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Today is Flag Day. It was on June 14, 1777, that the Second Continental Congress approved the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States with a star for each state and 13 red and white stripes to commemorate the original 13 colonies. Of course, in 1777, there were only 13 states, and therefore only 13 stars, and their arrangement wasn’t consistent: Sometimes the stars were in a circle, sometimes in rows, and there were a few occasions in the 19th century in which the stars appeared in the shape of a star. Our current incarnation of the flag has been around since 1960 with Hawaii’s admission to the Union. In the event that Puerto Rico is officially made a state, there are already some 51-star designs in the works.
Woodrow Wilson formally declared June 14 to be Flag Day in 1916 and Congress established National Flag Day in 1949. It isn’t a federal holiday, although Pennsylvania celebrates it as a state holiday and has done so since 1937.

It’s the 210th birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe (books by this author). Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1811. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a prominent Congregationalist minister and he was a great proponent of education. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1832 and Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe in 1836; he was a clergyman and scholar and he encouraged her to continue writing, which she had already enjoyed doing for several years.
Although Ohio was a free state, Cincinnati was separated from Kentucky slave-owners only by the Ohio River and Stowe was very aware of conditions through her encounters with fugitive slaves. She also read a great deal of abolitionist literature, and when her husband took a teaching position in Maine she began writing a long tale of slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (1852), which caused a national sensation. When she later met President Lincoln in 1863 he reportedly remarked, “So this is the little lady who made this great war.”
In 1996, novelist Jane Smiley wrote in Harper’s:
“Ernest Hemingway, thinking of himself, as always, once said that all American literature grew out of Huck Finn. It undoubtedly would have been better for American literature, and American culture, if our literature had grown out of one of the best-selling novels of all time, another American work of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Smiley explained that by making the racism and slavery a personal matter between two individuals, rather than a political and institutional evil, Huck Finn fails even where it succeeds, by allowing white people to feel good about getting over their racism without ever actually doing anything about it. Smiley wrote, “Personal relationships do not mitigate the evils of slavery.” In Huck Finn, she writes, “All you have to do to be a hero is acknowledge that your poor sidekick is human; you don’t actually have to act in the interests of his humanity.” She concludes:
“I would rather my children read Uncle Tom’s Cabin,even though it is far more vivid in its depiction of cruelty than Huck Finn, and this is because Stowe’s novel is clearly and unmistakably a tragedy. No whitewash, no secrets, but evil, suffering, imagination, endurance, and redemption — just like life.”

fathers make prophets

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illustration by Joanne Fink

 

“May God bless and keep you.
May God’s radiant light shine down upon you and be gracious to you.
May God grant you—and grant each one of us— the most precious gift of all— the gift of peace in our hearts, in our homes, and in our world.”
May this Shabbat bring each of us a sense of Shalom—Salaam—Peace. As always, you are welcome to share.
Shabbat Shalom,


Joanne

 

Today is Father’s Day. The holiday that we celebrate on the third Sunday in June traces its roots to 1910, but the first recorded celebration of a holiday honoring fathers took place in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton wanted to celebrate the lives of 210 fathers who had died in a mining cave-in in Monongah, West Virginia. That particular observance was never promoted outside of Fairmont, and no mention was made of it until years later. The Father’s Day that took root owes its origins to Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington. She heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 and thought it might be nice to honor fathers as well. So the following year, she promoted the idea with the support of area churches. The first bill to make it a national holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913, but in spite of encouragement by President Woodrow Wilson, it didn’t pass. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to honor fathers, and it finally became an official, permanent national holiday during the Nixon administration.

Joyce Carol Oates once said, “A writer who has published as many books as I have has developed, of necessity, a hide like a rhino’s, while inside there dwells a frail, hopeful butterfly of a spirit.

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