war


Random quote of the day:

“It is easier to make war than make peace.”

—Georges Clemenceau, “Discours de Paix,” Verdun, July 20, 1919

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I do rather sporadic genealogy research, but I’ve been doing it on and off since I was about 13 so I’ve got some lines a long way back. I generally follow one surname back as far as I can, filling in the maternal lines but concentrating on the paternal surname. It’s not that the maternal lines are unimportant. Quite the contrary, but it’s too chaotic to bounce back and forth. Once I’ve reached a dead end on one name, I circle back trace the maternal lines all the way back until they run out. Often, the best you can do is get the bare bones facts of these people’s lives, but every once in a while you come across a more substantial bit of information in the historical records.

Take, for example, a certain captain of militia ancestor of mine, Capt. James Pennock. He was a Vermonter and died at the age of 39 at the Battle of Bemis Heights in Saratoga New York in 1777. He left behind 14 children. I Apparently, he and his wife got started a few years before their marriage, too, if the marriage date I have is correct. That far back, it’s sometimes hard to tell what records are correct.

He’s buried somewhere in the land around Saratoga. That battle didn’t allow for neat rows and marked graves. They just buried them where they could and in something of a panic. And I’m sorry for that, for my ancestor and all those other fallen who deserved more respect.

But I keep thinking about that poor woman trying to raise 14 kids on her own. Maybe she was relieved her husband was gone and not getting her pregnant anymore? I know she waited 27 years to remarry (to a widower), after she was safely past childbearing age. Can’t say as I blame her. She and her new husband were married 7 years until her death in 1811. I hope they were happy, peaceful years for her. I feel an unaccountable tenderness for this strong Vermonter woman. For all those hardy women of the past who bore so much and got so little credit.

As it turns out my “glorious ancestor” who died at Saratoga was a Loyalist fighting with General Burgoyne. At least before going off to die he secreted his family away from their home in Strafford, Vermont (a divided town) to Margaret’s parents in Connecticut so she wouldn’t be harassed by the Committee of Safety and the Sons of Liberty. The family lost everything, their farms that they had painfully eked out of raw wilderness, and some fled to Canada. Heroic Margaret stayed, and made the best life she and her children could have in the new country.

I’ve been musing about history a lot in the last couple of days, of who gets written about and who does not. Often, that’s the men because their deeds are thought of as being more important. Capt. Pennock may have fought on the “wrong” side in the Revolutionary War, part of the brutal retreat of the Colonials from Fort Ticonderoga, pursued and harassed by General Burgoyne’s troops and his allied Indians, written about so memorably in Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo In the Bone.

Burgoyne’s troops fought on until the Colonials turned the tide on them. That’s when James died, on the same day as General Simon Fraser. James and his brother William, it’s said, were killed by the same bullet. He lost another brother that day, but his 18-year-old son survived to go back home to Strafford, VT. And how do I know all this? Because it was written about, of course.

I don’t minimize James’s sacrifice—he fought for what he believed would be best for his family. James deserves to have his story told. But so do those who are left behind, like his wife, Margaret Seeley Pennock. Unless those left behind manage to get themselves scalped or otherwise made victims of war crimes, they are seldom written about. The super heroic feat of picking up the pieces after chaos and destruction and somehow going on with ordinary life are rarely the stuff of history. I know only the bare bones of Margaret’s life, those details of marriage, of (prodigious) births, of death. I want to know how that woman did it, how she wrested a life for her and her 14 children after being left behind in the midst of shambles and privation. That’s most equally a story history should write. And yet it rarely does. Except maybe in the pages of fiction. Because at this point, conjecture and bare bones are all I have for her.

Thank you, Margaret, for prevailing.

Random quote of the day:

“In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: ‘What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?’ I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the ‘you’re another’ type.”

—George Orwell, “Reflections on Gandhi”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Sometimes older women in the workforce are told by younger ambitious women to get out of the way and let the young women have a shot. Perhaps older men are told this, too, but I can’t speak to their experience. The heartbreaking thing about this is that it doesn’t just happen in the hallways of power. All my life I’ve been working class, struggling to get by the best I could, but I’ve had this said to me. And female friends of mine who are in the hallways of power have also had it said to them. Ageism is as insidious as sexism, but I have to tell you, hearing this crap from your same sex has a real double sting.

Thankfully, for many reasons, I have left the workforce, but ageism continues apace.

Now, ageism is wrong no matter which direction it’s going. Older people trashing younger people is just as wrong, and I’ve heard that, too. Often, it’s from people of a certain level of affluence trashing younger people who they don’t think are doing things “the right way.” Back in the olden days this was referred to as The Generation Gap—and yes, I was once young and criticized by members of the Greatest Generation for not doing things the way they thought I should. But as Judith Tarr recently pointed out eloquently on Twitter, this has always been about power, not the inherent goodness or wrongness of a certain generation. Stoking the flames of generational warfare has always been a tactic of those in power who want to keep us bickering about shit like this so they can keep on doing their real nasty deeds without interference. As Ms. Tarr pointed out, “It’s never the age, children. It’s rich vs poor. The rich want to rob us and roll us and dump us to starve. Always did. Always will….Your kids are going to say the same exact things about you.”

If the older woman in question doesn’t choose to consign herself to the ash heap of history, she is sometimes accused of being greedy. But everyone deserves their shot, older people, younger people, of being a constructive member of society. You’re not wasting air and/or resources if you are still trying hard to give something back.

