Confessions of a cracker

MY GRANDPARENTS were born in the 1890s and late 1880s, about 25 short years after the Civil War ended, and they were Southern to the bone.

They were, as am I, Georgia Crackers, but that’s not as simple a thing as you might think.

It’s popular these days to remove statues of Civil War participants, done with the silly notion they were all evil people, but they were not. Gen. Lee, for instance, opposed slavery, but he joined Confederate forces because he wouldn’t fight his native Virginia.

His dilemma was a 19th Century version of “it’s complicated.”

As a youngster I spent far more time with my maternal grandparents than with my father’s folks due to physical proximity, my mother being an only child, and my father not being overly fond of his own father, a Baptist deacon.

As a result I know nothing about my paternal grandparents’ racial attitudes, though I suspect they were extremely liberal, even from a modern perspective. They took Christian values very much to heart. There was nothing hypocritical about them.

My mother’s parents were another matter. My maternal grandfather died when I was 12, so I had little first-hand experience with him, which I did have, quite a lot, with my maternal grandmother who didn’t die till I was 22.

Of my four grandparents, my favorite by far was my maternal grandmother whose name was Osie Moree Powell. I spent weeks, sometimes months, alone with her on her South Georgia farm during school vacations when I was an adolescent.

There were two double beds in the bedroom. They were situated head to head with a small walk space between, and the two heads were beside an open window where we slept summer nights with an incoming breeze and the sound of crickets.

Confederate_Flag_3650She had two full-time employees for decades. One was the maid, Willie. The other was the handyman, Cap. They lived as man and wife in a house owned by my grandmother. It was down the road a piece.

The house down the road aspired to being a shack. Its unpainted, wooden walls were sieves, and it leaned ominously on brick footings. When I was about 15, my grandmother built them a new house almost directly across the clay road from her own home. She built this simple but sturdy house because she cared about them.

Willie was like part of our family when I was growing up, and my grandmother took care of all her needs. She took care of Cap’s too, which included bailing him out of jail after his frequent weekend benders. Cap was fond of bourbon.

My grandmother owned a Ford sedan. Sometimes, she would need Cap for a chore elsewhere, perhaps in nearby Sylvester, the town. They would get into the Ford, her up front driving, Cap sitting in the back seat, just like in buses in those times.

Driving Miss Daisy but with the roles reversed.

I cannot imagine that she told Cap to sit in the back seat, but he did, and she never indicated that he should do otherwise. It’s just how things were.

Though my grandmother was the sweetest woman imaginable, beloved by all, especially me, she reflected her times. I once asked her how she would view a daughter marrying a black man. She said she’d prefer the daughter be dead, and she meant it.

I grew up in segregated public schools. There were no black classmates though I did not finish high school till 1962, which was after schools were integrated in areas of the South. This was due in part because there simply were no black neighborhoods near me.

I didn’t come into normal contact with blacks till I joined the Air Force at age 18. Before that, my contacts were just with Willie and Cap and the occasional black kids with whom I played near my grandparents’ farm. But that was infrequent.

Moving down one generation to my parents, we find a couple of flaming lefty liberals, especially my father. My mother got that way, I imagine, because of my father. It certainly was not due to the home she grew up in.

My mother, who spoke like Scarlett O’Hara, never voiced one kind word about “the Yankees.” And my father was not very keen on them either.

I wonder how my parents, who were hardcore Democrats of the “civil rights” variety, and union fans, would view the nutty political and racial conflicts of today.

Sowell’s wisdom

Sowell

(Today, we hand The Moon over to a guest columnist, one of the world’s most intelligent men, Thomas Sowell. Since Sowell is black, if you take issue with anything that follows, you are a racist and not fit for civilized company.)

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Random thoughts on the passing scene:

One of the problems with being a pessimist is that you can never celebrate when you are proven right.

If what you want from politicians are quick and easy answers, someone is sure to supply them, regardless of which party you follow. History can tell you where quick and easy answers lead. But, if you don’t want to bother reading history, you can just wait and relive its catastrophes.

What is “economic power”? What can Bill Gates stop you from doing?

I don’t understand how people who cannot predict the weather five days in advance can predict the climate decades from now.

One of history’s painful ironies is how often people on the brink of disaster have been preoccupied with trivialities. With a nuclear Iran with intercontinental missiles looming on the horizon, our intelligentsia are preoccupied with calling achievements “privilege” and playing other word games.

Of life’s many surprises, encountering an old flame, years later, is in a class by itself.

Some people seem to think that Donald Trump has great abilities because he is a billionaire. But being born rich and getter richer is not exactly a Horatio Alger miracle.

