliest states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where the rate of killings topped 10 per 100,000—were all in Deep South territory. Meanwhile, the three safest states—New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota, with rates of about 2 killings per 100,000—were all part of Yankeedom.

Not surprisingly, black Americans have it worse than whites. Countrywide, according to Healy, blacks die from assaults at the bewildering rate of about 20 per 100,000, while the rate for whites is less than 6. But does that mean racial differences might be skewing the homicide data for nations with larger African-American populations? Apparently not. A classic 1993 study by the social psychologist Richard Nisbett, of the University of Michigan, found that homicide rates in small predominantly white cities were three times higher in the South than in New England. Nisbett and a colleague, Andrew Reaves, went on to show that southern rural counties had white homicide rates more than four times those of counties in New England, Middle Atlantic, and Midwestern states.

Stand-your-ground laws are another dividing line between American nations. Such laws waive a citizen’s duty to try and retreat from a threatening individual before killing the person. Of the twenty-three states to pass stand-your-ground laws, only one, New Hampshire, is part of Yankeedom, and only one, Illinois, is in the Midlands. By contrast, each of the six Deep South–dominated states has passed such a law, and almost all the other states with similar laws are in the Far West or Greater Appalachia.

Comparable schisms show up in the gun control debate. In 2011, after the mass shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others in Tucson, the Pew Research Center asked Americans what was more important, protecting gun ownership or controlling it. The Yankee states of New England went for gun control by a margin of sixty-one to thirty-six, while those in the poll’s “southeast central” region—the Deep South states of Alabama and Mississippi and the Appalachian states of Tennessee and Kentucky—supported gun rights by exactly the same margin. Far Western states backed gun rights by a proportion of fifty-nine to thirty-eight.

Another revealing moment came this past April, in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, when the U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill to close loopholes in federal background checks for would-be gun owners. In the six states dominated by Deep South, the vote was twelve to two against the measure, and most of the Far West and Appalachia followed suit. But Yankee New England voted eleven to one in favor, and the dissenting vote, from Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, was so unpopular in her home state that it caused an immediate dip in her approval rating.

The pattern for capital punishment laws is equally stark. The states dominated by Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater, and the Far West have had a virtual monopoly on capital punishment. They account for more than ninety-five percent of the 1,343 executions in the United States since 1976. In the same period, the twelve states definitively controlled by Yankeedom and New Netherland—states that account for almost a quarter of the U.S. population—have executed just one person.

Why is violence—state-sponsored and otherwise—so much more prevalent in some American nations than in others? It all goes back to who settled those regions and where they came from. Nisbett, the social psychologist, noted that regions initially “settled by sober Puritans, Quakers, and Dutch farmer-artisans”—that is, Yankeedom, the Midlands, and New Netherland—were organized around a yeoman agricultural economy that rewarded “quiet, cooperative citizenship, with each individual being capable of uniting for the common good.” The South—and by this he meant the nations I call Tidewater and Deep South—was settled by “swashbuckling Cavaliers of noble or landed gentry status, who took their values . . . from the knightly, medieval standards of manly honor and virtue.”

Continuing to treat the South as a single entity, Nisbett argued that the violent streak in the culture the Cavaliers established was intensified by the “major subsequent wave of immigration . . . from the borderlands of Scotland and Ireland.” These immigrants, who populated what I call Greater Appalachia, came from “an economy based on herding,” which, as anthropologists have shown, predisposes people to belligerent stances because the animals on which their wealth depends are so vulnerable to theft. Drawing on the work of the historian David Hackett Fisher, Nisbett maintained that “southern” violence stems partly from a “culture-of-honor tradition,” in which males are raised to create reputations for ferocity—as a deterrent to rustling—rather than relying on official legal intervention.

More recently, researchers have begun to probe beyond state boundaries to distinguish among different cultural streams. Robert Baller of the University of Iowa and two colleagues looked at late-twentieth-century white male “argument-related” homicide rates, comparing those in counties that, in 1850, were dominated by Scots-Irish settlers with those in other parts of the “Old South.” In other words, they teased out the rates at which white men killed each other in feuds and compared those for Greater Appalachia with those for Deep South and Tidewater. The result: Appalachian areas had significantly higher homicide rates than their lowland neighbors—“findings [that] are supportive of theoretical claims about the role of herding as the ecological underpinning of a code of honor.”

