Saturday, September 25, 2010

She Made It!

My friend, Kutsa, completed hiking the Appalachian Trail on 18 September. This was her sixth attempt. She began a year or two before I met and hiked with her in 2002 That was also when she met her now husband, Montreal. Her multiple hikes covered 8,000 miles and Montreal accompanied her on many of those miles. That's him with her in the picture and I'm thinking he also waited to finish the trail with Kutsa.

I'm happy for them both.


Remembrance of Things Past and Present

Speaking at a seminar on "Race, Slavery and Civil War" Virginia governor Robert McDonnell said, "One hundred and fifty years is long enough for Virginia to fight the Civil War." As the state approaches the sesquicentennial of its attempt at secession, McDonnell promised that next year he will issue a proclamation that acknowledges the broad sweep of the war in Virginia. He said it will be written to remember "all Virginians" - free and enslaved, and those who fought for both sides. Former governor Douglas Wilder, Virgina and the nation's first black governor, commented favorably, "The governor recognizes that we must observe real history, not revisionist history,"

Not everyone was impressed. Apparently 150 years is not enough.
McDonnell's announcement Friday drew sharp words, however, from Brag Bowling, the former commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"I think it's cowardly of him," Bowling said. "He didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to his political enemies or the media."

Bowling accused McDonnell of selling out Virginia's Confederate descendants to make himself more palatable for a possible run for national office. "Our organization, to a man, will be opposed to this. There will be a lot of political fallout for doing this," Bowling said.

Tuning from present to past, 50 years ago the nation celebrated the Civil War Centennial. In the south where I lived the Centennial was was a definitely a celebration. In the north more of an observance, no doubt. As a young teen in southside Virginia the Centennial was for me mostly about how the South should have won and even if it technically lost the war, the South won some sort of moral victory which meant the South was actually better the the North. All this notwithstanding the fact that my family is from Pennsylvania. Anyone who was a teenager has moments of sheer bad judgment and ignorance. This is one of mine.

The Civil War Centennial came as black Americans began challenging the century of racism, discrimination and economic servitude that followed the Civil War. Naturally, we southerners found their demands to be another assault on all that was right and true in our world. Remembering the previous century's war fortified our belief in inherent rightness of the South. It was certainly the doorway to my racist years.

My youthful racism never amounted to anything violent or overt. It was more a way of thinking and making viewing myself and others, largely the product of my environment rather than family. My parents were Yankees and were no more likely to be racist than any other white adult of their generation. By the early 60's though, my father was dead my mother pretty passive so I was left to the influence of my peers and local prejudice. I drank deeply of that brew. I even became a Young Republican. As I said, it was a time of youthful bad judgment and ignorance.

I managed to grow out of all this in college. A new environment helped me shed what was, fortunately, not a deeply belief. But that history is still there. Acknowledging this past is a humbling experience. I don't like to admit that I was on the wrong side of one of the great moral issues of my lifetime but I was. It's part of my Permanent Record. I cannot erase that. Nor should I. To erase that past is to forget the lessons it taught me about justice and human rights. I will take responsibility for that past and embrace the knowledge it brought.

Which brings me back to Gov. McDonnell. His speech was an attempt at rehabilitation after his disastrous Confederate Heritage Month proclamation earlier this year.
"My major and unacceptable omission of slavery disappointed and hurt a lot of people - myself included. And it is an error that will be fixed." (my emphasis)
I won't gainsay his motives but McDonnell would sound more believable to me if he had spoken in the active voice. His words distance him from the actions he claims.

At that distance, McDonnell may not actually embrace the knowledge to be learned from his experience.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

More One Party News

Chris Hedges at Truthout:
There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state.
The menace we face does not come from the insane wing of the Republican Party, which may make huge inroads in the coming elections, but the institutions tasked with protecting democratic participation.... Fear the underlying corporate power structure, which no one, from Barack Obama to the right-wing nut cases who pollute the airwaves, can alter. If the hegemony of the corporate state is not soon broken we will descend into a technologically enhanced age of barbarism.
And the longer we refuse to confront corporate power the more impotent we become as society breaks down. The game of electoral politics, which is given legitimacy by the right and the so-called left on the cable news shows, is just that—a game. It diverts us from what should be our daily task—dismantling, piece by piece, the iron grip that corporations hold over our lives. Hope is a word that is applicable only to those who grasp reality, however bleak, and do something meaningful to fight back—which does not include the farce of elections and involvement in mainstream political parties.

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The Past is Prologue

Henry Clay, speaking of John Tyler, in 1842:
We could get along with a man who was only a fool or knave, or mad but the extraordinary occurrence of all three of those qualities combined in one person is intolerable.

Which got me thinking about the past administration. George Bush is the fool. Dick Cheney is the knave. Donald Rumsfeld and the claque of neo-conservative armchair warriors are the mad man. A perfect storm of incompetence and delusion with consequences as grave as any occasioned by John Tyler. The only difference is that modern Americans find this somehow tolerable.

The quote is from Henry Clay: the Essential American by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. Almost 500 pages plus 70 pages of notes and sources extensively chronicle a long public life. The story reads well and details the issues, politics and personalities of America in the early to mid-19th century.

Accounts of politics in the latter years of that era would easily characterize politics today. The manipulators and misinformers from those days would have no difficulty competing, once they understood the technology, with contemporary practitioners. Or vice-versa.

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