Eighty Years Ago

Eighty years ago today Nazi Germany invaded Poland, thus beginning “World War II,” because this time the British and the French actually responded to an act of German aggression by declaring war. Let us not forget that the Soviets also invaded Poland 16 days later, occupying the eastern third of it – and that fighting had been going on in the East for some time already. 

Here is Auden’s famous poem on the event (from Poets.org):

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

The New Year + Indian Flaggery

Thanks to Jeff Bishop, director of the Funk Heritage Center, for lending us the space yesterday for our history program pop-up party to start off the new academic year. A good time was had by all!

In keeping with one of the themes of this blog, here are images of the flags hanging in the main hall, representing the so-called Five Civilized Tribes of the American southeast. 

The flag of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, one of three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes in the United States. 

Flag of the Chickasaw Nation, also headquartered in Oklahoma. 

There is a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, but this flag is of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. A third Choctaw band claims Jena, Louisiana as its home.

The flag of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, or as it says on the flag, “Indian Territory.”

The flag of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma does not appear, but that of the Seminole Tribe of Florida does. 

Finally, what does this sixth flag mean? It’s a great design, but apparently it is the flag flown by the Creek… as allies of the Confederate States of America!

(Personally, I wouldn’t hang this one.)

Alumni News

Pleased to receive a visit yesterday from Kyle Walker ’17, our history program student of the year from two years ago. Mr. Walker is pursuing an associate’s degree in information technology from Chattahoochee Tech and works for 360 SmartNetworks, a company offering “technology solutions for small business,” particularly in the area of cybersecurity. He enjoys the work very much and is getting married next February. 

Treasure

From the BBC (hat tip: Chris Berard):

Detectorists find huge Chew Valley Norman coin hoard

 

A huge hoard of silver coins dating back to the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings could be declared as treasure.

The 2,528 silver coins were found in the Chew Valley, north-east Somerset, by a group of metal detectorists.

Lisa Grace and Adam Staples, who unearthed the bulk of the hoard, said: “We’ve been dreaming of this for 15 years but it’s finally come true.”

The British Museum said it was the second largest find of Norman coins ever in the UK.

Mr Staples, from Derby, added: “It was totally unbelievable – to find one would be an exceptional day metal detecting.

“To find two unrelated coins would be almost impossible. And when there were more beeps, from two to 10, from 50 to 100, to wow how many are there?

“From then on it was just crazy.”

More at the link. Sure wish I could make a find like this! 

Rome

Yesterday we enjoyed some local tourism with a visit to nearby Rome, Georgia. 

For the first time ever we went to see Rome’s characteristic building: The Clock Tower, which crowns Neely Hill, one of Rome’s Seven Hills, and which is reproduced on the city’s flag, the city’s logo, and this storm drain cover:

Actually, I think that custom cast-iron drain covers are an under-appreciated medium, and I’m pleased to discover, after a little Internet searching, that there exist fans of them.  

I’m edified to see that Rome’s Capitoline Wolf still stands outside the courthouse. That it was a gift of Benito Mussolini does not seem to bother people.

“To Robert Battey master surgeon and illustrious pioneer in medicine by the people of Georgia and others who know his worth.”

Also in front of the courthouse, a monument to Robert Battey, M.D. Wikipedia says:

After the Confederate surrender in April 1865, Battey resumed his practice in Rome, Georgia. His field of study was gynecology, and he became well known for a procedure he pioneered to remove a woman’s ovaries. Initially referred to as ovariotomy, and named “Battey’s Operation” in his honor, it is what today is termed a radical oophorectomy. He performed the first successful oophorectomy in May 1869 when he successfully removed a large dermoid cyst from a physician’s wife. On August 27, 1872 he performed his first ‘normal’ oophorectomy. The patient, Julie Omberg, had diseased ovaries and lived to be 80 years old. There was a lynch mob waiting for Dr. Battey if he failed the operation.

I think that a [citation needed] note ought to follow that final sentence…

Nearby, a monument to Admiral John Henry Towers, who was born and raised in Rome. Wikipedia:

Towers was a United States Navy admiral and pioneer naval aviator. He made important contributions to the technical and organizational development of naval aviation from its beginnings, eventually serving as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics (1939–1942). He commanded carrier task forces during World War II, and retired in December 1947…. He was the first naval aviator to achieve flag rank and was the most senior advocate for naval aviation during a time when the Navy was dominated by battleship admirals. 

