Sunday, July 7, 2013


I trashed the library list and I'm replacing it with Wordsmiths. As in those who create with words. Maybe I'll hit one a author a week. Who knows. Heaven knows I have enough books on the shelves to do that and not run out anytime soon. The list allows me to create a link to a site like Wickipedia with background information on the author and other books or essays that they've written that might be interesting but that I haven't read.

I'm not sure how long I'll let the list get before I remove the one at the bottom of the list when I add somebody new. I mean, how long will it take anyone to notice, or care. LOL This way I'll have to actually talk about the book, or books. Instead of a hey look at this list of what I liked last year.

There's another reason for going by author. Some have more than one book. That I've actually read, liked and it (they) made me think. I may discuss all of them. I may just talk about the author and give links to the books.

First up. Frederick W Turner. It took several tried to get into Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness. Then I couldn't stop in appalled fascination. This is the story of the conquest of the New World that doesn't get taught in schools, for the most part and would probably get me blackballed by all the "America has a special destiny" wingnuts out there.

Turner argues that the wilderness experience of the tribes of Israel marked them with a fear of the wild places and those who live in them. Christianity took that fear and amplified it as the Jesus Cult became the church and the desire for control increased. The western church that verse about dominion and ran with it. Prince Henry the Navigator, Columbus who spent time at Henry's school in Portugal, the Conquistidores, the English colonists and the Americans. The book is part poem, part polemic.

He argues that when Christianity closed off the possibility of new revelations after the time of the apostles it also closed off the possibility of learning what the natural world has to teach us. After all the voices of the wind, streams, birds, rocks and trees were probably demon sent and must be ignored. The litany of arrogance, ignorance and destruction is enough to make you weep, scream or both. The buffalo are just one example. They numbered in the millions and we managed to all but exterminate them in less than half a century. The hunters took the hides, the horns, perhaps the best cuts of meat and left the rest to rot on the plains.

The Native Americans who moved through the land leaving almost no mark were all but destroyed, moved to reservations, turned to objects of pity or derision. A people who moved with the land were replaced by those who loved straight lines and nature as long as it was "tamed."

But, I do believe that Turner's argument with Christianity acted as a set of blinkers. Before the Christians, there was Rome. Rome sent her traders in first then the soldiers followed. Before Cortez set his sights on the gold of the Aztecs, Julius Caesar set his eyes on Gaul. More on that a little later.

But in both cases a foreign land and the tribes already living there were seen, not as potential allies or as teachers but as markets and plums to be plucked. Gauls lived in round or oval houses, worshipped in wooded groves and sang. They sang the sun up, they sang it down. They sang to their crops and at their work. They sang because they felt like it and moved with the land. We've seen the Roman ruins. Straight lines in their roads, their houses and their temples. Sound familiar. Like the Americans who sold rum to the Indians, Rome's traders went in first and then the soldiers came to protect the traders. And thent the Caesars came and the singing stopped.

Turner has a good thesis. I just don't believe he went far enough. Some of the conquered were spared for the Roman slave markets. The Americans saw no use for the people who were here first and set out to destroy them.

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