Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Good Square Wenceslas

July 24, 2017

At Prague’s big square called Wenceslas

in a feast of freedom

the people gathered roundabout

to end their socialist grieving.

Brightly shone their bold intent

to form a new collusion.

Hither came brave Havel, sent

to guide their revolution.

Wencsl'89

Gather, people, stand today,

if freedom be your calling!

Yonder Soviets, who are they?

We’re done with their cruel mauling.

Sure, they’ve been in charge out here,

acting like they own us.

But now it’s time to cast out fear

and strive for freedom’s onus.

Bring us liberty to speak what’s true,

and tell it like it is–

There’s more in this life for us to do

than perish in their communism.

From high and low they did assemble;

So bold, in unity were they staying.

In Solidarity they did resemble

their Polish brethren who were praying.

People! Oh, the day is bright’ning

and a mighty wind of freedom blows,

Behold! Despite their Soviet tightening,

the depravity of their gulag shows.

Collapse of their system is now imminent.

We here resolve to accept our fate

while we apply a democratic liniment,

to this demising socialist State.

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From Soviet rubble these Czechs have trodden

in the wake of tyranny’s destined fall,

Czech and Slovak Republics  plodding

to rise from detritus of fallen Soviet wall.

Now proletariat, artist and bourgeois too

can think and work and overcome their loss,

because the wind of liberty blew through

Prague’s great square called Wenceslas.

WencSqr

King of Soul

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Overcoming Mediocrity and Alienation with Freedom

June 10, 2017

Trying to fix this world is no easy task. Many people have pondered about what is wrong with it, and some have offered remedies about how to correct the perpetual problem of human activity and its destructive effects on our collective life on this planet.

For instance, about a century and a half ago, a very smart German fellow named Karl Marx theorized that the prosperous owners of the world’s production facilities should be replaced by the working folks who keep all the nuts and bolts turning. If this transition of ownership could be accomplished, the world would eventually be a better place, or so Karl thought.

Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades got a hold of that idea, and they enforced the Russian Revolution of 1917. After they deposed the Czar and his Romanov dynasty family, and after the revolutionaries had manhandled power unto the people for purposes of taking control of the “means of production,” the newfound Communists of Russia took a stab at running the country, with their sights sent on the entire world.

There was some confusion in their ranks about exactly what needed to be done; Lenin and his diehards had to push Trotsky and his people out of the picture, but that wasn’t really enough purging to settle all the issues. So later, in the 1930’s, Joe Stalin took it upon himself to purge the revolutionary and bureaucratic ranks of all questionable persons who couldn’t get with the (Stalin’s) program.

Well, that was a sinister and bloody affair. Meanwhile, further down the map in Europe, Hitler and his Nazi goons were making a big bloody mess of Germany and the surrounding countries, and that whole conflagration turned into one hell of a humongous World War, in which we Americans had to go over there and help the Brits and the French, et al, put an end to it.

After the Big War, the Communists were still in control of Russia, and Stalin was still running the show and the gulag, and the working out of the Marx-theorized dictatorship of the proletariat and so forth. Part of the strategy of the International Communist plan to save the world from Capitalist abuse was to spread the revolution into other parts of the world.

After World War II finally skidded to a long-overdue frigging halt, when the dust settled in Europe, the continent was pretty much divided down the middle between the freedom-cultivating Capitalist Allies and the pushy Russian Communists. There was a kind of imaginary dividing between these two entities, which Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain.

Over here in the West, we were flat-out tired of making war. The Nazi war machine had worn us out, even though we won. And the Russians, although they were certainly tired of fighting the war, were also tired of the whole damned war thing.  Nevertheless, the Ruskies were still quite stubborn in their resolve to save the world from Capitalism.

