i ain’t afraid of no ghost

This weekend, our television and Xbox both went on the fritz at the same time. I complained to my sister, and after inquiring whether they were on a surge protector (they were), she said, “Then the only explanation is ghosts.”

Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in ghosts, but I have to admit that with our house’s history, ghosts are a possibility. This is our house:

20140212-095021.jpg

As you can see, it’s a classic 60s ranch. The thing is, we live on a street and in a neighborhood in which all the other houses were built in the 1920s. It’s one reason I love our neighborhood and one reason I initially resisted buying this house– I love 1920s charm. Give me a Craftsman or Spanish Revival or Tudor any day. And yet, smack in the middle of all of these charming old homes is our midcentury modern house. It works out great for living with a child with a disability, because our home is open and all on one level, and so we bought it and have come to love it. Shortly after we moved in, a beloved college professor of ours told me that the reason our house was built in the 60s must be the plane explosion, which he remembered from his time growing up here.

Cue record scratch. Plane explosion?

A little Googling turned up the truth: in 1960, a plane from the nearby Air Force base exploded over the city. A large chunk of the plane landed on the house at our address, starting a fire and destroying the home, killing the woman inside in her bed. The bodies of two of the crewmen were also found on the property.

I guess after that, a new house was built in the architectural style that was popular at the time.

Given this crazy history, I guess it’s possible that the ghosts of that 62 year old woman and the two crewmen are hanging out and sending electronics on the fritz. But I hope not. I hope they’re at peace, wherever they are.

screw columbus and the day he sailed in on

This is a repost from last year, but since I always enjoy exposing the fallacies we learn as facts in school, here is my Columbus Day post again:

Today is Columbus Day. I’m sure we all learned it in school: “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” That’s probably the only true part of the story we were told.

He didn’t do it to prove the world is round, as that was already pretty widely accepted at the time. He did it to find a sea-based trade route to China. And he didn’t “discover” America. A) The Natives technically discovered America first, and B) Even other explorers, like Leif Ericsson for example, got here first, and C) At best, he landed in The Americas, not North America. And even after he arrived in the Americas, he refused to believe he hadn’t actually reached Asia, despite his utter inability to find any of its great cities. And on top of all that, he was kind of a terrible person and a horrible racist, and his “discovery” unleashed all kinds of horrors on the so-called New World, with the men under his command raping and robbing the natives, and ultimately enslaving them. He even took natives back to Europe as a sort of “show and tell” (because of course, he didn’t think they were really human), and many of them didn’t even survive the voyage.

And before we excuse him based on the fact that tons of people of his time found his behavior, and the behavior allowed under his command, perfectly acceptable, I have to mention a guy truly worth celebrating today. Bartolome de las Casas. De las Casas was originally a participant in the system of exploitation that was quickly set up under Spanish rule in Hispaniola, but he later became a priest, and became convinced that this exploitation was contrary to his Christian faith. Now, this was truly unique, as everyone at the time was a Catholic, and here he was telling them that they were all wrong, and that they were understanding this Jesus guy all wrong. De las Casas became an advocate against slavery, and largely thanks to his work, Pope Paul III forbade slavery in 1537 (shocking how much earlier that happens than it did in the US), and Emperor Charles V followed suit in 1542.

Here are some of the horrors de las Casas saw in the New World that made him such an anti-slavery advocate:

The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. (37)

The most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer. (37)

They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor the pregnant women nor the women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them, but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. (37)

They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victims’ feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and his Twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. (37)

With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them around the victim’s neck, saying ‘Go now, carry the message,’ meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains. (37)

It’s enough to make you sick at your stomach, right? What Columbus unleashed on the New World is not worthy of celebrating. He should not be made into a hero for children, because he was a corrupt man pursuing his own wealth at the expense of the lives and suffering of others. Instead, we should celebrate people like de las Casas, who came to realize what he was participating in was deeply deeply wrong, and took action that actually led to change. That’s so much more exciting and rare than a Columbus Day Sale.

