Tag Archives: Helen

Confessions of a Lifelong-Heroine Addict….(oh well, since I was 6 or 8 I guess, probably not so much before that…)…from Dorothy Gale to Katniss Everdeen

The California Secretary of State having quite literally locked the doors to my running for Senate this year (at least in Tulare and Fresno Counties)—and the California Courts not seeming to offer a sufficient or accessible remedy—I now have time to indulge other (if related) obsessions my life, such as my sufferings from a lifetime of heroine addiction….  

Like almost every other aspect of my life, I blame my mother Alice and grandmother Helen almost equally….

It was my mother and father who, when I was very small, used to take me down by the Thames in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament and show me the statue of Boadicea (aka “Budica”), the last independent Iceni Queen of East Anglia who rebelled and died trying to evict the Roman Conquerors, in whose memory it was said and sung that “Britons never shall be slaves.”  We also took one trip out to Norwich to visit one of the woods where the Iceni supposedly worshipped their own goddess of Victory….called “Budika” in the Ancient British language of the Druids….(my parents were both heavily into historical and comparative linguistics).  Budika/Boadicea in A.D. 60-61 apparently burned Roman Londinium to the ground along with several other cities before being defeated and poisoning herself by the long Roman Road called “Watling Street” which we also visited…. She was a heroine and supposedly a great archer….  

Of course my parents also tried, as heart as their own agitated and addled lives would permit them, to make me aware of a very different heroine, regarding whom they required me to memorize “the Magnificat” from a very early age….”My soul doth magnify the Lord….Abraham and his seed forever…” And yes, the Virgin Mary was indeed a rebellious heroine… and she has remained a heroine to hundreds of millions of people up to the present time….  Later on, I learned to sing the Magnificat and other pieces of Anglo-Catholic “Maryolatry” as a choirboy in the junior Choir at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, under the tutelage of the late, Great Russell J. Brydon (who died just a few months after this post was originally written, in September 2012 at the age of 88:

http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20120906-russell-j.-brydon-jr.-longtime-dallas-church-and-temple-organist-dies-at-88.ece

But it was my grandmother Helen who was something of a heroine in my young eyes herself, and it was Helen who introduced me to the very first literary  (as distinct from Historical or Biblical) heroines of whose stories I ever learned in detail: namely Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and the Roman Goddess Diana and her Sacred Temple by Lake Nemi  near Ariccia (Diana was also an archer…)

The path of fictional heroines from Dorothy Gale’s grey home in Kansas to Katniss* Everdeen’s equally grey home in District 12 of Panem took 108 years….from the first publication of the Wizard of Oz in 1900 through the appearance of archer Katniss Everdeen  Hunger Games in 2008**….is really the history of the idealistic dreams and ultimate failure of the 20th century (idealist dreams in Baum’s time giving way to a more cynical realism by 1939, passing through the somewhat confused “liberation” of the 1960s, sinking into the dark, pessimistic world of Buffy and Angel and finally coming to rest in the despair of District 12 in Panem in 2008—the year Barack Hussein Obama took over from George W. Bush…two different faces for the heartless, soulless, President Snow….)

But the difference in spirit between those two places traces indeed the tragic story of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization (and of the American Dream) in the 20th Century. Major stopping points along the way (for me at least) include 1939 with the Dorothy Gale’s transformation in the person of Judy Garland and Scarlett O’Hara’s complete redefinition of the concept of “progress” in the late 19th century, Jane Fonda’s comic Cat Ballou and Barbarella in the 1960s, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in movie and television from 1992-2003.  

At each of these intervals, the world is more cynical and darker, and the heroines more complex.  Many critics have observed that the “head injury/dream sequence” aspects of the 1939 Movie Wizard of Oz and the metathesis of real individuals to “dreamtime” residents of the Land of Oz (which was COMPLETELY absent from L. Frank Baum’s book) resulted directly from Freudian psychoanalysis and the early popularity of psychology.  The general effect is to radically weaken the power of Oz as metaphor or lesson—but the movie was a wonderful hit—a lightly comic Wagnerian gesammtkunstwerk of acting, visual art, and music, so nobody really cared.  

