A Lamb No More

Oh, I love football games. It’s not the game, but the scene that I love. The people, the cheers, the happiness. Everyone smiling, laughing, talking, shouting, cheering… nothing sad at all. That’s why I like cities and dance clubs and stores. The people are interesting to me. I’m marveled by people’s actions, both mean and kind.
I love to walk, too. I’m walking now to the concession area. The popcorn smells good. I’ll get some popcorn and a drink. Popcorn always makes me thirsty. Oh, there’s a long line. I’ll have to wait. I hate lines. I have always hated lines. They’re so structured and trapped-like. Standard, organized, and unoriginal. I don’t like feeling like a lamb among other lambs being herded to a certain destination. I like things to be individualistic and creative. Original, unique, and different.

My friends are also in the line. I might join them. I may as well be a lamb for a little while, among friends. They don’t have to be the only ones to be among lambs because they, like me, are not lambs.

I catch one’s eye and I smile and wave to her. She turns to her friend and they both look back at me. I’m still smiling… me being so innocent and naive, so trustful in my friends.

But then I thought my eyes were deceiving me. They were running away from me, laughing. My friends were running away from me! I believed it was a joke, so I ran after them. “Hey! Wait a minute! This joke has gone far enough!” I thought to myself. I had caught the eye of who I thought was my closest friend, but I saw that she was an enemy who wore a mask for so long. I had thought she was someone like me: different from the lambs that surrounded her. I knew then that she was not who I thought she was. She was truly a lamb in a lion’s disguise.

I walked back to the other side of the stands, wondering, “Why would someone do this to me?” I was crying and I kept my head low as I traveled up the steps of the stands to the top.

I found an empty spot and sat down. I could not understand how someone could change so fast. A person I had thought was my friend, had betrayed me. She had lied to me in a way that spoken words were not necessary. I brought my feet up onto the bench and rested my head upon my knees. I tried to calm myself. I tried not to cry. I tried not to be so angry. I tried not to misinterpret anything. I tried to understand.

The girl was not like a dog that you’ve owned for several years who has, in a way, become a part of your family. She was not trustworthy like the loyal family dog. She was like a blue jay that was greedy and unfaithful. She pecked at my heart and at my brain. She made me feel confused when I had felt confident. Disarrayed, my feelings were hanging by a thread.

I was so upset, I could not see the people who cared. People who, when they noticed my sadness, asked me what was wrong. One person even tried to cheer me up. Tried to lift my spirits. He tried to make me see the people I loved so much to be around. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings… everything was still the same. Yet, it wasn’t. I could see who was a lamb and who was not a lamb. He and I were not lambs, but I turned him away. I could not see. I could not hear. I could not feel. I could not understand.

A little more than a year has passed since then. I have changed more in better ways since that first change from a trusting person to a person who seeks trust. I have forgiven my friend, because she has also changed, for the better. But the complete trust and faith I had in her so long ago can never be restored, replaced, or replinished. I now trust in her a different way. I have become stronger emotionally and I understand things more clearly now. This event has given me a lesson that continues to teach me everytime I reflect upon it. It has taught me to still trust, hope, and love even in the light of darkness.

irish poets

Triple The Irish

There are three Irish poets who have, over a span of time, made a difference through poetry in the twentieth century. William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland all in their aesthetics and themes influenced the culture in which they found themselves. After Yeats’ romanticism had faded from the foreground, Heaney still kept the romantic aesthetic in his poetry. Boland looked at the tradition that Yeats represented and saw one that lacked a feminine voice and a feminine subject. Heaney dredged the Irish culture and tradition, thus discovering a cultural self. Through these three literary giants modern poetry evolved into a whole new language in Ireland.

Before Yeats entered Ireland’s literary cannon, a tradition of idealism was in place. Yeats perceived that the war would weaken all that was ideal. Everything from the spiritual, imagination, symbolism, and art would give way to the physical, rational, realism, and science. Yeats uses this dichotomy throughout his early works, expressing that culture cannot have the ideal without the real, just as one cannot have day without night. He wanted to create a crossroads with the dichotomy so that readers would see the real and the ideal exist together in one place, the poem. With the death of Romanticism was the lack of value in the spiritual. Thus the poet becomes alienated because his values are not valued by society. Yeats believed that a life, society, and culture without art (the spiritual) was meaningless. During World War II, there was a break in Yeats’ poetry. This break was between the past and the present. Yeats noticed that the past was cut off from the present, and therefore a sense of history was cut off. The tendency to look to the past for tradition was lost. It was through these romantic aesthetics that Yeats wrote his poetry.

