Category Archives: Anthropology

Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

Today, January 20, 2016 Donald J. Trump placed his right hand on the Lincoln Bible and a bible from his childhood and swore his oath of office as the 45th President of the United States. It was an emotionally charged and patriotic event for the country that took up arms and won our independence from England 241 years ago.



In his inauguration speech, President Trump recapitulated the messaging that won him the presidency in a hotly contested election process. He began by acknowledging the significance of the peaceful transfer of power that defines the democratic process of the United States, and he thanked the Obamas for their help during the transition process.

The President repeatedly made reference to this being a transfer of power from a small group of elites in Washington DC back to the American People who have born the expense and suffered the cost of a faltering economy, impoverished inner-cities and a failing education system under their rule.

He promised “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” and that “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” He issued a strong criticism of business as carried out by Washington over the past that has “made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.”



Trump stated unequivocally that “from this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” explaining that “we will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” He assured us that “we will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”

In a plea for a unity in the nation the President told us his oath is one of allegiance to all Americans. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” He reminded us of “that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.”

He assured us in classic Trump fashion that America will start winning again like never before, and concluded his remarks with “Together, We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Wealthy Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And, Yes, together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.”

A new day dawns in the United States that will be felt throughout the world. The era of Obama is in the rear view. Today begins the era of President Trump.

The future is ahead of us.



Yuletide and the Real Reason for the Season

Candle on German Christmas tree. Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Yule is an ancient Germanic midwinter celebration better known today by the name Christmas.  Being associated with the winter solstice, Yule is traditionally a twelve-day festival centered near the days of December 21st.  Although Yule is a holiday of Germanic origin, the traditions and symbolism associated with it have been absorbed by the Christmas holiday and practiced in variations throughout the world.  Similarly the Romans celebrated the Saturnalia: a festival of great significance on December 25th, the date that was adopted as the official date for Christmas.  Due to Christianization, these similar holidays are now united throughout most of Western society as Christmas, but many of the traditions associated with it are of pre-Christian, and Heathen origin.



Over the centuries through colonialism, missionary infiltration, and technological development unrelated and often foreign mythologies were grafted onto the significant dates so that the original meanings and reasons for our oldest holidays have been all but forgotten in popular culture.  It’s not just coincidence that the Yuldetide falls at the solstice time.  That is precisely the point.

Solstice time is significant to human society for a number of reasons.  Since the beginning of autumn as the earth has tilted on its axis, the sun’s rays have begun to hit the earth’s northern hemisphere less directly causing the air to cool off and the seasons to change into winter.  Winter in Northern Europe was a perilous time for the ancient tribal peoples of Northern Europe with average daily temperatures consistently below freezing.  Crops will not grow. The herds are thin and wild animals that were so abundant in the summer are scarce.   The grass is brown with death and trees stand naked, stripped bare save for the evergreen which has taken on the symbolism of everlasting life.  For our ancestors, the people fared little better.  We have a term for this time of year, “the dead of winter.” Since the harvest, death has seemed to surround the tribe.

During winter the daylight hours appear dimmer and get progressively shorter and the nights longer and colder.  Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  It is the longest night and symbolically at least, the coldest of the winter nights.  It sounds depressing doesn’t it? For a lot of people it is. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real winter-induced condition that has otherwise been colloquially called the “winter blues” and has been documented in Northern Europe since the 6th century.  Recommended treatments include Light Therapy, exposure to bright light.  And what is Christmastime without Christmas lights? These LED bulbs that we cover our houses, yards and Christmas trees in are easily traced back to festive Christmas candles and most anciently and significantly the hearth fire, the social and spiritual center of the traditional Western home.



Notice the Yuletide is the annual time for good cheer. Why the middle of winter instead of any other time of year?   Because during no other time of year are people in need of such uplifting sentiment and behavior than in the dead of winter in Northern Europe.  Of course it is the darkest and often most depressing time of the year that the people would choose to lighten the mood with shimmering lights and “making spirits bright.” This ages old Yule tradition of decorating the house with lights, wreaths, ribbons, and shiny, joyous symbols is a wonderful way to lift the mood when it’s needed most.

And these festivities center and culminate around these particular dates in December for specific astronomical reasons.  At this point the Earth begins to tilt on her axis in a manner that allows for more of the sun’s rays to shine directly upon the northern hemisphere, allowing the days to grow longer and the frigid nights to grow shorter.  These are the first stirrings of the coming summer.  In contrast with the atmosphere of death that has surrounded the people through the autumn, we can now look forward once again toward spring and summer, the time of life and abundance.  It is almost as if the new year has been born again and we are saved.

Joseph Campbell took great effort to document the depth and breadth of the solar hero motif in its various forms from the divine child to the dying god, and metaphorically, poetically it’s a powerful image. This distinct relationship between the earth and the sun is likened to a procreative act that bares life and provides the conditions for abundance. The winter solstice bares the New Year sun like a child who will grow into a hero and eventually die before being reborn over and over again.  The hero’s life is a personified metaphor for the annual cycle.  The birth of the solar hero, the sun god, the god of the tribe is the first step toward the fulfillment of an annual prophecy: a divine promise that the summer will come again, that life will flourish once more on the earth.  The passing of these last days of the most deadly time of winter is celebrated with revelry at the birth of the sun, the personification of the sacred year.

Over thousands of years the prominence of one mythology over another distanced the people more and more from the astronomical significance and the agricultural affects associated with the winter solstice.  Depending on the region of the world different characters are associated with the holiday. For many people today Christmas is about the birth of Jesus.  For others the central figure is Santa Claus, a popularly marketed fusion of an old Christian Saint Nicholas and Odin, the Nordic Allfather.  In other countries there a witches, demonoid monsters, and logs that represent the winter holiday.  Otherwise the oldest and most traditional symbols of the Yuletide remain pretty consistent with their seasonal significance.

When we consider the Yuletide and are faced with deciphering the meaning of it all, or the reason for the season it’s important to remember it is the astronomical relationship between the earth and the sun which has caused the northern hemisphere to experience conditions antagonistic to survival.  It’s cold. It’s dark. It can be depressing.  So we light up and try to spread good cheer to each other during these times.  At the worst part of the year is the winter solstice and for the most part the worst of the winter is behind and we have the joys and abundance of summer ahead.  That is something worth celebrating.



Dee Snider’s Powerful New Video in Honor of Standing Rock

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Dee Snyder rose to fame in the early 1980s as the front man of the Heavy Metal shock rock group Twisted Sister.  He has never been shy about championing justice whether in his lyrics or in Washington, D.C.

In 1985, Snider along with acid rocker Frank Zappa and folk legend John Denver took on the censorship efforts of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and testified before Congress in opposition to their attempts to legislate morality and creativity in music.  Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and on to today, Dee Snider has been the sort of unofficial spokesman for rock and roll.



Recently he has been disturbed by the events taking place around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Energy Transfer Partners (owners of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL) have actively engaged in numerous human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators representing the Standing Rock community’s struggle to protect their sacred places and their fresh water supply.  When DAPL workers were confronted while actively destroying Sioux grave sites and spiritual centers their hired mercenaries attacked peaceful demonstrators with dogs and teargas.  The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has done as much and more by shooting unarmed and nonthreatening protectors with rubber bullets and water cannons in below freezing temperatures.  There have been clear attacks on the First Amendment as officers from North Dakota and Morton County have tried to create an atmosphere of intimidation in order to suppress the people’s right to assembly, and by specifically targeting members of the press for arrest in order to prevent news of the human rights abuses from coming to light.

Now in the face of the Standing Rock efforts to protect their cultural resources and their clean drinking water from an inevitable oil leak by the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Snider along with other celebrities have begun to put their media resources to work in support of the #NoDAPL water protectors.



Snider has released his new video “So What” entirely produced with footage from the Standing Rock #NoDAPL protection effort as a testament to the people putting their bodies on the line to protect the few remaining cultural and ecological resources of the Sioux Nation which once dominated the Northern Plains.

Aggressively solemn (if that’s not too much of a contradiction), “So What” is indicative of a much more mature and introspective Snider, but still carries the thunder of I would expect to hear from the mind that gave us such classic rebellious anthems as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” over thirty years ago. “So What,” is less about youthful rebellion however, and more directly about defiance in the face of tyranny.




