One of the best Easters I ever enjoyed had nothing to do with the real Sacrifice the holiday is all about. It was 1969, and I was sixteen, and had an intuitive interest in the Almighty, but no interest whatsoever in church. Church, in my eyes, was a ridiculous waste of time. School was a stifling of my spirit for five days a week, and to accept any further stifling during the scarce two days I had free each week (Saturday and Sunday) seemed a stupid suggestion. Fortunately I was a Unitarian, and one good thing about being a Unitarian was that we didn’t have to go to church unless we felt like it, which, as I recall, amounted to a total of ten times, by the time I was sixteen. (I wish my parents were alive, so I could ask them what prompted them to go to church those ten times. It was an odd thing to do, and I recall being somewhat awed by the weirdness of it all).
In any case, I not only had no idea of who Jesus was, or what Easter celebrated, but also I had no idea of the deep thought behind Unitarianism, (which tends to be skeptical and scientific and to doubt miracles are real ). Unitarians failed to educate their youth, in my case, I suppose. The result was I enjoyed a permissiveness and lack of discipline that left me free as a bird.
But, because my brain is bigger than a bird’s, I did a lot of wondering. In school this was a problem and was seen as a failure to pay attention to the blackboard. I daydreamed a lot, knew such thinking was illegal, and became an artful dodger, when it came to avoiding drawing attention to myself. Self-promotion was not a thing I desired, and if I had any talent in that regard it atrophied like an unused muscle, because my main aim in school was to escape punishment by going unnoticed.
My thoughts existed in a sort of Underground. There were a few mean and repressive people in my childhood who I suppose I could blame for stunting my growth, but still it seems odd to me that I was so reclusive. For the most part my life was good, but still I withdrew as if Nazis might come down on me, if I thought out loud. Due to this fearful reaction, (and fear must have been involved, to keep a blabbermouth like myself so silent), I became, at a young age, very aware of what a wasteland the mind can be, without the introduction of ideas outside of your own capacity to “think-up”.
Sometimes my daydreaming would leave me totally dissatisfied. Although I did delight in staying in bed late on Saturday and Sunday mornings, enjoying my slumbering thoughts, by noon the thoughts were becoming irksome. I had to get up. I had to get out. I had to find some other minds.
To some degree I could find the other minds in books. But even books grew irksome after a while, and then I was confronted by the fact I chronically avoided involvement in school. I had few friends. I was the youngest in my grade, in some cases by more than a year, which in some cases put me at a great disadvantage, but in one case was a great blessing.
The blessing occurred because I remained a boy as my classmates became adolescents. This was painfully obvious in the showers after “Gym” class, where I could see I had no pubic hair and nearly everyone else did. It was also obvious at school dances, where I was usually a foot shorter than the girls. This resulted in some situations that seemed tragic at the time, but seem funny to me now. If I digress into the details I will write a short novel, but you should be asking yourself, “How could such a situation be a blessing?”
It was a blessing because I could witness what idiots my peers were becoming as the hormones hit, when I was still free of such madness. It altered my mind, so that when the hormones finally did hit me, only a year later, I rocketed off in a direction all my own.
Only a few years later I was six feet tall, and the fellows who had bullied me backed off. I was still a dreamer, but a big one. I still liked to sleep late, but also was propelled by a strange desire to escape my home town, and escape the school where both teachers and peers didn’t think much of me. One form of escape was to hitchhike.
I should underscore how much safer hitchhiking was back then. Not that I didn’t meet a few perverts, but perverts were far politer back then. Once you explained you were not interested in their particular perversion, they’d be very understanding. I’d apologize for not being perverted and they’d apologize for asking if I was, and they’d drop me off at the place where I wanted. Except, in a few cases, we had to sit together for a while longer, before I got dropped off, and there were awkward silences. I never liked awkward silences, so I’d get an interesting conversation going about perversion, before I got dropped off.
In 1967 I began hitchhiking home from school, and the rides were short and the talks brief, mostly with suburban fathers on their way home from work. But some of the same fathers picked me up over and over. But I wanted adventure, and in 1968 I ventured farther afield, down to Cape Cod and out to Nantucket, and then from a friend’s summerhouse on Mohegan Island in Maine to a family gathering east of Toronto, spending a night in the YMCA in Montreal on the way. I was fifteen years old.
Let me repeat that. I was fifteen years old. That is how safe the world was, back then. I kept careful records of my adventures, and in my diary noted every ride, and what I observed in the kind people who picked me up. I was not a dirty hippy at that time, but a smooth-faced youth with short hair and idealistic eyes. Families driving loaded station-wagons full of children would swerve to the side of interstate highways to pick me up, so I must have looked wholesome and innocent. I did my best to totally charm my benefactors, and I seldom waited long for a ride.
One ironic event was that I got picked up by a reporter for a small town newspaper just as it was getting dark, and, (after he asked his wife permission, and she (and two small children) scanned me from head to toe), I was allowed to sleep on his screened-in front porch. I wrote about him in my diary even as he wrote about me at his typewriter. Because I was quite close to the place in Ontario where the family-gathering I was heading-towards was held, his article was seen and clipped from a paper by a family friend, and I actually eventually had a copy sent to me. What is ironic was that he seemed to envy me for being on an adventure, even as I envied him for having a woman who loved him, (and for getting paid for his writing).
When I got back home there were no articles in my hometown paper admiring and envying me. I was back to being just a nerd in a school of snobs. I loathed school more than ever, but God was kind, as 1968 turned into 1969. That winter saw stupendous snowstorms in February which, along with the February vacation, meant that I only had to go to school something like four days the entire month.
March brought the ordinary routine back, and I swiftly was very sick of it. I wanted to stay in bed and not deal with how shrunken and humiliated high-school made me feel, but rampaging hormones made me also want to flee. I had developed a new habit of impulsively blurting stuff, turning from an introvert into a braggart, and, even though I was (mostly) a quiet introvert at school, when I arrived home I talked big. One afternoon I stated I had to write a Social Studies report (untrue) about “researching America”, (untrue), so I was going to hitchhike down to my grandparents in Florida in order to “gather interviews”. (Largely bullshit; I actually planned to spend Easter Vacation sleeping late.)
My home-life was chaos at that point, as my mother had remarried an old, rich Harvard Law School professor the prior May, and the poor fellow, nearly seventy, got hit by such terrible disrespect, (I am one of six children), that he had a heart attack. I felt slightly guilty as he recovered, though I confess I continued to refer to him as “The fossil”. I just figured he was an old sleaze-bag and my mother was a money-grubber willing to degrade herself and become a “trophy wife”, which may explain part of my desire to leave town, but the old geezer surprised me by actually seeming to care about me. How he survived that first year I’ll never know, but when he died nine years later I knew I’d lost one of those rare friends you don’t deserve, but who sometimes unexpectedly appear in your life right out of the blue.
In any case, I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously when I said I would hitchhike to my grandparents in Florida, in order to get good grades. It was only one idea out of a whole lot of other ideas I blurted out, when I got home from school. I probably also said I’d get to the moon before both the Americans and Russians. It shocked my socks off when my stepfather thought it was a good idea.
In 1969 Easter occurred on April 6, days before “Easter Vacation” actually started. There was no attempt on my stepfather’s part to subject me to church, but he did subject me to some tradition of his own, some egg-hunt his family always held, and which now involved his grandchildren and not his children. I was annoyed, as it was beneath my sixteen-year-old dignity to hunt eggs. How dare this fossil (who was saving my family from poverty) ask me to attend a stupid egg hunt? Did this silly business of hunting eggs end the Vietnam War? Did it end poverty in the inner cities? With the sneering scorn only a sixteen-year-old virgin can glower, I did attend the egg hunt, but I was not helpful.
As I stood disapproving of children hunting Easter eggs, I could not help but eavesdrop on what the “grownups” were discussing. I was taken aback when one topic was “my trip to Florida”. One grownup was saying, “But what if the police think he is running away from home?” My stepfather stated, “My stepson will produce proof of my permission, with a permission slip, written on Harvard Law School stationary.”
To be honest, my response was to silently think, “Oh, shit”.
It is one thing to just blather on and on about political manure, but quite another when you actually have to shovel the shit.
One part of my sixteen-year-old diary makes me chuckle. It admits what I really wanted to do over Easter Vacation was to sleep late, and wonders why on earth I was getting up early the next day to hitchhike to Florida.
I am so glad I did it. It opened my eyes to the sort of Americans who care enough to pull over for a sixteen-year-old kid hanging his thumb out on the side of a highway. All I can say now, a full fifty later, is, “God bless them, bless them, and bless them again.”
It took me some three days and thirty rides to get from Massachusetts to Florida. For some bizarre reason I calculated my miles-per-hour, as a hitchhiker, and it was nearly sixty mph the first day. But back in 1969 Interstate 95 quit in the Carolina’s, and a hitchhiker had to go slower, hitchhiking smaller highways through swamps where Spanish Moss hung from every branch of every tree, and sharecroppers still plowed fields with mules.
My grandmother very much wanted to see my Social Studies report after I wrote it, which was very embarrassing because I’d made the “assignment” up, as an excuse for my wanderlust. She kept asking to see it, even years later. Now I am thinking perhaps I’ll write it, fifty years later. I still have the old diary, with every ride carefully listed.
I have one paragraph completed in my head, a sort of statement I’ve spoken so many times that my kids roll their eyes slightly when they hear me again becoming garrulous. I just say how kind all the people were, and how they advised me to be wary of other people who might be dangerous. I say, “Northerners told me to watch out for southerners, and southerners told me to watch out for northerners. Whites told me to watch out for blacks and blacks told me to watch out for whites. Absolutely everyone told me to watch out for the Georgia police, and the Georgia police told me to watch out for absolutely everyone. And everyone was beautiful and kind.”
Something odd was occurring in 1969 that many recall. It was called “The Summer Of Love”, which seems a bit odd considering there were anti-war riots and drug overdoses and bad trips, and over the years I’ve heard many do their best to belittle the rare mood which flavored pretty much everything. But no amount of denial can completely erase how special it was, even though it is nearly impossible to describe.
In the Bible there is something called a “Jubilee” that occurs every fifty years or so, where all your debts are forgiven. In Hinduism there is something called a “Darshan” where God or a saint reveals divinity to the ignorant and undeserving. Something along those lines occurred in 1969. In the strangest manner I could see God in every person I met. I got a glimpse how beautiful this world could be.
How far we have fallen. I can sink into a dismal mood nowadays, where it seems everyone is whining, and claiming they are a victim, and blaming everyone else. Rather than God I see a jerk in everyone. I yearn to go back to 1969, when everyone shone with a beautiful light.
Another year’s under my belly’s belt And another spring startles with warm wind. I wonder if I’ll feel as I once felt, Or did last winter make me so thick-skinned That I can’t smile. Bitter men own logic That pounds its points with harsh effectiveness Even through healing palms. And so sly, so slick Is this sick debate that one avoids the mess By washing ones hands. Why try? And why get Mixed up with the doomed? I don’t even want To turn on my radio. No saint breaks a sweat Striving, for it’s easier to taunt, Yet my heart knows Christ saved fools who had sinned, And it’s then spring startles with warm, washing wind.
I fell into a sort of sulk last November, due to shrill Democrats winning the House of Representatives here in the United States, and also because I became aware my blog was being censored in certain search-engines due to the fact I am a “Denier”, regarding Global Warming. I felt a divisive and even fascist power was arising and oddly accusing everyone else of being fascist. It felt totally different from 1969, when people sung, “everyone is beautiful, in their own way.” I just wanted to turn away from it all, but that just made me feel marginalized and alone.
It was then I discovered the #WalkAway videos on YouTube. Apparently I was not the only one who felt as I felt. Although the videos are political, (in that they are people who are “walking away” from the Democrat party), they also had the feel of a support-group, wherein one becomes aware one is not alone. It is a relief to see others feel the way you feel, even when they are from very different backgrounds, of different religions and nationalities and age-groups. Men and woman, whites and blacks and Asians and Latinos, young and old, all disliked the division. None liked being told they should hate fellow Americans. All preferred a unity, and felt “all men are created equal”.
It gave me the strange feeling I was sixteen and hitchhiking again, and a stranger’s car had stopped to pick me up, and that for a short while I sat beside a new and interesting friend.
I am feeling a need to redefine the word “dour”, a word which which tends to fail to include a sort of gallows-humor I often notice in dour people, and instead dismissively defines the dour as “relentlessly severe”.
The simple fact of the matter is that life isn’t all sunshine, especially in northern lands. In fact just a few days ago I was texting with my youngest son, and it was 76ºF in New York City, where he was, while it was 32ºF just a five-hour-drive north, where I was, in New Hampshire. Now I ask you, is that fair?
Life isn’t fair. This is especially true if you are from the north and have blond hair and blue eyes. Certain racists blame us northerners for all the world’s problems. Believe me, we don’t need such gloom. The weather up north is gloomy enough without additional politics. We couldn’t survive, without a sort of gallows humor. Here is a dour sonnet:
The gloom returned, just as I expected. New Hampshire’s not known for it’s sunshine, Especially in April. One is led To believe we’re deceived. A pet peeve of mine Is that, ‘round here, a true “bolt from the blue” Is the sun itself, ‘specially in April. Sunshine’s not expected. Therefore it’s true That people move here, and then like to thrill About our Autumn foliage, but by April they’re fed up. Good-bye ‘n’ good riddance. If you can’t abide gloom, don’t even try To live in the north. Instead have some sense And seek some place full of camels and sand. You’ve got to be dour to live in this land.
Yesterday we got a “bolt from the blue”, which was a sunny day in April. This usually has nothing to do with south winds. Dry winds come from the cold northwest, yet so powerful is the sun (as high in April as it is in August) that even though thawing ponds refreeze overnight, by noon you take off your coat under the hot sun. The problem is that the dry wind then swings around to the moist southwest, and clouds increase, and that hot sun vanishes. It is then that warm air gets as far north as New York City, but all we get is the chilling clouds.
A further problem is that the single sunny day with bright sunshine makes people crazy, especially if they are not acquainted with the dour truth of northern gloom.
I once worked as a landscaper for a wealthy woman from Virginia, and she became frantic in early April because the weather became downright hot, and we had no tomatoes planted. It took every iota of diplomacy I owned to calm the lady down, and to inform her that to plant tomatoes in early April is a bad idea, in New Hampshire. A week later, as I pruned budless roses in her garden in a snowstorm, she called me in to her warm, glassed-in porch and, with Virginia hospitality which I, as a dirty gardener, was not accustomed to, served me tea and a delicious “five bean salad”, and also informed me, with a glance out at the falling snow, “You were right about the tomatoes”.
There was something about the begrudging way the good lady said “You were right about the tomatoes” that was very dour, but also makes me want to redefine the word “dour” to include humor. There was something very northern in her glance, as she looked out through her greenhouse’s glass to a world turning white. An extreme irony.
If truth must be known. the moment this gracious lady’s starchy, northern husband died, she vamoosed back to Virginia. Southern Hospitality does not feel at home in the north. But maybe I did teach her a bit about Northern Hospitality, which includes telling people not to plant tomatoes just because a single day in April is sunny.
This is not to say that I myself can’t be infected by April sunshine and be made insanely manic. Just a couple days ago I was guilty of buying a flock of peeping chicks for the children at my Childcare, but then discovering that, when I went out to dig post-holes for their coop, that a rock-hard semi-permafrost made digging difficult, only ten inches down in the dirt.
Who is going to help me, (and those poor chickens), by slamming through permafrost with a bladed crowbar that weighs forty pounds? I’m getting too old for such nonsense. I became dour, as I contemplated my predicament, huffing and puffing.
Life isn’t fair. When that gracious lady from Virginia became manic she had a young, blond man appear to help her out, (me), but, now that I’m as old and gray as she was back then, what do I get when I become manic? I get blamed for all the world’s problems because my skin is too white.
No sooner did that grouchy thought pass through my mind when a very blond boy appeared to help me. (It is hard to blame him for all the world’s problems, as he is only five years old). (Also his ancestors came from Finland, which didn’t enslave anyone that I know about.)
