Remembering my ancestor at Gettysburg, on the anniversary of the battle

I hadn’t been posting as much on the blog lately, and after writing about Aunt Donna I feel like I should distract myself a bit by writing about Civil War history.  So indulge me, if you will.

Among the Union troops at Gettysburg was a middle-aged French-Canadian soldier who had enlisted at the beginning of the war in the Boston Volunteers, a unit that later became the 11th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.  His name was Moses Beaulieu, and he was a widower who had left his 4 year old daughter in the care of the woman who ran the boarding house where they lived in South Weymouth, Massachusetts.  He was one of the first members of his family (my mother’s family) to move from Quebec to Massachusetts, where he had found work as a bootmaker in the booming shoe industry.

Continue reading “Remembering my ancestor at Gettysburg, on the anniversary of the battle”

Advertisements

Goodbye to my Aunt Donna, my godmother

This past week, my Aunt Donna, who had been suffering from vascular dementia for the last couple of years, passed away.  She was 72 years old.

Aunt Donna was one of those relatives of mine who helped shape me into the person I am today, in many ways.  I loved her very very much.  I wish I had been able to be there for her more often, especially in the last few months.  They were particularly difficult for her, as her ability to have a conversation and organize her thoughts was eroded away by the ravaging disease acting in conjunction with her other health issues.  Before I met Kelly, she was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to move back to Massachusetts, so I could be there for her when she needed me.  And in some ways I was, and I am all too glad to have done those things like help her get her house ready for the big hurricanes a few years ago.  It was the least I could do.  I wish I had done more.

HPIM0825

She went with me to my first live Red Sox game, which was such a treat as I had been a fan most of my life but, living far away, was unable to attend any games, even in childhood.  Kelly (who was also there) snapped this picture of us, which is my favorite pictures of her and I.  It reminds me of how she was always so full of fun, so full of life.  She was a truly good person, with an endless supply of empathy and compassion for other people.  She donated to all sorts of liberal causes.  She befriended so many people from different walks of life.  Although she did not have any pets of her own as an adult (at least, of which I am aware), she loved animals, and loved to have our dogs sit with her or on her lap.

Even as a kid, she indulged me with things like books and models and taking me places.  She was the one who introduced me to the science fiction of Isaac Asimov.  She also got me interested in political writers like Molly Ivins and Robert Reich.  She was a huge supporter of President Obama, and we had many great conversations about politics.  She always encouraged my intellectual curiosity.  And as a lifelong music teacher, she always encouraged passion for music.

I will miss her greatly, possibly more than I am capable of uttering or showing, at least in public.  I think the world is lesser without her.

~Geoff

 

The fallacy of civility, or why it’s OK to be rude to racists and Nazis

There has been much discussion lately about whether or not the left should try to maintain some level of civility in these difficult times.  I can’t speak for everyone, but in my own mind, I don’t think there is any point to trying to be civil to a bunch of people who themselves stopped being civil long ago.  The editorial board of the Washington Post does not agree, and they are apparently clutching their pearls so tightly that they have cut off circulation to their brain.

“We nonetheless would argue that Ms. Huckabee, and Ms. Nielsen and Mr. Miller, too, should be allowed to eat dinner in peace. Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”

I would laugh, except this level of stupidity in one of the supposed flagship newspapers of our era actually makes me want to sob uncontrollably.  Um… news flash, geniuses: those people have not been left in peace for, let’s see, several decades.  In fact, they have been bombed and shot and stabbed and otherwise terrorized in every meaning of that word.  John Salvi killed two people and wounded five right here in the Boston area back in 1994.

It’s like with Trump supporters.  When have they ever been civil, honestly?  They relish being offensive.  It’s one of the things they LOVE about Trump.

Trump-2016-Fuck-your-feelings-720x480

In case you can’t read it, that woman’s shirt says “Fuck your feelings”.  Because civility.