US Veterans at Standing Rock Apologize for History of Genocide

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The demonstrations ongoing at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline have brought a wide assortment of passionate supporters committed to stand with them against the destruction of sacred and historical sites, and to protect the fresh water supply of the Missouri River.

It began with a small group of Lakota from the Standing Rock Reservation and eventually attracted supporters from many of the over five hundred federally recognized tribes in the US as well as countless members of the numerous state recognized tribes across the country. Grand entrances of delegations from the Oglala on horseback, processions of Hopi, and a fleet of canoes from various northwestern tribes just to name three were broadcast across the internet almost every day for weeks. They have been joined by a delegation of over 500 religious denominations, and the Redrum Motorcycle Club and Black Lives Matter. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein (for whom Morton County Sheriff’s Dept issued an arrest warrant), and actress Shailene Woodley (who was arrested and strip-searched by Morton County officers along with 26 others) also took part in direct action during the #NoDAPL opposition.




After months of abuses at the hands of DAPL private security who have assaulted the protectors with pepper spray and attack dogs, and by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department who has committed numerous human rights and treaty rights violations, shooting people with rubber bullets, mace, tear gas and using water cannons against them in freezing temperatures, targeting journalists and the press for arrest, it has become obvious that there is just a complete lack of humanity in the ranks of the MCSD and DAPL.

Then on the weekend of December 3 over 2,000 US military veterans arrived in an organized show of support, pledging to act as human shields for the protectors against the aggressiveness of the MCSD, to give a break to the people who have been there struggling for the past months, and to help draw mainstream media attention to the cause. On the first night of the arrival a small group of veterans engaged in an operation that returned the canoes that had been stolen from the people by Morton County deputies and DAPL personnel.

Then on Monday, December 5 in what has been dubbed a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a large group of veterans led by Wesley Clark Jr. addressed Leonard Crow Dog, a Chief among the Oglala Sioux. Clark asked for forgiveness on behalf of the United States for the past centuries of genocide and abuse by US military. Clark led about a dozen others in the front of the congregation as they knelt in a penitent fashion, one man bowing all the way to the ground. Crow Dog accepted the apology, expressed forgiveness and then offered an apology for of all things the Sioux victory against the Americans at the Battle of Little Big Horn, popularly known as “Custer’s Last Stand. History is being made at Standing Rock right now.

To be certain, these veterans are doing a good thing, performing noble deeds, and maybe I’m just too much of a skeptic, but something doesn’t sit well with me about this forgiveness ceremony. For starters no one in the video seems old enough to be guilty of historical military crimes against Indians. I don’t believe that a son is guilty for the deeds of his father so I don’t hold today’s veterans accountable for events they had nothing to do with. Secondly, an apology on behalf of the United States only has any real merit if made by an elected and currently presiding Commander in Chief of the United States. Wesley Clark Jr. isn’t exactly of much consequence as a representative of the United States, and even if he was, an apology doesn’t guarantee the real needed reform in Indian affairs. Someone else might say “it’s a good start,” and I’d hope they are correct.




I get it. A lot of Americans feel guilty for the genocide against Native Americans that occurred in the past and continues through less direct methods into the present, and the United States as a corporate body is guilty of these crimes, but not every white American alive today is responsible. Certainly there are people, organizations, state and federal governments and departments who are guilty for various crimes and assaults against Indians today, but I can’t see any validity in holding today’s veterans responsible unless they themselves were engaged in these assaults. I don’t like this white-guilt approach to allying with Indian struggles. I don’t want to see white Americans prostrate themselves in a supplicating ritual for atrocities in which they did not take part. There is nothing that can be fixed about the past. The present is where we must make change for the future.

I think these veterans were already engaged in admirable acts of great compassion by showing up and putting their bodies on the front lines beside the Natives defending their land and their culture. For that, they should all be commended along with everyone else who put their body in the line of duty fighting against the Black Snake. From here we need to continue to make noise and make allies until Washington DC can’t ignore the movement any longer. The treaties must be restored and respected like the Supreme Laws of the Land they are. The Bureau of Indian Affairs needs to be reformed. Sovereignty must be respected on Indian land by state and federal authorities, and self-determination must be at all times the forefront of the cause. When this is accomplished, then the United States as a body will have atoned for her past misdeeds against the Indigenous of America. Then real healing can begin between our Nations.

