Spring in Vermont

I’ve been gardening like crazy.  My husband and I have taken out 90% of what the previous owners had planted including the trees and have replaced them with lilacs, blueberry bushes, forsythia, and a serviceberry bush.  We also replaced two maples with a stewartia tree. (I put in a link because you probably never heard of one before. We hadn’t.)  Plus annuals and lots of perennials.  I figure that you can always take stuff out next year that doesn’t work.  All of this has helped take my mind off the mostly bad news that seems to keep coming.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Last week we caught a little break.  The Supreme Court made two decisions that, contrary to the dissenters, I think will be positive in the long run.  The first upheld the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act; the second, legalized marriage for everyone in all states.

Marriage equality began here in New England as all the local media have proudly told us.  Vermont legalized civil unions and Massachusetts was the first to sanction marriage.  As one news reader noted, “Today’s decision doesn’t really effect New England as same-sex marriage in already legal in all six states.”  That is a paraphrase, but a fact of which most New Englanders are very proud and contrasts to the defiant words from some of the Republican Presidential candidates.  Reminds me of the governors who wanted to stand in front of the school house door to prevent school integration.  Conservatives are always arguing that marriage leads to more stability so I can’t really understand why they aren’t pleased that more people will be getting married.

On the ACA, I wonder if some of the New England states like Vermont that are struggling with the necessary automation and connections to the federal exchange will just move to the federal exchange all together.  And I also wonder if states that never expanded Medicare will do so now.  But with Congressional leaders and most of the Republican Presidential candidates still hoping to repeal “Obamacare”, that is probably not likely.  In the meanwhile, more people are getting insurance and as they begin to get preventative care, costs should continue to drop.  Insurance companies, like most of us, like stability something the pro-repeal Republican should remember.

As spring slowly turns to summer here in Vermont, I’ve been thinking a lot about race.  As with many things we seem to be taking one step forward and two back.  Who would have predicted in 1964 that in 2015 we would need a new voting rights act?    Or that the unspoken racism of one of the major political parties would lead to a mass shooting in a black church?  Yes, I mean the Republican party with opposition to everything proposed by President Obama.  You can’t convince me that if the current Democratic president were someone like Jerry Brown or Tim Kaine opposition would be as virulent.  Race is at the core.  All those Senate Republicans who want to be president could prove me wrong by supporting the new voting rights legislation.  As the Washington Post pointed out, they once did so.

The Sunday after Charleston my husband and I drove down to Boston to attend church.  We wanted to attend his home church, an historically black church of which he became the first white member over twenty years ago.  The service is still traditionally African-American, but the worshippers are black, white, and Asian.  It was comforting to sit with people I have known for so many years as well as with the newcomers.  The young pastor spoke first about being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and went on to talk about faith.  We were all given little packets of mustard seed by the children to remind us to keep the faith.  I’m finding that gardening is another way to find a measure of peace and faith that things change.  In the garden one can see the entire cycle:  planting, growth, blooms, death.  And then it begins again next spring.  We just need to keep the faith.

Photograph:  Bob Wyckoff

The Race

mhasegawa:

I was working in Somerville when Bob Curley’s son was kidnapped and murdered and I remember how very angry he was. If I recall correctly, the Mass State Legislature even considered reinstating the death penalty, but didn’t do so. People CAN change. Thank you, Kim, for reminding us.

Originally posted on Kim McLarin:

turtle

All week I have been walking around muttering to myself, “The assholes usually win.” There are personal reasons for this rumination (you know who you are) but all it takes is a clear-eyed looked at the world to see that it is true. I mean: Dick Cheney? Vladimir Putin? Kanye West? The logical corollary to “Nice guys finish last” is that assholes finish first, and all the magical thinking and candy platitudes in the world will not alter that fact. The innocent suffer and the wicked prosper and how one deals with this reality shapes one’s life but to pretend it is not true is simply beyond my abilities. Uncle Jimmy said, “One can be—indeed, one must strive to become—tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of war; remember, I said most of mankind…”

Most…

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The start of the Presidential election season

First, I guess it really isn’t a season in the meteorological sense if it ever was but more like a year.

