I want to share a happiness. I didn’t expect it, for I played hooky from church. I had all sorts of concerns I felt I likely should be diligently praying about: Political concerns, health concerns, business concerns, worries about a hurricane coming up the coast, and others. But instead of church I went to the beach. Basically I took a hard look at responsibility and “blew it off”. I wasn’t even properly responsible about packing forty pound coolers and hampers of towels. And rather than guilt, much to my surprise I felt blessed. I heard no deep booming voice, but if such a voice had spoken it might have said, “Sometimes ‘Day Of Rest’ means ‘Blow It Off.'”
Two sonnets resulted:
Sometimes the best thing you can do is wade Out where the surf surges about your thighs, And quit thinking about what you have made Or haven’t made, what is true and what is lies, And instead watch surf’s incredible dance With sky, and understand you are part Of that dance: A gull, sliding through the trance Like incremental glitter, yet your heart Is so glad to be included you laugh In a way you had forgotten that you Knew how to do. Quit the grit. Quit the math. Quit the grouch, stoic, and see this is true: We don’t make the surf; don’t make the skies; So don’t make the bliss seem like sucha surprise.
Rejoicing with my family in the surf Of foaming pewter, with the haze and heat Transformed, as if a long-endured, dragging curse Was lifted, I praised God, seeing how very sweet Simple things can be: Granddaughter’s eyes wide And then feet twinkling as she nimbly flees A charging wave; my son watching gulls glide With his face smiling, serene with sweet ease; My daughter, heavy with approaching birth, Cooled and refreshed for the first time in weeks, Laughing with her sister as the surf drenches; My wife’s eyes full of beaming that speaks. I saw how life can work without wrenches And how “happy” is a word that needs no tool. It’s when I deny that, I’m truly the fool.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr appeared before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, and the behavior of the Democrats was embarrassing. They would ask rhetorical questions and then refuse to let Barr answer, over and over, as if attempting to provoke him into saying something rash. I was amazed he was as calm as he managed to be. The closest he came to lashing back was a wry comment about how he thought a hearing meant he was suppose to be heard.
But I myself was seething, when I saw how Barr was treated. There is a thing called “Civil Procedure” which allows differing views to be exchanged, but the Democrats have abandoned it. Actually they abandoned it the moment they began to hold Marxist views, for Marxism is all about seizing power, with no understanding of the concept of truly “sharing” power. In fact three-year-olds at my Childcare know more about sharing than Marxists do, (though some children are like Marxists, in that they are always saying others should share, while sharing little or nothing themselves).
It is better to reduce such behavior to absurdity than to get sucked into a fuming rage. It works with three-year-olds, when I remain calm even as they bulge veins with zealous drama, and I think calm humor is likely the way to deal with Marxists, as well. They seem to want Civil War, and they do not like Civil Procedure.
One humor to use is to lampoon, and an ancient form of lampoon is the Punch and Judy show. It takes serious subjects and reduces them to absurdity. Of course, some are unable to laugh, and scold others for laughing, seeing Punch and Judy’s wife-abuse and husband-abuse and child-abuse as no laughing matter. This is the same sort of person who saw laughable Tom and Jerry cartoons as being very serious, for they imagined the cartoons promoted violence.
My own experience begs to differ, for I have seen the most shy and gentle children, children who are basically afraid of their own shadow, dissolve into gales of delighted laughter when I behave in a “silly” manner which reduces things to absurdity. For example, when a child trips over a root on the forest floor, I may walk over to the root and shake my finger at it, scold it, and give it a kick, and then pretend I hurt my toe, and hop around on one foot while holding the other. Even the child who tripped usually stops wailing about their scraped knees, and laughs. Kicking the root does not “promote violence” as much as it lampoons it.
At this point lampooning is far better way of handling Marxists than a Civil War. Read about what happened in Korea, when their civil war first began. The non-Marxists responded in a manner every bit as ruthless as the Marxists: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth and slaughter for slaughter. (Worst was the fact outsiders made Korea’s domestic disturbance a so-called “proxy war”, rather than truly seeking peace.) We don’t want to descend to that level of hell (unless we absolutely have to.)
Democrats should be easy to lampoon, whether we consider woman’s rights,
Or consider childcare,
Or, most recently, how we respond to law and order:
Laughter can be a great liberator, especially when social discord makes people prone to feeling the fear a little child fears when parents argue, and love slumps towards divorce. Fear sees discord as a looming shadow, while laughter looks down on it from the highlands of love.
Laughter is like a long married couple looking at newlyweds experiencing their first quarrel: The newlyweds are horrified, but long-married lovers look back fondly at all they’ve been through, and say, “Quarreling truly is sad, but making up can be truly wonderful.”
. HORNED LARK SONNET
Do birds have antlers? Young lovebirds lock horns And in July’s heat twist hearts to the ice Of divorce. Sweet roses grow savage thorns And are deaf to my pleas that they be nice. I say, “You do not want to do that,” But they reply, “Oh yes, we really do.” Once they cooked sweet pies; now those pies go “splat” In each other’s faces. Punch and Judy pursue A comedy so foolish children laugh When the clouting is done by mere puppets, But lovebirds are not puppets; needless wrath Poisons like Hitler’s and Stalin’s, and gets All the world weeping, for all souls can see Love sinking lower than Love ought to be.
I spent some spare time poking through my old writing, looking for things the so-called “Woke” might have conniptions about. Gosh! There was a lot! There is no way to expunge my record of politically incorrect wrongdoings, and, according to the “cancel culture”, my life’s work needs to be purged. I confess I am basically a weed in their garden.
For one thing, I have something like five ancestors that were aboard the Mayflower. We are coming up on 400 years since those hundred souls landed, in the fall of 1620. I thought the anniversary would be a time of remembrance and celebration. But the “Woke” want it to be a time of shame, it seems, irregardless of the Fifth Commandment.
I have a loyal streak, and am more inclined to honor ancestors than to topple them from pedestals. Not that many of mine rated statues, or even oil-paintings.This is also not to say I am blind to their shortcomings, but rather to say, “Who am I to judge?” When I look at my own life I am quick to find excuses (which I deem “extenuating circumstances”) to explain my face-plants. If I am so quick to excuse myself, shouldn’t I be quick to excuse others?
Also I’ve noticed a seeming hypocrisy among the “Woke”. Some of the “Woke” people who insist statues of great men be torn down for their failures, are the same “Woke” people who insist small statues called “participation trophies” be given to children for their failures.
Mull that over a bit. What is it that the “Woke” are insinuating? That greatness deserves degradation and failure deserves a trophy? If that is the case, then they shouldn’t be pointing out the failures of great men. Rather they should be pointing out their greatness. That is what the men in statues are guilty of: Greatness!
The simple fact is that we all have flaws, and confessing our failures is healthy, providing forgiveness is involved. God knows we screw up, but God doesn’t want us to remain in a morose funk about it; we need to dust ourselves off and get on with life. And that is what history describes us as doing.
When I look back at the history of my family over the past 400 years I see plenty of stumbling. But it doesn’t fill me with loathing and hatred. To be honest, I feel warmth approaching the pride of a father watching his child take his or her first steps. Maybe they aren’t the greatest steps, but, even if they aren’t worth a participation trophy, they earn an ear-to-ear smile.
When I look back, I think those Pilgrims did all right, especially when you consider that roughly half of them died the first winter. Around fifty made it to spring, and a lot of them were children, with one or both parents dead.
One of those survivors was Priscilla Mullins, roughly eighteen years old, who had seen her father, stepmother, and brother die during the winter. Likely she felt very alone. She still had a brother and sister alive back in England, and I imagine she wanted to sail back home, when the Mayflower headed back to England in April, 1621, but she stayed.
As she was my Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, I think it was a good thing she stayed. The “Woke” likely differ. But President John Adams likely thought it was a good thing she stayed, as did his son President John Quincy Adams. For she begat, in a manner of speaking, both of them, just as she, in a manner of speaking, begat me. And, in the same manner of speaking, she begat the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
I envy Longfellow, for he was a poet who made big bucks. I don’t. But one thing I do have in common with Longfellow, and that is an ear for ancestral lore. Such lore is basically stuff which drives by-the-book historians crazy, for it is stuff that you hear at your grandparent’s knee that no documents verify. (In my case, it also involves tales told in taverns, by sailors who flunked English classes but who are great, illiterate tale-tellers. Among their tales are tales of events which occurred 400 years ago.)
In any case, in the autumn of 1847 Longfellow recalled family lore about Priscilla Mullins, over 200 years after-the-fact. The lore involved the fact two men were after her hand, in those desperate days when only fifty survivors existed. This sort of situation (IE “juicy gossip”) almost never is written down in the “official documents”, but the triangle must have been noteworthy to have been remembered for 200 years. Longfellow stated it was “the truth”, and used it as the basis of an epic poem called “The Courtship Of Miles Standish”. As usual, (whereas my blog may be noticed by perhaps ninety people, on a good day), Longfellow’s writing “went viral” (for those days) and it is said ten thousand copies of this epic sold in England in a single day. The fellow was basically rolling in the cash he made with a work which has irritated the heck out of historians ever since, as he used a lot of “poetic license”: Men’s motives are embellished upon, or else sheer speculation; also a lot of events are misplaced, in terms of the chronological order of events quilled onto yellowing historical documents, which historians know about and prefer. Still, I think Longfellow captured an element of the Pilgrim’s “heart” which is utterly lost, when one honors the admittedly stifling discipline of factual history. However his work cannot be included in any sort of proper history. It lives in the landscape of “lore”, neither entirely fiction, nor established truth.
Considering nearly another 200 years have passed since Longfellow wrote that poem, you might think that the “lore” I know about would be even less likely to be valid history. But one neat aspect of the internet is that one does not have to trudge from library to library to see the yellowing documents; one can scan them with the click of a mouse. A lot was left to Longfellow’s imagination, whereas I have facts at my fingertips. And the facts actually make those times look more strange, not less.
Had the Pilgrims arrived five years earlier, they would not have been able to settle where they did, for it was a place called “Little Falls” in the Algonquin dialect, which was also the name for the roughly 2000 people who lived along the shore in that vicinity, the “Patuxet”. However between 1615 and 1619 a true pandemic, (far worse than the mere sniffles our politicians now weep and wail about), killed nearly everyone. I’ve heard numbers stating somewhere between 75% and 95% of the native population died. It hit some clans worse than others. We don’t even know what the disease was. The idea it was smallpox is refuted by the fact the local people had been exposed to European carriers for at least 100 years, and nothing like this pandemic had happened before. The theory I subscribe to is that it was some form of swine ‘flu, for the local people very much liked the flavor of pork. At first the pork was salted, but it was at this time the first living pigs appeared in New England. But we don’t know. However a horrible pandemic caused people to die swiftly, bleeding from the nose and mouth. Therefore the landscape Priscilla entered was not a pretty one. There had not been enough Patuxet left alive to bury their dead, and seagulls had stripped the corpse’s flesh away, and skeletons lay about. Abandoned dogs scattered the bones and grinning skulls, but when the pilgrims arrived there were still some sagging wigwams with skeletons inside. This was the world Priscilla Mullins stepped into. The Pilgrim were not rugged pioneers who had to chop down trees to clear fields; the fields were already cleared. But it was a creepy situation to walk into, with the occasional skull watching you.
Of course this is not the “Woke” version of history. The “Woke” version imagines a hale and healthy native population was set upon by murderous Europeans. To state this idea vastly overestimates the power of a ship full of inept religious nincompoops. However perhaps it underestimates the power of God.
Another historically documented reality is that the local population displayed bigotry towards the Pilgrims. The Native Americans assumed, because the Pilgrim’s skin was white, they were as bad as other white people, who had recently afflicted their coasts.
For a long time, (historically at least a century, but lore states longer), European fishermen had been very careful not to alienate the people who lived inland of the waters they fished. (Fishermen might need to land to get fresh water.) But recently a far less diplomatic sort had arrived, perhaps made cruel by the inhumanity associated with the Reformation, Counter-reformation, Inquisition, and the horrors of the Thirty Years War in Europe (which cost 20% of the population of Germany, and roughly 8 million lives.) These new people tended to seek profit first, and profit included tricking and capturing the helpless, the slow, and the naive in coastal communities in both Europe and the Americas, to replace crew who had died, and also to sell as slaves in Europe. The Indians along the coast of New England understandably objected to this behavior, and they reacted to Pilgrims, (who were about as prissy and well-meaning as religiously sincere people can get), as if they were slavers and pirates, out to steal. They weren’t, because their Ten Commandments forbid it, but how were the Native Americans to know these white-skinned people were not like the others?
The Pilgrims were actually not different from the suspicious local tribes and clans, when they looked out to sea. In order to understand Priscilla Mullins you need to understand that, as she watched the Mayflower sail away in April 1621, there was no guarantee that the next sail she saw would be the friendly “Fortune”, hoving into view in seven months. The sails might instead be Spanish, and, if the Spanish found fifty “antichrist Protestants” trespassing on land the Pope had deemed Spanish, they would think nothing of slaughtering all fifty. If the ship was French, they might take every penny you had, (and in fact French Pirates seized the profits of the Pilgrims first year’s labors, as it headed back to England aboard the “Fortune”,) (and those French pirates didn’t give the Pilgrims so much as a receipt, which Sir Francis Drake did give, when he plundered the Spanish). And even the English pirates, who were given the nice, politically-correct term, “privateers”, could also not be entirely trusted, for some of these were men who enslaved coastal Indians, and they saw Pilgrims as “not people like us” because they didn’t obey The Church of England, which might make Pilgrims be fair prey. (White slaves were just as salable in Mediterranean lands as other races, and even if you had no time to sell slaves, there was always a need to grab fresh sailors to replenish the crew, after losing lives to scurvy). And then there were the Dutch, the Swedes, and the Red Vikings.
The Red Vikings, or “Tarenteen”, are a delight to me as a poet, and defy the logic of historians, for there were no anthropologists available to go study them and document their existence. They were not welcoming, and the other tribes feared and loathed their coastal raids. Therefore on paper they barely exist. In history they are basically a mist.
The Tarenteen were apparently a coastal clan of the Micmac Tribe which, in the 1500’s, did not want the axes and copper pots the French offered in trade, but instead wanted a square-rigged sailing ship. The French very much did want furs, so they offered the Tarenteen a ship, and the deal went down. This much exists in paperwork extant to this day. But the mystery is: How the heck did a Native American people know how to sail such a ship? Historians cannot supply the answer. (Lore can.) In any case the Red Vikings raided coastal settlements of both Indians and Europeans in the 1500’s and 1600’s, and were another sail to watch for, on the horizon.
When Priscilla Mullins watched the sails of the Mayflower shrink on the horizon in April, with no guarantee the next sails she saw would be friendly, it was not merely Priscilla’s, but all other eyes, Pilgrim and non-Pilgrim alike, that scanned the horizon for sails, not merely in 1621, but long afterwards. It was part of colonial life. According to lore, certain New England seaports may have seen the arrival of pirates as notorious as Blackbeard, and never noted the event down in official records (nor payed the official taxes for imports and exports as trading occurred), but such co-existence could not have occurred if the seaports were weak. A pirate like Blackbeard was more likely to be a civil businessmen if ten loaded cannon were trained onto his ship as he arrived, than he might be if he sailed into an undefended seaport. I think this should explain why Priscilla Mullins saw the Pilgrim men spend time building a fort above town, rather than completing adequate shelter, gathering extra firewood, hunting meat, or figuring how to grow grain, .
Such fort-building priorities might seem wrong to the “Woke”. I have even read “Woke” essays which attempt to describe Pilgrims, including Priscilla, as “war mongers” for building the fort, and even for not being strident pacifists and indignantly verbally-objecting-to the subject of a fort even being considered. (Defense is often deemed offensive, by the “Woke”.)
But the Pilgrim’s were not war mongers, as is proven by a peace they made with Native Americans whom they had accidentally offended. This peace was a pivotal point in their history, and though it may seem like a minor event, without this gesture of peace they may well have all died of starvation, or packed up and headed home, or simply vanished, which was the fate of other colonies involving people far more capable than the basically inept Pilgrims.
The Pilgrim’s ineptitude is a legend in and of itself, as is the endurance of those like Priscilla, who survived the consequences of their ineptitude. The “Woke” would likely wince merely walking from their house to their car, in New England’s January blasts. It is hard for the “Woke” to imagine enduring a New England winter with inadequate food, and without either a warm car or a warm house to hurry between; the Pilgrims were constantly cold and constantly hungry, day after day and week after week.
They were woefully ill prepared: In waters teeming with fish they had neither fishhooks nor nets, and their sole meat was clams, which lack a vital protein other meats have, and can’t sustain a person. (I know about the effects of such a diet; one summer I tried, [in an attempt to avoid working a Real Job by “living off the land”], to subsist on clams.) The Pilgrim’s grain was corn they had stolen from an empty Indian village, which troubled them deeply as it broke the Eighth Commandment. They were rationing this corn, as they wanted to save some kernels to plant. (Although the Pilgrims did not know it yet, the abandoned fields of the Indians were basically infertile sand, and the seeds they had brought from Europe would not do well in such soil, in such a different climate.) Even if the Pilgrims survived the winter they likely would have starved in the summer; they were a doomed people, in need of a flabbergasting miracle.
What they needed was the advise of a local person who had grown up in Little Falls when it was a thriving town, and who knew how to exploit the abundant, local food sources . They also needed this miraculous individual to have lived in Europe for four years and to have learned English, so he would be able to communicate with them. Such an impossible person should come walking from the woods and, recognizing they needed meat, should take them to the wintry salt marshes to walk in the cold mud with bare feet, feeling for semi-dormant eels with their toes, so they could enjoy a meal of fresh fish. Then they needed this ridiculously unlikely, day-dreamed-delusion-of-grandeur to teach them how to catch herring from the brooks without nets, and how to plant corn with a herring in each sandy hill, to grow a bountiful crop, and to teach them a hundred other things while also serving as their translator while negotiating with other towns, for twenty months without pay. (I doubt anyone even seriously considered such a miraculous unlikelihood.)
Yet this impossibility is exactly what happened, when Tisquantum, who the Pilgrims called “Squanto”, came strolling through the trees. If the “Woke” thinks the Pilgrims weren’t grateful, and did not see Squanto as a miracle, an answered prayer, and a gift from God, they haven’t looked at the documents written at that time.
I think the “Woke” want to remain asleep, for they apparently desire to discredit the actual history of Squanto. During my childhood it was a foundational root of the history I was taught, but now it seems the “Woke” want the memory of any friendships between races denied. Either they dismiss Squanto as lore and legend, (when the great man was neither), or they scorn him as a traitor and an Uncle Tom. His very existence is a threat to the “Woke” narrative of the White Man being evil, which to me seems a narrative of racist hate, whereas Squanto’s relationship with Pilgrims symbolizes love.
This love between “Cowboys and Indians” is down deep in the American psyche, denied by those who focus on treaties broken, and who ignore promises kept. The appearance of Indians on American coins, (or on the silver screen as the “Lone Ranger’s” only trusted friend, “Tonto”), makes no sense whatsoever to the “Woke”. It is a statue they want toppled, ink they want expunged from the historical record.
Squanto’s very existence involves so many unlikely twists and turns that it strains the credulity of dull people living dull lives.
First it involved an evil man named Tom Hunt ignoring orders to fish-for, and to salt, cod, and to recross the Atlantic and sell the salted cod to Spain. Instead the greedy man became a sort of wicked fisher-of-men by tricking 20 Patuxet and 7 Nauset aboard ship and setting sail for Spain to sell them as slaves, (which were a far more profitable cargo than salted codfish). Therefore Squanto immediately faced possible castration and a life of servitude among the millions of slaves (of all races) around the shores of the Mediterranean.
However Hunt then ran into trouble in Spain, not so much because slavery was illegal, as because slavery was the king’s monopoly. This made Hunt a smuggler and black-marketeer who lacked permits and hadn’t paid his taxes. His cargo was seized, but, rather than being put up for resale in a manner the Spanish King would deem legal, Squanto found himself in the custody of good Catholic friars who felt it was better to serve than enslave, and who set about teaching Squanto about Jesus and European Languages and perhaps other subjects. This is somewhat marvelous as it was during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and non-Catholics were not always treated so kindly.
At this point there are various versions of of Squanto’s path, with some stating he spent years in Spain and others stating he spent years in England.
In England some believed in a bizarre policy regarding Indians, which largely backfired. It was felt Indians should be persuaded to come to England, learn English, and then be returned to America to serve as guides and translators. This plan backfired because the “persuasion” used was either trickery or brute force, which alienated the heck out of the Indians. (Some of the English had the arrogant belief that the Indians would be cowed by displays of superior force, and therefore would become compliant and subservient subjects of the king, like they themselves were. FAIL. The Indians learned to avoid English ships, and the “educated” Indians who were returned to serve as guides and translators warned the Indians they spoke with that the English were untrustworthy scoundrels, when they didn’t seize upon the opportunity of setting foot on their homeland to simply vanish into the trees.)
Squanto was not the first Native American to visit London. Lore speaks of much which cannot be verified, but even drab history tells us George Weymouth had kidnapped five on the coast of Maine in 1605, and Pocahontas arrived with her husband (under nicer circumstances) and an entourage of eleven Powhatan from Virginia in 1616, and there is even a statue of her the “Woke” will want to tear down, in England.
Among Pocahontas’ entourage was a priest named Uttamatomakkin, and among his duties was the job of “counting the English.” In other words, he was gathering intelligence to bring back to North America, and he did return from this spying mission and speak of what he had seen. This causes me to wonder if the pre-pandemic Indians of North America knew more about London than London knew about them.
Sadly the pandemic wiped out much of the history of New England more effectively than the “Woke” can topple statues, and much that we know is derived from scraps of information written down by foreign onlookers. It is apparent that while the Native Americans were wary of Englishmen, they coveted metal objects such as copper pots and iron axes, and were in awe of cannons, recognizing Europeans had some powers they lacked. In fact one way George Weymouth was able to trick Indians aboard his ship was to awe them with the phenomenon of a magnetized sword:
An example of the power which could be gained from Europeans may be seen, (as recorded by European onlookers), in the demise of the “king” of the large tribe around what became Boston harbor, the “Massachusetts”.
