Distant Origins

 

And a pig trail beckoned to me and I followed it right down Alice’s rabbit hole.  Hello Mad Hatter.

I just watched a rerun of Star Trek Voyager and found myself sitting quietly…pondering.  I like that word…pondering.  Sounds as if I might be intelligent…many times I’ve proven differently.

The episode triggering my pondering was ”Distant Origin” about a lizard resembling alien race, the Voth, and a scientist who believes his species originated from a distant planet.  Long story short, he involves a crew member of Voyager in his attempt to prove his origins theory and ends up standing trial for heresy, accused by his religious elders…led by the menacing, Minister Odala.  Shades of Fred Phelps, Sr.

This most respected scientist is forced to recant his findings in order to save Voyager from being destroyed and the crew and himself put into prison.  A choice between truth or evil masquerading as truth.  That is where my pig trail became a rabbit hole.  The scientist chooses evil masquerading as the truth to save his new friend, loses his position and is forced into a job equivalent of counting paper clips.

As the program closes, his partner in crime, the Voyager character Chakotay, gives the scientist, Gegen, an Earth globe as a gift before he transports up and Voyager leaves. All is well in the Delta Quadrant except for the Voth who don’t know, save the scientist, they are really descendants of dinosaurs from the Planet Earth.  Nice yarn…sounded familiar.

The episode is an allegory and drew heavily from the relationship between Galileo Galilee of telescope fame, the Catholic Church in general and Pope Urban VIII specifically.  The story leading to Galileo’s trial for heresy before The Inquisition is much more involved than the Star Trek episode or for me to write about.  Is that applause I hear?

In the condensed version, Galileo made the mistake of agreeing with Copernicus that the Earth orbited the Sun rather than the Church’s belief of an Earth-centered universe…everything in the universe orbiting the earth.

Galileo further complicated his life by publishing his studies in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work which seemed to poke fun at the Pope as it laid out Galileo’s findings using a protagonist named “Simplicio”, which connotes simpleton in Italian.  Unjustly, some folks drew the conclusion Simplicio might be a metaphor for Pope Urban VIII.  Unintended consequences? One person drawing the conclusion was Pope Urban himself.

Again, long story short, Galileo was put on trial before The Inquisition for voicing opinions contrary to the Holy Scriptures and forced to recant under threat of excommunication although he was never formally charged. According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves.”

He spent the rest of his life under virtual house arrest which was better than being slowly roasted at a stake like a Boston butt.  He was still quite prolific with his writings and despite being banned to do so, published many scientific works. Galileo is considered the father of classical physics.

I’m a bit of a “quare” duck for myriads of reasons but a couple of the more benign ones are that I hold degrees in both history and science education and at one time considered the ministry as a calling.  Boy, I fell off that wagon.  Between having to learn Greek and an overzealous youth minister who told me my mother would survive ALS if she believed hard enough, I turned to a life of cussin’, women and drink…well up to a point.  I still cuss too much and honestly, it was more drink than women.

When I said I had two degrees I wasn’t bragging…well, maybe a little but rather was giving an example of why I get confused sometimes about the religious acceptance of science and historical perspective.  Modern folk might not understand why the Catholic Church held so much power and desired to keep scientific discoveries secret.  It was about maintained power, some of which the Church had lost having battled with Martin Luther’s protestants during the previous century.  Excommunication was and is a powerful deterrent for a Catholic.  Without the sacraments, one can’t get to heaven.  Power over the masses.

Some folk still discount science when it disagrees with the Holy Scriptures.  Considering ninety-seven percent of climatologist believing climate change is real and man fueled, I don’t understand why SOME, I said some, not all, not even most…maybe.  I don’t understand why some Bible believers have a problem with science as it relates to climate change.  I have heard said it doesn’t matter, God won’t allow climate, or anything else, to destroy the Earth.  I have a very good friend and a true man of God tell me that.  Maybe he is correct but I wager we can destroy all humanity and the Earth will continue its annual trip around the Sun until the sun expands into a red giant before collapsing into itself as a white dwarf…if you believe Galileo and Copernicus and other astronomers.

