Category Archives: The News

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.

Rolling Stone’s Stupidity

Catherine Ann Fanning was born on June 18, 1883, in the little town of Leighlinbridge in Cty. Carlow, Ireland.  She left at 16 and came to New York City.  She went immediately to work ten hours a day in the laundry of a large convalescent home in the East Bronx.  It’s still there.  If you use the Whitestone bridge to get to Long Island you’ll see it, the large red stone building, on your left as you approach the toll booths.  It borders St. Raymond’s Cemetery.

I don’t know how many years she worked there. I do know that she worked in similar places until she was in her seventies, nearly, and began to lose her mind.

She was my father’s mother.  She never went home.

Years later I was there, in the little town she left,  with a cousin.  We went to a low hill in a cemetery overlooking the river Barrow and the lovely plain beyond.  He told me a few stories of my grandmother’s family and the conditions in which they lived.  While he spoke, I remembered her own stories, of one meal a day, and that cold potatoes or oatmeal, on land her father farmed for someone far away.  “It’s our own land once again,” my cousin said. Listening quietly I knew why my grandmother never went home.

Nothing was there.

Ella McGowan was born in New York City very near the same date as Catherine Fanning in a place that used to be called The Five Points.  Her father had grown up there, and she spent her young years there.  She married a fellow named Downs and bore him four children in the first years of the 20th Century, the Edwardian Age to some; a time of elegance and excess.  Mr. Downs?  He fell in love with long distance and left her and the kids in The Five Points, a place a slum dog millionaire would avoid.

She was my mother’s mother.  She never went home, either.  What use?  It was demolished to make way for court houses and skyscrapers.

In their own way they were each as soft as kittens and as fierce as tigers.  They both spent much of their day in prayer when I saw them on visits, or on longer stays at our very crowded apartment in Kingsbridge.  I loved them both.

Ellen Frances MacAuliffe was my wife’s mother.  Born in Ireland she left at 16, too, and came here.  She had her own stories, about beatings and shootings in the street from the Black and Tans.  But she never said a word about them, nor about her husband, who came home from two years in combat in Europe a wasted man, who abandoned her and her two children.  She was a quiet, happy woman.  Neither did my wife breathe a word, aside from the occasional, “When life gives you lemons…” kind of observation.

I loved them both.

There is a publication called Rolling Stone that appears regularly on the newsstands and is read by enough people to warrant the expectation of those who publish it that they can do it again, can feed themselves on its income.  I wish they weren’t so full of hope.  I had never read it until a day or so ago when I was interested enough to do it because my granddaughter , a journalism student, gave it what is called now a “shout out” for a story in it.

You have probably heard of the story.  Desiring, I suppose, to place the story before the eyes of as many as possible, and to make the story’s point even more graphically, the cover of the issue was filled with the face of a doe eyed, soft faced young man.  Framed with wavy black hair, the face could have been the subject of some Renaissance master, either in stone or oil; another David.  The rest of the issue was mere filler to the young fellow’s story, the story of a cold blooded killer and the people who loved him, the story of a kid who had a difficult time not being “the best he could be”…and the people who knew him, helped him, befriended him and whom he betrayed.  Some of these people, fellow students, were the ones who helped him by hiding the elements of his crime; accessories after the fact to bloody terrorism.

That was almost more disturbing to read about than the portrait the author painted of this fellow.  In five or so pages, she detailed a life of woe and disappointment, frustration and discord, all endured while the young fellow and his family were well cared for by the state.  He went to school, became a well liked athlete, earned the respect and fellowship of his peers, was a darling to his teachers.  In the end, he was unsatisfied, though.  So he became a terrorist.

Yesterday, while spending a quiet afternoon with some people I know who have had their own share of  “bad times” I learned something.  In the hospitals across Boston on the day that this nice young man and his brother set off their home made WMDs men and women with their own tough stories were picking nails and bits of metal from the shredded skin and burnt limbs of hundreds of victims of his bad mood.

There are other pictures to appear on Rolling Stone covers, and other stories to be written I suppose.   And, well there’s really no sense in getting personal about this, but I can’t help wondering what in the world was so interesting about this kid killer’s life that required the time needed and the space devoted to telling it?  You want to write about people whose lives were tough?  Why not write about Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman or George Washington Carver?  Why not tell the story of Elie Wiesel or Alexander Solzhenitsyn?  Why not speak of Saints Josephine Bakitha, Kateri Tekakwitha  or of Pierre Toussaint.

Instead we got five pages of “the rest of the story”, a depressing tale of disgruntled and ungrateful people blaming others for their failures and angrily biting the hands that fed them.  Are we supposed to sympathize with them all, the killers and the fools, the complainers and the complacent?

Someone said that journalism’s purpose is to bring the truth to light. But what is the point in telling anyone the “truth” about losers, abettors and their mentors and friends?  The only truth that matters here is that this young man is a killer and some of his friends are ignorant enough to think that helping a killer cover his horrible crime is a good thing to do.  That was mentioned but was not covered by Rolling Stone.  Why it wasn’t may be a story worth telling.  It’s certain it won’t be told by Rolling Stone.

This story may have been an exercise in public relations, and badly done at that.  It was certainly not truth, or journalism – however one conceives that thing.

REMEMBER BENGHAZI

It’s finally stopped raining up here in Cow Hampshire, and the happiest guys around are the “spooks” on surveillance.  They showed up in the middle of a rainstorm, black cars, black suits; right after this guy Snowden played kiss and tell over in Hong Kong just a week or so ago.

Been here since.  A nicer bunch of guys, and the occasional girl, you’d wouldn’t want to meet.  Just folks, you know.  They spend a lotta time in their cars and suburbans checking equipment, raising and lowering antennas.  Making coffee runs.  Stuff like that.

It was real funny the first night they were here when Moe Gannon, the local cop who does steady nights here, started giving them a hard time about over night street parking.  You see, there ain’t none allowed up here unless you call the station and let ’em know.  Agent Ed, a guy from Kansas, had to use my neighbor Harry’s phone to do that.  He said it would show up at NSA real funny if he made the call from his work phone, because no one was supposed to know they were here.  They got permission, but they also got a visit from the Chief.  he has a cousin in the FBI out in LA.  Wanted to know if Ed knew the guy.  Harry said he’s not FBI.  “Where you from?” the chief asks.  “Kansas,” Ed says.  “No,” says the chief, “who you with?”  Ed points to the five or six other black cars and suburbans on the block, and says, “Them.”  The chief nods and says, “Oh, NSA.  I heard you guys are gonna be all over.  Just watching, I’m told.  OK.”  He gets back in his car, and as he drives off he rolls down the window and says, “Gimme a call if you’re gonna be here more’n a week.  Parks and Roads is supposed to pave up here next week, and you guys are gonna have to find something do to somewhere else.  Stay dry.”

Anyway, you’d think that the gummint would give these guys some protection from the elements.  But, Obama’s on his way to Africa where all he’s got to worry about is stepping in some Hippo splat, I guess, and he don’t care.  Never really did, I suppose.  It’s an IVY league thing, I guess.  Even though most of them work for the gummint, or work for companies that work for the gummint they hatE the gummint almost as much as they hate the rest of us who don’t play golf, know how to sail or wear docksiders.

Now that’s pure prejudice, but the surveillance guys told me I could knock the IVY league.  Just don’t say anything bad about Catholics.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Or maybe it’s marriage.  I get mixed up.

Poor guys these surveillance guys and their dark suits, Presidential junkets at 100 mil a copy don’t get bothered by a sequester I guess.   (I mean wouldn’t you want to get as far away from your screw ups as possible if you was him?)  But a raincoat for a team of guys spying on everyone up and down the block in case we become a threat…or already are…a raincoat’s outta the question.

Homer, the agent from Alabama that got stuck up in the tree because he’s been squirrel bit and’s afraid to come down has got himself a NAAAAS-T-assed cold.  He ran out of tissues yesterday afternoon.  They just turned to a soggy ball of rain diluted snot in his pocket.  His hankie’s too wet and everything else on him is wet and real UUUGGGLLLYYY!; messed up as mud season in March.  He ain’t sitting up in that tree, he’s just oozing on one of the branches.  He used up all the leaves within reach blowing his hooter. ( Not a pleasant sound, lemme tell you. )  He’s outside now about 40 feet up  with his snot locker looking like a fire hydrant going full out, and a puddle of goop forming around the tree trunk and running out onto my neighbor’s drive.  That dries around his wheels and Mike’s gonna have a tough time moving his car.

I don’t figure that the NSA thought about the weather after Snowden lifted the lid and that they wanted to get a handle on what was happening all over this land that’s your land, this land that’s my land, as old Woody once sang about.

I’m expecting that my iPhone will come today.  NSA insisted that I get one so they could tap into it and download all of my traffic.   They’re sending me a 7 year old kid to teach me how to run the thing.  They got a whole division of seven year old kids fanning out across the country for that.

