May Day Ain’t What It Used to be

“Spring (May) is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
― Robin Williams

I was informed of a lengthy list of Spring activities happening this weekend. The weekend that includes Sunday’s May 1st… May Day. Thank you “Your Friend Four”, the local news station and their morning anchor for filling me in.

There was not one mention of a May Day celebration or a May Pole. Where has May Day gone? A victim of the Christian Sunday or Christian persecution due to its pagan roots?

If I Google May Day I get celebrations of workers, branded Anarchist, Communist or Socialist by my right leaning friends. If I Google May Pole, I find images of scantily clad ladies hanging from a stripper pole. I wish I were that limber.

There is much to do around the foothills of the Blue Ridge this weekend, but the closest you get to the “spirit” of May Day is the “euphoria Spring Fest presented by Lexus.” When I clicked on their link, the Spring Fest was more about food than the celebration of Spring. It is also a chance to dance around a new Lexus rather than a May Pole, I guess.

I did find one May Day celebration. May Day Faerie Festival at Marshy Point. All Right!!! Now we’re cookin’ with gas…in Maryland you say? Oops.

There was a time. Girls in ethereal, white dresses and flowers woven in their hair, mocking wood nymphs or Spring witches while dancing around a “May Pole”. A bonfire might have been involved. May Day had a decidedly pagan feel to it with good reason. In a time long ago, I celebrated even though as a child I knew not what we were celebrating.

Charles Amable Lenoir – A Nymph In The Forest

The child in me remembers a May Day celebration held in my school’s gymnasium. I was forced to participate by my fifth-grade teacher or our music teacher. I forget which. I suspect they were in cahoots.

Little boys in their school clothes, too long blue jeans rolled up over sneakers, were matched with female classmates dressed in colorful little girl dresses. We were forced to dance, skipping through an arbor covered in fake vines and around the gym floor. The only upside was I was matched with the fifth-grade love of my life that was never to be. How could it have been? Every time I tried to speak to her, I stuttered. I remember choking back a sick feeling, fearing I might throw up as we touched hands.

Later, I went to a fine Southern institution of higher learning associated with the Lutheran Church. May Day and Lutheranism had Germanic roots so it is inevitable we would celebrate May Day. The area my college was founded in was named the “Dutch Fork”. Dutch was a mispronunciation of German in their own language, “Deutsch”.

German immigrants settled in the area between the Saluda and Broad Rivers of South Carolina in the mid-1700s when incentives were offered to European Protestants to go forth and multiply while growing crops in the fertile river bottoms. Unlike the Pennsylvania Dutch, German culture beyond family names and Lutheran Churches has not survived…including, I guess, May Day.

A delivery of a Mayday basket of flowers to First Lady Grace Cooledge in 1927 – Library of Congress

We had a fine celebration at the college. A concert provided by the college band and jazz ensemble along with the choir. Baskets of spring flowers, treats, a Germanic blond coed named as the May Queen…purely a popularity contest…and she was quite popular. There might have been fruit punch laced with alcohol by one of our less than upstanding young men.

We Southerners do love a good celebration complete with a beauty contest and spiked fruit punch. These were the early Seventies, and it seems now like it might have been medieval times. Of course, we had the mandatory May Pole dance with coeds winding streamers around a tall pole anchored in the center of quad…until our Dean of Women got involved. She deemed our liberal arts education as too liberal as it related to certain fertility rites.

Part of a traditional German May Day Celebration-Erster Mai

There are competing theories about the origins of the May Day celebration. The symbolism of the maypole has been debated by folklorists with no definitive answer arriving. Some scholars classify maypoles as symbols of the world axis, others believe maypoles were erected as trees covered with garland and a sign that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned. These were celebrated by towns people with substantial amounts of food and drink…and bonfires.

Erecting the May Pole – Double entendre? pinterest.com

The fact that these celebrations were found primarily in areas of Germanic Europe has led to the speculation that the maypoles were in some way a relic of a Germanic pagan tradition. I ascribe to this speculation.

A more recent speculation involves the belief that the May Pole represented a phallic symbol and young ladies dancing around it, a symbol of…well, I’ll let you use your imagination. I raise my red Solo cup filled with spiked punch and toast to a fertile Spring.

Our Dean of Women used her imagination when she learned of this, and it did not bode well for the May Pole dance specifically and the May Day celebration in general. She didn’t much like the annual “panty raid” either.

She was the prudish female who proved the stereotype. An older, unmarried woman, small in stature but who had a look and tongue that could cut you off at your knees. I was never comfortable in her presence at all and hoped I would never run afoul of the acid dripping from her tongue. Her influence was legendary and at her insistence May Day celebrations ended.

Supposedly…and, like the origins of May Day, this is up for debate…her comment to our college President included the statement, “If we are going to have young ladies dance around a pole, young men should dance around a hole in the ground.” Legend or rumor? I do not know.

There is something about a good pagan festival… if the animal sacrificed is a pig, slow cooked over hardwood coals. Good clean fun until it isn’t when the barbarians run off with the women folk. Food, drink, a bonfire. My last bonfire with a group of barbarians was several years ago. We were celebrating life and it was early May. It may well have been pagan.

Instead of young nymphs, older folks used clear, unaged alcohol and herbal remedies to relive those earlier days of our youth. Instead of dancing around a May Pole we moved slowly to Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin with a little Jerry Butler to mellow things out. The only real difference between then and now was we all left the bonfire about the time we once got going full tilt in those thrilling days of yesteryear.

Have a happy first day of May.

Don Miller’s writings may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR363X9GP0lfBwVyIKKbwNaXeetnwVkmkqDyMNODvmLaMOHeqg8KCystRMo

Intersecting Easter

“In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life, the roots of something new frequently lie in the decaying husks of something old.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

As I finished my walk with my best friend the conversation turned toward religion, as it often does. It continued while we drank our morning coffee at a local cafe. For some reason he thinks I’m more versed in this area than I really am. Less versed but our conversation got me thinking. Always an uncertain condition for me.

One of my thoughts was how the conservative, Evangelical Southern Baptist and the liberal, raised Methodist, and Dudeist continue to find common ground. Tis a shame some of our other brothers and sisters in faith can’t find the common ground. All it takes is a little work on both our parts. For clarification I am the liberal, he the conservative.

Later my thinking took me down a pig trail and the mental gymnastics I attempt to avoid. Coming to grips with my own beliefs…or lack thereof. A day of thinking turned into my own form of comedic relief. I realize it may only be funny to me.

April is a month in which the three major monotheistic religions and pagans celebrate important somethings and I found myself doing a bit of research. I am no longer as less versed as I was three mornings ago, but a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

Today, as I share this, is the Christian Easter, the most important celebration on the Christian calendar that proclaims Christ’s victory over death and the forgiveness of our sins as we are washed in the blood of Christ. As a child, being washed in the blood of Christ was a bit scary as were many of the stories told to me from the Bible. I still find myself more literal than I should be.

Besides celebrating the resurrection of Christ, we have expanded our celebration to include Easter hams, hot cross buns, new clothes, chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs, and rainbow-colored chicks along with Passion Plays, Easter Masses and Communions. There seems to be a tie in with the Christian Easter and ancient pagan spring festivals celebrating fertility and rebirth. (More on that later)

In accordance with Christ’s teachings, this connection to pagan festivals is perfectly fine with me. Resurrection is a form of rebirth and there are fertile fields of pseudo believers, nonbelievers, and those who have slid back waiting to be harvested. I know, for I am one.

Connected to Easter, Biblically and by the calendar, is the Jewish celebration of Passover, the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring. To translate that into English for non-Jews, Passover is celebrated from April 15 through April 23. In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox which means Easter is celebrated near Passover. In the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is a bit more complicated because it involves a different calendar but sometimes, they even coincide.