It has occurred to me that age does not merely make us infirm and decrepit. It also has a benefit, in that some of us become, (unlike certain professors), less likely to fall prey to the goofs of youth, chief of which is infatuation. We are less likely to seize upon an answer and think we have found the solution before we have even gotten our feet wet with the actual problem. The escape from infatuation is to know you do not know the answer, and this realization is fundamental to being truly responsive, which is fundamental to being truly loving.
Every dawn is fresh and new. We may think we know what the weather will be, but in fact we don’t. The most fabulous computers our world has seen (so far) have been devoted to telling us what the weather will be when we get out of bed, and we have seen them proved wrong. Before we go to bed we can study the work of brilliant minds, the computer weather-models of Europe, Canada, the USA, Japan, and others, and they may all promise us a sunny day, but when we rise from bed and step outside to sniff the air we hear the roll of morning thunder. Our Creator has his own plan, and does not heed the computer models. So who should you obey? What your government states the weather will be? Or what our Creator states the weather actually is?
I tend to side with the Creator, for He is the Truth. Computer models are but an approximation, sort of like a four-year-old’s drawing of my face, at my Childcare. I don’t scold the child for a lousy drawing, and I don’t suppose God scolds the fellows who devise computer models. But, when push comes to shove, I tend to consult a mirror before a four-year-old, when it comes to how my wrinkled, toothless, old face looks, and, when it comes to the morning’s weather, I prefer to step outside and sniff the air, and trust my nose more than I trust bureaucrats staring at computer read-outs, far away.
When I step outside to sniff the air I can’t tell you how many times the weather has surprised me. This proves I am not in control. Despite all the effort I’ve put into comprehending the complexity of New England weather, I’m still ignorant. I am faced with my own imperfection on a daily basis, but does this make the dawn imperfect? No, for even when the daybreak annoys me with snow I must shovel, it is perfect. I may call it perfectly annoying, but still it is perfect. If there is any imperfection involved, it is in my grouchy responses.
As a child-care-professional I make no claim to be perfect, though the government regulations at times seem to want to demand perfection, and to desire bubble-wrapping childhood so no child’s knee is ever seen with a scab. Instead of pretending perfection, I wear my imperfections as a reason to laugh, like a joker, like the child-care-professional Yorick, the court jester of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play. Hamlet recalls riding Yorick’s shoulders as a boy, and kissing him, and the way Yorick could make everyone laugh, but Yorick’s single appearance in the play is as a skull.
Facing mortality is a great blow to the optimism and infatuations of youth, which also owns a completely contrary sense of invulnerability. This is what makes Hamlet’s comment to Horatio so timeless:
Mortality is the great equalizer, because the exact same fate that befalls a jester befalls a king, and awaited Stalin and Sennacherib. Physically we are all doomed. But in terms of minds, Stalin and Sennacherib were downright depressing, whereas Isaiah, Shakespeare, and Norman Rockwell were (and remain) lively. The difference seems to be that the tyrant seeks power while the poet seeks love’s joy, and worldly power is perishable, while love is not.
A sort of epiphany occurred to me during the final weeks before our national elections, here in the USA, last November. At that time Alarmists were sticking with their arguments about sea-ice, despite the fact their arguments were utterly refuted. Worse, young and naive voters were convinced by Alarmist’s baldfaced lies. In effect I was zealously informed by youth (who didn’t know penguins don’t live with polar bears) that I knew nothing about arctic sea-ice.
If you look back across five years on this site you will see how I have sought to learn all I could about sea-ice, and to patiently share what I have learned. And yet some loud child, just barely of voting age, presumes to tell me what the Truth is, about sea-ice?
It stopped me in my tracks. Truth is such a beautiful thing, and I wanted so badly to share the joy and laughter, yet ignorance has power, and a virtual entity like “Google”, that exists unseen, can seek to demote me, so I sink twenty pages down on it’s “search engine”, so impatient youth will never “search” long enough to hear the truth I’ve learned about sea-ice. Instead they will just parrot the falsehood they have been indoctrinated with, by the politically-correct, who may not be aware of it, but are behaving in a Maoist manner.
Call me discouraged if you will, but I needed time to think.
It seems to me that, if Truth has the power I claim it has, and the pen has the power I claim it has, then there has been a singular lack of evidence that corroborates my belief. I seem to be standing in the same shoes that the sane people of Hitler’s Germany, of Stalin’s Russia, and of Mao’s China, stood in.
What was the use of telling the Truth? I seemed to be beating my brains against a brick wall.
I have recently finished reading “In The Garden Of The Beasts” by Erik Larson, describing the days leading up to the ugliness of the night Hitler first revealed the capacity of his hate and his inability to love, called, “The Night of the Long Knives,” from the view of the American ambassador and his somewhat randy and rambunctious daughter.
I don’t like that period of history, for I always see how Hitler could have been stopped, but none would heed the sane voices. Yet a fascination drags me to look at what I don’t like, perhaps to see how the sane managed to stay sane.
For example, when I first read “The Last Lion” by William Manchester, I couldn’t comprehend how Churchill stayed sane during the period 1933 to 1939. He could see where Hitler was headed, and what his aim was, and knew that if Hitler wasn’t stopped then war, and the death of millions, would be the result. But Churchill, (who knew first-hand the horrors of the trenches, and who wanted to avoid a major war), was called a “war monger” for stating Hitler must be confronted and stopped with a minor war. How great must have been his level of frustration! To be ignored, year after year, and to have his own imperfections magnified, as Hitler’s were forgiven. How did he manage to keep a shred of sanity, as the politically-correct steered civilization to a holocaust?
He must have had a mystic faith in some higher power, called Truth, which would win in the end. In a speech Churchill stated that if Hitler was not stopped, and achieved his goals, the world would face a new, prolonged dark age, made worse by the powers of modern science, but even that statement hints at an underlying belief in goodness. How? It suggests that even if the darkness is “prolonged”, it must lose eventually to the dawn of enlightenment.
It is ironic that Churchill was seen as a hawk and war monger, when what he desired was to confront Hitler in 1933, when Hitler was still weak, and when confrontation would allow the world to enjoy peace, and avoid the hell of war. He was the opposite of a war-monger. He was a peace-lover. But perhaps “peace”, at that time, was too intellectually attached to a royalty, wealth, and empire which God had decided to hit with His “ax”, because the empire’s rich exploited the empire’s poor, and when a rich man died “vultures would gather”, and that rich man’s “widow would be destitute”. People in power put the wrong things ahead of the right things, and lustful infatuation came before love.
When I read Churchill’s speeches from the 1930’s I have an odd sense the dude wasn’t really a politician. He was a poet. His prose has a cadence that your toes want to tap to, as you listen. There are some things that touch your heart, even as your mind objects. Such things have their origins in Truth, and seem to me evidence Churchill was a man living in proximity-to and association-with Truth.
That being said, it must be admitted Churchill (like all of us) had his weaknesses, one of which was a fierce loyalty in 1936 to the new English king, Edward.
Such respect of royalty may seem odd in Churchill’s case, for Churchill had an American mother, and gladly embraced a family-legend that his mother’s great-grandmother, (who had the wonderful Puritan name “Experience Martin”), had skin darker than her siblings and may have been the result of an indiscretion involving an Iroquois Indian. This would make Churchill a sort of “half breed”. (I should add that I’ve found no documentary evidence the family-legend is true). However it seems Churchill himself didn’t seem to mind the possibility he had some fierce Iroquois warrior blood in his veins. This may have given him reason to dislike Hitler’s emphasis on “racial purity.” If so, it perhaps should have also made him dislike King Edward’s contempt towards “inferior races” as well. Instead, Churchill enacted intense patriotic respect for the monarchy, (which American patriots can’t comprehend, unless they can comprehend that back then badmouthing the British monarchy was the English equivalent of an American spitting on the American flag.)
Edward is an odd character, for, at a time when great men craved power, he wanted to be done with it. Where Stalin and Hitler would kill for power, and Churchill would take the most unpopular stances with bulldog determination seeking to gain power through persuasion, Edward seemingly was more comfortable as an obedient and even subservient follower. Not that he didn’t have some strong opinions.
Edward had reason to hate communists, as his aunt had been murdered along with her husband, (the Russian Czar), and all her four children. Therefore he approved of Hitler’s hatred of communists. He also didn’t mind Hitler’s love of Germans, as he was largely German himself. He shared Hitler’s belief that some races were “inferior”, and in his travels around the British Empire he had little sympathy for his impoverished subjects, tending to see poverty not as a choice, or as a misfortune, but as brought about by the genetically diminished intelligence of an inferior race. Lastly, he didn’t mind Hitler’s autocratic mindset, because democracy had been such a shambles in Germany, which suggested an autocrat was necessary. To Edward the alternative to a fascist tyrant seemed to be a communist tyrant. Europe had seen few examples of revolution having results like America’s; largely European revolution resulted in some sort of “Terror” like France’s, and to resulting in people falling back to the “safety” of some sort of monarch, or a dictator like Napoleon.
One thing that made the royalty and the upper class so despised by communists of that time was that their lifestyle made them dependent on a staff of servants. Royalty were freed from doing their own laundry, which may have given them time to attend to other matters, but meant they were in fact inept, in terms of doing laundry. But some did not see themselves as inept, but rather as “more civilized”. People who lived more minimalist lifestyles, wherein one prepared ones own food, cut ones own firewood, and washed ones own clothes, were sometimes deemed “less civilized”, simply because such minimalists had little free time to sit about discussing politics at cocktail parties. It was not uncommon for the wealthiest English Brahman to not merely have clean clothes laid out twice a day, but to have a servant who dressed them. In some cases the servants were appreciated and well cared-for, (Churchill’s staff were largely devoted to him), but in other cases the staff felt disdained, because their unappreciative bosses looked down their noses and said the “inferior” should “know their place”. This belittling was what the communists most despised, and a servant’s natural dislike of an employer’s unappreciative snobbery was a resentment communists tended to nurture, like a small cut into an abscess, from a pout towards rage and revolution.
In a simplistic manner this tended to divide a nation’s naturally united people into Royalists and Antiroyalists, or the Bourgeoisie and the Prolatariate. To continue this simplistic division, Edward was faced with a choice between Hitler and Stalin, and, because Stalin was on the side that had murdered his Aunt and Uncle and all their children, the choice seemed simple. Though the pictures below are from a year later (1937) they demonstrate a friendliness between Edward and Hitler that likely would have made Churchill cringe. (Between the two pictures Hitler likely gallantly kissed the lady’s hand).
The woman in the above pictures is the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, who the king eventually gave up his throne for. The king was likely warned the relationship with her was unwise, (as “intelligence” [IE: gossip and spies] stated she had not only enjoyed an affair with Hitler’s foreign minister, Ribbentrop, but years earlier had an affair with Mussolini’s son-in-law [while in China, of all places]). However Edward likely knew much about the indiscretions of the upper class, having been a playboy himself, nor was he particularly upset about prewar, (pre-genocide) fascism, having been brought up to believe he was a king and superior to “commoners”, due to his “royal blood” alone. Ms Simpson likely was a person with whom he could be frank, about the foibles of leaders, and was a woman who knew much about the presumptions of the powerful, and with her he likely enjoyed a level of understanding he didn’t find elsewhere, and he fell in love.
Because king Edward had access to “red boxes” holding state secrets, (to keep him abreast of government decisions), and because Mrs.Simpson was suspected of being a spy, some were alarmed by how open he was with her. A private detective was hired to trail them. But in 1936 the upper class were oblivious to the approaching holocaust. Churchill’s deep distrust of Hitler, and of fascism in general, was not a widely held view. Many of England’s upper class, like Edward, felt Hitler was a good opponent for Stalin, and Hitler ought be supported, to stand as a “bulwark” against the rise of communism in Russia, and that Hitler could be controlled. Meanwhile Hitler felt England would eventually side with him, and that Edward could be controlled.
In spiritual terms both royalists and communists (in my view) are birds of a feather, for they both are based on autocratic concepts, and tend to want to be rid of restraints to absolute power, such as “constitutional monarchy” or “democratic socialism.” Royalists and Communists see each other as absolute opposites, and are unaware that, because “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, they actually create each other, and are dependent on each other, due to the perverse, Karmic nature of hatred. This was about to become horribly clear in the Spanish Civil War, but in 1936 that nightmare hadn’t started yet.
Churchill clearly saw that Hitler could not be controlled by appeasement, and that force would be required, but had a difficult time marshaling public opinion, as the British public loathed the thought of another war. He finally seemed to making some headway in 1936, after Hitler ignored signed treaties and broke trust by marching troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. Hitler himself later stated that, if the French had marched their own troops in to meet him, he would have had to back off, and that his move was a big gamble. Confronting Hitler was exactly what Churchill urged. He was winning support, and at this point, (when reading “The Last Lion“) I feel a surge of hope (even though I know the future), for Churchill’s power-of-persuasion was on the verge of saving Europe from the approaching holocaust. But then, right when an ordinary politician would make sure to keep cultivating a popular position, mincing and smirking towards cameras and the press, Churchill does something in his bulldog manner that was bound to lose votes.
It was right then Edward announced his intent to marry the divorced commoner Ms. Simpson. The public was horrified. The outrage was not so much that Ms. Simpson was a commoner, (or a fascist spy), but that that she was divorced not merely once, but in the process of divorcing a second husband.
It is difficult for people nowadays to understand the shame and disgrace involved back then, when people broke their marriage vows. Not that the upper crust didn’t cheat on each other, but they didn’t divorce. (In fact some upper class marriages involved couples able to have tremendous rows about the affairs they discovered each other were having, who still were able to make-up, and laugh about their moral indiscretions, later in their marriages.) (King Edward VII (Edward’s grandfather) may even have had a door put in at the back of the palace, so Queen Victoria would not see his lovers coming and going, but he would never, never divorce his queen.) In conclusion, while an affair might be dismissed as a “foible”, a divorce was a big deal. In 1935, when Edward had introduced Ms. Simpson to his mother and father (IE “presented her at court”) his father was furious when he discovered she was divorced, for divorced women simply were not allowed in to be present at court. The English church deemed relations with a divorced woman “adultery”. The British press was silent about the kings “affair”, (even as the American press blared the news), hoping that the new king would get over his “infatuation”, and the affair could be discreetly dismissed. The British press imposed this self-censorship for they were well aware of the outrage that would occur if the public was asked to accept such a woman as their queen.
There was a lot of behind-the-scenes speculation about what gave Ms. Simpson her power. Edward seemed “under her thumb” and “to enjoy being ordered about”. Various pseudo-psychological ideas were bandied about, basically involving her being really good in bed, and the king being masochistic, but none of this solved the problem, which was that Edward was smitten. Finally the press couldn’t hide the romance much longer, as the English who visited United States read the great delight the American Press got over the idea of an American queen. Finally Prime Minister Baldwin visited Edward to bring things to a head, basically telling him the English people would not accept Ms. Simpson as their queen.
As this news broke Churchill was immediately loyal to the king, which cost him much of his new-found popularity. It was typical for Churchill to take unpopular stances, but when I read this part of “the Last Lion” I groaned and rolled my eyes. Why should Churchill be loyal? Edward disagreed with Churchill and felt Hitler should be allowed to militarize the Rhineland. He disagreed with Churchill and said the Italians should be allowed to march into Ethiopia. When the Ethiopian king visited England seeking aid, Edward refused to meet him. Yet Churchill remained loyal. Churchill floated the idea of a “morganatic marriage”, where the king could remain king but his wife would not be called “queen”, and it floated like a lead balloon.
Perhaps Churchill’s loyalty was in part due to the fact his own father had married an American, so he was less scandalized by Edward’s choice of a foreign commoner, but it also was founded on an old-fashioned British belief in near-blind loyalty to the king, (as a figurehead, if not in fact). As a rebellious American, I, of course, have problems with such loyalty to any worldly king, preferring a concept, “liberty”, as my ruler, (though that too can be a false god, if “liberty” is anything short of true Truth.)
In some ways the loyalty of those times seems quaint and archaic, though “those times” are relatively recent times. It is an indication of how brutalized ordinary faith has become, that fidelity, whether to a marriage or to a leader, is now something we deem laughable, and even sneer at. However loyalty was in Churchill’s blood, and even when he opposed he was “the loyal opposition”. He would lose all the political capital he had painstakingly gained before he would throw his king under the bus. This made me groan as I read about it, for Hitler marched into the Rhineland unopposed.
