Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 203/365 Earthshaking

Breaking news: In Beirut last Friday, a senior Iranian cleric has explained that women who dress "immodestly" are to blame for the recent rash of earthquakes.

Hmm.

Being sortof vaguely familiar with ideas of "modesty" within the Muslim religion (some women wear headscarfs, some wear a half-veil over the face, and some wear the full-length all-covering burqa), I wish the cleric had elaborated.

I realize American non-Muslim women (and I guess American Muslim women who choose not to wear the various scarves or garments) are of course considered immodest.

And most European women.

Most Asian women, barring the Muslim parts of Indonesia (who may or may not follow this part of Islam).

Most Australia women.

Most South American women.

Most Central American women.

You see where I'm going here.

And what of the mostly male bastion of geological and seismographic scientists? How in the world did they miss something like this? It's not like men to miss a chance to blame women for something.

That day in 1906, in San Francisco - did some group of turn-of-the-century women all remove their bone corsets at the same time?

Considering that short sleeves, short shorts, dresses that go 'way above the knee, and for that matter, the bikini and it's skimpy descendant the thong, have all been evolving for close to 80-90 years - what took the earthquakes so long?

No one seems to be dashing about covering up.

Does this mean the big one is imminent?

Apparently so, since the cleric's explanation followed a prediction by the Iranian president that a big quake is certain to strike Tehran, and 12 million people will die.

And of course, an earthquake *will* eventually hit Tehran, simply because it's sitting on major fault lines.

What's not explained is why the big earthquake (caused by immodest women) would hit Tehran, which is Islamic, versus hitting just about anywhere else in the world, where, logically, there is a much higher count of immodestly dressed women.

Say, any public beach in the U.S., Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Rio, the French Rivera, South Beach in Miami.....

I'm just sayin.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 202/365 The Past Isn't Really Past

This post is dedicated to the current governor of Virginia, who lives in the land of cotton and wishful yearning. After reading the local paper today, I can almost forgive the governor for his poorly worded procalamation of Virginia's Confederate History Month.

After all the governor is suppose to be in touch with his constituency, no matter how backward they are.

Today's paper has a half page article with two large photos providing complete coverage of a burial of a local war veteran, complete with full military honors, invocation by a USAF Chaplain, local pillars of the community, a Cross of Honor installation, a large funeral wreath, a salute by military riflemen, multi-generations of the deceased family in attendance, and several speakers that attested to the worthiness of the deceased.

Was this a service for a recent casualty of the conflict in Afghanistan or Iraq? Gulf War? Vietnam? Korea? World War II? World War I?

No.

This was a re-burial of a Confederate Private who died in 1916. The Confederate Cross of Honor was unveiled ovcr his grave, various members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy attended in full Civil War dress and the military salute was provided by riflemen from the local branchof the Sons of Confederate Veterans (also in period dress). One of the Historical Society ladies sprinkled dirt on the grave from the last place of residence of the deceased, and another portrayed the grieving Southern widow. The great-great-grandchildren presented the family funeral wreath to the gravesite, flanked on either side by large floral wreaths from the UDC and SCV. Military "Taps" were played, and a haunting version of "Shenandoah" was played. Then the Confederate States National flag was presented (folded) to the granddaughter of the deceased soldier.

This is normal in the South.

They cannot let go. It is a melancholy addiction to the fading past, a yearning for a life they never experienced, a mass display of a all-encompassing post-traumatic stress disorder. The only explanation I can imagine is that the Civil War was such a devastatingly traumatic event, that it still leaves its psychic scars on the children of the South. The effects were so widespread, the memories and loss so deep, that even now, four generations later, these descendants still feel the need to support, to validate, and to justify.

So it seems our governor is, in fact, totally in touch with some of his constituents. They, in turn, are the ones not in touch with present-day reality, preferring instead to bury themselves in 1864.

Lest my readers think me a transplanted Yankee, I offer my Southern "pedigree": a great-great-grandfather who fought next to Stonewall Jackson from the start of the "War Between the States" until Jackson fell at the Wilderness; another great-great-grandfather who led the local militia during the mountain skirmishes in southwestern Virginia; a great-great-grandmother who hid in the woods while her home was being burned by Yankees (and who managed to shoot a couple of them); a great-great uncle who died as a prisoner of war at Camp Chase,Ohio; and numerous long-dead family members, any one of which would qualify for one of these Confederate burial ceremonies.

My point is: I would never have one. They are my family, my history, and my heritage. Like any person in any time period during any national event, each of them had an opinion and a reason for what they did, or didn't, do. Their time period is not mine. There is no need to explain or justify their actions. They were there, and did the best they could.

And I refuse to pretend that I have the slightest idea of how they managed to live through the horrific events of the Civil War, or to cheapen it with reenactments of devastating bereavment.

I'll leave that to the governor.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 201/365 Holding Our Breath

Tonight there's a mining disaster over in our neighbor state. News reports are spotty, with seven miners dead so far, and nineteen unaccounted for. We can only hope that the safe rooms were accessible, and the oxygen holds out. Right now, there is a small white mountain church full of wives and children, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, all waiting.


This isn't the first time. It won't be the last. Coal is the backbone of West Virginia. Generations of Appalachian families have worked the mines. And generations of Appalachian men have died in them.

This is my granddaddy, Charlie, on his wedding day. He is seventeen years old, and employed as a moonshine runner. Meaning he drives cars loaded with illegal whiskey along dark mountain roads, without headlights, sometimes at high speeds. Sometime before his nineteenth birthday, he will go to work in a mine. And within a couple years he will almost die in a mine fire, taking months to recouperate with first and second degree burns all over his body. He was one of the few who were carried out.


Charlie left the mine after that, refusing to go back. Running moonshine is safer. Anything is safer.

Appalachian history, especially in West Virginia, sometimes seems to be nothing but one mining disaster after another.


But right now, the only one that matters is this one.

Our thoughts are with those wives and families, waiting in the church, and those miners, down deep in the dark.