During the time of The Passover, according to the Book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to mark their homes with lamb’s or goat’s blood so that the Angel of Death will pass over them. This was the tenth plague placed upon Egypt for keeping the Israelites in bondage. The plague – the deaths of all first-born males except for those protected by the blood.

After the death of all firstborns, the Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave, taking whatever, they want, and asks Moses to bless him in the name of the Lord. The Passover sacrifice of a lamb or goat recalls the time when the LORD “passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt”.

After ten plagues I understand why the Pharaoh might have been happy for the Israelites to leave but he backtracked some seven days later sending his chariots after them and setting up another miracle, The Parting of the Red Sea.

April is also the month of Ramadan for those who practice the religion of Islam. The Islamic holiday of Ramadan began on April 2 and lasts through the month of April. It’s centered around fasting, self-reflection, and prayer, and serves as one of the Five Pillars of Islam central to the religion.

During this month, Muslims can eat before sunrise – a meal called suhoor – and after sunset. The evening meal is called iftar. The month ends with a celebratory feasting holiday, Eid al-Fitr.

Unlike Easter and Passover, the origin of Ramadan is not surrounded by “blood”…that will come later. According to Muslim traditions, in a cave on a mountain, Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel and was told he was a “Messenger” or “Prophet of God”. This was confirmed to Muhammad by a Christian relative Muhammad discussed it with.

Shortly after, Muhammad began to receive further revelations from Gabriel, as well as from the realizations of his own heart. According to hadith, the stories about Muhammad’s life, all holy scriptures were sent down during Ramadan, making these thirty days the holiest in the Muslim religion.

Along with the monotheistic religions I must shout out to my pagan friends too. I know I have one. They are involved in this intersection too and seem to be a fun group. Their calendar was based off the lunar cycles and equinoxes and solstices were important, none more so than the Spring Equinox. I know their lives were hard, but they certainly knew how to throw a celebration. Their Spring festival to the Goddess Oestara or Eostre or Biblically “Ishtar” being just one.

Their Spring celebration is the origin of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg except for the pagans it was the ‘moon hare’ that laid the ‘Cosmic Egg’ from which emerged all life. It is a short leap to chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs. The ‘hare of Eostre’ became the ‘Easter Bunny’ and the ‘Cosmic Egg’ became the Easter egg. It is thought that the word Easter morphed from Eostre.

A statue of The Cosmic Egg

Further, in pagan time special cakes were baked as sacrificial offerings to the moon goddess and were marked with an equal-armed cross to divide the cake into four quarters. These represented the four lunar quarters. The cake was then broken up into pieces and buried at the nearest crossroads as an offering. Again, we have a short leap to the ‘hot cross buns’…with a slab of Easter ham resting between two halves. That too is of pagan origins.

Biblically, Ishtar, both the mother and wife of Nimrod, a grandson of Noah, became pregnant and bore a son named Tammuz claiming he was the product of a sunray, which caused her to conceive. But Tammuz grew to be a hunter and was later killed by a wild pig. Ishtar, who claimed Nimrod had not died but became the god, Baal. She designated a forty-day period (the source of Lent?) to mark the anniversary of Tammuz’s death.

During this time, no meat was to be eaten. Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, a celebration was made. Ishtar also proclaimed that because a pig killed Tammuz, that a pig must be eaten on that Sunday, preferably in a hot cross bun. I added the bun part.

Enough research and intersection. I hope however you celebrate Easter it is a wonderful experience. I am going to have a ham biscuit.

Thanks to Laura Dye for suggesting the site: Folklore, Customs, Legends and Mythology. It was helpful and the basis of my research on pagan celebrations. I might have even copied a bit.

Google supplied the Bunny Rabbit image although it looks just like the semi-tame bunny who lives in my back yard.

Don Miller’s latest release is a nonfiction group of stories and essays named “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes, More Musings From a Mad Southerner.” The book may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Trails-Rabbit-Holes-Southerner/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Black History…American History….

