Welcome to March 2023
March is here and the wild hares of the rabbit clan have come to visit. I’m shivering on a cold, dreary, and rainy day, but I’m about to have a cup of steaming hot tea and put dinner on the stove. While I waited for the water to boil, I visited the open AI project out of curiosity. My old daddy used to say, “curiosity killed the cat,” but I think he was trying to keep me safe by not poking my nose into some dangerous places. Without curiosity, we never learn anything new or stretch our horizons. We’d live a sad, constricted life if we always stayed inside the lines and never pushed the boundaries.
The chat bot took my name and combined it with that of Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett, who painted the Florida Case Before the Electoral Commission, to describe the importance of “Cornelia DeLee, artist.” Also according to the chatbot, I am long dead, so I must be communicating from “yonder.” Fassett’s painting was about the contested presidential election of 1876.
In January, 1877, when the Electoral College met, 20 votes were contested, but neither side would concede the election. Congress passed a law empowering the Electoral Commission at the end of January. Ten days of deliberations passed before the 20 votes passed to the Republican candidate, an act which the Democrats protested until they received assurances federal soldiers would leave the Southern states. With Reconstruction at an end, Congress declared Rutherford B. Hayes the new President of the United States on March 2, only two days before his term began.
The Civil War and the Reconstruction years have marked our nation with an ongoing trauma, which has passed from generation to generation. At some point in time, we’ll have to heal, for continually pouring salt into that old wound will keep it festering and it won’t ever heal. Then we’ll pass it down to another generation once more. However, if scripture has any truth to teach us, humankind continues to reenact the sins of our ancestors, even when we know their stories and have the God given gifts of redemption from these shackles of death and shame. But now this rabbit is preaching, and some would say, “meddling once again.”
Update: Heather Cox Richardson, a noted writer of American history, reminds us once again how Southerners rewrite our history to make us more heroic and powerful. The Federal Army didn’t leave the south right away, but stayed in some states for awhile. See the note below.
I’ll change the subject. I’m not much on poetry, but I thought I’d ask ChatGPT to write a “Poem in Praise of March.” After all, World Poetry Day is March 21, so I thought I’d give the ChatAI a run for its money (it’s free right now, while in training stage). The Artificial Intelligence project was delighted to instantly produce the following example:
March, the month of windswept skies,
A time when winter softly dies.
The earth awakens from her sleep,
As days grow long and nights grow deep.
The snows of winter start to thaw,
And nature’s beauty starts to draw
A tapestry of green and gold,
As springtime’s treasures now unfold.
The birds return with joyful sound,
Their melodies now all around.
The trees bud out, the flowers bloom,
And life returns to end the gloom.
March, the month of change and hope,
A time to cast off winter’s scope.
The promise of new life and growth,
As nature’s beauty takes its oath.
So let us praise this month of light,
For all the wonders it brings to sight.
And may we cherish every day,
As we welcome spring in every way.
I was so amazed the Artificial Intelligence ChatBot could spit this out so quickly, I typed in, “Thank you.”
It immediately answered, “You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. If you have any other questions or requests, feel free to ask!” I quickly closed the application before it became sentient and asked for my hand in marriage or social security number and tried to enroll me in a monthly cryptocurrency investment program. Yikes!
Speaking of poetry, even the folks at Bloomberg News are writing haikus about global food shortages:
Onion shortage looms.
Prices rise, nutrition wanes,
Governments take aim.
When I was a child, my brothers and I amused ourselves by lining up dominoes in artful patterns all morning long. After lunch and before our required afternoon nap, we’d touch the first domino in line, and have a wicked joy of watching our entire morning’s work fall one after another. A food shortage (or a toilet paper shortage) happens much the same way in our global economy. Onion prices are still soaring across the globe and fuelling inflation, so countries like Morocco, Turkey and Kazakhstan have taken action and secured supplies.
Because onion prices are going up due to scarce supply, the price of other fruits and vegetables (such as carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and apples) also are rising and hampering their availability across the globe, according to the United Nations and the World Bank. In fact, prices have increased so much that onions briefly cost more than meat in the Philippines, and some flight attendants were caught smuggling them out of the Middle East.
This didn’t end well for either the attendants or the produce, since the food was sent out for destruction (it’s illegal to import food, except through proper customs) and the personnel got reprimands and retraining. Word to the wise: hoarding onions isn’t a good idea, since whole, raw onions will last two to three months when stored in a cool, dry place (between 45 and 55 degrees F). Places that provide these conditions may include your cellar, pantry, unheated basement, or garage. Usually, at room temperature, onions last only 2 to 3 weeks. Over the long term, the frugal shopper will buy some scarce items at a higher prices and other items at lower cost when the product is in season and at a surplus. The average price over a year will even out.
March is Women’s History Month. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Every president since then has recognized the gifts, graces, and achievements of America’s women by presidential proclamation. Other important women’s days in March we recognize are International Women’s Day (March 8), Harriet Tubman Day and National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10).
The Jewish celebration of Purim begins on March 6 at sundown and ends on the 7th at sundown. The festival recalls Queen Esther’s faithfulness to God and God’s saving providence for God’s marginalized people. We should always remember God’s grace is wider than ours, even if the faithful seemed to be “assimilating to the current culture.”
Daylight Savings Time begins March 12, with all of us rabbits settling our clocks forward one hour before we go to bed the night before. If you have difficulty remembering which direction, there’s a motto for this event: “Spring forward, and Fall back.” No one falls forward and springs back—silly rabbits maybe, but not the smart rabbits, who have the good sense to “Spring forward, and Fall back.”
