Monday, May 27, 2013

A Memorial Day Post: Some Memes of American History

I took this picture of hand rock in 1991.  It is the perfect
likeness of a human hand, somehow inscribed in the rock.
There are some stories in America that just have legs.

Take, for example, the tale of the Thompson Long Gun.

At the time of Middleborough’s incorporation in 1669 by English from nearby Plymouth, the local Nemasket and their ancestors had been living in the area for perhaps 12,000 years.  When conflict broke out between the colonists and Native Americans in the summer of 1675, Middleboro’s 75 English retreated to a fort built on the Nemasket River.

In early June 1675 a group of Nemasket appeared near a rock on a hillside on the opposite shore of the river.  For several days, the story goes, the Natives flung insults at the fort until Isaac Howland, famous for his marksmanship, was selected to fire an especially long gun brought by the commander of the fort, John Thompson.  As the distance between the fort and rock was about a half mile, requiring a trajectory more like artillery than a gun, nobody expected anything more than a startled reaction from the Nemasket and perhaps some peace and quiet.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Greatest Migration of All

Over on the Historical Society Blog, I've proposed another kind of "Great Migration" to the ones historians usually count.  But this one, it turns out, was just as important to George Washington as it is to today's technology executives.  It begins like this:

Ask an American historian to define the Great Migration and you’ll hear one of several answers. Most will describe the movement of 6 million African Americans from the rural South who headed north and west, from
Jack Delano photo of migrants
heading north from Florida, 1940.
 World War I through 1970, seeking economic opportunity and relief from Jim Crow laws.

See here for more.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Gotta Get Me Some New Weekend Reading

Honestly.  I used to love catching up on my stacks and posts of reading on the weekend.  Not so much lately, though. I feel like I’m seeing the same articles and hearing the same opinions over and over again. For example. . .

1. Peggy Noonan writes beautiful prose, and seems to hang out with some pretty interesting people. Why, then, does everything sound like this to me these days:

I went to the grocery store, like many Americans, to shop for mangoes.  Barack Obama hates mangoes.  We saw it in his polling numbers.  I had lunch this week with several conservative Senators who confirmed it.  I think we can all agree that the President is failing at mangoes.  
You know what?  We’re tired of Barack Obama hating mangoes.  It’s old.  It doesn’t play in middle America.  It gives our enemies in South America a reason to hate us.  In Washington we call it Obama-Mangoe fatigue.
You’ll find mangoes exhibited brilliantly at the new Bush library.  George W. Bush was one leader who knew how to deal with fruit.
Let’s be clear: Real Americans love mangoes.  I love mangoes.  The editors at the Wall Street Journal love mangoes. Many of us remember that Ronald Reagan loved mangoes, too, and sometimes had them for breakfast.
(For more of the same, see the latest here.)

2. Likewise, there’s a nightmare going on over at LinkedIn “Updates,” a series of posts apparently
solicited by the website from entrepreneurs in which they are asked to write about My Worst Mistake.  Think: "Tell me about your weaknesses" asked of people who honestly don't believe they have any weaknesses. The humblebrags have reached dizzying heights.  Here’s what the typical post sounds like: