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Posts Tagged ‘Monticello’

What would you want your gravestone to say about you?

Hillary Clinton has been making her mark lately; traveling on a book tour with her daughter Chelsea, and speaking candidly with Howard Stern. Her latest Hulu docu/series teaser has her answer to the question about her legacy, from the cemetery’s point of view; https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/hillary-clinton-hulu-docuseries-documentary-925106/

“She’s neither as good or as bad as some people say about her.”

So what IS she anyway? Does she walk the middle road? Is she milquetoast? I think what our final sentiments are can be quite telling. Consider that Thomas Jefferson insisted his stint as our third President NOT be etched into his gravestone:

“Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.”

I mean you do have to be crazy to want to be president. I like a sense of humor; there’s that grave in Key West:

“I told you I was sick.”

So what does one put on one’s grave – our greatest hits? The accomplishments of our life’s work? For me, Ive been teasing my kids forever, saying I wanted to be remembered in this way:

“She had a heavy metal band in her garage.” Or

“It could have been worse.”

Bob’s Grandfather Pinky wrote a book in Yiddish titled, “Better it Couldn’t Be.” But whenever life throws me a punch, I usually take the long view. The dog has fleas? She could have had tapeworms. I fell down the stairs? I could have broken my back. I think it’s an optimistic approach to things…hmm, what’s worse than a hard core heavy metal band? Disco?

I once heard a rabbi say that we don’t fully reach adulthood until we buy our burial plot. This isn’t true because Great Grandma Ada already bought my plot when I married her son, and I wasn’t quite ready to devote my afterlife in The Good Place to a Jewish cemetery in my hometown. After all, maybe I don’t want a plot of land with moss and stones all over it reminding people who never knew me that I existed.

We grow up to adulting when we decide it’s time to take responsibility for our lives. We stop blaming others for all our problems. Our generation is more realistic when confronting such momentous, end-of-life decisions, we consider the cycle of life, the overpopulation of the planet, and the generalized toxic waste of the funeral industry.

Have you heard you can get wrapped up in muslin and feed a tree? Or cremated and made into a diamond? Bob wants his body to go to a medical school, I’m not so sure I like that idea even if the Bride and Groom got to know each other in an anatomy lab at Mr Jefferson’s school. On a positive note, I leave you with this little ditty:

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I’ve always wondered what people mean when they differentiate “street smarts” or “common sense” from “book smarts.” Because intelligence isn’t just a number on an IQ test, and it’s not just the ability to memorize facts. Critical thinking is essential to a well-informed electorate; the ability to understand public policy and weed out an opinion from reality.

We are a nation divided, by coastline and big cities from the heartland. And if this trend toward anti-intellectualism continues we won’t just be “America First,” we’ll be “America All Alone” on the world stage. If I learned one thing from attending many Naturalization Ceremonies on July 4th at Monticello, it’s that we are a diverse nation with almost 200 religions. And that our Founding Fathers wanted a BIG wall between church and state! And men women and children are still flocking to our shores for the promise of a better life.

For the freedom to speak their mind.

Tomorrow a reprehensible group of people will gather in one of Cville’s beautiful parks to exercise their First Amendment rights. The police have installed cameras. Roads will be blocked to traffic. There’s no telling just how many will show up from other states, but this small blue dot, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, will be hosting a KKK Rally.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Klan has advertised their “Unite the Right: March on Charlottesville” for months. They burned their first cross in fact, in 1921, in front of Monticello’s graveyard.

Remnants of this Reconstruction-era white supremacist terrorist group have crawled out from under their rock to demonstrate against Charlottesville’s effort to remove its Jim Crow-era Confederate monument to General Lee. Historical preservationist organizations which support maintaining such Lost Cause relics have scrambled to voice their disavowals. One local white nationalist organizer has sputtered a feverish conspiracy theory: leftist activists must have put the Klan up to holding this July 8 event, a month prior to his own planned August 12 “alt-right” gathering at the General Lee statue, in order to tar his “legitimate conservatives” and Confederate devotees with the same ugly KKK brush. https://medium.com/@JalaneSchmidt/excuse-me-america-your-house-is-on-fire-lessons-from-charlottesville-on-the-kkk-and-alt-right-84aafddca685

And so we are to see another “Alt-Right” group come to town in August for this Summer of Hate. I must admit, I’m worried for this college town, a bright blue light of the Resistance. Our Mayor proudly calls us a Sanctuary City. And Indivisible Charlottesville has deployed many progressive activists around Albermarle County this past year. You may have read about some of my exploits here: https://mountainmornings.net/2017/01/31/busy-morning/

When the Rocker was in middle school, I was into the PTA in a big way. One day I found myself serving Chinese food to students in the cafeteria to help celebrate the Chinese New Year. I’ll never forget the look of hate on one boy’s face when he told me he didn’t want any. I coaxed a little, not wanting him to starve, and he followed up by telling me, “I’m NOT Chinese,” in a venomous voice. By 12 and 13 a world-view can be set in stone; children are taught to hate and fear “the other,” but it is possible to teach compassion instead.