Seamus Heaney has evolved in his poetry from his earlier years with traces of romanticism to later years of politics. By the time Heaney came onto the literary scene, romanticism for the most part was lost from the stack of themes and aesthetics that writers used. Heaney believed that poetry makes things happen, and it did. Through his “bog poems” where mummified corpses of the iron age became emblems of Ireland’s first conquerors and martyrs, and into other poems that dealt with politics in Ulster, Heaney had the constant reminder that his poetry’s role was in confronting Ireland’s terrible history. His fascination with the past “allows him to comment on the present in an oblique yet forceful way”. Yet, Heaney, quoted by Dr. Schirmer, still believes in the romantic creation of poetry: “…not composition as an active pursuit, but a surrender to energies that spring from within.”

In her poetic lines Eavan Boland created a new Irish tradition which included the feminine voice. She saw an absence of women in Irish poetry and in Irish tradition. Women usually were icons or objects in poetry. Boland noticed that women were never the subject of the poems written by men. Women had an oral tradition where stories were passed down by word of mouth. Men dominated the printed literary world. Therefore a contrast formed between the oral tradition of women and the printed tradition controlled by men. When women’s poetry finally is printed, it crosses over the literary boundary and creates a new Irish tradition where the feminine voice and she, woman, becomes the subject of the poem. Tradition that was set by men in Ireland was pushed aside by Boland’s call for a need of women in poetry, not only as a voice and subject within the poetry, but also as the poets themselves. As Boland did not have examples of Irish women poets before her time, she did have the influences of Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and Elizabeth Bishop from America. Boland now is the Irish example for Ireland’s future young women poets.

One of the most romantic poems that Yeats has written may be “The Stolen Child.” In this poem he uses his dichotomy of the spiritual and the physical. The mysterious Irish mythology of fairies and mystical landscapes of hills and highlands are representative of the spiritual that Yeats so much wants the reader to appreciate and desire. Each of the four stanzas end with an italicized refrain which are the fairies speaking to the human, luring him into their realm. They want him to abandon the world. Yeats wants his reader to do the same, to reject the world and the physical side of the dichotomy. Yeats believes that art could reform a society, but first there must be a rejection of the world and an acceptance to the invitation into the land of art. In the last stanza, this human child that the fairies have been appealing to accepts their invitation and leaves the last description that Yeats gives of a domestic lifestyle:

“Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.”

This is also Yeats way of showing what the reader will find once he accepts the invitation to the spiritual side of the dichotomy. In “A Prayer for My Daughter” Yeats shows that romanticism and innocence depends on culture, tradition and history. It is his daughter’s innocence from the horrible sights of war that Yeats wants to protect her from, and thus this poem is his appeal to society to be spiritual and traditional. In stanza six, he compares his daughter to a “hidden tree” and that “all her thoughts may like the linnet be.” This starts an image that Yeats builds upon at the end of stanza seven:

“If there’s no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.”

In these lines he says that if a person is spiritual and linked to tradition, war and hatred will not destroy the spiritual. The poem “In Memory of Major Robert Gregory” asks the question, “Is it possible that war killed art?” Yeats answer to this question is “yes.” In stanza seven it is described that Major Gregory loved nature and saw the art that lied within nature itself. When he died, the appreciation for this natural beauty also died with him. Thus, this would conclude that war had caused the death of art and romanticism. The last line, “but a thought of that late death took all my heart for speech” also declares the death of romanticism, as the poet ends this poem because he cannot create anymore since art and romanticism has died.

