Sunday, February 27, 2011
Well, I’m beginning to understand why a lot history got left out when I took US history. Twice. High school and university. :-P.
“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” Dr. Samuel Johnson. Died 1784.
“I am an aristocrat, I love liberty; I hate equality.” John Randolph of Roanoke Virginia
These quotes help to capture the paradox of the love of liberty expressed by the gentry of Virginia. The gentry, who controlled between to seventy five percent of the land and other productive assets including a growing population of African American slaves, had an exceptionally strong sense of their English liberties. While many Englishman turned out reams of prose and poetry celebrating their heritage of English liberty going back to Magna Charta those visions often contradicted each other. New England’s ordered liberty that emphasized a liberty that often subordinated individual liberty to the community and the church was much different from the hierarchical vision of liberty that grew up in colonial Virginia and the broad lands of the Chesapeake.
Hegemony and hierarchy, the uprights that held the rungs of Virginia’s social ladder. Hegemony was a condition of dominion over others and a dominion over themselves. When a traveler named Andrew Barnaby spoke of the colonial Virginian’s he observed “the public and political character of the Virginians corresponds with their private one: they are haughty and jealous of their liberties, impatient of restraint, and scarcely bear the thought of being controlled by any superior power.”
In Fischer’s opinion that was the key of Virginia colony’s definition of liberty; the power to rule. To rule over others, not to be ruled by them. The opposite of the power to rule was slavery. You didn’t have to actually be a slave, just have lost your power to rule over others.
When Britain first, at Heaven’s command,
Arose from out of the Azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
Britons never will be slaves. James Thomson
There’s almost innocent arrogance in this verse. Britain, protected by its namesake stormy Channel, has the right to rule; Heaven has spoken. Simply by being the sons of southern England’s landed gentry, Virginia’s gentry assumed the right to rule over others.
In Virginia’s hierarchical paradise, your status was determined by the liberties you possessed. The big land owners on the top rung of the ladder had the most liberty. They controlled most of the land and had enough power to negotiate favorable tax rates and limitations on the power of the colonial government from sympathetic governors. Granted the colonial government, at least in the first generations, didn’t have a lot of responsibilities. The patriarchal head of the new world manor regarded his dependents, those with less liberty as his responsibility. This protection could extend to immediate family, wards, house servants, visitors, farm workers and slaves.
Next came the thirty percent or so of the population that were small farmers and tradesmen. They were expected to bend the knee to the gentry and the established church, but they could give orders to the landless laborers they employed.
The laborers seem to have had at least one liberty. They could quit and look for a job somewhere else. But in a colony with large separated land holdings and few towns that may not have counted for a lot.
At the bottom of the ladder were the slaves. They had no liberties that the law was obliged to recognize. Anything they were granted was dependent on their masters. The masters had the liberty. They had none. Fischer uses a term, laisser asservir. It literally means the “right to enslave.” He doesn’t explore where the basis of the belief of the planters that they had the right to enslave others. It may go back to the whole concept of “Britannia Rules the Waves.” We have the right to do this simply because we’re British and it’s mandated by Heaven. I feel another headache coming on.
The ideal of hegemony was not only public, but personal. The ideal colonial member of Virginia’s elite was a master not only of others but of himself. To be truly free, you must rule your thoughts and actions; not be ruled by them. And while they believed in minimal intervention by the colonial government they also believed that part of their personal liberty was the duty to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of their station. Well, that’s one saving grace I suppose.
I’d love to go back to the 1780’s and invite the likes of Jefferson, Adams and Washington to a little get together.
Whew. On to the Quakers and the Backcountry.
Cross posted in Walking With Hope.
Friday, February 25, 2011
"Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood—facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf—his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.
This book is what he found. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits—folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions—and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting."
In the past couple of days I read that Duke University and Univ. of North Carolina have chosen Eating Animals as the summer reading assignment for their incoming freshmen. It is an excellent choice for young people on the brink of being in charge of their own life decisions. As one of the students on the choosing panel stated: "For me, it's not just a book about food, It's a book about being really active in making your own decisions." It delights me to think that Saffran Foer may be instrumental in helping them make some very good ones.(Crossposted from my personal blog: Quid Nunc.)
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The colonists of New Englanders had some conceptions of liberty that were unique to their settlements. David Fischer argues in Albion’s Seed that the word liberty was used in four different ways that would probably strike modern Americans as unusual.
