Categories
Where's Chuck?

Where’s Chuck? Friday 7.31.15

I’m on vacation, but I planned ahead. Presuming that we stay on track, we’ll be seeing a lot of cool things–here’s what I hope to see today.

Most of our time is going to be spent here…
KDJJKNWTVXVSAGT.20120813141759

But the Nebraska state capital, otherwise known as “the penis of the plains” should be worth a quick visit….
capital_bldg_in_fall

And they’ve got this sunken gardens thing that should be good for an hour or so…
27thwest

But if you know anything good to do in Lincoln, I’ve got some time, let me know in the comments section…..

Categories
Uncategorized

VACATION!

nb75at70aBy the time you wake up and read this–by the time the WordPress robot publishes this–I’ll be two large travel mugs and a couple hundred miles into our big vacation, having slipped off in the foggy pre-dawn morning on our way west, and we hope to stay on vacation for several weeks.

I’ve lived in Wyoming and Oregon, and have had the opportunity to travel back and forth across this country, with a lot of meandering along the way, many times–but my kids, who were born in Oregon, have not been on the left side of the Mississippi since we moved to Pennsylvania when they were 4 months old.  It was well badlandspast time we got them out there.

I don’t know if I’ll have many–or even any–chances to check in on Old Road Apples, or to see what is going on over at your blog, and the many others I generally enjoy on a daily basis.  It is strange, but I feel like I’m leaving a lot of friends behind, and in a way I guess that I am.

Not to fear, I’ve been planning for several months to make this trip go smoothly, and part of that has included maintaining Old Road Apples in my absence.  I’ve prepared the usual daily tetons1features, a heavy dose of Summer Wonders, and–as a special treat–repeat posts of vintage Junk from the very early days of the blog, before anyone was reading.  That’s right, I have several dozen posts–much of it poetry–that received few hits, likes, or comments–or none and at all.  I’ll be throwing those out at you to see what you think this time–maybe they’re really terrible, and that’s why they went ignored.  We’ll see.

03341_archesparkavenue_672x420Finally, it’s common wisdom not to reveal travel plans on social media, so just to let you know: if you’re one of the rare few who have penetrated my slender wall of anonymity, don’t get any bright ideas about robbing me, or whatever: we’ve got desperate, slightly dangerous and unpredictable neighbors who will be working with a dedicated circle of house-sitters, lawn-mowers, plant-waterers, dog-walkers, and other heroic souls who will providing a constant and vigilant guard on the homestead.  And did I mention the dog?

See you back here in about a month–I hope to return with a mountain of tales both tall and short, and maybe a photo or two.

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Wednesday Words of Wisdom: Abraham Lincoln

16e1dd4a49b7f4f6dae0ef77da97d6da
Art of Jason Pruett: Abe Lincoln – Icon

In honor of Donald Trump’s bizarro news conference announcing his candidacy for President, I give you a good old Honest Abe twofer.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

“He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met.”

–President Abraham Lincoln

Categories
Commentary

What Did You Do on Memorial Day?

I woke up, did some chores, went to the home improvement store to buy some gardening supplies, visited a friend to drop off a box of onion starts I’d grown from seed, ran by the grocery store, went to the feed & supply store to buy some tomato seedlings to replace the few that got frosted the other night, went to my in-laws’ house for burgers and corn on the grill, came home and planted tomatoes with my wife, then chased her around the house a few laps when the kids went off with their friends, then sat down at the computer and thought about Memorial Day a little bit.  Invariably, my pondering turned to what might very well be the most memorable and definitive photographic image to emerge from our ongoing, unending 24-year-old middle east war.

arlington

If you haven’t seen this picture before, and you live in the USA, then I’m wondering where the heck you’ve been?  It certainly haunts me–now more than ever, as the very forces we originally sought to defeat have reared their heads once more in the form of the baathist, Saddamite front known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever the hell it is called today, claws at all that the most optimistic among us hoped to build. It begs the question: how fucked up is this war?

