“Johnnie – watch your spelling and number your pages – everyone gets confused when they read your letters.”
—MAGGIE D, 1969 correspondence with her son



Reaching ‘Montaup’

Longtime Sun Valley
employee finishes
book about growing up
in New England

July 26, 2017

“Reaching Montaup,” a novel by longtime Sun Valley Resort employee John DePasquale, has had its final version published in June of this year. The book took years for DePasquale to complete, and in the telling has grown to include ties to Sun Valley and Ernest Hemingway.

Upon beginning to read Boise resident John DePasquale’s debut novel, “Reaching Montaup”—written under the pseudonym J. Dominic—some readers might wonder if the author had finished high school: grammatical and syntactic oddities abound, and thoughts seem disjointed.

The asymmetric prose may be forgiven, considering it becomes clear the narrator—a young boy named Jate Tavino—is skull-plated, growth-stunted and generally “rattled” after a childhood traffic accident in his fictional Rhode Island hometown of Sowams.

The book follows Jate’s attempts through writing to make sense of his life and events in it, including a molestation by a local priest that causes parents to conspire, mobsters to appear and the recollection as stated in the prologue that Montaup—the indigenous name of an actual Rhode Island landmark known today as Mount Hope—had a brutal, colonial past.

DePasquale, though not a permanent resident of the Wood River Valley, has counted Sun Valley as a second home since he first rolled into town in 1982 to work for Sun Valley Resort—which is where he first started working on the novel.

“When I first traveled to town, I knew I wanted to write a novel about some childhood experiences,” DePasquale said. “But I didn’t really know how to go about it.”

He started banging out the first draft on a typewriter in his room in a cabin on Sabala Street at the base of Baldy in Ketchum.

The book went through numerous starts and stops over the next roughly 20 years, as DePasquale returned in summers to work for Sun Valley, where he did everything including operating lifts and maintaining trails to working in the grounds and food department.

“I’m a classical seasonal employee,” DePasquale said.

Bits of the novel coalesced at the base of Baldy in 1982, in the Lookout fire tower on top of Baldy in 1997 and elsewhere in the U.S. he traveled.

It wasn’t until 2002, when he joined the Dangerous Writers Workshop in Portland under the eye of author Tom Spanbauer—whom DePasquale met at the Community Library in Ketchum, where Spanbauer convinced him to attend the workshop—that the novel began to take true shape.

“That’s really when things changed dramatically,” DePasquale said. “You think you’re going to write about one thing, and it evolves into something completely different.”

A little help from Hemingway

Along with Spanbauer, an unexpected source of literary aid appeared for DePasquale in the form of a photograph of writer Ernest Hemingway hanging on the walls of the Sun Valley Lodge. It was a photo of Hemingway working on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at the lodge.

In 2015, DePasquale reunited with his friend Ned Carson, a fellow Sun Valley employee who had worked with DePasquale in the 1980s. Carson revealed he was working with the Holding family—which owns the resort—to hang artwork and photos throughout the lodge.

The photo of Hemingway—which was purported to have been taken in the second-floor suite where Hemingway had stayed—was due to hang in the suite. Upon learning DePasquale was in the process of finishing his novel, Carson suggested they try to find the exact spot where Hemingway had sat for the photo.

Upon looking at the photo more closely, Carson and DePasquale realized the photo couldn’t have been taken in the suite, because the landscape scene in the background didn’t match the view from the suite.

They realized the photo must have been taken on the third-floor terrace—after ascending there, they were able to match the background in the photo with the view from the third floor. That experience gave DePasquale the inspiration needed to finish his novel revisions, and to include an anecdote about the photo in the novel.

Finding Jate’s voice

Much of DePasquale’s struggle with the book was with finding the proper voice for Jate, the brain-damaged and language-struggling narrator.

He called finding Jate’s voice a “Huckleberry Finn” problem.

“I wanted it to appear genuinely written by someone who was struggling with the language, much like Huck would have done,” DePasquale said. “What would Huck’s actual manuscript have looked like?”

Through working with editors and readers, DePasquale eventually found the right balance for his book between Jate’s idiosyncratic voice and readers actually being able to discern the language.

“I was learning how to write correctly incorrect,” DePasquale said.

He likened the process to a sculptor like Michelangelo finding the right piece of rock in a quarry and having to lug it back to his studio.

“That is the hardest part. I had to get the rock—once I had that, the next challenge was releasing what it contained,” he said. “The book has a lot of prose anomalies that are intentional, and we wanted there to be a logic to it.”

DePasquale feels he must have found the right balance. Some reader reviews on sites such as Amazon and elsewhere are comparing the book to works by luminaries such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Japan’s Haruki Murakami. DePasquale said he found patchwork inspiration from figures such as Robert Frost, ee cummings, Cormac McCarthy, Bob Dylan and Shakespeare.

“The narrator is using writing to put his life back together, and his struggle should be revealed in the way the prose unfolds,” DePasquale said. “It’s a story about writing.”

*The original Mountain Express article incorrectly states the word
“Montaup” to be an  intentional narrative misspelling.
That ‘misunderstanding’ has been corrected in this reprinting.


The Old Oaken Bucket

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view! 
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,
And every loved spot that my infancy knew; 
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell; 
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e’en the rude bucket which hung in the well: 
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, 
The moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well! 

That moss-covered vessel I hail as a treasure;
For often at noon, when returned from the field, 
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that Nature can yield. 
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell, 
Then soon, with the emblem of truth over-flowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well: 
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, 
The moss-covered bucket, arose from the well! 

How sweet from the green, mossy brim to receive it,
As, poised on the curb, in inclined to my lips! 
Not a full, blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
Though filled with the nectar that Jupiter sips. 
And now, far-removed from the loved situation,
The tear of regret will intrusively swell, 
As fancy returns to my father’s plantation,
And sighs for the bucket which hands in the well: 
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket, 
The moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well!


Jate Listens
Jate Sings

Non-web links, but you may go to the web, and link:

—JPM DECKERS, The Singing Nun

Jet Song

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
—Traditional, sung by Jate and his dad

Something’s Coming

The Tales Of Hoffmann
—OFFENBACH, Tanglewood Orchestra

Hansel And Gretel: Evening Prayer
—HUMPERDINCK, Tanglewood Orchestra

A Lark Ascending
—VAUNGH WILLIAMS, Tanglewood Orchestra

and Dig
Modern Jazz Quartet: JOHN LEWIS, MILT JACKSON,

Do-Re-Me, Doe A Deer
—ROGERS & HAMMERSTEIN, sung by Julie Andrews

—SHERMAN BROTHERS, sung by Julie Andrews

Mona Lisa
—EVANS & LIVINGSTON, sung by Nat King Cole

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer

Shine On, Harvest Moon
—BAYES & NORWORTH, sung by MistaCogg

I Love You, A Bushel And A Peck
—FRANK LOESSER, sung by Jate and his dad

I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo
—GLEN MILLER, sung by Bartenda Tweet

Rock Island
—MEREDITH WILSON, sung by the male cast

Tom, Dick, Or Harry
—COLE PORTER, sung by Ann Miller

Tea For Two
—YOUMANS & CAESAR, sung by Lynn Wazzalewski

Like A Rolling Stone

Tamborine Man

Maggie’s Farm

Bob Dylan’s 115 Dream

I’m Henery The Eighth, I Am

Hang On Sloopy
—FARRELL & BERNS, sung by The McCoys

Sounds Of Silence

Che Gelida Manina
—PUCCINI, sung by Enrico Caruso

Cool & Something’s Coming: Reprise
—BERNSTEIN & SONDHEIM, sung by Jate and Pruney

Gregorian Chants
Liturgical, sung by FatherMarchado, choir, and congregation

Feed The Birds
—SHERMAN BROTHERS, sung by Julie Andrews


The following essay reveals four major themes in Reaching Montaup:

  • You’re never so close as when you’re far away
  • We must strive for perspective gained in the larger narrative in order to understand.
  • The key to understanding is knowing how to articulate the unsaid.
  • “Maturity is moving from the close-up to the landscape, focusing less on your own supposed strengths and weaknesses and more on the sea of empathy in which you swim, which is the medium necessary for understanding others, one’s self, and survival.”


Introspective or Narcissistic*

Friday, August 8, 2014

The answer to that question might be found in whether you keep a journal.

Some people like to keep a journal. Some people think it’s a bad idea.

People who keep a journal often see it as part of the process of self-understanding and personal growth. They don’t want insights and events to slip through their minds. They think with their fingers and have to write to process experiences and become aware of their feelings.

People who oppose journal-keeping fear it contributes to self-absorption and narcissism. C.S. Lewis, who kept a journal at times, feared that it just aggravated sadness and reinforced neurosis. Gen. George Marshall did not keep a diary during World War II because he thought it would lead to “self-deception or hesitation in reaching decisions.”

The question is: How do you succeed in being introspective without being self-absorbed?

Psychologists and others have given some thought to this question. The upshot of their work is that there seems to be a paradox at the heart of introspection. The self is something that can be seen more accurately from a distance than from close up. The more you can yank yourself away from your own intimacy with yourself, the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be.

The problem is that the mind is vastly deep, complex and variable. As Immanuel Kant famously put it, “We can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action.” At the same time, your self-worth and identity are at stake in every judgment you make about yourself.

This combination of unfathomability and “at stakeness” is a perfect breeding ground for self-deception, rationalization and motivated reasoning.

When people examine themselves from too close, they often end up ruminating or oversimplifying. Rumination is like that middle-of-the-night thinking — when the rest of the world is hidden by darkness and the mind descends into a spiral of endless reaction to itself. People have repetitive thoughts, but don’t take action. Depressed ruminators end up making themselves more depressed.

Oversimplifiers don’t really understand themselves, so they just invent an explanation to describe their own desires. People make checklists of what they want in a spouse and then usually marry a person who is nothing like their abstract criteria. Realtors know that the house many people buy often has nothing in common with the house they thought they wanted when they started shopping.

We are better self-perceivers if we can create distance and see the general contours of our emergent system selves — rather than trying to unpack constituent parts. This can be done in several ways.

First, you can distance yourself by time. A program called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing had victims of trauma write down their emotions right after the event. (The idea was they shouldn’t bottle up their feelings.) But people who did so suffered more post-traumatic stress and were more depressed in the ensuing weeks. Their intimate reflections impeded healing and froze the pain. But people who write about trauma later on can place a broader perspective on things. Their lives are improved by the exercise.

Second, we can achieve distance from self through language. We’re better at giving other people good advice than at giving ourselves good advice, so it’s smart, when trying to counsel yourself, to pretend you are somebody else. This can be done a bit even by thinking of yourself in the third person. Work by Ozlem Ayduk and Ethan Kross finds that people who view themselves from a self-distanced perspective are better at adaptive self-reflection than people who view themselves from a self-immersed perspective.

Finally, there is narrative. Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia suggests in his book “Strangers to Ourselves” that we shouldn’t see ourselves as archaeologists, minutely studying each feeling and trying to dig deep into the unconscious. We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story. The narrative form is a more supple way of understanding human processes, even unconscious ones, than rationalistic analysis.

Wilson writes, “The point is that we should not analyze the information [about our feelings] in an overly deliberate, conscious manner, constantly making explicit lists of pluses and minuses. We should let our adaptive unconscious do the job of finding reliable feelings and then trust those feelings, even if we cannot explain them entirely.”

Think of one of those Chuck Close* self-portraits. The face takes up the entire image. You can see every pore. Some people try to introspect like that. But others see themselves in broader landscapes, in the context of longer narratives about forgiveness, or redemption or setback and ascent. Maturity is moving from the close-up to the landscape, focusing less on your own supposed strengths and weaknesses and more on the sea of empathy in which you swim, which is the medium necessary for understanding others, one’s self, and survival.

*Charles Thomas “Chuck” Close (born July 5, 1940) is an American painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist, through his massive-scale portraits. Though a catastrophic spinal artery collapse in 1988 left him severely paralyzed, he has continued to paint and produce work that remains sought after by museums and collectors. Close lives and works on the south shore of Long Island, and New York City’s East Village and in Bridgehampton, New York. His first wife was Leslie Rose with whom he has two daughters.They divorced in 2011 and Close is now married to artist Sienna Shields.


Living in the
Shadows of


For many years I have lived in the shadows of mountains, the Rocky Mountains of Ketchum, Idaho, my adopted home. But no shadows have ever loomed larger than the ones cast by my mother and father.

When I was a child, my dad cut an extremely imposing figure; he lorded over my siblings and me with such a commanding presence that each of us would tremble at his slightest glare. He raised us with his boulder fists and rose above circumstances like a towering stone pillar.

Yet, despite his undeniable granite methods, my dad had a soft touch that has taken a lifetime to understand and appreciate. As an adult, I have no difficulty recognizing the good and wonderful things my father conveyed, yet as a child, I never stood far enough beyond his shadow to fully see the man who projected it. Now, thirty-some-odd-years past my teens, and with twenty-five hundred miles between us, I have achieved a reasonable perspective and, comparatively speaking, the view is unique and impressive.

Dad was always working, not one job, but two. He was in no sense a workaholic; his predicament can be summed up simply: a wife, and seven children. Dad spent most of his time — sixteen hours a day, Mondays through Saturdays — working.

In spite of his grueling regime, Daddy reserved Sundays, not only for his children but for their friends as well. Pals were always allowed an outing with our family to the Rhode Island School of Design art museum, or to a frigid afternoon of sledding at the Barrington Country Club, or to a Crescent Park midway romp. Our Sunday activities were endless, and quite often, literally priceless. 

Since we didn’t have money, Dad took advantage of the myriad free activities offered throughout Little Rhody and the surrounding areas: various Boston museums, band concerts in Roger William’s Park, zoos in Pawtucket and Attleboro, or scampering on the battleship decks of the U.S.S Massachusetts — these were the highlights. Standard fare was driving under the Mount Hope Bridge and running around on the rocks, fishing for flats off the Bristol State Street Pier, or riding around Colt’s Drive to watch the waves, the ships and the seagulls.

Picnics and hot dog roasts were quite common on a summer’s eve. Sometimes Mom would spend all Sunday afternoon broiling a family delectable: crispy chicken. Then, with beach bags loaded and lemonade jugs full, the entire family would head for the brine off Newport’s Ten Mile Drive where feasting, tide pooling, and the ocean’s majesty made us forget who we were and cause us to wonder what the poor folk did for fun.

For hot dog roasts, my dad had a very special place off Mount Hope Bay in the Bristol Narrows. This spot was particularly endearing to him because when he was a boy he used to camp there, at The Teepees, so called because of the half dozen or so huge permanently erected Indian shelters. On the rocky shores beyond this camp, a freshwater brook trickled from the surrounding woods and streamed into the bay. Our tribe would march to this estuary, plop down our picnic fare, gather driftwood and start a roaring blaze. In the evening twilight, fireflies blinked, frogs sang, and waves lapped endlessly. It was here that I learned to love blackened hot dogs, campfire-baked potatoes, and tawny-roasted marshmallows sagging off a willow stick.

These evenings usually began with the chaotic excitement of trying to organize us, but they always ended with the babies asleep on the blankets, and the older children seated around the glowing coals — hushed by a rising moon, and calmed by an incoming tide.

And yet, I do not think it was just the fire, moon, and tide that lulled us content. I also recall fog rolling-in, the droll of boat engines, and the lonesome toll of channel buoys. But mostly, I remember Mom and Dad, not only absorbed in the serenity but also lost in each other: Mom and Dad at peace. This is a potent memory, a husband, and wife in love.

I recall another occasion where the mystery of my parents’ love impressed me.

In 1974 they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. During that summer I was employed at the town beach as a maintenance worker. Each morning at around seven, my partners and I would hit the beach with rakes and wheelbarrows and clean the shoreline of seaweed and debris. Just before sunrise on the morning of my parent’s anniversary, I awoke, rode my bike to the local coffee shop, and proceeded to the beach with my cup of joe in hand. It was my aim to enjoy my hot drink in the stillness of dawn before the usual beach crowd stole the solitude.

The June morning was cool and the tide was low. A few seagulls trotted on the sand and a quahog skiff droned full throttle as it headed into the bay. At the furthest end of the beach, a teenage couple strolled arm in arm and splashed at the water’s edge. I smiled thinking that they had probably been on a date that night and had yet to return home. The way they were holding each other — being playful, being silly — made me envious. For a few moments, I wanted very much to be that guy in the company of that special gal. Then they were finally close enough for me to realize that he was my dad, and she was my mom; imagine my surprise.

When we were teens, my brothers, sisters and I, rarely saw my parents in the unencumbered company of each other. Usually, Mom and Dad were preoccupied with one of the babies; there was always a baby, or endless groceries, or a relative — an aunt or uncle, or my grandparents. Church activities and school functions. Bake sales and constant sewing projects. Car breakdowns, or someone ill and in need of medical attention — something or other always crowded between Mom and Dad.

Until that morning on the beach, I never saw them just relaxing. What I didn’t realize then, was it would be well over a dozen years before I would see such a sight again.

Ketchum, Idaho: 1982. Towering mountains and endless wildflower meadows. My brother Michael had chosen this ski resort town as his new home. I was visiting Michael, and our parents were going to be visiting us. Michael and I anticipated their arrival with much apprehension. Mom and Dad rarely left southern New England: they had never flown together in an airplane, and neither of them had ever seen the Rocky Mountains.

Their vacation proved ever so memorable for them, and equally as much fun for Mike and me. Dad’s endless awe of highways without guardrails winding through snow-capped Galena Summit at an altitude of eight thousand feet; Mom’s childlike fascination with fields of blooming fauna; for two weeks wherever she went, she carried bouquets of Indian Paint Brush, Blue Bells, and Lupine. But what I treasure most, was the joy derived from seeing these two people who had never put themselves above the needs of their children, finally have time-off from parenting, and indulge in each other; they went on picnics, joy rides; and, they went shopping.

One afternoon Mom asked me if I liked the dress she was wearing.

I told her I liked it very much and then asked her if she had made it, especially for this trip. Her answer dumbfounded me. “I didn’t make this,” she said, “I bought it.”

“You bought that?” I asked, hardly believing my ears.

“Yes, I bought it.”

“In a store bought it?”

“Of course in a store; where else would I have bought it?”

I just stared and finally said, “Mom it’s beautiful. You look lovely.”

This was the first time I had ever seen my mother in a store-bought dress. For my twenty-nine years, the only dresses my mom ever wore were ones she had made for herself, usually with the material left over from sewing clothes for my sisters.

On that day, Mom was radiant.

It is a beautiful thing for a son to see his parents happy and together. In Idaho, I got to see just that. They were like two kids at summer camp. I will always cherish the memory of that vacation.

As I continue writing, random memories flow . . .

–Dad waking up on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons with us . . .

–Mom singing and dancing to her favorite Strauss waltzes . . .

–Dad giving Mom bear hugs in the kitchen . . .

–Mom herding two of my brothers, often my sister, and me, to monthly Cub Scout pack meetings. This always involved sewing badges to uniforms, sorting arts & craft supplies, creating props, arranging theatrical costumes, rehearsing skits, and of course, baking the obligatory home treats for the post-meeting refreshments — usually a couple-dozen toll-house cookies, cupcakes with sprinkles, or a double-layered chocolate cake — frosted with sugared eggwhites, and dotted with melted Hersey’s Kisses.

–Then there was the time the kids in the neighborhood gang stole the apples from Mr. Direzo’s garden and eighty-year-old Direzo chased us through the marsh, on to side streets, and into our yards. Somehow Mom knew all about our mischief before the gang could reconnoiter, and she and the other moms made us march back to the apple tree and apologize to Mr. Direzo. Sure a whole gang of folks — other kids and their moms — was involved in that incident, but regardless, remembering it always makes me think specifically of my mom. She had a thing about her children respecting old folks, teachers, and the clergy, and she would often impose upon us the ultimatum —You’re going to show them respect whether they’ve earned it or not! 

–For the past ten years I have been a public school teacher and I can unequivocally state that America’s crisis in education would be substantially reduced — at no cost to a single taxpayer — if parents required their children swallow an occasional dose of such inexpensive medicine.

–Mom and Dad sponsoring several Saturday night parties for their teenage sons with ample food: turkey, roast beef, sausages, meatballs, ham and assorted cheeses, pastries, plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, and much loud music. All the kids from school having a great time. Everyone on Monday saying the parties were cool.

–Dad always providing late-night transportation from school activities for us and our friends, taxiing everyone to their front door and driveways, usually between the hours of 10 PM, and 1 AM . . . and he having to be up for work by 6 AM.

–Christmas trees and Christmas cookies. Christmas coffee cakes. Christmas presents and Christmas feasts, despite Dad’s sometimes Christmas unemployment.

–Dad emerging in a blizzard, calling out to my brother Philip and me who were struggling to deliver newspapers in our north-end neighborhood; Dad carrying the bag for us, encouraging us in the storm.

All of these memories swirl and linger, yet a much more prominent one still makes me shake my head and wonder, What were they ever thinking when they allowed that? I am referring to my family’s participation in The American Fellowship Foreign Exchange Program. During the 1968-69 school year, my parents hosted a student from Peru; he became an adopted member of our family. One year earlier my brother Joseph had been born — my mom’s seventh child. It is important to keep in mind that we, a family of nine — two parents and seven children — were living in a six-room, single bath, third floor flat. With our new Peruvian brother, we became a family of ten. Our home simply did not have enough beds, but the problem was easily remedied. Percy, the exchange student, was guaranteed a bed; baby Joey slept in a large wicker clothes basket, and a rotation schedule always reserved the living-room couch for one of the older kids. I don’t remember a single problem. As a matter of fact, I believe the total experience was one of the most rewarding episodes of our lives.

This highlight was actually part of a much larger community campaign dependent upon many local hardworking parents and students, dedicated teachers, service organizations, and international leaders. Their cooperative efforts culminated with a true exchange. My brother Philip traveled to Europe, Paul to Argentina, and I went to Peru. This bountiful year was without a doubt, our defining epoch, made possible only because my parents had a committed love for each other and a generous desire to enrich their children.

I am not sure that a memoir such as this ever has finality . . .

It is impossible to recall all the events. Some parade grandly. Some lurk in undefined shades. Yet others, however fleeting and distant, are clear and distinct. The cold sweat on a lemonade pitcher. The aroma of a Sunday afternoon tomato sauce. The pang of a crying infant.

Each is indelible nostalgia, and each is tucked away in those cryptic places that are stirred at the end of my day, usually in the winter, when the sun settles early behind the Rockies and the mountain shadows stretch east like unfolding granite fingers. The valley colors intensify. The sky reflects rich blue. The snow glows white. And the evergreen forests become a meadow upon which endless-summer wildflowers bloom. A delighted couple strolls. She wears a brand new dress. He never ceases to marvel at the world. And both want nothing, but the best for their children.

—1998 ©


A Poet’s Bible:
The Voices of
the Original Text


Psalm 101

The city of your love
sings through me
before you My Lord

you hold my writing hand
that makes my living
creative act

won’t you come to me?
I sit here in my house
with an open heart

no willful image
blocks the door,
I just won’t see

the theatrics of personality
the openness you allow

this art that hurts
those with ears for only jewelry
they go far away

locked within themselves
their self-flattery
I’ve reduced to silence

their narrow eyes
inflated prided
blown away

I’m always looking
for your people
to share this space

the contact of imagination
by necessity

beyond the stage doors
of weak characters
cut off from real streets

no more precious actors
consumed in sound
to litter this town with clichés

every morning
I silence with your light
desperate images

they run away
from the city of your name
that calls an open heart.


Sonnet 144

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And, whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,
But being both from me both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell.
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.


Lessons Learned While Picking Blackberries ©


  • The sweeter the berry, the heavier it hangs upon the vine
  • A sweet berry grows on a thorny vine
  • Look under the vines; the prize berry is often hidden
  • Stay within your reach; don’t overextend
  • Scratches are inevitable, so are berry stains
  • When in the thick of it, anticipate a struggle; and remember — it’s a berry!
  • Thick clothes are practical; thicker skin even more so
  • The ready berry falls into the hand
  • Be gentle, but firm; clutch with purpose
  • All the berries will not be gathered, so don’t try; accept limits
  • Berries pal with dirt, critters, and creatures; make friends with them too
  • Berries in a bag, or bucket, crush under the weight of their own goodness
  • The fringe berries are gathered first
  • A berry not picked at its time will fall to the ground, or wither on the vine; many berries will rot and yet, surprises abound
  • Every berry contains seeds
  • Seeds in the teeth annoy; seeds in fertile ground grow
  • A ripe berry sparkles and shines; a dull berry is often dry and useless; yet, eyes deceive
  • A picked berry sweetens the ones left on the vine
  • Unless you have changed perspectives, don’t quit the vines; walk around them


Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream

I was riding on the Mayflower
When I thought I spied some land
I yelled for Captain Arab
I have yuh understand
Who came running to the deck
Said, “Boys, forget the whale
Look on over yonder
Cut the engines
Change the sail
Haul on the bowline”
We sang that melody
Like all tough sailors do
When they are far away at sea

“I think I’ll call it America”
I said as we hit land
I took a deep breath
I fell down, I could not stand
Captain Arab he started
Writing up some deeds
He said, “Let’s set up a fort
And start buying the place with beads”
Just then this cop comes down the street
Crazy as a loon
He throw us all in jail
For carryin’ harpoons

Ah me I busted out
Don’t even ask me how
I went to get some help
I walked by a Guernsey cow
Who directed me down
To the Bowery slums
Where people carried signs around
Saying, “Ban the bums”
I jumped right into line
Sayin’, “I hope that I’m not late”
When I realized I hadn’t eaten
For five days straight

I went into a restaurant
Lookin’ for the cook
I told them I was the editor
Of a famous etiquette book
The waitress he was handsome
He wore a powder blue cape
I ordered some suzette, I said
“Could you please make that crepe”
Just then the whole kitchen exploded
From boilin’ fat
Food was flying everywhere
And I left without my hat

Now, I didn’t mean to be nosy
But I went into a bank
To get some bail for Arab
And all the boys back in the tank
They asked me for some collateral
And I pulled down my pants
They threw me in the alley
When up comes this girl from France
Who invited me to her house
I went, but she had a friend
Who knocked me out
And robbed my boots
And I was on the street again

Well, I rapped upon a house
With the U.S. flag upon display
I said, “Could you help me out
I got some friends down the way”
The man says, “Get out of here
I’ll tear you limb from limb”
I said, “You know they refused Jesus, too”
He said, “You’re not Him
Get out of here before I break your bones
I ain’t your pop”
I decided to have him arrested
And I went looking for a cop

I ran right outside
And I hopped inside a cab
I went out the other door
This Englishman said, “Fab”
As he saw me leap a hot dog stand
And a chariot that stood
Parked across from a building
Advertising brotherhood
I ran right through the front door
Like a hobo sailor does
But it was just a funeral parlor
And the man asked me who I was

I repeated that my friends
Were all in jail, with a sigh
He gave me his card
He said, “Call me if they die”
I shook his hand and said goodbye
Ran out to the street
When a bowling ball came down the road
And knocked me off my feet
A pay phone was ringing
It just about blew my mind
When I picked it up and said hello
This foot came through the line

Well, by this time I was fed up
At tryin’ to make a stab
At bringin’ back any help
For my friends and Captain Arab
I decided to flip a coin
Like either heads or tails
Would let me know if I should go
Back to ship or back to jail
So I hocked my sailor suit
And I got a coin to flip
It came up tails
It rhymed with sails
So I made it back to the ship

Well, I got back and took
The parkin’ ticket off the mast
I was ripping it to shreds
When this coastguard boat went past
They asked me my name
And I said, “Captain Kidd”
They believed me but
They wanted to know
What exactly that I did
I said for the Pope of Eruke
I was employed
They let me go right away
They were very paranoid

Well, the last I heard of Arab
He was stuck on a whale
That was married to the deputy
Sheriff of the jail
But the funniest thing was
When I was leavin’ the bay
I saw three ships a-sailin’
They were all heading my way
I asked the captain what his name was
And how come he didn’t drive a truck
He said his name was Columbus
I just said, “Good luck”

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music


Stopping by Woods on
a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.