One use of liberty described liberty or liberties that belonged to the community or communities rather than the individual. Writers, from the founding of the colony for the next two centuries spoke of the liberty of New England, the liberty of Boston, or the liberty of the town. There is evidence that Sam Adams wrote more often about the
”liberty of America” than the liberty of individual Americans.
This concept of collective liberty was consistent, to New Englanders at least, with restrictions on individual liberty that modern Americans would find very restrictive to say the least. In early years of the Massachusetts colony, potential colonists couldn’t settle there without permission from the general court. Persons who were judged to have dangerous opinions, in the eyes of the authorities, could be and occasionally were shipped back to England. Not every Tom, Dick, or Harry was allowed to move into the colony without permission.
Those colonial New Englanders accepted restraints, but did insist that the restrictions be consistent with the written laws of the Commonwealth. And they insisted that they had the right to order their communities in their own way. Not the way it was done in Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or in some cases even England.
Liberty or liberties had a second meaning in New England. One that had roots in the counties of East Anglia where many of colonists and most of their pastors left when they emigrated. Individuals could be granted the liberty to do something that they normally couldn’t do. For example, certain individuals could be granted the liberty to fish or hunt in certain areas while that liberty was denied to others. In some cases the liberty granted depended on someone’s social rank. For example a gentleman could not be punished with a whipping unless the crime was extremely serious and “his course of life was vicious and profligate.” (the author didn’t provide any examples) Those of lesser rank, had a lesser liberty: they were limited to forty stripes or less if they were sentenced to a flogging.
And codified in the fundamental liberties of the colony was the right of any man, inhabitant or foreigner to come before the courts or town meetings and have his voice heard. And if he couldn’t plead his own cause he had the right to ask someone else to speak for him.
And there was a third kind of liberty in New England. It was referred to as Soul Liberty, Christian Liberty or Freedom of Conscience. This did not mean freedom of conscience in the way we understand it. This was freedom to practice the true faith as defined by the fundamental law of the colony. This liberty did not apply to Quakers, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, or even Presbyterians who did not agree to a very restrictive definition of reformed theology. And the definitions could, and often did, depend on the whim of the local minister. Basically, it meant they were free to persecute everyone else in their own way. I know, I’m getting a headache just trying to wrap my brain around the idea that the freedom to serve God in your own way in your own community could be defined as the right to hang Quakers for preaching in the town.
And, at times, liberty was used in a fourth way. It described an obligation of the “body politicke” to protect individual members from what the author calls the “tyranny of circumstance.” The Massachusetts poor laws may have been limited but the General Court recognized a right for individuals to be free from want in a basic sense. It wasn’t a question of collective welfare or even social equality.
In Fischer’s opinion these four ways of looking at liberty; collective liberty, individual liberties, soul freedom and freedom from tyranny of circumstance were all part of what the New Englanders sometimes called ordered liberty. The New Englanders had their ways of defining liberty; other colonies and their settlers didn’t always agree.
I'm hoping to do an entry for each region.
Cross posted in Walking With Hope.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
My husband likes to talk about sports. Since I gave him an "e-book" computer for our anniversary in 2009, he makes use of his "library time" (I'll leave it to the reader to figure out which room in our home qualifies as his library) reading sports stories from all over the internet. He has, in fact, become somewhat of a walking sports encyclopedia in the course of the past sixteen months.
Absent a community of other men with whom to engage in analytical sports banter, he sometimes gets really desperate and starts spouting his facts and figures at ME. To my credit, I have enough residual interest in sports (I used to be a genuine fan) and just enough exposure to news outlets that I can generally engage in a moderately satisfying exchange on the subject.
We were sitting in a booth at one of our favorite eating spots—we call it "the sports bar" because from every booth, one has a clear view of no less than five television screens, each tuned to the sport du jour—when the husband began to wax encyclopedic about the latest big story. Seems there is a young man who plays baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. A very talented young man, who has been with the team for the first ten years of his career. That's nice. Nowadays, the players tend to sell their services to the highest bidder, and never play for more than a couple of years for any one team.
Well, it seems this young man (Albert Pujols) is up for a new contract at the end of this year. And the negotiations, apparently, are no less complex than a trade treaty between international giants. Pujols sets a deadline. Deadline goes by—no contract. Rumors fly, but neither side will tip its hand. The team is said to have offered $200 million over eight years. Cardinals manager theorizes that Pujols is being pressured to "set the bar"—by demanding something exceeding the current fattest contract: Alex Rodriguez's $275 million over ten years. They think $300 million over ten years might properly set that bar.
Three hundred million dollars. Thirty million a year. To play a kids' game.