A lot of the verbal banter and humor in the movie likewise showed a certain “worldly” sophistication with which I think Frank Baum would only have been somewhat congenial. E.G. the Cowardly Lion’s song “there’s just no use denyin’, I’m just a DANDYlion…” and the Wizard’s closing comment to the Scarecrow:

Back where I come from we have universities, 
seats of great learning 
-- where men go to become great thinkers. 
And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more brains than you have .... 
But! They have one thing you haven't got! 
A diploma!

As a former denizen of the great academic halls of Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 and Chicago, Illinois 60637 (from various halls of which august institutions I did, for all the good that it’s done me or the world, get diplomas), and a regular visitor to many other such places, I can tell you that the Wizard here is absolutely right: 

And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more  brains than you have.... 

But such cynicism simply was not part of the original vision of Oz, and although Baum occasionally did occasionally turn such comments to ridicule life back in North America in later books, he did not at all in his first installment in which he remade European folk mythology and archetypes and reshaped them in a very idealized panorama of a world where death was rare if non-existent and even the most evil of men and creatures did not kill for sport or pleasure.

For all of L. Frank Baum’s futuristic visions, I do not think he could have foreseen the transition from the naïve and hardworking life of Kansas to the nightmarish dreamworld of Suzanne Collins’ grim opera—neither a soap opera nor a very lyric, although even in the written version (which I finally got around to reading), music plays an immensely important part in the methathesis of metaphor and character, from Katniss’ Father to Peeta, from Prim to Rue… as between the unnatural National Anthem of the Conquering Capitol and the free world of nature and the poor of the “outlying districts.”

L. Frank Baum’s Oz books in so many was shaped and defined the culture of early-to-mid 20th Century of a predominantly White Christian America, especially after the release of Judy Garland’s movie….***  The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Kansas was stiflingly dull and harsh—the American dream had already, at that point, apparently kind of run aground and needed new life— The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Oz was half atavistic throwback to the Middle Ages, half filled with futuristic wonders (such as Glinda the Good’s Magic Picture, which permitted her what we would now call “live video access” to whatever was going on in Oz or elsewhere earth she was interested.

Dorothy Gale was a simple, pre-teenage girl (Judy Garland was at least ten years older than the original character was portrayed as being in the First Oz Book, but Dorothy Gale remained essentially a-sexual throughout the series, never had a boyfriend or a beau…. perhaps recapitulating some archaic notion of “the Virgin Goddess”,  e.g. Diana Nemorensis or the Virgin Mary or the “Virgin Queen”, Mary again or Queen Elizabeth I) whose strength derived from common sense, great courage, love, and determination.  Dorothy Gale was a generalist who never specialized in anything or focused on any particular trade, profession, or way of earning a living (all throughout the long series of Oz books, in fact).  She was just flexible, imaginative, and practical—kind of a “Renaissance girl” in a very low tech way.

Being a non-specialized generalist seems to be the primary role of all feminine heroes.  Of the earliest three I knew (Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and Diana Nemorensis), if Dorothy Gale had the purest and most asexual identity, Scarlett O’Hara surely had the most impure and sexual.  

It was perhaps for that reason that I was never really taken with her until I was a teenager, even though with my grandparents I religiously had watched Gone with the Wind at every possible opportunity and my grandmother compared the mythic South with the real South over and over again.   Scarlett O’Hara was beautiful, flirtations, and OWNED men in a way that is both fairly realistic and quite cynical.  But the book and movie Gone with the Wind were brilliantly timed between the First and Second World Wars to show that the American War Between the States of 1861-1865 was the first really and truly modern war of total destruction.  

Throughout history, up until Abraham Lincoln loosed Sherman on Georgia and Grant on Virginia, the goal of Conquest Warfare had been to preserve as much of a conquered land’s wealth as possible—so that it could be stolen and appropriated for the victors.  There might have been a lot of talk in Ancient Rome about how “Carthage must be destroyed” and about Salting the Earth once it was vanquished, but Carthage was not only not burnt to the ground and left to rot by the Roman Conquest, it became one of the Great Cities of the Roman Empire, as 20-30 years of Harvard Archaeological excavations in Tunisia have so clearly shown.  Gone with the Wind showed something else when Sherman’s “wind blew through Georgia.”  The purpose was indeed, as the opening lines of both the movie and the book suggested, to wipe out an entire civilization, a way of life—to replace what Marxists call one “mode of production” with another.   NONE of Baum’s villains in Oz were as bad as that, although the movie version of the Wicked Witch of the West was pretty murderous in her general attitude….

One major innovation of Jane Fonda’s heroines Cat Ballou and especially Barbarella in the 1960s was the advent of “free love”, which never appeared even once in any of Baum’s pre-1920 writings, which was only very obliquely alluded to in Gone with the Wind, but which by the 1960s was all anyone really cared about.  

Like Dorothy Gale and Scarlett O’Hara before her, Cat Ballou and Barbarella were unspecialized generalists who could adapt to almost any situation.  They were strong, intelligent, sexy, deadly in a good cause, and then Jane Fonda went to Hanoi….  In retrospect she may have been right to do it because the Vietnam War was totally wrong, a seriously failed experiment in 1984-type “perpetual war”….but Jane Fonda’s actions did not seem positive at the time.  

In this defiance of the outward semblance of world order sense, Jane Fonda’s characters of both Cat Ballou and Barbarella somehow came to life as defiant outlaws….crossing boundaries that no one else would cross, and doing so with both impunity and (what seemed most shocking at the time) complete immunity from real official sanction.  Like the righteous killer Catherine Ballou who avenged her father’s death in the Wild West—Jane Fonda first enacted herself as a mythic reality and then, by going to Hanoi, remade herself as a historic metaphor—walking through the image of a treacherous act, unscathed, in essence to show that Vietnam was all a staged event….. a dramatic diversion to keep the masses simultaneously afraid, amused and absorbed….  

Fast forward 24 years from Jane Fonda as Barbarella and you arrive the first incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a completely modern LA County San Fernando Valley girl with no hints of modesty or virginity about her…. followed by the much more intriguing evolution of Buffy Summers in the TV Series from virginal high school freshman to intensely sexual college freshman, in a world which is increasingly dark and where reality is increasingly concealed….. Buffy’s Sunnydale was a mythic place, a lot like Los Angeles, while her first boyfriend and lover Angel eventually goes to the real Los Angeles and sets up shop as first as a private detective and then director of a large law firm—two professions which, in Los Angeles at least, possibly in the movies generally, have almost acquired the status of modern Jungian archetypes….  

The increasingly dark and brooding, sad and depressed Buffy Summers never lost her general adaptability—she could never specialize in any profession or line of work any more than Dorothy Gale or Scarlett O’Hara or Catherine Ballou… but the realization that the dark forces of the world were effectively unbeatable and had pre-existed anything good in the world—these were major transformations of the American Dream from the Early 20th Century.  And it was during the 7 televised seasons of Buffy that the 20th Century, which came in with a little girl magically transported by a tornado from dull grey Kansas to a bright and beautiful alternative universe which knew no death, went out during Buffy’s Freshman year at UCLA with a young adult barely out of her teens who was alone in the world, with her small circle of more specialized friends, fighting vampires and the forces of darkness.

And five years after Buffy ended, Katniss Everdeen picked up the bow from her archetypal ancestors the Goddesses Inanna and Diana and Queen Boadicea, and began to hunt for meagre food in the desperately hunger fringes of District 12 (in what was once called Appalachia in what was once called North America).  

The gruesomeness of the Hunger Games apparently shocks some people—I would have thought that Americans had long since forgotten how to be shocked about or by anything.  Children murdering children for sport isn’t the most pleasant of ideas, to be sure. But in that 17-19 year olds have gone off to fight in every war America has ever seen….along with a few 16 year olds here and there, and since the History Channel periodically shows authentic news clips of 15-16 year old resistance “werewolves” in 1945 Post-World War II Germany being shot by firing squads of American Troops, and countless tens of thousands of teenagers have been silently snuffed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, it is hard to believe that the idea of children fighting and dying is really such a big deal to our ever hypocritically squeamish population.

