Archive for the Islam Category

OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE | Meditations: Chapter 17, Verses Amu to Emu

For good reasons, New Orleans remains in the news. Its prominence in the news may go on for years. Two events account for our attention to New Orleans these days. The first is the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The second is a presumably powerful prayer released by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who claims that he is responsible for the insurgency in Iraq.

So that there is no mistake of any kind, the author of this essay is no Methodist Bishop. He is unaffiliated with any religion and accepts the discipline of no faith. Accordingly, his views on religious matters are offered as distinctly objective observations. The questions that are asked herein are intended to fill in the holes of a non-believer’s intellect. And so we start with Abu Musan al-Zarqawi.

This past week, al-Zarqawi announced that Hurricane Katrina came about as the result of prayers directed by himself and other Muslim faithful to Allah, who presumably resides in Paradise. While Paradise seems to be located somewhere in outer space, it would seem to occupy a different location from the Heaven that Christians aspire to. For example, Roman Catholics insist that their church is the only true church. Joseph Ratzinger, the Bishop of Rome and the current Pope, probably would take enormous objection to having an Islamic Paradise located anywhere near the Heaven that is presided over by the Christian Trinity. It is possible that outer space may become cluttered with Paradises and Heavens when the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Seventh Day Adventists and other faiths construct their final resting place.

Al-Zarqawi insists that his praying to Allah brought Katrina to New Orleans. He may have been inspired by a group of militant branch of the Jewish faith who invoked an ancient prayer to have Itzak Rabin assassinated. Currently, the Jewish radicals are praying for the assassination of Ariel Sharon because of his removal of Jews from Gaza. As you can see, the air waves are filled with prayers including those importuning the various Gods to kill their enemies.

As an objective observer and as a former AT&T employee, it would seem to me that there is a high likelihood that such prayers may well arrive at the wrong destination. Consider the Bishop of Rome, a celibate old man, mistakenly asking Allah to reserve 50 young virgins for his arrival. Even AT&T in its heyday could not fully guarantee that every call would always reach the desired party. So the Bishop of Rome has to expect a wrong number now and then.

So your author finds himself in a state of total confusion. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are located in what most people would consider a Christian country. Even the underclass consisting mostly of black people is similar to the days of slavery described in the Christian Bible. The question that must be answered is where was the Christian Trinity when Katrina set out to destroy the homes, the lives and the jobs for so many Christians? Did the Trinity agree that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast would be destroyed? Or was it a case of not caring about the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama one way or another?

Could it possibly be that al-Zarqawi and that miserable SOB Satan were in a position to answer the prayers of the Muslims? If that is the case, it would appear that Allah and/or Satan is more powerful than the Trinity. That would seem to be the case when logic is applied.

A similar case happened last January when 2,000,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami in South East Asia. Most of those people were Muslims, if they had any religion at all. Did the Christian Trinity take a pass on that non-Christian tragedy or was it, as in Katrina, overpowered? It would be good to have a reasoned discussion on these events.

These are age old questions. It seems to me that if death is unavoidable, which it is, there is no better place for it to happen than in New Orleans, hence the title of this piece. It seems to me that New Orleanians often share a philosophy that enhances my life. Dying is part of living. In my view, life ends after a time and thoughts of endless ecstasy in a Heaven or a Paradise are no more than figments of a lively imagination by preachers.

In New Orleans, when a person dies and is to be buried, often in above ground cemeteries, there is ordinarily a parade to the cemetery led by a brass band. The procession to the cemetery is accompanied by slow steps to hymns played by the band. When the burial is accomplished, the work of the band really only starts. On the way to the cemetery, the band plays such old time hymns as, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” or “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There.” These are religious pieces, of course. Ah, but on the way back to town, the band will probably play, “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque” and certainly, “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble,” neither of which would be played by a proper Yankee church organist.

W. C. Handy wrote the words to “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.” Louis Armstrong added some lyrics. The two versions are similar in most respects. It may be instructive to quote a verse or two. The first is from Louis Armstrong, the second is from W. C. Handy.

“He slipped into a cat house and made love to the stable
Madam caught him cold….said I’ll pay you when I’m able
Six months passed…and she stood all she could stand
She said buddy when I’m through with you
Old groundhog gonna be shaking yo’ hand.”

by Louis Armstrong

“He rambled into an Irish wake one St. Patrick’s night,
They asked him what he’d like to drink, they meant to treat him rightly
But like the old Kilkenny cats, their backs began to arch,
When he called for orange phosphate, on the seventeenth of March.”

by W. C. Handy

The chorus is:

“And didn’t he ramble…he rambled
Rambled all around – in and out of town
Oh didn’t he ramble – he rambled
You know he rambled – till the butcher cut him down.”

The words may not make perfect sense, but for goodness sakes, this is a New Orleans jazz song written for a brass band. If al-Zarqawi came to New Orleans and died, it would be my guess that a brass band would play “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque” and “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble” with an Islamic lilt. As W. C. Handy wrote, “They meant to treat him rightly.”

When all is said and done, this old soldier-essayist does not believe
al-Zarqawi’s prayers to Allah caused the catastrophe in New Orleans. No way. Nor did his prayers cause Hurricane Rita.

The same thought applies when Christians of the U.S. importune Jesus and the Holy Ghost to grant us success in the occupation of Iraq and the torture of prisoners there and at Gitmo.

Prayers exist to please the one who prays. As far as anyone can find out, prayers seem to change nothing. Maybe that is enough and maybe it is not.

A case in point is Rose, my sister-in-law. She and my eldest brother, Charles Halley were married about when the Hoover Depression hit. Charley was dogmatic about most things in life. Rose assumed his dogmatic attitude was intelligence, so she accepted Charley’s views on everything. When Charley went off the deep end on Christianity, Rose followed him.

Some time around the age of 60, Charley died. Some time later a fatal illness overtook Rose. It was clear that she would never leave the hospital alive. It was my duty to help good old Rose. When a Person-to-Person call was placed from my office or residence, the person who answered was told by the local operator that “New York is calling Rose Carr.” Word got around that Rose had a well wisher in New York who called her St. Louis hospital. It may have given her some pleasure and prestige in her final days.

In my last call, Rose, a fervent believer in prayer, notified me that she had succeeded in “getting three churches” to pray for her. The prayers in those three churches may have pleased the ones who prayed, but Rose died a day or so after our last conversation. The prayers seemed to be unanswered.

So the message is clear for al-Zarqawi in Iraq or for some evangelical Nazarenes in St. Louis. Prayers may make the ones praying feel better, but they have no effect at changing the course of events in our lives. But if people feel better by praying, please let them do it.

September 17, 2005

Prayer for health is a little tricky. It turns out that not only is there no correlation between prayer and better results, if you tell someone that people are praying for him, he’s likely to do worse than he would do normally.

But in addition to doing nothing for the victim (in a best-case scenario), I think prayer also has an adverse impact on the person praying. I don’t like it for the same reason that I don’t like other token, meaningless gestures of support — it makes you feel like you’ve done your part even though you haven’t. If there’s a really important cause out there, people who post a token supportive Tweet and people who send out a prayer are making the same mistake; they’re tricking their own minds into thinking that they’ve Made a Difference. In reality this creates a sort of compassion fatigue, wherein these same people are less likely to actually go to a protest, write to a congressperson, etc; they feel like they’ve already contributed toward this goal, so they don’t need to take additional measures of support. That’s bad.

So I guess the takeaways here are that if you’re going to pray for someone, by no means tell them that you’re doing so, and if you’re going to pray for something, remember that God helps those who help themselves. As soon as you’re done praying, go try to make an actual change.


Judging from the numbers of recent aggressive articles and angry letters to the editors of newspapers, it is my probably biased judgment that old Satan is getting a bum rap. Fair play is fair play. He is being accused of such dis-similar events as the spread of AIDS, purse snatchings, fixing the football playoffs, and trying to inject secular ideas into the Christmas spirit. Fortunately, the $63 million Inaugural went off without a hitch, so Satan got a pass on that one.

My research holds that in the King James version of the Bible, in Revelations 12:7-9, that Satan and other so called fallen angels became the tempters of men and the source of evil in the world. The Christian church also holds that the fall of man was the result of Satan’s actions. So Satan leaves the starting line under a tremendous handicap.

As an uninvolved observer of religious affairs, it seems to me that old Satan has been accused of just about all the sins of mankind. There are some fair minded people in New York City who speak a smattering of Yiddish, who might say, “Enough already.” Perhaps those who don’t speak Yiddish would express the same sentiments. But it now appears that Satan is being blamed for the tsunami disaster. This is on top of shoplifting, stealing kisses and other heinous crimes.

My thoughts about the tsunami disaster would be for the world, and especially Americans, to demonstrate sympathetic understanding, not to fix blame so soon. To a dismaying degree, however, some Americans have said to the Southeast Asians that it serves you right because you are Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists. This old essayist was not prepared for such a response. What ever happened to compassion? What ever happened to live and let live? Christmas religious activities also seem to provoke some angry sentiments, even if it was only a non-partisan editorial in a local newspaper. It is becoming more difficult every day for non-believers to believe that Satan has had a hand in just about everything that turned out wrong in the past year. So this old essayist says, “Enough already!”

Let us take the tsunami matter. Being born in the American Midwest, my education about tsunamis was largely minimal. Of course, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers flooded from time to time, but the floods rarely killed anyone in contrast to the 220,000 residents of Southeast Asia who appear to have recently lost their lives. With my Midwestern mindset, it was assumed that tsunamis are a secular development and can be explained by science. But from all appearances, some Americans see tsunami disasters as a religious matter devoted largely to Satan of Revelations fame. So it appears that tsunamis have both a secular as well as a spiritual aspect to them. That is, if you believe the angry letter writers.

Susan Agee, who writes a column for the Detroit Free Press, wrote an article in early January, having to do with whether any God was involved in the tsunami disaster. Ms. Agee wondered, “We raged at terrorists who killed a much smaller number of people on 9/11, but we feel only sadness at what is called an act of God. If God is all powerful, how can he, she or it wash the earth with such trauma and grief?”

Ms. Agee did not have to wait long for responses from her readers. Lori Stuit of Royal Oak was convinced she knew exactly what had caused the tsunami to occur. Ms. Stuit declared, “God did not cause the recent tsunami to occur. Satan did. While there is an all powerful God of this world, there is a God who is all evil: Satan. I am surprised at how many people don’t take time to think about this. I feel bad for people who are lost and confused.”

Do you think in matters of evilness, Satan can trump God? If God did not cause the tsunami, did he permit it to occur? Did he care one way or another, or was it a case of yielding to a higher power in old Satan? Ms. Stuit seems to say that Satan is “an all powerful God.” Is that where the matter rests? Is Satan the most powerful person in the universe? Ms Stiut seems to concede on that point.

