Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncivil War

“The GOP is a football team that’ll do anything to win,” Richard Linklater.

I sent a note to Ray Smock stating that the difference between the two (right) wings of the GOP is that the crazies (read Sarah Palin) want to impeach Obama while Speaker John Boehner’s troops want to sue him.  Characterizing Boehner’s “chickenshit” move as an outrageous campaign ploy that should be laughed out of court, Ray wrote:
What this means is that before the House breaks for the fall campaign season they will spend floor time laying out the case against Obama. Everything they hate about him will be on display. It will be Obamacare, the Keystone Pipeline, Benghazi, foreign policy, Obama’s use of executive orders, the whole ball of wax. Somehow from all this they plan to craft a lawsuit that has enough specific charges for the federal court to consider it without puking first.

So the Republicans have settled on a plan short of impeachment to keep feeding red meat to the base through November. The base has been bombarding House Republicans asking them why they haven’t impeached the President yet. So this is their answer. They are going to sue his black ass. Let it all hang out, the hatred, vitriol, and the big smear.  Will we ever see again a civil government in America, where we focus on our real enemies in the world and quit destroying one another?

Boehner is taking a page from Newt’s playbook from the 1980s by using C-SPAN to spread the case against the president. Every House Republican will get a chance to stand up and condemn the president and pound the table so the home folks will know that their guy or gal hates the president.  The fall campaign theme for Republicans is that whatever is wrong with America it is the President’s fault.”
Working on Dunes Highway
Dick Meister and Ken Martin donated a copy of their recently published pictorial history of Ogden Dunes to the Archives.  In 1923 by Samuel Reck and Colin Mackenzie headed a group that purchased 500 acres from the estate of Francis Ogden.  Samuel and Anne Reck built the first full-time residence on land overlooking Lake Michigan.  Due to the lack of roads, the most practical mode of transportation was horse and wagon.  In 1925 twenty landowners successfully petitioned the Porter County commissioners to incorporate as a town.   Three factors were crucial to the shoreline community’s success. During the 1920s the construction of Burns Ditch waterway drained land suddenly available for development.  Second, business magnate Samuel Insull purchased and improved the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend electric railroad.  Finally, a new Dunes Highway (U.S. 12) linked Porter County to Chicago and Michigan.

Chris Young lent me Jay Winik’s “April 1865: The Month That Saved the Nation.”  It looks well written and deals with the final days of the Civil War, including the Union victory at Petersburg, the capture of Richmond, Southern plots to launch guerrilla warfare, General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the beginnings of Reconstruction.  The author, a former senior staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, witnessed bloody civil wars in Cambodia, Central America, Africa, the Balkans, and elsewhere, and sought to learn, in his words, “how a young and still embryonic America avoided the terrible and tragic fate that has beset so many other countries.”   Nonetheless, more than 700,000 Americans died to preserve the union, and the price of sectional peace was the abandonment by Republicans of former slaves when they became a political liability.
 Winslow Homer's Defiance
In a New York Review of Books essay entitled “Our Monstrous War,” Civil War historian James M. McPherson wrote: “Disease was even more lethal than combat.  Fetid water, poor and insufficient food, bad sanitation, clouds of flies and other insects, extreme weather, and primitive medical knowledge caused dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid fever, pneumonia, malaria, and a host of other maladies that carried away twice as many soldiers as did fighting.  Lice and chiggers were ubiquitous; no soldier escaped the misery they caused.”

Dave Serynek asked me to recommend a biography of little-known president Rutherford B. Hayes.  There were several to choose from, believe it or not, but the one I found most interesting was by Harry Barnard, whose “Eagle Forgotten” on Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, is one of my favorite books.  Like Altgeld, Hayes was pretty much forgotten when Barnard’s volume first appeared in 1954, despite his having been a Civil War officer, three-time Ohio governor, member of Congress during Reconstruction, and dubious winner of the most disputed Presidential election in American history.  As Thomas Wolfe quipped about Hayes and Harrison: “Which had the whiskers. Which the burnsides; which was which?”  Again quoting from Wolfe’s essay “From Death to Morning,” Barnard hoped to portray Hayes as a man “torn, as we have been, by sharp pain and wordless lust, the asp of time, the thorn of spring, the sharp, the tongueless cry,” and who sought “new lands, the promise of the war, and glory, joy and triumph, and a shining city.”  Heady, ambitious stuff – maybe oo ambitious.  It appears that Barnard avoids discussing Ruddy’s sex life.

