Thursday, February 2, 2017

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

The Joys of History


1924 is the first year in which Daisy Gumm Majesty will be eligible to vote in the United States of America. Women were granted the vote in 1920, but Daisy wasn’t twenty-one and, therefore, was unable to vote in that election. Now you only have to be eighteen, but even if that were the law back then, she still wouldn’t have been able to vote in 1920, because her birthday came after the election. This is only relevant because she and her father have a political discussion in the book SPIRITS UNITED, to be published sometime this year. I have to finish writing it first, of course. I’ve never taken so long to write a book in my life. Gah. Don’t know what happened, but I suspect having a hip replaced, having cataract surgery, and enduring months of physical therapy disrupted my regular writing schedule.

Anyhow, the Gumms and the one remaining Majesty (Daisy) decide to vote for the Republican candidate, Calvin Coolidge, in 1924. Daisy’s favorite president up to and including 1924 was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt, because he was a reformer! No longer could food-processing companies poison the consumers of their foods with impunity, because Teddy Roosevelt put his foot down (not on the food). Roosevelt was also a vigorous conservationist and established the United States Forest Service, allowing the creation of five National Parks. Daisy is all for national parks and for reform, even if she isn’t quite sure what needs to be reformed.

Like most of us, Daisy is more concerned with her day-to-day life than she is about national and international politics. She probably would lift her eyebrows if she read about Coolidge’s immigration law, which restricted immigration to the United States, but she wouldn’t think too much about it because it didn’t affect her personally. She’d be more interested, not to say delighted, that her daily newspaper had begun printing crossword puzzles because she’s a wordsmith, if not a particularly well-educated one.

She’d naturally be horrified by the brutal murder of young Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who wanted to prove their intellectual superiority by committing the “perfect crime.” As Sam Rotondo could have told the two murderers, there’s no such thing as a perfect crime; but sometimes it’s difficult to find evidence pinpointing the perpetrators of whatever crime is under examination. In fact, this is a problem for Daisy in SPIRITS UNITED. As ever, Daisy remains only slightly daunted in her search for the criminal. According to Sam, she’s not supposed to be anywhere near the crime and its suspects, but Daisy persists anyway. She’s such a buttinsky!

Daisy is a good person. Even she feels a little uncomfortable about her animosity toward the entire German people because Germans killed her husband via the Great War. She knows she’s being irrational, but she can’t quite help herself. This is primarily because she and a whole lot of other people blamed the war and everything that happened during it on Kaiser Wilhelm. They’re wrong, of course. The Kaiser was as much of a nitwit as anyone else, but he was far from the only instigator of that ghastly and incredibly stupid war. However, Daisy couldn’t know what we can know, because the war was current news to her. It wasn’t history, as it is today. Did you know, for instance, that many Germans didn’t believe they’d actually lost the war? Well, they didn’t. After all, no battles were lost on German soil.

Daisy’s creator (moi) has read extensively about World War I, however, and it’s easy for me to see Daisy’s prejudice is . . . well, biased, you know? I mean, all prejudices are. The fact that a German Jew invented the gas that eventually drove her husband Billy to his suicide is only ironic to those of us who understand WWI wasn’t, as it was often called, The War to End All Wars. Rather, it was only the beginning of a long, steady decline in German policies that eventually led to Hitler and his cronies murdering millions of Jews, Gypsies, Catholics and other “inferior” people.

All of this is kind of my way of saying, in effect, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For instance, my own two grandsons, Daigoro and Rikiichi, had a Japanese father. Born in Tokyo, by gum. And do you know why Keiji (Dai and Riki’s dad) was born in Tokyo? Because Keiji’s father, who was born and reared in California, was sent to a Japanese detention camp in Poston, Arizona, during WWII. He was so annoyed by his family’s incarceration (and the loss of everything they possessed) that he moved to Japan as soon as he could. Then there occurred a series of other circumstances that led to him moving back to the United States. If not for WWII, Dai and Riki would be Satomuras instead of Oshitas, but I won’t go into the reasons for that here. Let’s just say life is complicated. It’s even more complicated for Dai and Riki when it comes to the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei question. Nevertheless, Riki always attends the Nisei Festival in Los Angeles every year. What the heck, you know?

My son-in-law’s family changed their Italian last name to a non-Italian last name after WWII, by the way. Not that it matters here. I just mention it because it’s interesting, and I wonder if Sam Rotondo’s family would be tempted to do the same thing if they lived long enough to see WWII. Clearly, Daisy’s not the only person in the world to descend to irrational biases. Heck, my other son-in-law is an Armenian from Iran. Mind you, Armenians are culturally Christian but he’s from Iran and, therefore, if he were attempting to get into the United States today, he couldn’t.

Gah. Enough of that.

I’ll be in touch with the winners UNSETTLED SPIRITS, January’s contest book, individually. At the end of February, I do believe I’ll give away three copies of the original hardback version of GENTEEL SPIRITS. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!



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