“Black history is indeed American history, but it is also world history.”
― Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

In the early days of the Obama years, I first got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” question as soon as Black History Month began, and I discussed what I might be teaching.  We are in the second year of the second administration since and the same people are making the same asinine statements or asking the same asinine questions. 

I will be disgusted because many asinine statements will come from former students, teaching peers, and friends I want to respect but find that I can’t.  We can agree to disagree but not on racism, covert or overt. White is the default, a preselected option. When it is not, we can move on from Black History Month.

I question the motives of folk who comment negatively about Black History Month and wonder if the ghost of George Wallace or Strom Thurmond haunts them. I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?”

An answer to the last question, in a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T have Black History Month. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others that you can take the time to look up. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months that don’t begin with F.” I agree with my student and believe any child should be made to feel included.

Examples of it not being a perfect world include protest, verbal and physical, over CRT, kneeling football players, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and The 1619 Project, a book I am presently reading. Parents are outraged over naked mice in Maus and language that they themselves use when yelling down school board members. Examples of an imperfect world date to when “We hold these to be self-evident, all men are created equal” was written. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both an ideal and a lie and evidence of an imperfect world when they were first penned.

As a retired, high school history teacher I know history books are written from a decidedly European-American point of view…well…at least where I taught, a deeply red, conservative state. A state that almost required D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” as required viewing, along with Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” and Walter Raleigh’s “Ivanhoe” as required reading. I find little has changed in the time since I retired as it relates to most non-European-American history.

During a year, Asian-Americans are mentioned a few times.  Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese Exclusion Act and Gentleman’s Agreement, the Japanese involvement in World War Two and China goes communist, Korea and Vietnam.

Hispanic contributions, a bit more. Spanish colonization, the Mexican-American War, Imperialism, Pancho Villa, and then a jump to NAFTA and the question “Why are they taking our jobs?” Wait, we fixed that one, didn’t we? Since I’ve retired, I’m sure illegal immigration is a topic. Notice, these are all mostly decidedly negative when viewed from a white European point of view and not a celebration at all.

Native Americans are prominent but disappear after Wounded Knee unless you happen to bring them back up in the Sixties with the many social movements. Again, until recently, Custer’s Last Stand was viewed as a glorious massacre, brave men falling to war painted heathens. Damn Redskins stepping on our Manifest Destiny and the only good Indian…! I digress.  The Washington Football Team, formally Redskins and now Commanders, cured all those ills. (Said with sarcasm)

I rarely taught Black history exclusively during Black History Month. I was wrong. I deluded myself into thinking that I taught EVERYONE’S HISTORY ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t need to focus on a Black History Month. It wasn’t until late in my career that I began to assess what I had taught. I’m not happy.

Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois versus Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and maybe Malcomb X. There were others but most were only related to certain peculiar aspects of African American lives and American history. A decidedly important aspect but besides George Washington Carver and Langston Hughes, there was nothing about other contributions.

Why didn’t I teach other aspects of Black culture and history? Because I hadn’t been taught Black culture and history. During my college days, Black culture and history were after thoughts…not even after thoughts. I grew up in a segregated society that had just begun to transition as I entered college. I did run across an African Studies course as I finished my specialist’s degree thirty years later, but I did not enroll.

Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight contributions by African Americans. It should focus on the less obvious, not just slavery, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights.

Musicians, artists, writers, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, businesspeople, soldiers, etc. should be spotlighted. It should be an opportunity for us all to learn. As I have learned, Black History is American History and a rich, patriotic history at that.

Three years before my second retirement were teaching “cultural” geography. I loved it. One, I had no end of school testing pressure and could go off on any tangent I desired to go off on. I could be creative and allow creativity from my students. It became about cultural diversity, really teaching everyone’s history and culture, all year long. I would like to think my best efforts as a teacher came during those three years.