I try to follow the teachings of Jesus and for some reason don’t have a problem believing that climate change is real, and that man is the primary culprit.  What I have trouble with is believing a pair of  Platypus Duckbills trekked from Mt. Ararat in Turkey to Australia, multiplying as they went but yet we find no Platypus Duckbills anywhere else…alive or fossil remains.  I know.  God works in mysterious ways…so does science but the mysteries of science can be explained.

There are many Bible verses commanding good stewardship of our earth, in fact, a moral obligation to preserve and sustain our earth.  One comes quite early in the Bible, Genesis 1:26-31.  I’ll let you look it up.  The KJV version uses the words “dominion over”.  Other translations use the word stewardship.  Dominion does not mean free to use as we wish, dominion means stewardship…to maintain…to control…not to destroy if we so desire.

Many of our leaders, many who profess their religious beliefs quite loudly, or have their minions profess them, seem to be worried that trying to solve the problem of, or even uttering the words, climate change, might slow our economy.  We certainly don’t want to hurt our GDP for something as unimportant as sustaining our planet…or worse having it interfere with their potential candidacy for higher office.  I honestly believe their distant origin might be somewhere south of heaven.

Other’s believe until the “whole world” gets involved, for instance, the Indians and Chinese, we are pissing up a rope.  Folks…someone’s got to lead and there was a time when the United States led in categories other than bombs dropped, civilians killed and mass murders.  Realizing this is not Biblical, but maybe it should be, “God helps those who help themselves.”

We are not helping ourselves and before I “throw stones”, I admit I am not without the sin of not doing enough…but I am trying…if I could just get rid of that gas-guzzling, carbon dioxide spewing truck.  Maybe I can trade it for a horse and wagon.

Well, it is time to bid the Mad Hatter adieu and crawl back out of Alice’s rabbit hole.  It is the day I walk with my best friend.  We usually cure all the world’s ills while we walk or if not, over the cup of coffee we consume at the local coffee shop and art café afterward.  Hmm, maybe that’s the distant origins of my leftist ideas…nope, Hawk still has rightist ideas and that helps balance me.

The image is from The M0vie Blog at https://them0vieblog.com/2016/12/14/star-trek-voyager-distant-origin-review/  To quote:  “With its dinosaur characters, its fixation upon evolution, and its doctrine of “origin”, Distant Origin seems very specifically tailored to the heated debates around science and creationism in American culture. However, the allegory is powerful enough that it maintains a potency even beyond that. Distant Origin has aged remarkably well, working effectively as a metaphor for climate change denial or even for historical revisionism in favor of the national myth. Distant Origin is both a season and a series highlight.”

The quote proves once again I have not had an original thought.

Don Miller has released a new book under the pen, Lena Christenson.  Dark Tempest and others may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM or at Lena’s site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Dark Tempest

All tempests are not caused by climate.  Belle Beaudoin’s chance encounter with a man she hasn’t seen in fourteen years leads to a passionate romance.  She and Sawyer Ramsey’s second chance at love becomes complicated and perilous due to her ex-husband’s and his replacement wife’s involvement with a Gulf shore crime lord and his menacing lieutenant.  Their budding romance may not be allowed to bloom but may instead die in the dark waters around Bayou Adelaide.  The following excerpt is from Dark Tempest.

“Virgile Lagasse dressed like a dandy from an earlier era.  A light-colored, linen, three-piece suit was worn over a frilly silk shirt.  The matching vest was embossed with scenes of antelope at play.  A dark, string, bow tie, gold studs, and cufflinks completed his outfit.  His matching gambler’s hat and cane lay on the desktop.  Virgile could have been Big Daddy Pollitt from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Yancy Derringer of Fifty’s TV fame…except he was grossly overweight…more so than Burl Ives, the actor who played Big Daddy in the film, at his heaviest.  Three hundred and fifty pounds if an ounce, carried on a five-six frame.  He resembled a miniature Jabba the Hutt dressed for a cotillion.  Even his skin coloration was a bit green.