This young man would earn—well, not earn, exactly…let's say he would be paid—the equivalent of twenty-five years of my husband's current salary in slightly less than a month. We could live comfortably well into our retirement (husband will be 80 in twenty-five years) on what this kid will put in the bank in thirty days.
And the thought occurred to me: there's no shortage of money in this country.
It's simply that more and more of it is going to those who already have more than they could possibly need or use.
How much filet mignon and caviar can the guy eat? How many south sea islands can he own? How many designer drugs can he put up his nose?
Meanwhile, the price of meat and fish has us increasingly dining on…pasta. The price of gas has us vacationing in…our back yard. The price of health care and pharmaceuticals has us…taking aspirin for a heart attack.
And WE are the "middle" class. God help those below US on the food chain.
Monday, February 21, 2011
And I don't believe our outstanding web hostess, Lisa, would appreciate having this "material" permanently enshrined here. Reading it there was bad enough. There are times I wish we kept booze in the house. I oculd use a belt........or three.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Not all of these bills are at the federal level and the screwball from Georgia is a really scary dude. BTW the basic list is courtesy of MoveOn. The comments are my own. The text in bold is the original MoveOn list. Unbolded text are my comments.
1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.
2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims." Google search verifies claim. The legislator in question is named Bobby Franklin. He also has advocated banning all abortions in Georgia. The bill he introduced would also require that every miscarriage be investigated The fancy legal term is spontaneous fetal death. In other words ladies you are guilty until proven innocent. He does not support public schools. He introduced a bill this year that would do away with driver’s licenses in his state. Apparently requiring that people be licensed to drive unfairly infringes in their right to move freely. After checking out the Wickipedia entry for him I have to assume he’s either a Dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist. These are scary folks. The Old Testament code would be the law of the land.
3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.) True as far I can tell. I found multiple listings on the web.
4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. Actual figure is $747 million dollars. Still a big hit for the most vulnerable among us. I did a quick web search an it looks like subsidies for corn, sugar and soy are still intact.
5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life. Currently a hospital is required to stabilize and transport to another facility if they can’t provide treatment for whatever reason. Pitts’ new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn’t have to — nor would they have to facilitate a transfer. And in a rural area a transfer might not be feasible. I hope nobody has to die to prove what an asinine idea this is.
6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working. This occurred in Frederick country Maryland. It’s an all male board of commissioners. I’m making the rash assumption that they’re all white males, upper middle class at least and on the north side of the age of fifty.
7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool. True
8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens. Well that’s one way to solve the Medicare and social security deficits.
9) Congress voted yesterday on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country. True
10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up). True
But the good news is that the tax cuts are still in place. And the not so funny things is that all the wire service photos show middle aged and above white guys in power suits. Maybe the old sixties adage really is true. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” With a few possible exceptions. Peter DeFazio is still pretty cool.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I read an article today on the NPR website that talks about voters who want what tax dollars will provide (like repairs to the country's aging infrastructure) but have no interest in providing the funds to make it happen. Where do they think the money is going to come from? Heaven? Maybe that's why the far right agenda seems to be more focused on mollifying God than doing any actual governing…
Let's face it: Many of our living wage industries have been out-sourced to greener—cheaper—pastures. Or, as is the case here in the Pacific Northwest, the mills have pretty much cut down all the cheap, easily accessible lumber, so they, too, have upped sticks and moved on to the next lumber mother-lode (Canada? The Amazon?)
What's left for those of us who live here to DO for a living? What jobs/industries are impossible to send overseas or out-source? Well….there's government (don't forget this includes law enforcement and fire protection—your tax dollars at work), education (largely funded by tax dollars), infrastructure construction and repair (cha-ching—more tax dollars.) And we know they can't outsource health care…and what a gigantic money-machine that has become since all the other industries have gone away! And then there is the Service Industry—encompassing everything from WalMart to McDonald's to parcel delivery to garbage collection. Notoriously low-paying and high-turnover jobs, the ones nobody really wants to do.
So we would all do well not to think of our tax dollars as going to entitlements benevolently bestowed upon some undeserving (in our eyes) segment of the population. We need to think about our own livelihoods—or maybe that of the guy next door, or the family who sits next to us at church. If we did away with all taxes, would you still have a job? Would you be able to make use of our tremendously overblown and overpriced health care system? How many of those folks would then lose their jobs? And since discretionary income would be hard to come by, how would that affect the service industry? What if you couldn't even afford to eat out at McDonald's anymore?
