Autumnal aspirations QUESTIONS

What are you looking forward to this fall?

For me:
TELEVISION: the usual TV shows (JEOPARDY!, The Office, 30 Rock, news programs). The only new program I’ve recorded is Glee, and that only because Jane Lynch, who I liked in movies such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Best in Show is in it. I haven’t even read the TV Guide with all the new shows yet; anything else I should be watching?I’m already passing on Cougartown; the whole woman as “cougar” thing is bothersome to me.
Then there’s sports. I’ll probably watch more baseball in October than I did from April through September. Football, probably from Thanksgiving on, unless I get lucky.
CHURCH: Choir began last Thursday. Homecoming Sunday is tomorrow. And there’s a wedding, but since the bride hasn’t announced it yet, I shan’t.
EVENTS: Definitely attending a talk by Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery By Another Name on September 24 at the Albany Public Library. Really want to see the The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany photo exhibit at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY sometime in October.
Also want to go apple picking and leaf gazing, the latter preerably in Vermont.
Learn more about picture above here.


L is for Liberia

I have long been fascinated with the western African nation of Liberia. I have a friend at my former church from Liberia who has traveled back to her homeland a number of times in the last 25 years, when it was safe to do so.

Looking at the map above, there were only four countries on the whole continent that were independent when I was born; much of the rest were colonies of Europeans. Sudan was controlled by an Anglo-Egyptian combo, and the Union of South Africa, as it was then known, controlled Southwest Africa, now Namibia. And it wasn’t that long ago before that Ethiopia had been taken over by Italy before and during World War II.

So what IS this place with a flag very similar to that of the Unites States, an island of liberation in a sea of colonies in west Africa with a capital named for a U.S. President? And what is the relationship between the countries of the red, white and blue?

The roots of what came to be known as Liberia came from an unlikely mix of people who formed the American Colonization Society. From the Wikipedia post: “Supporters of the ACS may be divided into three main groups. The first consisted of those who genuinely felt that it was the best solution to a difficult problem and might lead to a gradual emancipation. Another smaller group was a pro-slavery group who saw removal as an answer to the problems associated with ‘dangerous’ free blacks. Perhaps the largest group of supporters was made up of those who opposed slavery, but did not believe in anything remotely resembling equality of the races.” Thus, the Society was supported by an unlikely combination of free blacks, abolitionists and slave holders, though by no means a majority in any of those groups.

The “settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822” with the active and tacit support of American political leaders. “By 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic.” But there was, for many years, tensions between the resettlers and and the folks native Africans who were forced to accept them. It didn’t help that those who once had been in the Western Hemisphere and their progeny tended to look down on the natives.

From the CIA World Factbook: “William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendants of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior.” This was facilitated by the United States, which “began providing technical and economic assistance that enabled Liberia to make economic progress and introduce social change. Both the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport were built by U.S. personnel during World War II.”

Unfortunately, the last couple decades of the 20th Century found the country rife with instability. “In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR launched a rebellion against DOE’s regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone’s civil war.” Indeed, just this month, Taylor’s lawyers asked for a U.N. tribunal to acquit their client of all charges.

“After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power…President JOHNSON SIRLEAF, a Harvard-trained banker and administrator, has taken steps to reduce corruption, build support from international donors, and encourage private investment…The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country will take many years.”

Despite the history, the United States does not appear to have a “special relation” with Liberia, as the United Kingdom, for instance, has with the Commonwealth or the French has with some of its former colonies.
I’m taking a wild guess that no one in the ABC Wednesday group picked Liberia, no?

Carlin and other family-friendly topics

So I wake up at four a.m. for the third time in the night, because I still can’t find a comfortable sleeping position, probably because I didn’t take my pain pills all day yesterday, because I didn’t want to become habituated to them, so I get up and check Evanier, who notes George Carlin has died, and he writes: “Seven words come immediately to mind. All are appropriate for the occasion.” And I check my blog and note that I’d only mentioned Carlin thrice, twice on baseball and football, and once on education, but I recall how I’d been watching Carlin for decades, from the “hippy, dippy weatherman I remember him doing on the “Ed Sullivan Show” to one of the sharpest minds of social commentary, and there’s a pain in my heart AND my side. DAMN! (Not one of the seven words.)
Since one Kelly Brown specifically requested me to take this test, what could I do?


As a 1930s husband, I am

Take the test!

And speaking of family things, something I saw on the bus last week: Woman and daughter waiting for the bus, get on the bus. Woman sees child’s father on the bus, apparently to the surprise of all concerned. She says to child, “Oh, your father’s on the bus,’ hands the child to the father, saying “YOU take her!!” then gets off the bus. Child cries for mommy a couple blocks, but is eventually soothed by daddy; Arthur would have been pleased.

At least that a better bus story than my wife experienced, which involved a three-year old running on the bus, failing, crying, and the mother screaming at the wailing child, “I told you not to run on the bus.”
I was watching Bill Moyers again, and I must recommend it. It deals with race in America. One segment is about Slavery by Another Name, Douglas A. Blackmon’s book about what the subtitle calls “the Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.”
Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude.
Blackmon has a website addressing the issue.

Moyers also previewed the documentary which opens the 21st season of P.O.V. TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY OF THE DEEP NORTH, which tells the story journey of discovery into the history and consequences of slavery and which will air on my PBS station Tuesday night.
Someone tipped me about Twilight Zone radio plays produced in 2004 for CBS radio using Rod Serling’s original scripts, with Stacey Keach narrating and hosting.


"Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color"

On February 24, 2007, Carol and I I attended a conference on the Underground Railroad: Uncovering the Voices of Women, organized for the sixth year in a row by our friends Paul and Mary Liz Stewart. It was excellent.

One of the sessions was “From the UGR to Women’s Rights: Historic Sites in Central NY” by Judy Wellman, Ph.D. From the program: “Nationally, abolitionism provided one of the most important roots of the early women’s rights movement. In central NY, a survey of sites relating to African Americans and European Americans involved with the UGR suggests powerful connections between the UGR and early women’s rights movement.” One finds a number of suffragists at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement, described well here. The quote in the title is by early feminist Frederick Douglass.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between the 19th and 20th Century women’s movements. The article cited above notes how a major anti-slavery convention in London in 1840 did not seat or hear from women delegates, two of whom were Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I recall the discussions during the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, where women (rightly) complained that they were being relegated to the sidelines, expected to do the cleaning and cooking, while the menfolk did the “important” organizing.

The toughest part of the conference had to be in the opening plenary session, in which Delores M. Walters, Ph.D. described “The Narrative Life of Margaret Garner’s Life and Beyond”. Margaret Garner was a slave who, with her family, attempted to escape, but was recaptured. Rather than letting her two-year-old be brought back into slavery, she killed her. Margaret was put on trial, and returned to slavery, but died soon thereafter.

There is now an opera, written by Toni Morrison, author of the book “Beloved”, which has a narrative section that parallels Margaret Garner’s life. It has been performed a number of times already, and it will be performed again in New York City in September 2007.

The conference ended with a responsive reading of a litany, found here.

The conference is already planning for next year, so if you’re in the area, please consider attending.