Archive for October 2016

BECAUSE THE RIVER’S WET BUT BEALE STREET DONE GONE DRY – W.C. Handy

Last year, the United States Congress voted to declare the year 2003 the “Year of the Blues.” This took place while unemployment benefits ran out, while the U. S. was snarling at Iraq, while most of the Congress was seeking re-election and while the economy was limping along. But in the end, as someone who grew up on the banks of the Mississippi where that kind of music was born, it is nice to see a year devoted to that distinctly American art form, The Blues.

The title of this essays comes from a song composed along with the lyrics, by William Christopher (W. C.) Handy, the premier song writer of The Blues. In this case, the song is about Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee which was the main entertainment and music street in that whole town. If someone wanted to be entertained or wanted to hear the Blues, the only place to go was Beale Street. Similar streets and neighborhoods existed in other towns on the Mississippi such as New Orleans and St. Louis.

As Woodrow Wilson was about to complete his presidential term in 1921, red hot religious conservatives coming from the southern wing of the Democratic Party conspired to foist Prohibition on this country. It was supposed to uplift our conduct, bring us closer to God, make us better citizens and greatly improve our spiritual values. In short, Prohibition was a completely religious exercise.

When Prohibition became effective, all forms of alcoholic beverages allegedly disappeared. The term “allegedly” is used because every town and community had its speakeasies, bootleggers or its moonshiners. Those citizens who had the urge to drink – and the means to pay for it – usually did not die from dehydration. Booze could easily be provided for those willing to pay for it.

Prohibition was a sham of the first order and its first impact was on poor people, usually black, such as those who worked in and patronized establishments along Beale Street and similar streets in other towns, particularly on the Mississippi River. So W. C. Handy wrote his song which proclaims:

“I’m goin’ to the river, maybe by and by,
Yes, I’m goin’ to the river, maybe by and by,
Because the river’s wet, and Beale Street’s done gone dry!”

The criminal gangs who tried to control the flow of alcoholic beverages to large cities under Prohibition resulted in such gangs as the Purple Gang in Detroit or the Machine Gun Kelley gang in Chicago. They often carried sub-machine guns and they were not bashful about killing other people who got in their way. The Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago was one example of the work of a gang in the days of Prohibition. Cops and law enforcement authorities were compromised. When a speakeasy operated in New York or Chicago, on a busy downtown street, it had to have the endorsement of police and legal authorities. Some speakeasies actually advertised so finding them should have been easy for even an unlettered cop.

The active corrupt involvement of police and legal authorities is only half the problem. Prohibition came at enormous medical expense to drinkers who drank the concoctions of bootleggers and moon shiners. Such people operated in back alleys or in the rural hills with no attempt at sanitary provisions. If their moonshine caused people to have convulsions or go blind, there was no one to complain to when you drank during Prohibition. You took your chances, often with disastrous results.

Prohibition comes to mind because it was the first organized attempt in modern times by the Federal Government to sponsor a completely religious activity. As such it was the first time that the church-state boundary was breached in the 20th century. Prohibition was an absolute disaster. It compromised the government just as it turned cops and legal authorities into law breakers. It was a sham – nothing less. It yielded gang killings and deterioration of health in drinkers. It could also be observed that before Prohibition ended, the stock market collapsed in 1929, which led to the Great Depression which followed.

The irony is that in 2003, researchers agree that moderate drinking, such as a drink every night, is as important in preventing heart attacks as exercise. But in 1921, the people pushing Prohibition thought heart attacks were largely the work of divine providence or of Satan himself.

The lesson about Prohibition piercing the church-state boundary has not been learned by the current occupants of the White House. Their pursuit of religious endeavors to support their political agenda is astounding. There are some in the Administration who see no sign of the church-state division being breached again even though the Bush Administration is arm pit deep in religious activity. And I am here to tell you as a survivor of Prohibition, of the Great Depression and
World War II, the effort to breech the church-state wall will end in disaster just as disaster was visited upon my countrymen by Prohibition.

The rot caused by crossing the church-state line is not confined to the lonely cop on the beat. Far from it. Juries and prosecutors are involved as well as members of Congress. In the “Great Experiment” of the 1921-1933 period, the rot caused by Prohibition reached the White House. The United States President who presided over the start of Prohibition was Warren Gamaliel Harding, a man of absolutely no distinction. His administration was riddled by charges of corruption, much of which flowed from Prohibition. His administration was probably the most reviled in American history up to that point. Prohibition may not have been involved in Harding’s dalliances with Carrie Phillips and Nan Britton, but if he had confined himself solely to his mistresses, he may have avoided the opprobrium that he so richly deserved. Harding died in 1923 after only two years in office and Calvin Coolidge succeeded him. You may remember the colorless Coolidge as the man who coined the phrase, “The business of America is business.” Coolidge turned over the presidency to Herbert Hoover of Depression fame. Coolidge went back to obscurity in Vermont. He was unlamented by the American electorate.

