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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Still Life With Plums" by Marie Manilla--Book Review

Manilla, Marie 2010 Still Life With Plums (Morgantown, WV, Vandalia Press)

I just took a long, quiet drive across the West Virginia I have always loved courtesy of Marie Manilla, one of the Mountain State's finest writers.  This collection of short stories is set primarily in West Virginia with a bit of Texas thrown in for good measure.  But the author's primary setting, source of knowledge and folkways, and the home place of her heart is West Virginia, the West Virginia that is found in the lyrics to "The Green Rolling Hills Of West Virginia". 

"The green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear
And I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go."

That line "though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here they'll keep me and never let me go" personifies this book in many ways.  Several of the stories are set among times, places, families, and individuals who are "sad and drear".  But nearly every character in the book has learned the truth that West Virginia will "keep me and never let me go".  They have found the sources of both their pain and their pleasure in that sweet, dark, heart warming, shimmering green, and dreary land between the Ohio River and the headwaters of the Potomac.  Thanks to Ms. Manilla, these characters are generally able to resolve that pain and relish the pleasures of life.  As I read this book, I was reminded of the song writing of Dolly Parton in such songs as "Mountain Angel" and "These Old Bones". Marie Manilla has that same ability to reach into the soul of a flawed character who is generally not responsible for her flaws but found them at the hands of others.  

"Still Life With Plums" is a book to be read slowly, thoughtfully, and deeply.  These characters are real people that you and I have both known and often loved with a love that was deepened and strengthened by many shared mornings fueled on water gravy and a thin hoe cake.  These characters have a few too many patches on their britches and the cold winter winds blowing down the Guyandotte or the Gauley have cut right through their pea coats on the way to the mine, factory, or company store.  Marie Manilla understands West Virginia and her people as only one of their own can comprehend.  She creates characters out of the whole cloth of a life lived in that land built from secession, independence, and hardship.  These characters find connections, assistance, and subsistence among others like themselves, strong despite having been bowed, compassionate in addition to being tough, loving despite having been discarded, and proud Mountaineers in the face of all that history of having been discriminated against.  They are my people.  They are your people.  They are the people of Cabell, Wayne, and Summers Counties.  They are the people of the industrial and chemical river and the people of the log woods and coal fields.  They are people you should meet and come to know.  They are people you should take a long, quiet ride with across the green rolling hills of that beautiful, blessed paradise we call our mountain home. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"Fellow Travelers" A New Use For An Old Term

During the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950's whereby the lives of thousands of innocent Americans were destroyed, the term "fellow traveler" was a widely used term in attacks on these people including Hollywood writers, main stream authors, union organizers, and simple working class Americans who may or may not have known someone who had some connection to a cause which was under attack by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and his right wing radical minions. defines "fellow traveler" as 
"One who supports the aims or philosophies of a political group without joining it. A “fellow traveler” is usually one who sympathizes with communist doctrines but is not a member of the Communist Party. The term was used disparagingly in the 1950s to describe people accused of being communists."
During those highly destructive and UN-American senate hearings under the self-centered, publicity seeking, and uncaring direction of Joseph McCarthy, "fellow traveler" was used as a weapon to destroy the lives and careers of anyone the senator might believe he could paint as an enemy of America.  The phrase was used like a club, gun, or truncheon to beat these victims of the senator over the head with words until their lives were worth next to nothing.  During my life, I have actually met and learned from at least four people who suffered various damaging, degrading, and debilitating problems because for one reason or another they came into Joe McCarthy's cross hairs. McCarthy and his fellow Right Wing hooligans used the term "fellow traveler" freely, loosely, and indiscriminately to damage the reputations of their victims.  Over the intervening years since Joe McCarthy's death, the term has been revived and reinvigorated by dozens of other people of the same ilk as McCarthy.  I believe now is the appropriate time for people on the other side of the human rights fight to revive and reinvigorate the term in the cause of individual freedoms and democracy.

Every since late in 2016, we have seen repeated evidence that the TRAITOR Donald Trump and his minions have been consorting with Vladimir Putin and Russian hackers who worked to seriously impair, devalue, and destroy the democratic electoral process in America.  Because the TRAITOR Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Carter Page have had numerous illegal and treasonous connection to Russian diplomats and known spies, the integrity of the American election was nullified and the White House was seized and illegally occupied by a TRAITOR and his gang of criminals.  At no other time in history, has America suffered from such an open, unrepentant plan to consort with enemies of the country in order to commit treason for self interest.  Just today, a news story appeared on the major agencies stating that the TRAITOR Donald Trump has conversed with Vladimir Putin by telephone about world issues.   It appears highly likely that the TRAITOR Donald Trump cannot take any sort of action without consulting and, perhaps, seeking permission from Vladimir Putin.  What better justification could there be for use of the term "fellow traveler"?

Just two days ago, the TRAITOR Donald Trump referred to Kim Jung Un, one of the world's worst dictators, as a "smart cookie".  Once again, the TRAITOR Trump has shown his willingness to consort with the worst criminals in the world.  What better justification can there be for the use of the term "fellow traveler"?  

Additionally and even worse, since the American election in 2016, more than a dozen key figures in the Russian espionage system have died in a variety of circumstances ranging from outright murder by gunfire to suspicious "suicides" and nearly all of these dead Russians have had ties to the TRAITOR Donald Trump.  We have even seen at least one key figure in senate hearings about the connections between the TRAITOR Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin tell the US Senate to follow the dead Russians in order to learn the truth about the election hacking and the outcome of the 2016 American election.  What better reason could there be for using the term "fellow  traveler"?

Even before the American election in 2016, the TRAITOR Trump spoke positively of Russia, Iran, and Syria all simultaneously claiming they were "killing ISIS".   What better reason could there be for using the term "fellow traveler"? 

I hereby propose that all members of the American political resistance movement begin to use the term "fellow traveler" to describe the TRAITOR Donald Trump and all his minions who continue to unashamedly consort with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung Un, and the enemies of the United States.  There is no more accurate word to describe their collusion with the greatest dictators, war criminals, and terrorists than "fellow traveler"!  It is time to call these American traitors exactly what they are, "fellow travelers"!