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DRY AND WARMER weather conditions are forecast to prevail through the weekend. Another long stretch of dry weather is forecast next week. (NWS)
MUSHROOM HIKE (how many can you identify)
AV UNIFIED NEWS
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
I hope this message finds you well and you are enjoying some special family time. We have a couple of important meetings coming up next week. We would love local participation.
On Tuesday, November 30th we have two meetings scheduled at the High School Library.
Budget Overview Meeting
School district funding is complicated and we've had a request to share information about our current budget. Lee and I will be talking about how our funding structures work and some of the challenges that we face as a district. If you would like to join us please do so at the high school library at 3:30 p.m.. We welcome all staff, parents, and interested community members.
Bond Oversight Committee
We have a newly formed Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 30 at 4:30 p.m. at the high school library. This committee monitors existing bond fund expenditures. All persons are welcome to attend.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (707) 684-1017.
With deepest thanks to be part of your community--Best wishes to you!
Louise Simson, Superintendent
THANKSGIVING AT THE DONUT SHOP WITH GRANDMA
by Justine Frederiksen
Every day my grandmother walked to the donut shop down the street for some coffee and conversation with the other regulars who felt like family. And they must have been like family to the owners as well, because they hosted holiday meals for them. And one Thanksgiving, my grandmother invited me to join the gathering at the donut shop.
That was cool.
I don’t remember spending any Thanksgivings with my grandmother as a child. Likely because she lived in Los Angeles most of the years my parents were raising my sister and me near Santa Cruz, but also I’m not sure that holiday was very important to her. She didn’t like to bake or cook at all, and never seemed comfortable at social gatherings, especially those with family.
I was never really close to my grandmother, I was always too afraid of her temper and criticism to relax. But the years I was in college we came the closest to being friends, talking on the phone and writing letters at least once a week, and visiting each other several times a year.
My last year of college, I drove up from campus to stay with her in Santa Cruz (where she had moved to when I was a teenager) during my holiday break, so we were both invited to the donut shop that Thanksgiving.
She didn’t cook anything to bring; most of what she made in the kitchen was canned soup, toast and tea. But she did buy a pumpkin pie at Trader Joe’s, put on hose and her best hat, and seemed very happy to introduce me to her family at the donut shop. I think she was quite proud that I was finally completing a university degree as my mother had, especially since for years it seemed I would never move on from community college.
I remember feeling proud of her that day, and happy she had found that family at the donut shop.
Orphaned by the Spanish flu and raised in a Masonic home until she was 18, my grandmother had struggled ever since to maintain intimate relationships.
She never married or even had long-term romantic relationship, but she did have a daughter whom she raised as a single working mother in the 1940s and ’50s. As adults they had a tense relationship, but my grandmother deeply loved her only child, and was quietly devastated when she was killed in a car crash at the age of 41.
From a mostly respectful distance, my grandmother did all she could to make sure my sister and I were taken care of after the crash, especially financially since my mother had been the breadwinner. But for the nearly five decades that I knew my grandmother, everyone in her life seemed to be kept very carefully at arm’s length.
Which is why I think she sought out places like the donut shop, where you could sit and soak in other humans as much, or as little, as you wanted. And then leave whenever you wanted.
At the orphanage in Southern California where she was raised, the dozens of children ate all their meals together in a large dining room. I imagine for my grandmother, eating and drinking in a communal setting like the donut shop must have felt like home, giving her the kind of intimacy she was most comfortable with.
But the donut shop was even better, because she was always able to choose whom to sit next to and for how long, usually recording in her daily journals whom she talked with and what they discussed.
One day it was the woman who “also likes Opera and loves to travel.” Another the man who was unhappy because his dog ran away and his wife was smoking too much. One afternoon she talked to “men, one named Bruce,” about “films and olden times,” and later that week the same men helped her solve car trouble, suggesting she use a hair dryer on her distributor when the engine wouldn’t turn over on cold mornings.
Learning my grandmother had such a support system that day made me so relieved. And to hope that we can all find a donut shop of our own.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
COMMUNITY LIVES! An on-line report: “Fort Bragg Presbytarian is feeding 1,000 people on Thanksgiving. It's all take out or delivered. That means 1,000 brown bags with condiments, dinner rolls individually wrapped, dinnerware and napkins. We set all that up yesterday. The food preparation has been in progress since Monday under the leadership of Qeenie from Elk's Roadhouse Cafe. Today we pack 1,000 bags with take-out plates of food, a drink, the condiments bag and a dessert. People will drive up to collect their meals or meals are delivered by volunteers. And Printha Worthen has organized it all! Many hands have worked to make it happen. BTW, everyone of the volunteers has been vaccinated. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!”
FOOD BANKS STRUGGLE TO KEEP UP AMID RECORD INFLATION, HIGH DEMAND
by Alana Minkler
Sara Rives, a mother of two, patiently sat in a car line on Tuesday with her sons and her mother. The lengthy queue leading to Friends In Service Here, a Santa Rosa food pantry, spilled out onto Sebastopol Road.
As meat and gas prices soar amid record inflation and pandemic-related supply chain issues, Rives said, her family tries to only use their car when they need it. So on Tuesday, with Thanksgiving approaching, that meant a quick stop at F.I.S.H. before taking her son to a doctor’s appointment.
Rives is a part-time student at Santa Rosa Junior College, where she studies English as a second language. She stopped working two years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. Then the pandemic hit.
All of that together, she said, has made money extremely tight.
Rives is one of thousands of Sonoma County residents who rely on food distribution to feed their families, but food banks are struggling to keep up with increased demand and the surging price of food.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said David Goodman, CEO of Redwood Empire Food Bank, the North Coast’s largest food bank. He has been working in hunger relief for 27 years.
Increased costs could decrease contributions
Amid a global spike in inflation, local food bank organizers fear the rising costs of food staples, as well as gas, will threaten donations at a time when increased food insecurity is prompting families like Rives’ to rely more heavily on food giveaways.
Before the pandemic began, Redwood Empire Food Bank served approximately 10,300 households per month on average. At their highest mark in May 2020, they were serving about 34,000 households.
Now, current demand for Redwood Empire is about 17,400 households per month ― that’s the good news. The bad news is that’s still 69% higher than pre-pandemic levels. And with inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, the food bank is forced to spend much more to serve those experiencing food insecurity and hunger, Goodman said.
The numbers of those in need across the county is still higher than before the pandemic.
In March 2020, there were 26,741 individuals in Sonoma County using CalFresh, California's version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In September there were 31,018 individuals, according to data from the California Department of Social Services.
Along with receiving state and federal subsidy packages, the food bank buys tremendous amounts of fresh food and other goods that provision health to the households being served, Goodman said.
“It costs us more and costs donors more,” Goodman said, but it’s well worth it.
Products from the state’s primary food aid program have also been limited due to supply chain bottlenecks, said Allison Goodwin, director of programs for Redwood Empire Food Bank. They use those items for their senior baskets, packages of goods that are delivered to seniors in need.
The real cost of food
Additionally, consumer prices increased 6.2% compared to last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s Consumer Price Index. That’s the largest 12-month increase since 1990, the bureau reported. Energy prices increased 30% and the food index increased 5.3% over the last 12 months, they reported.
“I learn a lot from our clients,” said Mark Silvia, who was passed out groceries at the drive-through pantry at F.I.S.H. on Tuesday. “People are struggling.There are a lot of people who are just making ends meet.”
A retired computer operator and part-time barber, Silvia relies solely on Social Security and is both a volunteer and client at the local pantry. He spends his free time providing care and home-cooked meals to homeless friends. He said F.I.S.H allows him to keep doing what he loves: helping others.
Rising prices of food and gas have families struggling right now, and “if they didn't have us, I don’t know if they would be able to feed their families,” he said.
“Santa Rosa is a great community for this,” Silvia said. “The people stick together. My feeling is that people come together in dire need. I’m glad — I’m proud to be here.”
He thanked the donors who help keep the pantry running through hard times, especially around the holiday season.
“’Tis the season, right?” he added cheerfully before heading back to the line of cars.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
RESERVOIR OPERATORS file to keep more water in Lake Mendocino
Mechanical failure at PG&E hydroelectric plant affecting inflows
In a reported effort to keep more water in Lake Mendocino, the Sonoma County Water Agency announced this week that it has filed a petition with the State Water Resources Control Board to request a change in the amount of water it is required to release into the Russian River “due to a mechanical failure at the Pacific Gas and Electric hydroelectric facility.”
The facility is called the Potter Valley Project, and diverts water from the Eel River through a tunnel and the hydroelectric facility before the water eventually flows into Lake Mendocino. The water agency notes in a press release that “typically, the water supply condition, which establishes minimum instream flows in the Russian River, is determined by inflow into Lake Pillsbury, located upstream of the Potter Valley Project. But because the water imported from the Eel River into the Russian River will be greatly diminished due to the hydropower plant failure, there will be little to no correlation between cumulative inflow into Lake Pillsbury and the hydrologic conditions in the Russian River watershed.”
Therefore, the agency reports that it filed “a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) requesting that the water supply condition and associated minimum instream flow requirements be determined based on storage thresholds at Lake Mendocino. Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma remain at or near their lowest levels for this time of year since filling in 1959 and 1986, respectively. This makes it even more critical that the water supply condition and corresponding minimum instream flows in the Russian River be determined by a hydrologic index representative of the Russian River watershed.”
As of Nov. 18, Lake Mendocino had 20,206 acre-feet of water in storage, an amount that was only 36 percent of the target amount (55,154 acre-feet) for that date. As of 9 a.m. Nov. 24, the reservoir had 20,534 acre-feet.
The Soco water agency notes that if the petition is approved, “the water supply condition would remain ‘critical’ through Dec. 31, 2021. On Jan. 1, 2022, the water supply condition will be re-evaluated based on storage in Lake Mendocino and monthly thereafter until June 1, 2022 when the water supply condition will be set until the end of the year.”
The agency also explains in a press release that “PG&E officials have indicated that it is unlikely the company will repair the facility given the likelihood that it may surrender its license to continue operating the PVP.”
A copy of the November 2021 TUCP is available at: https://www.sonomawater.org/tucp
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)
THAT’S US, CHUCK
Charles Dunbar Writes:
The Anderson Valley Good Samaritan
For Thanksgiving Day I thought I’d write in gratitude about a recent encounter my wife had with a wonderfully helpful Anderson Valley workman.
This event occurred a few weeks ago, as my wife was traveling by herself to the city for a short vacation, including seeing several exhibits at the De Young Museum. She’d been working very hard for months and was excited about this little getaway. She’d driven through Boonville on 128, then several miles beyond, a deer leaped into the roadway, and she hit it with the left fender. As she’d been going 50 mph or so, the deer was killed, while part of the car was scraping against the left tire, making the car difficult and unsafe to drive. She called me at home, shaken-up, very upset, in tears. It seemed clear at that point that her car needed to be towed, and her trip was ruined. I began the process of finding a tow truck to help her.
Then, 20 minutes later my wife called again. This time she had surprising news. After many cars had passed her by, a truck from a local vineyard company had gone by, then stopped, turned around, and come back to help her. This very kind gentleman assessed the damage, then got down on the ground to work on it. Within 15 minutes, he was able to remove the rubberized fender liner, which was rubbing on the tire, and secured the damaged bumper with a zip tie. He told her that she was safe to continue on her trip. She was of course very grateful for his help, thanked him profusely and offered to pay for his help, which he declined. So on she continued with her trip, which was otherwise an enjoyable one.
So we thank this Good Samaritan from Anderson Valley, as we thank all the good folks in our little county and beyond who help others in need. And yes, we sent a note of thanks to this kind man, as well as some home-baked cookies, and a note of appreciation for a fine employee to his company.
Happy Thanksgiving to all the AVA family and friends!
HARBINGER of another year of drought and fire? The Navarro has been closed at the mouth going on four days now after being blasted open and purged of its accumulated poisons in the October deluge, which already seems like it just might be the only deluge we get this year.
INSOFAR as it’s possible to be shocked by anything that happens in Mendocino County, the Skunk’s attempt to eat the Fort Bragg headlands is shocking. Couple points: This Toonerville Trolley-like entity can’t rehab or maintain its present line and, some of us will recall, when the lead Skunk, Robert Pinoli, revealed big plans for the Willits end of the decrepit line, when it came time to put up proof that he had the money to do it, the scheme collapsed.
HOW a private party of three individuals can pretend to be a public entity with the authority to eminent domain an extensive oceanfront property worth millions, is also mysterious, and a mystery certain to be un-mystified by attorneys representing the true interests of Fort Bragg.
COUPLE MORE POINTS: The see-through “authority” for the Skunk's eminent domain acquisition is pegged to the Skunk's murky status as a federally-qualified freight hauler, which it obviously is not. And for the enterprising lead Skunk to invoke the Skunk's opposition to shipping coal along the now privately owned old Northwestern Pacific rail lines is like being FOR the second prevalent Northcoast fantasy, the Great Redwood Trail. (Former congressman Bosco is first in line as the old line's senior creditor. How he chiseled his way into being the main creditor on track running from northern SoCo to Eureka is a long, complicated story recently laid out in all its odiferous detail in the Pacific Sun.)
JUST AS CHIMERICAL as a vague midwest Indian tribe transporting coal from the middle of the country to the East Bay, then along a defunct rail line so their coal can be shipped to China out of Eureka's defunct port… is state senator McGuire's Great Redwood Trail, which is clearly essential to Bosco's cash-in of its imaginary route.
IN ITS PRIME as a log and lumber hauler, when the Skunk connected to the Northwestern Pacific at Willits, the Skunk also ran a passenger car or two out of Fort Bragg, making it possible for Coasties to have breakfast in FB and dinner in San Francisco. That was what? 1955? Tunnels and the Skunk's innumerable trestles were maintained by full-time crews. Since, the Skunk's infrastructure has steadily deteriorated.
THE EMINENT DOMAIN move by the three privateers to take over more than two hundred acres of primo Fort Bragg ocean-side land is almost breathtaking in its conception to parlay a big hunk of public money into their private, multi-million dollar acquisition. Not the first time that particular scam-a-rama has been pulled off in America, but the first time Mendocino County has had a front row seat.
BUT THERE are already comments like this one circulating on social media: “So the plan I saw in the ‘propaganda’ flyer looked pretty awesome. Lots of residential and commercial land to provide housing and jobs… If that actually went into action it seems like it would be a really good thing for the town. Are people upset because they think the city would do it better and faster for cheaper?? I know the tunnel has been sitting closed for a while but I believe there are some complexities to that situation that don't necessarily equate to the Skunk being negligent. In my opinion, I don't care who owns it. I just want to see housing and job growth. Period. If the city can do it better and faster than the Skunk then I'm 100% behind the city. But I would say the city has a longer history of NOT getting stuff done and/or spending way more than projected and/or abandoning projects half way…”
MORE ON LINE SKEPTICISM: “I am a bit confused here. The rail, to the best of my knowledge, no longer goes through to Willits due to trestle instability, and a recent collapse in the tunnel (remember when they accepted donations from the community to help pay for the repair?). If memory serves me correctly, the railway did not have the funds to fix the rail issues to provide service through to Willits and maintain their existing route, but somehow now has money to purchase land and expand the services. I guess they're just not that interested in running a railroad any more. It looks like someone is boosting their egos rather than the business. But even if they have to spend another $3.75M for cleanup the total acquisition price is still just around $5M. For 300 acres in the heart of town, right on the coast. That amounts to $16,700 per acre of prime real estate. [Ed note: For comparison: a quick on line check says prime Napa or Sonoma County vineyard goes for upwards of $200k per acre.] Still doesn't make sense. Fort Bragg isn't Beverly Hills, but it is a nice enough little town and if this parcel is developed well it could have a major impact on the attractiveness (and commercial value) of the entire town. The use of eminent domain to acquire the land is particularly galling. Particularly given the nature of the ‘railroad’ employing this tool. It would be nice if the city were successful in negating the purchase and is able to acquire the land and develop it for the benefit of the entire town rather than for the primary benefit of a single private owner.”
NOT A GOOD time for Fort Bragg to lose its capable city manager, Tabatha Miller, who has announced she will be outtahere on January 22, 2022. Ms. Miller arrived in an unhappy town whose unhappiness was largely caused by the previous city manager in league with the kind of illiberal liberals who dominate much of Mendocino County's public life. Ms. Miller restored order and a good measure of civic serenity. No one's irreplaceable, but she comes close.
AS FOR THE SUPERVISOR'S really, really, really bad decision to sign off on CEO Angelo's move, inspired by DA Eyster, to move the auditing and treasurer function under the CEO's authority, is nicely summed up by a reader: “Don’t worry about the treasurer and auditor consolidation. In two years the county will realize their mistake and then spend another giant glob of our money to hire consultants and in three years they will un-consolidate. That seems to be their dance. And so it was at Mendo College. Money spent on ENDLESS meetings, full color brochures for top tier candidates everyone disliked in a month.” (Eyster was unhappy with Ms. Cubbison of the Auditor's office for challenging his travel reimbursement requests, so he ran to Mommy Dearest to take over the office that dared challenge him. “There, there, Davy. Mommy will get those meany faces for you.”) Natch, the five auto-votes signed off on the deal with nary a peep.
REGRETS & STUFF
by Paul Modic
There are some minor regrets which make no difference in the big picture but I'm still bugged by the memory. I'm thinking now of lost items from my past which I didn't even think about safeguarding or storing carefully when I was caught up in life fifty years ago. I didn't think about them until years later when I realized they were gone, in this case letters I received from famous people. (As well as a “Mad Magazine” I got Roy Rogers to autograph at the Cleveland Airport.)
I knew my rights when I was a high school kid and when I was being harassed by school authorities I went right to the Supreme Court! I wrote a letter to Justice Hugo Black explaining that they were objecting to my long hair and received a signed letter back. I don't remember the exact wording of that brief note, something about working it out with the school.
Later the baseball coach wouldn't let me try out for the team because of the hair and I got one of my mom's buddies, Hugh Martz, the director of the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, to contact the school. After that they let me try out but I ignominiously broke a bat during hitting practice which seemed to count against me by reflecting on my talent or lack thereof and I didn't make the cut. Oddly, fifty years later, I still have half that splintered bat. (My parents also called Hugh Martz when I drunkenly barfed in the police station after they found a joint in my pocket: “I pleaded middle class and got off” has been my line ever since.)
Another time I mailed Dear Abby a question, I think about turmoil in the family, fighting parents, that sort of thing, and she sent me back a reply the contents of which I don't remember.
I left home at eighteen and never thought about those letters again until my younger sister cleared out my mother's house where we had all grown up. I asked her a couple times over the years if she remembered what happened to my stuff or if she remembered throwing those letters out and she got viscerally angry at my question, which mystified me. I finally stopped asking her as it wasn't worth seeing her display of emotion.
So I've got the broken bat but not the letters. I've also got about twelve boxes of memorabilia from the last forty years which I took out of two or three filing cabinets three years ago when I moved out of my place in the country and sold those sweet five Mendo acres an hour's hike to the sea along Whale Creek.
Soon after the move I put one of the boxes on a table and started going through it. Almost every relic fascinated me from old passports and driver’s licenses to programs from local theatre productions, including a bindle of fake cocaine serving as the program for “Nobody Nose,” a “Pure Schmint” play. I started making categories of the stuff and marked a few of the folders “Don't Save,” but we all know that an impartial sorter, friend, or family member would probably get rid of most if not all of it, right? (I tossed hardly anything.)
Yesterday I went online and looked at scrapbooks thinking I could conceivably cull through the couple thousand pieces of remembrances and souvenirs and catalog a nice selection of a few hundred maybe? Then in my dotage, which may be already rockin' along, I could look at the memories as I'm drooling in my wheelchair?
Does everyone save all that stuff? Maybe we could compile a collection of scrap books as some kind of local history project?
Also the letters: I have hundreds and don't seem to have the energy or inclination to sort or read them. I would be more interested in reading your letters! What if we traded? I'll give you a packet of fifty from the eighties, you give me yours, and we could report back on what we found?
Now I'm getting in deep: the past, the evidence—what next?
* * *
ED NOTE: Your memorabilia would certainly be of interest to one of the HumCo historical societies.
FAILURE TO PLAN
There seemed to be a time in the distant past when planners looked to the future. In 1958, seeing and preparing for the growth and expansion of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, that foresight gave the community Lake Mendocino. Families, industries and businesses have grown into larger and larger communities. Every year more and more come here.
Despite current needs and the needs of the next 20, 50, 75 years, it is said that upgrading, expanding, or dredging a larger capacity of water for Lake Mendocino wouldn’t deliver the bang for the buck.
How did this lifestyle become our way? When and what will make the water needs of the expansion of our communities worth it? When the water supply was originally planned, was it worth the bang for the buck? Are they waiting for higher interest rates and labor and equipment costs to get more corporate value while climate change reduces water availability?
State and federal funds aid these necessary improvements. Does wealth and Wall Street’s mentality control every aspect of government? With this attitude, Lake Mendocino may not have been here.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 25, 2021
MARTIN CASTER, Redding/Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, damaging communications device, probation violation.
HENRY CASTORENA, Ukiah. Battery, criminal threats.
CHRISTOPHER COCHRAN, Willits. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, failure to appear.
KENNETH ELLER, Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen property, suspended license.
JEANNETTE LONG, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CARLOS MAGANA, Ukiah. Over an ounce of pot, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
GRANT OLTJENBRUNS, Willits. DUI, resisting.
RONALD PEDIGO, Ukiah. Transient registration, failure to appear.
JEFFREY POWELL, Covelo. DUI.
JEFFREY RETTER, Fruita, Colorado/Willits. Domestic battery, damaging communications device.
SHAUN WAY, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
THANKSGIVING IS AWESOME
by Matt Taibbi
Thanksgiving Day is here and gone for 2021, and as is the fashion, it’s taking a beating. “What is Thanksgiving to Indigenous People? ‘A Day of Mourning,’” writes the onetime daily Bible of American mass culture, USA Today. The Washington Post fused a clickhole headline format with white guilt to create, “This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.” Even the pundits who didn’t rummage in the past in search of reasons for Americans to flog themselves this week found some in the future, a la the Post’s climate-change take on Turkey Day menus: “What’s on the Thanksgiving table in a hotter, drier world?”
MSNBC meanwhile kept us all festive by reminding us, with regard to the now-infamous Pilgrims, that “Instead of bringing stuffing and biscuits, those settlers brought genocide and violence.”
Where’s all this headed? In the space of a generation America has gone from being a country brimming with undeserved over-confidence, to one whose intellectual culture has turned into an agonizing, apparently interminable run of performative self-flagellation.
Whether or not to enjoy Thanksgiving is not the hard part of the American citizen’s test. Thanksgiving is awesome. Everything about it, from the mashed potatoes to the demented relatives to the pumpkin pies to the farts, is top-drawer holiday enjoyment. The only logical complaint about modern Thanksgiving involves forcing the poor Detroit Lions to play a marquee role every year. I think we can all agree that whole situation is a net minus, especially for them, no matter how funny the first fifteen minutes of those games usually are.
But the historical self-mortification has gotten out of hand. American exceptionalism used to mean 300 million yahoos being so convinced they were a unique force for good in the world that history before 1776 was irrelevant. We’re now living through the moronic inverse: America is such a unique evil, we’re told, so much the standard-bearer for the oppression of innocent peoples everywhere, that human suffering before 1776 is hardly worth mentioning. Or before 1492, as it were, since a lot of the current fashion stems from our pseudo-intellectual class being unable suddenly to handle the revelations of one decades-old book.