Further along on Broad Street: a monument to Von Albade Gammon and his mother Rosalind Burns Gammon. The plaques speak for themselves:

This is an interesting situation, which was echoed a few years later on a national level during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. From a History Channel article on the subject:

At the turn of the 20th century, America’s football gridirons were killing fields. The college game drew tens of thousands of spectators and rivaled professional baseball in fan appeal, but football in the early 1900s was lethally brutal—a grinding, bruising sport in which the forward pass was illegal and brute strength was required to move the ball. Players locked arms in mass formations and used their helmetless heads as battering rams. Gang tackles routinely buried ball carriers underneath a ton and a half of tangled humanity.

With little protective equipment, players sustained gruesome injuries—wrenched spinal cords, crushed skulls and broken ribs that pierced their hearts. The Chicago Tribune reported that in 1904 alone, there were 18 football deaths and 159 serious injuries, mostly among prep school players. Obituaries of young pigskin players ran on a nearly weekly basis during the football season. The carnage appalled America. Newspaper editorials called on colleges and high schools to banish football outright. “The once athletic sport has degenerated into a contest that for brutality is little better than the gladiatorial combats in the arena in ancient Rome,” opined the Beaumont Express. The sport reached such a crisis that one of its biggest boosters—President Theodore Roosevelt—got involved.

Although his nearsightedness kept him off the Harvard varsity squad, Roosevelt was a vocal exponent of football’s contribution to the “strenuous life,” both on and off the field. As New York City police commissioner, he helped revive the annual Harvard-Yale football series after it had been canceled for two years following the violent 1894 clash that was deemed “the bloodbath at Hampden Park.” His belief that the football field was a proving ground for the battlefield was validated by the performance of his fellow Rough Riders who were former football standouts. “In life, as in a football game,” he wrote, “the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!” In 1903, the president told an audience, “I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal.”

Of course, it was fatal, and Roosevelt himself supported rule changes that eliminated mass formations and legalized the forward pass, which was introduced in 1906. But he was absolutely determined that football should not be played “on too ladylike a basis,” given that colleges should turn out “vigorous men” and not “mollycoddles,” because “the weakling and the coward are out of place in a strong and free community” (see Kevin Murphy’s Political Manhood for more). 

I can’t imagine even Trump saying such things…

But the controversy lives on, in its way. Perhaps you have heard of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that is, brain damage sustained by professional football players over the course of their careers, and which has led to calls for football to be banned, or radically changed. So far no one, to my knowledge, has stood up for “manliness” and “vigor” as positive virtues that football might instill. Instead, people try to question the very existence of CTE (a physician I know claims that it is a “lawyer’s disease”). I spotted Brainwashed in a bookstore later in the day. 

Rome’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery, as you might expect, features a prominent Confederate memorial, erected by the N.B. Forrest Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in honor of their namesake.

I thought that Forrest had more of a connection with Tennessee but he saw action in north Georgia as well. From the plinth:

On Sunday, May 3rd, 1863, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, by his indomitable will, after a running fight of three days and nights, with 410 men, captured Col. A.D. Streight’s raiders, numbering 1600, thereby saving Rome from destruction.

A nearby historical marker elaborates:

GEORGIA’S PAUL REVERE

Along this road John H. Wisdom rode from Gadsden, Ala. to warn that a Federal force of over 2,00 men was approaching Rome to occupy the town, destroy foundries making ammunition for the Confederates and to cut Confederate communications (May 2, 1863).

On Wisdom’s arrival in Rome the bridge over the Oostanaula river was fortified and made ready for burning as a last resort. Widsom’s warning and the plans for defense played a big part in the surrender of Col. Streight with 1,500 men to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest with only 425 men.

People always claim that Forrest was a “brilliant general,” but will this monument survive his connection to Fort Pillow and the Ku Klux Klan

Either way, it would be good to put up a monument to Bud Rufus somewhere in Myrtle Hill. 

Parallel to the Forrest monument is another monument, this one to the Women of the Confederacy, with the twin sculptures “News from the Front” and “An Angel of Mercy,” along with the usual doggerel.

Around the corner, the graves of some 368 Civil War soldiers. 

The Cherokee Nation

I like a lot of what Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has to say, but the fact remains that she repeatedly and deliberately claimed Cherokee ancestry over the course of her academic career, for the sake of whatever boost that particular valence of identity would give to it. Frankly, I don’t understand how people can get away with this grift. Unlike the categories of “Hispanic” and “African-American,” “Native American” is buttressed by a specific legal status. The “Cherokee grandmother” (or worse, “Cherokee princess”) that you’re supposedly descended from might be interesting to you, but it is of no more moral significance than having Italian or Irish ancestors. Unless you are a member of a federally-recognized tribe, then you don’t get to say that you’re a Native American! Alas, a buyer’s market exists for these claims: liberal academic institutions are so desperate for American minorities, both as students and faculty, that they (apparently) won’t investigate them too deeply. But it is still fundamentally dishonest, not much different from plagiarism, that is, stealing someone else’s stuff and passing it off as your own, which is the unforgivable academic sin.* 

I was glad, therefore, to read this piece by Rebecca Nagle on Huffpost Personal (hat tip: Funk Heritage Center):

The center of this controversy is not Warren’s political career, it is Cherokee sovereignty and self-determination. The monster I am trying to wrestle to the ground is not one white woman who claimed to be Cherokee. It is the hundreds of thousands of white people claiming to be Cherokee and the broad social acceptance that emboldens them. It threatens the future of my tribe. Warren is just the most public example.

When white people took over our land, they outnumbered us. Today, Cherokees are once again outnumbered by outsiders, claiming not our land, but our identity. In the last U.S. census, there were more white people claiming to be Cherokee than there are Cherokee citizens enrolled in our tribes. These fakes are writing our history, selling our art, representing us to the United Nations, fighting for the same legal status as our tribe, and stealing millions of dollars from federal programs set aside for people of color. And they all have stories that sound just like Warren’s. 

Read the whole thing

* Of course, we could obviate this entire problem by not caring about someone’s racial, ethnic, or sexual identity, but that’s not the world we live in, alas. 

Pine Log Mountain

My English program colleague Donna Coffey Little has published a piece in Story South about the local Pine Log Mountain:

Mining Pine Log Mountain: Place and Memory in a Southern Landscape

I’ve just harvested 250 bushels of corn, Bob tells me. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a gigantic red combine with Bob Neel, CEO of Aubrey Corporation, which owns half of Georgia’s Pine Log Mountain and leases 14,134 acres to the Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Aubrey Corporation grows hundreds of acres of corn and cotton at Pine Log and near the Etowah River in Kingston. Bob is the CEO, but he still harvests his own crops.

The combine is two stories tall and two normal vehicles long. You have to climb a ladder on the side to get in. In the front there are eight large prongs that look like upside down canoes. As we approach each corn field, Bob aims the upside down canoes into the spaces between the rows, forcing the corn into the giant blades that pluck and shred the stalks, sending the corn into a storage compartment in the back. Each time it fills, we drive over to a shipping container and a giant hose spits out a cascade of corn.

This is the first time I’ve met Bob, who is a reedy and handsome man, as athletic 68, with a sardonic wit and a distrust of college professors. There is something Clint Eastwood-ish about him, as if he is waiting for me to say or do something stupid and make his day. It’s clear that he prides himself on being a no-bullshit kind of guy.

He won’t let me write anything down and at one point asks me pointblank if I am recording him.

“No,” I protest. He shifts his sunglasses and peers at me with penetrating blue eyes, always the skeptic.

“I’ve got a good memory, though,” I say. I can spar, I can hold my own. My curiosity outweighs my shyness.

“You’re not going to portray us as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, are you?” he asks. “People look down on farmers.”

“I don’t,” I say. “Why do you think we just bought a 15-acre farm?”

That seems to satisfy him. He knows my neighbors Jim and Cathy, who sold me and my husband the farm we bought this summer. He and Jim are both part of the Euharlee Farmers Club, the oldest and most prestigious institution in Bartow County. Jim vouching for me is probably the only reason Bob has agreed to let me interview him about the history of Pine Log Mountain.

Read the whole thing

Viking Boat Burials

From the Independent:

Rare Viking boat burials unearthed in first discovery of its kind in 50 years, archaeologists say

Excavation team discover grave containing man, horse and dog in Sweden

A pair of Viking burial boats have been discovered by archaeologists in Sweden, in what is thought to be the first find of its kind in almost half a century.

Uncovered in the city of Uppsala one contained the remains of a man, a horse and a dog.

“This is a unique excavation; the last excavation of this grave type in Old Uppsala was almost 50 years ago,” Anton Seiler, an archaeologist at the National Historical Museums in Sweden, said.

“It is extremely exciting for us since boat burials are so rarely excavated. We can now use modern science and methods that will generate new results, hypotheses and answers.”

Only around 10 boat burial sites of this kind have been previously discovered. They were mainly found in the nearby provinces of Uppland and Vastmanland.