It was the custom of the Massachusetts tribe to leave their cornfields in the hands of a few watchmen and watchdogs, and migrate to the cooler beaches for celebrations, sporting-events, dances and clambakes in the hotter months, but these parties had been interrupted by raiding parties of Tarenteen. The king arranged a negotiation between the Massachusetts and the Tarenteen, and went to the meeting with his biggest and strongest bodyguards at his side. At the meeting a spindly, little Tarenteen walked up and pointed a stick at him. As the king looked curiously at the stick, fire came out of the end of it, and the king dropped dead. Welcome to the wonderful world of firearms, or “fire sticks”. Every Indian immediately wanted one, but Europeans debated whether arming Indians was wise. Enter “gun-control”.
Each side was trying to figure out the politics of the other side. The Indians on the coast recognized the French didn’t want them trading with the English, and the English didn’t want them dealing with the French, and, while French trappers had learned to distinguish between tribes and even clans, in 1605 George Weymouth didn’t have a clue who he was dealing with, or know the Abenaki might be displeased if he dealt with the Tarenteen.
A colony was planned in the area Weymouth had explored and offended, and in 1606 a ship was sent back to start what would be the second English attempt to colonize New England (the first attempt, [in terms of history and not lore], being the short-lived sassafras-gathering outpost on Cuttyhunk in Buzzard’s Bay in the summer of 1602). However this ship was intercepted and captured by the Spanish, and therefore the Spanish King likely knew all about the antichrist Protestant’s plan to trespass on his northern lands. He also likely knew a Native American was (likely) aboard that that ship, to act as guide and translator.
At this point I need to digress and point out the Spanish were in some ways the “Woke” of that time, operating a “cancel culture” which sought to shame all who differed with their idea of order. Though they come across badly in histories written by Protestants, especially the Dutch and the English, in their own histories they look far better. Their histories state that God (via the Pope) had chosen Spain to bring sanity to all the earth and to make everyone become spiritual Catholics. They would build missions all over the planet to convert the heathen to their “Woke” idea of order. Building these missions would take a lot of taxes, but people should be willing to pay for such a noble endeavor. Anyone who pointed out that, while the Spanish nobility was living in the lap of luxury, the taxed were hurting, was seen as ungrateful, rebellious, and perhaps working for the anti-Christ, (much like Donald Trump is seen by the “Woke” today.)
The Spanish were able to gain their great power by, along with the Portuguese, building better ships and finding better trade routes, and gaining control of the money-making spice-trade between India and Europe, wresting the trade away from the Venetians and Ottomans. When the Pope pragmatically saw that the people who possessed the profits had changed, he divided the “unconverted” parts of the planet into two zones of Influence, one Portuguese and one Spanish, and then the Portuguese king died young, in battle, and (after a tussle) Spain claimed the Portuguese crown, which meant Spain officially was in charge of the entire “unconverted” part of the planet, and officially this meant they were in charge of all trade to all colonies, and all fees and permits and taxes gained through trade. The wealth and power involved was enormous, but spirituality often slips away when wealth and power become the focus. (“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”).
Wealth and power seems to be a byproduct of spirituality in the same manner manure is the byproduct of a dairy. Manure is inevitable, and useful for fertilizing the dairy’s fields, but it is not the purpose of a dairy. Once the mortal mind sees a mere byproduct as an end-all and be-all, the byproduct becomes a poison, or at least the author of its own demise. Just as the corrupted Ottomans and Venetians were astonished to see obscure kingdoms on the western edge of Europe abruptly gain wealth and power, the corrupted Spaniards were astonished to see two obscure northern provinces (for the Dutch and English were for a time part of Spain) abruptly gain wealth and power. However the most obscure of the obscure were the fifty Pilgrims, barely staying alive. There was no sign wealth and power would ever have anything to do with them.
The next English effort to Colonize the area of Penobscott Bay that Weymouth explored did manage to cross the Atlantic without being intercepted by the Spanish, the following year, in 1607. They immediately built a good fort. Somewhat incredibly, accurate plans for that fort were in the King of Spain’s hands by 1608. (These plans were found in Spanish archives in 1888, and in 1994 were used by archeologists to locate and excavate the site.)
The settlers at “Popham Colony” also built a good 30 ton ship, (First European ship built in New England), but no working relations could be established with local Indians, despite the fact one of the Indians Weymouth had kidnapped was brought back across the sea. This Indian’s name was spelled various ways, (for example “Skidwarres”; or “Sketwarroes”), but it is interesting to imagine what we might do if we were in that Indian’s shoes. What would you say to your own folk about the people who had captured you? Do you advise them to to trade, or to steer clear?
One interesting final development was that, after the English had decided to bail and avoid another ferocious Maine winter, relations with the locals abruptly improved, and trade occurred. My view is that the English were holding a sort of yard-sale, getting rid of iron axes and copper pots they did not want to lug back to England, but which the locals very much wanted. The locals payed at the yard-sale with stuff that wasn’t worth all that much to them, but brought a high price in England, wild sarsaparilla root and furs. This yard-sale was a happier ending than expected. Then the Popham colony was abandoned, when winter approached in 1608.
I bring this up to discredit the “Woke” concept that Native Americans were innocent and naive and like virgins taken advantage of by European rapists. Native Americans were never so dumb. They had decades (at least) of experience dealing with Europeans off their coasts, went to sea themselves in impressive dugouts made of the trunks of huge white pines, knew of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the many shades of gray, and who they were wheeling and dealing with. In terms of “The Art Of The Deal”, the Indians often came out ahead of the Europeans they dealt with. What defeated them, in the end, was a lousy virus, and a failure to unify.
Also it should be noted that the French explorer Champlain passed through the same waters Weymouth had cruised, only ten months later, and heard from an Indian that the five Indians kidnapped had not been captured, but “killed”. To some this only suggests how Weymouth ruined relations with the locals, but to me this suggests the Indians could in some way communicate in French as well as in English. In fact historical explorers often met natives who already spoke European tongues. Someone must have taught them, which gives credence to lore, though we have no historical evidence who the teachers were. But this also disproves the idea the Indians were not teachable. The Native Americans were not dummies, and lore suggests there was far more interaction between America and Europe than history records.
Before I leave the subject of George Weymouth I should mention the name of his patron Ferdinando Gorges, a member of the English elite with a drop or two of royal blood, because far back in his family tree a relative was a brother of a king. He’d fought for the Protestant, Huguenot side in France’s civil wars after the future French king Henry IV was nearly killed just after his wedding day, when hundreds of other Protestants who had come to his wedding were slaughtered, during the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1773. His bravery in the battles that followed was well known.
Ferdinando later became the commander of the fort in the harbor of the English port of Plymouth, where many ships heading for the Americas departed from. As the battles against the Catholics continued (even after Henry IV became Catholic,[“Paris is well worth a mass”.]), Ferdinando was involved in repulsing the Catholic Spanish armadas aimed at subjugating non-Catholic England. This deeply involved him in England’s growing navel might, and with characters such as Sir Francis Drake, and also with ideas involving wresting lands and trade routes across the Atlantic from Spain’s control. He seemingly dreamed he and his heirs might rule, in a feudal manner, a dukedom across the ocean, which he and those he was associated with dubbed “Maine”, and this made him very interested in the inhabitants of the far away lands. When Weymouth brought back five captives, three were presented to Ferdinando as a sort of offering, and he apparently was very interested in interviewing such Indians. Decades later, after his schemes of overseas empire had faded and his grandiose dreams had failed to come to pass, when he was looking back and writing his memoirs, he identified one of Weymouth’s captives as Squanto, though he called him, “Tasquantum“.
This is extremely irritating to historians, who place such emphasis on the written word, for there it is, written down on the yellowing pages.
It is highly unlikely that Squanto was first captured by the Tarenteen, traded to the English up in Maine, traveled to Ferdinando’s in England, made his way back to Cape Cod, only to again be captured and sold as a slave in Spain, only to again make his way back to Cape Cod. Not that it is impossible. The very existence of Squanto is impossible, to begin with, and past a certain point deciding what is possible exercises futility.
My own take is that Ferdinando Gorges was indulging in a bit of “poetic license” like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow did, as he wrote his memoirs. Chronological order didn’t matter: As he wrote before his death in 1647 it was a piffling detail whether Squanto passed through his household in 1608 or 1619; what mattered was that he recognized Squanto was a divine instrument, or, in his own words, “This accident must be acknowledged the meanes under God of putting on foote, and giving life to all our Plantations….”
Squanto himself likely did not feel like a divine instrument. He just wanted to go home, and then, when he finally got home in 1619, he discovered skulls and bones where his home had been. I cannot imagine that feels very nice. Where does one go from there? One goes looking for where the few survivors went, when just about everyone else died. Though Squanto is described as “the last of the Patuxet” he did apparently did find a few other Patuxet, adopted by neighboring villages. But, after comparing notes, what is the use of being such a survivor? One wants to feel valued, and there is little value in being a refugee. This may explain why Squanto gravitated to the Pilgrims. They valued him like a drowning man values a life raft.
Pause and consider the knowledge Squanto had about Catholics in Spain and the Church-Of-England-elite in England. It belittles him to call him “an aborigine”. In some ways he knew more about Europe than even the Pilgrims did. He certainly knew more about Spain. And the elders of the Pilgrim church seem to have recognized this greatness in a wayfarer, a greatness which is like gold in a junkyard, (which the “Woke” seem utterly blind to, in any of us).
One thing which apparently troubled these naive Pilgrims, even as hunger gnawed at them, was the fact they had stolen corn. It broke the eighth commandment. Squanto must have rolled his eyes, for he had experienced being a stolen person, and people matter more than kernels of corn. Yet he must have also been sort of impressed by the simple spirituality of the naive Pilgrims, for he was a part of the difficult diplomacy involved to make amends for the stolen corn, so the Pilgrims could sleep without tossing and turning in guilt. How it happened went something like this:
Long before the Mayflower anchored and the Pilgrims disembarked at Plymouth, they had attempted to head south for Virginia, but wind and tide and the wicked currents and combers at the elbow of Cape Cod changed world history, by battering them back north to the tip of Cape Cod. After arriving at that tip they coasted westward along the north coast of the Cape, attempting to contact the Indians, so they could trade for food, as they were on the verge of starvation. But the Indians ran away, as they assumed the Pilgrims were the white-skinned evil people who enslaved, especially as they came ashore armed with fire-sticks and led by a man wearing an armor breastplate. At some point, in a hastily abandoned village, the Pilgrims found a large amount of stored corn they could not pay for, for there was no one to pay. They took the corn, promising themselves they would pay the owners later, (which is a promise thieves often make but seldom keep). This corn not only fed them in the present tense, but proved to be the seed that fed them in the future, for the various seeds they had brought from Europe failed to thrive the following spring, but the stolen native Indian corn prospered. And this begs the question: Did they ever repay the Indians for their corn? Yes, and documents show the Pilgrims were proud they repaid, which seems proof that it deeply bothered them that they had been thieves.
Through Squanto they had let it be known to nearby peoples they wanted to pay for the stolen corn, but how they actually came to make the repayment is why this tale is wonderful.