The Hunger Games resonate with so much in our history and culture—with the original Victor Hugo version of Les Miserables (hopelessly buried and lost in the Broadway Musical of the same name), and in Suzanne Collins’ own account with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.  

But above all the Hunger Games resonates with the year 2012 in which America has taken so many steps towards being a brutal, repressive dictatorship like Panem, already—with idiot fake and fraudulent “Conservatives” like Lindsey Graham and Newt Gingrich competing with idiot truly fraudulent “Liberals” like Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama competing with one another to see who can shred the Constitution fastest.  

Interesting to me, given that I based my own doctoral dissertation at Harvard in large part on revisiting Frazer’s the Golden Bough and with it Diana’s Temple by Lake Nemi near Ariccia, are the parallels between the Hunger Games and the myths and rituals of Divine Kingship.  There is nothing in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, however, about games or about Tributes being well-fed and allowed every luxury leading up to their deaths.  But precisely this treatment is common in the rites of Divine Kingship, where sacrificial victims, like the individual selected for sacrifice during the rites of Toxcatl among the Aztec, are equated with the God Tezcatlipoca (“Smoking Mirror”) during the last year of their lives, given wonderful food and drink, and then sacrificed.  Similar paradigms of sacrifice are found throughout the world—

And the sacrifice of children, likewise, is extremely common: to the rain gods in Mesoamerica, relic traces of this existed even among the modern Yucatec Maya who tie small children to the legs of the altar during the cha-chaac or rain ceremony—although the children have to do nothing more that happily chirp like rainy season frogs (but woe to the boy who croaks like a dry season Toad—he will be beaten, not sacrificed, but beaten).  The Hebrew Bible itself is filled with child sacrifice (all through the Books of Kings and Chronicles, in particular, are Kings who make their children “walk through the fire”—perhaps most famously the daughter of Jeptha…), and by way of archaeological parallel—the excavations at Carthage have revealed hundreds and thousands of child sacrifices…. Among the Natchez of Mississippi, families sacrificed their children in order to rise in social status from commoners (“Stinkards”) to “Honored” Nobility according to the French records by Dupratz and recounted by John R. Swanton….

And in this sense it is perplexing: sacrifice almost always lead either to elevation in status or to outright deification: why the elite of Panem would not have recognized the risk embodied in Golden Bough-Divine Kingship type of analysis: the sacrificial victim—like the Rex Nemorensis at Ariccia who becomes King by killing the old one in combat, will always become the next king.  

At the end of the first book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Katniss Everdeen is poised to become (with Peeta), Queen and King of Panem.  This was not only foreseeable, it was in comparative mythological terms inevitable—and yet Suzanne Collins’ trilogy does not allow this drama to evolve that way.  In part, this may be because technology and traditions of oppression have obliterated the natural succession of Divine Kingship….

But Sir James G. Frazer’s point in writing the Golden Bough was to show that Divine Kingship involving the deification of sacrificial victims and their elevation as Kings is a nearly world-wide phenomenon.  I sit here puzzling at the significance of all the trappings of Divine Kingship and the Golden Bough in the Hunger Games.  

Frank Baum had either borrowed or unconsciously recreated so many motifs from ancient mythology—the Four World Quarters with colors Winkie-yellow Quadlin-red Munchkin-blue and Gillikin-purple with Green for the Center of the Emerald City are like nothing so much as the mythological and symbolic organization of (1) Ancient Mesopotamia, “Land of the Four Quarters” centered on Uruk, (2) Celtic Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Connaught, Leinster, and centered on Midhe (Meath) at Tara, and (3) pre-Hispanic Yucatan which, at several Classic sites, is divided into quarters dominated (as recorded on Stelae A & H at Copan) by Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque, and Copan and which even now is divided into four quarters (Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Petén, with Belize claimed by Guatemala and Geographically appearing to be a southern extension of Quintana Roo).