I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land
The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love, laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o’er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.


the imperfect perfect

Reaching Montaup

— What’s ClaraLeeRossi fixin supper for her boys ?

— Just like Mom told me I needed should do.

— Such a good thing a river. When you dont know more. Whats left to be said.

— Give me each-a-these from the rack a bag-a-popcorn cheddacheese ta the boys.

— Then MistaCogg turning to Mom and Dad. And MistaJackCogg saying, She heard the kids playing. Just before she. She heard em. Her words. She said, So good. Hearin childrens voices. Now.

— Some said things are best said unsaid.

— I was discovering brave . . . A mom sending kids from the table. Into the what all of who knows whats out there? Somewhere in the world.

— Not ta say. But. Ya wanna learn the friggin dog track or let me shut up for a minute soze I can finish my story?

— MistaCogg isn’t talkin crazed . . . MistaCogg is talkin people . . . Who we are to all and each and everyone to one another.


The Tide Rises,
The Tide Falls


The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.


My Lost Youth


Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of a Lapland song
Is haunting my memory still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
And islands that were the Hesperides
Of all my boyish dreams.
And the burden of that old song,
It murmurs and whispers still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the black wharves and the slips,
And the sea-tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
And the magic of the sea.
And the voice of that wayward song
Is singing and saying still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
And the fort upon the hill;
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
The drum-beat repeated o’er and o’er,
And the bugle wild and shrill.
And the music of that old song
Throbs in my memory still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the sea-fight far away,
How it thundered o’er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o’erlooking the tranquil bay,
Where they in battle died.
And the sound of that mournful song
Goes through me with a thrill:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the breezy dome of groves,
The shadows of Deering’s Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
In quiet neighborhoods.
And the verse of that sweet old song,
It flutters and murmurs still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
Across the school-boy’s brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
Are longings wild and vain.
And the voice of that fitful song
Sings on, and is never still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

There are things of which I may not speak;
There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
And a mist before the eye.
And the words of that fatal song
Come over me like a chill:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

Strange to me now are the forms I meet
When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o’ershadow each well-known street,
As they balance up and down,
Are singing the beautiful song,
Are sighing and whispering still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,
And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”


“The rest is silence” ?
The rest is sound.
–J Dominic


Best we die hearing the voices of children
–J Dominic


Intelligence, like water, seeks its own level.
–J Dominic


My novel qualifies me to embrace the title “author”, but it’s the-more-than 55 rejection slips from agents that establish my credibility as “writer.”
–J Dominic











Excerpts From
Statements by
Abuse Victims and an
Expert on the Church

June 14, 2002

Following are excerpts from statements yesterday before the United States Conference of Bishops by two people who say they are victims of sexual abuse, Craig Martin and Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher, and the director of Notre Dame University’s Center for the Study of American Catholicism, Scott Appleby. The speeches by Mr. Martin and Ms. Rohrbacher were recorded by The New York Times. Mr. Appleby’s comments were taken from the Web site of the bishop’s conference. The full texts of the statements are online at nytimes.com/national.

Mr. Martin

I find it’s easier to tell my story using the name John Doe. I can revisit my pain and not hurt myself again. I found different stories that have helped me to understand my suffering. I’d like to share some of those today so that others may be helped.

In John’s late 20’s he meets his wife, Julie.

In John’s late 20’s he meets his wife, Julie. This is a start to his recovery, yet John has no idea. John’s wife brings him back to religion and also introduces him to a priest that helps in John’s recovery. I wish I could say recovery started here. But John wasn’t quite ready. John had to read an article out of Sports Illustrated dated Sept. 13, 1999, entitled ”Every Parents Nightmare.” This describes to John why he was in a position to be hurt. It goes like this:

”While society has no trouble envisioning the violent molester and the child who is forced to submit to a sexual predator, many people are baffled by how adult seducers are able to get kids to go along with them voluntarily. These men seduce children, in this case boys in exactly the same way men and women have been seducing each other since the dawn of mankind. In other words they flirt with them, laugh at their jokes, shower them with attention, with gifts, with affection. They size up their weaknesses, their vulnerability, their needs. They will target the kids who are more vulnerable.”

The amazing part of when I allowed John to talk about his abuser was how this man also offered kindness and love. How this man became John’s best friend. John has showed very little anger toward his abuser. I was amazed at who John directed his sorrow to. He directed his sorrow not at his abuser but at his parents.

John tells a story of how his abuser wants to take John fishing. The abuser asks John’s parents if it’s O.K. John’s parents thought it was a great idea for John to go on a fishing trip with a Catholic priest.

John talks of how his relationship with his parents changed. How he no longer trusted them. How alone he feels.

Mom and Dad, I’m terribly sorry for how I treated you. Please accept my apology. I know that only thing I have in my heart for you is love. I love you both dearly.

You see a child who is abused is put in a frightening and confusing situation. They may have never heard of anything like this happening. Nobody has told them it’s right. Nobody has told them it’s wrong. Everybody may like and respect the person who is doing these things.

John remembers this motel that night with the priest. But hardly anything else. John has no idea how he got home. It is only 35 years later that John is starting to remember what happened that horrible night.

Abused children often hide their anger and distress from others so that no one will suspect that they’re being abused. They may also keep their feelings under control while they’re being abused to protect themselves from feelings of distress and pain, or because they don’t want the abuser to see how much he is hurting them. Many adult survivors continue to cope by blocking feelings and trying to forget about the past.

Survivors often have a low opinion of themselves and lack self-confidence and self-esteem. They may feel worthless, useless and unloved. Many survivors put on a front and present themselves as capable, cheerful, confident, while feeling wretched inside. Survivors may be so overwhelmed by their low opinion of themselves and lack of confidence that they may suffer bouts of depression making them unable to act positively or find pleasure in things.

I say these words because they describe John’s feelings exactly. John became sexually active shortly after his abuse. John describes some very unhealthy attitudes toward women, admits to seeking out women in a predatory way. Alcohol also started to control John’s life. It was many years before he finally sought help for alcoholism.

Although sexual compulsivity and alcoholism had major effects on John, it was his need for self-esteem that’s kept him alive.

John still admits today to having low self-esteem. John has shown symptoms of low self-esteem, depression, anger and the need to control. John has been able to survive only because of his family, his friends, his children and the therapy he continues to go through.

Ms. Rohrbacher

When I was a little girl, my family, at the request of Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, befriended several Mexican seminarians who were students there. The seminary placed one of these young men with my family, who was also Hispanic, no doubt to ease his transition to life in the United States.

My mother, who regarded him as a son and encouraged my siblings and me to treat him as a brother, generously welcomed him into our family. We housed him over school holidays and summer vacations. The young seminarian that my family sponsored was named Jose. Our family situation was difficult when I was a child. My father died in 1960, leaving my mother a widow with 14- and 8-year-old sons and myself, age 5. During summer vacations she had no choice but to leave us at home while she worked.

The summer of 1967 Jose lived with us during his break from the seminary. He took advantage of my mother’s trust in him and sexually molested me.

As difficult as it is for me to reveal these deeply personal aspects of my life to you, and probably uncomfortable for you to hear, I feel it is important for you to understand the harm he did to me. Jose molested me by digital penetration of my vagina and fondling. I was terrified to do anything but keep quiet and not move while he violated me. He told me, ”Don’t tell Mom.”

Because I was afraid of Jose and the effect that I believed disclosing the abuse would have had on my family, I did not reveal his actions to anyone and hid my horror and shame for many years.

Because of his status as an adult, a man and as a future priest, I believed at the time and continued to believe for many years that the abuse was somehow my fault. Jose continued to be treated as a member of my family. My mother was a special guest at his ordination to the priesthood and was as proud of him as if he were her own son.

In 1984, when I was 29 years old and pregnant with my first child, Father Jose came to visit my husband and me in Juno, along with my mother. This visit precipitated a nervous breakdown. I disclosed the abuse to my husband after the visit and sought counseling at his urging.

Dr. Appleby

The root of the problem is the lack of accountability on the part of the bishops, which allowed a severe moral failure on the part of some priests and bishops to put the legacy, reputation and good work of the church in peril. The lack of accountability, in turn, was fostered by a closed clerical culture that infects the priesthood, isolating some priests and bishops from the faithful and from one another.

No one can safely generalize about a group as huge, complex and amorphous as the laity. It is also wrong to generalize about you, the bishops. Indeed, many of you are not only blameless in the current scandal — you have acted honorably in the incredibly difficult balancing act you are called upon to perform. You did not protect abusive priests, nor have you attempted to circle the wagons or clamp down on lay dissent when outraged parishioners and priests in recent months demanded accountability for episcopal misdeeds. Other bishops, however, have behaved atrociously, angering fellow bishops and priests, whose reputations have been tarnished by those whose actions have been marked by arrogance, lack of repentance, and repeated failure to be collegial and consultative, except in an upward direction . . .

Rome has been very cautious, to say the least, in granting authority to the national episcopal conferences, and I believe that the laity have or will have difficulty understanding what appears to be a counterproductive level of oversight. Please pardon the question, but it is a natural one: are you not trusted by the Vatican? It seems incredible to the interested outsider that on matters of faith and morals you would veer one millimeter from orthodoxy.

Those of you who are canon lawyers know the challenge of applying canon law within a specific local and national environment. The state and civil society in, say, Honduras, or Poland, present different challenges to the church than does the U.S. government and legal system.

To the extent possible, then, I urge you to formulate the policies that make the most sense for this environment, without anticipating how the Vatican might respond. Let Rome be Rome; it will be, in any case.

Photo: Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher of Alaska told of being abused by a seminarian. (Associated Press)



Most Everything
You Learned About
Is Wrong


November 21, 2017

Not to rain on our Thanksgiving Day parade, but the story of the first Thanksgiving, as most Americans have been taught it, is not exactly accurate.

Blame school textbooks with details often so abridged, softened or out of context that they are rendered false; children’s books that distill the story to its most pleasant version; or animated Thanksgiving television specials like “The Mouse on the Mayflower,” which first aired in 1968, that not only misinformed a generation, but also enforced a slew of cringeworthy stereotypes.

High school textbooks are particularly bad about stating absolutes because these materials “teach history” by giving students facts to memorize even when the details may be unclear, said James W. Loewen, a sociologist and the author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.”

“That mind-set pervades everything they talk about and certainly Thanksgiving,” he said.

The timeline is relative.

The Mayflower did bring the Pilgrims to North America from Plymouth, England, in 1620, and they disembarked at what is now Plymouth, Mass., where they set up a colony. In 1621, they celebrated a successful harvest with a three-day gathering that was attended by members of the Wampanoag tribe. It’s from this that we derive Thanksgiving as we know it.

But it wasn’t until the 1830s that this event was called the first Thanksgiving by New Englanders who looked back and thought it resembled their version of the holiday, said Kate Sheehan, a spokeswoman for ‘Plimoth Plantation’, a living history museum in Plymouth.

The holiday wasn’t made official until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared it as a kind of thank you for the Civil War victories in Vicksburg, Miss., and Gettysburg, Pa.

Beyond that, claiming it was the “first Thanksgiving” isn’t quite right either as both Native American and European societies had been holding festivals to celebrate successful harvests for centuries, Mr. Loewen said.

A prevalent opposing viewpoint is that the first Thanksgiving stemmed from the massacre of Pequot people in 1637, a culmination of the Pequot War. While it is true that a day of thanksgiving was noted in the Massachusetts Bay and the Plymouth colonies afterward, it is not accurate to say it was the basis for our modern Thanksgiving, Ms. Sheehan said.

And Plymouth, Mr. Loewen noted, was already a village with clear fields and a spring when the Pilgrims found it. “A lovely place to settle,” he said. “Why was it available? Because every single native person who had been living there was a corpse.” Plagues had wiped them out.

It wasn’t just about religious freedom.

It’s been taught that the Pilgrims came because they were seeking religious freedom, but that’s not entirely true, Mr. Loewen said.

The Pilgrims had religious freedom in Holland, where they first arrived in the early 17th century. Like those who settled Jamestown, Va., in 1607, the Pilgrims came to North America to make money, Mr. Loewen said.

“They were also coming here in order to establish a religious theocracy, which they did,” he said. “That’s not exactly the same as coming here for religious freedom. It’s kind of coming here against religious freedom.”

Also, the Pilgrims never called themselves Pilgrims. They were separatists, Mr. Loewen said. The term Pilgrims didn’t surface until around 1880.

There’s no evidence that native people were invited.

Possibly the most common misconception is that the Pilgrims extended an invitation to the Native Americans for helping them reap the harvest. The truth of how they all ended up feasting together is unknown.

“The English-written record does not mention an invitation, and Wampanoag oral tradition does not seem to reach back to this event,” Ms. Sheehan said. But there are reasons the Wampanoag leader could have been there, she said, adding: “His people had been planting on the other side of the brook from the colony. Another possibility is that after his harvest was gathered, he was making diplomatic calls.”

It is true that the celebration was an exceptional cross-cultural moment, with food, games and prayer.

The deadly conflicts that came after, though, created an undercurrent that is glossed over, Mr. Loewen said. Still, “we might as well take shards of fairness and idealism and so on whenever we find them in our past and recognize that and give credit to them,” he said.

The role of Squanto is complicated.

Tisquantum, known as Squanto, did play a large role in helping the Pilgrims, as American children are taught. His people, the Patuxet, a band of the Wampanoag tribe, had lived on the site where the Pilgrims settled. When they arrived, he became a translator for them in diplomacy and trade with other native people, and showed them the most effective method for planting corn and the best locations to fish, Ms. Sheehan said.

That’s usually where the lesson ends, but that’s just a fraction of his story.

He was captured by the English in 1614 and later sold into slavery in Spain. He spent several years in England, where he learned English. He returned to New England in 1619, only to find his entire Patuxet tribe dead from smallpox. He met the Pilgrims in March 1621.

There was no turkey or pie.

There was no mention of turkey being at the 1621 bounty, and there was definitely no pie. Settlers lacked butter and wheat flour for a crust, and they had no oven for baking. What is known is that the Pilgrims harvested crops and that the Wampanoag brought five deer. If fowl graced the table, it was probably duck or goose.

The menu may have also included cornmeal, pumpkin, succotash and cranberries. There were no sweet potatoes in North America at the time.

Contrary to popular depictions, there were about 90 native people in attendance, almost double the number of Pilgrims by some accounts.



#MeToo Comes
for the Archbishop


Opinion Columnist

June 23, 2018

The first time I ever heard the truth about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., finally exposed as a sexual predator years into his retirement, I thought I was listening to a paranoiac rant.

It was the early 2000s, I was attending some earnest panel on religion, and I was accosted by a type who haunts such events — gaunt, intense, with a litany of esoteric grievances. He was a traditionalist Catholic, a figure from the church’s fringes, and he had a lot to say, as I tried to disentangle from him, about corruption in the Catholic clergy. The scandals in Boston had broken, so some of what he said was familiar, but he kept going, into a rant about Cardinal McCarrick: Did you know he makes seminarians sleep with him? Invites them to his beach house, gets in bed with them …

At this I gave him the brushoff that you give the monomaniacal and slipped out.

That was before I realized that if you wanted the truth about corruption in the Catholic Church, you had to listen to the extreme-seeming types, traditionalists and radicals, because they were the only ones sufficiently alienated from the institution to actually dig into its rot. (This lesson has application well beyond Catholicism.)

And it was also before I learned from journalist friends that McCarrick, or “Uncle Ted” as he urged his paramour-victims to address him, had such a long history of pursuing seminarians and priests that a group of Catholics went to Rome to warn against making him Washington’s archbishop (to no avail).

For reporters who pursued the story, it was a case where “everyone knew” but nobody would go on the record — so stories were pursued and then evaporated. And the cardinal was protected, in part, because his targets were mostly younger men under his authority rather than teenagers (it was a teenage victim who finally made the story break), which didn’t fit the pedophile-priest narrative, and liberal journalists who didn’t want to appear somehow homophobic and conservatives who wanted to protect the church’s reputation had an excuse to keep his secrets safe.

Once I learned all this, I was in the same position as the “everyone” who knew about Harvey Weinstein or any other powerful man with a history of pressuring subordinates into sex. And in that position you become accustomed to the idea that the story will never come out no matter what — so that, for instance, when the respected psychologist and sociologist of the priesthood Richard Sipe publicly quoted documents from a legal settlement with one of McCarrick’s targets (“He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine … The Archbishop kept saying, ‘Pray for your poor uncle’ ”), it was like a tree falling in an empty forest, and no one heard the sound.

Now the question is whether the at-long-last coverage of McCarrick’s sins will shake similar stories loose. With the exposure of systemic abuse in so many different institutions lately, it’s become possible for Catholics to regard this as a general purgation that our church just went through first. But the grim truth is that the Catholic purgation was incomplete, because it was not quite #MeToo enough. We learned awful things beyond counting, about child abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops. But we only found out about a few Weinstein of the church — high-ranking clerics who used the power of their offices to effectively force sex upon men to whom they were supposed to be spiritual fathers. And while I don’t know about others in quite the way I knew about Cardinal McCarrick, everyone with inside knowledge knows that there are many more like him.

Which doesn’t mean those stories are all destined to come out. The obstacles to #MeToo in Catholicism seem more substantial even than the obstacles in Weinstein’s Hollywood, because priests who endure sexual advances or end up enmeshed in “Uncle Ted” relationships are in a unique bind: Their commitment to the church is supernaturally absolute and life-defining, the power their superiors exercise is greater even than that of a Hollywood producer, and the sexual acts themselves can seem so compromising — not just sex, but gay sex that breaks a vow of celibacy — as to make truthtelling feel not just costly but impossible.

But that makes it incumbent on everyone else in the “everyone knows” orbit — meaning not just journalists covering Catholicism, but bishops and priests and church officials who are tired of being tacitly compromised themselves, as so many people around McCarrick must have been — to make it as easy as possible for these stories to be told. And without worrying, either, about whether the stories make either side of Catholicism’s civil war look good (McCarrick was a famous liberal, but the next case might be a conservative), or what the revelations mean for debates about gay men in the priesthood or priestly celibacy or anything else.

The first thing is the truth. And the way out of purgatory is through.



Douthat: The sick, sad truth
about Cardinal McCarrick


Friday, July 27, 2018

One of the best things the bishops of the American Catholic Church did during the great wave of sex abuse revelations 16 years ago – and yes, there’s a low bar for “best” – was to establish a National Review Board, staffed by prominent laymen, with the authority to commission an independent report on what exactly had happened in the church.

The result was a careful analysis by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that detailed the patterns of priestly sex abuse in American Catholicism between 1950 and 2002.

Now, unfortunately, it needs to happen again. But what needs to be commissioned this time, by Pope Francis himself if the American bishops can’t or won’t, isn’t a synthetic overview of a systemic problem. Rather, the church needs an inquest, a special prosecutor – you can even call it an inquisition if you want – into the very specific question of who knew what and when about the crimes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and why exactly they were silent.

Here are the allegations against McCarrick as we have them right now. In 1971, as a young priest, the future cardinal sexually assaulted a 16-year-old altar boy – the crime that almost 50 years later finally led to his public exposure as a pederast. Around the same time, he groomed and molested a teenage boy who had been the first child he ever baptized, whose family considered him a close friend – groping and masturbating him, taking him to a San Francisco restaurant and plying him with booze before he fondled him, taking him to a fishing camp with other boys and sleeping with him naked.

What happened to that young man happened to numerous seminarians and young priests as Father McCarrick became Bishop and then Archbishop McCarrick. The first written accusation that we know of was filed by one of his priests in 1994, addressed to McCarrick’s successor as the Bishop of Metuchen; the priest who complained was transferred to another diocese while his abuser’s rise continued.

By the end of that decade, McCarrick’s sexual misbehavior (if perhaps not its full scope) was known by enough people that a group of American laypeople went to Rome to petition against his appointment as archbishop of Washington, D.C., and at least one New York priest, Boniface Ramsey, sent a letter to the Vatican offering a similar warning.

These petitions were in vain; McCarrick became Washington’s archbishop and then a cardinal. At this point the sex abuse scandal broke in Boston, and elsewhere – and the Washington archbishop became the avuncular, reassuring media point person for his fellow bishops, issuing statements of concern and condemnation that if he really feared the punishments of hell would have turned to ashes in his mouth.

Then in 2005 and again in 2007, two New Jersey dioceses settled privately with two men alleging abuse or harassment at McCarrick’s hands. This presumably expanded substantially the number of people who knew about his crimes. Yet nothing was said publicly by the church about these settlements; McCarrick retired with his reputation intact, and was even permitted to live at a seminary. Ramsey continued to direct petitions to his superiors, including both the late Cardinal Egan of New York (a figure of dubious reputation around sex abuse) and the cardinal archbishop of Boston, Sean O’Malley, to no visible effect.

In 2013, when Pope Benedict XVI resigned, McCarrick was too old to vote in the conclave but was active in the politicking. When Pope Francis was elected, he became an eminence grise, whose lobbying helped elevate several of the new pope’s choices for high office in the American church – including the new cardinal archbishop of Newark, Joseph Tobin, and the head of the Vatican dicastery for family life, Kevin Farrell, both of whom considered McCarrick a mentor.

In other words, two decades after McCarrick should have been removed from his offices, defrocked and handed over to the civil authorities, he was instead wielding remarkable influence in the church – right up until the moment when a lifetime’s worth of crimes were finally dragged into the light.

I think this long and sickening narrative should clarify why the McCarrick case, though “only” about one abuser, merits an expansive and public accounting of the facts. Over the course of multiple decades, across a period in which not just crimes but cover-ups devastated the moral credibility of the church’s hierarchy, many important figures in Rome and the United States must have known that a man who embodied the official response to the scandal was as guilty as any of the priests whose conduct he pretended to deplore.

Someone, or indeed many someones, needs to be held accountable for this disaster. And that accountability requires more than self-exculpating statements from the cardinals involved. It requires judgment – which requires more certain knowledge – which requires investigation – which probably requires an investigator with a mandate from the pope himself.

There are a few American bishops still with media platforms, a few with intellectual chops. But many of the national leaders of the church are important only within the bureaucracies they manage and as invisible to the average churchgoer as a Target regional vice president would be to the average weekend shopper at the superstore.

The lukewarm in their flock simply ignore them; the zealous build new institutions specifically designed to evade their oversight. Their political interventions go unheeded by Catholic Democrats and Catholic Republicans alike. In far too many cases an office that once bestrode entire cities now belongs to invisible company men, embarrassed phantoms materializing via videotape for the annual appeal.

Thus the great irony of the McCarrick moment – that the kind of crimes once covered up because of the power and influence of bishops might now be swept under quickly because of the episcopacy’s obscurity and irrelevance.

If the church’s leaders are happy enough with the world as it is, then we will have more empty statements of concern, more promises of a new process for accusations against bishops, more professions of innocence and ignorance. If they are not, if they can imagine a church with its moral authority restored, then we will have an independent investigation, an invitation for testimony and in the end the church’s own imprimatur on the hard and heavy truth.

Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times.



The New Yorker
November 25, 2019 Issue

The Invention of Thanksgiving
Massacres, myths, and the making of the great November holiday.

By Philip Deloria

Autumn is the season for Native America. There are the cool nights and warm days of Indian summer and the genial query “What’s Indian about this weather?” More wearisome is the annual fight over the legacy of Christopher Columbus—a bold explorer dear to Italian-American communities, but someone who brought to this continent forms of slavery that would devastate indigenous populations for centuries. Football season is in full swing, and the team in the nation’s capital revels each week in a racist performance passed off as “just good fun.” As baseball season closes, one prays that Atlanta (or even semi-evolved Cleveland) will not advance to the World Series. Next up is Halloween, typically featuring “Native American Brave” and “Sexy Indian Princess” costumes. November brings Native American Heritage Month and tracks a smooth countdown to Thanksgiving. In the elementary-school curriculum, the holiday traditionally meant a pageant, with students in construction-paper headdresses and Pilgrim hats reënacting the original celebration. If today’s teachers aim for less pageantry and a slightly more complicated history, many students still complete an American education unsure about the place of Native people in the nation’s past—or in its present. Cap the season off with Thanksgiving, a turkey dinner, and a fable of interracial harmony. Is it any wonder that by the time the holiday arrives a lot of American Indian people are thankful that autumn is nearly over?

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving for nearly four centuries, commemorating that solemn dinner in November, 1621. We know the story well, or think we do. Adorned in funny hats, large belt buckles, and clunky black shoes, the Pilgrims of Plymouth gave thanks to God for his blessings, demonstrated by the survival of their fragile settlement. The local Indians, supporting characters who generously pulled the Pilgrims through the first winter and taught them how to plant corn, joined the feast with gifts of venison. A good time was had by all, before things quietly took their natural course: the American colonies expanded, the Indians gave up their lands and faded from history, and the germ of collective governance found in the Mayflower Compact blossomed into American democracy.

Almost none of this is true, as David Silverman points out in “This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving” (Bloomsbury). The first Thanksgiving was not a “thanksgiving,” in Pilgrim terms, but a “rejoicing.” An actual giving of thanks required fasting and quiet contemplation; a rejoicing featured feasting, drinking, militia drills, target practice, and contests of strength and speed. It was a party, not a prayer, and was full of people shooting at things. The Indians were Wampanoags, led by Ousamequin (often called Massasoit, which was a leadership title rather than a name). An experienced diplomat, he was engaged in a challenging game of regional geopolitics, of which the Pilgrims were only a part. While the celebrants might well have feasted on wild turkey, the local diet also included fish, eels, shellfish, and a Wampanoag dish called nasaump, which the Pilgrims had adopted: boiled cornmeal mixed with vegetables and meats. There were no potatoes (an indigenous South American food not yet introduced into the global food system) and no pies (because there was no butter, wheat flour, or sugar).

