Indigenous Day!!!!!

There are no indigenous people to the US.  The first people to come from Asia wiped out the huge indigenous animals which then roamed the continent. Yet some unhappy people don’t want anyone to celebrate the immigrant known as Columbus.  They want an “Indigenous Peoples Day.”  They want us to celebrate the people who wiped out these beautiful animals.  I say celebrate Columbus Day by getting out and exploring the little Nature we have left.  It’s  the best time of the year to be in the Delta.  No mosquitoes, cool temperatures, low humidity.

megafauna-of-north-america

City councils of many US cities don’t have enough to do.  These politicians do have time to grease the squeaky wheel, though.  And the vast Know-Nothing-but-indignant-about-everything crowd is squeaking, “indigenous, indigenous!!!”

St. Paul, Albuquerque and a growing slew of other ignorant city councils have declared today Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.  I do like indigenous people, they strewed around a lot of arrowheads for me to find.  I found a prehistoric knife sharpener on this trip to Meadowcreek.

I’m not sure which indigenous peoples I should celebrate today, though. The first humans to leave any calling cards on the North American continent migrated from Asia.  They are called paleoindians or Clovis people, hunted the mastodon, mammoth, horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. Over-hunting caused the mass extinction of these animals as the Ice Age ended. More than thirty species of large animals became extinct. By about 10,500 years ago, megafauna no longer roamed North America.

So, if these city councils were less ignoSerpent_Mounds_sketchrant, I’m sure they would not want to glorify the paleoindians because they wiped out some species that we all would like to see.  Kinda like the Africans of today are wiping out the rhinos and all the other big species that the Chinese want for some revolting practice.

The paleoindians were in turn wiped out by the more advanced Hopewell people.  The Hopewell people knew how to garden a little (so they could stay healthier than the Clovis people when game got scarce due to over-hunting) and they made captivating mound art.  On my way to visit the Worstell Building in Athens, Ohio, I stopped at the Serpent Mound.  Any modern artist would be extremely cocky if he had produced this 1330 foot long earth sculpture.  It’s impossible to describe it, but look at this drawing of it and you get a feel for it.  If you’re ever on the road between Cincinnati and Athens, Ohio, you gotta stop and see it.

serpent_mound__ancient_aliens_in_america__201081Nearby have been found some giant skeletons in burial mounds.  These are similar to skeletons found from the eastern Mediterranean, mainland Europe, and the British Isles. These folks appear to have shared an identical material culture, a religion of constructing burial mounds for the dead and solar temples to track the movement of the sun.

According to the folks who investigated the site on a high point in Highland County, Ohio, these graves were made of large limestone slabs, two and a half to three feet in length and a foot wide. These were set on edge about a foot apart. Similar slabs covered the graves. A single one somewhat larger was at the head and another at the foot. The top of the grave was two feet below the present surface.

Some think these were the Nephilim mentioned in the Bible.  That seems pretty far-fetched to me, but if the Nephilim are the “indigenous peoples” the city councils are honoring, then I’d be all for it.

Maybe, though, the city councils mean to honor the tribe which wiped out the Hopewell.  I could see the politically correct honoring this culture (called the Mississippian).  This tribe invaded from Mexico, kinda similar to today, with an extremely resilient agricultural system. They grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and gourds.  They kept turkeys and dogs for food and feather coats.

Or maybe the city councils meant the tribes from the Plains who learned how to ride the horses they stole from the Spanish and used their new skills to conquer the more civilized folks who had previously invaded from Mexico.

I guess I just know too much about “indigenous peoples” (who are all related to ancient Asians and not really indigenous at all) for my own good.  It just makes it really hard to figure out why the city councils are honoring these blood-thirsty sun worshippers over some blood-thirsty Christians.  They were both pretty horrible to modern, politically correct sensibilities.

It must be some kind of self-hatred since most of these city council folk are white people.  Either that or they just  don’t like Italians like Christopher Columbus.

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A hideout for Christians

Some places I go, its not too safe to be Christian.  And then there is Lalibela, Ethiopia.  In some parts of Ethiopia, Muslims are gradually taking control, not in Lalibela.  Last year I was in the ancient city of Harar.  You might have heard of the walled city there which has entrances for hyenas to come in at night.  The hyena clean up scraps.  A few guys make money from tourists by holding meat in their mouths which hyenas come and take. 

Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia, August 2019

My translator then was with a native of Harar who talked of Christian statues being replaced by Moslem statues in recent years.  Harar was one of the many Ethiopian cities which became Jewish after one of their Queens (called the Queen of Sheba in our Bible) visited Solomon.  Many believe the Song of Songs was written by a heart-broken King Solomon after The Queen of Sheba left him[1].

The Queen had heard about the wisdom and accomplishments of Solomon and came to see for herself.  She was so impressed she brought the truths of the great “I am” back with her to Ethiopia.  People all across Ethiopia were also impressed with this truth and converted to Judaism.

A son the Queen had with Solomon, Menelik, is said brought the Ark of the Covenant to another ancient Ethiopian city, Axum, where it is still preserved.  The Keeper of the Ark until recently brought out the Ark for Christian holidays, but no longer does due to political disturbances.

The Jewish religion grew and prospered along with Ethiopia for centuries.  Then a child was born in Bethlehem.  The Ethiopian Jews heard of Jesus’ teachings (remember the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Philip in Acts 8?), were transformed by this reformation of Judaism and became Christian.

Christianity grew and prospered along with Ethiopia.  Meanwhile in Europe, the Western center of Christianity, Rome, fell to the invading Goths.  Then Jerusalem fell to the invading Muslims in 1187.

An Ethiopian King at the time, Lalibela, ordered the construction of a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia.  The result was 11 interconnected churches carved into the mountain by hand.  Best known is the Church of St. George, shaped as a Greek Orthodox Church.  The town which has grown up around the churches is now known as Lalibela.

Today Lalibela is still a town with no churches other than Orthodox Ethiopian Christian.  When I visited last month, I stayed in a mountain-side hotel with a view of the plateau where King Lalibela lived.  It’s just an open plain today on top of a mountain connected by a slender ridge to the modern town of Lalibela.

The hotel clerk came in early so I could have coffee watching the sun rise on their roof top terrace.  He stayed to chat a bit.  I heard a sound which I assumed was a mosque issuing the call to prayer.  I asked him about the singing and he was confused and surprised.  “In Lalibela, there are only Christian churches. Does that really sound muslim to you?”  As I listened closer, I realized it was unlike the singing issuing from minarets.  Later the church bells started ringing, affirming that I was in a country which had been Christian a thousand years before America ever had a Christian church.

Lalibela itself is barely connected to the world.  Maybe that’s why Christianity has remained so strong here. Most pilgrims from the West fly into an airport down in the valley and ride a bus up the rocky road to the top of the mountain.  Pilgrims from Ethiopia take the land route.  Some travel by foot for a month to reach Lalibela during the Christmas holidays.  A hundred thousand Christians pack the town around Christ’s birthday, but the churches were pretty empty the Thursday I was there.

It would have been even more empty except for another Christian holiday, Ashenda.  Ashenda requires the Ethiopian devout to sacrifice a lamb and feed their relatives and the poor.  My host, the head of a 50,000 member Cooperative Union, set me free to visit Lalibela during this holiday because of this obligation.  When I called him from Lalibela, I could hear the lambs bleating in the background.  All along our route to Lalibela we were stopped by girls dressed with aloe stalks made into skirts who danced into the middle of the road every kilometer or so.  They were singing, clapping and laughing as they jumped out of the way of our Land Cruiser.

My driver was so happy to come to Lalibela again. He had come during Christmas, but never at a time when he could really appreciate all the churches.