Treat Your Future Self Like a Real Person

financialfreedom

There are a few differences between being an anthropologist studying wealth and poverty and an economist doing the same. As an anthropologist I am more focused on the social, cultural and cognitive motivations that either bind a person to poverty or allow them to experience the freedom of wealth. In this effort we have to contrast the Culture of Poverty of which I was a product, and the Culture of Wealth to which I aspire.




I had a conversation with a young woman the other day about the importance of financial discipline. She told me that she had heard it all before. “I know,” she said. “Save all your money while you’re young so you can have it all when you’re old. She continued, “I don’t want to wait until I’m old to enjoy life. I want to enjoy life now.” The statement was a bit oversimplified and shortsighted, but I withheld my rebuttal. I was less interested in correcting her misunderstandings of a financial plan than I was in learning about the cognitive themes of financial self-sabotage.

It took me several days of reflecting on this exchange before I realized what’s going on here. I come from a family of meager resources. Although I’m still a young man, I’ve seen what it’s like to be poor and old. It’s fraught with far more peril than being poor and young. The physically impaired don’t have the ability to go out and make more money. Young people tend to be stupid. Most of us view ourselves as being so far removed from the golden generations ahead of us. It’s almost as if our future is not even real. Snap! That’s it.

It’s been said time and again that people who amass wealth have a long term perspective, whereas people who remain in poverty or return to poverty tend to have a short term perspective. But if it was as simple as this seeming platitude suggests, a person should simply be able to plug this formula in and make it work. There is something more going on here.




What the hell does it really mean to have a “long term perspective” anyway? Certainly there’s more to it than just reciting a few more trite descriptions and definitions of the term. If it was as simple as understanding the diction involved, then everyone would be on a path to financial liberty.

The people who blow all their money on trivialities, failing to save and plan for the future can just as easily consciously understand the meaning of “long term perspective” and why it’s better than a “short term perspective.” Yet, many of us have continued doing the same things, thinking the same ways, focusing on the same points and continuing to operate from a “short term perspective.”

The problem is that although having a strong financial knowledge is important to money management, that knowledge must be internalized for it to alter our perspective to any real degree.

The problem with those who fail to plan is that their future is not real to them. What is real to them is the here and now; this month, this week, today. Rarely is it even about “this year,” and for some of the real slackers out there it’s rarely even about anything more than this moment. This is not just an issue of time span perspective. It’s about perception of reality.

To the terminally impoverished, their future is as much a fiction to them as anything J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote. They don’t even see their future selves as real people whose situation needs to be planned. Failing to execute a financial plan for the future is essentially the same as consigning your future self to poverty. That is you.




Think about this for a moment. If you had the power, would you create an old person with disabilities and without the resources to care for themselves and their liberty? That is what we do every day that we allow to pass us by without a sensible economic plan for the future, spending everything and saving nothing.

Most people don’t plan for the future or try to save even small amounts for future investments because it might take so many years before it’s really worth anything. Twenty years from now is twenty years away. That is until it gets here. And it’s coming one way or another regardless of what you do. At the end of that twenty years are you going to look back and say “I wished I had planned for this,” or are you going to say “I sure am glad my younger self was responsible enough to plan for me now.”?

This all starts with realizing, accepting and internalizing that fact that the future is very real. It might even be more real than the past because the future can still be affected. You’re future self is a real person; just as real as you are now.

Treat your future self like a real person. Treat all you future selves like real people, from decade to decade. Get to know them. Consider what their needs are. Realize that you are responsible for their wellbeing. Now realize that they are YOU, even now. Their wellbeing, their health, their wealth, or the lack of any of it is something only you can control.

Thanksgiving, Legend, and American Indians

the_first_thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the United States’ most significant national holidays. It’s probably second in popularity only to Christmas. Like most Americans, I grew up with it. There’s really not much to it other than cooking a lot of food and having a feast in the middle of the day, during which we are supposed to express our appreciation for all our good fortune as Americans. It has a slightly religious tone to it, but that is overshadowed by its more nationalistic implications.

 

Along with Columbus Day, and the Fourth of July/Independence Day celebration, the Thanksgiving story has served as one in the series of origin myths to help establish European roots in North America. It’s ritualistic like any holiday as we loosely reenact the nation’s “First Supper.”




The myth tells that in 1621 after the pilgrims came to America they failed to properly work the land and were in danger of suffering famine. The local Wampanoag Indians took pity upon the new arrivals and taught them how to work the land and most importantly how to grow corn. I seem to recall as a child I learned that the Indians taught the Pilgrims to plant their seeds with a fish and this insured a strong and healthy crop, but I haven’t encountered this part of the myth as an adult. After the Pilgrims had a successful harvest they invited the Wampanoag to a great feast to celebrate. The two peoples partied and had a Kumbaya moment. The Pilgrims made this an annual tradition and this became Thanksgiving. There isn’t much truth to this story, but it seems harmless enough.

 

Of course Thanksgiving has taken some flack in recent decades for its usage of Native Americans as props in a story that seems to essentially justify the usurpation of American Indian title to the North American continent by colonial society. Now there is even a video circulating on TeenVogue that uses teenage girls to try to convince us that Thanksgiving actually has its origins in feasts that white people celebrated after fighting and extinguishing a Native community. It really comes off as the type of faux-outrage you’d expect from half-educated adolescents with angst. I’ve been there. I think the real shame is that it’s lazy, shallow research. Myths and legends are one thing but this is almost a crime against history.

 

Thanksgiving is in reality a part of a long tradition of Anglo-Saxon harvest festivals that were celebrated every fall going back into historical obscurity. These were like any of the similar harvest celebrations held by agricultural communities throughout the history of the world including North America. It is essentially a part of the European wheel of the year, a vestige from the white continent’s indigenous and tribal past, but that’s true of most holidays.




Some people think Indians shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving for political reasons. I could never get onboard with that idea. Overall I don’t have any real problem with the holiday or its symbolism. I can get annoyed by the stereo-typical white-man’s Indian play-acting, redface, and other embarrassing behaviors it encourages in non-Indians from time to time. I am left feeling bereft at the sense of equality and brotherhood it depicts between whites and Indians that rarely if ever really existed, especially when today Native communities are still being deprived of rights, and resources by the colonial governments, and the dominant society seems so unmoved and so unconcerned by it. Considering how little attention Indians get in American history and modern social and political discourse I guess we should be glad we get to be the second most significant part of the country’s second most significant holiday.

 

At the end of the day I am an advocate for all people returning to their roots and their native traditions adjusted to their modern geographic and political circumstances. In large part that requires a meaningful celebration of the seasonal cycle for all people. Thanksgiving is a day, or an entire weekend for some folks to take time and celebrate the earth’s bounty and to strengthen our bonds with family, clan, tribe, and nation. I see a national harvest celebration as part of this ancient tradition kept alive in modern America with a uniquely American symbolism.

 

Some people will choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving for reasons they attribute to their values, and that’s cool with me. For me Thanksgiving is a real time of gratitude, reflection, and preparation for the road ahead. I’ll get back to work after the festival.

 

Happy Thanksgiving.




“The Trouble with the Electoral College” Video is Unconvincing

qtq80-3B0DWB

The Electoral College is making its rounds as the whipping-boy of the Left again since Donald Trump won the presidency by the only legal and constitutional means we’ve had at our disposal since 1789. Now that their candidate, Hillary Clinton lost the legal path to the presidency but irrelevantly had more of the total number of votes cast nationally in her favor, the Left has decided to champion the popular vote because they think it will assure them more future victories. I think that belief is incorrect, but that is a different article altogether.




I’ve found myself engaged in this Electoral College vs Popular Vote debate multiple times over the past two weeks and even more often years before, and my stance has been consistent. I agree that the Electoral College could use some tuning, but that any changes will be Constitutional Amendments and therefore must be carefully crafted to ensure that we are truly and fully getting a superior arrangement to what we had before. That means that advocates for change need to start making some convincing arguments. So far, I remain unconvinced.

In these debates this video called “The Trouble with the Electoral College” keeps popping up and I have had to address it a couple times. In my life, once is a social media comment, twice may be a frustrated social media comment, and third is a blog entry with a link I can refer to people.