This was all the more exasperating because Edward had more compassion towards Hitler than he had towards Churchill. Fascists could be loyal to royalty, while communists killed royalty. Furthermore, if you want to play at being a pseudo-psychologist, Edward preferred heiling someone else, to being a king and shouldering the burden of responsibility. There are embarrassing pictures of him teaching the future queen of England to heil when she was just a child.
There are other pictures of Edward supposedly “heiling” Germans (when he may have been merely waving.)
But then Edward did something that baffled the mind-set of both Hitler and Stalin. He gave up power. For what? For loyalty to a lady he loved, loved more than power. In this manner he was equal to Churchill, (though not in matters of insight and intelligence.)
A picture that chills me is from 1937, which demonstrates Edward’s lack of insight and intelligence and especially foresight. He is inspecting the troops of the cruel and merciless Nazi SS.
One odd thing about this picture is that it may be photo-shopped. I have seen other versions of the same picture, wherein Edward has an arm raised and “heiling”. The question then becomes, which is the photo-shopped photo? Has the above photo been “cleaned up” by monarchists, or was the “heiling” photo “made politically-correct” by communists?
It doesn’t really matter, for both sides are haywire, in my humble opinion, for both sides are autocratic, and therefore cut off from the healing powers of Love. However even as late as 1937 Edward could have thought he was wise and politically-correct to heil the SS, and that Churchill was the naive and foolish poet. (Although Churchill was loyal to Edward, I see little evidence Edward returned the favor.)
The idea at that time was that Hitler could be controlled. By flattering here, and appeasing there, Hitler could be utilized as a useful puppet in the real war, which was against the communists who were determined to murder the upper class. Stalin was the beast, and Hitler was merely beastly.
By 1937 it was clear Hitler was a murderer. He didn’t merely disenfranchise and rob Jews; his insanely patriotic Brown Shirts didn’t merely beat American tourists who didn’t know enough to “heil” passing troops. Hitler himself had Rohm, his good buddy and leader of the “Brown Shirts”, executed, (just as Stalin had his former comrade Trotsky assassinated). Such behavior was definitely not proper among the English upper crust, but, because Hitler respected royalty where Stalin didn’t, Hitler’s atrocities could be winked at. The politically-correct felt Hitler could be cultivated, advised, and used as a useful tool, for Germans would eventually wage war with Russia (as Hitler promised to do in his autobiography). Then, as Germans and Russians slaughtered each other, the English politically-correct could sit back and enjoy the benefits of peace, and of being “better”, like Brahmans served by Untouchables, superior-to and more-civilized-than and intellectually-smarter-than murderous barbarians, like Stalin and Hitler.
In my humble opinion, if, ( and I stress “if”), these smug people, discussing international politics over scotch-and-soda at a cocktail party, actually had the control they imagined they had, then they should be included in the ranks of mass murderers. Of course, they would flatter themselves, and think they were saving the lives of British troops, and it would only be “other” soldiers dying, out of view. They would be deeply offended if I told them they were plotting the murder of millions of Germans and millions of Russians, to preserve their own lives of soft, plush, upper-class luxury. In a sense they were no different than Mao, certain that what was good for them was good for not merely Britain, but the entire World.
Such upper-class intellectuals had no real excuse for their vanity. They had attended the best schools, and had been forced to study dreary poetry, and had seen the work of the poet John Keats, who in fact describes just such hardhearted people as the elite of 1936 became, when describing (In 1818) two brothers who killed their own sister’s lover:
“With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt, Enriched from ancestral merchandize, And for them many a weary hand did swelt In torched mines and noisy factories, And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt In blood from stinging whip;–with hollow eyes Many all day in dazzling river stood, To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath, And went all naked to the hungry shark; For them his ears gush’d blood; for them in death The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe A thousand men in troubles wide and dark: Half-ignorant, they turn’d an easy wheel, That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears?– Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?– Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?– Why were they proud? again we ask aloud, Why in the name of Glory were they proud?”
What naive fools the politically correct of 1936 turned out to be! But they were sure they had things all figured out. To them politics was like a game of billiards, and they were certain they saw how all the balls lay, and that they had all the shots all figured out and arranged, but then the layout of things changed, because others shot first.
To jump ahead, rather than Germany and Russia exhausting themselves in a war between communists and fascists, in August 1939 Stalin and Hitler, supposedly worst and irreconcilable enemies, agreed to be friends. Who could have ever predicted that? But both evil men stood to gain, as they had agreed to together wipe Poland off the face of the map, dividing the spoils.
Then Stalin got to sit back and laugh, for he likely knew Hitler had been cultivated to destroy him, but, instead of communists being destroyed, he got to to see Hitler turn the full brunt of his military might onto peaceful and unsuspecting non-communists, as for two years communists enjoyed, if not peace and prosperity, at least time to recover from self-destructive purges, and an utterly bungled war with tiny Finland. (Little did Stalin know the enormous price Russia would pay for these two years of peace. It is never a wise thing to feed a mad dog, nor to help a Hitler.)
But now allow me to jump back to 1936, when the politically-correct were completely unaware of what lay ahead. It should have been obvious to these ignoramuses (and was all too painfully obvious to Churchill) that they were making some serious mistakes, (but instead they continued to believe they held the strings and others were the puppets, until they were completely embarrassed by the falling of France, when it started looking like Hitler held the strings, and that they themselves were the puppets, at which point they turned to Churchill, [likely not because they they thought Churchill could bring victory, but because they they themselves wanted to escape the blame of defeat.])
(In actual fact Truth held the strings, but powerful people seldom give credit where credit is due.)
1936 also marked the start of the Spanish Civil War. My take is that the nation was suffering the birth-pains of reform, with the people who desired reform arguing with those who liked the old ways, and, rather than a two-party-system allowing these disagreements to be worked out in a civil manner, things became uncivil. (This is called a “civil” war, though it is the exact opposite of civility.) What is particularly horrible is how outsiders exacerbated the incivility, rather than making peace. Hitler and Mussolini supported the traditionalists, as Stalin supported the reformers, and both sides got to try out their new weapons and their techniques for “controlling the masses”, and in the process did much to destroy both Spanish traditions and reforms. Meanwhile the politically correct of England didn’t lift a finger to help. They had a “hands off” policy, publicly stating the civil war involved the “internal affairs” of Spain, and needed to be resolved by the Spanish, while privately gloating how the Fascists and Communists were spending so much money, as they didn’t spend a dime. I think some patted themselves on the back, seeing Spain’s horrible suffering as proof they were successfully employing Hitler as a “bulwark” against Stalin.
Yet despite the government’s official non-involvement, the Spanish agony touched the hearts of all sorts of young poets. Even when doing so broke certain laws, they rushed to Spain to fight, some for Republican principles, winding up with Stalin’s troops, and some for Jesus and the Church, winding up with Hitler’s troops. Most were profoundly disillusioned by what they went through, and many accurately wrote about the complete inhumanity and stupidity involved. (A good example is Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”) My favorite example of an artist being disillusioned was Eric Arthur Blair, who joined the anti-fascist Republican side, and got shot through the throat by Franco’s fascists, yet, surviving that, also nearly got killed by the side he had joined, as the communists involved felt he should be “purged”.
Most know this poet by his pen name, “George Orwell”, (and whose work I didn’t at all like, when I was forced to read it, [“Animal Farm” and “1984“], in high school English classes, when I was fifteen, for I found his work “depressing”, and utterly unlike what I called “true poetry”, [which “inspired” rather than “depressed]”.) However Eric Arthur Blair’s view of Truth was based on grim, ugly facts, and on what he actually experienced, and he has been rewarded with the adjective, “Orwellian”, which describes how ugly life looks, if politically-correct standards are upheld.
Neither Hitler nor Stalin cared much for the advice of Jesus, but, along those lines, neither did the Catholic Church of Spain. The Spanish Inquisition is a horrendous example of a church disgracing the name of Jesus. And, if Karma is a reality, and if it is true that what goes around comes around, perhaps the Spanish Catholic church was merely reaping what it sowed, when priests, friars and nuns were murdered without trial in the Spanish Civil War. (The Wikipedia figures are: 4,184 priests, 2,365 monks and friars, and 283 nuns.)
However, in terms of propaganda, it doesn’t seem entirely wise for communists to have a picture like the picture below appear in the London Newspaper, the Daily Mail, with the heading “Spanish Reds war on religion.” (The picture below was such bad publicity that the cynic in me thinks it may well have been posed, and be propaganda.)
While it may be a Marxist belief that “religion is the opiate of the masses”, to actually execute Jesus a second time seems like unwise publicity for communists, for many of the proletariat, even when they dislike priests, like to go to the sanctuary of a church and to idealize that a Superior to priests is present on the alter. Therefore it was also bad propaganda to take an alter that looked like this:
And make it look like this:
However the worst publicity the communists could have ever imagined was named Andre Marty, who brought the paranoid insanity of a Stalinist purge to the struggles in Spain. Like Mao he felt it was necessary to “purify”, not by killing the enemy, but by killing soldiers on his own side. He held some title like “Commissar Of Foreign Troops,” which gave him the power to execute, (with only a pretense of a trial), any who begged to differ with him. This might include idealistic young poets who came to Spain to sacrifice their lives fighting Fascism, but who happened to think Trotsky had some good ideas. Rather than fighting a fascist they got killed by a communist. Of the roughly 5000 foreigners who died fighting for the anti-fascist side, only 4500 were killed by fascists, for Andrè Marty rather proudly stated he had executed 500.
But Marty couldn’t kill all the poets, and those he let slip through his nets are not kind to his memory. Hemingway is cruel, describing Andrè Marty, (not even bothering to change his name), in “For Whom The Bell Tolls“. In the case of Eric Arthur Blair, who barely escaped Marty’s purges, Marty (and Stalin) will be immortalized, as long as the book lives, as the evil pig Napoleon in “Animal Farm“.
Eric Arthur Blair had surprising difficulty getting “Animal Farm” published. Even when he found a publisher, the publisher changed his mind after a visit from a prominent member of England’s “Ministry of Information” (who later turned out to be a Stalinist double agent.) Such opposition seems a bit odd, considering Eric’s tale is basically a fairy tale and fable, involving talking animals. However those who read it seemed to know it held dynamite: Truth too true for revelation. (Stalin had become an Allie of England, after being double-crossed by Hitler, when the book was being written, and the book could have been censored then, because war-time censorship ruled, and being “anti-Russia” was unhelpful to the war effort. However, after the war was won, when the publisher initially accepted the book, such censorship should have been relaxed, yet still many of the politically-correct didn’t want to see the fairy tale published, and publishers continued a sort of censorship, taking on the role of “gatekeepers”.) This suppression not only didn’t discourage Eric Arthur Blair; it encouraged him to write “1984“.
However I have leaped ahead of myself. In 1936 the politically-correct had no idea where England would be in ten years, nor that they’d ever have to get Churchill out of power, in an attempt to regain their odd mode of highly hypocritical moral leadership. In 1936 they smugly sat back and watched Spain as fascists butchered communists, and communists butchered fascists, and thought to themselves, “This is how the game is played.”
This is not how the game is played. You are not allowed to sit back, when gifted with power, and to passively observe inhumanity. Sooner or later you will repent your inaction, as the inhumanity rises up to bite you. Yet so many politically-correct people in history believe it is wise to turn a blind eye to immorality, and then over and over are flabbergasted to find their own necks stretched on the guillotine. (The inventor of the guillotine was beheaded by his own invention.)
By 1936 Stalin’s inhumanity was obvious, as was Hitler’s. Stalin was purging many of his best generals, (which may explain why his army was pathetic when it tried to overpower tiny Finland in 1939.) Hitler had purged many of the Brown Shirts who were responsible for bringing him to power. Stalin in fact purged every “founding father” of Russia’s rebellion in 1917, because they were not Stalinist enough, because they were not Stalin. And, in like manner, Andrè Marty was killing the poets who bravely came to Spain to fight fascism. Is it any wonder his side lost?
This is not how the game is played. Killing the people on your own side is distinctly unwise. And, while Stalin and Hitler made this a “sin of commission”, to sit back and smugly watch was a “sin of omission”, (unless you, as an editor, censored or used “gatekeeper” status to silence those poets attempting to be whistle-blowers, in which case you were involved in a sly and subtle “sin of commission”). In all cases such politically-correct behavior will rise up to bite you, history shows.
For the sake of argument I’ll briefly entertain the concept that “desperate times require desperate deeds.” Some will argue that the Republican position in Spain was so perilous that Andrè Marty was justified in hacking off heads, to “discipline” troops.
I will counter by comparing his behavior with the behavior of George Washington, when he was in an equally desperate and perilous situation in December, 1776.
In twelve months Washington had fallen far. He had fallen from marching into Boston victorious, after driving the English out, to being driven from New York City defeated, and getting his army’s butt booted by Cornwallis clear across New Jersey and across the Delaware River, to where some of his his ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-supplied troops wrapped their bootless feet in rags and left bloody footprints in the snow at Valley Forge. People who had praised him twelve months before, stating “We” are winning, were now grumbling that “You” are losing. He desperately needed help but wasn’t getting any. What did he do? Kill people who criticized?
No. Instead he was truthful, and expressed to everyone that he needed support urgently.
First, he told the colonial congress that if they didn’t send food and clothing they soon would have no army. Instead of food they sent four representatives unannounced, and Washington interrupted his busy schedule and showed them the army’s dire need in person, and the representatives got the message loudly and clearly, and brought the message back to Philadelphia, and then supplies-for-troops became a top priority among politicians in Philadelphia, (as did extra pay for the troops).
Second, he was truthful with his troops. He confessed they were in dire straits, and ordered that they fast and pray, for God’s help. He also pleaded for their help. Many had only enlisted for the year 1776, and had every right to to go home to their farms (where they would be warmer and better fed) on January first. Washington begged them to stay just two more weeks, promising them ten dollars extra in their pay, and also explaining that their nation desperately needed them, and that they had a great power and influence, in the present tense, that they might never, never have again. For a moment none of the sullen troops stepped forward, but then, slowly and somewhat reluctantly, most of them did.
Third, on a practical level, he demanded General Charles Lee bring 2000 troops down from the north and Colonel John Cadwalader bring recruits from Philadelphia north (around 1000). He got no response. Just then a letter from Lee to Cadwalader passed through Washington’s camp. In his need to know if reinforcements were coming, Washington opened the letter.
The letter continued an ongoing discussion between the two men about how Washington might not be a general fit for the job of freeing America. Such doubt might be expected from Lee, who had made it fairly obvious that he felt he, and not Washington, should command the Army, but Cadwalader was a friend and confidant of Washington’s, and the exposure of his dwindling faith likely hurt. (Basically the letter wondered if Washington lacked the necessary assertiveness to be decisive, suggesting he was too prone to back off. In essence it stated Washington retreated too much, and didn’t know how to attack.)
Stalin or Hitler or Andrè Marty would have had the two men immediately “purged”. Immediately “Liquidated.” Washington? He apologized for reading their mail, and explained why he had done so.
Washington’s gentleness might not be politically-correct among those of a dog-eat-dog mentality, but I think it was very effective. Honesty always is. At the very least it told both men that Washington respected their exchange of thoughts. How they then felt, I don’t know. However it seems that, rather than executing the two men, Washington took their accidentally revealed “advice” to heart, for he immediately became more decisive, and attacked.
He was helped by two things. First, his troops, who had felt neglected and forgotten, abruptly felt cared for, as Washington’s efforts succeeded in bringing foodstuffs, and perhaps more importantly blankets (which meant more than we can imagine, as the blankets were actually hand-made by supporters), and furthermore brought news that the public was touched by the soldier’s efforts and their suffering. Thomas Paine’s inspiring and poetic broadsheet, “The Crisis”, may even have reached the troops, though it is dated December 23 and they first crossed the Delaware December 25, (and communication was slower before the internet.) “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Ten days later the situation had radically changed. Washington had crossed the Delaware three times and defeated the English at Trenton, and then stalled Conwallis’s counterattack with delaying skirmishes at Five Mile Run and Shabakunk Creek, and a stand at the bridge in the Battle of Assunpink Creek. Then Washington out-maneuvered Cornwallis, for as night fell Cornwallis drew up his forces and planned to attack across the creek in the morning, certain he was about to “bag the old fox”. Across the creek bright fires burned and the clinking and clanking of picks and shovels made it sound like trenches were being dug and earthworks erected, but the fires and noise was made by a group of men left behind to create the illusion Washington was still there, as he slipped away. These noisy men slipped away as well, in the first dusk of dawn, and when Cornwallis attacked the next day he found no Americans. They were away, winning the Battle of Princeton. At this point the winter was growing harsh, so the British retreated north to await the warmer weather of spring. The Americans also hunkered down to await the spring, but in far more comfortable circumstances, as they had captured all sorts of provisions.
Though seemingly small victories, the news that Washington wasn’t in retreat, but that he had fought back and won, did wonders for American morale. On the streets of New York City, behind enemy lines, the news Washington had captured a thousand Hessian troops was spread by mouth, and the effect was electric.
But their joy is off the point. The point I wish to make is that Washington didn’t need to “purge” a single soul, to turn the tide.
In many senses Washington was down to his last dime; he was very nearly a general without an army, and had to plead with his troops not to abandon him, as so many had only enlisted for 1776, and were free to go home on January first. Yet he never threatened them. They were given a choice. Some did depart on January first, but most chose to stay, and to be part of tiny army that defeated a superpower.
When I compare Washington’s behavior to Andrè Marty’s, I sense I am seeing something missed by those who subscribe to certain unspiritual ideas about power-politics. It seems to be a difference between being crudely politically-correct or having a more high-minded Karmic-Correctness.
Once again the two different ways of behaving basically boils down to the difference between infatuation and love, yet this distinction eludes the logic of many. They cannot see why the American Revolution didn’t result in the “Terror” of the French Revolution, or the dual “Red Terror” and “White Terror” of the Spanish Civil War, or the terrible “Night Of Long Knives” of Hitler’s accent, or the terror of Stalin’s terrible purges or of Mao’s “Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.
If Truth must be known, the American Revolution also had its “terrors.” War is hell, and the American Revolution could well be called “The First American Civil War”. In areas under the Crown’s control Loyalists felt free to dispossess “traitorous” Patriots, (including some men who signed the Declaration of Independence), jailed other Patriots in prisonships so abysmal that many died, and hung some, (like Nathan Hale, a mere school teacher), as spies, but later these same Loyalists found themselves dispossessed of all wealth and property and sent penniless north by the thousands, to trudge to Canada. Yet, as these Loyalists trekked north, many would not have made it to Canada, were it not for the mercy of rural farmers whom they had formerly scorned as “bumpkins,” and had called “enemies of the Crown.” All in all, comparing the American Revolution with other Revolutions in other lands, it was a civil war with far more civility than usual.
To even suggest suggest history holds the fingerprints of anything “High” opens a can of worms, for many find belief difficult when they look at genocides, slaughters, and demoralizing behaviors. They do have a belief, but it is a belief in disbelief. In Truth, they are mistaken, and there is a reason for hope. And I could end this writing with that (but will go on).
As soon as I state, as an American, that the revolution that created the United States had a higher and more ethical side than other civil wars, I fully expect to “catch it from both sides”; for being a mushy dreamer who lacks the spine to take a stand. Why? Because in many situations I feel both sides are wrong. I assert that, unless one prefers to see a revolution and civil war wherein millions die, and wherein both the principles of reform and the principles of tradition are shattered, and wherein humanity degenerates to foulness and lowness, a so-called “centrist” position is desirable. All this means is one listens to others; one respects others; the reformer listens to the traditionalist as the traditionalist listens to the reformer; in other words, a “two-party-system”, where respect and honor and even loving-one’s-enemies are held in high regard, and beheading opponents is regarded with disdain.
People do not become faithless without reason. A baby is born with faith that its cries will be answered, but if left all alone in a cold and dark room it may be deeply scarred. In like manner many young idealists have wild hopes in a compassionate Almighty, and believe they are invulnerable because a kind Deity watches over them, and then, like the youth who dashed off to help “the right side” in the Spanish Civil War, have their faith mangled by the hell of war. They often then bounce from one extreme to the other; from naive faith to fierce atheism. In actual fact faith needs to mature, and become centered.
History demonstrates, over and over, that when a society loses faith in the decency of respect and honor, they in some way become disconnected to the roots of Truth. A withering of the lush, green and vigorous vines springing from love and liberty occurs. Even a “Chosen People” like the Jews can suffer ruinous exile from their capital of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah so poignantly describes in “Lamentations.” Conversely, when a people behave in an opposite manner, they become filled with some sort of sap springing from the roots of Truth, and they prosper and gain powers no one expected.
Allow me briefly sidetrack to an example of how things unexpectedly worked out for George Washington. It involves General Charles Lee, who was not being as helpful as he could have been, and who Stalin would have purged. Lee was taking far longer than he should have taken to bring the 2000 troops he commanded south to help Washington in the time of crisis. It has been suggested he had ulterior motives for his delay, and that either, (when he accused Washington of lacking the courage to battle) he was doing what psychobabble calls, “projecting”, (and he himself feared battle), or that he slyly calculated that if Washington’s troops were decimated as his force remained unscathed he would become de facto commander. He lacked Washington’s commitment to the cause; where Washington served without pay Lee’s letters complain he should be paid more. Then, as if divinity stepped in, Lee was removed, and no “purge” was necessary.
It happened like this: As his troops slowly preceded south Lee decided to forgo the discomfort of winter tents and to spend a night in a comfortable tavern three miles behind the lines. It has been suggested “a lady of the evening” may have been involved. Early the next morning a raiding party of 25 British horsemen, carefully avoiding the 2000 troops, came galloping up to the tavern. Lee hid in his nightgown, but the tavern owner’s wife, fearing her property would be torched, ran outside screaming that she was a Loyalist, and that General Lee had forced her to house him against her will. The English were delighted to capture a general. Then, with Lee out of the picture, the second-in-command led the 2000 troops south to Washington with haste.
(As an aside to an aside, General Lee did not go to a dismal prison-ship, but was housed well in New York City, (because officers treated officers with dignity, back then), and later was returned to Washington in a “prisoner-exchange.” Washington gave him a second chance, because trained generals were in short supply among ragtag troops, but when Lee again refused to follow orders, this time refusing to attack in the heat of a battle and allowing the English to escape a trap, Washington was done with him. And if you wonder how Washington could replace such a skilled person, again divinity seemingly stepped in, for Tadeusz Kościuszko unexpectedly arrived from Poland.)
Call me a dreamer if you will, and dismiss such events as luck and coincidence, but when I see these events sprinkled through history I always shake my head in amazement. It seems to me there is a Power whom the powerful are deaf and blind to, yet Whom the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
The politically-correct, who think they know all there is to know about power, are always blind-sided by this Mystery. This occurs because they see worldly power as an end-all and be-all, when it is actually a byproduct of a greater things: Life, Liberty and Love. Because political power is a byproduct, it actually is a bit like manure. Manure is a byproduct of farming, and valuable for enriching the soil of a garden, but it would be absurd to see manure as being so important that one blew up entire farms for piles of shit. Yet the politically-correct, one way or another, always seem to succumb to this lunacy, and, because they ignore what is important, preferring shit, they are always utterly amazed when power is snatched away and given to those who do not subscribe to their views; consequently they are blind-sided.
For an ancient example, when Genghis Khan was born around 1162 few cared a hoot about a bunch of crazy cowboys riding about and fighting neighboring cowboys on a remote prairie, far from the centers of power. When he died seventy-five years later, Japan, China, Russia, Persia and all of Europe feared him. How the heck did such a rural hick gain such power?
It seems to me that, though people now primarily see Genghis Khan as a mass murderer, he did have some spiritual qualities. He did slaughter large populations who resisted him, but also absorbed people who would work with him. He seemed to have a keen awareness of his own weaknesses, and knew that he needed others. For example, as a nomad he had no idea how to run a city, so he sought people who knew how to run the cities he conquered. Yet he did not always seek such governors from the politically-correct; he would ignore a Brahman of high rank in favor of an Untouchable who had a proven record of getting things done. In like manner, he ignored religious big-shots who thought they were high priests, in favor of humble friars and monks who could simply talk the talk and also walk the walk. This ability to judge men by the quality of their character, rather than the political-correctness of their caste, enabled him to first unite a collection of warring cowboys into a powerful nation, and, second, to unify the peoples he conquered into a religiously tolerant empire, (which was [and is] an unexpected tolerance to see, in one whom many now regard as a mass murderer).
In 1162 the politically-correct in China were likely imagining they had complete control over the Mongol cowboys to their north, and that they were clever and crafty to pit Mongol against Mongol, supporting one group of cowboys one month and another the next. And yes, such diplomacy might wreck havoc among the Mongol tribes, and cause much misery upon those distant steppes, but making misery elsewhere only proved (supposedly) that the Chinese were smarter and superior to northern-barbarian neighbors. When they tricked such loser Mongol tribes into killing each other off, what harm could come of it?
The politically correct of China were completely blind-sided by the Karmic consequences and repercussions. They never saw the Mongol cowboys coming, never envisioned unified hoards galloping south from over the horizon and taking over their entire land, and ruling it. Yet, like the Jews of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, they got the “ax” they deserved. In fact, they got a worse “ax” than the Jews, for after the Mongols, China saw the invading Manchus of Manchuria, and then got Imperialistic Europeans. But would any of this Karmic backlash have happened, if they had treated Mongols (and other non-Chinese) differently, in the first place?
In like manner, in 1450, who, of all the politically-correct in Europe, as laser-focused (as they were) on the post-Byzantine treachery of the spice-wars between the Ottoman and Venetian Empires, payed any attention to three tiny kingdoms far to the west, at the very periphery of Europe, called Portugal, Aragon, and Castile? Yet, a half century later, the Pope was dividing the entire planet between the Portuguese and Spanish empires. Yet, even as Spain and Portugal gained their power, who was paying attention to the obscure Island to the north, Britain? Who then could dream that, (as I described earlier), Britain would come close to ruling the world? And yet, as the English first felt their power, who paid much attention to their thirteen impoverished colonies clinging to the east coast of North America?
The point I am trying to make is that the politically-correct often don’t see what is coming, even though they often exude a plush assurance that purrs like a sleek cat’s, and radiate confidence that insists they have power, and control. They don’t control, which is shown by how often history demonstrates them being blind-sided by shifts in power. They like to think they see the future and have invested wisely, but often wind up looking like an investor in horses and buggies just before the invention of the car, or an investor in typewriters just before the the invention of the word-processor. Their vision of the future is clouded, because they ignore Truth, and instead are besotted by power. They fail to see the true Source of power, and that power itself is a byproduct like manure. In this manner the politically-correct are worshiping a “false god” and are led by “false prophets.” To be blunt, they worship shit.
Not that there is anything wrong with a byproduct, in and of itself. As a farmer I call manure “brown gold” and recognize its power to be helpful in the nourishment of plants in my garden. But I do not value the shit more than the animals that produce the shit, which is what, in a manner of speaking, the politically-correct seem all too prone to doing. History seems to over and over demonstrate how the politically-correct put shit ahead of what matters more, and how they are then are astonished when their future turns brown and stinks.
In many ways the more wicked of the politically-correct are comical, if one is able to detach oneself from all the unnecessary heartache they cause. Like jealous schoolgirls, anxious to be seen as fashionable, they rush hither and thither from fad to fad, glad to be seen in the right place and in a panic when fashion shifts and what was right becomes wrong. Though pompous and vainglorious, (and highly offended if you equate them with schoolgirls), top-hatted bankers can be a joke. They are full of themselves when stocks soar, and then verge on suicide when markets crash. While money is no more evil than manure, love of money is a madness worthy of laughing at, reminiscent of a gambler’s yo-yoing mood as he makes ten thousand at nine o’clock and has lost it by ten. At nine he is radiant and struts through the casino with a babe on either arm, and at ten he trudges in despair with his complexion green, all alone, as his fair-weather-friends have all fled. Without roots drinking deeply of Truth, people are reduced to being but panicky lemmings dashing back and forth between two cliffs.
Sadly, faith in the Truth has been shattered by horrible amounts of unnecessary heartache. The very people entrusted with the upholding of faith have abused the trust so severely, and been such awful hypocrites, that people have lost faith in faith. Where Washington once ordered his troops to fast and pray, such faithful behavior is now deemed politically-incorrect. To suggest civility might have political benefits tends to be laughed at, in our cynical times. It tends to spoofed, (for example, in Monty Python skits). However even the spoofing of civility has an odd peacemaking power, because it makes people laugh, and it is hard to strike out in rage when you are laughing.
In fact I once knew a cheerful young man at an English public school, (back when corporal punishment was commonplace, and bullying and baiting were the norm), who sailed through many dangerous social-situations and escaped unscathed, simply by pretending to be terribly offended and challenging people twice his size (even teachers) to fisticuffs. In a voice halfway between an English Lord and Foghorn Leghorn’s, he’d shout, “Sir! You have pushed me too far! Honor is at stake, sir, honor! Prepare yourself for a pummeling!” Then he would prance about furiously shadowboxing jabs for one or two seconds with a fierce scowl, before predictably pausing, raising an index finder and one eyebrow, and inquiring in the most polite manner, “Queensbury Rules?” Somehow the way the young fellow’s eyebrows shifted from incivility to civility never failed to win over his enemy, often buckling his foe over at the waist with paroxysms of laughter. He made Foghorn Leghorn look dull.
Of course, certain politically-correct people no more like the humor of cartoons than they like the talking animals of “Animal Farm”. Why? Perhaps the antics of a loudmouthed rooster too closely resembles their own sophism. When a cartoon character expects one result, and another occurs, it too closely copies situations such as the the politically-correct of 1936 feeling smug about arranging things so Hitler would fight Stalin, and then being flabbergasted when Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact. In the first case it may seem a mere cartoon, with a silly rooster facing a chicken-hawk and/or cat and/or farm-dog and/or sex-crazed hen and/or younger-generation, while in the second case it may seem a deadly serious reality, but I see a similarity in the disapproval of the politically correct, and how they seek to censor not merely a political fable such as “Animal Farm”, but even cartoons.
It is not the soldiers on the battlefields who attempt to banish the slapstick humor of “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, but rather it is the politically-correct. Why are they so offended by a mouse clobbering a cat with an impossibly over-sized hammer? Is it not just a modern version of “Punch and Judy” puppets? Yet with pious expressions they state “Tom and Jerry” “encourages violence”. Encourages violence? Who is encouraging violence? Do they think those soldiers are out on the battlefield getting shot-at and shelled for the fun of it? Do the politically-correct think “Tom and Jerry” cartoons cause war, and war has nothing to do with their own lusts for luxury, privilege, power and sex?
Besides taxing my wallet, the politically-correct tax my patience. They seem to feel they can hold on to all the accouterments of love without the bother of actually loving. For, in Truth, love does tend to make a person rich and gives them power, but another gift is joy, yet the politically-correct have a terrible tendency to frown at laughter, and shame people for joking, and to gain more glee from scolding, than from confessing an embarrassment with a chuckle. They are epitomized by the garlic-faced priest, the dour schoolmarm, the glowering headmaster, and become absolutely furious when you demonstrate that they themselves are the joke.
They don all the trappings of love’s successful bounty, but are like small children dressing up as kings and queens. They flounce about, forgetting love works from dawn to dusk and puts in constant overtime, and instead they desire the harvest without the hard work. Then they become strangely irate when they see joy descend not upon themselves, but upon their servants. I think it makes them honestly angry to see there is more humor in a cottage than a castle, more good-natured hilarity on a noisy factory floor than in the morgue-like mansion the factory supports, and far more laughter in a reeking cannery than among the erudite nibbling pickled herring. Having experienced both sides, I know this to be true, but many poor envy the rich, as many rich resent the poor, because the grass is always greener on the far side of a fence.
In Truth, it is more blessed to give than to receive, and blessed are the poor, which in effect conversely means that the politically-correct are accursed. In their smugness they parody amazing ignorance, and are dunces to such a delightful degree that the heavens shout with laughter at their downfalls, which they richly deserve. However such humor is often hidden, here on earth. It is funny to see another slip and sit down hard on an icy pavement, but not so funny to be the one who falls. The haughty call another’s laughter at their discomfiture politically-incorrect, and even “unspiritual”. Then, when such humor bursts from tightly pressed lips, it appears sardonic or ironic or sarcastic, as a sort of gallows humor. However its persistence is a proof joy cannot be quenched any more than Truth can be destroyed. This is never made more clear than in the humor of poor soldiers suffering the hell of war.
The people who actually suffer on the battlefields, and in the trenches, are living so close to the end of life that they do experience joy in situations where the politically-correct deem it politically-incorrect to laugh. An example of soldier’s humor that struck me as amazingly incorrect, in all polite society, dates from the Korean war. But telling this tale involves explaining a great deal, (perhaps creating a long run for a short slide), because the actors on the stage need a background.
We need to jump ahead 13 years from 1936 to 1949, when Mao moved from doing good to doing bad. He moved from unifying China to attacking people outside his borders. In this manner he was a bit like Hitler. If Hitler had dropped dead in 1938, just after he annexed the “German” part of Czechoslovakia, he might be remembered as the man who unified the German people, and freed them from foreign oppressors. In like manner, if Mao had dropped dead in 1949, he would be remembered as the man who unified China, freeing it from the confusion of divided Chinese warlords, and foreign oppressors, ( non-Han “imperialists” from Manchuria and Europe and Imperial Japan). But no, Mao couldn’t stop at his own borders. Just as Hitler felt compelled to advance his fascist concept of German superiority outside his homeland, Mao felt compelled to advance his communist agenda outside his own borders.
Mao’s aggressiveness is in some ways understandable, if you look at the belittling attitude Europe had towards China during Europe’s most obnoxious and imperialistic period, towards the end of the 1800’s. The Chinese felt they were the most civilized people on earth, and Europeans were just a different form of barbarian, but Europeans felt the Chinese were primitive and in need of Europe’s supposedly-superior and politically-correct intelligence and modernization, and were busily dividing China up into “spheres of economic interest” which Europeans would control (just as India had been subjected to European control.) The Chinese revolted, with the “Boxer’s Rebellion”, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for Chinese patriots, and an increase in the imperialistic powers of foreigners in China.
The patriot who actually began throwing the foreigners out of China was Sun Yat-sen, (who Americans approved-of because he admired George Washington). He devised a uniquely Chinese blend of foreign ideas, using parts of American democracy and parts of European communism, which he called “The Three Principles of the People.”
The first principle is called by some “nationalism” or even “fascism”, but basically stated the Han Chinese should be ruled by the Han Chinese, and not a Manchu royalty. The second principle stated an individual had rights, and was downright American. But the third principle stated the government should be concerned with people’s welfare, and was European and socialistic. These three ideas never had a chance to jell and be properly worked out, as Sun Yat-Sen died in 1923, and no one followed who upheld his sane and “centrist” concepts, and instead things degenerated to a communist dictator on one side and a royalist-fascist dictator on the other, much like the situation in the Spanish Civil War, only in the case of China the communists won. Nor did the communist Mao display the sanity of the fascist Franco. Where Franco was made wise by the civil war that bled Spain dry, and kept Spain out of World War Two, Mao was eager for more bloodshed.
Why? Partly it was because Mao believed communism was good and would sweep over the entire planet like a new religion. He wanted to continue the “good work” he felt he had done in his homeland, extending communism beyond his shores. Second, he wanted to counter the idea that China was a dissolute push-over, and couldn’t fight back. Third, he wanted recognition on the world stage, as he wasn’t yet recognized as the legal government of China by the United Nations, and the defeated Nationalists, (relegated to the island of Taiwan), still held China’s seat on the UN Security Council. Lastly, like Hitler, he desired to conquer (or “gain-influence-in”) neighboring lands for China’s economic benefit, and to have satellite-puppet nations, like Stalin had. This made Mao, the second he stepped beyond his own borders, just as “imperialistic” as the imperialistic nations he so despised, only he saw his own imperialism as something higher and finer, and used double-speak to call it “liberation.”
At this point most in the United States appear gullible and naive. Americans thought war was over and treaties were binding, and that aggression-beyond-one’s-borders was something all had agreed was unwise, and that imperialism was wrong. America was busily (and somewhat proudly) working to grant America’s lone “colony”, (the Philippines), their independence. When Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946, many Americans distrusted Churchill more than they distrusted Stalin, seeing Russia’s “excesses” (purges) at home, (which most Americans knew very little about), as an unfortunate side of a civil war, similar to brutalities which occurred in America’s Civil War, while seeing Churchill as an old-school 19th century imperialist, primarily focused on propping up the crumbling British Empire. (In fact some American socialists detest Churchill to this day, including a recent American president who had a bust of Churchill removed from the White House.) Churchill didn’t care. He squared his shoulders and, as an old man in his mid-seventies, thrown out of office by the people he had saved, once again expressed an unpopular view, which was poetic because it held Truth. It is well worth rereading, 72 years later, as much he said stands the test of time, and hints the old man may have had some degree of the “gift of prophesy”.
Two sections which strike me as particularly poetic (including the famous “iron curtain” section) are as follows:
” …We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the United States and throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of allembracing police governments to a degree which is overwhelming and contrary to every principle of democracy. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war, but we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence… “
“…From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone — Greece with its immortal glories — is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy…”
Many in the United States did not want to hear this, in 1946. A huge effort was being made to beat swords back into plowshares. American military expenditures plunged from nearly 40% of the American GNP during World War Two to down around 5% just afterwards. The war had forced America to hugely increase its military from roughly 350,000 to at least 12,000,000 men, (some sources count 16,000,000), and, with roughly 60% of that force comprised of military men who didn’t volunteer and were drafted, huge numbers of men (and some women) wanted out of the military. They wanted to go home, and raise a family. The shift of so many from war-based-employment to the ordinary pursuits of working men made peace as great a shock to the economy as war was. Furthermore, few homes had been built during the Great Depression, and nearly none during the war, and now all the returning soldiers all required housing. People in the United States figured there were problems enough, inherent with facing peace, even in the United States which had no bombed cities, and that places which had seen cities leveled would be even more interested in building. Who in their right mind would desire more war and destruction?
Mao was who. Why? Because for him the war was not over. He must “liberate” Asia and the world from “imperialism”. He consequently brought horror to peaceful lands, certain he was improving society. He was not much different from the Spanish Inquisition believing it was righteous to chop off the hands of Native Americans in Mexico, because they were “heathens” who needed to be brutalized into seeing the Truth. Mao, like Stalin, felt he was pushing mankind to a higher and better level, by being brutal.
Ordinary Americans of that time appear in many ways baffled by the attitude of communists. In 1945 China and Russia were our friends. How could they be shooting at us in 1950, only five years later? Much of the United State’s policy seemed conducted midst bewilderment and confusion. For example, when hostilities resumed in Korea there was a need for Sherman tanks. Where were all the tanks we built to fight Hitler? In city and small town parks, where they had been placed as monuments to World War Two. Just imagine the dismay of peace-loving townsfolk, as mechanics arrived on town commons to rewire engines, and the tanks were then taken off the pedestals and went clanking up onto transport trucks.
Now skip ahead to young soldiers finding themselves yanked from plopping nickles into American jukeboxes and from slurping at ice-cream sodas, to being plunked into hellish battlefields in Korea.
The United Nation’s “police action” in Korea surged from the the 38th parallel to the extreme south, to the extreme north, south again and north again. However I will skip all that, and merely describe American soldiers laughing in a situation which no politically-correct person would think was a scene anyone could even smile about.
Korea has hot summers and frigid winters, and the laughable event occurred during the summer’s heat. The situation was this: After a savage fight, exhausted American troops were slumped in a farmer’s field. It was a period of relative calm which no one would call peace, except a soldier. The summer sun was beating down, and the soldiers were so tired they had not the strength to form a burial party to deal with the corpses of North Korean soldiers bloating all around them. What they desperately needed to do was to drink water and eat some food, but no one had much of an appetite, with not only dead bodies all around, but the hot and humid air thick with the stink of excrement, because Korean farmers fertilized their fields with human feces. The sergeant of this squad had to get his troops nourished so they would have the strength to stand up to an expected counterattack.
Most of the squad were were teenagers, or barely over twenty, (as the draft of that time had a deferment for people who had served in World War Two), but the the sergeant had seen action in the past, and seemed very old to the young men. He was described as a a heavyset man with an square, jutting jaw and a sour expression, stereotypical for a sergeant, but his age wasn’t stated.
If he lied about his age when he joined the army (as was quite common back then) he may have been as young as 28 or as old as 52. If he claimed to be 21 when he was only 17, he might have joined in 1918 (in the great excitement of that time), or in 1939 (to escape Great Depression poverty and unemployment, and also perhaps to escape working for FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corp). In any case he was “an old campaigner” and had experience on the battlefield. Korea was the third ferocious war that the United States had seen in thirty-two years. The sergeant had likely served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, and Germany by 1945. He knew it was important to eat, no matter how horrible the restaurant was, so he attempted to set a good example, as the veteran in the situation. Perhaps he berated his squad for complaining, but then sat on some wreckage, stolidly chewing a spam sandwich despite the fact the bloating body of a dead invader lay right in front of him. No matter how disgusted he may have felt inwardly, externally he was stoic, munching with machismo. But just then the dead body in front of him, due to decomposition creating gasses in its guts, produced a long, loud, and bubbling belch. The sergeant’s immediate and involuntary response was to vomit the entire sandwich he had just eaten.
His squad’s reaction was to promptly dissolve into helpless, weeping laughter. After looking around with a wounded expression for a moment, the sergeant began laughing himself. The prolonged laughter was the last thing any of the men expected, and was amazingly relieving and refreshing, and was an event one of the soldiers recalled with vivid clarity years later.
The humor in the situation is not all that different from the humor of seeing a pompous snob slip and fall on ice, the primary difference being that that sergeant was able to laugh at his own discomfiture. What is more surprising to me is that some politically-correct people, sipping drinks far from the battlefield, seem completely unable to get such a joke, and rather look down their noses at the resiliency of the human spirit. They seem to display a dour intellectual skill at downplaying courage, and to instead see joy in grim circumstances as a type of mental illness, as masochism, or sadism, or some other warped behavior, and to justify their disdain with extraordinary psychobabble.
The simple fact of the matter is that suffering cannot kill the Truth, and in fact can make appreciation of Truth keener. Not all hearts are hardened like Stalin’s when broken. Stalin is purported to have stated, regarding his first wife, “She softened my hard heart, and when she died I never again (was soft)”, but the poet John Keats, if anything, grew more tender due to the suffering he experienced nursing first his mother, and later his younger brother, as they died of tuberculosis. His beautiful “Ode to Melancholy” states:
“…Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung.”
In a way Keats is merely speaking a truism commonly expressed as, “You’ve gotta pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.” When the politically-correct seek to avoid suffering they inadvertently deny themselves much that is most beautiful.
An amazing example of a poet finding beauty in hell is the war-poetry of Wilford Owen. Owen seemed a poet specifically born to tell the truth about the trenches of World War One, for fate had him survive, against all odds, until the final week of the war. (His mother received the telegram announcing his death as the church bells rang, celebrating the war’s end.) Various psychobabble tends to degrade the compassion he felt for his comrades-in-arms, (and even for the Germans he killed), as “homoerotic”, when in fact he was a somewhat delicate, prissy poet who adored green fields and flowers, yet was plunged into the exact opposite. The spiritual crisis he went through, and the amazing maturation he displayed, (moving from “songs of innocence” to “songs of experience” like William Blake), deserves admiration and not psychobabble.
Basically he wrote most of his best poetry when in a hospital, before returning to the trenches. We have rough drafts he never had time to fine-tune. In some ways it portrays a mind experiencing flash-backs, (what is now called “post-traumatic-stress” but back then was called “shell shock”). He simply tells the truth. One great poem describes witnessing the death of a fellow soldier who didn’t quite get his gas mask in place in time, and how “as under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” He describes the slow torture of a man gradually dying as lungs fill with blood, and mocks the statement that to die for one’s country is a glorious thing.
However, midst the realism of describing the true hell of war, he also describes the true heroism of the soldiers, and how in that heroism is both beauty and joy. In “Apologia pro Poemate Meo” he begins, “I, too, saw God through mud…” and concludes:
”…I have perceived much beauty In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight; Heard music in the silentness of duty; Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.
Nevertheless, except you share With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell, Whose world is but the trembling of a flare, And heaven but as the highway for a shell,
You shall not hear their mirth: You shall not come to think them well content By any jest of mine. These men are worth Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.”
The above poem, with its echo of “Ode to Melancholy”, does an amazing job of both describing the sheer, unnecessary hell of war, and also the heaven of brotherhood which appears among men in deplorable circumstances, from factory-floor to storm-at-sea to the gruesome landscapes of war. But who is the “you” Owen speaks to, at the end? It seems (to me) to be the politically-correct, who mix the oblivion of ignorance with downright condescending psychobabble. People undergoing shell shock don’t need psychobabble; they likely can only be truly helped by another who has been through similar hell, who has faced the crucifixion of simple men, (and who understands Christ truly did sweat blood before his humiliation, for they have witnessed ordinary soldiers undergoing hematidrosis.)
One mysterious poem among Owen’s notes contains amazing assonance, and also describes meeting a German soldier who he bayoneted the day before, in a dream. He may not have shown the poem to anyone. Reluctance would have been understandable, for one knows what psychobabble would state, about the peculiar “vision” he shared in “Strange Meeting.” In the eyes of many, dreary, so-called pragmatists, “Strange Meeting” is but the raving hallucinations of a shell-shocked madman.
Yet one needs to also ask, what is so sane about war? The First World War was basically a disagreement between Cousin George and Cousin Willy, and began with prancing horses and fancy uniforms. It was suppose to be “over by Christmas,” and there was even a somewhat accidental and unofficial truce in 1914 on Christmas, when the German and English played soccer in No-Man’s-Land.
The soldiers in the above picture faced trouble, for they were “fraternizing with the enemy”, and their starched superiors demanded “discipline”. Not that the men were immediately willing to stop “fraternizing” with their new friends, but when the officers ordered the artillery behind the lines to start firing on Boxing Day the men had to return to their trenches. The killing resumed, and it does not take too long, when friends standing beside you are cut down, before feelings of incidental friendship turn to hate. But I think the episode demonstrates war’s origins lie not among the ordinary soldiers, who the politically-correct like to call “low”, but rather among the “high”, the erudite sophists greedy for power. And perhaps it also explains why poetry gets along so poorly with politics, (unless you include mocking limericks).
My last post dealt with how I came to be plopped down in the middle of a desert. This post involves the state one is in, after a humiliating defeat makes one look like a complete fool.
True poets tend to be in this state a lot, for true poetry, (as opposed to the crass and commercial collegiate balderdash which makes the common man loath poetry), sees man could be far better than man actually is, and, because it forgets how mean man actually is, tends to trust in the wrong place at the wrong time, and therefore poets wind up embarrassed and looking like chumps.
This doesn’t just happen to sissy poet-dreamers. It also happens to entire nations, full of poetry and beauty, such as Poland and France. Some hard-nosed realist, such as Adolph Hitler, embarrasses them. They were just minding their own business, and the next thing they knew they were defeated, and were ruled by a Gestapo.
Any people who is outraged by outsiders infringing upon their God-given liberty is experiencing what a poet deems rather ho-hum and every-day, for every day a poet witnesses people behaving in less than poetic ways. How can I tell you what it is like to see how beautiful life could be, when I am like a Frenchman trying to explain good manners to the Gestapo? Henry Miller put it well:
Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source; there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.
Others do not seem to be troubled by outsiders infringing upon people’s God-given liberty. They just “go with the flow” and “do what it takes.” If the Gestapo takes over, they smile at the Gestapo. It comes to them as a great surprise that, when the Gestapo is later defeated, they are called despised “collaborators”, and mobs of angry people shave their hair from their heads.
The French women being shamed in the above pictures were “politically correct” when the Gestapo ruled. They felt they were smart to ditch honest and patriotic French boys for what made more sense, in some senseless way. Maybe it was for money, or advancement, or power, or fame, or for some other thing, but it was not smart, in the long run. In the end a higher Truth defeated the “political correctness” of the Gestapo.
What the above pictures do not show, directly, is how their old boyfriends felt, when the above women ditched them for the Gestapo. It is obvious that the majority of the French people had a pent-up fury towards collaborators. But what about the rejected suitor? Did he want to see his ex shaved bald?
Probably not. (I say that as one who was chronically a rejected suitor when young, and also a poet). What the rejected poet wishes is a better way, often expressed with the two sad words “if only…”
It was important to me, when life plunked me down in the desert in 1984, to battle my own bitterness. I could recognize a rage in myself I didn’t like at all. It is one thing to write a sardonic song like the Eagle’s “Lying Eyes”, expressing contempt towards women who marry for money and who therefore, in a sense, put the gestapo of greed ahead of Truth, but it quite another thing to strip women naked, tar them and shave their heads and then force them to stand before a photographer, heiling Hitler.
At some point the rage one feels towards “collaborators” begins to approach the rage Hitler felt, towards those who surrendered Germany at the end of World War One. In his rage-warped mind the people who surrendered Germany were collaborators, and he was able to tap into the outrage of the German people, for the punishment inflicted upon Germany was not just. If the kaiser, who the king of England referred to as “cousin Willy”, was to blame, then he perhaps should have paid the price “cousin Nick” (the Czar of Russia) paid. And perhaps “cousin George” (king of England) should have paid as well. Talk about a dysfunctional family! The grandchildren of Queen Victoria were given great power and authority, but rather than good made a slaughter as bad as the slaughter caused by supposedly Christian Protestants and Catholics in Europe’s Thirty Years War (1618-1648) that cost Europe eight million lives.
It was the “swamp” of 1914, the royalty, that led mankind to misery. The soldiers didn’t hate each other. During the Christmas truce of 1914 the English and German soldiers played soccer together in No Man’s Land.
The soldiers didn’t hate each other. They had to be ordered to hate, and in actual fact royalty was horrified by reports of their troops “fraternizing with the enemy”, and Christmas Truces were forbidden, after 1914.
In other words, the German people should not have been forced to pay enormous and impossible reparations; the royalty should have paid. And the demands of the victors were hateful, and punished innocent Germans who had already been horribly punished by the stupid war. In a sense it was a continuation of war’s hate, and it was quite easy for Hitler to tap into the national resentment towards all who collaborated with such an unjust and hateful invader. But responding to hate with hate only made things unspeakably worse, and resulted in slaughter that made World War One’s horrible slaughter look small.
We are now facing a political elite which make the royalty of 1914 look civil and wise, and a politically-correct “swamp” that makes 1914 look like a highland. If the lunatics running the asylum are allowed to have their way, the resultant slaughter will make World War Two’s look small. But some of these “elite” are actually on record as saying such a slaughter would be a good thing, as the over-populated planet needs to see population reduced to a half-billion. The death of seven billion would not trouble them.
As a poet I tell you, such ugliness is totally unnecessary. We too can play soccer in no man’s land over Christmas, and after Christmas no one can force us to return to killing each other.
There are certain socialists who seem to be attempting to blame all the world’s problems on old, white men, and when I listen to them I have the creepy sense I may wind up stripped naked and tarred and forced to stand for a photograph with my hand on my heart, saluting the American flag. Such socialists seem pumped up by the vengeful adrenaline-rush that Hitler exploited, which caused Germany to declare war on the entire world and all of mankind. Such socialist zealots are past being mildly mad. They are past going completely mad. Their intellects foam mad-dog-insanity. Such hatred is utterly unnecessary.
I know this because in 1984 my peculiar fate plopped me down in the midst of my “enemy”, in the desert. Most people I associated with were Navajo, and their word for me was “Behlighana”, which means “People who we fought.” Therefore I was identified with an invader, and as an oppressor, and even as a member of the gestapo. To even associate with me could be seen, (and indeed was seen, by a few), as “collaboration.” But instead we played soccer in No Man’s Land, like brothers.
I like to think this occurred because I am utterly charming, and such a good poet that just meeting me convinces people brotherhood is better than hate, but in actual fact I think the reasons may have been more mundane, and even sordid.
The first reason involves the fact some jobs are so hard men are forced to get along even if they don’t like each other. For example, on a sailing ship in a storm, everyone knows that they will die if they don’t work as a team to survive; all hands are on deck; race and religion do not matter. In “Moby Dick” Herman Melville describes the astonishing racial diversity which worked together on whaling ships. I have seen the same fellowship while spreading hot asphalt under a blazing sun in the desert. Sometimes a man has got to do what a man has got to do, and, because there is no time to hate an enemy, men are in harmony.
The second reason involved the fact some Navajo identified me as being a “Glahni”. (Which means, “drunkard.”) This was because, when the woman you crave has left you for some gestapo she thinks is better, the thing that replaces her can be a six-pack of beer.
I often could not even afford a six-pack, and when I could it often was a horrible bargain-basement beer with some name like “Texas Star” that smelled so highly of bad-water sulfur only a tough man could drink it. But I did drink, and when I had a six-pack I was willing to share. This somehow redeemed me from my gestapo status. Somehow I couldn’t be all bad, if I shared my beer.
In terms of the true Glahni, I was an effete tippler. True Glahni could pound down amazing amounts of alcohol. They explained to me that, back in the day, they could be arrested if they were found with a bottle, and therefore they would drink the entire bottle as fast as they could, and then throw the empty bottle as far as they could into the sage brush. Then they would sit back and watch what happened.
I told them I am a sissy. If I drank a quart of wine in thirty seconds, and then sat back to see what happened, I would get sick and throw up a quart of wine. The wine would be wasted. Therefore, I told them, I sipped more slowly.
They forgave me for being a sissy, because I had confessed my weakness. I then learned some Glahni were only passing-out-on-the-street briefly, like a drunken sailor binging while on leave, and the rest of the time were gainfully employed doing other things which sissy Behlighana could not do, such as walk on I-beams eighty stories above the streets of Chicago. Most of the time they were making more than ten times what I made, and were more sober than I was, as a tippler, but once in a while we were on the same page.
The law had altered, and the younger Glahni did not have the same reason to never be seen with a bottle holding alcohol. They were sissy tipplers like myself. However they castigated me in the same way their elders did.
The elders, after downing a quart of wine, were only good for ten minutes of good conversation, after which things went rather rapidly downhill. But the young tipplers could talk with me longer. They did castigate me, as being an oppressive invader, but they also recognized me as a brother. Why? Because I was drinking beer to drown my sorrows because a woman had chose a “gestapo” over me, and they were doing the same for the same reason, in their lives.
Our conversations were brutal and blunt, and so ridiculous we sometimes would shift from debating jaw-to-jaw to fits of laughter. For example, I often was informed, “You stole our land.” I’d look them straight in the eye and reply, “Land? Land? I have no stinking land! If I had land do you think I’d be sleeping in my car? It is you guys who have the land. Your reservation is as big as the the Netherlands and Belgium put together! Why is it I have to pay taxes and you guys don’t? It seems to me you guys should be taking care of me, but you guys get all the government hand-outs while I get diddlesquat.” Then I would laugh and conclude, “Those morons in Washington just haven’t got a clue.”
It is important to know the right time to laugh, when quarreling with your enemy. It is also important to deflect attention to the morons in Washington, which is something you can agree upon. In any case we’d dissolve from jaw-to-jaw disagreement to rolling around laughing.
There were a lot of reasons for laughter, for cultural differences make silly misunderstanding happen. At this point I have to restrain myself, or I’ll give a hundred examples. I had a lot of good talks, and enjoyed a lot of laughter, with the Navajo. People think Indians are grim-lipped and stoic, but my experience was that they love any excuse to laugh. And perhaps that is an element of stoicism: The ability to laugh at what would make others cry. But allow me to sidetrack slightly by giving a single example of a cultural misunderstanding.
One thing I was struck by in Navajo children of that time was that they were amazingly tough and seldom whined. This trait was made clear one time when a small four-year-old girl insisted on walking with me when I went to walk to get mail from the mailbox, which was a half-mile away across a blazing hot desert. I tried to talk her out of it, but she was insistent, for reasons that only make sense when you are four-years-old. So she came trotting along beside me, as I went to get my mail.
The hot sun pummeled me without mercy, and I myself was thinking mail wasn’t worth such punishment before we reached the mailbox, but the little girl never once complained. I was fairly certain, as we set out, I’d wind up being asked to carry her, and was willing to let her ride my shoulders, or I never would have let her come along. But she never asked. All the way to the mailbox and all the way back this little girl never once whined or pleaded. I looked down at the girl, as she plodded beside me, amazed at the grim look on her young face. I could not help but conclude she was tougher than sissy poets, like myself, are.
I am not sure how Navajo parents taught their children to be so tough. The children seemed to follow a commandment at an early age, “Thou shalt not plead.” But then they would attend a white man’s school, and face a contrary commandment: “Always say ‘please’.”
There is a lot to laugh about, concerning this cultural misunderstanding. And I did laugh a lot, once I got the joke. The problem is some stuffy schoolmarms don’t get the joke.
This allows me to get back to the original topic, which is, in case you have forgotten, how some women bow to an oppressive gestapo, and later face having their heads shaved for doing so.
It seems to me underpaid schoolmarms have no idea of the danger they are in. They assume they know right from wrong, when they are merely enacting an inane edict created by know-nothing bozos in Washington, and inflicted upon the innocent.
It seems to me schoolmarms don’t know why they demand a child say “please.” They just demand it and think they have every right to punish a child who refuses to say “please”. (Or, if they are told Global Warming is an established fact , they think they have every right to punish a child who states it isn’t.)
One thing the Navajo Glahni and I immediately agreed upon was that school was not a pleasant experience. In their case the crap they endured in “Indian Schools” was really horrific, but in some ways not very different than what I experienced as a white poet in a politically-correct suburban school in a town of rich white people. The politically-correct seemed so busy attempting to virtue-signal to the gestapo that they are on-the-team and deserve-the-benefits that they never truly thought about whether what they taught made a lick of sense.
The misunderstanding is something to laugh about. For example, for a number of smart and quite beautiful reasons, Navajo of that time taught their children not to point. A Navajo joke was that their hunting dogs pointed with their lips, like their masters did. But at an Indian School a white schoolmarm might ask a child to point a what was a triangle and what was a square, and then become irate when the child, obeying the biblical commandment to honor their parents, refused to point.
Such misunderstanding can lead to the resentment and repressed fury expressed by the rock group Pink Floyd in “Another Brick In The Wall”.
However the repressed fury Pink Floyd wonderfully expressed is totally unnecessary. Do I really need to show again what hatred does to schoolmarms who, in their ignorance, complied with the political correctness of the gestapo?
Do we really want our stuffy, old schoolteachers to suffer such a fate? For that is exactly the fate a certain brand of socialism promises. In China schoolteachers faithfully taught what Chairman Mao stated should be taught, but when he put the “Cultural Revolution” into effect he tapped into a youthful rage that resulted in the “Red Guard” insisting nearly every teacher in China be destroyed, and when that “socialism” spilled over into Cambodia you could be killed for the infraction of having a writer’s callus on your middle finger, which supposedly proved you were a capitalist because writing was something capitalists did.
This is not anything any sane man wishes upon a schoolmarm, even if she was less than wise. In the end, what defeated Mao’s insanity was not smart Americans. Smart Americans avoided the draft by going to college. What defeated Mao was the stupid kids, who schoolmarms didn’t like and who didn’t go to college and who gained no student-deferment from the draft. It was these mere teenagers who went to Vietnam and defeated Mao’s demented version of Liberalism-gone-awry. (The victory in Vietnam was not that the North Vietnamese were overrun, but rather thyat Mao was delayed eight years, and during those eight years the “Cultural Revolution self-destructed in China.) These bad students, whom schoolmarms never much liked, in actual fact defended schoolmarm’s freedom to be schoolmarms. Not that many schoolmarms ever thanked Vietnam vets for their heroism. And many Navajo Glahni were Vietnam vets.
If you look at the above situation in the right way, it makes you laugh. There is something laughable about schoolmarms detesting the very people who save their wrinkled, old hides. At the same time it is sad. Such men deserve better.
Such men deserve to be loved by their women. Their women should see what fine men their men actually are, even if they are Glahni. And when you listen to a certain sort of music called “The Blues”, you often hear men who have in many ways disgraced themselves as “Glahni” appealing to their woman , (often with a sense of humor), that they are worth loving, and better than the politically-correct, schoolmarm’s gestapo.
When my life landed me in the middle of a desert, I had a strong wish that my ex would change her mind, and see that I was worth loving. She never did, but I was among Navajo Glahni who wished the same thing. I am thankful I met them, for it is hard to feel alone when you are midst a brotherhood of spurned men all yearning for the same thing you yearn for.
At some point after I met these spurned men I apparently felt the desire to express “The Blues” of being a Glahni who saves schoolmarms, but is never appreciated for it. I say “apparently” because I cannot remember how I came to scribble the following verse on now-yellowing paper. I find the verse somewhat stunning, for it suggests a level of inspiration was involved I do not remember; a golden light shone in the shadows, as we laughed and were losers, all those years ago. The crudely scrawled scribble employs the then-Navajo slang where a man is a “buck” and a woman is a “doe”, and states:
RHYME OF BUCK
Doe don’t hear the sonnets any more, I guess. Though I speak ’em all the time, Who hears rhyme? Like the sleeper to the snore or Confess- Ing harlots to the whore, She sees no crime.
When I ask her for a dime She don’t see Ten Syllables a line, And she has missed The beauty of my rhyme; The poetry.
The ones who reach her Teach her With a fist.
The terrorist Touches her. I fail.
Grenades are her maids. Bombs move her. I don’t.
Everywhere poetry pounds like warm hail; Still she sees no sonnet.
I sail. She won’t Until she sees the sonnet in her buck And brings out the Hid Mid- Night rhyme of luck.
As I scanned this poem, which I couldn’t recall bitterly scrawling, I had a sense a younger me thought I was being tricky as I wrote it. I rolled my eyes a bit rereading, because I saw immediately that the rhyme of “buck” and “luck” is “fuck”, and the poem in some ways is just the crude appeal of a spurned man, asking his ex to return to the status quo of nightly copulation. As such it seemed little more than the selfishness of lust.
However, as I recall, my younger self would never willingly give lust such power. (I might be defeated a thousand times, but I kept on fighting.) Therefore I knew some deeper trickery was involved. All of a sudden I saw what I never intended any reader to see. It was my youthful joke, aimed towards the ignorant. It assumed no one would ever figure out that the above poem, written in a politically-correct modernistic form, was actually an old fashioned sonnet. and as such would look like this:
Doe don’t hear the sonnets any more, I guess. Though I speak ’em all the time, who hears rhyme? Like the sleeper to the snore,or confess- Ing harlots to the whore, she sees no crime.
When I ask her for a dime she don’t see Ten syllables a line, and she has missed The beauty of my rhyme; the poetry. The ones who reach her teach her with a fist,
The terrorist touches her. I fail. Grenades are her maids. Bombs move her. I don’t. Everywhere poetry pounds like warm hail. Still she sees no sonnet. I sail. She won’t
Until she sees the sonnet in her buck And brings out the hid midnight rhyme of luck. (1985)
I assume that, by writing a sonnet no one would see was a sonnet, I was creating something that symbolized the hero hidden in the Glahni. After all, if God is in everything, then God is in the Glahni. Furthermore, to be quite frank, it was a lot easier to see God in the laughter of the Glahni than in the frowning of a prissy schoolmarm.
What was most God-like about the Glahni was that they didn’t seem to want their exes to be stripped and tarred and humiliated. They simply wanted their exes to be nice. Though unforgiven they forgave, which was a paradox we could laugh about, sitting in the desert sunshine, 34 years ago.
Now I suspect a lot of those fellows are dead. They were heroes who defeated Mao in Vietnam, but they also defeated a greater enemy in their own hearts: The seething hatred towards those who collaborate with the gestapo. Therefore I suspect they have gone to a sunny place where there is no hate, and the sonnets are not hidden.
In humanity’s attempt to get it’s puny mind around the infinity of the Creator, humanity is forever subdividing the unity of God into various aspects. At its worst this fragments Oneness into a whole pantheon of lesser gods or saints, who tend to be at war with each other, but at its best it is like a lover listing the beautiful attributes of their Beloved.
One trinity, made out of the inseparable One, is the idea of God as Creator-Sustainer-Destroyer, (or Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, in Hindu thought). People (myself included) seem to have trouble with the third part of this trinity, “God the Destroyer.” Though we know all things in creation are fleeting, “dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ashes”, we object to death. We want life to be “eternal life”.
Because people object to “God the Destroyer” there have been various attempts to soften this part of the trinity, such as “God the Dissolver,” (as if being dissolved is somehow more acceptable than being destroyed). Amidst the amazing variety of Hindu thought are several sects that redeem Shiva by giving him creative and sustaining attributes.
I suppose God smiles at our attempts to rehabilitate Him. He also likely appreciates our love of life, and our attempts to avoid death. There is something in the human spirit that rebels at the idea of termination; we have a hunger for tales to end, “they lived happily ever after”, though we know the truth is, “until death do we part.”
Even though I am a “childcare professional” (IE: baby-sitter), and dealing with children tends to involve me with God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer, I have been dwelling on the morbid topic of God-the-Destroyer lately because it is not merely autumn, but a particularly wet and gloomy autumn. Brooks that usually barely trickle, (or even go dry, some years), have been rushing, and the mossy rocks have been lush.
There have been small ponds where I’ve never seen them before in the drenched woods, to throw sticks into. This allows boys to practice vandalism, (and to be boy-the-Destroyer), without getting into trouble.
It was so wet that some trees, especially sugar maples, did not achieve their full glory because leaves rotted even as they turned, and rather than leaves of pure crimson they were crimson blotched by brown and black spots. This dismal situation didn’t seem to diminish the jauntiness of children walking through golden glades of rain-drenched beeches.
The sheer cheerfulness of children in rainy woods seems a defiance of gloom: A puddle in the path of life is a joy; jump in it!
Meanwhile I am not finding as easy to keep up with them as last year. I can feel the damage caused by all those hundreds of thousands of cigarettes I so foolishly smoked in my past, and I huff and puff walking up hills. The hand of mortality lays on my shoulder, and I see how “the wages of sin are death.”
But then I watch the glee of children, and the thought occurs to me that the wages of sin are children. Men strive to make sex something other than what it is, but it goes right on overpowering men’s will-powers and creating babies, which is the real reason for sex, (though violin-makers see sex as good excuse to sell violins to violinists). Some men then get all gloomy about the wages of sin being child-support, but that is usually because they do not spend enough time with their children, and miss the joy. Many hire an old geezer like me to experience the joy, and pay me for it.
One thing I’ve found remarkable over the years is the relationship children have with creation, as they rollick through the woods and fields. They are not at war with nature. Nature puts up no signs that say, “Fragile ecosystem. Stick to the path.” It is environmentalists who want to ban children from the outdoors, and to instead show children a lot of depressing videos about how man destroys all he touches. If children get the chance, many fall in love with the outdoors, (though some children are more inclined than others, and a few children, I’ll confess, seem born to be indoors.)
Children develop a respect for life out of love for it. In the woods I really don’t have to preach all that much about respecting livings things. Some small ones torture ants and frogs and scar a tree’s bark, but it is usually more out of curiosity and rambunctiousness than out of sadism, and the same children who were the worst offenders at age three tend to tattle on their peers at age five. I can honestly say I do a minimum of preaching, and nature does the rest.
Not that nature coddles them. New Hampshire is no Polynesian Island, and there are mosquitoes and black flies and ticks, and the weather, especially this year, can cause people who move here to change their minds and move out. But, despite the fact children can become understandably wary of the woods after stepping on a hornet’s nest, few are anything close to becoming permanently scarred and neurotic. Instead they, even at age three, become this remarkable thing called “tough.”
As the autumn passed the lands to our north became snow-covered early, and, on the rare occasions when the rain stopped, we started getting bitter blasts on the back-side of storms, as they blew up into gales over the Maritime Provinces of Canada. One day the north winds howled so fiercely there was spin-drift and whitecaps even on the relatively small flood-control reservoir, as a bitter gale roared from the north.
With wind-chills below zero Fahrenheit, I suspect most would have chosen to stay in, but I took a group of three boys and two girls out, all under five years old. It included a three-year-old inclined to red-faced tantrums. He was not at all pleased by the idea of a hike in the roaring wind, but he was not pleased with the idea of staying in, either. He thought the entire idea of child-care was a bad idea, wanted to go to work with his mother, and, among other things, I had to gently remind him that the word “fuck” is not a good word. Given the choice of staying indoors or being outside with the small hellion, I chose the environment where the wind could drown out some of his whining, though I had to carry him the first quarter mile because he was flopping to the ground and girning, and as I carried him his voice was particularly penetrating, an inch from my ear.
All five children were especially well dressed. I likely was the coldest person on the hike, due to the fires within me producing less hot blood than in my younger day. My mood was not particularly good, because my current staff is nearly as decrepit as I am, and two were unavailable due to work-related injuries, (a twisted knee, and a sprained wrist.) I had to fill-in, when I had planned to sit in my warm study by my cozy computer and write about Arctic Sea-ice. So I was in the same mood as the squalling three-year-old I carried. But I have been running this child-care enterprise a decade. (We will finish our tenth year this December.) Even when it seems God-the-Destroyer is manifesting, I know what to do.
The first trick I used is one I picked up from the children. It is to rejoice, when the weather is bad, over how very bad it is. The north wind’s gusts burned exposed faces and made us wince and flinch away, but we clambered up to the top of the flood-control dam, where it was worst, and four of the children laughed as the wind shoved them around and all but knocked them down. The fifth child, (who of course was the grumpy three-year-old), made it obvious that he deemed us utterly mad, and folded his arms, and refused to climb up to the top of the dam.
This brought about my second trick, which is to foster wonder. What do you do when the wind is cruel? What do animals do? Where do they go? I turned the wondering into a project: Find a place where the three-year-old would be comfortable. We walked around to a sunny hollow on the downwind side of the dam, and “had snack”. Though the wind still scoured down and moved the tops of the tall, dead weeds we crouched midst, at ground level it was quite tolerable. I explained this was the sort of place deer and my goats hunkered down during cold gales, taking advantage of the low sun as it shone for the first time in days. The children, even the three-year-old, chattered happily as we picnicked.
Actually this simple knowledge (stay in the sun and out of the wind) is knowledge some bank presidents lack. If their private jet ever crash-landed in a winter forest, they might needlessly freeze, while my little children would, in an almost instinctive manner, chose the warmer paths and survive. Even homeless bums know enough to cross to the sunny side of the street, as the supposedly-wiser bankers stoically stick to striding a straight line through the shade. (This may not seem to make much of a difference in a five-minute winter walk between sky-scrapers, but over the course of a day, after your jet crash-lands, all the chilling adds up).
We next sought out the deeper woods in small valleys where the wind won’t go, but the sun shines through the now-leafless trees, and there the kids had a great time, balancing while teetering along fallen logs; throwing sticks into a stream to watch them float with the current; and chatting and quarreling (which is officiously called “developing social skills”). The three-year-old forgot I was never-to-be-forgiven, and joked with me. Despite the cold we were late heading back for lunch. An entire morning, which many would have called “too cold to go outdoors”, had been spent under the sunny sky, with the tree’s branches clacking in the wind overhead. The day was redeemed.
I often shake my head over how little I actually do, in this redemptive process. Perhaps I get some credit for directing traffic, but I don’t do the driving. Most of the joy radiates from the landscape, and from the children themselves. At times I see a relationship maturing between creation and the created which seems very natural and very beautiful, yet which some (of the environmentalist ilk) strangely mangle. Rather than a love affair between the walker and the woods, some promote a “protective” alienation.
One good thing about getting kids outdoors into the cold is that it burns off a lot of calories, which has positive effects: Children fuss little over their lunches, eating voraciously like small wolves, and then they conk out quickly into deep naps during “quiet time”. This gives me sweet silence, and time to think more deeply about man’s alienation from creation.
When I was younger I think I was less interested in having a love affair with nature than in wrestling with it. It is interesting to watch my older son, now entering middle age, as he tests himself against what New Hampshire weather can dish out.
As a landscaper and snow-plowman he spends a lot of time outside, but after growing up in my house, (which was built in the mid 1700’s and is like an icebox in the winter), made him a man who has nothing against the luxury of warmth indoors. He is building a new house behind my house, and I could not help but notice the care and attention he put into having heated concrete floors, (when I thought he should be in more of a hurry to just finish). Warm feet at home at winter is very important to him, and part of his battle with nature,
He thought the weather would remain fair, which of course it never does. Even before the concrete pad was poured a great deal of time was squandered (I felt) in laying an intricate, complicated network of heating, plumbing, sewerage and electric conduits, with various baffles of insulation. The floor is indeed an amazing floor, but when the walls finally started to go up the final fair weather was ending, and the bad weather beginning.
Since then it has poured every weekend, which is when he finds time to work beyond his ordinary work. Downpours constantly fouled up his plans. Over the years he has helped many other local fellows build their houses, and the fellows want to return the favor, but it is not the easiest thing to assemble the crews needed, when they all have other jobs. After all the work of making the arrangements, it would again pour. He fell behind schedule, and then the onset of winter was particularly early, with eight inches of snow. Perhaps he was pushing his luck a bit, but one Saturday my breakfast was interrupted by a crash outside, and my daughter yelling that my oldest son had rolled his truck. We dashed out to see, fearing the worst.
The truck hadn’t actually rolled…
….but things didn’t look good. As the truck skidded backwards down the slippery slope my son made the split-second decision to ram the stone wall rather than risk skidding across the street and plunging down into the neighbor’s house.
At this point there was little talk about a love affair between man and nature, and the walker and the woods. God-the-Destroyer in the form of snow seems to be battling God-the-Creator, in the form of my son. However I silently philosophized that this conflict forms a necessary tension, a friction which creates traction in creation.
A preacher at a nearby church refers to the above as “a rich man’s problem”. People in Africa would love to have a truck, or even a bicycle, to have problems with. We should be thankful to have such problems, but I didn’t mention this to my son. Instead I said I was thankful he was all right.
He seemed, if anything, invigorated by the challenge. Like a jaunty child walking with swinging arms in the rain, my son set about surmounting yet another difficulty. He brought a rented “lull”, (used to lift shingles up to the roof), down the hill, lifted the truck while pulling with a chain, and the truck came off the wall with a loud squawking noise as it settled back onto its frame. Amazingly, very little was wrong with the truck.
For the most part I watch the battle between man and nature, (or God-the-Creator and God-the-Destroyer), (or friction vs. the slippery slope), as an interested observer. There may have once been a day when I could out-hustle others on a construction site as the brawny “gopher”, (go-for), but those days are past. Back then I could make up in brawn for what I lacked in knowledge, but now I am largely in-the-way. The little knowledge I have is antiquated. For example, back in the day we lugged heavy bundles of shingles up ladders; I did not even know what a “lull” was. Secondly, I’ve slowed; if I did lug a bundle up a ladder, just to show I can still do it, I’d be in everyone’s way as I caught my breath at the top.
Compared to what I once was, I’m puny. I’m increasingly a weakling. God-the-destroyer is having His way with my physical frame. Though this is normal and natural and part of the so-called “circle of life” I don’t like it one bit. I grump it would have been easier if I was puny to begin with and had little to lose. It is a lot harder because I once was very strong. (I was also incredibly good-looking and amazingly smart, no matter what my siblings may tell you.) But I can give such things up, because I have watched amazing athletes be forced to retire at the young age of forty, and seen some of them move on to being brilliant coaches.
It is far harder to give up dreams. This was brought home to me as my favorite goat, “Muffie”, died unexpectedly.
I doubt I can do justice to how deeply I was troubled by the death of what many may see as a mere dumb goat. However Muffie was a friend, and also the last of a blood-line. I once dreamed Muffie would be the first of a whole herd. Nine years ago, as Muffie was bottle-fed by children at my Childcare because her mother died while giving birth, I had ambitions. Now I am tired, and the dreams are dyeing.
The death of a dream is in some ways a ridiculous thing to be troubled by, for a dream is a dream. It may not ever have come true, and this means you are grieving something that never existed in reality, a bit like Lieutenant Kéje in Prokofiev’s suite.
However a dream has power. It is like the apple dangled in front of a reluctant mule, prompting it to plod on even when it wants to quit. Even though the apple is never reached, the mule may plod on and achieve other goals.
A dream is the conception of an idea. The time between conception and the fruition of the dream may be called a sort of pregnancy. When the dream comes true it has many of the wonders of childbirth, but when a dream doesn’t come true it has much of the ugliness of stillbirth or abortion.
When you hit age sixty-five you are not like a baseball-player switching from the role of player to the role of manager or coach. Rather you are giving up the game itself. It is a totally different sacrifice, and far harder to bear.
When I was young, it was far easier to sing that “for everything, there is a season”.
But now I have reached the age when it is the season to give up on dreams. There is a part deep down in me that just can’t do it. As death approaches I just can’t give up on life.
This brings me back to the start of this essay, where I spoke of how we dislike the idea of “God-the-Destroyer.” We disliked the idea from the start. It was a seventeen-year-old girl, Laura Nyro, who in 1967 wrote, “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on; to carry on.” After a version was recorded by her, and then by Peter, Paul and Mary, a bunch of young white hippies, attempting to sound black and gospel, had a smash hit in 1969:
But it is all well and good to defy death when you are young and vigorous. It is not so easy when you are faced with the increasing feebleness of age, and are suppose to be “aging gracefully.” How can one be graceful when one sees no grace?
Anyone who has seen the beauty of God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer tends to fight death, and to, like Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
But, if you rage against what the Creator made a definite part of creation, namely death itself, are you not telling God he is wrong?
You’d be surprised at the dark storm-clouds which the death of Muffie sent my mind drifting up and into.
Fortunately my wife smacks me back down to earth, so I don’t forget my worldly responsibilities, but even as I shoveled the snow from the walkways of our Childcare my mind drifted elsewhere, miles and miles away.
I arrived at an odd conclusion, which may get me pitched head over heels out of many Christian churches. It was that the end of creation is death, and God-the-Destroyer. Therefore creation itself is the “everlasting death” that Christianity warns against. And, in a strange manner, that makes Christians like Hindus. Yikes! How can I make such a claim?
It involves some convoluted thinking that I know will get me in trouble, but basically suggests creation is the process and not the Goal, the road and not the Destination, the creation and not the Creator. If we have “life”, then life can be a thing we have in creation, and also be the Goal of creation. If we are tricked into identifying “life” too much with the material things and the dreams of creation, then we see life turn to death. But if we see life (and most especially love), as more important than creation, then we escape the death that always ends life in creation, and instead triumphantly arrive the goal, which is everlasting life beside the throne of the Creator.
Now supposing I, (as seems likely the case), am too concerned with the creation and neglect the One who made it. I am doomed to face God-the-Destroyer, rather than the embrace of God-who-is-love, at His throne. If my worldly tendencies make me too focused on creation it will not matter that I complain, “But I was loving my neighbor”, because it will be obvious that I cared more for the creation than the One who made it, Who is the Reason and the Goal. Big mistake. Rather than eternal life, I get everlasting death.
Then what? This thought occurred to me even when I was a very small boy. I have no idea who told me about everlasting hell. I simply recall fleeing the grown-ups to an alcove in the attic, by a tiny window, and imagining myself punished in everlasting hell, and pouting, and growling in a puppy-voice how I’d never, never surrender to such a mean bully.
Then what? What happens when you have failed to live up to the standards of the Christ, and have blown it big time? Is it all over forever?
What happens when you laughed at Noah for building his ark , and sneered at him for believing in what made no pragmatic sense to you? What happened when it then rained and rained and rained, and his absurd ark in a middle of a dry desert floated safely away, as you treaded water until you couldn’t tread, and drowned? Did God have no mercy on you for being the sensible one, and caring for sensible things, and maybe even caring for family and neighbors as Noah ignored such things, instead seemingly wasting scarce resources by building a gigantic, silly structure out in the middle of nowhere. Why the hell should you get hell, as the nincompoop Noah gets blessed?
