Today is the birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe

On this day in 1811, Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born to prominent minister Lyman Beecher and his wife Roxana Foote Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut.  She was the seventh of an eventual thirteen children.

harriet-beecher-stowe-2ejoj3l

Harriet Beecher was fortunate in that she received a thorough classical education at a time when most women did not.  She would meet widower Calvin Ellis Stowe in the mid-1830’s after she moved to Cincinnati.  They would marry in 1836.

By 1850 the Stowes were living in Brunswick, Maine, where Calvin taught at nearby Bowdoin College.  Harriet was inspired to write something after the new Fugitive Slave Law was passed in early 1850.  She wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, publisher of the antislavery newspaper The National Era, and told him she wanted to write something in serial form to be published in his paper.  Stowe was paid $400 (a not-inconsiderable sum for its time) for the story, which was published from June 1851 until April 1852.  The story, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly, was published in book form soon afterward.  The book became a bestseller, selling over 300,000 copies in the U.S. and over 1,000,000 copies in Great Britain in less than a year, thus becoming the second most-popular book in English in the 19th century (its sales were exceeded only by the Bible).

By current standards the book portrays a lot of offensive racial stereotypes of African-Americans.  But it is hard to overstate the influence of the book on attitudes of the 19th century public towards slavery.  In the South, negative reaction to the novel was widespread, and the book was banned and burned in many places.  People caught with copies of the book in the South were at best ostracized by their peers, and at worst they became victims of mob violence and vigilante justice, like a bookseller in Mobile, Alabama who was driven from the city.  But many Southerners instinctively recognized the power of Stowe’s story, and so the novel inspired an entire genre of Southern literature that became known as anti-Tom literature or plantation literature.  But even the bestsellers of this genre never came remotely close to the popularity of the original Stowe novel.

In the North and in other countries, the book was hailed as an agent for social change.  Within five years the book had been published in twenty languages.  In addition to its political themes, the book was a popular culture phenomenon.  One of its characters inspired many parents across the Northern United States to name their daughters Eva.  The book inspired numerous plays and dramatic readings.  It would eventually inspire a number of film adaptations as well.

~Geoff

Advertisements

The Caning of Charles Sumner and the response by Anson Burlingame

I am a bit late to make this a “This Day in History” post, since the actual date in question was May 22nd, 1856.  Still, I wanted to talk about this subject since I have been reading about it and have also recently listened to a rather good podcast about it.  I have only recently begun listening to this Civil War podcast, but I find it quite good so far.  And blogging about history always cheers me up.  Besides, today (May 30th) IS the anniversary of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

Anyway, I have always found the story of the attack on Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina to be one of the most shocking incidents leading up to the Civil War.  Only in recent years did I learn the role Massachusetts Congressman Anson Burlingame played in the events that followed.  In my mind, Burlingame is sort of the hero of the story, much more so than Sumner, anyway.

Southern_Chivalry

Continue reading “The Caning of Charles Sumner and the response by Anson Burlingame”

On not giving a damn

Disclaimer: Geoff loathes this movie and book upon which it is based.  That’s not why I am posting it here.  That’s just a bonus.  (Love you, sweetie.)

The scene above is important for one really major reason.  For all of their ups and downs and crazy drama, Rhett no longer cares for Scarlett.  At all.  He doesn’t love her, he doesn’t hate her, he just doesn’t care.

This is probably where I should warn you that this post is about unpleasant things.  Trauma, PTSD, abuse – a lot of stuff.  Turn back here should you need to.  Likewise, for a variety of reasons, what I’m going to write may be a bit opaque with oblique references.  This is necessary.  I apologize for the confusion.

Continue reading “On not giving a damn”

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

Brexit gets uglier and uglier

Well, now that the consequences of the UK voting to leave the EU have had some time to sink in, it is both fascinating and disturbing to see just what a lot of people thought they were voting for.  Much has been made of the reports that a lot of people in the UK were googling terms like “what is the EU?” the day after the vote.  I am not sure whether or not that data is accurate, and apparently there are other people who feel the same way.  Still, it does seem that a significant number of people in the UK are acting as if the “stay” or “leave” question was not based on the UK leaving the EU, but on whether or not non-white and/or non-British people should “stay” in the UK or “leave”.  And in the minds of many of these people, that answer is pretty clear.

Continue reading “Brexit gets uglier and uglier”

Brexit, or when people vote to harm themselves

Frankly, I am just stunned that the voters of the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU.  Obviously I am not British, and I can’t pretend I understand all of the issues going on there that might motivate people to vote that way.  But I do know that many of the consequences predicted were not good. And I also know that many of the people who voted to leave are in the parts of the UK that depend on the EU the most, like Cornwall.  The government of Cornwall is now insisting that the UK government make up for the 60 million pounds a year of EU funding that will be lost by Brexit.  To quote from Cornwall directly:

Prior to the referendum we were reassured by the ‘leave’ campaign that a decision to leave the EU would not affect the EU funding which has already been allocated to Cornwall and that Cornwall would not be worse off in terms of the investment we receive. We are seeking urgent confirmation from Ministers that this is the case.

Suddenly Cornwall is like some teenage kid who seriously pisses off his parents, and then suddenly doesn’t understand why they aren’t going to pay his college tuition anymore. You guys really didn’t think this through, did you?  And you believed everything that the Leave Campaign told you?

Oh, dear.

You know, that would be comical if it wasn’t so damn tragic, because there are going to be real consequences now, which will affect a lot of people’s lives.

Continue reading “Brexit, or when people vote to harm themselves”

That horrific crime in Orlando and two heroes

Kelly and I have both been shocked, horrified, and angry over what happened in Orlando.  Truly, it is stunning to me that such a thing could happen, and even more stunning that we as a society could keep allowing these events to happen over and over and over again.

Kelly vented a lot of anger in her earlier post, and there’s nothing more I can say about how we feel about this.  But I want to be a little specific about some of the intellectually dishonest arguments being made by people around the country trying to explain all this away.  I also want to talk about two people who were there, and who did everything they could to save people’s lives, and still couldn’t save everyone.  They are still heroes, even if they themselves probably don’t feel that way, and probably wouldn’t use that word.

Continue reading “That horrific crime in Orlando and two heroes”