There are times when you can have a reasoned discussion with people who disagree with you.  But we are talking about white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers here.  Oh, sure, maybe there are some Trump supporters who say they aren’t racist.  Maybe, but racism is definitely present in spades among Trumpers, and they are more than willing to put up with a lot of open racism in their ranks, not to mention all the racist garbage spewing from Trump himself and the White House.  And that makes them complicit, or indifferent to evil at best.

Clearly, not all journalists agree with the WaPo editors.  Charlie Pierce had some choice things to say, as did Michelle Goldberg.  She gets it.

But unless and until that happens, millions and millions of Americans watch helplessly as the president cages children, dehumanizes immigrants, spurns other democracies, guts health care protections, uses his office to enrich himself and turns public life into a deranged phantasmagoria with his incontinent flood of lies. The civility police might point out that many conservatives hated Obama just as much, but that only demonstrates the limits of content-neutral analysis. The right’s revulsion against a black president targeted by birther conspiracy theories is not the same as the left’s revulsion against a racist president who spread birther conspiracy theories.

Yes, exactly.  This is NOT a case of “both sides do it.” The right’s criticism that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are secretly running a pedophile sex ring out of a pizza place IS NOT the same as the belief that Democrats have about President Trump using his office to enrich his family and himself, or that the Russians helped Trump get elected.  So trying to pretend that “both sides do it” is a big reason why we are in this awful place to begin with.  As screwed up as they are, the Democrats don’t hold a candle to the vicious insanity of the Republican party these days.  It’s like trying to point out that both sides are bad because one was caught jaywalking and shoplifting and the other has a basement full of human skins.  Um, no, one is WAY worse than the other, and anyone with more than a handful of brain cells to rub together should be able to see that.  I saw the writing on the wall years ago.  It’s why I left the GOP more than 20 years ago and haven’t looked back.  It’s only gotten worse since then.

So no, I am not going to be civil to these people, not as long as they continue to disregard the essential humanity of immigrants, and gays, and Muslims, and Jews, and everyone else they hate.  I will treat them with the contempt they richly deserve.  It’s far better than the treatment we can expect from them, at any rate.  A lot of them want a second Civil War, or at least a chance to use those guns they have been hoarding.  All we want is equality and justice.

~Geoff

The EL Faro disaster and lessons learned

In the April 2018 edition of Vanity Fair, there is an excellent article by William Langewiesche called “THE CLOCK IS TICKING”: INSIDE THE WORST U.S. MARITIME DISASTER IN DECADES.  It is the best article I have yet read about the loss of the SS El Faro on October 1, 2015, after the ship sailed into Hurricane Joaquin.  It was the worst American loss at sea since the 1983 sinking of the SS Marine Electric, which I wrote about here.  Thirty-three people died, including 8 crew members from New England and five Polish shipyard workers.

160103-N-ZZ999-550
An identifying video still from the US Navy showing the stern of the El Faro after the wreck was found some three miles underwater.

Continue reading “The EL Faro disaster and lessons learned”

Two Northeasters in a row

I normally don’t mind a little snow, as it is New England and we expect to get some (mostly) between November and March.  But the two storms that we have had most recently have been a bit more problematic, mostly because of strong winds and heavy coastal flooding.

Continue reading “Two Northeasters in a row”

My presentation to WIHA last week

As Kelly and I are both new members of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association, I was invited to do a presentation for them, and so I decided to do my Boston in the Civil War era presentation, basically a revised version of a presentation I wrote for Historic New England years ago.

Continue reading “My presentation to WIHA last week”

Today in history: the mystery flood of 1607

Today is the 410th anniversary of an event that affected the southwest England and Wales.  Around noon on January 30th, 1607, the sea rose dramatically in low-lying areas of the Bristol Channel, inundating areas as far as 14 miles from the coast and submerging them under as much as nearly 8 meters of water.

1607 flood

Continue reading “Today in history: the mystery flood of 1607”