Category Archives: Public Failure

THE PROPER USE OF TOOLS

 

“Worse deaths there are than slaughter in the classroom, and few worse than annihilation in the womb!” Anon.

“Name some tools,” I asked myself the other day.  I stopped and looked around me.  The place was full of them.  I was merely sitting in my living room, and as I looked the number of tools I saw took up quite a bit of the space, almost I thought crowding me, to whom all of the tools belonged.  Pliant servants all they were and would be from time to time of my wants, needs, desires, whims or plans for good or ill.

It was my will, whim, decision and deed which occasioned each and every one of them being there; my needs, desires and purposes which would cause their use.  For my ends they existed.  And until I formed a need desire or purpose for them, at rest, silent and dumb would they remain until they decayed, not ever once knowing they had existed.

I do not own many tools.  I own those I need, or think I do need or might need, from time to time, and only those tools.  My home is a small place, and so I have rid myself of some of them as I had no longer a need for them.  Some tools, though, even though a need no longer exists for them, I still keep.  Call my keeping of them a sentimentality; and even though I haven’t in my life of late kept them for any practical use, they are triggers of memory, frames, if you will, of times, people, incidents in my life whose recollection I find pleasant.  For that reason, these tools are useful to have around, pleasant to be around and for me serve, still, some purpose.  Frames themselves, don’t you think, are tools, and in some way whatever the frames contain; containing, in the case of the frames on my walls and other places, and bringing to mind, in the case of what is within the frame, the memories, the experiences, the lessons of another time and place.


In a sense, almost anything can be a tool.  Are we not all familiar with the word “tool” being applied to people?  I used to work in one of the law enforcement agencies that have multiplied almost like a plague in recent years; and it was most common to refer to those men and women who, for whatever reason, chose to cooperate with us as “tools”.

And, just as almost anything can serve as a tool in an emergency, or merely a moment of need or inspiration generated by need, almost any tool designed for some use will serve almost as well in another way when the right one isn’t handy, a way one simply was never thought of;  or a case when one simply doesn’t know how to use the “proper” tool for the task or believes that they have discovered a new and sublime use for something that wasn’t a tool and now has become one.

But, until used in some way for some purpose, whether as intended, or by accident or improvisation, tools are actually little more than immobile, mute, dumb and lifeless matter.

That is what brings me by the long way to part of the reason I write this thing, this thing about tools and their use.


Tools get blamed when they are really no cause of wrong. If we stop to think about it, only a poorly made, or poorly used, tool can injure, can cause harm.  The tool is not to blame, though it has been the unwitting and really innocent cause of a mishap. But, drop a dish that shatters on the floor, and both dish and floor are subject of abuse for our carelessness, or the slippery soap, the too hot dish water. How silly would they be who then remove all their dishes, or tear up their floors, or turn off their hot water heaters after such an incident.  This never will happen outside of Bedlam; never in a sane world, you say.  And, very rightly so.

No one calls for or has called for the abolition of automobiles, the destruction of roads, the grounding of airplanes though thousands die each year in the case of autos, and every crashed airliner and loss of life from them.  No one but a madman wishes to halt commerce by the sea.  The Titanic did not sink because of some perverted decision by the vessel itself to collide with an iceberg the size of a small mountain.  There were a thousand reasons for that disaster, and all of them had to do with human beings, with us.

It was the designers, the engineers and architects who used their tools to build the ship, tools that were top of the line, cutting edge tools, and the captain and crew who used these inadequate tools to deal with sailing in dangerous waters, who brought about the tragedy.   Well, we say, such things will happen when we use things in places we shouldn’t, or misuse something nor made for use in a time or place for which it is not required, prepared or about which we should have known, but of which, for any number of reasons, we chose to ignore; simple ignorance being one of them, but pride, impudence or bull headed determination being not far away in many cases.  Or, we should say that.  Don’t you think?

But, we don’t.  Like a headstrong toddler we adopt the attitude my daughter had when she was still in diapers, the “My do it myself!” way of thought, and steam full ahead into an iceberg; dying in the doing and taking millions with us.

And, the fault wasn’t ours. It never is, you know. Is that a reason for shoulders?  So we may shrug them?  Or fingers so we may point them?  Or fists so we may shake them? Or hats?  Hats??  Hats, so we may cover our own guilt beneath them while pointing fingers and pounding fists.


Why blame a gun, a tool?  And, why organize a march of hundreds of thousands to demonstrate against tools?  It’s the top of the mark for silliness, really.  Isn’t it?  It is so silly that one is almost persuaded that a sentient being couldn’t possibly think of or take part in such a thing.  They must be being put to use by others.  They must themselves have become tools.

And, it is especially so when there are more reasons than you can throw a stick at as the cause for all of these kinds of things at schools across the land.  I’ll not go into here what may be one proximate cause; the abyssal poverty of education and lack of discipline and control at all levels in schools.

There are other causes, causes cultural and civilizational, personal, familial and philosophical.  We all know them or can guess what they are.  All one needs is to pay attention to, to think about what we have allowed into our minds and homes in type, form and presentation of entertainment, sport, culture, commentary. Begin there. All forms of media have become vehicles for programs and spectacles which might well have provided most of the material for a standard season’s spectacle in a Roman arena.  No longer do the children go to their rooms when something like that is presented. Why, the child’s room is as well-equipped as any with whatever is needed for a front row seat to anything.

In a world where men and women may no longer be, or remain (a fiction if ever there was one) men and women, where marriage is more honored in the breach than the observance, where children are raised by experts in the equivalent of cattle holding pens while Mom pursues a career, and Dad pursues Susie Secretary, where the old are put away to die when not tolerated in some back room or garret, it is the children who are left adrift, unsure and, I think, at some deep level afraid of what is becoming a life alone.  Well alone, except for “devices” and vices.

But, isn’t everyone these days defined by their devices; and most of us by our vices? Shame is a dead word. And with shame have died politeness, good humor, ease, manners and charity.

More marriages today end in divorce than are made each year, and the loneliness and soul hunger bred by that one fact alone is the cause of great woe and sadness and, yes, anger in the hearts of many; things which shape a life, and no doubt end many.  Those who because they are or were witness to such a thing avoid their own chance and begin a series of liaisons, a sort of serial marriage ceremony where a courtship never takes place, the honeymoon is all there is and everyone is simply changing partners.  They don’t even dance.  They simply hook up, like tools; a male plug in a female socket used when needed and put away…or, worn out, simply dropped like a fewmet.

It isn’t hard to pass that kind of attitude, that kind of world view, on, like passing on an infection, virus, or plague.  The newspapers and news programs are full of stories about such a way of life where people have become tools, used, used up, put away, dumped and forgotten, from the red carpets in Cannes or Hollywood to the school shutdowns.


The Walking Dead!

That should be an icon of the age.  The nation is full of them.

A few years ago, I saw one of the programs in that series about people who had died and were still dead, but in some way walking about, interested only in killing people still alive, using any means to hand to accomplish the task.  It was painful to watch, really, on a number of levels.

It’s painful to watch the zombies today who wander around, through the malls and the parks, slouching in the playgrounds singly or in packs; painful and not a little frightening.  From time to time one hears of such “packs” descending on a store, a railroad station or a bus stop, and simply destroying things or other human beings, or cleaning it out like vultures stripping a corpse.  Children.  No, once children, now zombies.

More of them are raised without fathers these days than ever before.  Fathers, who are the source of rules and law and discipline, the first teachers, are being driven to extinction.  And, if they go, so do we.

It is a fact as clear and proven as the sun in the sky at high noon that those who have killed so many in schools and classrooms throughout the country are, to a person (a zombie?), the products of fatherless homes.  They were not formed with love and patience and fatherly discipline in the image and likeness of fathers to respect and obey others and authority; to know the “right thing to do”, to grow from child to man, and not eat dirt, or scream and rant, or hate and, eventually, rampage and kill.  Poor, misshapen things, they are.  And, long before they should have been, they are dead in any of several ways; dead inside in their soul, and dead outside to the world, which, really, has ceased to care for them, and they for it.  It is a fair exchange. Why should it be any different, really?

Well, the world has stopped caring in many ways, but most importantly in this way. It has ceased to care except for the angry marchers and the loud voices of the children, assembled by the ones who created the swamps and and wallows, both physical and intellectual, in which they live, and now gather them to scream their rage and frustration as they are told to scream…like two minutes, no a day of hate from some horrible prediction from not so long ago of what now is…by their masters.  It’s a kind of un-care.  To scream for the destruction of a simple dumb tool. I find myself wondering what hats they will wear who rage in ignorance.

And, in some hole in the ground, or a dungeon deep, the latest zombie lies or will lay; un-wept for, unknown, and ignored in a zombie hell, fatherless for eternity.  The Walking Dead!


I am no kind of craftsman, engineer, or worker at anything other than the simplest tasks.  I am most definitely not a Homo Habilis.  Left to me, our ancestors would have remained as we began, scrambling up trees away from predators and picking berries from the bushes after carefully and cautiously sniffing around for dangerous creatures waiting to eat us.  As I said above, I don’t know how to make them, or repair them, but I know enough to know a tool when I see it, why it is a tool and what is its proper use.  I also know that a tool may not be for me or someone who cannot be trusted to use it well, or properly.

