Cordwood Musings 

Photo by Sierra Bell

Routine seasonal farm tasks like pulling weeds or splitting wood don’t require much deep thinking and the mind wanders. Getting the winter wood split and stacked the last few days with “Thanksgiving” approaching, reports of The Chosen People’s attacks on Palestinian hospitals, schools, and housing near the Mediterranean seashore occupied my thoughts.

The methods involved over there are more efficiently destructive than were used here in 17th century New England but the genocidal intentions are the same. They announce it.

While those long-ago indigenous inhabitants of the North Atlantic coast were initially accepting of the new colonial European settlers, things changed.

In 1970 the Massachusetts Department of Commerce decided to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock, by getting a designated (token) Wampanoag Indian to speak. The tribal remnant selected Frank James as spokesman. The Department, of course, insisted on editorial control of the message. His remarks were duly rejected.

James would have said, “Today is a day of celebration for you…. But it is not a time of celebration for me. It is with heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People….. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors, and stolen their corn, wheat, and beans….. Massasoit, the great leader of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he befriended the settlers…. little knowing that…. before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoags… and the other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or die from diseases that we caught from them…. Although our way of life is almost gone and our language is almost extinct, we Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. …. What happened cannot be changed, but today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important.” (See Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen)

There were no international laws, United Nations, or treaties based on collective security back then. There was no international consensus yet, holding that indigenous people within an expanding colonial regime had a legitimate right-to-resist their displacement. But they resisted anyway. Massasoit’s son, Metacom (called “King Phillip” by the Europeans) resisted the colonists’ settlement expansion/ occupation in what’s called “King Phillip’s War.”

“The war was the greatest calamity in seventeenth-century New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in Colonial American history….. More than half of New England’s towns were attacked by Natives. Hundreds of Wampanoags and their allies were publicly executed or enslaved and the Wampanoags were left effectively landless.” (Wikipedia)  Metacom was killed, his body “quartered” (cut into four pieces) and his head/skull displayed on a post at the Plymouth colony for more than two decades.

Today, as we approach the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ adoption (December 10, 1948), indigenous people still face slaughter. Today it’s called “ethnic cleansing,” or (in Israel-speak) “mowing the lawn.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees in the near east Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini reports (11/19/23), “I watched with sheer horror reports from an attack on the al-Fakhoura UNRWA school-turned shelter in northern Gaza. It is just cruel….. Classrooms sheltering displaced families were hit and at least 24 people were reported killed in the strike. This is the second time that this school has been hit. On 4 November, at least 12 people were killed and 54 injured.”

“This is yet another proof that no one and nowhere is safe in Gaza….These acts not only blatantly contravene the laws of war, they also show total disregard for humanity.”

Video of the carnage complete with images of children’s dead bodies scattered around the former classrooms was beamed around the world Saturday night by Al Jazeera. I noticed it on my gizmo. A quick search of US media revealed only a still shot from a CNN report today.

Here there are “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. Only the “worthy” get saturation video coverage. Maybe you’ve noticed. When 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl famously interviewed US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the Clinton-era’s continuing bombing/ sanctions regime on Iraq two decades ago she asked: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Without disputing the number, Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price——we think the price is worth it.”   (60 Minutes——5/12/96)

Just mowing the lawn. Means to an end. Long-standing American state-craft. (And there were still five more years of such genocidal torture to endure until Bush’s Shock & Awe Revenge-a-thon sorta “finished-the-job.”)

Some of us stack cordwood.

Some stack bodies.

Most don’t often think about either undertaking.

Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: