No Messages from me from Beyond the Grave

I am still writing for a friend’s blog.  Here is a recent effort that is self explanatory:

Beyond the Grave

Filed in Thomas Fiske articles on Apr.05, 2010

Another amusing article by my friend, Tom Fiske:

Thomas Fiske I saw an Internet article titled “Texting from Beyond the Grave.” New technology allows a person to embed a chip in his or her granite tombstone that can be excited by telephones in the future so that a dead person’s typed message can be read out. Maybe a photo, too…

And I thought, “Some people just can’t let go.” But I also wondered if I were to leave such a statement, what my last message to the world might be. Would it be something like, “I told Evie I was sick…” or “Love your neighbor,” something that has been done much better and more often in the Bible. I just do not know. I doubt it would be one of those silly items that people send each other on the Internet each day—you know, one of those stories that is simply too cute to pass up, so you have to send the drivel on. Finding the right message would be a tough decision.

One day in 1944 in middle school a teacher had a boy by the name of Gilbert Lutz stand beside him in class. He commended the boy on his ability to carve. It seems the kid had boldly carved his name in a wood toilet seat in the boys’ bathroom. The teacher finished his special address to the carver by saying, “Of course, if that is where you want your name for all the world to see, you certainly have made your mark on the world.” I heard later that his parents were forced to replace the seat. We students wondered if Gilbert was allowed to keep the old seat so he could frame it and hang it on his wall at home.

So these new granite/electronic tombstones carry with them a great responsibility. But we genealogists can forget about them (and unadorned toilet seats, too) because we are already leaving powerful messages behind. Just a short list of a few generations would do, but many of us are also writing about our lives and the lives of our parents and even their parents. Most of these are monumental tales of proud, inner-directed folks.

I recall a Jewish lady who went to Poland in search of her ancestors. She was directed to a German Concentration Camp where her ancestors were put to death. Hers was a poignant story of bravery and destruction that carried with it a reminder of what can happen when we do not watch our political leaders very, very carefully.

My family was not Jewish (that we know of) but it consisted of soldiers in various wars. One was a corporal under Daniel Boone and General George Rogers Clark around 1784. He was not a big-time hero, but his deeds and deeds of those with whom he served, helped form this country. Those were the days when both moms and dads had to be good shots with a long rifle. Some of my people were Indians as well, so I came from a vast collection of shooters and shootees. They had very instructive tales to tell and I am writing them down as well as I am able.

You may choose a different course, but I believe I will forgo the granite messaging service. I have decided to  let my genealogy be my testimony, and my message for future generations.

Maybe I can’t let go either.

Barack’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost

In my forthcoming book, Ploughshares into Swords, I tell how a Colonel in the US Army visited Belgium at the end of WWII. At an inn an old Belgian man wanted permission to kiss the colonel because the American Army had save Belgium not once but twice from the German horde. “American chickens had come home to roost.”

Before it was all over and the Cold War was over, Belgium had been saved from the Soviets. American chickens had indeed “come home to roost,” as far as Belgians were concerned. We had saved the Belgians three times.

It is an old homeletical trick to move from the particular to the general. That is, an invasion of Iraq suddenly becomes symbolic of all American actions. A girl baby sitter shakes a baby to death and “American Women are Killing our Youngsters.” This is the gimmick employed by the Right Reverend Jeremiah Wright (RJW) at his Chicago church. For twenty years Barack Obama never heard this hateful message. RJW preached hatred and did it ignorantly. Yet Barack said Wright was the best the black church had to offer. Many black ministers would disagree.

According the RJW, Iraq, an action Wright did not agree with, became symbolic for all America’s actions. Obama somehow did not get the connection. Or he lied about it.

A minister I knew once preached that the American dollar was declining and that was God’s curse on America. I caught him after the sermon and respectfully said, “Frank, it is good for the American dollar to lose its value, because that makes our goods cheaper allowing more Americans go to work.” He was suddenly aware that he had misspoken. His face turned red but he never corrected his statement. He was too much in love with his own argument.

Did America save Europe three times? Of course. Is Japan better off than it was in the 1940’s? Yes, the people are richer and they seem to have grown five inches in stature as well (according to military records).

Barack Obama is dense or dishonest. His defenders will say, in effect, “Everybody does it.” And the matter will be settled. Few defend RJW, though. He appears to be a hating, “America last” minister, preaching to the worst in people. Not the worst of people, but the worst in people, who are easily led. One can easily extend Wright’s thinking to citizens who are going to vote to support a man, Wright’s nominee.

Jena School Debacle

I was watching a baseball game on TV recently when I saw a wonderful sight.  People streamed into the stands and sat down to watch.  They were people of all kinds and nobody cared who sat where as long as he or she had the correct ticket number.  They watched the game and ate their hot dogs and went home in peace.


Such a sight would mean nothing to young people, but to those of us who have been around a few years, it is little more than a miracle.  Many of us dreamed that it could someday happen, but we didn’t know it could come to pass with out deadly struggles.

Thanks to cool heads, people of all races can go and do what they want and nobody cares!  I saw it in my lifetime and I am grateful to have seen it.

And then there was the ugly scene in a town called Jena, where some ass decided a tree would look good if it had nooses on it.  Then kids of one race ganged up on a kid from another race and a minor war began.

I have been a teacher in public schools and I have looked out at a classroom of faces of Palestinian kids, American kids, Chinese kids, and Hispanic kids and thought to myself, “this is where tolerance begins.”

There are two places where race has no meaning.  One is in church and the other is in school (a kind of secular church).  A teacher teaches all who enter the room.  He or she doesn’t have the time or inclination to favor one group or the other.

One time I taught in a middle school.  And it had a tree on the campus that provided a very pleasant shade on sunny days.  It was also the site of segregation.  Yep!  Only eighth graders were allowed to sit under that tree.  They were the seniors of the school, and it was their privilege, their earned right, to relax under its branches during lunch.

Teachers in that school were mostly white but there were some black and Asian teachers also, and perhaps a Hispanic teacher from time to time.  The majority of students were Asian.  There was no hint of racial intolerance at the school.  The subject didn’t come up because it didn’t have to.  It was unthinkable.  Parents and teachers just did not contemplate any differences based on the color of someone’s skin.

And then there is the Jena school blow-up.  How could such a thing happen in the year 2007?  I do not live there and cannot speculate, except to think that perhaps the teachers decided that the “modern” thing to do was let the inmates run the asylum.

Yes, modernity happens.  In 1972 when my son was in a large high school, the principal was trying to find a room where students could smoke cigarettes because, “they were going to do it, anyway.”  Now, most campuses are “smoke free” and even teachers do not smoke on them.

I like what the radio host “>Dennis Prager once said:  “There are only two races—the decent and the indecent.”  He is a wise man.

Fears that Never Go Away

It was in the 1959-1960 period that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for president.  He was handsome, charming, humorous, and well-spoken.  Yet, some folks were deeply concerned about JFK.  What was their concern?  Well, he has a Catholic, and a Catholic had never been in the Oval Office before.  Didn’t it stand to reason that the Pope was going to move into the White House and run the United States of America?

Now Mitt Romney is running for president.  He is handsome, charming, humorous and well-spoken.  But he is a Mormon.  If Romney wins the election, it stands to reason that the Mormons about to take over the White House and the country.  Or does it?

What people didn’t seem to know about John Fitzgerald Kennedy was that his religion was politics.  It appears that Mitt Romney’s religion is politics, too.

Therefore, if Romney wins the election, a politician will be in the White House.  Nothing will change very much and life will go on.

Michael Vick and His Dogs

Long in the minority, I am a white guy who likes Michael Vick and hates what happened to him.  What he did was unkind to dumb animals.  I want animals treated better than that.

The real problem is that Michael should have kept up with social mores.  They changed years ago to the point where staging dog fights is no longer acceptable.  In his area of the country, dog fighting probably had no change in standards.  So Michael Vick continued to promote them and got caught.  It just shows the value of keeping up with changing standards.  “Everybody does it” is an excuse that only politicians can use successfully.

If Michael were in Vermont and had raped a girl, he might have gotten only 90 days in the slammer.  But he treated dogs badly and will probably get a year.  Afterwards he may be facing a career of football in Canada or Germany at much lower hourly rates that he is used to getting.

You gotta watch those mores.

Politics and Religion

It is only human.  Whenever a religious person gets mixed up in politics, his religion goes out the window.  He soon warps his religious ideas so that they support his politics.  It never seems to work the other way, that a man’s politics change to accommodate his religion.  I can imagine that is why our Constitution separates one from the other—so that there is no state supported religion.

It is a bad combination, politics and religion.  When I taught school and the subject was pertinent, I always told the kids that when they grew up to vote or to run cities, states or even the country (we had that quality of kids), they must keep their religious leaders from being their political leaders. “Or else,” I told them, “you will have politicians who would try to convince them that if they would give up their lives for one political cause or another, they would win a place in heaven.”   I told them that political leaders are usually the last to know about heaven.

Don’t tell me it can’t happen.  It happens all the time.  What about Japanese Kamikaze pilots in WWII and Suicide Murderers (bombers) in the Middle East?   And then, there is always Jim Jones and his Kool Aid fan club.

Great Time to Be Alive

A friend called me today and asked if I wanted to go for a cup of coffee.  I did, because I have been researching the Soviet space program all day for the Cold War period.  It is background for a book I am writing.

Always unpredictable, I had an iced tea instead of coffee.  While we were consuming our beverages, we got to talking about modern technology.  I recalled the rapid changes we humans have been going through.

In our ancient human history, mankind was said to have doubled its knowledge every thousand years.  That knowledge was stored in people’s heads, for the most part. Some was on the walls of caves.  Then books were invented and mankind’s knowledge doubled every hundred years.  That knowledge, good and bad, was stored in libraries.  The computer was invented and soon mankind’s knowledge doubled every ten years.  That knowledge was stored in libraries and on tapes and CDs.  Next, the Internet was created and mankind’s knowledge is said to double every year.  That knowledge is stored on CDs, DVDs and on hard drives all over the world.  No libraries or collection of libraries could hold it all, if it were written in books.

Then we talked about the future.  I think that the really big events of the future will concern themselves with health and energy.  I wrote about these things in book about time travel called Time Out of Joint.  In it I emphasized the role of energy.  I have the notion that when energy is more equally distributed, international tensions will ease.  No, religious differences will still be important.  But many “religious” differences are spurred on by economics, the battle between the haves and the have nots.

Whatever the case, some ass will first have to write a book about how awful everything is—stagflation and the disappearance of the quality of life as we know it.   Several books of this type were published around 1970, just as the computer age appeared.  I am waiting for the next such book, because the timing of the doom-sayers is almost universally 180 degrees out of phase.

And I will have an iced tea in the writer’s honor because something good is about to happen.

Moral Superiority

When I was a boy I was brought up in an Episcopal church in the South. I loved that church, its members and the priest. Many years later I still think of him. He was a successful minister of a rapidly growing church. He was rewarded by being made the evangelistic bishop of Wyoming—a place where there were few people and where he could do no damage, preaching to sheep and cattle. One thing about him—he was not political. Neither were the cattle he was left to minister to.

Now look at the Episcopal Church in America. Highly political, very politically correct, full of leaders with huge egos, and congregations that are diminishing in size. It seems its impending failure is unimportant as long as the egos get all the attention they need and as long as politics are the Church’s message to the world. I feel like weeping for the Episcopal Church which has become a testimony to the things that are temporal.

Episcopal leaders aren’t the only ones to seek what they understand—the political—and avoid the religious, which remains a mystery. I suspect the ministers of such churches are not confident in their calling or they wouldn’t have scrambled after each popular cause that came down the pike.

I recall the story of the leader of a Methodist church who was given a Viet Cong flag in the early 1970’s and conducted a march through the streets of his conservative town bravely flying the flag of Communists. A large portion of his membership fled to other churches in the area and never returned. So the minister wrecked his own church and no doubt feels morally superior to those who left, even thirty years later. After all, the “right thinking” people stayed, didn’t they? That feeling of moral superiority must be important to some.

One thing the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches us about moral superiority is that no one has a monopoly on it. The insignificant widow in the Bible who gave two small coins, gave all she had, which was far more than the significant wealthy people gave. And the widow wasn’t giving out of a desire for moral superiority, she was giving out of a sense of love. I, for one, am not sure how love fits into the moral superiority scheme of things.

Bishops Lobby for Illegals

There is an interesting article in my local newspaper today by Norberto Santana, Jr. It is an opinion piece presented as news that tells how Catholic bishops are lobbying to keep families together.  That is, to force the U.S. Government to keep Catholic kids with their parents in the U.S.  In other words, to open the borders.  It is the Moral thing to do.

Even though I have tremendous respect for the Catholic Church, I can see two things are wrong with this approach.  One is the bishops’ moral high ground.  They forget it is immoral to invade the borders of another country, break its laws, steal people’s identities and divide one’s own family.  The bishops need to be talking to citizens of other countries in those countries, not in the U.S.  Americans are hard-working, law-abiding, egalitarian and respectful, and they do not invade the borders of Latin-American countries.

The second thing I see wrong with this approach by bishops is that it focuses on Catholic families.  There are other families that become divided.  What happens to the families of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants? Don’t they also leave families behind?  Surely those families need to be kept together as well.  Their Moral issues are just as strong.

Perhaps the morality of keeping families together is the wrong method of attack.  It is highly emotional but can’t stand scrutiny.

Having been a factory manager in North Hollywood, CA, Toronto, Canada and Albany, New York, I have some experience.  All these sites had their share of Hispanic workers.   Hispanic people were terrific but they had no monopoly on working hard or of leaving families behind.

Illegals and all that Jazz

Some people in the media are trying to make me apologize to the illegals who broke our laws and sneaked across the border.  I am sorry, I just don’t feel guilty about their lawlessness.

And now President Bush has decided I am un-American if I question the Senate bill on immigration.  I am getting it from all sides and still I am not feeling guilty.   I know I should look ashamed, but I just cannot bring myself to that point.

I have read the arguments in favor of the Senate bill and do not understand what is going on.  Every point in the argument that assures me about how great the future will be with the new law, is invalid because we already have laws about the same topics that we do not enforce.  And now I am expected to believe Big Brother will enforce a new set of laws?

I am especially concerned when I see laws that say illegals will not be hounded by the IRS for back taxes, but I, a law-abiding citizen of many years will be hounded day in and day out by the tax collectors.

President Bush may suddenly be very concerned about the illegal immigrant question, but he does not tie the hands of future presidents.  If the next president belongs to a political party that is soft on crime and coddles criminals in order to get votes, we will be far worse off with the proposed Senate bill.

There are people who believe a new law, some act by a bunch of loud, opinionated fat people in Washington, DC, will fix what a previous law, enacted by a bunch of loud, opinionated fat people in Washington, DC, failed to fix.  Laws don’t cut it—actions cut it.   We have enough laws and not enough enforcers.