Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The First of the World Wars

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I, but we could easily call the war between France and Britain in the 18th century (1754 to 1763) a World War. Here in America and in English speaking Canada, we refer to it as the French and Indian War.  It spanned most of the continents of the world: Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. The belligerents were mainly France and England but their empires spanned much of the globe at the time. In French Canada they call it La Guerre de la ConquĂȘte (the War of Conquest). The French name has a lot of meaning for them in that it marks when France was removed from the North American mainland and French Canada (New France) was taken over by the British. We now know this land as Quebec just a few miles north of me. They still grapple with maintaining their French identity in an English nation.

Europeans call this war, The Seven Year War, which is odd because it lasted nine years. The name Nine Year War was already taken, The seven years refers to the most active years of the war, '56 through '63. The Swedes and Prussians referred to it as the Pomeranian War which describes the region that they were fighting over. This theatre ended in a stalemate. In India it is referred to as The Third Carnatic War which was basically French and British troops battling over the India. Britain's victory left them as the dominant colonial power on the Indian sub-continent.

This all started on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio when a 22 year old Colonel in the British Army, named George Washington, left Fort Pitt (aka Pittsburgh) to inform some French settlers that they were encroaching on British land.  The French refused and continued to build Fort Duquesne. Washington returned with an army to remove them and war began. The British were allied with the Iroquois Confederacy (which was huge) while the French were allied with the Abenaki, the Algonquin and the Shawnee among many other native people that I never heard of.

France cared more about gains in Europe and maintaining possessions in the Caribbean. Canada was a money loser for France and didn't care if they lost it that much. The sugar crop from the Caribbean Islands were too important to their economy. While Britain decided to concentrate on North America. By 1759, Britain controlled Quebec and by 1760 Montreal surrendered.  Britain attacked many of the places that were vital to French economy (the slave, sugar and gum trade) in Senegal, Martinique and the Caribbean. In the Treaty of Paris, Louisiana goes to Spain and Canada goes to Britain while France ends up keeping their major Caribbean Islands.

It was this war that put Britain in debt.  If not for the huge war debt accumulated during this war, American independence may not have ever happened just a few years later. Britain raised taxes on the colonies to pay off the debt sand rebellion ensued in responses to over-taxation. The American Revolution may have lasted longer if Britain could afford it and the US would never exist.  George Washington started the war that indirectly lead to our country being created. He really is the father of our country.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Strangers I Have Come To Hate

I walk along the road in front of my house and I see the same trash on every walk: Budweiser beer cans, cigarette butts and disbursed lottery tickets. I hate these people who can't keep their trash in their cars. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word.  Not sure why people don't think they have to keep their own trash in their own cars. I have a social worker / minister friend who is very analytical. She would say that they are not invested in their society. Of course, I take the other route. I just think they are dickheads. A few weeks ago, I went kayaking in St. Albans VT in a lovely alcove of Lake Champlain. This is one of the few places in New England that you will see a Northern map turtle. They are all over the place.  You wouldn't know that there was a patch of pristine wilderness hidden away from the huge pile of trash that lie at the entrance of the boat launch. I almost didn't put the boat in because of how disgusting the launch was. People were fishing there and other boaters were going about their business ... no one was picking up the trash. Maybe hate isn't too strong of a word. I picked up what I could. I don't think I will ever understand how someone can go fishing somewhere but not be interested in the long term health of where they fish. Are they not invested or do they just not connect the dots? Do they think that someone else will pick it up?  I am not sure, but I think it has more do with people not seeing how their actions affect the rest of the world. Dots not connecting or synapses not firing.

Several years ago, my wife and I had to make the decision on whether to have children or not. It was a complicated decision with many factors. I mentioned in an earlier post about the environment being a factor, but that was a minor factor. The biggest factor was my wallet. Both my wife and I spent a good part of our lives being poor. For me, it was my 20's, when I lived in Boston, that I was flat broke. I didn't want to revisit that era in my life. It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I became financially stable. Having kids would have brought me right back there. One of the other minor factors is that we really didn't like the world we would be bringing a child into. People's priorities seem so wrong. If I had a child, I think I would be unbearable, especially about the environment. I don't know why everyone that has a child isn't an environmentalist. What kind of world are we leaving them? How can I think that we are going to resolve this when I can't even expect a fisherman to clean up the shoreline where they fish? The fishermen that day are lucky I didn't have any progeny, I think I would have yelled at them. The world should be grateful ... I have dogs instead.