But, I know we had ancestors, and where they came from, and how they lived and what they did.  And more to the point, why they did it.

The use of tools, the proper use of tools must be taught, and the skill to use them properly practiced.  That’s as true for a hoe as it is for an axe at it’s handle’s end.  That’s as true for a pick axe as for a pistol; a mallet or a machine gun, a telescope or time bomb.  But a tool used incorrectly, though damage may be done to it and whatever it is ill used on is innocent of the ill use, and punishing the tool, destroying or banning its use and possession by anyone skilled in its use is, simply, stupid.

It makes no sense whatever to forbid pick axes because maniacs have sometimes cleaved the odd skull with them.  It makes even less sense to gather in crowds and shout slogans ordering officials to ban pick axes, no matter that Uncle Buck, or little Jimmy his son, were lately found to have been pick axed off this mortal coil by that madman Jim Bob Scruggle, a zombie so he thought.

If you want to march and show your disapproval of death being wielded against innocent lives by tools misused, march then against the people killed in clean (sometimes) rooms by quite sane, they will themselves be first to tell you, doctors and nurses engaged in sending hundreds of thousands to their dismembered death before they draw an independent breath; killed and sold for parts to pharmaceutical firms; a kind of proxy cannibalism.

Or, fill the streets in protest against the multi-billion-dollar traffic in pornography, a disease which, if left untreated, will eat away the souls and lives of everyone under the age of forty.  The chance of that happening, though is less than microscopic.  Too many folks named Sandy, or Bambi, or Stormy, or Jake, Jerk or just plain Joe are the willing tools of the devils behind the damage done, and billions more need it to forget how miserable life today is.

Or, finally, raise a voice against the toxic nature of education today, from nursery school to post-doctoral studies, and the death of civilization thereby; civilization and culture aborted in favor of rights and choices.  I think one of the worst forms of death is the slaughter taking place today in class rooms.

Of course the boards and unions and politicians whose lives depend on keeping the death of culture and the end of civilization a flourishing concern will wear the hats they wear, and fill the news with horrible stories about how horrible things used to be before the enlightenment, and why everyone is better off today with the good things we have, and the better things to come.  If only we let them, because they are really the only ones who know, do their damnedest.

And don’t worry so.  Take away their forceps and folks at the abortuary will find a novel use for needle nosed pliers.

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The State of The Nation #3478.02A

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The State of The Union, #3478.02A

AN ALLEGORY

We need some structural work, and can’t find a good carpenter.  We need the plumbing re-done; a new hookup to the sewer.  Well, we need a sewer, because the leach field out back is poisoning the corn field down hill of it.  Been that way for two years, and the public was supposed to do something.  And, guess what, we can’t get a plumber, and the DPW  don’t answer the phone anymore.

We need the road outside paved.  That was promised years ago.  And I think Jasper, the guy over on the other side of the hill?  I think his pickup’s still in the hole where the road washed out last March.  Ain’t no glass in the window, and the electric’s been out for six months since the creek took down the bridge and the feed from the power company. Killed most of the trout up and down for a mile till someone down there cut the switch to up here.

Ain’t got no phone. That went with the electric. The old man lost his job cause the bridge went out and he couldn’t get acrost the creek.  Tried beaver and muskrat trapping, but he can’t get out in the water with no boots, which he gave up when he got work in the town, and the boat got crushed by the bridge fallin’.

Got no firewood.  We was countin’ on Uncle Dan to deliver us a load, but last we talked, he said he can’t get enough for himself, and there ain’t no coal left since the mines was shut down..  Besides, creek’s to wild to walk it across since the damn cracked and flooded everything upstream last year.

But, what the hell.  Winter’s still three or four months away.  We don’t starve first, when it comes real strong we’ll freeze to death.  That’s a good way to go.  Painless, kinda easy, happy like.

Tommy, the oldest one, set out yesterday to walk across the mountain to see if there’s anythin’ them folks can do in North Valley.  He took the last blanket, a cook pot and some coffee.  Not much else.

If you’re readin’ this, we’re dead.  Bury us upland of this place.  We always like lookin’ at it, an’ hopin’.

Ellen

IT’S NEVER RIGHT: or, Save the Baby Spinaches

I read somewhere that one of the things Socrates said was, “It’s never right to do wrong.”  Now, thinking about that and the three folks canvassing the country for you and me to help one of them become our next president, I am wondering how that quote applies to me.

