Archive for November, 2011

Pilgrims, Apocalypse, Churchill, Fleming and myths that won’t die

November 25, 2011


A few days ago a friend sent me an inspiring story about how the young Winston Churchill was saved from drowning by the father of Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.  As a reward, Churchill’s father sent young Alexander to medical school.  In 1943 Church was ill and saved by a dose of penicillin.  My bs radar immediately went off.  So I checked and the story has no basis in fact at all.  What is amazing is that this story has been around for decades despite the fact that it is easy to disprove.  There are several sites that give the story and the reality behind it.  The one I used was


Was not saved by Fleming's father.

paid his own way through medical school

So, what does this have to do with the Pilgrims — Puritans, actually?   Well, despite lots of research by historians, the records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and plain old common sense, we still have an image of the First Thanksgiving as a wonderful, squdgy time of friendship and sharing between the English settlers and the Native Americans. It’s an idea of a Golden Age that we somehow have lost, an era of abundance and brotherhood.  And the thing that I still have trouble with is, even though most of us know that this is a myth, we cling to it anyway.   When the first settlers were starving, they stole from the Indians rather than trade.

And now we come to the Apocalypse. I didn’t know about this until I was researching THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD.   I knew that the Puritans were Calvinist Protestants who came, according to my schoolteachers, for religious freedom.  What I was ignorant of was that many of them were part of a sect that believed the end of the world was near.  They had come to America to prepare for it.  Converting the natives was part of this belief although some thought that the Indians were in league with demons.

After the Mayflower landed, word came that King Charles I had been overthrown and that England was now a Puritan theocracy.  Some of those who had left England returned to take part in this new society.  They were among those who, by a complex twist of logic and Biblical interpretation, believed that England was the new Jerusalem and that this was where Jesus would arrive at the Second Coming.   For other arcane reasons (see my post on the End in October) 1666 was considered the date for the event.

When the end didn’t come and Charles II did, the American Puritans put their faith in their new colony.   Within a few decades they were expelling dissidents and hanging women for witchcraft.

pilgrims meeting the local neighbors.

Not as much good will and mutual respect as we were taught.

Again, most of us know about the downside of the story of the Pilgrims and how that made a deep impression on the country for generations.  And yet, we still cherish the warm, fuzzy, inaccurate memory of the first Thanksgiving.   I really can’t understand this and it fascinates me.  I’m beginning to fear that I need to go back for a degree in behavioral psychology.

ps.  Looking at the list of how many times my posts have been read, I realize that by far the most popular was the one on chastity belts.   No comment.

Catherine short stories again

November 15, 2011

I tweaked the manuscript of DEATH BEFORE COMPLINE, hopefully getting the typos and correcting one really dumb mistake and it’s now on Kindle and Nook. I understand that you can get revisions for free if you bought it. I hope it’s true.  Let me know.  If you haven’t bought it yet, then you can now get the new and improved version.

here is the link to the kindle:

And here is the link to nook

Death before Compline

November 15, 2011

Death before Compline

I Believe, why don’t you?

November 4, 2011

I have incontrovertible proof that UFOs exist.  I was there.  There is photographic evidence.  Pictures don’t lie.

There was even a witness.  How can you doubt me?

Most of you will realize that this is a mock-up from the museum at Roswell NM.   But what if you had never seen a staged photo before? What if you really wanted to believe that aliens had landed in New Mexico?  What if you were CERTAIN of it?  How would you perceive the image then?

I’m not putting down people who believe in aliens.  They are just as likely as a thousand other things human beings want to believe in: ghosts, vampires, world peace, common sense in politicians.  And, for most of us, something that “proves” what we want to exist is snatched up without much analysis.  Someone once explained to me that people gravitate to things that confirm their prejudices.  This is why some watch Fox News and others PBS news.  Not enough of us (and I include myself) watch both.

This is not a Good Thing.  It is especially not good when we are trying to decide the best course for keeping the world from falling apart.  So many disasters have been the result of decisions made based on inaccurate information.  And often that information was what the decision makers wanted to hear.  “Smoking is good for the digestion.”  “There are no bears in the woods this time of year.”  “The settlers on the other side of the hill want to kill us, so we’d better kill them first.”  “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”  “You can take those Indians, General Custer.”

What if someone had told Custer that he was out-numbered and out-gunned?  Would he have believed them?  He likely wouldn’t have wanted to.  Even if he had known, he might have believed himself so superior that he might have charged in anyway.  Lately it seems to me that this is exactly what we are doing.  We are all so certain about all sorts of things, important things, that we don’t stop to consider that there might be something worth listening to from the other side.  One thing I’ve learned as an historian is that there are no clear lines.  Everything changes according to perspective.  I look at events of the past and think how easy it would have been to avoid doom.  In the Crusades, if Louis VII and Emperor Conrad hadn’t decided to attack Damascus in 1148, the city might have stayed allied with Jerusalem against the fundamentalist Nur-ad-Din.  Damascus and Jerusalem might still be allies.  There were those who advised against the attack at the time, but the rulers only wanted to hear that they could easily conquer the wealthy Muslim city.

Events may not repeat themselves, but human nature seems pretty constant.  How can we break this chain of making short-sighted decisions based on bias and ignorance?   I almost wrote, it beats me.  However, I do think it would help if there were a source that every one  (Ok most everyone) could trust for information.  And then it would be up to us to watch/read/listen to it with open minds and a bit of healthy doubt, just in case.

That is about as unlikely as proving to a true believer that UFOs don’t exist.

By the way, in case you didn’t notice, the world didn’t end on October 21st.  But we’ll have another chance soon.  I’ll keep you posted.