Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis
Pope Issues Mission Statement for Papacy – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press, November 26, 2013).
In Major Document, Pope Francis Presents His Vision – Elisabetta Povoledo (New York Times, November 26, 2013).
The Pope’s Take on Capitalism – Andrew Rosenthal (New York Times, November 26, 2013).
Pope Francis Denounces “Trickle-Down” Economics – Aaron Blake (Washington Post, November 26, 2013).
Pope Francis: No More Business as Usual – Daniel Burke (CNN, November 26, 2013).
Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium: Work for Justice at Heart of Discipleship – Mike Jordan Laskey (Millennial, November 26, 2013).
The Complex and Layered Meanings in Pope Francis’ New Document – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, November 27, 2013).
The Pope’s Bold New Vision – James Martin, SJ (CNN, November 26, 2013).
Evangelii Gaudium Amounts to Francis’ “I Have a Dream” Speech – John L. Allen, Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, November 26, 2013).
Making All Things New and Beginning Again – Daniel P. Horan (America, November 26, 2013).
How Will Pope’s New Document Affect LGBT Issues? – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, November 26, 2013).
Francis’ “Writing on the Wall” for Catholic Sexual Dogma – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, November 27, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Capitalism on Trial
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
Something to Think About – August 27, 2012
Quote of the Day – October 29, 2011
Quote of the Day – October 9, 2011
In Search of a “Global Ethic”
Reflections on Babel and the “Borders Within”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

As Doctor Who Celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Sarah Jane Smith is Voted Number 1 Favorite Companion

UPDATE: Be sure to scroll down to the postscript for images and commentary on the Twin Cities Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration.

The venerable British sci-fi TV show Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary today.

Over at BBC America Seb Patrick reports on the cable station's recent poll to find the "top ten favorite companions" of the space and time traveling Doctor throughout the show's history. I'm happy to say that my favorite companion, Sarah Jane Smith, is ranked at Number One!

Regular readers would know that I'm a great admirer of the character of investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith . . . and of Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who so wonderfully brought her to life. Indeed, Sarah Jane Smith has been the focus of no less than ten previous Wild Reed posts! (Yes, that's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10!)

Here's what BBC America's Seb Patrick has to say about Sarah Jane Smith, as played by the wonderful Lis Sladen who sadly passed away in April 2011.

When Sarah Jane was introduced in 1973 as the final companion of the Third Doctor, few could have predicted the impact she would go on to have. In her four years traveling first with Jon Pertwee and later Tom Baker [who played the Fourth Doctor], Elisabeth Sladen quickly became, for many fans, as much a reason to watch the show as the Doctor himself. She was a strong, fiercely independent and fascinating character in her own right, a huge step up in terms of the way female companions were presented, and one that would be massively influential in the years to follow.

It was no surprise, therefore, that she became the first companion to be offered a spin-off series – and although 1981′s K-9 and Company was an unsuccessful pilot, Sarah would still be introduced to a whole new generation of fans courtesy of her appearance in the 2007 episode “School Reunion.” She was a natural choice to bridge the gap between the classic series and the new – particularly after having been given a somewhat abrupt departure scene – and her renewed popularity quickly turned into a brand new spinoff series. The Sarah Jane Adventures was a huge success, achieving the remarkable feat of making a middle-aged woman the star of a show aimed at children – and even attracted guest appearances from the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Sadly, the latter of these stories – 2010′s “Death of the Doctor” – would be the last time Sarah Jane and the Doctor would appear onscreen together, due to Sladen’s sad passing away the following year – but her position as Doctor Who‘s most beloved and lasting supporting character will surely never be challenged.

“Not many actresses could do frightened and feisty at the same time,” says Keith Miller of the Official Doctor Who Fan Club, “but Lis Sladen nailed it.”

“She has the perfect combination of intelligence and spunk,” adds James Dailey of BlogCritics.org. ”She understands the Doctor as no other, and makes a life apart from him after enjoying his company for many years.”

“No one can or ever will compare,” says author Arnold Blumberg. “She came along so many years after the show debuted and yet she is the template, the perfect example of how to write and perform a best friend and traveling companion for our Time Lord hero.”

Anglophenia’s Fraser McAlpine adds: “She has the relationship with [the Doctor] that makes the most sense. She’s as inquisitive as he is, as argumentative as he is, and more moral than he is.”

Finally, Paul Murphy of BBC Three Counties Radio distills Sarah Jane’s popularity down to the power of the actress’ performance, stating simply, “Elisabeth Sladen made you believe it.”