I’m not sure which of the Republican candidates I would want the Democratic nominee to run against since I find most of them pretty scary in the horror movie sense.  As far as I can tell none believe in climate change (even Bush and Rubio from Florida which is sinking fast); they don’t (even Rand Paul the doctor) believe in science; and they certainly don’t believe in what used to be called “the little people.”  They want the United States to be a “Christian Nation.”  I guess they just carry copies of the United States Constitution around in their suit coat pockets, but don’t read it.  It says something about “establishment of religion.”  My assumption that we long ago resolved to be a diverse society – including religious belief – must be incorrect.  At times they seem almost to be a Christian version of those fundamentalist Muslims they so oppose.  But most frightening of all is that all of them seem to want to control women and our bodies.  They appear to be opposed to regulation except of women.  So there really isn’t much to choose from on that side.  It should be fun to watch when they begin to squabble.

My problem is Hillary Clinton.  I’m not exactly sure why I am not enthusiastic about her.  I always liked her when she was First Lady, thought she represented New York well in the Senate, and she was a good Secretary of State.  But President?  I just can’t get excited.

Hillary

I took the Gail Collins quiz, “Take Your Hillary Temperature” the other week and my score was “ready for a primary.”  But who could be in the primary?

I like Elizabeth Warren and worked hard to get her elected to the Senate when I live in Massachusetts, but I think we should take her at her word that she doesn’t want to run.  If she stays in the Senate and things break for the Democrats she could be the first woman Majority Leader.  So leave Elizabeth alone, please.

There is my current Senator, Bernie Sanders.  Bernie might make a fine candidate, I think he would be a good debater, but I just can’t see him as President.  He was the mayor of Burlington, VT which in the scheme of things is not a very big town.  Bernie is like the opposite of Ted Cruz ideologically.  I think he’s going to run.

There are three governors who would be possible.  Deval Patrick (who has already said no), Tim Kaine (who is already supporting Hillary) and Martin O’Malley who appears to be running.  I also like Senator Amy Klobachar but I don’t think she has any thoughts about running.

So why can’t I just jump on the Hillary bandwagon?  I get many email from various people telling me to do just that.  I think, however, I am suffering from Clinton fatigue.  We know too much about her and Bill not all of which I like.  I’m also not sure she can attract the young, white, male voters who may well decide this election.  And maybe it is none of those reasons, but something I can’t yet put my finger on.  All I know is that I think a primary would be good for the Democratic Party whether Hillary gets the nomination or not.

Photograph: Justin Sullivan / Getty

Some thoughts about product and corporate boycotts

A few days ago the ice cream maker, Ben and Jerry’s, offered free ice cream in exchange for a donation to whatever local charity the particular store had chosen.  I posted the information on Facebook knowing that I had friends who ate Ben and Jerry’s with some regularity.  A good friend (so good my wedding reception was at her house) posted a comment asking that we boycott Ben and Jerry’s because they sold ice cream to the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territory.  I’ve been thinking about boycotts since then and this post is my attempt to think “aloud”.

Looking back I can remember two successful boycotts I’ve participated in.  First was the Woolworth’s boycott in sympathy to the student sit-ins.  Second was the Delano Farmworkers Grape Strike.

David Richmond (from left), Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil leave the Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C., where they initiated a lunch-counter sit-in to protest segregation, Feb. 1, 1960. (No photographers were allowed into the store on the first day of protest.)

David Richmond (from left), Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and Joseph McNeil leave the Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C., where they initiated a lunch-counter sit-in to protest segregation, Feb. 1, 1960. (No photographers were allowed into the store on the first day of protest.)

The student sit-ins of lunch counters began in 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  I found this NPR story about Franklin McCain and the sit-ins.

On Feb. 1, 1960, four students from all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into a Woolworth five-and-dime with the intention of ordering lunch.

But the manager of the Greensboro Woolworth had intentions of his own — to maintain the lunch counter’s strict whites-only policy.

Franklin McCain was one of the four young men who shoved history forward by refusing to budge.

McCain remembers the anxiety he felt when he went to the store that Monday afternoon, the plan he and his friends had devised to launch their protest and how he felt when he sat down on that stool.

“Fifteen seconds after … I had the most wonderful feeling. I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood. I had a natural high. And I truly felt almost invincible. Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet,” McCain says.

They were not served, but returned day after day with more and more reinforcements.  Sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counters spread across the South.  In New Jersey where I grew up, there was a boycott of the local Woolworth’s in solidarity with the students.  Even after the lunch counters were integrated, it was years before I had lunch at one.  The first time I was in my early thirties.  I still remember I had tomato soup and grilled cheese – the special.

The grape boycott lasted 5 years from 1965 to 1970.  Millions of Americans came to identify with the farmworkers who wanted to unionize so they could improve working conditions and wages.  The United Farm Workers has a history of the strike.

Hundreds of grape strikers traveled across the U.S. and Canada, telling their stories and organizing mass support for the grape boycott. The strikers were joined by thousands of supporters who helped tirelessly organize the boycott.