But in Frank Baum’s Oz, kingship is never strong and is always frowned upon, as are all attempts at centralization or standardization of culture, customs, or laws among the four/five regions of Oz.  For that reason, I would assume, there are no hints or traces of divine kingship in Oz—it is a Federal egalitarian Democracy of sorts (even though no one ever votes).  

But by the time of Buffy, as the 20th century closes, the need for a leader has brought forward the Slayer—“one girl in all the world” who fights the Demons.  Now Joss Whedon optimistically ended his series with a devolution of power and prowess from Buffy through the magic of Willow to Millions of “potential” slayers—-but it didn’t quite ring true, in a Television series where even the most outrageous vampiric and magic witchcraft was somehow made to feel “emotionally authentic.”

In the Hunger Games, Dictatorship is the reality and the two victors of the Hunger Games, Katniss & Peeta, are set to become the Divine Kings and possibly the real sovereigns of their land.  Perhaps the need for leadership, the need for someone to save the population, is not yet great enough, but in terms of the political and emotional significance of our story-telling, I think that the journey from Dorothy Gale’s Grey Kansas to Katniss Everdeen’s Grey District 12 tells us the story of the loss of hope and impending doom and despair which was the 20th Century.

*  Katniss is named after a plant called Sagittaria, and my grandmother was born under the sign of Sagittarius—it could be that Katniss reminds me a great deal of my grandmother Helen—similar complexions and faces…. Actress Jennifer Lawrence certainly fits very precisely the image in Suzanne Collins’ book…. and the younger pictures I’ve seen of my grandmother with long hair as a teenager in the time before the U.S. entered WWI….growing up in a place very much like the defeated districts of Panem in the Southern USA.

** In some New Age texts, 108 years is said to be a Venus Cycle, the more ordinary astrological cycle is one of 104 years.  108 is used, but oddly enough, is four years longer than longest calendrical cycle and planetary identity of the Ancient Goddess of Love, namely Inanna/ Ishtar/Aphrodite/Venus.  The calendrical cycles of Venus and the sun are said to “bind” (i.e coincide) every 2920 days, but the ultimate binding of 5 Heliacal Cycles of Venus with 8 Calendar years …. (365 x 8 = 5 x 584 = 2920 x 13 = 37,960 = 2 x 52 years (my current age) = 104 calendar years/105 “tuns” or 360 day periods—the root of the Maya and Aztec Calendars).  Like her Roman Counterpart Diana, Aphrodite and Inanna were both archers—it seems to be the feminine weapon of choice, possibly for purely sexual Freudian reasons, possibly for some mixture of Freudian sexual and Jungian archetypal causation.

*** In the 1970s, Broadway Musical and 1978 movie “the Wiz” the just recently departed Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson did their best to reframe and appropriate the Baum story for African-America in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement (or Fraudulent Civil Rights Fiasco) of the 1950s-60s…. I have never been comfortable Easing on Down the Road with them in that direction…. although my grandfather was a great supporter of alternative all black productions (now almost extinct) because they upheld and even developed, really and truly, the old segregationist’s doctrine of Separate but Equal (we actually attended the Wiz at the Majestic Theater on Broadway as well as an all black revival of Guys & Dolls in my one major summer with him (ever in my life) in 1976.

May the Fourth be with You (and with thy Spirit)…. May 3rd was Day of the Holy Cross (in the Old BCP anyhow); Warnings from History about the Coming Dark Age: May 3 is also Polish Constitution of 1791 Day, and the 60th Anniversary of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company Petition for Certiorari

Yes, May the Fourth is international Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with You”—but watch out for the “Revenge of the Fifth”), and yesterday, all over Western Christendom, is or at least used to be called “the Day of the Holy Cross” (this construction of the Calendar is sometimes said to be a “Gallican” custom, involving the mixture of Celtic rites of Beltane [May Day] with Christianity, in the time of Saint Gregory of Tours and other such French sources predating the time of Charlamagne*, but even as a 20th century Anglican/Episcopalian, I grew up thinking that Constantine’s Mother the Empress Helen**  went to Jerusalem and found the “true Cross” fragments on May 3, and when I started traveling to and living in Mexico I found that the Mexicans [in “Veracruz” and elsewhere] still celebrate the 3rd, notwithstanding anything Pope John XXIII did the year I was born [1960], and the Maya of Yucatán—see my birthday greetings for Pedro Un Cen on May 1—still celebrate May 3 as the day that the Chaacs (the Ancient Maya Raingods) return to the land from the East to start the beginning of the rainy season, but Last things first:

