Monthly Archives: September 2015

Stepping Stone 

Henry David Thoreau said, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.” It has been a while since I’ve written about my love of the transcendentalists, but I love the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. One of the things I will definitely do once I move to Vermont is to take a trip down to Concord, Massachusetts, to visit Walden Pond. The transcendentalists had a way of thinking that too many people in America forget, and I personally think “Self-Reliance” by Emerson is one of the most important essays ever written. If you’ve never studies it or read it, I urge you to go back and read this post I wrote several years ago.

With that being said, I want to go back to Thoreau’s quote, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.” I think this is especially true in my life right now. I was completely devastated when I lost my job back in May, but like the Phoenix, I have risen from the ashes. I told one of my friends that I was going to dinner with some of the people I used to work with from the school. People I wanted to be able to say goodbye to and do miss. That friend told me yesterday: 

You have done everything you could possibly do to pull yourself out of the hole you were in last spring. I’m sure there will be some at the dinner who were envious of what you have achieved. Surely you weren’t the only one there who would like to be working somewhere else, but without the impetus of getting fired, it is so difficult to light a fire under one’s butt as you can testify to! You are the ultimate success story: a great new career, colleagues who already value working with you, a super cute place to live, a liberal state in which to now call home, and finally…able to be your true self. Remember early on when I told you looking for a job is one of the hardest things you will ever do? You are now living proof of that. But oh, the feeling of accomplishment when it is over. I hope you never go through it again. But I am so, so proud of you for having done it….You were judged, Joe, and not found wanting. That has to feel spectacular!!! 

It really does feel spectacular. I know I would have never changed careers, and I would have never even looked for this job, if I had not had the “misfortune” of being fired. While I was horrified that it happened, so embarrassed when it happened, and fell into a deep depression, I refused to give up, and I did turn something that I thought at the time was a great misfortune into something very fortunate. Most of my friends that I met last night for dinner are older than me. They have either retired or close to retirement. There were only two who were younger than me. Of those two, one is only a few years younger; the other was a student of mine (her mom is a good friend of mine).   

The student had been a very troubled teen. Her parents didn’t know what to do with her, but refused to give up, but they were at a loss of what to do. While most people treated her as an outcast, I treated her like the star student I knew she was. I encouraged her writing and poetry. Of all my students, from middle school to college, she was the most talented writer. In fact, she’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. I wish she would do more with it, but after about a year of working with her, her mother came to me and said, “Thank you. My daughter thinks the world of you, and she has changed so much since you have been encouraging her.” It was moment like that, which had made me want to be a teacher. The problem was that most of my students weren’t like her. They were spoiled brats who had a sense of entitlement. While I wish here had been more like this student, and there were a few, I know that teaching was just slowly killing me because most students didn’t care about learning. Apathy is one of the greatest dangers to this country, which is why I admire the transcendentalists. 

So when I lost my teaching job, I reevaluated my priorities. Are their other more indirect ways to teach? The answer is yes. Working in a museum means that you are creating a teaching tool for those who want to learn. What a great feeling that is! People actually are interested in what you are doing. I also get a chance at a new life. Because of that, many of the people at dinner last night were envious. How many times do you actually get to start over? 

Basically, this move is a reboot of my life. It’s a fresh start. I am getting a new place to live in a new location. I am getting new furniture and taking with me as little as possible. (For now, my cats will stay here with my aunt, who will take great care of them.) I will still have the same clothes (though I’ll get some new winter clothing) and a few small appliances, but everything else I will be starting from scratch. For the first time, I feel like I have a real grown up job. Not to diminish school teachers, but it had always been meant to be a temporary job for me until I found a college teaching job. So with this new jobs, I’m not just in a temporary holding pattern. This is going to be my career, and I am happy. 

Not many of us get a second chance, and I will thank God for the rest of my life for this one. I took a misfortune in life and used it as a stepping stone to fortune. I’ve got a new start and I don’t want to screw this one up. I want to do my best, and I will do my best. This is a chance of a lifetime.

When We Two Parted


When We Two Parted
George Gordon Byron, 1788 – 1824

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow–
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me–
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well–
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met–
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?–
With silence and tears.

Taking a Day Off

When I said the other day that I was overwhelmed, I meant it, so I am basically taking a day off from blogging. First off, I’ve been kind of sick all weekend. Second, there is so much whirling around in my head that I have no idea what to write. Today, I will mostly spend packing and making a few phone calls in an attempt to find a place to live. I also have a bit of paperwork to fill out as a new hire. It’s quite likely that if I can find the right place this week and can work things out, I will be starting my new job a week from today; otherwise, my start date will be pushed back two more weeks.

The Way Out


No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Corinthians 10:13

For the past six year, I have felt like I was in quicksand and slowly being pulled under. The harder I tried to escape, the more deeply mired I became. I was dying both in mind and body. I became complacent over the past six years. Six years ago, I had been looking for a college teaching job because I had two choices: find a good job and finish my dissertation or move home and finish my dissertation. I couldn’t financially sustain my life as it was. The problem was that six years ago, we were right in the middle of the Great Recession. Every job I applied for had their search cancelled because of lack of funding. Without a good job that would also allow me to research and write, I could no longer financially support myself and have any hopes of finishing my dissertation. So I moved home with my parents. I continued working on my dissertation and believed that I was making progress and I continued to look for a job. Neither worked out as planned. My dissertation advisor, who I was thrown to when my previous advisors all left for other universities, hated my dissertation topic and did not believe in me. By the time I finally got a new advisor, I was so discouraged that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish.

I also knew that I had to get out of my parents’ house so when the chance to teach at a small private school in Alabama came my way, I took it. That’s when I really got bogged down in he quicksand that has been Alabama. I became complacent here. I got even more discouraged over further rejection letters as I continued to look for other employment. I got discouraged to the point of barely even looking for other jobs. Then that door was slammed in my face as a coach was hired to replace me. A coach that my former colleagues describe as having the personality and teaching ability of a door knob.

The last five years, I have had one thing that sustained me and kept me from completely being consumed by the mire of Alabama. It was this blog. Not only did it give me a creative outlet but it brought into my life some truly wonderful people, some that will be lifelong friends. They have helped me through the rough times. Four years ago, one of those friends sent me two articles from the New York Times’ Sunday Magazine about homosexuality and religion. Those articles began a personal study on the churches of Christ and homosexuality which became a week long set of blog posts. In turn, it led me to write my Sunday devotionals/bible studies.

I have always said that these Sunday posts were my own personal bible studies but that I posted them for those who wanted to study with me. My faith has grown stronger because of these bible studies. I never lost my faith in God, but I had lost my faith in Christians. The more I studied, the more I came to understand the true depths of God’s love. Homosexuality cannot be a sin because love cannot be a sin. Love is not exclusive to opposite sex couples, but to all people regardless of gender. I also came to realize that those people who preach hate are not Christians at all because they do not follow God. God is the God of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

When I lost my job four months ago, I never let my faith waiver. I knew that God would provide. For the last nine months, he has provided a wonderful man in my life. I know that my boyfriend was a gift from God. He has been there for me and encouraged me. God brings people into our lives when we need them most. He brought some very special blog friends into my life, some who provided great encouragement and advice when I needed it most. You have provided prayers when I needed them, and you have proven without a shadow of a doubt that prayers do work. I found a dream job, I am getting out of Alabama, my headaches have improved, and Miss E came through her surgery very well and continues to improve.

I believe that God has guided me and provided for me, especially in the last four months. I believe that He guided me to the job announcement for this job. It was not a job site I’d ever known about but was led to it and I saw this announcement. I knew immediately that it was a job I had to apply for. I labored over the application to make sure that it was absolutely perfect. I firmly believe that God sent me certain signs of encouragement along the way. While interviewing for another job, the woman interviewing me was very interested in the same experience that I’d relied on for the Vermont job. At the time, I thought that if she was intrigued by this experience, even if it had nothing to do with the job she was interviewing me for, that it must mean that it was a very strong part of my resume. I hoped that it would shine through with the people in Vermont. Apparently, it did. Also, Vermont kept popping up everywhere. My boss where I’d volunteered over the summer (I’d told her about the job when I applied), handed me a Vermont quarter one morning. Later that afternoon, I was called for the telephone interview. The next week, while also volunteering, I picked up a quarter off a cart that I was moving. Guess what, it too was a Vermont quarter. That day when I got home, I had a message on my answering machine inviting me up for an interview. God works in mysterious ways. And it could have just been coincidence, but I will always believe it was God telling me, “Be patient, I’ve got you covered on this one.”

