Sunday, March 1, 2020

Phlogging our trip to Amelia Island...

It's another photo blog...a phlog!

In mid-February, hubs and I went up to Fernandina Beach for the Amelia Island Book Festival Author Expo. Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island are at the northeastern tip of Florida, practically to Georgia.

On our way up, we stopped in Palm Coast to visit Princess Place Preserve. It's called that because one of the early owners married an exiled Russian prince. So, I guess she was a princess. I'm not a big fan of royalty. I'm even less of a fan of people pretending the United States has its own "royalty."




There was this cute covered bridge, which reminded me of that book and movie, The Bridges of Madison County, neither of which I liked all that much. This bridge isn't as quaint as those bridges, but it has its own appeal.


I got two pics of this fence and I can't decide which one I like best. I'll post the other one at the end.

There were lots of trails at Princess Place and plenty of places to have parties or weddings. You can tour the house in which the so-called princess lived, but it was closed when we went. We much prefer the outside of things anyway, which is actually kind of funny. We're not exactly outdoorsy people. We don't like camping or boating, certainly not water skiing or anything like that.

We just like being outside sometimes.



We startled this great blue heron and I was surprised I got this picture at all. Ever since I got my new camera, most of my pictures suck. But at least I'm able to get off auto and learn (I hope) how to use the various manual options. The Canon I was using before (and still use sometimes) was bonkers when it came to manual mode. I couldn't figure it out at all.

Anyway, as I was saying, we like to be out in nature. One of the things that drives us really nuts is walking in a preserve or park and hearing people tromping along the trail talking really loud...like they think the person with them can't hear them because of the abundance of air...? I don't know. (We make exceptions for small children, of course.)



I love this scene. It's so Florida. And you can see in the distance another great blue heron. Actually, it could be the same one--this from when we first saw it and the pic above as we came to that part of the trail. Who knows?

And litter. I really, really hate litter.


I never pass up the chance to get a picture of a mushroom!

And you know something else we don't like? It's those painted rocks people leave around. I mean, sure, they're cute downtown or maybe in a picnic area. But if you're out in a wildlife preserve, the last thing you want to see is some rock that doesn't belong there, painted, and dropped like another piece of trash. (Okay, lovingly placed...like a precious piece of trash.) I really wish people wouldn't do that.




These shells had attached themselves to a bridge support post. I thought they were oysters, but they could be barnacles...assuming barnacles aren't just those funny cone-like creatures. I Googled it for a bit, but realized I wasn't quite that invested in knowing the facts in this instance. Enlighten me if you can.

The Author Expo is held in the gym of Fernandina Beach Middle School every year. There are rows and rows of authors selling their books. It's always a lot of fun to participate. The next day, before heading home, we stopped at Ft. Clinch State Park right down the road from our hotel.




One side of the park is woods with hiking and bike trails, inlets and streams.



And the other side is the beach. Just over that sea wall there, you can look out northward and see the Georgia State line. Virtually.

We didn't tour the actual fort this year; maybe next year.



I don't understand the lighthouse. It's not on the beach. It's not even at the tip end of the park. It's across Egans Creek...in a westerly direction from the trail. Right here:



Yet another thing I'm not much in the mood to learn about right now: Why is the Amelia Island lighthouse so far from the coastline? Curious.



This is a little yellow-rumped warbler. I love the fogginess of the photo. I wish I could say I did that on purpose with my extended photography knowledge and experience. But alas, all my good photos are happy accidents.



This is a wood stork. I love wood storks. Their faces look like wood and I bet that's where they get their name. We used to have a mated pair living in the ditch at our local Walmart. Then, one day, there was only one and he seemed to mourn for quite some time. Eventually, he was gone too.



Here's one of those happy accidents I was telling you about. In most respects this is a really bad photo. But I do love the wing spread and I think it's kind of cool how the twig is curved in front of it in that way. This is a warbler, I'm sure; but I'm not sure which kind.



Here's a group of ruddy turnstones at the sea wall. They're cute little birds.

Okay, here's the other picture of the fence at Princess Place Preserve:



This one's got a curvy thing going on that the other one lacks...at the top and bottom.

That's it for that trip.

You ever think it's strange how we keep doing these calming things...we hike or go to parties. We watch television and go out to dinner. Like nothing horrifying is happening in the world at all?

We just keep on living...



Maybe there's nothing else we can do.








Friday, February 21, 2020

Trump supporters...you are dead to me

Picture by IoSonoUnaFotoCamera via Flickr

First, let me tell you a little story--a true story--the relevance of which will be lost on you until much later. Those are the best kinds of stories, if you ask me.

In his confession, the murderer said he approached the victim in the parking lot of my local Publix and helped her put her groceries in her car. He then asked her for a ride home. When she balked, he played to her humanity, saying that after he helped her out, it was the least she could do. So she agreed and let him get in her car. Some time later, he murdered her.

And now, the business at hand:

Picture by IoSonoUnaFotoCamera via Flickr

I was raised in a Republican household. I first registered as a Republican and remained Republican until just about the time George W. came onto the scene. It wasn't conservatism that concerned me when I left the party, it was religion. I was suddenly keenly aware of the Religious Right's takeover of the party and wanted no part of it, anymore. I have since had no party affiliation.

Even while I was a registered Republican, I never voted a straight ticket. I always chose the candidate whom I thought would do the best job and, until the election of 2016, felt free to exercise my conscience in voting, sometimes voting third party. (If you voted third party in 2016, you either didn't realize the danger we were in, despite warnings, or you were too selfish to put your country's needs before your own. If you vote third party in 2020, you will be, forthwith, dead to me.)

I am not a Democrat. I don't think I will ever join the Democratic Party. I have always considered myself a fiscally conservative social liberal. (An extreme social liberal.) But I certainly side with Democrats on a lot of issues. Again...I have no party affiliation.

But what's going on right now really doesn't have anything to do with Republicans or Democrats or conservative vs. liberal issues.

For one thing, the Republican Party is dead. Whatever it is calling itself the Republican Party bears no resemblance to Republican ideals, standards, or values.




If you're still a Republican...why? Are you stupid? Are you illiterate? Or do you really support a party that, realizing it can't win honestly, has persistently chipped away at voting rights, has suppressed votes to the extreme through gerrymandering, has, through nothing more than strongman control of Congress, kept a sitting president from nominating a Supreme Court justice just so they could stack that court for their side? You support minority rule? If you can't win honestly, you think cheating is okay?

So, someone being a Republican up until 2016 was a bit of a problem for me. But I didn't let it get in the way of family or friendship bonds.

Some say the Republican Party is now Trump's party...the party of Trumpism. I don't even think that's true. I think it's a nationalist, fascist, authoritarian party seeking to overthrow our democracy and set up an authoritarian regime with all the trappings of said democracy. Because people, in general, are too stupid to realize that they've been duped.

We got to vote, Johnny!
Weren't it fun?
Funny, though, ain't it,
how Republicans always win?

The Untied States will still look like a democracy or a constitutional republic. But it's not real democracy. The Constitution, so beloved by Real Americans© is in tatters.

The sad truth of it is that a lot of conservatives have, from the founding of our nation, fought for autocratic, minority rule.

If you have wondered about and puzzled over the GOP's complicity in the Trump administration's destruction of our government, its norms, its customs, its balance, this is why:

The GOP loves Trump because he's doing exactly what they've been working hard to do for decades. They don't like the man. Perhaps they don't like his methods. His King Kong smashing of our democracy frightens them. But the results have them peeing their fat, white, geriatric pants with glee.

What's happening now is that we are slipping into the monstrous, rotting corpse of the Republican Party's wet dream. Checks and balances are dead. The rule of law is dead. An impartial judiciary is dying. And the band plays on. Send in the clowns.


Pic by Lws & Clrk via Flickr


So here is where I stand...as a former Republican...as a person who has always tried to be objective...as a person who has favored neither party over the other, or a third, throughout her adult life:

Anyone who still supports Donald Trump and this so-called Republican Party is at best willfully ignorant and at worst morally bankrupt.

I want nothing to do with anyone like that. I want no part of anyone like that in my family, in my circle of friends, or on social media.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone still supporting what is now the Trump Regime is no better than a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer. A morally corrupt, vile fascist.

All Trump supporters will be blocked, expunged, shunned, considered dead to me.*

Anyone not a Trump supporter, but still a Republican will be handled on an individual basis. Your (obviously low) IQ, your mental health, and your decency or lack thereof will be taken into consideration.

Seriously. This is Banana Republic, fascist regime, jack-booted authoritarianism. It's here. And if you're going to be one of the dictator's minions, one of the Party's eyes and ears, or even just one of those who looks the other way--fuck off.

FUCK. OFF.


Pic by FolsomNatural via Flickr


And now, to that little story I told you at the beginning.

Bad people know how good people act; they know what drives us: a sense of kindness, empathy, and fairness. And they exploit it to their advantage.

I can already hear them, readying their defenses:
You're being intolerant!
How can you be so closed minded?
How dare you tell others who to support! Do you believe in democracy or not?

And to all of that, I say: FUCK OFF.

There is a paradox of tolerance that too few people understand. The fact is IF YOU TOLERATE INTOLERANT PEOPLE, YOU ARE FURTHERING THE DESTRUCTION OF SOCIETY.

I shit you not.

Bigots and homophobes will stand before cameras without a hint of irony and whine over not being allowed to speak at some college campus or cry about being silenced by some group of protesters. We have rights, too! they squeal.

FUCK THEM.

I will not tolerate bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, tirades against diversity, or screeds against liberals. And your ridiculous, pitiful claims that you are the ones being victimized will be met with a great big FUCK YOU.

I will not tolerate your acceptance of fascism, authoritarianism, nationalism, or theocracy. And your ass-hatted claims that you support this vile anti-democratic oppression of those you vilify for democracy's sake will be met with a great big SHUT THE FUCK UP.

I'm done.



For further reading see:

Adam Serwers, "The Fist Days of the Trump Regime" in The Atlantic.

John Dean and Bob Altemeyer's "Why do so Many Americans Continue to Support Donald Trump? In a Word: Authoritarianism," at Verdict.



*Except as necessary to call them out on social media.





Monday, January 27, 2020

Oops, I read it again! GWTW in 2020...

Gone With the Wind, the Confederacy, and why we are in the mess we're in now...



Well, I did it again. I read Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This was my 21st reading of this book. You might wonder how a person could possibly read such a book twenty-one times. It's easy when you're old.

I first read GWTW at fifteen after I saw the film in the theater. No, I wasn't fifteen in 1939...duh. I guess it was a special showing. And what do you know, GWTW is showing at a theater near me next week! Hmmm... I see more reminiscing in my future.

I was smitten. The dresses. The mansions. The dashing heroes. There was a time when I thought the ultimate delight would be to be rich enough to have a theater in my home where I could screen Gone With the Wind anytime I wanted. When VCRs were a thing, my dream pretty much came true. And of course, I own the film on VHS and DVD.

Anyway, I got the book for my birthday in December of my fifteenth year and had it read by year's end. How is that possible, you ask? Simple, I skimmed that 1024-page novel like a hungry raccoon digging through the neighbor's trash looking for the romantic bits from the film. I skipped all the boring parts!

Then I read the book again every summer for sixteen more years, continuing no doubt to skip boring parts until I was well into adult-hood. After that, I read it a few more times when I had the chance. And here we are. The twenty-first reading of Gone With the Wind.


My original copy, now battered and delicate. Printed in 1973.


The last time I read it, I told my husband that I was surprised at the freethought contained in it. He accused me of reading into the story what I wanted to find. How insulting! So, this time I read the book on my Kindle and highlighted every instance of freethought I found. I think there was one. It's clear that Rhett Butler is an atheist and I suppose I was surprised that his lack of belief in a deity was so casually handled in a book written in the Thirties. Scarlett O'Hara is less of an atheist than she is a convenient believer. So, maybe we'll let my husband have this one.

I wanted to write about the book because a lot changes when you age from fifteen to fifty-eight. So, here we go. I'm going to get into the racism and ignorance of the South in a minute, but first...

Characters.

The characters are no longer who I thought they were.

Scarlett O'Hara is an anti-hero throughout the book. I've always recognized that. She's a shallow, selfish, emotionally stunted girl who grows slowly, unwillingly, into an adult. Well, maybe slowly isn't right. She rejects thoughts and emotions that threaten her stubborn hold on a false reality until the very end when, in one fell swoop, she finally sees reality and grows up.

Up until that moment, however, she's infuriating.

It's hard to fault Scarlett. The war broke out when she was a mere sixteen--a belle of the county--and her world was turned upside down. She clung to some selfish traits for survival's sake.

Scarlett isn't all bad. She's the strongest and smartest person in the entire novel. She refuses to buckle under and starve while the rest of the South clings to honor and decorum. She doesn't shy from hard, dirty labor and insists others in her family work too. They fail and Scarlett takes up the slack...all the time. It's because of Scarlett O'Hara that Tara survives the war and becomes a profitable farm by the end of the story. True, there was some luck in that the plantation house wasn't burned (though it was set on fire at one point). But you come away from a reading of Scarlett feeling the she'd have rebuilt the damn thing if the Yankees had demolished it, so forceful was her will.

Scarlett O'Hara also has a strong moral code, though she herself doesn't recognize it. She believes that she stays with Melanie Wilkes in Atlanta during the siege, and then carts her and her baby, half dead, all the way to Tara before Sherman takes the city, because she promised her beloved Ashley that she'd take care of his wife.

But that's bullshit. Anyone who reads the entire novel can see that Scarlett has an idea of who her people are and she fights for them, works her fingers raw for them, and takes care of them...even when she doesn't like them much. Scarlett doesn't like her sisters and with good reason. Suellen is spoiled, refusing to pick cotton because it's beneath her, caring nothing for Tara. And Careen is a girl with her head in the clouds who will never come down to earth and ends up in a convent.

Scarlett thinks she hates Melanie Wilkes and at every point in the book where she has an inkling that she doesn't hate the woman, she stifles the thought because she believes she loves Ashley Wilkes and therefore, she must despise Melanie. In the end, she knows she always admired Melanie Wilkes, but was too stubborn to let herself admit it. Melanie is her family--her sister-in-law--and therefore, Scarlett takes care of her.

And let's talk about Melanie. The woman is stupid. She's portrayed in the novel as a great lady--kind, moral, honorable. But she's not. She's kind, yes. And admirable in many ways. But let's take a look at her morality.

Melanie argues strenuously, threatening her position in Atlanta society after the war, for weeding and caring for the graves of Yankee soldiers alongside those of Confederates. But, why? Is it because she sees worth in all lives? Nope. She does it because there are Confederate dead in the North, too, and she hopes that some kind Yankee woman ("There must be one kind Yankee woman!") is caring for those graves. She has to care for Yankee graves to keep her hope alive that a Yankee is caring for Confederate graves.

Later in the book, Melanie makes it very clear that she hates Yankees. Literally. Hates them.

So, sure, I suppose in the Southern, Confederate, slave-holding mindset, she was a great and honorable lady. She was kind. And sweet. I'll give her that. She was also strong and fierce and Scarlett comes to recognize that by the end.

The problem is that Melanie can't see that Scarlett does what she does, not because she loves Melanie, but because her moral code dictates it. Yes, yes, Scarlett comes to realize she loves the woman in the end, but she spends the entire novel in love with Melanie's husband. Melanie is blind to it all.

And about that husband!

Ashley Wilkes is given to us--and I mean as society and the film industry has decided, not by Mitchell--as a paragon of honor and virtue. But the man is a cad! He lusts after Scarlett even while married to Melanie. He strings her along, courting her as a young girl, telling her he loves her several times--even when married--kisses her, tells her he wouldn't be able to control himself if he were alone with her again, on and on. The man's a complete douche. Scarlett finally recognizes that he's worthless and she was in love with a fantasy all along.


Just some of my GWTW collection of stuff.


And she loves Rhett Butler, after all.

We like to think of Rhett as the scoundrel who turns out to be lovable and honorable. Bullshit. Utter bullshit. The problem with Rhett Butler is this: He marries Scarlett knowing she's emotionally stunted, knowing that she thinks she's in love with another man. Then he belittles her, mocks her, sets her up time and time again knowing what she'll do only to take great pleasure in knocking her down. Worse, he betrays her. When he decides to reform his image in Southern society, he pretends to be ashamed of Scarlett's business sense and success, even to her family, further lowering Scarlett's reputation among the old guard.