It’s a deceptively crafted little video that has been around for a while, even before the Trump victory designed to sell the idea of the popular vote without having to justify itself. It naturally uses all the same fallacies, distortions, wordplay, and sentence-crafting you would expect from a political propagandist or a door to door vacuum salesman. While it has some basic facts correct, it is full of biases, unsupported assertions, weasel phrases, and it conflates federal roles and powers with states’ roles and powers as if those are not significant factors. In the end the video is just a list a grievances without any supporting evidence that the proposed solution is better.

Here are a few of the most notable problems.

THE UNITED STATES IS NOT A DEMOCRACY

The first four words of the video are “in a fair democracy …” and the entire video argues from the bias that we are or are supposed to be a democracy and that the viewer has already just accepted this. I do not just accept this. We are not a democracy. We’re a representative republic where our president is elected by the states, and I’m just fine with that. I can stop watching the video here because I’m interested in talking about how things work or should work in our Republic, not some fictional democracy, or constitutional monarchy or whatever. Being based on a false premise makes the video irrelevant to the discussion.

LOADED TERMS

Moving forward, the narrator uses the loaded word “fair” multiple times to describe his position, assuming that true democracy is fair and that there are no other significant factors worth considering other than a simple tally of popular votes that might make things equitable for members of disparate populations. He fails to explain how his concept of “fairness” will result in a better standard of living for Americans than what we have now. He does not provide any supporting evidence that true democracy is a better alternative to what we have now. Many people think it is a worse alternative. The framers of the United States Constitution thought it was a worse alternative and our political system is set up with that in mind. So the whole video fails to convince on that point alone.




OUT OF TOUCH WITH DEMOGRAPHIC REALITY

The video proposes that a candidate could win the office of the president with only 22% of the popular vote. This example is theoretical at best, and that is being generous because it is one of those theories that only works in theory but just isn’t a practical reality. It ignores the significant cultural, economic, and legislative differences between communities that account for their different voting populations. Mississippians aren’t going to vote in line with Hawaiians, and people from Wyoming aren’t going to vote in line with Washington DC. These are very different communities with different cultures, perspectives and needs. One of the biggest reasons I’m opposed to popular vote is because I am opposed to giving so much power to dense population centers because I’m convinced they won’t be able to comprehend and will therefore neglect the needs of such communities and see them simply as resources for their own use. The economic and social ramifications of this could be dire and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it result in secession by multiple communities over time.

Frankly this example alone validated my concerns that proponents of the popular vote don’t understand and therefore can’t care about the unique needs of regional communities, which our founding political arrangement is intended to address, although it is admittedly not perfect.

 

NO SUPPORTING ARGUMENT

This video really provides nothing at all to support the popular vote as a better solution other than a personal value judgment. Don’t just tell me that something is wrong with what we are doing and expect me to go along with the way someone else wants things to be done. I expect the proponent of the new way to put some effort into convincing me that their solution is better if they want my support. Convince me with facts, data, charts, graphs and historical and sociological examples. It has to be a solid plan, not just a list of grievances against the status quo. Understand that any argument based on an idea in the realm of “because it’s the current year” will be soundly rejected.

 

I think the popular vote is not a better alternative. I think it is wracked with problems, and it does not fit with my understanding of the roles and powers of states under the Constitution which I happen to like, so I remain wholly unconvinced by this argument.




Easter Rising, Easter Lily

As Easter week draws to a close I thought I’d write a little bit about my most recent painting “Easter Rising.”

www.Lojah.com

The Easter Lily is a calla lily, adopted by Irish republicans symbolically to commemorate the revolutionary combatants who died as a part of the 1916 Easter Rising.  It is traditionally worn at Easter time.  It is also used by various factions of Irish republicanism to commemorate the deaths of their soldiers and activists.

 

Easter Rising

On Easter Monday, April1 24, 1916 Irish revolutionaries took up arms against British rule in Ireland, seeking to establish an independent Irish republic.  The majority of the conflict took place in Dublin, planned and led by seven members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council.

Patrick Pearse, a schoolmaster and Irish language activist led the Irish Volunteers.  He was supported by the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly, and 200 women from Cumann na mBan – the Irish Women’s Council.  They seized key points in Dublin, making the General Post Office the headquarters of the uprising where they delivered the Proclamation of the Irish Republic claiming independence from Britain and the establishment of an Irish Republic.