All quotes come from Bartolome de las Casas’ “The Devastation of the Indies” in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume A.

screw columbus and the day he sailed in on

BartolomedelascasasToday is Columbus day. I’m sure we all learned it in school: “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” That’s probably the only true part of the story we were told.

He didn’t do it to prove the world is round, as that was already pretty widely accepted at the time. He did it to find a sea-based trade route to China. And he didn’t “discover” America. A) The Natives technically discovered America first, and B) Even other explorers, like Leif Ericsson for example, got here first, and C) At best, he landed in The Americas, not North America. And even after he arrived in the Americas, he refused to believe he hadn’t actually reached Asia, despite his utter inability to find any of its great cities. And on top of all that, he was kind of a terrible person and a horrible racist, and his “discovery” unleashed all kinds of horrors on the so-called New World, with the men under his command raping and robbing the natives, and ultimately enslaving them. He even took natives back to Europe as a sort of “show and tell” (because of course, he didn’t think they were really human), and many of them didn’t even survive the voyage.

And before we excuse him based on the fact that tons of people of his time found his behavior, and the behavior allowed under his command, perfectly acceptable, I have to mention a guy truly worth celebrating today. Bartolome de las Casas. De las Casas was originally a participant in the system of exploitation that was quickly set up under Spanish rule in Hispaniola, but he later became a priest, and became convinced that this exploitation was contrary to his Christian faith. Now, this was truly unique, as everyone at the time was a Catholic, and here he was telling them that they were all wrong, and that they were understanding this Jesus guy all wrong. De las Casas became an advocate against slavery, and largely thanks to his work, Pope Paul III forbade slavery in 1537 (shocking how much earlier that happens than it did in the US), and Emperor Charles V followed suit in 1542.

Here are some of the horrors de las Casas saw in the New World that made him such an anti-slavery advocate:

The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. (37)

The most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer. (37)

They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor the pregnant women nor the women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them, but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. (37)

They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victims’ feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and his Twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. (37)

With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them around the victim’s neck, saying ‘Go now, carry the message,’ meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains. (37)

It’s enough to make you sick at your stomach, right? What Columbus unleashed on the New World is not worthy of celebrating. He should not be made into a hero for children, because he was a corrupt man pursuing his own wealth at the expense of the lives and suffering of others. Instead, we should celebrate people like de las Casas, who came to realize what he was participating in was deeply deeply wrong, and took action that actually led to change. That’s so much more exciting and rare than a Columbus Day Sale.

All quotes come from Bartolome de las Casas’ “The Devastation of the Indies” in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume A.

Happy Mother’s Peace Day

Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mothers Peace Day
Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother's Peace Day. Via Wikipedia.

I bet that you probably have no idea where Mother’s Day got its start. I always figured it was sort of like Valentine’s Day– cooked up in some secret meeting between card companies, florists, jewelers, and others looking for a holiday by which they could market and sell things.

Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mother’s Day actually started as part of a peace movement, and at a time when our nation is fighting (at least) two wars, when so many other nations in the world are at war, when violence seems to have become a way of life, when so many are, like me, conflicted over how to feel and act after Osama bin Laden’s death, it’s important to remember the true origin of Mother’s Day. It was not intended as a day for children to celebrate their mothers, though this is a wonderful thing which should be done every day, but rather as a day for mothers around the world to come together for the cause of peace, to work together to ensure that their children would not need to fight and kill one another.

The creator of Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe, the same woman who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She issued the following Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

In many ways, reflecting on peace, and what it would mean for us to realize that every person truly is somebody’s baby, is a way for me to celebrate my mothers. Yes, I have two, a mother and a stepmom, both of whom love me dearly and have made me into the woman I am today. Both are huge advocates of caring for others, of making a difference, of fighting for what you believe in. I may be an opinionated, outspoken, passionate person, but I am this way because I was raised by people who loved me enough to give me a voice, to believe that I had something to say, to have the courage to stand by my convictions. So, on Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the opportunity to be raised by two strong, loving women. I’m sure I’ll never understand their sacrifices until I have children of my own. I hope to be the kind of woman they’ve always known and dreamed I would be, and on Mother’s Day and every day, I continue to pray for peace.