Three of the four dogs that I have had could be considered rescues. I don't know who owned my dog Rex before we did. I am glad I don't know them. It has been two years since he has passed and I still get very sad when I think of him. The act of missing him is a grab bag of emotions. I laugh a little, I cry a little and occasionally I get angry. When we got him from the Humane Society, he was damage goods. He was six months old and had a lot of fear aggression. When he got afraid, he got aggressive. He bit two people that I know of, one of my neighbors and an incompetent dog sitter. We noticed early with him that if you raised your hand too fast, he'd duck thinking we were going to hit him. We don't know the details to how he got that way. I know nothing about the strangers that had him before us. They are strangers to me, but I hate them. I have no problem using that word. They are the scum of the earth, the wrong kind of people, the bane of humanity, the dregs of mankind, the unclean masses, the riffraff, rubbish and vermin. At this point I have thank for actually have an entry for Scum of the Earth.

I still have my German Shepherd, Cokie. We got her at six weeks old back in 2002. She is getting quite old now and has difficulty walking. I have to carry her down the stairs a few times a day for her bathroom breaks. When we got her she was only a few pounds, half of her body weight was worms. The dog that we got free from an ad in the paper cost us a fortune at her first vet appointment. We found her at a trailer park in Crowne Point, NY. The people who had her said no one wanted her because she was a runt. She was living outside about to be put down. She might be the best dog I ever had. She is the only dog we've had since she was a puppy and our best behaved dog, so I think we've done well by her.

Stray and neglected dogs are the unfortunate residue of irresponsible humans. After my lab Max passed away a few months ago, we realized our house was very quiet. Too quiet. We went from having three dogs to having one, in about a year. The two dogs that passed were the loud ones. The one remaining was the quiet well behaved dog that is now so lame and old that she doesn't leave her bed all day long.  We need more dogs, but we could not handle a puppy just yet because Cokie is just not up for that amount of energy just yet.  We joined a fostering group for dogs in transition. These dogs are rescued from bad situations and need a place to stay while a permanent owner can be found.  So far we have fostered one dog, named Tammy, a black lab from the Carolinas. Apparently, she was bred by a irresponsible breeder for hunting. After they determine which pups will be good hunting dogs, they dispose of the rest of the litter. She was left somewhere out in the woods to fend for herself. She was found and brought to the rescue facility. This was the most screwed up dog I've ever met. She was afraid of doorways, wouldn't walk on a leash and would pee when I picked her up. When I brought her outside in my fenced-in yard, she would hide under the porch all day. Luckily, a wonderful family in southern Vermont adopted her and I only had her in my home for a few weeks. The family that adopted her had three old labs and had just lost two of them due to cancer. Their one remaining dog would not eat because he was lonely. When Tammy came to live with them, he started eating and I hear they are best of friends now and she is walking on a leash.

Sometimes people adopt dogs and don't realize how much work they are going to be. But instead of finding a good home for them or bring them to a shelter, they just let them go. Most Vermont shelters are non-kill so you can drop a dog off without it being a death sentence.  Our latest dog, Hazel (she's a keeper) was caught after six weeks of wandering around a town here in Northern VT. Obviously, someone didn't want her and didn't do a good job of finding her a new home. The people in this town tried hard to catch her and a few people tried to kill her, I hear, with poison traps. She is an awesome dog with one obvious problem. She has major separation anxiety. She just loses it when we leave her alone. We are working on the problem with her. In the three weeks that we've had her she has destroyed two screens, a metal crate and has ruined part of our fence. I got home one day and she was waiting for me outside the fence. We've been able to leave the home once, so far, without incident. Perhaps she is figuring out that we are coming back.

In his novel, Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins writes that "There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” I guess I am one of those people who aren't smart enough to know better because I think there are two types of people in the world: those that cause most of the problems and those who are, at least, working on the solutions. I like to think I am in the latter.  Do I seem self righteous, here? Sure, I am self-righteous and if you are one of those douche bags who is being so casual about the lives of these beautiful animals, you really need to know, I am better than you. You are the strangers that I hate and I don't think that is too strong of a word. I think it the perfect word to describe how I feel about you.