James 1:2-8 states, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” When I lost my job, I was devastated but realized that that when I “face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy.” I realized that losing that job was a blessing. When I asked for wisdom about interview techniques, I received perfect advice from an amazing friend.

Having this understanding about what trials can accomplish enables us to have a joyful attitude toward such trials. To truly turn trials into triumph, we must let patience do it’s work. Too often, we want to get our trials or difficulties over with quickly, but there are times when the best course is to bear up under the trial patiently. Instead of grumbling and complaining, patiently endure the trial, doing good despite the trial. When we experience rejection of any kind, we must show patience and let our own good work and righteousness speak for us. When patience has the opportunity to work, it produces maturity. In James 1:4, the word “perfect” does not mean that we must be sinless; Romans 3:23 states that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” instead perfect means “completeness, wholeness, and maturity.”

We should remember that Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The chorus of the hymn “He Lives” says, “He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.” Life may have its difficulties and sometimes they may seem like it is more than we can handle, but we must keep our faith, we must pray to God, and we must remember that God is with us every step of the way.

I’m going to close with a poem that was much beloved by my grandmother:

Footprints In The Sand
by Mary Stevenson

One night I had a dream.
I dreamed I was walking along the beach
with the Lord..

Across the sky flashed scenes from my life..
For each scene, I noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord..

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me
and I questioned the Lord about it:
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why
when I need you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied:
“My precious child, I love you and would
never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then
that I carried you.”

These last six years, God has tested me, but not so much that I could not bear it. There was a reason for His tests, and I know that I am a better Christian for this journey. He has strengthened me. I have triumphed over adversity, and he has provided me with a way out of the quicksand that was slowly killing me as it drug me under. There is still a lot to do as my time in Alabama grows shorter, but God arrived with the rope to pull me out of the quicksand just when I needed him most.

Moment of Zen: Cats


Updates: Overwhelmed, but Excited and Hopeful

Searching for an apartment 1350 miles away is not easy. I just want a decent apartment, but apparently in Vermont, apartment complexes are few and far between, at least in the part of Vermont where I will be living. Luckily, my new place of employment has some resources to help with locating a place to live. Internet searches seem to just scratch the surface of what’s out there. I’ll call tomorrow and get into the university’s system and then I can use their resources. I may have to fly up next week and do some searching. The other option is to pack the car, drive up, crash at the house of my new boss or my coworkers (they all offered me a place to crash), and then find a place.  

By the way, if I haven’t said this before, I will be working with an amazing group of people. Each has told me how excited they are that I will be joining them as part of their team, and each has offered assistance in any way possible. While I have only met them in person for two days, I feel like I already know them. They welcomed me from the very beginning. Apparently, when the committee (which is the whole museum staff of four) voted, the vote was unanimous in my favor.

The logistics of everything will be worked out in the next week. I feel sure of it. I’ll find out tomorrow when my probable start date will be. HR would like for me to start at the beginning of a pay period, so I’m guessing that means I will likely have one of two dates to choose from since the university has pay periods starting every two weeks. As soon as I get home from my doctor’s appointment, I’ll give HR a call.

Have I mentioned that all of this is a little overwhelming? Very exciting, but overwhelming.

Also, I wanted to thank all of you for your prayers. Miss E pulled through the surgery better than the doctors could have hoped. She’s a truly remarkable woman. At 101, she’s got spunk. I saw her yesterday, and she was giving them hell. Not in a mean malicious way, but she wants to do things her way. She’s nice about it, but she lets them know nonetheless. When they attached the blood/oxygen monitor to her finger, she did not like that and removed it four times. She finally gave up trying to take it off when I told her that she had to have it on and that they would just come and put it back on. She didn’t believe her daughter when she said that. The pain medication had her a bit disoriented, but she had amazing moments of clarity. When I left, she asked me when I would be leaving for Vermont.  

She is elderly and fragile, but I’d never call her weak. Of course she isn’t out of the woods yet, but we will keep praying, and I hope all of you will as well. One of these days, God willing, she’s going to break the record for the oldest living woman. Of course, she will never admit it. She hasn’t been truthful about her age for over 80 years. You see, she was a few years older than her husband. In her day, women didn’t marry younger men, so she shaved off a few years. There is no doubt what her age really is, but she’ll tell you she’s 98. At her 101st birthday party, she admitted that she might be 100, but like her driver’s license she claims that is wrong. Her version is that they put the wrong date on her birth certificate. On her 100th birthday she claimed for weeks leading up to it that she was only 95, then she remembered that she’d already had a big celebration for that milestone, so she changed it to 97. So we through a huge 97th birthday party.

