Monday, December 21, 2015

IGNORANCE AND WANT

I have read a lot of books during my lifetime.  The vast majority of books that I have read are non-fiction.  I think I prefer non-fiction because they tell of the times and events that have led the human race to the place where we see ourselves now.  We learn from the history of us and it is said that this knowledge keeps us from repeating mistakes of the past.  That isn't exactly the case as history has repeated itself a lot through the millennia, but for the most part we strive to remember mistakes and vow to not let them happen again.

I do read some fiction but I am rather particular about the writers of fiction that I read.  There are two writers in my library that stand out above the rest when it comes to fiction.  John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens.  I have read all of Steinbeck's novels and the major works of Dickens.  What makes these writers stand out in my mind is that they write a fictional story that is based on the period of time in which they are living and mold these stories to present to us a lesson in humanity much more personal than a history book could.  When I read Steinbeck or Dickens, a picture is painted by their words that take you into the time that the story is taking place.  They place your mind inside the minds of the characters so that you understand what they are thinking, what they are feeling and how the world is seen through their eyes.  Both of these writers are masters of presenting their works in such a manner.

In 1843, Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol".  It was a short story compared to the length of his novels but carried as strong of a message as the longer works did.  Most of us are familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  The old miserly man who had a firm dislike for mankind, particularly the poor.  The story revolves around Scrooge being changed overnight into one of the most beloved men who lived in London by the lessons of three spirits who visit him on Christmas Eve and show him how he must change for his own benefit as well as mankind's.  It is truly a story for the ages and one that is celebrated every year through movies, plays and readings.  It is a story that will never fade away I hope.

Every Christmas season over the last few years,  myself and some cousins of mine have attended a production of "A Christmas Carol" at a local university.   The production is magnificent and very entertaining as well as thought provoking.  It brings to life the characters that Dickens created all those years ago.

This year, for some reason, made me stop and think about the message Dickens was bringing to us.  There was one scene in particular that filled my mind.  Towards the end of the visit by the Spirit of Christmas Present, two children are revealed from under the Spirit's robes.  The children are in rags, with sunken eyes and skeletal figures. The Spirit explains to Scrooge who the children are:

“They are Man's and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Ignorance and Want.   I thought about "Ignorance" and "Want" for a long time.  I did a little research to see what the experts thought of these children as presented by Dickens.  I came to one of two conclusions.  "Ignorance" is the one we are to beware most of all.  "Want" is what ignorance brings.  Anytime there is ignorance, there will be people wanting.  Not wanting out of greed, but rather wanting to just survive.  Ignorance blinds us to what the needs are to make society a more perfect place in which to live.

Keeping the poor ignorant will trap them in a cycle of poverty from generation to generation without a means to escape.  Education is a must, and was a must for Victorian London.  Schools were not very available then and most times the children could not go to school because they were forced to help the family by spending their time in the work houses.  Without at least a minimal education, these children would grow up in ignorance as their parents had and the poor, they extreme poor would always be with us.  In Dickens time, this was the case.  Very little education that would allow for children to have at least a chance at breaking that cycle of poverty.

"Ignorance" can also be applied to the well off.  Those that do not live in poverty tend to not see what they don't want to.  They are ignorant of the plight of the poor who live around them.  Indeed, if anything, the poor provide a much needed service to the well off.  The cheap labor that the poor provide make it possible for the well to do to continue living that life style.  But ignorance of the poor is not a solution.  Ignorance of the poor, and keeping the poor down, will eventually bring society down as well.  I think perhaps the spirit was pointing out to Scrooge his own ignorance of the poor and how he, as well as society, fair better with a more prominent working class.

The result of ignorance is always more want, more need.  We should make ourselves aware of those in need and to do what we can to help them out of the cycle they find themselves in.  It is a problem that has faced man for centuries and continues to do so.

I am not sure what Dickens personal philosophy was as to how to break the cycle of poverty, but he is correct I think that the first step is getting rid of ignorance by both the poor and the wealthy.  I feel that once we make a dent in ignorance, once we teach and give those in the poverty cycle the tools to begin to climb out of it, then every generation after that should become a little more self reliant.  I think that once we take away the ignorance of the wealthy and they learn what tools need to be given to help the poor out of poverty then their investment in this endeavor will bring society as whole up to a better level.  With the wiping out of ignorance, there will be less crime, less bigotry and racism.  There will be more of an understanding of our fellow man.  There will be less want.

I also think that it is important that while the poor are given the tools to climb out of that hole, it must not be blindly given, but earned.  For those things that are earned are vastly more appreciated by an individual than that which is given freely and blindly.

So let's take Dickens wisdom to beware ignorance and work on eliminating it, which will result in less want.

Society will be the better for it.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TRAGEDY IN THE ART WORLD


This isn't the first post I will write about John Lennon and I promise it won't be the last.  He was too much of an influence on the arts to forget him or let his birth or death slip by without notice.

John Lennon was one of a kind.  People will argue that his song writing partner, Paul McCartney, was just as much of an influence if not more and that may be.  John and Paul were different.  They thought along different lines.  While Paul was indeed a great song writer and performer, he seemed to stay out of putting his thoughts, his philosophy out front.  Not so with John Lennon.

John was a complete artist.  He was a philosopher.  He was, in some ways, a politician.  He wrote books and poems.  He drew sketches portraying his life experiences.  He also,of course, wrote music.  His music changed over the years with each topic being a mirror as to what he was going through life at a particular time.  He was one of a kind.

Even the titles of some of his songs tell you what he was thinking or going through. Such song titles as "Crippled Inside", "Gimme Some Truth", "Instant Karma", "Power To The People", "Mind Games", "Imagine", "All You Need Is Love" and "Revolution" are examples of this.  There have been plenty of writers who wrote songs along such topics but in my opinion none came close to touching the genius of John Lennon.

One the most infamous events in Lennon's career was when he said  on March 4, 1966 that "We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity".  The world, especially the Christian world too great offense at this statement and it created a huge backlash against The Beatles which produced huge record burning parties and boycotts.  Lennon was soon to apologize for something that he said that he did believe. “I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”

I look back at that time in 1966 and what Lennon said had some truth to it.  The Beatles were huge.  They were filling stadiums.  Their fans were more or less worshiping them.  No doubt more people, especially kids, were showing more interest and belief in The Beatles then they were into religion.  That is all Lennon was saying.  But that one line was pulled out of context "We're bigger than Jesus" was all that was heard.  Lennon's foresight that he would have to apologize for something that he thought he was in the right about was a part of his maturing process.  The initial statement and following apology was probably the most important statements Lennon ever made.

 I did not always agree with John Lennon's philosophies, but I do respect any man who can present his thoughts in an intelligent manner without getting offended or offending.  Lennon simply spoke what was on his mind and you could take it or leave it.  It didn't really matter to him.  I learned a lot from this part of John Lennon and the world is a better place for allowing him to express ideas that were not necessarily mainstream.

The lyrics to his songs were the most efficient way that Lennon got his message across.  One of  his most popular songs titled "Imagine" has become a mantra for peace and equality and held up as a slogan by most people who only hear what they want to hear in the song.  These people do not really listen to the lyrics though.  The same people who were so very upset at the "bigger than Jesus" remark hold "Imagine" up as a great song that lays a blueprint down for how mankind should live. Yet the opening verse in "Imagine" is "Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky". The second verse also attacks religion with "Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.    "Imagine" is a song about socialism, close to communism and yet not only Americans, but people all over the world have held this song as a blueprint for life because they do not listen to the words.  Don't get me wrong, "Imagine" is a great song, even a masterpiece and I love it.  I love the lyrics to it but I don't agree with them very much.  It was, at that time, Lennon's philosophy however.

One thing that John Lennon did that impressed me was that he was able to listen to new ideas and often he would accept new ideas and throw away old ideas that he thought were flawed.  Not many men, especially artists, have that ability.  Lennon did.

