Saint Monica

August 27
There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica…
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Take Wilshire Blvd west all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and just before you crash over the cliff above PCH, you will have run over a white statue that serenely overlooks the bay that bears her name.
Saint Monica statue, Santa Monica, CA

Monica of Hippo was born in Tagaste (present-day Algeria) around 332 AD. She is the mother of St. Augustine, who despite his blessed prefix, lived a life of debauchery and licentiousness almost up until his poor mother’s death.

After her husband died, Monica traveled from Africa to Rome to pay her son a visit.

There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, whither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine yield, after seventeen years of resistance.

The Catholic Encyclopedia

At age 33, Augustine converted to Christianity, renounced his sinful ways, and went on to become one of the most influential Christian philosophers of all time. Having fulfilled her greatest hope, Monica began a journey back home to Africa with Augustine. She died on the way, in the town of Ostis. She was in her mid-50s.

On Saint Monica’s Day in 1769, Spanish explorers encountered a Native American village right around the area of today’s Wilshire Blvd, and gave the name to a nearby spring. Or, as a more romantic story goes, the spring’s water reminded them of the tears she shed for her son.

Saint Monica's Statue from above
Saint Monica statue from above

Today in California, Monica’s image watches over wayward children, including those souls who wander just left of the City of Angeles.

(Monica’s feast day was May 4 up until 1969, when the Vatican decided she was more of a summer gal and changed her feast to August 27. St. Augustine’s Day is August 28.)

Santa Monica: A History

Women’s Equality Day

August 26

“Susan B. Anthony is not on trial; the United States is on trial.”

— Matilda Joslyn Gage

Susan B. Anthony

Women’s Equality Day celebrates the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. The amendment gave American women the long-fought-for right to vote. One of the most vocal and influential activists for women’s suffrage was Susan B. Anthony. In fact, in Massachusetts it’s Susan B. Anthony Day today, in honor of the famed activist, human rights defender, and convicted felon.

That’s right. Susan B. Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872 for voting in the November 5 presidential election, “without having a lawful right to vote and in violation of section 19 of an act of Congress.”

In order to prevent damage to her reputation, Commissioner Storrs sent word to Anthony, requesting that she come down to his office. Anthony responded saying she “had no social acquaintance with him and didn’t wish to call on him.” The Commissioner was forced to send a deputy marshal to Anthony’s residence in Rochester, New York. She later recalled:

“He sat down. He said it was pleasant weather. He hemmed and hawed and finally said Mr. Storrs wanted to see me… ‘what for?’ I asked. ‘To arrest you.’ said he. ‘Is that the way you arrest men?’ ‘No.’ Then I demanded that I should be arrested properly.”

Anthony refused to pay bail. The case made national headlines, and letters flooded in. To her dismay, Anthony’s lawyer did pay her bail without her knowledge, explaining “I could not see a lady I respected put in jail.” (This however, later ruined her chance of bringing the case to the Supreme Court.)

Anthony’s lawyer argued—as Anthony had done herself outside of court—that the wording of the 14th Amendment gave all citizens of the United States the right to vote. After a lengthy trial, covered daily in the national press, and at which Anthony herself was not allowed to testify, the judge announced: “The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law…Upon this evidence I supposed there is no question for the jury and the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty.”

The judge pronounced her guilty without ever calling on the jury to deliberate.

Before sentencing, the judge asked Anthony: “Has the prisoner anything to say why sentence shall not be pronounced?”

Not one to make waves, Anthony told the judge:

“Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government…May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury…All of my prosecutors, from the eighth ward corner grocery politician who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal, Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest, for not one of those men was peer; but, native or foreign born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my political superior; hence in no sense, my peer.”

Anthony continued for some time, ignoring the judge’s orders for silence. Finally the judge ordered Anthony to pay $100 and the costs of prosecution. Anthony simply said:

May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper–The Revolution–four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your manmade, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government…And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’

She never paid the fine.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, she voted Republican.

Liberation of Paris

August 25, 1944

Is Paris Burning?

The above line was supposedly uttered by Adolf Hitler to his chief of staff Alfred Jodl, referring to his order to General Dietrich von Choltitz, military governor of Paris during the German occupation, not to let majestic city of Paris fall back into Allied hands, except as complete rubble.

In August 1944, General Eisenhower originally refused to divert troops to help the liberate Paris on the Allies’ way to Berlin; however, Charles de Gaulle threatened to take his own Free French forces anyway, alone if need be.

As Free French forces neared, the Parisians launched a massive strike and mobilized for an all-out war with the German occupying forces. The French Resistance and Free French battled the German occupying force for nearly a week in late August 1944, until Choltitz surrendered on August 25, 1944.

August 20, 1944
August 20, 1944

Choltitz is one of the most controversial figures of the Vichy France. He is seen as a hero to some for refusing to obey HItler’s orders to destroy one of the greatest cities in the world. However, in addition to having served Hitler and the Nazis faithfully during the war, he ordered the executions of numerous French Resistance fighters and destroyed Paris’s Grand Palais in the final days before the Liberation. His motivations may never be fully known, but fortunately for us, centuries-old Parisian landmarks survived the war and the battle for liberation with minimal physical damage.

Free French forces on the Champs Elysees, August 25

On this day in 1944, Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, addressed his newly liberated countrymen from the Hotel de Ville:

We will not hide this deep and sacred emotion. These are minutes which go beyond each of our poor lives. Paris! Outraged Paris! Broken Paris! Martyred Paris! But liberated Paris! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the French armies, with the support and the help of the whole France, of the fighting France, of the only France, of the real France, of the eternal France…

We, who have lived the greatest hours of our History, we have nothing else to wish than to show ourselves, up to the end, worthy of France.

Vive la France!

Liberation Day is not a national holiday in France. Rather, the French celebrate Victory Day 1945 on May 8, the anniversary of the official end of hostilities in Europe the day after the surrender of German forces in Rheims, France.

Ukraine Independence

August 24

Today is the sixtieth birthday of Ukrainian activist, writer, agitator and politician Levko Lukyanenko. But Ukrainians aren’t celebrating the man, they’re celebrating the document he wrote on this day in 1991, Ukraine’s Declaration of Indpendence:

In view of the mortal danger surrounding Ukraine in connection with the state coup in the USSR on August 19, 1991,

Continuing the thousand-year tradition of state development in Ukraine,

Proceeding from the right of a nation to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other international legal documents, and

Implementing the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine,

the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic solemnly declares Independence of Ukraine…

Levko Lukyanenko
Levko Lukyanenko

Back in 1959 Lukyanenko had helped to form the underground organization “Ukrainian Workers and Peasants Society”, for which he wrote the party program. For his involvement, he was sentenced to execution, a sentence that was later mitigated to fifteen years hard labor in the Gulag. His time didn’t dim his revolutionary fervor, but cemented it. After his release, he helped found the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Group.

“All in all, Levko Lukyanenko spent twenty five years in prison and concentration camps and five years in exile, his crime being not murder or armed assault, or robbery but something the soviet regime considered to be the most grievous offence–having views and ideas inconsistent with the soviet ideology.”

Maria Vlad – Levko Lukyanenko, Indomitable Champion of the National Cause

Lukyanenko was released during the Soviet prestroika reforms of the 1980s. In 1990 the former enemy of the state was elected to the Ukrainian parliament.

Oh, and it’s Ukraine, not The Ukraine. It means “Borderland”.

Ukraine also gave us St. Nestor the Chronicler (c. 1056 – c. 1114), the monk who spent twenty years writing the great Russian and Ukrainian history “The Tale of Bygone Years”, or “The Chronicle”.

Independence Square, Kiev
Independence Square, Kiev

Black Ribbon Day – the Baltic Way

The West read the headlines in shock…

The two most bitter enemies in Europe, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, had signed a non-aggression pact.

What did it mean? The end of peace and the beginning of the most devastating war in history.

In spite of concern over Nazi Germany’s buildup of military power, the Britain and France had been wary of signing any alliance treaty with the Soviet Union, whom they considered merely the lesser of two evils (and the further of the two, geographically).

Russia had no choice but to oppose Germany, or so the Britain and France believed. Hatred of communism was a founding principle of Hitler’s Nazi movement, and the feeling in Russia toward Nazism was mutual.

Evidently though, pragmatism outweighed principle.

Hitler used the West’s alienation of the Soviet Union to his advantage. On August 23, 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. It stated, simply, that the two countries would not attack each other.  In other words, it cleared the path for Hitler to attack Poland, knowing Russia wouldn’t attack from the East, should Britain and France attack from the West.

With the two-front war threat out of the way, German tanks rolled into Poland, claiming to do so in retaliation for outbreaks of violence on the German-Polish border.

Weeks later the world got a hint of the other part of the Non-Aggression Pact. It was actually a co-aggression pact. Hitler would attack Poland from the West; Stalin would attack from the East. The USSR would get Estonia and Latvia, Germany would get Lithuania, and the two would “split” Poland down the middle.

Germany’s blitzkrieg against Poland was so swift that Stalin was forced to attack Poland sooner than he’d expected. The Poles, who had managed to hold off Germany for two weeks, fought on for another month as their country was hopelessly devoured from both ends by two of the strongest military powers in the world.

The Pact was meant to last 10 years. Hitler broke it in less than two, invading the Soviet Union in 1941.

