Archive for the Social Commentary Category

THAT OLD TIME RELIGION

In ancient times, religious zealots such as myself would exile themselves to remote desert locations, away from secular and sinful cities, in the hope that a higher power would speak to them in an unmistakable voice of moral clarity. For the past few months, I have followed that ascetic trail blazed by our religious forebearers. I have attempted to avoid the temptations of Summit and Millburn, New Jersey. However, I did succumb, on only two occasions to the evil offerings of New York City where it is widely known that the Devil himself lives. His last known address was in Greenwich Village or on York Avenue at 87th Street. I have paid a heavy price for yielding to temptation by my visits to the Big Apple. And so I now find myself wringing my hands and staring at my shoes. I suppose this is the price of martyrdom.

When I emerged from my desert exile, I enjoyed an enormous belly laugh when that eminent theologian George W. Bush, said that Sharon was “a man of peace.” Jay Leno and David Letterman would pay enormous sums to have a joke writer supply them with lines that say Sharon is a “man of peace.” Always the comic, Bush uttered that line the day before he met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which greatly angered and offended his Saudi visitor. But he always does this. Remember his reference to his “crusade” in the Middle East? Well, old comedians never die it appears. When that line is repeated to survivors in Ramallah and in the Jenin Refugee Camp, I’m sure that Palestinians are rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bush’s “Man of Peace” is matched by an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills. Last year, it is alleged, on solid grounds, that the ophthalmologist fondled the breasts of four women patients. The Essex County Prosecutor sent an undercover policewoman to him to have her eyes examined. She became the fifth woman he fondled. He contends that the fondling takes place in a search for future eye problems, so the five women ought to appreciate his concern for the future health of their eyes.

My belief is that the Short Hills ophthalmologist has as much chance of discovering future eye problems by his fondling as Sharon has of becoming a “Man of Peace.” It seems to me that their future achievements under these circumstances are exactly the same which is nada, nil, zero or something less than nothing. As a matter of interest, I am completely blind in my left eye as a result of the ministrations of this same Short Hills ophthalmologist. And he never looked at my chest for signs of upcoming eye trouble. That is a troubling oversight.

A further thought strikes me about Bush’s “Man of Peace.” Punishing the entire Palestinian people for resisting the occupation and for suicide bombing is a lot like wiping out the Catholic hierarchy because priestly abuse of children was wide spread. Bush may turn his “Man of Peace” loose on the Catholics when he is finished with the Palestinians.

Now while Bush’s faux pas is still current, we have Muslim apologists saying that in the Arabic language, Islam means peace. The Muslim translators should have gotten together with Bush on their definitions of peace. When the Palestinians invaded the Passover Seder meal in Natanya and killed 28 people, remember it was all done in the name of Islam, which means peace.

So you see between Bush and the Muslims, this old geezer is greatly confused. So far no unmistakable voice of moral clarity has spoken to me.

Not to be outdone in this duel of comedic endeavors, the Roman Catholic church had a meeting in Rome chaired by the Pope himself. The purpose of the meeting, which featured cardinals from the United States, was to determine what the Catholic stance should be with respect to priests sexually abusing children.

I am forced to ask you this question. The church has been around for perhaps 2000 years. Children have been attending school and mass at Catholic churches for the same period of time. An ordinary person would have to suspend belief to come to the conclusion that in the year 2002, the Pope would call a meeting to determine how the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Church should deal with priests who prey on children. And that’s only the beginning. There is no unanimity in the hierarchy on whether a priest should be chastised or punished if he is caught with a small boy in the priest’s rectory bed.

Some of the cardinals say if it happened a while ago, the church should forget all about it and wipe the slate clean. Others say if a priest slips his vows and makes only a pass at two or three children, and if he shows signs of redemption, he should be kept on. As my lawyer daughter who offers her theological thoughts under the signature of “The Attorney” says, “If a priest molests a whole choir full, then action probably ought to be taken”. Reading Archbishop Myers’ statement of April 29, 2002, it is far from clear that there is unanimity in the American Catholic view about punishment or chastisement. Myers is the Archbishop of Newark and is charged with drafting the statement to be offered to American bishops when they meet in Dallas in June of this year. Myers is an ultra right-winger who has made few friends here since arriving from Peoria, Illinois.

So you see that the great theologian Bush and Islamic leaders don’t come out at the same place when it comes to Peace. After 2000 years, Roman Catholics apparently don’t know which end is up and the Pope and his Curia are not giving the American branch of the church much help. I am using WD40 on my hands to try to prevent excessive chafing as the Catholic mess causes me to wring my hands even harder.

Late last week (April 26, 2002) Mike Barnicle, a well known columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program. Both men are Catholics. In a spirited colloquy, both men denounced the statement coming from Rome after the American Cardinals meeting saying that the hierarchy was “covering up.” The cover up had to do with homosexuality according to these two Catholics. The fear is that high level members of the hierarchy of the church will be exposed as homosexuals.

This is a very real fear. Even Monsignor Wilton Gregory, Chairman of the American Bishops Conference, says that Catholic seminaries are filled by gay priests. Gay seminarians go on to become priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. In several studies published by respected journals, it is estimated that between 35% and 50% of Catholic priests are homosexual. And no one from the hierarchy seeks to deny those figures. Not Egan, not Law, not the Pope and certainly not Archbishop Myers of Newark.

Mary Murphy is a long time television reporter and commentator now working for Channel 11 in New York City. She is greatly respected. Mary is a Catholic who spent part of her honeymoon in Rome to sit in the audience to hear the Pope and to receive his blessing. She is a product of New York City’s parochial schools. In short, she is not a latecomer to the Catholic faith.

Mary Murphy has been following the story of gay priests for a year or so. In two interviews last week (April 26) Murphy had extended discussions with an ordained priest who appeared without hiding his identity. He simply had two frank discussions with Mary Murphy about homosexual priests. His estimates ran higher than the 35% to 50% of priests who are homosexual. This priest says pretty flatly that at least 50% of the priests he knows around New York City are gay.

When asked what contributed to this surprising figure, the priest said homosexual men, who wished to conceal their gayness, joined the priesthood to avoid answering the question about why aren’t you married. The priesthood takes care of that question very neatly.

The gayness of the priesthood has been going on for many years, perhaps for centuries. It is quite likely that homosexual men are now serving as bishops, monsignor’s, cardinals and perhaps as popes. What baffles me completely is the unrelenting assault on gays in the priesthood by high level church authorities. On Sunday, April 28, 2002 the number two man at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Monsignor Eugene V. Clark, delivered a long homily attacking gays in every direction. His homily was so vigorous that his boss, Cardinal Egan, said that Monsignor Clark spoke only for himself. Clark’s diatribe was roundly denounced as gay bashing.

But Clark was not alone. One of the cardinals spoke from Rome and said that the United States Church should not ordain any more homosexuals and should “root out” the ones it has. So you can see why this old grizzled religious zealot is both confused and amused. If we are going to “root out” 50% of the U. S. priesthood, who will be left to bless new fire houses and pizza parlors?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has for years banned gay men and women marching under their own sign which identifies them as gay Irish men and women. How curious that the priests and hierarchy of the church seem to support gayness in their clergy – but certainly not in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Mychal Judge was a bit of a hero who gave his life in the World Trade Center debacle on September 11th. He was a firehouse Chaplain and he was gay. He seemed to be an alright guy by any measurement. Should Mychal Judge have been “rooted out”? I don’t think so.

The Roman Church is horribly out of touch with the real world as it exists in the 21st Century. The bishops, and cardinals, and the pope wearing their funny hats and medieval costumes don’t play well in modern circumstances. In the old days, the priests and the hierarchy could wear their bizarre hats and costumes and speak in Latin which may have awed and impressed peasants in the year 1002. It doesn’t play well today – but the church hierarchy has not tumbled to that obvious fact.

The Protestants, particularly the Fundamentalists, are not about to give the world stage to the Jews, the Muslims and the Catholics. In their unschooled and boisterous manner, several Protestants are demanding their time in the spot light.

In the civilized world, or in the totalitarian world, the absolute worst situation comes about when religion and politics are meshed. That is exactly what Bush is trying to do to please his conservative supporters. Consider the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where Islam is part and parcel of the ruling parties. Consider Spain, Ireland and Italy where no government can survive without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church. Consider the government of India and Bangladesh where Hindu acceptance is required. And I suppose no government of Israel would survive without the blessings of the Jewish faith.

This is exactly where Bush is taking the United States Government. He has appointed born again Christians to important posts in his administration. Consider that Assemblies of God Evangelist masquerading as U. S. Attorney General who had a significant announcement recently. In a February, 2002 speech, Ashcroft proclaimed: “We are a nation called to defend freedom – a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God.”

Frank Rich, the New York Times writer, says, “So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a.k.a. the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department’s statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our Attorney General is trying to superseded civil law on the grounds that he’s exercising the Lord’s Will what ever he does.”