– Seb Patrick

11/24/13 POSTSCRIPT: Last night, like many Doctor Who fans around the world I attended a special screening of "The Day of the Doctor," the fiftieth anniversary episode of the show.

Notes the BBC News website:

Doctor Who fans have praised the show's 50th anniversary episode as "epic" and "phenomenal".

"The Day of the Doctor" was broadcast in 94 countries at the same time as it aired on BBC One on Saturday night.

Featuring three Doctors - Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt - it delved deep into the character's psyche over 75 minutes. There were also cameos from former star Tom Baker, and Peter Capaldi, who replaces Smith later this year.

"It's the most ambitious episode we've ever done," said the show's boss, Steven Moffat, ahead of the premiere.

Opening with the show's original credit sequence from 1963, the special featured the Daleks and the return of shape-shifting aliens the Zygons, who first appeared in 1975.

. . . Speaking before the broadcast, Moffat - the show's lead writer and executive producer - admitted he was "nervous" about the scale of the special.

"I'm glad we don't do it every time, but it's very exciting to do it once," he told the BBC News website.

He said he hoped fans would be "very happy", adding: "It's got a big emotional wallop at the end".

Moffat described the first ever Doctor Who episode, "An Unearthly Child," broadcast on 23 November 1963, as "one of the very best episodes of Doctor Who ever made".

"All the ideas come from there," he said. "The music, the name, the Tardis, the police box bigger on the inside... in terms of brand new ideas that [first episode was] a roller-coaster of 25 minutes."

In the Twin Cities, the telecast was organized by the local Doctor Who Meetup group and held at the Parkvway Theater in south Minneapolis. My friends Lucinda and Maura were also there.

It was a fun night with many attendees dressed up as their favorite Doctor or character from the show. At one point, though, I seriously dated myself when I asked a young woman if she was dressed as Zoe (right), a companion of the Second Doctor during the show's late-1960s run. This young woman looked completely mystified before replying that, although her hair wasn't quite long enough, she was actually dressed as Clara, the current Doctor's companion! I haven't really been following the show lately so I was clueless about Clara, but I did commend the young woman on her outfit and said she could also pass as Zoe (especially with the hair!)

Above: Two guys, sonic screwdrivers in hand, dressed as the Third Doctor (left)and the Fourth Doctor.

Above: A crocheted ood!

Above: Don't blink! It's one of those Weeping Angels!

Above: Attendees at last night's Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration dressed-up as (from left) Clara Oswald, the Fifth Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor.

Also screened at last night's Doctor Who celebration at the Parkway was An Adventure in Space and Time, a British television docudrama commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show. I enjoyed just as much (if not more) than the 50th anniversary episode.

Following is Wikipedia's synopsis of An Adventure in Space and Time.

In 1963, BBC executive Sydney Newman (played by Brian Cox) has an idea for a science-fiction television show, Doctor Who, to fill a gap in the Saturday evening schedule. Helmed by the BBC's first woman producer, Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), and first Indian director, Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), the production is initially beset by difficulties that result in the pilot having to be re-shot. The finished product airs to underwhelming viewership on the day after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and the decision is made to cancel the show after the episodes still in production are completed. However, Lambert defends the concept for an upcoming serial featuring the Daleks, and she convinces Newman to air a repeat of the first episode. The Dalek serial achieves an audience of ten million viewers and the show is cemented into British pop culture.

The success of the programme gives Lambert and Hussein the opportunity to move on to other projects. Meanwhile, the health of series star William Hartnell (David Bradley) is declining and it eventually becomes clear that he is not up to the physical or mental rigours of his role.

Newman tells Hartnell that he intends for the show to continue, but without him in it; he is to be replaced by actor Patrick Troughton. As Hartnell films his final scene he sees Matt Smith, the actor who plays the same role nearly 50 years later, standing on the set and smiling at him.

Left: Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert, the founding producer of Doctor Who.

Above: Sacha Dhawan as director Waris Hussein and Jessica Raine as producer Verity Lambert in An Adventure in Space and Time.

Above: David Bradley as William Hartnell playing the Doctor and Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford playing Susan Foreman.

Right: Recreating the early Doctor Who story "The Web Planet": Jemma Powell as Jacqueline Hill, who portrayed Barbara Wright, and Jamie Glover as William Russell, who portrayed Ian Chesterton. Along with the Doctor's granddaughter Susan, Barbara and Ian were the Doctor's first space and time traveling companions.

Above: Recreating for An Adventure in Space and Time an iconic scene from the early Doctor Who story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth."