So they began a new, very big project to impose their Russian version of Communism on the rest of the world– Starting, mainly, in eastern Europe where they were already occupying those post-war-torn Nazi-disaster zone nations, most notably Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

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Recently I picked up a book, from my precious local library, about people and events in Communist-occupied postwar eastern Europe.

   https://www.amazon.com/Prague-Sprung-Notes-Voices-World/dp/0275945367

David Leviatin’s Prague Sprung  presents a penetrating view into the Communist world of power mongering as it existed from the 1948 takeover until the overthrow of Russian hegemony in 1989.

In his book project, David interviews many Czechs who, as members of the Communist party, performed roles in the development and administration of Czechoslovakia.

During one interview, David Leviatin speaks to Miroslav Jindra about his career as an educator. Jindra’s training as a teacher of English and Czech language began in 1948 when he entered Charles University in Prague. After graduating he taught languages at both elementary and college levels.

During that time Mr. Jindra encountered there, however, a double-minded mindset that tended to complicate everything. It seemed that academic excellence and enquiry were not the first priorities. Rather, he found that behind the surface of the institution was a certain Marxist mindset which was being promulgated by the Communist regime. The politicos in charge of Czech education had an agenda, and it was more about political control than academic enquiry. Consequently, to function in such an academic environment was no simple matter.

“I belonged to the group of people who developed some sort of maneuver, some sort of defending mechanism, because otherwise it was impossible to survive. I learned at the same time to be as inconspicuous as possible. If you were very good, you were conspicuous. Something would happen to you. If you were too lazy, you were also conspicuous. This is what we now call the tendency to mediocrity.”

Jindra goes on to  explain that the Russian takeover of his country in 1948 was followed by a period of radical leftist change, which was imposed methodically by Communist taskmasters. But later, during the 1950’s their doctrinaire extremism began to run out of steam. The demands of economic and political reality required more practical applications of human motivation and activity. By the 1960’s narrow-minded apparatchiks who had imposed Stalinist cruelties had to tone down their rhetoric and their programs as it became apparent that something was wrong.

By 1956, Khrushchev’s admission of Stalinist abuses and crimes initiated a shockwave of reassessment that rumbled across the whole communist world.

As Jindra states it: “They found out something was wrong.” So the Stalinist phase of world communism began to morph into something else.

But Khrushchev’s admission wasn’t the only crack that was then appearing in the Soviet wall of oppression.

Also at that time, in 1956, the partisans of Hungary, next door  to Czechoslovakia, rose up in undisguised anger against their Russian overlords. As a Czech speaking about their 1956 news of the Hungarian uprising, Miroslav Jindra says:

“We were told that the Revolution in Hungary was endangered by some reactionaries, but everybody knew what happened there.”

Which is to say, everybody knew what (really) happened there.

As citizens of eastern Europe found themselves, over the years, mired deeper and deeper in sloughs of Communist Party control,  they were cornered into a new, schizo way of thinking and speaking. Euphemism– saying what is generally known to be true but saying it in a way that would not be objectionable, or even understood by, Communist party officials– became a necessity. Saying what you meant without really saying it become a finely honed, stealthy strategy–even a mindset– of mounting resistance.

Eastern Europe came to be something like a kettle put on low heat; it took a long time to boil. It didn’t actually boil over until 1989.

There were many Soviet oppressions that provoked discontent and bitterness among the people of eastern Europe.

Here’s one bitter bi-product of Soviet oppression in  particular, that Miroslav Jindra’s narrative brings to this reader’s attention. But it was not an obvious one. Rather, it is subtle thing, and it slithers into the fearful comrade’s mind like a serpent: alienation.

Think about it this way. Have you ever been in a job where you wanted to do good work, but could not, because your micro-managing boss or co-workers were obsessed with unimportant details instead of actually accomplishing good work?

That’s what was going on in the world of Soviet political correction.

From page 66 of David Leviatan’s Prague Sprung, educator Miroslav Jindra speaks of the doublethink that was required to function as faculty member at Charles University, in Prague:

“In 1976, I was invited to come back to the faculty since two people had retired and they needed some help. There were some very good people in the faculty. If you had some contacts with them, you were quite safe. On the other hand, there were some very nasty people in the Party, people who were not qualified as experts, as specialists, who were just political figures. Their task was to watch over what we said. If you were careful enough you could evade them. We didn’t have any intellectual freedom at all. We had very limited area to maneuver. If you were clever, you could. I think that quite often I managed to tell the students what I wanted to tell them, but maybe I didn’t tell them directly. I tried to make them find out for themselves.

