JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, December 02, 2016


I don't know if you know this, but the Christmas carol started out as a dance, and then became a song. Whereas wassailing started out as a libation and then became a song and then darn near disappeared. Both traditions suffered their original metamorphoses for the same reason – Puritan kill-joys. The carol was revived and survives as a gentle Victorian anachronism. Still, most of the music and some of the words remain recognizable. But if somehow you could transport a 12th century English Celtic villain into a modern wassailing, the first words out of their mouth would be the medieval equivalent of “where is the booze and the broads?” Call it the cost of Christianity, or progress, or even just the march of time, but clearly we've lost some things in reaching the 21st century. And one of those some things was wassailing. Song
“Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.”
During the 2nd century C. E. when you the walked into any Inn or Public House in that far flung corner of the Roman Empire called England, you were greeted by your fellow vandals with the phrase, “Waes hael”, or “good health”. And your proper response would be “Drinc hael”, or “A drink to your health”. And what the Celtic holi-poloi would be drinking might be Mead, made from fermented honey, or a fermented version of whatever else grew locally – beer in rye growing areas, or in the hilly west counties, where the Celts grew apples, hard cider. Everybody drank these concoctions because the alcohol killed most the pathogens in the local water supply. That's why we still call consuming alcohol, drinking. Getting bombed was just a happy side effect.
“We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before.”
The Inn keepers kept their mixture in a large “wassail bowl” as a centerpiece on the common table, so after dinner the paying guests could use their now empty food bowls to dip themselves an after-dinner drink. It is an oddity of these original pubs that the food cost money but the drinks were free. As the food supply increased, this pricing scheme would be reversed. On special occasions, the Mead would be added to the beer or cider, which improved the flavor and the alcohol content. And so taking a holiday drink from the wassail bowl became “wassailing”.
“Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.”
All of this was ancient enough to be a Celtic tradition long before Rome was Christian. And about a month after the winter solstice the pagan Celts were even wassailing in their fields and apple orchards. They called it in Old English La Mas Ubhal (mangled into modern English as, “lambs wool”), or as perhaps the celebration of the apple. On the Twelfth Night of Christmas (see these pages for Twelve Days of Christmas) apple farmers would lug a large milk container filled with cider and cider soaked cakes into their fields. In the dark and the cold they would build a fire, drink and eat and dance. In song the men would threaten the trees and the women would plead the tree's defense, all to encourage them to produce apples in the coming year.
We have a little purse
Made of ratching leather skin;
We want some of your small change
To line it well within.”
It was called “An Apple Howling” or a “Luck Visit”. In Devonshire, standing under each tree, the farmers would sing “Stand fast, root! Bear well, top! Pray God send us a good howling crop: Every twig, apples big; Every bough, apples now! Hats full! caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full, And my pockets full, too, huzzah!” The cakes were placed in the forks of the trunk, baked apple splices were tossed into the crown, and cider splashed on the bark. It seems as if the farmers were trying to give the trees the idea of what they were supposed to produce come spring.
“Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a cheese,
And of your Christmas loaf.”
And then midway through the 5th century the Anglo-Saxons defeated the native Celts at the battle of Crayford, and over the next 600 years these invaders squeezed the Celts back into the Welsh highlands and the far west counties, which, by chance, included the apple growing regions. So, wassailing in Wales and Devon became associated more with cider, while in Anglo-Saxon England, beer and ale were what filled the wassail bowls, and the post- solstice celebration morphed into a fund raising venue. Originally, the English village leaders went house to house, singing a Wassail song at each door and offering the residents a drink from their Wassail bowl. In response, the residents were expected to make a donation to the poor. Eventually, the leadership lost interest in the process and the poor themselves stepped in to fill the vacuum. You can imagine how happy the wealthy were to share their money with a bunch of dirty, young “urban types”, who came begging at their front door, something forbidden the rest of the year. Wassailing door-to-door became frowned upon, mostly by those best able to donate.
“God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress too;
And all the little children
That round the table go.”
In 1066, King Henry and his Normans conquered Anglo-Saxon England. The Normans not only brought the French words to the island, but they also brought a militant brand of Christianity. And that religion would prove to be wassailing's most determined foe. We know wassailing was still popular in 17th Century London, because just after New Years in 1625 the anal retentive Sir John Francklyn made a notation in his account book of the one pound 6 pence he paid for “the cup”
“Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.”
But after the Puritans chopped off the head of Charles I in 1649, they began to remake Britain in the their image of God. And it was a dull, dull God they envisioned. The Puritans were suspicious of wassailing, of all that drinking and dancing in the dark, and they disapproved of peasants directly asking their “betters” for money. So laws were passed, and punishments metered out. Some who celebrated the pagan days were even burned at the stake. The impact of their moral divide survived even until the end of the 20th century, as evidenced by the laws allowing advertising of wine and beer on television, but restricting the same for the sacrilegious “hard” liquors.  So if, at your next Christmas party you should find a wassail bowl bubbling away on the stove, dip a cup, and enjoy. It is a tiny taste of our shared pagan past, a harmless reminder that before Christianity, there was a god in every tree and apple, as well as every soul.
"Wassail, wassail, out of the milk pail
Wassail, wassail as white as my finger nail
Wassail, wassail in snow, frost, and hail,
Wassail, wassail that never will fail.”
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Thursday, December 01, 2016


I don't believe William Walter Grayson (above)  loved war. He used the Spanish American War to escape Nebraska, as any 23 year old might. But because of what he called the “damn bullheadedness” of his commander, sometime after eight on the evening of Saturday, 4 February, 1899, Private Grayson found himself on a three man patrol in the Manilla barrio of Santa Mesa. It was dark, it was hot, it was humid, and it was dangerous. Grayson and his fellow volunteers from Company D suspected they were being used as cannon fodder for the dreams of politicians and generals 10,000 miles away. And they were right.
When most Americans think of the Spanish American War they think of Teddy Roosevelt charging up Cuba's San Juan Hill, and perhaps Commodore George Dewey telling the captain of his flagship, the USS Olympia, “You may fire when ready, Gridley”,  just before sinking the Spanish Asiatic fleet .  But most remain blissfully ignorant of the 14 year long “Philippine Insurgency”, a war in all but name. It was the test case for an unnecessary war sold to Congress as a crises, a protracted war sold and resold to voters as being on the verge of victory, a war conducted “to Christianize and civilize” the one million Filipinos the Americans killed, a war whose American blood was spilled almost in secret by a small professional army, a war in which the use of torture was endorsed by American commanders and politicians, and a war that is rarely remembered in America, despite the lessons it offers about the dangers of arrogance and ignorance.
In the dark, Private Grayson heard voices speaking Spanish and Tagalog. Being born in England and raised in Nebraska, William had no idea what was being said in either language. And the version of subsequent events handed out to the press under his name has no more validity than the stories invented in the name of Private Jessica Lynch during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.. The only part of Grayson's story that seems plausible is that, hearing voices, his patrol “went to ground”,  Grayson (above, posing on the scene, days after the event) called out “Halt!”. The response was a voice calling, “Alto!” Grayson repeated his command, as did his Filipino doppelganger. It seems evident that neither speaker understood the other, so Private Grayson fired into the dark, setting off a general exchange of gunfire that only proved the existence of several thousand frightened, half trained young men on both sides. American casualties were two men from a South Dakota company, probably killed by friendly fire. Filipino dead were uncounted.
Washington's favorite joke about President William McKinley (above, right) was that his mind was like his bed – every morning someone had to make it up for him, before he could use it. But once his mind had been made up by the “Manifest Destiny” wing of his cabinet, he endorsed it, with his “Benevolent Assimilation” policy, intended, he said, “to win the confidence, respect, and affection of...the Philippines....” 
However the "young, handsome, patriotic, and brave."Filipino leader Emilo Aguinaldo, having helped the Americans throw out the Spanish, did not like the idea of “assimilation” by anybody. In June of 1898 elections were held for the First Philippine Republic and Aguinaldo was named its first President. In response the Americans told the democratically elected Filipino President his soldiers would be fired upon if they tried to enter the capital of their new country. And that was what all the shooting was about on 4 February.
The American General Elwell Otis rejected negotiations with President Aguinaldo, saying  “fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.” This Second Battle of Manila, as it was called, resulted in the Filipino line being smashed, at a cost of 55 American dead. Officially, there were 238 Filipino dead, but a British witness disagreed:. “This is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery." Only one Filipino soldier in three had a gun. The Americans soldiers, who referred to their opponents as “niggers” and “savages”, piled the Filipino dead into breastworks, and called the battle a “quail shoot”. One wrote home that “It was more fun than shooting turkeys.”
The open fighting pushed the vote, two days later in the American Senate, to ratify the Paris Treaty selling the Philippians to America for $20 million,  by one slim vote over the 2/3 majority the Constitution required. Teddy Roosevelt wrote, “I am more grateful than I can say....partly to the Filipinos. They just pulled the treaty through for us.” America was now committed to a war of conquest in east Asia, conducted so far by men like Private Grayson.
On 31 March, 1899, Private William Grayson was hospitalized, suffering from malaria and exhaustion, stomach upset (ulcers) and over exertion – in, short combat fatigue. When he was released two months later he was reassigned as a cook, out of combat. And then in July Grayson and all the volunteers were shipped home for discharge. Grayson left the service in San Francisco, where, on 10 October of 1899, he married Clara Francis Peters. He found work as a house painter and then an undertaker, and never sought take advantage of his reputation as the man who started a war.
Throughout the summer of 1899, Otis's second in command, General Arthur MacArthur,  led 21,000 professional soldiers in a brutal drive north across Luzon. The American Red Cross noted “the determination of our soldiers to kill every native in sight”. Americans took no prisoners, and everyone, men, women and children, not actively working for the Americans was treated as an enemy combatant. 
Entire villages were murdered. In November, at Otis' hint, the American government declared the “insurection” was over. Victory parades were held. But many of the professionals had doubts. To McArthur's subordinate, General Shafter,  it was a matter not of morality, but practicality. He wrote, “It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half ...may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords."  In other words, we were killing them for their own good.
By the start of 1900, General Otis was forced to ask Washington for more men. That summer, with American troop levels secretly reaching 75,000,  Otis was relieved by General McArthur, who decided to change strategies. Just as the Americans in 2005 judged the capture of Saddam Hussein would end the rebellion, the Americans now concentrated on capturing President Aguinaldo. Both assumptions, made a century apart, were wrong.
The American press were so controlled that during the summer and fall of 1900, it was the soldier's letters home that broke the story of American atrocities against the Filipino people. "On Thursday, March 29th ... eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolomen and ten of the nigger gunners .... When we find one who is not dead, we have bayonets …" 
Lieutenant Grover Flint wrote home to describe the standard method of obtaining information. “A man is thrown down on his back...and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious...His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”
In April, 1901 President Aguinaldo was finally captured. But even after the prisoner signed a loyalty oath to the Americans, the ambushes and acts of sabotage continued, as did the brutal American responses . General McArthur took the hint and resigned, returning to a hero's welcome, and to assure the voters that operations in the Philippians were : "the most legitimate and humane war ever conducted on the face of the earth.”   
It was possible to claim American moral superiority  because American atrocities not mentioned in official American reports, did not officially happen.  However some leaked through. It was under General Adna Chaffee,  that the American civilian governor of Abra Province described the new “depopulation campaign”:  Residents in entire regions were ordered into “concentration camps”. Those who did not submit were assumed to be rebels. “Whole villages had been burned, storehouses and crops had been destroyed and the entire province was...devoid of food.”  Said an anonymous American congressman after a visit, “You never hear of any disturbances in Northern Luzon, because there isn't anybody there to rebel.” . The process was given the military title, “protective retribution.”'
The war would continue, year after year, atrocity after atrocity, declaration of victory after empty declaration.  In April of 1902 the Washington Post was driven to suggest, “ The fourth and final termination of hostilities two years ago....serves only to confirm our estimation...A bad thing cannot be killed too often.” Desperate to end the war,  General “Howlin' Jake Smith ordered his men to kill “Everything over the age of ten...Kill and burn, kill and burn...(this is) no time to take prisoners.” 
Read one report to headquarters, “The 18th regulars...under orders to burn every town... left a strip of land 60 miles wide from one end of the island to the other, over which the traditional crow could not have flown without provision.” A letter from a participant, published in the New York World, detailed what that meant, ending with the story of “...a mother with a babe at her breast and two young children at her side...feared to leave her home which had just been fired...She faced the flames with her children, and not a hand was raised to save her or the little ones. They perished miserably...She feared the American soldiers, however, worse than the devouring flames.”
President Roosevelt declared victory, again, on 4 July, 1902. And again, parades were held to celebrate the victory (above)  But, again,  in March of 1903, attacks against Americans and their native allies had so flared up that 300,000 Filipinos were forced at gun point back into concentration camps. In August of 1904 the American governor of Samar was asking for more soldiers. By 1907 those additional troops were still required. The last rebel leader, whose capture was supposed to end the war, was executed in 1912.  But the war went on, if at a reduced level, until the Japanese invasion in 1942. 
Meanwhile, the forgotten William Grayson (above) had come upon hard times. By 1914, the malaria and ulcers he suffered from had progressed to vomiting blood, and he was forced to apply for a pension. It was denied.  Said the bureaucrats at the Veterans Bureau , “no pecuniary awards are made by the government for extraordinary bravery in action.” . But Grayson could no longer work and was forced on public relief. Finally, after eight years of shabby treatment by the nation he fought for, whose empire he sacrificed his youth for,  in 1922 William Grayson was finally granted a small pension. The man who fired the first shot used to justify America's grab at an empire, died worn out and worn down, at the age of 64, on 20 March, 1941, in the Veterans Hospital in San Francisco.
Somethings never change.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I should have been a pair of ragged claws, Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” 1915  T.S. Elliot
I want to tell you an odd story that might make you believe in Christmas again. Or not. It's human characters include a virgin queen, a dope addicted Emperor, a crusty sea captain clawing his way to the top, some cannibalisticely inclined pirates, a pair of Scottish kings and a serially espoused alchemist. Its non-human benchmarks run from a bowl of boiling urine to a great pile of bird poop and culminate in a crimson decapedal arthropod, all bringing new meaning to the phrase, “Merry Christmas”.
The crab instructs its young: "Walk straight ahead -- like me." “
Indian proverb
It all begins in 1591 when English Queen Elizabeth I (above) dispatched three ships on a three year voyage to seek the wealth of the Spice Islands, beyond India. That gamble paid such huge profits that three years later, when the second expedition sank, the investors wasted no time dispatching a third. And three years later, when it came back with several Queens' ransoms in its holds,  "The Virgin Queen" Elizabeth granted a charter to the investors, known as the Governor and the Company of Merchants of London,. And thus was born the English East India Company.
You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.”
But there was already a Dutch East India Company, and a Portuguese one as well, and they did not want to share their profits. The competition got so cut throat, and profits so tight that in 1609 King James I of England (aka James VI of Scotland) threatened to revoke the company charter if it didn't show a profit for three years running. So in September of 1612, when the rap-scallion Captain Thomas Best led the tenth trading squadron into the north western Indian port of Surat, and found 16 Portuguese ships waiting for him, he had claws for concern.
Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, and missing? That's the way the mind of man operates.”
H. L. Mencken
Captain Best made a quick deal with the local Mughal Governor, Sardar Khan, to open a trading post, probably because Khan was putting down a local rebellion and needed the bribes Best was offering.  But any deal had to be approved by Kahn's boss, the Emperor Jahangir (above), a Sunni Muslim who was best known for four things: his opium addiction, his alcohol addiction, his sex addiction, and the Jesuit Catholic priests who resided in his court. Captain Best worried that Jahangir would favor the Portuguese Catholics over the Protestant English, so he sidled his ships 12 miles south to the little port of Suvali, to await the Emperor's decision. Then, on 28 October 1612, four Portuguese galleons appeared, trapping Best against the shore.
If you didn't catch anything when fishing, then a crab is a fish.”
Russian proverb
After thinking things over for 24 hours, Best decided to start shooting. He broke out of the trap, sailing rings around the clumsy Portuguese ships and leading three of them to run aground. Captain Best's boldness impressed Jahangir, and actually he didn't like the Portuguese Jesuits very much, as they were so militantly anti-Muslim, and his promised share of the new English business profits also helped him decide. So in January of 1613 the Emperor granted the English a trading post, or a factory,  in Surat. The shell was cracked, and the omnivorous English came scurrying in, snapping up everything they could.
Let the crab take counsel with its leg.”