We should never have gone. We should never have left.

civil-war-garWhen I visit the cemeteries of my ancestors around Westsylvania, I am invariably proud beyond all reason of the “G.A.R.” starts on the graves of men of a certain generation. Likewise the veterans of the war to end all wars,” and the ensuing “war to end all wars.” Both my grandfathers from the verdant Appalachian hills of Bedford and Somerset counties to the seeming wastelands of Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya–one as a heavy maintenance mechanic whose service from 1942 through 1946 would take him from northern Africa to Italy, France, Belgium, and ultimately to Berlin. The other was crewman on a B-25 bomber beginning in the second battle El Alamein through the invasion of Italy. Before the war, he was a farm kid who had never been near an airplane–but within months after volunteering for service he was flying over Egypt dropping bombs on Nazis. How strange is that?

My father and uncles went to Viet Nam–three tours for dad, a navy man who for the rest of his life didn’t like to sit with his back to Asian people in restaurants.  He voted republican against the long, pro-union legacy of his family until the infamous “swift boating” of former Presidential candidate John Kerry.  It was the only time I ever saw him worked up about politics–“Those boys in the Swifts,” he seethed to me one night, “riding plywood in the rivers and deltas, they were sitting ducks. I knew a lot of ’em, and most didn’t make it home.”

I felt no compulsion to join the volunteer army of the mid-1980s, at a time when the only wars we were fighting were with small pond bullies and narco-despots who, after imageswe put them in power, refused to be our puppets.  Despite what you’ll hear from Reaganites, the 80’s weren’t a great time for patriotism–the only other bully on the block was the Soviet Union, and we all knew if we got into it with them it would be “please place your tray in the locked, upright position, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.”  We watched movies like “The Day After,” and took strange comfort in the encompassing fatalism of the time. If you’re going to go, go big. Right?

It was about that time that I ask my grandfather, a fiercely republican businessman, if it bothered him that I had no plans to serve, and he told me that under no circumstances was I to even consider volunteering. His exact words, if I recall correctly, were “Unless something bad enough to need fighting comes along you stay the heck away from that monkey actors’s dog and pony show. (an unusual rhetoric flourish I recall with great emotion, as it reflects my own mature writing style with eerie accuracy).  I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting a real evil to have my grandson used as cannon fodder in a bunch of penny ante conflicts our idiot-in-chief  is using to distract the voters from the worst economic policies since Herbert Hoover.”

My grandfathers’ generation was deified, and rightly so, and my father’s was largely ignored (he said neither he nor any veteran he knew every experienced anger or derogatory treatment from civilians, contrary to the stereotypes of so many Viet Nam Era-themed movies, and he considered himself lucky to be unrecognized–he didn’t want a parade or medals, just to get on with his life–a process that would require roughly 30 years and a lot of unhappiness for all of us).

Today, we do a better job of treating our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the respect and recognition they deserve, but I fear that we let that respect for the men bleed over into the politicians from both parties who have misused these brave and determined young men and women and shortchanged so many of them.

There is a lot for our leaders to answer for–and I’d start with the sneaky policy of drawing down the regular military under the guise of tax reductions, then shunting our endless war onto the shoulders of the men and women of the National Guard.  Add to that the despicably low compensation our military receives, and the porous post-service health and wellness care that leaves so many of them broken and lost.

Even as I say this, I know that there are some who would call me unpatriotic, especially on this of all days, but I stand by that–especially on this day.  We can think what we want about wars–from the craziest right wing ‘burn down the world” proponent of expressing American Exceptionalism through carpet bombing to the hippiest dippiest sandal-soled anti-war bunny-hugger–but we need to get on the same page, the SPARE NO EXPENSE page, when it comes to taking care of these kids and young people (the use of the National Guard as a sustained combat force has led to a much higher than ideal number of older veterans serving for longer periods and leaving larger  families behind) who have left parts of their bodies or, in the case of our epidemic of PTSD casualities, parts of their souls, in the sand and on mountainsides on the other side of the world.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Categories
Commentary

So: What The Hell is Cinco De Mayo?

old-school-cinco-de-mayo
Image Source: San Diego Free Press

I grew up up rural western Pennsylvania, and I never even heard about Cinco De Mayo until I was grown up. I mean: hell, we didn’t even have tacos until the 1980s. Not in the town where I lived. Even after I first heard of Cinco De Mayo, I just assumed it was another one of those foreign holidays we Americans like so much to appropriate, an obscure (often stern and religious) celebration, like St Patrick’s Day, that we explode into full-blown binge-fests of sin an libertine indulgences–you know, because we can’t help our ingrained need to rebel against the puritanical undercurrent of our bawdy culture. And Cinco De Mayo is well on the way–just watch all the college bars running promotions backed by the makers of Mexican-themed beer and booze.

So, what the hell is it?

It is not, as I thought, a sort of Mexican Fourth of July.  Nor does it have anything to do with dead people–that’s Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead,  but I understand your confusion: all those foreign holidays sound the same to us.

Cinco de Mayo does commemorate a Mexican military victory over the invading French army on May 5, 1862, but the holiday has always been a much bigger deal in the USA because Mexican latinos realized, in beating back the French, that the Union could also win the Civil War.

Wait? What Union? Do I mean Lincoln and Grant and all those guys?

Yep. The French, you see, being back in the Empire game under Napolean III (you’d think they would have learned after the first two) naturally allied themselves with the the Confederacy, with their mutually twisted dreams of idealized courtly fairytale nonsense. Most Hispanics, on the other hand, weren’t thrilled about France’s stated goal of crushing a thriving young democracy and restoring a Mexican monarchy (under France’s auspices, of course); nor were they thrilled with slavery. Or Texas, which had pretty much been taken from Mexico by force, and was still a haven for vicious mercenary raiders who, fancying themselves freedom fighters, crossed the border into Mexico to steal, rape, scalp and murder Native Americans and Mexicans alike.

Hispanics in the American west saw a two-fronted war, with the confederacy to the east and the French pushing from the south, and in California and Oregon in particular it seemed that the army of freedom and democracy had struck a huge blow against the elitist forces of slavery and monarchy. It had little to do with Mexican patriotism–it was about defending freedom and democracy.

In fact, Latinos were joining the Union army, Union cavalry, Union navy. Spanish language newspapers in the west closely covered every single battle of the Civil War.

Networks of Latino groups called “juntas patrioticas mejicanas,” or Mexican patriotic assemblies, mostly in California but also in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona, with 14,000 members, organized parades, speeches, dances, banquets and bull fights as a morale builder for President Lincoln and Mexican President Benito Juarez, and from 1862 to 1867, the public memory of Cinco de Mayo was forged in the American West.

In the years after the Civil War, veterans of the Union and Mexican armies would put on their uniforms and give speeches every Cinco de Mayo but the meaning of the holiday changed as years passed, first becoming a David versus Goliath tale among Mexican immigrants in the 1900s, then morphing into a celebration of U.S.-Mexican unity during World War II. In the 1960s, the meaning shifted towards pride in Mexican heritage and on in the past decade has become what Professor David Hayes-Bautista calls an, “undeniable commercialization in the late 20th century, a fake holiday recently invented by beverage companies. Now it’s become this big commercial holiday and a wonderful opportunity to get services and products in front of the Latino market and it even got its own postage in 1996 and in 2005 President Bush even had a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/cinco-de-mayo-party-history_n_1471509.html

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/history/article20229972.html

Categories
Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Food…For Thought

1965029_10153971409855237_1528491701_n

Way back in April, I followed a link to the awesome photo above, which itself had been taken from a twitter post by “Cleveland Frowns” and read through a few, mostly outraged, comments.  The overall tones of the discussion were understandably angry, with a strong dose of condemnation over the general disrespect and insensitivity of America’s Caucasian mainstream for our Native brothers and sisters.  The reactions varied between pity and calls for violence–if the post and comments are still available on line you can read some for yourself– as is generally the case with this discussion, which I’ve reviewed in various incarnations before.  Indeed, I’ve delved into the subject before, albeit from a more dispassionate perspective here, and then followed up here–decent posts that sum up my feelings and the road I took to get to them.

