rain has washed away the chance to mow And
little frogs are safe from spinning blades The
caterpillars will not be dispatched Or
misty morning’s soft midsummer air Is
repose peaceful as the rabbits munch Their
no ability to count or rate Our
memories singing across the land: Roaming
with Robin and his Merry Band, Getting
the cows up at the end of day The
distant rumble of the Santa Fe The
ancient forest just beyond the fence The
stings of bees that made one yelp and wince Kissing
a girl beneath the old oak trees (O
what a flirt she was, a scamp, a tease!) -
News item: corpses of
stowaways found in a container ship
darkness, stench, and silence thus entomb
made-in-China hopes inside a box, Lost
souls upon, within, a breathless sea Among
the video games and Christmas toys, The
sneakers that one cannot live without And
fashions fresh from blooded tiny hands In
squalid concrete blocks of suicide. True
bills of lading note the paperwork, Promissory
notes of neatly typed doom, Free
on board, but payable upon our deaths: The
tired, the poor, the huddled corpses wait, Decaying
in an airless metal box, Afloat
upon a golden harbor where A
grim, badged functionary, uniformed In
body-armor and tactical gear, There
lifts his lamp inside the blackened door, And
(Associated Baptist Press) News reports that the Pentagon will no longer
license Lifeway Christian Resources (associated with the Southern Baptist
Convention) to emboss official military emblems on a line of its Bibles.
casual reader will be surprised that the Joint Chiefs of Staff license any
product, as if they were a sports franchise negotiating with Chinese factory
bosses for tee-shirts, water bottles, and underwear with advertising printed on
second problem is that the Pentagon is a 70-year-old building in
Washington.It doesn’t license, say, or
do anything; it is a building with a roof and walls and offices and restrooms
and cafeterias and windows. Buildings
are remarkably deficient in intellect, will, or voice, except in late-night horror
movies about lust-crazed elevators.Attributing
a statement to the Pentagon is as careless as attributing one to the
Vatican.The Vatican is a small
city-state, and can’t say anything.One
might as well attempt to attempt to give a voice to Luxembourg or
accurate attribution is to report that a properly constituted authority figure
by name within the Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, the Vatican, or the Pentagon has
made a moral, ethical, legal, or business decision.
variation on “The Pentagon says…” is sloppy reporting, for it does not say what
individual or named committee under the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
enjoys the power to license tchotchkes.
for me, there’s nothing that echoes the sacrificial spirit of Sergeant York,
Audie Murphy, and Dorie Miller like a committee of commissioned officers in
air-conditioned suites cutting deals for Chinese coffee mugs with the Navy seal
who put the “Eeeeeeeeeeeek!” into the unnamed licensing committee at the
– yes, a grown man who goes by “Mikey” - Weinstein is the recipient of a
first-rate education first at the Air Force Academy and then at law school, all
funded by the taxpayer.He has
demonstrated his gratefulness by suing lots of folks because apparently, in one
of those late-night bull sessions that are an essential part of barracks life, a
sort of Hyde Park Corner safety valve granted by the wiser sort of NCO, he once
heard religious opinions with which he did not agree.
horror, the horror.
such matters one should, of fairness, not only read about an individual, but
should read what he says: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org.Note the statement under the banner of the
When one proudly dons a U.S. Military
uniform, there is only one religious symbol: the American flag.There is only one religious scripture: the
American Constitution.Finally, there is
only one religious faith: American patriotism.
– Mikey Weinstein
proposed incarnation of the State as a religion, and as the sole religion, is a
novelty of tyranny quite in opposition to the Constitution Mikey purports to
may or may not be ethical and legal arguments for a military symbol embossed on
the cover of a Bible, missal, siddur, or other prayer book.However, to imagine an soldier in the heat,
filth, dust, and danger of Whose-Brilliant-Idea-Was-This-istan being offended
because the fellow next to him owns a copy of a Bible with an Army symbol on
its cover is, to the generous-minded, unthinkable.
Mikey, a keyboard commando who apparently has not been in combat himself, wants
to own and read in his comfy office a copy of a Bible without anything embossed
in the cover, under the Constitution he is free to do so.And if an E-2 in 120-degree heat can take a
few minutes to read from a Bible whose cover is different from Mikey’s, he not
only has the same Constitutional right to do so, he has earned and defended that right in ways
Mikey fails to understand.
week the National Association of Latino
Elected and Appointed Officials met at Florida’s Disney World (the National
Association of Canadian Elected and Appointed Officials perhaps had to settle for
President spoke at a dinner for the group, but before he could safely do so,
Raquel Regalado, an official of the NALEO, required the Elected and Appointed
Officials to give up their forks – they were never trusted with knives from the
beginning -- because of the danger of such instruments to the Leader of the
is no word whether the Elected and Appointed Officials were later strip-searched
for unauthorized teaspoons.