Samoan proverb
Over the next thirty years, Great Britain mussel-ed first the Portuguese and then the Dutch out of India. And in December of 1643, the 800 ton East India ship “Royal Mary”, under Captain William Mynors, was exploring the edges of their new shell, 220 miles due south of the western tip of Java and ten degrees south of equator, when a lookout spotted green earth on the southern horizon. Mynors did not attempt to land, but he noted the island's position on his charts and he named the mysterious 9 mile long landmass with a mountain on each end, after the date of its discovery. Over time, and by general agreement, the division between the English sphere of influence in India and Burma, and the remaining Dutch influence in Malaysia, ran right down the middle of Christmas Island.
Until a crab finds itself in a very hot pot of soup, it will never understand that water can be both cold and hot.”
African proverb
Then, in 1669, and 12,500 miles away, in the German port of Hamburg, a merchant named Hennig Brand was slaving over a hot bowl of urine. Brand had already gone through the dowries of two wives, and his financial failure bore all the marks of an amateur alchemist – he was almost blind from reading ancient books on sorcery by candle light, almost broke from buying ancient books on sorcery, and his hands were scared with acid and alkali burns. Brand was intent on finding the miraculous Sorcerers Stone, which would turn base metals into gold and make him rich, and the unpleasant recipe he was trying to tweak called for boiling urine for 16 hours.
A crab does not give birth to a bird.”
African Proverb
Brand's second wife, Margaretha, must have been shell shocked. The stench from her husband's
experiments was discouraging to visitors, the heating bill to keep the urine boiling was literally burning a hole in their savings, and they were reduced to eating see food. The minuscule amount of urine syrup Hennig Brand produced did not turn anything into gold. Dried to a powder, it did however faintly glow. And that, what ever “that” was, was enough to get a couple of sympathetic scientists to buy the formula, giving Hennig enough to redeem his wedding ring from the prawn broker.
A lame crab walks straight.”
Afghan proverb
In 1737 another broke scientist sold the recipe for urine syrup to the French Academy of Sciences, and the world finally learned what Hennig Brand had actually synthesized. He had called it “phosphoros” - Greek for the bringer of light. It took another forty years before a Swedish scientists discovered that Brand had actually been throwing away most of the phosphorus he had produced, and that the element phosphorus made plants really, really happy - it was a revolutionary fertilizer, or would be if anybody could find a large enough toilet to harvest enough urine residue.
The crab that walks too far, falls into the pot.”
Haitian Proverb
Proof of just such a gigantic toilet arrived via the Royal Mail in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1885. It was a package containing a single fist sized tan colored rock which the sender had picked up on Christmas Island, twenty years earlier, but could not identify it. He was now seeking the help of a Scotsman, raised and educated in Canada – Geologist Doctor John Murray.  To his shock, Dr. Murray found the nondescript rock was almost pure phosphate of lime – solidified weathered bird poop. Dr. Murray quickly did some research and discovered that no one had ever actually claimed to own Christmas Island. Even though he had never set eyes upon the island, Murray immediately urged the British government to seize it. And in June of 1888, the H.M.S. Imperieuse raised the Union Jack over this ancient avian toilet, claiming Christmas for Queen Victoria.
That means that the crab can eat his victim's brain, absorbing his mind intact...Once they were men; now they are land crabs.'”
Attack of the Crab Monsters” 1957 – Roger Corman
Dr. Murray also filed a personal mining claim, which caught the attention of another avaricious Scotsman, this one with his own kingdom 350 miles south-southwest of Christmas Island - George Clunies-Ross - the recognized King of the Cocos, or Coconut, Islands. Assuming this other Scottish geologist must be looking for gold, Clunies-Ross sent out claim jumpers. They found no gold on Christmas Island, but an estimated 200 million tons of phosphate. There was so much molting rock at both ends of Christmas Island that the two greedy Scotsmen agreed to share.  And in 1891 Dr. Murray and Clunies-Ross were granted a joint license to mine phosphate as “The Christmas Island Phosphate Company”. The first shipment was sold to Japan in 1901.
We will rest in the caves and plan our assault upon the world of men!”
