Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mary Mills-White, My 5th Great Aunt & Pioneer Ancestor

I don't have a photo of her, but then again, she died in 1877, so the headstone will have to do. Mary Mills-White is my 5th great aunt on my mother's side. Her parents, James and Rachael Mills, were pioneers who made the arduous journey from southern Maine to southwestern Indiana in the second decade of the 19th century. They arrived in what was then still wild country full of Indians and every kind of game, settling in the area that would become Princeton, Indiana, before Indiana was admitted to the Union. That would not happen until five years after their arrival in the Indiana wilderness.

Mary was only three when they began their journey, her mother setting up home in New York while her father and uncle ventured westward in search of new farming land. The story has it that the family dog accompanied the men on the journey, returning alone by harvest time back to the temporary farm in New York. Fearing the worst, Rachael Mills, an industrious woman, sold the harvest and made plans to return to their homeland in Kennebec County, Maine. Before she could start the journey back eastward, the way she had traveled with her husband and five young children earlier in the year, the men returned from surveying their future home in Indiana territory. The family then made their way south to Pittsburgh and west down the Ohio River by flatboat until they reached Indiana on New Year's Day 1811, or so the story is told by Berilla Mills-Greek in Gil R. Stormont's "History of Gibson County, Indiana" (1914, Bowen & Co.).

By the time Mary was 18, she had caught the eye of a handsome suitor, Isaac A. White, a young man born in Massachusetts, but reared just across the river in Friendsville (Wabash County), Illinois. He went by his middle name, Anson, and is also mentioned in Stormont's history.  According to Gibson County (IN) marriage records, the two were wed on Christmas Eve 1825. They remained in that county until the late 1830's welcoming at least six of their ten children into the world in Indiana. The other four children were born in Wabash County, Illinois. They remained in that county at least fifteen years before heading westward in 1855. Anson White is counted among the men in Wapello County, Iowa, on that state's 1856 Census. He would die two years later, leaving my Aunt Mary a widow with three children at home--twins Elizabeth and Sarah, 18, and Mary, 15.

On the 1860 U.S. Census, less than two years a widow, Mary is found keeping home in rural Sciola, in the West Nodaway River Valley, halfway between Des Moines, IA, and Omaha, NE. Twenty-four year old son, Samuel W. White, who would not marry for another couple of years, was home tending to the family farm and looking after his mother. He would soon enlist with the 9th Iowa Infantry of Company A, serving eight or nine months before becoming ill and being laid up in Nashville, TN. He returned to Douglas Township, Montgomery County, IA, buying a 100-acre farm nearer to Grant (just north of Sciola, where he lived with his mother before the war). By 1870, Mary had moved in with Samuel and his wife, Sarah Jane, near Grant, Iowa, where she would spend the last seven years of her life, helping to raise four grandchildren, the youngest of which was only 2 1/2 when she died in 1877. Mary joined her husband in a plot they had purchased in the back lot of East Grant Cemetery in Montgomery County, IA. That is where the headstone, above, was photographed in 2010.

Obviously, Mary inherited her pioneering spirit from her parents who made the roughly 1,260-mile trek from Maine to Indiana in 1810-11. She was among Gibson County's earliest families, then helped to shape Wabash Co, IL, and Montgomery Co, IA, living a robust life of 70 years, seeing a son go off to war in the South, only to come home with impaired eyesight due to sickness, to outlive her husband by nearly 20 years (the date on the headstone for her death is off by five years) and to help raise many grandchildren.

This year marks Indiana's Bi-Centennial, so I'll be sharing more about my pioneer ancestors who came to the Hoosier State before it's admission into the Union in 1816.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Cartoon Depicting Racism

When my friends or those who suffer white angst tell me that I'm just suffering "white guilt," I'm going to show them this cartoon and tell them it's something called EMPATHY...they should check it out. :)

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What brought us the Trumpinator? White angst.

I asked and answered my own question in the headline. "What brought us the Trumpinator? White angst." This blog post examines how we got to a place where a reality TV star and real estate mogul became the face of "white America" and why that scares me.

I don't dip my toe too often into political waters, not because I'm politically illiterate or can't swim, merely because I'm disenfranchised and I haven't felt like swimming in a long time. I don't believe my vote even counts. My say in matters of government mean absolutely nothing. I'm not represented by people inside the beltway. They are mere puppets of Super PAC's, Wall Street and men with money, influence and power, of which I'm none of those.

But I'm writing this post today, in the shadow of Super Tuesday, with a growing unease of where this election cycle is headed. If you think down the toilet, that'd be my feelings about the state of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the SWFL beaches. No, my feelings about where DECISION 2016 is headed is subterranean, an upper ring of Hades, more like.

It all started with the three-ring circus run by the GOP this election cycle. The "Bad Lip Reading" videos of each GOP debate on YouTube were hilarious, but mostly because they weren't that far-fetched. And as Trump distanced himself from the other Republican candidates, I just sat back and laughed. I didn't take it at all serious until serious candidates, like Gov. Jeb Bush, dropped out of the race. That got my attention, but I still blamed Bush's inept advisors and campaign leaders. As it became more and more clear in the primaries leading up to Super Tuesday that Trump was indeed going to be the Republican candidate for President, I became more serious, as in seriously alarmed. What if this race boils down to Trump vs. Hillary? OMG! That's a very real possibility now.

