And here’s another opera I am contemplating — eh, why not, dream big. Worse comes to worse I have some music for something … but I got to try, that’s it.
David & Jonathan
an opera in three acts
for male and mixed choruses, two baritones, Goliath and Saul, two tenors, David and Jonathan and two sextets, one male, one female.
The story comes from the Bible, I Samuel
the Philistines chorus
We’ve come to win the war. We’re going to defeat Israel. We shall be victorious
We shall send out out strongest man, and that will win it all
I am the strongest man around. Send me someone to fight. I shall take them all on. I shall defeat them all. I will be victorious, and we shall prevail.
the Jewish chorus
We call on our god, for we are at the door of doom. We must pray harder for deliverance from this threat. Who is this mighty man who they send against us? Who is this Goliath? And how can we win against him? We have no one.
the call for David …
dozens of voices, separately one after the other, finishing with Saul
Go get David, David will win the day. Go get David, David will win the battle
David Kills Goliath
Tenor, baritone – aria – the fight
Goliath: so you think you are a tough man? Look at you, a mere boy.
David: so you think you are a tough man? Look at you, overgrown.
Goliath: I do not want to kill you, go away. Shoo.
David: I do not want to kill you, surrender, and let my people go
What can this boy do? Why have I put my fate in his hands? Oh, why have I listened to people who had more emotional than brains?
Saul’s wives – a female sextet
Don’t worry Saul, it will be alright, the Lord has given his promise. He will send one of the sons of Jesse to defeat out enemies. We are in good hands. Come let, us go make love.
With my slingshot I have slain you, Goliath. Now you lie dead. I told you to surrender and live, but you ignored me. Now you reaped what you sowed.
We have won! The battle is ours. We shall be left in peace. Hail David, David our king to be. The man who will lead us to great glory.
Saul and Jonathan
Saul: You will be king one day.
Jonathan: No father, David will be king, and I shall serve him.
Saul: you are my son, you will be king.
Jonathan: the Lord has spoken, David will be king, he is the anointed one.
Saul: Why do you vex me so?
Jonathan: honesty and facts are often painful
Saul, the trials of David
baritone and tenor, and chorus
Saul: David, go out and kill for me. Get me the foreskins of hundreds. Bring me the heads of mine enemies.
David: I will do as you say. I will serve you till the end of my days.
Chorus: what a titanic fight between the two strong men. Saul the king and David savior of the kingdom. Such is the jealousy of life. And Jonathan loves David, which angers Saul all the more.
Saul and Bathsheba
baritone and soprano
Saul: Bathsheba, come and marry David, make a man out of him.
Bathsheba: I will do as you say, but I know he doesn’t love me.
Saul: What is love when there are important matters?
Bathsheba: it is my curse to marry a man who will not have me
Saul: Your beauty will win him over
Bathsheba: He is Jonathan’s
Saul, Jonathan & David
trio … baritone, tenor, tenor
Saul: young men, this is what will be. Jonathan will be king and David will serve him
Jonathan: no father, David will be king, and I will be his servant.
David: I have no say in the matter, but will do as the Lord commands
Saul: the lord has not told me you shall be king
Jonathan: father, the lord spoke when David slew Goliath
David and Bathsheba
tenor and soprano
David: Dear wife, I’m sorry you had to marry me
Bathsheba: it is alright David, I have done my duty
David: Saul should not have commanded you
Bathsheba: he does what he thinks best
the banquet chorus
Our king and sons and people are happy
we have been victorious
the king is worthy
his son does well for us
David will lead us into the future
Saul condemns David
baritone and tenor
Saul: David is trying to steal my kingdom. He must be killed. I will send some guards to carry out the sentence. He is stealing my legacy. He is corrupting my son. He is not doing what his king has commanded, but runs his own way. It is time for him to die.
Saul: David you are
Jonathan Warns David
Jonathan: you must go, David, my father is out to kill you
David: I am doing nothing but what the lord commands me
Jonathan: go out into the desert – I will follow after you. We shall know safety out there beyond the city walls. Go wait for me.
the guards sent to arrest David
Where is David? Where is David? We have come to arrest him
David flees The Court
I am going to the desert, as Jonathan commands me. He loves me, and is saving me. He wishes me to be king, and knows what is best for Israel
David alone in the desert
I await my love, my Jonathan. Here alone, under the stars, I wonder of my fate, and what has befell me.
the young boy to the tent.
David, Jonathan is coming. Wait another day, he will be here. Here have some food you must maintain your strength
David & Jonathan together
Oh my love – we are together – we shall be here for each other – our lives are bound together – our love enduring – we shall do our duty but be lovers – oh how I want you so
I have done my best. I lived as a good man. I have protected my kingdom. I leave it in good hands, but not the ones I wanted. My son doesn’t want my kingdom, what a fate to befall a king. His lover will be the new king and who knows what will come of that, but it’s what god intended.
I am alone, a married widow. My husband doesn’t know me. I rarely see him, and then for a greeting and a kiss on the cheek. He spends his time with Jonathan and I am alone.
David anointed King
chorus with tenor
All hail the new king. He will guide us to peace and prosperity. All hail David, king of the Israelites. He who slew Goliath, who defeated our many enemies. All hail the king
I am so happy that David is king. He will rule so much better than I could have done. I will be by his side, and tend his needs and be there for him. He is my savior, my king, my one true love.
All the people hail king David, and Jonathan his soul mate. The people will go on to victory and peace and the joy of the land will overcome us
I’m somehow confident that I can write an opera, and this here is the basic outline of it — with the first rough draft of the libretto and the order of the work – and well, it’s a big project, but something II think I can do — even if it takes me several years. Anyway, successful or not, I’m going to try. I already have a lot of music for it, but well, it’s all very early in the developmental states. It is the story of Richard the Lionhearted, King of England, and King Philip of France – boy, what a tangled web these two families wove. Anyway, here’s where I’m at so far.
Richard and Philip
a Tragic Opera
in 3 Acts
by Jim Hlavac
Cast of characters:
Henry II – Baritone
Eleanor – contralto
Richard the Lionhearted – Tenor
Philip of France – Tenor
Prince John – Bass
Alys, Philip’s sister – soprano
The Pope – Baritone
Berengaria, Richard’s wife – mezzo-soprano
Saladin – Baritone
The young man of the moment – alto
French Chorus – all male
Bride’s Chorus – all female
Crusader’s Chorus – mixed
Knights Chorus – all male
Muslim Chorus – all male
Richard’s Death – mixed
the English chorus – mixed
ACT 1 –
Henry & Eleanor – a love duet
Eleanor: Oh Henry, what a joy you are to my life. What sweetness you bring to me. What a kingdom you have brought me to. I shall be your queen, and love you all your days. I hope to bring you many children, and grow old with you. Your my king, I shall follow you. My lands and yours combined, the greatest nation in Europe. Oh, Henry, be true to me, and let us go forth in life together. I love you my lord, the man of my dreams.
Henry: Oh Eleanor, sweet blossom of love, queen of my heart, it is good to have you near to me. My kingdom is yours. We shall journey together into history. We shall rule our people with kindness and joy, and they shall revere you as their queen. I love you sweet thing, woman of my desires.
scene 1 Takes Place in a French Castle
Henry, Eleanor, Richard & John – a discussion of the family, which boy is favored by whom
Henry: Eleanor, why do you favor one son over the other? And why the third of so many?
Eleanor: Henry, I might ask you the same thing, and why the youngest, and a mean runt at that.
Richard: Oh mother, I did my father no wrong. Oh father, look upon me kindly.
John: Oh Father, I will follow in your footsteps. Mother, I shall be a great king.
Philip & Alys – a discussion duet
French Chorus, joined by John
Chorus: Our king is the finest in Europe. He will revenge our people. He will lead us to greatness.
John: I will work with the French, to overcome my father’s wars against you. I will be king of England one day, and I will work with France for peace.
a young man’s aria
Richard is such a man, I am in love.
scene II takes place in a castle in England
Oh, how sad my life has become, I am locked in a castle by my husband. Who has mistresses aplenty. I cannot see my children. I am alone and shut off. This is not the love I had dreamed of. This is pain and hurt and loneliness.
Henry & Richard duet
Richard: Father, respect me, I am your son.
Henry: Richard, I don’t like you. I think you are a weakling.
Richard: I am the greatest knight in the land. I lead my armies to victory. I wade into the fray. I am not a coward.
Henry: But you will not do your duty and marry a woman, and bear sons, to be kings of England.
Richard: It is not my way.
Henry: It must be your way, it’s your duty.
The English Chorus
Hail Henry, Hail Richard, our king and prince, leading us to victory and glory. We are the most powerful country in history. All look to us for courage. They envy our success. They pick their sides, but we are all for England and Aquitaine. We shall exercise our power.
Nobody really wants me. My father uses me as a pawn for power. I love a married man, Henry, King of England, who has compromised me, and now has cast me aside. My brother views me as a thing to use to make his name grand. They are trying to marry me to a man who will not marry. The very son of the king I love. Perhaps Richard will be king, and I queen, but he will not have me. He throws off every attempt. Perhaps he knows I was with his father. I am no longer pure, and my life is in the hands of others. I await my fate.
Henry’s aria about his end
I am dying. I can only hope my son can keep the peace, and wage just war to preserve my empire. The empire I built up, through war, and marriage and peace agreements. By being a good king. My reign was long. My people are content. I was a good king. But mortal end comes to us all. And now it is my time. I commend myself to God in His Glory and hope to ride next to Him in heaven.
Scene I castle in Paris
Richard & Philip in Paris love duet
Richard: Philip, you are my man. You thrill me to no end. You are the light of my eye. Let us dine and sleep together. Let us be as one.
Philip: Richard, you are my love. How I enjoy you. We are together and it is good. Come, let us dine and sleep together. Let us be as one.
Richard & Philip discussion of reality
Alys joins in as a trio, slightly off to the side
Philip leaves – a duet between Richard & Alys
Richard: Alas, Philip, we are kings, we have our duty. Our fates are entwined but cannot go on together. We have opposing interests, you are France, I am England – perhaps war will come between us.
Philip: Alas, Richard, we are kings, we have our duty. I must make an heir for my kingdom. We are entwined, for good and bad, but we cannot go on together. Fate conspires against us.
Richard/Philip: oh if only we were simple men, in a village, we could go on our own together, traveling, minstrels, playthings for our lives, but we are kings, and we have our duty.
Alys – oh brothers, oh men, what shall I do? You will use me as you wish, but I love and respect you both. I will do as you command.
Richard: I cannot marry you, you have been with my father.
Philip: Alys, you will go marry some duke I shall choose for you, and there be a good woman, and obey your new lord.
Farewell, Richard and Alys, enjoy your time together.
Richard: I’m sorry Alys, but you cannot be my wife.
Alys: more because of who you are, and not because I was with your father, as you think, but maybe I was not.
Richard; you will go to a husband and be a dutiful wife, and that is your fate.
Alys: I was not born to this, but politics and war have made me a pawn for you men.
The Bride’s Chorus
Oh such an eligible duo, Richard and Philip – all the young woman of Europe pine to be chosen to be their queens. With them they shall live in splendor – and hope their husbands do not war too much against each other. There are so many of us potential brides, we are ready to be examined. Two of us will be the lucky girls to become queens of great kingdoms. We await the decision of our lords and masters.
Richard & Philip off to Sicily – entwined arias and bass baritone chorus, and the boy
Richard and Philip: We are off to Jerusalem, to take back the city. We shall lead a glorious march for God, who is on our side in our great plan. We are off to the Levant, to conquer and return the Holy Land to our bosom.
Richard: I shall lead the way, and return with glory to my name. None are more courageous than me.
Philip: I shall lead the way and capture the city, and glory will come to my name.
Chorus: We are off to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of our kings. We are gone to take the city back from its defilers. We shall conquer it all.
Boy: what an adventure, and I with my love, my king, the man who loves me and tends me and will protect me against all evils.
John in England’s aria
I am finally alone in my domain, prince of the land, but awaiting to be king. Soon word shall come that Richard is dead, and I shall be king. I shall be the greatest king of all England. It is I who was destined for this time. After years of being the lowly youngest son, all my brothers died before me. All were rebellious against my father, and I stayed loyal. My mother doesn’t think much of me, but I shall show her, and she too will die soon. For the years will take their toll.
scene II Italy
The pope & a young man’s duet
Pope: young man, give us this quest for Richard. He is a king, he has his duty. He cannot be yours as with a woman. It is against the way of God.
Young man: Oh holiness, I shall love who I wish, with god on my side. The law of man will not stop my love, and he is the king and may do as he wishes. God will guide us both. Bless us both and do not chastise us.
Eleanor & Berengaria – introduction aria
Eleanor: Ah, a young lady, perfect for my son. Come, let me see you closer, you are a fair maiden to behold.
Berengaria: Oh, what shall I call you if I am to take your son?
Eleanor: Call me mother.
Berengaria: Oh mother, your son is my destiny. I shall serve him and bear him his heirs to rule over this great kingdom of yours.
Eleanor: to the glory of god you shall be a great wife and mother – and the people shall revere you as a great queen.
Eleanor & the Pope duet
Eleanor: oh your holiness – -what do I do about my son?
Pope: It is in the hands of God. He will go to Jerusalem, and be victorious
Eleanor: but what of his refusal to marry
Pope; you have brought him a wife to be, he will do his duty.
Richard & Philip in Sicily duet
Philip: who is this boy you have with you, when I was your chosen one?
Richard: we can no longer be for each other, we are kings, we cannot go on.
Philip: what have I done to you, for you to push me aside? It is for the glory of the battle, that you are now my rival?
Richard: my mother brings a wife for me, I must do my duty. Now I can only have playthings, but not true love.
Philip: yes, we did love one another
Richard: that time has past.
Joined by the Pope – trio
Pope: my dear kings, you are off on a great quest, the lord be with you.
Richard: yes, dear pope, bless us and our men, and fair weather and good winds. We are off for glory
Philip: yes dear pope, you will pray for us and we shall go with strength and valor
Joined by Eleanor & Berengaria – quintet
Eleanor: Richard, I am here, put aside your childishness, and here is your wife.
Berengaria: oh Richard, I aim to do you well.
Richard; Oh mother, I am not ready to marry, not now, I am busy.
Eleanor: you are always busy, but a wife you must have. The pope is here to marry you, what a blessing.
Richard, we cannot get married here in an army camp, it is not right. We need a grand church, we shall find one on the journey.
Eleanor – why are you always stalling?
Richard & Eleanor argument duet
Eleanor: you have get married. You must have heirs.
Richard: it is not my nature.
Eleanor: it must be so. You must do your duty.
Richard: god did not intend it.
Eleanor: you do not know the will of god.
Richard: oh mother, leave me be, stop nagging.
Eleanor: it is my duty
Richard: do as you must, and come along with me, and along the way I will think about it, and then we shall see.
Eleanor: you will marry fair Berengaria, daughter of Navarre, an alliance we need against the Spanish, and Toulouse, and you shall see, she will bear you many sons, to be knights for your glory.
Richard: oh mother, what dreams you have.
the Crusader’s Chorus
We’re off to Jerusalem, fair winds blow our sails. We load our troops and horses, our weapons and our gear. We are ready to do battle. It shall be a fair crossing to the Holy Land. We are blessed by the pople, we have strong leaders, the mother of the king is with us. We shall tarry no further in Italy. Off to Jerusalem, for the glory of god.
scene I Jerusalem
Saladin & Richard – sparing duet
Richard: give up the city Saladin, or we shall take it
Saladin: we shall not go without a fight, and you are not strong enough
Richard: we do not want war
Saladin: we want peace
Richard and Saladin: Let us work together. Let us avoid bloodshed. Let us figure out a way so both sides can live in peace.
Our people might not be pleased, those who thirst for blood, but we both know what is good for our people.
the Knights Chorus
We await the orders to fight. The weather is perfect for the battle. We are come to take the city, the city of our Lord, from the infidels. While we wait we ready ourselves. We practice fighting, and gleam our weapons, we are ready. We await the word.
Richard & Philip fighting duet
Richard: Listen to me and do as I say.
Philip: I did not come all this way to surrender
Richard: it is not surrender, it is peace, we cannot take the city.
Philip: we can try.
Richard: and all of us should die for nothing.
Philip: why do you always go against me.
Richard: we have different ways, and I am the greater warrior, I see this is impossible
Philip: I will try anyway, even without your help.
Richard: I made a peace with Saladin, we might all go into the city.
Philip: I did not make a peace with anyone.
Richard: No, not even with me.
Eleanor & Richard & Berengaria trio
Eleanor: Richard, take your wife, do your duty, your union blessed here in the Holy Land
Richard: Mother, I am not ready.
Eleanor: you are never ready, but there is no time like now
Berengaria: Oh, Richard, I am yours, your wife, ready to bear you heirs, come to me, let us spend the night together.
Richard: dear wife, I have an army to tend.
Eleanor: the army will wait, love will not.
Richard: it is not love mother, but duty, and I am King, and I shall take my time.
Eleanor: a good king goes to his wife, not his men.
(short) Berengaria & Richard love duet
Richard: dear wife, let us know each other, and treat each other with kindness
Berengaria: dear husband, we are for each other, and I will obey
Richard: we will have time yet for children
Berengaria: if only we would hurry, for time waits for no one, not even kings and queens.
the Muslim Chorus
We have won, they did not take Jerusalem. But we shall be gracious in victory and let them worship here if they must.
scene II a castle room
Richard’s aria of captivity
Oh what doom has befallen me. I am captive of a German prince, who demands a great ransom. He saw his chance and he seized me as I tried to walk across his lands in peace. But no, he wants money, his greed overpowers him. He sees me not as a great king, but as a pawn in his power games. Now I sit in this tower room, rarely leaving, awaiting my fate, wondering if my mother can raise the money to parole me.
(off stage) Eleanor: my son is held captive, I must raise money to free him, oh what troubles have befallen me and him.
Berengaria: oh my husband, he is held captive, and I have not known him yet, and who knows if I shall ever know him.
John: oh my brother, he is held captive, what a great thing, for he might well die there and I shall be king.
Richard: One day I shall return to England and take my place and rule in peace.
scene III England
Eleanor & John ransom duet
Eleanor: John, this money is to ransom Richard, not for you to play with. You are preventing his release
John: mother, why should I want him released?
Eleanor: this is why I never liked you, you are mean and aim to take advantage of the misfortune of others.
John: I will be king, and that is my destiny
Eleanor: we shall ransom Richard, who will return to rule.
John: he will not have heirs, he is not that way.
Eleanor: you cannot foretell the future.
John: perhaps I can, but I will not hinder you now. Pay his ransom, and I await another day.
Eleanor: you are my worst son.
Richard & Eleanor reunited duet
Richard: mother, I am home, I am here, oh dear lady, I have been set free by your work.
Eleanor: nothing is too good for you, nothing shall step in my way of helping you be the greatest king of England.
Richard: I have done my job
Eleanor: all except have some children
Richard: that is not my way.
Eleanor: so you have been telling.
Richard: for years now.
Eleanor: Richard, you are my son, and my love, but you are too headstrong. Go to your wife now, and bring me children.
Richard: I must go to France, there is war with Philip
scene IV France
The young man who shoots Richard’s aria
young man: what a lucky shot. I struck the king of England. He lays dying I hear. I did not mean to kill him. I just shot over the walls, for he came for my city. But I struck him. It is fatal, I have heard. Now who knows what is in store for me. They will come at the city harder if he dies. The king’s brother John is far worse a dog, more tenacious in revenge, not as forgiving as King Richard is. What a fate I met, to kill the king of England.
Richard dies chorus
the king is dead, oh lament, the great king is dead. Our lord who ruled us, who nourished us, who led us to great victory. Dead at the hands of a youth. What irony, he loved young men, and was killed by one. Some would say it’s the work of the lord for such things. Perhaps it is just the nature of war. But the king is dead, and now we shall have John, much to our misfortune.
Oh Richard, you are dead, my sweet husband, 10 years of marriage and we rarely saw each other. Month after month you were away. I was alone. And I am still pure. You never did your duty. You stayed away. Other than three months in the Holy Land we were never together, but I am still the queen, whether consecrated or not. But now that you are gone, I shall go lead a lonely life. I shall enter a convent as a virgin, and live out my days, wondering what could have been.
“There were things on First that I did not like to see, like men who hit their women because of some misperceived remark. Or the dishes weren’t clean when they got home, but what did the men know when the women were taking care of umpteen kids? What perhaps was worse was the lack of action by passerby, even the lack of wonder. It was just so natural then. On a good weekend 10 women an hour could get hit on this corner. It was a near seamless tide of nasty men, dependent on their woman for hot food and clean clothes and well scrubbed children, and pissed off at them for doing it all so well. These men were pissed they had no problems at home to solve, as men do need problems to solve to make them feel whole. So they beat their wives and girlfriends to create a problem that they could come and solve with their big strong hands.”
She didn’t see him smile slightly at this string of words, for he was a man with a problem, after all, and perhaps she didn’t realize the relativity of what she was saying to him.
“Since men are boys, they delight in an endless cycle of construction and deconstruction. But some things can’t be fixed. The memories of pain and humiliation being prime among them.”
Gladys leaned back in her overstuffed chair where she sat most of the day, and every day now, for more than 10 years. At somewhere over ninety her body and mind no longer worked in close coordination. Her mind worked fine, it was her body that moved like a rusted tin soldier laying in the mud, bent all over from the blows of the little boy who played with it. There were, though, plenty of neighbors to look after her. They came around daily to help her with the mundane things of life. That was one thing she told her visitor. “Don’t worry about that,” she had said when he did ask politely about how she managed.
“You know,” she said, with much less force than the tirade just delivered, “it didn’t make a difference the nationality, the religion, the race, the age – men, all men hit these women. Except the gay men, well, we called them queer and worse in those days. And we used to joke that that was how you could spot ’em. They didn’t hit the women they were with.”
She stopped and gulped. She reached for her glass of water.
“It was the Spring of ’05, I remember it very clearly, every detail, but I like to soak up the sights, smells and sounds of that glorious Spring. Not because of the incident, but the perfect weather we had had for weeks. So anyway, this man starts to hit his wife on the far corner. I can see him walking there, in my mind’s eye, even today,” and she pointed to the corner of First Avenue and 83rd Street. “By the time he’s mid block, in front of Guerston’s Deli, he’s hitting her and she’s just standing there, taking the blows, as woman did in those days. He was really pummeling her. She dropped to the ground, crying out loudly, and he even kicked her while she was down there; people did stop and stare this time, for it was severe, this beating, but they didn’t do anything. It wasn’t their business, and that’s the way it was, men hit women, and women took it.
“Then there was a large cracking sound. It filled the block with echoes, and the man fell on top of his woman.” She paused, a gulp of water was passed down through parched lips. “Oh, that’s so old fashioned, sorry I said that, on the woman.” And she corrected herself with a louder, firmer voice. “But everybody freezes. Then everyone runs to the both of them lying there on the ground. Someone yelled ‘there’s blood!’ Than another yelled, ‘he’s been shot!’ And a tumult started, with people running into stores or crouching down. There was only one of those loud cracks, but I guess people weren’t taking any chances. Only two people stayed to drag the guy off the woman, she got up, and they half dragged her into Guerston’s. She was screaming her head off.
“The block went as quiet as the moment when the blizzard ends. It stayed that way for a good while. And then slowly the people came out of hiding. A cop came, then another. It took an hour but soon there were cops talking to everyone they could find, though life had moved on and people had continued walking, past the body on the sidewalk, and doing their errands, and going places. Maybe someone of them saw something, the same thing I did, but I don’t know. But it seemed no one saw anything. Everyone was as confused as the cops. No one knew where the shot had come from. I heard most of this from my parents, it was dinner talk. ‘Imagine that, a man gets shot in the middle of broad day, and no one knows a thing’ I remember my father saying.
“I tried about a week later to say I knew who did it. But I was shushed. ‘What does a 10 year old girl know?’ my father wanted to know. But I was just five feet from Sammy’s window, Samuel Gottend, that was his whole name, and I saw the rifle barrel poke out of the window, it was large enough to catch my attention from the fight below. At first I wondered why a big long black pipe would all of a sudden be sticking out through the Gottend’s window. Then it flashed a bright orange and smoke came out of the end, and it jumped all over after he fired it. I screamed, for it was just feet away, and I never heard or saw such a thing. He must have heard me scream because then he leaned out and saw me, and put his finger to his lips like to shush me, and leaned back in his window. He was in the apartment in the next building on the same floor. That building is gone, but it was right there, here, you can see a picture of it over there on the mantelpiece. You know, how he was able to make that good shot I never was able to tell.
“I remember my father saying that Sammy didn’t see anything either. ‘That boy is just a 15 year old, he don’t know nothing either,’ he would say. You know, Sammy was not a woman beater, he died in ’65 or ’66, lived alone in the West Village for many years. I never did ask him about what he did, and yet he would always say hello to me on the street when we saw each other. I guess he moved out of the neighborhood about 4 or 5 years after that.”
She took another sip of water, which rejuvenated her. She leaned forward.
“You know, that’s the first time I told that to anyone, young man, saying that Sammy did it, I hope I don’t get in trouble for withholding evidence.”
“No, ma’am, but it does put to an end to this case, which is one of the City’s oldest unsolved crimes.”
They looked at each other and smiled together.
“I just can’t believe you’ve lived here for 95 years,” he said as he looked around the apartment filled with Victoriana. It was more antique shop than house.
“Well, after that man got shot men didn’t seem to hit their women as much, so the block was safer for me, and my father left me the building and I saw no reason to go anywhere, even if my husband did want to move out to the suburbs. But from this window you can see a lot of life, and if I lived out in the suburbs all I’d see was trees, and then I’d have probably been under one long before this.”
The doorbell rang.
“Oh, that’d be Janey, she comes about now to help me make dinner.”
The cop closed his book and bent down and kissed her on her forehead.
The cop heard a key jiggle just before Janey walked through the door and saw him and was surprised enough to say “Who are you and what do you want?” She was naturally protective and was rearing up for a fight.
“Oh, don’t be alarmed dear, he’s just a police officer and he came to asked me a few questions about a crime.”
“A crime!” Janey was instantly nervous, and protective, and inquisitive.
“Oh, hush girl, it happened nearly 80 years ago, it’s long over.”
“Well, why did he come here today?”
“Why dear, I called him up! Cops just don’t come knocking on my door to ask questions.”
The officer stood to the side as he watched the young woman, well, young compared to the old lady, minister to her charge. She looked over at him and said “Why’d she call you?”
“A story was written in the community paper about a long ago unsolved crime, and when I got her call I couldn’t believe it, and so I rushed on over, and we talked.”
“Well, what could she know about that?”
The old lady smiled at Janey. Then the cop. Then she broke out laughing. Janey hadn’t heard her laugh like this before. The cop, who had just spent so much effort trying to listen to the quiet voice was surprised at the intensity of the laugh.
“Apparently quite a lot,” the officer said.
The old lady regained composure and said, “You know Janey, that’s what my father used to say, ‘what could she know about that’ — how funny, so many people don’t believe young girls or old ladies.” She looked up at the officer. A moment of concern flashed through her countenance. “You believe me, right?”
“Oh, yes, yes ma’am, you know far too many details, even the victim’s name, for you not to have known. Information not in the story. Anyway, well, I better be leaving …” He was saying this kind of sadly for he had a good time with the old lady and with her stories and her now slightly stilted ancient speaking patterns. It was a most interesting few hours.
“Wait, one thing more, I have to ask.”
“If anyone would have listened to me all those years ago what would have happened to Sammy?”
“Well, he would have been arrested, probably, and if the gun was found then he would have been convicted, for even then they could tell if it had been fired, and if the bullet was from that gun, and well, I guess he would have gone to jail for quite a long while.”
“Oh, well, then I’m very glad no one listened to me. I hope you don’t mind me saying that, for he did a good deed, shooting that wife beater, and made it so much better for so many ladies right away, and well, he sort of lived in a prison anyway, being in that tiny apartment down in the Village for so long, alone.”
“Yes, ma’am, I guess so, I can’t really speak to that, for one crime to stop another crime is still, well, a crime.”
“Yes, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“Yes, I suppose that is the phrase.”
“Oh, officer …”
“Janey, go into the hall closet, and dig deep back in the far left corner, you’ll find a long metal pipe there, go get it right away …” And Janey looked at the old lady strangely, one eye cocked, and then did as she was told. She had to pull a few things out of the way to get the requested item. Janey hadn’t really been in too many of the closets and draws of the house, for her mission was just to make dinner and sit and talk, though she could admit to herself that she always wondered what was stuffed in the nooks and crannies of this overstuffed apartment where the old lady had been born and was likely to die. She found the item and was surprised at the weight of it as she dragged it out. She was even more surprised to see an ancient looking rifle when the cloth covering dropped away a bit.
“What’s this?” She said, her voice squeaky and weak.
“Why, that’s the murder weapon!” The old lady said this with evident amazement that anyone would even question such a thing. For her it was so obvious.
The cop whistled and walked over to Janey and took the large, long barreled and very heavy gun from her.
“You sure?” He asked.
“Oh yes, Sammy gave it to me to hold the day after the incident, he was very afraid of what would happen to him if anyone found it.”
“Why did you take it?”
“Who would believe a 10 year old girl could even pick that up!” She laughed again, at the absurdity of the thought.
“What about your father or brothers, if the gun was found?”
“Oh, I doubt that, I had no brothers. And my father was out at work during the day, that was provable, and so I hid it for Sammy.”
“And he never asked for it back, even when he moved away?”
“No, he didn’t.” She paused for a second. “Well, he did ask for it once, but I told him to just shut up and go away and forget it ever happened.”
“And …? Then what?”
“That’s what he did.”
“So you kept it for nearly 90 years?”
“Well, yeah, it was too heavy for me to really drag down, and you can’t just put that thing in the garbage you know, it’s too long and would poke out, and what would people say about a gun like that in the hands of a lady? No, I just let it rest there.”
“Now, that’s even more surprising.”
“Oh, my, young man, I have more surprises than you can imagine, 95 years does that to a girl.” She smiled at him, and Janey was going to say something, but the old lady cut her off, “Oh, go make us some dinner Janey, I’m hungry and I’m tired, and after I eat I’m going to go to bed.”
“OK, ma’am I’ll be leaving. Do you want the gun back in the closet?”
“Why no, young man, I want you to take it, I can’t be having a murder weapon around here, now can I? What would people think?”
He was taken aback at this comment. “But after all these years …?
“Oh, hush, and take the gun, I’ve had it long enough, go on, and now, young man, it’s time for you to go, I’ve done what I can and it’s all over.”
“OK, sure thing, yes ma’am, thank you very much,” and Kellman took the gun and started for the door, and Janey held it open for him and he walked out, and smiled again and said thanks again, and Janey started to say something for she was bubbling over with questions, but the old lady had closed her eyes and was probably either resting or deep in thought, and so she turned to the kitchen to start dinner, every so often looking out at the reposed face, with a contented smile through the wrinkles of a long life, and wondered how a woman could have kept a secret like that for so long, and then she noticed that the old lady seemed to have stopped breathing. She walked quickly over and noticed that life had finally left her, and she cried out, and cried tears and cried out again, “Oh my, Oh God” as she knew she would at that moment when the inevitable would happen, and she then calmed down after this small outburst. She picked up the phone and called 911, though said to the operator, “You don’t have to rush, she’s dead, but just come on over.”
As she put the phone down she noticed that there were more than a few photos of the old lady as a young women, posing next to a handsome young man. She looked more closely around the apartment, and saw even more photos of the two of them, posed on the street, at the beach, in the woods, on a porch, the photos of her frail friend as a young vibrant woman, and a robust young man, dapper and more beautiful than handsome, and in her hands, when the paramedics came, they found a picture held tight in the lifeless boniness, a picture which they gave to Janey. When Janey looked down at the last thing the old lady held she saw yet another photo of the young couple, with an inscription, which she had to hold up close to her eyes, for it was faded ink, black to brown, on the yellowing photograph, in that old script of 80 years ago and it said “To my love, Sammy, kisses and hugs, Gladys.”
This is the picture which Facebook says violates their amorphous standards …
what the hell?
Should I not write some philosophy?
For I have thought on many things, on many levels.
Like, drying water is not an easy thing to do.
My thoughts evaporate and pour down again, too.
These are the paradoxes, the questions,
The rhetorical statements; my bizarre logical progressions.
Which lie behind the story of my mastery of sessions.
And yet my stuff is not nearly developed as I would like,
But, still, the content is somewhat superb.
I can get whole groups of people laughing,
Or crying, enraged, agreeing, all at my bidding.
Yet seemingly out of my control.
My gaze at times appears odd,
Possibly altering the course, or misdirecting at the source;
Like the pool ball careening across the table.
Then the thoughts that occur to me are:
Do people who pee in sinks wash their hands in toilet bowls?
Do people who put out cigarettes in dinner plates use ashtrays for desert?
There are two so very interesting paradoxes.
Or what of potatoes, what right do they have?
To wait till they get up to the machine,
Before they fill out their deposit slips?
What of practical reality? And others?
Like where does Irene get the rationale,
To deny showing someone proof over something,
For which she cannot be held accountable for?
She paid her rent, she has receipts; Case Closed!
Some people think not through to the consequences,
And the hoopla of their acts; it takes me to show them.
These are the people who can’t identify the causes,
For such perfidy and hypocritical bullshit as the likes of Bertram A Scott.
The man complains hotly of intransigence and moral turpitude,
Of the superpower in seeming to fight bigotry.
Then proceeds to be hyper about playing gays.
It all reminds me a bit of Adolf Hitler having problems
Dealing with a black destroying the German on the field of sports.
‘Tis so strange really, the total mind warp needed is amazing.
It becomes virtually impossible to fathom.
It is like imagining nothing, so totally nothing.
It is bizarre that such a cacophony of idiocy,
Could exit from inside a skull.
If one accords a plus one to good attributes
And a negative one to bad ones
Then some people cancel each other out.
One of the most annoying things in life,
Is not being able to capture all those exchanges,
And comments one makes in detail and exactness,
During the course of a day in life;
So one can sit and read them later.
Like the things I’d say to Bob or Harold or Dennis,
When I work with them, and what of Kathie Koucher?
That must have been some incredible material; so lost, so gone.
‘Tis unfortunate with photos, too; ’tis fairly annoying,
And then there are some of the progressions I make,
When someone tries to make a snappy comment.
Like Donny this morning, speaking, all of a sudden,
About men getting pregnant, he asks “Can men have a baby?”
I say, “Yes, of course.” He startles. “No, no, only a women!”
“Oh, your father never had a child, huh?”
Which got Pedro running at the mouth;
And Walter, Carmen and Kish; they have fun inseparably.
Laughing with me in thinking about my escapades,
They’ll tell me I’m crazy, I tell them they love it.
Then go home and tell their friends, “He’s just strange.”
And Tom with not understanding “Fredro,”
“Where did they get the Ro?”
“Tom, what’s Fred’s wife named,” I ask?
“Rose. ” “Well, there you go, Fred Rose.”
“Wow, I didn’t realize that,” he’ll say,
Geez, no wonder I think some people are real potatoes.
Some of the these folks, they can’t think.
I do not in any way think that they are stupid;
It is just a matter of attitude.
There are some qualities which add to their knowledge.
The facts, the reasoning, the thinking, explaining,
So many things they forget,
So many things they ignore.
At times I find some of them filled,
With a strict sense of justice.
A fine balance between right and wrong,.
Even if that balance rests on a basic premise.
Continual personal conduct so totally,
In contravention to idealistic precepts just given.
When discussing things, like politics,
They are extremely sharp, if not knowing all the facts.
Or rather they know them, but cannot readily call them forward.
It is my recall, and presentation, timing, that is the basis for my raps.
Which is Fredro’s word for it; for those songs that are mainly filled,
With speaking in rhythmic rhymes; I call them talkies.
I seem to have no problems in making people laugh;
Or yell, or band together, or work for me.
Though there are always those who are harder to tame.
But they come around anyway, eventually.
My brother Charles; the same thing.
Looks a bit hyper wanting to be in control,
With power yearnings; yet disorganized in thought,
In presentation, in timing and content missing.
Little imaginative groups or throw rug type comments.
You give someone something to stand on,
Build up his theories, while underlying yours,
Then just rip out the very thing,
That their opinions or statements rest upon.
With mine taking the void; laying down solid.
And they wonder why I can have a handful,
Or more people, in total rapture.
I can even get those shy recalcitrant types,
To spill forth their guts; empty their minds.
And I make little old ladies melt,
And whither away in charmed embarrassment.
Toby calls me arrogant! Ah yes, but I am so good at it.
Luther says “Who gave you the right?”
“Well, I only order people around when they do what I say.”
He says he’ll have to come to the beach with me,
I say “I’d love it, but they won’t let nonresidents in.”
“‘Tis private,” I have to inform him.
“So I’ll buy a place,” he says; alas, they don’t sell to blacks.
Now, Pathmark was a bizarre place.
Pee Wee had fun with me;
He called me Fag, I called him Nigger.
The assemble crowd tensed; we snickered.
But he got more fucked up towards the end; more violent.
He thought that I was a real card; and said so.
Multari, never quite comprehended it; puzzled away.
But possibly wanting something akin to it.
They were the two best friendships there.
Yet, all the blacks and Puerto Ricans had a blast with me;
All fun and games; but the whites were generally antagonistic.
Fred was hostile, on the surface friendly, ah, but behind.
I thought he was hot; he the vegetable man.
And Anne the lady at the meat counter;
What a banana, extremely hostile towards the world.
I’ve never been one to get along with meat ladies.
‘Cept Bobbie at King Kullen, what a charmer;
She thought that I had piano fingers.
Little did I know how that would work out.
Red, he was the paper man drunk;
Fine old man despondent and lost, but no where near beaten.
Pops, arthritic idiot, more argumentative than a badger.
Coffee boy Tony; a meat man, crazy dude, too into cleavers.
He was a closet fag; would have been more receptive alone.
Schivone, the mouth; told me “You have to be on speed.”
Well, if a box of Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies,
And lots of Sunkist soda is speed, so be it.
Plus this strange ability to go fast, and accurate.
Richie the security guy, a bonzo brain:
“Hi, can I panic before I think?”
Or “Maybe I’ll speak before I know what to say.”
“Can I made an asshole out of myself?”
Still, they all conform to the standard Richie motif of action:
No careful thought when entering a sarcasm exchange, and I win.
Mano, his brother, what a tush; great little thing,
‘Twas putty in my hands in discussions.
That’s a great little “carflash;” a little car he described it.
But not meaning to be small, it was.
I had a blast with them all.
And Ray the manager, lost in the world;
He was real easy to handle, like a puppy dog.
I had them amazed and flipped out and forever hysterical.
They hardly knew which way was up.
Their whole mind trip was blasted into orbit about the moon.
For all my impertinence, pushiness, sarcasm,
Outlandish behavior; they loved me.
They enjoyed it; were awed by it.
They were easily flabbergasted and charmed;
They’ll tell their friends about me years from now.
Occasionally I have questions,
As to whether to bring the writing,
Into flavors of different penmanship.
But then I get back into my track, blasting open the day.
And going to Rochester, that was fun.
Marc was interesting, too; yet strange, no hard on.
Him I really liked, but calling sick into work was real fun,
From a phone booth on a Pennsylvania highway.
Then a booth outside of a Monroe Street bar, Friars.
Met a hot boy, too; sat on the steps and talked.
He said he was straight; just like all the guys in the gay bar.
There was a firehouse on the corner;
That had sand colored bricks; and men just as solid.
Its parking lot slightly L-shaped, and brightly lit;
Inviting another month’s wandering through life.
It is amazing to me that no one – absolutely no one – has complained about gay men’s tax money. We’re shit – our money is good. We are evil – our money is fine. We’re a threat to society – but we must pay taxes to be told we’re crap. It is sordid. It is despicable that these christians (I refuse to capitalize it!) are so against the Pursuit of Happiness for gay folks but so sure we should continue to pay taxes. It is amazing to me that gay men, all holding jobs, peaceful, responsible, with family, friends and coworkers and living in good homes in fine neighborhoods are declared a threat to the heterosexual free for all of divorce, adultery, wife beating and child protective service agencies. It is appalling this calumny upon gay men.
The same people who are so sure that our weak or absent fathers made us gay – will now trash us for being the victim of lousy heterosexual parenting. The straight people screwed up and created a gay son – and the son shall be trashed for the alleged failings of the heterosexuals!
And no one complains about our taxes sullying the public till. NO! – we shall pay to fund the abortion clinics with which we are so closely linked with “Abortion and Homosexuality” so firmly linked – because gay men won’t screw women to create the babies to abort.
For 60 years at least we gay men have turned the other cheek – we’re spinning like a ceiling fan already we turn so much – and we have been resolute. NO! – we will not change.
We have stated repeatedly we are born gay – and the screaming heterosexuals call us liars. No, they are sure something made us gay – and it is our fault.
They will hound us for their sadistic god – and their evil ways.
They will trash us for the good of the heterosexuals – so that by trashing gay men the heterosexuals will be encouraged to be better.
The evil Republicans are so sure that christians are threatened by gay existence that they become whiny ass idiots. They are so sure that they can draw cartoons of Muslims … but god forbid a gay couple be recognized as good. NO! – we are evil to them – we threaten the heterosexual lifestyle of violence and women beating. Astounding!
Not once in the past 60 years has any heterosexual complained that gay men work – but are sure we should be fired from whatever jobs we do hold. So we set up our own portion of the economy – and the christians are enraged we do well. They wish us to be miserable. The catholic church is sure that gay men should self-flagellate ourselves in constant penitence and beg forgiveness from the heterosexuals for having been born – no! – made gay! – we’re made by heterosexuals – and they now disdain us for not fucking their daughters!
It is mind numbing.
You are free to live your life the way you want to. Even if that means 100% dependent on the government for your sustenance. There are so many programs to help anyone and everyone that there’s no limit to what you might achieve either on your own, or at the public trough. The tax code and the laws are so complex that everyone is free to mangle them to their favor. The law is, as it has been for centuries, whatever you can convince a judge it is. The changeability of the system is extraordinary. I do not see the lawyers of this land as a blight, I see them as stewards of the complex society we have. Why, anyone might get a lawyer and sue someone for something. It’s a national pastime. It is liberty. The right to sue anyone. Can you imagine a more important right?
We have a system, yes. Unwieldy and cumbersome, and the bureaucracies to confound you – but it is nothing like in any other country. The countries we are supposed to emulate, for they do it better there, supposedly, are so bureaucratically hidebound that Americans would be in shock. If you think the government here has too much power, you’ve got no understanding of the rest of the world. What a marvelous right to be mostly free from pettifogging bureaucracies. We barely have to interact with them.
We have the right be left alone by the government, mostly. The government has been getting too big. On the one hand it’s sort of benign, on the other hand, it’s unsustainable. You can’t keep taxing people to then give their money back to help them. You can’t overprice your labor and your goods and your set up costs and expect you to get somewhere.
Taxing everyone and everything is not a good idea. When will the IRS be disbanded, and that infernal code be rid of? It is time for a flat tax – surely no higher than 20% – of income or expenditures – which are the same – so we don’t endlessly argue over who is getting what tax breaks and special favors.
It’s time to end the subsidies to every corporation and industry, the price supports, the guarantees, the mollycoddling of the too big to fail, supposedly. Time for some cut throat free markets and robber barons. The incredible system of wealth those evil meanies wrought with steel in the rails and factories of the late 1800s … when the life of every human on earth and especially here in the USA was so much bettered.
Instead of marveling at the elimination of virtually every disease of just a century ago – we complain that one or two are still not solved. It is said they are not trying for they can make more money in treatment than they can in cure. Yet why did they then cure every other disease? Even in the poorest nations there hasn’t been a good cholera epidemic in 50 years. The numbers of people living past 70 has never been higher. Yet it is said that every thing is killing us.
And there is this great talk of the erosion of religious liberty – because there’s oh my god gay folks who support ourselves and cause no troubles save for existence. The religious have the right to scream “god hates fags” … shout it out. But the gay folks still pay taxes and are entitled to equal treatment within the law. There are no “gay rights” — there are American and god given rights that gay folks always possessed. Too bad if your religion didn’t create gay folks … here we are. We too have the liberty to pursue happiness.
Indeed, the pursuit of happiness is the key. Many do it by making themselves ugly and walking around half-naked. Well, isn’t it their right to do so? Exhort them by all means, but ultimately, it is their right to do so. It’s everyone’s right to be a nasty clod, to be ornery, to be left alone, to hate, to not like, to avoid – this most precious right has not been stamped out yet. Some are trying I suppose. The religious should lead the way with “Love thy neighbor” and “treat others as you wish to be treated” – but those two admonitions haven’t overcome the condemnation yet. The religious find it better to find fault with people rather than worth. The political class too, and the media – Fault is what they seek. Good works are ignored, but the bad man gets the headline. We almost glorify the troublemakers. Perhaps it’s what those people seek, the attention.
We have this amazing culture of astounding diversity. No one is deprived of any cultural offering they desire. Especially with the Internet nothing is unavailable. And people avail themselves of it. And the puritans among us – which are legion – seek to stamp it out. Well, so we have black separatists and racist whites gloriously cooperating with each other and staying far apart and living in peace. How wondrous is that? Despising the other, they have recognized the best way to avoid the other, and yet be polite when they do have to interact. Like at the bank line, or the motor vehicle office.
The Christians and the Gays – who supposedly hate each other – have a wondrous way of avoiding the other. There seems to be so few incidents, that when one does occur it’s like a man bites dog story. What liberty the two groups enjoy. To be themselves.
People might live off the grid if they choose, the Mennonites and Amish doing admirably well, and a model to emulate for the liberals who decry the current commercial environment. Absolutely nothing but their own lack of initiative prevents anyone from eschewing electricity and the modern world. Even the fundamentalist Christians might return to their simplicity if they wish. The Orthodox Jews live their lives in relative peace. The Muslims function well in their place. And that’s the thing – people naturally separate into groups. Why this is a problem for some I don’t know. No, folks on both left and right insist everyone else be like them. Sure, they are the forces against liberty, but for conformity.
There’s so many groups, groupings, types, longings and sorts of humanity in this nation that instead of wondering how it functions so well, people are outraged that those people over there are living differently.
We Americans come from vastly different origins. With vastly different histories and circumstances. Somehow, for such a seething hotbed of problems, the most of it works. I live a daily life. I go to the store, I buy what I want. I meet and great people, they meet and great me. The day is filled with pleasant interactions with all sorts of people. Everyone is pleasant. Oh, some exasperating, for sure. Some who I only want to deal with for a few moments at best. Hell, the vast majority I wish well in their lives but stay away from me. And this is OK. This is liberty. The right to smoothly go through life and say “hello” to total strangers and be decent. Sure, it’s OK to be shocked. The Mennonite shocks the yoga pants lady.
But one thing missing of late is pay for it yourself. If you want to live off the grid and go full solar – pay for it yourself. Don’t expect some subsidy to assuage your fears. If you think more trees will help, then go plant them. Implore your local grocery story to allow you to rip out every 10th parking spot for a tree and some bushes … do something besides demanding another law to make everyone do as you wish.
Ah, liberty – we are free now to outlaw plastic bags, because we shall make everyone cut the forests for paper. Or perhaps grow hemp for the fibers for the bags everyone will soon be required to carry for the wishes of some.
Ah, Hemp – marijuana – end the laws against this plant. This is absurd that we imprison people for years for smoking a joint. It is cruel and unusual punishment. It is dangerous to society. The prohibition has not worked. The War on Drugs billions in unwisely spent money. The destruction of lives uncountable. The prisons swell with people who did nothing wrong but wish to relax after a hard day at work and life.
Yes, we are penalizing hard work more and more. Anyone caught working and making more money shall be taxed to help the slothful. And the slothful, quite rationally, will vote for the politician who hands them the goodies.
And look at the upcoming presidential election. Socialists promising more free stuff by raising taxes on corporations who will raise the price of their goods so the money can be transferred from consumer’s pocket to company to government to give back to the consumer, minus the 30% or 40% handling charge. Everything shall be free, but you will pay for it in taxes. Meanwhile, the Christian fundamentalists, not a small group, have seized control of the Republicans – and frankly, the only solution they seem to have for any problem is sissy smashing. They think that by denying humanity and decency to gay folks, the nation will be saved. That we all have jobs and are a net plus to society goes unnoticed. Hell, even the liberals don’t like talking about how entrepreneurial and middle class we all are – why, that would be white privilege – and raise the ugly specter of the taxes we pay and the restraints on our trade being sought and the money we pay in taxes to support the divorce courts and wife beating centers.
Ah, liberty, we Americans have so much of it we’re enraged. Why, those people over there are doing what they want to! – Stop them before it is too late and the nation not be filled with Americans doing what the hell they want. No, we shall claim liberty for ourselves while telling the other fellow he is a threat to the republic for living as he desires.
That’s just sad. And yes, you have to let people be assholes. They have the right to be curmudgeons. They just don’t have the right to make the government do its bidding. But by giving the government more power to control the society, we are now fighting over who will get to grab the machinery of government to squash those other people.
We shall pass a law. So many people demanding laws to be passed, that the government is pleased to oblige, and we shall legislate ourselves out of liberty faster than we can blink the eye.
Ah, liberty – plenty enough for everyone.
Never before has a society been as rich and free as America today. Never before have so many come to complain about the bounty. The police state of the 1950s, when the police would attack blacks and gays is over. The poor have endless resources to live quite well. The sick are tended like never before, and diseases that were commonplace are now gone. And still everyone complains about the state of America today. What is the State of the Union? It seems to be fine, but slowly edging into a Hobbesian war of all against all as everyone seems to complain about what someone else is doing.
The forces of hate have the untrammeled right to hate. They have an 8-1 decision, in the Westboro case, for anyone to say anything about anything. People seem to be concerned that there’s some lack of free speech – and they speak often about how their cherished right to hate is being impinged somehow.
The government, meanwhile, passes 1000 page laws no one has read, and the legislation is secret – then they give us a 72 hour time frame in which to read these 1000 pages promulgated at the last moment. Who knows what is in these laws?
The people are free to do what they wish – now more than ever. Hell, even gay folks can get married if we wish … while just 20 years ago we were felons in ½ the states … for daring to smooch differently.
People say they’re all for diversity – but god forbid if you’re not diverse according to the rules set forth by busybodies.
We turn to Washington to solve every problem – none of which can be solved by a few people in a far off city. The solutions are in your town, up your street.
We have black separatists – they wish to be left alone to pursue an all black existence – like a state within a state, or a reservation, like for the Indians – or Native Americans (which all Americans are native to the place.)
We are told by the media that there is this rampant racism, and yet in the streets and stores all I see are people of many races all comporting themselves with decency and dignity towards the people that they meet.
There are crazy people like there have always been … and so what? Don’t they have the right to be crazy? Don’t they have the right to be left alone? No, apparently not. But it’s not just the liberals with this “politically correct” nonsense – it’s the conservatives too. They wish the government and religions to trash people who are not of their liking.
Supposedly this or that side will “take the country back” – oh, I’m sorry – but it’s their country too.
Over every little thing that people do – there lies someone in wait, to denounce those other Americans as being “unAmerican” – so what the people want a socialist republic? They shall suffer for it, but that is their right. To be blindingly stupid on economic matters. But it wouldn’t make much of a difference if the federal government wasn’t trying to control every aspect of life.
But then there’s the conspiratorialists who are quite sure the government is taking over everything – when they already have complete and utter control. There is fear of “martial law” when the martinents already rule the land.
The cities with the biggest problems are run by Democrats, often of African-heritage – and they then decry racism in their own cities – because people elsewhere aren’t doing their fair share to hand over their wealth.
We have politicians who speak in platitudes – and the people try their best to ignore them. No one likes the Demo-Publican party at this point. And so the people declare themselves “independent” in droves, while voting for the same cads.
What is the solution to any real problems? Another sensitivity training class – while the people are sensitive … and everyone is doing just fine.
Supposedly, the liberals are quite sure, every person of European heritage is a racist. But when blacks yell “nigger” in virtually every rap song this is not a problem. Meanwhile, the sports stars and entertainers earn millions and few seem to decry those rich blacks. Then there’s the trillion dollars we spent on the “war on poverty” and still we have poor people. Obviously whatever was tried is not working. And what is the solution? To some it’s just hand over more money … to others it’s cut them off from the tap and let them fend for themselves – and get the jobs that don’t exist because of the economic policies of the government which has been shutting down businesses for decades.
There’s the idea that if we collapse the current system then some nirvana will come about in its place.
There’s the idea by the conservatives that if we trash gay folks enough, all the heterosexuals will behave and get married and tend their children.
There’s this idea that we need the 10 Commandments posted at the courthouse door – but I don’t see any churches with them posted on their front lawns.
We get people arguing that everyone else should follow their dictates – for “liberty” we shall all follow one idea, apparently. For “individualism” we should all be on the same page, for “diversity” we shall all think alike.
We get people complaining about the mere existence of those other people over there, taxpayers who don’t do what some busybody wants.
And then everyone goes and votes for the scoundrel of their choice … who is always either one party or the other, both in craven disregard for the true wishes of the people – which is to be left alone.
We shall enslave the rich, it is thought, as if a man making a million a year is evil. And so then we shall take it all – and expect him to continue working. Why a person would work for someone else has yet to be explained. Anyone who is successful is suspect – despite the fact that everyone has more than what they need. After all, we supposedly have starving hungry obese people.
We should all be involved in every single political decision. Even not voting is now suspect as not doing your fair share. Thou shall have an opinion on every aspect of anyone else’s life – and if it does not conform to what you wish, those other people are terrible.
Still, the wealth and well being of the people has never been surpassed by any society on earth – and the politicians call for us to be like other countries, which send their immigrants to us.
65,000,000 immigrants to the land of racism and poverty – what the hell are they escaping if this hellhole is so much better than the others? We get people in this nation who threaten to move out at a moment’s notice if some politician they don’t like gets elected – when they do – they don’t leave anyway, so horrendous is the rest of the world.
We get the socialists arguing for an ever bigger government with no recognition that endlessly big government is the bane of the people. No, they think they will make it work here.
Then we get the theocrats arguing for some pollyanna land of servitude to this church or another, and the rest be heretics.
Well, it was a nice country for a decade or two. The 1990s through today have been the glory days of the Republic – and instead we’re trying to recreate what we all left – Europe. Hell, even the “people of color” (as if white folks are colorless) left their European inspired hellholes to come to this great land.
Well, I don’t know what to do about it other than avoid it. I’m tired of listening to how terrible the USA is. I’m tired of listening to people blame those other Americans for not living as they wish. Heaven forfend if people do their own thing – why, it might bring the end of civilization.
Eh, what a bunch of spoiled brats. A nation of spoiled brats, who don’t realize how good it is.
the link to the book on amazon-kindle
In the Beginning
In modern times, long after kings mostly were gone, men were born in times and places that did not predict their future. Then events overtook them and they were thrust forward into the public eye. How such men rose to the top was through ambition and work, to some degree. But also what happened in the society around them while they were rising to the top affected how far they would rise. That was Eric Robinson. There was also a whole cohort of these public figures who really didn’t want to rise to prominence, but were put there by forces beyond their control. Chris Tomas was such a man. There were, of course, hundreds of thousands, even millions of other people who were born about the same time into the social milieu known as Modern America who could have stepped into the positions these two men would step. They could have come from any of the different regions of the country, from different sorts of families, with different histories, with different outlooks. They were all part and parcel of the diversity of America. But on closer examination the country wasn’t nearly as diverse as many people pretended it was. For there was a uniformity of conformity that everyone agreed to disagree with.
Exactly when Modern Times began no one could say for sure. There were always convenient cutoff dates for those arguing a different viewpoint. There was the big idea of the Renaissance for sure. There was also the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Of course the French thought Versailles was a pretty good start to the Modern Era, or was it their Revolution? Both had its proponents. And many other times and periods, post war or pre-war, and which war it was didn’t matter. Though no one could be certain when they began, the dates being roughly from this year to that year, whichever was convenient. But one thing for certain was that man had entered the Modern Era. Things would be different because times were different, it was said. Each group living in those times and places thought surely they were in modern times. But so did the people who passed the first millennium in fervent hope that Jesus would finally come back among them. He did not and modern times had to be reconfigured with each new century.
Some people thought it was wars themselves that were the markers. The American Civil War, the First World War, World War II, the little wars of the post war era. Each group of people on earth could use their favorite war as the beginning of the modern era. The time when things would truly be different. It was because they won that they thought the world would now operate according to the benevolent ideas that they had to run the world. Who ‘they’ were was a bit confusing. To some it was the political leader of the nation, whether he be called prime minister or president, or still some as king and sultan. Still others took names like “Dear Leader,” and “Guiding Light of the Nation.” Still, they all behaved fairly much like kings of old, even if they did have to listen to a few more people. But while there was always the idea of absolute power in the hands of kings in fact they always ruled with advisers and councilors and opposing interests. About the only people who did not were the Americans, though this was not a popular theory at any time. To just let people do what they want without much interference by government was never a popular idea.
Which is why revolutions could serve as markers. There was the English Revolution, then the American and French Revolutions, and those of 1848 that raged across Europe. Each of these was considered the harbinger of modern times. They were to a degree, for they were rampages of violence. With some a bit more violent than others, but continuing mankind’s propensity to slaughter those who disagreed with them. The last great revolution was the Russian Revolution. Or was it the Chinese? It all depended on who was doing the reckoning. These were Communist Revolutions, so soon they began to be seen as the harbingers of the New World. Not the New World that Columbus discovered, but the new world of social harmony and peace and prosperity. Those were vague things. Some took it to mean that religious leaders would bring about the heaven on earth promised by all religions if only everyone would have complete faith, mostly in the leaders of those religions. Though other revolutions brought about other faiths that were just as strong. Such was the Chinese Revolution of 1949. Then there was the American idea of individual liberty. It worked well enough to be a magnet to all the world and led to the country being the most powerful on earth and an example to all. Though few would follow it.
The French revolution showed monarchs that the time of divine right was over. A bit lopsided towards violence in the application of the new principle of representative government, it served as a model for all other monarchs to begin to consider parliaments, constitutions and the trappings of democracy. Along came monarchs who were very reasonably disposed to stay quietly in their palaces and castles and accept the multi-million dollar civil lists which kept them in the lap of luxury. More than a few kings were very willing to give up the messiness of governance for the good life. And who could blame them? No one was plotting anymore to steal their throne. They gave up their divine right but not their privileges. These people were not stupid.
Other people used reason and philosophy as their markers for the beginning of the glory of the modern era. There were the first like Bacon and Occam, and the genius of Michaelangelo and Da Vinci. Then it was Locke and Hume, and Rousseau and others of the 1600s and 1700s. Some thought it was Adam Smith, who everyone said invented Capitalism, when he did no such thing. He never even used the word. He merely described the reality of England in a mercantile system of ever shifting royal decrees. He pointed out that the less rules and regulations there were the more likely the wealth of the nation would increase. Where the line between the proper amount of regulation and over regulation was he was not at all sure. Nor did he even begin to hazard a guess. Then Marx came along and really threw the world a bone. His social and economic theory was seen as revolutionary different.
It was not. What it was was boiled over Cromwellian puritanism coupled with royalist mercantilism and divine right of the state to rule. That it was divine could only be deduced if you thought that the inevitable condition of mankind was ordained by a higher power. This higher power for people of faith was God. For the Marxist it was History. That it comes with a heavy dose of religiously inspired peace and happiness if only everyone would think alike was inscrutable to nearly everyone. After all, it was “Scientific,” which was the antithesis of “Faith.” Yet Europe was bedeviled since the Dawn of the Modern Era with Christian Socialist parties in a variety of hues and with a variety of names. By 1900 every political party in Europe was on the Socialist to Communist spectrum, which dovetailed neatly with the Christian ethos of charity and living together and believing together. Individualism never got a stronghold in Europe. That all the individualists were leaving for America did not help the situation.
Still others thought that the great age of invention, starting with the steam engine, going through the steam boat, then the train, then electricity and then the computer was the bringer of modernity. Any number of inventions were said to have brought the modern era of peace and prosperity to mankind. Why, these ideas were said to be newer and better than sliced bread, though itself of recent vintage. There were partisans for any industrial thing. The assembly line and mass production worked well as harbingers. The light bulb was incandescent in its position in the pantheon of harbingers of the modern world. And too the automobile zoomed in as the harbinger of modern times. Drinkable water was a distant runner up. The petroleum era was the modern era, too. Yet, surely no major innovation could possibly compete with the computer as the start of the modern era. That it was merely a very fancy abacus was lost in the discussion.
Others looked at the religious Reformation as the font of modern ideas for the organization of society. Yet others thought that the Reformation that brought the world from the paganism of the Romans to the Catholicism of Rome as a ripe date for the modern era, and they had the calendar on their side. The Muslims thought Mohamed had brought in the modern era as was clearly said right there in the Koran. Each religion had a creation time when it became the start of the modern era. Even such rather small groups as the Pilgrims, the Quakers and the Shakers thought that they were the start of the modern era. They, like every other proponent of modernism, thought that if only everyone was on the same page then everything would work just fine. It was always said that those people who did not want to believe that the modern time was here were mucking things up. They were expendable to some degree. Either in mind, or if need be, in body, they could be eliminated. But what distinguished all these fond thinkers was that they had a theory. It was people who didn’t quite conform to it, and that had to change. The theory was paramount, the people secondary.
That’s what all the theorists of modernism have in common. The belief that if only everyone would act in concert then the modern era could really come into full swing. Until that happened, they could not bring peace and harmony and prosperity and good health and living through application of the theory. If they had to eliminate a few people, a few bad eggs as it were, along the way, then so be it. It was Lenin who famously coined the phrase “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” In fact, another thing these believers in the faith of theory had in common was the idea that society was very malleable, controllable and directable. It was, to them, exactly just like making an omelet. Social engineering might not have been the term used by 12th century popes, but they had the idea that they could work miracles if only people would give up on the sin and heresy. Which, amazingly, was yet another thing that theorists had in common. To not believe in the faith that was promulgated as the modern thing was to be sinful and heretical. Even if the words used were “against the people,” and “certain criminal elements,” which didn’t sound too religious. Theorists always got bogged down in words. With new words they thought they had created new systems. But the system didn’t change, the words did, and who uttered them. What every believer in a given faith had was the certainty that they were the ideal leaders to bring the people into the modern world. Even if they, the people, didn’t want to go there. The leaders knew best, and providence, by whatever name, brought them to the forefront of their people. Finally things were going to be alright. But now, truly in modern times, since they were the times we lived in, there were so many beliefs that the world was a very mixed up place. At least it seemed so on the surface.
But underneath it was all astoundingly the same. What each believer in religious faith had in mind was to return to, or go forward to, that ideal time of peace and harmony. The problem was that they all had a different date in time as their reference point. Religionists looked back to the future. Somewhere back when people were innocent, before the excess of too much modernism crept in, was the modern world they wanted to take us to. Some thought it was the Garden of Eden, others the coming of Mohamed, or Christ, or some other Messiah. What they did know was that there was not enough adherence to the faith that was true and pure and exactly what God or the Goddesses wanted.
Scientifically minded people looked forward to the past. This group thought that whether it was the science of economics, or the science of political theory, or the science of social-enviro-peace living they would bring us to the same place that the religionists wanted to go. They didn’t think they did, though. Indeed, they could be quite adamant that they could return to Nature and live like so many Adams and Eves just like religionists wanted to return to the perfection of the first couple. Surely these are the same places, gotten to by different means? Each said the other was taking the wrong bus to the shining city on the hill. Each said the other was on the bus to hell. Each worked on the road of good intentions. In the way were the road blocks of anyone who didn’t think like them. Yes, astoundingly similar beliefs hidden in a blizzard of words, theories and ideas. Even worse were those who maintained that there was a teleological, etiological and dialectical analysis that could enlighten the unenlightened. Not that the not-so-bright would ever understand those words. It was a good thing, therefore, that the leaders all had vast shelves of texts backing up their central core scripture. Some scripture was more literal than others, but still they were mere words to be interpreted by the leaders of the faithful as they led us into the land of milk and honey. Make no mistake about it, every faith and theory had its scripture, no matter what they called it, or how much they likened it to anything other than the received words of a higher power.
In the midst of this froth of similarity bobbled the small ship of liberty. An idea that had been around for millenia, too. But it was a weak theory. For it could have no scripture. It could have no received texts for interpretation. It didn’t even want a leader. What liberty was was the absence of all that preceded it. There was no divine right, there was no order of belief. Nor was there anything like a plan or a theory. What there was was what everyone actually did. Liberty was simply the actions of men and women doing what they thought best at any given moment. Systems had power and a plan, a leader and a mission. Liberty was defined by the system as anything that did not conform to the system. Liberty was not about systems as a general whole. It was about how you could survive as comfortably as you could within the technological means at your disposal. Liberty was the ideal for some people, but far fewer than were needed to bring about such a true time of peace and happiness. For liberty always tended to create wealth, which allowed people to pursue their interests. Which kept them peaceful. Liberty had had a rough time in the five millenia of human history.
At least until the United States was born. Until then, not one country on earth, not one inch of the landmass of the planet, was ever set up on the basis of liberty. That the United States was not a perfect example of the ideal was a simple matter of history. The anti-liberty forces had come first. They left behind powerful vestiges of their system; things like slavery and excessive laws and religious institutions. But finally in one place and time there were enough people who were liberty minded and constrained by the limitations of technology to have to be for liberty. They had no choice, for they were in a literal wilderness. They had to cooperate within the dictates of liberty. They had to operate without a system, for there was no system present. So the country was born. For the next nearly 150 years the idea of liberty spread. The nation went through wrenching periods of bloodletting like the Civil War and civil protests, but liberty spread. Yet, the ideas of systems lurked underneath it all, for systems had 5000 years of human history on their side. Plus, typically, system planners lurked in the corners of society plotting their come back. For systems gave power, and power over other men was a powerful aphrodisiac.
Planners were helped along by the confusion of words. They were helped along by their own failed plans, which lead other self-proclaimed founders of the true faith to rise up to solve the problems of this world. Slowly the forces of the system reasserted itself. By the Second World War they were in control of the mechanisms of the press, the government and more importantly, the language. For their mush words began to be the received wisdom. Soon the language went further and further afield, to such things as the disappearance of the tax cut. Now it was a revenue expenditure. Actually letting people keep their own money was now considered more properly described as the government not taking it. And systems people always thought all the wealth belonged to society, as they had for five thousand years.
There were tens of thousands of other examples of the debasement of the language. There was even a word to describe it, Orwellian. As the post war years of the modern era rolled along, the incremental increase in the power of the state, of the system and the planners, continued. The belief that there was one and only one best way to do something came creeping back. It was an ancient idea, writ large in the pyramids of Egypt. It was insidious, and seemingly unstoppable. The world was caught up in it. To a degree, the United States caught the disease because of two infections. One was the influx of people who never completely lost their faith in systems. The other was our close involvement with the systems of Europe and Asia. The biggest problem, though, was that liberty has virtually no defenses against word confusion and planners. People with liberty were too busy doing whatever it was they thought they should be doing to pay attention to those who were seizing the power of the state.
That’s what everything really boiled down to. The power of the state was overwhelming. The majesty of a leader with men with weapons at their side is a nearly unstoppable force. People of liberty merely wanted to be left alone. And because they were alone it was them against the state. Organizing liberty minded people was like nailing jelly to a wall. The power of the state was what theorists wanted. It was what great and grand men, and women too, wanted. They knew what was best for the people. Their faith told them so. The faith was true, it was unquestionable. It was the received wisdom of the ages. All else had been tried and found wanting, said the new planners of our generation. “We have the way,” they said, “follow us.” They said it after each failed system brought about an angry mob to listen to the next promiser of a perfect world at peace and harmony. “Follow me, do what I say, and we shall arrive at the promised land,” they said, in one way or another. It didn’t make a difference what the actual words were, it was the sentiment that counted. As it had for millenia, it all sounded so believable. So these new leaders were followed, and those who did not want to follow were taken care of according to the precepts of the leaders. Some were nastier than others, true, but all had to practice and perfect oppression to create their Nirvana.
The forces of liberty, however, wanted to be left alone. Alas, they were hemmed in tighter with each passing year. As always, it came almost to the point that to argue for liberty of action and thought, deed and ideal, was suspected as being against the people. Our modern times were no different. That’s where we were in the early part of the second millennium reckoned by Christ, and the 5th reckoned by writing and the umpteenth reckoned by archeology. So said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. So said the security forces and the peace officers. Their line went something like “Liberty thinkers are dangerous to society for they are against togetherness.” It was nigh unto sin and heresy to think of liberty as a goal. “People of liberty did not have society in mind,” the powers that be said over and over again. Though never saying it as clearly, succinctly or as eloquently as that. Thus the people of liberty could be, and were, construed to be against society. It seemed obvious to the system promoters that society had the interests of the people at heart. What was their proof after so many examples of failure? The promoters of society clearly said it was true. They had a theory. What more did they need?
Now, here, in supposedly the most modern time in world history, and things were not so much different than they were when Hammurabi was writing the first code of law. It only seemed different because of the technology and the words used. The forces of planning according to theory were in power in even the most liberty minded place on earth, the United States. The cost of liberty is not eternal vigilance during times of war. It is eternal vigilance in times of peace that is more necessary. For it is in times of peace and prosperity that the demigods of planning could claim to know what to do with all the resources so that everyone got enough. The goal of every religion is for everyone to have an equal share and cooperate in getting it. The goal of every social engineer, socialist and communist, and fascist and authoritarian is for everyone to have an equal share and cooperate in getting it. Astoundingly alike goals that are presented as different because of the words used in their self-created and self-appointed jargon that proclaimed themselves different. Each purveyor of these vials of snake oil was like any other salesman. He had a better deal for you and don’t listen to the false claims of the other snake oil salesmen.
These were the times we were in when the final descent of the nation began. It was a long and tortuous process, but one that was clear to those who would see. The sounds of it were available to those with ears to hear. It was plain to those who watched the geometric crescendo of laws and plans and rules and regulations. Only the words had been changed to the American vernacular. So it confused the same purposes of the European religio-socialist powers that ruled there. And they were different than the communist words of the last dictatorships of the proletariat. The words could have been uttered by Eastern potentates at any point in history, too. But it was the same siren call of planning, working together for the common good, and fed with calls for “let’s all get on the same page in a non-partisan manner.” That was the mantra of the era. It was the post-World War II era and the need to all cooperate together was expressed in countless fashions. Not least of which was the United Nations, and the European Union, and the World Health Organization and the forces of Global Warming. Yes, we were all in it together. And we were heading for hell in a hand basket that we ourselves were carrying.
From among the people born in these times came the future leaders of the country. It was no different than another generation of America. It was Ronald Reagan who had pointed out to his Modern America the ever renewing nature of America. But even he too was part of the renewal, for as far long ago as De Tocqueville’s travels the constant renewal of America was obvious. As were the contradictions between the religiosity of so many and the secular nature of the government. Of course, this tension, so difficult to understand, was the very essence of what made Modern America the most important nation on earth. For it is the tension born of liberty that feeds the creative and productive juices of a people. Conversely, the more alike everyone is and the more alike what they are allowed to do, the more stultifying was the culture and the more poor the economy. It was obvious, but most people refused to look at the reality. They wanted the myths and the hopes, and the theory and the plan that would enable their dreams to become reality.
So too, when you thought about it, were all the generations that had come before this one. For from such tension and renewal came such men as all the presidents of the United States since Truman took office. Franklin Roosevelt was patrician enough that one could think he was groomed for the presidency since the day he was born. He was part of that peculiar institution called American Royalty. Many people thought it was a continuous group of families since before the Revolution. But that was not the case in America. People rose up from humble beginnings and took the public by storm. Then they would have children who were said to be the new generation of American Royalty. Then those children would fall flat and the family would disappear as the wealth of the first generation was dissipated by the profligacy of the second and third generations. So powerful people, and their families, came and went in the dynamic society that was America.
There were, however, large numbers of people who held the idea that there was some indeterminate number of rich families in America controlling the country since its inception. These families were said to be a constant fixture in America. Somehow, they were keeping everyone else down. It was bandied about that these families were in control and no matter what anyone else did they would never rise to the top of the heap. This was not the case, of course. But it sounded good. And in modern times just sounding good was enough. Logic and reason, facts and figures, reality and rational thought had long been tossed away. What was left was emotion. The residue was mere hormonal impulses. “Knee jerk response” was another phrase that was applicable. After all, how exactly anyone was kept down was a mystery, for more and more rich people came along. How anyone was prevented from climbing up the social ladder was never exactly defined. It was merely said to be happening. There was no evidence. But what was evidence anymore? Why bother with it, when emotions could be stirred? Still, with each generation or two a completely new cast of characters came along in the public and political scenes. No one could ever predict who would rise to the top of the stew. For America was not a deterministic society, it was a dynamic society. Not everyone liked that dynamism. Certainly less people truly understood it, and it is hard to explain. These people longed for a return to the stability and constancy of royalty and theology, and their modern counterparts, socialism, and determinism. For dynamism scared them.
“People can just do what they want?” That’s what the deterministic asked themselves, and everyone else they encountered, too. “That’s just too dangerous for me to contemplate,” was their response to their own question, for they were afraid. Just as kings of old were afraid when people did their own thing. “That’s dangerous to society, and we can’t have that.” Of course, the question was asked in a thousand different ways, and the answers were legion. But these sentiments summed it up: Freedom to do what you want? What? And be against society? And thus systems got their supporters. And supporters got their presidents. Though, few people actually referred anymore to those old words of royalty, theology and socialism and their theory of determinism. They were freighted with the baggage of the past. Instead, things were couched in new words. People were now commanding, and progressive, and socially responsible, and a host of even more innocuously seeming labels that hid the true philosophical underpinnings of their thoughts. And that underpinning was determinism as determined by a leader, as had been the case for millenia.
The fact that Chris Tomas was born in 1974 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was not that noticeable. Only later was it considered an event of note. That Eric Robinson was born in Baton Rouge ten years before Chris was another unimportant fact at the moment when it occurred. When Eric was a 10 year old boy running around in shorts on a summertime lawn it could not possibly be foreseen that he would have a major impact on the country. When Chris came along, he, too, was considered to be just another child born into the freest, richest, most complex dynamic society that the world had ever seen. And yet people said they were not part of American Royalty, so they could never rise to the top. The playing field was not level. Life was unfair, and perilous and filled with vagary. And it was said by more and more supporters of each succeeding president that this was not good for America.
The United States hummed along quite slowly, despite seeming to be a land of action and change. But in fact, the nation was two separate entities. One was the dynamic of the people. The society was rich and complex because of what people did and were not prevented from doing. It was the government that moved along at a snail’s pace. There was no rushing the machine that was the federal government. It was such a lumbering giant that all the people who called for change with each new president were sorely disappointed when they realized that it was impossible to ever really affect change as it is commonly understood. The country wasn’t revolutionary, it was evolutionary. Things that in the private world would take days and weeks, or at most months, in the public world of the nation took months and years, if not decades. Thus Eric and Chris grew up in a complacent society. No one expected real change, except of the most incremental sort. It was also apparent to anyone who bothered to look that the majority of the people in the nation didn’t want change. They wanted the stasis and security of the status quo. The few people who were always calling for radical change were always just humored, if not shunted aside, because they didn’t seem to grasp that the nation was a lumbering giant. It was not a quick moving beast at all. The nation did not move at the word of the president. It was sloth-like in its slowness and people just did what they wanted. This made some people clamor for more power for the president. “For real change,” they argued. “Change we can see and feel. Change for the better.” They were mantras, though for exactly what sort of change no one could say. Or worse, they would not say.
Change was a vague institution in America. Everyone wanted it, but no one could define it. Plus, each thing that could be subject to change had a lot of people behind it wanting to keep it exactly like it was. So any change clamored for had to be vetted and approved by people who simply did not want change. Thus there were far more sweeping proposals made while far fewer actual incremental tinkering with the laws and the rules and the programs occurred. This, too, made the people clamoring for change angry. They were, however, hopeless to affect the changes that they wanted. They lulled themselves into a stupor thinking that one day their man would become president and then things would really change. They were delusional, pretty much, for that hadn’t happened since the Civil War. The whole system was rigged to make sure there were no real big changes, which did not satisfy reformers of any stripe.
Young Eric grew up and got his influences from the church he belonged to and the evangelical milieu in which he traveled. It was a world that called for change. Radical change if necessary, to bring the country to the moral values which this group of people thought had been decaying for a century or more. This group of Christian Evangelicals thought that the country was on the road to ruin if major changes were not affected. They had supported Republican presidents for decades in the hope of change that they wanted. What they got was the incrementalism that was the hallmark of the American political system. They were always disappointed. Yet, the only thing they could do was rally behind the next Republican who said he would bring about the moral reawakening of the nation. Instead, the courts kept expanding rights and bringing more people into the fold of the American Republic and spreading liberty. And the people got richer. This was opposite to what the evangelists wanted.
It was the gay issue that really set the Evangelicals on edge. For with this issue they thought they had the clear word of God on their side. They thought that history had shown that empires always fell when gays achieved any rights or acceptance. They pointed knowingly to the Roman Empire. They were wrong, of course, for history showed no such thing. What history showed was that the Roman Empire rotted out from within because of ever increasing taxes and an ever more powerful central government that trampled people’s rights. While at the same time the Empire was beset by hordes of invaders that were simply far more numerous and dedicated to winning than the Romans were. Anything gay that went on in the Empire was pretty much hidden and non-existent. It was later historians who dwelt on this, especially since it was the early Catholic Church which wrote the history of the Roman Empire and laid her demise to decadence. They did this so that they could convince people to be Catholics. Especially when in fact the Empire fell not that much after it adopted Christianity. In a sense it could be said that Catholicism is what destroyed the Empire. It was perhaps even prim and proper rectitude that wrecked the dynamic society. In any event, it was very ancient history. So ancient that no one could really say for sure what happened. That was because there were no records, no documentation and no evidence beyond the later writings of people with a political ax to grind.
Chris, 10 years behind in everything, grew up with the free thinking anti-government ideas that his Eastern European heritage brought to the table. Eric was from the law and order side of listening to the rules set down by elders. Chris was from a far more libertine environment. One that revolved around the free ideals of individual rights. Thus these two men saw the world in different ways. There was little they would ever have agreed on if they ever had the chance to meet and discuss things. Except perhaps they could agree that the sky was blue and the grass was green. But they never met. Why would they? They were 10 years apart in age; they traveled in different social circles and they had completely different life experiences. In fact, Eric was from the sort of family that thought that immigration was not good for the country. They had long thought that. And Eric learned it from his grandfather and his father, and his uncles and other relatives and family friends. Chris grew up not only thinking that immigration was good, but knew it was because he was part of it. He was the direct product of his grandparents moving to America. In his family it was impossible to be anti-immigrant. Eric’s family were immigrants once, of course. As all American families were. But it was such a long time ago that it was impossible to know for sure when any member of his ancestry ever arrived. It was like the Robinson family had simply been created in the United States and there was no need for further discussion on the issue. This produced two very different men. Two men who would come to clash in a way that history would be made. A history that was not part of the usual America experience, and yet something which the nation seemed destined to get to even before either of them were born.
Chris’s family had been fighting theologists for centuries. The whole tradition of Central Europe was to fight the Catholic Church. The Reformation started in Prague, not Wittenburg. Chris was only dimly aware of the history of his heritage. He knew he had to explain his last name often enough, but that was the extent of it. He knew something of the teachings of Jan Hus if only because his grandparents had spoken of it. But there was no Hus Church in Baton Rouge, so the family fell back on the Freethinking religious traditions. They did not attend a physical church. Their church was where they were. Their deeds were more important than the protestations of faith that the Robinson family set forth each Sunday. While Chris was taught to help his fellow man, Eric was taught that the other people, however defined, were somehow inimical to the existence of the Republic and good God-fearing people. While Chris learned tolerance and a live and let live attitude, Eric was imbued in a sort of undercurrent of hatred. Hatred for those who were not Evangelical Christians to begin with, and hatred for the system that allowed such apostasy to reign across the nation. Eric and his family saw cities like San Francisco, Miami and New York as hotbeds of heathenism. Chris and his family saw the same cities as the font of much of the wonderful things that technology and the culture gave to the nation. These were two very different world views. They were bound to clash. If the two men would have have met each other perhaps it could have been avoided. Eric was a determinist who determined that change was needed. Chris was for liberty and didn’t really care what people did so long as they left him alone.
That two such different men, from two such different backgrounds could be born in the same city and know the same place was part of the American miracle. It was the envy of the world. Yet there were nefarious forces at work to destroy it. Both of these men would play their part in the sweep of history. Yet, then, as kids in the heat of summertime, they were unaware as to whether they would play a part in the process at all. They were just two kids growing up in a mid-sized American city. They were oblivious to nearly everything except what was going on around them. Yet, both showed that spark of intelligence and drive that was not part of so called normal kids. That set them on the paths they were to follow, and that would bring them to their monumental clash.
There seems vast hordes of Americans who hate other hordes within the nation. Nothing but hate everywhere. Hate for the rich and corporations – hate for the poor and destitute. Hate for Jews and Muslims. Hate the gay folks. Hate those who don’t think like you. Hate anyone successful. Hate those who tried but failed, by your measure. Hate spews from from the political and chattering classes. They hate those other Americans from whom they will “take the country back” as if those people, those hated people, have no right to the country.
Hate spews for from the pulpit. Such pile as to call for the slaughter and death they don’t like. Kill for Jesus the mantra of the day.
Hate for unborn babies, and hate for any kids that don’t conform to some preconceived notion of how they should live their lives.
Hate for immigrants while the immigrants seem to hate where they came to.
Hate for foreigners and those not like you.
For “religious liberty” hate those not of your religion. The Catholics still hate the Protestants, and the Protestants still hate the Catholics. Hundreds of years of slaughter were not enough, perhaps there should be more killing for the gory (sic) of your “god.”
Hate the opposing sport teams, and hate those who don’t play sports. The weak hate the strong and the strong hate the weak – for we shall all be alike or hate the other one. For liberty we shall all be the same and we shall all hate the same people.
Hate the bankers, and hate the companies which seem to provide us what we need. Calls for crushing them under taxation, so we can hate the government which will take them over.
The environmentalists hate anyone who will not save a snail, and the snail haters hate the environmentalists for giving a damn.
Hate the president, hate the contenders.
The feminists hate the men for being who they are. And the men seem to hate the feminists for supposedly emasculating them.
There is hate for the weather and the climate, and we have the gall and hubris to think we shall set it right and make it perfect.
The perfectionists hate every foible of mankind, while ignoring their own mistakes and possible wrongs and their less than prefect status.
We are to hate the too thin and the too fat as if there’s ever been some magical perfect human form.
Hate consumes the land. Everyday the news feed is filled with who hates who.
We are to hate those who relish history, and they in turn hate those who dare question the notion.
The hate billows up from the morass. We shall soon hate the Greeks, too, I suppose, for bringing about the economic travails to come. Though they too hate those who would point to the obvious problems of the Greeks. How dare anyone question it?
The Occupy forces spew hate towards an economic system that provided them well, and who wish to switch it for a system which not only can’t they define, but so long as it hates any who question it, it is good.
Hate is now good.
The politicians of one party hate those of the other party – and proclaim anyone not on their side to hate America – for daring to be American.
Hate pours out of the word “Liberty” in a way quite unimaginable.
The Liberty to hate! – The Muslim haters wish to incite the Muslims no end, and then hate when those goaded hate being treated that way.
The fundamentalist Christians, long of hating this world, are seemingly quite sure we should suspend an active life in this world, to pursue the hateful god which they proclaim hates everyone to hell for not being such perfect humans as they proclaim themselves to be.
Everyone who hates hates the others who will not hate as they do.
For “religious liberty” we shall enshrine hate into law. They might scream “our god hates ….” and fill in the blank – and that is not enough, they wish the hated to hate themselves too. Lest they be accused of hating mankind themselves and the nation.
And other nations hate ours and we hate theirs, lest any difference surface.
The races supposedly hate each other for being human. Symbols of hate are lauded as “Liberty” as the Right to hate.”
On and on comes the people declaiming how they hate this or that. They hate the foods, the drinks, the music of others. And those others, well, they hate anyone who even just wonders about their likes. And so the hate fest spins.
Hate so bad that I’m afraid it will lead to civil war – when everyone can hate everyone and we descend into a Hobbesian war of all against all.
And if one hates someone else, they claim the Liberty to Hate. The right to hate.
How sad. Frankly, I hate it.