I’m so glad that she made it through the surgery and as long as things continue to improve, then she is likely to make it through this. The fight will come from her not wanting to go to rehab for physical therapy. She will insist that she go home and they come to her. She will get her way too, because at 101, you’ve earned the right to have it your way. Besides, she can afford it, she owns one of the largest cattle farms in the county. Her late husband collected land like some people collect stamps. Honestly, you’d never know it. She worked all her life, as did her late husband. I doubt she knows her true monetary worth, but for all who know her, she is priceless.

Thank You 

I was so humbled by the outpouring of love and support yesterday. Not only did I get more comments in a single day than I think I have ever had on a post, but on top of that, many of you sent emails. It means a lot, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is comforting to know that people really do care. It gives me hope for this world to see so many of you who share in someone else’s happiness.

This will be a short post, because even though I’m still smiling, I woke up yesterday morning to an intense headache. I’m sure it was from all the emotions Tuesday, even though all good, it was still an emotional day. Sometimes when I become overwhelmed by emotions, I get headaches.

It’s still a bit hard to believe, and I think I’m in a bit of shock. I’m eager to get moved, settled, and start my new job.
We all know the power of prayer, and I have a major prayer request for everybody. My 101 year old neighbor fell and broke her hip yesterday. She’s a very special woman. When I was a kid, she worked at a candy kitchen and kept divinity just for when I’d come over. She’s always been very independent and still gets out in her rose garden and sits in a little chair as she cuts the grass at the perfect height with a pair of scissors. When I told her Tuesday that I’d be moving to Vermont, she cried and it broke my heart, but she knows it’s the best thing for me. A broken hip isn’t easy for anyone but it’s especially hard on someone her age. She will have surgery today but because of her advanced age and other medical conditions the doctors cannot put her to sleep for it. Please pray for Miss E, she needs all the strength our prayers can provide.

New England State of Mind 


I received a call yesterday afternoon. The museum director, who’ve I’ve talked to several times over the past few weeks, called and said, “We’d like you to join our team.” I was overjoyed. She wanted me to think it over, but she said that everyone thought I was the perfect person for the job. I have been thinking it over a lot. I’ve prayed about it, and I knew that if this was what was in God’s plan for me then it would happen. I will call later this morning and officially accept the job and begin the process of finding a place to live.

Vermont, here I come. I’ve read what a lot of people say about how rural Vermont is, how unfriendly the people are, and how cold the winters will be. I grew up in a rural area and currently live in a rural area. I am more comfortable here than in a huge city, but Vermont is also one of the most liberal states in the country. Also, everyone I met was incredibly friendly. I realize that I will always be a “flatlander” but I’m ok with that. No one who ever moves to Alabama would ever be a true Alabamian. It’s part of the culture of the United States. As for the winters, I realize that they will be brutal, but I also know one thing, I have always loved cold weather. I hate the heat and humidity of the South. If there were three things I could change about the South, they’d be: the heat, the politics, and the racism. All are so ugly and hateful and cause people to be crazy.

So I am beyond excited to be moving. This is a dream job. It is doing something I love and am very good at, but it is also something that I never thought I’d have the chance to do. I may be teaching some, but I also may not be. We haven’t really discussed that. While I’ll be working at a university, I’ll be working in the university’s museum, not in the classroom. I’m good with that. The last five years teaching high school has traumatized me as far as classrooms go, though college students are always better to teach. The point is, I will be a historian. I didn’t spend all those years in undergrad and grad school studying history not to be a real historian, now that will actually be in my job title.

I’m going to ask today if they will offer a moving compensation package, but since that has not been mentioned, I don’t think it is likely, which means that it will take most of my savings to move and get settled. However, if anyone who reads this has any leads on a place to rent in central Vermont that is affordable, please let me know. Just send me an email ( Any help in this regard would be greatly appreciated. I’m told that the university’s HR department is wonderfully helpful with finding places for people to live, but any additional help would be appreciated too.