A Pilgrim boy named John Billington got lost in the woods, and after long hours, perhaps days, popped out among the Manumett, who for some reason shipped him to the Naucet, which was very clan the Pilgrims had stolen corn from. The Naucet, though hard hit by the pandemic, were not as decimated as the Patuxet, and had a few villages left on Cape Cod’s north coast, east of where the Pilgrims had settled. While the Pilgrim boy was not described as a “hostage”, he did prove to be the basis for negotiations. Ten Pilgrim men, accompanied by Squanto and another Indian, set out by boat to retrieve John Billingham. This “army” of ten Pilgrims represents 20% of the entire colony, and left women and children behind dangerously unguarded.
One immediately wants more details. How did the Pilgrims come to know the lost boy was found? The answer is Squanto, who made inquiries. Who contacted who? Squanto was involved everywhere you look, nor were the negotiations as simple as they might seem. Why? Because, just as one couldn’t negotiate with the English without immediately stirring up the suspicions of the French, one couldn’t make overtures of peace with the Naucet without stirring the suspicions of the Narragansetts. There was all sorts of intrigue and politics involved in even simple transactions, with the local population divided into a bewildering array of tribes and clans, and with news passing from village to village via gossip, sometimes distorted but with surprising speed. Squanto had to deal with all of this stuff, but, to cut a long story short, the Pilgrims were able to pay for the corn they had stolen, and bought more corn as well.
It turned out the Naucet had ways to store corn for extended periods, and had more corn than they knew what to do with, because there were so few left to feed, after the pandemic. The Pilgrims had no corn, but did have “trade items”, iron axes and copper pots the Naucet desired.
In the process of these negotiations the Naucet recognized Pilgrims were not like the other Englishmen. The Pilgrims not only deemed retrieving a lost child worth considerable risk, (which demonstrated more caring than pirates are wont to display), but they paid for the corn they had taken months earlier, (which pirates almost never do). For future historians, this deal was carefully documented by the Pilgrims. I get the sense the Pilgrims were making sure people in the future would take note that they not only obeyed the Bible, but that obedience had positive benefits. Obedience worked, and was better than the behavior of pirates.
The “Woke” may not like such documentation, for it not only demonstrates white people can make peace (and perhaps be more loving than even the “Woke”), but also it is a hinge upon which the very existence of future Presidents and Poets swings upon, for without trade with the Naucet, Priscilla Mullins would likely have starved to death in the summer of 1621. In fact I wouldn’t even exist, if John Billington hadn’t gotten lost in the woods, 399 years ago.
This is history the way I learned it, and the way I like it: History with morality in it; history that is even a bit preachy. Of course some historians shudder at the thought of enlivening drab facts, and rein themselves with an objectivity so strict it denies their human heart. Not that I don’t appreciate their strict adherence to facts, but Truth must include the heart, for the heart is fundamental to both history and humanity.
What historians fear most is bias. In fact all scientists fear having their objectivity twisted by the bias of subjective desires. Meteorologists who dearly love snow, and who rapture like Japanese poets over snowflakes, bite their lips and get grim to avoid what they jokingly call “wish-casting,” which is to forecast snow which doesn’t happen. In like manner lawyers completely avoid taking on their own legal matters, obeying the old maxim which states, “Any lawyer who has himself as a lawyer has a fool for a lawyer.” In terms of history, historians are well aware that, if they are Danish, they will be prone to make Denmark the center of the Universe and the pinnacle of human evolution, while a historian from Poland will shake his head, for it seems utterly obvious to him this is not true, for Poland is the center and pinnacle.
As a poet, I take the view that we can’t beat this bias. It is part of being human. Therefore it is better to confess it. If you can’t beat it, join it.
At my Childcare I see bias all the time, as small boys bristle and square off to do battle, arguing some version of “My Dad’s better than your Dad.” I see such situations as wearing the label, “Handle With Care”, for, after all, the Fifth Commandment states “Honor thy father”, and in a way this makes both bristling boys be right.
Perhaps the most tragic example of such bias I’ve seen among small children involves little ones whose parents are at least temporarily worthless due to awful addictions. The child must be removed from the parents due to severe neglect, and often finds themselves in the care of most wonderful grandparents or foster parents. It seems obvious the helpless, little child should then prefer the wonderful to the awful, but the little one, study after study has shown, deeply craves reunion with their actual parents, even when the actual parents remain horrid. Apparently bias, and the Fifth Commandment, involves Deeps of the human spirit which our intellects can’t fathom.
The “Woke” seem oblivious that such Deeps even exist. They make even the most fearful historian look profound. Where a fearful historian at least looks at the past, (even if scared to venture an opinion), the “Woke” simply wish to obliterate the past, like a writer wrinkling up a failed draft and starting with a fresh sheet of clean paper. As a writer I have to inform the “Woke” that’s not the way correction actually works.
There’s a great story of the writer Robert Lewis Stevenson hurling a criticized rough draft into a fire. He was mentally stressed by a fever, and also by the medication he was taking for that fever, and he reacted badly to some comment his wife made. Then he sat down and rewrote, with astonishing speed, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” in its entirety.
What the “Woke” need to understand is that burning the rough draft didn’t erase the story. The story existed in the Deeps of the artist’s mind. However it seems the “Woke” don’t care all that much for anything Deep.
I do. What is more, if you care for the Deep, the Deep cares for you.
To prove my point, let me return to the naive Pilgrims, and especially to Priscilla Mullins, watching the Mayflower sail away over the horizon. She was of a group of fifty which had a survival rate of 50%, among groups of Indians which had a worse survival rate due to the pandemic, but whom were larger groups. In fact there were nearly as many local clans as there were Pilgrims, and every clan was larger than the Pilgrim’s group.
In fact when chief met with chief they often brought along their strongest bodyguards and displayed how numerous they were. The Europeans added a tradition which must have seemed whimsical to the Native Americans: A V.I.P. made his entrance with fanfare, horns and the rattle of drums. Such hoopla seems absurd when you are leading an army of ten, but on some occasions the Pilgrims insisted upon such fuss and bother. The racket of fanfare seemed to bolster nerves, but apparently nerve failed when they went to meet the Naucet, and were an army of ten in a boat looking towards an army of a hundred gathered on the shore. They found excuses to send Squanto wading ahead to do the talking.
Any reasonable, rational person, looking at the facts and figures, understands the fifty Pilgrims had no chance of overcoming the odds, especially when their naivety is taken into account. (Their ignorance over and over astounds me. They had some vague idea that beaver pelts were valuable, but had no idea what a beaver looked like or where beaver’s lived; Squanto had to show them). Using intellect alone the Pilgrims seem hopelessly doomed, but intellect can’t measure a thing called “faith”. The Pilgrims didn’t have a prayer, but pray they did.
Now jump ahead 400 years, and attempt to trace how many modern Americans can trace their lineage back to those fifty faithful fools. It turns out having an ancestor upon the Mayflower is nothing to be haughty about. There are roughly 15 million of us, wandering all over the place with all sorts of skin-colors. Likely not one of these millions can be truly called “pure blooded Pilgrim” any more, but even if one looks back twelve generations and sees only a single Pilgrim, (which means one has 4095 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents who were not Pilgrims), ones very existence balances on the point of a hair, as Priscilla Mullins stands watching the Mayflower sail away. Go back in a time machine and erase Priscilla, and there is no President Adams, no poetic Longfellow, and no me. Erase all fifty Pilgrims, and there’s no 15 million others.
One never knows. One may be an obscure person doing obscure things in an obscure corner of the earth, minding one’s own business and wanting nothing to do with big-wig V.I.P’s who think they have all the power, and in twelve generations your effect may be mighty, as the statues of the once mighty lie toppled, crumbled and forgotten.
The “Woke” like to believe they control power because they topple the statues and because they burn the books. They don’t. They cannot alter a dot of the past, nor shift a hair on Priscilla Mullin’s head, nor make past power do anything other than what it did. So then the “Woke” like to think they may not change the dead past, but that, by changing people’s perception of the past, they gain the power, but correction doesn’t work that way. If you ignore the Deeps, you are doomed to be superficial.
The “Woke” like to think they are revolutionary, but they are doing the same old thing. They are like the Venetians and Ottomans attempting hog power (and fight only each other) and ignore the Spanish and Portuguese, or like Spain trying to hog power ignoring the Dutch and English. They are attempting to legislate spirituality. It is an impossibility, like trying to fence freedom, yet fencing freedom has always been an impossibility which shallow thinkers find intensely attractive. Over and over they pursue a paradox, and over and over they arrive at a confusion.
Any sort of “cancel culture” begins with some vaguely virtuous value, and winds up with worse. It dislikes rules and regulations, and outlaws laws, yet winds up with more laws outlawing laws than there were laws to begin with. It dislikes oppressors but, in oppressing oppressors, it ends up being oppressive. It learns the hard way that if you attempt to enforce peace with a cudgel the best you can hope for is a truce before the next battle.
The Pilgrims were weary of conversions by cudgel, and wanted to escape a Church of England where you could be fined the equivalent of twenty dollars per family member if you skipped church to study the Bible at home with friends. (This gets expensive if you have many children.) The churches had reduced spirituality to politics; to the byproducts of wealth and power, and the battle between Catholics and Protestants had turned religion into a sort of Punch and Judy show, laughable, if so many millions hadn’t been hurt, and the Pilgrims wanted no part of it. They wanted to retreat to the ends of the earth, and simply to be left alone, with the liberty to seek the Deeps.
Liberty seems such a simple thing, and so harmless, yet over and over liberty shakes the fortresses of the mighty to their very foundations. Perhaps it merely reminds the “Woke” of what they have forgotten. For, as one increasingly forgets Liberty, allowing dependence on wealth and power to grow like an insidious addiction, one increasingly adopts the mentality of Marxists, to whom wealth and power are everything, and to whom Liberty is a threat, a church to be burned down. Why? Because liberty and freedom are spiritual things. Liberty and Freedom are not the “opiate of the masses” Marx disdained them as being, but are liberators breaking people free from the addictive chains Marx himself wore, even as he insisted others had “nothing to lose but their chains”. (The children of my Childcare would say Marx was “playing opposite-day;” the irony of his reversedness would be laughable, had it not cost so many millions their lives.)
In his insistence money and power mattered most, Marx had to deny spirit and embrace atheism, and in his atheism Marx became completely besotted by byproducts, in essence rolling in manure like a dog, calling power and money perfume even as it made him reek. Any suggestion he had it backwards hurt his precious feelings, pricked his aggravated ego, and frustrated his intellect into further attempts to prove money and power were the basis and purpose of all life. All contrary thought must be purged, all questioning reeducated, until opposition ceased and conformity was everywhere. But Alexander Hamilton put it best:
I have to be very careful at this point, because I want to talk about the “Hand of Divinity”, yet I cannot claim to be any sort of spokesman for God. I am not a prophet who hears a booming voice from above highest sky; I’m just a poor poet who notices blue is a good color for sky to be.
In like manner, I notice history is a good book to read. I see Priscilla Mullins “should” have starved, and Squanto “should” have wound up a castrated slave in some Somali salt-mine in Northeast Africa, but “coincidences” intervened. These coincidences are not big things, and make the people involved poorer rather than richer, (which is suppose to be the price of charity,) yet these minor events are like small pebbles able to cause huge avalanches. Furthermore these little pebbles are usually random acts of kindness; kindness done without expectation of reward; even pebbles that fall without ever seeing the avalanche.