My only worry was that after I get checked out, aside from calling to check the time, I won’t have any use for it.  When I told the NSA guy in charge of surveillance of everything on my block about this, he said, “Don’t worry about it at all.  We got two plans for you:  Plan A is where you sign up for 100 phone numbers to call, or get calls from so we can put them into our data base.  That’s our Basic, and it’s real cheap.  Plan B, which costs a little more, is what we call our Automatic Plan.  That’s where you get enrolled in our NSA Random Phone Call Program (RPCP), and we simply assign a bunch of phone calls from all over the world to you every month.  You can pick regions and numbers of calls, but we won’t let you do cities or neighborhoods.  It’s easier on you, but you do have to pay more.”

“How much,” I asked.  “The cost of the call if you had made it,” he said  Then he explained that both the IRS and FBI needed that for tax and evidence purposes.  “If you were to get on Welfare, it would all be free.”

Late last night, my neighbor Kyle snuck into my house through an open window in my basement.  “What the hell are you doing that for, Kyle,” I asked.  “You could have just come up and knocked on the door…and at a more decent hour, if you don’t mind.”  Kyle was just standing there covered with cobwebs (DUH, it’s a basement???).  And all he was wearing was his underwear.

“You don’t have time to get dressed?”  I screamed.  The least you could have done was wear a damned bathrobe!”

I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.  Homer’s screaming for help.

Blood, Blossoms, Buildings and Babies

It was still only half bright at a little before six in the morning when the pain became too much to ignore; the pain in both hip and knee that would not allow sleep to continue.  As if to sweeten the “alarm’s” steady pulse down my leg, a little wren began to pipe morning aboard at about the same time so insistently that, having rolled this way, that way and back around to this way again, I simply gave up.  My first long look told me God had done a good work on dawn whose red lips opened wide in bright song and welcome, whose blue eyes smiled at me through my bedroom window.

Tea, strong and hot, was just the thing when I had fired up the kettle and measured out the sugar.  Settling into one of my favorite chairs I decided to read a little from the latest issue of Touchstone magazine.  A letter from Dr. Peter Kreeft, the philosopher and professor from Boston College caught my eye.  He wrote about the sure and certain – and soon – arrival in our sad midst of legalized infanticide.  This, Dr. Kreeft argues, is inevitable because the reasons advanced for abortion’s legality, it’s right, can be used point for point for legalizing infanticide.  He tells of two young women, pro-choice students in one of his classes, with whom he had this argument, asking them to refute his claim if they could.  After the class the two women approached him and said they were convinced.  “So, you are now pro-life,” he asked them.  “No,” he wrote that they replied, “we are pro-infanticide.”

Somehow what first came to mind after reading this little letter was another thing I had read while waiting for my haircut yesterday.  This was a little story in Smithsonian about some scientist who had “created” what he called a “planimal”.  (The story is on page 71 of the current issue.) His “new creation” is the result of mixing some of his own DNA with that of a petunia.  There is a picture of this New Thing that illustrates this accomplishment.  It shows a bright little blossom.  Since I am a man and can therefore name only three colors, I’ll merely say that the photo showed a red flower.  The petals were a lighter red than the veins in the petals.  It was a nice looking flower.  The fellow whose “flesh” was now a part of the flower was particularly pleased with the dark red veins.  Can you figure out why he is pleased?  It is because they remind him of blood, and it was that part of his DNA, the part that colors blood red, that he put into the flower.  The reaction is very favorable to this new thing from artists and scientists eager to try their hands at “creating” fluorescent frogs and flashing flowers.  I caught myself wondering why God hadn’t thought…  But, then.  Good Saint Mary Shelley, pray for us I thought, shuddering.

Reading further in Touchstone I came across an article by Ken Myers whose work appears there regularly.  He writes about a book he’s been reading called “Foolishness To The Greeks”, by Lesslie Newbigin, who died in 1998.  He was a missionary in India for a long time, and when he “retired” from the work in India took up the same work in England.  And, found it difficult.

Why?  Myers quotes the author: “From the point of view of our contemporary culture, the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead is irrational.  It cannot be incorporated into the existing plausibility structure….  It must be regarded as the esoteric belief of a community that is living in a world of make-believe rather than the world of facts.”  A little further on, Myers himself writes this in explanation of Newbigin’s observation: “Modern science is crippled by a materialistic reductionism that eliminates the category of purpose in explaining reality.”  In other words the question, “Why?” need never be asked.  There is, really no answer for someone so crippled, and by a self-inflicted crippling, too.  Myers next sentence explains the two ladies of Dr. Kreeft perfectly: “Modern social and political institutions promote a depersonalizing individualism that renders the pursuit of the common good precarious if not impossible.”  Is there a reason to care?  Well, no, really.  Why care about anything when all that really matters is your own self?

I put down what I had been reading as I finished the second sentence just quoted, and began to wonder about them.  It was early, and no one was up.  Over in the corner of the room I noticed that the hibiscus had just put forth its first blossom, a big red thing that immediately reminded me of the “planimal” I’d looked at just yesterday.

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Below the hibiscus an African violet bloomed in blue, another color I could name.

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I remembered reading a book long ago, a science-fiction novel by a fellow named Larry Niven called “Ringworld”.  Wikipedia will tell you all you need to know about the book, which entertained me.  To my mind, the “star” of the book is a vast engineering triumph, a world as big as a million earths strung out like a ribbon around its sun, and built by man.  But, it failed.  It had become in the book essentially a ruin by the time the ‘characters” had reached it.  The cause of the ruin was a collision with a meteor which punched a hole in the “ribbon”.

Wow!   Fancy that, a meteor hitting a planet and ruining a civilization. Here, though, it’s just a plot device.   It happened to a world “created” (that word again!) out of hundreds of other worlds to be a perfect place which is destroyed by a random encounter thousands of years before the time of the novel and become a ruin millions of miles in circumference in the desert of space.  (Fellows like Larry Niven, an engineer, really do think this can be done.  They have it all worked out, and look longingly at places like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to give it a try.  They call it “terraforming”.)

So was Babel, the next thing I thought about, essentially a ruin.  Someone wrote this about the reason Babel failed: “The evil is in their desire to “make a name” for themselves (cf. Gen. 12:2) rather than in the attempt to build a tower “with its top in the heavens” . . . Human smallness, not divine impotence, is emphasized in the Lord’s descent (vs. 5). … The great city and its (implied) defeat thus becomes synonymous with man’s revolt against God and its consequences.” (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-was-the-sin-of-the-tower-of-babel

I am not smart enough to draw a straight line through all of these things.  They make me just a bit dizzy to be honest when I think about them.  But I think there is a line that can be drawn, a line from Babel to dead babies, a line from blood in flower blossoms to the death of worlds that cannot fail, a line from “materialistic reductionalism” and “depersonalizing individualism” to that attitude which proclaims that my right is right and your right is negotiable or doesn’t exist, and “Why?” need never be asked.

The sky has clouded over.  It is much colder.  A storm will come.

NOTE: Another version of this story appeared a day or so ago on the Facebook page of The Christian Book Corner

WHY NOT THE MOUSE NEXT TIME???

Somewhere around this time last year, as Mitt Romney was in the third year of his second run for the presidency, and the Republican field had been narrowed to the population of several states from a number just a few short of infinity I decided that it might be necessary actually to vote for someone who existed, who was a real person.  And so, I thought about voting for Mr. Romney, tall, handsome, smart and honest.

I had not voted for a human being in the last two elections; choosing instead to vote for Michael Mouse.  I had even dreamed up a slogan for the little fellow’s campaign: MY MAN IS A MOUSE!  I spoke to my friends, and may have convinced one or two of them (which would have been, possibly, more than I had of friends) to join in with me and promote MM’s run for the highest office in the land.

But, then, I listened to other voices, people whose powers of persuasion moved me to reconsider my position.  “It is silly,” they said, “you are just throwing away your vote by going into that booth and writing in the name of a cartoon character.  It is a senseless and meaningless gesture.”  I tried to argue that given the man occupying that office (who still occupies it) , and the fellow who had occupied it during the previous eight years, and the line -up of opponents/prospective candidates available, voting for someone who was a cartoon character seemed to me to make more sense than anything else.

Still..

In the end I caved, flipped a coin, sort of, and settled on Mr. America.  I guess I was thinking of that old song by the Coasters, “Along Came Jones”, and hoping he would get elected and rescue Sweet Sue (that’s us) from the gunslinger.

Little did I know that I should have stuck with Mickey.  At least I wouldn’t feel as if I had wasted a vote.  Because the word filtering out from the folks who know is that Old Mitt didn’t want the job anyway.  He tanked it.  And, we know from sad experience that the guy who has the job really doesn’t exist.  Oh, I mean he is there, all right, but he really has no idea about running a country, or doing much else than “chooming”, organizing a community (whatever in God’s name that is) or body surfing; or standing around while Ambassadors and other guys get murdered…and then not saying word one about it because the “investigation ” is still going on.  I mean his most common vote anywhere was “present”.  Well brain dead people are “present” too.  So are ghosts according to some folks.