The following day the British authorities declared martial law, and deployed thousands of reinforcements to suppress the uprising.  The streets of Dublin were in open warfare that lasted for six days.  The Irish revolutionaries put up a tough resistance and the fighting was fierce.  Frustrated British troops began engaging in war crimes against Irish civilians.


The Portobello Killings

On Tuesday, April 25 British soldiers took the pacifist activist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington hostage and used him as a human shield.  They blew up a tobacco store and captured Labour Party councilor Richard O’Carroll, two journalists Thomas Dickison and Patrick MacIntyre , and the young boy James Coade.  They executed all the captives and secretly buried them in Portobello Barracks.

The North King Street Massacre

North King Street was the scene of some of the heaviest combat between Irish and British soldiers.  On Saturday, April 29th after British soldiers succeeded in overrunning a well barricaded rebel post, they broke into the homes of noncombatant civilians and shot and bayoneted them, killing 15 men.  The soldiers then pilfered the bodies and secretly buried them in backyards and cellars.

There were numerous other civilian casualties suffered as a result of the British assault amounting to more than half the loss of life during the uprising.  British forces eventually surrounded the Irish factions and bombarded them into submission, laying waste to vast areas of the city.  Between the superior military strength of the British Army and the fear that more innocent civilians would be killed, Patrick Pearse ordered an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29.

In the aftermath the British arrested 3,500 Irish, sending almost 2,000 of them to prison camps.  The leadership of the rebellion was executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol between May 3 and 12.

Even though it was technically a failure the Easter Rising succeeded in inspiring hope in an independent Ireland.  The British response to it caused a strong negative reaction in the Irish population and a wave of support for Irish independence swept across the island.  By 1919 the Irish War of Independence broke out and lead to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment of the Irish Free State.  The technical defeat resulted in the Independent Ireland it had sought to achieve.



In 1926 during the tenth year anniversary of the Easter Rising the Irish Women’s Council introduced the calla lily as a badge sold outside of Catholic churches to be worn on Easter Sunday in commemoration of the uprising and to raise relief money for the families of Irish political prisoners.  To this day it is still a symbol of Irish identity and remembrance.

Many songs have been written in commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.  One of the most well known and perhaps the unarguable official song of remembrance of the rising is “Foggy Dew,” written by Father Canon O’Neill.

I Started Painting: My Four Turtles

I recently started painting. As a creative person I’ve dabbled in and experimented with several different media over the years. Along with performing arts, I’ve drawn and sketched avidly throughout most of my life and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at painting, a serious attempt far more than dabbling, but I never knew where to start and was always too busy with other pursuits to really explore this particular medium.

Well, over the past year my life has changed in some pretty fundamental ways and I found myself at a point where I could finally focus on new pursuits. At first I wasn’t even sure what to paint. I knew that if I got any good at it I would probably paint similar things to the drawings I’ve done, full of traditional Native, historic, and arcane symbolism, heavily influenced by the natural universe, and mythology.

I did some minimal research on the subject and gathered some basic supplies to get started.

In the time I was taking to make up my mind I found an Eastern box turtle drowning in a small fish pond and rescued it. It was the same species that Creek (Muscogee) women use to make their shell shakers in the Southern states. The first night I kept him in a laundry basket before I eventually released him back into the woods behind my house. That night it dawned on me that the turtle was the perfect first painting to make.

I came up in the Muscogee Creek tradition and in this tradition the Earth was created by the turtle. The turtle is the fundamental image of creation – the perfect symbol for art; and of beginnings – the perfect symbol for a new venture. And she is the perfect symbol to respect my heritage in which my life and creative pursuits tend to be grounded. I have worked for years under the name Lojah, anglicized from Loca which is the Muskogee word for turtle. As an enrolled member of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway Tribe, my family belongs to the Turtle Clan,* so it all came together quite nicely. The Turtle would be my first painting. I opted for a traditional Native styled design that has been important to me for years with a medicine wheel on its back to represent the four directions similar to the images found throughout prehistoric and contemporary North American iconography.

So with no instruction, a few meager supplies and a whole lot of inspiration I put paint to canvass and created this.