Curiosity is essential to our growth and development as a people. What if Jefferson didn’t wonder what was beyond the Blue Ridge? What if Kennedy didn’t wonder if we could go to the moon? Today our President meets with Putin. What if Trump tells him what a great golfer he (Trump) is and how much money he’s making on this Presidential thing?

What if we’ve learned nothing from history?   IMG_0929

 

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Happy Fourth of July! Maybe you’re planning a trip to a beach, if you’re not in NJ. Maybe you’re going to a park for some grilling, if you’re not in the middle of moving. Or maybe you just want to stay home, because driving on the Fourth is the last thing on my mind.

My family’s Year of Living Dangerously didn’t start on this holiday, but you might say it ended in July, 1949. The Flapper was just emerging from the fog of grief; we had buried our Father in April. She had been reading about the new airport opening in Wilkes-Barre, PA, so she called up a friend and asked if he wanted to go for a ride. My brother Mike didn’t want to go, but my sister Kay and my other brother Jim piled into the back seat.

I was only ten months old, Nana held me close when the drunk driver plowed our car’s engine through the chassis and into the Flapper’s legs.

I have no real memory of 1949. But I do remember a swinging Dutch door in our Scranton, PA kitchen. And I remember my First Holy Communion at a farmhouse on Lake Wallenpaupack – which was named by the Lenape, “The Stream of Swift and Slow Water.”

In her later years, the Flapper lived on Lake Minnetonka, MN, very close to both of my brothers. Every July Fourth Mike would throw a barbeque, and Kay would fly out to spend the holiday with the family. I didn’t go very often because Bob was always working; it seems that an Emergency Department with its new influx of summer residents is extremely busy with fireworks mishaps and drunk drivers. I liked staying home, alone. I can’t tell you how many severed fingers have accompanied his patients, or how many motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol happened on the Fourth.

But I can tell you that today I won’t be alone. Bob and I will slather on the sunscreen and attend our last Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello, the speaker should be interesting:

David N. Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and prominent Reform rabbi, will be the featured speaker, addressing new citizens from around the world. https://www.monticello.org/site/visit/events/july-4th-monticello

And even though I didn’t vote for our President, I will cry patriotic tears when all those immigrants raise their hands to pledge allegiance to these United States of America. I always do. Tyranny can’t triumph, we are still free to speak our mind even if our press is denied access to this White House. Democracy is the law of the land and Monticello was, in large part, its birthplace.

Love Trumps Hate. Happy Independence Day everyone!  IMG_0830

 

 

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That’s the funny name of a farm near here. It never fails to tickle me each time I pass by, it speaks to the klutz in me, and to that part of me that thinks, “Well, you could step in …..!” The promise of an opportunity in the midst of a screw-up.

This morning we have one presidential candidate who would like to hold his taxes in close to the vest, and another who thinks everybody deserves to have private emails. The problem is that when you decide to run for the highest office in the land, everything is fair game. I cannot imagine anything Hillary might say in a private email that would (excuse the pun) trump the Donald’s oversized ego and grandiose public talking points.

He speaks in Twitter, full of incomplete sentences and contradictions. And he gives friends and enemies alike nicknames, as if he were a twelve year old boy. Try to think what would happen if Hill spouted any of his nonsense. Imagine Madame Secretary calling Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Trump later Tweeted:

“I find it offensive that Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be Native American to get in Harvard.”

Personally, I’d take “Goofy” over “Pocahontas” any day, as Jenna Johnson reported in the Washington Post. A Native American journalist, who called Trump’s remarks offensive, said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous in this day and age that we’re recognized as high cheekbones, the stereotypes of what you would see in ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Robertson said, referencing the 1990 movie. “Pocahontas — it’s so overdone. Like, come on. We’re living in a day and age now where that whole image and the romanticism around it and her portrayal — really it wasn’t a good story if you look at the history of Pocahontas.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/05/26/donald-trump-gets-called-out-for-calling-elizabeth-warren-pocahontas/

No, the story of a Native woman who was captured by English sailors and used as a pawn to broker peace for the Jamestown Settlement, was later converted to Christianity and married to John Rolfe (even though she had already married a Native Pamunkey man named Kocoum), moved to Henrico, VA, and died from tuberculosis or pneumonia she contracted after visiting England at the age of 22 is not a good story.

