It is fifty years since it was my good fortune to spend a year in France, a junior year abroad in a very well-organized program of St. Lawrence University, where I got my undergraduate degree (and that in French!). Now a half century on, I have tried to mark the occasion in a number of ways, among them:
- reading as much Balzac as I can
- reading the works (in French) of one of our professors at the University of Rouen – Robert Merle, who was one of the finest professors I have had the pleasure of studying with.
- seeing the films made of Robert Merle’s books (Day of the Dolphin, Weekend A Zuydcoote).
- remembering some of the places I had the good fortune of visiting that memorable year and writing about them, places whose significance I barely understood at the time, among them Arques-La-Bataille and Dieppe.
I first visited Arques-La-Bataille nearly half a century ago with Dominique, Didier and “Mr.’ Vergos and Frank Kappler. It was a part of a day trip on which the Vergoses were kind enough to take Frank K. and me. We were in the midst of our junior year abroad (September 1964 – July 1965) in Paris and then Rouen France. In Rouen we lived with the Vergos family at their home at 75bis rue de Renard (Fox St.) . After poking around the castle at Arques-La-Bataille for an hour, mostly climbing around the ruins, we went on the spend the rest of the day in Dieppe. It was a wondrous day all in all, filled with vivid impressions. Years later – 25 to be exact, in July 1989 – with Nancy, Molly and Abbie – I visited the same places. We stayed about a week just outside of Dieppe and took a day trip to Arques-La-Bataille. That summer was the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution of 1789, an interesting time to be there. Read more…
Such a strange title for what amounts to a high security prison for undocumented immigrants being “processed” …ie kicked out of the country,”the Aurora Processing Center.” Just looking at it, the whole structure wreaks of oppression. Do all the security guards there have beer bellies – good corn-fed farm boys – like the three or four I saw from a distance, their stomachs hanging out over their belts?
It is a fortress with high walls, barbed wire, an enormous facility a medieval dungeon in the 21st Century. But I have passed it many times driving down Peoria Street in Aurora and not even noticed it as the facility sits a block off of a main thoroughfare. If you didn’t know what was going on there, it would not be illogical to think it a meat processing center. After all what is a “processing center?” But this processing center processes people and kicks them out of the country. It breaks up families and crushes souls.Colorado “processing center” in Aurora has one of the oppressive records in the country and this country’s president has expelled more immigrants from these United States than anyone in his position in the past. A sorry record indeed and one that continues full steam.
There were about fifty of us out there protesting the treatment of undocumented residents of the United States in an event sponsored by AFSC and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights. A Jewish social justice group (finally!) in Denver, Bend The Arc, is also involved. Many present at the picket – themselves or family members – had been arrested by immigration and are facing deportation. One who had spent eight months inside the Aurora Processing Center was a woman named Kelly. She had been stopped for driving without a license and, her papers not in order, sent to the processing center for deportation. That she was able to get out of the center and remain in the country she credits to the immigration rights movement in Denver that helped her. But it would not have happened unless, as Kelly put it, she “came out of the shadows and into the light, to leave behind the fear”…go public and fight openly for her rights.
Molly, one of our daughters, had gone to these demonstrations several times before and it was about time that I joined in too. Immigration is a personal issue several generations removed. It is both a part of both the heritage of this country and of my own family. Along with many of their relatives, all of my grandparents immigrated to this country from what is today Lithuania, Poland and Belarus in the early years of the 20th century. My maternal grandmother, Sarah Magaziner (name changed to Magazine in the 1930s) was denied entry on her first try as a result of a minor eye infection. For that, – a woman who spoke seven languages fluently (Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Yiddish, Swedish and Hebrew) – eight if English is thrown in – and who had the voice of an opera singer, the daughter of a long line of rabbis and fisherman on the Niemen River – was deemed “eugenically unfit” and sent back to Europe from Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Read more…
Doing Genealogical history. Some Notes
(Note – I would imagine that for other than people in my family line – and perhaps even they, what follows would be extremely boring (other than the first paragraphs). And while I am garnering personal details, actually I am as interested, in probing the social history of the families as finding out detailed facts about the family past. What was the world they left? I know that – it was pretty rough? What was it like for them living in the USA in the first half of the 20th Century?, etc). Anyhow I will continue to write about it.
1. Why do it?
First – what this is not about – I am not trying in any way to find some kind of “pedigree”, pure family line. I consider that racist bullshit and have no interest in it whatsoever. And I might add – as among us Jews one often hears something along the lines “Oh we’re all so smart – it must be genetic”…(not said so often but usually implied – occasionally said by more Orthodox types) …that too is nonsense. Racism has always cut two ways. On the one hand it stigmatizes some as being “inferior”, “lesser”, and as such opens the doors to what amounts to as exploitation up to and including crimes against humanity and genocide.
On the other hand, there is the “flip side”: those who really believe that they are “God’s gift to the world, “chosen people” (one of the more dangerous ideas floating around) – that they are smarter, better mentally or physically or both, have a genetic talent to be rich (that is what Carnegie and Rockefeller – two late 19th century Social Darwinist Robber Barons thought of themselves). Also a bunch of crap – a way to hide a life time of exploiting other human beings under the veil of genetics. So let’s forget that, cross it out, throw it in the garbage can, whatever. I am quite proud of my mongrel roots…broader gene pools = greater genetic diversity = what geneticists used to call “hybrid vigor” – fuck purity – another word for incest and the inheritance of all kinds of mental and physical diseases. Besides somewhere along the way we’re all mongrels. Read more…
Dutch Hegemony Time line
785 A.D. – Charlemagne conquers the lowlands and adds them to his European Empire
800-1200 A.D. – Charlemagne’s empire collapsed – as series of small kingdoms – dukedoms take form – some with German other with French nobles in charge
1000 A.D. – major work begins on building dykes – land reclamation
1100 A.D. – work begins in the region around Amsterdam.
1100s – Tanchelyn preaches in Antwerp – attacking the authority of the Pope and all other ecclesiastics, scoffing at the ceremonies and sacraments of the Church. Motley considers him a usurper. All Antwerp was his harem; he levied vast sums upon his converts; he organizes an armed guard of 3000 followers, executing all who resisted his commands; followers “drank the water in which he bathed and treasured it; he announced his approaching marriage to the Virgin Mary and then ordered his supporters to pay for the wedding expenses and his wife’s dowry. He was assassinated in 1115 by an obscure priest.
1100s – A series of heresies follow – the doctrines of Walden, Waldeneses, Albigenes, Perfectionsts, Lollards, Poplicans, Arnaldists, Bohemian Brothers “waged perpetual but unequal warfare with the power and depravity of the Church.” Nowhere was the persecution of heretics more relentless than in the Netherlands. In spite of the intense repression against the heresy, Waldo translated the Bible into French and than it was translated to Dutch ending the papal monopoly on being able to read and interpret the Bible.
1217 – Middelburg Charter – due process for all. local charters establish the limits to which a noble can bring charges against, arrest citizens of towns. An attempt to limit arbitrary violence against townspeople from the crown. Includes the following: – sets up a series of laws for fighting, disputes, – insists that everyone from nobility to homeless must go before the law (courts called “schepens”) – people accused of crimes will be tried in the town where they are accused”
1275 – trade between England and Holland, which had proceeded for centuries was interrupted by a ten-year trade war in which both sides engaged in piracy against the merchant ships of the other. Trade with the Mediterranean organized largely through the city of Bruges.
1275 – formal date for founding of Amsterdam
1386-1389 – The Lowland cities “thus advancing, in wealth and importance were no longer satisfied with being governed according to the law, and began to participate, not only in their own but in the general government.” – Assemblies of provincial estates are formed made up of both nobility and merchant classes. Went on for the following century with the six chief cities of Holland (Amsterdam, Gouda, Leyden, Dort, Haarlem, Delft) having the right to send representatives to regional assembly. Same was true of Flanders – ie …beginning of a strong regional democracy…with elected representatives. Read more…
Waterboarding. Turns out it is nothing new, not “invented” by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the lot of neo-conservatives who pushed the United States into an unending war against the Third World – from Afghanistan to Iraq and would like to see wars extended to Iran, Syria…and of late, Russia.
It was standard fare for the U.S. military in a Third World Country even 115 years ago: the torture of rebels, in this case waterboarding in the Philippines, 1902. The image on the left is a “Life” Magazine cover from May 22, 1902, on the website “Executed Today” in history, (today being April 5th). The website, which I discovered about a week ago, includes fascinating information concerning human inhumanity to its fellow beings through history.
Some entries are of a personal nature – so and so murdered so and so, etc, but many are distinctly political which interest me more admittedly. It’s not that I ignore such things – it has long given me the chills how people mistreat one another on an individual level. It’s just when states get involved – state sanctioned torture, murder – otherwise known as war – that things get even uglier.
There were two othe entries on the website though – besides the killing of Filipinos by torture – that especially caught my attention this April 5 – the guillotining of French revolutionary leader Georges Danton in 1794 and the execution of two Arab nationalists opposed to Ottoman rule in 1916, one in Beirut, the other in Damascus.
Concerning the U.S. invasion of the Philippines…If the occupation of Hawaii is discounted (the Hawaii-ans don’t discount it), or the many invasions of Mexico in the 19th Century (the Mexicans don’t discount them) the U.S. military invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba as a result of the Spanish American War is considered the first foreign military intervention of the 20th century (even though they started in 1898). In the end a secret deal was cut between the Spanish and United States governments that rather than abandon these former colonies to their own people – punish the very thought of it!) that there would be a change of colonial rulers from Spain to the United States.
All three military occupations were messy, bloody affairs, but the one in the Philippines went on the longest and was probably the bloodiest. Some 200,000 Filipinos died opposing the U.S. military intervention. The intervention itself was overseen by U.S. General Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame (and Korean War infamy – he was itching to using nuclear weapons against the Chinese and was removed from command by President Truman). Having honed his skills killing Indians on the Great Plains for decades, Arthur MacArthur went on to outdo himself in the Philippines where virtually everything that moved became target practice for the U.S. army.
According to one explanation for why the United States would invade the Philippines (that I recall reading a long, long time ago), then President McKinley – soon to be assassinated) explained that he made the decision to invade the Philippines at “God’s direction.” McKinley claimed to be undecided and was walking the White House floors agonizing over what to do when he heard a voice and the voice was God. Not having at the time the convenience of using t weapons of mass destruction nor military intervention for humanitarian reasons as pretexts, McKinley needed another line of reasoning to plunder a far away, Asian country. It was also a problem that there were not communist countries at the time that McKinley could argue were a threat to world peace intent on taking over the world.
A genuine dilemma!
But when all else fails, American presidents – from McKinley to George W. Bush can always take the Crusader logic of old, dust it off a bit, and go for it. McKinley would tell the American public, of all things, that God told him to invade the Philippines, and being a good Christian, how could he do otherwise? It is possible that besides consulting God, McKinley also conferred with some of the country’s main financial and corporate leaders of the day anxious to increase U.S. commercial ties with Asia, China especially, for which the Philippines would provide an excellent springboard. It was/is also a place extraordinarily rich in natural resources, a potential market in and of itself for the burgeoning U.S. manufacturing sector.
God told Arthur MacArthur to use waterboarding on Filipinos as he (it is a “he” usually, isn’t it?) instructed George W. Bush to do likewise on Iraqis, Afghans and who knows how many other Third World rebels. Blaming God for U.S. military intervention didn’t work so well for McKinley and the Philippine intervention also triggered one of the country’s great pacifist and anti-war movements. Calling a spade a spade, this peace movement called itself “The Anti-Imperialist League” whose prominent members included mega-capitalist Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, John Dewey, William Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, William Graham Sumner, David Starr Jordan and former U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Unlike McKinley, apparently God had not spoken directly to these late 19th century American luminaries, either that or God was speaking in more than one voice – one to McKinley, a very different voice to Mark Twain and company.
The Ludlow Series – 1 KGNU-Boulder, Colorado “It’s The Economy” Interview with Bob Butero – United Mine Workers of America Representative and Jonathan Rees, Author of “The Rockefeller Plan At Colorado Fuel and Iron Company: 1914-1942
On March 27, 2014 – the weekly program “It’s The Economy” on KGNU-Boulder interviews Bob Butero, United Mine Workers of America representative – and a former coal miner – along with Colorado State University prof and author Jonathan Rees, author of The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company: 1914-1942. The interview runs about an hour.
In a few weeks, the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre will be marked by events all over the Front Range of Colorado. Most of them will take place south of Denver – in the Pueblo-Walsenburg-Trinidad region. Like the Triangle Fire Tragedy in New York City (March 25, 1911), the Ludlow Massacre of miners’ families working for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) to provide coal and iron for the Pueblo, Colorado steel mill was a “watershed event” in the history of both the state and the nation. I will be posting a series of articles and writing up commentaries to commemorate this event and go into its implications over the course of the next few months.
The CF&I Steel Mill still exists. For a time it was the largest producer of steel between St. Louis and California. It has changed hands many, many times. The photo on the left is of the mill in the mid 1970s when it still employed – if I remember correctly – more than 6000 workers, then as in 1914 when the Ludlow Massacre took place, these workers coming from all over the world, with diverse backgrounds.