Cannabis: The New Maypole of Merry Mount in Contemporary America

Unfortunately, what we know of the life and actions of Thomas Morton are essentially subject to the writings of William Bradford, and as Morton’s actions are in conflict with the core values of Bradford and his Puritan perspective, the material we have must be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless—perhaps even with this bias in mind—the conflict between the Puritans and Morton illustrates the seeds of a dichotomy which have continued to divide Americans from the past, through the present, and likely into the future: there are some who have an innate need to control and bring order to perceived chaos, and there are others who simply do not perceive any chaos in the given subject. In the case of Bradford and Morton in Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford perceives the place of Merry Mount as a locale of chaos and disorder while Morton views his home and the surrounding wilderness as a place of great bounty and freedom. The recent attempts at the legalization of marijuana are examples of the dichotomy continuing between the one side that wishes to control perceived chaos and the other side that wishes to enjoy the perceived bounty and freedom of the given subject.

As Bradford begins to describe Merry Mount, he immediately paints a picture of chaos where the mind’s eye of the reader is immediately struck with a scene of savages dancing about. He describes a particular event during the course of time when Morton had “become the lord of misrule and maintained (as it were) a school of atheism” that illustrates the people of Merry Mount dancing around a maypole with food and wine, trading with Indians, consorting with Indian women, all behavior considered quite “licentious” by Puritan standards (Bradford, 72). He even references Bacchus (Dionysus being the Greek counterpart) which immediately attaches Morton and his group to those values—those being the values of creativity, celebration, festivity, a challenge to authority, etc, all of which are diametrically opposed to Puritan values of restraint, chastity, and control.

“Again, the portrait of America becomes painted by this dichotomy.”

Too, from the Puritan perspective, it is worth noting that their desire to control chaos wasn’t just because chaos was thought to be intrinsically evil: they wished to control chaos, to control the wild nature both in man and nature itself because they felt they were on a special errand from the divine to do so. Also, they believed that they were judged not only by personal restraint and chastity: they were also judged upon the merits of their community as a whole. Having a neighboring community partake in such frivolity only served to diminish the divinity of the Puritan community. In order to maintain the image and integrity of the “City on the Hill,” order must be maintained.

Another conflict highlighted here is Morton’s habit of dealing in firearms with the Indians. Of course from the Puritan perspective, as well as that of English concern as a whole, arming the Indians was not in the best interests of the colonies, given that they saw Native Americans as a wild man, an agent of Satan. From Morton’s perspective, however, trading firearms with the Native Americans was a good deal because it established good relations between them and Morton’s group. With this observation, that the Indians “account[ed] their bows and arrows but baubles in comparison of them,” it also gave a means to increase their liberty, providing them a means of more effectively defending themselves from the encroaching and zealous colonists and, of course, a more efficient means of hunting (73). Later, in order to affect the control the majority of the colonists desired, Morton was removed by the authorities “by force” (73). Yet this conflict, or rather the broader value with which this conflict represents, is not an isolated moment in history.

This conflict between control and liberty is the brush that has painted the picture of America since before it even became the United States, and the recent attempts at the legalization of marijuana and the resistance thereof is a contemporary portrait painted by the same brush. Dancing around a maypoleOn the one hand—according to various medical sources across the globe—marijuana is seen as a means to relieve chronic pain (which has the added benefit of increasing the liberty of those who partake, given that more liberty can be liked from life without the hindrance of chronic pain). According to an article written by Bill McCarburg, M.D. on www.nationalpainfoundation.org, “Cannabinoid medicines appear very promising, although the subject often is obscured by controversy, prejudice, and confusion…” On the other hand, as suggested by McCarburg, marijuana carries certain stigmas, as those who regularly enjoy smoke are seen as frivolous and, to a degree, licentious. Again, the portrait of America becomes painted by this dichotomy.

Most recently, the United States federal government has mandated that California must shut down all of its marijuana dispensaries in accordance with federal law, and if they do not comply within 45 days of issuance of this mandate, proprietors will be subject to criminal charges and forfeiture of their property (Leff, “California Marijuana”). This is not so different than when the Puritans ousted Morton because of their “errand” to bring order to a perceived chaos and abolish licentious behavior. Truly, the City on the Hill must be maintained, the Maypole of Merry Mount must be destroyed, and the liberty of those who are instigators of such lamentable behavior must be sponged.