Another sign I pass frequently in my travels around Charlottesville is the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis, President Thomas Jefferson’s personal Secretary and later leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – a little tour de force that relied heavily on another kidnapped Native woman named Sacagawea. It’s almost ironic that Lewis’ first duty for TJ was privately screening officers in the Army with a code he wrote next to their names. He was a trusted neighbor who was born about ten miles from Monticello, right down the street from me, and after a bitter political fight between the Federalists and the Republicans, President Jefferson needed to know who was on his side! From Monticello’s website:

The roster of all commissioned officers, dated July 24, 1801, that was supplied to Jefferson featured curious symbols beside each officer’s name. Historians have identified an accompanying key that gives a meaning to each symbol as being written in the hand of Meriwether Lewis. From this it has been concluded that one of Lewis’ first duties was to assist Jefferson in determining the worthiness or unworthiness of officers, and in some instances their political leanings as well.

So secrecy and intrigue are not new to the political machinations of our fair country. I can only hope that Trump might trip himself up eventually, and say something he cannot walk back. Something, anything indefensible. Or maybe he’ll laugh like John Dean?

We chose Misty Gray for our basement. You can barely see our ghostly, gray mountains this morning, but the sun is OUT and the view from our basement under the deck isn’t half bad. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend folks, and try not to trip and fall into your local ER!

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Two of my favorite things collided at the Jefferson Library, literature and politics. Andrew Burstein introduced his book, “Democracy’s Muse,” to his audience and its most interesting paradox; how can the Right and the Left lay claim to our city’s most cherished President? The answer is, it’s complicated.                                    http://www.monticello.org/site/visit/events/book-talk-democracys-muse-andrew-burstein

But it all started out with a feeling, a “breathless feeling,” after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt read a book by Claude Bowers. The now famous book, published in 1925 and titled “Jefferson and Hamilton, the Struggle for Democracy,” clarified for FDR his vision, his strategy for fighting the Great Depression. He began to quote TJ, and our early fight to become not just a republic separate from the British, but a Democratic Republic. Partisan politics began with our first breath, and the primal question of the role of government took center stage when the Democrats first lost the South in a “privilege or pillage” speech that asked, “Who spoke for the people and who spoke for the rich?” Sound familiar?

That Keynote Speaker at the 1928 Democratic Convention was not a politician. Claude Bower, author, newspaper editorial writer, historian delivered these words:

 You cannot believe with Lincoln that the principles of Jefferson are “the definitions and the axioms of a free society,” and with Hamilton that they are the definitions of anarchy.

You cannot believe with Lincoln in a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” and with Hamilton in a government of the wealthy, by the influential and for the powerful.

After all, the Republicans had Lincoln, and so the Democrats anointed Jefferson. FDR’s Chief of Staff, Edwin Watson, in fact lived at Kenwood, next door to Monticello. The very building we were standing in yesterday, was where FDR waited to hear about the invasion of Normandy. Yes, I get goosebumps just thinking about that.

But eventually Ronald Reagan coopted Jefferson as the GOP’s own, claiming TJ was a champion for small government. And of course if you say it enough, half the country will believe it. And before you know it, Newt Gingrich was quoting the Charlottesville bard to illustrate his own “Contract With America.”

Returning home last night, Bob reminded me to check out the Google doodle. It was about another influential writer and newspaper reporter. I always called my foster mother, Nell Mahon “Nellie Bly,” it was her nickname and yesterday I found out who the original Nellie really was – a pioneering investigative reporter! At the ripe old age of 20, Nellie actually got herself admitted into a notorious insane asylum for 10 days in order to expose the inhumane treatment of patients. And to cap that off, she reported on her journey around the world in 72 days! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/05/nellie-bly-google-doodle_n_7210966.html

I was totally exhausted after one day tracing Nellie’s journey and the ideas that shaped our country, and our political partisanship. Today I think I’ll return to gardening, something TJ would certainly approve.

The Jefferson Library

The Jefferson Library

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IMG_0787Yesterday we got up early to wish our country a happy birthday. Like we’ve done so many times before, we headed up the mountain to Mr Jefferson’s home for the 52nd Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello. http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/nearly-citizens-naturalized-at-monticello/article_33d59e48-03f4-11e4-af9a-0017a43b2370.html

Thousands always gather to watch our newest citizens swear an oath of allegiance to these United States; red and blue, right and left unite in our collective pride for once. And as Iraq was dissolving into tribal warfare, trying desperately to sustain its very early gestational stage of freedom, I thought about the bigger picture. How we didn’t achieve true independence in 1776, well not ALL of us did, IMG_0792

We had to fight our own bloody Civil War and then survive the tumultuous 60s, and we are still voting one state at a time for marriage equality in 2014.

And while the keynote speaker, David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group, read an amusing email he received from TJ himself, it was his list of famous immigrants that caught my attention; Albert Einstein, YoYoMa, Kissinger, Madeline Albright, etc and I couldn’t help but think about the buses of women and children that have faced angry mobs in California, and the refugee camps we’ve set up along border states.    IMG_0797

Still, what other country our size manages to allow and contain so much dissent, along with a free press? How will history tell this American immigration story? It turns out Mr Rubenstein graduated the same year as Bob from Duke University. I asked Bob if he thought he’d been a frat boy in 1970. The Yearbook that year was divided in two, one for the Greeks and one for the Geeks (Hippies).

And as I stood there with my little flag and my hand in its splint, I thought about the Supreme’s latest Hobby Lobby ruling. In 1967 when I was in college, doctors were not allowed to write prescriptions for that newfangled birth control pill if you were unmarried. And today, your boss can determine your reproductive destiny because SCOTUS has ruled in favor of corporations over women. And it has once again softened the line between church and state, and we know what Mr Jefferson would say about that! IMG_0783

http://classroom.monticello.org/teachers/resources/profile/6/Jefferson-and-the-Declaration-of-Independence/   ps why do I always look like some botched plastic surgery victim?

 

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We always stay put on the 4th of July weekend. One reason is because the new residents have just started their intern year and need supervising. This has been true for centuries, if not for most of our marriage. The new doctors have to learn how to write a prescription, or maybe today how to email it to a pharmacy. They need to know the complex ins and outs of  digital, medical-coding and record keeping. They need to learn when to admit a patient to the hospital, and how. And what to do when said patient refuses admission and walks out – against medical advice. In other words, all the stuff they didn’t learn in medical school…they have to learn this in the month of July. Which is why you should try to avoid a teaching hospital’s ER in July.

The other reason we stick around on this holiday weekend is because I won’t drive anywhere. Because back in 1949, after my Father had died of a brain tumor in April, the Flapper went for a ride to see the new Wilkes Barre airport. That 4th of July weekend she had her legs crushed and nearly died when a drunk driver hit our car. My Nana and sister Kay were both in a coma, and my brother Jim was sent off to camp with broken ribs. After that trip to the ER, I was 10 months old and ended up with a foster family.

This year, though Bob is working the weekend, he’s off on the 4th so that we can attend Monticello’s Naturalization Ceremony. It’s become a tradition since we moved to Central Virginia, to hike up Mr Jefferson’s mountain and watch and weep while newly minted citizens pledge to honor and defend their new country; more than 3,000 immigrants have raised their right hands since 1963.

Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country’s foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual’s ability to change the face of the world — it’s easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, “So what if I’ve never designed a building before? If I want to, I will.”
from Sam Waterston’s remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007

Monticello Fourth 023FB

“Cheekiness,” I like that! We missed the year that George W Bush was the speaker, I don’t know why?

But we’ve heard actors and artists galore rave about these United States of America. https://mountainmornings.net/2011/07/02/yearning-to-breathe-free/ This year our local boy, Dave Matthews will be the keynote speaker. I used to see him working out all the time at our sport’s club (kind of like when I worked out next to the Boss in Shrewsbury). Star struck old lady on a stationary bike. It’s a bit more organized now since we first started our trek nearly 10 years ago. Now you must actually purchase a ticket, and you have to be bussed up to the old house.

I read somewhere that a woman who was taking the oath of citizenship, refused to say she would take up arms for her newly adopted country. http://rt.com/usa/doughty-atheist-citizenship-arms-012/ This created an uproar since she is not religious, but feels as a person of conscience she would not kill anyone. It seems the powers that be wanted her to get it (her pacifism) in writing from a church, before they would allow her to become a US citizen…only the Catch 22 is that she doesn’t belong to any church…Are we surprised that happened in Texas? Obviously a glitch in the naturalization process, since I’m sure Mr Jefferson would agree with her!

The wedding took place one mountain over from Monticello, 3 years ago, where Mr Jefferson grew his grapes and fruit trees. We were pretty cheeky!

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http://www.monticello.org/site/visit/july-4th-monticello

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