In addition to the bands of girls stopping traffic, there were pilgrims dressed in white singing as they journeyed to Lalibela.  Young men’s activity during the holiday mainly involves snapping whips.  In the center of Lalibela, a group of young men dressed in green polka-dots where snapping their whips at all the onlookers as they danced.  A group of white clad girls with aloe skirts was dancing nearby, but never too close to the whip-snapping guys.

A few European tourists were there.  One was a scantily clad blonde (who got hoots and calls of “hey baby”) but most were conservatively dressed. Some in the white shawl worn by all Ethiopians visiting the churches. I didn’t see a single woman in pants except that blonde during my entire visit.  All Ethiopian women wear dresses, except a few Westernized ones in the biggest cities. 

Our four-hour drive back to Ras Gayint Cooperative Union was the same scenic mountain road interrupted by dancing girl bands and whip-snapping boys. What a way to prepare for my assignment helping the Union better market their white pea (navy) beans!

A group of twenty senior managers turned out on Saturday, Sunday and the next week to examine their situation and how to achieve their goals.  We had fun, accomplished a lot, and made me wish it was a little bit easier to get from Almyra, Arkansas to the ancient cities of the highlands of Ethiopia.


[1] https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/andagreeney/files/the_queen_of_sheba_possibly_adored_in_the_song_of_songs.pdf

White male patriarch

Aggressive, obnoxious people are not my favorite dinner companions. I try to avoid them whenever possible. On the rare occasions when I walk in large American cities, I keep an eye out for threatening people. When I am disgruntled, I can understand why people avoid me. I do my best to avoid mean people on the internet too. But recently I failed.

I had just finished a really productive session with several Malagasy men and women. We worked late and identified several strategies around problems that had been plaguing their organization. Back at my mountainside guest house, I had some great Malagasy rice and shrimp and the national Three Horses beer and turned on my computer.

Somehow a social media post appeared which was unassailably logical. It was written by a white American female who contended you should be careful about being nice to white people because they were probably racist and you shouldn’t take the chance on being nice to a racist.

Given her assumption that most white people are racist, her conclusions are very logical. I just questioned whether it wouldn’t be better to just be gentle and peaceful if others are gentle and peaceful. Too late I realized that people who believe such things are living in an echo chamber where everyone echoes the same drivel because questioning it means you are labeled racist and shunned.

She and a bunch of her friends proceeded to make sure I knew how stupid and uninformed I was. I went to sleep. Madagascar is eight hours ahead of middle America, so while I slept they had lots of time to elaborate on why you shouldn’t be nice to white people. When I woke up the next morning, I found that all day these privileged Americans had continued to bash my comments about being nice. I provided them a soft punching bag. I was the scape goat in the Biblical sense. One woman very angrily accused me of being full of anger and being a white male patriarch and probably disliked by all the Africans I’d ever worked with.

Tired of being a punching bag and scapegoat, I deleted all the messages I’d posted about how it’s good to be gentle, nice and peaceful when others are gentle and peaceful and nice and blocked some folks. I thought about pearls and swine.

Then I walked down the street, past beggars, bare-footed porters, home-made push carts, and ragged laughing children to the alley beside the ramshackle market and up rickety stairs past bags of rice seed to begin another productive day of helping a few Malagasy learn market analysis, social motivation and business planning so they can help their villages have a little more income and better lives.

Just after dawn in Malagasy

Just after dawn in this central Malagasy city, carrots, green leafy vegetables, and plants are headed downhill to the market. Bread and eggs are headed up hill to the hotels and restaurants. Mostly on heads. Often with bare feet. Sometimes the women going to market carry their good shoes along with their produce on their heads. At the market they’ll put on their shoes as they change from porters into salesladies.

A few going to market have push carts. The hand-made carts have brakes (a wooden plate jammed against one wheel) to slow them down if need be. Some lucky ladies get rides down hill on the carts along with their goods. Mostly men control the carts because their strength is needed to get the cart up the next hill.