In the ensuing months, my opinion hasn’t changed–a country built on the ideals that I was taught to believe in–however idealized and romanticized those ideals might be, should not condone the continued, systematic humiliation and 741degradation of an entire race, especially given the historic, genocidal treatment of that race by the colonizing mainstream and their “Manifest Destiny.”  It’s important to remember that while Adolph Hitler and his Nazis were responsible for about 11 million non-combatant deaths (about 6 million of them Jews), the number of Native Americans killed during the period of American colonization is estimated to be as high as 80-90 million, with conservative numbers somewhere in the 50-60 million range.  And that’s no laughing matter.

Thanksgiving, the holiday during which we count our blessings, is a good time to take a deep breath and remember that there aren’t a whole lot of Native folks throwing down a turkey on the table and reminiscing about the good old days.  Many of us know that the Thanksgiving we learned about in school was pretty much invented during the Lincoln administration as a way to salve the divisions created by the civil war–a ploy to get folks to sit down and have a meal together and appreciate what we have.  Politically, it was genius–we’re still doing it today, right?  And isn’t it fun to consider that Honest Abe Lincoln is sort of the father of Black Friday?

But I digress.  More accurate–and quite fascinating, historically–accounts of the first Thanksgiving are available here and here.  You’ll note that the story wasn’t wildly changed from what we learned in school, but those changes were highly significant.  Those colonists, far from the first that the Wampanoag had encountered, were tolerated, if not enthusiastically welcomed, despite the previous visits and depredations (disease outbreaks, skirmishes, and the abduction of Natives who were pressed into slavery among them) largely because the pilgrims had women and children in their party–and it was decided that only peaceful people would travel with their women and children.  The Wampanoag held the pilgrim’s fates in their hands, and that tolerance and assistance allowed the colony to survive–but did they ever sit down and have a big, celebratory meal?  Not by native accounts.

That doesn’t mean Thanksgiving isn’t a good idea, but that we should look honestly at the truths behind our holiday as presented to us, and the solemn and violent history that has elapsed over the nearly 400 between then and now.  For many Native Americans, thanksgiving is considered a National Day of Mourning, and rightly so, but others look wistfully at the mythological incarnation of the holiday and less at the actual, depressing history and contemplate what the holiday can be, and what we as a people and as a nation could have been.   As quoted in the article cited below, Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer said, “As a concept, a heartfelt Thanksgiving is very important to me as a person. It’s important that we give thanks. For me, it’s a state of being. You want to live in a state of thanksgiving, meaning that you use the creativity that the Creator gave you. You use your talents. You find out what those are and you cultivate them and that gives thanks in action.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have to admit that I rarely give thought to pilgrims on Thanksgiving–except for those little accordion-fold paper turkey figures with the pilgrim hats and collars.  Love those.  Like most people, I’m thinking about getting together with distant family, sitting around drinking beer, scarfing shrimp cocktail and cheese and crackers, talking  whether there will be enough stuffing left over for seconds, maybe thirds (my capacity for stuffing is boundless), about apple pie, about going out to the lake to see the opening of the big Christmas Lights display, about how I wished I’d had the initiative to put up my own Christmas lights three days ago when it was warm because they’re calling for snow all week, and finally about football–and how in a short span of days–hours, really–everyone will disperse and go back to their far-flung lives, and how the holiday–any holiday that brings us together–never, ever lasts long enough.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/11/23/what-really-happened-first-thanksgiving-wampanoag-side-tale-and-whats-done-today-145807