From Edith: a book review … and a column

Book Review

By Edith Morgan

STOLEN by Richard Bell

Edith, in her garden. CECELIA file photo.

With all the discussion and reaction to the proposal to teach CRITICAL RACE THEORY – CRT – in our public schools, I felt the need to put in my two cents, as I have always been troubled by the lack of serious teaching of civics and history I our schools. For years I was an elementary school teacher, employed by the Town of Shrewsbury. In elementary grades, we teach some hero-worship and glance over the less attractive events of our American past. And in order to hang on to our vision of ourselves as “exceptional” in all areas, we have glossed over much of our history, and we have spent precious little time and thought on realities.

But there are now numerous groups who are insisting that their stories and experiences be told, fully and truthfully. That is behind the push to teach about the Black experience in America. And, I might add, we should also be learning about how the human race has mistreated its members in other places – those of us who have experienced the numerous attempted genocides in our lifetimes (i.e., the Holocaust in Germany and Europe, the Armenian genocide, the mass killings in Cambodia, the on-going attempt at extermination of the Yuighurs in China, etc., etc., etc)

So when my brother-in-law gave me the book STOLEN to read, after he had finished reading it, I got into it. The book seems very timely, as it is the non-fiction description of the kidnapping of five young Black boys, between the ages of 11 and 17, in the early 1800’s in the area where Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania meet.

We here in Massachusetts know about the ”Underground railroad,” but how many of us know about the “Reverse Underground Railroad”?

There was a thriving trade in human beings, kidnapped from their families and enslaved down South. It was a lucrative business before the Civil War and was maintained by terror and brutality. The families of the kidnapped got little or no help from authorities when they attempted to trace their missing loved ones.

I will not give a way the ending, but the odyssey of five boys who escape makes great reading – and gives us an insight of what life was like in early America for so many. … I could have hoped that we here in America would really have been exceptional, but it seems we too have a cruel past that we need to explore and expiate. Our cruelty to one another is nothing new, and even a cursory reading of our history is replete with examples. Knowing and admitting it does not destroy our love of our country, America: It should just act as a guide for doing better now and in the future.


Are we back to normal yet?

By Edith Morgan

Ever so gradually, the gates to some sort of normalcy are creaking open – and we can get a glimpse at the NEW “normal.”

We can eat out, either inside the restaurants or outside – on sidewalks or in parking lots. And we can be mask-less if we are vaccinated or still masked if not. But it seems a number of the previous wait staff of restaurants have not returned, so often service is slower – and “help wanted “ signs are everywhere. The abysmal pay rate – especially for the “back of the house” – has been exposed during the pandemic, along with so many other inequities in America: health care, child care …

But there is optimism, and some of the old familiar restaurants that have folded are being replaced by new, ethnic ventures. The grocery shelves in our supermarkets are slowly being replenished, although there are still pockets of emptiness …

Mother Nature has been on a rampage everywhere in our country due to climate change but again, now that we are getting out more, we can see we have been spared the fires and deadly high temperatures of the West. But, as always before, the weather remains unpredictable and everchanging, as we in New England are so accustomed to note.

But it is not the same world we are opening up to: whether some people want to admit it, irreversible changes have taken place. Those who keep track of these things have been warning us, and at last we have a President and an Administration in Washington D.C. that seems to get it. The polar cap IS melting, our glaciers are disappearing, and the air we breathe to stay alive too is threatened. In many parts of America and of the world, species of familiar animals and plants are disappearing … dying out.

But I have always believed that “to be informed is to be forearmed,” and I am heartened by the many small but significant moves to re-use, recycle, reverse and renew. Worcester has been for sometime planting and replanting public trees – though not very many in Vernon Hill or Green Island and in our other inner-city neighborhoods. Worcesterites who have yards are planting and caring for trees in their yards.

I have looked into environment-friendly surfaces to use instead of the tar and cement on our parking area. And of course now the big car manufacturers are all featuring hybrid or wholly electric cars. And I go shopping with several permanent shopping bags to fill – far fewer of the old transparent and disposable bags.

So, we are gradually getting back to “normal” – but it is a “new normal,” rekindling the old that was good and changing for the better that which needs much improvement.