Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Donald Trump's Know-Nothing attitude would have doomed my Famine Irish ancestors

A Thomas Nast cartoon in Harper's Weekly depicts ape-like Irishmen beating up police on St. Patrick's Day 1867.  

Great read from a 1/10/18 article on Irish Central by Cahir O'Doherty: "President Donald Trump would have turned away the Famine Irish just like the Salvadorans."  Go to https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/donald-trump-famine-irish-el-salvador

I don't know much about my great-great grandfather Thomas Shay.

He was Irish, as you might deduce from his last name, born in County Clare.

He left Ireland in the late 1840s (probably 1848) bound for the U.S.

He married Anna Agnes Burns and had three children when they were recorded in the 1850 census as residents of Monroe County, N.Y. By the 1870 census, the Shay family had moved to Iowa and eight children were listed on the rolls.

Thomas died in 1879 and is buried in Johnson County, Iowa.

His first name is my late father's first name and my middle name

My late Aunt Patricia researched these details before the wide use of the Internet and the advent of ancestry.com. She printed out a family tree on a dot-matrix printer. She put the evidence into a memory book for my daughter, born in 1993.

That's what I know. I also have read about anti-Irish sentiment in the mid-19th century. White people feared non-white people, although they were willing to use them as slaves and indentured servants. Strange to think that Irish immigrants were depicted in American papers as unwashed, uncouth bumpkins, or as monkeys and apes. They were Catholic, too, as were their swarthy cousins from Spain, Italy, and Mexico. You know, "Shithole" countries as Trumpists say.

The Know Nothings live. They were out in force last fall in Charlottesville, them and  their vile attitudes and precious tiki torches. They are descendants of the anti-Irish Know Nothings, although I would guess that some of them have Irish or Scots-Irish bloodlines. Scary to think how many Trumpists have Irish surnames. They do not know their history, and they don't care to learn.

Trump's policies may have doomed my Irish ancestors. But who knows -- maybe the Irish Shays would have survived in Ireland and my DNA would have never taken the pathways that eventually led to me. The Shay line would not be in its seventh generation of causing trouble in the U.S.

Immigration can sure be a random thing. You never know where curtailing it or encouraging it will lead. Sometimes you get a Barack Obama.

And sometimes you get a Donald Trump.

A cartoon from the 1850s by the "Know-Nothings" accusing the Irish and German immigrants of negatively affecting an election. From Victoriana Magazine.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Partners in protest -- male writers support Wyoming Women's March organizers

My wife, Chris Shay, shows off her Women's March T-shirt.
I just finished reading thoughtful columns by two male residents of Wyoming -- one a blogger and one a columnist for the Wyofile online newspaper..

Both columns are excellent and I encourage you to read them. Go here:

Cowgirl up: It's time for a  broader perspective in politics, by Kerry Drake, Wyofile

Time to go to the streets, by Rodger McDaniel, Blowing in the Wyoming Wind blog

Both columnists invite their readers to attend the Wyoming Women's March in Cheyenne on Jan. 20. I did the same thing in blog posts here and here. We are the men behind the women who are organizing this event. Partners in protest.

A crew of women is organizing the Cheyenne march. I won't name them here because I might forget a crucial member. It takes a lot of work to stage a protest. Permits, security, speakers, equipment, food. The committee has been meeting weekly and this Sunday is our final tune-up before next weekend's march. If you're interested, the committee meets at 1 p.m. on Jan. 14, at 1 p.m., in the Laramie County Public Library's first-floor Willow Room.

Thus far, I can tell you these details. Marchers will assemble at 10 a.m. on the Depot Plaza downtown. Then we -- and our creative signs -- march to the deconstructed Capitol and march back again. Speakers will speak. We then convene for food inside the Depot. The event should wrap up by 1 p.m.

The theme for the march is Women's March Wyoming -- Hear Our Vote! It encourages women to register to vote, vote, and run for office. Why is this important? Trumpist Republican men from mostly rural areas of the state are making laws for all of us. Women are not in the legislature. Women are usually not heard in committee meetings. That leads to the absurdity of the Agriculture Committee holding hearings on two restrictive abortion laws. Drake writes about this in his Wyofile column. We all should be asking why. And then we should go out and vote for those who would better represent our needs for the 21st century.

See you at the Depot on Jan. 20.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The sordid tale of the proposed Wyoming private prison for immigrants

It's not a prison, says the people building a prison for immigrants in southwest Wyoming's Uinta County.

