Wednesday, February 28, 2018

DID YOU FORGET ABOUT THE OKLAHOMA OSAGE MURDERS?

Vine Deloria, Jr. and his bump-stock typewriter

Vine Deloria, Jr., a rousing Sioux-enrolled scholar who led renewal and empowerment for indigenous people, was a data-seeker.  When one of his books (Maybe it was Custer Died for Your Sins) was doing pretty well, Deloria asked his publisher how it was selling on reservations.  Briskly, the publisher said there were no sales of books on reservations because they have no bookstores.  And Indians don’t read.

Actually, the problem is not whether there are bookstores but that few people on reservations have the money for books, which are writing made into marketable objects by being printed on paper, bound, and shipped from warehouses.  It is a merchandizing system developed by the Merchant Class which is key to the Middle Class.

Nowadays the problem is different.  Writing and the spoken word is available everywhere via the Internet, but the kinds of access are scattered and the devices many people on reservations use (like smartphones, key to survival on a harsh and vast landscape) are not suited for reading chapter books.  Audible books, great for long distance driving, don’t necessarily work if one is transporting other people, esp. kids who might prefer their music.

Some attribute the Native American Renaissance that provided so many memorable books to the political activism of people like Deloria.  I would like to mention a different kind of activism:  the influence among writers of people like Carter Revard and the Bruchac sibs.  In addition to their own writing, they gave careful attention to American indigenous writers and calmed the quarrels among competing writers, while publishers tried to fan the flames in the belief that competition helps sales.  Perhaps this has prevented some constructive thought about why people will buy the writing of indigenous people — besides a lascivious curiosity about how marginal people hang on, or a Hallmark sentimentality derived from German philosophical elevation of the “natural man.” (Gender intended.)

The commenters on Sherman Alexie’s current “pickle” (phallic symbol) note that 80% of his readers are women.  This is true of most readers of indigenous writing.  I suspect it is true of most novels.  Even more true of readers of romances either as Audible for commuting or ebooks at bedtime.  Single career women in particular have both the time and the discretionary income to enjoy narratives.  

But the publishing industry at the top of “books” have always been dominated by men, tolerating women as editors and winnowers of the slush pile.  As sales became more problematic, the women were shunted off from being employees as editors, networking at least through Manhattan circles, into a role as agents, but much more scattered and — over time — losing the knowledge of who would publish what.

One of the drivers of merchandise on the rez is the desire to become part of the Middle Class, which means books, among other signs of prosperity.  Books do not have to be sold in bookstores, esp. in this era of Amazon.  But books bought for prestige need to be “popular” and talked up in places like NPR.  Which brings me to my issue with this new book about the Osage murders.  

David Grann describes the Osage Indian murders as "one of the most sinister crimes in American history.”His book, Killers of the Flower Moon: An American Crime and the Birth of the FBI chronicles "a tale of murder, betrayal, heroism and a nation's struggle to leave its frontier culture behind and enter the modern world.”  Grann is an investigative reporter whose turf is this sort of scandal.  No doubt the link to the FBI helps sell the book. 

He has no reason to honor “Mean Spirit”, a novel that covers the same events, focused not on the FBI but rather on the many women who were courted, married, and murdered in order to acquire their property by inheritance.  But those of we readers who have continued to cherish the Native American Renaissance movement and the writing of those authors miss the chance to bring new readers to the work of Linda Hogan.  That’s my purpose here — not to stir up a quarrel, but to extend appreciation beyond of the sensational realm in which some people have always tried to trap NA’s.  Maybe some of those 80% females would appreciate Hogan.

(from Wikipedia)  “Linda K. Hogan (born 1947) is a poet, storyteller, academic, playwright, novelist, environmentalist and writer of short stories.  She is currently the Chickasaw Nation's Writer in Residence.[3] She now lives in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

“Along with being an author, Hogan is also an environmentalist who spent eight years volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Two out of those eight years were spent at veterinarian school and the other six were spent at Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Colorado. . . . Now she does good for animals by talking and writing about them Hogan married Pat Hogan and has children, Sandra Dawn Protector and Tanya Thunder Horse.”

