Unconventional Wisdom

The following appeared on the Genealogy Blog, owned by Leland Meitzler

(http://www.genealogyblog.com/) .   I do genealogy from time to time and got to know Leland as a friend.   I also have met the wonderful author Wendell Berry and read just about anything he writes.  Recently I saw a poem of Wendell’s that fit a genealogy page really well, so I wrote about it for the Genealogy Blog but have permission to use it here.

One of the dot com book companies sent me a small book of poems by my favorite author, Wendell Berry.* In one short poem Wendell described a Thomas Fiske method of doing genealogy that I thought was particularly useful. He wrote about his gratitude for his children and grandchildren and then said:

At our dinners together, the dead
Enter and pass among us
In living love and in memory.


And so the young are taught.


I showed the poem to my wife Evie, and tears came to her eyes as she thought of her pretty daughter Julie, who was killed by a drunk driver on the eve of her wedding some twenty years ago. We have often talked about Julie with the grandchildren around the dinner table.

In the author’s artful description, not only is ancestry passed on but also it is used to teach the young. I cannot write how many times my family meals were conducted this way, in which “the dead enter(ed) and pass(ed) among us” as someone told a story about a person from the past.

It is a good thing the dead don’t eat much, because many of these meals were conducted during the Great Depression or during WWII when food was scarce. But no matter how hungry I was, I always remembered the stories my parents or grandparents told. Now that my children are getting older they remind me that I told them stories as well.

I am forced to wonder how much damage I did by telling the “racier” stories about my two older brothers and me rather than the stories in which we helped someone or showed some kindness.

But that is water under the bridge. Having a long memory, I became the family genealogist and put my parents’ stories to good use. I hope my grandchildren will save those tales for their kids. All things considered, I managed to make the stories into learning experiences in which I passed on part of the American culture. Maybe the dead paused long enough to approve.

Of course they heard stories “in living love” because they were family and when I tell stories, family members always wear white hats – maybe hats with footprints on them or with holes through the crowns because we had our share of screwballs. But always they had white hats because they were the good guys.

I kind of forgot the other kind of stories.

*Berry, Wendell, Leavings. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2011, p.41

Franklin and Barack

There are a few accurate historians who noticed that Franklin D. Roosevelt brought with him the seeds of the Nation’s economic destruction in 1932. That is, businessmen and investors distrusted him, and rightly so. He had decidedly socialist leanings in a time of world socialism. Thus, his policies continued the breadth and depth of the Great Depression. This is because capital investment is a huge factor in an economy. Since people who could be investors, weren’t investing. The economy suffered.

The Englishman Lord Keynes, on whom FDR depended for economics advice, recognized the need for investment and told FDR that since the private sector would not invest, the Federal Government should do the investing. It was an admission that people with capital did not trust the new president.

Once again we are faced with electing a man with decidedly socialistic tendencies—Barack Obama. He is a lawyer and seems not overly astute at economic matters. He is probably not a historian, so we may well be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the 1930’s. That is, people with capital will not invest and the Federal Government will invest in their places. A bloated, unmanageable Government will become even more so.

Am I wrong about this? Perhaps. But I noticed that recently, when the polls showed a decreasing gap between the popularity of the two presidential candidates, the stock market rose almost 900 points.

Probably, private investors are a little better at history and at economics than Mr. Obama.