Another researcher, Pauline Grosjean, an economist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, found strong statistical relationships between the presence of Scots-Irish settlers in the 1790 census and contemporary homicide rates, but only in “southern” areas “where the institutional environment was weak”—which is the case in almost the entirety of Greater Appalachia. She further noted that in areas where Scots-Irish were dominant, settlers of other ethnic origins—Dutch, French, and German—were also more violent, suggesting that they had acculturated to Appalachian norms.

But it’s not just herding that promoted a culture of violence. Scholars have long recognized that cultures organized around slavery rely on violence to control, punish, and terrorize—which no doubt helps explain the erstwhile prevalence of lynching deaths in Deep South and Tidewater. But it is also significant that both these nations, along with Greater Appalachia, follow religious traditions that sanction eye-for-an-eye justice, and adhere to secular codes that emphasize personal honor and shun governmental authority. As a result, their members have fewer qualms about rushing to lethal judgments.

The code of Yankeedom could not have been more different. Its founders promoted self-doubt and self-restraint, and their Unitarian and Congregational spiritual descendants believed vengeance would not receive the approval of an all-knowing God. This nation was the center of the nineteenth-century death penalty reform movement, which began eliminating capital punishment for burglary, robbery, sodomy, and other nonlethal crimes. None of the states controlled by Yankeedom or New Netherland retain the death penalty today.

With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance.

Among the eleven regional cultures, there are two superpowers, nations with the identity, mission, and numbers to shape continental debate: Yankeedom and Deep South. For more than two hundred years, they’ve fought for control of the federal government and, in a sense, the nation’s soul. Over the decades, Deep South has become strongly allied with Greater Appalachia and Tidewater, and more tenuously with the Far West. Their combined agenda—to slash taxes, regulations, social services, and federal powers—is opposed by a Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast. Other nations, especially the Midlands and El Norte, often hold the swing vote, whether in a presidential election or a congressional battle over health care reform. Those swing nations stand to play a decisive role on violence-related issues as well.

For now, the country will remain split on how best to make its citizens safer, with Deep South and its allies bent on deterrence through armament and the threat of capital punishment, and Yankeedom and its allies determined to bring peace through constraints such as gun control. The deadlock will persist until one of these camps modifies its message and policy platform to draw in the swing nations. Only then can that camp seize full control over the levers of federal power—the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof Senate majority—to force its will on the opposing nations. Until then, expect continuing frustration and division.

Colin Woodard, A91, is the author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. An earlier book, The Republic of Pirates, is the basis of the forthcoming NBC drama Crossbones. He is currently state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, where he won a George Polk Award this year for his investigative reporting.

 

 

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Dear Future Generations


 

Oh God of all, at this time of our gradual awakening to the dangers we are imposing on our beautiful Earth, open the hearts and minds of all your children, that we may learn to nurture rather than destroy our planet. Amen.

                                                        —Lorraine R. Schmitz

 

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They become more beautiful with the years, wizened, bent but not broken.

Trees become more beautiful with the years, wizened, bent but not broken.

 

“Let there be peace, welfare and righteousness

in every part of the world.

 

Let confidence and friendship prevail

for the good of east and west

for the good of the needy south

for the good of all humanity.

 

Let the people inspire their leaders

helping them to seek peace by peaceful means

helping them and urging them

to build a better world

a world with a home for everybody

a world with food and work for everybody

a world with spiritual freedom

for everybody.

 

Let those who have the power of money

be motivated by selfless compassion.

Let money become a tool

for the good of mankind.

 

Let those who have power

deal respectfully with the resources of the planet.

Let them respect and maintain

the purity of the air, water, land and subsoil.

Let them co-operate to restore

the ecological soundness of Mother Earth.

 

Let trees grow up by the billions

around the world.

Let green life invade the deserts.

 

Let industry serve humanity

and produce waste that serves nature.

 

Let technology respect

the holiness of Mother Earth.

 

Let those who control the mass media

contribute to create mutual understanding

contribute to create optimism and confidence.

 

Let ordinary people

Meet by the millions across the borders.

Let them create a universal network of love and friendship.

 

Let billions of human beings

co-0perate to create a good future

for their children and grandchildren.

 

Let us survive

In peace and harmony with Mother Earth.”

                     —Hagen Hasselbalch

 

Because we, Americans are in an election cycle, we must consider all the things that a President will have influence over or control over. War or peace. Jobs or homelessness. Green spaces around our cities breathing air we desperately need or going outside with masks over our noses and mouths. This person will have a do it my way or the highway attitude or will exhibit compassion and gentleness for the peoples who are refugees around the world. This person will enforce the precepts that our Founding Fathers formed this “great experiment” upon or they will trod all over the rights and acts which our nation was founded upon. We will have free speech or we will become a totalitarian government. We will do as we are told or we will have another Civil War.

Whomever is elected will be watched. Not just by “We the people” but by history. History will tell the truth. It may not be what is taught in our schools in the next couple of generations but the truth is what history will demonstrate in the long haul. Fellow Americans, I ask only two things during this election cycle. First, get out and vote. It is a right and it is a responsibility. If your candidate is not still in the running, vote for whomever is going to be the best or do the least damage to America. You still have choices. I, myself, have voted for the other party when the candidate my party put forth wasn’t the best choice. Second, don’t be afraid to vote for the candidate who beats their competitor. To be blunt, if you are for Sanders, and Hillary is the nominee, don’t vote for Trump in your anger. If the FBI really had all the evidence against Hillary they say they have, she would have been arrested by now. She has not been. If you think money has bought her freedom, then surely money bought Trump his victories. Which candidate will save our trees, water, stop fracking, clean up the air, stop dumping waste into our rivers and lakes and into our oceans and seas. Do you know we are about to lose our Great Barrier Reef? It is true.

 

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A recently released report revealed a heart wrenching discovery about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that at least 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef suffers from coral bleaching.

The bleaching phenomenon occurs when corals are stressed by high water temperatures or other causes. Severe bleaching could lead to the death of corals.

The task force surveyed 911 coral reefs by air and the accuracy of the researchers initial aerial surveys have been confirmed by scientific divers who are continuing to measure the impact of the bleaching. Dive teams have already discovered about 50 percent coral death.

“We have now flown over 911 individual reefs in a helicopter and light plane, to map out the extent and severity of bleaching along the full 2300 km length of the Great Barrier Reef. Of all the reefs we surveyed, only 7% (68 reefs) have escaped bleaching entirely. At the other end of the spectrum, between 60 and 100% of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef,” Professor Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University said in a statement.

Hughes tweeted a map showing the results of the bleaching that hit the northern parts of the reef hardest:

See image of the Great Barrier Reef below:

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Namaste,

Barbara

 

Our trees have stood over us, protecting us for hundreds of generations.

Our trees have stood over us, protecting us for hundreds of generations.

I’m Glad People Don’t Run Around Naked Anymore…


There’s a cynical view that Valentine’s Day was started as a conspiracy between the candy, flower and greeting card industries to force people to spend money and act ‘romantic’.  Turns out, that’s wrong!  The origins of Valentine’s Day…like so many other holidays…goes back to pagan times.

Read on:

The Origin of Valentine’s Day

MATT BLITZ (from todayifoundout.com)

valentines-day-candyWhile not thoughtto be directly related to modern Valentine’s Day traditions, the beginnings of celebrating love (of a sort) in February date back to the Romans. The feast of Lupercalia was a pagan fertility and health festival, observed from February 13th through the 15th, thatwas celebrated at least as far back as 44 BCE (the year Julius Caesarwas assassinated). Some historians believe it goes back even further, though with possibly a different name.Connected to the Roman god Lupercus, (the equivalent to the Greek god Pan), the festival was originally supposedto be about shepherds and bringing health and fertility to their sheep and cows. When it became more ingrained into Roman culture, it additionally celebratedLupa (also another possible reason itis named what it is), the she-wolf who nursed the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, to health. Religious offerings happened at the cave on Palatine Hill, the place where Romewas thoughtto be founded.The ceremonies were filled with animal sacrifices, the wearing of goat skins, and nudity. Priests would lead sacrifices of goats and young dogs, animals who were thought to have a “strong sexual instinct.” Afterwards, a feast would occur with lots of wine flowing. When everyone was fat and happy, the men would shed their clothes, drape the goat skins from the earlier sacrifice on their naked bodies, and run around the city striking naked women.

As Plutarch described:

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.

It has also been speculated that there was match-making that went on during the feast, akin to what people did at festivals during the Middle Ages. Whether the original feast had it or not, later, young men would draw names of young woman, randomly pairing up one another during the feast. If the pairing was agreeable, a marriage could potentially be arranged. If not, well, they broke up.

As the years went by, the feast of Lupercalia was celebrated less by the higher class and the aristocratic and enjoyed almost exclusively by the working class. In fact, the wealthy would insult one another by telling each other to attend the feast of Lupercalia.

