Category Archives: social currents

A poem for our time – Children kept from the sun

 

New Poems Dylan Thomas winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

New Poems Dylan Thomas 1943  winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

 

Some books I just can’t let go. This one… nope.  When I opened this book, as I usually do before I list something interesting, the first poem hit me right in the chest. This beauty is mine for now.

 

Poem

 

There was a saviour
Rarer than radium,
Commoner than water, crueller than truth;
Children kept from the sun
Assembled at his tongue
To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles.

The voice of children says
From a lost wilderness
There was calm to be done in his safe unrest,
When hindering man hurt
Man, animal, or bird
We hid our fears in that murdering breath,
Silence, silence to do, when earth grew loud,
In lairs and asylums of the tremendous shout.

There was glory to hear
In the churches of his tears,
Under his downy arm you sighed as he struck,
O you who could not cry
On to the ground when a man died
Put a tear for joy in the unearthly flood
And laid your cheek against a cloud-formed shell:
Now in the dark there is only yourself and myself.

Two proud, blacked brothers cry,
Winter-locked side by side,
To this inhospitable hollow year,
O we who could not stir
One lean sigh when we heard
Greed on man beating near and fire neighbour
But wailed and nested in the sky-blue wall
Now break a giant tear for the little known fall,

For the drooping of homes
That did not nurse our bones,
Brave deaths of only ones but never found,
Now see, alone in us,
Our own true strangers’ dust
Ride through the doors of our unentered house.
Exiled in us we arouse the soft,
Unclenched, armless, silk and rough love that breaks all rocks.

I didn’t find much in the way of scholarly analysis and that’s fine because to me this is very clearly about US, Americans.

We are dead because we are numb and disconnected.

We have attached ourselves to processed substitutes and intermediaries for our joy, our wellness, our communication and connection with others, our society’s laws and values.

Not all substitutes and intermediaries are always inherently bad, no more than a piece of art is somehow not as good as the item or concept it was created to reflect. They are just what they are- they do what they do, they offer what they offer.  Art, Media, Facebook, and other substitutes and intermediaries allow us to share, express, preserve, learn, coordinate.

Some, though, are death wearing a handy benign mask provided by the greed and fear that we allow to pervade our society from within our own hearts to the highest halls of learning and government.  Sometimes they are inherently evil; sometimes they are only killing us because we allow them to because it is easier to find something to numb us than to just connect.

We have been lulled by benign and evil substitutes and intermediaries into letting go of real contact, connection, nourishment, education, competence, and skill.

We are are silent when murder is done and our earth cries out and we ignore the pain of other humans and we cannot cry when we see death. The anger pain and prurient pleasure constantly whipped up by our media, portrayed for ‘entertainment’ and substituted for news by our journalists, keep us complacent and unquestioning of what is really going on and how we really need to engage.

We keep our children out of the sun, literally. They have no time to play outside, and they must not learn for themselves. They have lost the wilderness of childhood, both literally in the sense that children do not get to play outside and in the sense that we pound their joy out of them in favor of conformity, grades, good behavior, shake it off and suck it up and drive on.

We are lost but never found and there is no redemption and we are fine with that.

I have pretty much ignored John Cale, but he did set it to music if you like that sort of thing.  I am sick at heart but thankful for the message. Although, as I read it, I do wonder if, in fact, things truly are all according to plan, all good, all Maya and not worth worrying about because Heaven is always right here, within and all around us, simultaneously with the suffering and evil I, we, choose and prefer to see in every little movement, shadow, difference or change. Is my perception, or lack of it, the real problem here?

In any case, I am off to go really connect with my family in the sunshine.

 

“Poem” from poemhunter.com 

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Filed under Antiquarian, Poems and Poets, quotable, social currents

On Sermons, Separatists and Supremacy, or The Merry Chase Part II, 1951

This week I photographed a bunch of oldies in preparation for offering them for sale online. Old books, not old people, folks. 

Ernest Sevier Cox’s Teutonic Unity, an attractive little volume, came across my desk, and I had to take a closer look. 

 

As I learned, I thought, should I dignify this work with a blog post?

‘Racial’ separatism and the belief that those of ‘different races’ should be not just separate but often killed off completely still exist in our society, so… yes. Ick.