Attack of the Crab Monsters” 1957 – Roger Corman
After one visit to the toilet source of his new wealth, the newest member of the upper crustaceans, Doctor Sir John Murray, contented himself endorsing royalty checks and accepting honors, while George Clunies-Ross ran the open pit mines on Christmas.   In response to George's kelp wanted ads, he hired 200 Chinese coolies, five Shikh policemen to watch over them, and eight European bosses to boss them around. The workers were encouraged to bring their wives, but their rent for company housing was deducted from their paychecks, which could otherwise only be used in the company store. The Kings and Queens of Christmas even insisted on approving the name of every child born on their property. Any employee who quit was permanently expelled from Christmas And they may have been the lucky ones. In the first four years of mining 550 workers died of beri-beri.
Well, Herman told his folks about the girl that he found, They said, 'Herman there must be other girls around. 'Cause crabs walk sideways, lobsters walk straight, and we won't let you take her for your mate.'”
The Smothers Brothers
And at last we arrive at that other, previously unappreciated, natural resource in Christmas's open forests between the highland toliets  - something between   44 to 106 million red Gecarcoidea natilis (the red land crab of Christmas). Miners could easily capture the 4 ½ inch wide Decapoda (10 legged) creatures, and one crab easily provided a meal for two men.  And the chickens and pigs abandoned on Christmas Island, which every where else in the world had decimated native species, merely fed the opportunistic omnivorous, carnivorous arthropodal occupants of Christmas Island.  Which is how the crabs here have survived. For ten months each year these mini-monsters remained hidden in their burrows and caves inland, eating wayward pigs and chickens. But every October, as the full moon approaches, and with males leading the way, the Christmas crabs march in mass,  cross-country to the sea.
She said, 'Let me talk to your mom and dad, I'll show them crabs really aren't that bad.' But they turned her away 'What will the neighbors say.' And they laughed at the funny walk she had.”
The Smothers Brothers
For ten thousand years the Christmas crabs had only to contend with each other, and the 40 other species of crabs on Christmas. With the invasion of humans to mine the phosphate there were now roads and railroads, dogs, horses, cars and cattle and bored children with sticks. But in an echo of other tales, the greatest threat to the Christmas crabs remains their fellow Christmas crabs. And still, with clinking and clapping claws, the Christmas crabs march to the coast to mate, brood their eggs, and then spew the offspring in their hundreds of thousands from their abdomens, into the surf.  So numerous each year are these tiny plantonic future crabs that they have fed generations of 20 ton whale sharks which appear off Christmas Island to scoop up the bounty with yawning mouths, without endangering tomorrow's crab domination.
Then one day on the sandbar what did Herman see, But his little ol' Sally walking straight as can be. He said, "Sweetheart now they'll take you in the family!" She said, "Don't you sweetheart me! Hic!"
The Smothers Brothers
In 1955, the United Nations paid off the last King of the Cocos and Christmas, John Cecil Clunies -Ross, paying him $6 ¼ million to go away.  He promptly sank the windfall in a shipping company which promptly sank, leaving John an empty shell of himself,. Today Australia owns Christmas, and the workers own the Phosphate mines. The democracy down under now uses Christmas as an out of sight out of mind refugee center, storing those boat humans who didn't drown while seeking freedom from poverty, political and religious oppression, under secure lock and key,  until they can be returned to their oppression.
Christmas for crabs; their island blooms with a rare largesse of flesh mashed to pulp on rocks —
They too migrate, ten million scuttles, on their yearly prickly walk from forest to sea. But roads are cleared for them, cars parked, as the needful eggs pull them down —a crimson shawl over grinning cliffs. We make space for the moon-mad crabs...”
P. S. Cottier
The heartless annual death toll is enough to make you lose faith in Santa Claws, and to see precious little difference between the opportunistic omnivorous, carnivorous cannibalistic humans on Christmas Island and the Christmas in the island crabs.

The right eye looks south. Apricot moonscape, centuries upon centuries of fish and crustaceans digested from sea to sky to soil. The left eye looks north. In and out of view, the swell permitting, Charging  from
Flying Fish Cove to the other side of Murray Hill, the refugee bus squelches the carapace of a red crab on its way to breed. Both eye stalks face west, seeing without seeing...at the edge of hearing, wave upon wave of scarlet crabs scuttling like lunatics across the forest, the spectacular migration of a hundred-million-strong battalion scratching its way toward the camp, a red carpet unstoppably rolling, two hundred million pincers now hacking at the razor wire, klikk, klakk, klikk, klakk, klikk”
Antoine Cassar
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