Now and then a minibus passes with vegetables loaded on top, but most of the transportation is by people on foot.

I’m observing all this because I like to go outside at dawn with my coffee before all the good morning air gets used up. The first couple of days, I just stood in front of the hotel. Now, I watch all this from a narrow alley beside the hotel as I drink my morning coffee. The alley provides a good view between buildings of the churches of old town across the valley. Mostly, I like being inconspicuous in the alley, watching what goes by.

If I’m visible to the passers-by, I attract too much attention. I’m strange, out of place. I’m taller and bigger and whiter than anyone passing by. Some are startled by me, others look at me shyly. A very few smile and say, “bon jour”, thinking I must be a French guy since nearly all the other white folk here are Gaullic. A few try to hit me up for a few coins. Sometimes they have a trinket they want me to buy.

But in the morning, just after dawn, the vast majority are hustling to get their goods to their buyers or potential buyers. They don’t give much more than a passing glance at the big white guy drinking coffee in the alley.

Later in the day, I lug my own goods along the same street. I don’t tote anything edible or even very useful to the average Malagasy. I lug the tools of my trade (a computer, a projector and butcher paper) down the hill, mostly walking in the street since the sidewalks are mostly filled with sales booths erected every morning. Tuesday and Thursday are market days and the goods spill off the sidewalk into the street.

The only sidewalks available for walking are in front of the government buildings where machine gun toting guards keep the way cleared.

Every day I walk down this hill past families who have already staked out spots on the sidewalk as their salesroom for the day. One day I pass a mother with two children who look to be about 6 and 4. Their inventory is spread on a blanket on the sidewalk. The children are so cute, I stop just up the street from them to play peek-a-boo with them. The mother soon leaves and the children sell their bananas and cookies to other children and some adults walking by. I stay for awhile thinking the mother will come back, but she doesn’t. The children seem to be doing a good job of making sales and keeping track of the money.

I look in every possible direction at every intersection, trying to anticipate speeding motorbikes and minibuses along with push carts which can get up a real head of steam going down hill.

After about eight blocks of avoiding fellow pedestrians and every possible means of conveyance, plus deep potholes and other obstructions, I get to the alley I must walk up. It’s only about three foot wide and has a rivulet of water running down it. The rivulet is kinda gray and not something I want to step in. I straddle the stream and make it up to a swinging wooden door and then up two flights of stairs meant for short Malagasy, watching my head all the way.

One day as I arrive, huge sacks are being unloaded from atop a minivan. Guys barely bigger than the sacks somehow carry them up the alley and the stairs to the office I am headed to. The sacks are filled with prized certified seed. The organization I am working with will distribute the seed to farmers who will then multiply the seed to provide high quality seed for farmers all across Madagascar.

I’m don’t particularly enjoy walking up the smelly alley or the narrow stairs built for people half my size and where I bump my head now and then. But I love working with Julienne and her team at Cercle Régional des Agriculteurs Malagasy Fianarantsoa or CRAM. None of them speak English, but they wanted me to come and help them transform their organization, so here I come up the stairs with my equipment led by my translator.

After the first meeting, we decide it would be best for me to see how they work in the field so I visit three communities they work in. All require long, but scenic rides over rough roads. As far as I can tell, nearly every ride in Madagascar is scenic.

Only 5% of the land is flat enough to plant crops. The rest is hills and mountains. So it’s a lot like Appalachia, where I cut my teeth in the cooperative business. Which is fitting because I’m here to help them transform their nonprofit into a cooperative union, a cooperative of cooperatives. Just up my alley.