And so says Gov. Mead's office. As related in a Dec. 20 Wyofile story by Andrew Graham:
Gov. Matt Mead’s spokesman said a federal immigration jail proposed for Uinta County does not count as a private prison under Wyoming statute and doesn’t require the Governor’s approval to be constructed. 
The jail is proposed by a private-prison company, Management Training Corporation, to hold increasing numbers of people arrested by U.S.  Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. As of October, county officials said they remained uncertain whether the proposal would require the approval of Wyoming’s five state elected officials, as state law requires for private prison contracts with local governments. A spokesperson for Mead told WyoFile at the time that the governor was unaware of the proposal.
Opposition to this non-jail jail is building. #WyoSayNo is holding an info session on the issue on Saturday, Jan. 13, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Laramie County Public Library in Cheyenne. Get more info at https://www.facebook.com/events/146261459427770/. If you live far afield from Cheyenne, you can sign up for a 6 p.m. livestream at https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/wyosayno-campaign-launch-satellite-event-signup

This is just another sign of the cruelty practiced by Trumpists. Jailing hard-working people, Separating families. ICE raids at the workplace. Make tons of money for private prison stakeholders in the process.

Trumpists have no shame.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

First comes the reading and then the literary tourism

I start each weekday watching the network news. Not sure why. Goes good with oatmeal, I guess.

I usually watch until Trump's smarmy face appears. It doesn't take long. I then switch around the the Weather Channel or Turner Classic Movies. Today I clicked on TCM just to see the middle part of "The Adventures of Mark Twain," a 1944 film starring Frederic March as Twain. I was shocked to learn that Twain ran a publishing company or, rather, he hired his nephew, Charles Webster, to run the company and named it after him. Two early successes were "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant," Parts I and 2.  I read Huck Finn. I have poked around in my 1885 copy of U.S. Grant, long enough to know it is not just a pretty good presidential memoir but a pretty good book. I wonder if Twain played a part in that? I will probably read the trade paperback copy as the old hardback is falling apart. Too bad I got to it so late -- it's probably worth something in pristine condition.

Twain's press folded in 1894, after publishing several Twain books and two volumes by some Russian guy, Leo Tolstoy. Twain had hoped to get rich off of other authors' works. Instead, he owed creditors more than $200,000, which adds up to millions in today's dollars. Instead of making a deal with them, he embarked on a world speaking tour to every continent. He made enough to pay off his debts. Meanwhile, his wife died. Twain's death coincided with the year that Halley's Comet returned. But I already knew that from the Wonderful World of Disney version of Twain's life.

Seems as if Twain is the gift that keeps on giving.

He may be the most notable American author of the 19th century. We continue to read him. His books, mainly Huck Finn, continue to be banned by school districts upset with the casual use of the N word, realistic depictions of slavery, and youngsters defying their elders.

I am a Twain fan. I have seen Hal Holbrook's stage presentation of "Mark Twain Tonight." The author was quotable, that's for sure, and Holbrook does a great job with the part.

I am a bit miffed at his participation in the "Gilded Age" with Rockefeller and Carnegie et. al. His youthful goal was thee be rich, not to be a notable man of letters. He reached that goal several times but keep losing it on other dubious get-rich-quick schemes.

He wrote some great novels and some scathing literary criticism. I dare you to read "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" and not laugh. Anyone who has read any of Cooper's convoluted "Deerslayer" tales should enjoy the humor. Here's a sample from the piece:
There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require: 
1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air. 
2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop. 
3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

Remember that this was way before bloggers invented snark.

If we are looking for purists among our literary practitioners, well, the boat has already sailed on that one (not the one that Hart Crane jumped from). Hemingway was a misogynist, Fitzgerald a drunk. Flannery O'Connor couldn't stop talking about those scary creatures she invented to frighten us out of our lethargy. In this New Gilded Age, we want some literary heroes, or at least cool  hometowns to play tourist in, such as Cather's Red Cloud or Hurston's Eatonville. And Twain's house in Hartford.

As a literary tourist, I have seen most of these sights. They are interesting. But you can't really get to the heart of Hemingway's Nick Adams' stories by ogling the descendants of his six-toed Key West cats. You have to read the books. That comes first -- you cannot skip this step. Then you can talk to me about Annie Proulx's Wyoming influences or D.H. Lawrence's New Mexico years.

Read. And just think: every book you read is another blow against Trumpism.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Sankofa African Heritage sponsors film series for Black History Month

The year gets off to a rousing start with the Martin Luther King, Jr., March on Jan. 15 and the Women's March on Jan. 20.

Lots of events showing up on the Arts Cheyenne web site. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue come to the Civic Center on Jan. 31 and Fridays at the Asher has released its spring schedule. It includes an April 20 reunion concert by regional favorites Patti Fiasco. If spring is looming, can summer's many concerts and festivals be far behind? Yes it can!

For Black History Month in February, Sankofa African Heritage just announced a series of four films, Feb. 14-17. Here's are the details:

What: African-American Black Film Exposition

When: Feb. 14-17, 2018

Where: LCCC Conferences and Institutes Building, 1400 E. College Dr., Cheyenne

How much: Free; donations are accepted and appreciated

Contact: Jill Zarend, 307-635-7094; jillmerry@aol.com; www.SankofaAfricaWorld.org


Wednesday, Feb. 14, 5:30 p.m.: "I Am Not Your Negro," author James Baldwin's unpublished journal on racism in America, Academy Award nominee
Friday, Feb. 16, 5:30 p.m.: "500 Years Later," filmed on five continents, this film chronicles the struggles of peoples still fighting for self-determination
Friday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m.: "The Birth of a Movement," William Monroe Trotter's battle to mobilize censorship of the 1915 silent film, "Birth of a Nation"
Saturday, Feb. 17, 9 a.m.: "The Birth of a Nation," formerly entitled "The Clansman," the D.W. Griffith film remains controversial for its portrayal of the KKK as heroes and for its racist stereotypes of African-Americans during the Reconstruction era in the South

If you still have some film-going energy left, Feb. 17 brings the Sundance Film Festival Shorts Tour to the Civic Center in downtown Cheyenne at 8 p.m.. More info at http://www.cheyenneciviccenter.org/

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Women's March Wyoming organizing update

The Women's March Wyoming is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, in Cheyenne. Gather at the Depot Plaza, march to the State Capitol, where surprises await, and then march back to Depot Plaza for speakers. This year, organizers have arranged for a super-duper sound system that will allow you to hang on the words of every speaker -- and we have some great ones.

Starting at about 11:30 a.m., the WMW food committee will dish up hot and cold luncheon items, including desserts and beverages. We will have vegetarian items and possibly some gluten-free selections. Feel free to bring your favorite pot-luck food item. You can drop it off inside before the march. Food committee solicits crockpot items, such as chili, stew or soup, but keep in mind that our crockpot extravaganza at last year's march blew some circuits at the Depot. Pizza and sandwiches always welcome, as are casseroles in cloth food warmers, which can be pink or any other cool color. We also welcome brownies and cookies and other assorted desserts.

If you are interested in being a part of the organizing committee, feel free to attend the next meeting on Sunday, Jan. 7, 1 p.m., in the library's third-floor Sunflower Room.

If you are a crafty person and wish to make buttons and pussy hats to sell at the march, assemble from 5:30-8:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at a location to be announced. Update: Location is Danielmark's Brewing downtown.  Go to the Facebook page for more info.

Wordsmiths are invited to the Wines & Signs March Prep Party on Friday, Jan. 19, at 5:30 p.m., at the UU Church in Cheyenne. BYOB or BYOW. Also, snacks.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Next Women's March on Wyoming set for Jan. 20 in Cheyenne

Last year, the day after the presidential inauguration was a lot more interesting than the inauguration itself.

The inaugural Women's March was held around the U.S. on Jan. 21, 2017. Cheyenne mustered a crowd of at least 1,200. Not bad for a community of some 64,000 souls. I was a food volunteer at the event -- and a marcher -- and I summarized my experience in this Jan. 22 post.

On that gorgeous January day, many of us marchers were still in shock from the election results. Trump was (and is) a sexist, misogynistic jerk who openly bragged about grabbing women's body parts. I couldn't believe that America would choose this guy over a much more qualified and intelligent woman. Hillary Clinton. I couldn't believe that we had a black president for eight years and had taken a few steps forward and now we were taking giant leaps backward. Events during the past 11 months have shown how bad things can get.

The Women's March did not derail Trump's nefarious plans. One thing we Baby Boomer activists have learned is that one march does not lead to immediate consequences. Wars do not end. Civil rights are not achieved. It takes many years and hundreds of marches and legal actions and elections to achieve the stated goal.

That's a tough lesson for Americans. We expect instant results. But it's hard-headed patience and persistence that wins the day.

See you at the next Women's March on Wyoming in Cheyenne on Jan. 20, 2018, 10 a.m., at the Historic Depot Plaza downtown. A potluck will follow. Get updated info at http://www.wywomensmarch.org. See today's WTE for an article about the march. The theme for this year is voting -- both GOTV tactics and getting women elected to public office. You can't expect progress when your state legislature is dominated by a cabal of Male Republican Know Nothings.