Of all the disheartening signs of the utter ignorance of so many American college students, nothing so completely disheartened me as seeing on television a black college student who did not know what the Civil War was about. Fifty years ago, it would have been virtually impossible to find a black adult, with even an elementary school education, who did not know what the Civil War was about.

Global warming, due to greenhouse gasses, is the latest in a long series of one-factor theories about a multi-factor world. Such theories have often enjoyed great popularity, despite how often they have turned out to be wrong.

One of the most richly rewarded skills in politics is the ability to make self-interest sound like idealism. Nowhere is this tactic more successful than in so-called “campaign finance reform” laws — spending restrictions that prevent challenger candidates from buying enough publicity to offset the free publicity that incumbents get from the media.

At one time, it seemed as if the free world had defeated the world of totalitarian dictatorships twice — first the Nazis and then the Communists. But, with the slow but steady expansion of government control over our lives and the spread of the idea that people who deny “climate change” (are) criminals, it seems as if totalitarianism may be winning, after all.

People who want to redistribute wealth often misunderstand the nature and causes of wealth. Tangible wealth can be confiscated, but you cannot confiscate the knowledge which produced that wealth. Countries that confiscated the wealth of some groups and expelled them, destitute, have often seen the economy collapse, while the expelled people became prosperous again elsewhere.

Some people think that Ted Cruz would not have as good a chance against Hillary Clinton as would Donald Trump. They say that Cruz does not have a sparkling style of speaking. But, after months of hearing childish insults from Trump, the public may be ready for some serious adult talk by someone with substance, who can cut right through Hillary’s shallow evasions.

To me, beautiful music is whatever music makes you glad to be a human being, whether it is “Musetta’s Waltz” from “La Boheme” or “Muskrat Ramble” from New Orleans. Much of what passes for music today makes me wish that, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can come back as a dolphin.

Republican leaders seem to be worried that Donald Trump will get the nomination and lose the election. Those of us who are not Republicans should worry that Trump will get the nomination and win the election. After all, the fate of the country is a lot more important than the fate of a political party — and in far greater danger.

As this country continues to degenerate, we hope that it never reaches the desperate stage where only a military coup can rescue it from catastrophes created by feckless politicians. But, if that day ever arrives, we can only hope that the military will do their duty and step in. It is one of the few institutions dedicated to something besides individual self-interest.

Cusp of books

books

BOOKS WRITTEN on tree cuttings are a dying breed, but many still embrace them, which amuses me.

Most people go their entire lives without reading a book that wasn’t required in school. Let us pity them. But for those of us who do read, who do know what’s going on in the world, who have active minds, there are now two camps.

Electronic and paper. The future and the past. Modern and old-fashioned. Convenient and, well, less so. Hip versus fuddy-duddy. I, of course, am in the hip category, the future, the modern, the convenient.

For those of us who live in Mexico but read books in English (though I speak Spanish, I never read books in Spanish), electronic books like the Kindle are a blessing because finding works in English can be challenging especially if you live far from Gringo havens like San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic. In those places, they have periodic book sales which, I imagine, amounts to everybody switching books, kind of like musical chairs.

So you better hope that someone who shares your tastes lives nearby. The better option, of course, is the Kindle or something similar where you can get about anything you want out of cyberspace. And trees are not involved.

We have three Kindles here at the Hacienda, but before they arrived (express-mailed separately to our front door in short order, not smuggled, which is the way most folks here get them), we brought books back from the United States during raiding expeditions to Texas. The used-book chain Half Price Books was always on our itinerary in San Antonio.

We have not been in the United States since 2008, making the Kindles even more valuable.

The shelves in the photo are in our living room. The first few years here it was an active location, but now it’s a museum. Nothing has been added there in years, but books look good, makes you look bright and provides a warm, learned atmosphere.

There are photos too. For the curious among us, they are, left to right, me sitting on the rocky shore of a river in the redwoods of Northern California. I am talking to Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) and her husband, Mickey; the house in the Florida Panhandle where I took life-altering entheogens in 1997; my child bride; my mother who died in 2009; finally, me at the age of 26 on the Georgia farm.

A sharp eye will note the book with the swastika about midway between my mother and my wife. Aha, some will say, I knew all along he was a Nazi. But two books farther to the right show Mao. And between those two sits Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The book with the swastika is the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and the book about the Chairman is Mao: The Unknown Story.

That last book, a biography, is particularly interesting because it’s only in the past decade or so that Red China has released information on the dictator to Western biographers. He was not a nice man.

But back to the cusp on which we sit. Like vinyl records and buggy whips, tree books are vanishing, soon to be of interest only to collectors and fuddy-duddies. The modern among us prefer our reads on a screen these days.