Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

The Gunpowder Guard Guy

April 7, 2012

While visiting Seattle last fall, I observed the Occupy Seattle for a couple of days. I thought it would be interesting to see what was going on in that city’s setting where riots had erupted in 1999 during the World Trade Organization meeting. It was.

One thing I noticed at Occupy Seattle was a particular mask–several of them, actually–being worn by some of the Occupyers. You may have noticed it in a photo or two taken during the coverage of that movement last year. The face depicted on the mask resembles the classic Greek drama/comedy symbol. It is male face with a thinly styled handlebar moustache, presenting a rather bizarre plastic smile.

My later research revealed the visage to be a representation of some guy named Guy Fawkes. Guy who?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_mask

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_for_Vendetta_(film)

Guy Fawkes was a fanatic Catholic terrorist who almost succeeded in blowing up the House of Lords in the year of our Lord 1605. http://www.britannia.com/history/g-fawkes.html

England and Scotland had been all asunder over religion at that time. The great divisive issue of the day was whether the Protestants were to have the run of Great Britain, or whether the Catholics could muscle their way back into power after the 1603 death of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth’s father, the infamous King Henry VIII, had brought the religious contentions to a boil during his reign (1507-1547.) His multiple marriage escapades, along with an independently brewing Protestantism in England, had severed the ecclesiastical bonds with the Roman church. Elizabeth I had sought, after her father’s death, to stabilize the church of England by encouraging both strains of Christian religious devotion–the popish ceremony and the protestant emphasis on holiness.

According to David Starkey, http://acornonline.com/product.aspx?p=monarchy&sid, the accession of King James I after Elizabeth would manifest an even more Protestant direction for Great Britain. Certain extremists of the Catholic faction did not like this development one bit. So they decided to take manners into their hands with some strategically placed gunpowder fireworks.

Sound familiar? Very modern it was.  This sort of thing has apparently been going on all along in human history, perhaps directly proportional to the pyrotechnic capabilities of each era.

In our time, what’s alarming about the Occupy movement is this terrorist revolutionary undercurrent. Are they willing to identify their movement, and their tactics, with this Guy Fawkes guy? He was a terrorist, outright–caught red-handed on the night Nov 4, 1605, with a fuse to detonate a large gunpowder stash that had been gathered in a cellar chamber directly beneath Parliament in London.

Early IRA stuff it was, and Al Qaidaesque too.

Fawkes and his popish co-conspirators should have been taking their inspiration from the founder of their faith– the Risen Savior– instead of bullish church politics. And that goes for the protestants too. Damn their death-wielding tactics and machinations!

As for the Occupyers, they would do well to take their cues from the Prince of Peace,  resurrected from being dead, instead of any violent revolutionary like that Guy guy.  And I think Rev. Dr. King would agree if he were here.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Advertisements

Seattle, spruce and sunshine

March 25, 2012

This January afternoon of 1855, the old Chief’s careful direction would be guiding his people, like or not, to a destination of peaceful reconciliation with those who were to come. Big changes were in the wind, and Chief Seattle knew this. The ancient ways were being compacted to legend by these whitish immigrants with their steam-breathing machines. In the face of narrowing options the Duwamish peoples had no simple, and no welcome, adjustments to make.

Chief Seattle was getting up in years. His footsteps along the mountain trail were not swift, nor as eager, as when he had first trod them as a young Suquamish.   As the ancient path turned his party into a high clearing on the ridge, between tall evergreens, Seattle’s sight was filled with  magnificence of the Great River and wide bay below– what the whites were now calling Elliot Bay.  At that moment the clouds parted; a rare burst of winter sunshine splashed its welcome brilliance through cold, silvery afternoon. He paused to appreciate the scene, then raised his right arm and placed it on a familiar spruce tree, resting. The sunshine warmed the old man’s face, and raised a smile upon his wisdom lips.

Down on the bay shore, Henry Yesler had been operating his sawmill since about two years ago. He had shut the machine off for the day, for this was a day like no other.  He would soon join a few others of his American associates, to sign a treaty with the natives whose ancient lands were all around. Chief Seattle would arrive to represent the Duwamish and Salish peoples; he was known among the new settlers as a reasonable man, a leader who understood the tectonics of this moment’s history.

By the next summer, the high spruce upon which Chief Seattle had leaned was cut down by hordes of Scandinavian lumberjacks who had immigrated across an ocean and an entire continent.  The woodsmen were busily thrusting their cut logs down a skid road to the Yesler sawmill at the waterfront. There would be many a skid road in the Northwest and beyond before this fierce harvesting was all over with.

By 1893, the Great Northern Railway had been completed. Its trestled tracks twisted through the Cascades and over the Rockies, all the from  St. Paul, Minnesota and beyond. Men with names like Washington, Smith, Stevens, Schwabacher, Nordstrom would soon carve a Pacific Northwest 20th-century culture out of the wild Washington woods.

The next hundred years tumbled an avalanche of civilized chaos and semi-organized caterwaullin’ enterprises across that Duwamish River, and out the Puget waterway to the wide Pacific and beyond: hauling millions of felled timbers on rails and ships and, with every imaginable sort of huffing puffing machine, slurry of mined minerals, casting Klondyke gold, picks and axes, bootstraps, neckties, highfalutin’ starched shirts, hopes and dreams, mice and men, with newspapers, rumor mills, steam-driven capitalism and a whole lotta just plain old hard work, driven by a slue of Swedes, Finns, English, Italians, Africans, Asians, Irish and generally all those Americanizing yankee types whose enterprised fervor propelled an expansion unprecedented in the history of the whole dammed world with all the blood, and toil and sweat that have ever and always dropped our tears along the holy terrible trail of human progress.

By late 20th, a slab or two of Seattle spruce had been railed across the prairies and the heartlands, and delivered to a shop in St. Louis, where a selected piece was seasoned, sawn thin and stretched across a resonant box with a hole cut out and a fretted neck with six steely bronzed strings stretched across it. And there from that sound-hole rolls out a reflected resonance of the sunshine and the spruce upon which old Chief Seattle had paused and contemplated, before he was to meet his Maker, all that was to later happen.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress