209. False springs and genocide

It has happened, my little bloggnats!!! yes, a warm day and windows wide open here at my office. Noisy life is thumping outside, calling squinty-eyed cave dwellers like me out into the wondrous sunshine. 70 degrees and suddenly life is languid again behind last year’s dusty sunglasses. Even though I see on the Weather Channel that snow is coming on Thursday and maybe again next week, I’ll take this false spring day as the dirty snow piles melt away. Ahh, spring sun, the golden gift from God.

Blue crocus flowers

But what’s really exciting is I had my first blog hit from Namibia. How weird is that? I had read a book last fall about planned genocides. Namibia was one of those extermination zones where self-righteous German soldiers hunted down and slaughtered the indigenous people of southwest Africa and stole their land and cattle. I’m sure the English would have done the same if they’d had the chance. Genocide is not particular to any people group, though the British were very skilled at it; so were Americans when it came to the pesky Native peoples. Now, my patient blogicianados, I’m sure you are wondering if there is any sort of connection between false spring days and genocides.


I have a personal theory about perfectionism and genocide. It seems innocent enough when someone ( a perfectionist) has high standards and wants others to comply with these noble goals of theirs. The superior minded begin trying to educate the dull witted masses about their superior ways. When they are met with resistance, the superior ones begin punishing the resistors. They change the rules and laws. Resistors and their sympathizers are imprisoned and then executed. It’s a clean, neat, and thorough program. The perfect plan turns into a perfect genocide, because after all of the perfectionists’ pure efforts, the resistors can not be re-educated so they have to be eliminated. The darn Aztecs could not become Spanish Catholics. The nomadic Africans could not get the whole German thing. The Australian aborigines didn’t do well in Victorian society. Solution? Kill them.

Ahhh, but that’s all history. It’s just short of sultry outside right now. I’m thinking of a beach as each car passes on the main drag across the alleyway. I mentally translate their dull roars into waves breaking on warm sands. Birds are tweeting about. Life is blooming again, except it’s not real yet. Nasty winds and cold are going to whip this watercolor painting into a frozen placemat at the bottom of a trash can by next week. It’s too soon, people. Like 14 year olds in love– no roots, no bark, no strength to endure the savage elements that will follow. Teens tend to be fervently idealistic due to their lack of experience and maturity. They believe in all or nothing choices and resist negotiations and compromises. When you are thoroughly convinced of the moral rectitude of your position, why negotiate or discuss it? Just like the Spanish conquistadors, the Brits around the world, the Germans, the Serbs, the Turks, the U.S. cavalry… they knew better and with absolute certainty. And so they proceeded with absolute arrogance to exterminate resistors to their ideals.

For some reason famous spring storms come to mind, where folks thought winter was over and they were aching for spring. In New York City in 1888, for instance.

The Blizzard of 1888

45th Street and Grand Central Depot, New York, March 1888, Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection

With 21 inches of snow falling over a two-day period — the third largest accumulation on record — the blizzard of 1888 hit New York City by surprise at the end of a warm March day (March 11-14). As two storms, one approaching from the south and one from the north, met over the City, heavy precipitation and winds gusting up to almost 75 mph resulted in snowdrifts up to 30 feet high. Roads and highways were blocked, steam train service was suspended, horse-drawn streetcars and taxis halted operations, and ships docked in New York’s harbor.

A New York Central locomotive derailed while attempting to push past snow drifts in the 4th Avenue tunnel, and many commuters were stranded on elevated tracks in unheated cars. It took 14 days for the City to completely recover. The mayor responded in early 1889 by ordering all overhead wires placed underground. At least 200 New Yorkers died. Many froze to death that false spring.

Suddenly it was on them without any warning, no Weather Channel then, and pretty Easter outfits failed to keep them warm as they huddled in doorways and under bridges. Like young impetuous lovers, completely unprepared for what they had walked into, as if love alone would protect them from hypothermia, dehydration, and suffocation… they died. No ideals will not dig you out of an avalanche, kids. Wishing life was different does not make it so.

Now I need the magic trick to pull the genocide rabbit out of the false spring day hat. What are they doing in the same post? If I proceed to plant tomatoes today because it is sunny and 70, I will effectively kill every one of the plants in two days. No force of imposing my will can change this biological fact: tomatoes freeze and die at 32 degrees or lower. They will not produce fruit at temps below 55. To follow my will would only result in some sort of planticide. And yet, this is similar to what educated men did over and over again with the humans they had conquered.

In Central America the Spaniards killed and enslaved indigenous people to extract gold wherever they could. They believed incorrectly in a fantasy city of Cibola, the city of gold. A rumor, a lie, a fable led to real suffering and death of individuals and whole cultures. When lies are taken as truths and truths are seen as lies, bad things happen. People die like tomato plants in sub zero temperatures. Oh, national ideals and religious purities sound so good to the initiated, the chosen and the saved. Whether the dreamers are communists, Crusaders, Taliban, Zulus, Hindus, manifest destiny Yankees, or German nationalists, the outcomes are hauntingly similar. Fields of death and destruction bloom after absolutely lovely ideals erupt.