Cox was born in Knoxville Tennessee, home of my alma mater. A quick search reveals no known connection to the family of Cherokee-killer John Sevier, who homesteaded and populated those mountains, but perhaps Earnest’s thoughts were borne from the Indian killing generation to his mind and heart by bloodline. And on the other hand, to be fair, Sevierville Tennessee was anti slavery and anti-secession in the Civil War era. (“Sevierville Tennessee,” Wikipedia). Perhaps Earnest’s loss of his father at a young age left him emotionally stunted and scrambling for something he could believe in and fight for.  Who can’t have at least some grain of compassion for that 12 year old boy Cox once was?

And this copy is signed with a gift inscription in the careful, crabbed handwriting of a sick old man. This wouldn’t be the first time I have felt some compassion for old men isolated from loved ones and society by their misdeeds or so deeply immersed in their principles that they cannot see the truths of the human condition. The recipient passed away in Virginia in 2008, I believe. I can’t find any trace of their association other than this.

 

I lived in the South most of my life, but the verbiage he chose for his titles somehow still made my jaw drop.   

  • White America (1923)
  • Let My People Go (1925)
  • The South’s Part in Mongrelizing the Nation (1926)
  • Lincoln’s Negro Policy (1938)
  • Three Million Negroes Thank the State of Virginia (1940)
  • Teutonic Unity (1951)
  • Black Belt Around the World at the High Noon of Colonialism (1963)

He helped pass the Virginia anti-miscegenation laws that were finally and famously overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Loving v Virginia. 

Cox worked with both former Nazi believers in ‘racial purity’ holed up in Argentina and Northern Europe AND with African Americans like Marcus Garvey who saw repatriation to Africa as the only way to heal and rebuild from the evils and abuses of slavery in America.  Some Americans of African descent were also against mixing and wanted the political, geographical and cultural haven from persecution that might be provided by a nation of their own. 

Toward the end of his life he self-published this volume and distributed it for free, in service to his ideals. 

The thoughts espoused by Cox and his international Nazi and Nordicist buddies are so distasteful, and as we now know in this era of genetic testing to prove ancestry, they are largely fiction. We have many skin colors. We are geographically culturally and perhaps ethnically diverse. But we are One Human Race.

I also believe ‘kids today’ are eradicating prejudice. They just couldn’t care less. Say what ya want about them, and it’s probably almost all true, but I believe they are our hope for an end, at least in developed countries, to hate  harm or marginalization of people due to traits they were born with and cannot help. Thank God.

And people self identifying as two or more races continues to be the fastest growing group on the US Census. The word self identifying is important though, because if your family has been on this continent for more than a century, you most likely have some fraction, no matter how invisible, of some oppressed group’s blood in your veins- indigenous American or African American, Jewish, what have ya.   

But while oppression continues- abuse of children, marginalization and ignorance of the culture and voices of women and minority groups, uses of our environment and natural resources that poison those who live nearby and ultimately our entire human family, anywhere a sense that we can somehow silence or overpower another group of humans in some way for our own benefit and peace of mind still exists, it is important to understand this sort of thinking and how these thoughts are ‘justified’ to keep ourselves off of certain slippery slopes. I worry that in the backlash against ‘political correctness’ we will forget why it matters.

A useful quick dose of Cox’s views and his role on the American and world stage in the White Supremacist or Nordicist movements from the 20’s through the 50’s can be found on Google Books on the scanned pages of a tome called Science for Segregation by one John P. Jackson.   Apparently Cox thought that keeping ‘races’ separate was part of survival of the fittest. Since I have always understood that a diverse gene pool helps keep recessive dangerous traits at bay- Hapsburg jaw? Haemophilia anyone?  I am not sure where he got that. I didn’t feel like pursuing it though. 

A more personal account of his lonely, angry, wandering life can be found on Encyclopedia Virginia’s website- “Earnest Sevier Cox” 

Wikipedia is, as always, invaluable for quick, concise, broad strokes on any given matter or person. “Earnest Sevier Cox”

 Someone take this book off my hands, preferably to study how to peacefully eradicate thoughts like these for good. 

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Filed under African, American, Antiquarian, History, Latin American, Signed, social currents, Southern

On Sermons, Separatism and Supremacy or The Merry Chase Part I, 1834-35

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, J.M.W. Turner, held by Cleveland Museum of Art, copied from wikipedia’s article on The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

This week I took photos of a big batch of oldies this week, getting ready to offer them for sale.

First to lead me a merry chase was Volume VIII of  The Preacher Containing Fifty-Seven Sermons by Eminent Living Divines, July 17 1834 – May 23 1835, 

It was printed for John Chidley of London, by Bensley, Printer, Phipps-Bridge Mitcham. 

