“On March 29, 1676, a party of Narragansetts attacked Providence, destroying the town. To Roger Williams, who considered himself a friend of the Narragansetts… the attack was a profound betrayal. With a rage fueled by distress, Williams walked to the outskirts of town to meet with the Narragansetts and force them to answer for their perfidy. Pointing to his own house, which, he said, ‘hath Lodged kindly Some Thousands of You these Ten years,’ but which was then burning to ashes behind him, Williams asked ‘Why they assaulted us With burning and Killing who ever were kind Neighbors to them.’ In a heated discussion, the Narragansetts offered three answers:

[firstly]they confessed they were in A Strang Way.

2ly we had forced them to it.

3ly that God was [with] them and Had forsaken us for they had so prospered in Killing and Burning us far beyond What we did against them.”

–       from The Name of War, Jill Lepore


Stepping back for a minute from the logic of King Philip’s war per se, this inventory of justifications seems accurate and widely applicable, even as a direct sequence. First, a need for extraordinary behavior is conceived, then (in committing to satisfy this need in action) – moral independence is affirmed (I was made to do it), and then self-salvation when life in moral independence becomes legislatively impossible and spiritually lonely (I was supported in my doing of it by God, whose ways I do not understand but whose laws I maintain).


Of the three, I’m most drawn to the strangeness of the Strange Way. Again, a deeply Wellmanian search (ideas of the Strange) – How we can, in our effort to exist (to be apart from everything – to be distinct ) become quickly and hopelessly lost… The great battle scene in War and Peace – how blinded and breathless combatants are on the too-bright side of the moon…

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