Turns out they both stink.  If fact, they all stink, from Chicago Slim in the White House right down to the most junior jerk in the House of Representatives;  where about the only thing they represent is their own wallet, I think.

Anyway, I’m back on The Mouse’s bandwagon and there I intend to stay.  This morning I was having a cup of Joe with the Little Lady down at the local Dunkin’ Donuts.  There were a couple of old guys over in the corner jawing about the, how many, damn near 500 stupid and selfish men and women we send down to DC  to do nothing much good to or for anyone, and one of them says, “I’m 73 years old and I don’t think I am ever going to vote for another person for anything again.  I’m just going to go into the booth and scribble down a name, any name.”

My heart leaped!  If two old and nearly useless guys like him and me can have the same idea, what would it look like if 30 or 40 million of us went behind the curtain and did the same thing; if no one was elected, if the country actually followed the predictions of the polls and said, “None of the above?”  For anything, even School Board President, Dogcatcher, Registrar of Probate, President?

Because, you know, none of the folks there now seem to want to do anything at all about anything, and the guy we just sent back to the Oval Office hasn’t got the faintest idea about what needs doing, except that we need more money to do it.

Actually, I take that back.  It seems that one person does have a good idea, which idea won’t see the light of day down there.  The junior Senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte says all of those dopes don’t deserve a pay raise because they haven’t done anything for it.  That’s the first bit of sensible thinking I’ve heard come out of that swamp in about 12 years.

Now, if only they would return all the rest of the money we’ve given them for the past 12 years I might reconsider my support for The Mouse.  I know all of that dough might make our fall from the cliff just a little bit softer, turn it into a kind of velvety “smoosh” rather than a granite hard “SPLAT” when we hit bottom.

One thing that can be said for The Mouse is that at least he works cheap; a couple of nibbles of cheese now and then and he’s good for a week.

Moral Statements, Immoral Acts

In Israel today, that small country, millions face terror on a daily basis.  9,000 rockets have been launched into the country in the past few years, 9,000.  They were launched by terrorists supported by a government run by a terrorist organization.  Only the people of Israel can speak with any sense of truth about this government of terrorists which hides its weapons among defenseless civilians and then exploits the deaths they cause among them from this practice.  Israel’s Prime Minister did so recently as rockets rained down from within Gaza, sometimes from as little as 15 seconds away.  He has said that there is no moral equivalence between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza.  Some people believe he has no authority, no moral authority to say that.  They are among those who advocate that palestine, and its terrorist government be admitted to the UN.  Soon, I suppose there will be a terrorist caucus there.

I wonder how they can believe it; especially in the face of evidence such as the many statements of Hamas leaders that the obliteration of Israel and the death of all Jews is the most important goal of their movement.

Many, many years ago when the world was not as weary (nor was I) as it seems to be now, when right may still have been right and wrong was still considered wrong, I was young, too, and I did something wrong. I said things that were wrong and hurtful.  That I did not know what I said is not an excuse.  Here is what happened.

When I was a youngster growing up in New York City in the late 1940’s and 50’s we little urchins had a chant that went like this, “Guns for the Arabs!  Sneakers for the Jews!”   I don’t know where I learned it, or from whom.  It simply started, and it grew.  We used to run through the little park near the Jerome Reservoir, in a Jewish neighborhood not far from where we lived, chanting that little verse while the old men and women were sitting quietly on the benches watching their grandchildren and remembering horror.

I never really knew what it meant, what it referred to, a fight for life after so much death, the kind of fight my own people had been involved in for hundreds of years (I’m Irish, in case…) No one said anything to us at all.  Old Jews!  We were too fast, the grandchildren too young.

Years later, when I was married, my brand new wife and I became tenants in a small apartment in a small house owned by Rose and Yussel Hochstein.

Immigrants.  Eastern European Jews.

He was a kosher butcher who worked long hours every day except Shabbos. She kept a kosher home, though she would sneak downstairs from time to time to enjoy some bacon and eggs with Sheila, my first wife, may she rest in peace. Rosie, which she preferred, had walked across Europe at the age of four with her grandfather, from Russia to Amsterdam, in the 1930’s. There they met her uncle who took them to America and safety. Yussel, a Polish boy, was not so lucky as that. He and his younger brother spent the war, the second such war fought to end all wars, hiding near Warsaw in a barn owned by a Christian (Catholic) family.

One day, for whatever reason, some neighbors of the family ratted them out to the Germans. A couple of dozen men in big cars came looking for them. They ran away into the fields and woods, two little boys, while the Germans took  turns using the two running boys as target practice. His brother escaped, but Yussel lost the top of an ear to a close call. I guess that could be called an escape.  He came to the United States after the war with his brother and was set up in business by a relative living over here.

A marriage was arranged between Rosie and Yussel.  In quick succession they had three boys.  Rosie had always wanted a girl.  I remember her taking possession of our daughter, our first child, when Sheila brought her home from the hospital.  “Let me see my baby!  Let me hold my little girl!” she exclaimed.  We became part of the family during the time we were there.

Rosie was mother to us all.  Yussel was, well, quiet.  She was the one who told us about Yussel’s “escape”, mentioning that aside from his brother and himself no one of his family in Poland had survived.

Rosie showed it to us, showed us Yussel’s shot ear, during one Seder at her home while we were her tenants. Yussel quietly endured the revelation.  I looked at the deformed ear and shuddered.  He was eight when it happened.  His little brother was six.  That was about the age of the little children in the park I had run through.  I remembered my little childhood chant which took place often not two city blocks from the room where we sat celebrating an ancient occurrence when a whole people had been set free; when , after four hundred years, death fell on Egypt from above.

You know the story, don’t you, how death fell like a rocket, even on the cattle.

No rockets fell while we talked that night, no demagogues called for the obliteration of the country and its people, no nations hurried new supplies of weapons to begin again the years long rain of death as they do now.  I remembered my own words from years before, and I remember them now.  I hear them as I said them, and I read them in the reports of speeches before the UN, and across the world by presidents of countries and people who call themselves holy men and religious leaders.

They love death.  I know they do. They say so themselves.  I am as certain of this as I am that I breathe. There are millions who live that chant of mine and my friends every day, and know what it means. They are not children at all, though they will not scruple to use children, their own if necessary, to carry guns, to hurl bombs, to blow themselves up, too, in order to kill Jews, anywhere, everywhere. There is, I think, no moral equivalence between that and what Israel does to preserve itself.

The Sheepul Vote (A Short Pastoral Fable)

The dictionary has something to say, here.  The definition of complaisance in one of the sources I checked is this: com·plai·sance (k m-pl s ns, -z ns) n. The inclination to comply willingly with the wishes of others; amiability. complaisance [kəmˈpleɪzəns] n

Sheep and cattle are complaisant.  As long as the grass is green and no wolves wander near, they are content to stand, even in the rain, outdoors and munch, moving only when the grass might grow too short, or the piles of ordure they produce a little too high.  From time to time the tender ones are carted off to “somewhere”.  No one of them left behind really notices or cares very much what that means for them.

The grass is green.

The shepherd’s whistle pierces the still air and the dogs are let in upon them, to run them here or there.  But, the sheep know.  The promise always is greener grass beyond the next gate.  This has been the way.  Always forward.

The shepherd never lies.  So the sheep willingly obey.  And, from time to time the tender ones are carted off to “somewhere”.  No one looks up.  The grass is green.

Soon, they will go forward once more, their slow ramble from green bit to green bit temporarily interrupted by the shepherd’s whistle, the little dogs busy  at their backs and the frenzied nip at the slackers.

But the grass is always greener there, wherever there may be.  The sheep neither know nor care.  That the shepherd knows, and that is enough.  Did the sheep once know?  It is too much to think about.

The grass is always greener after the sheep have gone forward..

And, the way is downhill.  Going forward is always easier when the direction is down.

Too late, alas.  The cliff.  Too late.

One , the last, turns before the plunge into darkness, and sees.  There was no grass at all.  The dogs smile.  The shepherd lied.

But the sheep have been complaisant.  They have been willing.  They believed, if it can be said that sheep are able to believe.  Some few may have even thought they were making a good choice.  And why not?  Every time they moved it was forward.  It was green.  It was down.

It was down.

Every change they made was a change to a better place.

Until the cliff.

“We believed unto death,” cry the sheep falling.

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Now, I will beat you on the head until it hurts.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.

But, what is it when it leads to debt, weakness and death?

To whom do children in our schools now sing?  Whose face appears on our flag? To whom do the sheep-like look for their “things”?  Who promises them greener pastures?

How close is the cliff?  Can you see its edge?

Dogs’ nipping.