A paragraph I wrote in one of my many musings sums up my feelings, “Today I look toward diversity as a smorgasbord of delights. I believe we should just focus on how diversely different people party. How can you be distrustful of people who produce such wonderful food? Or music, or art, or etc….. My life without Latin, Soul, Asian, and Cajun foods would not be life-ending, but life would not be as joyous, especially without a Belgian, Mexican, Jamaican, or German beer, a Mojito, or some Tennessee whiskey to go with it and a Cuban cigar for afterward. We should play some Blues, Reggae, Blue Grass, or a little Zydeco to help the atmosphere along. It is just as easy to focus on the positives about diversity as it is the negatives and again with knowledge comes understanding.”

I am a social liberal swimming in a red sea of conservatism and make no excuses for my beliefs. I don’t believe books should be banned or that CRT is being forced down our children’s throats by liberal teachers who hate America.

I believe that the rights that someone else is given do not take my rights away from me including the right to celebrate Black History Month…or Cinco De Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day for that matter. In fact, I have joined in and by doing so believe I am not only a better American but a better human.

I know my quote by Angela Y. Davis will rankle some folk. Yes, she is a Communist and yes, she was arrested for the crime of murder…and acquitted by an all-white jury I might add. She is also a lesbian and a liberal university professor. Many will discount anything I said because I used her quote. In this case it is about the message not the messenger. Black history is world history.

Don Miller’s Author’s Page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0mzivK_bmnTjG4D9RL1KGMQ4TurZ8y7hrFca8ExoRa_XmkEUStmSylMCc

The Season of the Girl….

On my knees, burying a rose bush, my train of thought suddenly derailed. I thought about something I had shared celebrating International Women’s Day. A memory formed in my head. I’m sure it is a symptom of my advancing age…or the Commodores singing about a “Brick House” over my ear buds. I went back to the future to the early Eighties and a season I titled, “The Season of the Girl….”

I spent most of my forty-five years in athletics coaching young men. There were two occasions I was called upon to coach young women.  One was thrust upon me by a lawsuit…not against me, the other a favor to a fellow coach.  Both were learning opportunities for the male chauvinist that used to be me. 

In the middle Seventies, I accepted the position of head boys soccer coach at the high school where I taught.  At the time Mauldin High School was as country as a cow patty and the kids that came out for soccer had no idea what soccer was. Most were American football players looking for a ball to kick around and a body to run over.

The appointment was my first head coaching position at the varsity level.  It should have been a joyous occasion.  The culmination of hard work and accomplishment but it wasn’t. I was a warm body, available, and could drive a bus. I also needed the six-hundred-dollar stipend the position paid. 

Soccer was a sport I had never played or seen played which was not unusual for the time.  I was a blank slate as were most of my players, especially the first year. The first year I only had two players who knew how the game should be played, the rest looked for a body to block and toe kicked the ball as far as they could. Even they knew more than their coach. Truly the blind leading the blind.

 We jokingly referred to the game as “communist kickball” which for us was not far from the truth…the kickball part. We were starting from scratch.  The first soccer match I saw was the first soccer match I coached in. It was the same for most of my players.

This was when Neanderthals roamed the earth before video tape and well before YouTube.  There was nothing available for me to “research”.  No access to computer vids or DVDs with instructions on “how to change the pull cord in a lawn mower” or “beginning brain surgery.” None existed on soccer either, they hadn’t been invented.

Somehow, I learned.  Like the “blind hog who root hogged until he found an acorn” we tied our first match. I was a blind and stupid hog, but I did root-hog hard to get ahead of the curve.  Luckily, it was a shallow curve.  For seven years, especially the last four, we were one of the best teams in the state with many acorns to be found.

In the early Eighties the South Carolina General Assembly steepened my curve.  Our General Assembly finally decided to acknowledge Title IX, enacted in 1972, but only because a court case forced their hand.  The legislative train runs slowly in the South when it comes to equal rights, and the politicians had drug their feet until just before the season began.  Avoiding the lawsuit, our governing body, The SC High School League, decided women would have a voice in high school soccer, but it would not be a chorus of voices, it would be a solo.

