“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.”
― Peggy Toney Horton
“October had tremendous possibility. The summer’s oppressive heat was a distant memory, and the golden leaves promised a world full of beautiful adventures. They made me believe in miracles.”
― Sarah Guillory, Reclaimed
I had planned on writing & posting something today to celebrate the wondrous mellow beauties of October. Maybe post a favourite October-specific verse or two, aspire to keep ’em coming each day throughout the month. And then last night a friend mentioned that he had been led to discover a couple of authors (one of whom has long been a favourite of mine), writers he’d not heard of before, by seeing their names on a list as part of this past week’s Banned Books Week celebration (held each year during last week in September).
Today, October 1st, is the last day of Banned Books Week this year. So a little about related things:
I found a marvelous post on writer/teacher Sarah Guillory’s blogsite about banned books and public school teaching (http://sarahguillory.blogspot.com/ for Tuesday, September 29, 2015). Her post reminds me, in part, of some of the things about teaching I have written & posted on this site under the banner heading “ACADEMIC” — located at the top of this site; please go read my entry there if you haven’t already, and enjoy the videos also posted there, and please read Ms Guillory’s post linked above.
A little something about banned books, then:
I remember the evil McCarthy witchhunts and the government crack-down against thousands of US citizens accused of “un-American” attitudes and activities. This suppression was connected to “hearings” by the notorious congressional committee known as HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee). Most of these “un-American” activities were no more than simply progressive opinions, such as non-violent anti-war sentiments, voiced or even just rumoured to have been voiced, by individuals and groups. The main alleged “un-American” crime was that of holding, or being accused of holding, less than sufficiently enthusiastic animosity toward the “cold war arch-enemy” Soviet Russia, or toward the ideology of Soviet-style state Communism. Being insufficiently enthusiastic toward the cold war, or being actively in favor of world peace, was enough to cause one to be accused of being criminally “un-American,” of actually being an enemy of the state, accused and often convicted in a televised show trail by congressmen. Many victims killed themselves to escape such treatment by their own government and society. Others left the country rather than face such injustice and government suppression.
I remember also the impact of reading Fahrenheit 451, the classic 1953 literary response to McCarthyism, HUAC, and the cold war, — a distopian apocalyptic novel by California writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). And I remember also going to the local opening night screening of the 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 (starring Julie Christie!), directed by François Truffaut (1932-1984). I fondly remember my Julie Christie-esque girlfriend at the time who attended the opening with me, and the relationship we enjoyed together at that point in our young lives.
When the film came out, the Civil Rights struggle (in which I was marginally involved) was still going strong, and the Vietnam War (the US corporate/military Empire’s genocidal war against the people of Southeast Asia) was ramping up with greater murderous ferocity every day. My girl and I were already actively involved in the nonviolent resistance movement, the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. Later, we would, separately, both go underground for awhile, she to India and then to Latin America, I to Europe and then to India.
It was easy for some few persons on the Right to see Fahrenheit — the book and/or the film — as a cry of defiance against the totalitarian oppression of Soviet-related “Communism” (state capitalism, really), the great evil that McCarthy and, later, the architects and henchmen of the Vietnam war were supposedly fighting against. The more discerning majority of minds and hearts realized of course that Bradbury and Truffaut were also standing up just as staunchly and more directly against our own American version of dictatorial oppression, repression, and suppression — from the McCarthy hearings, to attacks on Civil Rights and its leaders and activists, to our government’s attack on peaceful resisters to war.
What Bradbury and Truffaut and most others didn’t know at the time was that in 1956, three years after the publication of Fahrenheit 451, and ten years before the Fahrenheit film, the FBI had already begun its eventually infamous clandestine, illegal COINTELPRO program, targeting virtually all activists and activist groups — all peace groups, all civil rights and black power groups, and other progressive groups — for secret surveillance, infiltration, harassment, entrapment, beatings and torture, and in many cases assassination. All in the name of eliminating “un-American” activities and activists from the population. The FBI’s goal of course was not just to contain &/or kill dissident thinkers, but to kill dissent itself, to eliminate “un-American” attitudes, to police and manipulate the brains and minds of the nation’s citizens.
Today, the banning and burning carried out within this nation-state is not so much of books, per se (although that still goes on to an alarming extent), but the suppression of other published/media-relayed information regarding America’s domestic racist police violence, US racist wars of overseas empire-building and controlling, and illegal government surveillance of all US citizens and indeed of virtually all persons everywhere in the world. Both our current major presidential candidates (both Clinton and Trump) have called for the suppression of public information about government crime and the punishment or elimination of those who leak such information to the media & those who publish it. Trump has called for the summary execution/assassination of Edward Snowden, and Hillary has called for the kidnapping, mock-trial, conviction & punishment of both Snowden and the Australian citizen-publisher of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
U.S. presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, on the other hand, has invited heroic whistleblowers Snowden and Chelsea Manning to join her Green Party cabinet (were she elected president), to serve their nation on issues of national security, citizen’s rights, freedom of information, transparency of government, and all the burning issues (no pun!) that go with these matters.
I’m with Dr. Stein! I give my full support to her and the Green Party she represents, to Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and all their fellow whistleblowers, to all journalists, human rights lawyers and activists, and others who have resisted the likes of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and their corporate/militarist controllers, mentors, and henchpersons. I give my full support to all who are attempting nonviolently to stop the American Empire of Injustice from further expanding and deepening its oppressive hold over the planet and its people through unjust surveillance, invasion and enslavement, through unjust police shooting assassinations and military drone attack assassinations, through resource robbery and infrastructure destruction, through genocide and globecide.
Trump has former Nixon aides and crazy fanatic Evangelical ex-Pentagon generals on his campaign team, Clinton has the support and advice of ex-government war criminals such as Henry Kissinger and John Negroponte on her team. The genocidal war crimes perpetrated in various parts of the world by Kissinger and Negroponte, and the related crimes Trump & his advisers are calling for both at home and abroad, make Farenheit 451 look like a playbook for what is being carried out right now and also being planned for our collective future. It is not a pretty vision. And it is already happening. Bradbury stated several times that his book was meant to help prevent such things from happening, not simply to predict and describe, much less to encourage such things!
Some folks opine that with the kinds of instant global grassroots public communications options we have now (access to the internet and possession by a majority of citizens of cell-phone video cameras, etc), that it may no longer be possible for government McCarthyesque, Hitleresque, Stalinesque measures such as book burnings and attacks on citizens to succeed altogether in suppressing and controlling public dissenting thought and expression. I’m not so sure — the battle is far from over! Every day the police attempt and often succeed in obstructing citizen documentation of its crimes against the very public it is intended to serve and protect. Every day the government spies more and more invasively on every personal communication, movement, and activity engaged in by any and all of us. And meanwhile the Empire’s military is murdering millions of innocent foreign civilians, — elders, women, and children, — in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc. and the media is effectively banned from being able to witness and accurately report on such atrocities.
But we do have a chance of successfully resisting and defeating the violence of Empire and its attempts at comprehensive brain-policing. If we work together! It’s not easy, and it won’t be easy going forward — whoever ends up next presiding over the nation-state from the White House throne, — but we must make every effort to go forward if we hope to survive.
