Per my comparison of recently freed Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl to Anglo-American captives of the eighteenth century, the Wall Street Journal reports that so far, “Sgt. Bergdahl has refused to see his parents or speak to them on the phone, the official said. The decision by Sgt. Bergdahl, who returned to regular duty on Monday, suggests a deeper estrangement between the soldier and his parents than the military understood when he was released. Still, officials said, they don’t know the precise cause of the tension or when it began.”
Slate comments that “the news that Bergdahl has refused to speak to his parents is an unexpected plot twist in a story already full of hairpin turns.” Actually, no. The eighteenth-century evidence suggests that Anglo-Americans who were adolescents or young adults and who were adopted by new Native or French families frequently chose to remain with their new families rather than return home again. (I wrote about these captives, especially the girls and women who didn’t return, in chapter four of Abraham in Arms.)
Many captives became very attached to their new families and caregivers. In the case I cited last month in my analysis, Sylvanus Johnson–a child captive from age six to eleven–forgot how to speak English, forgot his own parents, and for the rest of his life allegedly “so much preferred the modes of Indian life to the prevalent customs of civilization, that he often expressed regret at having been ransomed. He always maintained, and no arguments could convince him to the contrary, that the Indians were a far more moral race than the whites.” Continue reading
From the mailbag today, a note from Sheila Skemp at the University of Mississippi:
A number of us returned from the (excellent!) Omohundro Institute Conference in Halifax this spring with a sense of uneasiness. While the program was truly impressive, it did not include a single panel devoted to women/gender issues. Given the strength of the field, this is truly troubling. And we want to make sure that this does not happen again.
It’s true. I reviewed the program, paper-by-paper, and while there were two paper titles that specifically mentioned women as historical subjects, they weren’t about women’s or gender history: Megan Hatfield of the University of Miami gave a paper subtitled “War, Family, and the Transformation of Identity in the life of Eliza Pinckney,” and Rachel Hermann of Southampton University spoke on “‘Their Filthy Trash:’ Food, War, and Anglo-Indian Conflict in Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative,” (a subject I’ve written about before, in Abraham in Arms.) CORRECTION, 7:45 P.M. MDT: I missed Craig Bruce Smith’s paper on “Women of Honor: Feminine Evolution through Dedication to the American Revolution. That said, there were twice as many men named Craig on the program as there were papers focusing on women with a gendered lense. Skemp continues: Continue reading
OMFG. This is a completely incoherent critique of Orange is the New Black because–get this!–the show which is about a women’s prison doesn’t portray male prisoners realistically or accurate to their numbers in U.S. prisons. See if you can make more sense of it than I can.
Hey, Concern Troll: where was your column about the mis- or under- or stereotypical representations of women on just about every other television program or movie ever made? Did you have this concern about Oz, or Silicon Valley, or The Bachelor? I guess I missed that. All I can see is that you’re complaining that you can’t see a man like you on the one semi-high profile program on TV that features women’s stories (and not just white women’s stories!) Continue reading
The recent redemption of captive Bowe Bergdahl has interested me–not the political pissing match, which seems as drearily predictable as the plot of a Harlequin Romance. The details coming out about his experiences as a prisoner of war are what I want to know more about. The news that he has trouble speaking English now is especially fascinating to me. It called to my mind this passage from A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. [Susanna] Johnson, Containing an Account of her Four Years of Suffering with the Indians and French. First published in 1796, it told of her family’s experiences from 1754-58 as prisoners during the Seven Years War after they were captured in a raid on Fort Number Four in what’s now Charlestown, New Hampshire. Johnson relates this about the return of her son Sylvanus, whom she last saw at age six or seven. He was eleven before she saw him again:
In the October following , I had the happiness to embrace my son Sylvanus; he had been above three years with the Indians, followed them in all their hunting excursions and learnt too many of their habits; to civilize him, and learn him his native language was a severe task, (136).
Little Sylvanus Johnson has been on my mind recently, because I wrote an essay last summer about child war captives in early America, and I focused on his experiences in one portion of the essay. In successive editions of her narrative, Susanna Johnson either gives us more details about Sylvanus’s condition, or she embroiders the story. From the 1814 third edition published after her death in 1810:
In October, 1758, I was informed that my son Sylvanus was at Northampton [Massachusetts], sick of a scald.* I hastened to the place, and found him in a deplorable situation; he was brought there by Major Putnam, afterwards Gen. Putnam, with Mrs. How and her family, who had returned from captivity.** The town of Northampton had taken the charge of him; his situation was miserable; when I found him, he had no recollection of me, but, after some conversation, he had some confused ideas of me, but no remembrance of his father. It was four years since I had seen him; he was then eleven years old. During his absence, he had entirely forgotten the English language, spoke a little broken French, but was perfect in Indian. He had been with the savages three years, and one year with the French. But his habits were somewhat Indian; he had been with them in their hunting excursions, and suffered numerous hardships; he could brandish a tomahawk or bend the bow; but these habits wore off by degrees, (130).
Much prettier than Kevin Spacey.
Hilarious headline at The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah: “Dems Need to Channel ‘House of Cards’ Frank Underwood” in order to try to avoid electoral disaster this fall. Actually, the headline was the only amusing part of that article; if only we had Democrats as tough as Frank! The rest of the article is full of predictable and sensible advice like “turn out your base!” and “crank up the fear factor” about the Republicans! Well, duh. That might work, but it sure is a lot less fun to watch than House of Cards.
I was hoping that the article was itself a brilliant, murderous plot full of twists, turns, and of course SPOILER ALERT Continue reading
Can we all just hold hands and shout “DUHHH!!!!” together? NPR reports on a new study this morning:
Today, some 800 of the roughly 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in America make SAT or ACT submissions optional. But before a new study released Tuesday, no one had taken a hard, broad look at just how students who take advantage of “test-optional” policies are doing: how, for example, their grades and graduation rates stack up next to their counterparts who submitted their test results to admissions offices.
. . . . . .
[Former Bates College Deanof Admissions William] Hiss’ study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” examined data from nearly three dozen “test-optional” U.S. schools, ranging from small liberal arts schools to large public universities, over several years.
Hiss found that there was virtually no difference in grades and graduation rates between test “submitters” and “non-submitters.” Just 0.05 percent of a GPA point separated the students who submitted their scores to admissions offices and those who did not. And college graduation rates for “non-submitters” were just 0.6 percent lower than those students who submitted their test scores.
How now? It turns out that “high school grades matter–a lot:” Continue reading
Doris Lessing died yesterday, as you may have heard. As I was making sandwiches for lunches this morning, I heard the NPR top-of-the-hour news announcement about her death, and it actually described her work as “seminal.” SEMINAL! I am serious, as well as seriously disgusted. Dr. Crazy offers some thoughts on her post-graduate discovery and appreciation of Lessing, both The Golden Notebook and her later works.
Last night I finished semi-binge watching Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black and am totally jonesing for season 2. SPOILER ALERT: Continue reading