My happiness cannot be fully expressed in words. When I first saw the announcement for this job, I thought I was the right fit. When I met the staff at the museum, I knew I was the right fit. I just had to convince them of that, and apparently I did. I look forward to moving, I look forward to a new life, and I look forward to living openly (again) as a gay man.

Out of all the joy over the job, and the congratulations from family and friends, there was one thing that happened yesterday that will stay in my memory forever. It something that made me very happy because it was something in all the years of my life, I’d never heard. I’ve had many accomplishments, and quite a few failures. My father never failed to point out those failures. He’s a man who means the words he speaks, but he is not a man who has ever praised his son for a job well done. He would always say that I could have done better. Yet yesterday when I called to tell him that I got the job, his response was, “I’m proud of you.” Not once in my life, when I kept a 4.0 GPA though high school and graduated valedictorian, when I graduated college with honors, when I graduated with my master’s, or any of the other accomplishments of my life has he ever said he was proud of me, but yesterday he did, and words can’t express how that made me feel. My daddy is proud of me. I know that may sound childish to be so happy about that, but I’ve waited nearly thirty-eight years to hear those four words. Yesterday, I heard them.

I hope you all realize that, while I’ve had the nickname of “The Professor” for many years now, I won’t be in the closet anymore, so my blog title, won’t be very accurate. Hmmmm, any suggestions?

Ut Pictura, Poesis

Self-Portrait at 36 w/ David
By Ellen Hagan

Barnegat Light, New Jersey—April 4, 2015

Because looking at myself w/ out you beside me is unnatural
& though the light is all wrong—your camera slung & up

the light feels right to me, warm & soft, your chest pressed
towards my back, both our heads angling towards the dock,

boat slips on the bay—all the scallops secure in the sea still,
their bone-less bodies soft. & our own getting softer each day.

Sometimes the mirror makes our features fun-house style
& we’re way more old age than the teen age we most times feel,

or the slight of shutter promises supple & smooth, where edge
& ravine & straight up wrinkle have arrived & settled in

like vulnerable house guests we don’t have the heart to kick out.
How comfortable they’ve become all over our fine faces

& my neck—how they’ve become familiar w/ our privacy. How
we’ve begun to cradle them. Stitch & loom. In the photograph

there we are—chins tilted towards one another, mouths closed

& turned up. A type of satisfaction dead in this middle we’re both in.

Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City
By Jennifer Grotz

The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.

Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman

at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound

along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.

Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,

finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.

I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.

All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,

one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.

The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.

I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.

Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,

and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.

Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how lopsided they
are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.

Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still with you.
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.

About These Poem:

When writing about “Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City,” Jennifer Grotz said, “Ut pictura, poesis: as with painting, so with poetry, the saying goes, and perhaps this is why from time to time poets, like painters, use the exercise of the self-portrait to practice seeing. If either the poet or the painter is lucky, sight leads to insight. In this unabashedly autobiographical poem, I use a shop window on a busy street, not a mirror, to view myself, and though my poem aims for truthful precision, I think it renders what, I’m convinced more and more, poems are meant to achieve, that is: registering what it feels like to pass through time.” I agree that poems are meant to evoke feelings; it’s the main thing that draws me to poetry. A hundred people can read the same poem, and each would probably have a different meaning. We tend to focus on what the “experts,” that is those literature professors and literary critics tell us what a poem is about, but a good poem as in any art form, it speaks differently to each person.

In another self-portraits through poetry, Ellen Hagan presents a very different picture. In her comments on “Self-Portrait at 36 w/ David,” she says, “There is something both jarring and seductive about the aging process—a thrill to be gathering years and moments and history (and hopefully wisdom), but too a railing against the media’s constant perception of youth and how to hang onto it. Writing has forever been a balm against all that keeps me awake at night. I look forward to writing the poems that will surely harness all the years to come.” My grandmother used to always say that you are only as old as you feel. In a way, this poem shows how the author sees herself as a woman who is young at heart, even if she looks older than she feels.

These are two very different portraits and two very different poems in content, though they have some grammatical similarities. Yet both are self portraits and tell how the poet sees herself.