The former Vice President of N. W. Ayer, Howard Davis, who directed AT&T’s advertising efforts, is another native Missourian. Howard and I regard Ashcroft as the ultimate embarrassment to the State of Missouri. But as Ashcroft said on other occasions, God is guiding him. And Bush picked him as U. S. Attorney General and is promoting him as a star of the Administration. This non-believer finds himself in great need of prayer.

An important theological thought intrudes here. For centuries, Christians and particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at the behest of Jews. Never mind that Emperor Pontius Pilate was calling the signals from Rome. An article of faith with Christians is that Jews killed Jesus and let’s not deal with conflicting opinions. They did it and the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find solace in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Now if Ashcroft and Bush believe that Jews killed Jesus, as they have to do, do you think that they understand that Ariel Sharon is a Jew? As a non-believer, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am an interested observer only. But I doubt that dim bulbs like Bush and Ashcroft and their political cronies have made this connection.

Howard Davis and your essayist are greatly embarrassed that Ashcroft hails from Missouri, which is generally believed to be the reincarnation of the Garden of Eden.

Bush has a stalwart in the House from that center of culture, Sugarland, Texas. Tom DeLay, one of the sponsors of Clinton’s impeachment, is the star performer. Here are two paragraphs from Alan Cooperman, a staff writer from the Washington Post. He says:

“House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) told Evangelical Christians last week (April 20, 2002) that only Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life. Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, on April 12, DeLay said that God is using him to promote a ‘biblical world view’ in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment in part because the Democratic President held ‘the wrong world view’.” (italics mine)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the question of ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ DeLay said, ‘Only Christianity offers a way to understand the physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

So let us say you were a law-abiding Jew who lives in DeLay’s district in Texas. Do you think you would find a sympathetic listener in DeLay if you had a problem? Or, do you think he would inform you to drop your Jewishness and turn to Christianity? DeLay is the most important Republican figure in the United States House of Representatives. As I said in the case of Ashcroft, let us pray.

DeLay is joined by the Republican Majority Leader of the House, Dick Armey, who said on April 30, 2002 on the “Hardball” show, that Palestinians should leave the West Bank. He said that other Arab countries should give them some place in their deserts to establish their homeland. His apology later was unconvincing and demeaning. The Texans, Bush, Armey and DeLay, know how to fix all the problems of the Middle East.

Now we have a know-nothing clown from Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, a Republican, who took the floor of the Senate to announce that the September 11th attacks were retribution from God because God was not pleased with U. S. policy toward Israel. He said, “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the U. S. A. is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israeli’s not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorists…” Obviously, this is a slam at Bush the Omnipotent Theologian who is allegedly guiding our Republican Government.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense periodical says, “In other words, on September 11th, God allowed airlines to be piloted into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because United States’s actions were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe’s words about a spiritual door being opened for the attack.”

When it comes to intellectual capacity, I am sure that Inhofe has a good future ahead of him as a rodeo clown who distracts bulls that want to gore thrown rough riders. Inhofe also claims that God (He or She) gave the West Bank to the Jewish people because Inhofe read it in the King James Version of the Bible. He is not a preacher; he is one of 100 Senators sitting at the top of the United States Government structure. So once again, let us pray.

Now we have Billy Graham who seems to have given us his twisted spiritual guidance for many, many years. After recordings of Nixon’s miserable thoughts came to light, the Right Reverend Billy Graham was recorded as saying some pretty prejudicial remarks about Jews. Billy at his advanced age offered sort of an apology. Doesn’t he know that the head man of the Christian faith was a Jew? Billy wasn’t up to a convincing apology so he turned the job over to Franklin Graham, his son and designated successor as the head of Billy Graham Enterprises. Now let us return to Frank Rich of The Times.

“His son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father’s mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to ‘liberalism’, not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham’s disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s pseudo apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the September 11th attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher ups.”

This is probably enough to make my point that when politics are mixed with religion, democracy suffers. And it also suffers when religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms. Religion has to do with faith; the lawyers have to deal with facts and reality. Let me give you an example of how legal practice clashes with moral concepts in our society of the 21st century.

We have here two young brothers, Robert and Phillip Young, who served as altar boys here in New Jersey. They contend – and nobody has denied their claim – that as “many as 15 priests and numerous church officials” abused them and forced them to engage in sexual acts between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the young brothers underwent this abuse, they were 12 to 17 year old boys. They were given two threats if they told about their treatment. They were told that no one would believe them if they implicated a priest, and they were told that the Church would excommunicate them. This last action carries several severe penalties. For example, an excommunicated member cannot be married by the Church. He may not receive communion. He may not be buried in so called “holy ground” at Catholic cemeteries. There are other penalties as well, but I suppose this is enough to give the reader an idea of the severity of excommunication.

All young children are intimidated by the threats of the clergy. The two young brothers had every reason to fear for their immortal soul. As a result, they failed to report the abuse to the authorities in time for legal punishment to follow. In New Jersey, where the Young brothers lived, the statute of limitation is two years, generally speaking. They were about six years late in filing their suit.

When the case was finally heard, the decision went against the young brothers on the grounds that they had not come in during the statute of limitations. In making this painful decision, which was delivered on
May 3, 2002, a Superior Court Judge had some searing words for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever motivated the young brothers to file their suit – money or the exposure of a moral and legal wrong – the Church used “legal hard ball” to defend its interests, even though the “scourge of sexual abuse” was involved.

That is pretty strong language from a Superior Court Judge. The Judge went on to say, “Even though the Church was within its legal rights to defend itself, the Church’s position on this matter is at odds with its stance as a moral force in society. From where I sit, legal hardball doesn’t seem quite right.”

I think Superior Court Judge John Himmelbarger said it all. When religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms, both the law and religion are demeaned.

Now if you want to read a little more about the Roman Catholic problems with moral issues, please read the Saturday May 4, 2002 Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times. It will be well worth your while.

So much for the transgressions of our religious establishment. Let us go back to the beginning. The United States Government started out as a secular government which wanted to do away with the excesses of King George the III. Well now we have a King George W. who wants to impose his own brand of bizarre Christianity upon the American people. And unbelievably, Jews by the thousands in the United States have cast their lot with him simply because he is backing a complete madman. Ariel Sharon is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

This is serious business. For many years, I have supported Barry Lynn who directs the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Curiously, Lynn is a preacher, but he runs a superb organization attempting to deal with the likes of Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay, Inhofe and their cronies who insist that this government reflect primitive Christian values. Any attempt to introduce multicultural values is rejected as unchristian. If it doesn’t fit with Tom DeLay’s “Christian World View,” it should be abolished and destroyed.

The main reason for my belief in non-belief has to do with Protestant preachers espousing their arrant nonsense, such as we find with the Texas politicians. As a child, I rejected their theology. As an adult, I simply hold them in contempt. How else would you deal with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and James Inhofe? They are dubious human beings.

(As I said, I have long supported Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If its efforts interest you, they can be reached at 518 “C” Street, N. E., Washington, D. C., 20002-5810.)

I know that religion provides a comfort to believers. I know that some who practice religion look forward to eternal life. And I know that many world figures, particularly politicians, believe that God has had a strong hand in their success.

For many years, I have come to the conclusion that in the field of human affairs, religion is not necessarily a unifying force at all. It is often a divisive force. Consider the Catholic-Protestant split in Ireland. Consider the case of Israel and the Palestinians where war is our current reward. Consider the situation in India where everyone has had a shot at war including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Christians as well as the Animists. And if you give credence to Osama Bin Laden and some of his Arab followers, there is a Holy War going on against the largely Christian population of the United States. Religion has not unified any of these competing nationalities. On the contrary, it is often a divisive and a destructive force.

If I look in the Bibles of my parents for comfort on this score, I am rewarded by the words of Paul who seems to come out four square for good conduct and for slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as you would obey Christ.” Another Bible of my parents says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. Both of these citations are from versions of the King James rendition of the New Testament. See Ephesians VI, Verse 5. (underlining mine)

When it comes to religious matters, I find myself convinced that my belief in non-belief is absolutely right for me. If it is alright with Paul, I hold that belief with fear and trembling. It sets me apart from clowns such as DeLay, Armey, Bush, Inhofe and Ashcroft. So let us pray.

