Shame in the New Gilded Age

The Neo-Victorian Era and Two Thin Red Lines—

When I was five years old I watched my father split his head open with an axe. We were living in New Hampshire at the time and it was winter, the fields deep in snow. My father was splitting logs in the basement of our house. He was a physically powerful man, and while young he had worked for several years on his father’s sawmill on a mountain outside Tucson, Arizona. I sat on the wooden stairs and watched him divide the logs with a rhythmic metallic chuck, the pieces dancing away onto the cement floor. At the apex of a full-bodied downswing, the head of the axe caught on a piece of old clothesline concealed near the rafters and the sharp blade swung around and struck him hard in the back of the head and he cursed and knelt down. Paralyzed, I watched his deep red blood flow out from where his fingers clenched the wound. The blood matted his black hair, and pooled around him on the dusty cement. Unable to move or respond I sat rigid as my father staggered past me into the bright daylight, a dripping rag now pressed to the wound. Charging around to the front of the house, he left a thin trail of red in the white snow. Then, after more shouting, I heard the car engine kick into life and drive off. Shivering as the sun sank down, I sat listening to the furnace tick in the shadows. Hours later, my father returned with the wound stitched closed and found me in the same position. Read Full Article