Ancestry

Think on: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  GEORGE SANTAYANA

In mentioning in passing the other day to an acquaintance that history afforded insight into our future, Tumbleweed was reminded how our education system and even many parents have failed to instill interest in our past.  Indeed, the past is but prologue, and to ignore it is – as some say – to relive both the good and bad of it.  Heaven forbid that we should relive some of history’s darker moments.

Okay, Tumbleweed admits to have minored in history in college.  It’s a fascinating subject, and I thoroughly enjoy engaging in discussions about history.  Lately, I’ve found myself caught up in Irish history and the history of the U.S. west in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The link between the west and Ireland comes from my ancestors who immigrated from County Kildare to Texas in the mid-1800s.  Looking back at Irish history, I’m taken with how it forms a sort of microcosm of the sorts of social, economic, religious, and political upheavals that have marked history throughout the ages.

Okay, ancestry.  Tumbleweed is getting there.  Have you ever dug out your family tree; not simply who is related to whom but how they lived and what they accomplished?  Truth be told, I was blessed by several family members actually writing about their experiences.  It’s led me to expand upon their stories by writing a couple of historical fiction novels and even used as a basis for straight fiction not to mention poetry.  So, my cousin John Hilliard Dunn’s writings about five Irish brothers leaving Ireland and settling in south Texas to build ranches, farms, smithy and grocery shops, railroads, museums, and churches fully enthralls me.  Couple that with John “Red John” Dunn’s book about his experience as a Texas Ranger, vigilante, and more.  Then, there’s my cousin Mary Maud Dunn Wright (a.k.a. Lilith Lorraine) of sci-fi and poetry fame.    Learning about family in the context of dealing with Comanche, Apache, Mexican bandits, outlaws like John Wesley Hardin, yellow fever, War Between the States, and more has been an exhilarating experience.

So, I’m blessed with a Texas family tree of more than 2,200 folks descended from Lawrence “Long Larry” Dunn in County Kildare, Ireland.  And so many have great stories, from my great great grandfather Nick Dunn’s ranching to cousin Red John’s exploits eliminating bad guys to John H’s experiences with railroads and helping build the Panama Canal.  All the stories aside, finding old photos has been an amazing part of the experience, as you see family facial resemblances over the years.  To see that my great grandfather Frank Evans resembles my brother Glen or I resemble my great great grandfather Nick Dunn (except he had red hair).  To see a photo of my cousin Red John as the prototypical Texan from cowboy hat to boots to red handlebar mustache, conjures up realistic images of the west of 150 years ago.

Ancestry?  It’s part of our personal history.  If you haven’t, I encourage you to start digging.  Just sayin’.

Secession?

Think on: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Declaration of Independence 

Leave it to Tumbleweed to tackle what many regard as politically incorrect issues.  How about secession?

There exists a core of folks who ardently support “dissolving political bands.”  Anyone tuned to a broad range of today’s media, hear rumors of secession from Texas and California and even states like Maryland calling for splitting off its westernmost more politically conservative counties.  Recall that West Virginia was separated from Virginia in 1861 and accepted into the Union in 1863.  In any case, a recent Zogby Strategies poll found that fully 39 percent of U.S. citizens believe that each state has the ultimate say over its destiny, and 68 percent of voters are open to the idea of secession.  Tumbleweed feels that’s a rather startling revelation and a sad commentary on citizens’ views as to the state of our nation.

There are, of course, historical considerations as to the constitutionality of secession.  For one thing, would the Supreme Court of the United States have jurisdiction over a now separate nation?  The question was never really fully litigated, despite the Civil War and follow-on reconstructionist actions.  The Texas v. White (74 U.S. 700, 703 [1868]) decision of 1869 held that individual states could not unilaterally secede from the Union and that acts of the insurgent Texas legislature in 1861 were “absolutely null.”  That recognition having been the case; it is seen as ironic that President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation readmitting Texas to the Union in 1870.  If they never left, how could they be readmitted.  Actually, it was to put a new Texas Constitution in place.  And notably, the U.S. Supreme Court led by Lincoln former cabinet member Salmon Chase was at a loss to reference any text from the U.S. Constitution in the Texas v. White decision, because the Constitution is fully silent on whether states can withdraw from the Union.   A 2006 opinion letter from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “The answer is clear.  If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”  With due respect to Justice Scalia, did the Civil War actually resolve any Constitutional issue?  The Texas Constitution contains no provision for seceding from the Union, yet it’s not implicitly or explicitly disallowed either.  One thing is for certain, the U.S. executive branch by virtue of Lincoln’s actions already has a history of violent suppression of secession.

But does the Constitution govern in this case.  Does permission actually emanate from the Declaration of Independence?  The founding document of the United States – just as the founding document for the Republic of Texas – is the Declaration of Independence.  In continuing from the “Think On” quote above from the Declaration’s preamble, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Thus, the right for a state to secede from the Union is found in the Declaration, not the Constitution.  The latter sets the form of government and basis for the law, but it is the Declaration of Independence that sets the legitimate rationale for states to secede.

Folks will argue the points of secession legality pro and con; each side firm in its resolve as to what is right and proper by law.  But it seems that there is ever-greater critical mass forming in certain states that gravitates toward secession as a viable solution to escape the tyranny of the ever-more-intolerant progressive liberal bureaucracy and their “moderate” Republican enablers.  Psalm 2:1 asks, “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?”  So, the progressives set themselves up to wallow in their own vanity toward possible destruction of the Union.  Just sayin’.

Words Matter in Art & Life

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Most folks know by now that I’ve become increasingly immersed in my writing craft, creating poetry and fiction books.  I’m a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, and Catoctin Voices, a local poetry group for which I have twice served as featured poet.  As Tumbleweed, I do manage to tumble around to various literary events.  Recently, I was confronted with a shocking reality.  I attended poetry readings at a Gettysburg-based poetry group.  These events generally consist of an hour of “open mic” whereby local poets may read their creations, and this is followed by a featured guest poet.  The featured poet is usually a published poet, is often a college professor, and likely has received awards for their poetry.  (My cousin Mary Maud Dunn Wright [pseud. Lilith Lorraine] was a much-awarded poet and novelist.)

Back to the event.  There were about 20 open mic participants, many of them local college students.  There was some really good word art delivered, and there was some arguably very bad material.  In my experience, what is good to one person may not be so good to another and that’s to be expected.  My concern, however, is with the trend toward ever more frequent use of truly vile language.   The student poetry in particular was liberally laced with expletives.  I was shocked.

My English teachers taught me that folks tended to resort to vile language, when they lacked language skills.  As an English major back at University of Maryland, I recall two semesters of Shakespeare as taught by a professor whose doctoral thesis was on the Bard’s use of sexual imagery.  They were fascinating courses, and I expect that in Shakespeare’s time the material was considered quite racy.  However, the audiences had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  There were no surprises.

I did leave the poetry event early, because I simply couldn’t tolerate the language used by the featured English professor poet and her student acolytes.  Pity, as there were some worthy poetic subjects shattered on the rocks of ill-chosen verbiage.

I don’t consider myself a prude, but I wouldn’t dream of inserting expletives in my own poetry.  In Proverbs 16:23, we are advised “The hearts of wise people guide their mouths.  Their words make people want to learn more.”  Surely, our poetry should reflect that advice.

I don’t believe in censorship on the one hand, but I believe the choice of receiving offensive material should rest with the receivers.  There were certainly guests in the room that Friday evening who were shocked by the language (their discomfort was obvious).  In fact, shock was likely the poet’s goal.  But few in our culture today are likely to take such abominable purveyors of poetic license to task.  It’s a sad commentary indeed that the morality of our culture should be so low.  After all, Ephesians 3:7 tells us that there’s a time to keep silent and a time to speak.  I suggest it’s time to speak against the corruption of our morals and of our language.

Justice in Justice

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. (Thoreau)

These days, it seems every “minority group” seemingly worth its salt is crying out for justice.  I think it’s fitting to kick off my Tumbleweed blog with a free-verse poem I wrote titled “Justice Enslaved.”  I hope my readers find it thought provoking. Where indeed is the justice in justice?

To what…to whom are we enslaved? Who forged our chains?

Is enslavement just?  Where is the justice? Who decides what is justice?

Slavery justified from the Hammurabi’s Code to Bible scrolls.

Neolithic times segue to Sumer, ancient Egyptian pyramids, Greece,

To China and Hebrew kingdoms, to the ancient Levant…even to the West;

Slavery as punishment, debt repayment, spoils of war, or birthright.

Christian, Hindu, Islam; all find justice enslaved to the law.

 

Is there justice in slavery?  From slavery?

Be it medieval Europe, Vikings, Tartars, or Barbary Pirates;

Slaves were as booty, a mercantile undertaking, a way of life.

Justified in economics essential to the culture, a fact of life!

Whether issued by Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontiex, or Sublimus Dei.

Pope or Imam, King or Sultan…made no matter; misanthropes all!

Justice stood as mute sacrifice to some larger, greater need.

 

Where then is justice?  What indeed is the justice?

Reparation, rehabilitation, retribution…mere slogans.

From Aztecs to Cortez’, Incas of Peru, Comanches of our plains;

To southern cotton fields and tobacco barns enslavement flourished, justice died.

Despite Wilberforce, Newton, and Lincoln, slavery forever prevails.

EBT cards replace chains, urban plantations defy any escape;

Khartoum, Delhi, Jakarta, or Detroit; enslavement abounds.

 

We cry out for justice.  Cry to end enslavement.

Yet its pervasive tentacles imprison all nations, all people;

Justice seems such a shallow game, a losing default setting for life.

What is justice to the enslaved?  What then is justice to the enslavers?

And what is justice for those who would end slavery? Such optimistic fools.

Only our souls offer protest, unshackled by iron chains;

Yet justice rings hollow as payment for our past enslavements.

 

Dare we dwell on justice for past and present sins?

Can money or lives truly compensate for injustice perceived or real?

For justice remains an elusive charade, be it divine or natural,

Be it distributive, egalitarian, social, fair, or utopian.

Retributive and restorative justice stand as inherently unjust;

We find ourselves mired in justice, mine or yours, the red pill or the blue pill;

God forgives, and in the end only “the truth will set you free.”

 

Indeed, the truth is all that really sets us free; the only justice.