E. E. CARR
May 2, 2002

~~~

I feel like the 2000s have been one case study after another in “obvious times that major powers are on the wrong side of history.” We just have seen this again with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord. We saw it plenty of other times with this shit in the early 2000s, with everyone who opposed gay marriage, last year for Trump voters generally, etc. Maybe it’s always like that; certainly pretty much all progress has had to come over the loud objections of the Delays and Inhofes of any era you choose. And it always seems to come from older generations, too — it seems like for every year you’re alive, the probably that you’re just utterly backwards with regard to social issues seems to skyrocket. That never seemed to impact Pop, though. Maybe when I get old enough I’ll remember writing this and stop being a stick in the mud about whatever clear progressive goal my generation is holding up at the time.

MY HUSBAND ESSAYETTE NO. 3

I don’t watch much television these days, being confined to the dialogue. But in noodling around the television, I ran into a program featuring an interview involving two homosexual men. From what I could gather, the two men have been together for more than 20 years and a crisis has now arisen. It seems that one of them has contracted AIDS and that the other one is subject to deportation by the Immigration authorities and seems likely to be deported.

While I grieve for the person who has the problem of AIDS and who has the problem of deportation, my interest went to another factor. Apparently they have become married out of love for each other. This is a development that I support. Straight people can marry; why should not there be a provision for marriage between homosexuals? During the interview, there were constant references to the other partner as being called “my husband.” This was a bit jarring to me, that each of them referred to the other partner as “my husband.”

Perhaps I have been influenced by those right-wingers who contend that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But the constant references to “my husband” were a bit jarring to me.

In a marriage between two heterosexuals, generally speaking the wife does the cooking, supports her husband, and provides him with sexual relief. In this long-standing homosexual arrangement, apparently there is no wife at all. I am quite certain, or it is my belief, that one or the other of the homosexual males provides those services to the other. As for the references, I suspect that I have been taken in or influenced by the right-wingers who contend that a marriage is between one man and one woman.

The references to “my husband” bring to mind the slip of the tongue by Condoleezza Rice who once referred to George W. Bush as “my husband.” I am sure that Mrs. Bush would lay a prior claim to George W. Bush and that she has the wedding certificate to prove it. In the long term, I support gay marriage even though I am as straight as a man can be, I believe. But my curious nature is aroused by two partners in a marriage, each one calling the other partner “my husband.” Clearly, perhaps what is needed is a new term combining the best aspects of “my wife” and/or “my husband.” If Condoleezza Rice can make a mistake by calling George Bush her husband, I see no reason why any new term applying to the homosexual community would be objectionable.

I have heard of the other partner being referred to as “my roommate” and “my partner.” These are not inspiring terms. Perhaps we should pay attention to the relationship between two lesbians as a clue as to what the other partner should be called, but at the moment, I will await to hear from my readers as to their suggestions. If a new term could be invented as a result of Ezra’s Essays, I would be more than happy to hear of it.

E. E. CARR
August 15, 2011

~~~

I don’t actually see the issue with “husband” — and I think the ‘generally speaking’ part of this essay is maybe a little dated. I guess some concessions have to me made for age, though. His heart was clearly in the right place with this one.

ESSAYETTE NO. 4 MULTIPLE HUSBANDS

I have just finished dictating a small essayette on husbands in a homosexual arrangement referring to each other as my husband. From that point it is logical to proceed to the Mormon practice of polygamy. As a means of getting Utah into the United States, the Mormons were forbidden to take multiple wives in the practice of polygamy.

I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.

But in the interest of fair play, what is wrong with women having multiple husbands? Man has practiced polygamy for years, but, again, in the interest of fair play, one should believe that religion or some custom should dictate multiple husbands for each woman.

This is a suggestion which I believe will not be taken seriously by the powers that be, but I think it has a great deal of merit. I do not buy the argument on the right wing that marriage is between one man and one woman. We can accept the practice of homosexual relationships. What would be wrong with a woman having multiple husbands? I am not interested in a confrontation over this point but it seems to me that in the interest of fair play, females have a right to contend that they are being unfairly treated. For myself, I have one wife and she has one husband. It suits both of us pretty good. I believe that the idea of multiple husbands is a thought that is worthy of consideration. Significantly, I do not believe that any religious organization would take up the cause. Apparently, the idea that multiple wives or polygamy is practiced may draw some shame from the religious authorities. But in any case, the final analysis seems to be that one wife and one husband is the ideal arrangement. That is all well and good, but even here, my vocabulary is so limited that I would not be able to find a term for multiple husbands. And so I leave you there on this essayette, pondering whether the idea of multiple husbands is worthwhile.

E. E. CARR
August 15, 2011

~~~

Very egalitarian, per usual.

Worth noting: this essayette was not completely finalized, and I think that deserves a disclaimer. Pop may not have been happy with me for publishing something that wasn’t completely up to his standards, but I think it was worth putting on the site regardless, because the message is good. There are a lot of double standards out there, and the very fact that the word “polyamory” (just meaning ‘many loves’) generally will first bring to mind a one-man-multiple-women scenario means that it’s worth questioning this sort of thing.

Here’s the unfinished section in particular; I redacted the second sentence. If anyone can guess what he meant and could fill in the word in question, that’d be very appreciated!
I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. I am certain that capsites (?) meaning multiple wives are legion. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.

IT’S ALL HAPPENED AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

About four miles south of this house is a major highway. It is called Highway 22. If one were to leave this house and turn left upon reaching Highway 22, it would eventually lead to the Holland Tunnel and New York City. If, on the other hand, the driver were to elect to make a right turn, he would find himself eventually in Pennsylvania and Ohio and environs further west. In recent years, a new highway has been constructed that leads to the Holland Tunnel which was supposed to relieve the high-density traffic on Highway 22. That to a large extent has been accomplished, but Highway 22 still carries a major amount of traffic and it proceeds at high speeds.

On each side of Highway 22, there are small business establishments, set back about 50 feet from the highway. Generally speaking, those business establishments have graveled driveways on which parked cars may be placed. As a general proposition, I believe it is fair to conclude that these are the places for mid-to-low-level retail commercial establishments. Along Highway 22 you will find none of the high class stores that are on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue in New York City. Because of the speed of passing automobiles, when one wishes to enter Highway 22 from one of these business establishments, it is a matter of proceeding to 50 or 60 miles an hour in a very short period of time. Because of the graveled driveways, this results in gravel being strewn behind the departing cars.

The business establishments along Highway 22 on this stretch of New York City suburbs are not of an elite character. There are pawn shops, stores that deal in pornography, discount tire manufacturers, and stores of a similar nature. About the only saving grace is that Highway 22 is the home of one car dealership selling BMW cars. That dealership is the jewel of the Highway 22 business empire.

Now you realize that for better or worse, my eyesight is completely and irretrievably gone. Nonetheless, if I were to conclude – as I probably never will – that I needed a fire arm to protect myself and my loved ones, I would head for the business establishments along Highway 22 because that is where I am sure there are dealers who will sell guns and ammunition. Upon reaching the parking lot of such a dealer in guns and ammunition, my wife would park the car and I would alight wearing my sunglasses and using my sturdy white cane. The sunglasses and the white cane are used to announce to the world that there is a blind man in their midst. I do not do this as a means of seeking pity. Of course not. I do it as a courtesy to people who can see, so that they will know that there is a non-sighted person in their midst. If I wanted pity, I would not go to a gun dealership on Highway 22 to find it.

Once the car is parked, my wife would come to the right side and I would extend the walking cane into the walking position. We would then enter the place that sold ammunition and guns. When we reached the inside of the gun dealership, we would attempt to find a clerk to help us.

Now as a general proposition, very often the clerks ignore me and speak to my wife as though I did not exist. The clerk, seeing the sunglasses and the white cane, might very well say to my wife, “Is this man mentally sane?”

Inevitably my wife would say to the man, “Talk to him. He can talk.” And so it would be that the clerk would ask me if I had ever been committed to a mental institution. I would tell him that of course that had not been part of my background. I would assure the clerk that I am not insane and that insanity is not a characteristic of the Carr family.

Then I would ask the clerk for a Glock automatic handgun and an extended ammunition clip of bullets to go with it. If I understand correctly, the Glock has ten bullets in the chamber plus one in the firing position. But the extended ammunition clip provides 20 or 30 more bullets to shoot. Now that we have established that I am not a recent graduate of a mental institution, the clerk and I might make a bit of small talk. He might ask me what use I intend to make of the Glock handgun. I would tell him that I intended to protect my wife and myself and more often than not would shoot at cans in the back yard for target practice. Now mind you, if I understand the law correctly, and I believe I do, that is the only question the gun dealership clerks can ask before selling a weapon and ammunition to customers. Whether the clerk believes that I can hit a can for target shooting is beside the point. I contend that I am not insane and the clerk is obliged to sell the gun as well as the extended ammunition clip to me.

That is the state of the record in every state in this great and glorious union. In the state of Virginia, which is not far from here, I conclude that people who sell guns with ammunition are not even obliged to ask the questions about insanity.

Obviously what precedes the subject of this essay is the ease with which Americans are able to buy guns. Some of those Americans are mentally incompetent. But that is not the concern of people who make ammunition and guns. Their intent is to sell as many guns as possible, even to the drug cartels in Mexico, because it looks a lot better on their bottom line.

As you are aware, last Saturday, January 8, there was a shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and a number of others were gravely wounded. Among those killed was a nine-year-old girl named Christina Taylor Green as well as a federal judge. Among those wounded was an Arizona Congresswoman named Gabrielle Giffords. But this mentally unbalanced gunman was shooting without rhyme or reason and if he hit a nine-year-old girl or a 70-year-old jurist, so be it.

On Wednesday, January 12, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, went to Tucson to participate in a memorial service for those who were slain and those who were injured. Mr. Obama made a speech that was well received by observers covering the entire political spectrum. I listened to that speech and came away wondering why Obama did not mention the thought that an insane man or a mentally imbalanced person could buy a gun with an extended ammunition clip. As I have said, his speech was well received by all factions in the political spectrum but not so much by this old soldier.

The obvious fact is that a gunman used a Glock semi-automatic weapon to shoot his victims. But there was not a single mention of taking those guns away from the mentally incompetent, even from cowboys who love to “pack heat.” There is a very good reason why Obama left this out of his speech. He knows, as do most all other politicians, that to criticize gun ownership is to criticize the National Rifle Association. If such criticism occurs, the NRA strikes back and uses its enormous resources to defeat any such politician who has the intent to step out of line. Let me state this a little more clearly. The NRA is, in my estimation, a sinister force. According to the NRA, citizens may carry fire arms concealed or in the open. If the NRA had its way, every citizen of this country and perhaps the non-citizens as well would be armed. Any move by a politician to impose sensible limits on the use of guns arouses antagonism from the NRA. They will convert that antagonism into votes at the next election. To criticize the NRA is to jeopardize the source of your income.

Look at it this way. The past few years that the gun restrictions have been largely removed from legislation, there have been dozens of incidents in which people who are unbalanced mentally or who have a political agenda such as those who advocate jihadist thoughts, have committed mass killings. Here is a very very partial list.

You may remember Major Akbar at Fort Wood, Texas in 2005 who was blamed for the deaths of 13 killed and 31 wounded. In 2005 at a church service in Field, Wisconsin seven people were killed by a gunman. In Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 a truck driver killed five school girls execution style in an Amish community. There were also six wounded in that attack. In Blacksburg, Virginia in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, there was a gunman who shot 47 people, killing 32. In Omaha, Nebraska in December 2007, there was a gunman who killed nine people and injured five during an attack at a shopping center in the mall.

This is only a tiny slice of the killings that have taken place in this country in recent years. Yet no politician known to me is willing to take on the NRA. This is left to a widow from Long Island named Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband was killed on the Long Island Railroad and her son was gravely wounded by an attack about ten years ago. Mrs. McCarthy has now become a Representative in Congress and has a bill that would make some very minor improvements in restricting the sale of extended ammunition clips. Peter King, a Representative also from Long Island, has proposed a bill barring the use of firearms within 1,000 feet of a federal official. As of this writing, the NRA had no comment. But when there is an election to be held, you may be sure that the NRA uses political muscle to defeat any politician who opposes its agenda.

And so it is that I mourn for the victims of the shootings in Tucson. But I must conclude that that is only the latest tragedy that we must deal with. We look at the killings in the United States and wonder what has happened to this democracy. And I too wonder. As a former soldier, I know a little bit about guns. I never owned one before I joined the army and I have never owned a firearm of any sort since leaving the army 65 years ago. There are those such as former Vice President Cheney and the Supreme Court Justice Scalia who consider it sport to murder an innocent bird. In this category, I have always been guided by the admonition of my father. When I was five or six years old, he told me that he would never kill a bird because “He loves his life as much as you love yours.”

Ah, but it will keep happening until a politician has the spine to oppose the NRA. Unfortunately the memorial speech at Tucson the other night by the President of the United States made no mention of the gun that killed Christina Taylor Green. We all knew that it was a gun that killed her but that was not mentioned in the tributes to the dead and injured. And so I conclude with four lines from the Australian composer Eric Bogel who wrote the anti-war song known as “The Green Fields of France.” It is also known as “No Man’s Land” and more popularly is called “Private Willie McBride.” Unfortunately these four lines summarize my view at this time.

Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

I suppose that I could play the recording of the song about Willie McBride to the fellow who wants to sell me a gun down on Highway 22. But I suspect that all he wants to do is ring up a sale in his cash register and not worry about what a blind person is going to do with the Glock semi-automatic that he sold me. And that, my friends, is the state of the record in this gorgeous country. Until we deal with the NRA, we will continue to find that the killings will go on, “Again and again, and again and again.”

E. E. CARR
January 15, 2011

~~~

Yeah, pretty much. I could date this essay as 2017 and freshen up the list of recent horrific shootings and nobody would be the wiser. Nothing meaningful has changed. Other first world countries do not struggle nearly so much with this.

FIVE HORRID MEN

It must be that springtime brings blossoms and the discovery of five horrid men. Why this is so is beyond me, but the facts are the facts.

First on the bad fellows list is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was formerly the head of the IMF. He earned a superior salary of $450,000 a year with no income tax being attached to it. His treatment of a maid in a hotel I hope is well-known to everyone. He is the first of the horrid fellows that come to mind.

The second one is a fellow named Giovanni Ramirez who is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Because another fellow attending the opening day game in Los Angeles wore a San Francisco Giant tee shirt, Ramirez thought it was appropriate to attempt to beat him to death. Opening day was March 31 and the San Francisco fan, Bryan Stow, is still in a coma. I hope that the authorities find a place for Strauss-Kahn and Ramirez somewhere in the deep jungle of our penitentiary system.

The third fellow who is in our hall of infamy is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California. I am sure you have read that Schwarzenegger was the father of a child who was born to his housekeeper. For a bit more than twenty years, this woman tended to the needs of Schwarzenegger’s wife and family. When his wife found out about the affair, she moved out and took the children with her. Schwarzenegger’s time of trial has just started.

Then there is John Ensign, the former Senator from Nevada. He was engaged in a long-term relationship with the wife of his Chief of Staff. The wife claims that he forced his way into the relationship contending that if she did not agree, he would terminate the employment of her husband. How sordid.

I find that Ensign’s conduct was reprehensible in the extreme. He took advantage of his position. My guess is that the wife of his former Chief of Staff is speaking the truth when she said he forced his way into their marriage.

The last horrid person is John Edwards, the former vice-presidential candidate. He is accused of taking about a million dollars to cover up the affair he was having with a woman who was supposed to take his picture, then followed him from town to town in his presidential aspirations. This woman had a child by Edwards.

In the final analysis, it is the children who are being hurt. There is the Schwarzenegger case and the unfortunate episode involving John Edwards, the former Senator who was running for President.

The springtime of the year 2011 has brought us these five characters. I hope the courts will not show much mercy to Ramirez, who beat the San Francisco Giants fan into a coma. I have no respect at all for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I understand human failings, but in my estimation these five fellows went too far. They are beastly fellows and qualify for the title of this essay which is about five horrid men.

The case of Anthony Weiner, the Congressman from New York, who used his twitter account for unusual exchanges, looms potentially as a sixth horrid man. I suspect that when all is known, it may be that the five will have a sixth companion. We will have to see about that.

E. E. CARR
May 30, 2011

~~~

Ramirez turned out to be innocent — they had the wrong guy. Weiner though, man oh man. Maybe the craziest story of the lot; you should watch the documentary if you haven’t yet.

If I had to do a retrospective scumbag power ranking here:
1) Strauss-Kahn
2) Edwards
3) The dudes who weren’t Ramirez
4) Weiner
5) Ensign
6) Arnold

HUBCAPS AND NECKTIES

Before I get to the meat of this essay, I must introduce you to my sister Verna, who was the eldest person among the Carr siblings. Verna was proper in all respects. Perhaps she got this from her mother, who wore dresses that buttoned up to the neck. In any case, Verna, who was 15 years my elder, contended that she had assisted at my birth. I do not recall that incident but if Verna says so, you can take it to the bank.

Now, with respect to Verna, in the late 1920’s, she acquired a stenographer’s job with the Endicott Johnson shoe company in St. Louis. That was at the time when there was a slogan called “First in Booze, First in Shoes, and Last in the American League.” The reference of course was to the St. Louis Browns who were the paupers of the American Baseball League. There was no doubt that St. Louis, which had a plethora of breweries and shoe manufacturers, was first in shoes and booze.

In any event, Verna not only kept herself neat and proper, but insisted upon that conduct among her colleagues. For example, she would come home from work decrying that another stenographer who worked with Verna had her slip showing all day long. For Verna, this was a grave offence. A much graver offence had to do with the exposure of the bra straps. Somehow or other, every woman was expected to conceal the bra straps beneath her underclothing and never reveal them to the outside world. This was an anomaly of the first order in that Verna came from a rough and tumble family, but there was Verna, singing in the church choir without her bra straps or her slip showing, leading the righteous to their good deeds of the day.

Now let us turn to the main subject of this essay about hubcaps. I will try to marry Verna’s modesty somewhere along the line with hubcaps. The early model automobiles all had their wheels fastened to the brake drums of the car through the use of lug nuts. As I recall it – and I am an expert on the subject of changing tires – there were always five lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Sometime in the late 1930s but certainly in the post-war models of automobiles, it was considered a grave sin to have the lug nuts showing where the wheels were fastened to the brake drums. So the automobile manufacturers provided hubcaps to conceal where the lug nuts were attached to the wheels.

The hubcaps started out as small gadgets about ten inches in diameter but then proceeded quickly in the after-war years to great expanses of covering. They were held on, as I recall it, almost exclusively by tension between the hubcap and the wheel rim.

Let me point out that hubcaps were purely decorative devices. They served no other function except to conceal the lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Now if my elder sister Verna could have had a hand in this, she would have used hubcaps to cover the bra straps and/or the slips showing from under the dress.

As I dictate these lines, the image of Thelma DuPont comes to mind. Thelma is a long-time friend of mine who shares some of my views on the origin of the species. I suspect that Thelma and some of her compatriots such as Margaret Murphy would have welcomed a hubcap to cover up the exposure of bra straps and the under slip showing beneath the dress.

In former days, there was a large cottage industry, usually located on rough streets, that specialized in retrieving hubcaps that had been jarred loose by the ruts in the street. Remember the hubcaps were not held on by a nut but rather by the friction between the hubcap and the wheel rim. Sometimes the hubcaps would be collected by boys who took them to dealers. The boys could expect a return of four or five dollars for each hubcap. The hubcaps could be resold by the dealers who would expect perhaps as much as $20 for each errant hubcap.

But then in the 1980s a disaster struck hubcaps. From that time forward, hubcaps were deemed non-essential to the operation of the automobile and were disposed of. So it was that the cars that were purchased in the 1980s and subsequent models simply had the lug nuts attaching the wheels to the brake drums. The lug nuts were exposed for all the world to see. My sister and my mother would have been aghast at this development because everyone knows that under coverings should be concealed. But for the past 25 years, hubcaps have been a collector’s item. They were decorative devices that were deemed unessential to the operation of the automobile and which added to the cost.

During my long career as a filling station attendant, it was always my practice when changing a tire to put the lug nuts in the upturned hubcap. The new wheel was mounted upon the car brake drum. Five lug nuts would be retrieved and would be screwed on the lug. Then the hubcap would be replaced by putting it against the wheel cover and hitting it with the heel of the hand to force it into place. Hubcaps were not to be struck with rubber hammers because that might dent them. They were to be placed against the wheel cover and gently put in place by hitting them with the heel of the hand as the main enforcer.

Well, as you can see, hubcaps were simply decorative devices which toward the end of the game became quite elaborate. They served no useful purpose other than to conceal the lug nuts which held the wheels onto the brake drums. Now if Verna had found such a device to conceal bra straps and hanging slips, she would have whispered to her friends about the new concealment device. But hubcaps are one thing, and slips that show as well as bra straps are quite another. And if every woman concealed her bra straps and did not permit her slip to show beneath her dress, what would there be to gossip about?

Now let us turn to neckties, which are the other subject of this essay. In my retirement, I have been necktieless for several years. On ceremonial occasions day and night I submit to having my neck adorned by a colorful tie. On retirement, the necktie count on my dresser wardrobe door had at least 80 neckties. Time has gone on and I have given them away, assuming that anyone who took the ties would have some use for them. Like hubcaps, neckties are, in my estimation, merely decorative devices. They do no harm except when they get caught in a squeezing machine. For a good many years I avoided the four-in-hand neckties, favoring bowties. But the bowties were a thing of the past when the war ended in 1945.

So in substance, neckties and hubcaps are simply decorative devices. They do no great harm. They might bring pleasure to the owner of the hubcaps or neckties. And there are occasions which I suppose a male on the make may use neckties to entice a female into conversation. But all things considered, it was nice while we had hubcaps and I suppose neckties are still with us. They do no harm and so I am happy to have them. They give pleasure to those who wear them and to those who in the case of hubcaps still own them.

So this is my story about Verna, hubcaps, and neckties. Verna is gone now for many years but the same may be said about hubcaps. From what I hear, neckties are following the same path to oblivion but it will take longer. Hubcaps and neckties were harmless devices which would not violate the oath of Hippocrates who said to physicians, “Do no harm.” I enjoyed hubcaps and neckties and now that Verna is gone, I must say that I might have enjoyed her too.

E. E. CARR
April 4, 2011

~~~

I just wish that Pop had encountered spinners when he still had sight. Hubcaps didn’t disappear, they just evolved into something even sillier.

FURTHER PONDERINGS

From time to time I find myself pondering about events of long-forgotten years. Perhaps this is the mark of an aged mind but I tend to view it in a positive sense in that I apparently still have a mind that is capable of pondering.

One of my recent essays had to do with ponderings of the sort that I am attempting to wrestle with today. And so here are some subsequent ponderings that are absolutely innocent in purpose and which will not affect the outcome of world events.

For example, I often wonder about what has happened to words in the English language which have tended to fall into disuse. One word in particular comes to mind, which is “hussy.” As far as I know, “hussies” refers to females and is usually accompanied by an adjective called old or brazen. I don’t believe that in my study of the English language I have ever heard somebody refer to another female as a young hussy but perhaps Ann Coulter would qualify. Generally speaking, it seems to me that all hussies are old or brazen. They are not desirable people who seem to be poking their fingers into other people’s business. On the other hand, I have heard some people refer to other women as hussies who don’t deserve that appellation. But that is really beside the point. My question is why the term hussy is falling into disuse these days. It may be a case where the world has moved on and has found new terms to define females who have objectionable traits. But my question is innocent. I simply want to know whatever happened to the word hussy.

As you can tell, none of these ponderings are connected one with another. They are all independent ponderings. In that spirit, I now turn to the sport of badminton. My foggy memory tells me that at one time the Olympic games included competition for badminton metals.

During the 1930s and 40s and even into the 50s, many homes were equipped to play badminton with a set of small rackets together with a shuttlecock. The shuttlecock looks like half a small rubber ball with feathers attached to the flat part. When the ball was struck, the shuttlecock would fly quickly until it lost its momentum, with which it would then attempt to float to the ground, using the feathers that it came equipped with. Aside from the rackets and the shuttlecock, there was a small net and in many cases people would simply bat the shuttlecock back and forth without worrying about who was ahead or behind. But again if my memory serves me correctly, Asian players such as the Japanese excelled at badminton. Again I am left to ponder whatever happened to the game of badminton. It was a game that could be played by young and old, and I still remember the joy of watching the shuttlecock when, struck firmly with the racket, it went floating into the sky and then floated gently to the ground.

There is a further matter of pondering about why dentists and barbers traditionally take Wednesdays off. I know that they have demanding jobs but people would like to get their teeth fixed on a Wednesday just as people would to get their hair cut as well. It seems to me that the dentists and the barbers could operate short-handed on that particular day, simply to cover the office. But that is not the case. When barbers attend barber’s college and dentists attend dentistry schools, are they instructed that they should take Wednesdays off? I have no idea why barbers and dentists take a day off on Wednesdays. If any of you can help me with my work on this monumental subject, I will appreciate your assistance.

Now we come to my ponderings on male facial hair. Specifically, my pondering leads me to wonder how men decide what kind of a mustache they will produce. One of the most famous mustaches in the world was the one worn by Adolph Hitler, which was sort of a rectangle beneath his nostrils. I did not care for Adolph Hitler, and I cared even less for his mustache. But my pondering leads me to wonder why a man would have this small block of hair below his nostrils on his upper lip.

If I could grow a mustache, which I can’t, I think I would favor a small line above my upper lip. That used to be favored by Spanish movie actors. I stand in awe of how the razor is manipulated on the upper lip to avoid cutting the nose and the mouth and yet produce a nice-looking mustache. But the Carr family was always fair haired and could produce no mustaches of any kind, and so I let that subject pass out of my realm
of thought.

Why men grow muttonchops and handlebar mustaches is something that I really do not understand. Neither do I understand men such as my Uncle George Carr, who grew a brush mustache on his upper lip which was untrimmed. When a liquid is drunk, the hairs on the mustache become soaked and must be dried by putting the lower lip over the top lip to suck them dry. This is a fascinating sight for children to watch but I am now of the belief that it is unsanitary and not very pretty.

A pondering that goes back to World War II has to do with the use by GIs of addressing each other as “Joe” or alternatively as “Mac.” When a GI would approach another person to whom he had not been introduced, but to whom he needed to speak, he would almost inevitably address him as “Joe” or “Mac.” For example, if I were working on an airplane, particularly in a location foreign to my home field, and I needed to borrow a tool from the tool-crib, I would address the GI who ran the tool-crib as “Joe” or “Mac.” I have no idea where these names came from, nor do I know where the term “tool-crib” came from either, but those terms were in common usage during the 1940s when World War II took place. I want to emphasize that there was no hint of condescension when a man referred to another GI as “Joe” or “Mac”; it just meant that the two had not been introduced. In any case, it seems to me considerably better than “Hey you.” A GI who would say “Hey you” might soon find himself flat on the floor with some of his teeth missing. But again if there are any lexicographers out there in this vast audience of mine who recall the words “Joe” or “Mac” or “tool-crib,” I would be glad to hear from them.

My ponderings have led me to wonder about why women wear black dresses on festive occasions as well as in a time of gloom. When I worked, if one woman saw another woman wearing a black dress during the daytime, she would often say something like, “Do you have a heavy date tonight?” At perhaps 70 or 80% of the cocktail parties I ever attended, the women usually showed up in black dresses, which they would describe as “simple.” Cocktail parties were happy occasions.

At the same time, when a woman would attend a wake or a funeral, she would find that the black dress was a requirement. Perhaps there are those who will argue that the black dress that could be worn to the cocktail party as well as to the funeral parlor was a matter of good economics. On the other hand, I can understand a black dress at a funeral or the viewing, as it is sometimes called, but on a joyous occasion such as a cocktail party, I am at a loss to know why the women appear in black dresses.

Finally, whatever happened to women’s hats? There was a time when any woman who wished to go to a function of one kind or another in the evening would wear a hat. Some were very small bonnets that had to be held on with hairpins and there were others that were wide brimmed in the fashion worn by Mexican bolero players. Ordinarily when women came to work, at least with AT&T, they tended not to wear a hat but when evening came, if they had a date or if there were a cocktail party to be attended, the women would retire to their lockers and don their hats. I wonder about whether that custom still exists. But like it or not, that does not keep me from pondering.

There is one additional final thought that I wish to ponder about. That is: when people who live absolutely alone and visit their own bathrooms, do they always close the door? As far as I can tell, there has never been a survey of this subject and I suspect that perhaps there will never be such a survey. But that fact does not keep me from pondering about it.

Well, there you have my set of ponderings for the moment. All of them are innocent ponderings and will not have any effect whatsoever on the fortunes of this once great country. There are those who would argue that ponderings such as the foregoing ones are evidence of advancing age and perhaps losing one’s mind to dementia. On the other hand, I would argue with some vehemence that they are the products of a curious mind which has a period to go before the closing bell is rung. I have been pondering such as those reflected in this essay for most of my life, and unfortunately it has turned out that my ponderings have produced very few answers. But if my current ponderings form the basis for an essay here and there, I would conclude that that is a reward in itself.

E. E. CARR
November 29, 2008

~~~

This is probably one of my favorite multi-essays on the site. I enjoy how much it reveals about how things were, and how they changed.

Anyway, now for some answers based off of a few minutes of internet research:
First, the “closing on Wednesday” thing seems to have a number of causes. Apparently in much of the South, for instance, Wednesdays were popular days for Bible study and big community events like auctions. More broadly, many merchants worked very long days on Saturdays, so they all chose to take half-days on Wednesdays to even out the work week, which makes sense. It’s kind of like just transferring your Saturday afternoon to a more financially appropriate part of the week. That said, in a town of 3 dentists, if two 2 dentists takes Wendesdays off, the third becomes very incentivized to stay open on Wednesdays. Unless you have some sort of collusive agreement, it seems like the market has evened out this trend quite a bit — I’ve actually never encountered a doctor or dentist closed on a Wednesday in my life, as fas as I know.

Second, badminton is definitely still a thing. It’s an Olympic sport!

Third, I think black dresses are reliable and always acceptable, so they’re a good default in the same way that men default to suits. We wear suits to both funerals and cocktail parties, too!

Fourth, I for one don’t see the point in closing the bathroom door if you’re home alone. Why bother?

DISPARATE PONDERINGS

The title to this essay, “Disparate Ponderings,” may well reflect the influence of the New York Times editorial pages upon my brain. The ponderings in question really have to do with remembrances of years past. There are six thoughts in this essay and I hope that some of them will remind old-timers of the days before television and e-mail ever existed.

One of my recent ponderings had to do with female girdles. It seems to me that in years past whenever a female reached the age of puberty, she was obliged to buy herself a girdle. The Sears Roebuck catalogue, published annually each fall, was avidly read by the females as well as the males in our household. I can assure you that Sears had girdles galore. There were long ones and short ones, as well as black ones and flesh-colored ones. What baffled me then in the old days was why a young woman weighing no more than 110 pounds would need a girdle. Yet it seems to me with my faulty memory as a guide that every young woman looked forward to the day when she could order a girdle. In those days, women wore silk stockings with a seam up the back. It is hard to believe but there was a time in this country when there were no panty hose. I suspect that girdles were worn for the sake of keeping the silk stockings anchored so that they did not fall down around the ankles.

But the Second World War seemed to have altered everything. There was a shortage of rubber, and silk stockings were a thing of the past. Your old essayist cannot say that he misses girdles or silk stockings, but it is pleasant to ponder the fact that in the age before television came along there were such things. Sears Roebuck has fallen on hard times and, as an economist, I would suggest that it has much to do with the demise of the practice of women wearing girdles.

Now that we have settled the issue of girdles, another question arises about “Do you remember?” There was a time during the 1930s when athlete’s foot was a matter of serious medical concern. During my years in high school, when the boys would take showers following the gym classes, athlete’s foot was a common occurrence. It is not clear to me what causes athlete’s foot but I can tell you that it existed and that once someone had acquired it, it was difficult to rid oneself of it. During my high school years, I had at least two or three cases of athlete’s foot, which had to be treated with a liquid I remember as Camphophenique. Athlete’s foot was so common that advertisements for its cure appeared in almost every newspaper in a small ad at the foot of the newspaper. The pictures in those ads showed athlete’s foot at its worst, with cracking and peeling of the skin around the toes.

I am not here to proclaim that athlete’s foot was an ailment affecting only youngsters but as I also recall there seemed to be no athlete’s foot in the United States Army, where men traipsed in and out of showers at all hours of the day. This of course assumes that one saw service in a location where there were showers. There were occasions when men did not remove their shoes and socks for a few days at a time, yet my recollection is that no one ever seemed to complain of athlete’s foot. I suspect that athlete’s foot went the way of rheumatism, which has now been replaced by the more upscale term of arthritis.

Now that we have disposed of girdles and athlete’s foot, we must turn our attention to Charles Atlas, a gentleman who promised to turn “98-pound” weaklings into 210-pound behemoths. During the years of the Depression, many magazines were adorned with the advertisements of Charles Atlas. There were half pages and full pages, and each one of them showed a man with bulging muscles who contended that he used to be a 98-pound weakling. I never knew anyone who was taken in by the Charles Atlas advertising, but it was good entertainment during the Depression when there was no television or email.

I suspect that Charles Atlas was a man who sold barbells and other weightlifting equipment. That statement is totally unsupported by fact and it flows only from my memory that some of the people who posed for Charles Atlas advertising seemed to be carrying barbells. How it was that he changed a 98-pound weakling into a 210-pound behemoth never was clear while I was reading those magazines, and it remains unclear to this day. Yet there is a certain nostalgia about recalling Mr. Atlas because his advertisements were so widely printed that almost everyone in this country knew who he was. Perhaps your preacher might not have known who Mr. Atlas was, but I suspect that 95% of his congregation would know a good bit about Charles Atlas. I never heard Mr. Atlas being interviewed on radio and it is clear that no one ever referred to him as Charlie Atlas. And so it is up to us old-timers to remember that
Mr. Charles Atlas ever existed.

Now we turn to another pondering that took place during the Depression years. During those years, there was a great drought that settled all over the Mid West and into the plains states, so that the skies were virtually cloudless. From time to time, I assume wealthy advertisers would hire small aircraft to write their messages in the sky. The messages were brief, but they were quite effective, judging by the number of people who seemed entranced by them as the skywriter went about his work.

Skywriters always flew single-engine airplanes, which were of course propeller driven. They must have carried a tube of white exhaust that, when released, could linger in the sky for several minutes. Naturally, I was entranced by skywriting. It seems to me that letters such as “e,” “f,” and “t” should have been the easiest to write. The more difficult letters would be the letters “s” and “b.” My memory is that it would take perhaps ten to fifteen minutes for a skywriter to write his message in the sky. They only wrote the name of the product, and there was great excitement among the viewers after the first letter or two appeared as to what the message would eventually read.

My last exposure to skywriting came, I believe, in the early 1960s, when my family accompanied me to the New Jersey shore. On a cloudless day, a skywriter would appear and would write a message for the benefit of weekend viewers. There was even a romantic occasion when a skywriter wrote “love U” for the benefit of some love-struck youngsters.

No matter how you cut it, I was a draftsman who had a great interest in the formation of letters, here on the earth as well as in the sky. My regret is that I never had the opportunity to ride aloft while the letters were being written. One of my companions as a child always hoped that the skywriter would misspell a word. To the best of my knowledge, that never happened. All the words were correctly spelled and I regret to this day that skywriting is a function of a long-forgotten era.

Now that we have disposed of my pondering about skywriting, let us turn to a pondering about a wonderful entertainer named Burl Ives. Ives was a singer of folk songs who, like many other singers of folk songs, played a guitar. He was the son of a farming family from Jasper County, Illinois. Jasper County is far removed from the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other environs. But in the end, Ives eventually made it to New York where, in 1940, he was given his own radio program. His voice was absolutely distinctive. Fortunately, my ponderings have been helped along because I have several recordings which I have made into compact discs which offer such selections as “Blue-Tail Fly” and “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” I am happy to report that folk singing is a vibrant art that has survived the assaults of rock music, hip hop, and other attacks on mankind.

Ives died a few years back at the age of nearly 90. I suspect that a good many of my older readers will recall him fondly. I certainly recall him fondly and my ponderings take me to the point of inquiring, “Where will the future Burl Ives come from?”

There is one other pondering that takes me into the field of religion where I am usually reluctant to go. In this case, however, it is a matter of economic circumstances having overtaken the teachings of a church.

For many years, the Roman Catholic faith has taught the evils of artificial contraception. Simply put, they dislike every form of birth control. The only exception came during recent years when the Vatican reluctantly approved the use of “natural birth control,” which seems to exist only during the time of the infertility of the female. I suspect that there are thousands of unplanned pregnancies that happened with the use of the so-called “natural planning.” My belief is that natural planning worked perfectly if one or both parties were sterile. But be that as it may, it appears that the economic circumstances of the 21st century generally require those who engage in sexual intercourse to use birth control. When one thinks about the cost of raising a child and putting him through college, sometimes at the expense of $50,000 per year, most people will conclude that fewer children are better than many.

Perhaps these economic circumstances came along a little late because your old essayist is the seventh child of an eight child family. But I was born in 1922 and today things are much different. There is a medical group that we patronize that has many nurses who have graduated from Catholic schools. As a general principle, it seems to me that those nurses are producing only one or two children per couple. One nurse had her second child not long ago and proclaimed that “This is it!” These are healthy young women who, I suspect, are not going to live the rest of their married life in celibacy. And so it is that the Popes over the years who have denounced the evil effects of birth control now find their parishioners practicing that art. With the cost of raising a child, particularly for those who plan to send their children to college, I can only say that this is a logical improvement.

Well, there you have six cases of disparate ponderings. Perhaps it can be argued that my ponderings reflect a wandering mind. Naturally, I would not agree with that conclusion but I would argue on the other hand that my ponderings recall an era when life was simpler and perhaps more rewarding. Any man who contends that my pondering about girdles for example is evidence of a disturbed mind will most likely never recall the use of girdles. Whatever my ponderings reveal about my inner soul is probably irrelevant. At my age I am very happy that I have enough cerebral power left to think about things such as girdles, athlete’s foot, Charles Atlas, skywriting, Burl Ives, and birth control. I would argue that men who have those kinds of ponderings ought to be celebrated with caviar, foie gras, and the clinking of champagne glasses.

E. E. CARR
August 16, 2008

~~~

These type of essays do a number on my search history. In one tab I have a whole set of pretty horrible images of Trench Foot (they definitely had that in war, even if athlete’s foot wasn’t a thing), and in the next there are all these hokey old ads for a bodybuilder man. Incidentally the Charles Atlas company, insofar as it still exists, seems to have not updated their advertising since the campaign that made them so famous. It’s a pretty incredible throwback to go to his site.

Girdles and skywriting are both common, too. Skywriting is pretty typical at big events like airshows, and girdles go by “Spanx” now but it’s the same deal. Another fun set of search terms, by the way, is “Spanx” followed by “Burl Ives.” I like to think that somewhere out there is a VERY confused advertising robot who very much would like to figure out what I’m trying to buy, but can’t at all piece together what these terms have to do with one another.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE TAUGHT

In 1948, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the unforgettable musical “South Pacific.” It starred Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin as lovers. Among the melodic offerings were such things as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” Slipped into this epiphany was a song called, “You’ve Got to be Taught.” This little song was an anti-hatred offering. It has great meaning today, nearly 60 years later. Let me try to show you what I mean.

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

George Bush, Commander in Chief, Chief Executive, and Chief Decider for the whole world, speaks repeatedly of “the enemy.” I suspect that “The enemy” are the people opposing American forces in Iraq, but Bush never gives them a name. It is simply “the enemy.” We killed so many enemy soldiers today and we imprisoned some more enemies. I presume all of those are members of “the enemy” forces. But Bush never associates them with the name of a country or organization. They are just “the enemy.” I am an old soldier and I have trouble figuring out who is “the enemy.” Is “the enemy” people who disagree with Bush? Is the New York Times an “enemy”? Is “the enemy” all of the Arabs? In all of his pronouncements, George Bush has never named the enemy. We are simply asked to take it on faith that there is an enemy out there that we must wipe out. At this point, I am inclined to believe that the Arab race is in fact the enemy that Bush has in mind, but that is simply an old soldier’s intuition.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Richard Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, is often viewed as the man who led George Bush into invading Iraq. In his speeches to right-wing audiences and in his interviews with the most right-wing of all radio commentators, Cheney invariably refers to “radical Islamic elements who would establish a political caliphate extending from Spain through the Far East.” Now let us suppose that you are a 19- or 20-year-old American soldier in Iraq and you see an Arab come down the street. You do not speak his language and he does not speak yours. Are you going to thrust your rifle in his face and inquire of him, “Are you a radical Muslim element who is bent on establishing a caliphate from here to there?”

Of course, the Arab, not understanding your question, will shrug his shoulders, and under current conditions that makes him guilty and may cause him to have his head blown off. The American soldier may well think that he is carrying out the wishes of his commanders when he blows the head off of a young Arab man because he has failed to answer the question about being a radical Islamic Arab. It would seem, under the Cheney Doctrine, that every Arab is a radical one rushing headlong into establishing a caliphate. Being an Arab in Baghdad is just tough luck for our “enemies.”

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Now let us consider that the young soldiers coming in to serve in the Army and the Marine Corps are taught by older soldiers who are not particularly literate. I can tell you this because I spent a good amount of time under those illiterate or nearly illiterate soldiers. They are the leaders who instruct our troops on who the enemy is. They are the ones who instruct the young troops to kick down doors and to humiliate the male members in front of their families.

And unfortunately, we recently learned that our troops are the ones committing the atrocities against the enemy which includes women and children. Simply put, the enemy is the Arab, those radical Muslim Islamists who wish to establish the caliphate. It must be the Arabs because they are only people opposing us.

The soldiers are melded into what is called a “comprehensive unit” and given a mission in Iraq to wipe out anything before them. In the Marine Corps, the motto is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” When 19- or 20-year-old soldiers and marines get hyped up with this comprehensive unit business, and then perceive that the Commander in Chief and the Vice President have named a non-Christian enemy, it is fairly clear that the enemy is none other than all of the Arab race. So you see these young soldiers have got to be taught to hate. And it comes as no surprise whatsoever that our troops are involved in atrocities against Arab civilians. Hatred is a terrible thing and it is being taught to our young soldiers. Because of the leaders proclaiming that the enemy is our source of trouble, it is no wonder that these soldiers, imbued with the faith, find that every Arab needs to be killed. The original general in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, said repeatedly of Arab deaths that “We don’t do Iraqi body counts.”

Children who witness our conduct will hate us for the rest of their lives. And who can blame them?

I am an old soldier who understands a little bit about warfare and a little bit about hatred. I suppose for a long time, many of us came close to hating the Germans because of the operations of the Nazi war machine in WWII. Somewhere in the 1970s, I went to Munich with my friend Howard Davis, who likes to drink beer before noon. I do not care for beer, morning, noon, or night, but nonetheless we walked into this beer garden where there were tables about waist high where the beer could be placed and consumed while standing. A local came along and joined us. After a while he pointed to me and inquired, “Amerikanisher soldat?” I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then inquired, “POW?” Again, I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then went on to tell me in passable English that he had been a POW of the English for more than three years where he learned the English language. Before long it became clear that he was a very nice fellow. From that time on, whatever dislike I had of the German race tended to disappear. So you see the lesson in this case is that there is great merit in having beer gardens, even though I don’t drink much beer.

As a non-believer, for many years I have been an objective observer of the prejudices and hatreds that occur in religious organizations. The Moslems hate the Christians and the Jews and want to wipe them all out. I suspect that there is not much love lost on the Christian side as it relates to the Moslems. I am a fortunate guy in that my parents who attended primitive churches, such as the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, and the Free-Will Baptists, simply referred to people in other faiths as those who could not join them in heaven. Significantly, my unschooled parents never taught me to hate. They felt sorry for all those Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, et. al. who would not be admitted to heaven. But hatred was never part of that equation for me. But a good part of organized religion seems to be devoted to dislike or even unstated hatred.

So you see, hatred is a miserable human condition. It is a destructive condition but I fear that it is going to be with us for the rest of time. While it will be with us perhaps for many years to come, I suspect that Hammerstein and Rodgers were absolutely right when they contended in their little song that “You have to be taught.” That, my friends, is what George Bush is teaching. That, my friends, is precisely what Richard Cheney is teaching. And that, my friends, is what the Army and Marine Corps are teaching these young soldiers. In the long run, hatred will consume such soldiers.

In any case, it is instructive to review a song like “You’ve got to be taught.” It was written following the most horrible combat that the world had ever seen, that being WWII. Now, if you believe Mr. Bush and
Mr. Cheney, we are engaged in a war on terror. Again, as an old soldier, I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.

E. E. CARR
June 26, 2006

~~~

First time I’ve heard it, but I’m a fan. I think “To hate all the people your relatives hate” is the line that stands out to me because it forces a “social” issue to be considered at a very personal level. “Society” isn’t the reason that you hate people — by and large, the culprits are probably your parents. Now that’s maybe a little bit different in the case of war, where dehumanization of the enemy is advanced as a military tactic to make it easier to pull the trigger, but I think your standard run-of-the-mill inherited hate is the more common problem.

It’s a sad irony that the start of the Caliphate that Cheney was talking about ended up forming out of the power vacuum we created with our series of cowboy invasions. And now Trump has just gotten it in his head that bombing things makes him popular, so god knows what comes next.

THE THIRD RAIL

Well boys, the German Pope has stuck both feet in it. Every person who ever lived on a farm where cattle were pastured will recognize the “it” in the previous sentence. George Herbert Walker Bush, our preppy former president, never lived on a farm, but he refers to the “it” as “deep doo doo.”

Old Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, made a pronouncement this week at Regensburg University in Germany in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor. The Emperor said, as quoted by Ratzinger, that the Moslems spread their faith only at the tip of a sword. I am amazed that the German Pope would make such remarks reflecting so poorly on the Moslem faith. Has the Pope forgotten the Crusades when Moslems were also put to the sword? Has the Pope forgotten the Inquisition when Jews in Europe were burned at the stake for their failure to convert to Christianity? Does Herr Ratzinger remember Joan of Arc? Does Herr Ratzinger also remember Galileo?

But in addition to the Pope’s onslaught against the Moslems, we now have the august George W. Bush proclaiming that much of the Moslem faith is given to “Islamic fascism.” Can anyone blame the Moslems for detecting another Crusade sponsored by the Vatican and by the Republican party of the United States? And then, should we wonder why Catholic Churches around the world will become targets of suicide bombers? And what about such a bomber appearing in St. Peter’s Square when the Pope waves from his window periodically?

Ratzinger and Bush have put the entire Catholic Church at risk from those “Islamo-Fascists.” In the meantime, neither has the Pope made a convincing case with respect to his joining the Nazi Party during World War II, nor has Bush explained his copout to the National Guard during the Vietnam War. Perhaps these men were made for each other.

And while we are at it, please do not dismiss the German Pope’s addiction to meddling in political affairs. In 2004, he meddled in American politics by advising that communion could be withheld from John Kerry, a devout Catholic. Kerry’s sin was that he did not oppose abortion in every possible case, such as rape or incest. Consider also that the Pope asked that Turkey be denied membership in the European Union because it is a non-Christian secular country. And consider Ratzinger’s interference this year in an Italian election having to do with birth control devices.

If George Bush had read history, he would find that the Fascist movement was established in the 1920’s by Benito Mussolini as a political party. Its members wore black shirts. I suspect that in Iraq and in the rest of the world, if you see a man with olive skin wearing a black wool shirt in 120 degree temperature, he should be tortured and beheaded on the ground that he is one of those Islamo-Fascists. All of this should be done while singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” With Bush and Ratzinger hard at work, it makes grabbing the third rail extremely tempting.

This week the Guardian of London reports that during his reign over the Catholic Church, the Pope has called Buddhists “Masturbators of the mind.” Remember, this comes from the celibate Vicar of Rome. This non-believer is going to rely on prayer to relieve his astonishment.

The point that must be made here, is that every religion tells its worshipers that it is a religion of love. That assertion has oxymoronic qualities to it. While the adherents to the religion claim that it is a religion of love, the fact is that it is often a matter of hatred and war. Consider also the Moslem hatred for Christians and for the Jews. Consider the mutual hatred in India between the Hindus and the Moslems. Consider the intra-Moslem debate between the Shias and the Sunnis which is now proceeding to a civil war in Iraq. And consider the Christian onslaught as represented by the United States and its allies against the Moslems who reside in Iraq. Are all of these acts exhibits of peace and love?

Likewise, in this country, there seems to be no love lost between the various branches of the Christian faith. They rarely hold inter-denominational congregations preferring to claim that those other religionists who call themselves Christians, can’t possibly get to heaven because they don’t worship exactly as we do.

But all of the dislike and hatred among the religionists pales in comparison with their denunciations of those of us who are non-believers. They call us agnostics which we freely admit. When we are called atheists we plead guilty on all counts. They call us godless which is precisely the case. While all these things are true – and the nonbelievers make no apologies for them – the godless ones generally speaking are good citizens. They pay their taxes, they vote, and they serve their country in wartime, which is not the case with the current Christian President and Vice President of the United States.

Those of us who are nonbelievers contend that our beliefs are based solely on logic. Those who adopt faith appear to have abandoned logic. The dictionary defines faith as a belief in something unsupported by facts. But be that as it may, I would hope that there is a common meeting ground in the principles enunciated by the Bible hundreds of years ago. I am fully aware that for a nonbeliever to cite the Bible as his reason for his conduct may fly into the face of believability. Nonetheless, let me give it a try.

In the book written by Isaiah, which predates the Christian era by several hundred years, we find this passage: “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah chapter I, verse 18) If God or Allah or any other celestial creature, such as the so called Intelligent Designer, gave man the power of reason, man would have to reject, for example, the thought that Joshua could stop the sun in its tracks. Furthermore, Galileo, who believed that the earth circled the sun, almost paid with his life when the Inquisition insisted that it was the other way around. He recanted, but as he left the court he said under his breath, “nonetheless it moves,” meaning the earth. Similarly, the man of reason would have grave doubts about the stories of Jonah in the bile juice of the great fish, the parting of the Red Sea, and the legend of loaves and fishes.

If God or Allah or the Intelligent Designer or whatever gave men the ability to reason, it must be comprehended that making religious war, one on the other, is an exercise in self defeat. America seems to get along reasonably well with the Hindus in India and with the Buddhists who occupy a large part of the world. I suspect that if we were to treat the Moslem nations with respect that they too could become our friends. And please do not forget that the Arabs are sitting on our oil supply.

Bill Clinton has made the point that the settlement of the Israeli Palestinian dispute is the key to peaceful relations with the Moslem countries. We ought to take his advice immediately. It is one of the hallmarks of his current thinking. It holds that people who think well of you are more likely to grant you favors rather than if you adopt a hostile attitude toward them. This is elemental. The overwhelming point is that man has the capacity to reason and if he uses that facility, he will enjoy peace and prosperity. If he does not, man will be plagued by war, disease, poverty and general ill feeling. Isaiah was completely correct.

Now let us turn to another Biblical author called Micah. In the Book of Micah, in the sixth chapter, there is a sixth verse which holds, “What does the Lord require of thee; to love mercy, to do justly and to walk humbly with thy God.”

Micah wrote this some 800 years before the Christian era began. If I might try to improve upon Micah, I would say that, “The Lord also requireth of thee to admit error and to grant forgiveness.” I know it is presumptuous of me at this late date to try to improve upon Micah who is described as a minor prophet, but my additions seem worthwhile to me and I have heard no objection from my old friend, Micah.

It appears to me as an elderly citizen and as an old soldier, that if we were to offer the rest of the world mercy and just treatment instead of offering domination and warfare, and if we were also to walk humbly with whatever God there might be, the prospects for the United States would be greatly and enormously enriched. This nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, godless or what have you, has had Micah firmly imprinted on his mind for several years. I hope that Micah has guided my conduct just as I hope that it guides the conduct of the United States of America.

I am fully aware that writing on the subject of religion is the third rail of American public discourse. And I am aware that I will be denounced by preachers and politicians. But it is those preachers and politicians with their fervent embrace of holy symbols that have largely failed. (See Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Carl Rove, et. al.) Preachers and politicians will almost always decline any enlightened thought. But it seems to me that relying on the words of Isaiah and Micah might be eminently worthwhile.

Here is my thought. Let us reason together which will lead to acts of mercy. Let us reason together which will cause men to do justly one to another. And let us walk humbly while we admit error and grant forgiveness. I am an old man and I do not expect to see all of these things happen in my limited lifetime. But I hope that they come to pass before my children and grandchildren leave the scene.

Now may the congregation stand and sing the first, third and the seventh verse of Hymn number 341, “Blessed Assurance.”

E. E. CARR
September 16, 2006

~~~

Who picks a fight with Buddhists, honestly? And why? I guess the same guy who wanted to deny Turkey EU membership on the grounds of being too secular, despite the EU being an overtly secular organization.
Anyway, I think that the operative concept here — anyone you treat like an enemy will eventually become one, so let’s try to get along — is clearly sound. But like Pop mentioned, there’s no moving forward until we admit that we were wrong and take steps to make amends, and it’s hard to picture that happening. The American political scene tends to demonize anyone who changes his or her mind as a waffler, so apologizing for past mistakes becomes a sign of weakness.