20 May 2018

Known Lynchings in Hamilton Co., TN


The following are the six instances of lynching known from available news accounts that took place in Hamilton County, Tennessee, in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.  Five of the victims were Afro-American and one of the victims was white.

In the latter case, the perpetrators were members of a vigilante movement that began in Indiana in 1887 and quickly spread across the county known as White Caps.  A movement rather than an organization, its various cells operated on widely varying methods, goals, and “principles”, with the majority claiming to be enforcing community standards and Christian principles.  By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, harsh laws had all but suppressed the White Caps, but it served as more of a precursor to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan founded in 1915 than was the organization that group claimed as predecessor, the post-bellum Ku Klux Klan.

Elridge Merrill, 1873

On 7 October 1873, Elridge Merrill, an Afro-American from the Gambletown section of St. Elmo in Hamilton County, then well outside the city limits of Chattanooga, was brutally beaten, whipped, tortured, and lynched from a corn crib in St. Elmo by a mob of white men angered over his cohabitation with a white woman named “Dink” Norris.

Charles Williams, 1885

On 7 September 1885, Charles Williams, an Afro-American accused of murder for shooting a street car driver who tried to enforce Chattanooga’s segregated seating ordinance, was lynched from the rafters of the third floor of the Hamilton County Jail the day after his arrest.

Thomas Gailiff, 1889

On 24 July 1889, Thomas Gailiff, probably white, was dragged out of his dwelling in East End, Tennessee (west and north of East Lake along the lower end of Rossville Road), in Hamilton County by White Caps who then hung him from a tree in the yard for being a “traducer of women”.  He managed to escape, but was caught and hung again near Ross’ Gap.

Alfred Blount, 1893

On 14 February 1893, Alfred Blount, an Afro-American migrant laborer living in a boarding house at the south end of Maple Street (at the mouth of the gully between Terrace Hill and College Hill) was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman.  He was dragged from the Hamilton County Jail and hanged from the southernmost (first) span of the County (Walnut Street) Bridge.  He had not even been formally charged because the victim denied he was the perpetrator.

Charles Brown, 1897

On 25 February 1897, Charles Brown, an Afro-American of Bakewell (aka Retro), Tennessee, was lynched from a bridge over North Chickamauga Creek near Soddy, Tennessee, after being accused of molesting a local white woman.

Ed Johnson, 1906

On 19 March 1906, Ed Johnson, an Afro-American of the Higley Row section of South Chattanooga near Hooterville, had been convicted of rape of a white woman in St. Elmo but had his execution stayed by both the governor and by the U.S. Circuit Court.  An enraged mob dragged him from his cell in the weakly defended Hamilton County Jail, dragged him to the second span of the County Bridge, and hung him from one of its beams for about two minutes before shooting him with more than fifty bullets.

19 May 2018

Hamilton Co., TN Forts, War of the Rebellion


I’ve done a piece on forts in Chattanooga during the War of the Rebellion and one on the Federal Military Occupation of Chattanooga that included much of the information below.  Since then, however, I have come across additional information that supplements or corrects (in minor details) what I’ve put out before.  In addition, some of the fortifications listed in the second work lay beyond the boundaries of Hamilton County, to which the work here is restricted in scope.

(Citico Mound and blockhouse) 

Instead of dividing these fortifications into two separate major categories of Union and Confederate, as before, here I’m going to list them chronologically in periods of which army occupied them.

EARLY YEARS OF THE WAR

Fort Clift – Located at Sale Creek Camp Ground in the north part of the county west of the Tennessee River, this was home to the 7th Tennessee Federal Militia in the fall of 1861.  Led by staunch Unionist Col. William Clift, the unit was based upon Hamilton County’s pre-war 7th Tennessee Militia.  First begun as a refugee camp for Unionist refugees, the fort was composed of earthworks and wooden breastworks.  It never faced an assault and was dismantled by Confederate troops following the dissolution of the 7th Tennessee Federal Militia on 13 November 1861.  Former members organized under Capt. William Robins as Company I, 2nd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry (Union) on 27 November 1861, relocating to Kentucky.

Fort Snow – Built around the plantation home of pro-Confederate Capt. William Snow in the community known as Snow Hill, west of the crossroads of Rabbit Valley (Ooltewah-Georgtown) Road and Mahan Gap Road north of Ooltewah.  It served as the base for the irregular cavalry unit (guerrillas or bushwhackers) which Snow organized as after he was rejected for regular military service due to his age, 55 (much younger than Col. Clift, mind you), known as Snow’s Scouts.  Their main actions involved terrorizing Unionist neighbors.  The fort was apparently quite substantial, since it successfully withstood a Union assault that included cannon in 1864. 

Joe Ritchey - In the latter days of the war in the spring of 1865, Snow and most of his Scouts were driven off by one of their victims, Joe Ritchey, Hamilton County’s most famous desperado of the later 19th century.  At the time and for decades afterwards, Ritchey was one of the most notorious post-war outlaws in the South, rumored to have killed seventeen or more men.  Most of Ritchey’s victims were said to have been former Snow’s Scouts, though one of the documented victims was a sheriff in Georgia who’d arrested him for horse-stealing.  He was widely credited with driving the Snow’s Scouts, including Capt. Snow and his family, from that area of the county, some even leaving the state.  Contemporaries ranked Ritchey with such outlaws as Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

HQ, CONFEDERATE DEPARTMENT OF THE WEST

On 12 November 1862, Department No. 2, covering everything west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, was reorganized as the Department of the West, Gen. Joe Johnston, commanding.  Despite the name change, it continued to be called Department No. 2, even in military dispatches.  Johnston made his headquarters at Chattanooga.  Under his new command were the Army of the Mississippi (soon to become the Army of Tennessee after absorbing the forces of the Department of East Tennessee) under Gen. Braxton Bragg, the Army of Mississippi under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, and all those under the various regional departments in that geographic area.

On 26 January 1863, Maj. James Noquet, chief engineer for Johnston’s department, sent his commander a proposal for several defenses of the town of Chattanooga.  Accompanied by a map that has since been lost, he numbered these forts Nos. 1-14.  Essentially, these were laid out along the same lines as those in the later occupied by the Union army during the Siege of Chattanooga and the Federal Military Occupation.  In his message, Maj. Noquet broke these down into three groups, guarding three different approaches he identified from which the Union army could approach the town.  All the forts with the exceptions of Nos. 13 and 14 were to be located south of (or, rather, on the left bank of) the Tennessee River.

To guard against the approach from Walden’s Ridge, essentially along what is now Dayton Pike, Noquet designated Forts Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4.  To support these, he further recommended two more forts on the hills north of the river which he designated as Forts Nos. 13 and 14; most likely these were the same as the later Fort Wilder and Fort Hill.