In two of the communities the local organizations (Cercle Local des Agriculteurs Malagasy or CLAMs) are well developed with warehouses to store seed the farmers produce. They are both close to roads a large truck can get down to haul seed out. The third was more typical of the CLAMS. The village where this CLAM is located is visible from the paved road, but only just. Our vehicle parked in the shade at the end of the passable road, we climb down a trail for several kilometers to be surprised at the quality of their houses. All are made of local brick, two stories high with metal roofs. The bricks are made from local clay, but everything else was hauled in on their backs. Anything they produce for sale also only reaches the road on their backs.

Their compound is composed of four houses which double as storage sheds, an earthen walled corral for their Zebus, and a Christian shrine. They surround a dirt courtyard which is swept clean. In one corner of the courtyard, a teenage girl is pounding grain with a long club-like pestle which she pounds again and again down into the traditional high walled mortar. Her shy toddler hides behind her skirts as she works.

As they learn visitors have arrived, members of the CLAM start arriving from nearby compounds.

They bring out some rugs woven from reeds and place them on the ground under the only shade trees they have. We learn they farm very small amounts of land. An average of two hectares, about five acres. But this land is usually split up in several plots. One farmer we talked to has four different plots which together total five acres.

Their biggest problem is water. They point to a spot across the valley just above their rice and vegetable plots. That is a spring which is their only source of water. It does flow all year, but only a trickle. Any water for their compounds is carried on their heads from the spring up the hills to their houses. We talk a little about checkdams and other water harvesting systems. It’s one of many areas of knowledge that they are interested in, but unfamiliar with.

It’s a peaceful, quiet, isolated spot, with beautiful views down the valley. We joke it would be covered in vacation homes if it was in the US and ask if any French people live in the area. They say no, but one French girl did spend a year as an intern on the other side of the valley. I wonder aloud how I would survive here with my dependency on computers and internet and cold beer and other habits which require electricity.

Only 13% of Malagasy have electricity in their homes and the folks in this valley are in the majority. I’d have loved to stay longer and at least visit the spring, but my minders want to press on to the next village. There we did spot one solar panel and a huge Lutheran church set off by itself from the village. Nowadays the pastor only holds services once a month. He also grows rice seed. “Pastora” marks his bags in the CLAM warehouse. We don’t see any electric poles for dozens of kilometers as we skirt along the ridges heading back to the city.

Now that I’ve got the lay of the land, its time to dig into the fun of helping them sort out how to transform CRAM and the CLAMs. I’m hopeful, but not totally sure, how successful we will be. You never know in this sort of work.

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My trip was made possible by CNFA and USAID through the Farmer to Farmer Program. A trip to Madagascar might be in your future. Look at the assignments available and apply.

Shooting stars everywhere tonight

Today, August 12 and tomorrow, marks the peak of one of our most anticipated natural events: the Perseids meteor shower. After the sun goes down, look into the northeast sky close to Cassiopeia. This constellation is shaped like a flattened W. It rotates around the North Star directly opposite the Big Dipper. Trace a line from the two stars at the bottom end of the Big Dipper to the North Star and on to Cassiopeia and the meteor shower.

Tonight you don’t really have to find Cassiopeia. The meteors should be everywhere. f course first you have to find a spot in the country without light pollution. Then you have to wait till the moon goes down. Yesterday I went out about 4:30 am and saw quite a few. This morning a thunderstorm has come in. It’s really delightful, but does eliminate any chances of seeing more shooting stars tonight.

The meteor shower will still be close to its peak tomorrow, Tuesday August 13. If you go out about 3:30, with no moon in the sky, even the dimmest meteors will be visible if you can get yourself far away from man-made light pollution.

But don’t wait for tomorrow to get outside, it might be cloudy tomorrow. I once spent a cloudy August night laying in a park in Chisinau, Moldova, hoping for the clouds to lift so we could all see meteors. At least I convinced a bunch of city folk to get outside and watch the sky at night.

It’s just fun to just lay out watching the sky on a beautiful summer night. Go out tonight and tomorrow night to double your chances of seeing some great meteors.