Above: A wonderful graphic I found online that celebrates Doctor Who's 50th anniversary. And as far as I can tell, Sarah Jane Smith is the only character (other than the Doctor) who is pictured more than once! She's pictured twice, once on each side of the TARDIS. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see if you can spot her!

Related Off-site Links:
Doctor Who Fans Around the World Await 50th Anniversary Special – Tim Masters (BBC News, November 22, 2013).
Google Celebrates Doctor Who 50th Anniversary with Video Game Doodle – Margaret Eby (New York Daily News, November 22, 2013).
The Doctor Who Bar
Blogtor Who

Update: Doctor Who Fans Celebrate 50th Anniversary EpisodeABC News (November 24, 2013).

For more on Elisabeth Sladen and Sarah Jane Smith at The Wild Reed, see:
Blast from the Past: Sarah Jane Smith Returns to Doctor Who
What Sarah Jane Did Next
She’s So Lovely
Impossible! . . . It Can’t Be!
She’s Back!
Too Good to Miss
The Adventures Continue
Remembering Elisabeth Sladen
Quote of the Day – April 20, 2011
Mourning Lis, Farewelling Sarah Jane

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quote of the Day

I have always been thinking of the ways in which Christianity is taught, and whenever I find one way that makes it a wider blessing than any other, I cling to that as the truest—I mean that which takes in the most good of all kinds and brings in the most people as sharers in it. It is surely better to pardon too much than to condemn too much.

– The character of Dorothea in Middlemarch
by George Eliot

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
A Call to Emphasize Catholicism's "Sweet Spot"
The Treasure and the Dross
Rosemary Haughton and the "True Catholic Enterprise"
What It Means to Be Catholic
Quote of the Day – February 4, 2011

Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis: 'Ideological Christians' Are a 'Serious Illness' – Alex Kane (AlterNet, October 21, 2013).
A Big Heart Open to God: An Exclusive Interview with Pope Francis – Antonio Spadaro, S.J. (America, September 30, 2013).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Interiors XVIII

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shannon Kearns’ Transgender Day of Remembrance Message: “We Are Beloved Children of the Universe”

National Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20) commemorates those transgender people who have died as the result of transphobic violence. According to the official website for this day, hundreds of transgender people have been murdered worldwide in 2013, with more than one dozen having died in the U.S.

Following is an excerpt from a reflection delivered by Fr. Shannon Kearns at the November 10 Dignity Twin Cities liturgy. Kearns is a transgender man and a priest in the Old Catholic Church.

The [Christian] church doesn’t have a great track record on welcoming my trans brothers and sisters. Some days it seems like it would be better to just leave the religion out of it, but on those days when I can manage to get past the rage and the grief and when I find the strength to claim the Bible as my own, in spite of the people who use it as a weapon against me, I find comfort and cause for celebration.

In the book of Isaiah, in the 56th chapter, there is this interesting passage. It says:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let the eunuch say,
‘I am just a dry tree.’
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

Some scholars have said that the eunuch is the closest biblical example we have to modern transgender people. Eunuchs were often outcast from society. They were denied a place in the holy assembly. They were looked down upon and despised. And yet here God is saying that they will be given a name that is better than sons and daughters. Friends, this is good news to transgender and gender non-conforming people. We know what it means to have names chosen for us that don’t fit, or to be called names that are hurtful. We also know what it means to choose names for ourselves that represent all of who we are. And we honor one another by using those chosen names even when others refuse to.

But to have an everlasting name; one that will not be cut off; this is hope for those of us who feel like outcasts. This monument is hope to those who have been killed and to those who worry they will be forgotten. This passage brings me great comfort: to know that I am a beloved son of God and that God gives me an everlasting name, even if my family rejects me, even if the church doesn’t want me, there is a place for me in God’s eyes. This isn’t just some cheap hope. I don’t offer it as a placebo, to say that we should stop fighting for our place at the table, our place in society and the church. Instead I offer it as a raft in the ocean for when the fight gets too hard. I offer it because it’s the best I have to offer. We are beloved children of the Universe and no one can take that away from us. We are beloved children. We are beloved.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Transgender Day of Remembrance Reminds Society That Trans Lives Are Valuable – Eòghann Renfroe (Huffington Post, November 20, 2013).
Introducing Father Shannon KearnsLavender (January 24, 2013).
How I Found My Calling As the North American Old Catholic Church's First Transgender Priest – Father Shannon Kearns (Huffington Post, January 25, 2013).
Transgender: Coming to a Denomination Near You – Jeffrey Walton (Juicy Ecumenism, January 24, 2013).
Holding the Line on Transgender Student Protections – Brynn Tannehill (Huffington Post, November 21, 2013).
Sub Secretum – Jacqueline White (The Progressive Catholic Voice, January 19, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Putting a Human Face on the 'T' of 'GLBT'
Living Lives of Principle
We Three . . . Queens