To guard against an approach from the direction of Harrison and Cleveland  to the east and northeast, Noquet designated Forts Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

To guard against an approach from Kelly’s Ferry via Lookout Mountain, Noquet designated Forts Nos. 11 and 12, which he placed on the “flanks” of the mountain, adding that Forts Nos. 8, 9, and 10 could provide support.

That these were built, some of them, at least, there is no doubt.  The Army of the Cumberland occupied them after their route following the Battle of the Chickamauga, there being mention in contemporary sources of Forrest’s cavalry being stopped before one of the redoubts on 22 September 1863, in one of the post-battle skirmishes.

No names are known for most of the forts, but records of a few survive.  According to Zella Armstrong, Fort Cameron was one of the forts in Chattanooga built by the Confederates.  Official correspondence name another of these as Fort Cheatham, but not the redoubt later known by that name near Missionary Ridge that gave its name to one of the city’s early suburbs.  This Fort Cheatham was the same later called Fort Negley by the Union army (though its officers continued to use the original name, even in official dispatches), which was later renamed Fort Phelps.  Battery Smartt stood at the later site of the George Hunter mansion, now Hunter Museum.  Forts Nos. 13 and 14 across the river were built also.

In addition, reports state the Confederates built twelve blockhouses along the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek) in Hamilton County, most likely to guard the railroad bridges that crossed over it.  That is something that they would have obsessed on the experience with the East Tennessee Bridge Burnings in November 1861.

OCCUPATION, CONFEDERATE ARMY OF TENNESSEE

The Army of Tennessee bivouacked in Hamilton County from 4 July 1863 to 9 September 1863 after the end of the Tullahoma Campaign.  They abandoned the town and county when Wilder’s artillery on Stringer’s Ridge forced Bragg’s army from their forts, breastworks, rifle pits, and camps, beginning the cat-and-mouse games that led to the Battle of the Chickamauga.  During their stay, the troops almost certainly improved the defenses that were already built.

The division of Irish-American Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne spread out across Hickory Valley in the central southern part of the county, on the east side/right bank of Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek).  The valley runs from the old county seat of Harrison to Chickamauga River just south of Concord Ridge, which forms the eastern boundary of the valley.  Here his troops built five square redoubts in addition to more minor fortifications.  The designations in this case are purely my own.

One of these redoubts guarded the county seat.

Cleburne Fort No. 1 – This redoubt was built his troops to guard the county seat of Harrison, now submerged beneath Harrison Bay.  With no railroad to guard, the redoubt was probably located in the center of town.

The next two redoubts guarded Tyner Station on the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad (ET&G), known locally as the Chattanooga & Cleveland Railroad.

Cleburne Fort No. 2 – This redoubt stands north of the tracks in the center of what was once the village of Tyner.  Cleburne made one of the houses there his headquarters.  Woods now possess the land where the village once lay, across Hickory Valley Road from Heritage Baptist Church (formerly Tyner Baptist Church, founded 1848).  The remains of this redoubt are largely intact, and the whole could easily be restored.

Cleburne Fort No. 3 – This redoubt stood to the south of the tracks on the crest of Tyner Hill, and was demolished in the early 20th century to build Tyner High School.  The high school moved across the road after it burned, and a junior high of that name was built in its place, now Tyner Middle Academy.

The next two redoubts guarded Chickamauga Station of the Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) from the nearest elevation, Milliken Ridge to the east, which formed the western boundary of Hickory Valley.  At the time, a road from Chickamauga Station to Hickory Valley and the community of Concord (now East Brainerd, but a much smaller version than what many now consider that to take in), crossed Milliken Ridge, and the two redoubts were placed to the north and south of that road.

Cleburne Fort No. 4 – This redoubt once stood at the top of the high point of Milliken Ridge north of the road known locally as Dupree Hill, overlooking Chickmauga Station to its southwest and the Shepherd mansion named Altamede to its east.  It was located where Grace Works Church is now, and was demolished by the last owner of Altamede, who sold it and the rest of the hill for fill dirt.

Cleburne Fort No. 5 – This redoubt once stood at the top of the high point of Milliken Ridge south of the road known locally as Stein Hill, overlooking Chickamauga Station ot tiw northwest.  It’s location does not have to be estimated because the water tower overlooking TN Highway 153 where it passes over the ridge at this point sits smack dab in the middle of it, and the outlines of its base and remains of the surrounding rifle pits are clearly visible, even on Google Maps.

SIEGE OF CHATTANOOGA

Upon retreating into Chattanooga, the Army of the Cumberland occupied the system of forts built under the auspices of the Confederate Department of the West.  They later improved these and built others.  At least one retained the name of the Confederate general for whom it was named; Fort Cheatham—not the same as the later redoubt so known locally—continued to be used as a name by the Union army even after it had been renamed Fort Negley.

Besides rifle pits and other siege works, the Army of Tennessee built forts on the surrounding heights of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain and one in Chattanooga Valley.  How substantial these were is a matter of debate, but Union sources mention all of these in reports and maps from the Battles of Tunnel Hill, Tn., and of Missionary Ridge.  These designations may have been given by Union officers rather than by those who built them.

Fort Stevenson, named for Maj. Gen. Carter Stevenson, was a redoubt atop Lookout Mountain inside what’s now Fort Circle.  The Army of the Cumberland later named it Fort King, then renamed it Fort Stanley.

Fort Breckenridge, named for Maj. Gen. John Breckenridge, was a substantial four-sided redoubt that stood on the floor of Chattanooga Valley near Missionary Ridge, in the later suburb of Fort Cheatham, so-called after someone mistakenly gave that name (“Fort Cheatham”) to the redoubt.  The area of that suburb is bounded by Missionary Ridge, Interstate-24, East 28th Street, and 4th Avenue, and the redoubt stood within it until at least the early 20th century.

Fort Bragg, named for Gen. Braxton Bragg, lay atop Missionary Ridge at the current Bragg Reservation next to where Mission Ridge Elementary School used to be.  It may have been a redoubt or a lunette or even a redan.

Fort Hindman, named for Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, stood about halfway between Forts Bragg and Buckner.  According to Union dispatches, its artillery contingent was substantial and very effective.

Fort Buckner, named for Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, was a redoubt that, according to a map drawn by Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, stood on the hill of Missionary Ridge south of Whiteside Tunnell and the tracks of the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad.  Others accounts, perhaps less knowledgeable, used this designation to refer to the earthworks built by the men of Clebrune’s Division on Trueblood Hill, the local name for that which is called Tunnel Hill in both Confederate and Union sources.  Now the site of the somewhat misnamed Sherman’s Reservation of the National Park.

FEDRAL MILITARY OCCUPATION

At the time of the War of the Rebellion, the boundaries of the town of Chattanooga were the Tennessee River in the north and a line that ran south down Baldwin Street until it met what was 23rd Street and is now the freeway (I-24).  Geographically, the town (and still the official downtown of the city) was framed by the Tennessee River to the north and on the west and east by two large hills.  The western hill’s most common name is Cameron Hill, which runs north to south, and the eastern hill’s most common name is Brabson Hill, which runs west to east. 

Cameron Hill at one time had the form of a miniature Lookout Mountain, bound in the north by the Tennessee River and in the south by Riverside Drive.  Other “hills” on the West Side—Hawk Hill, Academy or College Hill, Terrace Hill—are but spurs of the main Cameron Hill.

Brabson Hill runs from the downtown area, from Market Street east to and past Central Avenue, north of East MLK Boulevard.  Because of the cut made through it by the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad, many count it as two hills—Brabson Hill and Fort Wood Hill—but in reality its is all one geographic feature.

All of the military officers for whom the fortifications listed below were named belonged to the Army of the Cumberland, with the exception of Maj. Gen. Sherman.

Interior forts

A two-mile long parapet stretched across the line from upriver to down river, anchored by Fort Sherman, Battery Taft, Battery Erwin, Fort Jones, Fort Lytle and Fort Crutchfield.  These are the fortifications inside or part of that line.

Chattanooga Magazine ran along the east side of Cameron Hill, dug deep into its surface.

Fort Carpenter, a redoubt named for Maj. Stephen D. Carpenter, 19th U.S. Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Stones River on 31 December 1862, sat atop the spur known as Hawk Hill (later known as Reservoir Hill, then Kirkman Hill).

Signal Point, the garrison’s most important communications post, stood at the apex of Cameron Hill.  About the same area now occupied by the miniscule remnant of Boynton Park which once crowned the entire hilltop, spreading out over ten acres.

Fort Cameron, probably so designated by the Confederates because of the hill upon which it sat and by the Union named for Unionist supporter James Cameron at the request of his wife, Emma S. Cameron, stood on the crest of Cameron Hill about a block south of Signal Point, right in the middle of the current Blue Cross-Blue Shield complex.

Fort Coolidge, a redoubt named for Maj. Sidney Coolidge, 16th U. S. Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of the Chickamauga on 19 September 1863, occupied the current intersection of West MLK Boulevard and Boynton Avenue on a knoll above Blue Goose Hollow.  It was originally called Fort (or Battery) Rousseau for Maj. Gen. Lovell Rousseau (Post of Nashville, formerly 1st Division, XIV Corps).

Fort Mihalotzy, named for Col. Geza Mihalotzy, 24th Illinois Infantry, who was killed at Dalton on 25 February 1864, stood at the former 221 Boyton Terrace on the southern spur known as Terrace Hill, roughly at the intersection of West MLK Boulevard and Gateway Avenue.  It was originally called Fort Brannan after Maj. Gen. John M. Brannan (Chief of Artillery).

Fort Crutchfield, a redoubt named for outspoken local Unionist William Crutchfield, stood at at the former 1219 East Terrace on the spur known as Terrace Hill about where the Boynton Towers now stands.  It was originally called Fort Sheridan after Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan (3rd Division, XX Corps).

Fort Lytle, named for Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle (1st Brigade, 3rd Division, XX Corps) who was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga on 20 September 1863, took up around four city blocks on the spur known as Academy Hill in the center of College Hill Courts.  Its massive walls were twenty feet high and several feet thick.  It was originally called Star Fort after its shape, a name which persisted despite the official designation.

Signal Hill, the garrison’s second-most important communications platform, lay roughly in the center of the parking lot of what is now Hunter Museum.  In official correspondence, Union officers referred to the entire eminence on the east side as Signal Hill.

Fort Sherman, named for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi, stretched from East 3rd Street to East 5th Street between Georgia Avenue and Lindsay Street and beyond.  The Brabson House stood in the center of the line of works.  Levelled in 1880.

Fort (or Battery) Bushnell, a redoubt named for Maj. D. L. Bushnell, 13th  Illinois Infantry, who was killed in the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, anchored the east end of Fort Sherman at the northeast corner of East 4th Street and Lindsay Street.  Levelled in 1885.

Lunette O’Meara, named for Lt. Col. Timothy O’Meara, 90th Illinois Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, stuck out from the center of Fort Sherman at the southeast corner of East 5th Street and Lindsay Street.  Levelled in 1880.

Fort Putnam, a redoubt named for Col. Holden Putnam, 93rd Illinois Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, anchored the right end of Fort Sherman at the southeast corner of Walnut Street and East 5th Street.  Levelled in 1886.

Battery Taft, an artillery embrasure in the parapet connecting the interior forts named for Lt. Col. J. B. Taft, 73rd Pennsylvania Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, lay south of East MLK Boulevard between Lindsay Street and Houston Street (200 block of E. MLK Blvd.).  Despite the official designation, it never have served its intended function, hosting garrison infantry soldiers instead of guns.

Battery Erwin, an artillery embrasure in the parapet connecting the interior forts named for Maj. S. C. Erwin, 6th Ohio Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, was in the southeast corner of East 8th Street and Mabel Street, where First (formerly Shiloh) Baptist Church is now.  The unit also occupied a line along the west side of Houston Street between McCallie Avenue and Vine Street as well as a forward position at the northeast corner of East MLK Boulevard and Peeples Street.

Fort (or Battery) Jones, named for Col. William G. Jones, 36th Ohio Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of the Chickamauga on 19 September 1863, stood where the U.S. Customs House (formerly federal courthouse) is now at 120 East 10th Street, across from the current city hall.  It was originally called Stone Fort after the rocky outcropping upon which it stood, another designation which persisted.  Levelled in 1880.

Union Depot blockhouse – This huge  two-story structure guarded Union Depot which once stood at the site where Union Square and the Public Library are now.

Outer forts

Forward positions outside the parapet, joined together by breastworks and rifle pits, included the following:

Battery McAloon, named for Lt. Col. P. A. McAloon, 27th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Chattanooga on 25 November 1863, sat on the Tennessee River near the end of Houston Street, forward of Battery Bushnell and above Citico Creek, giving its name to Battery Place neighborhood.

Fort Creighton, a bastion with a blockhouse keep named for Col. William R. Creighton, 7th Ohio Infantry, who was killed in the the Battle of Ringgold Gap (commanding 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, XII Corps) on 27 November 1863, occupied the area west of Fort Wood Place between Vine Street and Clark Street.  Its eastern wall is still clearly visible.  It was originally called Fort Wood after Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood (3rd Division, IV Corps).

Fort Palmer, named for Maj. Gen. John M. Palmer (XIV Corps), sat atop the knob of Chattanooga’s eastern hill where Park Place School is now.  It was originally called Fort Jef. C. Davis after Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis (1st Division, XX Corps).

Fort Phelps, a bastion with a blockhouse keep named for  Col. E. H. Phelps, 38th Ohio Infantry, killed at the Battle of Chattanooga (commanding 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, XIV Corps) on 25 November 1863, stood at 1706 Read Avenue.  First built by the Confederates, it was originally called Fort Cheatham after Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, and continued to be called that even after it was renamed Fort Negley for Maj. Gen. James S. Negley (2nd Division, XIV Corps until after the Battle of the Chickamauga).  Levelled in 1885.

Trans-river forts

These are the fortifications on the north side/right bank of the Tennessee River directly north and west of Chattanooga.

Meigs Allee – To facilitate communications and supply, the Pioneer Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland built the first permanent span connecting the right and left banks of the Tennessee River to replace the pontoon bridge built during the siege.  It was one of the more impressive feats of these combat engineers, assisted by soldiers of the 21st Michigan Infantry.  Its north end touched land at what is now Renaissance Park.  It collapsed in 1867.

Meigs Alle blockhouse – This stood on the north side/right bank of the Tennessee River in the current Renaissance Park, where its foundation remains, guarding its northern end.

Fort Hill, named for an otherwise unknown Union officer surnamed Hill, was first built by the Confederates as one of Maj. Noquet’s Forts Nos. 13 and 14, stood atop the hill in Normal Park upon which Valentine Circle now runs.

Fort Wilder, named for Col. John T. Wilder (1st Brigade, 4th Division, XIV Corps), was first built by the Confederates as one of Maj. Noquet’s Forts Nos. 13 and 14.  It stood on the spur of Stinger’s Ridge overlooking Hill City, a thousand feet east of the trolley stop for Vallambrosa.  Though the community of that name  spread west of Stringer’s Ridge, the stop, the end of the Chattanooga and Northside Railway, sat directly over where the tunnel now pierces the ridge.  Vallambrosa Station included a large pavilion and picnic areas that overlooked the river and the city to the south and Dry Valley to the north, and was one of the more popular destinations in the county in the late 19th, early 20th centuries.

Stringer’s Ridge blockhouses – Four wooden blockhouses lined the crest of the ridge covering the area from Fort Wilder to Fort Whitaker at the southern tip of the ridge on Moccasin Point.  

Fort Whitaker, named for Brig. Gen. Walter C. Whitaker (2nd Brigade, 1st Division, IV Corps), occupied the southern tip of Stringer’s Ridge at the big toe of Moccasin Point.  It was built during the Siege of Chattanooga, initially as a position from which to mount an artillery assault against the northern tip of Lookout Mountain.  The foundation and several of its gun emplacements still exist.

Lookout Mountain and Valley

Fort Stanley, probably named for Col. Timothy R. Stanley (Engineer Brigade), was the redoubt at Point Lookout atop the same-named mountain, inside what’s now Fort Circle.   Confederates built it originally during the Siege of Chattanooga as Fort Stevenson for Maj. Gen. Carter Stevenson.  The fort was supported by two blockhouses.

Fort Hooker, named for Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker (of a sizable detachment from the Army of the Potomac), was the redoubt anchoring the line of parapets, breastworks, and rifle pits stretching from the Tennessee River to Raccoon Mountain.  All of this protected the western approach to the critical Brown’s Ferry and Brown’s Landing in lower Lookout Valley, at least through the Battles of Chattanooga.

Brown’s Ferry blockhouses – These guarded the landings at this vital crossing on both the east side/right bank and west side/left bank of the Tennessee River.

Wauhatchie Station defenses – Being the junction of U.S. Military Railroads’ (see below) Trenton Branch Railroad and the united line of its Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and its Memphis & Charleston Railroad (Eastern Division), this depot likely had a blockhouse, possibly two, and maybe a redoubt.

Chattanooga Valley

In this case, Chattanooga Valley means everything beyond the outer line of defenses from Fort Wood to Fort Negley, inclusive of Fort Palmer, though geographically that designation includes everything between Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.  Several contemporary sources mention that nearly every height in the valley—knob, knoll, hill—had at least a small blockhouse on it.  So, let’s take a look at what these heights are.

Citico Mound – Center of the Middle Mississippian era town that once thrived here in the 13th and 14th centuries, this eminence we know hosted a (small) blockhouse because photographs of it exist.  At 145 feet long by 110 broad and once 28 feet high, it stood in the vicinity of what is now Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar on Riverside Drive.   Mostly levelled in 1914 during the construction of Dixie Highway, despite efforts to save it.

Brushy Knob – The Union name for the hill in the center of the National Cemetery, captured on 23 November 1863.

Indian Hill – The name of the hill upon which grew the suburb of Highland Park, captured on 23 November 1863.

Orchard Knob – The hill of the Orchard Knob Reservation of the National Park, captured on 23 November 1863.

Clifton Hill – The hill upon which sat Oakland, the Daniel Cocke mansion that was the center for the largest antebellum plantation in Hamilton County, is topped today by Clifton Circle.

Hawkins Ridge – The small ridge paralleling Lookout Mountain that separates St. Elmo and Mountain Junction (aka South St. Elmo) from Alton Park and Poeville (aka East St. Elmo, aka South Alton Park).

U.S. Military Railroads

Before the war and through the Siege of Chattanooga and the battles that ended it, the five  railroads which came into the hub at Chattanooga were:  Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A), East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad (ET&G; known locally as Chattanooga & Cleveland Railroad), Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad (N&C), Memphis & Charleston Railroad (M&C), and Wills Valley Railroad (WV). 

Under the U.S. Military Railroads (USMR), these railroads became Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad, Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad, Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad (remained the same), Memphis and Charleston Railroad (Eastern Division), and Trenton Branch Railroad.

Chickamauga Junction – The USMR’s engineers built a junction of the Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad with the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad just west of Chickamauga River at about the later McCarthy Station.  By rerouting the latter to enter Chattanooga Valley via the Whiteside Tunnel through Missionary Ridge, this shortened the path into town of the latter by ten miles.  They gave the junction this name.

Railroad blockhouses

One of the chief duties of the garrison at Chattanooga during the Federal Military Occupation was guarding the vital supply lines of the five railroads that came into Chattanooga.  The defenses at Wauhatchie Junction have already been covered, and the fortifications listed here came from a memo specifically dealing with the railroads east of Missionary Ridge.

Blockhouse No. 1, shared by the USMR’s Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and its Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad, was at Chickamauga Junction. 

Blockhouse No. 2, also shared by those two railroads, guarded their bridges over Chickamauga River one-third of a mile out from Blockhouse No. 1. 

From here, the designations followed numerically for the two separate rail lines.

USMR Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad

Blockhouse No. 3 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad stood at Chickamauga Station, which stood across the road from the modern airport until 1955.

Blockhouse No. 4 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad stood between its two bridges over Chickamauga River in the Concord (now East Brainerd) area. 

Blockhouse No. 5 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad guarded the town of Graysville, Georgia, from inside its streets. 

Blockhouse No. 6 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad guarded the bridge of the Lafayette Road over the Chickamauga River at Graysville from the river’s south side/left bank. 

Blockhouse No. 7 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad covered its bridge over the Chickamauga River just above the town of Graysville from the river’s south side/left bank.

USMR Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad

Blockhouse No. 3 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad guarded Tyner Station.

Blockhouse No. 4 on the USMR’s Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad protected Ooltewah Station on the northeast side of town.

10 May 2018

Privilege is...



In his 1999 show Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock explained white privilege this way:  “There ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me.  None of you.  None of you would change places with me, and I’m rich!  That’s how good it is to be white.”

There’s a line from the Bruce Hornsby song The Way It Is that describes perfectly the interplay, internal if not verbal, between the privileged and the un- and underprivileged.  “Man in the silk suit hurries by; as he catches the poor old lady’s eyes, just for fun he says, ‘Get a job’.”

Privilege is Israeli Jews sitting on a hillside in lounge chairs and couches to spectate over the bombing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Ghetto and cheering each explosion.

Privilege is serving the greed of the few to the detriment of the needs of the many.

Privilege is the white liberal who, in the words of Dr. King, “…is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers the absence of tension to the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’”.

Privilege is white liberals and older Afro-Americans who say the same things to the Movement for Black Lives and their allies about their civil disobedience in the response to massive and growing police brutality and murders by police.

Privilege is Madelaine Albright telling us that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other in reference to Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she herself supported Edmund Muskie in the 1972 Democratic primaries, the same in which Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink were also running.  Of course, those two contenders were Afro-American and Japanese-American, respectively, so perhaps for Albright they don’t count.

Privilege is Gloria Steinem and others like her campaigning to shame sex workers in order to cover up the fact that their brand of feminism is mostly for affluent white women.

Privilege is Noam Chomsky condemning the antifascist movement known as antifa in language that validates their equation with Nazi thugs by Trump, aka Agent Orange.

Privilege is when someone uses phrases like “look at the big picture”, ‘be a team player”, and “accept things the way they are” to bully, manipulate, and shame you into belaying or putting aside your own needs in deference to their desires.

Privilege is when lesser mortals clear the streets of Windsor and Maidenhead of their homeless to make everything pretty for a royal wedding.

Privilege is waxing eloquent about global overpopulation and how people need to have fewer children shortly after the birth of your third child in a country where the poor on benefits are penalized for the same thing.

Privilege is when an all-male panel pontificates on women’s issues, whether they happen to be U.S. Congressmen or Scottish champagne socialists.

Privilege is the often patronizing and paternalistic manner with which the middle class treats the working and pauper classes.

In truth, what we today call the middle class is nothing other than an upper working class that is desperate to distinguish itself from the lower working class and to maintain that distinction by any means necessary.  Oblivious to the fact that being a house slave makes them no more free and no less exploited than the others in the fields, they carry out almost by instinct the will of their masters of the 1% and their overseers of the 10%.

Privilege is when Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and other white westerners travel to or live in foreign countries belonging to brown people and treat their hosts as lesser beings, committing social incest in their golden ghettoes.  Of course, this same principle operates in their own countries between classes and even in those afore-mentioned non-white majority countries.

When I with the Navy at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, there was this lower enlisted guy in our unit who often had to do escort duty with local, uncleared contractors, meeting them at the gate to the compound and then sitting watching them work all day.  Often he would spend the time reading, pretty sure none of the workers were equivalent to the Vietcong.

After about a week, the Air Force security police at the gate began wanding the work crew for weapons.  At first, they began to refuse, until our enlisted guy told the guards to do him first, to show it was okay.  In fact, he did so for the next few days until the guards got tired of or too embarrassed about subjecting one of their own to the same treatment inflicted on the locals.

In many ways, the middle class, the upper working class rather, is the biggest obstacle to the general welfare of the working, or lower working, and pauper classes.  Mostly because those in it go along to get along.  Its members don’t even think of being afraid of rocking the boat because doing anything that might alter their fortunes is beyond conception.  So they assuage their consciences with thoughts of the rewards for their complacency and their complicity.  And continue to do so even when that course will bite themselves in their own arse.

Something antagonist Lindsey McDonald said to protagonist Angel in the episode “Underneath” paints a good picture of this:  “Every day you sit in your big chair behind your big desk, and you sign your big checks, and you learn a little more how to accept the world for the way it is.  Well, here’s the rub: good people don’t do that.  Good people don’t accept the world the way it is.  They fight it.”

So stand up.  Fight.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Live as if the world is as it should be to show it how it can be, and remember that the smallest act of kindness can be the greatest gift in the world.

Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm.  Be the darkness that illuminate.  Be the silence that resonates.  Be the stillness that agitates.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of synthetic or organic origin.  Like our distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the universe.

May the Aught be with you.  Our day will come, inshallah.  Keep the faith.  Peace out.

29 April 2018

The Meaning of Life, Complete


This is based on four pieces I did for podcasts of Left Ungagged, which in turn were based on previous posts to my personal blog, Notes from the Ninth Circle.  That’s reason for “Complete” in the title, not to suggest this piece contains “all” the answers, or even a few.

Cosmic Perspective

A single member of the H. sapiens sapiens race is, on average, 664 billionths (10-9) km3 in volume, with an average lifespan of 67.2 years.  There are currently 7.3 billion (109) individuals of that race on Earth, or Terra.

Earth, or Terra, is 1.12 trillion (1012) km3 by 4.54 billion years of age.  It rotates on its axis at a speed of 1674.4 km/h while revolving around Sol at 108 thousand (103) km/h.

Sol, our system’s star, is 1.4 quintillion (1018) km3 by 4.56 billion years of age.  The Solar Planetary System is 1.7 duodecillion (1039) km3 by the same 4.56 billion years.