But it’s a big relief now (circa 1991). I don’t need to think over anything, my next word. This was crazy. It was double-thinking.”

The mindset that requires fearful, constant double-minded euphemism is destructive. When truth cannot be plainly spoken, a kind of collective schizophrenia takes hold of a society. This is what the history of communism has revealed about human nature. In State-controlled regimes, Party-appointed–or even self-appointed– micro-managers who are obsessed with political correctness and petty rules dominate everything that is allowed to happen. The end results bring mediocrity, which is the opposite of excellence. For serious teachers, students or workers who want to discover truth and strive for productivity, alienation plagues them and drags them into sloughs of discouragement and despair.

By the late 1980’s, the peoples of eastern Europe–and even the Russians– were sick of the double-minded burdens that the communist State had been demanding of them, so they overthrew it. The revolution began with bold people like Vaclav Havel in the Czech lands, Imre Nagy in Hungary, Lech Walesa in Poland.

Eventually leaders such as Yeltsin and Gorbachev got a hold of it. The rest is history. Gorbachev took Reagan’s advice; he tore down a wall. That certainly to helped to get the ball of liberty rolling.

Much to the doctrinaire Communists’ surprise, the people of Germany turned out to be more than willing to help in tearing down that Berlin wall–piece by piece. Freedom is irresistible when you get a whiff of it.

But freedom is not easy to attain. In America, we are fortunate to have prospered in the liberty that was attained, at great sacrifice, for us long ago. That liberty has since been assured and secured by men and women who are willing to defend it. We defend it, not only militarily, but also politically, academically, and economically.

Let’s keep it that way. Freedom is a way of life that we don’t want to lose. Let us not squander it.

King of Soul

A Modest Declaration

October 11, 2016

CaptlConst

When in the course of human political events,

it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with obsolete political parties, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness–that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

And furthermore, that whenever any system of quasi-governmental political parties becomes destructive of these ends, it  becomes the Necessity of the people to alter or abolish those superfluous forms, and to institute new political associations, laying the revised foundations on such principles and organizing political powers in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Liberty.

When a long train of political party misuses and misappropriations enables the party powers to take undue advantage of the people beneath two overblown party hegemonies, it is the right of the people–yea, it is their duty–to throw off such contra-functional political structures, and to provide new avenues for their political expressions, and more importantly, for their national security.

Such has been the patient, obsequious sufferance of many a hapless Democrat and clueless Republican under irresponsible,  exploitive party hacks; and such is now the necessity which constrains the exploited people to delete their formerly systematic, politically impotent political parties.

The history of those present political parties is a history of increasing irrelevance and institutional ineptitude, presently producing no useful thing, except insofar as it provokes a mounting urgency for reform amongst the American people. This discontent is soon to be directed against the ineffective Dhemmie and Repooblican lackeys, as the people realize their sincere desires and thus sharpen their dutiful efforts toward finding new governance, through the appointment of competent, dignified leadership. To effect such change as heretofore put forth, let us tell it like it is:

       ~~ Both political parties have produced presidential candidates who are incapable of upholding the dignity of the people whom they pretend to govern.

       ~~ Both presidential candidates have obsessively traded insults about each other’s crimes, bankruptcies, emails, and many other superfluous offenses too numerous to list. These narcissistic jabs serve no constructive purpose; rather, they ignore, in effect, the noble heritage and the inherent dignity of the American people; furthermore,  these Hillary/Donald excursions into ridiculous dog-chasing-his-tail quasi-rhetorical futility, do insidiously distract  the formerly productive attentions of  the American people,  and thereby dumb-down the entire political landscape. Such gravely irresponsible misdirection of the public discourse is destructive; it absolutely fails  to illuminate the serious issues and grave concerns by which our nation’s security and prosperity is now imperiled. Thus Hillary and Donald have utterly failed, by their useless antics, to edify or instruct us about anything pertaining to the governance of this nation, not to mention the rest of the world, to which we were in days past, the original, exceptional (haha) example of republican democracy.