But the worst thing that man does is in the end. He has the gall to put the blame for the end of their marriage on her and only her. She killed his love for her and now he's leaving. He's awful.

It's probable, however, that now that Scarlett has finally matured, he'll be back. And maybe those two--both petulant children throughout the book--will work it out.

Now, about the racism.

Oh, my god!

Some might claim that Margaret Mitchell was only showing racism through the eyes of her characters, but it's not true. In one instance--and that's all it takes--she speaks not in any character's viewpoint, but as an omniscient narrator, about Mammy, comparing her to an ape. Blacks are compared to apes in at least one other instance, and they are characterized as childlike and stupid. Here is one part that is particularly damning:

Sam galloped over to the buggy, his eyes rolling with joy and his white teeth flashing, and clutched her outstretched hand with two black hands as big as hams. His watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gamboling of a mastiff.

This is straight out of blackface and minstrel shows. Cringe-inducing.

Unfortunately, there's more. In GWTW, the ridiculous Southern Confederate trope of the benevolent slave owner is king. Even the slaves parrot this notion. Big Sam begs Scarlett to send him back to Tara. He wants no more of freedom. He wants to be told what to do and when to do it. And he wants to be cared for when he's sick. He says that the Yankees he met when he traveled north were always asking him about beatings and torture. But he knew that "Mr. Gerald" would never hurt an expensive--and here he uses the N-word in reference to himself--like him.

But we expect racism when we read Gone With the Wind. It's set in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. There's going to be racism in it. If that racism was explored only through the characters it could be argued it was acceptable. But it's not. And there's no counterbalance at all--nothing about the book looks into the subject of slavery and rebellion in anything but blissfully ignorant terms.

I should mention here that there is also a slur against Jews in Chapter Forty-one. But of course. Am I right?

There were attempts at kindness in the way in which Scarlett treats some of her servants. She does seem to love them. And if we were merely looking at a character raised to look at blacks this way, we might be able to stomach it. But nowhere in the book, not in any character, not in any scene, is there any hint that slaves and former slaves were thought worthy of freedom. Nothing about their humanity, their value as individuals. Never a mention as to the vile inequality and exploitation of the institution of slavery.

There were a few instances in which Southerners were apparently not entirely pro slavery. There is a mention that Frank Kennedy, Scarlett's second husband, and many of his friends didn't "believe in slavery." But they believed that the hiring of convicts--because the Freedman's Bureau wouldn't be monitoring how you treat them as they would with freed slaves--was somehow "far worse" than slavery...than the literal owning of another human being.

At one point, Ashley Wilkes claims he would have freed all the slaves at Twelve Oaks when his father died, if the war hadn't freed them. It was pretty easy for him to say that now that the war was over, but was it even true? Possibly. But Ashley Wilkes was a man of books and leisure. He had no head for business. The idea that he'd put the plantation in peril by freeing the slaves is doubtful.

But the most infuriating thing about reading GWTW this year was the constant whining by the Southerners about how mean the Yankees were treating them. They weren't allowed to vote unless they signed a pledge! They couldn't run for any government offices!

At no point does any character consider that they just got finished mounting an insurrection against the United States of America. They were traitors to the country that defeated them. And yet they truly believed they should have the right to run their states the way they pleased and be left alone.

The South has never gotten over losing the Civil War and they were allowed to slither back into the Union without truly being defeated. Their racism, misogyny, and ignorance has continued to infect a large portion of our population to this day.

It's not an easy book to read and I came away from it saddened by the way in which Margaret Mitchell and others like her created the sacred myths of the South and the Confederacy.

The way of life that was mourned throughout the book was grand only for white, wealthy men, and their brainwashed women. It shouldn't have gone with the wind, it should have been razed and burned out of the American psyche.

Maybe one day.

Will I read it again? Probably. I like the way the book changes as I get older. I like noticing things about it that I hadn't before or that I'd forgotten. And despite its racism, it's still a good read.