So listen up: I’m trying hard. And I will not get out of the way. You shouldn’t, either, no matter what your age.

Some of ya’ll have seen these before, but today is the day for it.

 

Pixilated

Round and round like a crystal spinning,
my father’s stories stirred
the magic behind my eyes.
Pixilated—fairy-led—that’s what I was,
entranced by his wit,
a slave to my ears, learning
the proper way to tell a proper story.

Dad told many stories.
Some of them were even true.

At seventeen, he lied about his age,
enlisted in the Army to fight the Kaiser:
World War I, the Big Show, the adventure,
to show the Evil Hun
Yankee what-for over there.

“Saw action at Saint Mihel
and at the Ardogne Forest.”

That’s the only story I have
of the charnel house he fought through—
from his discharge papers of 1919,
fresh from the convalescent hospital,
recovering from the poison gas he’d tasted.

If I can hardly comprehend
that flesh of my flesh lived through
that ancient, distant conflict,
looking at me, I imagine,
he couldn’t quite fathom himself
that more than forty years on from that time,
he’d been given new life.

Dad told many stories.
Some of them were even true.

But he never spoke of that horror,
and when I queried of glorious battles,
as children like so much to do,
loquacious Dad broke into silence.
Shifting his eyes to the floor,
he’d mutter, “Enough, now.
You don’t want to hear about that.”

He’d turn the stories neatly
to French m’amselles, especially one
whose father had a cafe in Paris;
to the time he was a cook
on a fishing boat out of Juneau
and the walls of water inside a gale
nearly sent them to the bottom;
or to the lightning strike which took out the boy
sitting next to him on a fence watching baseball . . .

Years after he died I learned the truth
of 1918, that horrible year of mud and carnage
I’ll never truly understand,
though I’ve heard other men’s stories
of sacrificed youth at a bloody altar,
seen grainy black and white photos and films,
peering anxiously at each young Yank,
hoping to see, hoping not to see
the child who would become my father.

Round and round swirled liquid in amber,
the whisky spinning in my father’s bottle,
hot on his lips, straight, no glass, burning
through to that space of not remembering.
Pixilated—demon-led—that’s what he was,
wandering a dark and lonely forest, mute,
trapped by his Celtic blood and all the blood
he’d seen, slave to memories which had no story.

PJ Thompson

 

And happy birthday, Auntie Maxine.

Maxine

Spring went screaming through the hills—
orange yellow green white purple—
dying to be noticed, all along the road
as we drove away from your sickbed.

“Life gives us clichés,” I said.
But the harsh comfort of spring remained.

The dark sky broke apart, the sun
muscled through, burning on the hills,
forcing on us the heartbreak of blue sky.

I want to believe you are in that sky.
I do believe you are in that sky,
or laughing in the hills you loved,
bare toes trailing clouds of wildflowers.

PJ Thompson

I’m not such a believer in prophecy. I give credence to premonitions because I’ve had experience with them, but grand prophecies always seem a stretch to me. Still, sometimes you can read the currents running through a society; sometimes the zeitgeist speaks clearly.

But when I was cleaning out some old files this morning, I came across this old post, “The Beauty of Moonlight,” written not long after George W. Bush launched his war against Saddam Hussein. I was not a supporter of this war. I thought it built on very shaky ground, and that it was mostly launched for two reasons: 1) because Bush wanted revenge against Saddam Hussein trying to kill his father, and 2) because the Bush Administration wanted to seem to be doing something in response to 9/11. I think the attack against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was a direct response to that attack, but Bin Laden eluded capture and the dogs of war were baying for more and more visible and easy to hit targets. And so we launched an illicit war.

Make no mistake about it: Saddam Hussein was an evil mofo. But there are many such evil rulers across the globe which many U.S. administrations have turned a blind eye to. The attack against Iraq wasn’t about that at all, and I believe the U.S. sold a piece of its soul when we launched it. I will forever honor the men and women who fought in that war, but their honorable service was done at the behest of deceivers.

But prophecy…The first part of the post referenced above is about 9/11, the second half about the karmic debt we might have to pay as a nation for our actions in Iraq. I won’t restate it here because if you’re interested you can read that post.

The purpose of this post is to say that . . . we may currently be paying that debt. Our democracy, our “sacred” institutions are under attack in a way they have never been before. We’ve elected a Fascist and the Republican party is goose-stepping along in sync with his attack on the rule of law; hate groups are rising at an alarming rate. The good news is that we have good children who seem willing to take up the activism necessary to fight this evil, but we still have a long way to go before we can clean this mess up. And let’s be real–things will never be the same again. Once those dogs of hatred are loosed in any society they only want more chaos. It will be a long, hard fight to defeat them.

If we can.

I believe in our children. I still believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the American rule of law that once before brought down a crooked president. I was never more proud of this country than I was in the aftermath of Watergate because it proved that no American was above the law, even a president.

But I have no prophecy or premonitions to offer here. I only have hope that it’s still true.

Random quote of the day:

“The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.”

—Solomon Short (David Gerrold), The War Against the Chtorr

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“If the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears.”

—Mahmoud Darwish

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“In the sex war, thoughtlessness is the weapon of the male, vindictiveness of the female.”

—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

kiss4WP@@@ 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

—Mohandas Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War

madness4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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