The point here is simple and chilling. When the church-state line is crossed – particularly for religious reasons as was the case in Prohibition – nothing but disaster awaits. In the current Bush administration, religion abounds. Evangelical Christianity is the predominate creed. Bush has surrounded himself with religious zealots who claim there is no such division between church and state. In short, we would become Arab Kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia. The Attorney General Ashcroft is a leading proponent of this distorted view. But perhaps he did not have much convincing to do with Bush who, during a 1999 Republican primary debate, when asked to name his favorite POLITICAL philosopher said it was Christ.

What I am leading up to is that the Bush people ignore at their peril the disaster that was Prohibition. In their religious zealotry, they are doing it all over again with sexual mores. The New York Times had an editorial on January 12, 2003 entitled, “The War Against Women.” I hope you take the time to read the “War Against Women” editorial as well as the “Federal Funds to Build Churches” and “The Bully at the Table.” They are attached to this essay. Every American who supports the idea of separating the church from the state, as Thomas Jefferson did, must be appalled and disgusted by Bush’s insistence that this American government should be modeled after the Mideast Muslim dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where there is no barrier between church and state.

Consider these thoughts sponsored by the Bush administration.
1. It is intent upon eviscerating the right of a women to make her own child bearing decisions. Abortion would be outlawed by the roll back of Roe vs. Wade.
2. A major attempt has been made to deny contraceptive information to men and women. The right wing conservatives say contraceptive information is the work of the devil. Again, I ask you to read “The Bully at the Table.”
3. There is a major assault on sex education for young people. The administration is offering “abstinence only” as its policy for sex education. This is not a policy; it is a religious superstition.
4. Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey is one who is leading an assault on condoms claiming that tiny pores in condom walls permit such things as the AIDS virus to pass through. Most scientists will tell you that condoms lead the way, if not the only way, in preventing transmissions of the AIDS virus. The pore theory is junk science and Smith knows it.
5. As Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union speech, it is his wish that all cloning be barred. I wonder how many Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering from spinal cord injuries will join in that call?
6. Bush administration stalwarts want not only to stop abortion procedures, but they wish also to ban the use of the oral contraceptive, RU 486. Can thought police be far behind?
7. Bush’s first step when he assumed office was to stop any reference to abortion in family planning sponsored by the United States in foreign countries. I suppose family planning must be built around John Ashcroft’s abstinence only idea. Tell that to teenagers in Africa or in the United States.
8. Aside from the assault on women, Bush now plans to allow Federal housing money to be used to erect buildings in which religious services take place. This makes the assault on the church-state wall complete.

The foregoing is an impressive list. If it all comes to pass, we will be returned to colonial times and the Federal Government will become a theocracy on the order of Iran, Saudi Arabia, or the Sudan. Is that what we want?

In his recent State of the Union speech, Bush took notice for the first time of the AIDS epidemic sweeping Africa. I am struck by the thought that when he did send a representative to Africa in December, the aide, Robert Zoellich the Trade Representative, told his African audiences that he had come to talk about Trade, not about AIDS. There is absolutely no sincerity in the Bush proposal to do something about AIDS in Africa. There are no votes there.

Furthermore, the thought of the three boys in Newark who were starved, sexually abused and abandoned, will not leave my mind. And I hope you remember it also. One of the brothers died and his corpse was hidden for a substantial period of time.

The mother of the three boys was Melinda Williams. In all, she had five children. When Melinda left to serve a jail sentence, the boys were placed in the custody of a cousin, Sherry Murphy. Sherry abandoned the boys until they were accidentally found weeks later. Sherry also had five kids.

Now think about this. Today in 2003, 70% of all the birth records in Newark show that the father is unidentified. In short, he is not around and has abandoned the new mother. While you are thinking about the 70% figure, think also that between the two cousins Melinda and Sherry, ten kids were born.

Now I’d like for New Jersey Representative Christopher Smith to tell all of us how Bush’s war on abortion, contraception, condoms and sex education fit into this picture? There is no record that either of the two women ever underwent an abortion procedure, so they are on solid ecclesiastical ground with Chris Smith. And obviously, they used contraceptive measures sparingly, if at all. Perhaps if Attorney General Ashcroft were here in Newark to whisper total abstinence to these two hot blooded females, they would have joined him in church services instead of procreating with the various fathers of their children.

The point is obvious. For political reasons only, the Bush people are joining religious conservatives in a head-in-the-sand attitude. And in the bargain, they are obviously and clearly bringing the church in as a dominant partner to the Federal Government. I object. If there is a stronger way to register my opposition, I would like to find that way.

Bush’s attempt to breech the church-state barrier will result in another disaster as it was in the first case, Prohibition. Lives will be ruined. Back alley clinics will spring up to handle, or mangle, women’s pregnancies. And what ever happened to the dictum that knowledge is power. Not when it comes to sex education if Bush has his way.

I am always struck by the thought that the moving urgency behind the suppression of sex education and the outlawing of abortions and contraception, are Catholic ultra right wingers together with the most retrogressive members of Protestant Evangelical calling. For the Catholics, Archbishop Joseph Myers of the Newark Diocese says the faithful are doing God’s work in this endeavor. For the Protestants, the leading lights are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and TV Evangelist Joe Dobson.

Until recently it was my impression that these two groups of Catholics and Evangelical Protestants actively hated each other. The Catholics claim that their church is the only true church and all other Christian churches are imposters. The Protestants who draw their name from Martin Luther who protested against the Catholic Church, have derided Catholic thought and practices for all of my long life time. To see these two groups find common ground is an unparalleled exercise in regressive politics because politics is what this is all about.

The striking thing is that these two groups are seeking to use compulsion, not persuasion, in their endeavors. They wish for Congress and the President to outlaw abortions and contraception and sex education. And they believe the same Supreme Court which installed Bush in the presidency, will enforce the compulsion that they envision. If Suzy Smith, a non-believer, wants to have a pregnancy ended, what harm comes to the most ardent religionists? Those religionists, through compulsion, wish to order the lives for all the rest of us. I object.

These same two groups are also gung ho for Bush’s war on Iraq. Never mind the rationale; just go bomb ‘em. Reports in the news media clearly state today, February 2, 2003, that the military forces of the United States will unleash 3000 precision guided bombs on Iraq to “demoralize” its citizens and lead them to abandon the fight for their country. It is clear to me that these 3000 precision bombs only start at 500 pounds. Some weigh much more. When the bombs are dropped and Iraqi citizens are becoming “demoralized”, it may be that thousands will be killed. Men, women and children. Our bombs may be precision guided but they don’t know if they are killing a man or a mother or a school full of children. When did we develop this vicious hatred for the Iraqi people?

Now I ask you this question. Why is it legal and an occasion for Bush to put on his John Wayne act to wipe out thousands of Iraqi women and children, but a woman who is the victim of rape in this country cannot get an abortion? Where is the logic in that? I suppose it comes under the heading of why we must wipe out Iraq but North Korea, with its NUC-YU-LAR bombs are not a matter of crisis, according to Secretary of State Powell.

Now I move on to an allied thought. When black people were subjected to the conditions of slavery, they were judged by Southerners to be inferior people. Some still think that. If you don’t believe that statement, look at the 1948 campaign of Strom Thurmond, the Presidential candidate of the Dixiecrat Party. And if you don’t want to see what Old Strom said about the inferiority of black people, you may refer to the recent leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, Trent Lott, who in December, 2002 embraced the whole agenda that Thurmond ran on.

But the supposed inferiority of blacks is only half the story. The drive led by right wing Catholics, such as Archbishop Myers, and ultra right wing Evangelical Protestants, seem to actively embrace the idea of the inferiority of women. They must be prevented by compulsion from having an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. And they should be barred from the use of RU-486 as well as sex education. I believe that this makes a pretty compelling case for the ultra right wingers led by George Bush to consider that women are an inferior brand of humanity. Women can’t make choices. It is done for them by a religious-political decision.

There is sort of a Trifecta here. First there is the suppression of women on the ground that they must be inferior to men. Secondly, the ultra right wingers want the U. S. to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age. And thirdly, there is an unquestioning desire to invoke the death penalty on just about everyone arrested by a cop. The likes of Trent Lott, Jeff Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama, Strom Thurmond, and John Ashcroft are part and parcel of this Trifecta along with the fearless George Bush and Richard Cheney. When Bush claims that his administration will protect this country, I am forced to point out that when Vietnam occurred, Bush used his father’s political connections to flee to the Texas National Guard. Cheney sought and got five deferments so he never served anywhere. Some fearless leaders we have here leading us into battle.

This essay started with a thought or two about Prohibition. It seems to me that during Prohibition, Southern Christians drank hillbilly moonshine. They did not let Prohibition stop them. Now, if Roe vs. Wade is rolled back and abortion is outlawed, I suspect that Catholic girls as well as ultra right wing Protestants will seek out and find abortionists to perform their work, often in unsanitary conditions, regardless of what New Jersey Representative Chris Smith has to say. Sadly, many of them will not survive.

All of the effort to return the United States to colonial times as it relates to abortion and sexual education and mores, and the slaughter of women and children in Iraq is done while proclaiming the extraordinary love of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Oh boy, let us pray.

Regrettably, we don’t have anyone now to write a song about “Beale Street Done Gone Dry” as it relates to the war on women, on Iraq and on compassion for men, innocent or not, convicted by judges and juries, often with no evidence or tainted evidence. I suspect that if W. C. Handy were alive today he would write a dirge aimed at George Bush. But Bush is completely ignorant of music, so the point would probably be lost on him. On the other hand, the black race has been humiliated beyond comprehension, yet they produced men and women like W. C. Handy, who found humor and hope in their moments of despair. There is no humor in what George Bush is offering the American public, especially women. Maybe there is some hope if we could find another W. C. Handy to tie it in a small ball such as he did with Prohibition in “Because the river’s wet – but Beale Street done gone dry.” Maybe when the Congress voted to make 2003 the “Year of the Blues,” they may have known something was coming along to warrant such a description.