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pahá Sápa Adventure

Part 7: Fort Robinson

Even the most basic outline of [Crazy Horse's] life shows how great he was, because he remained himself from the moment of his birth to the moment he died; because he knew exactly where he wanted to live, and never left; because he may have surrendered, but he was never defeated in battle; because, although he was killed, even the Army admitted he was never captured; because he was so free that he didn't know what a jail looked like. His dislike of the oncoming civilization was prophetic. He never met the President, never rode on a train, slept in a boarding house, or ate at a table. And, unlike many people all over the world, when he met white men he was not diminished by the encounter.

– Ian Frazier

In early June I traveled to Pahá Sápa, which is the Lakota (or Sioux) name for that area of North America also known as the Black Hills of South Dakota. Accompanying me on this journey were my friends Kathleen, Joey and Will.

(If you wish to start at the beginning of The Wild Reed's Pahá Sápa Adventure series, click here. You'll eventually get back to this post!)

As I mentioned previously, one of the things I particularly looked forward to on this trip was the experiencing of places and landscapes associated with the Oglala Lakota warrior and mystic Tȟašúŋke Witkó ('His-Horse-Is-Crazy' or 'His-Horse-Is-Spirited,' generally known as Crazy Horse). Accordingly, we spent time in Mako Sica, the White River Badlands, and in "the heart of everything that is," the Black Hills themselves. I also visited the massive mountain carving monument (left) being built in honor of 'the spirit of Crazy Horse' and all Native Americans.

Then, on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, which was our last full day in Papa Sapa, we traveled south into Nebraska to Fort Robinson. Here there is a memorial dedicated to Crazy Horse (right), built on the spot where he was mortally wounded on the afternoon of September 5, 1877. He died later that evening.

I'm sure that part of my fascination with Crazy Horse has to do with what writer Ian Frazier says is the "magic of Crazy Horse" . . . "how unique and brave and chivalrous and unpredictable and uncaught he was."

Known by his people as "our strange man," Crazy Horse was somewhat of a loner, indifferent to tribal norms. He ignored, for instance, the sundance and, writes Larry McMurtry, "didn't bother with any of the ordeals of purification that many young Sioux men underwent." Orthodoxy was never Crazy Horse's way – yet another reason, no doubt, for my admiration and interest in his life and story. I also appreciate and resonate with author Chris Hedges' observation that Crazy Horse's "ferocity of spirit remains a guiding light for all who seek lives of defiance."

As I've noted previously, my introduction to the unorthodox and defiant life of the 'strange man of the Oglalas' was through John Irvin's 1996 telemovie Crazy Horse, starring renowned actor, dancer, director and choreographer Michael Greyeyes. Filmed on location in South Dakota and Nebraska, the film has been described as a "gripping story with a fine cast" and praised for its attention to detail. In The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, historian and author Joseph M. Marshall III is critical of movie portrayals of Crazy Horse. Yet he concedes that Irvins' film "came the closest" in credibly portraying the life and story of the 'strange man of the Oglalas.'

At the time of Crazy Horse's death, Fort Robinson was known as Camp Robinson. The buildings in the photo above are replicas of the buildings that existed in 1877. The building on the right is the guardhouse. Crazy Horse was mortally wounded by a bayonet thrust in front of this building on September 5, 1877. He was then taken to the middle building, the adjutant office, where he died later that night.

Kathleen, Joey, Will and I arrived at Fort Robinson at around 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 11, under the near cloudless sky of a hot day. The replicas of the three buildings of Camp Robinson are a little distance from the main part of the fort. This meant we approached them by walking across what's known as the parade ground. I had a very strong sense of things around me feeling very familiar. I think much of this stemmed from the way the climate and landscape reminded me of that part of rural Australia I grew up in.

As we began walking across the parade ground, I found myself longing to be alone when I first experienced the place where Crazy Horse died. It's not that my friends weren't interested, it's just that the level of connection to Crazy Horse's life and story, and thus this place, simply wasn't there for them as it was for me. Perhaps on some level they sensed this, because as we came closer to the memorial Kathleen moved off to the larger building on the far left, and the boys started running off to the right, kicking a football they'd brought with them. I thus found myself alone as, with cottonwood seeds drifting around me, I arrived quietly at the place where Crazy Horse had fallen, his blood soaking the earth.