POLISH CONSTITUTION OF 1791 Day: A Warning for our Time

Most Americans have heard of American Revolutionary War hero General  Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (at least by the shorter version of his name: Tadeusz Kosciuszko).  He came to the United States to assist in the War of Independence for no reason other than he thought it was the right thing to do.  He was a volunteer Patriot in Founding a country 1/3 of the way around the world from his homeland.  

I have the feeling that Kosciuszko lived to feel even more defeated than John W. Davis….(see my adjoining post on the 60th Anniversary of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Petition for Writ of Certiorari) possibly more like Jefferson Davis must have felt…..  

Kosciuszko lived long enough after the American Revolution to see first the French Revolution, then the final partition of his own homeland by three of the major powers OPPOSED to the French Revolution, the restoration of the core of his homeland (briefly) between 1807 and 1815, and then the final re-annexation of Poland by Russia after the Congress of Vienna in 1815—a situation which would endure for another 104 years….

After helping launch the American nation, with a career comparable and in some ways parallel to the actions of the Marquis de Lafayette in France, Kosciuszko went back to his native Poland where he tried to rebuild and save his own nation, and modernize its constitution in light of what he had learned and seen in America. I have previously, on this blog, mentioned the wonderful Polish Professor Wiktor Osiatynski under whom I was privileged to study at the University of Chicago 1990-1991 and my fascination with the Polish nation and constitutional history has never ceased since then.  Poland is a Phoenix-like nation having been consumed by fire into ashes and portioned by its neighbors Germany and Russia at least twice (and Austria once).  The metaphoric image of the mythical Phoenix arising from its flames parallels takes on added and appropriate meaning given Poland’s association with the City and University of Chicago, not least since Chicago is the largest Polish-speaking urban area anywhere outside of Poland and the City itself has at least once or twice in history arisen from the flames (after the Great Fire of 1871, but arguably again after the riots of 1968 also…).  

On May 3, Poland celebrated the 221st anniversary of the Constitution of 1791, the last Constitution before the two final (18th century) partitions of Poland 1793-1795.   The Twentieth Century Partition of Poland, between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia was in a thousand ways much worse, more brutal, more destructive, but also much shorter in duration.  The 18th Century Partitions of Poland were reversed by the Emperor Napoleon I Bonaparte in 1807 as he vainly tried to restrict and limit the power of Prussia.  The Von Ribbentrop-Molotov (aka “Stalin-Hitler”) Pact of 1941 was reversed a mere four years later, but not before Poland had not only been savaged by Nazi occupation but by the Stalinist reprisal which, in terms of meaningful reality, involved much vaster forced migrations than any that history had ever seen, and comparable only to the forced internal migrations (poorly documented though they are) which took place in Maoist China during the “Cultural Revolution”.  

Now you might ask, why should an American care about learning the details of Polish Constitutional History?  As Professor Wiktor Osiatynski made us all aware in the two courses he taught that year at the University of Chicago, Poland’s constitutional history was a major source of its downfall.  Prior to meeting and studying with Wiktor, my primary familiarity with recent modern Poland had been a vague knowledge of the partitions of the late 18th century, the fact that Napoleon I had created the Duchy of Warsaw, and that Chopin and many other 19th century artists had gained fame for the culture of Poland and quietly advocated the restoration of Polish Sovereignty and Nationality.

Of course, I had also been very generally aware from a lifetime obsession with historical cartography, I was aware that Poland had once been the largest nation in Europe—a fact, again, which probably very few Americans must know.***  Yes, the combination of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland once not merely “dominated” but in effect “was” all of Eastern Europe—controlling during most of the 15th-early 18th Centuries all of the territory from the Baltic to the Black Seas, dwarfing “barbarous” Russian during most of that time, although Russia started climbing out of an inferior position in the 16th century, though it did not achieve “world nation” status until the 18th under Peter and Catherine the Great.  