By the time 1980 rolled around, John Lennon had been out of the public eye for five years.  He has not recorded or written during that time but had evolved into a more stable, down to earth man with family being one of the most important things in his life.  As this thinking progressed he began to write again and his last album, released just months before he was murdered, reflect a philosophy of love and family and people just getting along.  The music was toned down and not as angry as some of his earlier works were.  One of my personal favorite Lennon songs come from this album.  It is almost a biographical song which explains where he was at that moment in time.  It is titled "Watching The Wheels".

WATCHING THE WHEELS

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.  

Despite all of the controversy that followed him, despite all of the brilliance in his words, his music, his writing and his art, John Lennon was a true renaissance man.  He was a man who was always true to himself even if it did temporarily cost him some fan and admirers.   It seemed like they always came back because when John Lennon said something it was truth in his own mind.  He was a special artist that come along in history all too rarely.  Part of the reason that Mark David Chapman gave for murdering Lennon was that Lennon had stood for helping the poor and yet all Chapman saw was a man with tremendous wealth.  In other words, Chapman saw Lennon as selling out.  To this I say read some of Lennon's lyrics and you will hear him talk about the poor and disenfranchised and how we, as mankind, should help them out.  You will also find that Lennon believed in working for what you get and deserve.  Read the lyrics to "Revolution" and you find that he is telling people to get things straight before you go off and just rant about revolution in the streets.  There is a right way and a wrong way, and Lennon was seeing that it was being approached the wrong way.

REVOLUTION

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be alright
Alright Alright

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be alright
Alright Alright

You say you'll change the constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know know it's gonna be alright
Alright Alright 

The world could use a few John Lennons these days.  On December 8, 1980, the world lost one of it's finest thinkers and artists.  His works will live for a very long time if we are lucky.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THANKSGIVING IS IMPORTANT

It has been four years since I wrote my third Thanksgiving post on this blog.   All three of those posts addressed the memories of Thanksgiving at my grandfather's house.  They told of the huge Hill family gathering together to sincerely give thanks for all of our blessings as a family.  All my uncles and aunts were there and the distance between the families was not spread out as they are now.  Back then my uncle Dan lived the furthest away but everyone else seemed to be within a four hour drive of the old house on 54th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri.  Death was relativity rare in the Hill family in those days when I was young and so grandpa's house would be totally filled and noisy with laughter and good talk.  Since then the family has changed.  Four of my uncles have passed, Melvin, Buster Dan and Bill, and two aunts have left us, June and Jane.  The family has spread out into Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Colorado and the glue that held that family together, the two people who brought that huge gathering to their home, grandma and grandpa are gone as well.  Very seldom does the family have gatherings like it use to on Thanksgiving every year.

I sit here thinking about Thanksgivings past.  When thanksgiving use to be observed in school every year.  In elementary school the teachers would have us make Pilgrim hats or Indian head dresses and we would observe Thanksgiving sitting there dressed in our little construction paper hats and learn about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and how two different cultures came together for that magical first Thanksgiving.  It was not ACTUALLY the way things happened but it was a good story for a second grader learning about and falling in love with history at such an early age. I visited Boston some years ago and made a point to visit Plymouth since I was going to be close to there when I visited Quincy to soak in some John Adams history.  I saw what was said to be THE Plymouth Rock, protected by a greek structure and with "1620" engraved into it.  It was magical to see it after hearing about that rock since I was six years old, but in reality, I knew that it was just a rock that had been chosen to represent the day the Pilgrims landed in the name of religious freedom onto a new land.  I had learned more of the true history of those days between the westerners and the Indian cultures and how they did not get along as well as we were taught.  History has a way of making itself known.  Sometimes it takes a while but it is there ready to burst out with truth instead of idealism.

Thanksgiving has become lost in today's society as Christmas continues to spread itself earlier into the fall months and I think that is a bad thing.  Thanksgiving is important.  Thanksgiving should be a time of reflection, not on the past year necessarily, but on years past, all the way back to as far as you can remember.

The world seems to be in turmoil.  This country, the United States, seems to be in turmoil.  A midst all of the turmoil though, there are organizations made up of ordinary people who care for the sick, the homeless and the hungry.  The television stations come out at this time of year to show what an organization is doing to help those in need, but in reality, they are helping those people all the year around.  Thanksgiving is important because it reflects what these groups do every day of every year.  It isn't the government helping these people, but ordinary citizens who see a problem and step up to give relief to those who need it.  Yes, the government does do a lot to help people, but the true resources of help come from these people who see the problem and take measures to help fix them.

Thanksgiving is important and needs to be set aside from Christmas.  Thanksgiving needs to be kept as it was intended.  To give thanks for the blessings we receive.  To be thankful that this country, either through government aide or through citizens stepping up, will continue to see the problems and the injustices that people endure, and will continue to take measures to right the wrongs.  To help the helpless.  To feed the hungry.

Thanksgiving is important to help remind us of where we came from, where we are, and where we can be as we continue to help those who  can not help themselves on a year round basis.  To be thankful that as we continue to see the wrongs, we continue to fix them.

Thanksgiving is important to remind us of how important and special are the people we have been influenced by.  The people who were and those who still are in our lives.  They can older than you or younger than you and still have influence on your life that helps you to grow as a human being.  I have always believed that you can learn as much from someone much younger than you as well as from someone much older.  I have learned something that helped me from everyone in my family, both the maternal and paternal sides.  I have learned from my wife and son. My nieces and nephews have taught me so very much about life, especially Justin and Mei.  Aunts, Uncles and cousins have always had a word of wisdom when I need one as well as my parents,grandparents and my siblings.  Pastors and fellow church members have been there when I needed them.  I haven't had in the past nor do I have now many friends, but when I need one, they are there.  I truly am thankful for all of these.

Thanksgiving is important.  Do not let it slide by as another benchmark in our march towards Christmas. Make it what it was meant to be.  A time to be thankful inspite of all the hard times we all endure.

Monday, November 16, 2015

HIGH SCHOOL VENDING MACHINE CIRCA 1973-1975

Things have certainly changed since the early to mid seventies as far as a cafeteria in a high school is concerned.  I first noticed this when I went back to my old high school, Ruskin, for a community meeting one weekend.  There was a machine in that room that I had never seen when I was attending.  It was a soft drink vending machine.   When I was in school, all the way from kindergarten until I graduated in December of 1974, our choice of drink of milk.  They did give us a choice though.  We could have white or chocolate milk but a Coke for lunch?  Not going to happen.

When my son was in high school and we would have meetings in the cafeteria at Bishop Hogan or O'Hara, vending machines had grown from just one soft drink machine to two or three drink machines, a candy machine, and a few other machines designed to keep the kids healthy and awake for the remainder of the day.

To be fair, there were treats in the morning before school if you got there early enough.  The special education class of Ruskin would sale donuts and coffee every morning.  Not exactly a vending machine but at least it wasn't the no choice that happened at lunch at the school.  There was a group of about six of us who would arrive at school early and have some social time with donuts and coffee before starting another boring day.

There was but one vending machine in the Ruskin cafeteria when I attended that great school.  It was a vending machine of music, otherwise know as a jukebox.  This juke box was, of course, before the days of the compact disc and so it was filled with 45 rpm records.  It was the juke box in the cafeteria that i began to accumulate information concerning the flip side. or "B" side of the hit side that groups released.  It became a hobby of mine to learn, to memorize which songs were on a 45 rpm record.  From this I spread my knowledge of records to include label, label color, group, the writer of a song, the year it was released, the album it was taken from (although there were plenty of singles that were released only as singles not appearing on an album) onto learning the producers and any other kind of knowledge that could be learned about a record or album.  It was an interesting hobby as long as the music was interesting and for me the music ceased to be that interesting around the mid eighties.

There must have been a hundred songs on that juke box but few songs were played on a regular basis.  Everyday at lunch, there seemed to be a play list that was required to be played over the lunch period.  Everyday the same songs seemed to be played and from this playlist a string of songs are embedded in my memory.  When I hear these songs today, a lot of times my mind wanders back to the lunch periods in high school.

I am going to make a list here of the songs that I remember being played constantly during my years at Ruskin.  I am sure that some of my classmates may have other songs that they remember and I would really appreciate it if some of my classmates would send in songs that they remember.    The songs I am going to list are probably the songs I appreciated the most, not necessarily all the songs that were played daily.

Here are the songs that click in my mind as the songs that were played most often (not in any particular order):

Summer Breeze - Seals and Crofts
Without You - Harry Nilsson
Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin
Garden Party - Rick Nelson
Foot Stompin' Music - Grand Funk Railroad
Closer To Home - Grand Funk Railroad
Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin
Levon - Elton John
Make It With You - Bread
China Grove - The Doobie Brothers
Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
One - Three Dog Night
Chest Fever - Three Dog Night
Share The Land - The Guess Who
Bus Rider - The Guess Who

Those are the songs that pop into my mind as I think about those lunches at the school.  It doesn't seem like they ever changed the records in the juke box the whole time I was at Ruskin.  Every year the same songs, with the same numbers were there.  It played the songs at a fairly high volume and it seems like the juke box was constantly playing leaving silence behind during each lunch period.

Loved that juke box.  Taught me a lot of music.  In a way it was continuing our education clean through the lunch periods. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

PARADE OF FANS ... THIS JUST IN FROM PARIS

Last Tuesday was a beautiful day in Kansas City.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the mid seventies.  It was to be a special day celebrating the Kansas City Royals World Series victory over the New York Mets in five games.  A parade had been planned to welcome the champions home that would wind from downtown to the Union Station.  It was a parade that the metropolitan area of Kansas City has seldom seen in its history.  It was a day that would, for all practical purposes, shut down the city.

Earlier that morning my wife and I had traveled to St. Luke's Hospital located just off of The Plaza District in Kansas City.  She was to have some tests done on her heart that would take most of the day.  The majority of that time would be spent in a hospital room resting and recovering from the test before we went home to be sure that there were no complications from the test.

The room that they assigned to her was room 401.  This room looked out over Broadway at about 41st Street.  As the morning progressed we started watching coverage of the parade on a local television station.  They started coverage early in the morning even though the parade itself was not scheduled to begin until after noon.  While watching the crowds begin to gather down at Union Station, she feel asleep and so I walked over to look out the window onto Broadway.

As I stood there looking out the window I started to notice people walking up Broadway towards the point where the parade would find it's end and the players would give speeches to the crowd.  It wasn't a large flow of people however the street was never empty of people taking the three mile walk to the Union Station.  They were ordinary people with one thing in common.  Blue t-shirts.  Every person walking up Broadway had a royal blue t-shirt with some celebratory writing on the front of the shirts.  As time passed, the flow of people in blue began to grow.  Eventually it was a constant flow of fans hiking up the short hill.  As the crowd increased, the inevitable bizarre people began to show up every now and then.

STOP .... TOPIC CHANGE.   

I was in the middle of describing how the Royals fans showed up at Union Station in droves to celebrate the World Series victory.  About my observations of the different people walking miles to the parade.  I stopped to finish later and now something has happened on the world stage.

Paris, France went under attack by terrorist believed to be from the ISIS organization.  Innocent Parisians murdered in cold blood outside a soccer stadium, inside a packed hall attending a rock concert.  Over 150 dead as I write this and the French are taking military action dropping bombs on Syria.  In a way, it is 9-11 for France.

There will be no fingerpointing at political leaders here.  Just a call for nations to finally pull together, go all in, to try to stop these terrorist attacks that have been a constant on the western world.  It is time to put away all political differences between nations.  It is time for each nation to protect their people while at the same time joining together  to try to make life safer for the innocents.

It aches to see this kind of senseless killing.  It hurt on 9-11, it hurt to see in Kenya, it hurt to see London buses blown to bits, it hurt to see trains in Spain destroyed  and it hurt to see at the Boston Marathon.  It is time to band together to end this.

I ask politicians not to use this as a political tool to advance agendas.  I ask political leaders throughout NATO and the rest of the world to come together and fight this scourge that has inflicted our lives since the 1993 WTC bombing.  It is going to only get worse if these groups are allowed to get stronger without any overwhelming retaliation from the world community to stop it.

Something needs to be done.  Now is the time to do it.

Prayers and thoughts for

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE BRAVE, THE DETERMINED AND THE STRONG

I am tired of losing friends and family to illnesses.  It seems that when they leave this earth it is always much to soon.  It doesn't really matter how old they are when they pass from here, it is still too soon.  The last time I saw my Grandfather, I knew it would be the last time I would see him.  He and my grandmother were leaving to visit my aunt in Alabama.  Even though deep inside I knew that I would not see him again, when my mother knocked on my door late one night and told me that he had died, I was thrown into a state of shock and terrible grief.  I have come to believe that the night he died was the night I started a long deep slip into depression that stays with me still.

I have written about Alesia in this blog before.  She died of heart failure when she was just fourteen.  I had known her since she was born as I had worked with and played ball with her dad her whole life.  She had just been declared healthy and had been told that she could live a normal life when her life suddenly ended without warning one evening.  Other teens that I have known have had their lives taken much too early.  Their parents are devastated and even though the grief is strong and will stay with them always, those parents seem to find strength to get up everyday and live as much of a life as they can carrying that pain inside of them every minute of everyday.

I am tired of losing people to heart disease, mental disease, respiratory disease and a host of other sicknesses.  The one disease that I really am tired of though is cancer.  There are so many different kinds of cancer and none seem to have a cure.  Cancer is to me the cruelest of the killers.

There is one thing I have noticed of all the people I knew who died of cancer.  Cancer patients always seem to dig deep and face it with strength and bravery.  I visited my Uncle Melvin in the hospital a couple of weeks before cancer took him from us.  Thinking back he was probably the first person who I was close to that I knew was dying from cancer.  I walked in and he smiled at me.  He held my hand and it seemed that he was comforting me and I needed to be comforted.  He was ready, he was prepared.  No he did not want to leave, but at this point he had come to accept it and was facing it with incredible strength.  None of us knows what was going on inside his mind, but on the outside he was facing the prospect of his life ending and letting all of us know it was okay.

I have written about Rachel here as well.  Rachel was an incredible person.  She had a brain tumor when she was very small and it seemed that she had beat it.  Then one Christmas, the symptoms began to show up again when she had grown into a beautiful young lady.  Rachel kept going as long as she could.  She never gave up.  Always had a warm smile on her face even though she could feel herself slowly slipping away.  She never stopped living her life until that New Years Eve when her life passed from this one to the next one.  She was an inspiration to me and to many others.  I think I can safely say that Rachel will live on in memories and stories that will be passed down from generation to generation.

I had that conversation with my Uncle Dan after he was diagnosed with cancer and it became clear that his cancer would not be slowed or healed.  We talked about "after he was gone" and how he will cease to exist.  I knew that life goes past this life.  Not only with the spirit leaving his body but his life would continue in the memories of those that knew him.  Stories are relayed of Dan and his brothers, Melvin and Buster. who have also passed and through those tales they continue to live on.  Dan faced his cancer with that strength that comes from deep down inside.  He lived his life until he could not anymore.  We went and did things knowing in our hearts that it would be the last time for doing such things.  He went to the theatre one last time and even though he told me it felt sad to be there, he enjoyed it.  He was in his element that night even if it would be the last time.

I have witnessed others who have succumbed to cancer who were co-workers of mine.  Jim, Lera, Paul,  all were younger than me when they passed.  But they not only faced the disease with strength and bravery, but they fought it as well as they could.

Now I look around and see friends that are fighting the fight against cancer.  My cousins have just learned that their step father has a fast growing brain tumor that is untreatable and his time is very limited.  From what my cousins tell though, he is another brave and strong man who is taking it in stride and will live life until he can't anymore.

My brother had bladder cancer and it looks as though he has fought it off successfully.  My wife had uterus cancer and they were able to operate on her and so far it has not returned, but she faced that surgery with strength and bravery.  My cousin Ellen and my Uncle Jack have faced cancer and defeated it with strength and determination.  So cancer is not a death notice by far.  They are making progress it seems.  But without the determination of those who have the disease, we wouldn't stand a chance.  You can not beat cancer unless you fight it with everything you got.

Probably one of the strongest and bravest people I have ever known with cancer is a lady who attends Barb's church.  Yvonne has had cancer as long as I have known her it seems.  She has had tremendous faith that has given her the strength to keep fighting and fighting with a good attitude.  Of course I don't know what goes on inside her head as she continues her fight, but continue to fight she does.  She always has time to look out for problems others are having and offering support and strength to them.  My wife is having heart problems that seem to get worse everytime she sees a doctor and Yvonne always has a word of encouragement.  Yvonne is as good as an example of what faith will do for us when faced with difficult times.  I am so thankful I have the privileged knowing her.

Now my sister has cancer.  I was lucky enough to be able to help take care of her for a few months before she went home to Georgia.  From the time it became clear that this was not going to be an easy cancer to beat, my sister has been determined to fight it, and she has.  Her faith never waivers.  She keeps a good outlook and does what she has to do to fight it.  She shows much the same strength, determination and bravery that Yvonne has shown all these years.  To me it is incredible.  I don't think I could have the strength or determination that Yvonne and Carol have.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't.

All of these people have shown what it is to be strong and brave.  They have set an example for others who are ill or feel lost in life.  They have shown what it means to live.  Rachel, Alesia, My uncles, my Aunt June and my sister and Yvonne.   I am thankful to know these people who have set an example of what it is to live life to it's fullest.

One day we will find out how to beat cancer.  The sooner the better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

MY FUNERAL

We wake up each day and go about our business and chores without giving a thought about how it will end one day.  In reality, I don't even know if I will be alive before I finish this entry.  It seems as though at least a few times a week I read about a celebrity or famous person who dies unexpectedly.

My Uncle was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.  When it became obvious that the disease would take his life, he began planning his funeral.  He had plenty of time to decide what he wanted to be included in his funeral and who he wanted to talk.  We spent many hours going over music that he would want at his funeral.  We would listen to different artists singing their versions of the same song and he would decide which version he wanted at his memorial service.  He was able to talk about is life and his beliefs, his philosophy and desires before he got to the point where he would not be able to.  It turned out to be a good memorial service because all of us were not sitting around wondering what he would have wanted.  We knew exactly what he wanted and that was what he got.

With the knowledge that I could leave this earth at any moment, I decided to at least make an outline of what I would like for my funeral to be like.  This way no one will have to worry about things.  I already have everything else prepared for my death.  I have a plot bought, a grave marker, a casket, virtually everything is set except for the service.  I don't imagine many people will come to it, but for those who do come, they will receive a service in which I had input and was what I would want.

The first thing I would want would be no pictures of me lying around or being displayed on a screen.  People who come probably know what I look like.  I think most of the pictures of me have fake smiles on my face anyway and do not really represent who I am on the inside.  If any pictures are to be anywhere, I would want the pictures of people who influenced me in life in my little program that they give out at the door as people arrive.    They don't have to be large pictures but just a little nod to the people who I think formed my life as I worked through it all.  I would like a picture of my father Belden H. Clark,  my grandparents Oscar L. Hill and Verna Hill, my grandmother Jean Clark, Dr. Loren S. Goings,  Dr. Melvin M. Hill, Buster Hill, Jack Hill, Danial Hill,  Duane Knierim, Jay Allard, and Noel Shepard.  Okay, that may be a lot of pictures, so just have a list of these people who shaped my life.

As people arrive I would like to have Bach's Brandenburg Concerto's playing, particularly Concerto Number 3.  I love that work of music.  It can either be someone playing it or a recording.  If it is a recording I would prefer Wendy Carlos' recording of the concertos.  (If you have trouble finding a copy, you might look under the name Walter Carlos, which she was known as before her sex change operation).  It is stunningly beautiful and is played on electronic keyboards which I have had a fascination with since I was young.

Not a lot of people know me very well, as matter of fact very few people really know me enough to speak about me at the service.  If I am survived by them, I would like I think for Gregg Carder to say a few words.  After Gregg speaks, I would like to have a recording of "My Way" by Frank Sinatra played.

Then I would think that Ronald Mullins or Dennis Purduski would have a few good memories to share and they would be good at it.  Ronnie and I spent a lot of time together growing up.  Dennis and I worked together and traveled together a lot. Following Dennis or Ronnie's remembrances I think that I would like a member of the family to sing the old hymn "It Is Well".  That has always been a great song to me.  A song that I would get lost in every time I heard it.

Finally, my cousin Pete would be the right person to give the eulogy.  If Pete is not available, then Keith Gibson should give it.  I have known Keith since he was a little boy and I have great respect for him to be able to do a very good job.  I would like them to open with a Scripture reading before going into the eulogy.
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Romans 6:3 though 9

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.
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After Pete or Keith has finished the eulogy a recording of Warren Zevon's "Keep Me In Your Heart" will be played as people sit and listen.  I think the words to this song should be printed in the little program as well.

When all is done, when Zevon finishes his song, the people will be dismissed and as they are leaving, "Amazing Grace" should be playing softly.

And that is it.  People can leave and go about their lives.  I will be done with and I can slide into people's memories and then begin to fade away from those memories.  Before long, I will be forgotten and it will be as though I never existed, which in a way I haven't really.

Of course, I won't be here to make sure it is done as I have requested and that's okay.  As my Uncle Dan use to say. "Funerals and stones are for the living, not the dead" so if the people who are planning my funeral do not like what I have laid out here, fine, change it.  Really won't bother me any.  I won't know the difference.

Well that about covers everything now I guess.  Everything is paid for and ready for me to leave this life.  Things should go pretty smooth for whoever is left to dispose of my body.

Friday, September 25, 2015

THE NEED TO WRITE ... SOMETHING

Writing.  For me writing serves as a form of therapy to a degree. Writing allows me to take some thoughts that have been clanging around in my head like a pinball in a pinball machine being played by Tommy, it just keeps going and going never able to pass the flippers at the bottom of the machine (for those either too young or too old or my sister Elaine, that is a reference to the rock opera "TOMMY" recorded by The Who and in particular a song named "Pinball Wizard").  Usually if I have a thought such as that, if I write it down it clears from my mind.  Sometimes, however, I find my head with too many of these kind of thoughts bouncing around and into each other.  This is one of those situations.  Too many thoughts, to many ideas that when I sit to write, I can't decide on which topic to take on.  So I sit and stare at the screen with my mind jumping all over the place and not writing anything even though it is obvious that I have a desperate need to write something.... anything.

Usually when I get into a situation like this I end up writing a long rant that hits on several issues and is totally unconnected from beginning to end and there is not one reader who can follow it all the way through.  Even myself as a reader can't decipher it but I write it down and then decide whether to post it or not followed by forgetting all about it.  Hopefully after this excersize my head will clear out a bit.  Let's see where this takes us and I say "us" because this will be a journey through a messed up mind for all of us.

I trimmed my beard last night.  Trivial though that might seem it is a major accomplishment for me.  I have been sporting a beard for several years now.  While everyone else was going through the mustache era followed by the goatee era I had a beard.  There is a reason for this.  Actually there are two reasons.  The first reason is that I am lazy when it comes to personal grooming.  Well, I do take a daily shower and try to wear clean clothes and be presentable, but haircuts and shaving do not interest me at all.  I have several ball caps at the ready to cover my unruly and balding head.  A few Mizzou caps, a couple of Alabama caps, along with some Dit-MCO caps and others that have been picked up here and there.  My hair has a natural wave to it.  It isn't curly but at the right length the wave grows to be a flip before turning inward once again.  Personally I think it looks pretty good when I put on a cap and these curls slip out from under the cap on the sides.  Others don't agree with me though and I usually give in to the request to cut my hair eventually.  Once the hair is cut, I find it rather refreshing. I tell myself that I am going to keep it cut but then the time comes for when it should be cut, I just don't seem to want to make the time to have it done. Before long those curls are peeking out from the under the caps once again.  It is the same story with the beard.  I first grew the beard because I didn't want to shave every morning before heading out to the office.  After a while though it would grow wild and unruly and become uncomfortable.  When my coworkers started referring to me as "mountain man" it wasn't because I was rugged, it was because my beard looked like Ted Kaczynski when they arrested him in a cabin in the woods of rural Montana.  Sure, Kaczynski was a freaking genius, but that wasn't what my cohorts were referring to.  One day someone asked me why I kept the beard and so the excuse came to light in my brain.  I was not going to shave until Russell retires and that was the position I took for not shaving it.  This was the second reason for growing the beard and it seemed to be an acceptable reason to the work crowd. They knew that although Russell and I had to work fairly closely together, we did not agree on many things and sometimes tempers would flair.  It would be several years before Russell would retire and I kept the beard all the while.  During this time of waiting on the retirement, Russell and I began to understand each other and actually worked pretty well together, but I stuck firmly to the precipice of not shaving until he retired.  As the days went on and the beard stayed, Russell's retirement began to loom on the horizon.  It was getting closer and closer and then, what appeared to be suddenly to me, Russell retired and went away.  That night, with trembling hands and shortness of breath I shaved the beard that had, in a way, began to define part of who I was, much as my spectacles do.  I don't look like "Bill" without my glasses and I didn't look like "Bill" without a beard.  And so when I awoke the next morning without hair upon my chin, I began to grow the beard again and have had it since the day after Russell retired.  Now it grows long but just long enough to be uncomfortable but not long enough to be a mountain man before I trim it down again.  I think I am going to go to my grave with a beard, unless someone decides to have it shaved before I am buried.  That won't bother me though. I won't know if it is shaved or not because, well let's face it, I'll be dead.  It also doesn't bother me because even after I am dead, I hear that it will grow back or seem to at any rate.  Either way, I won't be aware of it so they can shave it or not.  Does not matter to me.

Yogi Berra passed away this week.  I know that all of us will die at sometime and that no one is immune from it, but hearing of the passing of Yogi made me sad.  He was 90 years old so it wasn't like a John Lennon death that came out of nowhere, as a matter of fact his death wasn't even that surprising.  I thought that it was to be expected to receive that news at his age.  The thing about Yogi was that he personified baseball and America as a whole.  He loved what he did and wanted to share it with the world.  He developed his own language of sorts that became known as "Yogi-ism".  The language often did not make any sense at all but everyone that heard it understood it.  He was a very good ball player.  Not a great ball player, at least compared to who his team mates were for most of his career.  Good enough to be a legitimate Hall of Famer though.  Yes, he was good at baseball.  He was a catcher for the Yankees and quite a good one at that and he was pretty well versed in how to use a bat at the plate.  But his glove and his bat was not what made Yogi special.  What made Yogi special was, simply put, that he was Yogi.  It is hard to explain why that was so special in and of itself if you didn't grow up during  his years of playing or managing.  Yogi was Yogi.  He was always himself and never put up a front it didn't seem.  You never knew when one of his Yogi-isms would come out during an interview.  Yogi was why baseball was America's pastime.  Yogi exemplified how to be proud to be an American, no matter what your heritage was or no matter where your family came from.  It really is hard to explain, but losing Yogi Berra is huge and when you ask why the only answer seems to be "well, Yogi was Yogi."

Speaking of baseball, how in the world can my beloved Chicago Cubs win 90 ball games and still be in third place in their division????   That's the way it looks like it will end up as.  The National League Central Division will have three teams with 90 wins or more.  You have St. Louis.  These guys have been playing out of their minds the whole season.  They should get around 104 maybe 105 wins this year.  In second place, and I am still not sure how the Pirates did it, but Pittsburgh will wind up right at the 100 win mark, maybe a couple of wins under or over that and the Cubs, my dear dear Cubs, I see as winning 93 or 94 games this year and finishing in third place.  At best, they could wind up playing that one game playoff to get into the real post season.  It just isn't right.  This is the kind of thing that could only happen to the Chicago Cubs.  All I can do is shake my head and sigh.  I do that every time I look at the standings for the National League Central.  Just a deep sigh released from way down deep inside me somewhere.

On a more positive note, my Kansas City Royals became the first team this year to clinch their division last night.  It has been 30 years since my Royals have won a division title and it was 30 years ago that they won their only World Championship.  Back in 1985 the Royals played cross state rivals  St. Louis Cardinals that saw the Royals make a miraculous comeback in game 6 to tie the Series at 3 games a piece and then destroyed the Cardinals in game 7 that year.  Remember what I wrote about the Cardinals in the preceding paragraph?  There is a very good chance that 30 years after the Royals put the Cardinals down, the two teams very possibly could meet in the Series once again.  If it isn't the Cubs and the Royals in the Series then I want to see the Cardinals and the Royals playing in the Fall Classic.  Every year I begin the season looking forward to the Royals playing the Cubs in the Series and every year my cousins in St. Louis giggle at me. It is possible my fantasy could come true this year.  Either way, whether it be the Cardinals or the Cubs against the Royals, I would be a happy baseball fan.

Next month my classmates who I graduated with way back in 1975 will get together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that achievement.  Forty years.  Not all of us have made it through life long enough to see this mark in our personal histories.  Several have sadly died.  The first one that I remember finding out that he had died was Hugh Tigner.  Hugh was a friend, as was his little brother Marvin.  There was only a years difference between the two and they were so different physically.  Hugh was tall, about 6-2 or 6-3 and was stocky.  Not plump stocky, but muscular stocky.  He played football and basketball for Ruskin.  Hugh was smart and he was a very easy going young man.  Marvin, on the other hand stood about 5-9 and maybe on a day after a big BBQ he might weigh in at 110 pounds or so.  While Hugh was smart. Marvin was brilliant.  Knowing and interacting with these two friends made it clear that their parents had done a very good job of raising them.  They were very nice, very honest, very easy going and always had time to listen.  Like so many of my other classmates, I lost contact with Hugh and Marvin after leaving school.  I had my career starting and was married the following fall after graduation and so I let that part of my life slip away from me for the most part.  One Saturday, the wife and I were out shopping and to my delight ran into Marvin in one of the stores.  He had that same smile and shook my hand and we started catching up a little.  I asked him how Hugh was doing and Marvin's face dropped.  His eyelids drooped a little and his smile fell into a somber line as his lips locked together.  He said "You didn't hear?  Hugh died in a car wreck last year" and Marvin tilted his head a bit as he looked deep into my eyes to make sure I understood.  Hugh was gone and I did not have a clue that it had happened.  I apologized to Marvin and told him how sorry I was that Hugh was gone.  I told him what a great person I thought Hugh was and he nodded his head silently, still locking his eyes with mine.  He told me it was okay.  He said that yes, he knew Hugh was a good person and that his big brother was the main person he had looked up to his whole life.  We talked a bit more before we parted going our separate ways.  I never saw Marvin again after that but there are times when that moment in my life does revisit me.  It was the kind of moment that you don't forget, when you realize that at anytime, anywhere anything could happen, even to one as young as Hugh was.  There are other classmates that I have learned that have passed on, some that I felt fairly close to, but none of it hit me like the news that Marvin gave me on that day.

You know, I think I will close this entry on that note.  It seems fitting.  I do hope that when my classmates get together next month that they take just a moment to remember those that are not there because life did not allow them to be.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

HISTORY MATTERS - HERITAGE MATTERS

A Wednesday night church meeting in South Carolina is taking place.  A young white male sits and studies the Bible with the predominately black members of the church.  There hasn't been a report on how the young man was treated by the black parishioners, but from my experience in similar situations, I imagine the young man was treated well, respectfully and welcomed into the congregations midst, treated as anybody would expect to be treated when visiting or attending a church function.