The chickens had come home to roost and we were told that for one year, until women’s teams could be formed the next year, girls could try out for our men’s soccer teams. It was a hollow victory with only one school in the state with a woman on their team. We had just gone coed, and the Mauldin High School soccer program would become a very tiny footnote in history.

Girls couldn’t compete with guys, could they?  I was about to find out.  Laena and Cathy showed up for the first day of practice along with a couple of dozen of their male counterparts.  Too many bodies vying for twenty-two positions.  Cuts would have to be made.  Cutting a team is never enjoyable but this one had the added effect of a feminist’s minefield.

I sought knowledge from our girl’s PE teacher and primary girl’s coach, a wonderful old battle-axe who if she reads this will smile at the reference…I hope. I say battle-axe with all the love and respect I can muster.  In 1980 I was terrified of her and as I’ve found it the later years, my fear was unjustified. 

Seeking understanding of the feminine beast, I asked, “Anything you can tell me about coaching girls?” 

She gave me a squinty eyed look, and in her gravely voice minced no words, “Miller…you ain’t stupid.  You coach ‘em like boys.”  I was fairly sure the first statement was untrue which made me question the second. 

As I watched practice, attempting to evaluate the talent, I was reasonably sure Lena could make the team.  She was athletic…I’m sure in my mind I added, “for a girl”. Laena was a blond Norwegian who had moved to Mauldin from one of the Northern states with ice and lakes and had played soccer most of her life. She had a skill set on par if not better than most of the men.  She didn’t have the speed or strength but was smart enough to read what was occurring and put herself where she needed to be for success.  She was also a tough nut who played with a chip on her shoulder. 

Cathy was a hardnosed goalkeeper but didn’t have the quickness or strength to compete with the men.  I thought I was about to step into the Mars-Venus minefield, but she took herself out of the mix. Cathy was smart and read the writing on the wall and approached me about becoming a manager and bookkeeper. I was happy to oblige and happy to keep her.

There were other cow patties lying about waiting to be stepped in, as with any team, men, women, or coed.  These were different.  Slapping players on the butt immediately went out the window along with certain language nuances.  Being given homemade cookies before practice was a pleasing difference, not a cow patty at all.

As I look back, I smile because of the respect Laena earned from the men.  It was earned and I include myself.  Some of the more immature didn’t know how to act and quite a few got their noses out of joint.  They were verbal out of my earshot in their criticism of “the girl” until she took them out with a hard tackle or hacked them up in a drill.  After an early season discussion, Lena decided it would be best to take care of her own problems and she did…sometimes as violently as her Viking forefathers.

We did get our collective noses out of joint over our media coverage.  During those days, soccer competed with basketball for newsprint with soccer coming in a distant second.  When local news broke that Lena was the only girl participating in SC high school soccer, our coverage increased but it wasn’t about the team and Lena and I grew tired of answering the dreaded “What’s it like…” question.

In our first match, against our closest rival, when Laena went in the game it was as if someone had muted the volume until an opposing player took her down with a hard shoulder tackle.  The poor boy.  As play continued he stopped and offered her a hand, fine Southern gentleman that he was. She took it, and as quickly took him down with an illegal tackle that drew a warning from the official.  She giggled as she ran back to her position in the midfield.  She had made her point. Soccer players giggling? They shouldn’t giggle.

It was our best season, “the season of the girl”.  Unless I’m confusing years, we were 13-3-3 and went on to win an Upper State Championship before falling in a close match in the State Championship.  A memorable season by anyone’s standards.  Lena was more than a team member.  She was not a token and contributed many quality minutes.  She was also a teacher because I learned a great deal.  I learned not to coach them like men, or women, I learned to coach them like people.

My daughter went on to play soccer, also at Mauldin High School, a couple of decades later.  I can’t help but think maybe we laid a little of the groundwork for her own State Championship in her “season of the girl”. She was the hard-nosed goalkeeper who made me cringe every time she came out to attack a break away.  She turned out okay and lost no teeth.  My grand daughter is now playing, hope she looses no teeth.

Athletics are important, no matter what the gender.  Athletics teaches life. Hard work makes you better as both a player and a person. Players learn sacrifice, resilience, how to deal with success and failure, and how to play well with others. Athletics stresses taking worthwhile risks, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It teaches that in life, you won’t win all of the time and that’s okay.

Celebrate “the season of the girl”, Women’s History Month, and the International Women’s Day.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0jCNAuN3Z8dNPesZwZtTn0bQHkZG8G6HgAbbZlv-rpjKH_Cn4aPmvbZKA

Celebrating the “Dreaded” Black History Month.

In the middle of the Obama years, I got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” question.  Tomorrow, February 1, two administrations later, I’m sure I’ll see some of the same.  I will be disgusted because many will come from folks, I want to respect but find that I can’t.  We can agree to disagree but not on racism.

Why are some of “white” America so “butthurt” over Black History Month? I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?”

An answer to the last question, in a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others that you can take the time to look up. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months that don’t begin with F.” I agree with my student.

As a retired, high school history teacher I know history books are written from a decidedly Anglo-American point of view…well…at least where I taught, a deeply red, conservative state. A state that almost required D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” as required viewing, along with Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” and Walter Raleigh’s “Ivanhoe” as required reading.

During the course of a year, Asians are mentioned about four times. Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese Exclusion Act and Gentleman’s Agreement, the Japanese involvement in World War Two and China goes communist.  I almost forgot Korea and Vietnam. That makes five and six.

Hispanic contributions, maybe a bit more. Spanish colonization, Mexican American War, Imperialism, Pancho Villa, and then a jump to NAFTA and the question “Why are they taking our jobs?” Wait, we fixed that one didn’t we? Notice, these are all mostly decidedly negative when viewed from an Anglo point of view.

Native Americans are prominent but disappear after Wounded Knee unless you happen to bring them back up in the Sixties with the many social movements. Again, until recently, Custer’s Last Stand was viewed negatively by Anglo America. Damn Redskins stepping on our Manifest Destiny and the only good Indian…! I digress.  The Washington Football Team cured all those ills this past season. (said with sarcasm)

I rarely taught Black history during Black History Month. I was wrong. I deluded myself into thinking that I taught EVERYONE’S HISTORY ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t need to focus on a Black History Month. Then I began to assess what I had taught. I’m not happy. Kind of like ALL HISTORY CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK HISTORY MATTERS.

Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois versus Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and maybe Malcomb X. There were others but most were only related to one aspect of African American lives and American history. A decidedly important aspect but besides George Washington Carver and Langston Hughes, there was nothing about other contributions.

Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight contributions by African Americans. Musicians, artists, writers, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, businesspeople, soldiers, etc.  It should be an opportunity for us all to learn. 

As a teen, I picked up one of my father’s books, Foxes of Harrow. It was written by Frank Yerby. I read all his books that my father had and along the way picked up a few more. They featured historical fiction with a bit of…latent eroticism. Nothing graphic but I was a teen boy, it didn’t take much!

As a young adult, I was looking for more of Yerby’s books not realizing he had died and found out he was bi-racial and from Georgia…which meant, because of the “one-drop law”, he was black. Who knew and should it matter? No it shouldn’t. Just like celebrating Black History Month should not matter if you are white, green or multi-colored. It should be a positive educational experience for all.  Postscript on Yerby.  He fled his native Georgia, first for France and then Spain, where he lived for the rest of his life.  I’ll let you research why he fled.

Three of my last four years before retirement were teaching “cultural” geography. I loved it. One, I had no end of school testing pressure and could go off on any tangent I desired to go off on. I could be creative and allow creativity from my students. It became about cultural diversity, really teaching everyone’s history, all year long.

