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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Monday, September 19, 2005
Conspiracy Theory?

Yesterday, you see, was the anniversary of Anne Hutchinson’s death. I didn’t now her; had never heard of her till yesterday but now she fills my thoughts with all sorts of consternation.

The prevailing wisdom is that men have abused women for millennia. Several years ago I was taken to task by my sister-in-law for not even being slightly aware of how badly women have been treated throughout history. I admitted – at least to myself – that I had never paid a lot of attention to the topic, most probably because I was on the male side of the question and quite comfortable. So, I started checking and was astonished at what I thought I had found. It was hard to be comfortable with the apparent history of the world, male versus female-wise.

But Anne Hutchinson brings my recent education once again into question. Because I had never heard of her. Because she was an educated, influential, and gutsy woman who stood the male establishment on its collective ear. What makes her different than others just like her is that I just learned about her yesterday.

Over in the forums, I have been having a good deal of fun playing with this man-woman politic postulating a vast conspiracy conducted over centuries to make men believe they are in charge. The conspiracy encourages men to believe women should be kept barefoot and pregnant because this keeps men out of trouble. My story was going to demonstrate that every time a women exercised influence in the real world, a man would come along and write a book or start a movement to counter that influence and get women back where they belong. I had not yet decided the purpose of my imaginary conspiracy.

The trouble with Anne Hutchinson is that she shouldn’t have occurred. Here were the Puritans, masters of barefoot and pregnant, discovering an intelligent, educated woman in their midst. Not only that, she was talking to other intelligent, educated men and women and they were drawing conclusions the Puritans could not live with. The Boston Puritans sent Anne Hutchinson into exile.

But, according to the common wisdom she should not have existed. Who allowed her to be taught, to think for herself, and why? She is as curious in her time as Heloise was in hers. The middle of the Dark Ages and Heloise is the equal to any male philosopher anywhere? How the hell did that happen? Or Hypatia? The Cathars? The women of the French salons?

Of course, the outcry can be heard that these were notable exceptions but the counter to that argument is that all the people in recorded history are notable exceptions to the rule; that’s why they are in recorded history.

In the immortal words of Alice: curiouser and curiouser.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-09-19 13:32:09

Friday, September 16, 2005
Why Tell the Truth When a Myth Will Do Nicely?

September 16, 1620

The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists--half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs--had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the "Pilgrims" reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.” The History Channel; Sep 16, 2005; http://www.historychannel.com/today/

Even The History Channel dares not stray too far from the official Thanksgiving Myth. They play a little fast and loose with facts such as the idea that 35 of the 102 travelers constitutes half and half religious dissenters and the idea of being blown off course may be nothing more than the realization that the dissenters wanted to get as far away from the Church of England as they could get. Going to Jamewstown would not accomplish that mission. There is evidence to suggest that John Smith had studied the region and named it “New England” in 1614 and that he even offered to guide voyage. He may have been too expensive so they just took his guidebook along instead. Add to that the strong possibility that Squanto had provided Ferdianando Gorges with a detailed description of the area. Gorges may even have sent Squanto and Capt Thomas Dermer as advance men to wait for the Pilgrims although Dermer sailed away when the Pilgrims were delayed in England.

Old traditions die hard, I guess, especially when they are commercially tied to an official U.S. holiday weekend.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-09-16 11:50:38

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Coming from a large family has many advantages, many disadvantages. You earn your stripes one by one over time. Some you sport proudly, some you never talk about, and some you wish there was a way to avoid.

A brother is a remarkable person. When he’s older than you, you spend most of your youth wishing you could do the things he’s allowed to do. Every now and then he does something admirable and you wish you could emulate him or at least grow up to be half that good. When he’s younger than you, you spend your youth ignoring his jealousies, enjoying him when it’s convenient, and generally looking forward to the time you won’t be required to share a bedroom with him.

Brothers turn out to be like other people. They seldom live up to your expectations; often take stands and attitudes that amaze and irritate you, and very often do not recognize the brilliance that you possess in your own right. Still, they are your brothers and that fact keeps you from severing all relationship with them. You might reduce contact, talk rarely, never write, engage in all the things that self-absorbed people find to keep their distance from others. In the end, when the phone rings, you answer the call.

When the brother is older, you get to attend his funeral, attempt to console nieces and nephews you’ve never been close to and wonder if he thought of you as you did of him. When he’s younger, you get to attend his hospital bed as he recovers from a stroke, watching him cry as he had never cried in his life; watching a proud, independent spirit fighting to come to terms with a sudden dependency on sisters and nurses and doctors all the while wishing nothing more than to be in his home taking care of himself.

Neither case is what you thought would happen. Neither case brings any emotion save regret that you had not done more for the brother before he was reduced to this state, a sort of non-emotion really, undefined and undefinable. And neither case gives you any satisfaction that you are whole while they are not.

A godly man could be grateful for the “there but for the grace of..”Unbelievers like me just wonder that half a century later the bond still matters.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-09-13 09:04:05

Sunday, September 11, 2005
The Joy of Editing sic Publishing

Please do not point Katherine the Great towards this blog.

"A frustrated writer came up with a novel scheme to test the intelligence of book publishers. He re-typed into manuscript form The Painted Bird, Jerry Kozinski's award winning novel, and submitted it under his own name to a dozen big publishers. They all rejected the manuscripts as not being worthy of publication, including the house that actually published The Painted Bird."

"Theodore Geisel's first book was rejected by twenty-three New York publishers before one dared to print it. And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street went on to sell millions of copies as did the rest of Dr. Seuess' many books."

"Dubliners, a collection of short stories by one of history's greatest writers, James Joyce, was rejected by twenty-two publishers before getting into print. The entire first edition was bought by a book hater, who burned every copy."

Okay, go ahead and tell Katherine the Great about this blog. :)

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-09-11 10:53:55

Saturday, September 10, 2005
Old Men and Witches

What happens when you put a bunch of old men in charge of something? They get it all screwed up. Take the British, for example. The old men of religious ardor had decreed the punishment for witchery was burning at the stake and that is a pretty fearsome punishment so they didn’t want to be handing it out to innocents. The problem was to determine whether or not an accused woman truly was a witch. They needed a reliable test.

Remember these were old men of religious ardor.

In the 1700s in England, the test devised was fool proof. In fact, no woman ever subjected to the test was ever proved different than the test reported. It had a 100% success rate.

Remember these were old men of religious ardor.

The test consisted of attempting to drown the accused woman. If she floated back to the top, the water had rejected her and she must therefore be a real witch and therefore eligible for burning at the stake. If she drowned, she wasn’t a witch.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-09-10 10:34:05

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