Suddenly and without provocation, the young man has a gun in his hand and is shooting randomly at the Minister and church members with one intent in his mind.  That intent is to kill.  Not just kill people, but black people.  When he is finished, nine lie dead with many others injured.  It is a nightmare that this country should be far past from having to even think about.  But we must think about it because minds like this are still being taught hate.  The sad part is that it isn't just white minds being taught hate, but black minds are being taught hate.  Hispanic minds are being taught hate.  Not all though.  That is a mistake we should be certain not to make.  A vast majority of the minds, whether they be Black, White, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, are not being taught hate at all but rather tolerance.  It is but a small minority in each of these communities that is being taught the politics and the living of hate towards others.  This is what needs to change.  The teaching of hate needs to stop.
In July 239 years ago, leaders in what has become the United States of America, decided to break from England and it's empire.  They feared for their lives because after all, at that moment in time, each one of them became a traitor to the throne in England.  Each one of them committed treason under English law and could be put to death.  Any of the colonists who joined in the fight to break from the throne also became traitors and could be hung if caught by the British.  The American flag at that time, which were many and varied depending on where it was located, was a flag of treason.  It was a symbol of insurrection against England.  Today, that flag represents a country that gives citizens the right to stomp on it, burn it, rip it to shreds and is known around the world as a symbol of freedom.  It isn't looked upon as a flag of traitors, but a flag that represents a country that, while making mistakes in policy at times, has come to aid those in crisis, to help free those that long to be free, that leads the world with a government that comes about as close to an utopian society as you will find.  After 239 years, it is no longer considered a flag of treason by the British government or the English Throne.  The American flag is flown in England with respect as any sovereign nation's flag is flown.  England and the United States have been allies, strong allies, for a very long time and will continue to be so.

After the shooting and murders in South Carolina, people began looking for answers to all of the "why" questions.  The obvious answer was that this young 21 year old was a racist.  He was a White Supremest who felt that his race was being run over by minorities and that he was losing rights that were guaranteed him by The Constitution.  It had to be more than that though.  He had a diseased mind that had been infected by the politics and the teaching of hate.  That being said, he was not "insane" when he killed those nine innocents who welcomed him into their Bible study.  He knew what he was doing and he knew what the consequences would be. That is what I believe anyway.  I am sure that will be his defense if he decides to present a defense, much like James Holmes in Colorado is doing for killing twelve random people and injuring dozens of others in a movie theater in 2012.  People who do take this kind of action are not of right mind, but they do understand.

April 9th, 1865.  It has been 150 years since General Robert E. Lee representing the Confederate States of America surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant representing the United States of America.  It was a war that was fought for many reasons, among them the right of each individual state to allow or outlaw slavery in that state.  It was about how much control the Federal Government could hold over a state and how the state laws would have to be aligned with The Constitution of the United States.  It was a terrible war in which many brave men lost their lives fighting for something they felt very compassionate about.  The states that joined the Confederacy were labeled as traitors committing treason against the United States.  The Confederacy fought under many flags and each flag was considered as a sign of the treason these men were committing.  The United States won that war and under an act labeled "reconstruction" confederate soldiers were allowed to come home and and the states that succeeded were once again members of the United States. Reconstruction partially involved the taking of land from plantation owners and former slave owners and giving the newly freed slaves of the south a place to settle and begin life as free men.  The ancestors of the Confederate soldiers and supporters grew up still believing in what their for-fathers fought for.   They were, and still are, proud of not necessarily what the Confederacy stood for or believed, but proud of how their ancestors fought for what they believed in.  The south was and is full of proud ancestors of these men and they do consider it part of their heritage, their family history as well as their state history.  Men proud and brave, putting their lives on the line, knowing they could be put to death for treason if captured and knowing that the chances were good they would die in battle for those beliefs.  It is part of their history and to them, that history is important.
After the American Civil War, as a way to honor their heritage, people who had a family history of fighting for the formation of the Confederate States of America, begin to adopt the Confederate Navy Jack flag to display their pride in what their State has attempted and what their ancestors had died for.  It was flown on flag poles at homes, churches and schools.  Confederate Parades were held to honor those that died for the cause they so much believed in.  Soon the Confederate Navy Jack became the symbol of the post war south in the United States

After the war was over, a group was formed that called themselves the Ku Klux Klan.  Little pockets of these organizations began forming around the south and in 1867 the first meeting was held to establish the Klan as a group under one leader.  As the Klan instituted policies of why they existed it soon grew to be a group that would become a hate group of white individuals who were opposed to the policy of reconstruction and the Federal Government taking of States Rights. It became a violent organization and began harassing and even killing black men and women to send their message of growing hate.  It was long though, before the separate Klan units began fighting among themselves, killing each other and soon the Klan faded away into obscurity although there still existed Klan organizations here and there.  The Klan would be revitalized in 1915 with D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" movie which focused on the Reconstruction policy and the Klan as righting wrongs in the south.  The Klan would never go away again.

It has been 51 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed one of the most important pieces of legislation in the 20th century when he put his signature on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in July of that year.  The hope was that this act would be a giant step forward in erasing the line that divided Black and White Americans.  Theoretically Blacks would be given every right that Whites held in the country.  The right to vote, the right to a sound education, the right and freedom to go and do what they wanted.  It would give blacks access to places that they were barred from earlier.  It wasn't perfect but it was a step in the right direction.   Minorities in the country would still find themselves fighting for basic rights but with the Civil Rights Act in their hand, they had more success than ever before in fighting for those rights.  Three years later in 1967, the Supreme Court would take another giant step in the equality of the races by deciding that interracial marriage could not be hindered under an individual States law prohibiting it.  Loving v Virginia was considered at the time as controversial as same sex marriage is today.  (I am writing this before the Supreme Court rules on  Obergefell v Hodges)
Now the year is 2015.  Over the last 70 years or so, since the mid forties, the Confederate Jack has long been the symbol of southern heritage and pride.  Unfortunately it has also been the symbol of racial hatred and white supremacy.  For many, it is a symbol pride, not of the beliefs necessarily, but of the Confederate soldiers bravery in fighting for something they believed in.  It is a heritage of strength and a heritage of independence.  It is not a symbol of treason to the southern citizen.  It is not a symbol of hatred or bigotry for the majority of southerners.  For many all over the country though, it is indeed a symbol of hate and bigotry and racism.  There is a large portion of Americans who are offended by the flag. Other Americans pledge allegiance to it.  Most of the white Supremacist these days have opted delve into the teachings of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party.  Their flag is not the Confederate Jack, but the Nazi flag which flew over Germany from 1939 to 1945.  Slowly but surely it is the Nazi flag that the race haters and bigots salute.  The Confederate Jack is still there, for sure, but relegated into the background for the most part.  The Confederate Jack is slowly moving back into a symbol of heritage by being replaced by the separatist and white supremacist movements with the Nazi flag.
The "why" questions on the taking of these nine lives in South Carolina turns into an over reactive hunt to find anything that may have influenced this young man's thinking.  The first target that is pointed to is the Confederate Jack.  In South Carolina it is law that the flag be flown on the grounds of the state capitol.  As a target while looking for an answer to "why" the flag is labeled once again as a symbol of hatred, racism and bigotry.  The moment fingers point at the flag it is no longer a symbol of heritage at all and if it is, it is a heritage of hatred, not the personal moral of fighting for something you believe in and a reminder of the history of the state and it's people.
The flag must come down they say and to a degree I do agree with this.  It should not be state law to fly the confederate flag on the grounds of the state house.  I personally believe that only two flags should be flown on any state house in the country.  The State Flag, and the United States Flag.  But now things are getting out of hand.  The Confederate flag should be banned.  As of this morning, Amazon has said it will not sell anything that has a depiction of the confederate flag.  Books could be effected that deal with the history of the war or the south.  The mindset over the last week has become one of get rid of the flag, that symbol of hatred, ban it everywhere and things will be better because that symbol of hate isn't in peoples faces.  That I can not agree with.  The flag, is a part of history, of all the United States History.  Show it.  Respect it's symbolism as a part of a lot of people's heritage and respect it as a symbol of what this country went through and what the outcome was.  No, the Confederate Jack should not be banned and disappear.

Now things are getting even more out of control.  Tear down statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee.  Tear down monuments to confederate soldiers.  Erase any thing that has anything to do with the Civil War or anything that condoned slavery.  Ban the film and the book of "Gone With The Wind". That isn't the answer.  The events and men that these things portray is part of the history of this great nation.  We can't and shouldn't pretend that it never happened.

So where does it stop?  Where does all of this revisionist history lead to?  That is what it is you know, revisionists history.  Rewriting history so it makes you feel good instead of learning from the past and the mistakes and the damage that some policies did to society and to individuals.  Do we go to Stone Mountain, Georgia and dynamite that huge piece of rock that depicts the great Generals of the Confederacy?  Do we simply erase that part of our collective history and the heritage of millions so we can pretend as if these men did not have an impact on our history and our country?

President Washington and President Jefferson both owned slaves.  They condoned slavery and practiced it.  Raze Mount Vernon and Monticello?  Destroy the Washington and Jefferson Monuments in The District?  Do we remove Washington from the dollar bill and quarter and replace Jefferson on the nickel and two dollar bill?  Do we strip them of credit for serving terms as President because of their actions at their homes?

No is the answer to all of these.  Any kind of censorship or banning is a dangerous thing as we step out on slippery slopes.  I would think we would have learned this by now.  We have, for the most part, taken that first step onto the slope by virtually banning the Confederate Jack from ever seeing light of day again.  Will we slide onto destroying any representation of General Lee?  Will Art museums be banned from painting of the General? What about the next slip when all of a sudden Jefferson Davis is gone?  Where is the line drawn?  We have learned that it is very difficult to redraw a line once it has been crossed.

History is important.  It is important as a learning tool so that mistakes are not repeated.  It is important to know history so that progress can continue to be made.  It is important to know who Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis or even George Wallas and Lester Maddox were so we can study the thinking process and the strength and weaknesses of these men.  Robert E. Lee was a great patriot.  He loved the United States, he believed in the United States.  He believed in the Constitution.  He also loved his state of Virginia and the people who made up his neighbors and his kinsmen.  He had a choice to make and it is important for history to be able to tell us what the choice was and why he made it.
Heritage is important.  I have read many writings as of late indicating that the Confederate Jack does not represent heritage, but only hate and bigotry.  I don't buy that.  I believe that there is a heritage in the Confederate states.  I believe that everyone has a heritage that they believe in and are proud of.  These citizens who look upon the Confederate Jack as a symbol of heritage should be allowed to do so.  It shows a heritage of ancestors who truly believed in something, who believed in it so strongly that they risked their lives and fought for what they thought was right.  It is a heritage of pride and they should be able to use that flag to represent their heritage.  It does not mean hate to them.  It does not mean supremacy to them.  To them it means that my ancestors were proud and fought for what they believed in.
The Star Spangled banner was a flag of treason.  It was, indeed, a flag of hate.  It was flag that represented a heritage that included men who believed in something.  It included a heritage of men who risked their very lives for those principles.  It is a symbol of a heritage where ancestors went to war to fight for what they believed in.
Don't re-write history.  Don't control others heritage.  Don't erase things because they make us think of unpleasant parts of our history.  We are who we are because of who they were for better ot worse.  We have progressed and continue to progress.  We take lessons from the past and use them to come up with better ways to accomplish things.

History is too important to be revised or forgotten.  Grasp it.  Claim it.  Teach it.  Learn from it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE

This is a difficult subject that has been  in and out of my brain many times and causes me confusion.  I think we all can agree that life is not fair.  In one way or another, one situation or another life just does not seem to play out fairly.

Life is unfair sometimes when it comes to wealth.  Life can be unfair when it comes to being able to be mentally healthy.  Life can be unfair with just about any situation you can think of.  The part of life that I want to address is the unfairness of life when it comes to health and unfair with the issue of life and death.

To begin with I think I need to state a few things.  I do believe in God.  I believe that we can be saved by God through belief in His Son and that eternal life through this salvation is true.  I am not sure how it all works, however, but I am sure it does.  For example, does God really decides when your time has come?  If He does does this make him a terribly unfair God?  Is there a reason for things that happen, or do we, our human selves, find a reason for things that happen and attribute it to Providence.  I simply have not come to a conclusive realization as to what really happens.  I realize that many of the readers of my blog do not believe the same way I do and so they may look at this subject from a different perspective.

There are so many different starting points on this subject, it is difficult to know where to start.  I suppose the one place to start is to look at a few people who have passed through no fault of their own or others for that matter.  Death visited and took them when they had so much more to give to the world.  I have written about a few of these.  I have written about Alesia Dawn who died in her mid teens of heart failure after being declared healthy and set for a normal life two weeks prior by her doctor.  I have written about Rachel, a young lady in her early twenties who had a tumor in her brain steal her from a world that needs more people as she was.  Both of these young ladies had so much to give, were so loved by families, friends and communities that the logic of losing them seems totally unfair.  I read about teenagers who kill younger children and yet they are allowed to live out a normal life, albeit under capture and in prison, but they are still living while Alesia and Rachel are gone.Is this really fair?  For it to even come close to being fair, there must be a message, a reason for Alesia and Rachel passing and a message or reason for the killer kids to be allowed to live a full life.  While I can look and see a few good things to come about after Alesia and Rachel died, it is difficult for me to see that these things outweigh the impact they would have had on people if they had lived.  Both of them were so special and loving and just plain good.

Another friend I wrote about was Laurie.  She was coming up on middle age when while on a business trip, she died during the night by herself in a hotel room in a strange city.  It was a natural death and made no sense at all.  Laurie was a person who had a great sense of humor and could put a smile on anyone's face.  She loved people and she loved life, yet it was taken from her for reasons that no one knows.  She was just gone.  Meanwhile so many people her same age that cause pain and hurt on humanity continue to go from day to day, out on the streets spreading hate and hurt wherever they go.  It was not fair to Laurie, or the rest of the world to lose her.

I have watched as two of my co-workers lost battles with cancer over the years.  Both of them were my age.  Both of them were very good responsible people who were liked, if not loved, by most people in the office and in their lives.  Why?  They each left a spouse and children behind.

Now I hear of another friend who is apparently entering her final battle with a cancer that she has fought for years.  She spreads love and kindness wherever she goes.  She is an inspiration to those that know her.  She is a helper to members of her family that need her.  She guides nieces and nephews as they try to make their way through life.  And now it looks as though the battle is coming to an end. Someone who has worked so hard to help is rewarded by taking the life they love away.

Stopping a moment to make it clear, I do believe all of these people have been given eternal life by He who promised it to them.  It doesn't ease the pain or the feeling of loss or what they meant to the world to make any sense though,  Not to me.  It is hard for me to understand.

Even when elderly people die, there seems to be an unfairness to it.  We can look at someone who has lived a long life and be thankful that we had them for so long.  The pain and loss is still there but we can look at their lives as a whole and see a whole library of things that they had accomplished and the differences they made.  Then my mind shifts to one man.  One man who is still alive in California and living off of the government and shows no sign of dying.  Charles Manson.  Is it fair that my Uncles have died while Manson continues to thrive and be taken care of and not making any contribution to society or to humankind whatsoever?  There are lots of Mansons out there who continue to make their way through life while others have passed and I am sorry but I would much rather have my aunts and uncles alive and teaching me rather than see a news report on Manson every six months.  Fairness is not present even when an elderly person passes.

Finally, what about the fairness to those who are left behind after the death of a loved one?  I am not sure how I would be able to see others complain about kids or friends or family members when I have lost mine.  I am pretty sure I would feel frustrated, hurt, angry ... all kinds of emotions.

What about a mother who loses her father, has her son take his own life because of bullying, and loses her husband when they have only had thirty years or so together?  Then her daughter and another son fall ill while she tries to continue on and keep the family together?  It isn't her fault to have all these things befall her and it certainly isn't fair when looking at other families around who cause trouble and are what some would describe as pure evil.

Life is not fair when it comes to matters of life and death.  I am not sure why I felt compelled to write this other than to express my own confusion at the seemingly randomness of it all, and the random feeling makes it feel so unfair.

This is a confusing writing I know.  It is just thoughts flying off the top of my head and going down to the keys.  More or less, I think this is to serve me as a starting point in which to be able to think about these things and try to come to an understanding.  I am not sure if understanding it is possible though.

I don't care so much for my life.  It is something in my head that makes me feel that I would be happy to trade places with Alesia or Rachel or Laurie or anybody I know that is being taken unfairly.  Each time I hear of someone and my head says "that is SO unfair" the next thought is immediately "Let me take their place".  Let the world receive all that they have to give.  It is much more than I have to give.

