Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snakes in the Grass

Benjamin Franklin's 1754 political cartoon was a plea for unity during the French and Indian War. The rattlesnake, by way of the Gadsden Flag ("Don't Tread on Me"), had earlier become a symbol of the American Colonies during the Revolution.
I often find myself astonished and/or quietly amused by the thread that can be clearly seen winding its way though history's events, circumstances both great and small, and lives, that may at first glance appear not to be connected at all.
I once knew a wise man, an historian and a professor of ethics, who time and again warned, "If you don't know where you've been, you won't know where you're going."
From an early age, I have witnessed a common current that runs through the world and the ages, the seasons and people's lives, illuminating connections and lessons for any one willing to take the time to look, think, and realize.
Follow me now as I trace the thread's latest journey through time and events as I have witnessed it.
Earlier this week, the S.O. discovered a six-foot-long snake skin on our lawn near a boulder and some large rocks. By visual identification, he quickly recognized the skin as belonging to a rattlesnake. Me being me, I looked up information to either confirm or dispute his conclusion.
To my initial dismay, I found that indeed, the skin belongs to a rattler. Gopher snakes are often mistaken for rattlers, the difference being the size and shape of the head. Based on expert descriptions, this one, with a noticeably large and angled head, could only be a rattler.
The good news is that the knowledgeable describe both the eastern rattler and the diamond back (which this one seems to be), as docile when compared to western counterparts and when left alone.
I find it hard to fathom that we haven't seen evidence of this rattler before, considering its size and close proximity to our house. So I find some peace in knowing that the appearance of a snake skin is simply a sign of the season, a sign of life continuing along its course.
I also find comfort in knowledge. Knowing, and sharing with my son, that a rattler's bite doesn't necessarily spell death, is a step in the right direction. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.
It turns out that when calm and knowledge are applied in reaction to a snake bite, the event is quite survivable. We'll steer clear of the boulder area, and we'll be aware of our surroundings. The snake can strike from a distance of half its length, so we'll be very aware of a circumference of three feet in every direction.
This discovery, however disturbing, reminded me that through the ages, snakes have been associated with Spring, rebirth, fertility and strength. Call me crazy, but I find that comforting.
As is the case with many "A.D" symbols of Christianity, the Easter egg is rooted in the pre-Christian tradition of the World Egg laid by the Goddess and split open by the Sun God's heat, celebrated at the Spring festival of the Sun. The caduceus of Hermes shows the God and Goddess coupling as snakes, and producing the World Egg, a snake's egg.
The popularity of the cock as the bird of resurrection, connected to Apollo's son Aesculapius the healer (Orphic mysteries), saw the snake egg evolve to a hen's egg, eventually settling in the Druid tradition. The egg was colored scarlet to honor the Sun, paving the way for colored Easter eggs.
Despite the Biblical portrayal of the snake as demonic, tradition and logic have prevailed through the eons, cementing the snake's image as one of strength, unification and abundance.
The widely-held (however quietly) "superstition" among American Colonists and patriots that a snake cut into pieces had the ability to wholly restore itself if placed together before sunset, and the fact that eastern & diamond rattlers were unique to the American Colonies, only striking if harassed, made the rattler the perfect symbol of unity, individuality, and freedom.
So I find it disturbing that today, many Americans have chosen to forsake the snake's very American qualities of unity and strength in violent and cowardly reaction to the representatives who supported the Federal Health Care legislation. Embracing and demonstrating the qualities of the demonic snake, citizens have turned on representatives, carrying out terrorist-like attacks such as hurling bricks through windows ( at least 4) and recorded death threats (at least 10) against democratic representatives.
In Virginia, a Tea Party activist's post of the address of a representative's BROTHER, led to a propane line at the brother's house being cut and to the brother receiving a threatening letter. Former vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has posted a map complete with gun imagery of circles with cross hairs covering the districts of 20 representatives who voted for Health Care Reform on her facebook site. The 20 districts supported the McCain/Palin ticket two years ago, so I suppose Miss Sarah feels the folks in those districts will take her wishes as commands. Here is a woman in a position of power who could very well use her strength, individuality and stature to make the world a better place, to heal and nurture the nation, and indeed, the world. But she chooses to be the hysteria and violence inciting mouth piece of the "conservative,"greed-driven establishment. How can any sane, intelligent, responsible leader encourage the masses to become violent and irrational? It's beyond me.
Our government is working. It may not, for the first time in a long time, be working in favor of the powerful establishment, and violence is the response! Very sad.
It is refreshing that the states, the actual segments of the strong and unified snake, are exercising the rights of their citizens by bringing suit against the federal government, claiming that the Health Care Reform is unconstitutional, based largely on the provision that citizens must buy insurance or be fined.
Thirteen states initially have filed a united suit, an interesting and historically symbolic number. The fourteenth state, Virginia, to be among the first to peacefully protest the legislation, filed a separate suit, as earlier in the year it was among the first, along with Idaho, to enact legislation stating that health insurance coverage is not mandatory.
An attorney for the states stated that the legislation exceeds the scope of proper constitutional authority of the federal government and tramples on the rights and prerogatives of the states and their citizens. Simply put, opponents believe that the legislation is an unconstitutional takeover of state institutions and programs.
Legal eagles on the flip-side of the coin opine that the legislation will survive challenges, and point to a long thread of precedence of Congressional regulation of economic activity dating back to the New Deal.
I say hurray for the state attorneys general who have brought this non-violent and legal action against the federal government. It is the right of the states and their citizens to peacefully and vigorously challenge the federal government.
It is not right for far-reaching organizations, such as the Tea Party organization, and public figures who claim to be true-blue American and wrapped in the Stars and Stripes, such as Sarah Palin, to in any way shape or form incite or condone violence against elected officials or citizens.
Don't let history's thread become a noose by which our nation, ideals and values are choked out and die. Write to your representatives, tell them you do not condone violence against Americans, elected officials or private citizens. Vote and become involved in defending the American qualities of freedom, unity, peaceful opposition, hard work and generosity- all traits glorified by Christians as well as by patriots.
Embrace the ideals of the ancient snake, of the snake that graced the "Don't Tread on Me" flag of the brave and unified American forefathers.
Recognize the thread that runs through all of our lives and through all of our experiences - keep it strong and vital through your actions, beliefs and example.
What do you think? Be well & happy! Have a wonderful weekend. A new post on Monday.

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