We must resist corporatocracy government injustice and violence, including climate-destroying injustice and violence, or the corporatocracy government will succeed in further enslaving and destroying us. We must resist Trump’s called-for plans to make “stop and frisk” police harassment a federal policy and nation-wide daily practice as part of his plans for imposing “law and order.” We must resist Trump’s plans to deregulate industry and increase government subsidy of coal mining; we must resist Clinton’s called-for plans to increase fracking and tar-sands dirty oil pipeline production. We must resist the call to more and more endless war and to racial and religious discrimination and ethnic cleansing. We must resist the very active attempts to turn our former democracy into an increasingly repressive theocracy and surveillance-state, a racist police-state, an Evangelical fascist state, a Corporate military kleptocracy with unlimited wealth and luxury “corporate socialism” for the top one percent and degradation, poverty, and economic wage slavery, debt-slavery, and lifelong labor-intensive drudgery, insecurity, violence, and oppression for the rest of us.
Otherwise, between the ever mounting threat of global nuclear annihilation, and/or global climate-induced annihilation on the one hand, and of increasing economic collapse and/or economic-&-political enslavement & brain-enslavement by the present police-state on the other hand (and of course actually these are all intertwined), it is clearly highly unlikely that anyone now in their twenties or younger will even have the chance to live out their natural life-span. And the quality and content of life during what truncated span of time they will have left to look forward to will not be pretty.
Such facts are too awful to really digest, which is why virtually everyone is consciously or subconsciously completely freaked-out yet also mostly in deep denial of this unbearable reality—and this schizoid state of tension is not a good state in which to be, at all. But what choice is there?
Well, plenty! But we must act now, and without stop; we must do everything we can to peacefully resist and to effectively and thoroughly overturn the status quo, the state of “business as usual,” “war as usual,” “environmental destruction as usual.”
I remember seeing, many years ago, a live TV interview with Ray Bradbury in which he commented about someone who had influenced his early life and career, an otherwise obscure Los Angeles man, a spiritual man, who Bradbury described as having been “a living saint.”
I’m glad that the local indie bookstore carries Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1990), containing Bradbury essays on writing composed from 1961 to 1990. It’s also available online here:
I was interested to learn that one of Bradbury’s ancestors was Mary Perkins Bradbury, a mother of ten, who in 1692, at age 77, was arrested, imprisoned, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. She managed to escape execution and to outlive the murderous hysteria, dying peacefully in her bed in 1700, at age 85, eight years after her trial and death sentence.
Along with Ray Bradbury, several other noteworthy Americans also descended from Mary Perkins Bradbury, or from her brothers, Jacob and John Perkins.
Some of Mary Bradbury’s other descendants include:
Bradbury Robinson (1752–1801), a great-great grandson, who fought for the revolutionaries at the Battle of Concord (1775) and testified that the British fired first.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), transcendentalist, a fourth great-grandson of Mary Bradbury, descendant through her daughter Judith.
Alan Shepard (1923-1998), astronaut.
Mary Bradbury’s brother, Jacob Perkins, was an ancestor of:
and Mary Aspinwall, Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s paternal grandmother.
Notable descendants of Mary’s brother, John Perkins, include:
Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Archibald Cox (Harvard law professor),
and Tennessee Williams.
As far as I know, my own family tree does not include any of the victims or perpetrators of the Salem witch trials. But I do descend directly from at least one 17th century woman executed for witchcraft in her native Scotland, as well from both the English Quaker Mary Dyer and her in-law Anne Hutchinson, both of whom famously ran afoul of the New England Puritan theocratic police state and paid with their lives for their religious non-conformity and dissent. Uppity women!
If we are not very careful, such things as happened in Ray Bradbury’s novel, and as happened to his ancestor Mary Bradbury, and to my ancestors Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson, will be common occurrences again here in America. Not “only” will many more unarmed men, women, and children be shot dead by cops for the crime of driving while black or standing or lying down with empty hands in the air while black, but also persons of any and all colors will be shot and killed for being Americans while also being Muslim or for living and working in America while being from Mexico, or for being natural-born American citizens while having parents who were born in Mexico. If you don’t realize how close we are to this horrific, terrifying state of affairs already, right now, I would guess that you are pitiably naïve and/or in deep denial.
Meanwhile, it’s a beautiful first day of October! Go out and enjoy the autumnal gorgeousness.