       ~~ As concerning the two dumb-downed parties who, by their negligence and self-serving corruption, have facilitated the seizure of our presidential selection process by these two charlatans, we the people hereby reject their collusive hegemony over our individual lives and over our collective security as a free people.

We, therefore, the citizens of the United States of America, in our domestic habitations, in our cyber identities, and in our collective and individual dignity as citizens of a free nation, do set forth this appeal to our fellow-Americans, that we might ditch the old, has-been Democrat and Republican wrecked irrelevancies, and embark upon a bold, revised political scenario, by which we can  approach, adventurously, a new horizon wherein is the vigorous  extension  of our free expression and truly effective political organization, to whit:

Go ye out on election day and Vote. Feel free to Vote for any party that remotely reflects your principles, be it Green, or Libertarian, or whatever, but not the damn Nazis.  Endorse whatsoever political association you shall, in your good conscience, with regard to responsible leadership, devise.

Therefore, so that We, the People of the United States of America, may embark upon a new expedition of responsive leadership and effective government, do hereby now forsake the old, sclerotic Democratic party and the decrepit, obsolete Republican party,

And forsooth, by this means, government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth,

Because hey, if such a thing as this cannot be done in the United States of America, where on earth can it be done?

Archives

Glass half-Full

Conscience and Constitution

July 25, 2016

My fellow Republicans, excuse me please.

I see nothing wrong with addressing a national convention with the message that Ted Cruz presented last week.  The Senator’s exhortation to let conscience be our guide is totally appropriate. And his emphasis on the Constitution is supportive of our steadfast heritage as free Americans whose human rights are assured by that amazing covenant.

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The covenantal power of our 235-year-old Constitution goes far, far beyond the power of any one man to guarantee our liberty.

So let the conventioneers leap frantically on their bandwagon of TrumpPower.

Let them boo Ted to their heart’s content. I don’t care; obviously, Ted doesn’t care either. He did what he had to do.

Those rude conventioneers were deriding a man who is brave, and smart enough to stand on principle instead of bending to politics, a man who has petitioned the United States Supreme Court nine times. He is no spring chicken when it comes to Constitutional rights.

So, for him to admonish his own party and the nation to retain Constitutional perspective instead of playing fast and loose with politics– this is no offense to Republicans, nor to any of us as Americans.

If I could add a contemporary person to the annals of President Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, it would be Cruz.

Trust Ted.

And I’m not talking about “Ted in 2020”. I’m talking about what he said the other night.

Which is to say. . .

Preserve the true guarantor of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States, and

Follow your conscience.

Heritage:Harvest

As for me and my vote–I’ll decide that when it is time to make a decision, in November.

And if you think I’m a RINO instead of an elephant, that’s no big deal to me. Maybe I’d rather have “more of the same” than take a chance on a high-roller who thinks he can trump every hand that dares to contend with him.

Because this ain’t Atlantic City; this is America.

We’ve got from now until election to decide between Hillary and Donald; we will examine their characters and their motives as they contend for the highest office in our land.

I don’t like either one of them. Nevertheless, may the better leader win.

But here’s my admonition to you: no matter who the next President is, watch your wallet, and your constitutional rights.

Smoke

In Memoriam

May 29, 2016

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I have written a story in which, in the year 1937, a young man and an old man travel from Paris to a World War I battlefield cemetery in Belgium. In the scene, Philip poses this question to Mel:

“How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

       The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.”

       Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, they stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

       At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity . . .

The excerpt above is taken from chapter 27 of Smoke, the novel I published last year. I highlight the above passage as a memorial to the brave men and women who have died in wars while defending our United States of America and assuring the causes of human freedom throughout this tragic, precious world.

