When Cloud Banks Come Together

June 30, 1912

Citizens of Regina, Saskatchewan, a growing city on the Canadian prairie, sweltered in the sultry 100̊ F afternoon. The flags on display for the Dominion Day celebrations the next day hung limp on their poles. Folks sat on porches fanning themselves, longing for some ripple of breeze.

Some young folks and couples were spending the Sunday afternoon in Wascana park, or padding canoes on Wascana Lake a few blocks south of Regina’s business district. A flock of faithful Anglicans were gathered at St Paul’s Church listening to sermons by their local Bishop and Canon Hicks from London, England. Some women fainted because of the intense heat and humidity in the auditorium.

By mid afternoon storm clouds appeared in the south. Folks watched the cloud banks rolling toward each other, one system coming from the southeast and another from the southwest. At 4:30 pm the clouds were moving rapidly toward a collision. Folks began hearing rumbles of thunder; the sky took on a strange green glow; blue and red lighting bolts flashed along the ground. This phenomena was something prairie folks had never seen before. They had no idea what was coming.

The storm systems crashed into each other over the Saskatchewan Legislative Building beside Wascana Lake. There was a roar like two freight trains overhead and a colossal smoke-colored funnel dropped from the clouds. Packing a 500 mile-an-hour wind, skipping around crazily, the twister plowed a six-block-wide swath of destruction right through town, including the business district.

Reading in the book Great Canadian Disasters, © 1961 by Frank Rasky, one particular paragraph in the “aftermath” caught my eye:
Survivors today, with their varied memories, differ strongly on just about every aspect of the tornado’s aftermath: the degree of the onslaught, whether the government was generous (to victims), …the precise number of people wiped out by the catastrophe.

So true of any major event. Our own experience, our perspective on the scene, our general world-view, our position in society — all these make a lot of difference in how we process what’s going on, and later describe what happened, what helped, what hindered.

I’ve sometimes liken the Women’s Movement forming in the late 1800s to the two storm systems coming together over Regina. They came from different angles, when they united they formed a powerful force, and that force blew apart a lot of the status quo of their day. For better or for worse? Witnesses and historians don’t all agree.

I’d call one group the fore-mothers of the feminist movement as I knew it in the 1960s. Their agenda: universal suffrage; equal rights for women, including equal job opportunities and equal pay.

A lot of these women had graduated from women’s colleges in the Eastern States. They were sick and tired of the taboos of their day and did their best to prove these ideas false. I’ve lost my notes on this, but I recall that a number of these ladies met in Buffalo, NY in the late 1890s to form a group, establish their goals, and decide on a course of action.

Some of the misconceptions of their day were rather ludicrous. When trains were first invented some people raise the objections that women could never ride on a train because if women were to travel at speeds over 30 mph they would go insane, or mad with lust. Some “experts” of their day claimed girls’ educations should be limited to the basics because delicate female minds would shatter if forced to handle difficult mathematic equations. (I’m almost sad we lost that one — I’ve never been that good at math. 🙂 )

Some said physical training for girls was out because strenuous exercise would ruin their bodies and especially affect their ability to bear children. (That group should have rather taken a good look at the long term effect of wearing corsets.)

When you start setting up theories that can be so easily proven wrong, you can count on it that someone’s going to want to knock them down.

The other merging ‘cloud system’ was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As I’ve already written, this group sprang mainly from a Protestant Evangelical base. They had embraced the ‘Social Gospel’, which basically translates as ‘How Christians should fix the world.’ Their agenda: stable homes; healthy, happy families; reduction of crime; no more war. Each and every one a worthy goal.

As these ladies looked at their society, they concluded that laws were needed to ensure these goals. Thus voters were needed so political pressure could be put on to get those laws passed. Which meant their launching point was getting women the right to vote.

Meanwhile, over in merry old England, feminist suffragettes took a more dramatic approach. Up against a more rigid and long-established social structure, their struggle for the right to vote was long and bitter. They chained themselves to posts, went on hunger strikes, were force-fed.

They also adopted what they referred to as the politics of the broken window pane. Genteel-looking ladies would appear on business streets during a busy afternoon and station themselves in front of store windows. At a given signal they’d pull hammers from large handbags and start swinging. The damage was done before anyone could react and the ladies would make themselves scarce, leaving merchants sobbing.

I don’t know how much the WCTU influenced the women’s movement in Britain but I rather doubt Prohibition was ever a serious goal. In Europe and Britain so many women accepted social drinking and drank socially themselves. Also Protestant Evangelism was never as large or powerful in Europe as it was in North America.

To be continued.

Theories Can Crash and Burn–2

“We The People”
(Okay, Maybe 30% of Us)

A few days ago day blogger Jill Dennison posted an “Open Letter to Congress” dealing with a number of issues of relevance to the American people today. I’m going to snatch one of her thoughts as I continue my article about the Women’s Movement in North American and its fiery, hugely successful campaign for Prohibition.

Along with a requests to reign in President Trump and/or his policies, Ms Dennison asks Congress to do something to restrict the sale of firearms, a hot topic in the US these days:
“We The People have made it clear that we want stricter control over firearms in the hands of civilians. We want a ban on assault weapons, waiting periods, and stronger background checks that are actually enforced in all venues.”

Probably some — maybe a lot of — elected representatives agree with these “We the people” and would be ready to do something to prevent the mass shootings happening too often in the US these days. The trouble for politicians is, “We the other people” have to be appeased, too. Restricting access to firearms would involve a showdown with the NRA, a group with a powerful lobby in Congress. If I understand rightly, after the recent shooting in Florida, the National Rifle Association strongly resisted the idea of setting any age limitation for the purchasers of firearms.

And there are a lot of US citizens who cling to the Second Amendment as their only hope of defense, should a modern King George send his Redcoat army— now bearing powerful automatic weapons — to try taking over the US. Or should a Hitler-type dictator arise within the US and take control of the military.

Trouble is, elected leaders who turn into dictators usually are initially popular and successful. By the time things start going south, a lot of the potential resistance had been disabled. It takes time to organize an effective counter-assault — especially when part of the people don’t agree that it’s necessary or that it will work. And then, who will lead this resistance? That can be another battle!

Historians say Hitler was initially quite popular and had an appealing agenda — at least appealing to large group of German voters. Some people got nervous about what he was saying, but he was successful in turning the depressed German economy around. Our parents say his scheme even appealed to a number of German North Americans, some of whom packed up and moved back to Germany to be part of his new order.

The Americans have always referred to the US as a “melting pot,” but those of us looking on see some large lumps in the sauce, factions that could give problems, if push came to shove. Factions that may make a united defense difficult to organize.

Here in Canada, most of us understand the different factions that make up our people and the potential for division. The general “East versus West” sentiments; more particularly Eastern bureaucrats and manufacturing interests against Prairie Folk with an agriculture-based economy. (Though this is changing.) Some folks in British Columbia threaten to pull out and form their own country; Quebec has some strong voices for independence. And then there are various ethnic groups within the whole, not necessarily divisive, but having a voice and capable of taking sides.

When you start out on a political platform, it’s important to understand that you are NOT “We the people.” You are part of “we the people.” And “we the other part of the people” may see even the main issues in a totally different light. This was a reality the WCTU, comprised mainly of Protestant evangelical church women and their supporters, seemed to not grasp when they began their campaign for Prohibition.

They thought they were speaking for all women. When they finally realized that a lot of women wanting the vote were of a different mind-set, or world- view, the movement was headed in the opposite direction than they had envisioned.

To be continued.

Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Monday Morning Inspiration

Until I was thirteen I celebrated today as my birthday. My aunt said they took Mom into the hospital on March 26th and I was born that night. It wasn’t until I sent for my birth certificate that we learned I was actually born after midnight and my date of birth was registered as March 27th. In any case I’m thankful to have survived all these years. 🙂

MY MORNING MUSINGS

I went to bed early last night, so woke up at 5:30 am. Nice to get an early start to the day — I plan to get some sewing projects finished. And I read an inspiring article, perfect for a Monday morning.

When I first turn on my computer, the browser comes up with a list of suggested items for me to read. This morning Brianna Wiest’s article in Forbes Magazine caught my eye:
18 things You Need To Give Up To Become a High-Achieving Person.

Her list is a good one and she gives brief, practical explanations for each point. You can read the article here. Her advice isn’t new or surprising; I just hope young people going into their most productive years will take advantage of this wisdom. Trouble is, sometimes it takes a lifetime of living — and wasting precious time — before we really grasp these truths and their practical applications in our own lives.

One day I tried to persuade one of my teen co-workers to deal with her anger in a better way, she told me, “I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. I want to make my own mistakes.” She went on to make some spectacular mistakes that broke her own heart as well as the hearts of those who cared about her. I’ve learned myself that falls can be painful and humiliating when life has to teach you the lessons you thought you didn’t need to learn.

One phrase in the opening paragraphs of this article caught my attention and I’m going to post it beside my desk as a great reminder for my years as a Senior. My energy is definitely limited these days. Oh, for the wisdom to spend it wisely!

Because our energy is limited each day, what we spend it on will define us in the future.
Brianna Wiest
WOMEN@FORBES

And we all know this one, which gives us the courage to change and hope for better days ahead:

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Hey, Your Writing Sucks

I came across this article a week or so ago and decided that this blogger has some really good points. I think writing critiques are like exercise; if they don’t stretch you some, you aren’t going to get much benefit from them. I love her concluding line.

Memoir Of A Writer

Let me explain.

When I first decided to pursue writing seriously (as in put my all into something that might not give me any return) all I wanted was someone to tell me that I was making the right decision. I didn’t know if I was good enough at writing to make it my career choice.

My entire way of thinking was wrong, but I’ll get back to that.

What I actually needed was someone to tell me my writing sucked. Because it did, and hey sometimes if I’m in a hurry it still does. (I’ve had to delete a few blog posts due to my hastiness.)

Pretending someone is better at something than they are is detrimental to their growth, especially while learning a craft. My biggest pet peeve in workshops are when people are so nice that the person whose work is getting critiqued thinks that their work…

View original post 480 more words

Icicles and Snow Days

 

Our weather’s supposed to warm up in the next few days, then turn colder again. which means we’ll get icicles hanging from the eaves wherever roof snow has trickled down.

Icicle are so picturesque, don’t you think? And what child in the colder parts of the world hasn’t tried to eat an icicle? You crunched it with your teeth and loved the sensation of eating frozen glass.

Who among us hasn’t broken off a particularly long one to wave around like a spear, feeling its slippery smoothness? Tossed it like a javelin and listened to the splintering sound as it hit its target.

Perhaps you were wearing wooly mitts when you cracked the metre-long icicle off from the overhanging roof on a sunny day, then had your mittens freeze to the ice. When you finally were able to drop it, you found fuzzy fibers stuck to the icicle and your mitt had a thinner spot.

I suppose there are places in the world where icicles never form, let along get to be six feet long. One can’t imagine them hanging down from trees in the Amazon rain-forest, or in caves along the Nile. What deprivation! On the other hand, we were in Quebec during the infamous “Enfer de glace” when steady rain for almost a week and temps hovering at the freezing point gave “ice” a whole new meaning!

Likewise, what northern climate child hasn’t tried to catch a snowflake on his tongue? Or you open your mouth to the falling flakes and try to catch a dozen, feeling the tickle of cold as they land on your face, powdering your nose and hair.

What child doesn’t love being out in a fresh thick blanket of snow. You swish through the whiteness, plowing it aside with your feet. Or flop down and make a snow angel. When the snow’s falling thick and fast you can look around and feel yourself all alone in this whitening world, leaving your own trail. Your own personal mark in time and place.

Then you glance back and watch the snow filling in your footprints, erasing your passage, making the world white again. You get a fleeting sense of your own life story, your own mortality.

The falling snow wipes out all your missteps and stumbles. Snow renews our hope that such things are possible, that we can have our missteps in this world erased by a merciful heavenly hand.

Snow is created for the senses; it’s created for the bliss of an exploring child. And for a lot of folks it has this figurative sense as well: forgiveness and a life cleansed from impurity.

First posted Nov 19, 2015 as a response to the WordPress Daily Prompt,
where we were to do a post describing some aspect of the sense of touch.

 

Writers & Clichés

An Exercise For Your Muse

Writers nowadays are urged to avoid overworked clichés. I’ve seen some writers come up with interesting metaphors and similes to replace the standard ones, but one must be careful that the new phrases don’t seem contrived.

You can say, “She was as angry as a picknicker when ants carried off the peach pie,” for “She was as mad as a wet hen,” but are you gaining? Instead of, “He was chomping at the bit,” you could say “He was like the guy with an appointment, waiting for a never-ending train,” but it’ll shoot up your word count.

At a writer’s group meeting one day we received sheets with old clichés or idioms. We were to pass them around and substitute something original to replace the old and overworked. In the course of sorting old papers I came across one of these this morning, so I’ll post it for you readers to ponder:

How would you modernize ‘He can’t see the forest for the trees’?

Some suggestions offered by our group:
The literal approach:
— He’s so close to the problem he can’t see the answer.
— Missing the broad point of view, he’s distracted by unimportant things.
— He needs to take a step back and get a better perspective.

The figurative approach:
— The fog is hiding the water.
— He couldn’t see the moon for the flock of geese.

Which would you choose — any other suggestions — or would you been inclined, in your own writing, to stick with the original since it’s so well know?