No one dared comment on his toad-like looks. As Big Daddy, Virgile Lagasse was one of the most powerful and feared men on the Gulf Coast …one of the most violent.  Unlike Big Daddy, he hadn’t acquired his power from the buying and selling of cotton, he had grown wealthy from the buying and selling of men’s vices.  Women and gambling were the bait, meant to capture men’s souls and he had hooked a big one, Phillipe’ Marcel Beaudoin.  All he had to do was land him and from his phone taps, it appeared Phillipe’ might jump into the boat on his own.

The Beaudoin family had been a thorn in Virgile’s side for years.  Not a big thorn but it didn’t matter.  Virgile hated any competition even if it was from an old-time moonshiner’s family.  He had purchased Phillipe’s gambling debt from the local loan shark, Fat Cherry LeBlanc.  Virgile wanted a monopoly on vice along the delta.  The weed and moonshine the Beaudoin family ran went hand in hand with gambling, women and heavier drugs.  Virgile would have the monopoly…along with the gambling debts Phillipe’ owed or Phillipe’ would have trouble walking without crutches…if at all.”

Don Miller’s nom de plume Lena Christenson creates a tale of romance and suspense with a touch of the erotic.  A second chance at love turns in to a fight for survival.  Dark Tempest may be purchased in paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081900407?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860 or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VL9S7CB

dark-tempestjpeg

Hope Shines From Far Away….

It was the awful summer of 1969.  A continuation of the previous bad year, a protraction of bad times that would continue well into the Seventies.  As a country, we were reeling from assassinations of revered figures, a war we could not win but were hell-bent on continuing.  Later a President would use his version of the “Southern Strategy” to help win an election and later give permission for criminal activity to hold on to his office.  In amongst, there were protests and all types of lies and deceit.  I seemed to be watching our American Exceptionalism crumble before my eyes.

We staggered when the “most trusted man in America” stated that the Vietnam War was at best a stalemate and unwinnable.  Watched in sorrow and wept as news of King’s and Kennedy’s assassinations and the civil unrest that followed hit the presses.  Protestors at the Democratic Convention shot birds and thumbed their noses at the police in Chicago before being beaten by those same policemen.

On a lighter note, the Yippies nominated Pigesus, a live pig, for President.  It was lighter until they were arrested, even Pigesus.  I wonder if there was a BBQ.

In the later part of ’69, after having been covered up for over a year, we asked how My Lai could happen, weren’t we better than this? The Pentagon Papers proved we weren’t.

We cheered and shed tears watching the POW’s coming home before listening to a President shout to the cameras, “I am not a crook.”  We found out over several tortuous months that he was just that.

On the home front I had lost my mother on January 1, 1969, and later in the spring when my “fancy (should have) lightly turn(ed) to thoughts of love”, my “one and forever” true love fell under the spell of another…smashing my heart flatter than a toad on a four-lane highway.

My second-semester grades had suffered as I used alcohol and chased co-eds to ease the pain of both loses…chased but rarely caught.  I had barely hung on by my knawed down fingernails.

My wise father decided the best life-lesson would be a summer job with a local construction company charged with building bridges over Interstate Seventy-Seven in Charlotte.  I remember the summer as being one of the more brutal of my life and can’t drive I-77 without worrying a bridge might collapse.

For a few days in July 1969, I put my personal trials away and our country, its woes.  The world gazed skyward and at black and white TVs for news of hope.  Apollo Eleven had lifted off and was headed to the moon.  I and billions of others followed their trek with every newscast and special report.

I watched in awe and fear as the lunar module separated from the orbiter and touched down.  It was late Sunday afternoon on the 20th when I heard “The Eagle Has Landed.”

