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 The Day John Kennedy Was Shot42 comments
picture18 Nov 2008 @ 23:51
Ever the same,
unchanged by hue,
cherry blossoms
of my native place.
Spring now has gone.


LIVE the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

---Rainer Maria Rilke

I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

---Simone De Beauvoir

The author and first wife, The Bronx, autumn 1963

In June of 1963, I was just out of university, didn't have any money left to speak of, hadn't ever held a "real" job in the world, had no set prospects for one, and was getting married. Five years later, that wife and her mother concluded I wasn't really ready to be a married person. A judge in Bridgeport agreed, so they took our 2 kids and went away. But that summer in '63, I felt ready and eager nevertheless. I remember red roses everywhere in full bloom and beautiful.

A job came through, in The Bronx. The principal of the school hired me to teach English to the upper grades at secondary level. In July he called to ask if I could teach some social studies. He knew I had taken courses in a number of fields in college. Frankly I had chosen English finally, because that thesis was the easiest to do. So I said OK. In August, a couple weeks before we were to have moved in our first apartment, the man called again and said the English teacher had decided to stay. Could I teach all social studies? Just married, my first job, I was nervous. I said I'd do it, but I needed the department chairman to get me materials immediately so I could prepare. He said, "You are the department chairman."

Thus did I stride into the wonderful world of love, marriage, and work---at least work in the weedy field of education. But there was much more to learn. In 1963, the New York World's Fair was getting started over at Flushing Meadows in The Queens. Elvis made a movie about it. Part of the place would end up the ball park for a new major league team in New York. Our school decided to take a field trip over to see it. We took the subway, a rather long ride. The principal had decided to come along. When we changed trains in Manhattan, he spotted a beggar at the stop and nonchalantly remarked, "There's one of my former students." I think I said something about government programs to enable the poor to enter the work force. The boss replied, "Oh, so you're a Kennedy pinko."

I remember just where we were when he said that to me, as one does when one's illusions are shattered. I had grown up during the McCarthy era and knew how serious a charge along those lines could be. This guy was kidding just a little bit, but I never had been called anything like that by someone in authority. I didn't tell him this, but the fact was I didn't even support John Kennedy particularly. I had seen him once, in 1960 during his campaign for the presidency, but the voting age wouldn't be lowered for another 10 years...so I couldn't vote and didn't feel particularly committed one way or the other. A professor drove me to wherever it was in Maine that he appeared, and I know we waited forever for him so show up. But there was no doubt about it: the man absolutely radiated charisma.

I had participated in picketing his White House in March of '62. We were protesting his policy of continuing above-ground nuclear bomb testing---or at least I think that's what it was. We were up to our ankles in slush in Washington, and most of us wore beatnik tennis shoes with holes in them back then. Pete Seeger led the march from the Washington Monument to the White House. There we walked up and down, back and forth, had to keep moving. We were freezing as the sleet continued to fall. My fiancee had come along, and this was her first real dip into the world of radical politics. We knew Kennedy was inside, and ultimately a van came down the driveway and a guy in a suit got out. He said the President sent his greetings and wished us well. And here were cups of hot chocolate for everyone. That's how JFK dealt with protest.  More >

 The Poor In The US Are Sick And Dying: Happy?17 comments
picture27 Jun 2008 @ 12:06
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also
leaks through the holes
in the roof
of this ruined house.


Getting rid of things and clinging to emptiness is an illness of the same kind. It is just like throwing oneself into a fire to avoid being drowned.


Yet do the lazy Snailes no less
The greatnesse of our Lord confesse.

---John Hall

The Gini coefficient measures the distribution of income on a scale from zero (where income is perfectly equally distributed among all members of a society) to one (where all the income goes to a single person).

Yesterday at noon I attended a support meeting that I like to go to when school isn't in session. It lasts an hour, is attended by a few regulars, and consists of sitting in silence---unless someone wants to share how the day is going. When that happens we're not supposed to comment back particularly, or offer judgment. It's just practice in offering up something about oneself honestly and simply. On this day, however, (and this happens sometimes) a young, strong-looking woman no one had seen before jumped in immediately. She had been clinging to the man she identified as her partner, rubbing him and caressing him. He was silent but obviously concerned she was coming apart. Her voice and the rest of her trembled uncontrollably as she told why she was there. She said they were not from here, but had traveled the hour and a half down from Columbus, to move in with her grandmother. They had lost their jobs and home, and had a newborn. Grandmother had taken one look at her, called Social Services, taken custody of the baby, and thrown them both out by court order. The girl had been off crack for 3 days, but---and here she began to cry---she knew no other way to deal with a hopeless situation except to drug, she'd relapsed before, and now she was here in this room, with us.