Works Cited

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Comp. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2008. 57-75. Print.

Leff, Lisa. “California Marijuana Dispensaries Targeted For Closure By Federal Prosecutors.” www.huffingtonpost.com. 6-OCT-2011. Web. 23-OCT-2011.

McCarberg, Bill. “Marijuana and Pain Management.” www.nationalpainfoundation.org. 2011. Web. 23-OCT-2011.

Manners as a Universal Language

“Manners are just for old people,” I recently heard a teenage girl say. Her mother shot back at her quickly in a serious tone, “They absolutely are not!” I observed this trend, stereotype, call it what you will, long before I heard this short conversation; but since then, I have been compelled to look upon the teens and twenty-somethings of the new millennium critically. This girl, to my eye, is a far cry from being considered anything remotely close to rude, but does the lack of outward rudeness constitute politeness today?

In a world where people regularly exchange rude looks and vulgar shouts to one another on the road, where the grocery store clerk doesn’t even say a word to you other than reading back the total on your bill—let alone make eye-contact, where predatory credit card companies soak up what little cash people have in the form of inflated interest rates, hidden fees, and past-due payments, I ask myself if any measurable amount of chivalry or, more simply, common civility is still regularly practiced by people at large.

Now when I say chivalry, I do not necessarily mean to bring about images of romanticized knights in shining armor coming to the aid of the fair maiden, or of Prince Charming lying down his coat in a puddle of mud so that his Cinderella can walk across with unscathed Uggs. In fact, the very notion that men should have to put themselves out in such a way for women could be viewed by either sex as gender stereotyping, which is a whole other issue.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

My concern is more about the little things—things that you thank someone for that you do not have to say “thank you” for, such as when a door is held open for you. Why is it so damn difficult to grant someone the pleasure of a few seconds’ eye-contact, a smile, and a sincere “thanks”?

I always make it a point to ask everyone, whom I engage with in conversation, how they’re doing. One of my absolute favorites is when they say “fine” or “good” and nothing more. Again, is it really that difficult to say, “fine, thanks for asking” or, better yet, “fine, how are you?” I certainly don’t expect to hear a synopsis of how the person’s entire day or week has gone, but the spoken language and body language of politeness go a long way toward making everyone’s day—both yours and others’—simply…better. Showing concern and care for your fellow man is part of the human condition. Don’t fail at the human condition. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”



I Listen When I Walk My Path

There was a time in my life where I had forgotten a worthy lesson, and it would take a lengthy conversation from a man far wiser than I to remind me of a lost core value. Upon my return to martial arts—after a lengthy lapse in attendance—I was naturally in a hurry to return to the rank from which I had left off. While fiction and romanticized ideals inspired my youthful self, it was the late Sensei Stuart Quan who reminded me that life is not about the destination: it is about the journey.

I can hardly believe that I had the gumption to protest my name not being on the list of students to test for the next belt rank. While my reasoning was not so much for advancing in rank for the sake of rank—I wanted the privilege of attending more advanced classes that the higher rank would allow, more or less—Sensei Quan said to me, “I’m happy to give this belt to you, but know that you’ve yet to earn it.” Clearly, I remember him stopping all of his business affairs to speak with me at length on this subject, yet he had me completely convinced with one sentence. I did not want that belt until I had earned it, and I would have been ashamed to wear it under any other circumstance.

Today I see many who are concerned only with their goals; so much are they, that they sadly overlook the road upon which they travel to meet their goals. The prize at the end of the road is meaningless unless one possesses more than a superficial experience of their travels.

A wise man has a tempered thirst for knowledge and experience, for it is the combination of knowledge and experience that leads to wisdom. These are the things that conversations can teach; and just as Sensei Quan guided me down a path that values the journey, my highest ambition is to share that guidance to anyone who cares to read my words. On your travels, do not simply hear. Listen.


