Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 18, 2013

Vasicek: Bad poetry and fascinating history

By Ed Vasicek
Kokomo Tribune

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Today is “Bad Poetry Day,” a day to read or write inferior poems. One of my favorites follows: “There was a man who loved the bees; he thought they were his friend. He loved to sit upon their hives, but they stung him in the end!”

Limericks are fun, too. Here is a newer one: “There once was a lady named Perkins/ Who simply doted on Gherkins/They were so nice/ She ate too much spice/ and pickled her internal workin’s” [source: home.earthlink.net/~kristenaa/nice/].

Aug. 18 is a dud date when it comes to both holidays and observances, and neither is it bursting with historical significance. Nonetheless, there are a few important events that may hoist it from the slough of historical insignificance. The first two are inter-related and center around the ill-fated Roanoke colony.

Evidence strongly suggests America’s first settlers migrated from Mongolia. When the Europeans arrived, these Mongolian-Americans became known as “Indians.” Why? Wisegeek.org enlightens us:

“The term Indians as applied to Native Americans, or the indigenous peoples of the Americas, is thought to have originated in a misconception on the part of the Europeans who arrived in Central America in 1492. Since Christopher Columbus began his journey to America with the intent of finding an alternate route to Southeast Asia, he is said to have assumed that the people he came into contact with upon reaching land were Indians. Despite the fact that people probably realized this mistake within hours, the name remained in use. Similarly, the islands in Central America came to be called the ‘West Indies’, as opposed to the ‘East Indies’ that Columbus originally had in mind as his destination.”

Although the Native American culture has left a strong imprint upon modern American culture, the U.S. is predominantly (culturally) European. The greatest influence upon American culture is undoubtedly the British culture (with the German culture an important secondary influence). So where I am heading with this?

The first child of English descent born in America, Virginia Dare, came into the world on this day in 1587. Her parents were Eleanor and Ananias Dare. Her grandfather, John White, was governor of the Roanoke colony (in North Carolina) where she was born. That same year, John White returned to England, but could not return immediately because the Brits were involved in a war with the Spanish.

Here is the eerie thing: he returned to the colony in 1590 on this same day — his granddaughter’s third birthday — to find the colony deserted! The disappearance of the colony — including the removal of its structures — suggests the starving colonists decided to relocate. What happened from that point forward is guesswork. Many believe that the Indians killed them, others believe that they settled and intermarried with the Indians. The mystery has yet to be solved [source: Wikipedia].

Aug. 18 commemorates an important day for American women. On this day, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920, recognizing the right of women to vote. The Women’s Suffrage Movement, spearheaded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, eas drafted nearly 42 years earlier, in 1878. With the elimination of slavery, Women’s Suffrage, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, many more Americans are authorized to vote than even our Founding Fathers envisioned. So, reader, do you appreciate and take advantage of that right? I hope so.

This being Bad Poem day, I’ll leave you with a final tongue-twisting limerick: “‘There’s a train at 4.04,’ said Miss Jenny,/’Four tickets I’ll take. Have you any?’/ Said the man at the door, ‘Not four for 4.04,

For four for 4.04 are too many’” [source: poeticresource.org]. Have a great Aug. 18.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@comcast.net.