But indeed, the Constitutional History of Poland and Lithuania together is very interesting, and historically relevant for Americans, especially in this day and age.  Lithuania, so it was forced to ally more closely with Poland, uniting with its western neighbor as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Two Nations) in the Union of Lublin of 1569. According to the Union many of the territories formerly controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, while the gradual process of Polonization slowly drew Lithuania itself under Polish domination. The Grand Duchy retained many rights in the federation (including a separate government, treasury and army) until the May 3 Constitution of Poland was passed in 1791. 

I submit to you, “my fellow Americans” that we today are much like Poland—because of the abrogation of our traditional Federal Union into a centralized dictatorship, we are weak and face extinction, division, and perhaps even partition between, say, China, Mexico, and a resurgent Europe.  

* Pope Adrian I between 784 and 791 sent Charlemagne, at the King of the Franks’ personal request, a copy of what was considered to be the Sacramentary of Saint Gregory, which certainly represented the Western Roman “Early Dark Ages” use of the end of the eighth century.  This book, far from complete, was edited and supplemented by the addition of a large amount of matter derived from the Gallican books and from the Roman book known as the Gelasian Sacramentary, which had been gradually supplanting the Gallican. The editor may well have been Charlemagne’s principal liturgical advisor, the  Englishman Alcuin. Copies were distributed throughout Charlemagne’s empire, and this “composite liturgy”, as Duchesne says, “from its source in the Imperial chapel spread throughout all the churches of the Frankish Empire and at length, finding its way to Rome gradually supplanted there the ancient use”. More than half a century later, when Charles the Bald wished to see what the ancient Gallican Rite had been like, it was necessary to import Hispanic priests to celebrate it in his presence, because the Gallican rite took root firmly in Toledo, Viscaya, Aragon, Catalunia, and elsewhere in the land of the Christian Visigoths of Hispania before the arrival of the Moors (and survived there ever after, even during the Caliphate of Cordoba—which resilience explains why May 3 remains the Day of the Holy Cross everywhere in Latin America).

The Luxeuil Lectionary, the Gothicum and Gallicum Missals, and the Gallican adaptations of the Hieronymian Martyrology are the chief authorities on this point, and to these may be added some information to be gathered from the regulations of the Councils of Agde (506), Orléans (541),Tours (567), and Mâcon (581), and from the “Historia Francorum” of St. Gregory of Tours, as to the Gallican practice in the sixth century.

** Constantine’s Mother the Empress Helen did a lot of traveling and established a lot of Churches.  Named after Helen of Troy, Empress Helen kept the name alive and popular among the Christians, and it was the Empress Helen, I am told, after whom were named both my Louisiana-born grandmother who raised me with love and my Greek-born wife who razed me with something else.

***For my lifelong obsession with maps, I have mostly my mother to blame, because she bought me so many Atlases–Shepard’s Historical Atlas, Oxford Historical Atlas, just for starters–when I was very small and for some reason decorated my boyhood room with a collection historical individually framed maps of almost every county in England, Wales, & Scotland—this led to my grandparents, somewhat later, always putting me in charge of studying the maps when we traveled and making reports on local geography as we did—Baedeker was almost like a family friend, and sometimes AAA and National Geographic.

Mother’s Day 2010—of mothers, grandmothers, Gregg Abbott, and the Alamo….

On Mother’s Day, I can’t help thinking what an amazing and diverse institution motherhood is. Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World” predicted a society in which motherhood would be gone, a thing of the past. I think of the difference between my two grandmothers, one with one child and the other with 9. Yet they both remained married to their first and only husbands for life, and in fact outlived their husbands.