(no doubt) Regalado said to the Elected and Appointed Officials: “As you know, we’re having another speaker and there is some
Secret Service involved. So there’s a reason why there’s (sic) no knives at
your table and the forks will be collected…“So, like the good Hispanic mother
I’m here to tell you to please, eat your lunch.”
With that, Ms. Regalado and the Secret
Service promoted layers of stereotypes: according to them, folks who have some
Spanish ancestors are not to be trusted with the safety of the President or
even with ordinary dining-room tableware.
Given reported recent behaviors,
shouldn’t the Secret Service have been disforked instead?Has NALEO busted heads in bar-fights in
Martha’s Vineyard?Did a NALEO official
refuse to pay a, um, fun date in Colombia?
And imagine the President speaking
at a Knights of Columbus dinner.Grand
Knight Feeney comes out and says “Sure, faith ‘n’ begorrah, and because yer
Irish we can’t be trustin’ ye, sure, so we’ll be givin’ ye mashed potatoes and
ye’ll eat ‘em with ye bare hands, sure, so ye won’t be hurtin’ our darlin’
at the Churchill Club: “Eh, wot, chaps, righty-o, then, just sit quietly while
the staff remove all sharp objects.We who
had an English ancestor centuries ago are marvelously malevolent, and the
Secret Service fear we might fling cutlery, crumpets, and Shakespearean bon mots at the august personage of our
elected President, rather, don’cha’know.”
the President and the Secret Service doesn’t require that forks be confiscated
from other loyal Americans, so why was a Latino organization singled out?
Regalado referred to herself as a “good Hispanic mother.”Would a good mother of any cultural heritage
permit a guest to bring his bully-boys to dinner and humiliate her children?
incident, reported by The New York Times
and others, is disturbing in its narrative of the fear, distrust, and hubris of
the Secret Service, if not the President.But even more disturbing is the passive acceptance of such arrogance:
Ms. Regalado, a leader of the National
Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, instead of refusing
the slight, submitted to it and required the audience to surrender their dinner
forks.And if even one courageous member
of NALEO refused to be patronized by such goon-squad behavior, and quietly left
the room with human dignity intact, there is no record of it.
The Huffington Post reports that the
audience applauded and cheered for the President – the President who fears and
20th Century may not be remembered as much for the invention of radio,
television, flight, and broad-spectrum antibiotics as it will for the matter of
so many governments putting so many people behind barbed wire.
1942 Dr. Viktor Frankl, a middle-aged Austrian psychiatrist considered unworthy
of life in the new world order, was one of the millions sent to Nazi camps, and
in 1945 was one of the several thousand who survived.His intellectual discipline as a physician
remained with him through the horror, making him a rational observer in an
1946 Dr. Frankl wrote Man’s Search for
Meaning, a two-part book reflecting on his experiences in the prison camps and
analyzing those experiences for meaning that extends to all of life.His conclusion – and this is an
oversimplification - is that all of life has meaning, especially suffering, even
when we do not know what the meaning is.
Frankl does not lapse into that tired 19th-century Darwinianism
about the survival of the fittest: he states categorically that the best died
because they helped others, often with their own inadequate bits of food:
who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the
huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have
been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be
taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose
one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Just as strongly, Dr. Frankl repudiates
determinism: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess
except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the
Dr. Frankl is a bit rough on himself
for making it through, perhaps because of survivors’ guilt, but he never
indulges in self-pity and never focuses on himself.Indeed, his concept of therapy is openly
against that of Freudianism and its ideas of endless introspection and
self-pity.For Dr. Frankl, emotional
healing lies in the individual searching for meaning for his own life but simultaneously
outside his life:
declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of
his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in
the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed
system…being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone,
other than oneself - be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to
encounter. The more one forgets himself--by giving himself to a cause to serve
or another person to love--the more human he is and the more he actualizes
himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for
the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss
it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of
of the cliches’ of our time is “defined a generation,” a weak passivity that
should be rejected, certainly in the context of such drivel as “The music of X
defined a generation” or “The movies of Y defined a generation.”No, they didn’t.Collective definitions are always flawed, and
in any event a strong individual defines himself and refuses to be a lemming.Dr. Frankl was no lemming sobbing into a
We have come to know Man as he really
is.After all, man is that being who
invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered
those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.