I couldn’t find any other copies of this or any volume of this series anywhere on the internet. It is listed in various old library catalogs, though. 

In the name Bensley, of Phipps-Bridge Mitcham, I smelled History of Books and Printing. I did find reference to a printer named Bensley, but it appears that if something was printed post 1799 it isn’t really that big a deal. I had to let the trail go cold and move on. 

A quick glance through The Sermons was a little more gratifying. They are such a mix of faith, hope, encouragement, social justice, and brimstone. I think matters of faith were much more present in the daily life of normal people- those who had the luxury for such thoughts, that is, and I imagine not just present but compulsory. Nonetheless, to an Episcopalian (as in, post Anglican, or Anglican Communion), a believer (loosely) in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of 1835 (5) (along with bits of other world religions and meditative traditions, as it suits me, but Episcopalian is my formal affiliation) it’s kinda cute, on its surface.

I can see a gentleman (or -woman) or a country vicar taking his tea and soft boiled egg (or whatever, back then) and enjoying a quiet moment to dwell on the contents of these pages before or after a long day. In the context of what was happening in England in those years, it is both heartwarming and chilling.

In 1834 Slavery was abolished in England; The Poor Law was also amended to state that the able bodied may not receive aid unless they go to the workhouse. (1) But Charles Dickens was soon to be on the scene to plead the cause of the poor. After living with poverty, desperate attempts to get his father out of debtor’s prison, and multiple interruptions to his education, his Street Sketches were published in this year. (2)

It was a year of cultural and historic turmoil. Samuel Taylor Coleridge followed Blake and Shelley to the grave, and though Wordsworth still lived, perhaps the era of poetry – idyllic, intense, reclusive, drug-enhanced, oriented toward the heart, philosophy, language and beauty- had ended, giving way to the up and coming rough and tumble of radical social action.

England had four different Prime Ministers (1). Trade unions were gaining membership and power in snowball fashion. (3) The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Palace, burnt on my birthday in this year, the biggest fire since 1666. The fire was accidental, caused by flues overheated with the burning of the outdated Tally Sticks (whatever those are), but accidental or not it was certainly timely and symbolic. (4) In 1835, protection from cruelty was extended to animals, yet the last two people to be executed for conviction of “buggery” were hanged at Newgate. (6) Talk about yer full spectrum from social justice and human decency to the lack thereof.  

The sermons themselves are actually really lovely- impressive labors of scholarly and spiritual love. The book is really old, and that is really cool. I loved my unplanned tour of this book’s cultural and literary milieu, as I do every time another one sweeps me away.  

Available at ABE and Amazon. Feel free to contact me directly at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail and make me an offer. 

The Preacher Containing Fifty-Seven Sermons by Eminent Living Divines Volume 8 VIII Nos 197 Thursday July 17 1834 – 224 Saturday May 23rd 1835
Crossman, RFG. Parsons, J. Beamish, HH. Busfield, W. et al

Published by Printed for John Chidley, London. Bensley, Printer Phipps-Bridge Mitcham (1834)
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Item Description: Printed for John Chidley, London. Bensley, Printer Phipps-Bridge Mitcham, 1834. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. no jacket. Considerable foxing to brittle pages. Cloth boards with brown faux leather finish have edge wear, fading, faint staining, rips at top and bottom of spine, and fraying at corners. Cloth is separated just over halfway up the spine on the back. Fragile but whole and square and tight with all pages present. Outside of text block, deckle edges, darkly foxed. Spine label rubbed/scraped with edges torn away. Please contact seller for additional photographs or other details. Will ship bubble wrapped in a sturdy box. Bookseller Inventory # 01304

Sources: 

1. wikipedia, 1834 in the United Kingdom

2. shmoop.com, Charles Dickens Timeline 

3. wikipedia, Trade Unions in the United Kingdom

4. wikipedia, The Burning of Parliament 

5. wikipedia, Catholic Apostolic Church

6. wikipedia, 1835 in the United Kingdom

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Filed under Antiquarian, England, History, social currents, United Kingdom

The Road to Hell

Every once in a while a friend will give me a stack of books. ‘If these are worth anything, sell them. If not, donate them,’ they say.

I work through them. I can say with confidence that popular fiction and mass market paperbacks are almost never worth a thing. I always check, though.

I love getting a window on their past reading lives- or their not-reading lives, as the case may be.  The road to overcrowded living room bookshelf hell or unusable garage hell is paved with beautiful brand-new books on child development, art, sex, religion, love, high literature, nutrition. They are throwing it all away, often unread, and it cracks me up.

We meant to inform ourselves, to learn, to mull, to take time to enjoy. We really did.

But Raising Your Child the <insert wise popular child development expert name here> – unopened. We all just muddle on through without Kafka, without a solid grounding in Italian language or the folklore of Ireland. We really meant to have at our mental fingertips those witticisms from the latest acerbic popular progressive- whose wisdom seems to be dated almost the minute we buy the book. And those volumes of classical homeschool curriculum with fresh shiny workbook to match? Not so much. Never even started.

I am grateful for this understanding. I am grateful to have been swamped with approximately two tons of books, one thousand cataloged and offered for sale in the past year and a half, certainly that many left to go through, with more speed I hope. And though I try to ‘be good,’ more lovely, lovely books are coming in from friends and book sales all the time.

Because of this experience, I have firmly resolved, in our own household, that no books shall be stored inside the house except those we are currently reading and a few truly valuable collectibles we choose to keep.

The public library shall be our bookshelf. All books shall be fodder for the book business, or donated posthaste.  It is hard to enforce- but I can assure you vigorous purges occur on a very regular basis.

And so, back to work.

 

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Filed under social currents, the book business, the holidays, the public library

Must read all of these

This is the hell of the bookseller.

Today I have cataloged and placed for sale:

The Innocent, Ian McEwan– the end of the Cold War, Electronic surveillance, Berlin, British-American technology collaboration, a young British post office technician and the clash of the private and political

Defend the Valley a Shenandoah Family in the Civil War, Margaretta Barton Colt- extensive primary source documentation of the Civil War experience of the Barton and Jones family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Secrets of the Jews, Stuart E. Rosenberg – policies and persecution toward Jews throughout history – theological discussion of how they survived

The Changing of the Guard President Clinton and the Security of Taiwan – “Considering the difficult issues President Clinton must weigh, Lasater provides a timely analysis of Taiwan’s security in the 1990’s within the broader context of Sino-American relations.”

Murder by the Book: Short fiction includes stories by Dorothy L Sayers and James Thurber, two enduring favorites of mine

How will I read them all? Ah, the Humanity!

 

Music for a dreary Wine Country Morning

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Filed under American, Appalachiana, Civil War, Cold War, electronic surveillance, History, Judaica, social currents, the book business, women

Klanwatch:Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice by Bill Stanton

Klanwatch Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice

Klanwatch Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice

Cue the music…

Church blew up in Birmingham
Four little black girls killed for no goddamn good reason
All this hate and violence can’t come to no good end
A stain on the good name.
A whole lot of good people dragged through the blood and glass
Blood stains on their good names and all of us take the blame

Patterson Hood “Ronnie and Neil”

Klanwatch : Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice by Bill Stanton

“An insider’s account.. describes how attorney Morris Dees and other Klanwatch workers took on the Klan and brought its members to justice, enduring intimidation, death threats, and other dangers.”

This book isn’t a collectible to most people. I think most people believe we’ve moved past it. (We haven’t; we still have huge active Klan populations – the one in Indiana, for example, boasts subgroups in 20 states and 5 groups in Arkansas boast subgroups in 11 different states). It should be a collectible, and it is to me, just like the DriveBy Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera. I can’t bear to price it to sell.

And before we go to South bashing, let me tell you. When I was in grad school one of my colleagues was from Affluenza’d SoCal. His first job was at Alabama State University, a HBC, in Montgomery. I asked him how he was managing with the racism in Montgomery. He loved his job and had no issues on that front. But he also said, so wisely- California has racism too. It is just less honest. At least in the South it is out on the table. So it is painfully visible, but guess what? When it is obvious there is a problem, you can work to heal it. Here in California, where we are all so liberal and ‘we don’t have those kinds of problems’ (yes, we certainly do, but) we can’t heal.

That said… Alabama and Montgomery bear a heaping share of the pain, harm and guilt of oppressing abusing and dehumanizing generations of Africans brought here by force and their African Americans descendants. Interestingly though, Alabama seems also to have done a better job healing.

I lived, worked, and birthed then raised my little one in the Montgomery Alabama area for 8 years. Segregation is alive and well, let me tell you. I am not saying it isn’t racism, but I know for sure it is definitely economic segregation and definitely it is the man or the system that works so well for whites making sure the poor stay poor and the largest percentage of those who are struggling are African American. At the same time, my dear friend’s darling little daughter is on a cheerleading squad with 7 little African American girls, they are completely flippin’ adorable and love each other like sisters, and race is absolutely a non issue.

