On Thanksgiving and Guy Fawkes Day

The Execution of Guy Fawkes by Nicholas Visscher

One of the oddest questions I’ve been asked since moving to the U.S. is “Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in England?” Yes, this was a real question. I resisted the temptation to answer “Yes, we celebrate that the Puritans left and took their repressive ban on dancing and merriment with them!” More tactfully I said “No, but we have our own November holiday, Guy Fawkes Day.” That met with blank stares. So I explained that Guy Fawkes was a guy who plotted to blow up King James and the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He was part of a Catholic plot to restore the true faith in Protestant England. “You mean you have a day to celebrate a domestic terrorist?”  “No, no” I hastily corrected. “We burn him Continue reading “On Thanksgiving and Guy Fawkes Day”

An American Wedding

Bride White Red4The bride wore white. The bride wore red. It was an American wedding. The marriage of my cousin Christopher’s daughter Emily and Kunal, the son of Indian-Americans. 

Family members of the bride and groom traveled to the little town of Roslyn on Long Island. We came from near and far, from New York City and Long Island, from Kansas and Virginia, from San Francisco and Washington State, from Maryland and England. We came to celebrate the union of two people, two families, and two cultures. The couple are both the children of immigrants, the bride’s father from England, of Irish heritage, and Continue reading “An American Wedding”

The Amazing True History of Yankee Doodle

To celebrate the July 4th holiday I reprise the amazing true story of an American patriotic song, first published in The Dabbler on June 3rd 2015. Could it be that Yankee Doodle Dandy started out as a British insult?

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In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time singing nonsense songs to my grandsons. Nursery rhymes and traditional children’s songs, often imperfectly remembered. So sometimes I make them up and improvise pure nonsense as I go. The other day I found myself singing the American patriotic song Yankee Doodle. This time I remembered the words exactly but, as if hearing them for the first time, it suddenly struck me what utter nonsense they are. What on earth does the song mean? Continue reading “The Amazing True History of Yankee Doodle”

The Great Again Colossus

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The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus is a poem written in 1883 to help raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903 it was mounted on the pedestal on a bronze plaque. Though beloved by Americans for over a century, the poem no longer reflects the America in which we live today.

I propose this new version as more in the spirit of the times:

The Great Again Colossus by Emma Mortifer

Not like the woman of New York harbor fame,
Who welcomed desperate migrants to our land;
Here at our brutal border wall shall stand
A bloated, boastful bigot, one whose flame
Is destroyer of truth and justice, and his name
Con-Man in Chief. From his puny hand
Tweet hate and lies; his heartless eyes command
This Land of Immigrants that twin oceans frame.
But “Keep, ancient lands, your worthless horde,” cries he
With pouting lips. “I banish your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
Your wretched refuse shall not infest our shore.
Send them, the suffering children, unto me,
And they shall rot in cages outside our golden door!”

The Cousins Lunch

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Cousins Brian and Rita at lunch in New York

“Let me get this straight,” said my husband as he dropped me off at our local Metro station. “You’re going to New York to meet a guy you met on the internet?” We laughed. What he said was literally true, but it wasn’t quite as foolish as it sounded. I did meet Brian on the internet but it was on ancestry.com, not Tinder or some such shady meeting place. Though I suppose statistically a long lost second cousin is just as likely to be a serial killer as any random stranger. But Ancestry declared us a DNA match and we have nuns in common on our family trees. Surely a sign of divine favor. So I waved goodbye to Continue reading “The Cousins Lunch”

Church and State, Skirt and Flag

For the benefit of new readers who did not follow me in my Dabbler days, this is the first in a series of favorite posts from the Dabbler Archives.  This piece first appeared in The Dabbler on August 31st 2011.

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I could not have chosen a more eventful time for my first visit to America than the summer of 1969. Americans were still reeling from the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the disastrous Democratic Convention the year before. Richard Nixon was President and the word “quagmire” was being used about the Vietnam War. There was an edge of danger in the air. I felt as though I had departed a world of smudgy grays and entered a vivid Technicolor movie. Los Angeles was all bright, searing light and straight lines dissolving into a yellowish smog. Everywhere enormous, garish plastic creatures loomed, the icons of consumer culture, making the city seem one vast Disneyland. Baking heat Continue reading “Church and State, Skirt and Flag”

Follow the Money

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“Follow the money,” the famous words whispered by Deep Throat in an underground garage during the Watergate scandal, can be usefully applied to any number of ills afflicting American society. To take just the two main scourges of the present day, gun violence and opioid addiction, you can be sure there are people somewhere raking in huge profits on the backs of the victims. Continue reading “Follow the Money”

Fall on your Knees

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When you google the words “Christian iconography kneeling” the first image that comes up is Fra Angelico’s Annunciation painted on a wall of the Friary of San Marcos in Florence. The Angel Gabriel appears before Mary in a loggia. He kneels, bent forward on one knee as a sign of respect and reverence towards the woman chosen by God to bear his Son. I googled these terms out of confusion that the current national debate concerns the act of kneeling viewed as a sign of disrespect. For most of recorded history the exact opposite has been the case. Continue reading “Fall on your Knees”

We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh

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Americans used to love Paris. There’s even a song about it, something about springtime and fall and drizzles and sizzles. George Gershwin wrote a whole musical on the theme. He thought Paris ‘S wonderful! American literary types used to hang out in Paris and get inspired to write Great American Novels. Paris was on every American’s bucket list. It was the epitome of Romance. But no more. President Trump broke up with Paris bigly. Continue reading “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”

The Impeachment of Hillary Clinton

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Perhaps the most shocking thing, out of all the shocks that have battered us since the inauguration of President Trump, is the complete lack of responsible reaction from Congressional Republicans. Beyond a few bleats of “troubling” and “concerning” there is only evasion, excuses, or silence from those charged by the Constitution with checking and balancing the Executive Branch. Many commentators have drawn comparisons to Watergate when Republican leaders acted as patriotic statesmen, putting country before party. Today’s Republicans make us wonder, how would they have reacted if Hillary Clinton had been elected and behaved in precisely the same way as President Trump?

To find the answer I enter the British Police Box in my basement armed with a “subtle Continue reading “The Impeachment of Hillary Clinton”