Despite the horrors of combat, Colonel Rutherford Hayes relished the opportunity to prove his manhood in a just cause.  At South Mountain a musket ball fractured his arm, taking him out of action for two months.  Once he drew his pistol on a soldier about to flee from the battlefield and threatened to kill him if he didn’t fight.  Barnard wrote: “The soldier fought and lost his life, after which Hayes said that he had given the man a hero’s death instead of a coward’s, and what could be better than that?”  I hope Hayes subsequently lost sleep over causing that man’s death.
 Volunteers in Indiana's Ninth Regiment
Will Radell spoke to youngsters participating in a week-long Civil War camp at Westchester Historical Museum, as well as several parents, staff members, and guests, including recently retired Education professor Paul Blohm.  Will wore a woolen Union uniform and had pitched a tent held up by tree limbs.  Speaking as if he were in the Ninth Indiana Infantry Regiment, he mentioned how it was composed mainly of volunteers from Northwest Indiana and their contributions during the bloody battles of Shiloh and Gettysburg.  The kids had many questions, especially about his weapons.  He explained that muskets could only fire, at best, three shots a minute.  Soldiers rarely utilized their bayonets, preferring to use the butt end as a club during hand-to-hand combat.  For one thing, if you stabbed the enemy, the bayonet might get stuck in him.  Describing re-enactments, Will said that some “hard core” participants refused any modern amenities, but he always took bug spray and sunblock with him.

I watched the 1998 update of the Charles Dickens novel “Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, with, as a special bonus, Anne Bancroft and Robert DeNiro.  Like the Dickens story, a young orphan becomes a successful gentleman due to a secret benefactor.  Paltrow as Estella was stunning in scenes where she poses naked for Hawke and later seduces him.

The second reception in three days featuring Corey Hagelberg’s work, this time with wine, beer and food prepared by Cheryl and Kate, was a big success.  Many Millerites attended, including Gene and Judy Ayers, George McGuan, Robin Rich, Marty Bohn, and Bill Carey, whom I hadn’t seen in years and didn’t recognize without a beard.  Corey told Toni that her art was a big influence on him growing up.  We have several of his pieces that he’s given us over the years and decided to buy one of the woodcuts on display.  Samuel A. Love posted great photos showing Corey’s new salvaged art as well as his woodcuts. 
Kay Abraham and Ish Muhammad with Toni and Ann Fritz in background
Shortly after we arrived home, six guests arrived for the weekend, Mike and Janet Bayer, daughters Shannon and Kirsten, and Kirsten’s boys Dane and Nicholas.  It didn’t take the kids long to acclimate themselves.  As Kirsten said, they are like sharks, never still.  Or tornadoes.  I stayed up until one in the morning and eight hours later cooked eggs, sausage and potato latkes for everyone.
John Fraire, whose article on baseball teams in Indiana Harbor appeared in Indiana Magazine of History, invited me to a reception in Crown Point.  The purpose was to introduce his new bride to his Midwest friends and relatives.  During the 1970s I was good friends with his brother Rocky, who recently sent me a novel her wrote about steelworkers.  I was flattered to be asked and took along a copy of Ray and Trish Arredondo’s “Maria’s Journey,” for which I and wrote the Afterword and edited.  Omar Farag and Rocky Fraire greeted me when I arrived, followed shortly by John and new bride Martina.  During a brief ceremony John choked up saying the two times he really wished his mother were alive to be there were when he received his PhD and at his wedding to Martina, whose strength and loyalty to family reminded him of her.  Later he told an anecdote about her at age 78.  A young woman came up to her car window in a mall parking lot cussing her out for allegedly cutting in front of her.  She listened calmly, but when the woman wouldn’t stop, she told her, “Don’t make me get out of the car or I’ll slap you silly.”  The woman quickly made her exit.

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