Cesar [Chavez] and the farm workers believed if consumers in communities throughout North America knew about the suffering of field laborers—and saw the grape strikers struggling nonviolently—they would respond. For Cesar, nonviolence couldn’t be understood in the abstract. It could only be seen in action. He said, “the whole essence of nonviolent action is getting a lot of people involved, vast numbers doing little things.”

He knew most people couldn’t drop what they were doing and dedicate themselves completely to the movement like the grape strikers, most of whom lost their homes, cars and worldly possessions. But Cesar and the farm workers showed ordinary people that by making little sacrifices every day—by not eating grapes—they could directly help the poorest of the poor.

The boycott connected middle-class families in big cities with poor farm worker families in the California vineyards. Millions stopped eating grapes. At dinner tables across the country, parents gave children a simple, powerful lesson in social justice.

In my family we didn’t eat grapes for many years.  My mother had been a California farmer worker and later an organizer on the east coast for the Food, Tobacco, and Agricultural Workers Union.  We started boycotting very early in the strike if my memory is correct.

The Woolworth’s and Farm Worker’s boycotts were successful because they were narrowly focused and concerned an issue with which the average person could identify:  Segregated lunch counters and farm working conditions.  The boycotts that I have been asked to join recently include Monsanto, Nestles, and Ben and Jerry’s.

The first two have, in my opinion, little chance of success not because the cause isn’t clear, but because they lack focus.  I couldn’t even begin to get through the list of Nestles’ products I wasn’t supposed to purchase.  Organizers of the Monsanto boycott should just urge us not to purchase Monsanto’s “Round-Up”.  And as for Nestles and their draining of the California (and other aquifers), people should not be buying water in bottles anyway.  Better to ask people to stop buying bottled water where they can safely do so.  As for the request to boycott Ben and Jerry’s, I am afraid that the issue of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, although of concern to me, is too obscure and not of immediate interest to most Americans who will weigh that against the other good that the company does.

To succeed, corporate boycotts need to be focused in what we are asked not to purchase and concern a cause to which a critical mass of consumers can relate.

 

Photograph:  Jack Moebes/Corbis

19 Innings

Last night I came home from a wonderful concert to find the Boston Red Sox up 1 on the Yankees.  I watched for an hour or so  as the Sox held on to the 3-2 lead.  The Boston Globe reports

The Sox took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Edward Mujica, filling in as closer in place of Koji Uehara, got two outs before falling behind Chase Headley. Mujica left a 90-mph fastball up and over the plate, and Headley lined it into the second deck in right field.

It was a terrible pitch in any situation, but especially with the game on the line.

It was the first earned run allowed by a Red Sox reliever this season, the streak ending at 10 innings. Uehara could be activated off the disabled list as soon as Monday and his return will be welcomed.

The New York Times reported it this way

Three times the Yankees scored in their last at-bats to keep the game alive, beginning with Chase Headley’s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, but they could not do it a fourth time when Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts scooped up Garrett Jones’s smash up the middle and started a game-ending double play.

The game dragged on so long that Mark Teixeira, who was 34 when it began, had turned 35 by the time it was over. By the end, there were only several thousand hearty souls in the stadium, which was so quiet that when a few fans broke out “Let’s go, Yankees” chants, they carried far enough for the players to hear.

Soon after the Chase Headley homer, I retreated to bed and to the radio.  At some point I dozed off and woke up to a report of a conference of the umpires that no one could explain.  I thought maybe someone had discovered some long forgotten curfew rule.  But no, it was the lights.  Because they went out first behind the broadcasting booth, the radio guys couldn’t tell.  The Times writes

As if the game were not already long enough, it was delayed in the 12th inning when nine banks of lights went out at the stadium, leaving the field dimly lit. It took 16 minutes for the lights to regenerate and for play to resume. The Yankees said the outage had been caused by a power surge through the stadium.

In inning 16, David Ortiz hit a homer breaking the tie and putting the Sox up.  But then as the Globe reported

Switch hitter Mark Teixeira [the Birthday Boy], batting righthanded against the righthanded Wright and his knuckleball, homered to left field in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.

I turned the radio off after the Teixerira’s homer.  The game, however, continued.

The Sox went up, 5-4, in the 18th inning on an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval. The Yankees tied it on a double by Carlos Beltran that Hanley Ramirez misplayed in left field.

Luckily, the Sox have some young guys.