E. E. CARR
January 29, 2003

~~~

“It’s a shame that meaningless acts about recognizing such-and-such week/month/year are some of the only things congress is consistently capable of passing” was my first thought when I started reading this essay, so I sought out to prove myself wrong. Even though I knew we have a house that is explicitly dedicated to thoughtless obstructionism, I still figured congress must be doing something useful. So I went and looked at all the legislation passed this season. Turns out we’ve only passed 244 bills into law since this session started in 2015. Looking through the first 100 of them, I count 32 — that is, a full third of their activity — bills were entirely focused on renaming one building or another.
For example, HR 5208 passed a few months ago: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3957 2nd Avenue in Laurel Hill, Florida, as the “Sergeant First Class William ‘Kelly’ Lacey Post Office”.

These types of laws are all well and good but for them to represent a full third of our congressional activity paints a pretty gloomy picture.

That said, I suppose that if the choice for how congress spends its time is “rename stuff” versus “build toward a Christian theocracy” then hey, might as well recognize William Lacey.

FROM THE CROSSROADS OF THE WEST

It is not a general rule of mine to tout a Mormon radio program. It may have been a product of the Great Depression that influenced all American citizens from 1929 until 1941. There were not a lot of things to tout. Nearly all of my similarly aged colleagues agree that the two major influences in their lives were the Depression and World War II.

There is an old expression of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It may not be a perfect expression for the fact that this music lovers ear was first attracted to the Mormon broadcast in 1936 on Sunday mornings. My work at service stations (filling stations) in Missouri somehow permitted listening to the Mormons on radio as work took place. So the sow’s ear in my case, permitted me to hear perhaps the greatest choir in the country and to hear three or four minute essays delivered in elegant, mid-western tones by Richard L. Evans, an Apostle of the Latter Day Saints Church.

The program was called Music and the Spoken Word. It was called The Mormon Hour, even though it ran only one half of an hour. In Mormon terms, Evans was called an “Elder.” A summary of the accomplishments of Elder Evans is contained in these two sentences:
“Elder Evans is best known to the world as the voice of The Spoken Word, a part of the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Broadcast. Elder Evans wrote, produced and announced the coast-to-coast radio network program from the Salt Lake City Tabernacle from June, 1930 until his death in 1971.”

Each Sunday, the Mormon program would be brought to us by CBS radio. The “music” part of the program was offered by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir consisting of 360 voices. Their ages range from 25 years to 60 years. The choir was wonderfully disciplined and performed under the direction of James Conde, who also played the magnificent organ at appropriate times. And now there is an orchestra of 110 volunteer members which appear on the program.

The Mormon hour program was written and announced by Elder Evans. My memories, which are now 68 years old, tell me that the first words from Elder Evans mouth were:
“From the Crossroads of the West, we bring you Music and the Spoken Word.”

Then Evans would identify the choir and conductor Conde and finally, himself. Then he would say:
“From within these walls, we bring you Music and the Spoken Word”.

The music produced by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was so great that listeners had to listen. There were no tools dropped or flat tires bounced at the filling station during the choir music.

About half way through the broadcast, Elder Evans would deliver his essays which contained not one word of Mormon theology. Here are a few titles of his essays or sermonettes:
Taking the Place of Other People
People Aren’t Perfect
Learning to live with People
To Youth Leaving Home
The Courage to Say “I do not know”
On Offering Excuses
On Waiting for Ideal Conditions

In the first book of Elder Evans, we find 214 essays. There are six books in my collection; so the total is near 1300 essays. The books were published by Harper’s and Brothers, a major American publisher. These books were bought before and immediately after the Second World War. Five of the hardcover books sold for $2 new. A slightly larger book, published by Harper in 1957, cost $3. Inflation perhaps. It has been my pleasure, even as a non-believer, to read every essay in the six books.

After the Spoken Word, Elder Evans would close the broadcast with these words:
“Next week at this same hour, Music and the Spoken Word will again be brought to you from the Crossroads of the West. Again we leave you within the shadows of the everlasting hills. May peace be with you this day and always”.

Elegant words and elegant music. These broadcasts must have made a big dent in my brain as they have been remembered for 68 years. All the dialogue quoted above came exclusively from my memory; no reference books were available or needed until the newest book arrived this week after the essay was virtually completed.

The Crossroads of the West is, of course, Salt Lake City.

Evans died in 1971 at the age of 65 years. As the Mormons phase it, “Elder Evans was sustained to the Council of Twelve and ordained an Apostle on October 8, 1953…” It must be supposed that only the President of the Mormon Church outranks an Apostle.

The six books in my possession are:
Unto the Hills
At This Same Hour
The Spoken Word
From Within These Walls
This Day and Always
The Everlasting Things

You will notice, the books take their names from the Elder Evans introduction and parting words on the radio broadcasts.

