On Casimir Pulaski Day, Slavery in The Christmas City

Yesterday was Casimir Pulaski  Day, which I know about because of the Sufjan Stevens song.  Pulaski was a Polish noble and general who helped the American colonies win their independence from Great Britain by training and leading American soldiers throughout the Revolution.  Pulaski died from wounds sustained during the Siege of Savannah, and is remembered today as a proto-typical Polish-American hero in many Polish-American communities.  Though his holiday is mostly celebrated in Illinois, two years ago I discovered a connection between the Duke and the Lehigh Valley’s very own Bethlehem, PA.

I was walking around the grounds of the old Moravian settlements in Bethlehem and come upon this grave in the historic Moravian Cemetery:

A few yards away, I found this historical marker, explaining Duke Pulaski’s role in defending the early settlement and the fact that women from the Moravian community created the war banner he carried into Savannah, an even later llionized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem at the Consecration of Pulaski’s Banner.

Reconciling the image of pacifist Moravians sewing banners meant for war is one thing.  But Cornelia’s grave made me hot with rage and then it made me weep.

When I got home, I wrote the piece below.  You need to know that Bethlehem, PA, was founded by pacifist Moravians (who were fleeing religious persecution) in 1741 and christened for its namesake on Christmas Eve.

 

CORNELIA
NEW YORK
1728-1757
MULATTO SLAVE
(THE HORSFIELD’S)
1755 RECEIVED INTO THE CHURCH

What scandal, these Moravians, these Peace Church nuns and friars rending martial banners? Duke Pulaski, their protector, marches to Savannah, is recalled in Illinois among the Polish and in the frontier psalter for his sword. How ancient, their Count’s mission, in its context on the Lehigh, infant, pre-incarnate by their Christmas City’s namesake — Bethlehem, Palestine?

Cornelia, theirs in life, (the Horsfields’), not her own or God’s, sewn in Pennsylvania with the city’s founding mythos. December 24, 17whatever. Theirs in death, the Horsfields, these Peace Church nuns and friars.

It’s Still Too Soon for the Ironic Use of “Not” on the Front Page of a(ny) Newspaper

When I was in college, I believed my life’s work to consist of two major projects: 1) fundamentally questioning the epistemological prejudices of the 17th-century philosphes (pompous jerks) and 2) bringing back the ’80s.  By the time I graduated, I’d seen the US beat Russia in hockey and Hulk Hogan regain the WWF championship. Goal #2 totally nailed. Goal #1 turns out to be a longer deal.

Almost ten years later, the ’90s revival is in full swing like clockwork.  I like to think I play a part in this, however small (watching The Fresh Prince on TVLand totally counts).  I know I can be a bit of a nostalgia snob, but without nostalgia snobbery, how will the world know it’s not too soon to dust off Hypercolor?  That was a trick question, friends.  It’s never too soon for Hypercolor.  See what I mean?

It is too soon, Morning Call, for this:

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea behind the headline.  There’s definitely a MySpace joke in the mix here somewhere.  Can you come up with a better headline sticking to these central elements: nostalgia for 2005, MySpace’s current woes, nostalgia for 1991, and something funny about a municipality throwing away everybody’s snow chairs?  Do so in the comments.  Hint from a nostalgia snob: the (NOT) construction is very, very tricky.  As the root of everything snarky and ironically detached about our society, can it ever actually be satirized?  Herein lies the problem with this headline.  It’s much too late to use (NOT) in a sort of topical way, but as the original of the ironic species, (NOT) also seems somehow immune to further satirization. I’d say it’s the Chuck Norris beard of snarky catchphrases, but not even a roundhouse kick from the Chuck Norris of snark (Jay and Eric, I want you to wrestle for that title) can touch it its lovely whiskers.  (NOT) is an untouchable, the great Source Wall of everything we wink about.  You leave MC Hammer out of this.