Yes, it's very popular—and the politicians know it—to scream about government overspending and a budget deficit that will imperil our economy for decades to come. But in this consumer economy we've created by letting big business get away with sending huge portions of our industries overseas, we really need to understand where those "too many" tax dollars are going. How many of them actually make it back into your own pocket, in some way? How much is government investing in keeping this wrecked ship of an economy afloat? And what would our lives look like if we just…let it sink?
Think about it.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Last night, as a result of having seen an Ann Taylor camel coat on a sale rack this past weekend, and then Googling "Ann Taylor camel coat", I discovered what is, for me, a new phenomenon: an endless supply of fashion blogs written, for the most part, by 20-something petites. These young women blog to document what they're wearing, given their difficulties finding clothes that fit (many of us would love to have such difficulties, but that's another topic). After browsing a couple dozen of these blogs, I had mixed emotions. I love pretty things, including clothes, so on the one hand, I enjoyed seeing what a bunch of 20-somethings were wearing...but I was also a little horrified by the implicit narcissism in the concept of daily postings of what one is wearing, especially by a bunch of 20-something waifs, most of whom would look gorgeous wearing potato sacks.
Every one of the extremely petite 20-somethings whose blogs I read had no qualms about posting her statistics on the internet, beginning with
- HEIGHT: I was reading blogs written by petite fashionistas, so by definition all were 5'3" or under. For what it's worth (not much, I'm sure) I'm 5'3" myself.
- WEIGHT: I soon discovered there are 2 ways these petite young women describe themselves: tiny or curvy. Most of the weights I saw posted were 110 pounds or less, the curvier young women apparently choosing not to reveal this particular statistic. Ahem, I believe I now belong in the curvier category myself.
- MEASUREMENTS: I admit I was rather taken aback to see young women posting their measurements, but again, this is something done by women who described themselves as tiny, not by the women who described themselves as curvy. For what it's worth...of the measurements posted, there were very few bosoms beyond 32", and nary a B cup in sight.
After revealing that much about themselves (and sometimes more) , these young women regularly post full length pics of themselves dressed to go...somewhere. It might be to work, or on a date...(do 20-somethings actually date? I don't think so...I think I'm dating myself, using that term)...or out to walk the dog...you get the idea. The best posts, IMHO, included detailed descriptions of what the posters were wearing in the pics, e.g., "Target cami, Ann Taylor cardigan, Talbots pants, BP shoes". Most of the minis also add their sizes, if they're to be believed. Reading the clothing descriptions, I've never seen so many "XXS"s in my life. Ah well...
Browsing those blogs got me thinking about Germaine Greer's writing that as women, we become invisible in society as we age; I have it in my head that she said we become invisible at 50. I was 20 when I read The Female Eunuch. I don't remember liking it, in part because 50 seemed ancient, and interminably distant, and I remember wondering, rather peevishly, what on earth Greer was talking about.
At 61, it's no longer a mystery. Fashion magazines are filled with tips on how to dress, and how to do hair and make-up, for women in their 20's, 30's, 40's and...women over 50. Ouch! Try to imagine if it were the other way around...if magazines had tips for women in their 50's, 60's, 70's ...and women under 50. The one supposed exception to this is More...but I can't help but notice that the cover model for the January issue is Molly Sims, a 38-year-old former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Puh-leez! I don't feel particularly invisible,but much of the time I do feel like I'm treading water, and that if I don't keep on treading, the great wave of invisibility could overtake me at any moment.
In the Western world, the average age of menopause is 51 years. Most women are probably happy to no longer be menstruating, but no one in her right mind welcomes the accompanying symptoms that so many of us experience, which may include (according to the Mayo Clinic website): hot flashes; night sweats; vaginal dryness; thinning hair; loss of breast fullness but increased abdominal fat (aha!) and…forgetfulness.
Forgetfulness would be a good thing, if it meant you could forget that not all that long ago you had thick, glossy hair, and believed hot flashes were a psychosomatic phenomenon because in fact, more often than not, you were cold, and never went to the movies without a sweater, the better to accentuate your full breasts and flat belly; back when you were a juicy woman…but these aren’t the things one forgets. These are the things one remembers; the forgetfulness is more likely to manifest itself when you exit the movie theater, having peeled away the layers of clothing in which you are always careful to dress now, sweating like a pig even though your family assures you the temperature in the theater never got above 58 degrees…and you go into a full blown panic attack because...the car is gone! It’s been STOLEN! You parked it RIGHT THERE!