In short, there’s room for both genres because some readers will prefer academic environmentalist legacy novelists to sensational exposés.  In fact, the return to the subject in much more provocative terms might be arguably justified by the failure of “Mean Spirit” to register.  On the other hand, “Mean Spirit” was published in 1990.  That’s almost three decades ago.  It’s still in print but has the advantage of being low-cost through the used book sources.

I bought most of my NA books at Powells in Portland in the Seventies when the publishers were dumping the Nat Lit books as “overstocks.”  They just didn’t sell as expected.  Now they are classics, but at the time the publishers were alarmed by issues coming out of the “intellectual property” body of law and also by the contentions within the NA writing community which created worries about political correctness in the readers.  The split between romantic novels and bloody atrocities didn’t help.


Adrian L. Jawort  is an example of the trail back to the new terms of publishing: indigenous publishing companies.  “Writer/journalist dude writing good reads. I'm owner of Off the Pass Press LLC, where we aim to find true beauty in literature off the beaten path.”  You’ll also find plenty of tragedy and romance, if that’s your preference.  The mechanisms of merchandizing need to be rebuilt, but far less venture capital is needed now.  What’s missing is the “why not?” spirit of merchandizing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

NOT NECESSARILY TRUE STORIES


It seems clear that the overriding common denominator of all cultures is survival, which is socioeconomic, which means what counts is whatever sells.  Money is the solvent that will dissolve all the boundaries.  And all the cultural nuclei as well.  

Beyond subsistence, prosperity is a 19th century value of the bourgeois, the famous Middle Class.  While living controlled, walled, standardized lives enforced by rigid morality and relieved by underground wickedness, the Middle Class loved little adventures into the “wild” (like climbing mountains or exploring other people’s countries or religions), and always wanted souvenirs.  When people come to the rez and ask for a tour, I take them up and down the roads and valleys, pointing out the history, and at the end they say,  “Yes, but I really want to buy something.  Are there no shops?”  A dream-catcher maybe?  Or something authentically beaded with glass beads?

When Euro culture first confronted indigenous culture, there was immediately a juxtaposition, a confrontation, between the two peoples.  They dressed differently, they spoke differently, they interpreted the world differently, and they smelled different because they ate and sheltered differently.  But underneath all that they were the same species and so it didn’t take long for the organic but culture bound differences to begin to blur.  One anthropologist, describing the Blackfeet (Macfee, “Modern Blackfeet”), spoke of four cultures: whites, indigenous, whites who lived like indigenous and indigenous who lived like Euros.  He talked of the 150% “man” who incorporated elements of both cultures — not building “scare walls.”  Or pay walls.

Like all discontinuities, money for bridges and gates is a great way to make a little money by charging toll for people and materials.  Part of the wealth of Malcolm Clarke came from him owning a narrow access canyon north of Helena.  In contrast, the Blackfeet never realized that they could charge toll for Marias Pass, the only way for a railroad to get through the Rockies.  When the concept of “intellectual property” came into law, the tribal people were a little more quick to claim exclusive entitlement to their own stories and knowledge, though the Jesuits and the anthros wrote down a lot of it.  Good thing, because otherwise there would be no record now.

There were two steps to getting money out of Napi — one step was writing things down and the next step was publishing it, so that it was in a form that was a “thing”, a solid object that could be exchanged for money.  In The beginning there were no tape recorders and, anyway, only the Blackfeet understood Blackfeet, which was an oral language, which is why the written spelling never settles down.  Gradually certain people made themselves into bridges by translating an oral language into a written book.  Sometimes they had help.  Maybe missionaries or progressive ladies who couldn’t bring themselves to consider some human things of a more intimate nature.  This meant that others could promote the “unauthorized, unbowdlerized real versions.”

The “first” of something tends to dominate everything afterwards, so the main genre of “writing” about indigenous people was recording the myths the way the Greek playwrights and the Grimm brothers did.  In oral traditions there are always variations, so then there was a marketing opportunity advertising true authenticity, the one true and only version, which is a Euro preoccupation.  