The Bible actually states the sinners of Noah’s time were not forever cursed. According to Saint Peter, between the time Jesus was crucified and the time he rose from the dead, he went to hell to visit the sinners of Noah’s time. Why? To preach.
This creates a big problem for Christians. Why? Because if I was sitting in hell I would not call myself “forever cursed” if Jesus himself appeared and took the time to “preach” to me.
I assume that Jesus would not take the time to preach unless some hope, healing and good could come of it. Why would he preach to the damned if damnation was forever? What purpose would it serve? To go, “Nyah, nyah, neener-neener-neener. You’re damned and I’m not”??? That doesn’t sound like the Lord of Love to me.
This incongruity in scripture may have resulted in the idea of “purgatory”, which many Christians call “Non-Scriptural.” But me? I simply think God’s love is more than I can fathom.
This leads me on to the completely Anti-Christian idea of reincarnation, which seems bound to hopelessly divide Christians from Hindus until the end of time.
According to the Hindu, when most die they do not escape creation, but remain trapped. They, after a time contemplating the mistakes and/or joys of their past life, are born into a new body, with a new brain that cannot hold any memory of the past life. They are born again, but usually it is only to die again. They die over and over and over, this time rich, this time poor, this time black, this time white, this time healthy, this time sickly, this time male, this time female. But, whether king or peon, the result is always the same: death.
It occurred to me that reincarnation is the same thing as everlasting death. There may not be the gulf between Hindus and Christians that they each believe. They both believe that, unless you escape time (to the eternal) you are trapped in time (the everlasting.)
After all, what is the use of being born again, if it is only to die again? If it turns out the Hindu are correct, and I am born again in a physical body, it likely will mean I will have to take math classes again. Who in their right mind wants that?
Both Hindu and Christians speak of an escape from “everlasting death”, which is an escape from the very-real part of creation we call God-the-Destroyer. Both state we must put the Creator ahead of creation.
Yes, they waste time quibbling about the details. Is the one life a single incarnation or many? Did the Christ come once as Jesus or more than once as Vishnu, the Avatar?
To be honest, I lack the experience and wits to weigh in on such matters. I can wonder all I want, but it is only wonder. In the end I have to confess my incapacity. In doing so, I recognize I need the help of a Master. There is no cotton-picking way I’m going to Seventh heaven without a Savior, and it matters not a hill of beans whether you call that Rescuer the Savior, Avatar, Messiah, Rasool, Vishnu, or Christ. All that matters is that you recognize love has a Source, and the nature of the Source is Love, which Christians believe took on mortal flesh and walked (and walks) among us as Jesus.
As my life enters the phase where I deal more with God-the-Destroyer than with the Creator or Sustainer, it occurs to me I am blessed to be a mere baby-sitter, dealing with children just entering creation. Not that I always feel blessed. It is not seen as “manly” to be a baby-sitter. Among the politically correct, being a baby-sitter earns me few kudos. But I am blessed all the same, because simply dealing with the very-young exposes me to something utterly different from God-the-Destroyer.
For one thing, the very-young are more wise than they have any right to be. Even though they have brand-new brains, they are not un-programmed computers we are adding data to. They already know stuff they have no business knowing. How can they know? The secular blame “genetics” and the Hindu blame “past lives” and the Christians blame “God’s gifts.” Me? I really don’t know, but can’t help but smile even when I’m gloomy. Why?
I suppose it is because the trust children enter life with (which is so sad to see harmed in any way) holds a joy which, in and of itself, seems to prove that the reason we are born is not to die. After all, if they were only born to die, why would children laugh?
I may now be facing death, as we must all do when we can no longer call ourselves “middle aged”, but that does not mean death, or “God the Destroyer”, is the net result of living. There is another reason for life.
I can’t fully explain what I’m attempting to say, but I hear it in the cries of children. At times it is hard to hear when they are in your face. I hear it best when they are far away, and sound like a glitter sledding down a distant hill.
Like glitter on a distant winter hill I hear the children sledding once again, And once again I feel the ancient thrill That drenches deja-vu on all that big men Construct and think is mighty; all that kings Claim they can control, and all that we mourn And think that we are losing. Of all things We want to grasp, the most fleeting, least lorn Is the eternal song of children at play. On the hill an ancient oak has hearkened Since before the Pilgrim’s children had their day When the children were Indian’s. No end Is there to the Truth in the distant mirth, And that is all ye need to know on earth.
I’ve been going through my notes from my drifter days, trying to figure out how to describe the sense I got at times that I was part of something bigger than I could conceive.
At that time nothing was going according to the script I had written for my own life, which was a sort of Horatio Alger tale of small poet who makes it big, becomes filthy rich, marries a beautiful blond, and lives happily ever after. In actual fact I was unknown, destitute, and my romantic life made a train wreck look pretty. But, despite my apparent lack of success, I felt I had an importance all out of proportion to what anyone could see. Nor was it merely me who had this importance. You also were important. You too would, if you only knew how important you were, be able to swell your chest in an attitude of grandiose magnificence.
The best way I can think to describe what I glimpsed would be to contemplate a small ball bearing in the palm of your hand. While a ball bearing might seem like an insignificant bead, without it mighty machinery can grind to smoldering ruins.
We each have an important part to play in the scheme of things, and it is sheer foolishness to think one is raised at all by becoming a so-called “star”. Many in Hollywood think, in their vanity, that they are more important than humble bumpkins, but in actual fact the part they play is evil. They represent vanity, a tool of Ignorance, (or “Maya”, or “Satan”.) They currently like to plaster their Maserati-bumpers with “Resist!”, as if their political vanity proclaims they represent Truth, when in fact it proclaims they are vain. A truer “resistance” resists the seductions of fame and fashion and fad and popularity, and accepts humble positions, and is willing to be a bumpkin and be called “a deplorable”, while simply performing the work of a ball bearing, which is to “do your job”, which is to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your Lord”.
I had a hard time being humble at that time, for two reasons. The first was that, to be honest, I very much wanted to be seduced by fame and fashion and fad and popularity, and be absurdly wealthy, and drive a Maserati, and walk with a buxom babe at either elbow. As a poet, I figured I’d die young, but at times it seemed to me better to die of a cocaine overdose, than of starvation. But, as I said earlier, my life was not unfolding according to my script. (Thank God.)
The second reason I found it hard to be humble was that, when I glimpsed the part mere bumpkins played in the scheme of things, I wanted to screech from the rooftops how divine and exalted they were. They were the true heroes, the Atlas holding up the world on their shoulders. They were the ones who were the good guys, as Hollywood stars played the role of the bad guys. What was wrong with everyone? Was humanity blind?
I felt I had important news to share with my fellow man, concerning how exalted bumpkins were and how stupid Hollywood was. Of course, this news is deemed politically incorrect by Hollywood Agents, and also Gatekeeper Publishers, and in fact if you want to get ahead in Hollywood it is likely unwise to call Hollywood evil, which is probably part of the reason I wound up destitute in a desert campground.
I am fairly certain I deserved the destitution I ended up with. But, if I say that, then I also must have deserved the people who showed up at that campground, and made my life a pleasure. I found myself within inexplicably joyous periods of time where I actually raised my eyes to the sky and thanked God. Such times were like the kindness of spring after a hard winter, or the kindness of healing after a hangover you know you darn well deserve. I felt I hadn’t done half as much as it would take, to earn myself such compassion, but I couldn’t stop the dawn from ending my night. Often the dawn was the arrival of inconsequential fellow-Americans, at an obscure campground.
One fellow had worked hard and kept a steady job for years, as I had spent my years avoiding steady work and being a poet. He was a quarter century older than I, and had scraped together enough for a modest retirement, whereas I had slim prospects of scraping together enough to feed myself more than rice and beans the following day. You might think we were opposites, but we both liked salt-water fishing, and I shared a couple beers from a cheap six-pack I’d bought with the $20.00 I’d made with that day’s spot-labor, and we enjoyed an evening by a campfire at an altitude of 7000 feet, talking about the ocean far away. The next day he headed off in his camper to Mexico, to fish off Baja California, as I headed off to see if I could make enough with day-labor to buy chicken wings.
Around two weeks later the same fellow returned from Baja California, and sought me out. I was late returning to the campground that night, after a discouraging day when I didn’t make enough to buy chicken wings. I was expecting to prepare a dinner of rice and beans, but instead enjoyed all sorts of Baja California fish the fellow had smoked and brought back. We had a fish-fry party, with other campers joining and contributing both food and liquor. It was not what I expected, after a discouraging day.
The next day all my new friends left, which is to be expected, when you befriend people at a campground. Those friendships reminded me of hitchhiking nearly twenty years earlier. You meet people, have amazing conversations, and never see them again.
But one old fellow did want to see me again. I’m not sure why. Maybe something about the amazing conversation of the night before convinced him to hang around the campground an extra day. I know he didn’t ask me permission.
Meanwhile I was having a far better day seeking spot-labor. Minimum wage back then was stuck at $3.35/hour, and a good day was to work 8 hours and return to the campground with $26.80 (rent was $25.00/week), but on this day I’d made $5.00/hour and worked ten hours, and had a whopping $50.00. I not only paid the next week’s rent, and not only had money to buy some food and do my clothes at the campground laundromat, but also had extra money for cigarettes, coffee and beer. I was looking forward to a quiet time writing at my picnic table all alone. The last thing I wanted to see was a grizzled old man sitting at my table, as I came puttering up to my pup tent in my tiny, battered, brown, 1974 Toyota Corolla. But what could I do? One must be a good host.
Dinner that night was a chowder made from smoked fish from Baja California, which was a pretty classy meal, for a bum in a New Mexico campground. I had a huge box of powdered milk for my coffee, and several bags of free smoked fish which wouldn’t rot in the heat, so all I needed for a chowder was a couple onions and potatoes, which I’d bought on my way home to the campground. My fuel was half-burned logs I scrounged from other camper’s hearths after they left in the morning. My kitchen held a coffee pot, a pan, and a kettle, and my utensils were a spatula, a large spoon, and a jackknife. The desert sky was brilliant blue, and the crimson setting sun was lighting up the towering, orange-sandstone bluffs surrounding the campground. Life seemed good to me, and I offered my guest a beer. He offered me some whisky, which I gestured for him to dump into my coffee. Life was seeming even better.
My guest was a retired aeronautical engineer. At first he struck me as a bit boring, seeming like a person who had worked for years at drafting tables with slide-rules and inky fingers, but as I questioned him I soon understood he’d seen the start of the Cold War, which was a war without front lines, fought largely behind the scenes.
I told him a few tales about a nearby cavalry post called Fort Wingate. After soldiers stopped galloping about on splendid horses it had become an ammunition dump in World War Two, and for a brief time after the war people hadn’t guarded it very well, because people thought the Russians were our allies, and all wars were over and done with, and there was no need to guard ammunition dumps any more. Rumor had it that local Navajo and Ranchers had wound up with bazookas, though I’d never seen one. Then it turned out Stalin didn’t want to be friends, and the ammunition dump was guarded more carefully.
The old man laughed, and told me he’d known a few ranchers who “liberated” surprising weapons from army-surplus stockpiles after the war, including a tank. We talked a while about how men like to blow stuff up, and about tremendous booms heard in the desert on July the Fourth. As the man rambled on about his past I studied his face in the firelight, and decided he didn’t look entirely like a draftsman; his complexion had rancher-wrinkles gifted by wind and sun.
He became more interesting to me the more he talked. Partly this was due to the whisky, but also I just have a habit of being nosy. I mind my own business if other people mind theirs, but if I am stuck with someone I figure I might as well get to know them. Few people are actually as dull as they appear. Even though 99% of life may be dull, God lets few of us off Scot free, and most have been through trials and troubles. Even dull people don’t mind telling you about the adventure of surviving, if you know how to ask.
This particular fellow kept veering away from the subject of post-war aeronautical engineering, and when I pointed out that he was avoiding the subject (whisky allows such frankness) he replied some of what he’d done was still classified. I was amazed technology from 1946 was still secret, and he simply shrugged. Then I became a pest, asking if he could at least tell me what general subject was still secret, without leaking the actual details.
He looked at me thoughtfully, and then I was surprised to see anger creep into his expression, and he said, “I suppose I can, considering the asshole president was such a big blabbermouth.”
I agreed (being a democrat at that time) that President Reagan was an asshole, and the fellow replied “I was referring to President Carter.” Things were awkward for a bit, and I endured a bit of a lecture about my naivete, but the fellow was gracious in a gruff way, and forgave me for being liberal, leaving me with some version of the John Adams quip to Thomas Jefferson, “A boy of 15 who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at 20.” (Churchill read Jefferson’s account, and revised it.)
The old engineer was of the opinion President Carter had no brain, for he had publicly bragged our air force had a bomber which radar couldn’t see, at a time when the information was top secret. He was referring to the “stealth bomber”.
The old engineer told me there are all sorts of difficulties with the design of “flying wings”, which were originally designed because they could fly farther than conventional bombers due to increased “lift.” They could fly for 10,000 miles.
Despite all the efforts to keep the flying wing secret, there were spies in the desert, reporting to Stalin, who was able to tell President Truman he knew of the first explosion of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at the Potsdam conference only a few days later.
Therefore Truman was aware Stalin likely knew about the crash of the flying-wing (jet version) on June 5, 1948. This may explain why Truman had a different flying wing roar over the White House not far above the rooftops in mid-February 1949. He not only wanted to see it himself; he wanted the Russians to see it from their embassy.
It is typical of the Cold War that Truman would want Stalin to see the success without leaking the secret of the troubles. This might get Russia working on its own version without knowing of the problems they’d run into, (which eventually led to the abandonment of the flying wing). In a sense it would send the Russians off onto a wild goose chase, and waste a lot of money. It was vast military expenditures that eventually led to the Soviet Union’s downfall; In the end the Cold War was won by battling pocketbooks, like old ladies fighting at a sale.
Washington D.C. was a swamp back then, just as it is now, and the designer of the flying wing, Jack Northrop, stated a reason for the failure of his project was that the Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was in cahoots with Northrup’s competitor Conair. (When the Democrats lost power Symington became president of Conair.) (There may have even been industrial sabotage involved, as one flying wing nearly crashed because someone “forgot to change the oil.”)
Jack Northrop was bitterly disappointed when his pet project lost the necessary funding from Washington, but at the very end of his life in 1980, in a wheelchair and unable to speak, he was taken to see a top-secret Stealth Bomber. After seeing the reincarnation of his pet project, he reportedly scribbled onto a pad of paper, “Now I know why God has kept me alive the past 35 years.”
The old aeronautical engineer I talked with in 1985 didn’t go into any detail about the “secrets” discovered by the early flying wings, which were utilized in the stealth bomber. I suspect the most important one was discovered by sheer accident. While the emphasis was on flying wings being able to stay aloft longer than conventional aircraft, it was noted that they presented a very small “cross section” on the radar screen.
What impressed the engineer most was the courage of the test pilots. Both Forbes and Edwards air force bases were named after test pilots who died in the crash of the flying wing in 1948. They were heroes, for they gathered the information that led to later successes, at the price of their lives.
At this point the old man’s face became very sad in the firelight, as he recalled the death of a test pilot he knew. The old man may have been leaking a secret, for I cannot find any record of the crash he recollected. It involved a much smaller flying wing, more of a fighter than a bomber. During a test flight it flipped upside down, and then the pilot could not get it to flip right side up again. The entire time he strove to right the air-craft he spoke in a calm voice, explaining what he was attempting and how the aircraft was responding, and listening to the suggestions of the engineers on the ground. As the aircraft ran out of fuel he came gliding in upside down, landing with the cockpit downwards, which of course killed him. His death was instantaneous, but the engineer was still in pain forty years later.
I suppose that exploring new frontiers always involves the deaths of pioneers, who show us the dangers, and save many lives through the loss of their own. We now take air travel in jets for granted, oblivious of the forgotten heroes who made such luxury possible. Meanwhile the big-shots in swamps rattle sabers at each other, and thump their gorilla chests with nuclear tests, and fight with pocketbooks like little old ladies.
When I reflect, I think the big are far smaller than they imagine, while the small are far bigger than they dream.