Montgomery  is big enough to have a few public goods that are available to all-  a decent library with many branches, an art museum, a beautiful park and community gathering place for big events down by the river, a minor league baseball team and solid churches. It is big enough that it has the problems of a real city- violent crime, poverty, inner city type neighborhoods and schools, and such.

It also has the problems of a small town- cultural isolation, having to drive to see a decent concert, that sort of thing. But it is also small enough that people can grow to know and care about each other personally regardless of skin color. Everyone who is anyone is some sort of activist or professional working for the public good of all in the community, not just one race. The legacy of The Good Work is carried on and some heroes of the civil rights era were still living and working hard during the time I lived there.

I worked passionately for equal education and for the betterment of the teachers, families and students in the public school system, through  my position as a librarian in a public library on the Southern Boulevard, epicenter of so many of those social problems. I had come to see so many inequalities, such as the poor quality of the public schools, mainly used by – Surprise! Little African American children- as Civil Rights issues thanks to the amazing work of the Southern Poverty Law center.

In Montgomery, where White and African American populations are about 45%-55% respectively, most normal people are forced to deal with people of the opposing skin color on a daily basis. Local and state government employees are probably pretty equally from both communities (although we have to be honest- we don’t see too many people of color in positions of higher authority. But they’ll get there).

And in Montgomery, as in much of the South, the requirement to greet and treat each other with respect and acknowledgment of the other as a human being is, at least in public, absolutely IRON CLAD, no ifs ands or buts. Any disrespectful or hurtful actions and language from or among children is knocked right out of them; adults call each other ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ or in practicing Christian circles ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ without the least humour irony or sarcasm.

Some might say that is just life in the South, but I think it is particularly strong in Alabama. It arises from the scars of wounds from two recent epochs in Southern history:  First  there was post civil war  occupation by Northern military forces and the influx of ‘right thinking, liberal’ opportunists, gold-diggin’ ‘carpetbaggers.’  Later and more painful in a brief and hard won peace came the events of the Civil Rights area which horrified normal decent people of both colors.

“Southern Man” and “Alabama” certainly told some truth
But there were a lot of good folks down here and Neil Young wasn’t around

Meanwhile in North Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd came to town
To record with Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound
And they met some real good people, not racist pieces of shit
And they wrote a song about it and that song became a hit…

I believe people are so polite because the spectre of having society torn apart by such ugliness hovers quite near. Alabamans will generally put aside petty differences and put on their kindest manners and work very hard at community building to keep that evil at bay.

One of the crowning jewels in Alabama’s legacy of positive social change is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Klanwatch is one of its programs. I am proud to say I have met SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, who lives in a cool but quite modest home in Old Cloverdale where we spent so many hours with so many friends. I knew him as the man who broke the Klan. I don’t think many people know what this meant.

In a landmark case, a judge made the hatemongering Klan pay a 7 million dollar settlement to the mother of a young man who had  been viciously murdered by a few Klan members.  For the first time, an entire organization was responsible for making reparations for the crime, even though it was committed by only a few members. To put it mildly, that sure put a kink in their tail and curtailed the criminal behavior of its members considerably.

Some people like to be snide about Morris’ Dees previous incarnation as a direct mail marketer, or about his personal life, or the size of the SPLC Endowment, which dollars, as one clueless (white) guy put it, Dees should stop hoarding and start feeding hungry people, making the world a better place by funding grants or projects to directly help those in need.  That evening Dees answered the heckler kindly. He said, we are always potentially a lawsuit away from being forced to close our doors. We have to provide for its future so we can continue what we do. I wholeheartedly agree.

So… this book is about something Alabama can absolutely be very proud of. The Cradle of the Confederacy is also the Cradle of Civil Rights.(I can’t be the first person to say that, right?)  The awareness that Civil Rights really matter has spread so that American society grows in our awareness that the rights of women, gay or transgendered people, parents, children, people who are vulnerable because they are cut off from or simply do not have supportive families or are  institutionalized- the elderly, orphans and foster children, are in danger all the time. So the pain endured by Alabama’s citizens not been in vain. We cannot bring back those who died at the hands of the Klan, vigilantes or so-called law enforcement, nor end the grief of their loved ones… but we do know that from the seeds of that pain  sprang  healing and stability and willingness to prevent it happening again in much greater proportion.

Darling Alabama, there are many things about you that I do not miss, but I will love you for so many reasons, forever.

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Filed under African, American, History, social currents, Southern