Should I vote for one of them?  Should I vote for someone else?  Should I not vote at all?

As a citizen I have the right to vote, to participate with the rest of you who are eligible. Which, these days, simply means that you are alive, old enough, and have registered to do it; neither property, riches, language, religion or intelligence mattering as once they did. (In a way, folks in that frame of mind might reasonably conclude that consciousness is the only thing that counts about being a citizen and “Participating In Democracy.”  I say that with not a little irony and scorn.)

It’s an obligation and a duty to vote we learn from an early age.  Something which is, I guess, along the lines of making your bed, picking up your toys and eating everything on the plate when you are a child; even the yucky stuff like spinach, kale and codfish.  The stuff  Dad said was good for you, and  Mom said would help the starving children in China.  How was forcing myself to gag or puke going to do that?  I still wonder about what good they do and whether my swallowing what I hated saved a single soul across the sea.  And, though I have grown accustomed to kale and actually like spinach, I sometimes muse on the morality of eating “baby spinaches.” Cod, though, is good in chowder and for seagulls in fishing ports.

That’s absurd of course, that baby spinaches malarkey.  Just so, there’s nothing ethically or morally wrong with eating baby sheep or cows, they’re tasty; or harvesting baby seals, their skins keep us warm and look nice on pretty girls; becoming whatever form or thing one decides one really has or is; marrying a tree, or oneself; saving baby whales, there aren’t enough of them; or killing baby humans.  Umm, now where did that thought , the baby human one, come from?

Well, it’s obviously originally from one of those ten things we can no longer put in front of the courthouse carved in stone; those things which nevertheless hang heavily  over our heads like a gathering storm, which loom like ten massive mountains in front of us, a wall of warning we have so far safely ignored.  Those things which with the help of Progress in Science, Economics, Jurisprudence, Medicine and Politics we may all one day soon be able to drive out from under and up and over into a land flowing with, well with whatever we would like it to overflow, solar panels on every rooftop and 500 channels of TV; a workers paradise and a thousand year something or other.

We will be great again!  Have hope!  Achieve, at last, the change we have wanted all along, from that first afternoon with the sun on the meadows and us lolling in the shade of a the apple tree.  We will be the best we can be, if only we listen to one of the three.

It’s a choice, really, between Tweedledum, who will make everything plentiful and free; Just Plain Dumb; who will make us once more great behind our Great Wall; and Dee, the barrel legged beauty from hell, our true mother with what potions and drugs we need to make us well.

It is a choice I do not wish to make, a meal I do not choose to eat, in a place I find oppressive and toxic.  I know how the Socrates quote applies to me.  Avoid the ballot booth in November as if it contained a nest of vipers.

Perhaps I should stand outside the place with a sign that carries the words, “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate!”  Few enough of us read English any longer, so it might be a conversation starter.  Folks who know me could ask, passers by, poll watchers “Why are you out here?”  And I could ask them back, “Why are you going in there?  Why do you care?”  When they ask, “What the hell does that sign say?  I could say, “It really doesn’t matter.  We are there already.”.

And on January 20, next year I’ll stand at the right moment, wave my sword in the right direction and proclaim with the rest of us, “Hail, whomever, we who are dead salute you!”


Yes, it is a wild place we have wandered into.  Would that we had a guide through, and up, and out.

Dante’s Inferno

The Two Shall Become One

 

 

I was thinking about my marriage the other day. If you know me well, you know that I am a re-married widower. After eight months in that state I married Mariellen, the woman who sits at the other end of the couch from me now. While Sheila, may she rest in peace, was dying she found time to concern herself no little with making sure I would be well matched and cared for once she had died. So, she advanced, in her subtle wife’s way, Mariellen and me. It is a story some of you may have heard. And, she had help from higher powers. That is a story fewer folks know, but no less true for all that.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it is one of the greatest truths in the universe, the truth about marriage, sacramental marriage, marriage until death do us part… When Sheila had finally finished her work here on earth I gathered the kids and said, “The best part of us is gone.” I was talking about the family, of course, but more. I was talking about who I was with her, what we were together, our sacramental, blessed, matrimonial union; the married-for-life singularity we had been for the past 34 years, 3 months, 11 days, 11 hours and 47 minutes since we became a new “person” who had formerly been two and were now one.

The Catholic Church teaches us that upon his ordination to the priesthood a man is changed ontologically; his very being, his humanity is changed. I’ll accept that. I’ll probably start a philosophical/theological argument here when I say I wonder if something along the same line doesn’t happen to both a man and a woman who “pledge their troth” in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. The two shall become one!  The words are the title of this little exercise; stolen directly from the Bible.

