Friday, February 08, 2008

Confederate Socks

If you don't like politics, the knitting bit is at the end, but remember this: if you're not engaged, you don't get to complain.


I watched the news from Kirkwood last night and again this morning. I was working in Kirkwood yesterday until 3:30 and found out today that one of LB's clients had been trapped in the room during the shootings. She's physically fine, with just a sprained wrist.

I watched, irritated by the repetitive blather of the journalists with no new information to convey but immediately and profoundly struck by the vast chasm between the people of Kirkwood and their neighbors in Meacham Park. The people of Kirkwood can't believe such a thing would happen in "their community."

"We're such a close-knit community," they stammered, bewildered. "We're like Mayberry," I heard one say.

I never heard the residents of Meacham Park justify the killings, but nor did they express the stunned amazement of Kirkwood residents. Here's a little bit of the history of Meacham Park along with quite a bit that reveals the tensions between the white and black residents. Here's a less biased view.

The two communities have never had an easy fit, but even less so from the perspective of the folks who were annexed, then had their land seized through eminent domain in favor of a strip mall, or were repeatedly ticketed for parking "unsightly" work vehicles outside their homes. Naturally, from the perspective of privilege, everything seems smooth and fine. The world looks a lot different from Meacham Park.

I cannot justify at all what Thornton did, but I also have no doubt in my mind that he did not take action in a vacuum. Kirkwood is not Mayberry and never has been. And I hate to break it to you, but Mayberry was as fake as that window into a sugar Easter egg--no blacks, no uppity women, no police harassment, no real crime.


I was going to post today a knitting poem written by a confederate woman in 1863, Mary Bayard Clarke. As I was researching her, I noticed she is repeatedly called "the daughter of a North Carolina planter." What the hell is "a planter"? Did the man "plant" for a living, or is that a supposedly neutral way of saying "slave owner"?

In light of yesterday's events, remember that this poem is the perspective of one woman, the daughter of a "planter," who feels herself to be the victim of Northern aggression, yet, as with Mayberry, vast segments of her world are sanitized out of sight.

The poem appears in her book, Live Your Own Life: The Family Papers of Mary Bayard Clarke, 1854-1886, edited by Terrell A. Crow and Mary M. Barden (U of S. Carolina P, 2003)

In all the pomp and pride of war
The Lincolnite was drest,
High beat his patriotic heart
Beneath his armor'd vest.
His maiden sword hung by his side,
His pistols both were right,
The shining spurs were on his heels,
His coat was buttoned tight.
A firm resolve sat on his brow,
For he to danger went;
By Steward's self that day he was
On secret service sent.
"Mount and away," he sternly cried,
Unto the gallant band,
Who, all equipped from head to heel,
Awaited his command;
"But halt, my boys--before you go,
These solemn words I'll say,
Lincoln expects that every man
His duty'll do to-day."

"We will, we will," the soldiers cried,
"The President shall see,
That we will only run away
From Jackson's or from Lee."
And now they're off, just four-score men,
A picked and chosen troop,
And like a hawk upon the dove,
On Maryland they swoop.
From right to left--from house to house,
The little army rides;
In every lady's wardrobe look
To see what there she hides.
They peep in closets, trunks and drawers,
Examine every box;
Not rebel soldiers now they seek,
But rebel soldiers' socks!
But in vain!--too keen for them,
Were those dear ladies there,
And not a sock, or flannel shirt
Was taken anywhere.
The day wore on to afternoon,
That warm and drowsy hour,
When Nature's self doth seem to feel
A touch of Morpheus' power;
A farm-house door stood open wide,
The men were away,
The ladies sleeping in their rooms,
The children at their play;
The house-dog lay upon the step,
But never raised his head,
Though crackling on the gravel walk,
He heard a stranger's tread.

Old grandma in her rocking chair
Sat knitting in the hall,
When suddenly upon her work
A shadow seemed to fall.
She raised her eyes and there she saw
Our Federal hero stand,
His little cap was on his head,
His sword was in his hand.
Slowly the dear old lady rose,
And tottering, forward came,
And peering dimly through her "specs,"
Said, "Honey! what's your name?"
Then, as she raised her withered hand,
To pat his sturdy arm,
"There's no one here but Grandmama
And she won't do you harm.
Come, take a seat, and dont be scared,
Put up your sword, my child,
I would not hurt you for the world,"
She gently said, and smiled.
"Madam, my duty must be done
And I am firm as rock,"
Then pointing to her work, he said,
"Is that a rebel sock?"
Yes, Honey, I am getting old
And for hard work ain' fit,
Though for Confederate soldiers, still,
I thank the Lord, can knit."
"Madam, your work is contraband
And Congress confiscates
This rebel sock, which I now seize
To the United States."

"Yes, Honey--don't be scared--you see
I'll give it up to you."
Then slowly from the half-knit sock
The dame her needles drew,
Broke off the thread, wound up the ball
nd stuck her needles in;
"Here--take it child--and I to-night
Another will begin."
The soldier next his loyal heart
The dear-bought trophy laid,
And that was all that Seward got
By this old woman's raid.


Crafty and Crap said...

Kirkwood is a fascinating place. When Meacham park was redesigned, Cookie protested that..and said it was racist.... He may have not liked that he wasn't the contractor...but its a nice park for his community.

Annie said...

My dear friend in Kirkwood mourns her dear friend's husband today, and nothing lessens that. I did hear Thornton's family say that he was at war. And I also think that it's a hard truth that none of the council members saw it that way. The uneasy co-existance will continue, I think. And it's kind of ugly.

Anonymous said...

Deborah, thank you for your thoughtful informative blog today. I appreciate your style. Lenora

wheelinsticks said...

I think the whole thing is sad. I beleive that this will ony add to the racial issues in that area. I agree its a nice park, but it was also a way to remove the what other would believe as the eye sore of Kirkwood area.