The Evans essays took only a few minutes to deliver. There was no cajolery and no urging to get right with the Lord while there is still time. And mostly, there was no attempt to regurgitate dubious thoughts learned at a seminary. His academic years were spent pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters in the same field. His thoughts were unburdened by what Joshua may have whispered to Ezekiel, or was it Hezekiah, perhaps in 300 B.C.

My work brought me to New York in 1955. Apparently, CBS does not broadcast the Mormon programming in New York City, so it is necessary to rely on records and books. Earlier this week, we played a record of Music and the Spoken Word recorded years ago. It gives me great pleasure to report that the music and the words are as appropriate today as when they were first recorded.

Since Evan’s death in 1971, he has been succeeded by J. Spencer Kinnard and now, Lloyd D. Newell.

Some of these essays are a struggle to write. This one about Elder Evans, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and James Conde wrote itself.

E. E. CARR
January 17, 2004

Post Script about a little humor in religious expressions:
This essay was written before it came to my belated attention that this was the 75th Anniversary of the birth of Music and the Spoken Word program and before the 75th Anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. was to be celebrated on January 19th. It must be concluded that my bring up system could use a drastic overhaul, but I never thought it would be in use for this long.

A new hard cover book covering the history of Music and the Spoken Word arrived here this Saturday. It prints some essays delivered by Elder Evans and two of his successors over the span of three quarters of a century. They are still good.

The purpose of this Post Script is to observe that ministers who practice the art of preaching seldom, if ever, include a little humor in their words. What a great pity. As much as Richard Evans was admired starting some 65 years ago, he never permitted an ounce of humor to penetrate his broadcasts.

The observance of the King celebration was celebrated in Summit, New Jersey on January 18th, by a joint church service between two black churches, one Baptist and one Methodist, and a white Presbyterian church. They had rented the auditorium of the Summit High School which is an austere and sort of lonely setting for such a celebration.

The first hour or more of the service was dominated by the Methodist and Presbyterian pastors. It was an hour devoid of any humor. At least one of the choir members, dozed off – and missed absolutely nothing. Then it was the turn of the Baptist preacher. That is where the proceedings became interesting and the dozers awoke much like Lazarus.

The Baptist preacher, J. Michael Sanders of the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, spoke in the elegant terminology of Southern Baptists. In an ironic twist, he asked the three congregations to fill this “great sanctuary with joyful praise.” It made no difference if he was preaching in the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan or in a one room church in Alabama or in the antiseptic setting of the auditorium of the Summit High School. His style was unaltered.

When there was mike trouble, the Baptist preacher wryly observed that such trouble did not exist until they got mixed up with Methodists and Presbyterians. Everyone was laughing with the preacher and he had not even begun his message.

Then Reverend Sanders explained to everyone that in the Baptist tradition, the congregation and the choir were expected to talk back to the preacher. Amens were welcome and halleluiahs were even more so. When his choir began to applaud his explanation of talking back, the Baptist preacher said, in response to that spontaneous applause, he would voluntarily add 15 minutes to his pared down message which was to last at least an hour.

About the proposed length of his message, he observed that there was heavy snow falling as he spoke. Snow removal crews around here traditionally are slow to go to work. Reverend Sanders explained that when he reached the end of his proposed sermon, the snow may even have been removed. Then he said there would be a little get together in the cafeteria after the ceremonies were concluded. He urged the combined congregations to meet somebody new and if you can’t find somebody that you do not know, talk to somebody that you do not like.

By now all the dozers were awake and the three congregations knew they were being addressed by a good guy. Good guys are in short supply in the religious business, particularly preachers.

It must be asked if soldiers engaged in the most hazardous occupation that exists today, can lampoon each other, why are religionists dour and devoid of humor. It may be suspected that accountants sometimes laugh at their own mistakes. Those who work in low paying jobs have a camaraderie based on humor. It may be suspected that undertakers have inside jokes. But people in the religious business flee at the thought of humor.

Perhaps by the scene stealing performance of the Baptist preacher at the 75th celebration of the King birthday in Summit, N.J., it may be that another preacher or two will loosen up and try a little humor. On the other hand, perhaps it would be too much to ask for course reversal or even course changing at this stage of the other preacher’s careers. It is not clear if prayer would help. But in the meantime, if you want to have your religious preaching served with a dash of humor, go to the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit. It is suspected that white Presbyterians or Methodist worshipers would be more than welcome by Reverend Sanders. And they might learn something, even if the sermons take the better part of Sunday morning.

EEC 1-19-04