To be continued…

appalachian stereotype

Appalachian Quandries (Part III)

Several models attempt to explain the situation of the Appalachian region. The “Modernization (Underdevelopment)” model presents Appalachia as not having participated in the process of industrialization. The “Culture of Poverty” model sees the region’s culture as pathological and backward. The “Colonialism” model sees Appalachia as a victim of outside exploitation. Last, the “Dependency Theory” states that the region has suffered from too much industrialization (“Some Definitions”). Out of these three models, the culture of poverty theory and modernization theory have been applied longer in studies and in literature of the region. The culture of poverty theory also adds that deviant behavioral patterns are passed from generation to generation, making poverty a “socially inherited” condition. This theory is also the one that “continues to be a dominant theme in modern literature on Appalachia”. The other, which is also known as the theory of modernizing elites, explains the need to change attitudes and beliefs of individuals in underdeveloped societies. To add to the Appalachian ethnicity is a region whose geographical location isolates it from the outside world, the remainder of society. Such isolation maintains traditional values, and this “results in further isolation and deprived economic conditions”. Such theories have effected the American conscience into stereotyping a people who have been changed by economic pressures and their natural environment.

These early stereotypes of pre-industrial Appalachia as a separate folk culture had two scholarly consequences. One is that it contributed to the tradition of ethnographic studies of rural Appalachia. This gives an opening of social change in the mountains because of its close study of the family, community, and daily life of the people. The other constructs the Appalachians as a folk culture, and reinforces the idea that they are a “people without history,” making the study of the region the domain of anthropology and ethnography rather than history. This “disinclination to study history of Appalachia was reinforced by ethnographers’ frequent use of the modernization theory as a narrative device,” which directed attention away from actual historical causes of regional social change to how local community adapted to sources of change, like the “coming of the roads”. Rupert Vance’s introduction to Jack Weller’s Yesterday People includes the following assertions:

“Thus mountain isolation, which began as physical
isolation enforced by rugged topography, became mental and
cultural isolation, holding people in disadvantaged areas,
resisting those changes that would bring them into contact with
the outside world. The effect of conditions thus becomes a new
cause of conditions, but the cause is now an attitude, not a
mountain”

The stereotype of the Appalachian folk was now in the minds of scholars and the general conscience of the American society. These images had been created over the previous century by the media (in novels, commercial recordings, movies, and television) and by the elite literary culture. During the years of 1870 and 1900, hundreds of articles, both fiction and nonfiction, were published depicting the way of life in the mountain region as “vastly out of step, culturally and economically, with the progressive trends of industrializing and urbanizing nineteenth century America”. One example of these depictions is Will Wallace Harney’s description of a “strange land and peculiar people” of the Southern Appalachian Mountains in periodicals like Lippincott’s Magazine, Harper’s, and Atlantic Monthly. American psychologist William James in an essay published in 1896 recounted an experience while on a trip in the Blue Ridge:

“Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, “What sort of
people…make these new clearings?” “All of us,” he replied.
“Why we ain’t happy here unless we are getting one of these coves
under cultivation.” I instantly felt that I had been losing the
whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the
clearing spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those
whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell
no other story. But when they looked on the hideous stumps,
what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the
girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat,
persistent toil, and final reward.”

Yet, middle-class America in urban cities was beginning to adopt the media productions that characterized Appalachian people as America’s own “noble savages,” a group thought to be uncorrupted by the material and industrial world, and personified the pioneer American values. The popular media was creating a more positive hillbilly stereotype, one that was “rooted in romanticized half-truths”. In early twentieth century an influx of eastern Europeans challenged the old social order and cultural assumptions of those who had ethnic roots back to Anglo-Saxon Europe. These people began to state “that the mountain people, though economically poor, were culturally rich, representing a ‘pure’ strain of Anglo-Saxon culture which, some believed, was superior to American mass culture”. Both positive and negative hillbilly stereotypes kept America from seeing Appalachian people for what they were: a massive motley of various ethnic and cultural groups, ranging from Cherokee, Celtic, German, and African-American, and English, and also as a group that was not all rural, poor, and illiterate. Yet, these perceptions would prosper and continue to fester in such forms of media like literature, music, comic strips, movies, and television programs.

folk culture

Appalachian Quandries (Part II)

