Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clyde List Editorial: The Stimulus

NOTE: This Comment is not Endorsed by the Sherwood Oregon Historical Society
A group of Governors from the poorest States in the Union is "thinking of refusing" the Federal Government's stimulus money. It may be because they are smarter than average. They are very intelligent, well educated people indeed. But then again, as an amateur historian, I keep thinking about a book that was published in 1996. Honor and Slavery by Kenneth Greenberg (Princeton University Press). In this book, Greenberg explains why the nation's black folk burned down their cities during the years of President Johnson's Great Society. It turns out that the President inadvertently pushed their Mad Button every time he tried to give them things!

In the Old South, gift giving can dredge up some ugly memories. In slave times, the Master would pick a special day to distribute gifts to his slaves. It seemed like a nice thing to do. However: "Between master and slave, gifts could only flow in one direction. A slave could own nothing and therefore could give nothing back." Nothing back... except of course, their very lives. They might see their gramma worked to death on some irrigation project or their children marched off to the auction house with chains around their necks. But a slave was always careful to say "Thankyou" for a new ball to play with or some cheese or a new string of beeds. They may have surrendered every facet of their earthly existence to this Man, and yet the Slave Master does not say "Thank You!" to a Slave.

Now it is the 21st Century. It is the Slave Master's great, great grand childrens' turn to line up and get gifts from the Man. It's their turn to say "Thank you Sir!" These governors are behaving as strangely as those folks in the Watts District of Los Angeles and in Newark, New Jersey during the Johnson years.

Let's hope it turns out okay and they don't burn their cities down.

FOR EXTRA CREDIT: Which U.S. President bought a Plantation and named it "Sherwood Forest?"


JayCee said...

In all fairness, we should mention that there was a man named Hite (a relative of Sherwood's own Hite family!) who gave his slaves a very special gift.

Jacob Hite handed out muskets to his slaves. You can bet that made some news! This happened in Virginia just a few years before the American Revolution. Master and Slave stood shoulder to shoulder on the Hite plantation in order to defend it against a British creditor.

The lesson is clear: White people can be enslaved too! That's what the American Revolution was all about.

Lilly Morgen said...

From my travels in the 20th century, it looks like most Americans were basically slaves to the coroprations. They worked for the corporation then they took their money and bought from the same corporations!!
The GNP for Americans in the 21st century is consumerism.
What will be next?

JayCee said...

George Washington owned slaves. He had one firm policy: He would never split up a family. Of course, every slave in the general vicinity claimed to be a relative of the ones Washington owned. By the time Washington died, Mount Vernon had three times the number of workers needed to do the work. It's an amusing anecdote in a dismal story.

In his diary Washington talked (mainly to himself) about the absurdity of the system. Of course, most slave owners did not see it that way.

Washington's cousin, Thomas Jefferson, believed that Africans were victims of congenital leprosy, hence the color of their skin. It was okay for white people to "take care of" them... and to give them things.

JayCee said...

If William Shakespeare lived today, he would almost certainly write a play called "The Tragedy of King Johnson."

Lyndon Johnson was a man of the South, but he was by no means the kind of sugar daddy we see in the cartoons of Southerners, nor was he the "Baptist Preacher" we listened to on our t.v.s. In fact, no one-- not even his wife, whom he was very abusive toward-- ever understood how Lyndon's mind worked.

He had qualities that are the same as (yes) Abraham Lincoln's. He kept his real opinions to himself. You could not win an argument with him. He could be cruel. He could be gross. He could be eloquent. He could keep a crowd spell-bound with his words (he was the hit at D.C. cocktail parties when he was a Senator). He could be generous and kind. He was always calculating and careful in his measuring of public opinion. He did not understand a fig, and cared less, about foreign affairs (i.e., Viet Nam). And that was President Johnson's tragic flaw: He could not brush a bizarre, highly complex and secretive conflict between the CIA and Indochina (now known as the Viet Nam War) aside.

Lilly Morgen said...

Hello, JayCee.

I am currently in the 1860s and I just read a current quote from our new President, Abraham Lincoln, and I quote: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.

It may seem like a free lunch to some but at the same time when faced with dire straights, we must give in order to make a balance in the world.

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