And your family looks at you like you’re demented, and one of them bravely, patiently explains that you didn’t park at this entrance; you parked outside Chick-Filet, not outside Sears, don’t you REMEMBER? Then comes a mood swing…I’m not convinced mood swings are part of menopause; I think they may be a natural reaction to all the other parts of menopause…
In the interest of maintaining my visibility: here's what this particular 60-something was wearing as I headed out the door Tuesday morning to drive the endless commute to work in corporate America...*attitude adjustment*...as I headed out the door to embrace the day...
Ha! I can see that I'm going to have to hone my rather limited self-portrait skills if I'm serious about this! It was cold in Dallas this morning, but my cube at work is never less than sweltering, which makes dressing for work...interesting. Layering would be essential even if I weren't (still!!!) subject to hot flashes (which I am).
This pic, taken with my iPhone, doesn't show it, but today I wore a comfortable pair of generic (Dillard's), grey flannel pants, an ancient red Ralph Lauren wife beater, a Talbot's cardigan I bought on sale last year when I was a good 40 pounds heavier, and an old pair of rather chic, BR boots that seemed like a good idea in terms of the overall look when I slipped them on in my closet this morning, but left me questioning my sanity in not wearing my comfortable Born loafers before I was halfway across the parking lot, 90 minutes later...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Anyway, some 1250 fans—holders of tickets for which they had shelled out $800 a pop, not to mention travelling and hotel costs—arrived at the stadium for the game to find they literally had no seats to sit in. Aternate seating arrangements were scared up for about two-thirds of these folks. Leaving 400 or so out of luck. Bummer. Big bummer, to be sure.
Certainly, the NFL owes these folks something. A refund on the ticket price. Re-imbursement for travel and lodging costs. Maybe season tickets on the fifty yard line of their favorite home field for life. At a cost of peanuts to the money-generating behemoth of the National Football League, they could go a long way toward smoothing the ruffled feathers of the fans involved.
The league, however, seems to be offering no more than an official, "Sorry—our bad!" and free tickets to next year's championship game. Huh? What if my team isn't playing in next year's game? If I'm a die-hard Cheese-head, why would I want a free ticket to see, say, the Bears and the Giants duke it out in 2012? Duh.
Some of the fans, however, are intent on taking this to their own level of hyper-stupidity. One Pittsburgh Steeler fanatic was so po'd by the goings on that he has decided to hire a lawyer. And to try to draft others of the 400 or so affected fans to join him in a lawsuit. From the CNN.com story:
Rush has now started suesuperbowl.com, one of at least two websites for fans mulling possible lawsuits over the seating issue. He said he is obtaining legal counsel and is urging affected fans to get in touch. So far he has heard from about a dozen people, he said.Where do I start?
"We're still figuring out what our rights are, whether damages come into play or not," he said. "This is more than just a breach of contract. ... This was a very traumatic experience for a lot of these people."
1.)I submit that anyone who would pop for an $800 ticket, plus the travel and lodging costs, to personally witness a bunch of astronomically over-paid and over-promoted adult men elevate a kid's game to the level of kill-or-be-killed blood feud, already has more money than sense. They don't need a windfall from the NFL. 2.)Damages? What damages? Do you still have both arms, both legs, all your fingers and toes, and all the brain cells you had the day before you went to the game? Are you able to get up in the morning, go to work, play golf, swig a brew or two at your local pub, kiss your wife, hug your kids? Damages? Give me a break. 3.) And this one most of all: "This was a very traumatic experience." Traumatic? You have to be kidding me. Do you have a clue what real trauma is? Trauma happens when airplanes fly into big buildings, or when you watch your nine-year old get shot in the head by rabid border-control fanatics, or when you drive a jeep in Iraq, waiting for the next roadside pile of rubbish to explode and send you to kingdom come. Trauma. If you can manufacture a crippling case of PTSD out of losing your seat to a football game, you also have more issues than any amount of money is ever going to fix. Go ahead. Be bummed. Be pissed. I'd be pissed. I'd want my money back, and then some. Maybe a few "gimmes" from the guys who were so focused on squeezing every dollar of profit out of the event that they oversold the damn stadium (nothing, by the way, that the airlines don't do every hour of every day.)
But let's not raise this thing to the level of lingering emotional damage and trauma. Get your refund, get a few coupons, and GET OVER IT!!!
And to the NFL—surely you have enough loose bills lying around that you can figure out how to put a smile back on the faces of 450 righteously disaffected fans. Put one of your seven-figure-salaried marketing executives on that, will ya?