Upon the little stone memorial were flowers, prayers ties, and bundles of sage. The spot is clearly one of pilgrimage for many. When my friends eventually joined me, we made an offering of tobacco, which in many Native American cultures is considered a sacred herb when used as a gift to the spirit world.

Above: Joey, Will and Kathleen at the Fort Robinson memorial for Crazy Horse.

Above: The door to the guardhouse.

Following is Wikipedia's account of Crazy Horse's surrender and death.

Crazy Horse and other northern Oglala leaders arrived at the Red Cloud Agency, located near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, on May 5, 1877. Together with He Dog, Little Big Man, Iron Crow and others, they met in a solemn ceremony with First Lieutenant William P. Clark as the first step in their formal surrender.

For the next four months, Crazy Horse resided in his village near the Red Cloud Agency. The attention that Crazy Horse received from the Army drew the jealousy of Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, two Lakota who had long before come to the agencies and adopted the white ways. Rumors of Crazy Horse's desire to slip away and return to the old ways of life started to spread at the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies. In August 1877, officers at Camp Robinson received word that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph had broken out of their reservation in Idaho and were fleeing north through Montana toward Canada. When asked by Lieutenant Clark to join the Army against the Nez Perce, Crazy Horse and the Miniconjou leader Touch the Clouds objected, saying that they had promised to remain at peace when they surrendered. According to one version of events, Crazy Horse finally agreed, saying that he would fight "till all the Nez Perce were killed". But his words were apparently misinterpreted by a half-Tahitian scout, Frank Grouard (not be confused with Fred Gerard, another U.S. Cavalry scout during the summer of 1876), who reported that Crazy Horse had said that he would "go north and fight until not a white man is left". When he was challenged over his interpretation, Grouard left the council. Another interpreter, William Garnett, was brought in but quickly noted the growing tension.

With the growing trouble at the Red Cloud Agency, General George Crook was ordered to stop at Fort Robinson. A council of the Oglala leadership was called, then canceled, when Crook was incorrectly informed that Crazy Horse had said the previous evening that he intended to kill the general during the proceedings. Crook ordered Crazy Horse's arrest and then departed, leaving the military action to the post commander at Fort Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley. Additional troops were brought in from Fort Laramie. On the morning of September 4, 1877, two columns moved against Crazy Horse's village, only to find that it had scattered during the night. Crazy Horse fled to the nearby Spotted Tail Agency with his sick wife (who had become ill with tuberculosis). After meeting with military officials at the adjacent military post of Camp Sheridan, Crazy Horse agreed to return to Fort Robinson with Lieutenant Jesse M. Lee, the Indian agent at Spotted Tail.

[Right: Crazy Horse's arrival at Fort Robinson as depicted in John Irvin's 1996 telemovie Crazy Horse.]

On the morning of September 5, 1877, Crazy Horse and Lieutenant Lee, accompanied by Touch the Clouds as well as a number of Indian scouts, departed for Fort Robinson. Arriving that evening outside the adjutant's office, Lieutenant Lee was informed that he was to turn Crazy Horse over to the Officer of the Day. Lee protested and hurried to Bradley's quarters to debate the issue, but without success. Bradley had received orders that Crazy Horse was to be arrested and taken under the cover of darkness to Division Headquarters. Lee turned the Oglala war chief over to Captain James Kennington, in charge of the post guard, who accompanied Crazy Horse to the post guardhouse. Once inside, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the members of the guard. He was taken to the adjutant's office, where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.

Right and below: Moments before his fatal stabbing, Crazy Horse, in John Irvin's 1996 film, looks up to a hawk flying overhead. The cry of the hawk reminds him of his vision and, in particular, its warning that his own people would turn against him. Within minutes he realizes he is being led into a trap and attempts to escape. Little Big Man, walking beside him, quickly moves to stop him.

Above: Crazy Horse’s stabbing, recorded by the Oglala artist Amos Bad Heart Bull. According to Thomas Powers in The Killing of Crazy Horse (2010), "One fact was remembered with special clarity by almost every witness – Little Big Man’s effort to hold Crazy Horse as he struggled to escape."

Power's The Killing of Crazy Horse is the most extensively researched book available on the death of Crazy Horse. Following are excerpts from Susan Salter Reynolds' Los Angeles Times review of Power's book.

History and story, myth and legend, primary and secondary sources form a thicket around Crazy Horse's death. He was certainly a threat to the U.S. Army. For 20 of his approximately 33 years, he fought U.S. government efforts to encroach on native land, particularly in the gold-rich Black Hills of South Dakota. He was a significant leader in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and has been credited by many with the Native American victory in that engagement and the death of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. This was only one of the many battles in Crazy Horse's life. Stories of his bravery, told in other tribes and reported in various newspapers, took on a mystical, legendary quality even in his lifetime. These stories have grown even more vivid with time — for many, Crazy Horse has been the human embodiment of the last stand in the Native American way of life. Treaties came and went, but Crazy Horse represented something different: Native American power.