In one of the newly discovered graves, archaeologists found personal items, including a sword, spear, shield and an ornate comb.

They said it was likely that they were for important members of society, due to their unusual burial.

“It is a small group of people who were buried in this way. You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial ships in general are very rare,” Mr Seiler said.

More at the link

Vacation Pics – Newfoundland

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, overlooking the harbour into St. John’s. Built in 1898 to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the voyage of John Cabot’s ship Matthew and the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The site also received, in 1901, the first transatlantic wireless transmission originating from Guglielmo Marconi’s Poldhu Station in Cornwall. 

Not far away from Signal Hill is Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. The historic lighthouse there really is a lighthouse

Always in the background in Newfoundland: the Dominion’s participation in the First World War, which was disastrous. Ninety percent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were casualties of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916, which thereafter became Newfoundland’s Memorial Day (clashing somewhat with Dominion Day after 1949). Newfoundland’s university, founded in 1925, took the name “Memorial” on account of this sad event. At the Confederation Building, a book of remembrance is enshrined in the entrance lobby. The flag on the right is that of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Throughout the entrance lobby of the Confederation Building hang the flags of all the Newfoundland branches of the Legion, illustrating certain priorities.  

How we got here: recruitment propaganda on display at The Rooms, laying it on thick. 

The legislative chamber in the Confederation Building.

In the mezzanine of the Confederation Building, a series of busts of chief executives of Newfoundland, starting with Philip Francis Little at the granting of responsible government in 1855. The photograph is of Joey Smallwood, the “Last Father of Confederation” and Premier of Newfoundland 1949-72. 

In The Rooms: Joey Smallwood’s trademark glasses and bow tie. 

At our hotel: the Newfoundland coat of arms, which dates from the 1630s. The shield is great; the Beothuk supporters are “problematic,” in today’s parlance.

This piece of artwork, Jordan Bennett, Tamiow tle’owin (2016), is a play on Newfoundland’s coat of arms and is currently on display in The Rooms. The figure on the right holds a letter that begins:

Your application to be enrolled as a Founding Member of the Qalipu Mk’kmaq First Nation Band has been considered by the Enrolment Committee.

The Committee finds that you Do Not Meet the criteria for enrollment as set out in Section 4.1 of the Agreement in that you have failed to satisfy Section 4.1(a). More specifically, it is necessary for you to prove that you are of Canadian Indian ancestry.

I guess the artwork is asking who a real Indian is. Apparently the whole thing was an issue a few years ago.

The Micmac language is nowadays written in the Roman alphabet, although formerly Micmac hieroglyphs were used. This rendition of the Lord’s Prayer is on display at The Rooms. 

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the city of St. John’s dates from 1855 and was named a basilica one hundred years later. 

This is what people come to St. John’s to see: terraced wooden housing, each unit of which is painted a different and often bright colour. 

The average fishing village will also feature brightly painted houses. This is a view of Trinity, on the Bonavista Peninsula. Generally houses aren’t built on straight streets or in much relation to each other, but that’s all part of the charm. The church is St. Paul’s Anglican. 

Newfoundland features some impressive seabird colonies on its coasts. This one is at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Preserve on the southwestern arm of the Avalon Peninsula. Many different birds are found here, including gannets, kittiwakes, murres, and razorbills

In Elliston, on the Bonavista Peninsula, a puffin colony that attracts quite a bit of human attention. 

The puffin is Newfoundland’s provincial bird, and you can buy souvenir plush puffins all over the place. People love their colourful beaks, their short orange legs, and their clownish movements.

At the tip of Bonavista Peninsula, the town of Bonavista itself. Its flag leaves something to be desired aesthetically, but it illustrates how the town got its name, from John Cabot’s words “O happy sight!” (“buona vista”). 

Bonavista has a lighthouse even more impressive than Cape Spear’s. 

Gros Morne National Park, on the western side of the island, features some stunning (and geologically significant) natural beauty. This is Green Point, which has been designated a “Global Stratotype” for the division between the Cambrian and the Ordovician periods.

We bought a linocut of Green Point by artist Christine Koch, who keeps a summer studio at Woody Point. 

Also in Gros Morne are The Tablelands. In the midst of all of the Park’s forested mountains is a short range completely denuded of vegetation and dark orange in color. It is apparently a remnant of the earth’s mantle thrust up some four hundred million years ago, and the reason why Gros Morne is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Its peridotite composition does not sustain much plant life, and I would say that it looks like the surface of Mars save for the bits of snow still present at the top of the hill, which form runoff creeks that were fun to wade in.