Mary Beth Writes

Today is October 12th - Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Not Columbus Day, okay?

I was in the process of giving birth to one of our kids and it was getting on towards midnight. The midwife wondered whether our baby would be born on the day we were in or whether it would be a few more minutes and then the child would have the next day as their birthday.

She casually told this story. She’d been assisting at the birth of a child to a Native American woman. It was October 11th. Without thinking about what she was saying, the midwife wondered aloud if the baby would arrive on Oct 11th or the 12th.

The mom opened her eyes, swore feistily, and said, “No kid of mine is being born on Columbus Day.” Whereupon she pushed the child out into its October 11th birthday.

I think that is a funny and very strong story about this day that we are in today and what it symbolizes.

(And yeah, my kid was born in the day the midwife told the story, not the next day. I am a suggestible person.)

Last night we watched a DVD Len borrowed from the library. You can watch it on YouTube if you want.

The movie is “The General” and it’s a silent movie directed/acted by Buster Keaton - in 1926. I thought it was going to be boring and weird but within minutes I was hooked. We watched the whole thing and I’m still thinking about it today.

1. Buster Keaton was a GOOD actor! I always knew what he was trying to communicate. Because it’s a silent film, there are those frames where they give you the text of what one character is saying to another, but in most cases I didn’t need that. The story is told so well without conversation.

Keaton did his own stunts, they looked incredibly dangerous. More than once I had to close my eyes and hope he survived (Keaton died in 1966). There is a scene towards the end where a steam locomotive falls through a burning bridge over a river. It was the most expensive movie scene made up until that point in film history.

The movie weirdly seesaws between pathos and slapstick humor. Maybe we would call that uneven now, but it was interesting to watch harrowing scenes, then watch Keaton turn himself into a Charlie Chaplin type comic.

2.THIS MOVIE WAS PART OF THE SOUTH REINVENTING ITSELF IN THE 1920’S. Five years ago I would not have understood what was going on in this story. It’s based on a true incident where a southern train engineer chases and then is chased by a Union Army soldiers who are attempting to blow up bridges and cut off supplies. A brave and canny southerner engineer figures out what’s happening and stops them.

In 1926 this tale is retold via this movie. In it - 50 years after the Civil War is ended – the South is portrayed as good and valorous and smart; the union army is foolish and incompetent.

The 1920’s is when Jim Crow was coming into power. It’s when many-to-most of the statues of southern “heroes” were erected. It’s an era in which Southern women and men found ways to congratulate themselves for the way they fought “the war between the states.” It’s the time of lynching of Black men, at least 300 Black men were murdered by lynching in the 1920’s.

Len chose the movie because he’d read about the antique steam trains that were used; the plot played out in and on two locomotives hauling various cars.

We didn’t expect to fall into the dark history we’ve been learning in this past year; the elevation of the Confederates that would enable another hundred years of racism. That is among us now.

 

“The General” with Buster Keaton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWm587wKKVw

 

Comments

This conflict is often referred to as the War of northern Aggression” below the Mason Dixon. Yep, folks down there still fight that waaar...
Mary Beth's picture

It's so crazy that the Civil War is not over yet. Kind of makes one think that wars don't solve problems .

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