The Scots-Irish was the dominant ethnic group among people of the backwoods, and these rugged frontiersmen were “stern and virile…a bold and hardy race”. An exaggerated image of the Scots-Irish way of life became so interlaced with romantic descriptions of the Appalachian frontier that much of what was written about them became a stereotype because they were being more and more celebrated. It is difficult to separate them from other ethnic groups because of “the romanticism associated with them, the apparently low level of locational persistence, and their linguistic affiliation with their English neighbors”. Most immigrants were from the English Isles and spoke Elizabethan era words and phrases like those in Shakespeare. As time passed and these people in the depths of the Appalachia mountains were isolated from the growing industrialization of cities, mountain life transformed the language, mispronouncing words, rearranging words and phrases, and creating new words (“Mountain”). Mountain ranges, bodies of water and of natural barriers isolate groups that speak a common language. “Doubtless, had progress moved less rapidly, the mountaineers of the Appalachians and Blue Ridge eventually would have had a language not understood by the English-speaking out-landers, but two centuries was too short a period for the completion of the metamorphic process”. The unique phraseology and syntax of these people was fated at the turn of the century when a longer school term was made possible. The State’s Literary Fund and treasuries from mountain counties made it financially possible. Newspapers, magazines, books, and radios began to appear in people’s hands as high schools were being established and colleges dotted the area. Some examples of this language were phrases like “a whoop and a holler,” “acorn-fed critters,” and “doney-girl,” which meant “a long distance,” “poor people,” and “female sweetheart,” respectfully (“Mountain”). The old language has over time disintegrated and adopted the words and phrases from the outside culture of popular media and society. In some secluded areas the language may still be surviving, though those chances are very low. Through some tourist attractions and conservation attempts, the linguistic uniqueness of the area survives in a less natural form.

As years have passed and more people are becoming fascinated by the Appalachian folk culture, there has been a desire to “experience” this culture for oneself, thus the creation of tourist attractions and retreats. Conservation projects have not only encouraged environmental recovery from exploitative logging practices but have led to a rise in tourism too. This celebrated and threatened this unique mountain culture. After World War II, Americans were looking for recreation and the Blue Ridge became one of the most visited destinations for new tourism. The newest attractions was the Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Tourist agents recognized urban people’s desires for a traditional, rural culture because they had grown weary of urban and suburban realities. The solution was to showcase the cultural life of the Blue Ridge. Tourists saw these generalized and romanticized representations of the Appalachian folk and their traditional culture in “living history” dramatizations, National Park Service-sponsored talks, and regional music festivals. There were also tacky and negative depictions of Appalachian folk in tourist shops. Both of these representations were appealing to the American adult, who was seeking diversion from urban stress, and to the children, who were learning the history of their nation through figures like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. The Civil War even contributed to the increased interest of Appalachia. Hundreds of soldiers had passed through these mountains during the Civil War, and when they had returned home, they spread rumors and tales about the people and natural resources they had encountered in the Appalachian mountains. Soon it was being besieged by outsiders: “land speculators, railroad workers, loggers, ‘local color’ writers, folk music and folk tale collectors, and missionaries”. The area began to be perceived as having a rural culture in need of help. It was “culturally archaic” because of its “rural isolation” and was “in need of the blessings of modern industrial progress” and the capitalist solution would be coal-mining. These opinions and ideas of the region created permanent perceptions of how the Appalachians could be perceived.

Appalachia can be defined in a variety of forms, ranging from geographic to cultural studies, or any other way of defining an area. Two definitions of the Appalachian region seem to offer more insight and help in understanding the mountain people and their way of life. One is that of the Socio-Economic Definition which arose in the late nineteenth century. It states that “urban writers present Appalachia as a backward and underdeveloped area when compared to the rest of the United States. As industrialization and urbanization grew in the twentieth century, Appalachia increasingly came to be defined as a social and economic problem area” (“Some Definitions”). A Historical Definition considers not only the fact that these people live within the same region, share similar cultural traits, or specific social conditions, but that they share a common historical experience that gives the mountain region a distinctiveness. Even if the people differ so much in the economic stresses they endure, or whether they live in an urban or rural area, they still have in common a regional heritage (“Some Definitions”). These definitions help in understanding the region in aspects other than what one will see as one drives through the mouton region itself.

appalachian mountains

Appalachian Quandries

A peculiar stereotype has clung to the Appalachian peoples since the frontier era to the present. Many theorists, historians, and psychologists, among other social science professions, have come up with various theories to explain why Appalachian culture has always been poor and poverty-stricken. One must strongly consider that the rugged topography contributed greatly to the people’s isolation, thus forming a stereotype of a people who had been out of touch with the outside world. These stereotypes have stuck because popular literature, media, and music painted images of a people that are backwards and inbred. For some reason, society has been amused and entertained by this image of the hillbilly.