Neil Armstrong wasn’t scheduled to step onto the lunar surface until well after midnight.  I decided I had plenty of time to partake of an evening I usually dedicated to one last grasp at the weekend.

The Catalinas were playing at The Cellar and I’d be damned if I would let a little thing like the moon landing persuade me to stay home.  All I had to look forward to were five days of ten-hour hells awaiting me in the morning.  Maybe I could catch the “giant leap” on tomorrow’s late news.

I didn’t have much money but then you didn’t need much at The Cellar, a live music venue catering to college-age kids and featuring Beach Music bands.  Dollar cover and twenty-five cent drafts meant I had enough to ask if my latest companion in crime wanted to go…a pretty brunette I had known for most of my life and who, despite being unwilling to be a soothing anodyne for my broken heart, would be a good time “Charlene” on the dance floor.

The crowd was raucous, the band mellow, and the beer…well, it was cheap and cold.  We shagged, twisted and shouted and gave everyone the soul finger to the songs of summer and the Carolina shores.  We sweated like day laborers on the unairconditioned dance floor and cooled off with a draft beer in paper cups out in the parking lot.

The one TV set located over the bar was tuned to the local CBS affiliate with a fuzzy and grainy Walter Cronkite keeping us updated.  As we started to leave for home, the word spread; they were stepping out early.  As if controlled by one mind, we moved to the bar, the band quit playing and the crowd became quiet.  I remember putting an arm around the pretty brunette and she reciprocated with an arm around my waist.  It may have been as close as we would ever come…physically or metaphorically.

We waited, speaking in whispers as Walter kept us abreast of the schedule.  Finally, a little before eleven Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Neil Armstrong’s foot became visible on the lunar module’s ladder and we held our collective breaths until he had both feet planted on the lunar surface.  We cheered, we jumped up and down, we kissed and hugged people we didn’t know.  Hope had turned into a reality and we were so proud.

It’s funny the things I conjure in my aging brain.  The sticky dance floor from too many spilled beers.  The huge oak tree that sat just outside the entryway, a root sticking out of the ground that you had to navigate in order to prove you were sober enough to go inside.  The press of the brunette’s hip against mine as the crowd pressed in under the one TV set.  Walter Cronkite wiping tears from his eyes.

I remember feeling proud…and hopeful.  I’m thankful for having been there with people I didn’t know.  People celebrating the same accomplishment.  The good feelings didn’t last and we as a country would continue to tailspin into Watergate.  Still, it makes me hopeful today.

Despite what my former students might have thought, I’m too young to have lived through the Civil War but the Civil Rights Era and the years of ’68 and ’69, followed by Watergate were as bad as I want to remember…until now.  Our present situation may be worse, or it may be because I have some wear and tear on me…no it is bad.

We need some hope from far away…or next door.  We need something positive to focus on.  We need something positive to pull us together, NOT another war or some catastrophe.

We need to be a POSITIVE leader in the world with positive leadership.  Whether it is ending bigotry and hate or Global Warming, committing to alternative energy, or landing a man on Mars.  We need to be that “city on the hill” that people want to emulate instead of the “Angry American”.  We need to be the “light” that reflects off the good found in others instead of attempting to absorb their light.

The fiftieth anniversary is on Saturday.  It can’t be…but it is.  If The Cellar of my youth was The Cellar of today, I’d take another cute brunette and hoist one in celebration.  Instead, weather permitting I’ll be outside to watch the moon rise.  I’ll remember the hope I felt from far away and hoist one for the many heroes who made it all possible.

 

A modern rendering of the entrance to The Cellar, Charlotte, NC.  Origin unknown.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes for his own amusement.  Having said that, and since I can’t live off amusement, should anyone like to purchase a book they can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured Image by Steve Penley, Moon Landing http://www.matregallery.com/penleyprints/icons

Apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s for cannibalizing his quote, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” From the poem Locksley Hall

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The Toad in the Corner Revisited

I first wrote about the toad in the corner a year or so ago.  I find it somewhat interesting that I gauge the passing of time by certain events.  When the wild turkeys and Red-tailed Hawks show up, the fireflies, the figs ripening on the tree, my first ‘mater’ sandwich, the change of leaves in the fall. I guess our forefathers gauged it the same way. I know my grandmother fished and planted her garden by the phases of the moon. 