For example, think about the Spanish Friars who rescued Squanto from slavery. Did they state, “We are doing this to elect John Adams the second President of the United States, a century and three-quarters in the future?” Of course not. Theirs was a random act of kindness, and kindness, if it is true, expects no pay, for it is a reward in and of itself. It is not interested in byproducts such as wealth and power. This makes kindness a thing which is beyond the capacity of the “Woke” to fathom.
Think for a moment about what a sorry state that is: To be unable to see the sense in kindness, and to only see sense in wealth and power.
Of course, we all would like to see proof it is good to be good. That is likely why the Pilgrims took such pains to document their payment to the Naucet for the corn they “borrowed”. They wanted to accumulate evidence which proves that pleasing the Hand of Divinity caused that Hand to be kind. However the world can be unkind to the kind, and there is a reason people become cynical, and rather than stating, “No good deed goes unrewarded”, people say, “No good deed goes unpunished”. Faith can be tested to its limits.
The Pilgrims needed people to invest in their enterprise, but the investors were not as interested in “liberty” as as the Pilgrims were. The investors were interested in getting “a return on their investment”. As a poet I have been in the Pilgrim’s shoes: The landlord is not interested in my poems or my sob-story; he just want’s the bleeping rent.
The Pilgrim’s patrons come across as stupid, especially in the histories written by Pilgrim’s. Their patron’s demands sometimes seem carefully designed to destroy the Pilgrims, or at least to make it impossible for the Pilgrims to repay. In my mind’s eye I poetically imagine the investors were fat, and rich, and sitting about taverns in England, well fed, and warm, and coming up with ideas using the genius of gin.
One such genius apparently looked at maps and noticed the Pilgrims were at latitude 42 degrees, closer to Madrid’s latitude of 40.4 degrees than London’s 51.5 degrees. Therefore it must be hotter in New England than in London, and perhaps that heat could be used in a way that produced a profit. But how? After ordering another gin, a light-bulb went off in the investor’s head, even though light-bulbs hadn’t been invented yet. It occurred to him that Spain used its heat to evaporate salt from sea water, and sold the salt to fishermen who needed it, to salt cod with. Why not produce the salt where the fishermen fished? And cut Spain right out of the deal? Oh! What genius!
The Pilgrims then received notice that they should stop what they were doing and instead immediately begin turning nearby clam flats into evaporative salt pans. The Pilgrims had been hoping the investors might instead send food. They likely silently cursed, and then asked God for forgiveness for cursing, and politely wrote back they had no time for constructing salt pans because their women and children were hungry, and also the summer humidity of New England was often so high they couldn’t even dry their laundry, let alone thousands of gallons of sea water.
The subject of women and children seemed to annoy the investors. Besides demands for profits, the boats arriving from overseas had included a few more Pilgrim families who wanted to join the enterprise, which was basically sending more inept mouths to feed, rather than sending food. However the Pilgrims got busy teaching the newcomers what Squanto had taught them. At least the newcomers shared the same religious principles. But then investors drank more gin, and raised index fingers with the eureka of gin-genius. They wondered, why they were sending men overseas who had the burden of women and children to support? Why not send a hundred men with no woman and no children? What could possibly go wrong?
The Wessagusset Colony was established north of the Pilgrims, after negotiations with the local Indians, in May 1622, and was basically a complete disaster. By the following May it was abandoned ruins. In theory, it’s hundred men had arrived with enough food to survive a winter, but the amount needed was woefully underestimated. The hundred men proved equally inept as the Pilgrims, but less willing to learn and more willing to steal corn, both from local Indians and the Pilgrims. The Pilgrim’s had no authority over them, but did gently remind them about the Eighth Commandment. As hunger worsened in the winter the men grew desperate and relations with neighbors worsened and became ugly.
If you are “Woke” then the Wessagusett debacle is the event you want to seize upon, as proof white men are all evil. It holds one particularly ugly incident where Myles Standish broke the Sixth Commandment; he was drawn north to help negotiate with nearby Native Americans who were increasingly fed up with the starving Englishmen’s behavior. Myles was well aware the situation was explosive, for friendly Indians had warned the Pilgrims that other tribes and clans, including even the Naucet, were so fed up they were considering a swift genocide of all with white skins. During the tense negotiations that followed something snapped. Myles Standish murdered a chief, stabbing him in the chest with a knife, two other Indians were killed, and one escaped with wounds. “As many as five” settlers were also killed. Shortly after this brouhaha the settlers scattered, some back to England, some up to House Island in Casco Bay in Maine (another colony which failed) and some south to the Pilgrims.
Wessagusset was such a disaster it is difficult to see it did anything but ruin the good relations with neighbors the Pilgrims had worked so hard to cultivate. It certainly supports current “Woke” low and racist opinions about white men. However as a poet I always seek ways to polish a turd, and can see some redeeming gold in the junkyard.
For one thing, it seemed to suggest that, though women and children might not make sense on a banker’s sheet of profit and loss, they draw something from the Deeps of a man which leads to better behavior.
Second, in the midst of starvation some of the men at Wessagusset were forced to swallow their pride. The Pilgrims likely advised them that the Bible reports Paul commanded the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” and advised the Ephesians, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” What this meant was that the men at Wessagusset had to give up their liberty and get a Real Job, with Indians as their employers. Even though this felt like becoming a slave for the lousy wages of a handful of corn, some men went to work for Indians and, as a consequence, learned how to do things such as make a birch bark canoe. When they later fled to the Pilgrims, this knowledge was added to the store received from Squanto, as the Pilgrims gradually became less inept, and even capable.
The Wessagusset fiasco demonstrates that the Hand of Divinity is not always kind in the manner we might suggest to It that It should be. The Pilgrims never received the sort of support from investors back in England that made much sense, in terms of helping them, yet it did help them, for they were forced to become resourceful and self-reliant. Often liberty comes through not getting what you want, which is something that makes no sense to the “Woke”.
Due to the ugliness of Wessagusset the survival of the Pilgrims again balanced on a hair, and it again seemed unlikely they could survive. What saved them was that, with the Wessagusset colony effectively wiped off the map, the reasons for genocide diminished, and the Indians who were more friendly tipped the political balance against those who favored extermination. But survival was never a certainty.
Such uncertainty seems a state too insecure to grasp, for those who are addicted to wealth and power. However uncertainty was everyday, for the Pilgrims, and seemingly led to a state of mind liberated from needing wealth, power, or even certainty. This difference needs to be highlighted, for it is the difference between one who stays safely ashore, and a person who braves the risks of the open sea.
I think most us can, to some degree, understand the addiction to wealth and power, for most of us appreciate comfort. Even those enlivened by challenges can find themselves in the middle of mayhem which makes them wish they were someplace more comfortable; the sailor midst a savage storm longs for the comforts of shore; the jogger fighting through cramps up a steep hill longs for the comfort of a “second wind”. However there are times in life we simply are faced with giving up a comfort we’d rather cling to.
I am not talking about situations where it is actually more comfortable to give up a comfort than to keep it. A bed may be comfortable, but past a certain point we get sick of laying about, and it is more comfortable to leave comfort than to remain.
Rather I am talking about true sacrifice, truly giving up on what you deeply desire for some good which you hope you might see on this earth, but might not see this side of heaven. For example, the soldier hopes he will live to see victory, but may sacrifice his life and never see what he died for. Such trials truly test the human spirit, and involve the faith which the “Woke” mock as delusional. You will seldom catch the “Woke” risking life and limb, though they may well urge others to die for a glorious cause. Careful analysis of their thought sees it too often boils down to, “look out for number one.”
I often find myself quietly asking God not to put me through certain trials, for I doubt my own ability to pass certain tests. In my time I have seen God fail to take my advise, and have been put to the test, and have seen myself fail, but also have seen myself do what I didn’t think was possible. All the same, I don’t go looking for trouble, and I suppose at times this means I am avoiding what should be faced.
Recently I heard of a young, black woman who walked out into the street to preach, which might not sound like a big deal, but she was preaching to two rival gangs that they should love each other, and gunfire was occurring. The gunfire did stop, as this woman appeared and screeched about love, which seems a miracle to me, but I also asked myself, “would I have the faith to do that?” I doubt it, and am glad God has never put me in those shoes. But I do appreciate that street-preacher’s courage, to a degree where my eyes smart with tears.
My own brand of courage is to write in a manner intended to provoke the “Woke”, and goad them into considering the thing called “faith.” After fifty years I see no sign my faith has borne any fruit. If anything the “Woke” are stupider. The more I speak of peace and understanding the more they seem determined to put a rock through my window if I don’t shut the fuck up. In a sense they seem determined to prove me wrong, and to provide evidence faith is a stupid thing to have.
This brings me to a final statement. Or perhaps a question. Does faith require proof?
Most believers tell me they have seen some sort of “sign” which convinced them the Hand of Divinity was concerned even with minor characters such as themselves. And perhaps such proof is necessary, but only one time. This is not to say some believers can’t have ongoing conversations with God, but, in terms of “miracles”, one miracle should be enough. Creation is enough a miracle, in and of itself, just the way it is; one shouldn’t need creation altered by uncanny occurrences on a daily basis, to keep their faith. One time, in an hour of great need, one should see a Squanto come walking from the woods. After that, one should be able to keep their faith no matter what.
Could I? Into my mind’s eye comes the fate of Priscilla Mullin’s father. As he died what evidence did he have that his faith wasn’t foolishness? He’d seen his wife die, his son die, and now he was dying; perhaps worst was the fact he’d dragged his daughter across the ocean and now he was leaving her orphaned in a hopeless situation far from help. Did he trust in God? Or did he feel like a perfect ass?
Descending into the landscape of lore, he likely knew Myles Standish had problems with anger-management, and may have seen Myles was making overtures towards his daughter, via the good ship Mayflower’s barrel-maker, John Alden. He likely writhed at the thought of his daughter wed to a man with such a poor understanding of Christian peace as Myles seemed to have. How could he rest in peace, leaving such a mess behind on earth?
What he likely couldn’t imagine was that the ship’s barrel-maker wouldn’t leave with the Mayflower, but would watch the sails shrink on the horizon with Priscilla. He would marry her, and become the forefather of Presidents and Poets.
I like to believe the dying father kept his faith, even as he lost everything else. For there is much we ourselves never know, but God is omniscient. God knows all, and is knowledge itself. There is nothing left for God to question. Furthermore, because God is the ocean of Love and eternally benevolent, his creation works towards a happy ending. Joy is a foregone conclusion.
The above faith bugs the heck out of the “Woke”, but they don’t know what they’re missing, and deserve a good goading.
Goad the “Woke”. Tell them you are better Than anyone else. When you speak, swagger. Though we all have flaws, don’t let them fetter Your feet. It seems the “Woke” want to dagger All difference, so dare be different. Say your family is best. Make them mutter. Claim your race has been clearly heaven-sent. God didn’t make you with a cookie-cutter. Your finger-print’s unique. God made no junk. For, as you age, you look back over years, Recall a fierce foe you once called a “punk”, And lovingly laugh. It’s like the smoke clears And you glimpse and love God in everyone. The “Woke” have a problem with Love having fun.
