"Thinking About Language," The Living Wilderness (Autumn, 1974), p.2.

Mardi Gras celebrations assume the shape of a community and immediately reflect the strong conservative and innovative spirit needed for a healthy society. One Mardi Gras tradition which is often misunderstood and usually profoundly affects the sensibilities of outsiders is the rural Mardi Gras run of Southwest Louisiana prairies and bordering woodlands. The Mamou run has been extensively documented and reported to the public which has created the false impression that all runs are similar. Recent research has revealed that while there are similarities, in reality Mardi Gras traditions vary from community to community.

But possibly the most astounding folk drama happens in Hathaway. Here participant bonding and brotherhood is eminently exhibited when they are unsympathetically flogged by the beggars. Flogging is precipitated by their skipping a verse in the song, acting mischievously (which is expected of them), or when the homeowner pays to have them whipped. This forces the capitaine to bring false charges on his troop and to order them punished. This is reminiscent of Saturnalia's burlesque king who gave inane orders to his court of noblemen. Loud cries of "I'm looking for some help" and "Where's my brother?" from the accused as they are ordered to lay face down and take lashings, prompt innocent participants to crawl over them and relieve their comrades' sufferances by receiving the lashes themselves. This calls to mind the flagellations during Medieval times used for the atonement of sins and to purify the community.


"Why I Live Where I Live," Esquire Vol. 101, No. 3 (March, 1984), 90.

Introduction, Moments of Light, Fred Chappell. Newport Beach, California: New South Press, 1980.

During this festival where everyone gives and everyone receives, which supports the egalitarian values of Cajun culture, humanity's story of sharing is told over and over in the course of the day. In one of mankind's oldest games of trying to fool your closest neighbors and best friends, these masked beggars symbolize anyone who may be hungry. The idea is that when they visit someone, those visited should share. Theft is part of the tension in the drama of this ritual play, but has no problem turning into "enforced charity" when the runners feel that the homeowner is not giving enough.


Etruscans Losing Their Edge, The American Scholar, Spring, 2004.

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Life in Lebanon is, on the surface, much like it was hundreds of years ago, and if you were to take a picture of our street there and its inhabitants, I have no doubt with the exception of the particulars of people’s faces it would look much the same as a painting from long ago...

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