That’s exactly it!  We, Mariellen and I, are one flesh, before God for whom we are no longer two but one and, we have become one person also before the law and civil authority. So should we be, because we, and all married men and women, are the wellspring of life, culture and civilization, the promise and guarantee of a future, and, through the family, the first and firmest link in society; any society no matter where and no matter when.  We are that society’s basic building block, the beginning of everything human, the foundation of everything human, the “home” of humanity, its self understanding, its promise of a future and its first and firmest link and with the past.

Undo marriage, fail to affirm its unity of persons into one new person, and you unravel human kind, human culture, human life begun as two-become-one by the very God who created us; who said: “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper.”  There’s a note to this verse in the Catholic Bible: [2:18] Helper suited to him: lit., “a helper in accord with him.” “Helper” need not imply subordination, for God is called a helper (Dt 33:7; Ps 46:2). The language suggests a profound affinity between the man and the woman and a relationship that is supportive and nurturing.

What happens to one of us happens to both of us through this oneness of being-in-marriage. And what one of us does, we both do. And what is done for, with or to one of us is done to us both. Not only to us, the man and the woman, but to everyone. We are no longer two, but one, flesh and feeling and life and love.

I’d like to recommend to your attention an article which first appeared about a year ago in the journal First Things. It is well worth reading, studying, learning from, because marriage is under attack these days, weakened, treated poorly, debased and derided. If it is done away with, as many wish it to be with all their plans for “expanding” it in every direction, and marriage, real marriage, neglected and cast aside, we will have cast aside our humanity, I think, and become beasts.

The most casual glance toward, the briefest look at, the slightest taste of what passes for culture, what composes society, what orders our behavior, what guides us in law, what have become our standards and “approved” behaviors among men and women, children and families today, what we choose to be entertained by, to “tolerate” in our homes and elsewhere, should show the intelligent observer how well on our way to that state we are.

The State of the Nation II

Catherine: A Poor Old Lady

Our fourteenth anniversary is coming up in a little bit.  Mariellen and I exchanged our vows after the 8:30am Mass in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Newark, Ohio.  There was a woman there who witnessed the event; an older woman saying a few prayers after Mass.  When our brief ceremony was over, she approached us and said, “Here’s $20.00.  Buy yourselves a drink.”

We went home to our little apartment in Zanesville, all 205 sg. ft. of it and began our life together.  It has been a most unusual one.

For instance, for a while shortly after August 11th, our wedding day, we found ourselves involved in a fight to prevent the destruction by the city of a neighborhood nearby, and the forced relocation of more than 700 people, some of whose families had been living in their home for several generations.  Having watched the destruction of property and lives that is the only result I can see to come from “urban renewal”, and having time on my hands, I figured we were in an excellent position to lend a hand fighting this “neronic” move against folks whose only crime was being poor.  (Neronic is a word I just invented.  It means a violent, stupid and cruel policy implemented by any government or its agents against a defenseless citizenry.  You can probably think of a lot of Neronic things government at every level is doing to you; to everyone.)

It’s a long story, but we did have more than modest success, saved an awful lot of homes and property and did a little bit of good.

But, I’ll tell you something.  It was hard work, and sometimes it was heartbreaking.  Here’s a little story I wrote about a phone call I got from an old lady who lived in Greenwood, the neighborhood about to be executed in the interests of improving the city’s image. Catherine was the woman’s name.  My grandmother’s name was Catherine.  She knew about poverty and landlords and having to move from her home, too.  She was born in Ireland.

I think this thing appeared in the local paper.  Don’t know if anyone read it:

CATHERINE

“I don’t have to do this,” I say to myself listening to the rough voice on my answering machine.  “”This is Catherine L, on Greenwood?  And I’d like to talk to you.  My number is 555-1234, please.”

That’’s all.  A simple message. One of many that will be coming in over the next few weeks I fear.  I listen to it again and wonder at the question in her voice as she tells me she lives on Greenwood. In New York that rising note of question might be replaced by, “”You know!””  A challenge almost.  But this is not New York, and Catherine is no New Yorker.  I think about it a few minutes and pick up the phone.

“”Hello?”” she answers. ““Catherine, I’’m Peter Gallaher,”” I say.  “”You called me?””
“”Yeah,”” she replies, her old and worn voice sounding thick in my ears. I still find it hard understanding some of the people here.  Catherine is one of them.  Not unlike many people she speaks with the muffled sound of the toothless.  Gum disease is a fact of life in Zanesville, and the yellow pages are full of dentists specializing in dentures, here.