In a paragraph I wrote about a former student turned preacher I said, “Today I look toward diversity as a smorgasbord of delights. I believe we should just focus on how diversely different people party. How can you be distrustful of people who produce such wonderful food? Or music, or art, or etc…. My life without Latin, Soul, Oriental and Cajun foods would not be life-ending but life would not be as joyous, especially without a Belgian, Mexican, Jamaican or German beer or maybe some Tennessee whiskey to go with it and a Cuban cigar for afterward. Someone might as well play some Blues, Reggae or a little Zydeco to help the atmosphere along. It is just as easy to focus on the positives about diversity as it is the negatives and again with knowledge comes understanding.”

I realize that I am a social liberal swimming in a red sea of white conservatism and make no excuses. I believe that the rights that someone else is given don’t take my rights away from me including the right to celebrate Black History Month…or Cinco De Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day for that matter. In fact, I have joined in and by doing so believe I am not only a better American but a better human.

Don Miller’s Author’s Page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0mzivK_bmnTjG4D9RL1KGMQ4TurZ8y7hrFca8ExoRa_XmkEUStmSylMCc

I’m Havin’ a Birthday….

 

Seventy years ago, today, April 9, the world was blessed with a bouncing baby boy…me.  Said with a big grin, “I remember it well; it was a clear and crisp Easter Sunday”…I actually don’t remember anything about it.

If family stories are to be believed, my father went to bed on April the eighth moaning about an early morning Sunrise Service he really didn’t want to attend.  Ernest got up earlier than he intended.  I got my mother up quite early.  I was weeks ahead of my arrival date.

True to form, I have little patience, but I did make them wait until I was ready to emerge and conquer the world.  I understand it was a long day, especially for my mother.  I was worth it, I’m sure, but I am still waiting to conquer the world and time is running out.

Freaking seventy?  Where did the time go?  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was standing to wait for the bus to take me to my first day of school?  When it comes to birthdays, time flies whether you are having fun or not…I’m having fun right now, I’m just having it slowly.

As I sit typing away, I don’t feel seventy…until I get up maybe.  The fibrous materials holding these old bones together will protest the rapid movement associated with standing and walking but compared to many of my peers I’m doing okay.  I’ll run (eye roll) and walk three and a half miles as the sun creeps above the horizon.  I’m pretty proud of that but in the back of my mind, I hope I survive the day.

The mirror tells no lies.  I look at peers and wonder, “Why do I look so much younger than they do?”  Then I’ll look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that guy?”  Maybe it’s the harsh light…of reality.  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was the good-looking kid with the crewcut?  Now I’m the old balding guy with the big nose and ears.

Did you know the only body parts that continue to grow as you age are your ears and nose?  If I live long enough, I’ll resemble Dumbo the Elephant.  A little boy points, his voice shrills with fear, “Look, look Mom!  The old man just tripped over his ears?”

I expect I might trip the light fandango through the memories of previous years.  I try to be forward-thinking and there are plenty of warm and fuzzies but I’m thinking about family and friends I have lost over the years.  They flash across the face of my mind.  Snatches of people, some in black and white.  The problem is as you get older, the list grows longer.

No!  I’m not lamenting my birthday.  The alternative is not good.  My memories are all happy ones, a young boy surrounded by family, blowing out the candles on his cake.

I am lamenting the quarantine.  It’s been six weeks since I’ve seen my daughter’s family except in pictures.  I remember the last time I saw the grandbabies.  I can feel their arms wrapping around my legs…maybe I shouldn’t go there.

So, it’s my birthday.  One of those momentous ones.  Born in a year ending in zero it’s too easy to keep up with them.  I’ve heard all the trite sayings about age being just a number,  I’m not old I’m a classic, etc., but the fact is the road ahead is much shorter than the road behind.  The Bible says I am living on borrowed time so once more I’m going to try and make this trip around the sun a bit more momentous…I’m not going to jump out of any airplanes.

Happy Birthday to me and a bit of Jimmy Buffett.

“Trip Around the Sun” is a song by American country music artists Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride in August 2004 as the second single from Buffett’s album License to Chill.

Don Miller writes poorly at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0uOIommkv9nnhPm29GnLeOczmiq5eFTsr_nl-20jF2_0Bt_8fAOyIqkT0