Historical

Honor and privilege

During the last years of Muriel Harrison’s life, Bill Harrison would greet me at the door and then tell her who had come to visit — Muriel had been blind for several years. He would say, “It is my honor and privilege to take care of her.” Usually, we expect to read about a wife caring for an aging husband until his last days. But Bill Harrison was unusual.

One night in 2006, I waited for a new batch of writers to come to my door for a “Writing Stories” class I was presenting in our family room. The first arrival that evening was an elderly gentleman who sat parked in my driveway a good 20 minutes early. I motioned him to come on in, and although he’d grown stoop-shouldered in his 87 years, Bill was still several inches taller than I. He lived on the east side of town, he said, and often arrived at meetings early to beat the trains.

That night, Bill related the story of how his grandfather John H. Wolfe had given him his Civil War diary when Bill was 5. Now he asked me to help him create a book out of that diary. Of course, I agreed and asked for more background. And over the next few months, I read Bill’s drafts and gave him encouragement, although how much effect I had was debatable. We often laughed that I’d had to forgo any attempt to change his writing style to the active voice; he wrote beautifully in the passive.

The result was Bill’s 200-page historical tome, One Man’s War: Tired ’till the Day I Die, based upon memoirs of John H. Wolfe, Company F, 8th Michigan Volunteers, 1861-1864. Bill’s preface concludes with this sentence: “I am merely trying to show my amazement that Grampa Wolfe survived the ordeal of the Civil War physically and still landed on his feet mentally.”

Bill and Muriel had taken a year off and traveled to every one of Grampa Wolfe’s 47 battle sites. And that night chatting in my living room, he recounted many battles that had taken place in my home state of Virginia. He and Muriel had stopped at every silver metal sign designating battles and Lee’s retreat from Richmond along the “old Danville road,” today’s Route 360. I’d driven the length of that highway hundreds of times and never stopped.

The presentation of history in Bill’s tome is unique. For each battle, he presented two perspectives: the overall view by the generals who set the stage; and Grampa Wolfe’s view of the foot soldiers at ground level, the men who suffered death and hardship, assuredly no glory.

Bill later transcribed the diary into Memoirs of John H. Wolfe. Bill’s son gave a copy of this book to a board of directors building a museum dedicated to volunteer soldiers of all the wars of this country. Civil War experts have authenticated Grampa Wolfe’s memoirs, and the board will feature him and his unit in the museum. Out of 100 Company F volunteers, he was one of the eight to survive.

Last year, Dr. Bill attended meetings of the Civil War History discussion group at the Longmont library. We would meet there, and I gave him a few rides home. His slideshow presentation of Grampa Wolfe’s battles will long be remembered by that group. Bill later made copies of his transcription of the diary and gave them to members. They hold a treasure, a legacy handed down in 1924.

Many people will remember Dr. Bill as their family veterinarian, others for his beautiful marquetry. He was a kind and humble man who deflected praise. But I will always cherish those visits and hearing him say it was his honor and privilege to take care of Muriel.

Bill Ellis is a local author who can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

The “n-word” is offensive and reeks of disrespect

One day when I was 4 years old, I ran to answer the knock on our front door. My goal was to get there before Tessie, our black maid and my day-care provider. It was 1945 in my hometown of Martinsville, Va., close to the North Carolina state line.

What happened next is burned into my memory. I opened the door to face a snarly white man who towered above me. “Whar’s your folks, boy?” he growled. Tessie got there to save me and pushed me behind her.

“They’re not here,” she answered.

“Wasn’t talking to you, n-,” and out spilled that vile and vicious word, dripping with so much hate it scared me. Tessie slammed the door in his face and went into the living room, where she sat and cried.

I was shocked and completely confused about how that one word could so upset my best pal, the woman who cared for me, who loved me. So I asked her what it meant.

“Don’t ever say it,” she said. “It’s what mean people say when they want to hurt us colored folks.”

And so it remains. Over the last eight years or so, I have been reminded that angry, ignorant white people and even some African-Americans continue to toss that word around like a hand grenade. It is the ultimate degradation to a race of people. How do I know this? I saw it on Tessie’s face in 1945. I saw her reduced to miserable tears. And I get an occasional message from an old friend back in Virginia who just doesn’t think our African-American president is real — code for less than human.

I admit I used to feel superior to the typical bigots down South, those uneducated folks stereotyped as automatically prejudiced just because of their accent and useless arguments bemoaning the “lost cause” of the Civil War. But then I discovered an ancestor in North Carolina in the 1700s who had slaves. It was clearly there in his will that charged his son to sell some land to buy a slave to care for his wife after his death.

Yet here we are, 250 years later, still without a clue. As an almost fanatically religious country, too many of us do not live our values and follow the golden rule to treat people like we want to be treated. Shamefully, we don’t even see a connection between going to church and practicing brotherly love the other six days of the week.

My Latino friend, Dan, reminded me the other day that the Army teaches equal rights. All soldiers depend on everyone. There is no place for racial, religious, and sexual orientation prejudice in the military. So maybe the solution is to put everyone through basic training.

Better, though, is for everyone to stand up for speaking with respect. Next time somebody throws out that word, call time out. Correct them. Let them know it is offensive to all of us because the word reeks of disrespect. My friend Dan knows that today that word and the bigotry it holds disrespects African-Americans, the next day Latinos, and then on to women, gays and lesbians, and everyone else.

I must add this: The maddest I ever saw my mother was when President Clinton’s political nominees were being disqualified because they hadn’t paid Social Security taxes for their nannies. “Did you pay Tessie’s?” I stupidly inquired.

“I certainly did,” she answered in a huff, and gave me one of those withering looks that showed she doubted I had a grain of sense. I’d forgotten the day she took me to visit Tessie after I’d graduated from college. Mom’s reason: “She thinks you’re as much hers as I think you’re mine.”

Bill Ellis (contact@billelliswrites.com) lives in Longmont.

The ‘Serious’ Generation

Bill Ellis

Bill Ellis – billelliswrites.com

Over tea and conversation at Ziggi’s on Francis Street, my friend, Bob Dacey, proposed a re-branding of our generation from “Silent” to “Serious.”

And why not? There are now more branded generations than could possibly fit in a century: The Greatest, Multitasking, Millennial, X and Boomer, Silver Tsunami. But none of those fit Bob and me. Together we have more years, over 150, than hair. And neither of us is silent. We have been writing and speaking out for a long time, as have others in our generation.

The problem is with those who should be listening. Here’s an example: To us, the “nuclear option” does not mean changing the rules of the U.S. Senate to a simple majority vote for approval. Members of the Serious Generation recall the Cold War days when choosing the nuclear option meant mutually assured destruction (MAD). Returning to a simple majority rule vote means getting back to mutual respect in Congress where both the majority and minority parties can cooperate to conduct the business of governing. The overwhelming need for changing rules was angrily acknowledged by Republican Speaker of the House Boehner when he finally blew up at the Tea Party. Reason? Those representatives had already denounced a bipartisan budget proposal without even reading the bill.

Realize the Tea Party’s goal has been lucid from the start: block governing; do not cooperate. Thus, there are no members of this loud minority in our recently re-branded Serious Generation. Speaker Boehner is hoist on his own petard.

It was just fine for the minority members of his faction-bound party to block governing as long as the result was perceived as damaging Democrats. But now the blowback threatens Republicans in the run-up to next year’s election. So Speaker Boehner does not qualify for membership in our Serious Generation either, as long as he sticks to his own failed strategy now belching backfires.

Here’s the truth: Generation S respects the ebb and flow of power from one party to the other. We know that’s how our system is supposed to work. That’s healthier than absolute power controlled by one faction for too long, and we’ve been around long enough to see it. Here’s the awful truth: While our generation is criticized for hogging resources — the euphemism is entitlements — like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the governing class (generation “G”?) has captured benefits for itself and is aligned with big money to ensure its continuation in power. The bottom line: The evidence is overwhelming. There is no sharing in our economy, only the continuing rise of profits and wealth to the top.

The shame in our economic system is this: When citizens seek their fair share they are immediately branded as liberals demanding redistribution of wealth. It is the vilest conundrum spun by lobbyists to define sharing wealth as socialism.

As the great leader, Mandela, is lauded for his reconciliation and forgiveness, snapshots of poverty in South Africa continue to remain solely of black settlements. As conservative columnists continue to deprecate proposals to raise the minimum wage, more and more Americans fall below the poverty line. Why? Because interrupting the flow of money to the top is anathema to our profit-centered economy.

I’ll let Bob explain it: “It is inevitable that all community values will be tested and measured in economic terms and in a business-like way. However, not all human qualities and personal values have a dollar sign attached to them. Sometimes the right action is not the most cost-effective. Sometimes the smartest choice does not have a price tag. We devalue the human spirit when every human transaction is reduced to a business contract.” — Robert Dacey.

Longmont resident Bill Ellis is the author of “Paradigm Shift.”

reply to contact@billelliswrites.com

Monkeywrenching Elections

Recalls solely because of votes on one issue are an abuse of the system. We have elections to reject candidates that we do not agree with. Almost every legislator has voted against majority public opinion at least once. Gun legislation is supported by the majority of the public nationwide as reported in Monday’s Times-Call and a poll by the conservative Wall Street Journal.

The writer claims that he wants legislators to vote their constituents’ point of view. If this is what the recall supporters wanted, they would not have gone to court to eliminate mail-in ballots. If mail-in ballots were used, the turnout would not have been greater and the outcome likely would have been different. To have public views dominate, you must have as many voters participate as possible.

The writer complained about outside money from Michael Bloomberg. To be fair, he should have recognized the money from the NRA, which can in large part be traced back to gun manufacturers and NRA members from around the country. A visit to Pueblo would have shown trucks with enormous amount of anti-gun law materials, camped in front of big box stores.

The discussion over gun control and gun rights needs to be balanced. I admit that my thinking is somewhat biased because my cousin was murdered by a person with a handgun. As the parent of a deceased son, I am torn with every death of a child.

In the past, the NRA has supported background checks. Why laws that require background checks at stores but not at gun shows? That combination is worse than useless, as it gives the impression that something has been done.

Responsible gun advocates, of whom there are many, talk about keeping guns away from the mentally ill and convicted criminals. How do you do this without background checks that are effective?

There are many responsible gun owners. Their cause can be helped by increasing efforts to have other gun owners train for safety and keep their firearms where children and unstable individuals cannot access them.

I discount claims that gun owners will have their guns taken away even if the carnage continues to increase. Most law enforcement personnel would not participate. Despite my angst around the proliferation of guns that seem to serve little purpose for community members, I do not support taking legitimate guns away from individuals other than from those who commit crimes using a firearm.

As far as promoting recalls for legislators who vote in opposition to their constituents, I assume that is for issues where the majority of constituents have views, if not strongly held convictions, in opposition to a legislator’s vote on any given issue. That will often lead to a situation where the legislator has voted at times with public opinion and times against.

If we want to recall elected legislators, we can start with Rep. Cory Gardner. Cory voted to shut down the government a few months back. He just this month voted against the strongly supported budget compromise. These are not widely popular votes, especially for those who were financially hurt by the shutdown. To quote House Speaker John Boehner, whose remarks were aimed at tea party congressmen such as Mr. Gardner: “Are you kidding me?”

It appears that Mr. Gardner is also opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, which the majority of U.S. voters support. We are not sure, because he and his staff are not providing definitive answers and he has not been consistent about his position.

If, as I surmise, Colorado voters are more worried about disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters in order to find a handful of people voting when they are not entitled to (extremely small examples of voter fraud have been documented in all states that have passed or tried to pass voter suppression laws), then should Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler be recalled?

What about hydraulic fracturing? Should an elected official be recalled if she/he votes in opposition to public desires? Of course that depends on which city or county you live in or whether wells are located close to your home. This could lead to some legislators being recalled for supporting fracking bans and other for opposing fracking bans. In any case, I would be more apt to recall legislators who are not being truthful about this or any other issue.

Local Pastors, Boulder Church Choose Love Over Church Law

Rev. Frank Schaefer - 2013

Rev. Frank Schaefer – 2013

Between us we have over 70 years of ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church. We have faced our share of challenges but have known still more joys within our congregations and communities. Our social justice involvements have been as near as sleeping outdoors in support of homeless youth next door, as far away as fighting apartheid in South Africa, and in many, many struggles for justice and liberation in places in between. During the recent floods in Colorado, we personally felt the concrete blessing of being part of a connectional church that reaches out to support one another and the community. We treasure the power of compassion when 12 million United Methodists worldwide unite to carry the love of God into the world.

At the same time nothing has saddened, embarrassed and angered us more than witnessing United Methodist institutional leaders fall horribly short of implementing Jesus’ call to radical inclusion and love when it comes to our LGBTQ sisters and the brothers. A story recently printed in the Daily Camera (“Church defrocks Methodist pastor for officiating gay son’s wedding” December 19, 2013) provided an accurate account of the painful decades long internal struggle that deeply divides our international church. We are on the side that affirms God loves us all and that we love God best by loving others. Along with hundreds of other clergy and congregations in the United States, we have worked in many ways to help our denomination recognize and correct the sin of its institutional bigotry. We will continue that internal denominational campaign to move from excluding some on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification to cherishing each and every one of us as beloved children of God. This is the work of reconciliation. It is important.

To us, and the members and friends of First United Methodist Church of Boulder, what is even more important than the internal institutional struggles of our denomination, is our commitment to continue living in faithful obedience to the Biblical story of God’s unconditional love for all. Together with our congregation we will do this within the Boulder community and beyond.

This means, first and foremost, that we will continue declaring God’s acceptance of and delight in all of God’s children. It means we hope and expect that the most recent commitment service between two loving women that our congregation blessed this fall will continue in the line of many such celebrations. It means we will continue to open our doors and arms, our hearts and communion table to LGBTQ individuals in just the same way we do to all others. You can count on it.

Undeniably, this is a challenging time for the United Methodist institution. But for First United Methodist Church of Boulder, and for hundreds of clergy and congregations across the United States, we feel anchored in following the path of Jesus, which informs and dictates our actions. Our commitment to living out God’s love in the world blazes as strong as ever.

Rev. Pat Bruns and Rev. Joe Agne
First United Methodist Church of Boulder

Last Refuge

One year ago, incensed and insulted by the culture of guns in this nation which found every possible excuse to rationalize the murders in Newtown, I wrote of the obscenity of the NRA and what it has wrought on behalf of its benefactors, the gun industry. Today, little  if anything has changed as once again the NRA manages to muzzle its opponents.

At one point I considered the option of ceding  the battle to the NRA and opting for a far greater emphasis on intervention from mental health experts. I still believe in this approach, but now as I watch the developing story of yet another schoolboy shoot-up – (Arrapahoe HS in Colorado), my outrage returns again to the culture; the how and why this nation finds itself -alone in the world of developed countries, gripped in the steel hands of a lobbying group, and how fear-mongering, money, lies and outright propaganda have brought us to this shameful state.

The 2nd Amendment has been argued in courts and town meetings, bars and kitchens  for decades. The definition of “Militia” is battered about but finds resolution in the minds of those already decided. Missing in most of these debates are the qualifiers; “Well regulated”. The NRA is MIA in this forum, for what sane person would ever believe that the 300 million or so firearms wandering around are in the hands of any entity reasonably considered “Well regulated”?

It’s time I believe to challenge the NRA. Remembering the words of Samuel Johnson; “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”,  I would argue that by wrapping itself in Old Glory the NRA- along with millions of dollars from the gun industry, has shaped the debate. If any evidence to this claim is needed, recall the words of a mother whose child recently killed himself with a family revolver; “We are proud  gun owners”.  To which I add; “Of a dead child”- a cruel addition which needs to be said, for I am beyond euphemisms.

That many in this country can be easily persuaded (if not brain washed) through the medium of TV is a known fact to those whose task it is to manipulate public opinion. The hundreds of millions spent on TV ads during political campaigns provides ample proof that money can change minds.

The NRA is nothing more and nothing less than a lobbying group. If guns in  America suddenly disappeared, they could as easily turn to supporting the ketchup industry. Their tugs at the heart-strings of those who believe that freedom is protected by a Bushmaster in the hands of a little old lady are obscene lies. If any sober citizen believes that he or she can protect against “Them” coming to take away their weapon, or that their weapon can defend the nation, they should go visit a military base to determine just how much protection that Bushmaster might provide.

One hundred and ninety seven children have been shot and killed since Newtown, most of them with weapons inside the houses of proud gun owners. Perhaps had they been slaughtered en masse a point might have been made and just possibly the NRA might have been gelded. But such was not the case and as the months go by more innocent blood will drip as proud gun owners mourn.

At what point – and how high the count – do proud gun owners realize they are victims of what is probably the most successful scam in this nation’s history? In a Stars and Stripes bedecked NRA convention in 2000, Charlton (Moses) Heston’s famous cry resounded; “They would have to pry it from my cold dead hands”. All very stirring – and equally ludicrous, but a culture shaped by a lobbying group bought it, echoed it, and proclaimed a new mantra. By the way, “They” were never identified,

It’s time for responsible citizens to take back their own security and the safety of their children. Reign in the NRA, demand stiff background checks, limit magazine size and ban assault weapons.

Reflect on Sam Johnson’s words, look into your heart and begin to realize what’s happening to this country we all so dearly love.

Give Peace a Chance


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The U.S. has often resorted to military means as a way of settling disputes with far weaker nations during the last fifty years. Frequently these attacks have been unwarranted as well as violations of international law. U.S. attacks on Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Serbia and Iraq (2003) are a few examples of these illegal conflicts.

We are currently fighting in Afghanistan and illegally using drones to kill in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. After long years of fighting and losing wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is fed up with senseless conflicts. This point was made clear recently by the huge public outcry against illegally bombing Syria.

Besides the millions it killed and the incredible destruction it wreaked on far weaker nations, the U.S. has incurred costs as well. Tens of thousands of U.S, soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. The families of these physically and/or mentally/emotionally wounded veterans continue to pay an enormous and incalculable  price. These unnecessary campaigns cost trillions of dollars, money that could have been far better used domestically to improve the real security of our people. The bottom line is that these wars have been counterproductive, increasing the hatred towards the U.S. and decreasing ours and the world’s security.

Thus it is not surprising at all that there was tremendous public relief here at home and worldwide about the interim agreement negotiated in Geneva and signed on November 24th between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This agreement essentially calls for a short-term freeze on some of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs in exchange for some very limited relief from economic sanctions, including allowing Iran access to a pittance of its own money held in other countries. The goal is a permanent agreement that will greatly reduce the threat to world peace.

Despite widespread relief and praise for the deal, unsurprisingly, there are some hardliners in Iran, the U.S. and Israel who expressed opposition. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was particularly vociferous in his condemnation of the deal, and Israeli officials did not rule out an illegal Israeli attack on Iran during the next six months. Interestingly, Israeli President Peres had a somewhat different reaction. According to a CNN article, Peres said: “This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words.”

Netanyahu and his U.S. Congressional supporters continue to hammer on the disputed idea of an existential threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear weapon. They somehow manage to ignore assessments by U.S., Israeli and British intelligence agencies that Iran currently does not have a nuclear weapons program. This has been the conclusion of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate since 2007 and was reiterated in testimony to Congress in 2011 and 2012. The Estimate said that Iran stopped it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The assessment added that Iran has the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon eventually, making the central issue the political will to do so. Regarding the political will, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.

Numerous U.S. and Israeli military and political leaders think that a military attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and would drive Iran to build nuclear weapons to defend itself. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has compiled many quotes on this point and the insanity of an attack at http://fcnl.org.

One quote from the above site by Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s Mossad, captures the sense of these officials. In a 2011 article he said: “[Attacking Iran is] ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard…It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

If we want to stop another insane, counterproductive, illegal, unwarranted and costly conflict, tell Congress that it must not enact more sanctions on Iran, sanctions that would suggest the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith. Continuing Congressional support of Netanyahu harms U.S. interests.

In the Days Before – Part 4

Mary Pitt

Mary Pitt – age 30

It is easy to recall my days in school as a halcyon time, though the happiness was not, of course, unstained by some coarser events. But that is childhood, is it not? Mother delayed my entry into formal school by a year because, she said, I was ill with some sort of respiratory disease, but I have no memory of being ill. In later days, I teased her, saying that she had had a baby in the house for so many years that she delayed the “empty nest syndrome” as long as possible. This is not to say that I learned nothing in the pre-school years!

My youngest brother started to school when I was only in the toddler stage and, from that time was, like the other boys, spent either in school or working at tasks assigned by my father. This left Mother home alone all day, every day. And she was a garrulous talker, spinning our her stream-of-consciousness verbally in order to banish her own boredom and loneliness. And I had nothing to do but to listen and to absorb her life into my own memory.

I heard tales of adventure as her grandfather strode the decks of a freighter plying the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River as it made its way even deeper into the New World, bringing trade goods to the Indians and returning loaded with valuable furs as the result. He was following his father in the endeavor as did his many brothers and, between them, they established permanent residences and families ashore all along the boundary of what became Canada and the United States.

I heard tales of hardship as her mother accompanied her own husband, first to a logging camp in what would become the state of Washington and then to Oklahoma after the Land Rush where they lived in a “dugout” cabin on the arid plains and where my mother lived her own childhood. She, herself, had known both cowboys and Indians and shared her many memories of her daily life and that of her mother and her older sisters. Every tale was an entertaining movie in my over-active imagination and one which would be acted out in my out-of-door play in the summer.

When the day was over, the door would open and in would troop an assortment of brothers, eager to change out of their school clothes and go outside to do their assigned chores. Later, they would all return, accompanied by Father, to line the long kitchen table and eagerly fill plates with the result of Mother’s afternoon work at the wood-burning cook stove. Mother baked twelve loaves of homemade bread every other day and, on fresh-bread day the aroma would be a great appetite-inducer. There may have been no meat on the table but there would be Navy beans and home-canned vegetables, usually potatoes and, always, white gravy. Gravy was a staple in our diet since Father insisted on it, three meals a day, every day, while praising its “stick-to-the-ribs” qualities.

I do wish I could recall verbatim some of those dinner-table conversations but, fortunately, only snippets remain. If I had ever written anything like them, I would likely have been arrested for writing obscenities. But Mother listened carefully to learn of weather conditions, neighborly chit-chat, and political doings. She, too, was a farmer, being in charge of the gardening, chickens, and turkeys as well as attending to the milk, cream, and eggs that were produced to provide food for the brood.

After supper, all moved about the house, getting settled for homework time. This was my first school! I would move from brother to brother, asking questions and getting answers.

“What are you reading? What does it mean? How do you do that? Show me!” And, bless their hearts, I got real answers! I was shown unfamiliar words, told what they mean, and encouraged to study the letters therein. With my little slate and a short, grubby piece of chalk, I would approach a boy who was working on arithmetic and repeat the demand, “Show me!”

On occasional Saturday nights, our neighbors would show up and get set for a night of card playing. First, I was allowed to keep score for their games of Pitch. That was easy and already within my range of abilities but I yearned to also learn to keep score for Rummy, which required a good deal of multiplication as well as simple addition. I put the heat on my brothers, who obediantly taught me to multiply through the number thirteen!

At that time the school systems were set up according to “townships.” The State was divided by counties which were, in turn, divided into townships and each township maintained a school. These were simple one-room buildings containing desks, a wood-fired heating stove, and either a bell tower or a little hand bell, according to what the district could afford. The first school I attended was in a larger township and had a two-room schoolhouse.

Teachers were hired on a room, board, and tiny salary basis. Almost all were young women and a new teacher created a bit of excitement among the young men of a community! The room-and board were usually contributed by a local taxpayer who had an extra bedroom. Only a dedicated person would have dared accept such an offer but these were hard times and jobs were scarce. During the coldest winters, the teacher was at the school early so that the fire in the big stove would be rekindled the little fingers could be warmed in its glow as the children arrived by whatever mode of transportation was available to them. Sometimes the aroma of a pot of hot soup simmering on the stove would make a warm and welcome addition to the cold sandwiches which were taken from the lunch boxes.

We must remember that, “In the Days Before”, each school was funded only by the property taxes paid by the farmers in that township with no State or Federal assistance whatever. Each autumn, a teacher was confronted with a deluge of children of varying ages and abilities, some prim and proper while others were as wild as little mavericks. She was charged with the task of turning them all into literate young people who would be able to make their way in the world. The miracle was that they were usually successful. Not only did they teach the academics but also congributed some small knowledge of whatever talent they possessed. One teacher might play the piano, another a guitar, and still another would teach awkward little girls to tap-dance!

In short, these miracle-workers brought a finer example of civilization to small offspring of unlearned and largely rough-hewn humanity to the status of up-standing citizens who could function to further build a growing nation into a united entity which could exert great influence on the world. They were over-worked and underpaid and, unfortunately, they still are. We entered our school years as blank slates and departed from them as literate and understanding individuals with a mission to make ourselves and our nation capable of bequeathing to our progeny a better life than we had experienced,

Many of these children would find their education cut short after less than a high school diploma and those early years must of necessity cram a lot of learning into the very young. Many young men were required to assist their parents on the farm and girls could expect to be married by the end if their teens. Few women worked outside the home and those who did not marry young were condemned to clerical work or to teaching, so the small proportion who were able to extend their education became teachers until marriage, so most of the teachers were young. The amazement was that so many of them were excellent, considering that the work was only a stop-gap to support themselves until marriage.

But that was a long time ago. Post World War II, the baby boom brought ever-larger schools and population growth in communities that could not afford to support them all. More Federal aid was channeled to the States as were funds for things like welfare and Medic-Aid for families in need. The nation grew and, of necessity, the government grew to deal with the ever-increasing population. New schools were built and buses provided for the transportation of the children to ever-larger schools. The percentage of high school graduates grew as did that of post-high-school education in the rising number of colleges. We became the best-educated population in the world!

Now we find ourselves governed by those with the money to exert undue influence on our representatives to government. Their battle cry is, “Stop spending! Cut taxes!” The nation is as split as any time since the Civil War as half the States are pursuing those same policies. Schools are being closed, free lunches and food stanmps are cut for hungry children, and the law-makers are talking about the Good Old Days but few of them were yet alive during the conditions that existed before the institution of the very programs that they choose to cut. Our expensive infrastructure is collapsing from neglect while the nation becomes more like “Les Miserable.” Soon, it will be divided between the huge cities with the financial concentration on assuring the super-rich that their lifestyle will not be threatened, and the rest of the country where children, old people, the infirm, and the will serve their local masters until blessed with the delivery of death.

Did the thousands of young men who were my brothers sacrifice their “lives and fortunes” in order to establish this kind of uncaring society. I think not! Will we dishonor The Greatest Generation by turning our national back on those sacrifices as well as those of all the other great patriots in our history to satisfy the desires of those for whom “All” is never “Enough?” That remains to be seen and depends entirely on the degree of sacrifice and dedication that is offered by today’s patriots.

We who remember “The Days Before” are now old, weak, and few. And so, the decision is up to you, the readers, to decide and to do whatever is necessary to stop it!

Stand up and fight, Colorado!

No-fracking-logoOur founders stressed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their Declaration of Independence. A recent survey found the happiest Americans live in Hawaii. Coloradans are second! The unhappiest people live in West Virginia. I think I know why: degradation of the environment and poor health.

I grew up in the 1940s and ’50s in Nitro, W.Va., in the Kanawha River Valley, home to a huge chemical industry. Cancer rates were high, particularly liver and lung cancer. The chemical plants sat outside our city limits, so there was no local control over what they did to our environment. The paint on our houses and cars faded from the chemicals in the air, the water stank and was unpalatable.

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal Courtesy EcoWatch

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal
Courtesy EcoWatch

Alternatives for West Virginia workers included working in the coal mines. Explosions, collapses and “black lung” took their toll. The coal industry has mined the coal easiest to reach, so they’ve begun blowing up the beautiful West Virginia hills to get at the coal. They let what’s left roll down into the streams, fouling the water, killing the fish and causing landslides onto private property.

Why are West Virginians the unhappiest Americans? Their land, air and water have been degraded by corporations seeking profits without regard to the health and safety of their workers and other citizens.

I hope more Colorado residents will join Longmont and Fort Collins in drawing the line in the sand between us and the oil and gas industry: You cannot ruin our beautiful state, destroy our precious, scarce water resources, pollute our formerly pristine air for your profit. You have a right to extract the minerals you have purchased, but not at the expense of the health and safety of present and future Coloradans. Stand up and fight, Colorado!

In The Days Before – Part 3

Mary Pitt at age 14

Mary Pitt at age 14

On a warm early spring, while I was outside playing, Mother called me back to the front porch where she told me that Father had passed away. She told me that there would be a number of people going in and out of the house and she would like me to stay out of the way until she called me in. As was (and is) my wont, I had no reaction except obedience. I walked up the sidewalk into the next block where I met a slightly smaller boy who, upon seeing me, picked up a rock and threw it with great accuracy right into my forehead. I fell to the ground and lay there weeping long after the bleeding stopped. I knew no emotional ties to this fearsome man but I suppose I knew that this would make new and terrible changes to my life.

And those changes were certainly unwelcome. There was a funeral in this little town where we had taken residence, followed by another in the town where my parents had lived for years. There were many strangers to meet and sort as to their relationship, a solemn visit with the one brother who had been able to obtain a “compassionate” leave for the occasion, and much confusion as to where life would take us next.

Mother decided to stay in the house until “things were settled” and then to take the remaining family back to the town where she had friends and relatives. At the funeral, friends and relatives had given her small donations which she carefully hoarded for moving expenses, and she rented two adjoining rooms upstairs to a newlywed couple who were diligent about paying their $10 a month rent so that, by the time the renter had to report to service, she said that she had enough to move. The oldest brother who remained at home had a birthday and he announced that he was enlisting in the Air Force but would wait until he had helped her move.

Life was again uprooted and my mother and two youngest brothers would undergo another settling-in with nothing but faith and optimism. The following year the next oldest brother enlisted and left, being followed the next year by the next younger brother, leaving only the youngest brother, who joined the Navy at only 17. Mother was left alone with only an adolescent daughter to care for and only minimal means of support.

war-ration-book-1_600
We continued, the two of us, living in the house with the five-star flag in the window and endured the rigors of living, not only in extreme poverty but with the added challenges of the war-time restrictions of food and ordinary daily needs. We were getting a reduced allotment from more than one brother in order to lessen the burden on each of them. I still wore second-hand and hand-me-down clothing, as did she. I vividly recall the time she decided that we could afford a rare visit to the cheapest movie house in town. The tickets cost eleven cents each and it was a rare and treasured event.

As we were leaving the movie, she paused in the midst of the pushing crowd, and all eyes searching her for the reason for the delay. There she stood with her under-drawers crumpled up around her ankles. I was feeling humiliated when she kicked them the rest of the way off, put them in her purse, and announced, “Darn that old Hitler! You can’t even get good elastic any more.” We continued proudly out the door to the sound of applause.

My brothers, as young men do, met lovely young women and got married. In turn, each asked Mother to forgo her allotment from him, to which Mother gladly agreed. Each time, we had to move to smaller and less expensive living quarters. Only one time did either of us have a serious illness and it was a trial. She became ill and the doctor told her that she had an obscure disease which he did not know how to treat. Being poor, hospital treatment was out of the question. She took to her bed and remained there for several weeks with no care other than what I could provide under the direction of the doctor who would stop in to check on her and to give me instructions

I gave up the upstairs bedroom and slept in the living room so I could hear her at night, eventually, staying home from school to care for her. She became delirious from the fever and required constant attention.

Finally, thinking Mother was dying, one of the brothers got a leave and came home to see her “one last time.” It was not the help I needed. He took me to task because the house was not adequately maintained and provided even more tasks, as I was also charged with cooking for him and his small family. His emergency leave ran out and they departed, so I continued caring for Mother until the morning she woke up lucid and demanding breakfast!

As time went on, older members of the family would turn to Mother for help. Because they were working on farms where a house was given as part of the wages, when they lost their jobs, they would have to live elsewhere. While with us, they would take any temporary employment they could find, but it was never enough. But Mother would pinch every dollar even harder and managed to keep children and grandchildren fed. First my sister and then a brother brought their child to us for them to attend school because, living in the country — before there were school buses — the walk was too far for a six-year-old to navigate alone.

The last of these events was when we were living in a one-bedroom house and another brother decided it was necessary to “come home.” Unfortunately, he brought his wife and four kids! Mother slept on the couch so that they and their youngest could have the bedroom. The rest of us slept on pallets of folded bedding on the floor.

My brother was still recuperating from the diphtheria that had cost him his job and it was a long time before he could find work that he could do. After a while, it seemed as though we were living with them! Mother finally informed them that the rent on the house was $15 per month and she had found us a one-bedroom apartment above a store downtown. We moved out and left them there. It was nice to have a bed again.

As more brothers married and cut off the allotments to Mother, money became more scarce than ever. Mother got a part-time job, altering clothes for a women’s store. She made a dime for measuring and sewing a hem, maybe twenty-five cents for alterations, etc., certainly not enough to live on but still welcome in her budget. I also got a job, washing dishes on weekend evenings in a tiny cafe downstairs from our apartment. I was allowed to keep the quarter I was paid each week for mad money!

I shall never forget my fifteenth birthday. Birthdays had never been celebrated in our home, just sort of a family reunion in July near Father’s birthday when we were on the farm. Mother would kill and dress a couple of young chickens to fry, and mix up milk and eggs for a freezer full of home-made ice cream. I recall it as the epitome of our familial happiness. This birthday, however, was an awesome surprise. Mother took me downtown to buy me a pair of shoes, not to the usual second-hand store but to J.C. Penney’s! To my delight, she allowed me to choose a pair of white gillie-tie shoes with the toes out! Then she said that we needed to go to the dress shop where she worked. I floated down the street in my beautiful shoes and into the door of the shop. There, she presented me with a new two-piece blue dress in the height of fashion! This was the first “store-bought-just-for-me” dress I had ever owned in my entire life!

Only over these many years have I really appreciated that gift as I came to understand the horrendous sacrifices and scrimping she had undergone to provide it to me. How many hems she had to stitch, how many seams she had to take in or let out and what she had done without in order to save that much money! It took many years of experience in scrimping and saving for something special for me to really appreciate her heroic efforts.

Today’s people may read of the circumstances of those days but they cannot be expected to truly understand them. It is possible to survive without welfare, Social Security, and medic-aid, but to those forced to live without them, there is a whole lot of miserable existence which only the heroic among us can survive. I lived in “The Days Before” and I know whereof I speak. I can recall as a small child asking my mother, “Why can’t we live in the days of fairy tales? Princesses lived in castles with beautiful things and had servants to do all the work.”

Mother’s reply was succinct and spoken with the wisdom of the ages, “What makes you think that, if you had lived in those days, YOU would be the princess and not the servant?”

America is Dying (But don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger)

SamSkull“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~~Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968), Strength to Love, 1963

Over the years I have written many articles about issues I felt are prevalent. For damn good reasons I have sounded the alarm bell for most of my life. And, for those who have paid attention and have answered the call to action while others have not, our country truly thanks you. For the rest of you, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that in your absence, we have given it our best and we’ll continue to do so, regardless of your silent ineptness, but don’t blame me when I say our country is dying. I’m only the messenger, not the culprit.

Many of my essays on a variety of topics are published at OpEd News. All I can suggest for those who keep their heads buried in FOX News sand — either get wise, get active, or get busy digging a big grave for our national corpse.

If you want a great example of what it means to selflessly give part of yourself to society, a few years ago I wrote an essay honoring my parents, both whom were mavericks for hope and change. This tribute piece was the hardest thing I will ever attempt to write in my lifetime. When I submitted it to Consortium News back in 2008, editor-in-chief Robert Parry wrote a sobering introduction to the article — one that I consider a prime example of where I came from in the activist role-model department:

“Editor’s Note: One of the cruelest acts ever inflicted by the U.S government on its own servicemen was a 1946 experiment that put 42,000 sailors in close proximity to the detonation of two atom bombs to test the effects on humans.”The experiment, called Operation Crossroads, harmed the health of many sailors. It also was a turning point in the life of one, Anthony Guarisco, who dedicated his life — working with his wife Mary — to address the threat of nuclear weapons. In this guest essay, their son, Vincent, pays tribute to his parents and what they gave to him and to the world.

Moreover, I want to take a moment to share the value I place on being a worthy parent. It is after all our job to raise our children — the next generation — the best we can to ensure they have enough knowledge at their disposal to thrive in a world that although it offers much joy and beauty, is often laced with danger at every twist and turn. Their success (and survival) of our children is much greater if we adequately prepare them now for the road ahead.
At the starting gate, I guess I was luckier than most. I had an advantage at birth. I was lucky enough to have wise and loving parents. Looking back, I now know they were my lighthouse, my trusty compass … because they were always there to provide us kids with the essential knowledge and wisdom that gave us safe passage in a vast sea filled with many ripples with each crashing wave.

I wish I could say their life experience ended on a perfect note, but that would be untrue. My parents knew a terrible storm was gathering on the national horizon — much like the one that is building up today. They often spoke of this pending disaster that lay in wait (in the shadows) for just the right time to unleash its hell with ramifications in line with George Orwell’s 1984.Who can blame them for being skeptical of what the future had in store? Especially when we consider that both of them grew up during the great depression, both witnessed the attack of Pearl Harbor, WWII with atom bombs bursting in air and two Presidential assassinations as their horrid history lessons.
I guess my parents found other clues, having devoted most of their time studying history, current events and actively performing social activism that took them around the globe. They say some wounds cut deepest when they’re personal. For them, it was heartbreaking to accept that, while they worked overtime to help the sick and vulnerable in our society, most folks sat on the sidelines doing nothing.

Therefore, a question begs an answer — why do so many do-nothing squatters think “freedom” is free? As history has taught us many times over, tyrants will always try to dominate society in every aspect imaginable, and without hesitation, will always slap a “price tag” on it. If you think otherwise, quickly slap yourself in the face and wake the hell up!

It takes a lot of hard work and courage to step up to the plate and get the job done. With love, intuition and a little weariness, my parents did their best to prepare my sister and I for the many challenges that lie ahead. They knew empty minds are easily manipulated, so they taught us history and pushed education, which they believed was the foundation for creating a better, peaceful society and nation.

They did their best to prepare us for the many obstacles that life can surely put in front of us, and they also included some useful survival techniques to help us avoid many nefarious pitfalls often created by psychopathic individuals working in unison for the global elites. They held nothing back; they told us everything good or bad that we may have to face in life … and I must admit I learned my lessons well. Because, when the inside job of 9/11 occurred and afterward when the same hateful neocons fabricated the bogus War on Terror, I was neither surprised nor fooled; even when many other terrible events later reared their ugly heads for all the world to see.

Early on, I was made aware that most politicians will eagerly kiss your baby at any election photo Op, but afterward … will throw the little tot in the fire of hell (as they steal their future) to serve their own selfish goals. Being armed with the truth is not always pleasant, but I was taught to be a critical thinker and read between the lines so I would not be fooled or manipulated into doing anything that I knew in my heart was against the high principles of my beliefs. In addition, I was taught to redirect my energy and knowledge into positive ways to create a meaningful life not only for myself, but for those around me. However, my father also warned me that if I ever found myself boxed into a corner in harm’s way with no peaceful way out, to be a fierce fighter and defeat my opponent(s) at all cost. Words to live by…

Fast forwarding to today, I know the hard knocks of life are getting tougher with each passing day. Indeed, it’s not getting any easier to decipher truth from lies nor is this heavy burden getting any lighter to carry as we try to keep our heads above the waterline. I understand many folks are woefully confused as to what exactly is going down here, so let me clarify the severity of the situation by offering my synopsis. For those who do not pay attention, It’s a bleak version of the worst-case scenario. Sorry, If you want it candy-coated, go elsewhere…

Listen up. While most of us were fast asleep, the nature of mankind has become disproportionately twisted and has immorally ordered its political sentinels to serve only a select few at the top 1% of the food chain. Thus, a primary method of control has been achieved through violence, oppression, murder and genocide. This applies both at home and abroad. Indeed, other nations the world over are paying the price whenever our leaders desire to crush them for this or that.

Thus, at home we are thoroughly being groomed, brainwashed and inseminated with a barrage of psychological head trips, vicious physical assaults with a mixture of false-flag terrorist acts, including but not limited to, soft-kill tactics in all sectors of psy-Op covert action deployment. Eventually, if we do not stop it, we’ll all become sick, docile and compliant as they would love to reduce our living standards to those comparable to a large third-world prison. It’s the same life-diminishing trick our CIA has been doing to the other nations for decades.

Do the math. Seven billion souls on the planet has been deemed “far too many,” so the elites want to drastically reduce this number to a more manageable amount (perhaps a few hundred million). The hard kill plan is already in motion in most third world countries, and like a thief in the night, it will eventually land here in the U.S. For now though, they’re still using the “soft kill” approach by adding fluoride to our already polluted water supply which already contains mercury, lead and a host of chemicals, all of which are carcinogenic killers from all the fracking. Plus, we are also being fed harmful Genetically Modified Food (GMO) in virtually every food product we consume. Unless of course you have the money to buy all organic.

And don’t forget, we are still receiving our daily dose of radiation exposure from all the fallout drifting over from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. Yes, even though that little goodie fell off the news media map, we are still getting exposed every minute of every day. Quick pop quiz: Raise both hands high in the air if you know someone who is dying of cancer? Golly gee, so many hands extended my way! Now bow your head with your hands extended. Wow! Am I a God or what? Just kidding…

After that, it only gets worse: After the great culling, the rich 1% elites will completely enslave those of us who survive to a life of hard labor factories, and we’ll be worked to the bone until our bodies eventually give out. Thus, we’ll all be slaves to the grave within the construct of our own mundane borders … unless of course some of us are deemed “enemy combatants.” In that case, we will be quickly black-bagged and hauled off to Guantanamo (or imprisoned elsewhere via their extraordinary rendition policy) and forced to dance on a crate with wires attached to our teeth and testicles while some picture-taking gulag goon slowly cranks the handle on a generator just for shits and giggles.

Or — best case scenario — we will simply be placed in cages to rot … or if any of you desire, you can participate in one of the many hunger strikes that are always ongoing. Then, you get to watch your body slowly feed on your own flesh and organs until you eventually perish as a razor-thin skeletal corpse with little meat remaining. Nice, huh?

Yes, we’re in serious trouble! We’re not quite there yet, but all the preparations are almost in place … In fact, when we consider how our lives have drastically changed in just the last 13 years, we will soon realize how intense control-freak obsession can be: to track, monitor and record virtually everything we do.

I mean seriously, are we that damn stupid to merrily get into cars equipped with automated license-plate readers that track where we go? Do you think it’s A-OK that we have smart meters tracking our electrical use or that we walk the streets with a vast network of security cameras and “smart street lights” constantly watching our every step? Do you blindly accept tens of thousands of drones patrolling the air space, spying on us? Think about it — those same drones can zero in on a gnat’s ass and are highly equipped to kill in a variety of ways.

Will you comply when the TSA sets up “internal checkpoints” all over the nation, comparable to what the Soviet Union did during the Soviet Block? Do you accept Homeland Security encouraging all of us to report any (loosely defined) “suspicious activity” on our neighbors so the federal government can flag us as “potential terrorists” if we display a hint of nervousness? I would also mention this is happening at a time when all of us “should be very nervous.”

Will you quietly let the U.S. Military kick down your neighbors’ doors and shove black bags over their heads and indefinitely detain them without ever charging them of a crime whatsoever? To know they will never be afforded due process of law in order to defend themselves against some non-existence crimes they supposedly committed?

What happened? I thought this was the home of the brave and land of the free! Why do we seem content to roll over for this crap? For some time now, I have seen this fundamental shift quickly escalate. I have watched my fellow citizens eagerly give-up huge swaths of liberty and freedom in exchange for vague promises of increased security. Why? Have we lost all common sense along with our druthers?

If we don’t break away from the shackles of corporate fascism and state-sponsored intrusion, that big country-size prison I mentioned earlier will materialize. Thus, like any prison, capital punishment is a reality. A noose can easily be applied, the lever pulled, and a free-fall will commence for that final snap and jerk.

The primary objective of any tyrannical government is to exercise absolute control — to conquer the subjugated populace. For now, it’s mostly about keeping the revenue stream generated by lop-sided trade agreements and myriad forms of taxes imposed on individuals with the Internal Revenue Service collecting the wares for their foreign investors. The Federal Reserve will keep everyone in debt with their worthless fiat money and conduct on-demand inflation until they’re given the green light to crash the system.

Welcome to the “Big Brother” Orwellian prison matrix, a Homeland Security, CIA, NSA, FBI prison playground, where jackboots rule the nest. Truth is, were already walking the green mile. It’s just that far too many of us are too dumbed-down to know it.

This is the truth my parents could not bring themselves to tell their children. Deep down, they hoped we could stop them. But that hope is quickly dwindling away. I guess that is why my mother (before she died) often told me to cherish each moment. Unfortunately, as bad as I think it is now, in reality, these are the good days…

Author’s Bio:

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back. For replies, contact: vincespainting1@hotmail.com

Pawns Are Always Expendable When Played

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to
pick up the piece and move it. But what Chess teaches you is that
you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really
a good idea and whether there are other
better ideas.”~~Stanley Kubrick

Chess is a crafty old game — one that’s been played throughout the ages. When I was a young lad in my Junior year of High School, I was quite good at it. In fact, I became my school champion. Indeed, I wanted to be the next grand-master like my mentor, “Bobby Fischer.”

In 1974, Fischer’s match against the Russian Spassky was seen as the Match of the Century — East v. West. Soon after, Fisher resigned from chess after a bout with the body politic. It was then that I realized a simple game that I adored could be exploited for political reasons. In 1992, Bobby came out of exile to replay Spassky in Yugoslavia. This outraged some Americans (but not me) as it was declared a breach of a bogus UN embargo. Evading arrest, in July 2004, he successfully got political asylum in Iceland. He remained there until his death in 2008. May the champ rest in peace…

Whew, youthful days can be so innocent, but soon we realize the world operates in nefarious ways…

Chess was first invented in India during the 6th Century, and has since been played around the world over. It’s safe to say that, although the concept of this complex game is a metaphor for various situations, no one can deny that the object of the game — in terms of winning — is to take out the opponent’s “king” at the expense of all other pieces placed on its checkered layout. In essence, it’s a military game. And, as I later learned in life — and I’m sure Fischer would agree if he was with us today — it’s a shrewd game at best.

Since its invention, game pieces have assumed many colors, shapes and sizes and it’s startling to say, chess pieces take on actual human form. It’s not my intention to be cynical in making this comparison but, in lieu of all the present-day wars being fought, and when we consider the many Generals who callously move their battle lines from side to side in the war room (on a big grand chessboard), I think it’s only fitting that we place a real human face on each one of those lively figurines made of flesh, blood and bone.

Indeed, our military-industrial complex has some very busy players. Aside from all the carnage we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq, in 2002, Washington approved and supported a coup against the Venezuelan government which continued non-stop until Hugo Chavez died of cancer in 2013. Who can blame him for noting on his deathbed that he believed he was infected with cancer cells by U.S. Special Ops?

In April 2008, the United States collaborated with Israel to attempt a coup on Hamas in Palestine, even though Hamas was dully elected by the people in a fair democratic election process that was closely monitored. And, although the United States has had an ongoing interest in Somalia for decades, in early 2006 the CIA was sent back in for a fresh round of more covert actions.

In 2005, then President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to undertake black operations against Iran in an effort to destabilize the Iranian government. This covert policy continues unabated today under the directives of the Obama Administration.

In 2011, Obama issued covert action that authorized the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and support to the Libyan opposition. Muammar Gaddafi was ultimately overthrown in the Libyan civil war, which we started and supported. And, In 2012, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. government agencies to support forced regime change in Syria. This covert action is ongoing, with Israel conducting fresh bombing campaigns daily.

In fact, with all the hostility we seem to love to create, I can honestly say that this ancient game that I call “chess for keeps”… is reason enough for me to exercise my God-given right to make a symbolic request for all those poor souls who were duped into war and have been destroyed. If I could ask the Highest Deity for one small favor, one simple concession — it would be that all politicians who support or voted in favor of going to war — including the Generals who think it’s cool to play God with human lives on their chessboard of death via covert action or otherwise — that they attend each soldier’s funeral and look into the eyes of each family member and explain to them why their loved ones are dead! I say let them experience the pain and suffering of having your life ripped apart forever.

Remember when I mentioned earlier it would be fitting to place a real human face on those lively figurines made of flesh and bone? Well, here’s one worth mentioning. In his own words, here is an excerpt from a sobering letter written by Mr. Tomas Young:

The Last Letter
“A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

“To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

“From: Tomas Young

“I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

“I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all–the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.”

Young went on to say…

“You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.”

To read Young’s letter in its entirety, click here.

Yes, chess and war are both strati-graphic and strategic, but the end result of war is no game. It’s f*cking deadly — cut and dried. Pawns and People are one and the same, and both are considered expendable. Thus, only a king will survive unscathed… and the only ones who benefit are the shrewd patent holders selling their heartless war game (along with their investors) who always seem to cash in at the expense of everyone else.

Sadly, war will always be big business to those soulless bastards we often write songs about. In fact, here’s classic by Black Sabbath, “War Pigs.”

Let’s do a “Sing-A-Long,” shall we? Here’s the lyrics:

Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of death’s construction

In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh lord yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor
Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait ’til their judgment day comes
Yeah!

Now in darkness world stops turning
Ashes where the bodies burning
No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgment, God is calling
On their knees the war pig’s crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh lord yeah!

Author’s Bio:

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back.

In the Days Before – Part 2

farmgirl_mary_pittLeaving the farm, for an eleven-yer-old girl who was accustomed to leaving the house at will and roaming the pastures and fields in the company of a pair of vigilant collie dogs, was not an easy transition. After the one-room schoolhouse, the school was huge and strange. There were more children in my classroom than had been in our entire school in the country. And they were all strangers! But I was a child and was maleable as children are known to be. I could endure the strange looks as the other girls looked carefully over my home-made and hand-me-down clothes since I had become accustomed to that and I soon developed my own life around the constraints of living so closely with other people.

It was much less easy for my poor mother. She had no help except for what the children could provide. Granted, she had running water and the old wood-fired cook stove was replaced by a “modern” gas range. The washing machine was now powered by electricity instead a gasoline engine, but the clothes still had to be hung on the lines outdoors. Our father had up taken residence in the downstairs bedroom and demanded many trips a day to provide for his needs. Yet she managed and the meals always appeared on the old kitchen table at the right time.

Mother found a neighbor who came and plowed the garden which the boys then worked with rakes and shovels to create arable soil so she could plant the garden and she continued with the unending work schedule that she had known all her life. Father’s condition continued to deteriorate but Mother found that a doctor who lived in the neighborhood would look in on him to guide her in his care.

Eventually, the doctor began providing medications in order to keep Father sedated in his moments of forgetful delusion. Then he started asking to be paid and Mother had no money! I recall going with her to talk to a man about “getting on the county”, which is what welfare was called in those days. There was a “county farm” but it was only for old folks who worked in large gardens and cared for animals in return for their “keep,” but there was no accomodation for families with children.

We walked downtown to the “land office” where we were ushered into a back office occupied by a man such as I had never seen. He was grossly fat, wearing a white shirt and three-piece brown suit with the vest stretched tightly across his opulent belly and decorated with a shiny gold watch chain. This man acted as if it were his own money for which we were begging. I could sense Mother’s humiliation but she bore up under his condemning gaze and he finally agreed to provide a few dollars to pay the doctor so that he would continue to assist in Father’s care. But we were to meet that man again!

Yet, there were incidents when the medications were insufficient. I remember being wakened in the middle of one night to the sound of a loud ruckus taking place downstairs. I crept cautiously down the stairs with visions of robbers and thieves invading us. As I opened the stair door and peeked out the panorama spread before me was even worse than I expected. There was Father, in the middle of a delusion, standing at the front door and trying to open it. (I had never known that Mother had previously locked the door with a key in case of just such an event.) Three of the boys were trying to help her to control him when she asked, “What were you trying to do?”

His response was firm and commanding. “I’m going to run up and down the street naked and show the neighbors what a crazy man can do!”

This was the state of the family when the next crisis fell. My youngest brother, then no more than sixteen, came home with a bad stomach ache which grew worse all night and required Mother to sit with him all night to soothe him when the pain grew unbearable. The next morning, she called our neighbor/doctor who came by for an examination and declared that it was a severely inflamed appendicitis which should be taken to surgery on an emergency basis.

Mother put on her Sunday hat and we once again walked downtown to apply for country assistance. The fat man listened very briefly before explaining that he could not pay for the work to be done in the hospital which was “only” twenty miles away and would require payment. However, they could pay for transportation to Kansas City where the State charity hospital was located.

We went home and Mother dressed my brother and had another brother drive the old car to take them to our local train station. They got the invalid onto the train and then she was on her own. They traveled sixty miles to the east where there was a railroad junction and she had to take a taxi through that town to the other station to wait for the Kansas City train. There was still almost a hundred miles to go with stops at every little town along the way. Other pasengers helped her by keeping her supplied with damp cloths with which to soothe his fever until the destination was reached the next morning.

I have no idea how this little lady was able to help this tall, gangly, helpless adolescent from the train to a taxi but they were brought to the admitting room of the hospital. A brief examination by an intern preceded a quick trip to surgery where they found a ruptured appendix with inflamation spread throughout the internal organs, all due to the delay in getting him to treatment. Mother received the news that her son would live but recuperation would be slow, beginning with a two-week stay in the hospital.

But this was in “the days before.” There was certainly no Ronald McDonald House and she had no money. She didn’t question it but she spent that two weeks sitting in a chair in a ward full of ailing teen-aged boys, ministering to them as needed until the nurses would arrive to attend to them. At last the two weeks were up and she was given instructions for home care and he was released. She had saved the last bit of cash that the fat man had given her, called a taxi, and repeated the return trip in the same way.

With the hindsight of many years, I can only imagine the strength it took for this aging farm lady to embark on such an ordeal. She, who had at times spent multiple years without ever seeing a town, much less a large city, finding the courage to begin such a trying hegira, not only alone, but with the life of one of her offspring hanging in the balance. But she got home, safely, and with her remaining brood around her. And so she changed Father’s bed and did the laundry before she went to bed!

This is the life that those who complain so loudly about “wasteful government spending” would impose on yet another generation of American citizens so that they can play the part of the fat man and make sure that nobody who suffers misfortune ever gets quite what they need. Returning to :”the days before” would not only be wrong; it would be both criminal and sinful.

In the Days Before

Sharecropper

Farmers paid $100 per year plus a share of the crop for the privilege of occupying the land.

History and legends are rife with tales of “Old Crones” who educated the people and the leaders of nations in their search for further civilization by telling them the stories of what had gone before in their history. This writer has reached that stage in life where I am ready and willing to accept the title of “Old Crone” and to try to educate our people of “the days before”, in this case specifically, of the days before many of the political and social programs which affect our lives today. Today, my story will be about what life was like for many in the days before some of taken-for-granted social programs of today.

I was born in 1930, during the administration of Herbert Hoover and in the early days of the famous Dust Bowl, to parents who were already elderly by the standards of the day. They already had eight children and had lost one in infancy. My father was a farmer and they reared their family on eighty acres of rented farmland as had their own families before them. I can remember the 1936 elections and my father’s ire at the successes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He hated government and resented any intrusion of said government into what he had considered the business of private persons.

Father paid $100 per year plus a share of the crop for the privilege of occupying the land. The money for the landlord had to be saved by pennies and nickels throughout the year to avoid having to move to another property the following year, so hard cash was very hard to come by. Therefore, all the household support was accomplished by my mother. She would plant huge gardens of vegetables which were canned in glass jars and stored in the storm cellar for use all year. Any patches of native fruits and berries were harvested and processed into the jars for winter consumption.

She kept chickens, laying hens that would provide the eggs which were carefully cleaned and boxed for transport to town to get enough cash to purchase the basic food which was our fare. A large box of eggs and a couple of gallons of cream from our cows would buy a huge box of oatmeal, a can of lard, and a 24-pound sack of flour for the bread which was our staple. On a good week, we could also afford a pound of oleomargarine, the kind that had to have the coloring removed from the packet and stirred into the glob of white goo which substituted for butter. Only occasionally was there a nickel left to buy a bit of sugar to sweeten the fruit or, wonder of wonders, to bake a cake.

When Roosevelt established the Work Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corp, we worried that Father would die of apoplexy! A married older brother with a family went to work for the WPA and another brother joined the CCC. At last, there was a bit of cash in the household. And then, to Father’s horror, the farm commodities began to be distributed, “forcing” the families of farmers to “eat from a tin can.”

In the summer, Father and the boys would contract to bale hay for farmers with larger acreage. Some of that work was for cash while some was for a share of the bales, which could be sold to accumulate cash toward the annual rent. In the hardest years, there would not be enough cash income from the contracting and the sale of other crops to cover the $100 rent. Fortunately, since Father was such a good farmer with so many mouths to feed, the landlord was often lenient and accepted only the share. It was hard, energy-sapping work and people just wore out at a much younger age than they do now.

When Father was only 60 years old, he began to suffer more from his chronic cough and there would be days that he would spend the day in the house, worrying aloud….very loud! On many occasions, due to the hard work and the vagaries of nature, he had suffered from severe pneumonia for extended periods and his cough had worsened each time. There were doctors at that time but even they were limited in what medicines or procedures were available. Even if the doctors had the capabilities and the knowledge of today, the poor had no money and would lie-in at home until nature took its course.

In 1940 another of the older brothers left home. Since there was no work locally, he joined the Navy, so he would not be available for the next haying season but, somehow, we made it through. Then Pearl Harbor happened and our whole world turned upside-down. The oldest brother who was left at home went to the county seat and enlisted in the Army. This left only three brothers at home, not enough to do all the work, much less to compensate for Father’s lessened abilities.

There was no choice but to sell out what we owned on the farm and move into town. Being still a child, I was more concerned with losing all the friends when the animals had to go to new homes, but there were more serious concerns than that. Later in life, in going through Mother’s papers, I came across the accounting from the auction of all my parents’ worldly goods. With the sale of every animal, every piece of farm equipment, and all the appurtenances that went with them, their “lifetime savings” amounted to slightly over $600!

My mother has always been my hero, and she proved it then. She rented a house in our small town and moved in with three almost-adult boys, an elementary-school daughter, and a dying husband and she made us a home! The brother who was in the Army arranged for her to be given $15 a month as a “family allotment.”  This amount covered the rent with nothing left for food. The brother in the Navy had married and his allotment was going to his wife. The two older sons who were at home did find part-time work around town, as helpers in various shops, and contributed their earnings to the family.

You may ask, “Why didn’t she go on welfare or apply for SSI for your father?” The answer is simple. That was in “The Days Before!” When you hear the politicians complain about needing to “reform entitlements,” and you know that their aim is merely to end them, be sure to watch for my next article about what life was like in the days when there were no entitlements or other assistance for the poor.

Celebrating Colorado Civil Unions!

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) applauds Colorado’s new Civil Unions Act and alongside our longtime community partner, Out Boulder, will participate in the celebration, at midnight on May 1st. As part of the festivities, happening at the Boulder County Clerk’s office at 1750 33rd Street, FUMC will be offering blessings for interested couples and their families.

FUMC is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.” Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

In the spring of 2012 Reverend Pat Bruns made news by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender. Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“I am simply delighted that our Colorado Legislature has approved Civil Unions,” say Bruns. “This is an important next step to full marriage equality in our beloved state. We have enough ways to kill, hurt and terrify people in our nation and in our world. Right now we need ways to love one another, to embrace each and every one of us as beloved children of God. All relationships anchored in love, loyalty and commitment need to be celebrated! Loving relationships are a gift to us all and to all creation.”

FUMC member, Melissa Preston Vaughn made this statement when asked what the new Civil Unions Act means to her and what it might mean to others:

“For the LGBT community, the idea of ‘marriage’ or anything that resembles a publicly and legally recognized affirmation of our love is something that is so foreign to us. Standing together, family and friends close by, hands held tightly, hearts pounding, lumps in the throat forming, and then signing both names to a piece of paper that will forever mark time and change lives is something we’ve only dreamed about. The emotion and experience will be nothing short of sacred. God, I’m sure, is pleased that we are finally figuring this out… that love is love.”

Boulder County couples are invited to contact FUMC Boulder prior to April 30th or simply introduce themselves during the festivities, if they feel inspired to have their union blessed.

Pastor Bruns is thrilled about the Out Boulder event saying, “I can hardly wait for midnight May 1st. The opportunity to bless Civil Unions and to consecrate these wonderful partnerships will be a marvelous privilege. I am certain that God smiles when we surround loving relationships with our own love, support, affirmation and welcome.”