One thing I admire most in this world is the ability to be multilingual. Obviously I am a native English speaker, who speaks a dialect from the region of south Alabama. Most people would associate my accent/dialect with that of the Southeastern United States, but many southerners can tell certain distinctions in pronunciations and regions. People have always told me that I have a nice southern accent. It was interesting to me when I was up north for my recent interview to talk to my very cute and sexy taxi driver, because he made a very interesting remark. He asked me where I was from, and I said Alabama. He said, “I knew you weren’t from here because you pronounce your words so clearly.” I told him I don’t think a southerner has ever been told they speak more clearly than anyone else. We tend to be told that we drop certain consonants and even syllables or add extra vowels. It’s nice to know I speak clearly and am easy to understand especially since that would be a major component of my job up there.

However, back to being multilingual, I can speak a little Spanish and very little Italian and French, the last two just enough to say I don’t speak the language and to order food. With Spanish I am able to read the language to a certain extent though I need a dictionary for more than just a summary translation. I’m sure with Spanish, I probably could with a lot of work and usage be able to speak it functionally but I rarely use it. The same might be true of Italian because it is very similar, but I always had a major problem with learning French. However, if I am around someone speaking any of these three languages enough, I can get a basic understanding of what is being said, though not a word for word translation nor can I effectively respond in that language. 

Languages and linguistics have always fascinated me. When I studied African history, I was always interested in how historians used linguistics to determine migration patterns, especially of the Bantu people.. The same is true with Native American history, such as how the Iroquois of New York and Canada have a similar language to the Cherokee of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Similar enough in fact that the Tuscarora broke from the Cherokee and became part of the Iroquois. No one really knows how the two can have such a similar language but be geographically disconnected from each other, but they both belong to the Algonquin language family while the Native Americans surrounding the Cherokee belong largely to the Muskogean language family.  

I would love to have the intelligence to be able to study linguistics. The origins of language, historical linguistics, and anthropological linguistics fascinate me, but I have never been able to catch on to different languages. Some people have the unique ability to easily pick up languages and young children have a remarkable ability to absorb different languages more easily, but as we get older our brains can no longer do so as easily. I have always found it sad that Americans are so xenophobic to languages other than English. More than half of the United States was once Spanish speaking, a fourth was French speaking, and all of it was made up of thousands of different languages before Europeans arrived, but the eastern seaboard and the English colonies that became the United States came to dominate and require English as the only language, even though the United States has no official language.

English speaking Americans, and this time I do include Canadians, forced assimilation on non-English speakers to learn the English language. The Canadians failed with Quebec, and French and English became the official languages of Canada, but the United States was largely successful (except in Louisiana which has retained French, Cajun, and English), though English is still most widely spoken This assimilation campaign led to the extinction of many Native languages and the loss of immigrants retaining their language but not until the languages of non-English speakers influenced and infiltrated American English enough to make it a very distinct dialect from that of British English. 

Many countries require that children from the time they begin school to learn a second language. In many countries that second language is English because English has become the lingua franca of business around the globe. Americans use this as an excuse to not require students to be bilingual, which I find a shame and a disgrace to the American education system. There is no reason that we cannot begin in preschool or kindergarten teaching students a second language, when they are still young enough to learn another language easily. 

I sort of got on a rant here, but I had begun thinking about this as I was reading about the Basque language, which has no known ancestral language. This is known as a language isolate. Only a few such languages are spoken by a significant population, Basque is the second largest language isolate, Korean is the largest language isolate with more speakers (80 million) which is more than all other speakers of a language isolate combined. As I was thinking about this, I began to think how much I admire people who can easily pick up a language. Science fiction, with its alien races, always has linguistics experts, or a “universal translator,” the cheat sheet for linguistics. On Stargate, there was Daniel Jackson who seemed to know every ancient language on Earth. In the Star Trek universe, Hoshi was a language expert on Enterprise, while in the new reboot of Star Trek, Uhura is a linguistics expert, but was merely a communications officer in the original Star Trek. 

I love being a historian, but I greatly admire linguists. I think if more people understood the science of linguistics, then I think more people would want to know more than one language. It always angers me when xenophobic Americans refuse to even think about learning another language. These same people do not want to visit other countries or learn about other cultures. It reminds me of the Chinese of the Middle Ages who sent out explorers only to return and say that China was far superior and nothing worth knowing existed outside of China. Knowledge is power, and knowledge of languages is even more powerful.

I know this was an off the wall post, but sometimes I just like writing what’s on my mind and this was on my mind last night.