. . . The death of Crazy Horse seems a hollow, pointless betrayal, premeditated by U.S. officials. Although many accounts recorded by soldiers claim that Crazy Horse backed into the bayonet of a soldier ushering him toward the jailhouse, there can be no doubt after Powers' telling that he was murdered and that the murder was planned.

Above: Replica of the room in the adjutant's office in which Crazy Horse died.

Above: The death of Crazy Horse as depicted in John Irvin's 1996 telemovie Crazy Horse. Pictured left to right: Sheldon Wolfchild (as Worm), Michael Greyeyes (Crazy Horse), Ned Beatty (Dr. McGillicuddy), and Victor Aaron (Touch-the-Clouds).

Crazy Horse's body was turned over to his elderly parents; they took it to Camp Sheridan and placed it on a burial scaffold (depicted at right in the 1996 film Crazy Horse). The following month, when the Spotted Tail Agency was moved to the Missouri River, Crazy Horse's parents moved the remains to an undisclosed location. His final resting place remains unknown.

I conclude this post (and this series) with an excerpt from Larry McMurtry's Crazy Horse: A Life.

There is a pictographic record of the stabbing [of Crazy Horse], done by Amos Bad Heart Bull. Crazy Horse's arms were held by his own people, just as his dream said they would be. Crazy Horse sank down, his blood seeping into the dust of the parade ground. Those loyal to him and those ready to kill him faced off for a few moments of almost unbearable high tension. All agree that had a single shot been fired there would have been a terrible carnage, with Indians fighting Indians and Indians fighting soldiers, without anyone quite knowing why they were shooting or even whom they were shooting at, there in the gathering dusk on the parade ground of a small fort in the west.

The high, keening tension held only until it began to be realized that Crazy Horse had been dealt a fatal blow.

Then the tension broke. No shot was fired, and Crazy Horse – a man who had lost his brother, his daughter, the woman he loved, several friends, his way of life, and even, for a time, his people – began his leaving as a man and his arrival as a myth, a man around whom stories that are like little gospels accumulate. A variorum death of Crazy Horse would consist of at least a score of versions, all contributed or recollected by people, white and red, who were in the fort that night.

These recollections, of course, diverge on many points of detail, overlap, contradict one another; probably most of them are partly true, probably none of them can be said to be completely, definitively true. . . . [T]he reader is invited to camp where he or she pleases amid the many recollections and recountings.

Crazy Horse, right after receiving the fatal wound, cried out, "Let me go, my friend – you have hurt me plenty bad!" or words to that effect. Then he sank down. Once the high tension between the two groups died, two or three people claim to have stepped forward and covered Crazy Horse with a blanket. . . . Then Dr. McGillycuddy came, looked at the wounds, saw how it was. . . . Lieutenant Clark was sound asleep, perhaps drunk – his men had to sling him around roughly to get him awake. The dying man on the parade ground was still under arrest; the orders were to put him in the guardhouse. General Bradley would not, at first, relax the order. But when the soldiers started to move the wounded Crazy Horse to the guardhouse, Touch-the-Clouds intervened. Touch-the-Clouds said that Crazy Horse was a chief. He could not be put in the guardhouse.

The Indians, now, were quiet – perhaps chastened, perhaps numbed. Many among them, some of them his old allies, realized that for reasons of politics they had killed a man who had no politics, just the conviction that he wanted to live his life in accordance with the precepts of his people, as he had been taught to live it.

There were a lot of Indians on the parade ground, and they were mainly, now, on the side of Touch-the-Clouds. Dr. McGillycuddy had to go twice to General Bradley to persuade him not to attempt to move this dying Indian to the guardhouse. The general was irritated by all this; perhaps he thought Crazy Horse was shaming. Not until Dr. McGillycuddy convinced him there would be a very big fight if such a move was attempted did the general relent and allow Crazy Horse to be taken into the adjunct's office instead.

This move the Sioux allowed, although they would rather have moved him outside the fort and let him die with the rites of Sioux traditions, as Conquering Bear had died so long before. Once in the office Crazy Horse refused a cot and was put on the floor. Exactly who was with him in his last hours is unclear. Mari Sandoz says both his parents were allowed in; others mention only his father, Worm. Touch-the-Clouds, after surrendering his weapons, was allowed to go in. Ian Frazier thinks that the fact that Crazy Horse refused the cot and died on the floor meant that he was his own man to the end.