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The Inspiration of Harriet Tubman in 1937

April 21, 2016

In the novel, Smoke, which I published last year, a young American businessman, Philip Morrow, accompanies a refugee family through France in the year 1937. Across the border in Germany, the Nuremberg laws had established a set of dangerous restrictions promulgated by the Nazis to drive the Jews out of Germany, and to abscond their wealth.

In the story, the Eschen family has fled Munich in a hurry. Their hasty departure is provoked when their son/brother has been arrested and imprisoned at Dachau.

In this excerpt from chapter 14 of Smoke, we find the Eschens relieved to have crossed the French border into the province of Alsace. Gathered with some newfound French friends, they are sharing a meal and giving an account of their escape. Philip is inquiring about the conditions through which they fled from Munich to the border and then crossed into France. As Philip speaks, Hannah, the older sister makes mention of American woman whose daring enterprise is a benchmark of American history.

       “Harriet Tubman,” Hannah broke in.

       “Harriet who? What are you talking about?”

       “Tubman. Harriet Tubman,” the young woman repeated. “. . . an American Negro woman who escaped slavery about a hundred years ago. She went to the north, to the free states of America, where the practice of slavery had been outlawed. She started an organization for her people to escape the cotton plantations in the south, and go up to the free states in the north, where they could begin a new life.”

       “The Underground Railroad,” said Philip. “How did you know about that?” he asked, looking with surprised interest across and down the table at Hannah.

       “I’ve been reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,” she replied. “It just occurred to me that, in our predicament here, our family is like those slaves who had escaped before the American civil war. “The Negroes were, like us now, a stateless people. They had been sold into slavery in Africa, and shipped across the Atlantic in terrible ships, where they were forced to pick cotton for plantation owners for many generations, until Harriet Tubman escaped and set up secret itineraries for their escape.”

       “But you are not like Negro slaves. You are prosperous Jews,” objected Donald, gently.

       “Not any more, we’re not, Monsieur Satie,” Hannah answered. “This is the enormity of it—of the changes that the Third Reich has imposed. All that my father and mother have worked for—and our grandparents before them—has been robbed, a little bit at a time, from us!—including  my brother. And now the Nazis have built a slave camp, where they intend to concentrate us Jews—Heinrich is not the only one—and  force us into doing work to build up the wehrmacht, so Hitler can exact vengeance against us, and not only against us ‘prosperous’ Jews, but against you, too, you French people, and the British, who imposed the treaty of Versailles on Germany after the war.”

Such was a conversation might have taken place in Europe in 1937.

Looking forward forty-years, here’s a song I recorded in 1978 about yet newer manifestations of the Underground Railroad scenario:

Underground Railroad Rides Again

Smoke

Vietnam in US

August 2, 2015

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We were there for a long long time.

Our military presence there was a sign:

America would uphold capitalist resistance

against Viet Cong communist insistence.

In the end it didn’t work out that way:

The North moved onto the the South to stay.

Sound familiar?

After years of war hemophilia.

We started with an idea to protect the world

against communist incursion that swirled

throughout Asia and Europe and South America,

so dominoes wouldn’t fall on US in America.

 

Kennedy had good intentions,

as Cold War assumed gargantuan dimensions.

He sent in the advisors and trainers,

as if the whole project were a strategic no-brainer.

 

Johnson stepped up the escalation,

had his guys doing all the right calculations.

But when McNamara found doubts and resigned,

then Cronkite and New Hampshire consigned.

Old Lyndon’s stress and strain were now showing.

He could see where this whole damn thing was going.

So Ho and his insurgents unearthed new determination

to turn Vietnam into a Communist nation.

 

Along came Nixon with all that American bluster,

and the waning resolve that a silent majority could muster.

Although Nixon was stubborn, he got paranoid and stumbled.

I guess he, and we, needed to be humbled.

 

There began, during that time of our national distress,

a cultural fissure we find it hard to redress:

there’s them that went, and them that didn’t go.

