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America's Biggest Shadow

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I admit that I've not followied too closely the controversy concerning a Western rancher, Mr. Cliven Bundy, who apparently believes that he is entitled to graze his cattle on public land without paying the grazing fees required by law.  He has become the instant darling of right wing grievance hustlers such as Sean Hannity. 

Then, according to Wikipedia, following a confrontation between Mr. Bundy, some of his armed supporters, and the Bureau of Land Management, Mr. Bundy held a news conference on April 19, where he criticized the United States government, specifically its negative influence on "the Negro".  "He recalled seeing a government-housing project where some of the older residents and the kids would sit on the porch. He said, 'They didn’t have nothing to do ... they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.'"

One wonders how anyone cannot know that for most slaves, "family life" meant having your spouse or children sold away from you, and, for women, being sexually available to the master, whether those women were married or not.

The best response that I've read to Mr. Bundy's sickening remarks comes from Michael Twitty (    Here's a part of his post:

I just turned 37.  I learned to pick cotton.  I pick cotton every year if possible to remind me that my father and grandfather picked cotton, so did at least four generations before him.  I’ve written extensively about the experience of picking cotton on this blog.  It has a lot to do with food and how people were nutritionally, intellectually, spiritually and politically malnourished all in service to the King.  I’m not nearsighted enough to claim that it was only African Americans who suffered from their service to his Majesty.  Poor whites knew the life as well–especially after 1870–but certainly Black history was irrevocably changed when the American economy was kept in boom thanks to its exports of enslaved grown (free labor) cotton.  The whip and the lash help subsidize further industrialization of the North, mass European immigration, and from these consequences and others–came the push West as the East burst with  mass population growth.


What Mr. Bundy fails to understand is basic history.  Without a moral imagination, immoral fantasies of humans managed like animals bloom.  Cotton fever was responsible for the long term destabilization of the Black families of which Mr. Bundy feigns mused interest.  During the antebellum period–an enslaved Black person–especially a male–could expect to be sold at least once or twice in a lifetime.  Although we haven’t verified it yet–we found a bill of sale for a “Negro” named Wash and his brother William on the steps of the Lancaster County, SC courthouse just before the Civil War.  The Wash described may have been my own great-great-great grandfather and his brother.  Washington was the great-great or great-great-great grandson of a man brought from central Ghana in the 1700′s–stripped of his name at Charleston harbor.


The Cotton Kingdom mandated illiteracy on pain of the whip or sale or death.  The Cotton Kingdom said enslaved people could and should get by with less than more–so the three M’s came to dominate the diet–corn meal, salt meat and molasses.  Pellagra and other diseases and deficiencies ran rampant and human beings were bred like cattle for sale. Is this the golden age Mr. Bundy speaks of?  Would that have been better for America in the long run?


We lost our culture.  Our G-d.  Our names.  Our ability to aspire to be anything more than what custom, convention and law allowed.  We certainly developed soul cooking and spirituals that wrench the heart and blues and the rudiments of jazz America’s only indigenous art forms.  And yet we also developed a passion for resistance.  We left the grip of slavery and married legally in droves.  We built houses of worship.  We struggled to vote.  Our children need to know this so that they know the debt that was paid for them–just as I had to learn the debt that was paid for me.  I am not a culinary historian or cultural historian because its a hobby–I do this so I can tell the whole story–to contextualize it and make it real–to let the Ancestors know they have not been forgotten, to let the elders know the future is in good hands, to let the young ones know how far we have come and how far we have to go.

I will never forget the day I laid eyes upon my great-grandfather’s “x” mark.  You see Mr. Bundy, unlike you, Great Grandpa Will couldn’t read and write–he was purposely under-educated.  Great Grandpa Will was threatened with the lynch mob’s noose many a time, because he dared to dream beyond the Cotton Jail that you suggested might be better for us.  Grandpa Will in 1912 went from being a sharecropper–a slave by another name–to being a landowning farmer–100 acres

The difference being that Mr. Twitty's grandfather paid for his land.

There's some sort of sociopathic disease of the soul that allows Mr. Bundy to think that when he uses government resources illegally he's a champion of freedom, but when other people legally receive government resources, they'd be better off as slaves.  (And we'll set aside the fact that more white people than black receive welfare.)

Tonight, I am going to sit at my altar, light incense, and ask the Ancestors to help us deal with our Shadows.  Because other than stealing the land from the First Peoples, America has no bigger, deeper, more damaging Shadow than slavery and race.  And as Jung knew, the more that you try to shove a Shadow away, the harder it works to make itself manifest. 

That's why, although Mr. Twitty is not Pagan, I believe that his work is important work for me, as a Pagan:  I am not [a Witch] because its a hobby–I do this so I can tell the whole story–to contextualize it and make it real–to let the Ancestors know they have not been forgotten, to let the elders know the future is in good hands, to let the young ones know how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Will you join me at your altar? 

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HecateDemeter is a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an ecofeminist, a lawyer, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth.


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 24 April 2014

    If the government believed they had a valid claim on Mr. Bundy's property, their first step would have been to go to a court and get an order for payment, and if unpaid then a court order to seize his property for payment. Instead the government sent a 200+ person army to take property and kill animals without due process of law. Its so typical of how they murdered an entire village of a minority religion near Waco. People of minority religions should be among the loudest critics of that kind of murderous tyranny.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Monday, 28 April 2014

    The BLM has several court decisions in its favor already, and will probably go to court again. Given his recent comments, it's likely he won't enjoy the same show of force he did this last time. A number of conservatives -- including Glenn Beck, who is arguably more right-wing than Sean Hannity -- were referring to Mr Bundy as a "welfare rancher" and asking why he was entitled to do something for free which every other rancher pays to do, namely graze on land other than their own.

  • roi de guerre
    roi de guerre Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Dear Greybeard,
    After reviewing this helpful timeline

    I am disinclined to agree with your characterization of events since, as you will no doubt agree, much of the history presented directly contradicts several of your statements.

    While I applaud and share your vigilant guard against tyranny I am confident that you, like me, will find it difficult to reconcile the remedies sought through the courts by the BLM over the course of 20 years with any form of coercion other than due process.

    Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to research your version of events and to become better informed in the process. I wish you well and hope that your support for Mr. Bundy does not extend to his horribly misinformed statements regarding slavery.

    B B

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Nothing in that news report says that the BLM had a court order authorizing them to take the man's cattle.

  • roi de guerre
    roi de guerre Thursday, 24 April 2014

    respectfully, you'll find said court order here
    the taking is ordered in section iv.

  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler Friday, 25 April 2014

    I vaguely remember a surviver of the Hutu and Tusi conflict in Rwanda recollecting that it was the radio announcer inflating the events that started the massacre.
    It seems that “news” has become entertainment and that investigating reporters are a rare and dying breed. I think that ordinary people of the this country may have more things in common than not. But, it also seems like the media and politicians stirs up conflict just so that they can either “cover it” or “promise to cure it”. Both make big bucks doing this at our country's expense.

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