Though Germany was defeated in 1945, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia remained in Soviet possession. The West was not anxious to spill more blood in central Europe after 6 years of war. Poland was recognized as an independent country in 1952 but remained under Soviet control. However, the Baltic States would wait until the 1990s to regain independence.

In 1986, protesters gathered in 21 cities across the world on the anniversary of the infamous pact, to protest specifically the secret provision signed by Hitler and Stalin that still determined the map of the Baltic. A provision that the Soviet Union still officially denied existed. Three years later, on the 50th anniversary of the pact, two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians joined hands to form the “Baltic Way”. A human chain that stretched 600 kilometers across the three republics.

The Baltic Way – 1989

Four months later the Soviet Union officially acknowledged the existence of the secret provision of “the Devil’s Pact”.

The nationalistic fervor that spread from to Baltic to other Soviet republics hastened the breakup of the mighty empire that once swallowed them.

Today August 23 is recognized as “Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism”.

Flag Day – Russia

August 22

They’re waving the red, white and blue over in Russia today, though not necessarily in that order. The white-blue-red Russian tri-color flag dates back to the 1660s when Czar Alexei Mikhailovich ordered ships to fly a similar banner for identification. Historians speculate it may have been inspired by the Dutch flag, the oldest remaining tri-color national flag.

Dutch flag
Dutch flag

In the 1880s Czar Alexander III declared the tri-color flag the official flag of Russia. After the October Revolution of 1917, the tri-color was replaced by the red Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag.

The Soviet flag flies over the Berlin Reichstag at the end of WWII
The Soviet flag flies over the Berlin Reichstag at the end of WWII

Flag Day marks the anniversary of the end of the failed 1991 “August Putsch”, a coup which attempted to stem Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformist policies of the 1980s, but which led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union instead.

Subject 110 and The Gang of Eight

In early to mid-1991, Gorbachev–one of the two most powerful men in the world–was placed under surveillance, not by a foreign power, but by his own KGB.

The head of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov, was fearful of the liberal Russian president’s attempts to modernize the country through the decentralization of power. Gorby was working with leaders of the separate Soviet republics on a treaty that would increase the sovereignty of the republics, a move he deemed necessary to sustain the unity of the whole. Hard-liners opposed the treaty.

In July, Khryuchkov overheard a conversation between Subject #110 (Gorbachev) and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in which it was suggested that they replace old school party members like Kryuchnov and his cronies with more liberal ones.

Kryuchkov was not down with this. Nor were his seven cronies, henceforth know as the “Gang of Eight.”

On August 18, some of the Gang of Eight paid Gorbachev a friendly visit while he vacationed at his dacha in the Crimea, during which the concerned visitors ensured the Soviet leader’s rest and privacy by cutting off all channels of communication and placing him under house arrest. The following day they attempted to assume control of the country, due to Gorbachev’s “illness”.

A quarter million handcuffs and arrest forms had been ordered. Prisons were emptied to make room for agitators. Independent newspapers were shut down, and tanks prepared to roll into the capital to seize control of the Russia’s parliament building, the “White House”.

The Russian White House
The Russian "White House" (note the barricades)

Boris Yeltsin and other leaders urged the military not to support the coup. They called for a general strike and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the nation. Citizens surrounded the White House and barricaded it with whatever they could — trolleys, street sweepers, homemade barriers — to prevent the military from attacking.

Boris Yeltsin (left) during the 1991 coup
Boris Yeltsin (left) during the coup

On August 21, at 1 AM, tanks and army vehicles moved in. A pivotal moment was when Spetsgruppa A (Alfa Group), the military unit entrusted with entering the White House and killing Boris Yeltsin and company, analyzed the number of civilian deaths such an action would require, and refused to carry out their mission.

The hard-liners knew they were in deep. They attempted to strike a deal with Gorbachev. He refused to meet with them. That evening communications were restored at the dacha; Gorbachev denounced the actions of the Gang of Eight, ordered their dismissals, and resumed control of the country.

The following day, August 22, the Russian legislature chose to fly Russia’s historic tri-color flag rather than the hammer-and-sickle flag of the Soviet Union.

It was only a piece of cloth, but the symbolic gesture of raising the pre-Soviet flag was tantamount to Russia declaring its own independence from the Soviet Union. And without Russia, there could be no Soviet Union.

Between August 20 and August 30, Estonia, Kyrgyztan, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan declared independence. In September, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Tajikstan, and Armenia did the same.

Ten years later…

“A poll released in July said only 10 percent regarded [August 1991] as a democratic revolution that ended Communist power. Twenty-five percent look back at August 1991 as a tragic event whose aftermath was disastrous for the country.” — NewsHour, August 22, 2001

Ninoy Aquino Day – Philippines

August 21

“The greatest president we never had”

Twenty-seven years ago today a shot rang out in a Manila airport.

Returning to the Philippines after three years in exile, Benigno Aquino, leader of the Liberal Party and the most vocal opponent of President Ferdinand Marcos, was struck dead by an assassin’s bullet.

Twelve years to the day prior to his death, Aquino had escaped another attack. He was not present at a Liberal Party rally where two fragmentation grenades were thrown on stage, killing 9 and injuring almost 100 Liberal Party members and supporters. In response to the bombing, President Marcos suspended habeas corpus and arrested scores of Maoists.

The following year he declared martial law, and had Aquino, his #1 opponent, arrested. Although no evidence connected Aquino to the crime, a military tribunal found Aquino guilty and sentenced him to death by firing squad. The sentence was later mitigated, but Aqunio remained in prison for seven years. In jail Aquino suffered a heart attack and was granted leave to receive surgery in the United States.

Aquino and his wife Corazon did not return to the Philippines for 3 years. In that time both were active speakers against the Marcos government, which had amended the Constitution in the 1970s and 80s to extend martial law, increase the scope of Marcos’s power and the length of his term.

Benigno Aquino returned to Manila on August 21, 1983, knowing full well the many dangers that awaited him. Below is the beginning of the address he was set to give upon his return.

“I have returned on my free will to join the ranks of those struggling to resolve our rights and freedoms through non-violence. I seek no confrontation. I only pray and will strive for a genuine national reconciliation founded on justice. I am prepared for the worst, and have decided against the advice of my mother, my spiritual adviser, many of my tested friends, and a few of my most valued political mentors.

“A death sentence awaits me. Two more subversion charges, both calling for death penalties, have been filed since I left three years ago and are pending with the courts. I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis.

“I never sought nor have I been given any assurances or promise of leniency by the regime. I return voluntarily, armed only with a clear conscience and fortified in the faith that in the end, justice will emerge triumphant.”

Full speech –

Aquino never had a chance to deliver the speech. He was assassinated “by a lone gunman” according to the government, the moment he stepped off the airplane.

Ninoy Aquino

He was reportedly called “The Greatest President we never had,” by Liberal Party leader Jovito Salonga.

There was never proved any direct evidence linking Marcos to the assassination, but it sparked widespread discontent with the Marcos administration. In November 1985 Marcos announced Presidential elections to take place in February. Benigno Aquino’s widow Corazon ran against Marcos. The Marcos government claimed to have won the election, but accusations of extreme voter fraud and massive public demonstrations against his rule combined with military opposition and U.S. pressure forced Marcos to resign on February 25, 1986.

Beningo Aquino’s widow Corazon Aquino became the first female President of the Philippines. She passed away on August 1, 2009.

Philippines Free Press – Benigno Aquino, Man of the Year

Krishna Janmashtami

August 21-22, 2011

In the house of Vasudeva will the Supreme Lord, the original transcendental person, personally appear…

Bhagavata Purana, 1:23

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang down.

Eric Clapton, After Midnight

Though worshipped differently across many Hindu sects, Krishna is one of the holiest figures–if not the holiest–in the Hindu religion. He was born at midnight on this, the eighth day after the full moon of Bhadrapada/Shravan, in the year–well, before you were born.

In 2010 Sri Krishna Jayanti, or Krishna Janmashtami, falls on September 1 or 2, depending on location.

Krishna is considered the eighth and greatest incarnation of the god Vishnu. In art, he’s commonly pictured as a baby or as a youngster playing the flute. Krishna means “black”, but he’s more often depicted as blue.

Before Krishna was born, a prophecy was told to the King Kamsa. That he–the king–would be killed by his cousin’s son. Kamsa placed his cousin Devaki and her husband Vasudeva in prison. Every son that Devaki bore, Kamsa had killed. Six children in all. The seventh boy, Balarama, was magically transfered to the womb of another woman. The eighth child Vasudeva managed to sneak out of the prison. The boy was Krishna. Vasudeva encountered a cow-herding couple who had just given birth to a daughter. They switched babies and Vasudeva returned to the prison, showing Kamsa that the child was a girl, not a boy.

Krishna grew up with the humble cow-herding family. He was a mischievous kid, known for playing pranks and for seducing women with the romantic music of his flute.

When the King heard of Krishna’s existence he invited Krishna to a wrestling match, set up to trap and kill Krishna and his elder brother Balarama. The brothers foiled King Kamsa’s plans, defeating first a mighty demon elephant and the King’s best wrestlers.

When the King drew his sword, Krishna grabbed him by the hair and crushed him to death, fulfilling the prophecy.

The holiday comes to a climax at midnight tonight, when Krishna was said to have been born. Krishna is worshipped through the chanting of Vedic hymns, and mantapam structures built in his honor are decorated with thindis snacks and fruits…

After midnight, it’s all gonna be peaches and cream.

— Eric Clapton