Because the category of indigenous people blurred and melted around the edges, the criteria for ownership of “intellectual property” kept morphing.  Does a person have to be a recorded tribal member with a provenance based on a list made by a conquering military?  What if the tribe is not recognized by the federal government, but on its own recognizes the author’s membership?  What if a person, esp. people relocated to cities or sent to government boarding schools at the age of “falling in love,” ended up with membership in a number of tribes?  Are the rules like those for people whose parents belong to a number of nations?  Is a Pan-Indian like a United Nations citizen?  What does the world do about people born in a country not recognized by the other nations as a real nation?

Where did we get the idea that only tribally enrolled people can write about  tribal matters?  (Hint: it was probably either from a lawyer — or a publisher trying to promote a book.)

I must confess that I’m not genetically or legally a Native American.  If one accepts participation in old-timer’s ceremonies, with their consent, then that’s worth something.  If one accepts living on a reservation, that counts for something.  But it’s possible to live on a rez like an ex-pat in a little enclave of others from elsewhere, without ever really feeling or participating in what goes on.  

Every rez is like a raspberry with many drupes, compartments, protected groups organized around centers like a spiritual conviction or within boundaries, like illegal drugs compelling secrecy.  So writing about one will be inspirational and writing about the other will be muck-racking, exposé.  The words, characters, plot and environment might be in the same place but quite differently described. 

Autochthonous people, tribal people, are hard to confine once they understand that there is a much larger world out there — except for those who can’t wait to escape the rez.  Can’t both these folks write about their lives?  Some people never go farther away from their homes than they have to and are content.  Couldn’t they be poets?  Like Emily Dickinson?

I wrote a book I call “Twelve Blackfeet Stories.”  It was written very schematically, starting with a time-line list of the history of the Blackfeet that I developed in a course from Darrell Kipp.  I divided it into generations (twenty year intervals) and wrote a story for each generation based on events of that period.  I buried in each an “Easter egg,” an artifact from Bob Scriver’s book called “The Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains”.  The first story is about the coming of the horse.  The last story is about a contemporary boy trying to recapture the old time spirituality by fasting in a dream bed in the Sweetgrass Hills.  

But then twenty years went by and I had to write a thirteenth story, so I made it about coming back from Great Falls in a blizzard, like right now.  It was about a guy coming back to his home rez after being raised in Texas.  I based it on and dedicated it to a guy named Linden who was on RezNet, an Indians Only internet bulletin board in the Nineties.  He’s dead now.

Don’t tell Sherman Alexie.  He was on Rez Net, too, but someone said something critical of him and he left.  I was on the bulletin board under false pretenses, so I left.  Not long ago I asked about going back since RezNet is still going after passing decades.  They said, “LOL”.  When my mother died, the people on that bulletin board reached out to comfort me, even though some of them had figured who I really was.

Everything is a story.  No publisher offered to make “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” into an object that could be copyrighted and sold as merchandise.  Anyway, it was hijacked off my blog so you can just download it from pirates.  And I put it on www.lulu.com/prairiemary who will print it, bind it and sell it to you.  There’s not much point in copyrighting it because nations enforce copyrights and what is a nation now?  What is the center of the internet?  Where is the boundary?

The "Twelve Stories" are written in way that could be told as oral stories.  "There was this old woman who hated progress and that meant she hated horses . . . "  "There was this basketball player who joined AIM . . ."  "There was this man who finally went home but hardly recognized it. . ."  There is no wall.  You'll have to find the center.

Monday, February 26, 2018

DO NOT ALL OF US BLEED?

A partial map of the Canadian First Nations treaties.
These do not map reserves, which are small within these areas.

It is a physiological fact that human understanding is cumulative, composed of tissue connections in the millions of cells in the body which act very much like a colony of one-celled “animals.”  The first knowledge is that of the cell and the half-nuclei of the ovum and sperm.  It is based on crossing a boundary into a protected territory — I’m talking about the sperm ramming its head through the “skin” of the ovum and then through the smaller skin around the nucleus, so that in that sanctum of protected molecular coding the uncoiling and coiling up again of the double helix will begin the making of a new human with certain characteristics.

Where am I going with this fancy stuff?  I’m hoping to end up with insight into indigenous-based literature by making it strange.  Not everyone likes strange.  In fact, most people have a built-in preference for what is familiar and an intention to make it stay that way.  Things learned in childhood are most persistent. 