Any reader who has worked or volunteered in a religious institution or social agency of any kind, I'm sure, has had a situation like this land in your lap. Maybe you've been stung before when you offered food or cash. If you've referred the person somewhere else, you probably never did learn how it turned out. Maybe you're in a group, like the one I go to, where you actually get to see the person again and again, and possibly watch the miracle of a recovery occur---or not. Please forgive me if I insulted any reader with the title, which indicates more and more poor people in the United States are becoming sick, that this is one way of taking care of the "surplus population," and maybe that's OK with you. Maybe you don't know what else to do. Maybe you don't want to hear about it. Or think about it. Then surf on, reader, and be well---because a new article on the subject is out, and we need to go into it.  More >

 Green Energy Development12 comments
picture27 Mar 2008 @ 11:26
The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.

---Wendell Berry

The essence of the problem is about consumption, recognizing that a society that consumes one third of the world's resources is unsustainable. This level of consumption requires constant intervention into other people's lands. That's what's going on.

---Winona LaDuke

What we are calling for is a revolution in public education. When the hearts and minds of our children are captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with the experience in the garden, sustainability will become the lens through which they see the world.

---Alice Waters

The quotations can be found in the April/May 2008 issue of Mother Earth News, and at the website www.americanswhotellthetruth.org .

Perhaps your idea of food production in the future resembles the illustrating photo (which I found here [link] ) and you may be right. Many people are preparing for a post-petroleum world by forming small self-sustaining communities of like-minded individuals. Fortified by stocks of food in individual cellars and possibly an arsenal of collective weapons, they await the apocalypse. I understand Tom Cruise is building an underground shelter.

With that kind of worry, on Tuesday I entered Ohio University's Walter Hall Rotunda (not the most environmentally sound structure, we discovered) for something called the Green Energy Development Summit. The forum was sponsored by US Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, OU's Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3), and the Pew Environment Group (which is one of the Pew Charitable Trusts). That's a pretty formidable team for a small college town in one of the most destitute parts of Appalachia. Was rescue coming at last?
Apparently the idea for the summit was cooked up by Tom Bullock, a representative for Pew in Ohio, and Scott Miller, who directs the energy and environment programs for CE3. They both contacted Senator Brown's office to get at least his name connected and some representatives here, remembering perhaps he visited Athens during his campaign for office to bless the solar array then opening on the roof of Athens Middle School. The senator himself came to Athens yesterday for a review of the conference and to meet with university and business leaders. I sat next to a representative of Governor Strickland. So there we were: a lot of suits and a bunch of blue jeans.

A half dozen of the people in neckties turned out to be presenters, each alloted about 20 minutes to tell us of business initiatives in which they were involved. Now I had 2 problems with this already. First of course is my prejudice that it's free market capitalists that have messed us up to the point where chunks of Antarctica the size of an average country are falling off and dissolving. Second is my ignorance, both about business marketing and the engineering that invents the products. That means I'm not such a great candidate to be telling you about this...but I'll try my best. What I want to accomplish is at least to get something on the Internet about what we learned that day, and hopefully attract some reaction from people who do know what they're talking about.  More >

 Getting Drunk For Dr. King13 comments
picture24 Jan 2008 @ 09:58
Beginners, make your will firm and strong: twenty-four hours a day, wield the sword of positive energy to overcome demons and curses, cutting off psychological afflictions. Look continuously into a saying, and you will spontaneously discover the light of mind, containing heaven and earth, every land completely revealed.


When you try to set your mind to it, you miss it. When you stir your thoughts, you turn away from it. If you do not try and you do not stir, you are living in stagnant water. What do you do?

---Zen saying

The world is a passage back to God, that is the only reason it is here.

---Michael Murphy

This rather infamous picture was taken last year at a Gangsta Party on Martin Luther King Day at Clemson University. [link]

A couple weeks ago I wrote on an interest that developed in childhood about faraway places and people of other nationalities and races. I titled it Full Frontal Feminism, after Jessica Valenti's book, because I credit that interest for my involvement in civil rights from the late 1950s on. Almost immediately I heard from a friend of mine here in Athens, who teaches American National Government, The Politics of Law, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Politics, Civil Liberties, and American Political Thought at Ohio University. She urged me to join college faculty around the country to ask students to stay away from "Race Parties" that were being planned by kids. Since they get a day off, why not party on and get loaded to celebrate?

I thought about it for a while and took a look at an invitation to one that was being set up off campus here. It said there'd be plenty of fried chicken and 40 ounce cans of malt liquor, and all the party-goer had to do was dress up as his or her favorite Black stereotype. OK, sounds very American collegiate...but is it any more wrong than that? Were people of Greek derivation angry about Toga Parties? Would I be mad about an Erik The Red party, at which kids would dress up as Swedes in fur rugs and helmets with buffalo horns sticking out---even though I know no Swede actually ever wore such a helmet? Didn't all peoples have to go through this crap when we came to the Land of the Free?

What was the intention of the party? That's what I wanted to know...I mean, besides an excuse to get blasted. Martin Luther King DID like fried chicken, and college kids like to dress up for theme parties. What's the harm---as long as there is a kind of tribute to the culture honored in some way? It bothers me that the minstrel tradition and Amos 'N' Andy, where whites dressed up in black-face (and even some blacks did to emphasize stereotypical features) and spoke in dialect, are looked down on. I mentioned in the previous article about the banning in the United States of Disney's Song Of The South. Isn't all that going too far?

But isn't this different? I admit that I've welcomed the Martin Luther King holiday to finish cleanup from Christmas and recover a bit more from that hectic season. However, our family always spends time listening to the words of Dr. King and usually music inspired by the work that he did and the mission of his life. We reflect on the fact he was assassinated for this here in this country, murdered as were other leaders who advocated Change during that time. I'm not at a place where I could go to a party about such things, unless it were a pretty serious gathering.

Nevertheless, I still wasn't ready to raise a stink about kids having parties. There is something to celebrate about what progress has been made for civil rights. I can get into partying about the contributions of Black Culture. I like it better if there are Black people there and we all enjoy each other. The best parties I ever went to were the mixed explorations we enjoyed in the mid-60s. Will I ever forget 50 people packed in my living room, dancing to 45s until dawn, and then out came the vacuum cleaner and everybody cleaned the whole place before going home? How about that barbecue at Shugie's front lawn in Greenwich, and the low lights and Arthur Prysock LPs indoors? Man, celebrating race can be beautiful!  More >

 Re: happy veteran's day & Pakistan?18 comments
picture12 Nov 2007 @ 11:23
Does one really have to fret about enlightenment? No matter what road I travel, I'm going home.


To find the universal elements enough; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring---these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

---John Burroughs

I know there is no good in my trying to explain to you why I am away from home—war doesn’t make sense even when you are grown up.

---(Lt.) Henry Fonda to his children during World War II

In the photo, former President George H.W. Bush makes his entrance to his presidential museum during a rededication ceremony with Army Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott with the Golden Knights parachute team in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/College Station Eagle, Gabriel Chmielewski)

From: "Annie Warmke"
To: "Richard Carlson"
Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2007 10:05 AM
Subject: happy veteran's day

> Happy Veteran's Day!
> This morning the local NPR station played their favorite tunes for "Happy
> Veteran's Day" and each year after about 15 minutes I have to turn the radio
> off.
> The songs are full of one message - pain. Some sing about the pain of going
> to war. Others tell the story of losing a limb, or losing children. They
> all tell a story that leads me to the same conclusion each year. War is
> hell and it is not the solution.
> So today I've turned off the radio earlier than usual and begun to wonder if
> that's not what America is doing each morning when the radio offers the
> morning "war report" as I call it. I'm wondering how much longer we'll turn
> off or tune out the news of death and destruction that is happening in our
> names.
> The elections this last week remind me that nothing so far has changed. We're
> still up to our eyeballs in corruption in the government. The Democrats
> refuse to take a stand that actually changes anything on any issue - you
> pick one and you'll see what I mean.
> As I look out the window at the colorful leaves on the trees - the trees
> that ought to be naked - I am reminded that we're at war in many places on
> this earth, and it seems we're losing them all.
> Annie Warmke is an activist, writer and farmer who lives at Blue Rock
> Station with her family of humans, llamas, chickens, goats, cats and her
> French-speaking dog, Rosie.

Dear Annie,

I haven't been to a Veterans Day parade in Athens in a couple years. I guess they've been on weekends, but when kids are in class a bunch of schools march and show up or something. Usually people on the staff put the pressure on or the principal is gung ho, and whole elementary schools turn out. The last couple have been particularly patriotic in the cloying way that makes me uncomfortable. That was before there was more of a general mood of We Support The Soldiers But Not This War. Of course in the military-trained mind---and for the kind of people who run parades like this---there's no such thing as not supporting a war, because your commander has issued an order.

As a kid, it still was Armistice Day. I knew it was about the end of World War I, at 11:00 on 11/11 in some long ago year (1918) but I didn't know what any of that was about. Few others did either, and there certainly weren't a lot of festivities. I wonder if anybody today knows what World War I was about. We sent 2 million soldiers to France, and 100,000 didn't come back. I read in the New York Times this morning, only one veteran from that war remains alive in the States. Garrison Keillor said Saturday World War II was just World War I continued...and I do remember some history classes in college supported that notion. I have a friend who claims the continuous war of the Twentieth Century was about only one thing: oil.

Armistice Day became Veterans Day as Decoration Day became Memorial Day and we added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance all in the mid-1950s. A general for our president, the McCarthy Era, and the Cold War geared us up to be tough guys. Now we rattle our sabers anytime we feel like it, no one tells us what to do, and we say anything we want to the other nations. The other day Bush told the Pakistani prime minister to take off his uniform because you can't be a military commander and the president at the same time. Huh?

I hear in Baghdad they're claiming the suicide bombings have lessened considerably. That's a good thing...and I suppose we should credit the "surge." But are the inSURGEnts all dead now...or running away into the desert? Or have they been redirected? Are they massing somewhere else? If so, I wonder where that could be? Let's see, what staunch ally of the United States has nuclear weapons but is teetering into instability? Where is there Emergency Control for the next 2 months until more great democratic elections will be held to celebrate freedom? Where are suicide bombings increasing? And where is Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive? The answers to these and other questions will be revealed in forthcoming exciting episodes---or maybe later today.  More >

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