Richard (Skip) Parker had a good bit of ecclesiastical information to share with Ms. Agee. Parker said, “God does not cause bad things to happen. He is in control and has the power to stop anything if it is his will to do so. Therefore, if bad things happen, he must have allowed it. What God does is always in our best interests even when we can’t understand it.”

In effect, Brother Parker contends that God could have stopped the tsunami if he or she or it had wanted to do so. And we are told that maybe the tsunami was in “our best interests” even if we don’t think that is the case right now. Many people will gag at Skip Parker’s reasoning. On the other hand, Skip did not blame old Satan outright, but we all know, he reserves the right to hang the tsunami on the main fallen angel.

Tim Long took a different tack. He wrote, “So you think God killed those people? I thank God that he gives me life every day. I am a National Guard soldier in Iraq. God protected me from harm. Are you a Christian or not?”

When Susan Agee asked Tim Long, “Why didn’t God protect your dead comrades from harm?,” Long did not reply. Tim only wanted to get his two cents worth in on the tsunami issue.

Do you suspect that Long believes that being a Christian is a safeguard against harm? Do you think God protects Christians and says for everybody else, “You are on your own.” Is that the way it works? How is this all going to work when the Iraqi troops are trained. They are virtually all Muslims. Will George Bush’s God protect the Christians but not the Muslims? Do the Iraqi troops know that they are unprotected by the Christian God?

Long’s sentiments are close to another reader who did not sign his or her name. That respondent said, “The Bible tells us that countries who forget God will pay a price. These countries that just got hit are almost exclusively Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, religions that worship pagan Gods and ignore the one true God. It won’t be long until this country pays a price as well, and we will have people like you (Susan Agee) to thank. The tsunami is just another sign of prophecy being realized. Maybe someday you will get it, but I doubt it.”

The reader who did not sign a name must have been an angry person. From all indications, he or she must have confused his beliefs with historical facts. We will see some more of this attitude when we deal with the Christmas editorial. In this case, Susan Agee who posed a question about the tsunami was judged by some readers to be a full fledged infidel because the question was posed in an objective fashion which reporters use. In every case, it seems to me that, one way or another, old Satan is the culprit. There are those of us who believe he or she or it is taking a bum rap for an undersea earthquake over which Satan has no control. It must be suspected that Susan Agee has had enough of the tsunami business for awhile.

But that did not prevent one angry television commentator, Michael Savage, from offering a December 31, 2004 broadcast wherein he cleansed himself of these thoughts:

“You could take the argument that it’s God’s will, it’s too bad and let’s move on. And then let others help them. They’re not in our sphere of interest. Primarily, they hate our guts in plain English. All right, well the argument is, well, if you send them money, they’re gonna like us, show ‘em we’re not anti-Muslim. That is such rubbish. That is such rubbish. They’re gonna hate you anyhow, no matter what we ever do.”

“If you are a God believing, God-fearing person, I am sure at some point you ask yourself, wait a minute: The epicenter of this earthquake and the resulting tidal wave was adjacent to the sex-trade island of Phuket, Thailand…and then it knocked out many, many regions of Indonesia, some of which are the most vicious recruiting grounds for Islamic terrorists…”

“Many of the countries and the areas in these countries that were hit by these tidal waves were hotbeds of radical Islam. Why should we be helping them destroy us?”

“We shouldn’t be spending a nickel on this, as far as I’m concerned…I don’t want one nickel of my money going over there…I am sick of being bled to death by every damn incident on the earth.”

Source: Media Matters for America at

Well, many of us believe with the scientists that an undersea earthquake took place with a resulting shifting of the plates of the earth’s surfaces. Shifting the plates caused tremendous waves to occur and hence, the tsunami. Scientists don’t think Satan had much to do with it. In none of their reports have we seen his name mentioned, nor is the CIA looking for him. So while there is no love for Satan in this corner, it is disturbing to see an innocent bystander get side swiped, even if it is the evil Satan. My book says Satan had nothing to do with the tsunami and that Michael Savage needs psychiatric advice.

So much for the tsunami. Let us more on to a Christmas editorial.

In spite of family feuds and fights, Christmas is generally believed to be a time of joy. Allegedly, the sentiments of peace surround us. For Christians, it is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus to what we are told, was the Virgin Mary. Joseph, Mary’s husband, is often overlooked at Christmas time, but he was the other half of this couple.

Christians at Christmas have visions of eternal life spent in ecstasy in a heavenly kingdom. With all that to look forward to, why are some Christians so defensive? It is a wonderment, but John P. McGee of this town is a pretty good example of my wonderment.

Millburn is a town with Catholics, Protestants and a large serving of Jews. There may even be some non-believers. Attracted by the excellence of the school system, property is now being bought by the Chinese and Indians. Some day soon, we may have temples devoted to the worship of Hindu and Buddhist gods to go with our churches and synagogues. The editor of our weekly paper, The Item, is painfully cognizant of the religious diversity of Millburn. As far as is known, the various religions reside here in peace with a little harmony thrown in.

The Item never denigrates any religious observance. However, when the editor composed her Christmas editorial, she included these fateful lines:

“…more and more Americans are questioning the place of religion in

Clearly, her reference was to the commercial aspects of Christmas when we are deluged by ads to buy diamonds, fancy watches, fur coats and expensive cars.

But John P. McGee took offense. Reading those lines must have incensed him as he said, “I realized it was time to take up the pen and express my resentment at the demeaning description of Christmas….”

Now some nay-sayer may believe that Mr. McGee “took up the pen” under the influence of holiday alcohol. Far from it. He reports that with all the shopping done and with his house appropriately decorated, he looked forward to some down time on his sofa as he read The Item with the inflammatory editorial. He reports, “I could now relax and enjoy the final approach of Christmas Day. I fixed myself a soft drink, settled on the sofa and started to read…” So you see John Barleycorn had nothing to do with his angry response. The villain at work was decaffeinated Coke or Pepsi, or most likely, old Satan.

His letter goes on at some length to site his religious beliefs as historical facts. There is a juxtaposition between the McGee letter and the thought expressed earlier that religious beliefs had much to do with the tsunami. Perhaps, it comes under the heading of, if we believe it, it must be a fact. Nice try, but historical facts are one thing; religious beliefs are quite another.

Well our neighbor, Brother McGee ends his diatribe with the thought that, “If the silent majority would sit up and speak out you would find that the facts are otherwise.” All of this over an editorial in a neighborhood paper aimed at offending no one.

It is fairly clear that McGee would tend to blame old Satan for writing the offending editorial. It must be suspected that he would find Satan’s hand in the tsunami disaster as well as in the fender benders that take place in the darkness of the Christmas season.

No one has arranged for me to meet John McGee. His name suggests he is a fellow Celt and in the end, he may appeal to me. But in the meantime, if McGee states his case for the “silent majority,” it is clear that Satan will never be reformed enough to satisfy some folks who see the world only in black and white terms. Can Satan be reformed or redeemed? Around here, not on your life, even if he is being unfairly maligned. Satan should accept the unfair accusations coming his way with good grace and humble gratitude. And he should refrain from saying, “Merry Christmas.” If Satan adopts such a forgiving attitude, he may, in time, emerge as one of our national heroes on the order of Santa Claus or Bernie Kerik. Then he will be fully redeemed.

January 25, 2005


Every mention of theodicy reminds me of this comic, and more specifically the phrase “God works in mysterious, dickish ways.” Because how else do you pretend that a tsunami is ultimately in everyone’s best interest? I also love how these same people, when tsumanis and hurricanes hit Christian nations, are likely to then turn it around and blame it on gays in those countries. (Bonus comic)

So basically the argument goes “so long as >5% of a given population is not exactly like me in every respect, that population deserves to get hit by a hurricane.”


This short essay is undertaken with a sense of fear and trembling since it involves religion. When one person or one sect or one country calls another infidels and apostates, it would almost always be a slur. Generally speaking, my religious involvement is minimal because this ancient non-believer would seem to have no dog in this fight among religionists. As a man who is uninvolved in religious matters, it would seem to permit me to ponder why ostensibly holy people hurl such strong words at other people of great faith. Non-involved men like me are entitled to a strong sense of bafflement.

In my limited involvement in any religious affairs, it would seem to me that when one person or a religious group attempts to fasten the label of infidels or apostates on another religious group, those words spring more from hatred than from love or compassion. These words are not inspirational words; they are more like fighting words, it would seem to me.

There is a supreme irony here. Virtually all religions known to me, bill themselves as beacons of love and understanding and great compassion. The Jews, the Christians, the Hindus and the Buddhists all claim that their tenets of faith are ones of love. Are we missing something here? Is it possible for a man or a group to have so much love and so much compassion that they fling the charge of infidels and apostates at another group as an exercise in sympathetic understanding? If that is the case, we may have stumbled onto something here, but that most likely is not the case.

As much as we would like these essays to contribute to understanding among all people, it is feared that this essay will probably solve nothing. What is involved in this piece is a series of troublesome questions that occur to an outsider who has no stake in who is an infidel or who is an apostate. Remember, this old essayist who claims to have no dog in this fight, is within hailing distance of his heavenly reward and he would not want any partisans to cast a thumbs down vote against him when it comes to who will wear angel wings in the hereafter.

The questions that are asked in this piece are asked in an innocent desire to learn more, particularly if my non-conventional views cause me to be called an infidel or an apostate. If that is how my views affect others, it seems a matter of elementary fairness to find out why such strong words or slurs are invoked in religious matters where it is claimed that peace, justice and understanding love are the hallmarks of every expression. Again, my sense of bafflement becomes apparent, particularly when my efforts are as a non-combatant who aspires to being a peacemaker.

It might logically be asked why do religious thoughts occur to a man who disassociates himself from the mysteries and the fantasies that permeate organized religion. The simple answer is that, in history, more wars and more cruelty flow from religious disputes than from any other cause. Bush calls our ill-conceived efforts in Iraq a “crusade,” which arouses the absolute deepest Arab and Islamic anger. Then there is the long-standing dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians which has religion at its core. The evangelist Pat Robertson said today (10-5-04) that if Bush tries to give East Jerusalem to the Arabs, who have an historic home there, born again Protestants will vote against him. This is of vital importance because Robertson says he regularly receives messages directly from God. It is assumed that the originator of those sacred messages is the Protestant God or Goddess. Perhaps Allah or Nirvana and all other Gods have different messages, but fire-eater Pat ignores them.

Historically, persons who subscribe to the faith of Islam have long considered Jews as infidels and apostates. As the United States continues to be drawn into the affairs of Islamic countries, we also find repeated references to Americans being infidels and apostates because this country, regardless of its diversity of religious expression, is considered a Christian country by the Muslim world. And by Bush as well. Now we have Moqtada al Sadr who wishes to achieve respectability by becoming involved in the Iraqi political process, calling Kurds, his fellow Iraqi citizens, apostates.

Mr. Al Sadr is an Islamic cleric who seems to rank professionally below those who are called “Imams”. He may not have much of a command of the English language, but it is my duty to inform him of a tautology in that it is very difficult to distinguish an apostate from an infidel in the language used by English speakers such as England’s Queen Elizabeth. This is a fairly minor offense and should not be counted against his record when he applies to enter Paradise where the virgins and/or the white grapes are said to be in residence.

As a non-involved participant in religious matters, it would seem to me that religions have made a mess of things. So just about every religious individual or group has grievances against other religious organizations. Some people would say the job has been badly botched.

Now, a fundamental question. Iraq was pre-emptorily invaded by what Bush calls a coalition. There was Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy and the United States, among others. All of these members of Bush’s grand coalition are considered by Muslim adherents to be Christian countries. It is widely known that Buddhists, Hindus and Shintos reside in those countries and who practice religion that is greatly at variance from that prescribed by, for example, the Reverend Doctor Billy Graham. Are these non-Christians exempt from the label of infidels even though they reside in a so-called Christian country?

If Hindus and Shintos and Buddhists throughout the world are subject to the slur of being called infidels and apostates simply because they reside in a country that is not considered to be an Islamic one, the Muslims are inviting these sects to register strong protests. In India, for example, this may very well result in retaliation against those who want to practice the Muslim faith in a predominately Hindu country. If the Islamists insist on “Our way or the highway,” they may find themselves in some sort of war.

Now if Islamists are persuaded to quit calling Hindus, Buddhists, et al, infidels and apostates, where does that leave Americans, for example, who are non-believers in every organized religious faith? My own personal view is that the Islamists will not accept any claim of non-belief. You are an American; therefore, you are a Christian. In some respects, it reminds me of the Muslim view of homosexuality. They claim that homosexuality does not ever occur in Islamic countries, thus, they have no gay or lesbian problem. They are pure. The flip side of that sort of thinking in blinders is that every American is a Christian and richly deserves to be called an infidel. Non-believers are thinking Americans who may resent being called an Islamic slur, and not a very imaginative one at that.

As for Israel, the slurs about faith go back to the year 570AD when the Prophet Mohammed was born. His followers now seem to assume that many people – Jews and Christians and perhaps others – are to be hated as infidels. Whatever happened to those many people who contend that the Koran is a book that preaches love and understanding for all mankind?

But the juxtaposition of the Jewish faith and Christianity brings up another poignant question. What would the Imams and Ayatollahs say about the infidel American Christian who marries a Jewish spouse? American sportscasters would call this a “twofer.” Here we have the hated Christian marrying a reviled spouse. This must set the Islamic faithful aflame with passion – all done in the name of love and understanding, of course.

If the Muslims find the Christian-Jew marital relationship repugnant in the extreme, what do you think Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani would say about an American Christian who marries a Muslim spouse? Sistani, who is recovering from cardiology work that was done in London, might wish to ask, “Are you trying to kill me?” This may well be a way to peace however. As the number of Muslim-Christian spousal relationships increase, the radical, right wing insurgents in the Islamic faith may kill themselves at such an outrage. It is my unshakeable belief that Sven and Ella Lernevall who live in Sweden, will use my advocacy of this innovative position, to promote me for a Nobel Prize in Peace.

Now let us turn to some military matters and the Grand Commander in Chief of American forces – George W. Bush. He says he is our wartime president. The fact that he started the pre-emptive war which makes him a wartime president is never mentioned.

A story appeared this week about the 2004 election. The dispatch claimed that Bush is now avidly courting the votes of black preachers. Walter Humphrey of Akron, Ohio, heard Bush and said, until recently, he had doubts about the fairness of presidential election results in 2000. Now he says, “I don’t see an election being stolen. I see that as the providence of God.”

Lt. General Boykin, who works as one of Rumsfeld’s top assistants, says in his talk to churches, that God put Bush in the White House. For his own part, Bush believes that his gut hunches come from God whom he said wanted him to be president.

If all these figures believe that Bush is acting in God’s name, how can anyone – Muslim or otherwise – call him and his soldiers infidels or apostates? From my viewpoint, Bush is Americas greatest infidel when it comes to uniting the people of this country.

Now let us examine the troops who make up the American military. Clearly, not every soldier who wears the American flag on his sleeve will sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” at Sunday services. There are soldiers who are devout Muslims who pray five times a day in a consecrated mosque. On holy days, he may ceremonially cut the throat of a sheep or a goat, all in the name of Allah. Given these circumstances, do you believe that the ordinary Imam in Mosul or Basra or in Riyadh would call such an American soldier an infidel? But he is serving a commander in chief who regularly proclaims his devotion to Jesus and the Christian Evangelic faith. This must be a close call for the Imams of the Arabic world who see the American soldier trying to serve two masters.

If you think my foregoing example of the Muslim soldier serving the Army of the so called Christian country is unimaginable, please consider the case of Captain Yee. The good captain was a Muslim who was a Chaplain in the United States Army. He was born in New Jersey, his parents were Americans, which most observers would say would make him an American. He was raised in the Muslim faith. From the beginning, he was an adherent to the cause of what we used to call Muhammadism.

Because the Army was holding something like 650 prisoners in a prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, Captain Yee was sent there because most or nearly all those prisoners claimed to be Muslim. Somewhere or somehow, the Army concluded that Captain Yee was illegally involved with the prisoners and said it was going to court martial him. He was held in solitary confinement in a Navy brig in South Carolina where Army officers informed him the court martial proceedings against him would include the death penalty. Pretty serious stuff. After more than two months of solitary confinement, the Army released him, but restricted him to the base. Simply put, the Army who had experts in the field and in Washington trying to make a case against Captain Yee, failed to find any significant evidence against him. In the end, Captain Yee was accused of having an extramarital affair with a female military person and the Army claimed he had pornographic pictures on his computer.

That is all the brass could come up with after months of work. No treason, no working to undermine the mission of the United States. If everyone who has been engaged in an extramarital affair runs the risk of the death penalty, it is clear that the coffin industry is the place to put your money. In the end, the Army surrendered and offered Captain Yee a discharge. He had to fight to make it clear that he would not leave the Army unless he had an honorable discharge. In the end, Captain Yee’s demands were met – but the grand U.S. Army, conqueror of Baghdad, refused to accompany the discharge with any sort of apology. Now my query to Grand Ayotallah Sistani and all other members of the Islamic faith, is whether Captain Yee should be called an infidel or an apostate because he served in a religious capacity with the U.S. Army? If he is called one of those slurs, it would seem to me a monumental case of piling on with no good reason.

This essay has gone on longer than intended. My thought here has to do with the mindlessness of calling another person an infidel or an apostate. You may differ, but in my vocabulary, those words spring from hate, not from love. In my own life, those words have been used against another sect or faith during the years that my parents forced me to attend their fundamental and primitive Protestant church services. The preachers, for example, were generally unschooled and would have no idea whatsoever if someone mentioned Mecca or any other basic Islamic practice. So they turned their wrath (read hatred) on other Christians. For example, according to the preachers who pastored these churches, no one could aspire to heaven unless he or she had submitted to full immersion during baptism. The translation of this interpretation is that Catholics and other sects who were anointed on their foreheads, would be condemned to hell and, it may be supposed, to being an infidel or an apostate during their lifetimes. My reaction to this state of affairs was one of total repulsion.

And so my long standing non-involvement, or non-belief if you will, in all the affairs of organized and unorganized religions suits me well. It is hoped, as has been expressed before in these essays, that your faith or lack of faith pleases you as well as mine suits me.

To be on the safe side though, my television listening habits sometimes take me to marvel at the offerings of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) and the Catholic programs on Eternal World Television Network. My occasional listening to offerings of these prominent religious figures together with my non-involvement or non-belief in sacred affairs might be called playing God across the board. That may be true, but for an ancient soldier essay writer in the eighth decade of his life who still aspires to angel wings, you clearly can’t be too safe.

October 6, 2004


I think there’s just a big misunderstanding. When a given sect or religion claims to be a religion of peace, that means that there’s generally peace among all those who hold that identical belief. Every religion would like to get to a state where everyone on the planet was an adherent of that particular religion, even for non-proselytizing ones like Judaism. Any Jewish person would jump at the chance to live in a version of Earth where every Christian and Muslim is instead also a Jew, and for good reason. There would be peace! This gets around the infidel problem, and if you are finding that you’re still upset with someone who nominally shares your religious beliefs, just keep going down the rabbit hole of increasingly specific sectionalism until you find a difference.



Early in December, 2003, news reports and network television broadcasts quoted Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman of the United States Army as delivering these pungent remarks after the American Army had shot up some Iraqi villages. Col. Sassaman said, “With a heavy dose of fear and violence and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them”.

When television reporters asked Sassaman to repeat those remarks so they could eliminate any erroneous inferences, he repeated exactly the same sentence which I assume he had written down. Can you imagine a field grade American Army officer saying a “heavy dose of fear and violence can convince these (Iraqi) people that we are here to help”?

If that is the price to be paid for “help,” it would be just as well for the Iraqis to forego all such “help.” Yet Sassaman’s comments drew no fire whatsoever from his military superiors. It must be assumed that the chain of command extending back to Washington finds no fault with Sassaman’s remarks. What crimes are being committed in the name of the American people in a war that serves only the political destiny of this administration.

If I were a believer, my thoughts would be on prayer with hopes for a miracle. But I am not a believer, so the killings will go on apace.

Now we turn to three other examples of military justice at work. If these examples of the justices turned out by the American military are justice in any sense of the word, then my perception of justice is clearly askew.

In the first Gulf War, several Air Force and Navy fliers were shot down and were captured. They endured torture of the most gruesome kind, which went on for several months.

That was around 1991. When they were eventually released, they brought suit against Iraq asking that some of Iraq’s oil wealth be set aside for their compensation. They were awarded something like about a billion dollars.

Two or three weeks ago, the Bush administration overrode the courts and announced that the fliers would get nothing for the damage inflicted upon them when they were prisoners of war.

The rationale for this is convoluted, but here it is. When the pre-emptive war launched by George Bush was still underway, it was belatedly announced that all of Iraq’s assets were transferred to the U. S. Treasury. We got it all. None of it went to our erstwhile allies like Great Britain. It all wound up in Washington, so the Bushies say that suing Iraq is pointless because they have no money. Just because they pump billions of gallons of oil each year is no reason for them to have any money in the Iraqi treasury.

And to top off this illogical set of arguments, the Bush people contend that all the money is absolutely neededed to help in rebuilding Iraq. The imprisoned fliers are simply out of luck.

When Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” spoke to these former captives, he reminded them that their award by the U. S. Court system could be turned around instantly by George Bush. Bush isn’t going to make it happen. They have even stated that the award in total or in part could be diverted to someone other than themselves, such as a charity. There is absolutely no response from the United States government. It looks like the captured fliers have been stiffed by the Bush Administration.

Now we turn to Captain McAlpin, a member of the Army Reserves from New Jersey. McAlpin has completed 19 years with the Reserves and will be eligible to retire in 2004.

Earlier, McAlpin and many of his troops served a full year in Iraq. They were rotated out with the firm understanding established by the Army, that they would not be sent back to Iraq for at least a year. Foolishly, McAlpin relied on that understanding.

In the Fall of 2003, the Army announced that McAlpin and his troops would be sent back to Iraq after only 11 months at home. The Army leaned all over the affected troops to sign waivers saying that they agreed to return to Iraq voluntarily after only 11 months, in place of a year, at home. Remember, these Reserves have regular civilian jobs too.

McAlpin and several of his troops declined to sign such a waiver. And this is where the bad news starts for Captain McAlpin. After it became clear that McAlpin did not intend to sign the waiver, the Army, as it always does, resorted to force. Remember, all you readers were warned in previous essays that soldiers don’t get paid for thinking. It takes no brain power to apply force, which is what the Army did to Captain McAlpin.

First, McAlpin was charged with insubordination, which the military considers a very serious accusation. If a soldier refused to obey an order to fire his gun at the enemy after being told to do so, that will bring a charge of insubordination. But McAlpin never refused a lawful order. He simply declined to sign an unlawful waiver. Nonetheless, he was charged with insubordination and must face a court-martial, it is reported.

Not content with the charge of insubordination and the court-martial, the Army downgraded McAlpin to a lower rank. It was not reported how far down the ranks the Army degraded McAlpin. Such a downgrading is unheard of except as the outcome of a court-martial trial. But the Army did it before any trial could take place.

On top of all his other woes, McAlpin most likely will have to consider whether he will be kicked out of the Reserves or whether he should abandon 19 years of superior service. Of course, the downgrading will result in a lower pension. If he is forced to leave the Reserves, or if he resigns, it may be that he will have no pension at all.

This is one more instance of justice in the military system.

And that brings us to Chaplain Yee of the U. S. Army. He ministers, in his most recent assignment, to the Muslim prisoners at Guantánamo.

Somewhere during his service in Guantánamo, some Army sleuths began to suspect him of carrying messages from the prisoners. There was never any evidence of any kind, just suspicion. It may be assumed that Captain Yee spoke in Arabic to the prisoners, which his superiors did not understand and perhaps they concluded it was treasonous.

This investigation of Chaplain Yee, incidentally, occurred shortly after he took some of the prisoners complaints to the prison authorities.

When he left Guantánamo for the United States, he carried some papers with him. The indications are that the papers had to do with his duties as a Muslim counselor on Guantánamo.

Ah, but that was not good enough for the United States Army. They contended that Chaplain Yee carried treasonous documents with him. Accordingly, he was jailed in a military facility – and denied access to a lawyer. He was permitted no visitors except Army investigators. This solitary confinement went on for three months.

During that stretch of time, military officials in the Army must have concluded that they had no case at all against an American citizen who was serving the Army as a Muslim chaplain.

But there is no way that the Army will ever admit they were in error. So they avoided the treasonous documents charge that could have brought a death sentence to Captain Yee. Instead, Yee was charged with adultery and carrying “unauthorized papers.” And this is where the farce of Army regulations appears.

Yee contends that the papers he carried and voluntarily showed to Army personnel when he re-entered the United States, were papers having to do with his work. Curiously, it is my belief that the papers were in English, not in Arabic, so there was no mystery about them. But the papers had never been classified by the Army. This threw a major monkey wrench into Captain Yee’s trial. It must be a military rule now that every document be classified. So the trial was halted while Yee’s work papers were submitted to the Army classification system. Until the papers are classified, the defense team, the prosecution and the judge are forbidden to look at these work documents. The best guess by military authorities is that it will take the classification board between three to six months to produce a classification.

Before the flap about the classification of Yee’s papers arose, the Army produced a young Navy officer who admitted an adulterous relationship with the Muslim Chaplain. Yee has had no chance to admit or to deny that relationship because his turn to testify has not occurred.

This much is clear, however. The young female Navy officer who admitted to an alleged adulterous relationship, has signed her death warrant as far as her military career is concerned. And Captain Yee, once the classification flap is settled, may as well seek other employment outside the military services. It may be suspected that this testimony about an adulterous relationship, whether true or not, is not conducive to his future with his wife or in the Muslim clergy or in the United States Army.

In the meantime, while the Army is pursuing the classification fiasco, Captain Yee is home with his family. A few months ago, the Army was thinking about the death penalty. Now this great danger to the American system, is home with no duties. Perhaps, he can consider himself furloughed.

So two lives are besmirched because the Army had to charge Yee with something after the Army had concluded that there were no grounds at all to punish Yee for treason. No difference whatsoever that adultery is punished so infrequently that few people can remember such a court-martial charge ever being sought. The writer of this essay never heard of such a case in his years of service with the Army.

But in the end, my friends, it is simply too much to expect that the American military justice system will ever say that charges against a PERCEIVED perpetrator will ever be dropped – or that a “not guilty” outcome will satisfy the system. It has been clear to the writer of this essay since service during World War II, that once a military person is charged with an offense, it MUST RESULT IN A CONVICTION OR SOME PENALTY. Even if the charge is reduced from treason to adultery, there must be a conviction of some sort.

Two thoughts occur here. Captain Yee is a West Point graduate. My service never took me any where near West Point. Secondly, the writer of this essay is not connected in any way with the Muslim faith.

And so this old soldier asks where is the justice in Colonel Sassaman’s thought about helping the Iraqi people? And where is there justice of any kind in denying court ordered payment to the fliers downed in combat and tortured? And what about the treatment of Captain McAlpin? And finally, it is doubted that Captain Yee or the young female Navy officer will ever turn to the military system for justice or understanding.

An old Army maxim holds that there is no justice in military justice, just as there is no music in military music. It is a cruel turn of events that makes military people realize how true this old observation about a general truth might be.

December 25, 2003

I’ve always wondered about the court-marshaling system. Reading this essay, it reminds me of what happens when a university decides to handle something like a rape case on its own, without involving real police. Basically that it seems extremely whimsical, and ultimately only ends up serving the benefit of the institution holding court. Why not try troops in real courts, and just have special laws on the books that only apply to soldiers? Why is adultery even an illegal offence in the army?


Last week, there arrived in our mailbox a life changing letter. It was a check for $600. In the first place, it was mailed from Austin, Texas which now seems to be at the center of Bush’s universe. The United States Treasury is on 15th Street in Washington, but for this purpose was moved to Austin. Most people would fail to notice this relocation, but as a former lobbyist, I was right on top of it.

The third line of the check said “CARR BRKHAVN TAX RELIEF.” At the bottom of the check there is the legend “Tax Relief for America’s Workers.” The check is for $600 which will enable us to establish a new order for the way things are done in this country.

Robert Byrd, the Senator from West Virginia, is going to send his rebate right back to the U. S. Government because he voted against the give away. The estimable George Bush says he will probably send his to a charity. Rudy Guiliani will probably pay for some of his lawyers or his recent medical care or buy his new girlfriend a present.

All of these efforts, laudable as they may seem, really miss the mark. The idea of a tax rebate is to stimulate the economy. Nobody has addressed the secondary thought that manufacturers whose economy is stimulated, will pay more in taxes, but that thought is not in keeping with the euphoria that Tax Relief and Tax Breaks bring to American workers. Bush has given us this great windfall so it is up to us to put it to good use.

My own thoughts are based on lofty ideals. My first thoughts about Bush’s tax Relief check have to do with the Mormons, the Moonies, the Muslims and Catholics. These four religions have all been in the news in the past week or so. As a non-believer in all religions, I believe I can comment without prejudice. As I say, I do all this in the interest of lofty ideals.

Last week Thomas A. Green of Provo, Utah learned from a state court there that he will spend the next five years in prison. He also has to repay $78,000 to the state for welfare checks fraudulently collected by his family. Green is 53 years of age.

Green’s offense against the State of Utah is that he violated the law on polygamy. I mean, he did it big time. In the last few years, Green has acquired five wives, 30 children with at least two more on the way. Most of his wives seem to be in their twenties. He is still to be tried on charges that one of his wives was acquired when she was 13 years of age. The State says that’s not marriage; it’s rape. So old Tom may be laid up for awhile and will be out of the marriage business for some time.

Now with my rebate check I can do something about all this. I don’t propose to do anything about polygamy. It would be pointless because Green’s defenders say that the man who prosecuted Green (Leavitt) and the senior Senator from Utah (Hatch) are products of polygamist marriages in the past. Instead, let’s deal with the fact that in this country, there are 1000 men and about 1004 women in the general population. I believe the same ratio also applies to Utah.

Given that fact, let us suppose that each man acquired five wives and that 30 children came from these unions as with Tom Green. It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out that soon we’d run out of women for the polygamists to marry.

On the other hand, women outnumber men by large margins in many countries of the world. That condition can be found in India, the Philippines, Zambia, Korea, the Congo and Uganda as well as among the Eskimo tribes near the North Pole.

Before the male-female situation becomes more dire, I am going to use my $600 rebate check to advertise to females in those countries that willing wealthy husbands await them in Utah. The polygamists out there will make me a saint in Salt Lake City. That would be fitting, since I am retired and would have ample time for saint work.

Now we turn to Emmanuel Milingo, the Catholic Archbishop of Zambia. Milingo lost his head a few weeks ago and fell under the influence of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of Korea and New Jersey. Reverend Moon arranged a wedding of several hundred couples. Reverend Moon picked out the brides who all seemed to come from his native Korea. It is now claimed by the church in Rome, that Archbishop Milingo took leave of his senses when he fell under the influence of Reverend Moon. When it came time for the marriage ceremony to be performed by Reverend Moon, he (Moon) told Milingo “Have I got a girl for you!” The girl he had in mind was a 45 year old manicurist named Maria Sung. Milingo is 73 or 74 years of age. So Reverend Moon married the former Miss Sung and Archbishop Milingo. Both were very happy, even though Milingo spoke no Korean and the former Miss Sung spoke no Latin or Swahili.

Now at the outset, this causes a technical problem. Do the Moonies address the former Ms. Sung as “Mrs. Archbishop” or as “Mrs. Milingo”?

The happy couple had a week or two of wedded bliss until the Vatican decreed that Milingo would have to dump his wife or face excommunication. Somehow, the Vatican got him to come to Rome – and man, that’s all she wrote. In short order, old Milingo said that he had been moved by the words of Pope John Paul II and wanted now to obey the laws of the church. As part of the deal, Milingo now says that he likes Maria Sung as a sister and “I will continue to pray for you for the rest of my life.”

It seems to me that Milingo’s promise of lifetime prayers are of dubious value. He has to do something dramatic to get back into the good graces of the Holy Roman Church. Now we know that the Church frowns heavily on divorce. There was a scare a week ago when the former Ms. Sung (Mrs. Milingo) said she thought she was pregnant. Now this is great theatre. Let’s say that she did produce a child. Naturally, that child would attend Catholic schools. When registering that child, the nuns naturally would ask who the child’s father would be and the child or Ms. Sung would reply “The Archbishop of all Zambia.” And fortunately, that script will not apply as Ms. Sung says it was all a false alarm.

Now with a divorce out of the question, the only possible answer is annulment. Millions of people get them including the beloved mayor of New York who succeeded in having his marriage to one of his cousins annulled. So annulment is the answer. The Archbishop and Ms. Sung can’t go forward as a married couple. Ah, but here’s the rub.

Annulments cost money. Lawyers are involved. There is record searching to be done. An annulment may take as much as 10 years although I suspect that John Paul II would set a new course record for Milingo’s annulment. So the answer is clear. In answer to a call from higher authority, I will use Bush’s rebate check to underwrite Milingo’s annulment. I know $600 won’t cover all the costs, but what ever is left over, I will cover from my Social Security payments and from personal savings. However, if Ms. Sung doesn’t cooperate, I’ll have to rethink the whole scheme.

Now we turn to a question that has bothered me for many years. It involves the Muslim faith. In the old days we used to call those people Muhammadans, but now they have been upgraded to Muslims.

A week ago on a Sunday, which is a work day in Israel, a Muslim suicide bomber took a strapped on bomb into a Sbarro Pizza parlor in the heart of Jerusalem and set it off. In the explosion, many Israelis were murdered and wounded. The Muslim bomber was wiped out. Not even a trace of him was left. To Western eyes, this is nothing other than deplorable murders. To the Moslem clergy, it is a cause for rejoicing.

Now, whenever this sort of thing happens, the Imans who are the preachers of the Muslim faith, say that the bombers were martyrs because they are doing God’s work which is to wipe Israel off the map. Islamic martyrs are guaranteed a good deal according to the preachers of that faith. According to the Imans, entry into Paradise is automatic for martyrs. Secondly, the Koran promises that every martyr is entitled to 77 virgins and 70 wives. The preachers say this is all covered in detail in the Koran. Unfortunately, I don’t read Arabic and if I did, I wouldn’t spend much time with the Koran. But if this is what the Koran says – and I believe that to be so – then certain questions are raised.

If the martyrs are entitled to 77 virgins and 70 wives, then the question arises are these two different groups of people? That would mean that the martyrs would have to deal with 147 women. (For purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that we are dealing with women.) That is a pretty heroic task even though the martyr may have many hundreds of years to complete his work. And I am assuming that he will be required to make love to all the 77 virgins, which may not be true.

Secondly, if the 70 wives are taken from the 77 virgins, that is all well and good, but what happens to the seven virgins not picked? Are they put back into stock or pensioned off? If the martyr has had his way with all 77 virgins, at least seven of them will not qualify as virgins and thus, not be able to marry.

In this day of equal treatment for women, let us assume that a woman straps bombs to her body and proceeds to blow up Jews all in the name of advancing Islam’s interests. The Imams, while rejoicing, would then have a large quandary. By blowing up the perceived adversary, the former lady would have to be called a martyr. So far so good. But now comes the reward part of the proposition. Does the female martyr qualify for 77 male virgins or 70 husbands? Or does she qualify for only female virgins and female wives? What with all the harems and belly dancing shows, I doubt that 77 male virgins over the age of ten exist anywhere in Israel or in the Middle East. I would think that potential female martyrs ought to give some thought to the unfairness of the whole proposition before they strap on the bombs.

So much for female martyrs. Now we turn to the practical aspects of the reward offered to male martyrs. Muhammad was born in the year 570 AD and lived until 632 AD. According to the beliefs of Islam, Muhammad upon his death, was seated on a white horse from which he ascended bodily into Paradise. The site in Jerusalem is now the Dome of the Rock Mosque. So we must conclude that the idea of Paradise started at least by the year 632 AD. That was 1369 years ago.

I am assuming that every one continues living while they are in Paradise. Apparently, death does not occur to residents of Paradise.

Now this is a sobering thought if it ever occurs to the average male martyr. From what I have read, the average male martyr ranges from 18 to 24 years of age. Before he straps the bombs on, he should realize that his reward could be a 1000 year old virgin or a much younger one of only 400 years. Or one of his rewards wives may have 250 years on her speedometer. I don’t know much about Islam’s martyrs, but thoughts like these would surely slow me down. I’m not going to live long enough to solve this mystery. So to deal with these questions, I am going to use Bush’s generous rebate check to establish a think tank sort of like the Brookings Institute. I know these questions are deeply troubling to me and to thousands of other religious scholars just like me. I believe that a Brookings-like Institute will provide the answers to these troubling questions and in so doing, will offer relief to the many thousands of information deprived sufferers who look to Islam for guidance.

Now we come to the beloved Rudy Guiliani who is suing Donna Hanover for divorce. If he succeeds, he will be free to marry his “good friend” Judith Nathan. If he goes through with marriage to Ms. Nathan, it will be his third marriage. And he sits in the front row pews at St. Patrick’s.

I could use Bush’s rebate for a large wedding present to Guiliani however, he doesn’t stay married for long so the money may be wasted. I could donate the $600 to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York where it might come to Cardinal Egan’s attention, in which case he would find some reason for them to be married in church. In the end, I believe the best use of Bush’s $600 would be to buy a one-way ticket to Utah where Guiliani would feel at home. He may take over when Tom Green goes to jail.

I have several other ideas for the $600 windfall. With all the kids gone, it might be a good time to double the size of the house. Or maybe it would be better to use the money for ballet lessons for me. In the end though, I’d like to devote some sympathy and understanding to the German Army. I know it’s 58 years late in coming, but if not now, when?

The problem that concerns me is that German Army commanders drove around their prisons (Stalags) in Mercedes cars. Some tried to imitate Hitler by driving cars with wheel wells to hold spare tires. Now this had to be expensive. Mercedes were eight cylinder or 12 cylinder cars made largely for racing. As a means of spreading love to everyone, I propose that my $600 check be used to buy commanders of German Army prisons Fords or Chevvies. I know it’s a little late for recent wars, but it strikes me that this is good solution for the Germans and it would help the American automobile industry.

In this little essay, I have offered five different proposals to dispose of the 43rd president’s tax relief check. All of them are especially meritorious. I haven’t cashed mine yet because I am anxious to make the right choice. After all, $600 windfalls don’t happen every day. So if you see me alone in the back yard with my lips moving, you will know that I am still wrestling with the happy problem that George Herbert Walkers Bush’s son has given me.

A final thought. I hope Bush was paying attention when his English professors at Yale discussed Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” An albatross figures greatly in the telling of that story. I have concluded that Bush’s “Tax Relief for America’s Workers” will be his albatross and his political epitaph.

August 26, 2001

I wrote a pretty extensive bit of commentary on the 77 virgins before, which you can find here. Rereading it, 2013-era Kevin comes off a more than a little insensitive, but the facts are correct and my incredulity was, I still think, legitimate. If you don’t feel like going back, the bottom line is that the Koran doesn’t go into almost any detail at all about the companions that one gets in the afterlife; all the detail is in the Hadith, which are thousands of lines worth of basically hearsay that’s taken incredibly seriously by the Muslims of the world.

Also, the Koran is pretty explicitly anti-suicide, and of course not all Muslims are radical, so it’s unfair to assume that all Imams rejoice after a successful suicide bombing. If I remember correctly from my classes, to qualify as a martyr one has to actually engage in combat, and blowing up civilians doesn’t count (at least to mainstream Islam).

All that aside, I love the flow between the rebate check, polygamy, and terrorism. Certainly the kind of essay that only Pop could write.


-Three Disparate Thoughts

Growing up during the great American Depression, it was my view that golf was an elitist sport. There were a few driving ranges around, but public golf courses were few and far between. Jobs also were few and far between and money was a problem at every step of the way.

Golf was played mostly at suburban country clubs where the men smoked expensive cigars and drank premium whiskey. About as close as I would ever come to a country club was to get a job as a caddy or someone working in the kitchen. And so it was that I developed no great interest in golf or in golfers. I did not harbor hostility toward golf or golfers, but I simply have had no interest in them over the ensuing years.

While I maintained a disinterest in the subject of golf, I do know of course who Tiger Woods is. He seems to have won many major tournaments and is perhaps the established star in all of golfdom. During the latter part of March, Tiger Woods gave an interview to Ed Bradley of Sixty Minutes on CBS Television in which he stated his philosophy. He said that the idea of playing golf was to win the tournament of course, but winning was only part of the procedure. Woods said that he “liked to kick their butts” even after he won the tournament. He went on to say that if he and Bradley were playing a game of cards, it was Woods’ intention not only to win the game but to “kick Bradley’s butt” as well. I was fairly astounded at this remark because it reflected an attitude that I had not associated with Tiger Woods. And it shows no generosity at all. It seems to be of a sadistic streak worthy only of the vice president, Mr. Cheney. It seems to me that winning is important but that kicking butt is a cause for eventual retribution.

Two thoughts came to mind as I heard Tiger Woods talk about kicking Bradley’s butt.

In perhaps 1935 during a grade school softball game, I was the catcher. When our pitcher threw a fast ball by one of the opposing batters, I held the ball out in front of the batter after he swung and missed and said something to this effect, “Is this what you were looking for?” The umpire was a gentleman named Mr. Payne who was widely beloved in the Clayton, Missouri public school system. Mr. Payne just turned me around and delivered a short lecture to the effect that I should never ever show up an opponent in that fashion. If the batter swung and missed, so be it. That was to the credit of our team. But to show him up by exhibiting the ball was needless and tended to make enemies. In all of my catching career after that time, I never ever showed the ball to a batter who had swung and missed. Mr. Payne made his point quite well.

The second thought that comes to mind has to do with an election in which I ran for the union presidency. In late 1949 in St. Louis, I was the vice president of Local 5 of the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers. The president was a man named Gordon “Pete” Sallee. Things were not progressing well in that local, so in the election of late 1949, I ran against Pete Sallee for the presidency and won it. Using Mr. Payne’s example, I went out of my way to make sure that Pete Sallee did not feel as though I were gloating or anything of the sort. Quite to the contrary, it was my intention to make a friend out of Sallee. As time went on, he and I became close friends and, indeed, until his death in 1970, whenever I visited St. Louis, I made it my business to have lunch or dinner with Pete Sallee.

I had no intention, ever, of making Pete Sallee feel as though I were intent upon kicking his butt. It is my belief that Tiger Woods would profit by taking the same view as I took back in 1949. Winning is important but kicking butt is not what sportsmen do. They should be magnanimous to the losers.


Now we turn to civil war, this being Iraq in the case in point. For a year or more, our man in Iraq was Ayad Alawi. He was our appointed Prime Minister of Iraq and he was selected largely because of his being secular. He was not publicly identified as being Sunni or Shia. He was a secularist.

Late in his career, when there was an election to be held in Iraq, Alawi was invited to the White House for a photo op, during which he “conferred” with George Bush. Alawi also addressed a joint session of Congress reading a speech prepared for him by the White House. Apparently Alawi had no chance to read the speech beforehand, as he made several errors when he spoke even though he is a fluent English speaker.

Nonetheless, Alawi ran in the January elections in Iraq as a secularist, and was handed his head by the religious parties. My recollection is that he got no more than 12 to 15% of the vote while the religionists ran off with all the rest. Now that Alawi is no longer in power and has largely been rejected, the current administration is trying to distance itself from him.

A week or two ago, Alawi observed that with all of the deaths taking place in Iraq from bombings, shootings, stabbings, strangulations, and beheadings that indeed a civil war was in progress in that country right now. Our Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Bush, violently disagreed, saying that there was no civil war in Iraq and that things were going swimmingly and that progress was being made on every front.

My guess or belief is that if you have a few bucks to bet on the outcome of the unrest in Iraq, put your money on Alawi and the case for civil war. Bush is simply whistling past the graveyard, knowing that a civil war in Iraq looms. Alawi is in Baghdad and Bush is in Crawford. Again, I tell you if you have a few dollars to wager, go with Alawi.


Now we turn to the virgin element of this essay. It had been my intention to write a humorous essay on the Muslim belief having to do with virgins in Paradise. As you may recall, every martyred Arab is entitled to up to 100 virgins to be put at his disposal once he enters Paradise. My thought in the proposed essay is that so many Iraqis are being killed that there is a terrible strain on the inventory of virgins in Paradise. I also wanted to point out that in the Koran there is no specification that the virgins be young. They are simply to have protected their virginity and that is all that matters. Consequently, the paucity of young virgins is such that middle-aged and elderly women have to be given to the martyrs to make up their quota of 75 to 100 virgins. I had intended to comment on the possibility of civil unrest occurring not only in Iraq, but also in Paradise because the martyrs would be complaining about being assigned virgins who had passed their 60th or 70th or 80th birthdays.

At the time I was contemplating this essay, there appeared to be a modicum of humor attached to it. Now, however, the situation is so dire in Iraq, not only for the Iraqi nation, but for the U.S. as well, that I fear that any attempt at humor in this situation is debatable. Consequently, the story about the elderly virgins has been dismissed and we’ll try again another day. Nonetheless, in spite of all the foregoing doubts, I am still struck by the Muslim belief that there is no homosexuality in Islam. No gays, no lesbians, and no transsexuals. What would happen if indeed, a gay Arab became a martyr and was given 100 female virgins for his use in paradise? What in the world would he do with them? As you see, I do not hold with the view that homosexuality does not occur in the Islamic faith.

Well, there are my thoughts about golf, civil war, and virgins. They are not cataclysmic thoughts but the meanderings of an old guy’s mind on a Sunday afternoon when daylight saving time takes effect. Maybe tomorrow, with the start of the baseball season, my spirits will improve and we will have something decent and humorous to include in the essays that I will send you.

April 4, 2006

Kevin’s commentary: Gay guys tend to get along with women pretty well, as far as I know. Presumably the martyr in question would just get 100 buddies to chat or go shopping with, or whatever the equivalent of that is in heaven.

More on Pop and virgins here, here, and here.

Reading this, it strikes me that I’d be very curious to hear what Pop would have to say about good ol’ ISIS these days. He certainly knew a good deal about the region, and presumably would call them out for being horrible, horrible people but stellar marketers. Seriously, ISIS doesn’t even have to fall back on the hundred virgins thing — they’re attracting tons of people with just the promise of basically indiscriminate violence.

Regarding the thoughts about baseball, I was struck by a bit of a cross-generational epiphanies. I’ve never been much of a sportsman but recently I took up a competitive videogame which pits two teams of five against one another. The circumstances of the game sometimes align such that the team that is ahead can entirely forego completing the objective necessary to win the game, and instead sit in the other team’s base and kill them over and over. The game penalizes anyone who leaves before aforementioned objective is complete, so when this situation arises the losing team is basically just forced to sit there and watch their butts get kicked for upwards of ten extra minutes. It is the most shining example that I can think of about playing not to win, but instead playing for the chief objective of humiliation, with the victory as a side benefit. The people who do this sort of “camping” are widely regarded as tremendous assholes, at least, which is nice — not very many people are with Tiger on this one.


John Donne 1572 – 1631

These lines are being dictated on a gloomy Friday afternoon at the end of December, 2006. Ordinarily my outlook on life is less than exuberant during the period between Christmas and New Year’s. Today’s news has sent me further into a depressed state of mind in that it appears that Saddam Hussein will be hung. I don’t find the news of Saddam’s imminent death amusing; I find it grossly depressing.

Four thoughts now occur to this feeble essayist’s mind. The first thought is that I am able ordinarily to compose a prose sentence in the English language. On the other hand, poetry is absolutely beyond my grasp. Recognizing this deficiency, I tend to rely on poets who can say things in rhyme much better than I can write them in prose. In this case, the person that I cite today was born 434 years ago in England and was known by the name of John Donne. If my Internet sources are halfway correct, John Donne was an Anglican clergyman who wrote extensively as a poet. There may be some debate about whether John Donne’s work which goes by the title, “No Man Is An Island,” is a meditation, a devotion, a sermon, musings, or perhaps a poem. For this essay, I will treat Mr. Donne’s work as a poem. It clearly and certainly is not a prose work.

Now to proceed to the main points of what I wish to say this dreary afternoon. In the first instance, the news on television and on radio is saturated with thoughts about the imminent death of Saddam Hussein. There is even much speculation as to whether the breaking of the vertebrae in his neck from the noose will cause him pain. All of this sort of thing contributes to my unhappiness and less than gleeful outlook on life today.

I fully agree that Saddam Hussein was an evil person. I fully agree that he should be punished in some fashion. But to take his life does not contribute to or promote the cause of mankind. To take his life by hanging or by any other means simply illustrates the cruelty that the human race has yet to overcome. If Saddam were to be imprisoned under solitary confinement rules until he lives out his days, I believe it would be a just punishment. To kill him is to show nothing less than our failure as a civilized society.

The point here is that John Donne said it right 382 years ago in a series called Meditation XVII. The best known work in these meditations is, “No man is an island entire unto himself.” In that meditation/devotion, John Donne points out that every man’s death diminishes the rest of us. And poet Donne also observes that you need not send to know when the funeral bells ring; at some point, they will “Ring for thee.”

I am an old soldier who is fully familiar with death. Saddam’s demise by hanging does not inspire me. It repulses me. It seems to me that John Donne had it right when he said that every man’s death diminishes the rest of us. Here is John Donne’s Meditation, written in 1624, which states it better in verse than I could ever do in prose.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
John Donne, Meditation XVII
English clergyman (1572 – 1631)

Pastor Donne’s work, particularly in the final sentences, make the case succinctly and powerfully.

The second thought that comes to mind on this dreary afternoon as we wait for Saddam’s execution, is that of an American enlisted man. It goes without saying that the enlisted men in the American Army do all of the heavy lifting. And they do about 90 to 95% of the dying. For example, when a general recounts a battle and says that we lost 5,000 or 9,000 men in that battle, you may be assured that the people who did the dying were enlisted men and not the general, who was safely removed from the hostilities in a location many miles away from the battlefield. The General might even be in Washington, D.C. The overwhelming point is that enlisted men in the military perform the most miserable tasks and in the end, they are the ones who ordinarily wind up in body bags and aluminum coffins.

Thirdly, for the past several days, George Bush, who is becoming much more like Lyndon Johnson in the final days of the Vietnam War, has gathered his advisers around him in Washington, Camp David and now in the center of the universe, Crawford, Texas. Quite obviously, Bush is preparing a marketing effort to sell to the American people more troops being sent to Iraq. The marketing effort will involve a series of slogans that will underlie the sending of a new “surge” of American troops to Baghdad to try to rescue the abominable war that Mr. Bush has started. So far this month, even without the surge being employed, we have lost 113 men killed in action in Baghdad and Iraq. If I were an American enlisted man, which I was in World War II, and if I knew I would be included in the so-called surge which might be my second, third or fourth involvement in Iraq, I would have to conclude that as John Donne states it, in my case, the bell will soon toll for me.

Enlisted men are not dummies. They know when they are being sent to do an impossible job. And yet they go. In this case the Commander in Chief is asking our troops to lay down their lives for an impossible war that should never have been launched at any time. And yet the Commander in Chief sends these young men to die for a blunder of epic proportions.

Mr. Bush is a man of limited intellect. To cover his intellectual shortcomings, Bush usually resorts to bullying. This has always been the case. If you will recall his tenure as Governor of Texas, where he was attended by Alberto Gonzales, now the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Bush sent dozens of people to be executed. His lack of compassion was widely noted. One of the people who lost her life under the Bush administration was Carla Faye Tucker. Ms. Tucker was condemned to death, but in the years before her execution, she became a devout Christian and lent comfort to others on death row and throughout the penitentiary with her caring attitude. Yet in the final analysis, Mr. Bush, who brags often about his attachment to Jesus, ordered her to be killed. Bush could have saved Carla Faye Tucker; but he did not. He had her killed to show how tough he was.

The surge in troops that Bush now seems to favor in a final hope to quell the violence, will do nothing of the sort. It is intended to show how tough Mr. Bush is and how he disregards the November 7, 2006, election results. It makes no difference what the Jim Baker-Lee Hamilton study group had to say about getting us out of Iraq. Mr. Bush has decreed that the Baker-Hamilton report amounts to surrender. He seems prepared to order a surge in troops which will inevitably result in more needless deaths to Iraqis as well as to Americans. To Mr. Bush, these unfortunate soldiers are just numbers, as was the case of Carla Faye Tucker. How cruel, how cruel.

Fourthly and finally, we come to the ending of John Donne’s Meditation. Donne’s work reminds us, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I am aware that winter gloom has descended upon me. I cannot help but think of Saddam’s oncoming death and the sacrifice of hundreds of American enlisted men’s lives which have to add to my unhappiness. While I know that on this particular occasion I am affected by gloom, I cannot escape the fact that somewhere down the road, probably sooner rather than later, George Bush will find that the bell tolls for him as well. This man has sent 3000 Americans to die in Iraq and countless thousands of Iraqis to die also. He has dismantled a sovereign country which could have been our friend. Clearly, for the next 500 years, Iraqis will curse the name of George Bush and the American occupiers.

In 1942 when I was a Buck Private in training for the American Army, Jack Butkowski, a longshoreman from Brooklyn, used the expression, “What goes around, comes around.” It was the first time I ever heard that expression. George Bush has been involved for years as a director of destruction. It could very well be as time goes on, the philosophy of what goes around will snare Mr. Bush. If that is not the case, Mr. Bush may give thought to John Donne’s ancient maxim that “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls.” I suspect that sooner or later, our Commander in Chief will be called to account for the lives that he has needlessly lost. I deeply regret that, because America can do much, much better.

December 29, 2006

Within hours after the first draft of this essay was dictated, Iraqi authorities ended Saddam Hussein’s life by executing him in a hanging. George Bush missed a golden opportunity to show the world a touch of compassion. Until his final hour, Saddam was in American custody. He could have been imprisoned for life under solitary confinement rules rather than to kill him.

Bush is again on vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch. According to the White House announcement, Bush retired for the evening serene in the knowledge that Saddam would be hung before daylight reached American shores. Presumably the Commander in Chief retired to the same bed in August, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. On that occasion, Bush ignored the devastation for three full days and was forced to view a video tape put together by his staff to show him what he had missed. It must be assumed that Mr. Bush, under instructions from Karl Rove, sleeps peacefully with the bed covers securely fastened over his head.

Have we not had enough killing in Iraq? Does one more killing, even if it is Saddam, bring serenity to the American people or to the Iraqi people? The answer is clearly negative.

In John Donne’s words, Saddam’s death diminishes me. The deaths of more than 113 American soldiers in December also diminishes me. The three thousandth American death in Iraq has now occurred. Again, those figures diminish me. During December the body count at the Baghdad morgue reached more than 3,500 men, women and children. I weep for those Iraqi deaths.

John Donne says, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Jack Botkowski’s expression conveying the same thought is that, “What goes around, comes around.” George Bush has the blood of the Americans and the Iraqis on his hands as a result of his bastardly invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq. Bush will not escape the verdict of history. That verdict may very well be “the bell tolls for George Bush” and he will become a victim of the philosophy of “What goes around, comes around.” I am demeaned by these needless deaths taking place as a result of our occupation of Iraq. We should leave Iraq posthaste before more deaths occur.

December 31, 2006


Kevin’s commentary: I’m reminded here of when American troops killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. I was in my dorm room when people started to whoop and cheer and sing the national anthem. I remember both being glad that a monster was no longer free to continue his activities, but also a little bit surprised at the reactions of those around me. People were really and truly celebrating that he was dead. I’m not entirely sure what that accomplishes, to celebrate a death. It doesn’t bring back anyone that he hurt, all it means is that never really had to answer for any of it.




The news from Washington, particularly the White House, tells us that we are fighting a war on terror. This old under-educated, inarticulate clod is baffled by that description. What war are we talking about? And are the American people genuinely terrorized? The imprecision of the language in the so-called war on terror is immense.

When a man tells me that I am in the middle of a war on terror, I am obliged to ask who is the enemy who is terrorizing me. Three and a half years after the invasion of Iraq and the claims of “Mission Accomplished”, I am still baffled. Who is this monster that threatens to destroy the American government and our way of life?

The people I know and correspond with do not seem to be terrorized of anything. The Bush administration asks no sacrifice from its citizens. On the other hand, it offers them tax cuts in the middle of a war on terror. While this alleged war is going on, Bush takes his vacations and rides his bicycle. This may be the most peculiar war on anything that this old country boy has ever seen or heard about.

The American people could well be terrorized by acts of nature or a number of other influences. For example, the people in California and the West who worry about firestorms being blown by Santa Ana winds, will likely be terrified at the thought of losing their houses and their lives. People who live along the Gulf Coast or in Florida may be terrorized by the advance of a new hurricane. The folks who live in the ghetto may well be terrorized by the armed gangs that rob and kill people. The point I am making is that there are any number of things that might terrorize the American people but the Bush administration does not include them in his so-called terror war.

The imprecision of the language leads me to conclude that the war on terrorism is either a myth or a complete fraud. If, as we are told by the Commander-in-Chief, Iraq is the central front in this war, then I must conclude that the war is irretrievably lost. If we are lucky, we will escape from a stalemate in Iraq after having lost troops at the rate of 75 to 100 per month. If we are losing troops at that rate, how can we say we are winning this terrorism war? Today, can anyone take a peaceful stroll down the capital city streets of Baghdad, which they could do under the hated Saddam?

The mythical proportions about the war on terrorism flows from our political leaders and from some generals who present rosy pictures of progress in the Iraqi war. The fact is clear that we are not making progress; we are clearly losing.

You may recall Mr. Cheney’s remark about the insurgency being “in its final throes.” You might also recall Mr. Cheney’s remark to the effect that we would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators and that people would throw roses at us as our troops marched down Broadway in Baghdad. Cheney appears to be the chief maker of myths in this unfortunate armed conflict. Doesn’t anyone in this administration speak the truth? Any reports of progress are the essence of myth-making.

This leads me to conclude that, on one hand, the war is a myth and is being kept afloat only by those who say give us another 18 months and the Iraqi army will take care of everything. Does anyone believe these pronouncements?

The fact of the matter is that the Iraqi Army will never defend American interests in the Middle East and shouldn’t be asked to do so. Whether we like it or not, it is a myth to believe that the alleged Iraqi Army will successfully prosecute George Bush’s war.

The second myth is that a democracy in Iraq will cause the rest of the Arab world to democratize also. The so-called war on terror is being fought in Alice in Wonderland proportions. Does anyone believe that the Egyptians would overthrow Mubarak or that the Syrians would overthrow Assad simply because Iraq adopted a democratic government? This is myth making of the first order.

Now let us turn to the thought that the war on terror is a fraud. The fact is that the war on terror is a Karl Rovian fraud to give George Bush the powers that we have never before extended to any American president. As long as Karl Rove and Bush can claim that there is a war in progress, the American public will be reluctant to turn out such a president. This is precisely what happened in 2004.

The fact here involves the administration claiming extraordinary powers to spy on people and to listen to their communications. It also involves denying the writ of habeas corpus to the prisoners we hold at Guantánamo Bay. And finally, the fraud permits this president, George Bush, to engage in torture even though he says that it doesn’t exist. To claim that our prisoners at Gitmo and around the world have not been tortured amounts to nothing more than the feces de la toro. The “advanced interrogation methods” that we are proudly using are nothing more and nothing less than torture.

Further, it appears to me that the so-called war on terror is basically a war on Arabs and the Muslim faith. For a while, the mantra of this administration was the “Islamic fascists.” When the administration refers to the people with whom we are engaged in Iraq, they commonly call them “the enemy.” If I were a neutral observer, it would be clear to me that the enemy is the Arabs and the Muslim faith. It would also be clear to me that this is nothing more than a revival of the Crusades.

If we were so interested in stamping out terror, why didn’t we pursue Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and try to catch him? If Osama is the heart of evilness of this world, he should have been dealt with a long time ago. But Osama remains free and there is no indication that he will soon be captured. If the destruction of the World Trade Center was an act of terror, which it was, it would be our duty to pursue and punish the perpetrators. But that we have not done. If the war on terror is going to be successfully prosecuted, Osama will have to be caught. Clearly, Osama is not in Iraq, but that is where we have taken the war.

And while we are dealing with Osama, it seems to me that there are a good many other leaders who terrorize their citizens as well as those of neighboring countries. Try Mugabe in Zimbabwe. What about Castro and Hugo Chavez here in the Western Hemisphere?. And what about the events in the Darfur region of the Sudan? If we are looking for terrorists to bring to justice, there are plenty of them.

It has always been my habit to follow international developments closely. I have followed the so-called war on terror from its inception. In the final analysis, I must conclude that it is a myth of the highest proportions in that we are being told that progress is being made while we can see from our newspapers and television screens that progress is going backwards.

And I must also conclude that the war on terror is a fraud because we are not being told the truth. Its costs are being concealed. Nor do we know what it has done to the equipment of the Army and Marine Corps. We certainly know what it has done to American prestige around the world. Friends, if this is not a fraud, I don’t know one when I see one.

The war on terrorism further detracts from our image abroad. I doubt that any Western European, for example, would cheer our efforts because sophisticated people know that this is a war with mythical and fraudulent proportions.

Mr. Bush is in Hanoi today where he made a statement to the effect that, if we lose this war, it will be because the American people have lost their will. In other words, if we lose this war it will be our fault not the fault of the great and gorgeous George Bush. Are you ready for another “Mission Accomplished” statement? Or do you want to stick with the war being “In its final throes”?

November 17, 2006
Essay 218
Kevin’s commentary: The “War on” rhetoric has become incredibly popular in the last several years. It commonly heralds failure, like in the cases of the War on Terror or the War on Drugs. Turns out it’s hard to wage wars against concepts and objects. Christians like to whine about the “War on Christmas” every winter, even though there isn’t one, and just yesterday I saw a video entitled “War on Boys,” which was a poorly-titled but nonetheless interesting piece about how we educate boys these days.

I guess everything has to be a war these days, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s that print and broadcast media increasingly default to sensationalism to get attention, and calling something a “war” is an easy way to do that while simultaneously granting the reporter immediate access to the framework of “winning” and “losing” since that’s what you do with wars — even (especially?) if those terms make no sense in the context of the particular “war” that we’re talking about. Headlines like “Losing the War on Christmas” are easy to churn out and probably get a ton of clicks. Fill up a video with a few clips of local companies that have stopped using the word “Christmas” in their advertising, splice in a few outraged suburban moms, and you’ve got a story for a slow winter news day.

Of course, the reality is that businesses started to use “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in their marketing as soon as they realized that there are a lot of non-Christians in America, and those people are probably more likely to buy your stuff when you don’t snub them with your terminology before they walk in the door.


I hope that my readers will not think less of me when I offer a few words of praise of sanity in the American relationship with those who practice the Muslim faith. During the month of September, pious adherents of that faith are celebrating the month-long holiday of Ramadan. Ramadan requires that the faithful consume no water or food from sunrise until sunset. Additionally, they are barred from having sexual intercourse during those daylight hours. It goes without saying that a debaucherer such as myself could never succeed as a pious believer in the faith of Islam. But Ramadan will be finished by September 30 and then we will have to resume figuring out how we will live with those who aspire to a life in Paradise.

In recent years, the U. S. relationship with Islamic countries has become frayed largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But more to the point is the thought expressed by some politicians that Americans have much to fear from those who believe in the Muslim faith.

Fear has been a centerpiece in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2006, and now in 2008. The central theme in this essay is the thought that those who practice the Muslim faith have one hell of a lot more to fear from the aggressions of the Americans than we have to fear from a Muslim takeover in this country.

If we start at the beginning, we will find that the prophet Mohammed was born in 571. One way or another he preached a faith that converted many to his line of reasoning. Today we find that there is belief in his philosophy among the Arab nations as well as many other nations and groups. It seems clear to an objective observer such as myself that when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Muslims considered it an attack on their faith. For years now, we have maintained a presence of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq and there is a promise by the Republican contender for the presidency that we will be there for dozens of more years.

In the meantime we are reminded endlessly by George Bush, Richard Cheney, and John McCain that we should all fear the “radical Islamic extremists” who are going to defeat our armies and do away with the American civilization. For a time Mr. Bush added the word Fascist at the end of the radical Islamic extremist charge, until he belatedly found out that the Fascist movement was established by none other than Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, who was a practicing Catholic. So now we are warned, mostly by John McCain, of the radical Islamic extremist challenge that threatens to bring America to its knees.

May I suggest that there are many other reasons for the Americans to be brought to their knees, such as the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration. Then there are the housing crisis, the failures in the banking industry, the stock market slide, and the thought that Mr. Bush’s successor, Mr. McCain, seems to be more interested in lipstick and pigs than he is in governing.

For many years, we enjoyed a peaceful existence with those who subscribe to the Muslim faith. During World War II, there were pictures of Franklin Roosevelt entertaining King Saud of Saudi Arabia on a battleship. During that era, oil cost between $5 and $10 per barrel. When I flew in combat in North Africa, I carried a letter from the American government, written in Arabic and English, which was designed to persuade local Arabs to take downed American flyers back to American hands rather than to turn them over to the Germans. I have never known of a report that suggests that downed American flyers were ever turned over to the Germans by local Arabs; they were usually returned to American hands. Our relations with the Muslims were friendly, even through the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush’s presidency. The Clinton presidency had the same warm relations with the Islamic nations.

But now in the era of the radical Islamic extremist movement enunciated by Bush and McCain, we have oil in excess of $100 a barrel and we have made enemies throughout the Muslim world. A few of the Muslims are beheading our prisoners instead of returning them to friendly hands.

I suspect that I am as patriotic as any other American. It is quite true that I enjoyed the days when I could walk on the streets of Muslim cities without fear of being kidnapped or killed. That is probably no longer true. All of this has flowed from the thought that we have declared war on the Muslims by contending that a good number of them are radical Islamic extremists. The simple fact is that we can not go around the Muslim world and stick our fingers in their eyes and expect them to respect or love us. It has been my lot in life to enjoy the hospitality of Muslims living in Rabat in the west to Bahrain in the east. I have no intention of ever making a pilgrimage to Mecca. But I believe that fairness indicates that Muslims deserve our respect. If we attempt to recreate the Crusades of 1000 years ago, the Muslims will resist and will no longer be friendly to us. Perhaps when George Bush goes away, sanity may return once again in our relations with the Islamic nations. If John McCain succeeds George Bush, all bets are off. There will be prolonged warfare for the foreseeable future.

Again I hold that, as an objective observer and as an American as well, the Muslims have one hell of a lot more to fear from our aggression than we have to fear from their domination of the affairs of the great state of Texas for example. The sooner we leave Iraq, it is clear that our relations with the Muslims will improve. Our occupation there is self-defeating.

I hope that I have injected some sanity into this debate about radical Islamic extremism. As long as the current administration holds power, it is doubtful that sanity will prevail. But the celebration of Ramadan is supposed to redeem our souls. Perhaps with redemption we may also enjoy a degree of saner relations with the Muslims in the future.

September 9, 2008
Essay 337
Kevin’s commentary: People get riled up easily, and it’s much easier to generalize and hate than it is to learn and understand. This essay sends some mixed messages, though. I feel like not being categorically awful to people of a different faith isn’t important because of oil prices or because it makes us feel safe but rather solely because it’s the right thing to do.

Thank heaven McCain didn’t make it to the oval office.


This essay is going to attempt to perform an impossible literary marriage in that it involves the virginity of Muslim women and an apt poem by A. E. Housman, an English poet who could foresee miracles of the future. Whether this marriage will last is a reasonable subject for discussion, but I believe that it is worthy of our investigation at this moment. If the marriage does not work out, I will arrange to finance an annulment.

This started with the publication of a story in The New York Times this week on a procedure known as hymenoplasty. The New York Times has contended from its start that it prints “the news that’s fit to print.” It is also known as “the old gray lady of Times Square.” So by discussing this front page story, it would seem to me that I am not violating any cultural prohibitions.

Over the past several centuries, France has attempted to influence the affairs of neighbors across the Mediterranean in North Africa. Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco were once French possessions. Because of economic conditions, residents of those French speaking countries have emigrated to metropolitan France. I suspect that at this point there may be as many as five million former North Africans resident in France and most have clung to their Muslim faith. A good many of them are now citizens of France. You may recall the great debate when Muslim women attempted to wear their head scarves to school and to work. In the end, they were banned from such practice at the direction of the President of France, Jacques Chirac. But whether the French like the Muslim visitors or citizens, they are a fact of life. It is equally clear that the Muslim population is not about to leave France to take off for its original homes in North Africa. The French people understand this situation and with the exception of a few politicians, seem to say, “The Muslims are with us, so let us get on with the business of governing the fortunes of la belle France.”

Now we come to the sticky part. As young Muslim women grow up in metropolitan France, there are temptations all about them. Some of those temptations are sexual ones. The fact of the matter seems to be that in spite of all of the thundering that comes from Muslim pulpits by the imams and ayatollahs, some Muslim women in France yield to the temptations of love and surrender their chastity. For lovers of chastity such as myself, this is a cosmic disappointment. But the world must go on and we must yield to the inevitable.

In the Muslim world, women are treated basically as commodities. At least that is the way the Muslim faith is practiced as it gets closer to Mecca. According to the code of the Muslim religion, it seems that Muslim men insist upon marrying only virgins. As we learned from The Times story, there are cases in which a woman must submit a document attesting to her virginity to her prospective husband. If a woman enters into a marriage with a Muslim man and he has doubts about her virginity, he can take her back to the shop after the wedding night. I know this is unfairness at its greatest, but that is the way the world works when women are treated as mere commodities.

Now objective observers might ask whether there is a similar test for virginity among the prospective grooms. In point of fact, there is no such test and a Muslim man may embed dozens of women and then still demand that his bride be chaste in all respects. Is that unfair? Of course it is. But that is the way the world works. If I were a Muslim woman, which I am not, obviously, I would not wish to enter into a marriage with a fervent Muslim man because it would mean being confined to the kitchen and the bedroom. On the few occasions when a Muslim woman appears in public, she is often obliged to wear the chadour which is a shapeless black garment which covers her face with a veil and then the rest of the black garment flows down pretty close to the floor. If a Muslim man ever took a woman wearing a chadour to a restaurant, I would be interested in following the progress of the meal as it would require the female to lift her veil each time a mouthful of food was entered. All I can say is that this is no way to live.

My calculation is that the prophet Muhammad who established the Muslim faith was born about 1500 years ago and he established the basic ground rules for conduct between men and women. Over these many centuries, I suspect that there must have been endless torment among women who were intent upon proving their chastity to their new husbands. But now relief has arrived. If a Muslim girl has slipped a few times – or many times – there is now a surgical procedure which will re-establish her virginity. I know that is an oxymoron about re-establishment of her virginity, but that is the way it is. According to The New York Times report, a woman with $2,500 may undergo a procedure known as hymenoplasty which is guaranteed to pass the required inspections and to lead to the husband’s conviction that he has indeed married a pure-bred full fledged virgin. The Times reports that it apparently is an outpatient procedure which requires about half an hour on the operating room table. Once the surgeon has made his last stitch, the prospective bride may leave the operating room and glory in the thought that her chastity odometer has indeed been turned back to zero. If that is what it takes to fool a Muslim groom, I will join in the cheering.

Now there is a poem, which is the other half of this marriage in this essay, called “When I Was One-and-Twenty.” It would seem to fit a young woman who loses her chastity in the vicinity of her 21st birthday, but regains it in the succeeding years. The poem was written in 1896 by an English poet named A. E. Housman. I think it fits the situation quite adequately. Here is the poem.

“When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
‘Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.”

In the former days, when a Muslim youngster at the age of one-and-twenty “lost her heart out of her bosom” and surrendered her chastity to her lover, the thought would have been, “’Tis paid with sighs a plenty and sold for endless rue.” But now modern surgery has made it possible to avoid those “sighs a plenty” and “endless rue.”

My mathematics, faulty as they are, tell me that the poet Housman wrote “When I Was One-and-Twenty” in 1896, which is about 112 years ago. My belief is that Professor Housman wrote a prescient poem that peered into the future. It peered through the Muslim faith and into modern surgery. If the poet Housman were alive today, I am quite certain that he would add a final verse having to do with the glorious outcome of the procedure known as hymenoplasty.

So there you have an English poem which predates the procedure outlined in The New York Times of June 11, 2008, by 112 years. Beyond all that, I feel a warm glow inside my chest knowing that I have wed an English poem of the 19th century together with a surgical procedure in the 21st century. Every Muslim woman must know that there is now no need to have “sighs a plenty” or “endless rue.” That, my friends, is a heavenly outcome.

June 11, 2008
Essay 321
Kevin’s commentary: As my girlfriend accurately points out, this is basically a procedure in which women go through a painful experience so as to have yet another painful experience. It makes not a whole whole lot of sense. But I suppose if that’s what is necessary to maintain the supposed dignity of the marriage, especially when there are such double standards in place re: male and female sexuality, then it seems like as sensible a decision as any other.