I find it interesting the happiness I feel when old friends show up after an extended absence, even if the old friend is Toady the Toad or Herbert the Rat Snake.  Not so happy when the little bastards, the yellow jackets, first explode for the ground.  Herbert has been around since spring, but Toady just showed up…still sitting in the corner between my rock wall and foundation.

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness.  A large toad has backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Might be a Southern Toad.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.

Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.  There is also a smaller toad that seems to want to be around her.  “Oh la saison de l’amour.”  Do toads speak French or mate on dry land?

Toady has been in the corner for two weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?  In the dark I see her sitting on the flat stones or in one instance crawling out of my overturned boot.  In the morning she is right back in the corner.

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes.

I didn’t name her at first because Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand it, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and I guess I have named her.

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Featured image is from Remember the Hamilton http://joenolan.com/blog/?p=6739

Oh Summer Days

 

“Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”- Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim

It is five in the a. m. and I’m standing outside smoking a cigar.  Don’t ask…it’s become the new, old normal.  Blame a life of getting old and blind puppy dogs who don’t know it is the middle of the night when they come looking for belly rubs and snacks…yes, they have trained me well.

Despite being as dark as the inside of a cow…whatever Mark Twain meant by that seems to be accurate although I’ve never actually been inside of a cow…anyway, despite being as dark as the inside of a cow, one could tell there were low clouds pressing down with humidity as thick as a wet, wool blanket.

I wonder who first used that descriptor and to my knowledge I’ve never worn a wet, wool blanket.  Dark and oppressively humid would have described the predawn morning but not nearly as colorfully and with many fewer words.  I also fear I will be submerged and drowning by mid-morning.  Ah, Southern summers.

We have been without more than a few drops of rain for over two weeks.  As warm, humid and still this morning is, I worry the fifty percent chance of thundershowers might become strong thunderstorms.  I also worry we will get no rain at all.

Except for a lone whippoorwill, there are no night sounds.  The lonesome bird is muted even though it is nearby.  “As quiet as the inside of a tomb”…ok, I’ll quit…maybe.

Later when the darkness has turned to a muted light, a woodpecker is beating its brains out against an oak tree but there are no chirps from the songbirds I normally hear.  Maybe the worms were resting in cooler places and the early birds had given up the hunt.

At five the thermometer read seventy-six, but it felt ten degrees warmer.  I decided to wander back inside to work on the next, great American novel.  Right.  I will settle for semi-great or even not so great, but “he has some potential”.  I’d really just like to sell a book to keep me interested.

By seven a. m. the sun might have been above the ridgeline to my east, but you couldn’t be sure.  Gray clouds hung low as I began my morning walk.  The humidity felt heavy against my skin and soon the cotton tee I shouldn’t have worn was saturated.  I’m a Southern male, I do not glisten.  I sweat like a horse and cotton does not wick well.

The air is heavy and still.  The surface of the lake I walk around as flat as a mirror.  Fish must be laying low, not even a ripple.  The sun comes out briefly causing the air to boil around me.  Sweat is now pooling in my unmentionables bathing certain parts in a wet, steamy and I’m sure yeasty film.  I probably should have added some Body Glide or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste before I left…too much information?

The campers I encounter are taking advantage of the relative cool of the foothills of the Blue Ridge at Lookup Lodge.  They are out and about and wondering if they were sold a bill of goods.  “Cool Mountain Mornings?”  These are kids along with their counselors, high schoolers or early college I think…maybe middle school, they all look so young and the sweat is fouling my eyes.