[mis]Communication

If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Goodreads, you know that I have been entrenched with reading Middlemarch by George Eliot over the last week or so. I have happily found what I hope to be an intriguing thesis for my pending paper with this class in Victorian literature, and that thesis is going to center around problems in communication in this novel and in Victorian society as a whole. Then I got to thinking…The Dalai Lama

Today we [granted, we being loosely referred to as most of us] live in a world where we’re surrounded by every convenience. We have been empowered by technology that allows us to communicate around the world with the idle pressing of a few buttons, yet it seems as though these conveniences have come to be a convenient excuse to either communicate poorly or not to communicate at all. Over the last few years I have noticed a few trends swelling. Of course we all know that language is an organic thing that is constantly evolving and gaining complexity, so let me try to decode some of this for you. The following chart may serve as a translation for when you invite someone to do something:

They say… They mean…
Yes. Maybe, unless I find something better to do or decide to be lazy.
Maybe No.
No. Do I even know you?

Or, alternatively, when you invite someone to do something, they’ll just flat out ignore you. Given countless scenarios over the last year, I’m often left in positions like this:

I invite someone to do something and they accept, knowing full well after having translated their response into modern flakeEnglsh means that this is only really a “maybe,” but I don’t want to make alternative plans with someone else in case the “maybe” under the surface blossoms into a legitimate “yes”; on the other hand, I’m locked in to committing my invitation to a “maybe” and often find myself holding the bag because the person has indeed decided to flake. More generally, I suppose that texting and Facebook has made it very easy to flake out. Only a few years ago, people weren’t available during every second of the day. If you made plans with someone, that person might be out of the house (ergo unavailable for mobile communication) an hour or two in advance, so if you didn’t cancel in time, you’d just be standing them up…and we wouldn’t want to do that, now would we? That’s rude. It’s much better to text at 1:45 when you’ve planned meet at 2:00 and write “sry something came up. raincheck?”

Now call me old fashioned, but in my day, when one said “Yes” to something, they made it their business to do it. It was also common courtesy to thank someone for inviting them to do something with them regardless of offering one’s acceptance or one’s regrets. This is not [apparently it is] rocket science. This is along the lines of “please” and “thank you.” Am I right? Honestly: In this aforementioned world of empowered communication, how difficult is it to take two seconds to text, five seconds to email, or–call me crazy–one minute to call someone and say, “Thanks so much for inviting me to […]; I’d like to, but I can’t. Maybe next time?” In my world, when a friend invites me to do something and I am unable to do it, I always thank them for thinking about me and make it a point to try to invite them out some time in the near future to return the favor.

Am I crazy for thinking that this is dead simple? Is this not common courtesy?

Surprisingly, there is very little information available on the Interwebs about why people have become so flakey. I wasn’t able to find any real social or psychological research on this topic, but a lot of people are complaining about it. Add me to the list. I wish to surround myself with those who are moved by the Dalai Lama’s sentiments: put your busy life into perspective and ask yourself if you’re happy with your social life as it exists now! After all, the only real validation we have for our existence in this world is our relationship and our ability to communicate with each other. Relationships are at the heart of the human condition. Don’t fail at the human condition.

My Web Server

So I’ve had this server sitting around for a few years now, and I’ve always had this splinter of embarrassment in the back of my mind whenever I share my email address with someone. Most of us are clever enough to know that the part in an email address after the @ symbol usually correlates to a website. So… @jeremiahhenry.com has surely led some folks to my site–or lack thereof–only to see a n00bish ASP.NET-driven CSS layout with filler content.

That’s all about to change.

I’ll be in the process of migrating my sites to a new server which will have the latest and greatest version of ASP.NET and should just be faster in general. Meanwhile, I’m learning all of the ropes in Adobe Dreamweaver and hope to have something cool before too long.

On another sentiment altogether, do you know those thin little grass-green flying bugs? The ones with thin wings that fly so quietly that you’d never know they were there if you didn’t see them?

Note to self (and you): never take a drink of your beer without looking at the tip of the bottle first. Those little bastards do not taste very good.
Beer Bug

Who knew…?

I had no idea how incredibly simple it is to install a blog service! I’m quite excited to actually do something with my web host. A fully interactive website is on the way, too! Meanwhile, I plan on using this space to… I have no idea. What reason is there for this sort of thing during the days of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on? I guess we’ll see. One philosophy to which I heartily subscribe is that writing is a process of self-discovery; being a writer, the more avenues I give myself to write (with or without an audience), the better off I am. Right?

Tune in. Subscribe. Enjoy my randomness. I’ll try not to rant too much. I promise ;)

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