In the opening pages of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, we read the log of Christopher Columbus, who recounts the first meeting of Europeans with the native Arawaks of the Bahamas:
“They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it and cut themselves out of ignorance… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
Zinn’s Columbus is a genocidal monster who not only massacred natives from Hispaniola to Haiti, and sold women and children by the thousands for “sex and labor,” but was so personally petty that he stole the reward of the poor sailor on his own ship who spotted land first, by claiming the feat himself. It’s hard to read Zinn’s account, which includes horrifying details like Indians murdering their own children to spare them the tortures of life under Spaniards, and not have a second thought or ten about the legend of the “discovery of America.”
I found A People’s History a fascinating and enjoyable read when I first read it in college, but that was when it was a ballsy, quasi-forbidden counterfactual to official narrative, not anyone’s idea of the actual “History of the United States.” The national idea of historical reflection back then was Forrest Gump, literally a two-hour shrug. Because of that, the book made sense then. Decades later, in the middle of a reverse cultural mania that devours it as gospel, Zinn’s book reads like the rantings of a mental patient.
After he finishes his tale of Columbus’s rampage through sinless indigenous cultures, Zinn contrasts it with the fables Americans of the time were all taught in school, in which “there is no bloodshed” upon the his arrival. He goes on to torch as an example the work of Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, whose Christopher Columbus, Mariner contains only a passing reference to the “cruel policy initiated by Columbus… [that] resulted in complete genocide.”
It takes stones to write an entire book about a major historical figure and include as a throwaway line, “And by the way, he committed genocide.” Incredibly, Zinn manages to be just as bad, if not worse. Of course A People’s History was designed to be the missing case for the prosecution, a chronicle of everything the Morrisons of the world left out, but his version of five hundred years of history contains just two characters, pure villains and pure victims. You’ve heard of Alien versus Predator; the People’s History could have been titled Hitlers and Baby Seals.
All his Europeans from Columbus on down are more or less indistinguishably monstrous, and even Abraham Lincoln and FDR are almost interchangeable capitalist tools, at most to be congratulated for being unenthusiastic oppressors. (The book in this sense reads a lot like the 1619 Project). A People’s History after its release in 1980 was often described as “radical,” but the radicalism wasn’t in the subject matter, but its maniacal sorting of humanity into two simplistic piles. Decades before it was fashionable, Zinn sketched out an intersectional construct that flattened much of humanity into a single interconnected mass of one-dimensional victimhood, “centering” the matrix of America’s oppressed:
“The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.
“Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees…”
No matter how interesting a book he or she is able to write, any author who admits to looking out at the world and seeing only “victims and executioners” needs psychological help. Unfortunately, Zinn in this respect turned out to be a pioneer, presaging a generation of comic-book thinkers who understand things in binary terms, forever preoccupied with cramming people in neat categories of oppressors and oppressed.
Such mental habits are the fashion now and will definitely put you in a bind on Thanksgiving. How can I eat turkey and stuffing with a smile, when Columbus massacred the Arawaks? When the English forced the Wampanoags off their land and made many convert to Christianity? When Lincoln told Horace Greeley, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it”?
How? Maybe because you’re more than three years old, and don’t need fairy tales to be real in order to enjoy dinner with family and a football game?
We don’t ask Russians how they can sit around the yelochka every New Year and open presents knowing that Ivan the Terrible used to roast prisoners in giant frying pans, or how they can smoke Belomorkanal cigarettes knowing the real White Sea canal is filled with the bones of slave laborers. I think even most MSNBC anchors would agree, that would be stupid. But we do this to ourselves all the time now, and every year it gets worse.
All this is just a come-down from the high of Reagan-era exceptionalism. The drug has worn off and we’re realizing, in the cold light of sobriety, that we suck every bit as much as other nations. So we’re swinging, as all people with hangovers do, to an opposite extreme.