Catherine wants to know if I will pick her up and take her to a meeting of the group I have suddenly found myself in charge of,  People for the Greenwood Neighborhood Restoration.  But I was out when she called and she has found a ride in my absence.  Bill Briggs, a retired Presbyterian minister, will carry Catherine to the meeting.

She thanks me and says good bye.  For some reason I don’t want to end the conversation so I ask her just where she lives.  “”You know where I live, in the blue house just up at the other end of Greenwood.””  I ask her how she is feeling, is she well.  “”Oh, I got arthuritis, and lung problems and heart problems, but I’m mostly pretty good.””  She did honest to God say “arthuritis”, something I find endearing among some of the older people here.  Sometimes its ““the arthuritis””.  My  Irish Grandmother had “the arthuritis” also.  My Grandmother’’s name was Catherine.

Catherine tells me that she lives alone since her husband died in her blue house at the other end of Greenwood, at the end which is scheduled to be demolished and replaced with brand new lower income housing for the poor.  Catherine says, “”Say, can you tell me how much them new houses is going to cost?””  ““As far as I know, Catherine, the city says they’ll cost about $100,000.00 each,”” I answer.  ““Can you afford to buy a house for $100,000.00?”” I ask.  ““I can’t afford to buy no house like that.  Will they rent me one?””  ““Well, they plan to let people rent them to own them after 15 years.  Can you afford the rent?””  “”How much is it?”” her old voice asks me.  ““I think the city will charge about $400.00 a month.””  I answer trying to keep scorn and anger from my voice

“”I only get $600.00 a month from the Social Security and I don’t get much in the cheese and the food stamps on top of that,”” Catherine says in a flat voice.  “”How much rent are you paying now?”” I ask..  “”$200.00 with the utilities,”” comes the answer.  “”Well, Catherine, it looks like you won’t be able to live in one of those houses unless you could qualify for some kind of subsidy, and that might help you but only for about three and a half years.””  I ask her how old she is and she answers that she’’s sixty-nine.

Catherine tells me a bit more about herself saying that she’’s right now living in the best place she ever has had in Zanesville.  I know the house, a run down place a few hundred yards from the really squalid places that house people among whom I spend my time on Sundays.  Like many in this neighborhood Catherine has no car; has never owned one.  Her husband died several years ago and she’’s been alone since.  She mentions that she tried to get her widow’’s pension from the Social Security and only got $200.00 a month from them.  That means that he was probably earning next to nothing when he worked.  If he worked.  He was ninety-five when he died.  ““I just started getting sick after he died,”” she comments.  “”And it’’s got to where I can’t do much for myself anymore.””

““I had somebody to drive me into Columbus to see about his Black Lung, but I couldn’’t collect nothing,”” she says forlornly.  “”I don’t need it now.  I can get along,”” she adds.

I bet.  Her friend up the street, one of the few with a car up here, drives her to the store twice a week, and the Senior Center picks her up in a van three mornings a week and takes her over there.  She pays her friend $3.00 for each trip, money she can’’t afford to someone who needs it badly.  It’’s about four percent of her income if my very poor math skills are working.

“”I don’t need the Laundromat no more.  I got me a used washer last year.””  As she says that for some reason the vision of her walking down to the Muskingum River with a load of laundry on her head flashes through my mind.  “”But what’’ll I do if we all get moved?””  “Well,” I think to myself, “there’’s the river.”

Catherine, a sixty-nine year old widow living alone on $600.00 a month in a run down house hasn’’t heard from the city yet.  They have a plan for her though. The fellow who is writing the grant for the thirteen million dollars that the city will use to hire the men who will tear down her home and build a new house has said, “”Private home ownership is  what lifts people out of poverty”” — or something along those lines.  Private homes, boulevards and trees are the center of the plan the city has for this neighborhood of poor people.

He’’s also told me that the city doesn’’t expect more than twenty percent of the people who live in the neighborhood now to be able to live there when the project is finished and they’’ve all been “lifted out of poverty.”

But Catherine may have the last laugh.  She’s sixty-nine you know.  You do the math.  Her age, her health, a three and a half year subsidy?  She and a three year subsidy just might be a perfect match.

January 22, 2001

 

 

A Modest Proposal: Don’t Elect Em, Buy Em

(They’re All for Sale, Anyway)

This ain’t politics, really. It’s economics.

Here’s a question.  Well, here’s a couple of questions.

What do you do with folks who live in places like this: places with people who jump at the chance for something to remind them of their “obligations”; who like Homeless Jesus statues in front of the churches in their rich neighborhoods to embarrass themselves and the high rollers and big spenders they live among when they come in their Caddies and Rollses and long dark Lincolns to be seen in church once or twice a year?  Homeless Jesus statues are even better than pictures of starving babies, or real bums on benches.  They never ask for money, or a meal.

