Archive for the 2006 Category

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

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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.

COUNTRY SPEAK | MISSING WORDS

In a previous essay, I commented on missing people. In this case, I will try to comment on a very few missing words from our vocabularies these days. This exercise is called “Country Speak.”

I call this essay “Country Speak” because the words that are missing from urban areas are found most often in the vocabulary of rural speakers. Words that no longer have meaning in urban areas are still retained in country speak, that is, the language spoken by rural residents. Let me give you a few examples.

When my father, who came from the farthest reaches of civilization in Illinois, died, my belief is that the certificate of death read, “died of natural causes.” That was quite acceptable to me because my father had always worked outside, supervising a dairy farm, climbing trees and mowing lawns and working in a brick refractory, jobs that required physical labor. By the time that he died at 77, he had exhausted his supply of energy I suppose. My mother, who also was a practitioner of country speak, said of his death, “I reckon he was plumb wore out.”

Translated into modern usage, my mother was saying by her use of the word “reckon” that I think or I believe this to be the case. When she said that he was “plumb wore out,” she meant that he was completely exhausted or entirely worn out. It seems to me that the use of the word “reckon” ought to have more currency than it enjoys today. As for “plumb wore out,” I believe that there are adequate substitutes but in any event I believe that my mother’s statement captured the day. It was a statement in pure country speak that set the record straight. My father was simply worn out and so he died. I reckon that all of his children and friends were sorry to see him go, but that’s what happens when you are “plumb wore out.”

There is another word that I would like to see used more often, and that is “yonder.” That word can be used to indicate a town down the road apiece or it can be used to indicate a pasture in the neighboring fields. Yonder is a term that is often used by poets and hymn singers, but unfortunately it is not used much by those of us who speak modern English.

Another term that is not in common usage these days is “joshing.” “Joshing” is no more than kidding or joking among one’s fellow contemporaries. It might be said that I was only joshing with him, meaning that my words were not to be taken seriously. They were all in fun. I regret the passage of “joshing” as a term of kidding because there is a degree of affection associated with it. One does not josh with someone unless he is friendly with him. But the word “joshing” in these days does not enjoy wide currency.

Finally there is the word “lick.” In country speak, “lick” is a blow or a strike. If a ball player hits the ball out of the ball park, he may be said to have “hit that ball with a good lick.” If a boxer hits another boxer on the chin and knocks him out, it will be said in country speak that “he hit him a good lick.” I am fairly certain that you have heard the phrase “give it a lick and a promise” for a job poorly done. That must refer to an ineffective lick in any case. Country speak uses lick to this day and uses it effectively. All things being equal, I believe that “lick” ought to be part of our vocabulary today.

The examples that I have used thus far in country speak will come as no surprise to a friend of mine named Thomas Warren Scandlyn, originally of Tennessee. Tennessee is well known because it makes Jack Daniels whiskey, it is the home of Elvis Presley, and it produced T. Warren Scandlyn. I suspect that those words used in the foregoing statements were entirely known to Tom Scandlyn and my belief is that he might even use them today.

Now we go on to Hurley Fitzwater, who was a preacher in a neighboring town. Hurley’s claim to fame was that he was a practitioner in the art of country speak and that he had received a call from God which he answered by becoming a preacher in a small church in Brentwood, Missouri. Hurley had no seminary training of any kind. He simply got the call from God and stood up and started preaching. It was about that simple.

In my father’s declining days, he summoned Hurley to his bedside and asked Hurley to make a few remarks at the funeral which he knew would occur before long. Now remember, my father’s testimony, which he is no longer around to refute, was that he asked Hurley to make a few comments at the upcoming funeral. As far as I know, he had no intention of Hurley doing any more preaching, other than a comment or two.

Nonetheless, at the funeral I noticed a lectern being rolled over in front of the coffin. In a short time Hurley Fitzwater stood behind that lectern and delivered a sermon that must have taken perhaps a half an hour. The title of the sermon was “There – – – The Sun Will Not Shine.” There was a pregnant pause between “There” and the rest of the sentence. But the pregnant pause produced nothing but bafflement.

Now I am not a bible scholar of any kind whatsoever but I had never heard a quotation from the bible alleging that there was no place that the sun did not shine. My instinct is to believe that Hurley made up this Biblical quote. Hurley spoke for a good amount of time in pure country speak. While I enjoyed Hurley’s use of country speak, the rest of my family and myself were entirely baffled as to what the sermon was about. It simply made no sense to any of us and now, forty-eight years later, as I reflect on that sermon, I can make no more sense of it today than I did in 1958. When my mother and brothers and sisters died, Hurley was not invited to their funerals. Poor old Hurley shot his wad with the sermon at my father’s funeral but I must tell you that I greatly enjoyed his use of country speak to deliver it.

Well, there you have just a few examples of country speak. It is important to separate country speak from ancient English such as “thine,” or “art.” Country speak is an entirely different language from ancient English and it should be recognized as such. It could be said that when my ears hear a good example of country speak, I reckon I suffer a strong lick to my soul. So be it.

E. E. CARR
April 23, 2006

~~~

Tom actually wrote a response to another essay on country speak, several years later.
See also, for the curious, Military Speak and Black Speak, also from 2012.

In other news the internet seems to validate Pop’s usage of “give it a lick and a promise,” a phrase I’d never heard before. I’m not sure I could pull off using it around the office, but I’m curious if anyone would understand it if I did. It seems to me that it’d make most sense in the context of a repair job or something — say you were supposed to fix the engine but ran out of time, maybe you’d give it a swift kick and hope for the best.

LAGNIAPPE FOR READERS

A little lagniappe for all my readers:

If you were to wander into a diner and order a tuna sandwich, you might be surprised if it is served with some pickles on the side. The pickles are something extra which is the essence of lagniappe.

Similarly, if one drives in to a service station to buy some of that $3.75 per gallon gas, and the attendant washes the windshield, as unlikely as that may be, the window washing is a little something extra; hence, it should be considered as lagniappe.

Lagniappe is a Cajun word which has French underpinnings. It means “a little something extra”, which is what these three small essays represent. I hope you like them. For those who are interested in parsing and pronunciation, this Cajun word is pronounced “lan-yappe” with the accent generally on the first syllable. If you wish to put the accent on the second syllable as Parisians may do, that might add some class to your phraseology.
There is no restriction on putting the accent on both syllables which is the pronunciation favored by Protestant preachers.

July 28, 2006

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Parsing the distribution document to figure out which essays, specifically, were included here is difficult.
Finding all the essays that include a specifically identified lagniappe is much easier. Enjoy!

EATING HEELS
ASHCROFT ENDORSES CRISCO, LILLIE CARR AND JACOB’S LADDER
BEN GIVENS’ NEWSPEAK
NUNCE: A NEW NEOLOGISM
OLD GEEZERS DYING IN BIG NUMBERS

STAYING THE COURSE

A week or so ago, the English Prime Minister, Tony Blair, came to Washington to discuss how things were going in the war against Iraq. Blair and Bush appeared after their conference to hold a meeting with the press. None of the major American networks carried the program. It didn’t even appear on the Public Broadcasting Systems. It appeared only on MSNBC and perhaps on CNN. That will tell you what the networks think of the importance of the news to be made.

At the news conference, Blair and Bush both appeared to have had a very trying day. Their mood was not upbeat. Quite to the contrary, it was somber and, in both cases, there were apologies or semi-apologies for opportunities missed.

For example, Bush acknowledged that when he said “Bring it on” and “We want Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive” that he should have used “more sophisticated language.” The fact that Bush expressed himself in the language of a cowboy was not lost on the world, yet Bush contended that he should have used more sophisticated language because the rest of the world did not understand what he meant. So you see it is our fault for the mistake we made in not understanding Bush. From my point of view, there was no mistake in the phrases of “bring it on” or “we want Osama, dead or alive.” These comments were extremely provocative and now that the insurgents have “brought it on,” Bush is distraught.

If Bush thinks that he was misunderstood solely because he used unsophisticated expressions, here is my suggestion for a more cerebral comment:

In more sophisticated terms, I should have told you terrorists that we are prepared to engage in stepping on toes, insults, fisticuffs, mud wrestling, torture or controlled and compassionate manslaughter. So kindly advise us whichever you wish to be engaged in. However, if you bring us a televised broadcast statement from Ann Coulter, it will cause us to wilt and plead for mercy.

On Osama bin Laden, I should have said we would like to have him presented to us either pre or post mortem.

Using the terms of “bring it on” or “We want Osama dead or alive” were horrid expressions and we apologize for their lack of sophistication.

Blair was equally regretful for some of the actions that the English had taken. But in the end it must be considered that the limeys have absolutely learned nothing. The British troops are in charge of the southern part of Iraq, based largely around the town of Basra. For the duration of the war, the English had contended that Basra was a model of good behavior, which I assume was a tribute to their troops. In the last few days, we have learned that the new Premier of Iraq has gone to Basra and has lectured people because it is a lawless city that has fallen prey to tribal and sectarian influences.

What the English have always misunderstood is that when they occupy a country, hatred is the inevitable result. For 800 years, England occupied Ireland. The result was warfare at every turn until the English were thrown out in 1922. In all of Ireland, there is not a statue honoring the English occupation. In most cases, the English are reviled and those thoughts of revulsion are passed on from one generation to the next. What England is doing in Iraq, as we are doing also, is generating hatred for years and perhaps hundreds of years to come.

Yet Tony Blair indicated no understanding of this fact. If, for example, an Arab army were to occupy the United States, I probably would be the first one to oppose them with the thought of killing them at every opportunity. In that case, I would become a full-fledged insurrectionist. That is what occupation does to the natives. In West Africa, in Ghana and Nigeria for example, the English excused their occupation on the ground that they were bringing Christianity to the natives who did not know Jesus. Again, I am quite certain that there are no monuments to the Brits in either Nigeria or Ghana now that the Brits have departed. In those two countries, the English required every black native to refer to any white man as “Master.” It made no difference if a British soldier had worked in the garbage disposal vat of a British slaughter house, he was to be addressed as “Master” when he arrived in West Africa. Does anyone now consider building a statue to the former masters? Of course not.

The press conference between Bush and Blair had all the hangdog looks that go with people who had been wrestling with a problem that could not be solved, mainly the occupation of Iraq. Yet, a few days later on Memorial Day, Bush attended a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery to honor our dead. Now remember this is the president who has never attended the funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq. As of this morning, 2,492 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and almost 19,000 have been wounded. Yet Mr. Bush declines to attend a funeral, even those held in Arlington Cemetery where he was speaking.

At the Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, Bush had recovered from his performance at the press conference with Blair and now spoke a little bit more confidently. He repeated his mantra that the only way you can pay tribute to all of these dead soldiers is by staying the course. This means that staying the course may well produce another 2,500 dead soldiers and 15,000 more wounded and that, somehow, according to Bush, is a means of paying tribute to the women and men who are to be interred in Arlington Cemetery. That is the most backward thinking that any chief executive could be capable of. The point is, we should get out of Iraq and do it now before we incur further losses.

Bush and Blair unfortunately are clueless about how to end this war. Somehow they seem to think that incurring more casualties pays tribute to fallen soldiers. I am here to tell you that is not the way to pay tribute to anyone, alive or dead. What we need here is someone with a brain and I am sorry to tell you that between Blair and Bush, they do not have a brain between them when it comes to this war that they started.

This of course is a downbeat assessment of where things stand in Iraq, but that is the state of the record. As long as the United States is stuck with the clueless George Bush, the killing will go on, the execution of civilians as happened with the Marine Corps recently, and the abuses at our prisons will continue to take place. May I ask, is this the image we want to extend to the Arab world as well as to the rest of civilization? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that when Bush told the insurgents in Iraq to bring it on, they brought it on and now George W. is whimpering.

E. E. CARR
June 6, 2006

~~~

The United States could have saved plenty of lives and money if someone had bothered to write a picturebook that explained the concept of a “sunk cost.” Doubling down on a terrible idea very rarely makes it a less terrible idea.

Fun fact: this is the only essay known to me that has an identical title to another essay. A month ago I published its counterpart.

MORE WAR ON TERROR

On Sunday, November 26, 2006 the United States will have been at war in Iraq for the same length of time that we were involved in World War II. As an observer of human events for the last 80 years and as a veteran of World War II, I believe that it is incumbent upon me to offer some straight talk. This will not be the tortured syntax of George Bush’s speeches nor will it be the lectures of the hapless Condoleezza Rice. It is much too late for that sort of thing. This will be as straight-talk as can be imagined.

The so-called war on terror is at heart, a fraud and a myth.

Simply put, the so-called war on terror, which is primarily the invasion of Iraq, is flawed because it was based on the lies of George Bush and his administration. Dozens of books are now available which recount the lies told by the President of the United States which led us to war. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has stated that in the first cabinet meeting, it was apparent that Bush intended to take this country into war against Iraq. Richard Clarke, the adviser to the National Security Adviser has testified in the same vein. There is an abundance of evidence flowing from our main allies, the British, to the effect that the intelligence was manipulated to support a war in Iraq. The Downing Street Memo and other British government documents are the most damning of the Bush lies that led us into this war.

Rather than go through each of the points which are so amply documented in dozens of books, I believe it is fair to say that on this subject, George Bush is a bully, a coward and a consummate liar.

And now we turn to the myth making. According to the Bush administration, Iraq was awash in weapons of mass destruction. There were references to the smoke billowing from an atom bomb to which we were led to believe that Saddam was on the verge of achieving. There was the brilliant moment when George Bush stepped out of his airplane on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln to announce that as far as the war in Iraq, it was a “Mission Accomplished.”

After the WMD excuse did not fly, we were told that the idea was to democratize the Middle East. Events over the Thanksgiving holiday, 2006 make it clear that we aren’t going to democratize anything in the Mideast. What we are trying to do is figure a way out of Iraq without being slaughtered. This is not the “victory” that George Bush imagined.

The fact is that any dream of establishing a new democracy on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been replaced by an active civil war which is killing thousands of people every month.

The recent American elections on November 7th of this year have told the Bush administration that the American people at long last, no longer believe him. Bush now is irrelevant. The fact that he is making foreign trips simply causes him to seem more silly. He finally arrived earlier this month in Vietnam, some 40 years late. Bush copped out on that war.

His meeting with the Prime Minister of Iraq in Amman was, in large measure, a disaster because Bush is asking the Prime Minister of Iraq to disarm the militia groups of his own sect. Simply put, Maliki is unable to do that and even if he were able to do it, it is highly improbable that he would even set out to accomplish that end.

In the meantime, while we are engaged in what Bush has told us is the central front on the war on terror, there is strife in Nigeria. In Zimbabwe, we have the president, Robert Mugabe, terrorizing his opposition. In the Darfur region of the Sudan, the Arabs are killing and raping the black inhabitants. In Lebanon and Gaza, there are excesses by the Israeli Army that border on atrocities. Last week an Israeli artillery shell landed in a crowded settlement killing 18 Palestinian women and children. The prime minister of Israel issued a muffled I’m sorry kind of excuse but no investigation followed. The point that is obvious here is that there are plenty of terrifying incidents around the rest of the globe, but our attention is tied to Iraq where we are bogged down and looking to Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia for some thought that would lead us to escape with the skin on our backs.

The end product of George Bush’s war in Iraq is a new set of civil strifes. According to an American source, as many as 600,000 Iraqis have been killed. General Tommy Franks, who was decorated by Bush with the Medal of Freedom, has announced that, “We don’t do Iraqi body counts.” Soon we will have lost our three thousandths soldier in Iraq not to mention the losses of the British, the Polish, the Spaniards, and the Italian contingents. Bush has told us that we must make the sacrifices so that the war is kept over there and not over here. Does anyone believe that?

Throughout the history of the invasion of Iraq, Bush has taken his vacations in Texas and has ridden his bicycle. He has never attended a funeral of one of the soldiers killed in Iraq. Perhaps one of the largest myths that George Bush seems to believe is that, to the extent that we train Iraqi soldiers, we can then leave the battlefield. Friends, the fact of the matter is that no Iraqi soldier is going to defend American interests after we leave. Obviously, they are going to pursue their own interests. They would say to hell with the interests of Americans.

This has been an unhappy experience for this old essayist to record. But it is a matter of straight talk which you haven’t heard from George Bush or Cheney or the hapless Madame Rice. America is much less safe today than it was before Bush initiated his invasion of Iraq. Much less! For that we have to thank the Iraqi invasion because it was based on fraudulent evidence and the hopes of myth makers. The man in charge was George Bush who is nothing less than a bully, a coward and a consummate liar. It would be my hope, which is forlorn, that Mr. Bush could hear this summary from my own lips. In the meantime, this essay will have to do.

E. E. CARR
November 25, 2006

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This essay was bundled with another 2006 essay called WAR ON TERROR which I published almost three years ago. In the bundle, he gave this forward:

To the Essay Reader:

Here are two essays on the so-called War on Terror. They were both written in November, 2006. While there are a few redundancies in the two essays, they reflect the fact that the War on Terror is nothing more than a complete fraud and a total myth. I hope you have the inclination to read both of them.

EEC

I think many of the essays were shipped out to readers in bundles with little introductory letters, but for some reason I don’t have access to most of those introductory letters outside of 2006. Some of them are quite short like this one, and some could be essays in their own right.

I had no idea that Bush such an avid biker. Makes me wonder what security must have looked like for those outings. I imagine a two-wheeled version of the motorcade parading through the underbrush.

IRISH EARWORMS

This essay is a love story in the Irish tradition. It has nothing to do with horny politicians trying to seduce an intern nor does it have to do with an amorous preacher trying to embed a soprano from the church choir. It has to do with the Irish use of the English language, the language of Ireland’s despised and hated oppressor. The only plus to come out of 800 years of occupation by the British is that the Irish learned to use the English language.

And this essay also has to do with Irish earworms. Earworms are not a disease of any kind. They are simply pieces of song or literature that stick in your head and can not be shaken. My wife has earworms all the time. My mother had an earworm for 75 years over the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” She sang it or hummed it every day of her adult life. My earworms have to do with Irish literature, songs and poems. Before I grow much older, it seemed appropriate to write a modest essay about Irish earworms that celebrate and commemorate pieces of Irish works written in the English language.

According to my great and good friends Ella and Sven Lernervall, whose native language is Swedish and who speak flawless English, the English language is a rich one. I suspect I agree with their conclusion and would like to point out that the Irish have made a major contribution toward making the English language much richer. With that thought in mind, there are four pieces of Irish prose and poetry that I would like to offer to make my point.

Before that point is made, it should be noted that my formal schooling in the Clayton, Missouri public school system did not encourage much use of abstract languages like the Irish use of the English language. For example, at the time in the mid 1930s, English customs were considered the ultimate achievement by civilized people, particularly here in the United States. England had ocean liners such as the Queen Mary which dominated Atlantic travel. English manners were often copied in the mannerisms of my fellow citizens. In my eighth grade class there was a teacher known as Miss Maxwell, who was an Anglophile of immense proportions. Miss Maxwell had some immense proportions of her own. She was what the Sears Roebuck catalog would have called a very stout woman. And on top of that she wore button-up shoes, which I thought went out of style during the First World War. But nonetheless, Miss Maxwell had control of the eighth grade in the Maryland School of the Clayton public school system. Periodically, that is to say twice a week, Miss Maxwell would read English poetry to us that was full of nymphs and fairies, castles, knights, and the like. It was clear that the boys in her class hated for Miss Maxwell to take out her book on English poetry. I was probably the foremost among those who hated to see Miss Maxwell reach for that book. After leaving Miss Maxwell in the eighth grade, I crossed the street to the high school where I ran into the English teacher, Blandford Jennings. Blandford Jennings did not read poetry to us but rather he constructed plays to be put on by students that featured fairies and nymphs and castles and knights and all that sort of thing. So you see, when I left Clayton High School in 1940, I had a pretty jaundiced view of English literature.

So, I set out to educate myself. I read almost every thing I could lay my hands on, including a German language newspaper that appeared in the prison camp during World War II where I was held for a short time. It did not help that when I asked a guard for assistance in trying to read the newspaper, he turned out to be a Rumanian who spoke no German and could not read the German language at all. My reading took me to the poems of William Service and later to many books and articles by Henry Mencken. Among the Irish authors, I read the works of William Butler Yeats and Connor Cruise O’Brien. In the final analysis, I concluded that the Irish could handle the English language at least as well as the English or, in many cases, much better.

You will recall that for 800 years, England had its heel, its instep, and its steel-plated shoe sole planted firmly on the neck of the Irish nation. Irishmen could not own property, were denied the use of Gaelic, their native tongue, and were often deprived of their Catholic heritage. The English enforced their rules with cruel abandon, including hangings and shootings. Out of all of this unpleasantness, most Irishmen today will tell you that the only benefit they gained from the occupation was that the Irish learned to use the English language, which is the lingua franca of the whole world these days.

And so, here are the four pieces of Irish literature and poetry which tend to demonstrate the Irish use of the English language. The first is an excerpt from a Time Magazine book review of Brendan Behan’s “The Borstal Boy.” The borstals were an English invention, which were intended to house youngsters in their early teens as opposed to sending them to ordinary prisons. While Brendan Behan was in the borstal system, he tried to read books and, on many occasions, he would permit himself to read only a certain number of pages each night so that he would have more to read the following nights. This review appeared every year for many years in the March 17th issue of Time in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. Time has now stopped publishing this piece of literature but it was lovely for the many years that they used it.

The review goes like this:

“The English language brings out the best in the Irish. They court it like a beautiful woman. They make it bray with donkey laughter. They hurl it at the sky like a paintpot full of rainbows, and then make it chant a dirge for man’s fate and man’s follies that is as mournful as misty spring rain crying over the fallow earth. Rarely has a people paid the lavish compliment and taken the subtle revenge of turning its oppressor’s speech into sorcery.”

“Among recent Irish sorcerers with the gift of golden gab, Brendan Behan ranks high.” ….

From TIME, The Weekly Newsmagazine
T. E. Kalem, Senior Writer
in a review of Borstal Boy

“Turning its oppressor’s speech into sorcery” is an elegant piece of Irish earworm. That sorcery has stayed with me for a number of years.

When Irish friends take their leave of each other, they often share a drink, a handshake, and perhaps a hug. This ceremony is called
“The Parting Glass.” Here are a few lines from a traditional Irish song having to do with parting. A traditional song means that no one now knows who wrote the music or composed the words.

The Parting Glass

Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company.
And of all the harm that ere I’ve done, alas was done to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I can’t recall.
So fill to me the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.
words and music Traditional

“And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I can’t recall.” This is another piece of elegant Irish thought. There is no better way to say that some ideas are beyond ones intelligence.
Here now is another song about parting. It is known as “The Journey’s End” or “The Parting Song.” The music and words were written by an Irish author J. B. Goodenough.

JOURNEY’S END

The fire is out, the moon is down
The parting glass is dry and done
And I must go and leave this town
Before the rising of the sun
And long’s the road and far’s the mile
Before I rest my soul again
With girls that weep and girls that smile
at all the words and ways of men
For some there are, who may not bide
But wander to the journey’s end
Nor take a girl to be a bride
Nor keep a man to be a friend
And when I’m done with wandering
I’ll sit beside the road and weep
For all the songs I did not sing
And promises I did not keep

“And when I’m done with wandering, I’ll sit beside the road and weep,
For all the songs I did not sing, And promises I did not keep.” The thought about songs that were not sung and promises not kept has haunted me for many years. It is a beautiful piece of phraseology. No wonder that Earworms afflict me.

Now let us turn finally to an Irish blessing that has served our people for more than a century. The text reads this way:

Irish Blessing:
May the Road Rise to Meet You

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May your God hold you in the palm of His hand.
TRADITIONAL

“May the road rise to meet you” is to Irish ears a wonderful thought. Does any other language offer a similar thought? I doubt it, which makes it one of my consistent earworms.

Here then are four Irish pieces, prose and poems, that contribute heavily to a love story with the language and to earworms. The fact that they are elegant expressions makes it clear that the Irish know how to use the English language, perhaps better than the English people do. Winston Churchill might take some exception to that thought but, all things being equal, it is my belief that the Irish learned their lesson well from eight hundred years of occupation and, indeed, their use of the language is magnificent. How can anyone forget “turning the oppressors speech into sorcery,” “For want of wit I can’t recall,” “Songs that have not been sung and promises that have not been kept,” and “May the road rise to meet you.” There is no wonder that Irish earworms stick in Irish ears forever.

E. E. CARR
February 14, 2006

Postscript: It seems to me that the difference between the Anglo-Saxon’s in England and the Celts in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, is that the Celts are singers and the English are not. Perhaps this makes a difference in their use of the English language.

~~~

This is one of precious few essays that uses text coloration, and it happened after Pop went blind. I wonder why that is.

I also suspect that the double-dose of knights and fairies and castles is probably what turned Pop off fiction for life. It’s a shame that poor teaching can leave a mark just as indelible as good teaching, but in the wrong direction.

SPIRITUALS

As I was growing up, one of the absolutely great forms of music was the so-called “Negro spiritual.” In recent years the word “Negro” has become a word that polite people refer to only infrequently. The “Negro” word has evolved into “colored,” “people of color,” “African-American” and other euphemisms. Nonetheless the music that was produced many years ago and was heard in Negro spirituals was among the absolute finest that I have ever heard and I treasure them to this day.

My wife Judy and I are always enthusiastic about choir music. We listen to Welsh choirs, Russian choirs, Swedish choirs, and the choirs associated with some universities here such as Morgan State in Baltimore. We find them very rewarding.

The music that was encompassed by the Negro spirituals, which are now just called “spirituals,” grew out of poverty and slavery. Those songs grew out of people who had no hope in life except for an eventual reward somewhere in a place called heaven. The lives of the musicians who wrote these songs were so bleak that it was possible only to look forward to death and to a welcome into heaven. While I do not share the theological views of those who believe in eternal happiness in a place called heaven, I believe that the spirituals represent one of the most significant American contributions to the world of music.

There are five spirituals that come to mind which I would like to mention. The lyrics typically are very short and are repeated quite a few times. There is no convoluted thought at all. The idea of the spiritual is to state a point and to repeat it quite often. Here for example are the lyrics of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” They go:

“Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.”

I assume that “coming for to carry me home” refers to heaven as the place where the singer hopes to go.

Another spiritual that has stayed with me for many years is “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” When sung by a choir such as the Morgan choir from Baltimore, this is very moving music. The lyrics go this way:

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord,
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh, oh, oh sometimes it causes me to tremble – tremble –
tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

This is moving music, particularly when sung by a choir like that of Morgan State University.

A third song greatly appreciated by my mother was “Look down, look down that lonesome road.” The lyrics again are simple and forthright.

They go like this:

“Look down, look down that lonesome road before you carry on
Look down, look down that lonesome road before you carry on
Weary grows this heavy load trudging down that lonesome road.
Look up, look up to see your maker before you carry on.

The word “trudging” is usually pronounced as “tredging.” I believe you get the message. It is a matter of the slaves carrying a heavy load until they are taken away to heaven. My mother thought this was a beautiful song, and so do I.

A fourth spiritual is one of my favorites. It is called “Better Get a Home inna That Rock.” The advice here comes from on high and it says that you better get a home in that rock as opposed to in some sort of shifting sand which will improve your chances of gaining a place in heaven. The words go something like this:

“Better get a home inna that rock,
Don’t you see? (basses repeat), “Don’t you see?”
Better get a home inna that rock,
Don’t you see? (basses repeat), “Don’t you see?”
Oh between earth and sky
I thought I heard my savior cry,
You better get a home inna that rock,
Don’t you see? (basses repeat), “Don’t you see?”

Finally, here is a rousing spiritual called “Swing Down Chariot and let me ride.” The lyrics are these:

Swing down chariot Lord and let me ride
Swing down chariot Lord and let me ride
Swing down chariot Lord and let me ride
For I’ve got a home on the other side.

Whether you believe in the Christian ethic or not, spirituals of this sort are absolutely moving music. They come from the heart and they come from poverty and slavery. Sometimes there is a hopelessness to them about the current conditions but they all express some hope of a better tomorrow after they depart this earth. I don’t share their views about eternal bliss in some heaven, but if that gives the lyricists and the singers hope, I am all for it.

I hope you have been uplifted by the lyrics to these five spirituals. I found myself almost singing as I tried to dictate them. They are good music and they are moving music. It is mighty hard to beat that combination. So if you wish to call them spirituals or Negro spirituals or African-American spirituals or whatever, listen to that music. It is great stuff.

E. E. CARR
April 4, 2006

~~~

Most of the “Home inna That Rock” versions I found were all about someone who had already found such a home — “I’ve got a home in that rock” instead of “better get a home in that rock.” Huh. And for Sing Down Chariot, the best I could do was an Elvis version, which probably wasn’t what Pop was going for.

Overall, to me it’s a little too grim and religious for my tastes. I’m glad he was able to look past that and find something he enjoyed, though!

RITA, MAY I INTRODUCE YOU TO ROLLAND?

…And Both of You Ought to Get to Know Frances Day

A few essays back, I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes and dictated an essay about the most bitter woman I ever knew in my life. That woman was my boss’s secretary. You may recall that she is the one who told me, when I quit smoking, that I would be smoking again before the week passed. It has now been more than 50 years since I quit smoking and I wrote the essay to commemorate that fact. If Rita is still alive, I would like her to see it.

The woman in question was Rita Snedicker, a secretary in the offices of the headquarters of AT&T Long Lines in New York City. Rita was a heavy smoker herself, and there was no mistake about that. The lines in her face told the world that she was a heavy smoker. On top of that, Rita had been born with one leg shorter than the other and she walked with a limp. She lived with her bachelor brother in New Jersey and, as far as I know, Rita never married and I suspect that her boyfriends were few and far between. What I am suggesting is that Rita had plenty of reasons to be bitter and she carried it off with great aplomb. She seemed to dislike everyone.

Now the scene shifts to the Division Five headquarters of Long Lines in Saint Louis back in 1941. When I was hired, I became aware of an Engineer named Rolland Crow. Rolland had a certain expertise with open wire lines which are mounted on telephone poles.

When I returned to the St. Louis office after more than three years in the military service, AT&T was preparing to replace its open wire lines with a coaxial cable plowed beneath the surface. To the extent that AT&T replaced its open wire facilities with cable, Rolland Crow’s expertise became much less important.

Shortly after I returned to AT&T, I was given a desk in the engineering department not far from where Rolland Crow held court. Rolland actually held court because at lunch time he played chess at his desk with other people and seemed to enjoy beating them. Tiger Woods says that he likes not only to beat his opponents but to “kick their butts.” This was the attitude displayed by Rolland Crow. It was not enough just to win the game; his opponent had to be annihilated as well.

The fact that Rolland’s expertise was no longer in such great demand did not help his attitude. I soon came to learn that Rolland hated physicians. The source of the dislike had to do with an illness of his wife’s. As you know, physicians call their group of patients a “practice.” On many, many occasions Rolland would say about those physicians, “When are they going to quit practicing and play the game for keeps?” Whether Mrs. Crow’s physicians were adequate or not is not for me to say, but I suspect that the greatest physicians would not meet Rolland’s standards. He hated them all.

Throughout all of this period of years, Rolland used to dictate on one of the original Dictaphones which used a wax cylinder. Most of the other engineers and lesser folks would simply write out their letters or comments in longhand and give them to a stenographer in the typing pool and in a day or so the letter would be returned. But that is not the way Rolland did things. He dictated on this ancient Dictaphone with the wax cylinder, which gave him the prerogative of complaining about it not being returned soon enough and also gave him a reason to growl that the stenographer had missed a word.

Aside from those facts, it should be observed that Rolland dictated into this ancient machine in such a loud voice that the rest of us in that department had trouble concentrating. When I left St. Louis in the summer of 1951, Rolland was approaching retirement and as far as I can remember he still used his wax cylinder Dictaphone.

There is one other indication of Rolland’s dislike of other people. When one of the bosses or, particularly, one of his wife’s physicians became sick, Rolland would say, “I hope it’s nothing trivial.” Rolland was, as you can see, an equal opportunity disliker or hater, if you will. He simply disliked almost everyone, or at least that is the impression he gave.

Being a young member of the engineering staff, I was taught to look up to the engineers. But Rolland was a difficult man to be around. More or less, old Rolland exuded dislike and hatred for just about everyone. His remark about “I hope it’s nothing trivial” seemed to encapsulate the essence of Rolland’s personality.

A lot of time has now gone by since I first knew Rolland in 1941 and I suspect that he is no longer with us. It was an object lesson for me to know Rolland because it taught me what not to do. And if I were a physician in the St. Louis area, I would tell Rolland and his wife to go look for some other doctor rather than to saddle me with their loathsome spirits.

Rolland was a bitter man who would make a perfect companion for Rita Snedicker. He worked in St. Louis and she worked in New York, so they never had a chance to meet. But if they had met, I would say it was a match made in heaven: the most bitter woman and the most bitter man that I have known in all of my years of working experience.

Both Rolland and Rita by now have probably gone to their heavenly reward. Perhaps they will meet there and enjoy life for all eternity, bitching and moaning from morning until evening.

By now I suspect that all of you have had your full share of negativity about Rolland and Rita. Let us turn now to a happy woman who will provide a bit of inspiration.

In February, 1998, I was a patient in the Morristown Hospital awaiting an operation to repair my aortic valve. The diameter of the older valve that I had from my birth had shrunk from the size of a quarter, which it should be, to the size of a dime. Breathing during exercise became very difficult. So something had to be done. In this case, as in all such cases, the chest is opened and a new valve, this one from a pig, is inserted in place of the old valve. There were comforting words from the surgeon, who told me that if the pig valve failed over the next several years, they would happily replace it free of charge. I was not particularly comforted by this disclosure.

The night before the operation, I had a conversation with my fellow Missourian, Howard Davis. For reasons that are now unknown to me, this conversation led me to write a letter to the editor of the Hutchinson News. The subject of my letter, which was printed in an extended weekend edition, had to do with women and young girls meeting almost every troop train that passed through Hutchinson, Kansas. They boarded the train to pass out apples and cookies. On two occasions, on my way to an army camp at Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was on such a troop train that passed through Hutchinson around midnight. Even though the hour was late, those women and girls got on the train and passed out the cookies and the apples and tried to cheer us. I appreciated that very much.

The editor of the Hutchinson News printed my story and a woman named Frances Day called me to tell me that she knew those women. I was thoroughly delighted to know that someone who had knowledge of meeting the troop trains was still alive and would be willing to meet me. My wife and I flew to Wichita and then drove up to Hutchinson, which was a big division point on the railroads. My belief is that the division point belonged either to the Missouri Pacific, the St. Louis-San Francisco, or the Santa Fe Railways. In any case, Hutchinson was a major railway division point.

Arrangements had been made to meet Frances Day, who had written me the letter, and her husband. We met them and enjoyed lunch with them. Frances appeared in her wheelchair, which her husband, Bill Day, took from the rear of their van and wheeled into the inn. Frances and Bill Day were delightful people and we promised to keep in touch with them. Many of these promises to keep in touch don’t really work out, but in this case it did. I was obliged to Frances for representing the women who met those trains in Hutchinson during the war and it was a pleasure to meet Bill Day, who was also a gunner in the American Air Force.

Upon returning home, we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day. As time went on, we found out a little more about the Days. Frances suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She plays the piano and sings at a home for the aged and sings at church as well. She has borne her burden of less-than-spectacular health with good grace. Her husband Bill has had a stroke in recent years. Both of them are wonderful people.

After we began to send essays to Frances and Bill Day, each one was marked by a return postcard. The postcard gave us news of what was going on in Hutchinson, but most of all it was meant to thank us for sending each issue of the essays. We have the most recent postcard, which tells us that Frances and Bill Day are approaching 80 years and are thankful that they are still at home together.

So here is a girl who went from handing out cookies and apples to the troops during World War II to singing in church and playing for old folks, much of the time in recent years from a wheelchair. I believe it is an inspiring story and one that I wish I had known about in previous years so that I could have quoted it to Rita and Rolland. The postcard from Frances tells you all you need to know about their outlook on life. When I have said in previous writings, “Don’t look at what you have lost but at what you have left,” that is the essence of what Frances and Bill Day are doing. And so you see, this story, which started out on a morbid note, actually has a happy ending. If any of you are wandering around western Kansas and decide to go to Hutchinson, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Frances and Bill Day. Judy and I were inspired by our visit and by our correspondence with them, and I think that you will be too.

E. E. CARR
July 18, 2006

~~~

Not sure I ever expected to hear Pop describe someone as a “hater” but hey, the shoe clearly fits. That said I think it’s probably fair to cut a little slack to someone whose wife is chronically ill. If someone close to you is being hurt by something serious like that, it can definitely change your personality and make you more on-edge for long periods of time. It’s not an excuse to be an asshole to everyone, of course, but it might explain some of the other behavior.

The part about making friends with the Days made me smile. Plus it answers a very tiny mystery, namely who the “Day” column belongs to on the original distribution list for mailing the essays. Said distribution list suggests that a total of 492 essays were sent out to the Days — it seems like that friendship definitely lasted!

A LETTER TO MY READERS AND FRIENDS

Last December when I wrote the essay “Sing No Sad Songs for This Old Geezer,” it was intended primarily to tell my friends about the onset of blindness. Your responses have been overwhelmingly generous and I am deeply touched. I am not that good and not that courageous. The situation now is very much like it was in the melancholy days of World War II during the North African and Italian campaigns. At that time, it was my intention to do my duty, and to get from one day to the next without being killed. That is not necessarily courage; it is a matter of survival.

Your generous responses have led me to produce another few essays. The first two, dated before October 31, when the lights were turned out, were written by hand. On several occasions, I found that the right-hand margin of the paper did not stop my pen from writing. It just went on to the desk. Clearly, at that point I was becoming blind. The later essays, dated in the current year, were dictated rather than written. This is a difficult form for me to master, as I have always written essays in long hand until this time. Dictating without notes is a difficult exercise, but it is slowly being mastered. In the old days, there were essays that wrote themselves. In the new days of dictating, essays don’t write themselves anymore. About the closest I could come to having an essay write itself is the one called “…He Kept It For Hisself.” I hope you enjoy reading the essays.

Speaking of the onset of blindness, my old friend Howard Davis posed a question to me that required very little in terms of preparing an answer. Howard, as you may know, is the poet laureate of Defiance, Missouri, a job that pays something in excess of two million dollars or dinars a year. Howard asked me what was the last thing I saw before they turned the lights out. I am sure Howard envisioned a bed of daffodils or roses growing on a trellis or some romantic thing that would enhance his poetry. In point of fact, however, as much as it may disappoint Colonel Davis, the last thing I saw before the lights went out was the precious commode in the pre-op room in the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. I don’t know how Howard will make a poem out of that situation, but that is not mine to question. It is up to Professor Davis whom I know will make an epic poem which may be an ode to a commode.

I hope you enjoy reading the essays. The newer ones, written by dictating, require a lot of polish. They are not as well written as those written earlier in long hand. But be that as it may, this is the current state of affairs.

Again, I thank you for your very generous comments with respect to “Sing No Sad Songs For This Old Geezer.” As I said earlier, I just am not that good.

E. E. CARR
March 5, 2006

~~~
Below, I’ve linked my best guesses for the essays that he’s referring to. I’m pretty sure about the first two, but the second two come AFTER this note is dated, so I don’t know what the deal is with that. They’re all about blindness, though.

https://ezrasessays.com/?p=2227 A BUCKET OF WARM SPIT 10/10/05
https://ezrasessays.com/?p=2239 REFLECTIONS AS LIVES DRAW TO A CLOSE 10/23/05
https://ezrasessays.com/?p=1611 “WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE: ME OR YOUR LYING EYES?” 3/13/06
https://ezrasessays.com/?p=1617 IT’S ONLY THE FIRST INNING 6/23/06

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

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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.