Then I think of a recent new acquaintance and friend of mine, Melinda S., now pregnant with her second child, by a second father, still never married, and I think of or try to imagine how different her life is now and is going to be from either of my grandmothers. Will she have five children by five different fathers before she turns 30? At this rate….quite possibly. Is she the future? Melinda’s mother is taking care of her first son already. I know lots of grandmothers taking care of their grandkids. But come to think of it, my grandmother raised me more than my mother did. Although my mother had a great influence on my life as a teacher and friend, albeit with great ups and downs and sometimes time gaps in our relationship—sometimes really major time gaps in fact. But my mother taught me the Magnificat and most of the prayers I know, and a great deal of everything I know in and about English, French, German, and Italian literature, music, and civilization traces to my mother directly or indirectly. Still, she really never played any games with me or dressed me when I was young–that was left to my grandmother or others. My mother was, I suppose, half-way between my grandmothers and Melinda…. both chronologically and behaviorally. What a strange, interesting thought. All three generations very intelligent, and very atypical of their own time in some ways, while epitomizing their time in others. I admire my grandmothers and their lives and marriages. I see few others. It does appear that my Latin American Comadres Betty M. and Lee A. will stay with their first and only husbands through life, Betty M. more surely than Lee. A recent friend as of last year, Milenne D., an economically privileged wife of an M.D. and mother of four, seems like a mother of the old school, even to the point of joining her husband in dinnertime prayers every night….but she’s yet young….how will she seem in 20 years I wonder? Will she be able to maintain her traditional status? Kathleen W., another relatively young mother of four beautiful children, is nowhere nearly as economically privileged as Milenne, but she has cleaved to her troubled marriage rather than dissolving all ties to an absent and unsupportive husband, but Kathleen’s children at least benefit from her stability and commitment to them and to the concept of family, while even someone like my mother has shown a definite “modern” commitment to self over family. So Is Motherhood on the rise or declining or stable as an aspect of human life? Or is motherhood just changing, now “divorced” from traditional family in a strangely pseudo-Huxleyan fashion? Will mothers ever be replaced by test-tubes and labs? Life would be so much poorer. But, in essence, Sigmund Freud taught of the hazards of motherhood interconnected with “Civilization and its Discontents” and warned the 20th century to fear the psychological consequences of the mother-child bond, and the social engineers of the 20th century have certainly been persecuting the family as a whole, trying to make it less and less stable and relevant. Huxley equated or conflated Sigmund Freud’s research and teachings with Henry Ford’s mass production: observing that both led to socio-economic philosophies advocating and idealizing “instant gratification”. If there’s anything I think motherhood is not, it is instantly gratifying. Texas is where I was born and where I became aware of all the problems and pitfalls of family, especially my first contact with the Family Court system, which I consider to be one of the most evil and socially destructive institutional systems in modern America. The Texas Attorney General, like all modern state attorney generals, is largely if not primarily a debt collector, a hunter seeking out “deadbeat dads”, berating them, jailing them, punishing them. Child support is a disguised socialistic wealth-redistributive tax that is particularly in tune with the socialist agenda because it both encourages families to split and maximizes tension between spouses after the split. The Texas Attorney General has his central offices in Austin, Texas, located in a county called Travis, named after William Barrett Travis, remembered as the Heroic Commander of the Alamo in the Texas War of Independence. Yet Travis himself was the consummate “deadbeat dad” having left not only his native South Carolina but his native country, the United States of America, to escape his responsibilities to his wife and children back on the old farmstead. History records very little of the study of William Barrett Travis’ wife or his children. Did they even know of their husband/father’s status as a hero in that radio-less, televisionless, AP-wireless era? What were their lives like? Were any of his children Confederate officers or soldiers? Would his wife have been better off if William Barrett Travis had been hunted down by a 19th Century Gregg Abbott and jailed for failure to pay child support? What would have happened at the Alamo and in Texas History Generally? What comments would William Barrett Travis’ wife have to make about this article? About the concept of mandatory child support? Or about the Revolution in Texas and her husband’s last stand at the Alamo? About his pronouncement that, “I will never surrender or retreat” in his last letter of which my grandparents had an engraved copy hanging in the bedroom in Highland Park, Dallas, in which both of them died, 21 years apart, in 1980 and 2001?