We’ve lost touch with our real story, which is about us, not the centuries-old adventures of toffs in wigs. The Founding Fathers may have been scum, but they didn’t just steal a continent from the indigenous residents, they stole one from a British King, which is, come on, hilarious. These revolutionaries — Kurt Vonnegut called them “Sea Pirates” — then drew up a document sanctifying their own pursuit of obscene wealth, flying flags that were strikingly like “Let’s Go Brandon” in sentiment while reveling in the horror they inspired in aristocrats all over Europe. Then, in a move that secured their heist while providing the manpower they needed for expansion, they started opening their doors to castoffs, screwups, and cultists from other countries.
Almost none of us are related to Pilgrims or Founders. Nearly all of us descended from those subsequent waves of weirdos and refugees who came from all over, some not by choice, and forged the real character of our stolen nation. Many of our ancestors had their hands forced elsewhere, from Jews in the Pale fleeing pogroms to Irish escaping famines to Armenians running from Ottoman genocides. Once they got here, they happily planted Sea Pirate flags on their front doors and set about inventing everything from cat litter to alternating current, while mostly refraining from murdering one another. It was an insane setup, but they made the whole thing work, which is a pretty amazing story even figuring in the horribleness, and really what we’re celebrating every November. You have to reduce the American experience to a few ridiculously grim variables, and remove everything from movies to rock n’ roll to monster dunks, to spend today sulking.
Years ago, during a time in my life when I’d fled the United States to St. Petersburg, Russia with no intention of returning, my best friend was a Swiss named Daniel, with whom I’d studied at a Soviet University. Like all people from his country, Daniel was a polyglot. He spoke perfect English and Russian, but hanging out with him was disorienting, because he’d be talking like a mechanic from Baltimore and suddenly forget the word for washing machine and start miming a spin cycle. It took getting used to, but it was funny — we laughed a lot. On Thanksgiving one year, I told him I was going to the consulate for dinner. “Thanksgiving,” he said. “That’s the one where you killed all the Indians, right?”
“Not me personally, but yes.”
“Bring back leftovers,” he answered. I went to the consulate, which of course spared no expense in laying out a fantastic spread, but spent most of the day shooting baskets in a back lot with a group of black Marine guards. On the way out I stole a haul of turkey and cranberry sauce, which Daniel and I devoured with a bottle of vodka later that night, in one of the best Thanksgivings of my life. This holiday is about friends and family. Enjoy them today, don’t listen to the haters, and go Lions.
WALL STREET’S TAKEOVER OF NATURE Advances with Launch of New Asset Class
A project of the multilateral development banking system, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Stock Exchange recently created a new asset class that will put, not just the natural world, but the processes underpinning all life, up for sale under the guise of promoting “sustainability.”
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Gobble, gobble, go the turkeys. Squeals before meals. Silence, then the feast. Thank the Universe for both yourself and the Bird and your “higher” situation.
Do you like the leg, the breast or the thigh, gentlemen?
Jurors find organizers of the Unite the Right rally liable for $25 million.
Jurors also nailed the McMichaels in the Arbery case.
One out of three isn’t so good.
Rittenhouse for Man of the Year, but Time wouldn’t dare.
CUBA'S HOMEGROWN COVID-19 VACCINES Poised to Protect Millions in Poor Nations
As rich countries hoard doses and Big Pharma refuses to share the knowledge required to ramp up manufacturing, Cuba's public biotech sector could play a key role in defeating vaccine apartheid — medicines as well as doctors.
CHANTING IN THE DARKNESS
Warmest spiritual greetings on Indigenous Peoples' Day,
Just came inside from hours of chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantram in Garberville, California in the dark. This is an excellent sadhana!! Not the body...Not the mind...Immortal Self I am. Seriously, what more could anybody seriously desire? And then, while sunk into the big green couch at The Earth First! Media Center, discovered the Krishna Das Thursday online satsang happening on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SolqttDsfY
Moment to moment to moment...rest comfortably in your own svarupa (heart center/chakra), The golden glow there is you! The ego by comparison is a joke.
As always in postmodern America, feel free to contact me if you want to do anything. At this point, I'm just hanging around Southern Humboldt county.
Craig Louis Stehr, firstname.lastname@example.org