#1 Buckskin Turtle

Turtle 1I decided to start with a general background, something just to contrast with the turtle image. I mixed up a sort of amber colored yellow and painted the background. Then I laid the turtle down. I found the medium perplexing and unfamiliar so the brushstrokes are pretty obvious in places and the color isn’t as even as I intended for it to be, but overall I was pretty satisfied for my first attempt. I later realized that the background color resembles tanned deerskin and named it Buckskin Turtle.

Naturally, my mother loved it and put in a request for one like it. It took me a little while before I got around to painting another one and by that time I wanted to make one for my sister too. I found my inspiration again and began painting.

 

#2 Space Turtle

Turtle 2I decided to paint another turtle for its meaning to my family and to perfect the techniques necessary to paint something I expect to become a regular staple in my catalog. I decided that it needed a more dynamic background. Since the turtle represents the earth. I figured she should be represented in space kind of like a planet. The fact that I recently watched Star Wars Episode VII, the Force Awakens is purely coincidental. This second painting took a little more time than the first one, and I experimented a little bit more with techniques like layering and scumbling. This one has more breadth and depth than #1, and I was really pleased with the results.

 

#3 Water Turtle

Turtle 3While painting Space Turtle I realized that I should do the next one on water, since the Creek Creation Story describes the turtle living in a world of water. I investigated techniques for painting water and experimented with the “z shape.” The water’s surface didn’t turn out quite like I had hoped, but the turtle was the best one yet. By the time I got into this painting I could tell that I was more comfortable with the medium. The colors are more distinct and smoother especially in the turtle. This one became my favorite pretty quickly.

While painting Water Turtle I had a realization that before I painted anything else I should paint a fourth Turtle. Four is a special number to most Native American traditions and since I had already established that I was beginning this new trade upon a traditional foundation, I decided that I should complete the circle I had begun.

 

#4 Sky Turtle

Turtle 4I painted this turtle on a sky background to represent the idea of the turtle as earth in a terrestrial atmosphere. My youngest daughter, Hailey says he’s flying.  In my opinion this is by far the best one of the four. I was a lot more comfortable working with the paints, and I felt freer to let go of some of the rigidity I had in working on the previous paintings.

 

These are my first four paintings. I plan to make a lot more, but I promise my next one won’t be a turtle.


* Being of mixed Native American heritage and active in both communities I am a part of the Muskogee Creek Panther Clan as well as the Turtle Clan of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway nation.

The Irish Wake: Music Presented By McGuire’s Irish Pub

The Irish Wake, McGuire's Irish Pub

Death is a popular theme in Irish Music. Emblematic of this is the Irish Wake, an often rowdy gathering of mourners around the body of the departed, traditionally held in a family member’s home. McGuire’s Irish Pub and Rich McDuff have drawn upon this theme in the production of The Irish Wake, CD of popular Irish tunes.

Proclaimed as “music for and about an Irish Wake that includes solemn to lighthearted and humorous tunes,” the Irish Wake delivers upon its promise. These are high-quality musical arrangements making use of traditional Irish instruments, and with a few tunes characterized by layers of vocal harmonies. This is most noticeably heard on “Amazing Grace,” sung by Molly McGuire, making for a creatively unique and interesting rendition of the song. Some of the other highlights include “Rosin the Beau,” and “Isn’t it Grand Boys” (featuring the Boston Boys, a group of young McGuire’s patrons), and the title track – a Rich McDuff original.
This is a somber disk containing 14 tracks, each one another variation on the theme of death, and in some cases resurrection. Packaged in the standard CD jewel case, the cover photo is quite fitting for the music on this disk; an old Irish cemetery marked by generations-old Celtic crosses enduring the turn of the centuries, reaching grimly toward a grey sky.

Produced by Rich McDuff, and featuring Molly McGuire, the McGuire’s Pipe Band, and many local singers and musicians who frequent the pub, The Irish Wake is a great choice for fans of Irish music looking for a mellower listening experience. Entitled to compliment the Irish Wake, a green, rum-based drink popularized by McGuire’s Irish Pub, this CD is a clever bit of marketing as well as a pleasant journey through Irish music. A patron can enjoy an Irish Wake at the bar or in the restaurant, and before exiting the pub, stop in the gift shop and pick up a copy of this disk to remember his experience at McGuire’s.
It can also be ordered here.