Normally blusterous, their movements are slow, and the usual raucous chattering muted as they line up for breakfast.  The smell of cinnamon rolls permeates the area and my salivary glands add to the relative humidity.

Around the lake, I find my way blocked by a downed tulip poplar laying across one of the wooden footbridges.  As I’m contemplating turning back a younger, female runner passes me and scrambles over the tree leaving me in her dust…humid dust.  She points out how stupid we are, “This is the most humid time of the day” she shouts over her shoulder.  The runner reminds of the days I used to run the same path stubbing my toes on various roots, crashing and burning.  Now I just walk and burn in the humidity. “Hot fun in the Summertime…” sings Sly Stone in my head.

She is correct about our stupidity and the humidity.  I’m reminded of my youthful, ‘early thirty’ mornings hoeing corn or chunkin’ hay bales onto a flatbed along the river bottoms. The heavy dew on broad corn leaves or narrow hay stubble seemed to melt into the air almost choking you with its warm thickness before dissipating into a dusty, dry, throat-searing heat by midmorning.

Julys and Augusts are oppressive in the South, slowing time to crawl.  Was it not for modern conveniences would time stop altogether?  Our ancestors survived with high ceilings, wide, tall windows and broad, tree-shaded verandas.  As a child, I survived with nothing more than a window fan exchanging hot air for hot air.  For some reason, the sun didn’t seem as hot nor the humidity as thick in the hazy fog of my memories.

Today I’m just thankful to have the choice to stay out in the thick, sticky humidity or come into the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  You can probably guess which one I will choose.

For more ramblings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured image is of Salvadore Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”  and was lifted from Flickr.

Tin Soldier

The grilled chicken thighs and fingerling potato salad are just memories now…even the leftovers.  Later in the day ribs and chicken wings were served at the Bennett Fourth of July fest along with Carol Ann’s killer potato salad.  I’m sure there will be lingering side effects to an evening of eating and drinking what I normally don’t eat or drink.  Still, I almost feel sacrilegious not having pulled pork as a side with the ribs.  Anti-American?  No, just trying to cheat the Grim Reaper a few seconds longer.

Despite the enjoyment of seeing friends, some for the first time since the last Fourth, I would prefer a small gathering with my bride and two blind puppy dogs to be my only concession to the celebration of the Fourth of July.  Very sedate until the crazies above us begin to set off M-80s and Cherry Bombs.  Not very patriotic by some people’s standards.  Typical…or rather than typical, maybe it is simply the new normal for me.  I celebrated my own birthday in the same way.

I’m truly not feeling it.  Not feeling it but certainly thinking about it…it being my patriotism.

I am patriotic and wish my country a happy birthday.  I simply don’t believe everything wrapped in a red, white and blue flag is patriotism.  I’m not blindly patriotic…odd perspective for a guy who grew up during the period of “American Exceptionalism” and the indoctrination I now associate with the Cold War Sixties.  “My Country Right or Wrong”, “The only good Commie is a dead Commie”,  “I’d rather be dead than Red.”  I remember my eighth-grade civics class being equal parts academic and propagandistic …maybe more propaganda than substance as I sit pondering.

I watched a recent news program, not fake news if we can still believe the black and white photographs the program featured.  I had certainly seen them before.  Black and white photographs high lighting certain moments in time…in history…my history.  Some were colorized photos but there was something stark and depressing about the ones in black and white.  The photos triggered memories of the old black and white film clips I saw featured during the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  “And that’s the way it is…” or was.

John Kennedy standing in front of a map trying to explain where Vietnam was, later his son saluting as his father’s body rolled past.  LBJ looking haggard stating he would not run again.  A photograph of a naked Vietnamese child, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running from a napalm attack.  Major General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner after Tet, bodies laying a ditch outside Mai Lai.  Much different photographs from the ones I saw from World War Two.  Different and as I look back, projecting the loss of a certain innocence I wish I could find again.