~~~

Hell of a post script — almost as long as the essay itself. Still though, I can appreciate that Pop never shut himself completely off from religion, with the understanding that it sometimes can still contribute value like music, or a sense of community. It’s easy to see things in black and white, but much harder to find merit something like organized religion, which by the whole he considered to be pretty awful. At the end of the day, every organization is just a bunch of people, and there are great people everywhere. And the Mormons can friggen’ sing.

FRIDAY NIGHT FOLLIES

On Friday evening, the 13th of February, 2004, after all the press corps had left the White House Press Room, there appeared as if by magic, a two inch pile of paper having to do with Boy George and his lack of service in the Texas Air National Guard. The Friday in question was the start of a three day holiday to celebrate President’s Day on Monday, February 16th.

Dropping a large wad of paper on a Friday evening before a three day holiday is a characteristic of an administration which means to have any story in the papers largely ignored. And that is clearly the case in this instance.

This latest exercise is an attempt by Boy George to say that he did too take care of his duties in the intrepid and fearless Texas National Guard. At issue is a period of about a year in 1972 and 1973, when there is no record of his participation in the activities of his military unit. The reams of paper dumped on the latest Friday night follies, is an attempt to demonstrate that he spent the time in question at a base near Montgomery, Alabama. His only citation is a visit to a military dentist at the base in Alabama.

The military installation is the Dannelly Air National Guard base near Montgomery. The records turned over by Bush say he had a dental exam on January 6, 1973. Two resident philosophy students here say that his teeth may have been in Alabama, but there is no record that Boy George joined them. So after the two inch data dump, the American public is no closer to finding out where George Herbert Walker Bush’s boy was in 1972 and 1973. The mystery continues.

Other essayists are content to leave you with the dilemma of where George W. Bush was when he was supposed to be serving his country in the fearless and intrepid Texas Air National Guard. If Bush is able to produce one little card issued to every American flyer, then the mystery will be solved for all time. On the other hand, if he declines to produce his “Pilot and Crew Member Physical Record Card,” then objective observers will be forced to conclude that George W. Bush is a liar and simply failed to carry out his duties to the Texas Air National Guard.

Attached hereto is my personal Physical Record Card from my enlistment embracing the years 1942 to November, 1945 when the Army gave me an honorable discharge. This small card was to be carried at all times by pilots and crew members. In effect, it is a drivers license. Instruction #1 on the card states that “This card will be carried… by all officers on flying status and all combat crew members of tactical units.” Instruction #3 says the “Card will be submitted to Flight Surgeon or Operation Officer for inspection upon request.”

So it is clear that everyone on flying status had to have an authorization as represented by this card. If there was an accident of any kind or should some question arise, this card would immediately be examined to see if the pilots and crew members were physically qualified to fly. In the final analysis, this card was always in my possession just as a driver’s license is today.

If Bush wished to straighten out his record of missed training sessions, he could show everyone this sort of card. When the Army sent me from Italy to the Air Transport Command in Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana), this 22 year old Aerial Engineer willingly underwent another physical examination. This is the record of those examinations in 1944 and 1945.

You will note that all my shots were updated and this old sergeant was qualified for combat flying. The examiner was W. B. Updegraff, Flight Surgeon, a Captain in the U. S. Army Medical Corps.

This card, or one like it, has been in my possession since 1942, a span of 61 or 62 years. This particular card was given as a replacement for cards covering previous years including the one taken by German prison authorities in December, 1943.

Bush did not submit to a physical exam in 1972 when he wanted to go from Texas to Alabama. As a result, he lost his qualification for flying. In short, he was grounded. On some occasions, Bush has said he did not take the physical exam because he did not want to fly anymore. The question that follows is why did he continue to be associated with the Texas Air National Guard?

Several commentators now say that Bush feared a physical exam would disclose his interest in illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. For a flyer to lose his ability to fly leaves us to ponder some thoughts. If what we now suspect about his addiction to illegal drugs is true, he willingly skipped the exam for which he paid a very stiff price by being grounded. For a flyer, this is the ultimate penalty. The excuse offered some 30 years later that he no longer wished to fly, is clearly a patent lie.

He sure wanted to fly on May 1, 2003, when he landed on the flight deck of the Carrier Abraham Lincoln. But he wanted nothing to do with an exam in 1972 when he was in the middle of his tour with the Texas Air National Guard.

If Bush is as innocent as he now claims to be, it would be a simple matter to show his physical record card as has been done here. That would settle everything.

If an Army Sergeant can hang on to a card such as this one from 61 years ago, surely Bush can hang onto his for less than half that time. If after 61 years, Sergeant Carr can show his flying credentials, surely Bush can show some evidence to deal with the charges against him.

This is Bush’s chance to set the record straight. It is his last chance and there is the suspicion that he will fail it completely.

As of February 16, 2004, Bush has sent 542 American military people to die in Iraq. There have also been deaths among the allies such as Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland. The numbers of Iraqi dead is in the thousands, but Bush doesn’t count those. The number of American wounded could reach more than 11,000.

In recent announcement, Bush has proclaimed that he is the Commander in Chief of all military operations in Iraq. He has come a long way from doing everything in his power and in the power of his influential relatives and friends, to avoid service during his war in Vietnam. That is why he had those influential relatives and friends get him into the Texas National Guard over some 500 people ahead of him in line.

And now we are left to wonder if he covered himself with glory during his National Guard days and if he now wants the world to know that he is the Allied Commander in Chief, then why must he release his military records on a Friday night before a long holiday weekend, when only a few people could read of his magnificent exploits? Don’t expect an answer very soon.

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The “Donkey Roast” card came from American flyers at a base in Shillong in the province of Assam in Eastern India. It dates to early 1945. Shillong is the base used as an entrance to China on the famous “The Hump” run. The turbulence on this run from Shillong into China over the Himalayan mountain chain claimed many aircraft and flyers.

As you might imagine, Americans assigned to this base at the end of the line in Assam, made a few jokes about the name of the province. Among the more printable ones was, “My ass am draggin’ ”!

Your old essayist was in Shillong on two occasions and was never able to attend a genuine “Donkey Roast.” The Shillong guys said they had one last week or that there would be one in a week or two. As a result, my life’s experience has been shortchanged.

It is my suggestion that Bush should show the “Donkey Roast” card to all observers in lieu of showing his physical record pilot’s card with the physical he never took in 1972. And to those who might swallow the excuse that Bush did not wish to fly anymore, may we recommend Alice in Wonderland as a required reading assignment.

E. E. CARR
February 16, 2004

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Man, I just can’t help but think of how mild Bush’s scandals seem in comparison to the crap we’re seeing out of Trump (and, to a lesser extent, Clinton) right now. Draft dodging just seems so passé. The headline on the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post right now is about how Trump claimed a $916 million loss in 1995, so consequently has avoided paying any federal income tax for the last few decades. This is of course from the man who has averaged about a scandal per week for the past year or so. I mean, draft dodging is probably worse than using a private email server, but it’s so so much better than almost everything Trump does.

FOND MEMORIES OF BLIGHTY

Being an essayist in New Jersey, USA, is an exciting existence. There are pageants and banquets and balls to be attended. New Jersey honors its essayists weekly with an uncommon display of gratitude and outright affection. In the midst of all these ceremonies, there is a chance that Americans, particularly those of Irish ancestry, will overlook or forget to pay rapt attention to news from the mother country to us all – England. This small report is intended to acquaint you with recent developments in the country which we lovingly call Blighty.

There is elegant news from Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. The news about his paramour, Camilla Parker Bowles, is somewhat less elegant. Charles and Camilla have not sought the blessings of the Church of England for their living arrangements. And finally, there is horrid, distressful news about fox hunting with hounds. Let us start with the news of the Prince that will cause you to display your Union Jack for all to see.

Before we get too deeply into developments about the Prince, it is necessary to know just which prince will be the subject of our peasantly adulation. If Charles used his family name, he would tell you it is Windsor. That name came about because his proper name is Wettin, the family name of Queen Elizabeth’s consort. Not this Queen Elizabeth, her grandmother. The full name of the consort was Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1917, the Prince’s ancestors changed the German sounding name to Windsor, a more proper British name. So now we know which prince we are dealing with.

Alan Cowell, the New York Times reporter in London wrote in a mid-November dispatch that our prince has “a magnetic attraction for gaffes,” which is a gross understatement. It began when Elaine Day, a former secretary in Prince Charles’s office went to court alleging sexual harassment from the Prince’s private secretary, Paul Keffard. Ms. Day, who worked on the Prince’s staff from 1999 until 2004, also told the court she had asked whether the royal household offered a route to promotion for secretaries such as herself.

Well, asking about “a route to promotion for secretaries” set off a large size bomb under the lovable Prince of Wales. No one seems to have responded to the charge of sexual harassment, but asking about how one may be promoted set the Prince into a tizzy. He wrote these lines:
“What is wrong with people these days? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things above their capabilities?

“It was a consequence of a child-centered educational system which admits no failures. People seem to think they can all be pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability.”

The thought that the Prince would say “without even putting in the necessary work” strikes this American peasant as a phrase concordant with Churchill’s “blood, sweat and tears.” To think that Ms. Day, while evading her harasser, would have time to ask about a route for promotion without “putting in the necessary work” is, on its face, astounding. Who does Ms. Day think she is?

The Prince got his station in life the hard way, starting from the bottom. In the beginning, he was a rail layer on the London Underground. Then he collected garbage for a few years before getting a job driving a street car. That put him in a good position to become a policeman who started by patrolling the streets in high crime districts of London. Later, he serviced Port-A-Johns with his sister Anne. He ran a Johnny-on-the-Spot toilet facility franchise. The point is that Charles Windsor, nee Wettin, earned every one of his promotions. Soon after he was promoted to a Prince, the people of Wales demanded that he be a candidate for the demanding title of Prince of Wales. The vote was unanimous with every citizen of Wales casting an enthusiastic ballot. As we all know, the Welsh adulate their Prince just as they adore every English person.

