More than twenty people made it to Gary’s Ice Cream tonight for our third Greater Lowell Blogger Meetup. The turnout was excellent when the violent thunderstorm that lingered in the vicinity is taken into account. Thanks to Gary for hosting us and thanks to all who attended: It’s always fun to spend some time with the human being behind the words on the computer screen. And it was a special treat seeing Greg Page (The New Englander) whose leave home from his Massachusetts National Guard deployment to Afghanistan coincided with our gathering.
Back in the spring of 1954 at the age of 11 – home from school couch-bound as was the prescription for rheumatic fever in those days – I was glued to our small television watching the Army-McCarthy hearings along with my grandmother. One of the most dramatic moments of those proceedings is etched in my memory as if it were yesterday. It took place on June 9, 1954. I see Boston lawyer Joseph Welch – an older man, slight, wearing a bow-tie, shaking his head – almost in sadness and asking committee member Senator Joseph McCarthy:
“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
I remember Senator McCarthy’s voice… his attitude… his eyes.. his restless movements. He was determined to out and root-out Communists and security-risk people in the US Army. These hearings were to settle the truth of the Army-McCarthy accusations against each other. The hearings exposed McCathy’s tactics – seen as bullying by many – and his scatter-shot style of painting his opponents with unproven and in many cases provocative accusations. The exposure finally resulted in the Senate vote by a 2/3 margin to censure McCarthy, effectively eradicating his influence and popularity.
Read an acount of this Welch/McCarthy incident here at Wikipedia.
Many books and commentaries have been written about Senator Joseph McCarthy. This account here in Wikipedia is a good place to get an overview of Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957… The term McCarthyism, coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy’s practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today the term is used more generally in reference to demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.
I find myself in the unusual position of defending Sarah Palin – sort of. Ever since she visited Boston, comedians and commentators have poked fun at her apparent mangling of Paul Revere’s activities of April 18-19, 1775. (By the way, the finest account of that event is Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer). Here’s what Palin said:
He who warned uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.
There is a kernel of factual accuracy in what Palin said. While Revere certainly wasn’t warning the British of anything – he took extreme measures to avoid the British that night – the warning he brought to Middlesex County was that the British were coming to take away their arms; specifically, a large quantity of munitions stockpiled at Concord.
Palin undoubtedly knows the basics of the Paul Revere story. Her repackaging of that story was her attempt to twist the broadly accepted factual account to fit her ideology. In her interpretation of this slice of American history, Paul Revere became a Second Amendment zealot even before there was a Second Amendment.
Watch Palin’s speeches and remarks going forward. They’ll be sprinkled with such re-interpretations of US history that twist broadly agreed upon accounts of past events to fit her ideology. Commentators might ridicule her apparent verbal missteps, but I see a deliberate strategy to co-opt American history to promote a political agenda. Given the sad state of historic education in America today, it’s a strategy that stands a substantial chance of success.
Civil War Balloon Fleet ~ Intrepid, Union, Constitution, United States, Washington, Eagle, Excelsior
The Washington Post reminds that on Saturday June 11, 2011 the Smithsonian will commemorate America’s first attempt at an air force. In June 150 years ago, Thaddeus Lowe flew 500 feet into the air in front of President Abraham Lincoln. Lowe was an American “aeronaut,” and he took flight in a 19,000-cubic-foot balloon. Lowe The event will take place on the Mall, outside the National Air and Space Museum, the very ground from which Lowe’s flight took place. A near-replica of Lowe’s original will be displayed.
From the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commisssion website:
Secretary Chase arranged a meeting between Lowe and President Abraham Lincoln for June 11, 1861. On July 17, 1861, Lowe demonstrated his ideas for balloon reconnaissance and also for sending telegrams from the balloon to the commanders below. He used the Enterprise, attached to tethers and floating 500 feet (152 meters) above Washington, D.C. President Lincoln was duly impressed. Later that summer, President Lincoln established the Balloon Corps, a civilian organization under the authority of the Union’s Bureau of Topographical Engineers, and granted Lowe permission to requisition equipment and personnel. Lowe received funds to build a balloon on August 2, 1861.
Read a fuller account of the use of balloons by both the Union and the Confederacy here.
The tropical air and jungle rain this morning reminded me of mornings on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, when the sky would open and drench the warm air and lush countryside. These prose poems were first published in “The Offering,” a literary magazine at UMass Lowell.—PM
One nimble gecko scaling a mosquito net remains the only lizard we’ve seen in a week on the island whose old name, Hewanorra, means “where the iguana is found.” The purple hummingbirds sip ginger and hibiscus. Fan palm rustles, banana leaves shrug. Doves hoo and hoo. Labrelotte Bay gleams blue-silver, sun chinning the hillside inlaid with red-roofed, white-washed villas, its light bleaching distant sailboats. In a yellow kayak, George Charles digs the sea with a two-ended paddle, sprinting to his dive boat. He hauls up the transport—sets off with bup-bup-bupping engine. All day he’ll taxi tourists to St. Lucia’s primo reef, full of darting rubies and doubloons whose reflections fuse after cloudburst to make half a water-colored hoop joining Morne Fortune to Gros Islet.
Midway into the bay a wave rears like a white chess knight, mane flaring. Nature’s small-engine sound, the whirr spun from a metal web, all fired carbon, shaped mineral, plug-spark, all real to the feel, some handmade combo jazzed and razzed like an oil drum in its new plinking form—the volcano to my left served stone gravy. I like to see banana trees, something different to write home about. Hands of bananas green, hard, clustered. Are we grown like bananas, cropping up each season, ripening each winter, ready to be plucked, the wrinkled sheets our peels, all that’s left after a week? Curved clay tiles colored like plant pots and pipes, same roofing across old mission California, hard shells first formed on the shins of early builders, tiles the color of tomato-dyed pasta. Wind-surfer sails in the middle distance, his investigations, not so deep, need not be shallow—he requires less: water-spider, finch, reed. Light is not enough of a word for the color of air around the terra-cotta patio.
St. Lucia, St. Lulu, blue-green and green-blue—there’s an ooh in the blue air, in the o-round mouth on the white deck of the cruise liner chasing a tank ship bound for the oil farm at Castries. Dark parts of the seascape like indigo ink slurred thru turquoise fields in the bay. Jet-lets of spume way off shore—the dip boat, no banana boat, shipped out. Each villa boasts a few plain conch shells, T-Rex of seashells, grail we never find up north, bony case with smooth pink lining. Each villa is a conch of white walls and terra-cotta floors. With its owner away, we snowbirds claim the showy chassis for a couple of hot weeks. Julia, at the front desk, thirty years old this month, says Nelson Mandela said if he had to choose a place to live outside of South Africa, it would be St. Lucia, where he could sleep with doors open. It’s so calm, she says. When I tell her I admire Derek Walcott’s poems, she says his birthday is January 26th, which is mine, too, and that he’ll be home next month for the island’s Independence Day party. He may write something special. When I mention his teaching in Boston, she nods, “Yes, the Nobel Laureate.” Julia asks if my hometown is “cool,” calm, she explains, not too busy like New York City.
—Paul Marion (c) 2011