Monday, June 12, 2017

From the Quill: Why I Love June

A couple weekends ago, I was feeling a particular delight in the wonderful late-spring weather, and on impulse sent a note to my retired nurse-friend:
Yesterday evening, first night of June, there was still enough blue in the sky at nine o'clock, that Maxfield Parrish would immediately have set up his canvas and begun capturing the sight and sense forever… especially for the cold months, and shriveled days. It was tinted something like this:

…and is part of what I was crowing about earlier: no bugs to speak of (excluding teeny ants and a few fat flies), no blazing heat; lovely sky with only puffs of happy cloud…
Given the choice of when I die, I'd select mid- to late April, with all the blooming trees, and the full return of light to days. Second choice, I would be the very beginning of June, I think now, with fingers crossed against the chance of too-much heat.
You know my big heart, sometimes helpless and hopeless, and always given to dream and trust even today, despite scarring and scoring, bruise and betrayal. It's alive and well!
The summer after Beej and I separated – 1986 – I was burned up and left for ash by a powerful, two-month relationship. Torie could have been a model, looking like then- Ally Sheedy on one of Ally's very-best days (less jut to chin, and much more permed, thick hair). We'd met each other at a dance in April, fell out of touch awhile, as she gave her failing marriage one last futile try.
We got back in touch – probably Torie with me – and on the last day of May, drove up from northwestern Virginia up into western Maryland, ditched another dance, and took a long, secluded walky-talky to see where we wanted to go on the inside. Midnight found us in a perfect movie scene: full moon above, thick moonshadow cast on us by the lush trees in that community park, and standing on a wooden bridge over a whispering creek. There in my arms, Torie's eyes widened at moon and shadow and stars and couldn't-ever-be-better ambience, and she gasped in wonder, "You planned this!" And I smiled, innocently sharing her wonder, and wished I could take credit for the moon, as I wrote years later, looking back.
And midnight made it the first of June, of course. The summer quickly became all ours (and our children's, yes), and ultimately – as I said – the flame between us roared into a mighty blaze that burned me up completely (and burned Torie out completely). Almost no ash was left when, two months later, I found my arms and life empty again, head spinning and heart sore and reeling.
I love June because sometimes it spurs the muse; the month that escorts us into summer, and paints storybook weddings… also gives great sweeps of life to fill the grandest canvas – be it with palette, once-blank paper, musical instrument of choice, wood and marble and chisel.
I was years healing from the near-bottomless intensity of dating lovely Torie. To this day (and there's absolutely no way it was thirty-one years ago), I can't say I regret a moment spent with her, though I see areas where a little fuel should have been withheld from the flame.
One of my avenues of catharsis – as you patiently know – is writing it out. And if it's the heart being cathartized and cauterized, then the finished canvas is filled with verse. If there were a market for modern poetry, I'm ready to publish at least three books of verse; one would be called Verses to a Ghost… I wrote many about her as I healed.
Ten years after our golden summer, in mid-September, as summer '96 was about to be rolled up and put away until after spring of '97, I took up pencil and once-blank book, and wrote:
Verse #37 to a Ghost: Endless Summer:  When Time Stood Still
Each person, I’m sure, carries deep inside
      – almost safe –
A heart and home of many doors;
      behind the doors, their private rooms;
And in the corners and cupboards and closets
      are special precious boxes
      holding letters, pressed flowers, smiles, tears.
(Some hinges fuse, rust shut;
        some, well-worn, slide smoothly;
        some rooms bear no doors at all – )
We carry within us sweet moments or eras
      frozen in time:
Ageless lovers, gentle hands, skillful dancers.
We bring along, inside, unforgotten places,
      realms of rain and moon and sun and star.
We close our eyes (or open), and hear long-gone sounds
      of music, whisper, ocean, thunder, embrace.
We never forget, nor leave long aside, each tender touch:
      caress of skin, surge of love, leap of faith.
These are things that feed our souls,
      that build our lives, and make us real;
These are our refuge, our comfort, our hope;
      our beacon, our surcease, our dream.
These are all I have, sometimes, or can hold,
      when the silence or solitude floods my valley;
Each memory and touch and realm and voice,
      though frozen, is rich with warmth and life,
      ...and some are quite wealthy indeed.
Here, in these pages, this box, this corner, this room;
      behind unknobbed door on well-spun hinges,
I still feel her lips and hear her laugh,
      hold her close, feel her silken skin,
      smell her perfume and move deep inside her
– Ever less, I know, ever fading, ever long ago;
      oft forgotten, far, remote, yesterloved.
Even now those warm days and steaming nights
      are near-unreal, clutching me no longer.
Yet I think there is a land of Summer:
At times I still can hear it
      through closed doors, shuttered windows,
      over forgotten paths and distant hills behind me,
I still can hear it,
      whispering in cherished voices,
      caressing with old yet freshened fingers,
      singing clear notes of songs dim-recalled,
Walking yet behind me
      (away? approaching?)
      almost touching me
            with love...
...It was the endless Summer
For me the ’leventh Wonder
A Spell I’d fallen under
The Dream without a slumber
Did I mention that I like June?
Christ loved us and washed us clean of our sins by His blood, and made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father. — Revelation 1:5-6
Either one of my astute readers, when they wander back to this teeny blog at some point, might recognize the heart-parallel with another summer girlfriend, sweet-and-sassy Jane, 1979. And there are some others, of course; this human heart by reflex swims best in the deep end of the pool, and so my life and heart and summers have been blessed by a handful – an armful – of wondrous swim-companions.
PS: As always, unless I say otherwise, my writings – verse, meditations, maudlin meanderings, and so on – are mine. Feel free to read… but not to take; that's not nice. And I've got the originals, the drafts, the backstory… and the rights. I may someday publish; who knows?
Please pardon my disclaimer though… and enjoy your June. See you in the pool!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pro Patria

Memorial Day, here in the U.S. (and among expats just about everywhere else), is a day set aside to honor fellow Americans who have fought and died in defense of this country. Any family that's been here for as little as a single generation may well have someone who's worn a military uniform, and been buried in one.
My father was born in Germany on the eve of the "thirteen years of madness", as he called it, of World War II; his oldest son – my brother – retired from the USMC, having joined in 1986, seen action in Desert Storm and, twenty-some years later, served as well in Iraq.
He's still living (and regularly twisting my arm for the next 5K- and 10-K run), so we'll set him and his service aside to honor on Veterans' Day – his, and many, many other members of this family who live, have lived, in the United States.
On my mother's side of the family, her great-grandparents – her father's grandparents – came stateside from Ireland directly, and via Nova Scotia. This was the 1840s; they weren't fleeing the potato famine (County Leitrim didn't raise that crop… I think), but rather as Catholics rejecting the requirement they pay taxes to support the (Anglican) Church of Ireland.
They settled in quickly, joining with some French immigrants, sinking deep roots in the greater-Boston area of Massachusetts, and finding work in factories, stores, the clergy… and in military service. And some of these never came back home to Massachusetts, New Jersey, and further domestic homes-sweet-homes.
Today – long overdue – I salute them, family all, whose American blood, poured out around the world, has served this country. They gave up their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor – most especially their lives – in so doing, with eyes open: stepping up in the full spirit of that last sentence of the American Declaration of Independence.
  • Emile Joseph Drach, 1844-1862: (His oldest sister was my grandfather's grandmother.) Right around his eighteenth birthday, Emile Drach enlisted in the Thirty-First Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, K Company, to serve and preserve the Union. By December he was on the front lines in Louisiana, where he was killed; as related at a blog put up to honor the regiment:
On December 10, a detachment led by 1st Lt. Nelson F. Bond of Ware was ordered to relieve part of a Maine company at Desert (pron. Des Sair) Station on the Jackson railroad. […] [A] much larger Confederate force appeared before the cooking fires were even blazing. Part of the unit took cover and fired at the rebels, but only half had serviceable guns, as the others had been soaked when a canoe overturned on the outward journey. After some of Bond’s men were wounded, it became apparent that the situation was hopeless, and he ordered the rest to scatter and try to make their way back to safety. […] Emil Drach (pron. Drake) was instantly killed, the first member of the 31st to die in combat. Three quite detailed narratives of this action survive, and each gives a noticeably different account of how Drach died.
In the hundred-fifty-five years since Emile's untimely death, at least a dozen members of the greater family have been named "Emile Joseph" in his honor, including my grandfather, his oldest son, and his oldest son in turn.
  • Michael Leonard, ~1871-1898: (A daughter of one of his paternal aunts married my grandmother's youngest brother.) He was killed in the Spanish-American War; he was the son of Irish immigrants, and just seventeen years old.
  • Joseph Simpson, 1884-1918~: (He was my grandmother's oldest brother.) He died in (or about) 1918 from the effects of poisonous gas in World War I… a notorious theater for chemical weaponry.
  • Donald Vautrinot, 1919-1942: (His grandmother was Emile's oldest sister.) He joined the Army Air Corps in 1940, and was captured by the Japanese at Bataan in the Philippines. As a prisoner of war, he was one of sixty to eighty thousand captives forced to march/walk over sixty tortuous miles to a prison camp. Unlike over five hundred fellow Americans, he survived the march; he died in the prison camp. The forced march has been ruled a war crime.
  • George F. Brandt, Jr., 1923-1944: (I'm still drawing out his line; he's a cousin in turn of one of my genealogist cousins – her great-grandmother and mine were sisters, and were nieces of Emile Joseph Drach.) He was a USAAF staff sergeant stationed in the Mediterranean; in a book on her/our extended family, my cousin records that he was "[l]ost when his plane (a B-25) went down in a lake in Italy". An Italian website adds that the plane "exploded in flight, and crashed into Lake Lesina, north of Foggia. None of the occupants survived." (esplose in volo e precipitò nel lago di Lesina a nord di Foggia. Nessuno degli occupanti sopravvisse)
  • John August Breder, Jr., ~1924-1944: (His great-grandfather's brother married Emile's oldest sister.) He died  in the Philippines from wounds received at the Battle of Leyte; he was about age twenty – barely two years older than Emile.
My title here comes from one of the verses in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology… in counterpoint.
I was the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the county jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal Bearing the words, "Pro Patria".
What do they mean, anyway?
I don't have the least suspicion that any of the half-dozen courageous men listed above (and there are plenty more) would rather have sat in the county jail than given their all for their home and families.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Most Serious and Determined Mater

Nope; I haven't abandoned this blog… these last few weeks have seen me swimming in the deep end of family history: old photographs, letters, documents and more. I'm learning more about people I knew, or knew about, long ago… whom I'm also part of, and vice-versa. Where it's Germans, I have fun learning and translating. And where it's American/Commonwealth, I find I've picked up some of the fascinating work my mother started on before her strokes, and which has lain idle and waiting nearly eight years… to a couple centuries. Cool!
Calvinist nurse-friend Senhora gave me an opportunity to come up for air this afternoon, with a link to a conservative article about the seemingly "good intentions" of the Second Vatican Council, versus the lousy fruit that came up in its wake:
From: N. Fermeira []
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2017 10:52 AM
To: Aging Child <>
Subject: Interested in your reaction to this article (not an anti-Catholic one)
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2017 12:06 PM
Subject: RE: Mater et Magistra
Will do, ma'am – I've got it up onscreen right now, and will start on in. Anti-Catholic I can handle… there's little that's as challenging as one of Jack Chick's intractable tracts, or marching Orangemen. More this afternoon; cheers!
(I'm not going to reproduce the article here; have a look yourself; I'll wait. While reading the article, I swung over to Catholic Answers for a nonsecular look at the Council and its impact. There I found a piece written by keen authority and writer Marcellino d'Ambrosio, "The Unfinished Business of Vatican II". I quoted it just a bit (and should have attributed it as well); it helped knowledgeably counterbalance what outside-looking-in insisted on seeing.)
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2017 2:03 PM
Subject: RE: Mater Ecclesia
At first pass – still reading the article/editorial…
The writer's dead-on, in that quite a number of stupid and just-plain wrong things cropped up in the Church in the wake of Vatican II; and he does seem to be calling for a return to how the Church had done things for generations and centuries. But he's dead wrong in saying (or at least implying and presenting) that these things were brought about because of the Council.
His thrust is the tack/slant of a lot of Western secular journalism in looking at the postconciliar Catholic Church: an inerrant "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" about visible/outward changes in the Church from the late 1960s on out: these changes came after the Council, therefore they're the Council's fault and doing. The writer – Pulitzer-Prize winner that he is – does not quote even one Conciliar document to back that up, and by tone and context simply cites the vague "spirit of Vatican II" as cause and fulcrum and mandate for those changes.
Every major Council has been followed by decades of reflection and debate – e.g., the Council of Trent (1546–64) mandated the creation of the Church's first seminary system… but it took a century and a half before that vision was made a reality. And Councils are also followed by immediate misunderstanding (both inside and outside of the Church), knee-jerk reflexive, too-soon leaps out of the gate, and missteps and fits and starts.
So it's certainly been the same with Vatican II!
The Council (e.g., in "Sacrosanctum Concilium") did not mandate building churches more like Frank Lloyd Wright works; nor moving the tabernacle; nor replacing crucified Christ with resurrected/risen Christ. It did call for greater participation by the laity, and for bringing the Mass more directly to them, which included the liturgical shift from Latin to the vernacular. But Latin was never dropped, never banned – and absolutely retains a place of prominence in the Church in both liturgy and administration.
Nor was the Council convened for "altering the liturgy and dispensing with centuries of tradition to appease a world society"; nor was it "the impetus behind the liberalization of the Catholic Church". However… assumptions made about the Council, and serious misinterpretations of its objectives and directives, were used as impetus (i.e., excuse/rationale) for some agenda-driven in-ecclesiam people to make drastic changes that were not called for, and were profoundly counter to the Church and Council's mission, means, and method. So, for just one example, nuns shucked their habits in favor of pants suits and even short skirts. (Today, the nuns' orders that are seeing the greatest number of new – and young – members are those with traditional, floor-length habits. The liberalized ones are dying out.)
In fact, the Council was called in response to a serious pastoral crisis, not a dogmatic one: this was on the eve, and right in the midst, of great cultural shifts and revolutions – but it wasn't called to kowtow to or leap on board with those movements. In a nutshell, the goal of the Council was to equip the Church to effectively re-evangelize the world through a compelling proclamation of Christ in a language that the world could understand (hence the vernacular).
The Council also sought to revitalize Christians by reconnecting them with the sources of faith and life: the Bible, the liturgy, and the Fathers of the Church. And a more accurate self-understanding on the part of the Church was needed, so that clergy and laity could more clearly understand their own roles in fulfilling the mission of evangelization that Jesus had entrusted to the Church.
The article's writer connects and contrasts shifts in society and culture away from religion and religion-derived values, with the Council – although, he more realistically concedes, "it would be unwise to ascribe a cause-and-effect relationship between Mass attendance and Vatican II". Correct! Those shifts were already in motion when the Council Fathers first sat down together in 1962, and are the milieu and context which all of Christendom engages, in which it lives today – not a response to the Council.
He's also dead-wrong in saying the Council was convoked to "appease a modernizing world, not surrender to it". Huh? In essence and practice, appeasement is surrender; and the Church does neither. It reaches out. And it doesn't change its mission: it's never wavered on any key doctrine: marriage, life (e.g., abortion), mission.
The nearest I've seen to "appeasement" in the Church is at the local level: 1990s lectionaries and hymnbooks with "inclusive language", where God is no longer "he", for instance; churches with no visible tabernacle, no visible suffering Christ. These aren't Rome's doings; they're diocesan, and regional – and have in fact been thrust back out again, such as with updates to the Mass late in 2011.
In all, our author is fairly right-on in describing the symptoms – but not in their cause, nor what's incubated the symptoms. He cites two responses the Church can make: return to tradition… which, in fact, the Church never left. And what it's been doing of late is that very return to tradition: excising some of local, modernist accretions. (But there, he skirts and skates close to the schismatics, such as the Society of St. Pius the Tenth, who have been more Catholic and more holy than the Pope since 1958.)
The other response would be, stupidly, for the Church to withdraw from the world and wash its hands, while also folding them in prayer. Yet Jesus (and His apostles and saints) walked right into the world's problems and issues, head on, and He poured out all His blood for them; that's the only approach the Church can give. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church (Tertullian). Mother Teresa lived that… her sisters' churches don't even have pews, let alone plush kneelers…
I've urged it before: we don't need a faith that merely affirms us – that would be the Unitarians down the road, or the United Church of Canada. Our faith must challenge us… again, following in Jesus' footsteps: "You've heard it said that… But I say that…" shows up six times in Matthew 5 alone. And that is the Church.
Although you Have not seen Him, you love Him; even though you do not see Him now, yet believe in Him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith. — 1 Peter 1:8-9
And I heard back fairly quickly… considering that Senhora N. Fermeira and I both lead busy lives.
From: N. Fermeira []
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2017 4:52 PM
To: Aging Child <>
Subject: Re: Mater Ecclesia
I didn't take it that the author was saying the Council caused the undesirable consequences -- more that the cultural climate of the times resulted in a warping of the laudable goals of the Council. I think the same happened in Protestantism. Of course I have no expertise on Catholic history so can't -- nor do I wish to -- dispute your assertions based on your own familiarity with that history.
I was more taken with his observation that traditionalist may ultimately be the only Catholics (and Protestants too!) left upholding the Christian faith. And it was interesting that some are advocating a withdrawal to monastic communities by the true believers.
Anyway, thanks for the thorough analysis. :)
The fashion just now is a Roman Catholic frame of mind with an Agnostic conscience: you get the medieval picturesqueness of one, with the modern conveniences of the other.
Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)
I'd braced myself for a loose step… and it wasn't there at all; huh.
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2017 5:37 PM
Subject: RE: Ecclesial Mater
Most welcome, N! I always fret that when I weigh in long-distance, the recipient will growl and gnash… so thank you for letting me know how the article came across to you. And I appreciate your take; that actually helps me along!
(Just now heard on a streamed program, quoting Fulton Sheen: "It's impossible to lose your footing on your knees.")
That darned cultural climate! And der Heilige Geist (Holy Ghost/Spirit) is discarded in favor the zeitgeist… brother! I think that the majority of the folks who sought/worked to "update" the Catholic Church did so out of naïveté and good intentions (paving the road to…), rather than manipulativeness and an agenda even to overturn: they were good-hearted, but clueless.
The same, I think also, probably applies to the protestant world… but if I assert that really strongly, I'd be doing it outside of my own reckoning. My sense, though, is that when the Seventh Lambeth Conference in 1930, in Resolution 15, green-lit contraception, the first big appeasement domino fell… and with "I'm OK, You're OK", four decades later, just about all of the protestant shepherds leapt into the life-is-cheap pool… instead of pulling the sheep out of it.
So… yah; unless Jesus was really a married gay abortion doctor who drove a brand-new Lamborghini, it's only a (re)turn to the tradition that will save Christendom, both outside of and within the walls of the Vatican… and at the soup kitchen. Anything less… well, one scriptural passage that's always troubled me is Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name? Didn't we drive out demons in Your name? Didn't we do mighty deeds in Your name?" Then I will declare to them solemnly, "I never knew you."
You know I'm all for monastic/professed communities! But the Church (on either side of the Tiber) simply can't respond to the present day like the proverbial ostrich, and retreat so far back into the cloister that that's all that's left of it. His church will always have to go out to the people (Jesus spent a lot of time in Samaria!) – it's good for the humility of the shepherds, and brings hope to where it's needed most.
Okay; now, sing along with me: "Brighten the corner where you aaaare…"
Although you Have not seen Him, you love Him; even though you do not see Him now, yet believe in Him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith. — 1 Peter 1:8-9

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Capitalism, and Capitulationism

I've got a list right here of points I want to cover, regarding my presidential vote last November. Anarcho-syndicalist friend Chuck, firmly positing a clash and conflict between faith and rationalism (a "clash" I simply don't find), forwarded me this intriguing article on "The Twilight of Failed Neoliberal Capitalism":
I won't reproduce it here; have a look at it yourself, and give it some thought. I'm not standing on the same square he and Chuck rest on, but there's plenty that this columnist has commendably spotlighted. Here's my response to Chuck, and the article:
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Monday, March 06, 2017 3:12 PM
Subject: RE: Capitalism, and Capitulationism

I like the concept of a retrotopia – although I submit that Ronnie Raygun first plastered that across the national canvas. And today, conservatives and other anachronistically lost-at-sea, social future-shock cases, are looking back at Ronnie Headrest's day as a golden age! But if you were black, or an air-traffic controller, or a child in the halls of learning, back then (or today), or had/have a head that leads more steadily than your heart… those rose-colored retrospective kaleidoscopic lenses really don't fit. And the incessant sloganeering is a nauseating soporific.
"The 'iron hand of the state works in concert with the hidden hand of the market' to maximize profits worldwide": hear, hear! And re how Trump's "fantasy […] will be dissolved by acid reality with unpredictable consequences" – some are quite predictable, and a broad sheaf of them project out to disastrous. It is the responsibility of anyone whose kisser is not firmly attached to Donald's Rump to hold his feet to the fire, and keep them there – and that's folks on left, right, and center.
My feeling is that the center is growing narrower and narrower; so much of the left and right are rigid, unflexing – determinedly unflexible – and to whom moderate compromise is synonymous with utter capitulation. Are there no more aisle-crossers?
Microinitiatives: these do seem like a great seed-and-soil of hope, of (pun not intended) real grass-roots, fixing the world from square one, here, locally, out in the fields. If that can catch on, and truly spark something stable and self-sustaining and self-nurturing/self-building, then change can ultimately wind up in the boardrooms as well. Have a look at Subsidiarity: not command-economy and social approaches from the top down, remote, and bottom-line focused, but from the ground up. Think Lexington-And-Concord; think Gandhi and MLK.
This author spotlights some excellent work being done, movements and outlooks. Now: how do we translate and transplant them to the First and Second Worlds? My prime suggestion: shoot your TV, and pocket your phone – switch it off; leave it in your suitcase; criminalize the Kardashians and their clones and their network distributors of sugar-stuffed bread and third-rate sideshows masquerading as circuses. We have to stop lining up for craniectomies, no matter how much free anesthesia is wheeled out.
I like how this writer/article draws a sharp distinction between lotus-eating retrotopia, and an actual, genuine, real, lived past. And likewise, his assertion that "more people need to be empowered to think and act creatively"… versus sign up for the NRA, the assembly line, for consumerist cotton-candy pabulum.
These hopes are good, thus far, for Latin America; I hope this gent can get out to Africa and Southeast Asia, and see what parallels are taking root there as well.
Thank you for the fodder for thought, sir – cheers!
Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. — Psalm 19:15

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Treasuring – and Treasure IN – Your Family

Heh; one of the fringe benefits of a having a blog with no readers is that nobody notices when you're away for a while. If I had an ego worth noting, that plain fact would wound it. Yet, instead, for me it means… no pressure to crank out copy.
These last few weeks have seen me happily busy at copying and translating information on my family's history… making me, essentially, your average, armchair, genial genealogist, I suppose. Till just the last couple days, my attention's been entirely on my father's side of the tree, scaling the huge 400-plus-page resource of a volume Dad's cousin – a real, lifelong genealogist – printed privately in Germany in 1989.
There aren't too many skeletons in the closet (I might tell you sometime, though, about an ancestor whose brother murdered their sister and widowed mother… on Hallowe'en, 1601). There aren't any blindingly great saints, either – mostly just plain folks, as plain folks say… but there are still touching stories.
For instance, there's the sad note that in 1784, one young Johanna was killed when the carriage she was riding in overturned. She was not quite twenty-four, and engaged to be married. There are mothers dying young, babies buried, sons gone off to war and never returning.
One sweet story recounts how in 1684, her hometown burning down, teenaged Sophie was robbed of a treasured little prayer-book by a soldier (hired to guard, not plunder?). Unsurprisingly, the soldier had no use for it, so he gave the book to his commanding officer. The officer, in turn, gave it to his brother, a (Lutheran) seminary-student. Shortly after his appointment as pastor, he was visiting a more-veteran minister, whose widowed daughter was there with her two children. The daughter was astonished to recognize the book – she was Sophie, of course, some years older now. And the next June, she and the new pastor married… and she got her book back, too.
There are lighter-hearted moments as well, of course. The genealogist's German is very dry, strictly factual, delineates basic details and moves on. He almost never steps in with a personal note, other than in two or three instances when he's sharing his recollection of his grandmother and grandfather.
I mentioned here, years ago, his moan over a church official who'd used the church's seventeenth-century registry book's pages (with their irreplaceable information on births and baptisms and weddings and so on)… to light his pipe.
He – the genealogist, not the smoker – also grumbled of another pastor (1740s-70s) whose handwriting in his church's registry-book was "the most terrible of all pastors'". Have you seen eighteenth-century German handwriting? Here's a sample:
…and that's fairly clearly written. Classic German script quickly begins to look like so much Pitman or Cyrillic… brother! My father's papers include a good number of pages just as indecipherable… so my heart's with our late genealogist – badly-written German has got be keeping a lot of Augenärzte in business.
Anyway, I wanted to get back to the topic of rationalism here, after a look also at neoliberal capitalism… so let me wrap up this detour (arguably, not too tightly).
Right in time for St. Patrick's Day Friday, I began at last to dig into and outline information from my mother's side of the family, based on info sent her by her cousin some years ago. And, begorrah, there are the Irish she's always been understandably proud of. They came over to the U.S. in the 1840s (and some several decades earlier), one group tarrying awhile in Nova Scotia, and others landing directly in New York and Massachusetts.
What a find!
So I spent two days writing up a 20-plus-page document, summarizing about seven generations of that Irish / French / Scottish side, and drawing up a nicely colored Excel-based family tree for us more visual folks, and sent them over to sister Alicia, who – years ago – had herself drafted a tree, with Mother's help, as a school project. She'd asked me to look for it, and I saw it once in Mother's papers a while back, but lost it; it's still there, but till it rises to the top again… these two documents will tide her over nicely.
I'd gotten into Mother's papers in the first place, just a few weeks ago, when our (other) sister Mew asked me to track down her baby photos from mumble years ago. It was in the two-week process of going through (and organizing) Mother's letters and photos and articles, that I found her cousin's genealogical work – and baby Mew's photo.
That had become important, because – as of less than a month ago – Mew is now a grandmother, and our mother a great-grandmother… and, yep, baby Leila at a few days old looks just like her grandmother did.

I first got to translating my dad's family-history book because no one else in this family, on this side of the Atlantic, can read and understand German (American-born Mother being the other exception) – and there was stuff in that book that deserved not to be bound up (pardon the pun) in that book, but released and shared with the rest of the family; be treasured.
Well, the same is true of my mother's own trove. Here's Hubert Humphrey photographed from maybe a dozen feet away; there's grinning WWII Pacific-Theater ace Joe Foss (probably) in leather cap and flight jacket. There's Eleanor Roosevelt at a local DuPont wedding…
Mother had taken the Humphrey photo in the sixties, and years earlier interviewed then-young senator JFK, among many paths boldly crossed in her long journalism career. Her oldest of three brothers (all since deceased), flyboy colleague of airman Joe, took the Foss and Roosevelt pictures. Much, much later, their brother, Xavier, wrote up a fun recollection of that event… and, with at least two different takes of the then- First Lady, that writeup's in Mother's papers.
So I pulled a copy out of her files, and brought it to her this evening to read before bedtime; she was totally engrossed in the recollection when I left.
It's never too late, and never too soon, to take the treasure out of the dusty chests, bring it into the light of day and cool of evening, and enjoy it. Blow off the dust; share the wealth – that's the real reason it's there.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Immigration: Putting a Lid On It

Anyway, as I was beginning to say:

I responded to Senhora N. Fermeira's cartoon with a chuckle, and left it at that. Still, it got the back of my mind to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing.