As one who didn’t go, I want you to know–

you who fought in the shadow of the Ho Chi Minh trail–

you went and you fought; you did not fail.

 

In some lessons we stand, but in others we fall;

the truths you taught us were the hardest of all.

You were the brave; you who bore the burden, the few.

We couldn’t have known what to do, but for you.

The battles that men make and the wars that we fight

are borne, in our own American way, in the desire to do right.

Looking back on it, I think it’s plain to see:

all we were wanting was to make the world free.

 

That old war began with us in Vietnam,

but it ended with Vietnam in us,

a haunting memory that’ll never go away: jungle patrols long gone,

body counts and trumpets that end in a hush.

 

If you visit the Vietnam War Memorial today,

you’ll see Washington’s Memorial beyond the long wall, granite gray.

At the end of the other angled plane, set your sights on Lincoln’s dedication:

to honor those who bled and died for our upstart nation.

Remember those brave slain at Gettysburg, Verdun, the Bulge, Korea, Saigon,

who lifted freedom’s defense at Iwo Jima, Ia Drang, Hue and Khe Sanh.

 

Yes, now it’s time, our old grievance to acknowledge:

some served in hell while others were in college.

But hey, let us now endeavor,

because we hope our noblest intentions can live forever.

Let us give honor to those brave souls who, in firefights across the ocean,

paid the dear price of our liberty with their last full measure of  devotion,

whether they be now dead,

or with post-traumatic stress instead,

still alive.

That aint no jive.

Strive.

Don’t ever give up.

Now wha’sup?

 

Glass half-Full

Let them come and see U.S.

August 28, 2013

Let them come to U.S.

Let them come to Washington and see us.

Let the world come and see how a great democratic republic functions.

Let them come and see how those whose ancestors were formerly enslaved can now march in freedom, to present their grievances before a nation of listeners. More importantly, let the world come and see that, in spite of continuing tribulation and repression, the flame of hope still burns bright within them.

Within us.

Let the world come and see a nation whose men and women and children, the grandsons and granddaughters of former slaves, the grandsons and granddaughters of former slaveowners, can now join hands on a ground that is nationally hallowed as a sanctuary for freedom.

Let them come and see U.S.!

Ich bin ein Americano.

Let the world hear the message of a free people, a people set free from slavery.

Let the world notice how we handle our divisions, how we tolerate our differences, how we strive to establish justice among us.

Let the world take note of what happened on our national mall today while thousands were gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.

Let the world compare.

Let the world compare the free assembly of our people to other gatherings in other parts of our troubled world. . .

. . . gatherings in, say, Cairo, or Damascus, or Tehran, or for that matter Beijing.

Let the world compare.

Let the world hear the message spoke there at the Lincoln Memorial today, the message of a young woman, Bernice, a daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

She mentioned an ancient ally, our “brother” Nehemiah, whose people had, long ago, taken on the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, so that they might be defended against enemies,

after a benevolent Persian (Iranian) king had released them to do so.

And let us take note, as Bernice hath mentioned, that in the ancient writings it is recorded that:

when the people of Israel had spaced themselves along the wall to repair it, and found that the distances between them made the tasks of productivity and defense difficult, their leader Nehemiah instructed them, if they found themselves in difficulty or under attack, that they should gather at the sound of the trumpet to unite and to defend themselves and their work

Let the world know.

Je suis un Americano.

Glass half-Full

Hey you.

May 27, 2013

During the dark middle years of our Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln went to a battlefield in Pennsylvania where thousands of soldiers had died in defense of our nation, while fighting to preserve what we Americans stand for.

Mr. Lincoln spoke very briefly that day, November 19, 1863. He spoke gravely, as a leader who deeply understood, and grieved at, the terrible, bloody price being paid for our freedom. What he said has filled and inspired the consciousness of us who have, over these last 150 years, benefited from the sacrifice of those brave men at Gettysburg. Here is a small shrapnel of what he said:

“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot hallow– this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Nowadays, we may ask ourselves what were those men struggling for? What have all our soldiers, past and present,  lived and died fighting for? Mr. Lincoln’s final sentence that day reinforced it:

“. . . that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This Memorial Day, we should remind ourselves of this principle too–government by the people— as we remember the men and women who have died on battlefields all around the world for us people, so that we can live free.