. . . [Some] say that his father spoke to him at some point, saying, "Son, I am here," Crazy Horse then roused himself long enough to say, "Father, it is no good for the people to depend on me any longer – I am bad hurt."

. . . Some say that soldiers came and went – others say that only Dr. McGillycuddy came and went. . . . When [Touch-the-Clouds] saw that Crazy Horse was dead, he pulled the blanket over him and said: "This is the lodge of Crazy Horse." He may also have said: "This is good. He sought death and now he has found it."

If it is true that the destination the government had in mind for him was a cell dug into the coral on the Dry Tortugas, then Touch-the-Clouds was right. A man who had lived his whole life under the great western skies would not have lasted long in any prison. Sitting Bull, Spotted Tail, and Geronimo all survived the white man's prison, but the Kiowa chief Satanta did not. He found confinement so irksome that he jumped head first from a high window. Crazy Horse, daring and brave as a warrior, was in other ways not as tough a nut as Sitting Bull or Geronimo. It is hard to imagine him signing photographs for tourists at the big St. Louis Exposition, as Geronimo did – always insisting on his price, one dollar.

But that is speculation. The fact is that Crazy Horse died later that night, September 5, 1877, on the floor of the adjutant's office in Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

When Touch-the-Clouds went out to bring the news of his death to the waiting Sioux, a wail and a howling went up from the parade ground and from the many, many tents, near and distant: a wailing and a howling of grief, of fear, of torment, frustration, despair. No Sioux had exceeded him in charity. The women remembered the charity – it was the women who wailed and howled into the night.

Someone mentioned that taps was played, which seems extremely unlikely. The wailing of the women of the Brulé and Oglala Sioux was the taps for Crazy Horse.

. . . [Crazy Horse's parents] wandered the fort for three days, sobbing, wailing, rending their garments, refusing all succor. When they were finally allowed to have their son's body, they put it on a burial scaffold outside the fort. Later . . . they took his body on a travois and then slipped off and buried him. Nobody knows exactly where he is buried, but legend has it that his burial spot is close to the creek called Wounded Knee. It is of course near this same creek that the Ghost Dance Massacre occurred, on the last day of 1890.

– Larry McMurtry

It does not matter where his body lies;
there the grass is growing.
But where his Spirit lies,
that would be a good place to be.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Crazy Horse: "Strange Man" of the Great Plains
Pahá Sápa Bound
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 1: The Journey Begins
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 2: The Badlands
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 3: Camp Life
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 4: "The Heart of Everything That Is"
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 5: "I Will Return to You in the Stone"
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 6: Hot Springs, South Dakota

Related Off-site Link:
Time to Get Crazy – Chris Hedges (TruthDig, July 2, 2012).

Recommended Books:
The Killing of Crazy Horse – Thomas Powers (2010).
The Death of Crazy Horse: A Tragic Episode in Lakota History – Richard G. Hardorff (Bison Books, 2001).
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History – Joseph M. Marshall III (Penguin Books, 2005).
Crazy Horse: A Life – Larry McMurtry (Penguin Books, 1999).
Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas (Third Edition) – Mari Sandoz (Bison Books, 2008).
Crazy Horse: A Dakota Life – Kingsley M. Bray (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008).
Crazy Horse: A Photographic Biography – Bill and Jan Moeller (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2000).
The Life and Death of Crazy Horse – Russell Freedman (Holiday House, 1996).
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors – Stephen E. Ambrose (Anchor, 1996).
Crazy Horse's Vision – Joseph Bruchac (Lee and Low Books, 2006).

Fort Robinson images: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remembering Doris Lessing, 1919-2013

It might be said of Doris Lessing, as Walt Whitman boasted of himself: I am vast, I contain multitudes. For many, Lessing was a revolutionary feminist voice in 20th-century literature – though she resisted such categorization, quite vehemently. For many others, Lessing was a 'space fiction' prophet, using the devices and idioms of the fantastic to address human issues of evolution and the environment. And for other readers, Lessing was a writer willing to explore 'interior worlds,' the mysterious life of the spiritual self.

Quoted in Maev Kennedy's article "Doris Lessing Dies Aged 94"
The Guardian
November 17, 2013

Even in very old age she was always intellectually restless, reinventing herself, curious about the changing world around us, always completely inspirational.

– Nicholas Pearson
Quoted in Danica Kirka's article "Legendary Author Doris Lessing Dead at 94"
Associated Press via Huffington Post
November 17, 2013

If there were a Mount Rushmore of 20th-century authors, Doris Lessing would most certainly be carved upon it. Like Adrienne Rich, she was pivotal, situated at the moment when the gates of the gender disparity castle were giving way, and women were faced with increased freedoms and choices, as well as increased challenges.

She was political in the most basic sense, recognizing the manifestations of power in its many forms. She was spiritual as well, exploring the limits and pitfalls that came with being human, especially after she became an adherent of Sufism. As a writer she was inventive and brave, branching out into science fiction in her Canopus In Argos series at a time when it was a dodgy thing for a "mainline" novelist to do. She was also very down-to-earth, having famously remarked "Oh Christ!" when informed in 2007 that she had won the Nobel prize. She was only the eleventh woman to do so, and never expected it; a lack of expectation that was in itself a kind of artistic freedom, for if you don't think of yourself as an august personage, you don't have to behave yourself. You can still kick up your heels and push the limits, and that was what interested Doris Lessing, always.

Bids for popularity were not Doris Lessing’s thing. Of course, in many ways that made her more appealing. You might call her misunderstood, or reappropriated, or simply taken to heart — in any case she was popular in ways she never meant to be. Take her best known work, The Golden Notebook, which Margaret Drabble described as “a novel of shocking power and blistering honesty”. Its most striking formal aspect — the several notebooks of its make-up — and attendant suggestion that writers (or all human beings) are divided selves, was largely ignored in favour of its much more controversially intimate aspect. In a later preface to the book, Lessing wrote that it had been “instantly belittled as being about the sex war, or was claimed by women as a useful weapon in the sex war”.

Well, yes – though it wasn’t belittling. Lessing wrote about women’s ambivalence about motherhood and sex and work in a way that was simultaneously shocking and influential. If she rejected the feminist label it was perhaps because she had no need for it. If others gave it to her it was perhaps because they needed her. It’s often said that what we think of as the Fifties and Sixties are more cultural concepts than chronological ones, and that the Sixties as we now think of them didn’t begin until well into that decade.

The Golden Notebook, which was published in 1962 — in other words, the Fifties — was not only ahead of its time but a blueprint for women in times to come. As Lessing herself put it, it was written “as though the attitudes that have been created by the Women’s Liberation movements already existed”.

Lessing was able to do a great deal for women without subscribing to feminism; she did it with her life, and with (not just within) her writing.

– Gaby Wood
Excerpted from "Doris Lessing: A Woman Ahead of Her Time"
The Telegraph
November 17, 2013

Doris Lessing was an intellectual giant. Of this I am sure because what I really admired about her was her no-holds-barred honesty. She didn’t care about glamor or recognition. She seemed to care about articulating the hidden realities of our lives, the intuited but unspoken truths.

– Ellen Rocco
Excerpted from "Doris Lessing and Me"
Readers and Writers Book Club
November 18, 2013

I will remember Doris Lessing as a great person and a great writer. . . . She wrote about everything [and] this was the great thing about her. . . . She was very curious about everything that happened . . . [and] was not afraid about what people would say. She was not that interested in the reception of her novels; she didn't write them to please or to make a lot of money. She wrote with a great integrity and also with a great kind of morality. [Her novels] were almost parables. [Her greatest achievement] was writing so many books for so long and maintaining her interest and her concern for humanity, her sense of the sweep of history, and her ability to place human beings in it. She was just the most remarkable writer and we won't see her like again.

Fay Weldon
Quoted in the BBC News story "Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize-winning Author,
Dies Aged 94
November 17, 2013

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
My Travels with Doris
In the Garden of Spirituality – Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
Doris Lessing Among The Guardian's "Top 100 Women".
The Sufi Way
Doris Lessing on the Challenge to Go Beyond Ideological Slogans
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Related Off-site Links:
Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize-winning Author, Dies Aged 94 – Nick Higham (BBC News, November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing, Author Who Swept Aside Convention, is Dead at 94 – Helen T. Verongos (New York Times, November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing Reveled in Her Status As a Contrarian – David L. Ulin (Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2013).
"Doris Lessing Helped Change the Way Women are Perceived, and Perceive Themselves" – Lisa Allardice (The Guardian, November 17, 2013).
How Writer Doris Lessing Didn't Want to Be Remembered – Vicki Barker (National Public Radio, November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing: Her Last Telegraph Interview – April 2008 – Nigil Farndale (The Telegraph, November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing: The Sufi Connection – Müge Galin (Open Democracy, October 12 2007 and reprinted November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing: In Her Own Words – Sameer Rahim (The Telegraph, November 17, 2013).
Doris Lessing: A Retrospective

Image: John Downing.