Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 10

On a spring night, ca. 880, a young shepherdess from Bourges named Solange was brutally murdered by a wretched soul named Bernard, son of the Count of Poitiers. According to legend, Solange had vowed at the age of seven to preserve her virginity, pledging her fidelity to Christ alone; maintaining those vows into adulthood, she passed her days tending to the family flock, praying exuberantly, exorcising devils and performing miraculous cures upon the sick. Her landlord Bernard, awestruck by Solange's unspoiled beauty, flew into a rage when the young woman refused his monotonous advances. During an attempted kidnapping, Solange twisted herself free from Bernard's horse and fell to the ground, injuring herself. Limping desperately from the scene, the shepherdess was quickly overtaken and beheaded. Undeterred, the now-martyred Solange quickly retrieved her severed head and walked to the church of Saint-Martin in the village of Saint-Martin-du-Crot, where she preached a sermon to the assembled locals. The subject of her address -- and the reaction of the villagers -- is sadly unrecorded. Four centuries later, in 1281, an altar to Solange was built at the church of Saint-Martin, where her severed head was preserved as a sacred relic. From time to time, the reliquary head would be removed from its place of rest and marched aloft through the streets of Bourges to ward off drought.

To hyper-observant Catholics -- for whom every day presents the opportunity to recall someone's disembowelment, immolation or decapitation -- May 10 is recognized as the Feast of St. Solange. Around my house, the date simply marks the passage of two weeks since my daughter, who has yet made no Solangian oaths, was born.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Separated at birth

Regular blogging will resume once I finish my semester's grading -- which I am hoping will not happen before I run out of scotch and beer.

Meantime, the Wife and I realized the other night that we had seen our daughter somewhere before.

Judge for yourself.



Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May 2


In an e-mail the other day, my college roommate explained that "having a daughter is a joy, possibly second only to hearing about when dick cheney shot that guy in the face." So far, I have to agree. And while I can't speak for Audrey, I suspect she's smiling in this photo because two of the worst Americans ever died fifteen years apart on this date.

In 1957, a 48-year-old Joseph McCarthy felt his liver at last petrify, as it proved no longer capable of withstanding the daily toxic assaults of a man who believed "going on the wagon" meant drinking beer rather than whisky. His final hours must have been agonizing and wholly deserved.

J. Edgar Hoover's demise, by comparison, was considerably more peaceful. After enduring yet another May Day -- with all its connotations of anarchism, socialism and international subversion -- Hoover retired to bed. As he nodded off to sleep, he might have reflected briefly and fondly upon the Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920, when intelligence gathered by Hoover's division of the Justice Department was used to arrest as many as 10,000 domestic radicals who were (or so Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer eventually claimed) plotting a mass communist uprising for May 1, 1920. Delirious with fatigue, Hoover perhaps wondered why the United States had never simply abolished labor unions and workers' organizations altogether, as the Nazis had done on May 2, 1933.

If May Day 1972 somehow bolstered Hoover’s resolve to throttle the Red Menace, he was never able to set his final dreams in motion; by sunrise, he had died in his sleep at the age of 77.

Upon learning of Hoover’s death, Dr. Benjamin Spock offered the following anti-eulogy:
It was a relief to have this man silenced who had no understanding of the underlying philosophy of our government or of our Bill of Rights, a man who had such enormous power, and used it to harass individuals with whom he disagreed politically and who had done so much as anyone to intimidate millions of Americans out of their right to hear and judge for themselves all political opinions.

While the Justice Department had aggressively monitored Dr. Spock since the pediatrician publicly condemned the Vietnam War and organized draft resistance actions in 1968, Hoover did not live to witness Spock’s unsuccessful drive that year to unseat Richard Nixon as President of the United States. As the candidate of the People’s Party, Spock earned 75,000 votes in the fall election.

On the day of Hoover’s death, Benjamin Spock -- whose 8th edition of Baby and Child Care my wife and I are currently reading – celebrated what must have been an especially satisfying 69th birthday.