Thursday, May 26, 2011

Missouri Connection

Whether events are shaped by the "Hand of God" or are just random permutations of the possible is a matter of speculation. A tornado strikes in Missouri and lives are transformed.  Being that my Mother's family was situated in Missouri for multiple generations leads me to reflect.

By 1900, my Mother's grandparents Dan Igo, Emma Fisher, Robert Woods, and Mary Helen White were starting families in Missouri.  Their ancestors a few generations before had left France, Germany, Ireland, and England, because of religious and political conflict.  Few seem attracted for economic benefits, the present day motivation, North America being a site for refuge or banishment.

Lewis Igou probably didn't expect to leave Normandy, France, for Massachusetts and Maryland, but when Louis XIV rescinded the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and targeted French Huguenots for persecution, he and his family immigrated first to England in 1687 and then to America in 1688.

German Baron Johann Adam Fischer von Fischerbach probably had other plans for his son Adam, but when Adam injudiciously killed the King's deer, he was sent off from Silesia to Philadelphia for his safety in 1742.

If the English Parliament had treated the Scots-Irish better, instead of imposing test acts, refusing to recognize their Presbyterian religion, and discounting their service to the King, Michael Woods and his family might  not have immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1724, and carried their animosity towards the English into the American Revolution a few years later.

Mary Helen White's ancestor Walter Powers  was shipped to Massachusetts from Ireland at age 14 (1654) to be indentured to his future father-in-law Ralph Shepard, himself recently arrived from London in 1635, being an English Dissenter, at odds with the Church of England.  Another of her ancestors, James Murray, a Scot who participated in Argyll's Rebellion, was banished from Scotland and transported to the "Plantations" in 1685.

These families, arriving first at Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, soon migrated to Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  By the early 1800's, they were in Missouri.  Was this according to a grand plan?  Or circumstance?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Tea Party is Coming

Recently, I've considered writing about how I first came to Canada, my motivations, and how I felt after I came here.  It happened a long time ago.  Most of the issues are now forgotten history.

Then I run into a member of the Tea Party on the internet.  All the "Love or Leave It" meanness returns. But then it's just tribalism. Us against them.  It exists everywhere.

I have at times been in a Facebook group, "Americans in Canada".  I thought it might be interesting to share histories with other Americans who came to Canada.  Unfortunately, the conversation tends to be from young women who married Canadians, moved to Canada, and are homesick. What can I say?  It's a form of grieving.  Hang in there.  The posts tend either to consist of what they miss from the U. S. or their sensitivity to Anti-Americanism they find in Canada.

Anti-Americanism?  I have to think, "Have I experienced that here?"  Well, maybe.  I've always just laughed it off.  It's perplexed me more than offended.  And I've never really believed it, seeing all the travel and vacationing that Canadians do in the U. S.  It doesn't begin to compare with all the racial remarks that Canadians make about other groups that have immigrated to Canada. But if you're young and alone and been raised in the U. S. culture of seeing your history as heroic and virtuous, rather than self-interested, casual remarks can injure.

But the Tea Party is something else.  Yesterday, I followed the remarks of a Tea Party member (self-described) from Michigan, who was immigrating to Alberta to be with her Canadian husband.  She claimed to know everything about Canada.  After all, she had grown up in Detroit, able to see Canada.

She began by informing me that in the Winter Olympics, Canadian athletes had been shamefully subsidized by their government, being, I guess, some form of hired guns.  American athletes, on the other hand, performed out of  "love for their country", without government assistance.

She informed me that the U. S. was a republic, where people voted for individuals to represent them.  Canada, on the other hand, had a parliamentary system, which was sinisterly "European" and foreign, and you had to vote for the "party", not the individual.

She knew that Canada was "socialist" and that the NDP was very dangerous and "Marxist".  I said I thought she was probably referring to Canada's single payer health care system, but she said there were many other things besides health care, although she didn't identify any.  I tried to help her by pointing out that Canada was so far "left", that it had run surplus budgets twelve years in a row (1997-2008).  She countered with the observation that the United States was "broke", and that's where Canadian policies like government-paid  health care had gotten them.

To sum up, she was happy to see that Stephen Harper had won the election, and she knew that many little "tea parties" were sprouting up in Canada to help save it.  That certainly made my day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

All Culture is Conditioning

It occurs to me that I may not ever have an original thought.  Whenever I think I've stumbled upon something: "All culture is conditioning"; "All politics is tribal"; "All English (excepting immigrants) are descended from King Edward I", I test it on Google, and there it is.  On the one hand, it confirms what I've been thinking; on the other, my idea is probably not as insightful as I had imagined.

As I watched the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, I thought, "Well, there's goes my cousin!"  A bit of self-indulgence, because almost every other person with English roots can claim the same thing (even if quite distant).  In fact, on the same basis, I can also claim a relationship with George Washington, George Bush, and Barack Obama.  After all, inter-relationship over time is what makes races.  It also creates the tribe and informs the biases.

Along with "All culture is conditioning", is my corollary, "All beliefs are tied to the ego".  This is why it is so difficult to resolve disagreements, especially if there has been an investment in social approval or self-esteem. People aren't particularly receptive to ideas which conflict with attitudes developed over time, selectively re-inforced, and tied to their social group.  Extended to politics, it means one tribe against another.  Forget objective evidence.  We are attracted to ideas which make us feel good.  Dominance is one of them.

I notice on social networking, the intensity by which posters vie for attention, attack each other, protect their imagined turf.  Liberals hook up with other Liberals and attack Conservatives; Conservatives hook up with other Conservatives and attack Liberals.  They re-inforce each other.  Extreme statements get tested for validation (or just to attract attention).  Finding common ground with the enemy is disloyalty to the tribe.  Desertion or banishment would be a psychological "no-man's land".

Two weeks ago, we celebrated Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays.  Most North Americans claim to be Christians, so you would think this might be an important spiritual event.  From what I could see on social networks, Easter is the celebration of chocolate, colored eggs, eating, and, of course, more shopping.  "Love your neighbour?"; "Forgive your enemy?"  Not quite.  Not when there's a good attack to get in on.

It seems a long time, since "Change came to America".  But human beings didn't evolve through large-scale cooperation.  They evolved through tribal warfare.  Selection of the fittest.  Survival against threat: physical, psychological, and emotional.  It's hard-coded in our genes.