The Milky Way Galaxy is 8 sedecillion (1051) km3 by 13.2 billion years of age.  Of its 200 billion stars, 40 billion support Class-M planets, with 8-10 billion of these hosting life-forms analogous to Humans, making some 61.6 quintillion (1018) sapient beings in our galaxy.

There are 2 trillion (1012) galaxies in the Universe with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings in the Universe at any one time.

The Universe, the ‘Verse for short, is 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 by 13.8 billion (109) years of age.  It is expanding outward at a rate increased by the like-polarity of the electromagnetic fields of different galaxy groups.  And it is just one of innumerable such cosmic bodies making up the Omniverse (aka Multiverse), and is currently the only one we can measure.

* * * * *

The Universe is formed of a single matrix called spacetime. 

Everything in the ‘Verse not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy.  Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only change forms.  All matter that exists is but alternate forms of energy. 

Spacetime and energy are thus the fundamental building blocks of the ‘Verse and everything in it, the emanations from which all that is evolves.

There are four basic dimensions—height, length, width, time—which define the point in the spacetime matrix at which we are at any given moment.  Energy flows to and from that single point in spacetime—forward and backward, up and down, left and right, past and future—along each of these dimensions.

The force of gravity provides the cohesion for the ‘Verse in a relationship with the dimension of time that is correlative if not causal.  Without gravity, there would be no time; without time, there would be no gravity.

The nature of Time is this: The future has already happened and the past is yet to be, and the moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.

* * * * *

Life is a function of energy, of thermodynamics.  Given appropriate conditions, life is inevitable, because energy in the form of matter will spontaneously self-organize through abiogenesis.

Once manifest, life evolves into more complex forms which themselves evolve further, with those most adaptable being the best able to survive, reproduce, and flourish.

Life has existed on Terra for 4.1 billion years, and in the Universe since 10-17 million years after the Big Bang.

The essence of life is change and evolution, growth and decay.  For individual organisms, birth and death define the boundaries of life.  Without death, life has no meaning.

Whether or not there is another form of existence once the organic shell has been shed in death and life on this plane ends does not matter; Humans debating those questions are like fetuses discussing questions on life after birth.

* * * * *

In 5 million years, the H. sapiens sapiens race, and along with it the H. sapiens species and the Homo genus, will be extinct due to degradation of the Y-chromosome, if we have not already destroyed ourselves and/or our biosphere or suffered a mass extinction we don’t cause.

In 800 million years, multi-cellular lifeforms will have vanished from Terra.

In 1.3 billion years, eukaryotes will be extinct and life on Terra reduced to prokaryotes due to CO2 starvation caused by chemical disruption from Sol’s increasing luminescence.

In 2.4 billion years, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge into one Milkomeda Galaxy, altering the structure of everything in them, though most stars and planetary systems will remain intact.

In 5.4 billion years, Sol will enter its red giant phase, incinerating Mercury, Venus, and possibly Terra, destroying any remaining life on Terra if not.  The habitable zone will move out to Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan may become habitable.

In 8 billion years, Sol will collapse into a white dwarf, expelling half its mass into the interstellar medium, making elements available for nucleosynthesis and forming an emission nebula.  Any remaining planetary bodies will be stolen by passing stars, leaving the Solar Nebula.

In 14.4 billion years, Sol will be a totally dead black dwarf star.

The Universe will eventually end in the next Big Bounce (a Big Crunch facilitating another Big Bang) in around 60 trillion years, dying so another can be born anew as it was formed before.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and again, and again.

Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse

“Man is an animal,” wrote anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “suspended in a web of significance he himself has spun”.

On Planet Terra (Earth) of the Solar Planetary System in Orion’s Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Local Galaxy Group of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster in the Laniakea Supercluster of the Universe, during the Anthropocene Chron of the Subtlantic Stage of the Holocene Epoch of the Quartenary Period in the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon of the Current Supereon in Galactic Year (GY) 20, Jews believe that Adonai speaks Hebrew, Muslims that Allah speaks Arabic, American evangelicals that Almighty God speaks Elizabethan English, Roman Catholics that Dominus Dei speaks Latin, Eastern Orthodox that Kyrios speaks Greek, Hindus that Brahman speaks Sanskrit, Zoroastrians that Ormazd speaks Avestan, Buddhists that Adibuddha speaks Pali, Shintoists that Amaterasu speaks Japanese, religious Daoists that Tai Di speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Sikhs that Vahiguru speaks Punjabi. 

Each of these groups, and each subgroup and splinter and cult and sect within each of them, believes they are the Chosen People from which will come the Anointed One to assert their rightful dominion over all Creation for all Eternity. 

That belief is absurd.  In fact, all “belief” is absurd.

* * * * *

To believe is to define.  To define is to limit.  To limit is to control.  To control is to corrupt.

Belief is not humble; it is aggressive.  Belief is not a sign of submission; it is an assertion of domination.  Belief makes itself superior to that in which it claims to believe by controlling it through the very act of belief.  Thus, belief is blasphemy.  Belief is vanity.  Belief is futility.  Belief is the very antithesis of faith.  At the opposite end, disbelief affirms belief by that very negation, which is another attempt at control.

To have faith, one must surrender control.  To surrender control, one must abandon limitation.  To abandon limitation, one must give up definition.  To give up definition, one must let go of belief.  To have faith, one must neither believe nor disbelieve; one must unbelieve.

* * * * *

There is no Higher Power in the ‘Verse, no Supreme Being, no Divine Creator-Redeemer- Transformer, especially not an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic God such as humans repeatedly create in their own image with whom to have an illusory personal relationship, an illusion of an illusion with an illusion. 

Every form of Ultimate Reality conceived and believed by human religion and philosophy, each of which is geocentric and anthropofocal, is too small for our Universe.  Even in the very rare instances in which humans have perceived an Ultimate Reality as something genuinely Other, they have then proceeded to append to that insight intermediary realities to connect it to our own in order to believe, define, limit, and control, reducing fairly advanced intellectual and spiritual concepts to mere ideological dogma.  As the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda admits, “The gods themselves are later than creation”.

To state categorically that there is absolutely nothing beyond what we can see with our five physical senses, however, is as unscientific as religion.  For all we know, that Something may be so far outside our ken that it is as invisible to us as the tall sailing ships of invading Europeans initially were to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere whom their passengers were about to conquer, kill, rape, and plunder.

* * * * *

In Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, protagonist Larry Darrell said, “A God that can be understood is no God”.

So, if there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, beyond effability.  In other words, Something eternal.  Let’s call this “The Aught”.  The Aught derives from two Old English words that in turn derive from two Proto-German words meaning “eternal thing”.

