". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Midwest -- Part 2, In Which My Personal History Shows Up

        . . .  Wednesday began with yet another 6 AM call – off to Madison.

 During the drive I read the entirety of the chapter that follows the Chattanooga campaign, which describes Grant receiving the revived rank of lieutenant general,previously held only by General Washington. This chapter further describes Grant's reorganization of the armies as General in Chief, most particularly the Army of the Potomac, which he took over personally in the field.  This in preparation for the Union campaigns of 1864, which Grant will initiate for himself as battlefield commander with what we now call the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania -- the following chapters, which both of us have been too spent to read yet. Maybe we'll get started tonight after family dinner, etc.

While both of us have done a great deal of study and research into what made slavery, secession, the War of Rebellion, the politics and economics, etc., neither of us have been much interested in the armies and the battles of the war.  For one thing, we agree neither of us had enough information yet to think productively about the military aspects of the war until quite recently. Living on the Chesapeake, and getting deep into the War of 1812 began the process of us getting some comprehension to comprehend battles and wars in the first place.  Though we think this process for us actually began with the Slave Revolution of Haiti, New Orleans and Napoleon and slavery, to which our War of 1812 is deeply connected.


We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Madison barely two hours before the 6 PM University of Wisconsin’s gig, and to which gig, due to Madison’s rush hour traffic, we arrived a bit late.  Entering the amphitheater, checking the microphones  I got a huge surprise. A youngish woman puts herself in front of me and stands there.

Stands there.


For . . .  .


It's another niece, the daughter of my dad's second wife's second daughter, mother of four children and always a go-getter, and always determined to make this weird,  poorly blended family accept her as a part of it. I blame my mother for her condition. Mom had a lot of the raising of her, did not treat her well, or respect her -- visiting the sins and character of this niece's mother -- who HATED my mother, and my mother hated her, and they were at WAR -- upon the daughter-child (Mom did not treat the other children of this step-daughter that way, raising them also -- but they were -- BOYS) as only my mother could.

How this niece found out where to go, and why she came -- this woman ought to be an historian herself, or even a private detective. Her tenacity and determination know no bounds.

It's a long and complicated story, but she may be the one person in this family who is actually and actively proud that we are her "aunt and uncle."

This, in combination with being back in Madison, where I was at school for nearly three years, is a place so far distant yet so formative in my own past, in which nothing is the same, all changed, re-located, disappeared, re-named, and become an enormous corporate campus - shopping mall -- stirred up all kinds of feelings and memories I'd rather have stayed drowned at the bottom of my psyche.

And so so we did the gig, and so exhausted that we did our best, but we weren't performing at our best. This didn't seem to matter to this audience of professors and scholars of African, Caribbean and African American studies and history.  This makes for a very different group – and even presentation by us – than a bookstore filled with predominately African American, well-educated activists, who, moreover, mostly have known each other for years.  It went well, and, even, unusually at an academic venue, where we get paid, some books were bought by the attendees.  The best part though, was that both niece and her friend were gob -smacked.  This was all brand new to them, and they found it fascinating.  It's pretty interesting that this niece is the only person in my entire family now has been present at something we do . . .  she's proud of that.

As the dept. chair who brought us to the U of Wisconsin was having us to his home for a sit-down, home-made dinner with other guests, it wasn’t right to invite two strangers along.  I felt badly sending off my niece (a very different kind of niece than the one whose wedding has made all this driving happen in the first place) and her friend, back to their own conference on nutrition, Menomonee Falls, that they’d driven over from North Dakota to attend. Which is why niece was able to come to Madison – but that was a two-hour drive for them.  As stated, she was determined to see us.  Maybe . . . this was a way in which to insert herself into the Other Niece’s wedding, to which she hadn’t been invited, though her grandmother (Dad’s second wife) and some of her other aunts and cousins had been?  I could tell she felt hurt by this.  Yah.  Family dysfunction already present.


By Madison I was physically wrecked from far too many hours of driving, as well as exhausted from far too little sleep.  So when we arrived in Rockford yesterday afternoon, there wasn’t much left. Thankfully it is a short drive from Madison to Rockford. Nor had we eaten.

We ate at a Golden Corral! Blessed the city that has Golden Corral. Their salad greens and other choices to make salads from are always so fresh and there's such a variety. We love the Golden Corral, even when, like me tonight, there's not much appetite there. Something will always appeal that is right for how one's feeling.

I love how now every town and small city can have these available at a moment's notice for even the most casual traveler. It makes my traveling so much more interesting and fun. The whole country is filled with small cities like this, all of whom existed for a good  reason -- and have managed to continue existing for good reasons. As soon as one looks at their past one gets sucked in -- it's all so fascinating, and really tells the story of the U.S. from so many angles.

Rock River is what gives Rockford its name. It was on the original portage route for furs etc. to the Ohio, presumably, on the way to the Mississippi. Then, later, with the Erie Canal to the canal a town was founded, and with Chicago, the goods and commodities could go directly to the railways -- instead of as in the fur days, down to New Orleans. "Our people," the scands, didn't show up until after the Civil War.

After we ate, we went down to the Historic River District that every town has now, and, like every town now, it was filled with Friday night fun-seekers. So we walked about and looked at the re-purposed into brew pubs old architecture and so on. Enjoyed the big sky, but not the emerging mosquitoes. Plus not feeling very well and being exhausted, we came back here.  I was such a wreck, I canceled relatives and went to bed at 9 PM, slept until after 8 AM (DCST).

Gotta say – the weather’s beautiful – perfect for a wedding weekend.  I have even painted my nails in honor of it all.

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