Wednesday, October 28, 2015


“What blind cupidity, what crazy rage impels us onwards in our little lives.” Dante’s “Inferno”
Chris Young’s students have a map assignments about the so-called “Trail of Death” on which 800 Potawatomi Indians were forced west to Kansas.  At the outset three chiefs, Menominee, Pepinawa, and Black Wolf, were put into a jail wagon, where they were kept for two weeks until a Catholic priest secured their release.  The journal of George Winter described the disgraceful denouement:
         In 1838 a large emigration of the Potawatomis took place under the direction of General John Tipton and Colonel A.C. Pepper, and immediately under the superintendence of General Marshall and his subordinates.  Much that is sad and touching relates to their removal westward.
 It was only by a deceptive (in a moral point of view) and cunning cruel plan, they were coerced to emigrate.  By convening a special Council of the Principal Chiefs and Head men at the Catholic Mission at Twin Lakes [Indiana], near Plymouth, under the pretense of a Council of Amity and good will, General Tipton secured them as prisoners.  A high-handed act, for such it was.  For its execution, stern necessity must be the apology.  The policy was as painful as it was successful.

Historian James Madison wrote: “Carelessness in organizing the march brought sickness and hardship and contributed to the death of 42 Indians, most of them children.”  Miami tribes were pressured into accepting a similar fate in 1846.  Madison quotes Hoosier Hugh McCulloch, who knew both the Indians and the rapacious agents and politicians responsible for their removal: “There is cause for national humiliation in the fact that their disappearance has been hastened by the vices, the cupidity, the injustice, the inhumanity of people claiming to be Christians.”

I picked up “First Ladies,” based on a C-Span series and including material on Bess Truman by IUN History professor Nicole Anslover from her TV appearance.  The chapter on Harriet Lane, bachelor James Buchanan’s niece, focused on her hosting Washington politicians in groups of 40 twice weekly as well as a White House visit by Edward, Prince of Wales and daughter of Queen Victoria, whom Harriet had impressed while Buchanan was Ambassador to the Court of St. James.  At a Westchester Library “New Nonfiction” display were two books on 1944, “The Longest Year” by Victor Brooks (primarily a military history) and Jay Winik’s “1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History.”  Winik’s previous effort about April 1865 was a page-turner but exaggerated in its claims that it was “The Month That Saved America.”  Reviews indicate that “1944” indicts FDR for not liberating Hitler’s Death Camps sooner, comparing the failure to, in Winik’s words, “when America shrugged its shoulders and stood on the sidelines” in Pol Pot’s Cambodia and during the tribal slaughter in Rwanda.
In Vanity Fair 77 year-old George Takei claimed his biggest regret was berating his father for not protesting the federal government’s World War II internment camp policy.  All his father said was, “Maybe I should have.”  Takei realized later that he had shamed his father but never apologized.  Asked what he’d like to come back as in his next life, Takei replied, “A pet dog to a gay couple.”

Dave Serynek sought my advice about a Dwight D. Eisenhower biography.  I suggested ones by Geoffrey Perret, Stephen Ambrose, and Jean Edward Smith.  Perret’s is the most scholarly, Ambrose’s the most readable, and Smith’s the most recent.
At Dick Hagelberg’s urging we saw “Rock the Kasbah,” a Barry Levinson comedy of sorts starring Bill Murray with ever-dependable Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride in supporting roles.  I’d have preferred “Jobs” and Toni’s first choice would have been “Goosebumps.”  I love Bill Murray and Toni adores Bruce Willis, but she was not pleased upon discovering that the locale was war-torn Afghanistan.  Murray plays Richie Lanz, an over-the-hill music agent who, despite the objections of her Pashtun ethnic family, gets a local singer (Leem Lubany) to perform Cat Steven’s “Wide World” and “Peace Train” on Afghan Star, a version of American Idol.  Willis is a mercenary seeking to publish his memoirs, Hudson a lovable hooker, while McBride captured perfectly the cupidity of government contractors profiteering from a senseless, endless, undeclared war.  “Rock the Kasbah” reminded me of “Good Morning Vietnam” with Robin Williams, witty and slightly subversive. 