So the Prince clearly earned his lofty station in life by “putting in the necessary work.” Hear, hear. When he sees this accolade from this side of the Atlantic, perhaps the Prince will hint that his Assistant Secretary Kefford should refrain from sexually harassing Ms. Day, if that is possible.

The news from the Prince’s Royal household is not so splendid with respect to his companion, Camilla Parker Bowles. The Prince has built an apartment next to his quarters with connecting bedroom doors. But in strict observance of British protocols, he has never been in
Mrs. Parker Bowles’ bedroom. Total abstinence, you know. Whether she has ever been in his bedroom is being shielded by the Official Secrets Act of the British Parliament. There is a feeling that Mrs. Parker Bowles looks very much like Charles’s mother. Make of that what you will.

When the Prince’s mother cashes in her chips, the Brits will have a decision to make about whether Camilla will be a Queen. Or a consort or a companion. My bookie, who guaranteed a Kerry victory in the United States says, “It ain’t gonna happen.” We shall see. Do you think that if Charles called her “England’s proper mother-in-law,” the church would say that is a “saintly title”? We don’t know, do we? The Archbishop of Canterbury has no comment as he is dealing with a gay Bishop in New Hampshire.

The final bit of news from home is that the British House of Commons invoked a rarely used Act of Parliament into law that would ban all hunting of the fox with hounds. The Act stipulates that shooting foxes is fine, but doing it when accompanied by hounds is forbidden.

The unfairness of it all is astounding. People who dig the trenches for the Metropolitan Sewer Commission will be denied their only sport. The men who drive the subway cars and the newsboys and the hotel maintenance workers rely on a diet of fox meat.

After work driving spikes into ties in the Underground, Mike Davis loves to go to his flat, have a warm beer and put on his fox hunting costume. The men from the assembly line of the Austin-Healey Motor Car plant wait impatiently for their weekends when they will go to their country estates to ride their horses and make loving gestures to their hounds. The men who slaughter cows and sheep at Lancaster’s packing houses will be denied the only pleasure available to them. How sad. How tragic.

Oh Britain, what have you done? Simple folk are being deprived of their God given sport. Every Briton will rue the day of November 19, 2004 when this happened. It could be worse than September 1, 1939 when World War II started.

Those of us who exalt England’s name at every opportunity are aware that the Celtic nations, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, have never been absorbed by fox hunting as the ordinary working classes of Englishmen are. Perhaps it is blasphemous to cite an Irish wit in conjunction with our sacred love of hunting foxes with hounds. But blasphemy wins the day. An Irish wit named Oscar Fingall O’Flahertis Wills Wilde once wrote that fox hunting was “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” How absolutely horrid. To think that an Irish author would have the gall to comment on a sacred English activity such as shooting foxes is nothing less than unthinkable.

Well, that is the news of the upper classes of the British Empire. It is deeply regretted that the news about Prince Charles and his letter asking what is wrong with people these days is so soggy.

See here. Charles was a working man just as the blokes in the unions in Britain are. Charles succeeded by hard work. His labor was eventually recognized by his becoming a prince. Any working man could do what Charles has done if he “puts in the necessary work” at dreary tasks until all obstacles are overcome.

Prince Charles is now being unfairly criticized. He knows what hard times are as his family was once on the dole. Fortunately, the Unions that he belonged to during his ascent to princedom are now coming together to sponsor a rally on New Year’s Day. There will be the ditch diggers, the packing house men, and the men who take care of London’s Johnny’s-on-the-Spot as well as old bus drivers and subway employees. They will meet in Hyde Park to hear from the Lord Mayor and titled consorts from the House of Lords. Red Ken Livingstone will lead the cheering for the Prince of Wales.

Delegations from Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Canberra, Wellington, and Moscow and Beijing will be on hand to cheer Charles in his quest for a wider divide between classes in Great Britain. Princess Anne, who scrubbed floors before she was promoted to royalty, will be on hand with her carnivorous dogs.

Until we see you on New Year’s Day, keep your mind on Camilla and on the urgent need to keep the hounds in fox hunting. Don’t worry about the Black Watch Regiment in Iraq. Fox hunting and Charles’s future with Camilla demands your full attention. Until we see you in Hyde Park, “Cheerio!”

E. E. CARR
November 20, 2004

Post Script: This essay was written with a sense of deep and abiding love for Blighty and the British Royal Family. English editorial cartoonists responded less splendidly. Steve Bell’s cartoon in The Guardian is one example. It is attached. It appeared after our heart felt tribute to Charles, the Prince of Gaffes. It is fair to say that Charles may be the best gift to cartoonists in all recorded history.

PPS: Steve Bell is a cheeky fellow who probably knows little about fox hunting.

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I think it would be a lot more exciting to be a prince of Whales than a prince of Wales, personally. Since “Prince of Wales” seems to be a dead-end posiiton for him, he should consider either laboring much harder to become king, or changing tactics to govern marine animals.

Damn I miss essays. Sorry for such a long gap between them!