Nor did the Pilgrims extend a warm invitation to their Indian neighbors. Rather, the Wampanoags showed up unbidden. And it was not simply four or five of them at the table, as we often imagine. Ousamequin, the Massasoit, arrived with perhaps ninety men—more than the entire population of Plymouth. Wampanoag tradition suggests that the group was in fact an army, honoring a mutual-defense pact negotiated the previous spring. They came not to enjoy a multicultural feast but to aid the Pilgrims: hearing repeated gunfire, they assumed that the settlers were under attack. After a long moment of suspicion (the Pilgrims misread almost everything that Indians did as potential aggression), the two peoples recognized one another, in some uneasy way, and spent the next three days together.

No centuries-long continuity emerged from that 1621 meet-up. New Englanders certainly celebrated Thanksgivings—often in both fall and spring—but they were of the fasting-and-prayer variety. Notable examples took place in 1637 and 1676, following bloody victories over Native people. To mark the second occasion, the Plymouth men mounted the head of Ousamequin’s son Pumetacom above their town on a pike, where it remained for two decades, while his dismembered and unburied body decomposed. The less brutal holiday that we celebrate today took shape two centuries later, as an effort to entrench an imagined American community. In 1841, the Reverend Alexander Young explicitly linked three things: the 1621 “rejoicing,” the tradition of autumnal harvest festivals, and the name Thanksgiving. He did so in a four-line throwaway gesture and a one-line footnote. Of such half thoughts is history made.

A couple of decades later, Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, proposed a day of unity and remembrance to counter the trauma of the Civil War, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be that national holiday, following Young’s lead in calling it Thanksgiving. After the Civil War, Thanksgiving developed rituals, foodways, and themes of family—and national—reunion. Only later would it consolidate its narrative around a harmonious Pilgrim-Wampanoag feast, as Lisa Blee and Jean O’Brien point out in “Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit” (North Carolina), which tells the story of how the holiday myth spread. Fretting over late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century immigration, American mythmakers discovered that the Pilgrims, and New England as a whole, were perfectly cast as national founders: white, Protestant, democratic, and blessed with an American character centered on family, work, individualism, freedom, and faith.

The new story aligned neatly with the defeat of American Indian resistance in the West and the rising tide of celebratory regret that the anthropologist Renato Rosaldo once called “imperialist nostalgia.” Glorifying the endurance of white Pilgrim founders diverted attention from the brutality of Jim Crow and racial violence, and downplayed the foundational role of African slavery. The fable also allowed its audience to avert its eyes from the marginalization of Asian and Latinx labor populations, the racialization of Southern European and Eastern European immigrants, and the rise of eugenics. At Thanksgiving, white New England cheerfully shoved the problematic South and West off to the side, and claimed America for itself.

The challenge for scholars attempting to rewrite Thanksgiving is the challenge of confronting an ideology that has long since metastasized into popular history. Silverman begins his book with a plea for the possibility of a “critical history.” It will be “hard on the living,” he warns, because this approach questions the creation stories that uphold traditional social orders, making the heroes less heroic, and asking readers to consider the villains as full and complicated human beings. Nonetheless, he says, we have an obligation to try.

So how does one take on a myth? One might begin by deconstructing the process through which it was made. Silverman sketches a brief account of Hale, Lincoln, and the marketing of a fictionalized New England. Blee and O’Brien reveal how proliferating copies of a Massasoit statue, which we can recognize as not so distant kin to Confederate monuments, do similar cultural work, linking the mythic memory of the 1621 feast with the racial, ethnic, and national-identity politics of 1921, when the original statue was commissioned. One might also wield the historian’s skills to tell a “truer,” better story that exposes the myth for the self-serving fraud that it is. Silverman, in doing so, resists the temptation to offer a countermyth, an ideological narrative better suited to the contemporary moment, and renders the Wampanoags not simply as victims but as strugglers, fighting it out as they confront mischance and aggression, disagreeing with one another, making mistakes, displaying ambition and folly, failing to see their peril until it is too late.

In the story that many generations of Americans grew up hearing, there were no Wampanoags until the Pilgrims encountered them. If Thanksgiving has had no continuous existence across the centuries, however, the Wampanoag people have. Today, they make up two federally recognized tribes, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, and they descend from a confederation of groups that stretched across large areas of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

In the years before the Pilgrims’ landing, trails and roads connected dozens of Wampanoag communities with gathering sites, hunting and fishing areas, and agricultural plots. North America’s defining indigenous agriculture—the symbiotic Three Sisters of corn, beans, and squash—came late to the region, adopted perhaps two hundred years before Europeans appeared. That’s when the Wampanoags, who moved seasonally between coastal summer residences (not unlike Cape Cod today) and protected winter homes inland, took up farming. Cultivation and cropping created a need for shared-use land management and an indigenous notion of property. That led in turn to the consolidation of a system of sachems, leaders who navigated the internal needs of their communities, established tributary and protectorate relationships with nearby communities, and negotiated diplomatic relations with outsiders. When the Pilgrims encountered Ousamequin, they were meeting a paramount sachem, a Massasoit, who commanded the respect necessary to establish strategy for other groups in the region.

The Pilgrims were not the only Europeans the Wampanoags had come across. The first documented contact occurred in 1524, and marked the start of a century of violent encounters, captivity, and enslavement. By 1620, the Wampanoags had had enough, and were inclined to chase off any ship that sought to land. They sent a French colonizing mission packing and had driven the Pilgrims away from a previous landing site, on the Cape. Ousamequin’s people debated for months about whether to ally with the newcomers or destroy them. When they decided to begin diplomacy, they were guided by Tisquantum (you may recall him as Squanto) and Epenow, New England natives who had been captured, held in bondage in Britain, and trained as interpreters by the English before eventually finding their way back across the Atlantic.

Why would Ousamequin decide to welcome the newcomers and, in 1621, make a mutual-defense pact with them? During the preceding years, an epidemic had struck Massachusetts Bay Indians, killing between seventy-five and ninety per cent of the Wampanoag and the Massachusett people. A rich landscape of fields and gardens, tended hunting forests, and fishing weirs was largely emptied of people. Belief systems crashed. Even survival did not mean good health, and, with fields unplanted and animals uncaught, starvation followed closely behind. The Pilgrims’ settlement took place in a graveyard.

Wampanoag people consolidated their survivors and their lands, and reëstablished internal self-governance. But, to the west, the Narragansetts—traditional rivals largely untouched by the epidemic—now outnumbered the Wampanoags, and that led to the strengthening of Ousamequin’s alliances with the surviving Massachusett and another nearby group, the Nipmucks. As the paramount sachem, he also had to contend with challenges to his leadership from a number of other Wampanoag sachems. And so, after much debate, he decided to tolerate the rather pathetic Pilgrims—who had seen half their number die in their first winter—and establish an alliance with them. That history, understood through Wampanoag characters and motives, explains the “rejoicing” that Americans later remembered as a pumpkin-spiced tale of Thanksgiving conciliation.

This rejoicing arrives about a third of the way through Silverman’s four-hundred-plus-page book. What follows is a vivid account of the ways the English repaid their new allies. The settlers pressed hard to acquire Indian land through “sales” driven by debt, threat, alliance politics, and violence. They denied the coequal civil and criminal jurisdiction of the alliance, charging Indians under English law and sentencing them to unpayable fines, imprisonment, even executions. They played a constant game of divide and conquer, and they invariably considered Indians their inferiors. Ousamequin’s sons Pumetacom—called King Philip by the English—and Wamsutta began forming a resistance, despite the poor odds. By 1670, the immigrant population had ballooned to sixty or seventy thousand in southern New England—twice the number of Native people.

We falsely remember a Thanksgiving of intercultural harmony. Perhaps we should recall instead how English settlers cheated, abused, killed, and eventually drove Wampanoags into a conflict, known as King Philip’s War, that exploded across the region in 1675 and 1676 and that was one of the most devastating wars in the history of North American settlement. Native soldiers attacked fifty-two towns in New England, destroyed seventeen of them, and killed a substantial portion of the settler population. The region also lost as much as forty per cent of its Native population, who fought on both sides. Confronted by Mohawks to the west, a mixed set of Indian and Colonial foes to the south, and the English to the east, Pumetacom was surrounded on three sides. In the north, the scholar Lisa Brooks argues, Abenaki and other allies continued the struggle for years. In “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War” (Yale), Brooks deepens the story considerably, focussing on indigenous geographical and linguistic knowledge, and tracing the life of Weetamoo, the widow of Wamsutta and the saunkskwa, or female leader, of her tribe, the Pocasset. Weetamoo was Pumetacom’s ally, his relative, and a major figure in the fight. In the end, not only Pumetacom’s head was stuck on a pike; hers was, too, displayed for Wampanoag prisoners who were likely soon to be sold to the Caribbean.

The Thanksgiving story buries the major cause of King Philip’s War—the relentless seizure of Indian land. It also covers up the consequence. The war split Wampanoags, as well as every other Native group, and ended with indigenous resistance broken, and the colonists giving thanks. Like most Colonial wars, this one was a giant slave expedition, marked by the seizure and sale of Indian people. Wampanoags were judged criminals and—in a foreshadowing of the convict-labor provision of the Thirteenth Amendment—sold into bondage. During the next two centuries, New England Indians also suffered indentured servitude, convict labor, and debt peonage, which often resulted in the enslavement of the debtor’s children. Thanksgiving’s Pilgrim pageants suggest that good-hearted settlers arrived from pious, civilized England. We could remember it differently: that they came from a land that delighted in displaying heads on poles and letting bodies rot in cages suspended above the roads. They were a warrior tribe.

Despite continued demographic decline, loss of land, and severe challenges to shared social identities, Wampanoags held on. With so many men dead or enslaved, Native women married men outside their group—often African-Americans—and then redefined the families of mixed marriages as matrilineal in order to preserve collective claims to land. They adopted the forms of the Christian church, to some degree, in order to gain some breathing space. They took advantage of the remoteness of their settlements to maintain self-governance. And by the late twentieth century they began revitalizing what had been a “sleeping” language, and gained federal recognition as a tribal nation. Today, Wampanoag people debate whether Thanksgiving should be a day of mourning or a chance to contemplate reconciliation. It’s mighty generous of them.

David Silverman, in his personal reflections, considers how two secular patriotic hymns, “This Land Is Your Land” and “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” shaped American childhood experiences. When schoolkids sing “Land where my fathers died! Land of the Pilgrim’s pride,” he suggests, they name white, Protestant New England founders. It makes no sense, these days, to ask ethnically diverse students to celebrate those mythic dudes, with their odd hats and big buckles. At the very least, Silverman asks, could we include Indians among “my fathers,” and pay better attention to the ways they died? Could we acknowledge that Indians are not ghosts in the landscape or foils in a delusional nationalist dream, but actual living people?

This sentiment bumps a little roughly against a second plea: to recognize the falsely inclusive rhetoric in the phrase “This land is your land, this land is my land.” Those lines require the erasure of Indian people, who don’t get to be either “you” or “me.” American Indian people are at least partly excluded from the United States political system, written into the Constitution (in the three-fifths clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, for example, where they appear as “Indians not taxed”) so as to exist outside it. Native American tribes are distinct political entities, sovereign nations in their own right.

“American Indian” is a political identity, not a racial one, constituted by formal, still living treaties with the United States government and a long series of legal decisions. Today, the Trump Administration would like to deny this history, wrongly categorize Indians as a racial group, and disavow ongoing treaty relationships. Native American tribal governments are actively resisting this latest effort to dismember the past, demanding better and truer Indian histories and an accounting of the obligations that issue from them. At the forefront of that effort you’ll find the Mashpee Wampanoags, those resilient folks whose ancestors came, uninvited, to the first “Thanksgiving” almost four centuries ago in order to honor the obligations established in a mutual-defense agreement—a treaty—they had made with the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. ♦

Published in the print edition of the November 25, 1019, issue. 

Philip Deloria is a professor of history at Harvard. His most recent book is“Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract.”



Ironic Capitals and
strettttchedddd out words
have allowed us
to communicate our feelings
in writing like never before.




Ms. McCulloch is the author of “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language.”

DECEMBER 27, 2019

It’s an internet tradition, when humor or sarcasm goes astray online, to apologize by saying something like, “You know, it’s just impossible to convey tone in writing.”

But what I’ve noticed as the 2010s come to an end is that this apology isn’t needed as much as it once was — not because people have strangely become fans of misconstrued irony, but because the circumstances aren’t arising as much. Whether through big flourishes like “That’s very ~on brand~” and “y.i.k.e.s.” or subtler ones like “that’s a Bold choice” and “Wowwwww,” we can now convey a full range of emotions in writing.

The reason we once found speech easier for imparting emotions isn’t an inherent property of sound waves and voice boxes. Rather, it’s that we’re more used to employing a broad range of styles in face-to-face communication. An expansive palette of possibilities lets us convey nuanced meta-messages like solidarity (by converging toward someone else’s linguistic style at a given moment) and double meaning (by noticing when what someone is saying doesn’t match with how they say it).

Sometimes the “how” is purely derived from context (saying “What a beautiful day!” when facing a windowful of sleet), but many times paralinguistic cues like intonation or facial expression also help us get there (saying “Wonderful” in a flat, clipped tone). This tension between the “what” and the “how” forms the “double” part of “double meaning,” and from it a listener can infer gloriously complex sentiments like humor or irony or reluctance or passive aggression.

Writing, by contrast, is something we learn primarily from an educational authority, rather than a layered social context. This authority teaches us a single way of spelling and punctuating and choosing words, a formal style that aims to remove the author as much as possible from the text. Just as news anchors are trained to report the news, not be the news, young essay writers are told not to begin their book reports with “I really liked (or hated) this book.”

A formal, disembodied style does have a place in the pantheon of linguistic genres. But the problem with this tradition is that it’s a jealous god — rather than say, “Here is a style that’s useful sometimes,” it says, “Here is the only correct way to write, and any variation from it is Bad and Wrong.”

But subjectivity is sometimes exactly what we want. I don’t need National Geographic to start replacing its photojournalism with selfies, but when my friends go on vacation, I want to see the trip filtered through their eyes — their semi-ironic selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower or the tiny cafe they found on a rainy afternoon means more to me than a generic landmark photo, however beautiful. What’s more, if there’s only one style, there’s no opportunity for meaning-doubling or style-shifting, the richest social parts of a conversation.

As writing has been expanding online into the informal conversational domains where speech used to be primary, the generations who spent their formative years online started expanding writing’s muted emotional range. Sure, quotation marks can indicate reported speech, and capitals can indicate proper nouns, but we gain a sense of the writer’s personality when they’re also available for use as “scare quotes” and Ironic Capitals.

Similarly, in contexts like texting or chat, where the default way of breaking up utterances is with a new line or a new message, the period takes on connotations of seriousness and formality, a slight deepening of the voice at the end of a sentence. Thus, a period can reinforce a negative message (“that’s rough.”) but undermine a positive one (“that’s fine.”). The latter style reads to many younger people as passive-aggressive, a sign that the writer could have used a sincere exclamation mark (“that’s fine!”) but decided not to.

Yes, it’s a lot of meaning to infer from a dot, but it’s socially useful to be able to convey a nuanced level of reluctance, one that’s not strong enough to be worth registering as a full complaint but is nonetheless not quite full-throated enthusiasm.

In other words, we’ve been learning to write in ways that communicate our tone of voice, not just our mastery of rules. We’ve been learning to see writing not as a way of asserting our intellectual superiority, but as a way of listening to one another better. We’ve been learning to write not for power, but for love.

The closest to love that an external list of rules can offer is a feeling of besieged camaraderie, a unity against a perceived common enemy. But it’s a miserly form of affection to care for some people only by despising others. It’s a perilous form of community, where your membership is always conditional, where you know that your supposed friends in matching “I’m silently correcting your grammar” T-shirts are liable to turn on you without constant vigilance.

If rules vigilantism is all that a love of language can offer, we might as well also consider “Mean Girls” a guide to healthy relationships.

But language snobbery is not inevitable. It’s not that people who cling to lists of language rules don’t want love as well. It’s that they’ve been sold a false bill of goods for how to get it. In high school English classes and writing manuals, we’ve been told that being “clear” and “correct” in language will help people understand us.

But understanding doesn’t come from insisting on a list of rules, shouting the same thing only louder like a hapless monolingual tourist in a foreign country. Understanding comes from meeting other people where they are, like being willing to use gestures and a handful of semi-remembered words and yes, even to look like a fool, to bridge a language barrier with laughter and humility.

We’ve been taught the lie that homogeneity leads to understanding, when in truth, understanding comes from better appreciating variety. If I write a sentence like “My brand is strong” using the default settings on my phone’s keyboard, I look like a corporate sellout, but if I can write it with subversive capitalization, like “my Brand is Strong,” I can convey something quite different, a signal that I’m not taking myself too seriously, that I have an ordinary internet user’s ironic ambivalence toward the idea of a personal brand.

Having emotionally real conversations takes vulnerability. In a world where so many of us have been taught to write according to a list of rules, disregarding them is a way of extending trust. As an internet linguist, I often hear from younger people that they want to help the older people in their lives understand a fuller, more flexible range of expression, rather than assume that complex nuances of humor or ambivalence are impossible to write.

Younger people may not enjoy older people muscling in on and misusing their particular trendy words (see the recent driving into the ground of “ok boomer”), but they do desperately want to be able to have emotionally real conversations in text with the people who matter to them.

When we write in ways that a red pen wouldn’t approve of, we give our interlocutors the chance to show that they care more about us as a living human presence than they do about some long-dead or absent authority, by not derailing the conversation with moralizing “corrections” — or better yet, by replying with the same vulnerability. In return, being more open and flexible with language rewards us with the capacity to convey the humor and irony and double meaning in writing that we’ve been craving for so long.

Gretchen McCulloch is the author of “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language” and a co-host of the podcast “Lingthusiasm.”