Two young players had enough energy to win the game for the Sox. Xander Bogaerts, 22, singled with one out in the 19th inning. After Ryan Hanigan walked and Esmil Rogers threw a wild pitch, 22-year-old Mookie Betts delivered a sacrifice fly to center field.

Bogaerts, who was 4 for 4 in extra innings, easily beat a weak throw by Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I’m glad I was able to do something,” said Betts, who was 1 for 8 and had struck out four times. “I’m just glad we won. That was the best thing that could have happened.”

Bogaerts also helped end the game in the bottom of the inning. With Ellsbury on first and one out, he made a smooth pickup of a ball hit by Garrett Jones to start a double play.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Alex Speier from the Globe collected some stats from the 19 innings.  Here are a few.

The 6-hour, 49-minute affair was the longest in Red Sox history and the longest home game in Yankees history. That duration doesn’t include a 16-minute delay for a brief light outage.

■ Xander Bogaerts entered the game with a robust .364/.462/.545 line. Through the first nine innings, he dropped that line to .267/.353/.400. He then reached base in five straight plate appearances — all in extra innings — with a walk and four straight singles in extra innings, boosting his line back up to .421/.500/.526.

■ Per Elias, Bogaerts is the first Red Sox player since at least 1947 with four or more hits in extra innings. Alex Rios, in 2013, was the last big league player to do it.

Betts and Pedroia each had 10 plate appearances, tied for the most by any team member since at least 1914. They joined Jim Rice, Jerry Remy, and Dwight Evans as the only Sox players to hit double-digit plate appearances in a game in that 102-season expanse, with the trio of Rice, Remy, and Evans having done it in a 20-inning, 8-7 home loss to the Mariners on Sept. 3, 1981.

Starters Wade Miley (90) and Nathan Eovaldi (94) combined to throw 184 pitches. Each bullpen then threw more pitches than the two starters combined. Yankees relievers logged 238 pitches. Members of the Red Sox bullpen combined to accumulate 206 pitches. “That’s crazy. That’s insane,” said Miley. Wright got to 78 pitches in his five innings of work for the win. Rogers tallied 81 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

■ The Yankees bullpen pitched a mid-game shutout, working nine consecutive scoreless innings from the seventh through the 15th inning.

■ The Red Sox left 20 men on base, tied for the fourth-most in a single game since 1945.

I suppose a true fan would have made it to the very end, but I was happy just to wake up this morning and find out the Sox had won.

Photograph:  BILL KOSTROUN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Maya Angelou stamp quote

The U. S. Post Office has just issued a stamp commemorating Maya Angelou.  It is a very nice stamp with her picture and a quote.  The only problem is that the quote is not from her.  Josh Hicks wrote about the problem in his column in the Washington Post yesterday.

The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday released a new Maya Angelou stamp featuring a quote from a different author’s book, propagating a popular misconception about the original source of the line.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song,” the stamp reads.

Angelou, the late African-American author who wrote the famous 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” used the same line in media interviews, and President Obama attributed it to her during the 2013 presentation of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

But the sentence never appeared in Angelou’s autobiography. The words came from Joan Walsh Anglund’s collection of poems, “A Cup of Sun,” published two years before the release of Angelou’s autobiography. (One difference: The pronoun “it” from the stamp quote appears as “he” in the poem).

A Maya Angelou stamp that was issued Tuesday features a quote attributed to her. But children’s book author named Joan Walsh Anglund says she wrote it first.

A Maya Angelou stamp that was issued Tuesday features a quote attributed to her. But children’s book author named Joan Walsh Anglund says she wrote it first.

Hicks goes on to compare the Angelou mistake with another:  The inscription on the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The release of the stamp comes less than four years after another fumbled attempt to honor an historic African-American figure. Controversy erupted in 2011 over an abbreviated quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorialthat critics thought would make the civil-rights leader appear immodest.

One of the inscriptions on the memorial read: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” But King actually said, “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

I was one of those who thought the editing completely missed Dr. King’s point.  But I think the Angelou stamp quote is different.  Lonnae O’Neal interviewed Joan Walsh Anglund about the use of the quote.

Joan Walsh Anglund also was hearing about the Angelou stamp for the first time Monday night. “I haven’t read all of her things, and I love her things, of course,” she said of the poet and cultural icon. “But I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it’s kind of going into your subconscious and you don’t realize it,” she said.

“It’s an interesting connection, and interesting it would happen and already be printed and on her stamp,” Anglund said. “I love her and all she’s done, and I also love my own private thinking that also comes to the public because it comes from what I’ve been thinking and how I’ve been feeling.

“I don’t know about the stamp and I hope that it’s successful,” she added.

We can wonder if Angelou even remembered where she first heard the words that have come to be associated with her but the real lesson here is that we have to work harder at using words.  We need to be careful about how we edit other people’s words lest we change their meaning.  And we can all wonder at the human mind and how we associate certain phrases with specific people – so much so that even the person may come to believe it is theirs.

(Thanks to my friend Gary Bailey for bringing the story to my attention.)

Photograph:  USPS

Remembering slavery and our history: saving Shockoe Bottom

Many of us don’t want to think about the past, especially the unpleasant and embarrassing parts of the past.  Not wanting to remember also applies to thinking about history.  I was reminded of this the other day when I came across Maurie D. McInnes’ essay in the New York Times “Disunion” series. 

We don’t know exactly when the last sale of enslaved persons occurred in Richmond, Va., known as “the great slave market of the South,” but it must have taken place before April 3, 1865. On the previous day, the order had come to evacuate in advance of the arrival of Union troops who liberated the city.

Amid the chaos, a slave trader named Robert Lumpkin still had a jail full of people he was hoping to sell. According to the journalist Charles Carleton Coffin, who was there to witness the fall of Richmond, after learning of the order to evacuate, Lumpkin “quickly handcuffed his human chattels,” about 50 men, women and children, and marched them four blocks south to the Danville-Richmond Railroad depot on the banks of the James River. He was hoping to whisk them away, and find buyers for them in another city.

When they arrived, however, “there was no room for them on the train which whirled the Confederate Government from the capital. Soldiers with fixed bayonets forced them back. It was the last slave gang seen in this Western world.” Lumpkin was angry, but there was nothing he could do. So, “with oaths and curses loud and deep,” Coffin reported, Lumpkin was forced “to unlock their handcuffs and allow them to go free.” These 50 people were worth about $50,000, according to Coffin, “but on that Sunday morning were of less value than the mule and the wagon which had drawn the slave-trader’s trunk to the station.”

Richmond was a major slave trading hub and Robert Lumpkin, one of the most prominent traders.  His jail and auction house were located in Shockoe Bottom, a low point along the James River.  Abigail Tucker wrote about the archeology of the site and Lumpkin in a 2009 Smithsonian Magazine article, “Digging up the past at a Richmond jail”.  She writes

Lumpkin, a “bully trader” known as a man with a flair for cruelty, fathered five children with a black woman named Mary, who was a former slave and who eventually acted as his wife and took his name. Mary had at least some contact with the unfortunates her husband kept in chains, on one occasion smuggling a hymnal into the prison for an escaped slave named Anthony Burns.

The slave trade was important to the economics of both North and South before the Civil War.  McInnes reminds us

The economic engine of the slave trade helped to fuel America’s prosperity. The profits from the trade in enslaved people flowed to many places. Traders were not the only ones to profit from America’s internal slave trade. Slave owners in the Upper South profited because they received cash for the people they sold. Slave owners in the Lower South profited because the people they purchased were forced to labor in the immensely productive cotton and sugar fields. The merchants who supplied clothing and food to the slave traders profited, as did steamboat, railroad and shipowners who carried enslaved people.

Capitalists in the North profited by investing in banks that handled the exchange of money for people, or in insurance companies that provided insurance for the owners’ investments in enslaved people. So did foreign investors in Southern securities, some of which were issued on mortgaged slaves. The hotbed of American abolitionism — New England — was also the home of America’s cotton textile industry, which grew rich on the backs of the enslaved people forced to pick cotton. The story of America’s domestic slave trade is not just a story about Richmond or New Orleans, but about America.

When I read McInnes’ column the current controversy about preserving the site of Lumpkin’s jail and auction house came immediately to mind.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation explains

Today, Shockoe Bottom is an urban archaeological site imminently threatened by “Revitalize RVA,” the controversial plan to construct a minor league baseball stadium, a Hyatt hotel, a Kroger grocery store, and residential and commercial office space at the site. The ill-considered stadium project, which is heavily promoted by the mayor of Richmond, members of the City Council, and influential real estate developers, threatens to destroy the remarkable archaeological remains which survive below the asphalt.

ShockoeBottom_Douglas_5.24.1866_crPreservationVirginia

The cruelty of slave traders like Robert Lumpkin, the wealth America enjoys, and the stories of the men and women held in the jail and sold at Shockoe Bottom deserve to be remembered.

I can’t remember another time I have used this blog to urge readers to take action, but I hope you will go the the National Trust link and sign on to save Shockoe Bottom.

 

Reproduction of Douglass note from Preservation Virginia.