In the fifth century, Pope Hilary tried to get the festival banned due to it being a pagan ritual and unchristian. At the end of the fifth century (appx 496 AD), Pope Gelasius I did end up banning it. In a long letter sent to all Roman nobility who wanted the festival to continue, he stated, “If you assert that this rite has salutary force, celebrate it yourselves in the ancestral fashion; run nude yourselves that you may properly carry out the mockery.”

Pope Gelasius also established a much more Christian celebration and declared it would be honored on February 14th – a feast in which St. Valentine would be the patron saint.

Between the second and eighth centuries, the name Valentine was actually rather common since it translated from Latin meaning “strong or powerful.” Scattered through the Christian religion over the last two thousand years, there have been a dozen different Valentines who have drawn mention, including a Pope (during the 9th century, but was only Pope for two months). It seems the Valentine that Pope Gelasius dedicated a feast to may have been a composite of two or three different men.  You see, he never made it clear who exactly he was trying to honor, and even the Catholic Church today isn’t sure.

One of the Valentines lived in the third century and was beheaded under the rule of Emperor Claudius, alleged by some to be because he illegally married Christian couples. Claudius (as did other Emperors before him) believed that soldiers fought better and were more loyal if they were single and had no wife to return home too. So, he banned soldiers from being married.

Another account speaks of a Valentine being killed in the Roman province of Africa because he wouldn’t give up being Christian in the 4th century. Yet another was the Bishop of Interamna (in Italy) during 3rd century; he was beheaded.

Back to 496 AD: Pope Gelasius I instituted the feast in which St. Valentine would be the patron saint, which some have conjectured was meant as a replacement for Lupercalia. After all, co-opting pagan rituals to turn them Christian has been a time-honored practice of the Catholic Church. Whatever the motivations, Gelasius’ new feast didn’t really catch on and no such holiday was commonly celebrated in the middle of February for the next thousand years or so, until the 14th century.

(It should also be noted that while Pope Gelasius did ban Lupercalia and proposed a new holiday, it is thought by many historians to be relatively unrelated to modern Valentine’s Day, in that it seems to have had nothing to do with love. For instance, it has been speculated that it was simply a feast of Purification.)

So what about the more recent direct genesis of Valentine’s Day? This began with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is more known as the writer of The Canterbury Tales. However, he also wrote other things, such as a 700 line poem in 1382 called the “Parliament of Foules,” written in honor of the first anniversary of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia’s engagement.  This poem is generally considered to include the first explicit Valentine’s Day / love connection ever written, with one of the lines reading (of course, translated to modern English),

“For this was Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird of every kind that men can imagine comes to this place to choose his mate.”

While some scholars believed Chaucer invented the Valentine’s Day / love connection that was previously not mentioned in any writings that have survived to this day, it may well have been that he simply helped popularized the idea.  Around the same time Chaucer was penning this poem, at least three other notable authors (Otton de Grandson, John Gower, and Pardo from Valencia) were also referencing St. Valentine’s Day and the mating of birds in their poems.

Whatever the case, the idea of Valentine’s Day being a day for lovers caught on, with an early Valentine being written by Margery Brewes in 1477 to John Paston, who she called “my right well-beloved Valentine.”

Over a century later, Shakespeare was writing about Valentine’s Day in, among other works, Hamlet with this line,

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

Fast-forward to around the 18th century and the idea of exchanging love note cards on Valentine’s Day started to become extremely popular in Britain, first hand-made then produced commercially (initially called “Mechanical Valentines”). This tradition of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day soon spread to America.  Esther A. Howland, whose father ran a large book and stationary store, received a Valentine and decided this would be a great way to make money; so was inspired to begin mass producing these cards in the 1850s in the United States. Others followed suit.

Since then, the holiday has steadily grown to today when it is an absolute marketing and money making machine (second only to Christmas in money spent by consumers).  Further, according to the Greeting Card Association, more than 25% of all cards sent each year are Valentine’s Day cards, about one billion cards each year.  In the 1980s, the diamond industry decided it wanted its cut and began running marketing campaigns promoting Valentine’s Day as a day to give jewelry to show you really loved someone, instead of just sending cards and chocolates; this was obviously a very successful campaign.

So, this year on Valentine’s Day, when you have your hands full of roses, chocolates, and Hallmark Cards for your Valentine, you’ll know who to thank – Pope Gelasius banning a naked, drunk pagan ritual, the beheading of a guy for supposedly marrying people, and Geoffrey Chaucer and his Parliament of Foules.

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