First, before one tries to understand and comprehend the origin of the positive and negative stereotypes of the Appalachian folk, one must familiarize oneself with the history of the region. Starting with DeSoto as one of the first Europeans to filter into the rugged mountains of Appalachia, his 1539 expedition had headed towards the interior with two goals. These goals consisted of finding adventure and of discovering gold and other precious metals. By 1540 he had crossed into the Blue Ridge area and passed through Cherokee domain “quickly and without difficulty” possibly because the indigenous people was already “decimated by smallpox”. James Needham and Gabriel Arthur in 1673 led an expedition to open direct trade with some remote Indian tribes. This would eliminate the profiteering by the Occaneechi middlemen with whom Virginia traders dealt. Needham and Arthur met the Cherokee and Arthur stayed with a Tomahittan tribe which proved to be friendly. He was later captured by the Shawnees when the Tomahittans went on a military expedition against them. When released, he returned to Virginia through the mountain pass later to be called the Cumberland Gap. These two expeditions opened up the yearning for and knowledge of more land to the west. Daniel Boone was among the next group of adventurers to travel through Appalachia to Kentucky. Boone grew up with a love for hunting, thus providing his family and siblings with food and clothing. He also wanted to be the first to evaluate the new acquisition of Kentucky for England, which he did in 1769. Boone had also heard rumors that land in Kentucky was fertile and well-watered. This was attractive to Boone since the foothills had proven to be a difficult place to raise a family. By March 1775, the Wilderness Road (also known as Boone’s Old Trace) was built by Boone and fifty fellow frontiersmen. Next, a series of traveling explorers and capitalists followed Boone’s example. Stephen Holston in 1746 built a cabin on a stream that was later called the Holston River. He was soon driven out by hostile Indians. In 1769, William Bean built a cabin at the confluence of Boone’s Creek and Watauga. In 1770 a store and trading post for travelers and Indian trade was set up near present Rogersville, Tennessee, by John Carter and William Parker. These were the first settlements in an area that would see much change in its makeup and people.

All of these explorers, with the exception of DeSoto, were English. They were not the only Europeans settling in the Appalachia region as the Revolutionary War loomed in the near future. A motley population of English, Scots-Irish, Highland Scots, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, various German Protestants, and Protestant French Huguenots dotted the backcountry of all the colonies from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Each ethnic group had their own motivations for leaving Europe, “but all immigrants had in common a yearning for economic and religious freedom and a desire for self-determination”. Of the pre-1790 immigrants settling within the Appalachian region between western New York and eastern Tennessee, three-fourths were from Ulster, or Northern Ireland. When these Ulster folk came to America, they brought a new and changing culture, not the traditional culture from their homeland. There were many customs, artifacts, and institutions that could not be fittingly transferred to the New World. They abandoned “celebrations of the Twelfth of July, the use of turf for fuel, donkey carts, sod walls, thatch, rush candles, tea, and any semblance of Gaelic”. Most of the Ulster immigrants were generally poor and could not easily transport a lot of material goods over the Atlantic. Yet many did manage to bring “their ballads, weaving and herding skills, taste for whiskey, place names, Presbyterianism, and some architectural techniques”.

They soon became skilled in pioneer crafts and agricultural practices that fit the environment into which they moved. They grew a variety of crops, including “wheat, rye, oats, barley, hemp, Indian corn, buckwheat, white potatoes, apples, peaches, cherries, and flax” while berries and nuts grew in the wild. The growing and cultivating of flax was important among the Ulster emigrants, with which they made linen or linsey-woolsey. They traded with England and Ireland cargoes of flaxseed on the ships as they voyaged across the Atlantic. Rural farmers who lived far from towns and stores had to rely on the household manufacture of textiles. “In addition to this economic evidence of an emphasis on textiles where Ulster people lived, there seems to have been a common stereotype that identified Irish immigrants with the production of textiles on hand looms”. Even a “comical itinerant Irishman called Traddle the Weaver” appeared in Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s late eighteenth century novel, Modern Chivalry. Thus, the beginnings of one of the stereotypical images of Appalachians had begun to arise in the minds of the American conscience.