Being in an isolated part of an isolated county of an rural state, Meadowcreek is a great place for night sky watching. No light pollution. The sky is so clear that we’ve even had a University inquire about putting up a remote controlled telescope.

All we have to do is find a space away from trees with a clear view of the sky. Usually the best place is the middle of one of the meadows in our bottoms. Sometimes we get a beautiful fog filling up the valley in the evening. It’s a spectacular sight to sit on the Resiliience House porch eating dinner and watching the fog flow in. Luckily for meteor watching, August is dry enough that we don’t often have such fogs.

It might be nice to float on an air mattress in the Blue Hole and watch meteors. Once I laid out a blanket on the grass above the Salamander pond. It’s such fun to fall asleep and then wake up to bright meteors streaking across the sky.

I try to ignore the astronomer’s explanation that the meteors are pieces of a comets’ tail that burn up when they hit our planet’s atmosphere. I’d much rather believe they are good luck and that the more you see, the better the next year will be. I like the tradition of some Japanese of opening your collar to admit the good luck when you see a meteor.

As I’m writing this, I’m watching the lightning of a thunderstorm and wondering why we like sunrises, sunsets, full moons, thunderstorms and meteor showers so much. But I don’t wonder for long, I just enjoy them. Just as I enjoyed the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower yesterday morning and hope to again tomorrow.

Iowa is just too civilized

Iowa is just too civilized. A gradient of civilized society runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. Louisiana is as dysfunctional third world as any African petro-state. Parts of it reminds me of the most miserable parts of Angola. Arkansas is third world, but not quite so polluted as Louisiana. Missouri is one step up into moderately civilized, but not so bad that nature has been run out. Iowas is so civilized there is hardly any nature left. Minnesota is so thoroughly civilized they even let in such as Ilhan Omar to destroy it from within. Just as Rome once did and France and Germany did more recently.

Iowa counties’ resilience. Darker counties are more resilient. Darkest counties are in top quartile of resilience for all counties in US. Source: Worstell et al. (2018).

As states and countries become more civilized, they usually lose touch with nature. They no longer understand basic human nature and they eliminate non-human nature. (Though they may proclaim their devotion to nature while while jetting to climate change conferences.) Resilience requires ecological integration. Iowa has little left of such. Just look at the broad swatch of non-resilient counties in North Central Iowa. They are as bad as corn-belt Illinois or the Delta of Mississippi or the High Plains of Texas.

But some Iowa counties are still in the top quarter of America’s most resilient counties, just as some in Louisiana are. The most fascinating counties are resilient ones which adjoin non-resilient ones.

Iowa has a great example of that: Washington and Louisa counties, just south of Iowa City and a couple of counties North of the Missouri line. Washington County has a big batch of Mennonites. Maybe they are keeping it resilient. I’ve also heard some of the small towns there are more than half Mexican. And that they have some big hog farms. How all that factors into making a community resilient is the question the Resilience Project explores. That’s why we’re headed up there to do some ground-truthing on our resilience model.

If you live in Washinton County, we really want to talk to you.

Tribe vs. community

Rarely do the liberal and conservative elites unite in denouncing something. Tribalism, however, they both hate. In elite circles, “tribalism” is the opposite of an urbane, cosmopolitanism outlook. Brexit was cursed as “a reversion to tribalism.”

The liberal elite are joined by the conservative elite in denouncing American tribalism. The conservative elite on “Fox & Friends” joined together one recent morning to lament “hyphenated Americans” who “focus on background.” Having an ethnic identity, like Norwegian, Irish, or African American, is what “we have been trying to move past for a long time.”

“My grandmother, I believe, spoke Norwegian,” Fox News host Pete Hegseth said. “I don’t know a word of Norwegian. That’s what I hope every group who comes here does.” His conservative co-hosts agreed.

These elites act as if their elite tribe is somehow not a tribe. As laughable as this idea is, it’s also horribly cruel. What they value so much in their own lives, belonging to a little platoon that provides a sense of identity and purpose, they want to deny to everyone else.