The Ides of March 15 were bad luck for Julius Caesar, but originally the Ides of March once signified the new year, which meant celebrations and rejoicing. Two years before his death at an assassin’s hand, Caesar himself had changed the Roman calendar so the Romans celebrated the new year in January. Some people really don’t like change at all. Plus they don’t like military dictatorships.
People celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 all over the world, whether they’re Irish or not. While the San Antonio River runs green downtown, Hot Springs National Park will have its First Ever 20th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the 98 foot long Bridge Street, which is the world’s shortest street in everyday operational use.
Spring Equinox on March 20 can’t come soon enough for this rabbit. Just knowing the light will become stronger with each passing day is a medicine for my spirits. So what if the pollen follows soon after? Eventually, that too will be history and we bunnies will find something else to fuss about. After all, nothing is certain except for change. None of us can stop the circuit of the stars in the heavens above or cease the changing seasons.
We can adjust to these great cycles of change, just as we can grow in love for one another and learn to forgive both ourselves (for our falling short of perfection) and others for harming ourselves. If we rabbits wait till the last moment for our death bed reconciliations, we may not have the time or opportunity to make amends with the ones from whom we’ve estranged ourselves.
If you think you’ll be foolish doing this, I suggest you desensitize yourself and celebrate International Talk Like William Shatner Day on March 22. I asked ChatGPT for a haiku in the voice of William Shatner. On the third try, I got something I thought resembled his breathless cadence and broken phrase delivery. I could almost hear him emphatically delivering the words GO and MUST!
Ramadan starts during the evening of March 23 and lasts until sundown on Thursday, April 20. Muslims commemorate the gift of the Koran to Muhammad by fasting if physically able, declaring their faith, prayers, charity, and pilgrimage..
Remember, if March comes in as a lamb, it will go out as a lion, or so the ancient weather proverb goes. The saying may have its origin in the stars, for at this time of year, Leo is the rising sign; by April, it’s Aries. (“Kid” or “ram” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “lamb,” though.) Also, this is the season Jesus arrives as the sacrificial lamb, but will return as the Lion of Judah. Both mean, weather-wise, a false spring.
To sum up, as I finish up this note on the last day of February, the high today will be near 80F and I’ll most likely turn my air conditioner back on before March comes to visit. Looking ahead to March, the Weather Channel outlook has only three days in the 70’s for my location, so Mr. Air Conditioner won’t get much of a work out. I only see one night in the 30’s, so even Mr. Heater will get light workouts in March. As one wag put it on their restaurant sign:
Until next month, I hope you have onions and potatoes in abundance, and you enjoy green eggs and ham, or green beer, or green tea.
Joy, Peace, and welcome to Springtime,
NOTE from Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, March 2, 2023—this corrects my research.
What did not happen in 1877, either before or after the inauguration, was the removal of troops from the South.
That legend came from a rewriting of the history of Reconstruction in 1890 by fourteen southern congressmen. In their book Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and Its Results, they argued that Black voting after the Civil War had allowed Black people to “dominate” white southerners and virtually bankrupt the region and that virtuous white southerners had pushed them from the ballot box and “redeemed” the South. Contemporaries had identified the end of Reconstruction as 1870, with the readmission of Georgia to the United States. But Why the Solid South identified the end of Reconstruction as the end of Republican rule in each state.
In 1906, former steel baron James Ford Rhodes gave a date to that process. In his famous seven-volume history of the United States, he said that in April 1877, Hayes had ended Reconstruction by returning all the southern states to “home rule.” In his era, that was a political term referring to the return of power in the southern states to Democrats, but over time that phrase got tangled up with what did happen in April 1877.
During the chaos after the election, President U.S. Grant had ordered troops to protect the Republican governors in the Louisiana and South Carolina statehouses. When he took office, Hayes told Republican governors in South Carolina and Louisiana that he could no longer let federal troops protect their possession of their statehouses when their Democratic rivals had won the popular vote.
Under orders from Hayes, the troops guarding those statehouses marched away from their posts around the statehouses and back to their home stations in April 1877. They did not leave the states, although a number of troops would be deployed from southern bases later that year both to fight wars against Indigenous Americans in the West and to put down the 1877 Great Railroad Strike. That mobilization cut even further the few troops in the region: in 1876, the Department of the South had only about 1,586 men including officers. Nonetheless, southerners fought bitter congressional battles to get the few remaining troops out of the South in 1878–1879, and they lost.
The troops did not leave the U.S. South in 1877 as part of a deal to end Reconstruction.
It matters that we misremember that history. Generations of Americans have accepted the racist southern lawmakers’ version of our past by honoring the date they claimed to have “redeemed” the South. The reality of Reconstruction was not one in which Black voters bankrupted the region by taking tax dollars from white taxpayers to fund roads and schools and white voters stepped in to save things; it was the story of an attempt to establish racial equality and the undermining of that attempt with the establishment of a one-party state that benefited a few white men at the expense of everyone else.
Clarence C. Clendenen, “President Hayes’ ‘Withdrawal’ of the Troops: An Enduring Myth,” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 70 (October 1969): 240-250.
Cornelia Adele Fassett | History of American Women
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“Shortage of Onions Threatens a New Chapter in Global Food Crisis” by Bloomberg News
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Gnomologia: adagies and proverbs; wise sentences and witty sayings, ancient and modern, foreign and British : Fuller, Thomas, 1654-1734, comp :
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