Are you actually making the best use of that freedom that these brave soldiers fought for? Or is your power to act favorably– on behalf of yourself and those you love– is that power, your personal initiative, your energy, buried in the ground somewhere on some lapsed battleground of your life? Is your impulse to serve others  hiding in a bag of potato chips? or a carton of beer? Is it taking refuge behind the glass of a flat screen tv?

You, you who are reading this,  ask yourself:

Am I a person? Am I one of those “people” whose responsibility is to govern? 

Or have I abdicated? Have I ceded my personal responsibilities as an American to some other person or agency? Is my freedom to act and prosper locked in a harddrive, on a desktop, somewhere in Washington, DC? Or in my state’s capital?  Have I signed off on my freedom to act?

98 years after President Lincoln addressed, at Gettysburg, the heart issues of our nation’s purpose–government by the people– President John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

This, too, we need to remember, and act upon, instead of looking for handouts or unearned entitlements, instead of waiting for superman to bail us out of whatever couch-potato cushion we are stuck in. Are you doing your part to keep our  United States of America a nation of free citizens, who are willing and capable to act on your own so that you and  all the rest of us may benefit?

What have you done this week to make our country a better place? Did you do your job? Did you look for a job? Did you read something worthwhile? Did you break a sweat, hammer a nail, or cook a meal? Did you pick up your own trash, clean your plate after the meal, help load the dishwasher? Did you speak kindly to someone? Did you speak correction to yourself or your best friend? Did you plant a seed. I mean, it is spring. We can get out now and see what the real world looks like.

What’s going on out there? And what does it mean that “the people,” govern? Do I get a fancy desk and a legislative vote-on-the-bill button to push? Probably not. But you and I, as people, do have certain responsibilities thrust upon us, lest our great ship of state plunge to the depths of lethargy.

Although we cannot, as President Lincoln said, truly consecrate that hallowed ground at Gettysburg, there is something we can and should do.

Are you doing your part in governing this great nation? Many men and women have died so that you could exercise that privelege. Use it. Find something that needs to be done and do it, whether you’re getting paid for it or not.

Glass half-Full

From Golden Gate to Golden Door

May 5, 2013

In 1903, we Americans erected the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The great bronze sculpture had been presented to us as a gift by France. On the inside of Lady Liberty’s pedestal, these words, composed by Emma Lazarus in 1883, are engraved:

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

These words still ring true to the American spirit. I am greatly inspired by the poem, which Emma had named The Great Colossus.  But times have changed in the 133 years that passed since she was inspired to write it; and our nation has changed greatly since  the sonnet became an anthem that came to express so profoundly  our exceptional American optimism and generosity.

With tender admiration for Emma Lazarus, and for the her verse, and with great respect  for all that Lady Liberty represents to so many Americans, especially the millions who first glimpsed her freedom torch as new immigrants, I submit an update. I hope it may appropriately express a challenge that yet  looms on our bright horizons.

 

It’s not like a political hack with vengeful fights,

and regulative burdens to constrict our plans.

No. Here within our yawning, paved-o’er shores still stands

a beneficent nation with bright hope , whose lights

form the grid and net of a people free, and this our name:

America.      From our electrified sands

glows bold goodwill; our vibrant enterprise, our busy hands

will in time restore  this great worn infrastructure’s frame.

“Lose, o ye couch-potato louts, our cultivated TV sloth!” we must say.

“Stand aside, but hey!” Give us, instead, your energetic poor,

your troubled masses yearning to work their poverty away,

along the rusted refuse of our landfill’d shore.

Send these working folks, recession-toss’d, our way,

We’ll renew it all, from Golden Gate to Golden Door!

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress