Mary Beth Writes

Flags representing Covid victims. 

2/9/2022

This is from the Osterholm Update: Covid-19 (Listen here)

This is mind-boggling: There have been 90,000,000 aka 90 MILLION cases of omicron-covid in the past ten weeks. That is more than contracted covid-19 in ALL of 2020. 

And this: Because language channels how we think, Osterholm says we should no longer talk about two vaccinations and a booster. The accurate designation is that we each need the 3-shot Covid vaccination series in order to obtain best immunity. (A fourth shot is recommended for people with immune system challenges, they should talk with their medical person about that.) Two vaccines provide significantly less immunity than getting all three shots.

Omicron contagion is lessening here in Wisconsin. This week I walked to the YMCA to use their resistance machines which is something I’ve not done since Omicron started. I feel the best I’ve felt in weeks. I started seeing a physical therapist for my sore shoulder last summer; she gave me super-helpful exercises to do at home ... but they are also super-easy to not get around to. You probably never skip your at-home PT workouts.

Twenty minutes at the Y a couple times a week is easier than doing the prescribed exercises and stretches on my own. But going to the Y was too chancy until the vaccines were available, and then again, until the biggest bulge of omicron infections got through our community. I wear a mask the whole time I am there, many don’t.  (In case you were wondering, this pandemic will never end.)

Here's the thing: I’m both bored and weary of figuring out what I can or shouldn’t do. I bet you feel the same. Figuring out BEFORE one does something if, in fact, the activity is worth the risk – this is new for most of us. It takes energy, thinking, awkward conversations, apologies, and copious self-doubt.

It can develop a thicker skin for protecting one’s self because we all know, pandemical science is changing as we go along. Medical advice is neither clear nor cohesive. Government is up against both the unknown and the idiots. 

We have to personally pay attention, read, talk, think, protect, and risk.

In other words, this situation is very similar to what people with handicaps and challenges have been telling us forever. It takes more energy than we ever imagined to figure out how to be safe and have a life at the same time.

We’ve at this two years. Many have been doing this much of their lives.

Do you know Ona Judge? Her story is a gut punch to the sanctimonious tales surrounding “Our Founding Father, George Washington.”

If you were taught about little George and the cherry tree (a false story, BTW) but you didn’t hear about Ona Judge, well, it’s Black history month. Listen up.

Ona was born in 1774 to Betty, an enslaved seamstress owned by Martha Custis Washington. Ona’s father was Andrew Judge who was a white indentured servant on the Washington plantation. No one knows if the relationship between Betty and Andrew was consensual. 

Little Ona lived in a slave cabin with her mother. Like many other slaves of mixed-race descent, she was assigned, between the ages of 10 and 12, to begin fulltime work as an enslaved servant inside the house. She eventually became Martha Washington’s personal maid. Ona, like her mother, was a skilled seamstress, “the perfect mistress of her needle.”

George Washington’s presidential career took him and Martha and their personal enslaved servants to NYC and later to Philadelphia. In those cities Ona would accompany Martha when she went out and about. One supposes when Martha went to the homes of other rich ladies, Ona spent time with the enslaved people or servants in the kitchen. These encounters are likely where she began to learn about and from freed Black people.

Pennsylvania was anti-slavery and had a law that stated an enslaved person would be freed after six month’s residency. George Washington’s diaries show he maintained a methodical calendar so that his personal slaves would be rotated out of Pennsylvania for a few days before that six-month date would arrive. In public Washington said he didn’t approve of slavery. In private, he systematically and energetically maintained control of his enslaved humans. He and Martha together owned 317 people.

When she was 22 Ona learned that Martha planned to give her as a wedding present to her granddaughter Eliza. Eliza was known by servants and slaves as a young woman with a volatile disposition. Also, she was marrying a man who had children from a woman he had impregnated in India. Ona was aware how dangerous and miserable her life would likely be as the life-long slave of these two people.

So on a Saturday evening when the Washingtons were eating dinner, Ona walked away. Free Black people in Philadelphia took her to a ship where the captain was an abolitionist. Ona never said that man’s name until after he died, protecting him.

She sailed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Several times in the coming years George Washington would send men of power who owed him favors to recapture and return Ona.  He was angry about the loss of her.  Martha was angry to have lost her talented seamstress maid. They claimed that Ona “was brought up and treated more like a child than a Servant.” As if she owed them gratitude for her enslaved life. 

Ona married a free Black man who was a sailor and they had three children. Her husband and children died before Ona, who lived until 1845. She was interviewed towards the end of her life by an abolitionist newspaper which is how her story is one of the few first hand stories we have from an enslaved person.

The interviewer asked, “Your life has been very hard, you worked harder than you would have for the Washingtons. Do you regret that?”

She answered, “‘No, I am free, and have, I trust, been made a child of God by the means.”

When we are taught that some people are heroes, it becomes a way to distance ourselves from action and responsibility. If I think the Founding Fathers were Heroic Men of Action, then I don’t feel so bad about how powerless I often feel. Hey, not my job to be a hero!

Slave-owning was common, horrendous, and a travesty against every document of freedom those founding fathers wrote. Forty-one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence owned humans; the combined number of the enslaved people they owned was more than 1600.

It’s more truthful to realize George Washington was an educated and privileged man. He lived when the power-mongering of the British empire was getting in the way of rich men’s autonomy and wealth. They took a risk to decide to rebel. Much of what they did and wrote pushed humanity forward. We owe them respect but we sure don’t owe them hero-worship.

For more info about these slave-owning signers - read here. 

 

Here are two longer and more detailed articles about Ona Judge:

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/ona-judge

https://www.whitehousehistory.org/the-remarkable-story-of-ona-judge

This is the interesting podcast about Ona Judge     https://benfranklinsworld.com/episode-137-erica-dunbar-washingtons-slave...  

This award-winning book about Ona Judge was published in 2017: Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Very interesting, Thank you..

I had never heard Ona’s story before. Puts the Washingtons in a whole ‘ nother light, don’t it? As my son-in- law would say “ just another story about rich white people!” Wish this and so many other histories of bipoc people were not true! We can do better going forward.
Mary Beth's picture

For those who like podcasts, this is an interesting interview with the historian who did the research and wrote "Never Caught." https://benfranklinsworld.com/episode-137-erica-dunbar-washingtons-slave-ona-judge/ which is where I first heard of her.

Always learning from you. Thank you. Patricia

Thank you for another eye and mind opening article!

I never heard of Ona before I read this. That fact in itself is a sad reminder of the staying power of rich white men as compared to people of color who owned little and were themselves owned. Thank you for introducing the book and the podcast. I will make it a point to read and listen to these two important links to our American history.

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