As conservatism has increasingly defined itself as hating what progressives stand for, the conservative position on race and ethnicity has been to demand a “color blindness” and a denunciation of identity politics that eyes with suspicion any identity other than “American.”

Whether the elites are liberal or conservative, they all seem to have the same attitude. They want to ban tribalism (all tribes but their own) because they desire a society which looks up to them. They seem to want a homogeneous mass of identical individuals whose happiness and behavior depends on direction from them, the elite.

But the elites miss what underlies a strong and resilient society. The most resilient societies are diverse, but the diversity serves a common purpose. It is complementary diversity. It is composed of communities which are all independent but all working together for the common good. America has always been a nation of people with multiple overlapping identities. We have our American-ness as one identity, but that is tied up with a diversity that includes our particular geographic place, our particular vocation, our particular faith, and, yes, our particular ethnicity.

You cannot understand a person, including yourself, without trying to comprehend the invisible forces, spanning generations, that shaped you.

A corollary to this insight is that we owe it to our children to give them not only a healthy and happy and challenging now. If we hope they have a happy and successful tomorrow, we need to also give them a yesterday. In some cultures, this is easy and natural. In some settings, this takes real effort.

A recent book provides a great illustration. It’s author, Michael Brendan Dougherty,was raised around New York City as an only child of a single mother, with only irregular contact with his father from Ireland.

Spending one’s youth in different suburbs, in two different states, raised without a father is a formula for serious alienation. It’s the same profile as the man who murdered Heather Heyer with his car in Charlottesville, Va., after joining a white nationalist movement. Much of what afflicts the working class in Middle America today is the nakedness of a deracinated life: We have more and more men who lack faith, who lack ethnicity, who lack fathers, and who live in areas that lack a sense of distinctive place.

So, what did Dougherty’s mother do? How did she try to save her son?

She made him Irish.

First, she named him Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Then she dug deep to plant roots that would anchor this little family that otherwise could be tossed by the tempests of modernity. She brought little Michael to Irish culture festivals and Irish pubs. She brought him to Gaeltacht Weekends where attendees were supposed to speak no English, but only the Old Irish language, which, as an act of rebellion, some of the Irish had been trying to resurrect for about a century.

“[M]y own nursery was injected with a peculiar kind of Irish nationalism,” Dougherty writes. “My mother wanted me to know myself as Irish. ”

His book is grounded in the specific worlds of Ireland, greater New York, parochial school, and modern America. One can divine easily the broader lesson, though, and that’s why a the book has been praised by a bunch of Jewish American conservative writers who appreciate the richness of family, faith, ethnicity, and language.

“None are so blind as they who will not see.” Other writers and commentators denigrate America, the deplorables, Wal-mart goers, and any other tribe other than their own liberal minded clique. They can’t see how they draw sustenance from being part of a very exclusive community which sure looks like a tribe. They denounce tribalism while pledging full allegiance to their own tribe.

We have an innate need to be part of a tribe. Loving your people, your ethnicity, your culture is something we all need. But when such love is coupled with hate of all those who aren’t part of your tribe, tribalism become destructive.

“We are totally right and they are totally wrong” is an extreme of tribalism which assures destruction.  The American Indians were divided into thousands of tribes which nearly all fought with each other even as the advancing Europeans took over their lands.  Something similar is happening in the US today.  Because we are so busy fighting with each other instead of working together to conquer our many challenges, other tribes are invading and taking over more and more of our country as we fight with each other.

Even if one side does win, this tribalism will identify an Other within its ranks. Then the tribalism and destruction will begin anew. Spend a little time in Africa and you’ll see how tribalism destroys. Yet the elite in Africa also want to eliminate tribalism, while not recognizing they are part of a tribe who wants to eliminate tribalism.

Belonging to a community or tribe is good. But watch out or your allegiance to your tribe will result in destruction all around.