Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Oddities and Contemplations of an American Life

     The OROG has become accustomed  to the frequently contrarian notions that rattle around in the brain of El Gringo Viejo.  He allows the public to wander into this conflicted mind and, at times, convoluted reasoning that takes place in that strange area. This is done to help the reader know and understand that he/she is not strange.  Other people who seem reasonable and sane, although they think differently and conclude differently, can take faith that they are not alone on an island.   The difference between me and thee, however, is that your humble servant really is substantially cuckoo,  pleasantly cuckoo most of the time, but cuckoo, nonetheless.   Cuckoos are actually interesting, fairly sane and normal birds.    There are a few reasons for my particular disorder.

      El Gringo Viejo's father had a father who lost two brothers to Confederate military action in 1863.   It wound up killing the father of the Union heroes...he entered into a near catatonic depression after about 18 months, became silent, and just died in 1867 at the age of 57.

 24,000 casualties dead, wounded, and missing
     El Gringo Viejo's mother had various great uncles and a grandfather and great-grandfather who served the Confederacy in various ways....from mundane to heroic.  One first cousin, twice removed, was killed in action in northern Mississippi, and another, a brother of her grandmother died of his wounds after 2 years of convalescence from wounds received in action at Chickamauga.  The other veterans went home and became good Americans and made good Americans of their children....but they never lost their bitterness.

     So everything is predictable, right?   Wellllllllll, not really.   The very, very, very few time my parents ever talked about the issue of The War, went some like this.   Mrs. Snooflesploot is visiting and she brings up something about a play at the primary school and that she is doing a 'Civil War' costume for her granddaughter.   Frilly hoop skirt, crinolines, lots of ribbons, parasol...she's just going to be the showiest belle of the play.
    My mother says that is nice, but it's a shame to make a happy thing out of so much devastation.  My father says that such is the nature of war, look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And then he goes on with, "My father always said that his father hated Lincoln because he should have left the South to go. He always said that it was better to be apart and be friends than to be forced together and hate each other.  The Negro will not win anything out of any of this, the South will nave nothing after Reconstruction and the North will be damaged because of it.   My mother said the same thing, and she was New Yorker....a real Knickerbocker.  Lincoln was the worst president in history, after FDR,"

     The social room, where the fireplace is, has a lot of pipe smoke layered in the calmish room, no HAVC in those days....it is quiet.  Mrs. Snooflesploot, breaks the too-long silence,"Well, Noli, you found yourself a good Yankee, didn't you?"
     My mother is sewing something, it must have been some of the bows she was attaching to the skirt.   She was not a seamstress, in that sense, but she was very good with a needle and seemed to excel at "project" type sewing.   She preferred needle work, it seems as I think about it now, to making things with her sewing machine.  She finally commented, "Lincoln may have been a dog or a madman, but the South would have been better off if he had lived.  John Wilkes Boothe delivered us into the hands of the rabid Republicans....Lincoln wanted to put the country back together and the Republican hypocrites wanted to punish the South".
Alexander Hamilton
Confederate States of
      Another two minutes passed.  My father stood up, re-lit his pipe and...Mrs. Snooflesploot cleared her throat and kept looking at her stitching activity, trying not to make contact with the "nice, married couple or even their little boy who seemed so interested in the sewing and the grading of school papers...while my father said,"Lincoln would not have had to put the country together if he hadn't torn it apart.  Almost a million people died for nothing".  And then he went outside to do some project or another, while the tortoise shell cat, "Cutie" ran in with the opportunity of the open screen door presenting itself.

     So there you have it...a five year old witnessing a....disagreement....about something that was of primordial developmental understanding by a man and a woman of the same nationality, an extremely similar race, and an very similar ethnicity, and with a convoluted interpretation about the value of a man that one would have thought should have been easily predictable. My mother would have preferred Lincoln to what we received...and her a Tennessean...with Andrew Johnson, a neighbour to her family in Tennessee coming to the Presidency by virtue of assassination.  My father, a nephew of Yankee heroes, despised Wyatt Earp, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.....and Harold Ickes.
    They say that Johnson may have been sober once after the age of 10, but that is disputed.   Oddly, he hated Negroes, but he was good enough to be vice-president for Lincoln.   Although Jefferson Davis was much more "at home" in the company of Negroes (kind of a early day liberal)  and even Alexander Stephens, in spite of strong statements about inferiority and superiority, was concerned about "fair treatment: of the bound and free Negro" ,  the world assumes that Lincoln saw the Negro as an equal (he decidedly did not) or that Andrew Johnson was a "liberal thinker" about the Negro..(he was a dull N****r - hating drunk).   The people of Eastern Tennessee saw him as such.
     So, if The War (my mother's parents called it The Woh - wah)  was bound to be lost, the people, at least in Eastern Tennessee, would have preferred Lincoln to their own...Andrew Johnson.  And many people from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania....with 300 killed from that one County....might have preferred to have just passed on the entire bellicosity, never having heard of Abraham Whoever.
    Now you all know why El Gringo Viejo is kooky.  My very Yankee father and his father and grandfather hated Lincoln, although they were, obviously, very tightly related by blood to two Yankee heroes.   And when we say Yankee, we do not mean Northerners...we mean these are people with full-scale Massachusetts, Vermont-Maine-New Hampshire, New York highlands and Hudson people.   And my mother and her people did not discuss whether or not the wrong side won The Woh - wah,  that was settled.   But they all agreed that they "would have been" better off with Lincoln in charge of the post- Woh-wah period.
     We all shared in a distaste for another Southern Icon, Andrew Jackson, because he sold out the Cherokee and the other honourable Indians who had fought and then befriended, intermarried, and become integral with the Tennessee and adjacent whites.  He sold them out to Northern business interests and lost much of his home State backing during his time in Washington.
    But I was left with a dislike and a negative understanding of Abraham Lincoln, reinforced by further study, like my father, his father, and old Hubbard before us.   And, all three brothers of this Yankee man and Confederate woman....were it to occur again, would take a Southern Stand.
     Convolution, contradiction, and contrarianism.  The American Saxon becomes his own enigma.   Pray for America.  Consider my path, but do not join it, lest you are convinced of it.  If not, remain an American and raise your children and grandchildren to be good Americans, but I am going deeper into Texas...my flag is changing not because of hatred but for the sake of preference.
El Gringo Viejo