This is just a starting off point, I think, in my quest to make sense of things.  To understand.  I know it doesn't make sense, but then again, you all get a first hand look into my mind and the way it thinks.

Maybe this will help me.  Maybe it will help you.  Maybe it will make us all just stop and think a little.  I don't know.

Monday, March 30, 2015

AMERICAN FLAG OUTLAWED IN SCHOOL?

When I first saw the headline my first thought was "surprise surprise, proud to be an American is not acceptable."  Then I started reading the article and what I read absolutely stunned me.  The article came from the Los Angelas Times (not known for conservative viewpoints at all) and seemed to lay out the facts in a straight forward manner.

The problem arose on May 5, 2010.  The Latino community celebrates this day as Cinco de Mayo.  As part of the teaching of diversity in our world, Cinco de Mayo has become a day that I would wager almost every public school "celebrates".  On the surface this seems like a fairly good idea, at least an idea that I have tried not to slap down except when it gets out of control.  I approve of teaching diversity of ALL cultures.  I think if we are going to teach diversity, it should not be limited to only black culture or latino culture.  I think Irish culture should be taught in March.  St. Patricks Day is as big of an event for the Irish as Cinco de Mayo is for latinos.  Canadian culture should be taught on the second Monday in October to teach Canadian Thanksgiving, or whatever Canadians consider to be their big holiday is.  May Day for Russian Culture, whatever culture has a big day that celebrates the culture in and of itself.  Cinco de Mayo certainly attains that status.

Here is what happened as far as I can understand.  This little school in Northern California decided to hold it's annual Cinco de Mayo parade and celebration in 2009.  The Latino students unfurled a Mexican flag and paraded proudly around the school with it high in the air celebrating what they consider their culture.  In a display that exhibited the need for the teaching of diversity, some non-latino students took offense at the waving of the Mexican flag in their faces and began to shout who knows what at the parading students.  This wasn't right and this would have been a prime time to actually TEACH diversity to some of these kids who took offense at others pride in their heritage.  That may have happened, I am not sure.

Move ahead one year to May 5, 2010.  Once again Cinco de Mayo was on the calender to be celebrated as a tool for showing and teaching the diversity that is the United States.  Some students that weren't Latino decided it would only be fair to display their own pride in the face of a foreign flag being paraded about the school campus and so they donned white t-shirts with the American flag displayed across the chest.  These shirts did not have any racists remarks, American slogans, as a matter of fact they carried no words at all.  Just a simple American flag across the chest.

The latino students were outraged.  They shouted at the kids with the flag shirts calling them racists among other unsavory things.  The school administration anticipating feelings growing to a point of where it could be out of control and possibly bring on some physical confrontations called the kids with the American Flag shirts up to the office and told them to turn their shirts inside out or go home.  Two students decided to stand on principle and go home instead of giving in to crowd that felt this apparently was not a day that being American should be celebrated.

Has anyone heard of the First Amendment?  The Supreme Court has upheld all kinds of cases involving the displaying of the American flag as a First Amendment right.  From hair scarfs displaying the Stars and Stripes to underwear.  It is a right to wear shoes or to make a work of art that displays the American flag with either a positive or a negative message.  When I read this story this morning I was stunned, although I suppose I shouldn't have been.

SCOTUS has allowed the Confederate flag to be displayed freely as a first amendment right although there is an exception.  They would prefer that states do not use the Stars and Bars as part of their state flag in an official manner, which I can understand.  Mississippi got around this ruling by designing a new state flag that included the display, in miniature of all the previous state flag of the state, which happened to include a couple of stars and bars renditions.  The Confederate flag can be argued as being a part of southern heritage, but it is so offensive to a great deal of the American population that it was decided not to allow it as part of State Seals, flags and the sort.  I get that.  I actually agree with it.  However, the average American citizen can display the Confederate flag in any way he wants as often as he wants.

The Nazi flag which displays a swastika can be paraded through the streets by groups of White supremacists through Skokie, Illinois, a highly populated Jewish town outside of Chicago.  Any national flag of any country may be displayed as part of a private display by a citizen of the United States.  Some of these flags do offend certain people and it is understandable that they do.  However part of living and being a citizen in this great country is the fact that you have the right to do so.

When I was young and just a little dimmer than I am now, I came across a basketball jersey that had USSR emblazoned across the front of it.  No surprise it was on sale and so I bought it and wore it to several pick up games that I played in with a church related activity.  I could be told that it wasn't cool and that I should not be proud of it, but it was an Olympic year after Nixon had reach accords with the USSR and I more or less felt it was okay.  No one could tell me NOT to wear it though.  I eventually set it aside and haven't worn it for years.  It sits in the bottom of one of my drawers, just another reminder of my rebellious youth.  In other countries I may have been turned in to the authorities and prosecuted, but not in this country.  This country is special.

The purpose in me writing this is simply to say it is an affront to American history, American culture and The Constitution to strip those kids of their first amendment rights by not allowing them to wear a shirt that simply displayed the flag of their own country because it may offend some kids who are waving a foreign flag around the campus.  If they do not want violence on that school campus, then do away with the parade celebrating the holiday.  Instead focus on teaching the diversity within the classroom forum.  The Latino kids should be able to wear shirts with the Mexican flag on it just as other kids should be able to wear a shirt with the American flag on it.  In my opinion, if you are going to stomp on someones first amendment rights, it should not be the kids who display the American flag.

Right now, SCOTUS is reviewing the case to decide whether to hear oral arguments later in the term or to let the 9th circuits ruling stand and not hear arguments.  I sincerely hope the Supreme Court does decide to hear the case.  It needs to be heard.  It needs to send out a message that the first amendment covers everyone, those who are proud of their foreign history and heritage and those that are simply proud to be an American.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SHORT BIOGRAPHY FINAL PART - WRAPPING UP A SOUL

This is a story.  A story of love and life and a story of confusion and chaos.  It is story of a search for meaning and a story of coming to terms with truth and reality.  It is a story of one person that is driven and run by all others.  It is a search for freedom and a search for a hitching post in the form of a friend.  It is a story of losing and being lost, a story of surrender to forces beyond control.

He sits and looks around him.  He remembers his past and tries to look into the future but that is a difficult thing to do.  The future does not reveal itself to him as the only words his mind tells him is that this is it.  There isn't much to look forward to.  All there is to do is to carry on day to day, month to month, year after year until his own soul tires of being stuck here and departs in death.

It does not scare him, death that is.  Inside his mind he knows what will happen to his soul as death pushes it aside from the shell it now resides in.  All the changes in his life, he thinks, have been completed.  He is done with new experiences and new revelations.  His schedule, his agenda is now set for him until that time comes.

He is told by his therapist to seek out new things so he stops, sits and thinks about things that he would want to do before the finish comes.  He draws a blank in his mind.  What needs to be done has been done.  What gifts life had to offer him had already been given, taken and used up.  Now was the time to live out his life by rote.  Day after day, month after month and year after year.

Life hadn't been that bad he thinks.  He can look back and see specific times when he could hold his head up and times when he hung his head in shame.  It all seems to have balanced out he tells himself.  Maybe Sir Isaac's theories were more than just a physics excersize. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Life was like that.  Or maybe life was like the tides rolling in and rolling out, having high points and low points. good times and sad times.  Everything equals out in the end.  The idea is to enjoy as much as you can and set aside those things that you can't enjoy.  He should be able to push those times, the low tide as it were, out of his memory.  He wasn't able to do that though.  His soul had a memory that did not let anything escape and so he was stuck with the whole package.

Just work through the responsibilities and everything else day after day, month after month, year after year until the time came when he wouldn't have to anymore.

This was it.  This was all there was.  He had survived so far, now all he had to do was continue to the finish line.  He can't see the finish line though.  He wanted to see it but for now it seemed forever distant.

And so it goes.  Day after day, month after month and long year after long year .....
Day after day, month after month and long year after long year .....
Day after day, month after month and long year after long year .....
Day after day, month after month....
Day after day, month after month....
Day after day, month after month....
Day after day....
Day after day....
Day after day...............................
Ascending and Descending - M.C. Escher