Flying Home, and lessons learned
Today I fly back to Louisiana, after some six weeks in Pennsylvania and just now 5 or 6 days in New York City. During the time up here I looked at 2,500 photos my mom saved from over the last century, and some 350 letters and 350 other family history items. They were just accumulated and shoved into boxes and left in the corner to await some organization. So I threw organization at the pile and started to make some sense of it all. Now the photos are in albums in some preliminary order by family, person, event and time, and the bigger items are in protective plastic covers and sorted out and arranged and the letters are in date order and many of the English language letters are transcribed into the computer and shared with my rather large extended family. I laid off the politics while I was so engaged, though perhaps now, going forward, as “they” say blindly, I’ll get back into it. It is the “daily mush” after all, not the “weekly mush.”
As for the family stuff, a more thorough going through and labeling and inventory will have to await my next trip up here, which will probably be in August and September. That’s the nature of living some 1500 miles away from the treasure trove of family history now sort of in my possession. My family joked that I was the only one able to do this; but well, I’m not so sure. Any one could, if they would just pause a bit in busy lives to do it. Meanwhile, there are some 150 letters that are in Czech – which I’ll have to translate to find out what was said to whom.
But one of the most interesting letters in Czech was from my great-uncle Otto, my grandfather’s brother. It was written in 1953 from Nelson Bay, Australia, to my grandfather. That poor man, Uncle Otto, not only had to endure the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia during World War II, but for some reason I don’t know about yet, (perhaps he mentions it in other letters I didn’t figure out yet,) but wound up arrested and thrown into a Concentration Camp. No, we were not Jewish, just ornery folks, I suppose, and he ran afoul of the government of his times. And then after the war he wound up in a displaced persons camp due to the Communist takeover of the country in the years after the war. And he’s rather bitter about the whole experience, which I can imagine would be the case of a man in his prime in war-torn Europe under the thumb of a brutal regime.
“I have to get out of Europe” he said, several times. He wanted to come to America, or go to Canada, but wound up in Australia, where now we have lost contact with his son and daughter – I can’t find them anywhere over there. Who knows what happened? It’s not possible to say. But he gave warnings to my grandfather about the Communist and Nazi style of government, which he called the same thing, with merely the leaders and semantic flourishes different. I suppose he might know something of that, since he lived through both. He wrote about the happy lies given by the politicians of his times of a better future under so much government control and direction. Frankly, he called them “bastards.” Bluntly so. But I suppose the politicians spoke of their “vision” for the nation, the people, the future, and how everything would be just fine so long as one didn’t become to independent of the maw of government.
But one thing that strikes me deeply is that my grandfather and his two brothers, who certainly grew up together, wound up one in America, one in Australia and one remaining behind in the Czech lands. And they never saw each other again. Oh, the letters flew back and forth, but once separated they never physically were in the same room again. That must have laid heavy on the minds of the three brothers, and if the letters are any indication, it did. And while I’m many miles from family members, I can zoom hither and yon by air, in ways those brothers could not.
There are several themes running through all this stuff. But the biggest one is the threat of too much government. Of the threat of ideology trumping practical realities. Of the nonsense spewed by politicians to the people, while they feathered their own nests and didn’t seem to give a damn about the people. Of the dangers of a powerful government in the hands of a few people. There’s a lingering sense of liberty for my family in all of this – and the two brothers who did not come to America were blunt in their assessment that America was the best for its liberty and individualism. And now, well, now we are entering into times of too much government, and too much power in the hands of a few, and too much control by some folks in buildings far away with bureaucratic means to limit and stifle the liberty on which this nation was founded.
And in a way, our two political parties have become the same thing, and now they argue over the semantics and the spoils of power. Hope and change, government knows best, religious fervor, power, taxes, all of this and more, swirl around within our current times and it bodes no good. Only where are we to go? Where do people who pine for a far more limited government go anymore? They used to come to America, or perhaps go to Canada and Australia. But that’s not possible anymore – for these three countries are going down the road of too much government power in the hands of a few. We seem to have abandoned taking care of things ourselves, and entered a time of letting bureaucrats and politicians make the choices for us. This is no good. Uncle Otto saw it decades ago, and well, no one seeking power seems to be listening to Otto at the moment.
And the Republicans are not any less guilty of this than the Democrats. If Newt is to be believed, Mitt is not any different than Obama. If Obama is to be believed, this man without a clue as to what any individual could want, he is sure that he’s got the only answers that are good for everyone. If Mitt is to be believed he’s sure that his vision for the nation is the only one that will work, only his vision is so contradictory and muddled he can’t be believed at all. If Santorum is believed he’s sure that returning to some theocratic times is the best course of action. Not a one of these people seem to be aware that they themselves, and their cronies, are simply incapable of solving the nation’s problems, and they are not capable of seeing that individuals know best what is for themselves. I can find no politicians today, except maybe Gary Johnson, who had to leave the Republican field for the Don Quixote of the Libertarian Party, who have an earthly clue as to how to limit the size and impact of the government. No, they are merely for rearranging the deck chairs of the ship of state.
And it bodes no good. The deficit is way out of proportion to the economy, and no one currently running has a clue as to how to solve the problem; I’m not sure they want to, frankly. The bureaucrats are way too powerful; yet no one running wants to get rid of a one of them, but only to give them new missions to bedevil the people. The government spends too much money and writes too many regulations; and no one ever says “we’ll get rid of this” or “that,” but only, “we’ll make it better.” Yeah, sure. The programs keep piling up, often to cross purposes, but not one problem they claim to be solving is ever solved. One could go on, I have no time today.
To my mind, nothing good can come of the Republicans or Democrats running the nation. But that’s what we have at the moment. There’s no clear choice. What there is is mush and muddle headed blather from politicians who claim to have answers. And if only we give them the power they will tell us what it is, later. We as a nation have simply become driven by the idea that the government knows best. And it doesn’t. It can’t.
And so I can’t bring myself to vote for either Republicans or Democrats, and I’ll continue to teach a practical libertarianism. Oh, I’m told I’m “Wasting” my vote. Well, yes, perhaps. But it’s better than wasting a nation. And perhaps, many more people will “waste” their vote, and vote for anyone except Republicans or Democrats. And then, well, and then the nation will get back to what it does best – which is to let individuals and families work within a simple set of laws, an understandable tax code, a reasonable bit of regulation and order, and some sort of “let those people go and do what they wish.” Instead, in our current two party system our choice is between, albeit and thankfully less stark than Nazis and Communists, twiddledee and twiddledum. There is no choice.
We supposedly want “change” but nothing can be altered. We want progress but seek to keep everything the same. We want liberty and then hand over power to politicians and bureaucrats. Is there a way out? I’m not sure anymore. But, right now, I have more pressing stuff to do. Like fly home and get back to life, and figure out my family history, and well, hope that all hell doesn’t break loose. But right now, I can’t see anything good happening in the next five or six years no matter who gets into office. If all we get is “steady as she goes, but more of it” then we are doomed. Only, unlike Uncle Otto, we can’t get out – we have no where left to go. So either we get back to what this nation is best at – or we will wind up dealing with politicians who are way too sure of themselves, and giving them power over our lives and fortunes in ways that we will greatly regret a few yeas down the line.
I’m sorry I can’t be more clear at this time, but I’ve been busy, and I got things to do, and well, perhaps I’ll even get back to trying to explain why virtually every politician of our times is pointless. Will anyone good ever come along again? One can hope. Meanwhile, I’m flying home.
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