On the way to the condo we stopped at a Culver’s, whose Reuben and roast beef sandwiches lived up to their reputation.  We played just one round of bridge because the Renslow sisters were hosting an Open House at their Miller beach “Purple House,” Anne Balay’s old place. 

Uninterested in afternoon NFL games with the Bears on a bye week, I watched episodes of “Fargo” (goofy and macabre – with Brad Garrett, the dumb brother on “Everybody Loves Raymond” as organized crime boss Joe Bulo)) and the incredibly poignant “Still Alice” starring Julianne Moore as a linguistic professor with Alzheimer’s.  On Sunday night football the Eagles sucked, but Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart helped my Fantasy cause with 125 yards rushing.   Jimbo Jammers ended up tying “The Cougar.”  All Kira Lane needed Monday was an extra point from kicker Justin Tucker after the Ravens’ second TD, but instead Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, bless him, opted for a two-point conversion.

Monday a truck of Midge’s possessions arrived containing a Martha Washington sewing chest, a half-moon table, a dozen art pieces, and many books, mostly mine but also an autographed copy of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “The Vantage Point: Perspectives on the Presidency, 1963-1969.”  LBJ began by quoting this excerpt from his 1965 “State of the Union” address:
  My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. . . .  Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child. . . .  I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965.  It never occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and help people like them all over this country.
  But now I do have that chance – and I’ll let you in on a secret: I mean to use it.
The moving company had warned that I was responsible for unloading the 250-pound package, but the friendly driver lowered the huge bundle onto a dolly and deposited it in our garage.  A brass Samovar and the sewing chest once belonged to Aunt Ida Gordon, a wonderful seamstress and special person in my life.  They’ll remind me of the times I made her laugh by being silly. She preferred soap operas, but I got her to watch “American Bandstand,” and she briefly danced the Twist with me.  I’d give anything for a tape of that moment.

Distributing the minutes to last week’s condo owners meeting, I thought of how Rhiman Rotz composed clever accounts of IUN History Department gatherings, imagining we were Bedouin tribesmen, say, or medieval lords.  Perhaps a “Mad Men” board meeting might be an appropriate setting for my next report.

I’ve been thinking about what to say at Friday’s Welcome Project workshop, on “Flight Paths: Stories That Hurt, Harm and Heal,” cosponsored by IUN’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence.   The phrase “white flight” implies panic on the part of folks uprooting themselves.  While this was sometimes the case, spurred on by the cupidity of block-busting realtors, many upwardly mobile Gary residents simply sought more palatable suburban neighborhoods in places like Merrillville, Munster, and Valparaiso for reasons other than fear of racial change.  I’m confident that many would have welcomed racial diversity.

Forecasters predict a cold, rainy Halloween.  Toni hoped to attend the Saugatuck-Douglas annual Gay Pride parade if weather permitted.  For Nick Pickert’s preschool party he dressed as Mr. Chase from “Paw Patrol” and his mother Kim was Dr. Who, number 12.  Kimmy likes Dr. Who number 11 better but had limited time to prepare for Nick’s.
above, Nick and Kim; below, Liliya and Fred 
Cynic Fred McColly would appreciate the Dante Alighieri’s quote about “blind cupidity.”  Of all my friends I’m confident only he – and maybe Paul Kern – would have read the “Inferno.”  C.S. Lewis is better known, especially “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” from “Chronicles of Narnia.”  McColly saw politicians for what they were: self-interested narcissists.  The seemingly benevolent LBJ once told a reporter that if you let Mexicans in your yard, next thing you know they’ll be right on your porch and take it over.

1 comment:

  1. zowie! i have some reputation and yes i have read all of the "Divine Comedy" but it has been a while...the popes in hell were a revelation...and if i could i'd upload a graphic of ozzie spengler's "optimism is cowardice" quote