Tuesday, November 11, 2008

October 19 - November 1, 2008

The Wordy Shipmates
Sarah Vowell
2008, hardcover
14 cards

This is a book about the Puritans, the Separatists and the Non-Separatists, but since it is written by Sarah Vowell it is so much more than that. Vowell positions what took place in the early days of the United States alongside the current wars the United States wages. With her humor and cynicism and wading through history to dredge up the good stuff, her approach also demonstrates how one can fuse one's practice, with one's beliefs in ways that inform the current state of affairs rather than just recount. And the book starts with a drawing by Marcel Dzama. With the recent election we might not be Ronald Regan anymore (p. 62), but we'll see.

Since it is the month of the holiday known as Thanksgiving I point your attention to the following statement: "Days of thanksgiving were earned. They would be appalled by US calendars calling for a holiday...What if we didn't deserve it?" (p. 198) Maybe this year it should have been November 5.

Some excerpts:
1- "The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. I don't mean thought-provoking. I mean: might get people killed."
6- Middle East
-"Answer: Because Henry VIII had a crush on a woman who was not his wife."
-"(Martin) Luther's point was that, according to scripture, salvation is not a bake sale..."
7- "Luther translated the Bible into German so Germans could read it for themselves."
9- "hot Protestants" (Puritans)
11- The Humble Request, 1630- "Nothing uppity about us, Your Majesty, we're just hobos in the woods."
-Winthrop: "We shall be as a city upon a hill."
12- wrote their own books
-Ralph Waldo Emerson- "The art of writing is the highest of those permitted to man."
13- "The United States is often called a Puritan nation. Well, here is one way in which it emphatically is not: Puritan lives were overwhelmingly, fanatically literary."
14- Reverend Thomas Shepard Jr. to his son: "So I say to you read! Something will stick in the mind, be diligent and good will come of it."
15- John Adams- "Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties..."
16- David McCullough
20- "check out those barbarian idiots with their cockamamie farce of a legal system, locking people up for fishy reasons and putting their criminals to death. Good thing Americans put an end to all that nonsense long ago."
21- General Cornwallis [so that's why that road name near me comes from]
23- the Great Migration 1629-40
24-25- Massachusetts Bay Colony's official seal [Dzama's drawing]- "Indian says, 'Come over and help us!'"
-"The worldview behind that motto- we're here to help, whether you want our help or not- is the Massachusetts Puritans' most enduring bequest to the future United States. And like everything the Puritans believes, it is derived from scripture."
26- 1801 inaugural address by Thomas Jefferson argues for "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations- entangling alliances with none."
30- germs- "The kingdom of death extended from Chile to Newfoundland..."- map at the National Museum of the American Indian
-Squanto- "spoke English because he had learned it in Europe after he was kidnapped by sailors. By the time he made his way back to America, everyone he knew was dead."
34- text at the museum next to the map- "That initial explosion of death is one of the greatest tragedies in human history because it was unintended and unavoidable, and even inevitable. But what happened in its wake was not."
45- MLK Jr. 1957- "So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you 'I love you. I would rather die than hate you.'"
54- John Adams- "The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed for the common good."
56- surveillance
59- Dolly Parton
-Winthrop's sermon, as a supposed early model for the idea of America, became a blank screen onto which Americans in general and Reagan in particular projected their own ideas about the country we ended up with."
-"And looking into the ways the sermon, or at least that one phrase in it [city on a hill] was used, throws open the American divide between action and words, between what we say we believe versus what we actually do."
62- "In the USA, we want to sing along with the chorus and ignore the verses, ignore the blues."
-"City on a hill, though- that has a backbeat we can dance to. And that's why the citizen of the United States not only elected and reelected Ronald Reagan; that's why we are Ronald Regan."
65- Reagan: "...and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here..."
69- Abu Ghraib
74- regularly scheduled voting
81- blank pages
82- ferkins- kilderkin
86- state house, Boston- "one of the oldest upholstered chairs made in New England."
91- plaques in Boston
108- "A cross, to a Puritan, is not a symbol of Christ- it is a symbol of the pope."
112- pamphlet fight!
118- Vacation Bible school- "It was like arts-and-crafts camp, only churchier..."
119- lessons "be true to yourself, be not afraid to defy authority, be willing to die for what you believe in..."
127- "Williams's greatness lies in his refusal to keep his head down in a society that prizes nothing more than harmony and groupthink. He cares more about truth than popularity or respect or personal safety."
128- "...Winthrop is Peter Seeger...Williams is Bob Dylan plugging in at Newport..."
129- Williams "a man who devotes his life to keeping government out of the church- not the other way around."
148- "...Rhode Island was purchased by love."
150- "Williams, like Melville, is a tad too excited, too lonely, too longwinded, too strange."
-Melville- paper mill- "endless supply of paper on which 'I should write a thousand-a million-billion thoughts, all under the form of a letter to you!"
157- "I'm an indoorsy urban woman..."
159- "most useful, or at least the most telling" Algonquin phrases Williams translates: "We understand no each other." "You trouble me."
171- pirate
196- Foxwoods
197- dioramas
198- "When's Thanksgiving?"
-"might be June 15, 1637"
-"Days of thanksgiving were earned. They would be appalled by US calendars calling for a holiday...What is we didn't deserve it?"
236-237- (magazine subscription card) "she is either male property (Mrs.), wannabe male property (Miss) or man hating harpy (Ms.)."
238- plaque text
239- "To get to his city you see her name."
248- JFK: "For of those to whom much is given, much is required."

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