These folks, they’ll feel “compunctive” for an hour or so, until they get back to the Club, The Bent Elbow  or The Green Albatross, for a few befores and a half dozen afters, and an hour or two with Big Jim Cornerstone, home from Upstate for the weekend talking over deals and the “help” they need; and maybe pushing an envelope across the table with a nod and a mention that help’s a two way street.  And, Jim nods and says, “I got your back in the Committee, Billy, my boy!” before he leaves.

Was that a stagger or a swagger on Jim going out the door to his car?

What do you do with a pol who goes on the payroll of a big deal company making drugs that have to be “regulated”, and picks up a trip or two from a company that wants to build a power line and needs to go to a nice resort in Arizona or some place to find out how the power line will impact her neighborhood back in Upper Michigan?  At $500.00 a night, plus the round trip up front with all the swells, and points.

What do you do when stuff like that happens…on both sides of the aisle?  Even in Philly, of all places; it being the home of brotherly love and all?

What do you do about an AG who finds out about all of this and then says there was nothing wrong?  Do you think the AG got a call from someone who said unprintable stuff and suddenly discovered that he’s an AG up a tree with no way down, alone in a desert with no water, in the middle of an ocean on a leaky boat without an oar?

No pol I suppose is ever going to feel bad about a thousand a month they get, regular, from XYZ MFG., you think?  They’ll never feel bad about their vote on XYZ’s plan to fast track the new factory they want to build between the VA Hospital and High School, because, well, that’ll bring 300 new jobs to town.

And, the runoff will add 300 tons of dirt a day to the Neversocruddy River.

You think a pol will ever say, you think that ANY pol has ever said, to themselves, “This ain’t really mine.  I only take it so’s I can stay in office and help the fools (oops, folks) who voted me in, and keep that jerk Bruntkowski from ruining the district and the state if he ever gets enough money to beat me.”  And then they stuff it in their pocket, or hand it to Tommy the Bag, and have another snort and light a cigar and smile and say, “Don’t worry. ”  Just like Big Jim from Upstate.

You think?

Here’s something to think about.  How about buying a few of our own?  I got an idea for a kind of Buyer’s Club.  I think this is real Poly Sci, not that other stuff that they charge you a couple of hundred “G’s” for in college, and you learn how to hold coats for real pols, and hand them stuff they never thought of sayin’ to say to the squares at the Town Meeting.

I’ll start small, someone from the School Board who’ll go for a Ham sandwich. But, he’ll be mine, and will say no to stupid stuff, of which there is a lot…like Common Core and uni-sex bathrooms…in schools all over the place.   I don’t care what he thinks.  As a matter of fact, if he’s a real pol, he don’t care what he thinks.  He may not even think at all; to want to think, or to be able to think.  I only need him to raise he hand at the right time and shut up the rest of the time.

You can’t convince me that Joe Biden thinks or even can think, or that guy from Indiana who was a Veep a couple of dozen years ago was able to think.  Reid can think?  Boehner?  Pelosi?  Gimme a break.  They’re owned, and they love it.   The difference between them and Tip O’Neill or LBJ is that they were sold, Tip and LBJ shopped themselves.

None of those pols in that Philly story think about anything except the next envelope, or the next free ride, and what stupid people like you and me who ain’t got any green to spread around have to put up with in the back of the bus, with our kids in a school with one bathroom for everyone next to a smelly factory.

So, I’m going shopping today for a pol who’ll be mine for twenty bucks.  I’ll put an add on E-bay.  We get 500,000 guys doing the same thing, and suddenly we got a “Movement”  I got a good name for it.  I’m gonna call it “Representative Democracy”  Because, what we got now ain’t.  If it ever was.

Unless of course you’re a Fortune 500 deal.

Happy Easter!

Revoltin’ Developments

No one likes a spoil sport, and it begins to look as though Washington, D.C. has become a town full of boys and girls who are just that.  The playing field is empty.  Everyone seems to have taken their ball and walked off the field to slouch around on the sideline, kicking stones and dirt and pointing fingers, calling names and trying to convince the helpless spectators (Us) that everyone else is at fault.  But they?  They are not to blame.  Well, in a game this important, everyone not playing, everyone not willing to come out on the field and get it done, is in some part to blame.

What is really galling, though, are the attacks on the fans. You know what I mean?