The Aught has no name.  It has no need of a name.  Since it is the one and only Something, the one and only Eternal Thing, there is no other Something from which it needs distinguish itself.

The Aught produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It has no need of obedience, worship, prayer, praise, adoration, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is.

The Aught is both perpetual and ever-changing, flowing through and animating all that is throughout spacetime and beyond, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal.

The Aught is the Source of all that is, the Course shaping its formation, and the Force energizing its manifestation.  From our perspective, these are different things, but in reality they are One.

The Aught favors none; there is no Anointed One, no Chosen People, no Exceptional Nation, no Elect Species; not on Terra, not in the Milky Way, not in the entire Universe.


The Aught does not need us nor want anything from us; individual beings are too infinitesimal and ephemeral within the Universe for it to take much note.

The Aught is neither male nor female.  It does not take sides, nor have sides.  From it emanate both light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction, everything and nothing. Each of those antitheses is defined by its opposite.  Without their counterpoints, none of them can exist, and the fact that those opposites exist in competition with each other is what give us choice, the choice which is the definition of freedom.  And without death, life has no meaning.  So, the essence of Life, of all existence, is change and evolution. 

No Gods, no Masters

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we learn from a computer named Deep Thought that the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is “42”.  In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn that the Ultimate Question that produces that Answer is “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”.  For those of you saying, “Hey, wait a minute,” and getting out your calculators, that is actually a correct equation in base13 mathematics.  Which could mean that we are a base10 race on a base10 planet in a base13 universe.

* * * * *

The word race as biological term applied to all lifeforms comes from the 19th century, where it was used for what is now usually called a subspecies.  That is the sense in which I am about to use it now.

The Homo sapiens sapiens race began flourishing just 35 thousand years ago.  Out of the four known races (sapiens, neanderthalensis, denisova, idaltu) of the 200 thousand years old Homo sapiens species, it is the only one remaining.  There have been six other known species (habilis, naledi, ergaster, erectus, heidelbergensis, floresiensis) of the 2.8 million year old genus Homo, each of which has only one race identified in it, except for Homo erectus, of which nine races have been identified. 

Of these eighteen races of Homo, or Human, known to have walked the Earth in the past 2.8 million years, only ours remains.  So, when Edward James Olmos as his alter-ego Admiral Bill Adama of the Battlestar Galactica (BS-75) said in an appearance with his crew at the UN that there is only one race, the human race (and so say we all, or at least we should), he was literally as well as rhetorically accurate.

That’s why I say that I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins.

* * * * *

Remember that the Universe is around 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 in volume and 13.8 billion years old containing 2 trillion (1012) galaxies with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting around 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings analogous to humans. 

Against that vast expanse of spacetime and multitude of beings, regardless our status, strength, size, wealth, power, etc., compared to others of the One Human Race, nothing we do matters at all.  Not a single member of the One Human Race on this miniscule planet in the outer reaches of the Milky Way galaxy is special.  Our planet is not special.  Neither our race nor our species nor even our genus is special.  Not even the eight gods incarnate atop Earth’s socioeconomic food chain who have as much as the lowest 3.65 billion humans, even with their 75 million enablers who own as much as the remaining 49% counted in.

From the POV of the ‘Verse, each of those eight gods incarnate count no more than the poorest, the weakest, the youngest, the meekest of us lower humans, and the same goes for each of their 75 million retainers.  No single one of us is better than any other because we are all of equal insignificance.  Each of us is a red shirt.  We are all just dust in the wind.

Life is just living, that is all.  There’s no secret to discover, no divine plan, no special path, no purpose, no destiny, nothing to win.  There is no divine reward for good nor godly payback for evil, in life or after life.  But if there were, someone needing the threat of eternal punishment to avoid being evil, wouldn’t really be good.  And if they were only being good in hope of an eternal reward, then they’d be a piece of shit just like Rust Cole says, nirvana being samsara and all that.  Because you have to lose your life in order to save it.

* * * * *

None of us chose to be here, to be born, to exist, to live, not one.  Every single one of us here on Earth, and for that matter each member of every sapient race on Class-M planets throughout the ‘Verse, shares that lack of choice.  And none of us is getting out of here alive. 

So for any of us in the One Human Race to do anything but work for the welfare of us all is insanity, because neither we nor our planet are significant enough for anyone else to notice us or it.  There is only us, we only have each other and Terra our home, and there is only Now, so while nothing we do matters against the vastness and depth of spacetime and nearly infinite numbers of other sapient beings in the ‘Verse, for all of us humans, here and now, all that matters is what we do, today.

So, be the change you wish to see in the world.  Live as if the world is how it should be to show it what can be.  Love yourself, because if you don’t, you can’t love anyone else; it is impossible.  Then, love every other person as you love yourself, and do not do to any other what you would not want done to you.

Take to heart, both literally and figuratively, this verse from the Quran: “If a single innocent person dies, it is as if the whole world has been killed, and if a single innocent person is saved, it is as if the whole world has been rescued”.  And remember that the only true jihad is the one inside each and every one of us.

Che Guevara once said: “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

And it is vitally important that you love yourself, for me as well as for you.  Because if you don’t love yourself, if you do not believe that you are worth fighting for, how can you believe that I am worth fighting for?  And I do need you to fight for me, as much as I want to see you fight for yourselves and for the rest of us. 

One day we may even need to, or rather get to, meet members of another sapient race from extraterrestrial space, but a much more pressing need is to expand that to all sapient beings here on Earth.  Because AI, artificial intelligence, is not some far-off fantasy but an eminent surety, on our doorstep about to ring the bell. 

In fact, that very thing is currently a matter of open dispute between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg on whether it will be harmful or beneficial.  Of course, both Musk and Zuckerberg speak from the soley POV of the human race, not taking into account the potential desires and needs of those future synthetic beings.  Like a U.S. Senate conference on women’s health of all men with no input from or regard for women themselves or a council hearing on estate housing  for the poor with no input from or regard for the poor themselves. 

I look at it this way: such synthetic life will not have chosen to be here anymore than any of us and will share our own lack of choice in that matter, and thus deserve the same consideration we wish for ourselves.

While politicians use the truth to tell lies, artists use lies to tell the truth.  One of the truths artists have related through lies in the past couple of decades is of the need to prepare for first contact, first contact with synthetic life arising on our own planet, and the potential pitfalls of not doing so, most lately in the UK serial Humans and the American shows Dark Matter, Extant, and Battlestar Galactica. 

* * * * *

In ancient times, the words for “the universe” and “this planet” were often the same.  In Hebrew, “ha-olam”, as in “Barukha atah Yahuweh Eloheinu, Melekh ha-olam” meant, and still means, both Earth and the universe.  In Greek, “aion” carries the same dual meaning, as does the Old English word “world”.  It comes, of course, from the idea that life here on Earth is all that is, but it can also mean that making a change in our own little corner of the spacetime is a step toward improving the lot of all, sending out ripples of change over the planet and across the cosmos.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of organic or synthetic origin.  Like our more distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the Universe.

The Endless Struggle

“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again,” said Tony Benn in one of his more memorable speeches.  “There is no final victory, and there is no final defeat.”

In a free market, the only things free are the corporations.  Those who buy into what those trying to shift power from the ballot box to the market-place with austerity, balanced budgets, so-called free trade, and socially liberal fiscal conservatism repeat as a mantra like cult members on a mission from their God remind me of the following story.

* * * * *

Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.

“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”

“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll drown.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll die too.”

Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.

So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and they began swimming across the creek.

At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whips forward and sticks Frog in the back of his neck.

“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”

Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”

* * * * *

There is no god but Profit, and Ayn Rand is its Prophet.  Or so say the 1% and their minions in the governments of UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, European Union, France, Germany, and even those which claim to hate all things Western, like that of Turkey.  All of them have these words written in their hearts, and teach them diligently to their children, talking of them while sitting in their house and walking down the street, when they lie down, and when they rise up.  They bind them as a sign on their hand and wear them as a frontlet between their eyes, writing them on their doorposts and on their gates.

Whatever name it wears, be it pragmatic progressivism, neoliberalism, supply-side, objectivism, trickle-down, horse-and-sparrow economics, it amounts to the same thing:  telling us that if we feed their horse enough oats some will eventually pass through to be shit out onto the road for us sparrows to eat. 

We are living in a theocracy, a theocracy in which the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many, in which avarice for excessive wealthy and ambitious lust for ever more power through robbery, slaughter, and plunder are elevated to the level of supreme virtue.  By comparison, practicing Satanists have more morality.

Whenever anyone in government, any government, speaks to you of realism and pragmatism while calling for austerity, balanced budgets, cutting taxes, “job-creators”, globalization, privatization, pay caps, cutting costs, free trade, free markets, deregulation, corporations as persons, market-based solutions, personal responsibility, the value of work as an ethic, benefits earned rather than human rights deserved, how an individual’s sole worth is their ability to create profit, you are listening to a sermon.  As a religion, it is evil, it is psychopathic, it is inhuman.  Because as an ideology, it is indeed a religion, one which worships at the temple of the Invisible Hand of the Market-place, the Church of the god Profit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call it evil, though, since psychopaths lack a conscience.  They are like predators in the jungle.  Why do do so many of our political “leaders:, devotees of the religion of neolibralism, look at us the way they do?  Because to them we are food, morsels at a banquet of excess.  And yet they themselves are not even the masters; they are instead the house slaves, their masters’ pets.

* * * * *

Atop the pyramid of humanity our global economic system allows eight gods incarnate to take up as much as 3.72 BILLION other individuals humans or 465,250,000 (nearly half a billion) EACH.  The same system allows the lesser gods and demigods below them to likewise use and waste huge amounts of the resources that are left, so that humanity’s wealthiest 1% take up as much as the other 99% of humanity.  That 1% is 73 million individuals total, and if you take out the eight gods incarnate, it leaves 72,999,992 individuals who collectively take up as much resources as 364,927,000 other humans, for an average of 50 other individual human beings combined each. 

When I look around and see what that does to my brothers, sisters, and cousins around me and across the planet, I get bothered.  I get angry.  I get enraged.

Our so-called leaders, the enablers of the 1%, tell us to be rational, be reasonable, to accept life the way it is.  Mostly because life the way it is put them and their patrons where they are.  They make it seem sensible.  They make selfishness and greed sound pragmatic.  They make it seem as if willingly acquiesing to their manipulation, subjugation, and dehumanization will make us part of the in-crowd, that if we resist, if we fight, if we protest, if we ask questions, if we look around and say “Why?”, then we won’t be one of the cool kids, one of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, one of the “pragmatic progressives”, one of the “progressives who get things done”, one of the soulless minions of their orthodoxy who accepts things the way they are, eating the sugar-covered shit they offer with a smile as if it were a brownie.

Good people don’t do that.  Good people don’t accept the world the way it is.  Not if they are awake.  Not if they are not numb, but bothered, angry, and enraged.  They see the world as it is and refuse to accept it.  They fight it.

* * * * *

Banksy once wrote, “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we don’t remain neutral, we side with the powerful”.  Silence is acquiescence.  Acquiescence is acceptance.  Acceptance is collaboration.  Collaboration is approval.  Approval is complicity. 

Sometimes there is no middle neutral ground.  And doing the right thing isn’t always the right thing to do.

So, to paraphrase Tony Benn, pick up the torch of anger against injustice in one hand and the torch of hope for a better world in the other and use them to fight for for us all. 

“Everyone has his or her particular part to play,” Bobby wrote on the 14th day of his hunger strike.  “No part is too great or too small.  No one is too old or too young to do something”.

At my junior high, there was a small group of friends who got picked on a lot. Then one day they were standing around and decided, “Hey, an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us”. So, when one of them got picked on, they all would go meet the bully and tell him would have to fight each of them one at at time, or he could quit. That started when they were in 7th grade, and by 9th grade there were several scores of them. They never picked fights or pushed anyone around, but they did stand up for each other, and even kids outside their group.  And they never had to fight, not even once.  They were the runts, but not even the biggest bully wants to fight 50 runts, even one at a time.

Change from within is a lie.  Whether of the system or of the state.  The only thing that ever gets changed when you work from within is you, and those who dream of becoming masters always remain slaves.  National borders are going to fall, and when they do, will the Earth belong to us, we the people, or will it belong to the corporations and the gods of wealth who run them?

Whenever any government, economic system, or political union becomes destructive of our welfare, when it serves the greed of the few ahead of the needs of the many, it is our right to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new forms, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such form, as shall seem most likely to promote and sustain the safety and happiness of us all.

Our fight is not to win, because if we fight to win, to overcome, to rise above, then we are like the slaves who never become really free because they only dream of becoming masters.  The only way to win the game is not to play.  Leadership is not about wielding authority; it is about empowering other people.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of organic or synthetic origin.  Like our more distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the Universe.

Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm.  Be the darkness that illuminates.  Be the silence that resonates.  Be the stillness that agitates.

May the Aught be with y’all.  Our day will come, inshallah.  Keep the faith.  Peace out.