One odd aspect of the past four years is: How like the behavior of an-addict-in-withdrawal the behavior of “The Swamp” has been, after the moment the people of the United States said they were sick of being “enablers”, and wanted “The Swamp” gone.
In case you are wondering, all the people of the United States, even those in rural areas, know far more about addiction and being “enablers” than they ever wanted to know. You might even say we have become experts, against our will.
Some (like myself) “experimented” with drugs in 1969 and saw the “experiment” turn horrid, and only escaped a clawing beast through extreme efforts, and the Grace of God. Others (like those who knew me) trusted me and became “enablers” because they trusted someone (me) who was lying through his teeth. But eventually “enablers” wake up, and confront the addict with so-called “tough love.” They basically tell the addict they are not going to put up with their bullshit any more.
I went through this experience as a teenager, fifty years ago, and felt I had been “saved”, and that the bullshit was over and done with. I thought it was in the past. It wasn’t.
In 1972 I felt I could could convince my fellow hippies drugs were bad, but they wouldn’t listen. Then I tried to convince fellow poets, but they wouldn’t listen. Then I tried to convince my daughter’s boyfriends, but they wouldn’t listen. My failure is brought home by the legalization of marijuana, the use of which is self-destructive.
For those of you who want to argue, I am preparing a post which will make mincemeat of your stupid, simplistic logic with irrefutable evidence marijuana does undeniable harm. My evidence will reveal to you that your infantile logic has hurt teenagers terribly, and you are not going to escape punishment in hell, unless you shape up your act, and do so damn fast. But I digress.
The point of this particular post is that the United States has been forced to learn about drugs. Millions of children have experienced drugs, simply because they are disobedient in classrooms, even at age five. Currently drugs are the most common form of death among youth under the age of nineteen. The problem is huge.
Because I, as a Childcare Provider, have seen children as young as age five hurt by “helpful” drugs, and have seen daughter’s boyfriends (and my daughters like only the best), made stupid by drugs, I am no fan of drugs. I am about as anti-drug as you can get (with the exceptions of the drugs coffee, nicotine and beer; they are bad for you physically, emotionally, and mentally; but do not cause the spiritual harm other drugs do.)
How dare I? How dare I state a marijuana cigarette harms the spirit and a tobacco cigarette does not?
Only a fool asks that question, for the evidence is obvious, but I shall answer that question in my forthcoming essay. The answer will shatter the fools. But, for now, I’ll just state fools just ask me that question because they are trying to distract this essay from it’s conclusion.
And the conclusion is? The United States knows all about addiction, and about all the ploys addiction uses to keep the enablers enabling. We’ve been putting up with this shit a long, long time.
I myself now donate a “double-tithe”, which means I donate 20% of my income to “churches” after donating another 30% to local, state and federal governments for activities which I hope are spiritual, but sadly sometimes are not. I am not a rich man. After I’m done donating I live at the the upper edge of “the poverty level.”
Of my “double-tithe” 10% goes to an urban church I sometimes attend, because I tired of local, rural churches which resembled comfortable country clubs and preferred oblivion. The other 10% of my tithe goes to a small rural church which deals exclusively with rural drug addiction. Drug addiction is a big, big problem, in my neck of the woods.
I really enjoy attending a rural church full of addicts who are fighting their addiction. I’m not allowed to tell you the details, but often fellows fail, and are ashamed, but struggle back to their feet to try again. And as they describe all the embarrassing details of their flopping about like a fish out of water, I often think these men are superior to Washington D.C politicians, or Mainstream Media, or Hollywood stars.
Why? Because, in their excruciating honesty, an addict confesses how he behaved when he tried to escape claws clawing him back. Often they do so with rare humor, and, on the verge of tears, you find yourself laughing. The ridiculous behavior they describe is strangely familiar, and something easy to forgive, for we recognize we all do it, in our own way.
Their behavior also seems strangely familiar because it is exactly, (even down to absurd details), how Washington D.C. and the Media and Hollywood has behaved, since Donald Trump was elected by the American people.
The difference is that addicts are addicted to a drug, but Washington DC and the Media and Hollywood are addicted to fame, money and power. But the withdrawal symptoms are exactly the same.
There is another difference that makes the drug addict superior. The addict confesses his addiction is a problem, and can make you laugh at how, even as he rejects his problem, he fails to escape it. His imperfection makes him lovable, humble is beautiful, and you want to help him (or her) all the more. Politicians and Media and Hollywood are equally addicted. but never confess that they are.
They are addicts, but insist we are the problem. Should we enable them?
. ADDICT SONNET
As long as the poor addict gets his fix He can blend in with the freedom-loving, But, when he’s deprived, that is when he picks The ruthless path, and his greed starts shoving Kindness aside, until desperation Leaps from ledges. Oh, the poor millionaires The day stocks crash worthless! Oh, poor nation Founded on sand! For a man’s secret cares Are the idol he worships; the wooden god, Which has no power to stoop and uplift A fallen man. Therefore don’t call it odd When the high fall, even as a great gift Appears within those who seemed to be low. As ruin draws nigh Love’s power will grow.
For the most part my father was extremely logical, even to a point where I felt his pragmatism was excessive. As a dreamy poet-to-be I often deemed logic a drag. But every now and then my father held views I found insane, and one such view was that he preferred sailboats to powerboats. I didn’t see the sense in being dependent on anything so fickle as the wind. When the wind wasn’t capsizing you it was leaving you becalmed. However his dislike of motorboats approached racism. Even when we were helplessly becalmed he would look down a sneering nose at a cabin cruiser puttering cheerfully past, and contemptuously mutter, “stinkpot.”
I had to admit he had a point, for when a boat passed upwind it really did stink. Also it made a racket, and spoiled the experience of being amidst all the sloshing and gurgling sounds of winds and waves. However I disliked all the ropes and knots involved with sailing, and especially all the jargon. It seemed silly to say “ready about” rather “get ready to turn”, and “now we’re turning” made far more sense than “hard to lee”, but my father insisted on my learning a whole new vocabulary. It didn’t seem fair, for school was suppose to be over for the summer, and I preferred fishing in my happy harbor to that harbor becoming a classroom, and I pouted when I should have been grateful my father was doting on me. I was eventually faced with a dilemma, for I loved the ocean, but wound up disliking both sailboats and stinkpots.
My solution to this dilemma was a row boat. It wasn’t a loud stinkpot, yet I could go straight upwind like a stinkpot. I rowed all over the place, and, being a boy, eventually discovered a rowboat was like a stinkpot in another way. I could run out of gas. This occurred when both wind and tide were against me, and I extracted myself from a few dilemmas my mother never heard about, for I knew how she fretted when my father and brothers bragged about their exploits aboard various small sailboats.
In the years since none of us drowned, and I have learned that even aboard stinkpots people have exploits. In fact danger seems to be the one thing which rowboats, sailboats and stinkpots have in common.
My mother could never understand why anyone would expose themselves to such danger when they could sit in the sun safely ashore, happily chain-smoking dangerous cigarettes and reading an Agatha Christie novel about people in danger. I thought to myself she was a hypocrite, but never recall attempting to explain to her what was so wonderful about going to sea. (She may have eventually learned, for her third marriage was with a career Navy man, and her ashes were eventually buried at sea.) But this is about my father.
As I now sit ashore by lakes far from the sea, an old man without the stamina to row I once had, I like to recall my father when I see a sailboat becalmed out on the water, going nowhere as people driving jet-skis rocket joyously past. I just know, if he was aboard such a becalmed boat (and could imagine the phenomenon of jet-skis), he’d be muttering, “stinkpot”.
I find myself wondering what he found so virtuous about being dependent upon something you couldn’t control: The fickle wind. Within the answer to that question is a sonnet:
. STINKPOT SONNET
Long ago men knew, when pirates seized a ship And raised its sails, the boat went nowhere Without the wind: Wind no pirate could grip With greedy hands. But now men do not care So much for wind, and weak minds fail to grasp Power still comes from beyond their control. Stalin saw it, when the stroke made him gasp With bulging eyes. Deep down in mankind’s soul Is knowledge our sails are our mortal lungs, And without wind in those lungs we go nowhere, Yet ignorance lifts ladders without rungs Towards their tops; fools cruise upstream unaware They’ll be in rapids when gas tanks empty. I shake my head. Such a fate doesn’t tempt me.
It is going to be hard to speak these ugly words, however there are some doctors to whom the Hippocratic Oath is the mere mumbling of a meaningless ritual, empty words muttered by rote. At the risk of offending good doctors, I grimly remind all that there are bad doctors, and furthermore that there are also bad customers. Some seek doctors not to heal an elder or child or emotional relative or spouse, but rather to have them drugged, or even removed.
With such ugly truth in mind, I suggest people do some ugly math.
First, how much does it cost to keep a frail elder alive for a year in a state-run institution, especially when that elder is on a state pension? It easily comes to $100,000 a year, if not more.
Second, how much money could be saved if 5000 elders happened to die? Multiplying $100,000 by 5000 gives you a half billion dollars.
Third, why would a governor send infected people into the very eldercare facilities that should have been protected? This mistake was not made once, by a single bumbling official, but in several states, as if the infecting of eldercare facilities was a secret, damnable policy.
Lastly, why were underfunded facilities offered extra money for putting elders onto respirators, often against their will, though respirators can often be the kiss of death and do more harm than good?
We are seeing ugly events occur right before our eyes, and need to take hard looks and ask hard questions.
You are in everyone, Oh my Great God, Even in the most foul and corrupted. Yet they are the ones who think I am odd When I cry out the starving need to be fed. Yet they starve the worst, although they’re fat. They wallow in blubber, although they stuff More food in their maws. They never think that They need different food. They prance and fluff Like parodies of honest dignity. Children playing at being kings and queens Are more noble than the corrupt I see. Must I be kind to a fool who demeans Your Holy Name? Although they are starving It’s hard to be kind, when they’re the ones carving.
I can think of two times when rather than being paid for hard work, one is presented with a bill. The first is when one hires a physical trainer, which is a foolishness I have never been guilty of, and the second is when one does ones taxes. I have to deal with roughly 360 receipts per year, all at one time because I put off dealing with them until I “have the time” (which means “absolutely have to.”) To do all that work and then be billed thousands of dollars tends to crash me into a depression, and this year my funk was worse because I am funding a government which apparently has gone utterly mad. That is my excuse for writing the “Quitter’s Sonnet” I posted earlier. It was three AM and still hot outside and sleep was elusive.
It’s amazing what a couple hours of rich, deep sleep, and a bit of rosy daylight, and a fresh coffee, can do to a man’s mood. I wrote this Restoration Sonnet three hours later,
God is patient with those who chose what’s wrong For the right reasons. Not that the sinner Will escape the penalty, but along With remorse comes humor. The brave grinner Who bears his hangovers, and who laughs at His own stupidity, make’s life’s schooling A tale worth telling, and makes scorn fall flat. The scoffer is a fool who is fooling No one; few like the brags of a vain man, But he who laughs at himself makes all laugh With him, and may make God smile. One can Be rebuked and still see a better half. Though God always points out what is worse, He Gentles the sting with patience and mercy.
Death’s dark seems to be a gladdening shroud, To be preferred to the unceasing sting Of sly lies which goad the maddening crowd. Old salts can’t abide such a slick peppering Of pure truth with political speckles. It is like watching one you love chose wrong; A son chose disgrace. No true heart heckles When witnessing fear cower. I must long For courage I lack, for I flinch away From shame on display. I just cannot stand The lunacy. I am old and I am gray, And death seems better than to see Truth unmanned, Naked on the cross again, once again mocked; But my eyes won’t close. This path must be walked.
In the winter of 1776 those standing against tyranny and the world’s greatest army had shrunk to a few thousand ragtag soldiers, cold and hungry and some bootless and leaving bloody footprints in the snow. In a few days the weary men’s enlistment would be up and they could give up on the lost cause and go home. What hope had Liberty?
The desecration of the statue honoring the 54th Regiment on the Boston Common by Antifa puppets is typical of a Globalist mindset which believes the way to resolve our differences is through destruction. Such resolve is as futile as attempting to turn humanity into identical clones with identical fingerprints; even if such a stark utopia was forced upon humanity, the clones could not all stand in the same place at the same time, and therefore their brains would not hold identical data, and no amount of dogma could prevent the spread of creeping individuality. Differences cannot be destroyed.
Actually such destruction is an affront to the Creator, for He is the one who made us so marvelously different. If you have a problem with the fact we are not all the same, take it up with Him. Not that you will stop talking long enough to listen. For thousands of years He has been telling us that the answer to the problems created by our differences is not destruction, but Love. Yet who has listened?
The chief problem is divisiveness, which draws a distinction between “them” and “us”. Weak minds cannot see beyond such distinctions, and fall prey to a mindset of murder; IE: The way to resolve a difference is to remove the person who differs. Such murder does not need to be physical; it may be as subtle as shunning. But it is not Love.
The problem is not discrimination. We all discriminate. How else are we to judge what is good from what is evil? Martin Luther King asked us to discriminate, but to base our discrimination upon the quality of character and not the color of skin.
This is easy to say but hard to do. It is not easy to understand why people behave the way they do, when we do not share the same background. If you grew up in a trailer full of empty beer-cans you might better understand the mindset of people called “white trash” by the unsympathetic people some call “the elite”. However you didn’t grow up that way. Even if you share the same skin color misunderstandings may arise.
The path past misunderstanding is through respect, rather than tearing others down. This is not to say you can’t fight in self-defense, but that you shouldn’t start a fight based merely on the fact others are not the same. At the start of the Civil War the so called “Abolitionists” didn’t want to abolish individuality, but rather slavery. They drew a distinction and employed discernment, which the mob desecrating the statue to the 54th seemed to fail to do.
If the mob thought at all, they likely disliked the fact the statue portrays a white man up on a horse as the black foot soldiers are on foot. However this is historically accurate. Robert Gould Shaw did ride a horse, and may well have died with his troops, shot from a horse. On the other hand he may have died after dismounting to fight by their side.
But die he did.
At this point full disclosure demands I state my last name is Shaw. Robert Gould Shaw cannot be anyone’s ancestor because he died as a young man, without children. War is the opposite of Darwin’s Theory; those most fit to live are often the ones sacrificed. However I do count him among my ancestors.
I cannot be free of bias, because my own family is involved, but I can pass along some insights that have been passed down to me, that you will not find in Wikipedia.
The Civil War was far more complex than two groups of men dressing in blue and gray and squaring off, and the rivalry between Boston and New York predates baseball’s Red Sox and Yankees. Some of Boston’s elite and many of New York’s actually sided with the Confederacy, for reasons having to do with profit more than anything spiritual. For example, some did not desire to see the price of cotton go up.
For a young idealist like Robert Gould Shaw, who grew up benefiting from inherited wealth he didn’t have to get dirty fighting for, such grubby materialistic concerns were incomprehensible. Therefore his letters confess the “them” against “us” attitude of a young Abolitionist. He definitely was not perfect. If you want to find imperfections to excuse your desire to tear the Boston statue down, look to his letters.
If you want to find evidence of “racism”, look towards his inability to comprehend the Irish. Few could, for few had been through the hell the Irish had endured.
During the Great Famine of 1844-1849 the population of Ireland declined by roughly 20% through starvation, and around a million children died, as, rather than sending help, the English “elite” exported food from Ireland for profit. This heartlessness did not make the Irish expect much from the non-Irish. They expected little in the way of love from their fellow man. If they didn’t put themselves first, no one else would. They left Ireland in droves, penniless and with little but sweat to offer, and were not welcomed arrivals in many lands, unless you were a member of the “elite” and eager to exploit cheap labor.
In the American south the Irish were used for dangerous work that might kill a man. A slave cost the modern equivalent of several thousand dollars, and, if a slave died, it represented a sizable loss, whereas if an Irishman died it cost nothing.
In the north the Irish did receive pay, where southern slaves received none, but southern slaves had to be fed, clothed and sheltered, whereas the Irish had to fend for themselves, living in squalid tenements we can hardly imagine, yet calling themselves better off than in Ireland. They did not like the idea of slaves being freed, for they feared the slaves would come north and take their jobs.
All Robert Gould Shaw saw was the tip of the iceberg, and he had a hard time comprehending why the Irish behaved the way they did. In the privacy of his letters he expressed frustrations which he likely would not speak to an Irishman, face to face, (or would not speak without employing the care of a diplomat.)
In like manner, even as an Abolitionist, Robert’s letters express frustrations he felt about the African Americans who lived in the north as freed slaves, or in some cases as men who had been born free and were well educated, and were themselves exasperated by illiterate Irishmen.
(As an aside I should mention that when I was Robert Gould Shaw’s age, 110 years later, some “elite” quasi-genius (more dense than a half-wit) decided it was wrong for the Irish to have one neighborhood and the African-Americans to have another, in Boston, and the answer was “busing”, which in a sense was to forcibly rip children from safe environments and place them in unsafe areas. It went over like a lead balloon, and I recall experiencing great anguish as a witness, because I liked both neighborhoods and both peoples, yet saw the worst being fomented. I may have written some things at the time I would now rue having published, for frustration creates a fume that does not smell nice, and I basically became angry at three sides: African Americans, Irish, and also the leadership which was banging the two side’s skulls together.)
If you really feel it is a good thing to speak badly of the dead, and crave some evidence they were not perfect, look to old letters, or diaries they kept when they were young, or some traceable record of emails they wrote when drunk but deleted the next morning without ever sending. If you want to find some proof Rembrandt was not a good artist, find some work he did when he was five-years-old, and use that as an excuse to burn his masterpieces. All you are doing is proving you are an absolute snob, incapable of true understanding, true sympathy, and true Love.
The tale of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment is told in the movie, “Glory”, and is well worth retelling, though perhaps not by me. To put things in context, the battle of Gettysburg was July 1-3, the New York City Draft Riots were July 13-16, the Battle of Grimball’s Landing occurred on July 18, and the ferocious Second Battle of Fort Wagner was fought later the same day. Even Wikipedia will fill in the details, if you desire a broader view.
I bring up the Draft Riots to accent the complexity, and also the irony, involved. The riots occurred because the Irish were told they would be drafted to go fight and die to free slaves who would then later take their jobs, and they didn’t like the prospects, especially as rich people could escape the draft (for roughly $6200 in current dollars) and black people were exempt. In the sweltering heat of pre-airconditioning New York City the “peaceful demonstration” turned ugly, (sound familiar?) and the Irish turned their wrath onto the African Americans of New York City, brutally killing over ten, as over a hundred Irish died when troops, that had to be diverted from pursuing the retreating Confederate Army, were used to”restore order”. The irony is that this riot helped the Confederate Army escape, and therefore prolonged the very draft that was being protested, and also, even as the Irish protested that blacks were not going to be drafted, the 54th was marching south, many to their deaths, led by a white man who was only 25 years old.
At this point I’ll just add some family lore.
First, Robert did not initially want the job. He’d been fighting since the start of the war, had seen the bloodiest battles and twice was wounded, and did not want to desert his comrades. There was some doubt about the ability of black soldiers to face withering gunfire, and he feared he and his troops would be relegated to some behind-the-lines duty. The fact he was chosen was not so much a case of him stepping forward as it was of others stepping back. (It should be added that once he took the job, whatever racist preconceptions he had he shed, doing things such as demanding equal pay for his troops.)
Second, it was not merely in the North that there was doubt that black soldiers could withstand military discipline. In the south it was felt that, at the first bang of a gun, former-slave’s eyes would get very big, round and white, and they’d bolt. The 54th disproved this belief. Even before the first battle they created a sensation marching through southern streets in close order, radiating discipline, their uniforms impeccable and their buttons gleaming. The African American onlookers were especially impressed, (which the southern aristocrats felt set a bad example). Then in battle they fought without fear, basically rescuing the 10th Connecticut from envelopment early in the day, and gaining the ramparts of Fort Wagner in the afternoon. Although the higher command chose not to send further troops in to exploit this gain, instead ordering a withdrawal, there could be no doubt as to the skill and bravery of the 54th. But the reaction of the rebel troops was not admiration, but rather hatred and loathing, especially towards the commander who led them. Where the body of every other Union officer was returned to the Union side after the battle, the body of Robert Gould Shaw was stripped naked and dumped unceremoniously into a mass grave with his troops.
After the war there was an idea floated that his body might be exhumed and buried in some cemetery with honor, but the Shaw family stated he was proud to have served with his men and would likely be equally proud to be buried with them.
No long afterwards the mass graves were exhumed and the all the decomposing bodies were lain in neat rows with gravestones reading “Unknown”, but the Shaw family only wanted his sword back. Somehow they got it, and it was hauled out to be sentimentally displayed on occasion, until the blade gradually was forgotten and gathered dust in some attic until it wound up in a museum. However the surviving black troops didn’t forget, and were behind the erection of the memorial to the 54th, which was took decades to see brought to fruition; the statue itself was begun in 1884 and unveiled in 1897, and in 2020 took mere moments to desecrate with graffiti.
I often have wondered about the complete contempt displayed by the rebels toward the 54th and Robert Gould Shaw, for there is a contrary logic seen among soldiers wherein they must hate their foe to fight them, yet also feel admiration for the courage they witness in the men they maim and kill. What happened to the admiration in this case? I imagine what happened was that, despite the fact the rebels had defended their fort and won the battle, the 54th whom they had fought was a living proof the South had lost the intellectual war. Why? Because hand in hand with the concept of slavery is a concept like a caste system, which clashes with the idea that all men are created equal. The 54th had proven they were equal.
This leads me to a final anecdote from family lore, involving a similar caste-hierarchy in Boston, and the 54th marching off to war and passing the front of a prestigious club on Becon Street where the Boston Brahman were wont to gather.
By the summer of 1863 it had sunk in that, through the troops sung, “When Johnie Comes Marching Home Again”, many would not be marching home. The death toll was well on its way up to 600,000, which is basically a number the same as how many Americans have died in all other wars added together. Every older graveyard in New England has a crumbling monument to men buried far away, standing as mute testimony to the carnage which a Civil War involves. Therefore a poignancy was involved in the cheering, as the 54th marched by, with people putting on a brave face, and some holding back tears, until the troops marched in front of the club full of Brahmans. Their response? They pulled down the shades in the windows of their prestigious club.