The progress of events since this began is what I’m talking about: the barricades and closings of public spaces, even of the ocean, and the petty harassment of old and young is at once laughable and pitiful to witness, humiliating to live through, as if a close family member was a public drunkard, a child or dog beater.  The venal attempts at humiliation of opponents, the snubbings and the kind of petulant silence masquerading as imperial, above the fray behavior on the part of the president haven’t been seen since Nixon, and surpass even his worst.   To what good end are open spaces shut against men and women who have sacrificed much in service to the rest of us?  What example does it set for our young people who most desperately need education and example in honesty, mutual respect, goodness and duty?  Why are people offering services to hungry or tired travelers on federal roads prevented from doing so?  Is it not just good for business?  Does it not aid safety and could it nor be looked on as a work of charity?  There’s Progress and Change that might bring real Hope to a bewildered and increasing frustrated and angry body politic..

But, the evidence so far suggests that no one inside the beltway really gives a tinker’s damn about anyone outside of it.  It seems in some, or in all, of these cases that the “shut down” government has turned against the people whose government it is.  It’s as if a kind of auto immune disease has infected us, or that DC is a tumor in our gut.

I am old enough to remember when we were shown the example of leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Wilson and Eisenhower (by God), and others, guys like Tip O’Neill, John Mc Cormack; men who pledged their lives and sacred honor to the life and honor of this once wonderful place.

Now what have we?   We have a leaderless mob in government as out Chief Executive sits in his palace (when not somewhere playing golf) and refuses to come out to play…unless they use his ball.  He refuses, even, to play unless he’s given a win before the game starts.  Who plays like that? Caesars.

He is an intelligent man, I suppose, but he isn’t behaving as an intelligent man.  His failure to “engage” with the other side on any level is more indicative of the behavior of a sulking child than an adult; a sulking child who wants his way in all things.  One wonders if he actually indulges in infantile tantrums.  It doesn’t take much to imagine him hurling White House china against a White House wall, kicking the dog, ripping up pictures of his political opponents.  It probably hasn’t happened, but one doesn’t need much to imagine it.

Were he mine (my child that is) I would take the strap to him, and make him stand in the corner…or perhaps spend an hour or two in a bare closet. This is not an evil man, or a bad man. This is a spoiled and wicked child. I wonder, now, whether in years to come…when I will, God willing, be dead and finished with such stupidities as his (and everyone else’s in DC)…I wonder whether someone who saw him day in and day out will write about the dishes he broke, the furniture he tore up, the dogs he kicked during his childish and cruel snits. What a lamentably poor example he gives us of a “leader”.

Perhaps, and I have no way of knowing whether or not this is the case (and even less do I know if someone is smart enough to have thought of it), perhaps part of the Republican strategy included showing the venality and mean-spiritedness of the Obama Administration (and of the man himself). If so, they have done a masterful job of it. Open air war memorials, private business in or near public parks, the ocean(!!!???) closed or threatened to be closed. Religious services to the military forbidden and priests and ministers threatened with arrest. Tourists threatened with arrest for “trespassing” on public lands, among whom are elderly, frail and crippled veterans who may not live to get another chance to visit a place. Food stores on military bases closed. Sports shows to troops in combat stopped. These actions make Richard Nixon seem like someone’s kind and loving Grandpa, a seat of wisdom and cause for joy. It borders on totalitarianism.

Of course there is more than enough of stupidity on the other side of the dispute in this case, and more than enough arrogance. But no matter how one may wish it, that does not make it so that the Obama Administration, and ultimately the President himself, are not the ones responsible for such ill willed practices as I mentioned above, and for no reason it seems other than spite and a kind of vicious contempt. They are, and he, ultimately, is, no matter how cool and distant he appears to be, playing the hand dealt him by others he’d like us to see as slick gamblers and cheaters.  That makes him a fool.

What does it advance to do those things? Who benefits? I’d rather a few golf courses be closed than food stores on military bases; a few lunch rooms in government buildings shuttered and cooks sidelined than houses of worship and their ministers threatened with jail, a few art museums locked than memorials to dead and living heroes blockaded.  I suspect the majority of the people in the country would readily agree.  This has become a worldwide embarrassment.

I am not on the other side of this thing. Neither Republican, Democrat, Liberal nor Tea party am I. I’m just one of the gob smacked millions wondering what the hell is going on down there, and not a little appalled by what we see. There ain’t nothing “masterful” about telling the truth.  And truth is, Pilgrims, that truth is a commodity in short supply on the shores of the Potomac.

Oh, yes, and while this goes on, and the Chinese prepare to foreclose on our mortgage and dispossess all 350,000,000 of us, including illegals, Benghazi, where an invasion of US territory took place, and an Ambassador was murdered along with three brave men…remains forgotten.