Among the few bits of current-events media I occasionally view / read / listen to are various metropolitan newspapers. This article came up via the Washington (DC) Post this past Thursday:

My heart's with those folks firmly left-of-center, and I chafe at sounding like a conservative – even while I recognize that some conservatives can find common cause with a number of things I value. So I couldn't let this one lie, and quickly located a meme that nutshells my first-pass response to that squib:

(Dipping momentarily into the "picky-picky-picky" department: the meme's got the wrong relative pronoun… and the verb should be "conflate", not "obfuscate". Thank you; sincerely, your favorite grammar-knotsie.)
Senhora nurse is a solid conservative – and Calvinist, too, so we've locked horns more than once. She also makes a world-class pudim.
So I emailed my grumble-of-the-moment her way, including that screenshot and a link to the article:
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2017 9:43 PM
Subject: The Problem Is...
At least two major current issues in our country suffer from low-brow, cognitively-impaired people's acceptance of lumping too many different things under the same word.
In this case, "immigrant". My father was an immigrant, and so is daughter Portia's mother. Your ex-husband is an immigrant; so were his parents. So have been many of my colleagues and bosses over the years. And you and I are descendants of even further immigrants… and I'm sure that, like me, you and your children support opportunities for immigrants to this country.
What I don't support, and I'm positive you don't either, is entering this country illegally: under the fence, over the river, crammed into a shipping container, and so on. That's criminal at the very least, and playing into the hands of even more criminals.
And that's a separate issue entirely from the rights of people who, like the Schildts and Pauli and Fermeiras and more, came into this country through legal means.
To give these two groups of people the same label, cheapens Fermeira and Pauli and Schildt efforts and labor and struggles. These immigrants in our families don't deserve to be characterized alongside lawbreakers, scofflaws, and (in some instances) parasites. (Oh, and drug- and gang-criminals as well.)
The average American lemming today, dedicated to the Kardashians, self-focus, and mental sloth, easily buys into quick and monodimensional banners: e.g., "Support Immigrants!" Well, I do, and your late in-laws did; as well we should.
I don't support – please pardon me – Juan Wetback coming here extralegally, and insisting he has a "right" here. He doesn't; period. I won't leave him lying in a ditch if he's struck by a car while walking to his construction job and the see-no-evil management that pays him under the table. Once the hospital's patched him up, though, send him back across the Rio Grande – on his American dime, if he's saved any up. If not, the fine paid by his employer will do the trick.
The Lord looked down from the holy heights, viewing the Earth from Heaven, to hear to the groaning of the prisoners, and release those doomed to die. — Psalm 102:20-21
She emailed back:
From: N. Fermeira []
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2017 12:40 AM
To: Aging Child <>
Subject: Re: The Problem Is...
Quite! Sometimes I can work up intense indignation about it. When I think of what my Puritan ancestors endured, what my Scots-Irish forbearers suffered and how diligently my German ancestors worked to build America, the outrage burns.
"It is easier to hide behind philosophical arguments, heavily footnoted for effect, than it is to admit our hurts, our confusions, our loves, and our passions in the marketplace of life's heartfelt transactions." ― Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God
She's not kidding about the Puritans, either! While I hail in part from the land of Cotton Mather, Senhora can trace one line of the American piece of her lineage back to 1600s Massachusetts Bay… beating me out by a couple centuries.
Anyway, having made my own protest on the lousy, conflated terminology, I got to thinking about how superficial the proposed responses/solutions are. Most conservatives seem to favor simply nabbing every green-card -less noncitizen within our borders, and cramming them all into a cattle car shoved over the southern border.
(Having half my genes fresh from Germany, I'm also sensitive to the idea of people in cattle cars.)
So I knew I might be poking a stick at a non-quite-sleeping pitbull, in writing back. But write back I did, folding in some leftovers from an earlier debate with close friend Chuck:
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2017 7:49 PM
Subject: RE: The Problem Is...
My father worked to get some German academic professionals established stateside (e.g., he may have been some later help with Werner von Braun and Arthur Fiedler) – and vice-versa, for that matter; sometimes folks want to move their pied-à-terre off American soil (I nearly did in the early nineties… with his help). He had no interest in assisting anyone who wanted to work outside of the law, nor did he foster parasitism in anyone (including in his own children… hear, hear!).
One of my maternal uncles, grandson (I think) of Irish immigrants, was for decades a researcher and inventor with DuPont. And you can cite many more non-scoffers of the law in your foreign-born family and ancestry.
Self-determination is a pillar on which we founded the strengths and achievements of this country. And somewhere it shifted from strength to weakness, over into self-focus, so now we have generations of welfare dependents, me-me-me – even the more-recent "tune in, turn on, and drop out" on the then-young Anglo side, and tribe-think on the brown and yellow side… often a tribe of one.
I suspect that pillar's first fissures formed after World War I – look at how our "The Yanks Are Coming" veterans became bonus-deprived hobos, and those who didn't serve in the trenches degenerated into Fitzgerald's "lost generation", given to swan-diving off Manhattan skyscrapers in 1929 when their aggressive self-pursuit brought the whole nation down around them.
Anyway, I'm not so shallow as to propose that the solution of legal vs. illegal immigrant is simply a quick-and-expeditious "round 'em up, and throw 'em out". Putting real teeth into immigration laws will reduce the floodtide of the Rio Grande; ditto a thorough housecleaning of the INS/ICE – there have to be very visible and adamantly dissuasive consequences for anyone slipping under the fence, and for those Stateside citizens who facilitate with blind eye and padded wallet.
There's the issue of families: I don't want to see them broken up; maybe an illegal's children, if under age five, even if born here, should be sent back with him/her. My sister-in-law recently got her citizenship, after years and years of study, and working when she was able – since we're no longer a frontier nation, U.S. citizenship should not be awarded automatically at birth if both your parents are non-citizens.
Kids older than five: give the non-citizen parents the choice of taking their children back with them. Maybe also give them the alternative of staying here while the children proceed through primary and secondary school, if the kids were born stateside, and only after fining the parents… what, maybe ten to twenty grand for each year they've been here illegally. (Kids graduate, and the parents go back – or must successfully apply for citizenship, having been gainfully and legally employed for some three-quarters' of their time here in the Land of the Free. And if their kids flunk out or drop out, parents are sent packing… likely with their washout children.)
If the parents can't afford the fine, here's your one-way bus ride and a sandwich. Your kids go with you, or are put up for adoption. Citizenship should also not depend on whether you or your spouse get pregnant, and how well/long you can hide afterward, before you get caught. That's rewarding a crime. Any non-native, naturalized American citizen aiding their entry and subsequent hiding should have their citizenship suspended and be fined; if they can't afford the fine, out they go as well.
Children – pun not intended – are an issue; if born here, they're innocent of their parents' illegal entry. But people hungry to be on this side of the river should not see parenthood as protection, and a free stay-out-of-jail card. That's a crime against their own children… and that kind of selfishness and thoughtlessness does argue in part for a loss of parental custody.
I don't know how realistic this is – but the status quo is killing us.
A follow-on question that must be addressed, once that one's well on the way to being resolved, is what do we owe, today, to the descendants of native-born, aboriginal Americans, who were forced from their lands and possessions? Hand-in-hand is the parallel for descendants of African/Caribbean slaves. There are just grievances… have they been wiped out by time, or is the debt still owed?
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance. — Psalm 33:12
These ideas still felt more superficial than realistic, more broad tarbrush than pragmatism, and narrowly elitist… they're also a first pass, not even a draft.
Senhora nurse's response surprised me… and she didn't call me out (much) on my more-progressive final paragraph.
From: N. Fermeira []
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2017 9:23 AM
To: Aging Child <>
Subject: Re: The Problem Is...
You've obviously given the matter a good deal of thought. :)
I'm just shallow enough to believe that rounding them up and shipping them back is a good start. Incidentally, the INS officers I have had contact with were Hispanic -- all of them. Which always made me wonder. It seems that there are two categories of INS officers -- the ones who have been struggling to do what the law demands -- and those who are sympathetic to the law breaking illegals.
No, we do not owe African-Americans reparations.
Plustard, Senhora
"Keep true. Never be ashamed of doing right. Decide what you think is right and stick to it." George Eliot
I hadn't given it much thought, in fact. But you can't simply cattle-prod eleven-plus million people southward until you run out of country… these are living people, not stinkbugs that have infiltrated a history museum. How do we address the illegality of their presence here, without dehumanizing them… and ourselves?
It was time to wrap up our mutual first-pass, non-draft debate; there's lots more nation-saving that needs everybody's attention… and this is just one facet.
From: Aging Child []
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2017 10:46 PM
Subject: RE: Flipping One's Lid... and Betters
I've given it some thought – and I'm certain any effort would be tons more complex than either of us can imagine. (PS: I've yet to see you go shallow on anything!)
I've met very few INS officers in my more placid (i.e., boring) life… but I've noticed what you point out, the hispanicity of many of them. I'd simply assumed they'd been hired because they savvy the lingo… I doubt most river-swimmers do an intense course of Rosetta Stone English immersion (pun not intended) before hoofing it north.
I'd be curious how many of the Hispanic officers might be conditionally employed – via a backroom condition: "As long as you haul in at least two dozen fence-jumpers a day, we'll let your baby sister and her kids stay in Brownsville unbothered. You fall short more than once in any given week, out they all go… with you on the bus right behind theirs. ¿Comprende?"
There'll always be crook-sympathizers among the trusties – you've seen it (and I've sensed it while visiting) in the badge-wearing, cage-rattling gendarmes. [Part of friend N. Fermeira's nursely career was spent taking care of needy and neglected people behind bars. And I've visited a number of folks locked away, over the years; have you?]  And there are plenty of reports every few days of busted cops, politicians, bank guards, and so on. Look at who gunned down Indira Gandhi, for instance.
Which is getting far afield. So how 'bout, some really dull day, you put on an ICE baseball cap and saunter into the 7-Eleven, or Asian restaurant, and see how many folks scatter out the back door?

Just kiddin'.
Plus some mustard to you, too,
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible. — Hebrews 11:1-3