Now, it's time to wake up and get active. I don't want either of those inept, morally bankrupt kooks running my country!

But how did we even get here?

I don't want to waste my time on a beltway insider like Hillary Clinton. We all know why she's there. And we pretty much know where she stands. We need another Clinton about like we need another Bush in the White House. I'm over career politicians, by the way. They only serve to exacerbate and extend the age-old problem in politics and to reinforce all the stale jokes about how far you can trust them. That is, about as far as you can throw them!

But the Trump phenomenon is beyond weird. He played upon the growing angst of white, conservative America. He served up, in true reality TV fashion, all the most inflammatory rhetoric he could muster, like a grand dragon at a KKK rally in the deep woods of Mississippi. He's yet to distance himself from that domestic terrorist organization, by the way.

And what is at the heart of that angst? Is it the same disenfranchisement that I've been feeling? I think it is, but for many different reasons. Where I feel voiceless is because I don't own any land, have any assets or any political clout of any kind. Where they feel voiceless is in stemming the tide of progress in Western society, in general. This is why they cling to their "traditional" and "family" values. They want to believe that life was actually once like "Leave It To Beaver" and their favorite black-and-white television shows of the 1950's. They'd like nothing more than to turn back the clock and relive those heydays of segregated bliss. They want prayer back in school, abortion abolished and white privilege to once again reign supreme.

If you gave them collectively the chance to roll back the changes brought on by the social revolution of the 1960's, I'd bet you they'd gladly do it! I say, "Let's buy them all 'Back to the Future'-style Deloreans and set the destination for them!" Back to 1955 and away they go!!!

Because what the cultural and social revolution brought us in the turbulent times into which I was born are the progressive values of the new millennium. And part of that creed is that everyone should have a voice. People, regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation or religion, are inherently equal. I mean, for the love of God, that's a 1787 value!!!

But white privilege breeds fear and it has ever since the end of slavery. I believe Trump has preyed upon that fear and stoked its evil embers. "Immigrants are bad!" "Be scared of anyone who doesn't look like you!" "They are only here to steal your jobs, your income, your wellbeing!" These themes are nothing new. In fact, they are ancient. But no one has marginalized the white, Anglo, Protestant majority more than itself! They have marginalized themselves because of their illegitimate fears and now they are fighting back against a straw man! And Trump is their new ideological leader. "Death to the straw man who is out to steal our money, our jobs, our way of life!"

It baffles me how these people, amongst who I was raised, feel threatened by the progresses we've made as a society, as humans. Science has progressed rapidly, allowing us to see far out into the galaxy and even to take a closer look at our own planet to see what irreversible damage we've done to it. Yet, now science is somehow bad. It's like they want to turn the clock back to Roman Imperial times and imprison the heretics who say the Earth is warming, or that it's indeed round!

In the new Millennium, with the freedom to practice and engage in any religious ritual one feels comfortable, the WASPy world wants to turn back the clock to Puritanical times when white Christians fleeing government tyranny ruled the day. We now know what those "Christians" did to the non-white minority (who were then actually still in the majority in this country). And it didn't stop there. Those same "Christian values" put Africans in shackles, Native Americans on reservations, turned a blind eye to the mostly Jewish Holocaust, interred Japanese-Americans and now wants to deport every "illegal" back to their homeland. WWJD, folks? (Hint: read about the Samaritan woman at the well...it's in the New Testament...that's to the right of all the warnings about homosexuality!)

What has white privilege bought these people? A growing sense of fear. They fear that they are no longer in the majority, a position of absolute power. And even if that were so, do they really think any of those great tragedies would be wrought upon them as a whole? Did the African-American President ever open those FEMA camps to inter white folks? Has any minority--Latino or otherwise--ever considered putting privileged white folks in shackles and selling them into slavery? So what are they so scared of?

I know how scary same-sex unions can be. Look at how stirred up the right got over gay marriage!

I know how scary it is to share the streets with men wearing turbans and women who keep their faces covered. You know, because it's so much better to have your skirt barely cover your hoo-ha and your boobs hanging out (a real American value).

I know how scary school desegregation was in the 70's. I LIVED IT! (and survived it, btw)

I grew up in a racially mixed, lower middle class neighborhood. I think diversity is what's so great about this country. But the growing polarization is what scares me more than anything...more than gun violence, terrorism, illegal immigration, even Donald Trump as President. If we keep on this current course, I fear we are headed for a revolution. But that's a topic for a separate rant/blog post.

I'm speaking up this year because it really concerns me how "white America" has responded to the perceived risk to their centuries-old privilege, the status quo and the new social norms. If Donald Trump is really their "savior" and the answer to all that ills them, then heaven help us!!! This is a time for all of us, even those of us who feel totally disenfranchised and unrepresented, to speak up and shine the light on white angst and fear mongering politicians. This is our country and it's about time that well-meaning, non-voting people of all color take it back.