Anne, Diary of a Young Girl.
Jeanne Wakatsuki, and James D. Houston, Farewell
to Manzanar. One wonders how much
of this book is by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who was behind the wire, and how
much is by James D. Houston, who was not.Is Mr. Houston a not-so-grey eminence?
graduate poses on the railway, Then
leans and pouts against an old brick wall, And
then again at the city limits sign, Or
walking barefoot on a dusty road, And
there must be a guitar there, somewhere, And
his pickup truck and the neighbor’s horse, His
letter jacket with a scripture verse, And
maybe a book that he’s never read: Electronic
images in a camera Made
in China, revealing nothing But
a tabula pretty darned rasa, Unique,
because his mother told him so, Unique
in his made-in-Shanghai jeans, A
child of God, according to the minister Of
the Adjective Fellowship of Hope
once he was Joseph in the Christmas play;
target audience for Anheuser-Busch, A
tapping texter sexter flipping off The
world in a file he thinks is secret.
in one frame he’s shyly caught in thought,
in that accidental snap one sees The
merest hint of something that might be Someday
a man, a man who’ll stand and dare To
disobey the order of the day, And
then, wilder and bolder yet, obey The
Catena Aurea of eternity.
Truth is Out There (whispered in all caps) Hidden
in a tax-sheltered bucket list Guarded
by albino republicans On
the nepallingly deadly ice Of
the something-est mountain in the world. Where
the Sherpas are like, so cool and stuff, So
at one with their, like, inner thing-ness,
advisors to lemmings lined up
padded, rainbow-colored walruses In
baseball caps, lining up patiently, Lining
up in the cold for group lattes Lining
up in the cold to twit their deaths Civilization
lining up to die A
litter of bodies frozen ice-green Above,
beyond the death-hot Syrian plains. After
making, perhaps, pallid obeisance To
a little god-king playing at cards, His
picture-card death-lists for Nobel peace.
those who risk the bleak and arid heights Of
grim Paradise Lost require a guide, A
Sherpa of iambics for the trail? The
high blue ice of true discovery Is
littered with the tinkling toys of time: Manifestos
and men of destiny, Loud
ideologies like frail free verse Evolving
night by night, bringing, each dawn, This
morning’s firm eternal verities Hammered
in smoke upon the hissing wind, For
man’s first fall was to believe himself To
be Himself, th’eternal Self-ness, An
Orpheus before whom nothing was, Or
yet a better Vainamoinen Here
now to sing the broken world aright With
his latest electronic Sampo Recording
styled Myself Agonistes.
bodies litter for a time the earth
the leaf-fall orchards of the Now.
Milton, poor blind Milton, sang the Truth
soul-seared pain, in self-awareness bleak, Since
Milton, too, composed a song of death, First-person
singular in Satan’s voice; He
knew of Hell: for he betrayed his King.
there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
dog did nothing in the night-time.”
was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Silver
curious silence on Wednesday morning of last week was your telephone not
ringing, not ringing at last, after weeks of auditory assault on your work,
your leisure, and your home.
Alexander Graham Bell probably did not anticipate the ubiquity of the ‘phone or
its susceptibility to misuse by governments.For the past few weeks our ‘phones have been occupied by folks who
proclaim their desire to be politicians by decrying politicians.Governor Palin and Governor Perry wanted to
be my automated best friends forever, and all sorts of strange people interrupted
my day to tell me their opponents are bad people.
the problem – candidates use my telephone in order to bother me.They are not paying for my telephone; I
am.Private-sector vendors are now
forbidden to bother people with unwanted telephone calls, but clearly Section 1
of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution does not apply to
political candidates who propose to protect and defend Section 1 of the 14th
Amendment of the Constitution, and that’s some serious irony indeed.
someone other than a political candidate telephones you repeatedly, you have a
legal case regarding stalking.Political
candidates get a free pass, a free telephone pass, and you have to pay for it
and you have to put up with it.
the most casual observer would deduce (elementary, Watson, elementary) that
unwanted telephone calls invariably result in negative feelings.A candidate or his minions who bother folks
by telephoning them have given the annoyed citizen one good reason for NOT
voting for said candidate.
Public Utilities Commission of Texas probably can’t do anything about political
ice-calls, but you could write them a brief email letter (block format, six
parts, just as you were taught in school) POLITELY telling them how you feel
about receiving repeated unwanted telephone calls (my personal best is nine in
one day) from political candidates:
Graham Bell, a Canadian who was born in Scotland, invented the telephone so
that young Americans could use the thing to talk, text, tweet, and twit to each
other during high school graduation and thus ignore high school
graduation.Since Mr. Bell never
finished school, we may appreciate the layers of irony.
May of every year, like buzzards returning to wherever it is buzzards return
to, tiresome screeds about the ignorance of graduates arrive to roost in one’s
of the most popular is wrongly attributed to Bill Gates, another successful
fellow who did not finish school and who does not write silly stuff, and is
usually titled “Rules They Didn’t Teach You in School” or some such, and is
forwarded by the sort of people who never vote in their local school board
elections because they’re too busy complaining.
idea of hopeless naivete is not true of most high school students, and it’s
certainly not true of college students.Very few graduates ever finish a degree on the mummy-and-daddy nickel,
and for those who do, well, good for their mums and dads.
reality is that most college students work their way through school, usually in
minimum-wage jobs and at odd hours.A
student who works the night shift flipping burgers can only wonder about why he
is falsely stereotyped as someone who thinks he’s too good to flip burgers.
daughter spent some college time shoveling (Newark, New Jersey) in a
stable.Hamburgers would have been
college classroom will feature, yes, a few princesses of both sexes, but they
are far outnumbered by folks who know their way around the loading dock,
Afghanistan, and hospital wards at 0-Dark-Thirty, and who can wield with great
skill an M4, a broom, and a bedpan.
of my fish English students was a former sergeant who left the Army after
sixteen years.When I asked him why he
didn’t finish his twenty he said that after three combat tours in the desert he
figured he had pushed his luck enough.
and his mates studied English literature in a college hydraulics lab because of
a shortage of classroom space.No ivy
grew on the equipment.
of my students were in their mid-thirties, had been pals from childhood, owned
a roofing company, and were nursing students.In their late thirties, they said they were getting a little old for
climbing up on roofs all the year ‘round and were going to sell the company and
work in the shade for a while.I asked
them why they didn’t keep the company and spend well-earned time out of the sun
by delegating more authority to their employees.They said that their names were on each roof
(metaphorically), and that they would never sign off on a job if they didn’t
have first-hand knowledge of each square inch of that roof.
yeah, some dumb college kids, huh?
and experience are good, but they are only predictors: there are adult students
who become angry when they are required to show up on time (which, presumably,
was required of them on the job) and actually do some work (ditto).In the same class there can be 18-year-olds
demonstrating a far better work ethic (not the one texting behind her
Volkswagen-size purse, second seat, second table on the right) than their
the end, success is almost always the result of an individual’s choice to show
up for work, whether on the factory floor or in the classroom, and hit a lick
is, after the individual takes the tin cricket out of his ear.In school we were taught that in ye olden
days of yore crazy people who stumbled around mumbling to themselves were kept
safely away from others by being chained to a wall somewhere.We thought that was a bad punishment.Silly us.
of life’s lessons – it needn’t come from the classroom – is that stereotyping is
wrong.Just because something’s on the
‘net doesn’t mean it’s true.Those giddy
folks waving their diplomae (“diplomae,” he wrote, for he had been to night
school) around and yelling almost surely worked very hard for the moment, both
in and out of the classrooms and laboratories.
Some years ago I
attended a computer convention at which Ray Bradbury spoke, and I wish I had a
transcript of his speech -- he was so logical, so reasonable, so balanced in his
discussion of civilization and technology.
Afterward we were told that Mr. B would be happy to sign copies of his books,
but not other bits of paper -- the man was not naive about marketing! I had
with me my boyhood copy of Fahrenheit 401 and wanted him to sign that.
I don't think he was happy about signing a thirty-year-old paperback but he did,
and an acquaintance took our picture. The expression on his face very clearly
expresses his thought: "Who is this strange man and why couldn't the
cheapskate have bothered to buy a new copy of my book in the lobby?"
My latest book, Don't Forget Your Shoes and Grapes, is available, along with Lady with a Dead Turtle, Paleo-Hippies at Work and Play, and The Road to Magdalena, from Amazon.com both as a Kindle and as bits of dead tree.
BA in History, University of San Diego, 1976; MEd, Stephen F. Austin State University, 1984; MA in English, Stephen F. Austin State University, 2002. Mr. Hall also accomplished 18 months of field studies in Viet-Nam and Cambodia, once hitch-hiked from California to Texas, and has been rejected by some of the finest publishing houses in America.