Even 157 years later their snooty, self-imposed blindness is, upon this page, angrily remembered. It demonstrates that even in my own family bitterness is difficult to drop.
Not all memorials are raised to people’s most noble side; bitterness is a stone statue in our hearts, making hearts heavy, burdened. God urges us to love and forgive, but we prefer a poison which we ingest thinking it will harm others, when it harms ourselves and our children, just as the feud between Montegues and Capulets in the end killed Romeo and Juliet.
“The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.”
My great-grandfather was born in 1850, and that makes me the “fourth generation” since the horrors of the Civil War. I like to think my children are freed from the bitterness, for they are the fifth generation. However to achieve such freedom we must pull down statues, but not those erected externally, but rather the inner ones in our stony hearts.
Pulling down external statues is like pulling down the shades. There is something we do not want to see. But if we do not look at history and learn from it we are doomed to repeat it, as are our children.
‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’
If we only see the error of the past, we accent error and fail to see the glory which, if God is everywhere, is in every situation.
For, when you think of it, if your forefathers were completely bad, and all they did was bad, then you should start by pulling down yourself, for you are their creation. However, if you think your forefathers were good to create you, and it is only other forefathers who deserve destruction, then you are on the road to a Brahman racism all your own.
I actually have learned to like the image of the Boston Brahman pulling the blinds as the 54th marched by. It has great poetic value as a symbol. For the fact is this: A parade is marching in front of all of us, and we can either pull the blinds, or see the glory.
To those who can see no noble parade marching by, I say look beyond the blinds. Often what modern technology brings to the forefront is an ugliness in the way of beauty, but the beauty is still there, parading by behind it.
. UNWATCHED PARADE SONNET
I paused my weeding, ceased my looking down And gazed across the pasture to the trees That wavered green; looked up from dirt’s brown Hearing and seeing an invisible breeze Part summer’s locks with a sigh that’s unheard With the radio on. Every green leaf stirred. Every green branch swayed. Far too short a word Is five-lettered “trees”, and it seems quite absurd Such marvelous wind invisibly passes Unseen and unheard, like an unwatched parade, When I fret about news of rioting masses And make myself deaf to music God’s made. God knows how we ache and sends us His balm. Turn off the radio. Heed, and be calm.
Weather is unfair. Some get rain and some don’t. There is nothing particularly evil about this unfairness. It is just how the Creator made creation. Sometimes you get a bumper crop, and sometimes you are lucky to get a single turnip. The politicians in Washington can legislate all they want, but they aren’t going to alter the fall of raindrops from the clouds. Prayer might work, but legislation doesn’t.
One interesting thing about droughts is that they tend to perpetuate themselves. The dryness creates hotter temperatures which deflect moisture around the periphery of the core. This is quite obvious when the drought is gigantic, as the Dust Bowl was in 1936, but even in the cases of smaller and more local droughts rain has a strange propensity to snub those who need it most.
A current drought afflicts southern Vermont and New Hampshire, along their borders with Massachusetts, and today it was uncanny how the thunderstorms, moving east to west, avoided the lands that thirsted most. There were flash flood warnings blaring from the weather radio, as we dealt with dust. Here is a radar map of rain from this afternoon.
The impressive storms south of Boston and Albany and over Springfield were moving west to east, as were the string of lesser showers to the north approaching Concord. But most irksome to me was the storm right on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, approaching the coast. It was a cluster that had looked hopeful as it entered Vermont in the morning, but “dried up” and vanished from the radar as it crossed over me, and only reappeared and blew up to a big thunderstorm as it neared Portsmouth on the coast. Is that fair?
I know, even as I grouse about the extra work I must do watering my plants, that it is fair. The actions and reactions of nature are not only fair, they are beautiful. They are incredible harmony, and the only reason we complain is because we are not in harmony with the harmony. We have our own specific desires that are blind. For example, I transplanted some wet, cucumber seedlings into dusty soil, and failed to immediately water them, and the next day it was too late; they had withered and watering didn’t revive them. Never in my experience have cucumber seedlings needed to be watered so immediately; this June is “A First”. However I didn’t blame the drought; I blamed my inability to adapt to the “sumptuous variety of New England weather”. The weather itself is fair; what is unfair is our responses to it.
Sunday is suppose to be a Day Of Rest, and therefore I suppose working in my garden makes me a sinner, but I tried to lessen the eventual penalty I must pay by making my work into a sort of worship. Rather than cursing the drought I was praising the Creator for the amazing variety that makes my fingerprints different from all others, and also makes every summer unique. Not that I didn’t hope for rain. I hunched my eyebrows to the west, seeking the cumulus that was building.
Storms can build up from innocent-looking cumulus with surprising speed. In fact the vast expenditure needed to create the Doppler Radar produced images which shocked the indoors meteorologists who lobbied for it, which leads me to a bit of a sidetrack.
Back in those days congress didn’t just print money when they needed it, and they told the indoors meteorologists they needed to cut their budget in some areas before they would fund the expensive Doppler Radar. So what the indoor meteorologists did was to fire hundreds of outdoors weather-observers. They figured it was worth it, for they figured Doppler Radar would allow them to track individual thunderstorms in the manner that individual hurricanes were tracked. But what the Doppler Radar revealed was that there is no such thing as “an individual thunderstorm”. A storm was a “complex” of updrafts and down-bursts, forming “cells” of various types, sometimes fighting each other and sometimes assisting each other. The Doppler Radar revealed that, rather than a swirl like a hurricane that could be tracked, a thunder storm was a pulsating blob that made dividing amoebas look dull: breaking in two or into three, or becoming mega-cells, or vanishing, in a manner which was basically impossible to predict, from indoors. What was needed was outdoors observers, but those good people had been fired to save money. It was sort of funny to watch how the indoors meteorologists tried to save face. They made it sound like they were doing the public a favor by enlisting them as “volunteer” observers, called “spotters”. A job taxpayers once payed for is now done for free, but you get what you pay for. Around here a “spotter” caused complete chaos in early June by thinking a shred of cloud was a tornado. I’d take an old-fashioned outdoors observer any day, as some had decades of experience.
A further disrespect towards the old outdoors observers involves indoors meteorologists “correcting” the records they kept. Dr. James Hanson was notorious for such fudging of facts. I think it was done to make modern “Global Warming” look worse than the murderous heat and drought of 1936, but that gets us into politics, and it is unwise to go there.
I’d do the job, if only the indoors meteorologists would get off their high horses and confess Doppler Radar only proved they were ignorant. They closed hundreds of valuable stations, run by valuable outdoor observers, to get a gadget that basically tells you a thunderstorm is bad after it already is bad. An outdoor observer can do the same. But hell if I’ll do it if the people I do the favor for behave as if they are doing me the favor. The fact of the matter is they are not God, they have no control of the weather, and it is far better to be humble in such a situation than puff your ego on a high horse.
Not that I blame them for liking Doppler Radar. It is a cool gadget. Another cool gadget tells you just when lightning bolts hit, and even when you can expect to hear the thunder. I actually like this particular gadget more than Doppler Radar, for it will inform you the moment a ordinary shower becomes a thunder shower. You can even set it to make an audible click, the moment a nearby cloud first makes a bolt. This gadget produced the map below, as the Doppler Radar produced the map above.
This is a wonderful gadget, because, when you focus in on your local area, it not only shows you where the flash you just saw, arriving in your eyes at the speed-of-light, hit he ground, but also shows you a slowly enlarging circle, expanding at the-speed-of-sound, to tell you when to expect to hear the thunder. However even this gadget has its weakness. As an outdoors observer, engrossed with worshipful weeding of my garden on Sunday, I noticed I was hearing thunder this gadget didn’t admit existed.
The reason I could hear such thunder was obvious to me, although I am no Sherlock Holmes. Not all lightning hits the ground, but such lightning makes thunder. A storm can shoot bolts cloud to cloud, ten or even twenty miles from it’s core. Soft, cloud-to-cloud thunder can be heard by outside observers like me, even when gadgets are deaf.
I was in some ways glad it didn’t rain, as I had to weed the beans, and you can’t weed beans in a wet situation because doing so causes problems with a virus attacking the bean’s leaves. (No, it is not the Corona Virus and no, you don’t need to wear a mask. You simply weed when the leaves are dry).
Although drought may be good for beans when you weed them, after weeding they thirst for water. I had to water some flats of seedlings I intend to soon transplant, even as soft thunder muttered from both the north and south. The carrots and tomatoes were crying out for weeding, but I had to water first. It isn’t fair, but is just is how things are. And I eventually did weed some carrots and all the tomatoes, and also the peppers, as daylight faded and you actually could see the lightning to the north and the lightning to the south, which went along with the soft sky thunder. Yet still we remained dry.
As the late day June sun settled and the mosquitoes came out I decided enough worship was enough, and headed to my front stoop to relax with a worshipful beer. And it was then I felt I became a most blessed outdoors observer. I was witnessing stuff Doppler Radar misses.
Some storm to the south was a little closer than the others. The thunder was still soft, but a few flashes of lightning seemed brighter. And then I noticed, against slow moving higher clouds, speeding scud.
There was hardly a draft down where I sat, but the outflow of distant storms produced a wind, around a thousand feet up, of marvelous speed. (I can’t recall ever seeing scud moving so fast, outside of hurricanes). With an imagination like mine it was easy to see an angel on a speeding horse.
What this outflow did was to uplift a local cloud just enough to make it shower. At first it was just a few big drops, platting here or there, but then it became a soft roar in the crisp June foliage of parched trees, at first far away like a whisper, but then edging and sidling closer, until a brief down-burst hit the stoop I hearkened from.
In India they celebrate a monsoon’s first rain. The evening chorus of songbirds hushed at the approach of a downpour in a drought. It began as a sigh on the very edge of hearing, but became an approaching roar. All became giddy in a way only drought knows. My wife came out and stood beside me as the flooding baptism approached, and then began splatting fat, warm droplets down in a way that raised tiny clouds of the dust it pelted. And then all too soon the sigh faded away through the darkening trees. I looked up through parting clouds and saw the high heavens feathered with sunset’s crimson cirrus.
Through parched trees comes the sigh of marching rain, And even evening birds bow heads, made mute With gratitude. The drenched do not complain For it’s been so dry that sunbeams refute Green growing, and, as first fat drops pelt The dirt, small puffs of dust are arising, And now the sigh surrounds. I once felt This way when a kiss brought a surprising End to loneliness. But this shower’s brief And already the soft sigh slides away Through dimming evening; sweet mercy’s relief Fades to memory’s grief, and dripping leaves pray The way men pray when they confess they lack: “Oh Lord, come back. Come back. Come back.”
On Monday we got a mini-monsoon. The heat encouraged a general updraft to form a weak low over southern Maine, which sucked cool and moist maritime air inland and then south towards us, where it clashed with muggy air. At first the showers continued to dry up, as radar showed them approaching, but thunder thumped all around, and finally we got a few more showers. Around sixty miles to our south one locale got four inches and suffered wash-outs, but for the most part we dripped in a delightful summer drizzle. Who would ever think I could delight in drizzle?