Thus, the concept of “American Indian”, which everyone agrees is a misnomer imposed by Europeans.  “In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after the feminine Latin version of Vespucci's first name, which is Americus.”  Indian, of course, is a word that arose from the fantasy of reaching India by simply crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  

At first contact the east coast tribes suffered a variety of fates: death by contagion (Euro bodies' white cells had immunity code the indigenous people lacked and so the people died on contact.)  I’m fond of a variation of a few robust original people's ability to withstand germs, and who chose to stand with the pale people who came on ships.  

A clearly native woman in fairly recent times joined the Daughters of the American Revolution.  When challenged, she pointed out that her tribal warrior ancestors had fought alongside the warriors of the newly formed colony/nation.  Contrast this with the reaction of a contemporary educated woman in Valier who was upset when the state of Montana mandated that “Indian history” had to be taught in the public schools.  “I don’t see why we have to study THEIR history.”

So she recognized a division probably learned as a child.  It’s not just a white people problem: I’ve known young Native men — not teenagers either — who felt badly because they didn’t look like “Indians,” meaning the Italians who impersonated them in the movies.  

Or consider the profile on the Buffalo nickel which is reputed to be a portrait of Two Guns Whitecalf, though the sculptor himself (Fraser) said it was a composite.  You can explain all that a thousand times and people go right on claiming the same thing.  Consider the name:  Two Guns Whitecalf — what a mix!  Two guns, not three arrows, and then a sacred icon of Blackfeet thought — a baby albino bison.  A Christian equivalent might be Jesus, which is not a protected name in the Catholic countries.  I suppose the English taboo goes back to Cromwell and the Puritans who had a curiously Islamic resistance to images.

So now I’m ready to talk about writing based on the tribes of this misnamed continent, depiction of their lives, each in their own ecosystem, because it is that fittingness to the requirements of the land that creates tribes.  Prairie buffalo people are the dominant trope for movie-goers, but most of us realize that there were tribes based on salmon or deer or corn or arctic seals.  Each had a language and socioeconomic structure, unique arrangements of gender roles and child-raising practices.  If outsiders came into the group, this is what they were pressed to observe.  Usually their name for themselves meant simply “us.”  The People.

Europeans had only a few centuries earlier managed to create a certain amount of order by invented “nations,” which meant a ruler and boundaries.  You know, like “Game of Thrones” where each nation responds to its ecosystem by being horse people or ship people with the kinds of personalities that developed out of those experiences.  The need for boundaries came from murderous attempts to claim territories that were richer or more pleasant.  “Let’s invade the south of France!  The Riviera!”

To the Euros the tribes looked like nations.  The nations of Europe busied themselves with claiming vast territories they had never visited.  They sold huge areas back and forth among themselves until the colonies declared themselves a nation and got into the game.  Recently, in the course of rethinking all this again, I saw this map (above) of the numbered “First Nations” treaties in Canada.  (For the moment let’s leave aside the equivalence of nations to tribes.)  Treaty 6 is Cree and Treaty 7 is Blackfoot.  Sorta.

Canada, of course, at least on the Western half was not Canada yet.  Rupert's Land, or Prince Rupert's Land, was a territory in British North America consisting of the Hudson Bay drainage basin, a territory in which a commercial monopoly was operated by the Hudson's Bay Company for 200 years from 1670 to 1870, although numerous aboriginal groups lived in the same territory.”  

As for the USA in those years, “the United States won the war and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The treaty gave the U.S. lands that would become the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, southwestern Colorado, and southwestern Wyoming. Mexico received 15 million dollars and gave up its claims to Texas.”

Both the money and the territories were arbitrary and invented.  The vegetation, the animals, and the humans who lived there hardly noticed.  What changed everything was the Industrial Revolution.  And now everything is changing again, because of the cyber-revolution, the internet that is global, paying no attention to national rules and boundaries, but creating whole new kinds of tribe, based on affinity, common cause, and financial interests like access to resources.

Now think about Native literature.  Think about what a tribe “is” since it’s defined not organically by the need to survive but rather by laws and definitions created by European-style federal governments and enforced by territorial boundaries surveyed and imposed on the land and by lists kept from the first ones made after the military took control of the tribes and wrote down the names of whomever presented themselves as belonging to the tribe so as to get subsistence food and blankets.

No one knew about DNA in those days.  Not even blood “types” were known.  “The most well-known and medically important blood types are in the ABO group. They were discovered in 1900 and 1901 at the University of Vienna by Karl Landsteiner in the process of trying to learn why blood transfusions sometimes cause death and at other times save a patient.”  Blood types became a powerful concept during war when soldiers wore “dog tags” with the crucial information in case of wounds.  Back on the rez what people care about is "who's your grandma?"  (Grandpas can be elusive.)

Returning to the idea at the beginning of this post, blood is a complex system of keeping the body — inside its skin boundary — both nourished with oxygen and other basics (glucose, protein) and also guarded from invasion by microbes and viruses.  Remarkably, the red blood cells we so fervently capture in so many symbolisms — like the flags of nations or the iron-based red pigment so many tribes use — have no nuclei.  They have no DNA, the root of identity.  They simply carry oxygen through the tubal labyrinths of a living creature.

Our mis-named land-mass supports human beings with basic universal viability — we are world-wide all one species because all our biological conceptions can survive.  And yet we insist on divisions, boundaries, according to conflicting cultural systems.  This is the real and central key to contemporary Native Lit — the struggle to understand the human costs and triumphs in these circumstances, particularly through the poetry of experience and the narrative trajectories over the boundaries of those who were already here and those who came from somewhere else.


I would argue for the dissolution of literary boundaries based on genealogy, location, culture, and other identity markers of the writers whenever they restrict explorations of these crucial reconciliations.  We need to look at both sides now.  ALL sides now.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A PARTIAL RE-BLOG FROM AUGUST 31, 2013 "Alan and the Indians"


In 1976 my Portland UU minister, Alan Deale, became involved with AIM, the American Indian Movement.  Dennis Banks, Russ Redner and Kenneth Loudhawk (with others) had been arrested while driving a Winnebago loaded with unstable nitroglycerine dynamite in eastern Oregon.  They were lucky that this happened in a far different political climate.   They were released on bail.   Deale had been asked to be the person to whom they reported daily and he wanted feedback about “Indians” from me.  My sympathies were with them, though I thought driving around in a hot climate with a load of explosives was pretty ill-advised.  In fact, the sheriff of the impounding county was so nervous that he ended up taking it out into the sagebrush and exploding it.  This offered a way out of a very “hot” trial, since there was now no evidence and that particular case was dismissed.

However, Banks was still wanted in connection with the death of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash and it was unclear what Oregon would do about extradition to South Dakota.  It was certainly clear to the rest of us what South Dakota would do to Banks.  Governor Jerry Brown in California would not extradite, so Banks ran for sanctuary.  The sympathetic old lady who had put up the sizeable bail lost her money, but Deale managed to get her reimbursed through connections within the UUA realm.

The congregation supported Alan’s role in this legal standoff and he actually quite enjoyed the whole thing.  The two law teams treated him as a professional equal and there was a certain amount of glamour.  

There were funny blunders in the practicalities.  Banks gave a very Vine DeLoria Jr. - type “sermon” one Sunday (jokes about Jesus coming out of the tomb like a groundhog predicting weather) and the Loudhawk and Redner group served fry bread during the traditional coffee hour afterwards.  They understood UU’s as “granolas,” so the frybread was whole wheat.  When I teased the women -- really little more than kids -- their eyes went big for fear that they had broken some rule.  That’s the use of teasing on a rez.

But when there was an appeal for food, I loaded up a box of what I considered to be “pow-wow food” -- hamburger, eggs, oranges and Sailor Boy hardtack -- and they were at a loss.  There was too much of it for them to eat in a few days and they had no freezer, so what would they do with all that meat?  They were actually urban people created by government relocation and I was used to rural culture.  On the rez there would be no problem at all, because everyone’s relatives would be over to share in the feast.  But if you live in ghetto apartments, you don’t let people know what you have.  Anyway, you might end up living in your truck.  No fridge.  I should have loaded them up with canned food and packaged cookies.  


What impressed some UU people most was that Kenneth Loudhawk’s father showed up and he was one of those solid, grave, intelligent people that every culture depends upon.  There would be no monkey business with him around.  Alan really enjoyed knowing the man.

There are books, for instance, this one.  I haven't read it, but Alan is probably in it:


Quote from Publishers' Weekly:  "This is the shocking story of a criminal case that began in Portland, Ore., in 1975 and ended in 1988 after 13 years of pre-trial litigation. Six members of the American Indian Movement--Dennis Banks, his wife KaMook, Kenny Loud Hawk, Russell Redner, Anna Mae Aquash and Leonard Peltier--were charged with possessing dangerous weapons with intent to use them. Stern, a law student at the time, volunteered his services to the defense attorneys and remained with the case until its resolution. Here he charges governmental abuse of the legal system, anti-Indian bias and vindictiveness by the FBI; he also provides examples of judicial and political courage. This riveting account of documented persecution, intensive legal research and vindication when the case was finally dismissed by the Federal District Court in Oregon is a major addition to human rights literature." 

A LITTLE GUN NOSTALGIA


The most closely controlled guns in America are military guns.  We don’t think of that.  Both my brothers were Marines and earned Marksman medals.  They would confirm this.  Yet in the Forties we all played guns, saw guns shoot people, owned guns and shot guns from an early age, beginning with “Daisy Mae”, the .bb gun sponsored by Red Ryder. (Now you can buy them in pink online.  In my day girls weren’t supposed to shoot guns.)  My brothers were not drafted — they enlisted during the draft times.

We had long guns for hunting and my mother kept a handgun in her nightstand because my father traveled for a living.  Even as taken-for-granted as all this, boot camp gun training was a whole different level.  Far from buying a big gun at Walmart and shooting up people a week later with no practice — using ammo that explodes human organs and only hits targets who are huddled or frozen, and then only spray-style like mafia on television shows — the military will impress upon the soldier that a gun is only as powerful as the person operating it.  He will be tested, inspected, and qualified on a gun he is assigned and expected to master.

One dis-assembles it, cleans it, reassembles it, so many times that it is an extension of the person so completely that it is likely to be called by a human name, usually female.  It is sighted in, oiled, stored safely.  The operator is calm, steady, focused and has practiced shooting more times than a ghetto kid practises making baskets on a community court in summer.  Both brain and muscles are educated.

Even so, I knew a man who carried all his life the burden of killing in error. He was guarding a perimeter at boot camp when a young man made a run to desert.  The sergeant yelled at my friend to shoot him, saying if he didn’t, he would shoot my friend.  Aiming at the boy’s legs, as he had taught and intended, he was devastated when the boy dived forward so that the bullet severed his spine, killing him.  My friend was not blamed nor prosecuted — just mustered out quietly and warned to tell no one.  Even with precautions, training, skill, and intentions, bad things happen.  

A good friend was shot by his three-year-old when the father turned away for a moment.  The gun was on the coffee table and the toddler had watched his dad sighting it around the room.  His baby hands were barely strong enough to pull the trigger while it lay on the table.

When I “rode shotgun” with Bob Scriver, I went hunting with him but not as a fellow shooter.  I was the “dog” who beat the brush to spook out whatever was there.  I fetched and carried and if the weather were warm and the water was shallow, I waded out into prairie ponds to retrieve both the dead and the wounded fallen waterfowl.  Also, I cooked and ate them, and the same went for deer.  The shooting took only a few seconds — the preparation and planning and gutting and packing out took all the rest of the day.

The corners of the studio were always stacked with historic guns for reference.  Most were beautiful, carefully made, works of art in themselves.  They should have been in a locked cabinet to protect them from dust and damage.  One was made from scratch by a local high school teacher and a border patrolman, who melted the brass on a charcoal fire in a barbecue kit powered by the hairdryer “borrowed” from a wife.  Guns were domestic.

In the evening we often visited Hubert Bartlett, the lumberman, in his little shack outside town where he reloaded ammo.  The place smelled of black powder and strong coffee.  Hubert claimed he had high-powered combat guns greased, sealed in plastic and buried out back on the prairie.  It might have been true, but it would have been an expensive thing to do and Hubert didn’t have a big profit margin.  What he had was enough to live on only because he moved his lumber over the Rockies in the middle of the night when he was unlikely to be pulled over by the highway patrol who would impose fines.

Those were the John Birch years and men wore cufflinks that looked like intercontinental missiles to show how tough and defiant they were.  Except I never knew any veterans who even wore shirts with French cuffs, much less signifying cufflinks.  Cowboys wear shirts with pearl-snaps.  Politicians use laundries for their shirts and accumulate cufflinks so pandering people will be impressed.  (Did you see that Trump has his French cuffs embroidered with the number “45” — maybe he should add a question mark.)

So Trump thinks that if there were more guns and guards, the schools will be safer, but this time around there WAS a guard with a gun, but a gun is no braver than the man holding it and he failed to enter the building to shoot the shooter.  The shooter escaped by mingling with the other kids — he could not be distinguished once he stopped shooting.  Ever hear the term “friendly fire” when one’s own side is killed by one’s own bullets?

Guns are a “magic solution.”  So believed both the shooter and Trump.  But no wonder the cabinet generals are beginning to wonder whether their work can be done.  They can not cure a person whose mind is in chaos.  They can not “make safe” a person firing a gun.  Safety is all in the preparation ahead of time and the outcome on reflection afterwards, but studying mass shootings is forbidden by law.

Here’s some news for you:

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee quietly rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the underlying causes of gun violence.


Lobbyists for the NRA managed this demonically nonsensical legislation because they were afraid those who study the problem would blame the availability of guns and therefore cut into sales.  What are the names of these legislators?  Who were these lobbyists?  Why are they not vilified?


Friday News: NRA, CPAC Go Full “John Birch Society”; “Nasty, Brutish and Trump”; Fairfax County School Board Adopts Resolution on Combating Gun Violence

The John Birch Society used to be against Communism.  I guess by now they’ve forgotten that the USSR’s soviet ideas still exist in Russia and Putin is the new Stalin. 

Welch named the new organization after John Birch, an American Baptist missionary and military intelligence officer who was shot and killed by communist forces in China in August 1945, shortly after the conclusion of World War II. Welch claimed that Birch was an unknown but dedicated anti-communist, and the first American casualty of the Cold War. Jimmy Doolittle, who met Birch after bailing out over China following the Tokyo Raid, said in his autobiography that he was certain that Birch "would not have approved" of that particular use of his name.  (Wikipedia)

At one point, the John Birchers were considered far right nut-cases and the mainstream Republicans wanted to get rid of them.  One could make a case for the idea that the real goal  -- nearly reached now -- of the John Birch Society was the destruction of the dignified, conservative core of the Republican party.  How did they manage it?  Money.  Why?   

Here’s a song for you.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0jqKjVR274   "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues".

Friday, February 23, 2018

A LIFETIME LINE OF THOUGHT


Private Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan, 13th Reinforcements, C Company, Ist Battalion, 
Canterbury Infantry Regiment, NZEF. WWI service no 24117
He wears the cap and collar badges of the 12th (Nelson) Infantry Regiment.
I never heard of this man, but he carries two of my family names: Cochrane and Strachan.
He died in WWI.

This is a little time-line of my thought as it has developed.  Remarkably, it seems entwined with women, though I’m not particularly woman-identified — rather a CIS woman who responds to men with desire, but expects entitlement to think gender-free.  Maybe this is partly because I was born in 1939, at a time when women did everything because the men were fighting and dying for freedom.  This was serious business.  Some of my teachers never married because so many men died in WWI.  Others settled for household unions with other women.  (You can’t tell me this was only desire, though I’m sure that intimacy can kindle desire.)  

So it was Miss Carter, “Irish as paddy’s pig” with red hair and bow-legs, who gave us grammar, the structure of the English sentence.  The next revelation was in high school, sophomore year, when Miss Shull revealed modern poetry, the magic of sensory metaphor set free.  Miss Gilstrap, rumoured to be a crack shot with a pistol, guided us through the Hungarian Revolution our junior year and impressed upon us the necessity of guarding freedom.

In the earlier years, the Portland mayor was Dorothy McCulloch Lee, who cleaned out corruption while wearing a fetching hat.

By the time I got to college, it was Dean Barnlund who led us through language and thought with Hayakawa and Whorf.   Bergen Evans pried open words like oysters to show where they came from.  Paul Schilpp made us rethink religion.  But it was Miss Krause who showed how to open the human heart and spine on a stage.

Ten years in Browning, Montana, the capital of the Blackfeet Reservation, gave me an understanding of human systems of deep belief and how necessary they are, how destructive when they get scrambled by domination and corruption.  I withdrew to being the Beta, just coping until I was too scrambled to go on.  Or had I simply grown too strong to be dependent anymore?  The human brain comes to its last stage of pre-programmed development at about 26 years of age.  I began to quarrel with the given.

For five years at Animal Control, I tried to understand the interactions among the animals, including the human ones.  Part of this was a year-long citizen committee rewriting the animal control law with the guidance of Francis Smith, a lawyer who walked us through concepts of democracy and principles of justice, until we finally could reconcile the docile, too sentimental folks with those who demonized the domestic.  The mayor at the time was the charismatic and progressive Neil Goldschmidt, who had a stubborn black lab dog that wouldn’t stay home.  Neither would he.  Our most gallant and indefatigable worker was Phyllis Johanson, the Quaker wife of a surreal artist.  People’ lives, governance, inner lights, and wayward wantings — all mixed together in astonishment.

It wasn’t the beliefs of the Unitarians nor the compassion of the Universalists that sent me off to seminary.  It was Leadership School which combined organizational design with committed community that made me think it would be possible to enter ministry successfully.  That was wrong, but the training and years of trying showed me a path to what I really wanted, which was to write.  My guiding minister at the time, Alan Deale, is being memorialized in Rockford, IL, tomorrow.  We never talked about writing.  Only thinking.

The problem with seminary was that the nature of the institution is to create commitment to a line of thought that will preserve the institution.  This meant excluding all new challenging information.  Raw evidence, phenomenology, was excluded.  And yet on this same campus Lakoff and Johnson had just published “Metaphors We Live By,” and Eliade was working on the top floor of Meadville/Lombard.  I found the work of Suzanne Langer and preached about moments of epiphany in ordinary experience, which parishioners confirmed.  I tried to describe the virtual world where each of us construct our own simulacrum of our shared realistic world, but without the vivid vocabulary from computers it was only fiction.

The resistance and even horror of my professors pushed my determination to figure it all out into a guiding intensity in service to my MA, which Hannah Grey, president of the U of C, described as a “hunting license.”  I hunted across the high prairie of both Montana and Canada.  Then there was time back in Portland with access to Powell’s.  I had already spent much time in the Powell’s of Hyde Park accumulating books that I eventually sold back to the store in Portland so I’d have money for more books.

I hung in the doorway of the room where the Post-Moderns dwelled (metaphorically), those levelers, those questioners, those breakers-open of the taken for granted.  Structuralism, post-structuralism, and then the structure of the brain — not systems of thought but which neurons plug into which networks that support which brain functions by recording and filtering them molecularly.  Souls, even identities, are but bright shadows.

Then ten years of reflection and analysis in a privileged solitary life back on the prairie — the privilege of time alone to think and write.  Then another ten years of virtual partnership, trying to frame some meaning in life, using only words on the internet, met with powerful images from lives determined to survive.  The challenge was immense and the shared drive towards a new planetary understanding triggered cultural recoil.  That’s where I am now, newly aware of how little time I have left and how far I have traveled with joy and sorrow.

The north pole is forty degrees warmer than it is supposed to be at this time of year.  Because of arctic intrusions,Valier is forty degrees colder — twenty of those degrees below zero.  We have record snow amounts and it’s too dangerous to be on the snow-blown highways in an old pickup like mine.  Yet today the sun is warm and floodlighting the village.  

What it means is the end of drought on the west side of Montana — not the east side.  That means trout streams and tall grass.  It means winter-killed carrion for the grizzlies to keep them away from calves.  It means landslides along the coulees and renewed ground moisture for those who don’t have irrigation.  It’s a structural renewal of a system not designed for humans, but where humans can survive if they understand and adapt.  If pride holds them in old systems, they can expect flood damage and erosion from past fires.  These are metaphors.  

But the boys are still fighting for their freedom.  Some of them express despair by killing.  Others express hope by marching.