Growing up I always believed we were the stalwart protectors of what was right and just.  A courageous country wearing white hats or knights in shiny armor.  We were the virtuous and righteous battling the minions of the devil.  Shining a light on the cockroaches of evil and sending them scurrying from sight. Vietnam and Watergate took my innocence and not in a good way.  Bobbi Jo Bedell did that but I doubt either innocence will be returned to me.

Black and white pictures of Richard Nixon, arms raised with fingers veed in victory…later a finger pointed at the camera, “I am not a crook.”  A color shot in front of Marine One, Nixon’s arms raised with fingers veed despite his disgrace.  Like an alcoholic wanting to recover, I hoped we had reached rock bottom.

I feel I’ve witnessed our decline firsthand.  Like my vision, it has taken place in small increments.  My failing eyesight was gradual until sharp lines became fuzzy and my arms became too short to bring the written word in to focus.  I’m not sure if we can make lenses strong enough to correct the vision of our nation.

Declines of civilizations are usually slow and all civilizations decline.  It is inevitable. Some disappear totally. Most don’t disappear due to a cataclysmic event, but rather, they die rotting from the inside.

A rotting social, economic, political system mated with an ineffective and excessive military brought the Roman and French Empires to an end.  It was gradually at first before running downhill like a runaway freight.  They collapsed under their own excesses and attempting to maintain the status quo.

I’ve been witnessed our rot for fifty years and I wonder if we have reached the point of no return.  I certainly believe our white hats are stained and our armor dented and rusty.  We are more concerned about filling our pockets than being the “shining light upon the hill.”

Some reading this will say “We’re still the best country in the world.”  Maybe, but what are we doing to keep ourselves on our lofty pedestal?  Is it a pedestal that exists only in our minds?

We deny science and accept myth.  We politicize religion and use it as a weapon against our fellow man.  We choose partisan politics over the good of the many and create a bogey man and call it socialism.  We create social outcasts with our hatred and more and more enemies with our bombs.  Our greed is more important than the planet we live on.  As a country, we are living on other people’s money and giving it to people who don’t need it…or deserve it.

My biggest worry is our hatred and greed which seems to drive everything else.  I’m reminded of the old Billy Jack movie from the early Sixties.  Not the movie exactly, the theme, “One Tin Soldier Rides Away” by Caste.

As a battle rages over a perceived treasure, the valley people kill the mountain people, who would have given them their treasure had they just asked.

“Now they stood before the treasure

On the mountain dark and red

Turned the stone and looked beneath it

Peace on earth was all it said.”

 

Others will read this and suggest that maybe I should relocate to another country since I hate America so much.  I don’t hate America, I hate what America has become…if it was ever anything else.  To quote James Baldwin,

“I love America more than any other country in this world,

and, exactly for this reason,

I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Usually, essays have a closing statement which draws everything together and ties a bright red bow around it.  I can’t do that because the story is still being written and the end hasn’t been reached.  What that ending is, is up to us.  We must find common ground or “There won’t be any trumpets blowing Come the judgment day.”

 

Featured Image:  By The Late Mitchell Warren (Author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom” series) http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

Video:

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

 

Twitter Storm: 1776 

 

Dateline Philadelphia July 5th, 1776.  Lester Holt’s great, great, great, great grandpa dressed in colonial garb, including powder wig and tricornered hat, is reporting live from outside of the Pennsylvania State House.  “Since learning that twelve of the thirteen British colonies have declared their independence from the English crown, King George III has erupted in a storm of angry twitter posts directed at the Second Continental Congress in general and specifically outspoken members such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, his brother Samuel along with Ben Franklin.  The last exchange was just minutes ago with the king tweeting, “I dare you!” and Tom Jefferson responding, “Yo Mama!”  (New York did not sign the original document until later.)

A former student sent me down that pig trail which led me to Alice’s rabbit hole. Tom Meilinger posted, “What would it be like if there were social media in 1776? Would King George and Thomas Jefferson be in a Twitter war? Would British citizens be commenting on how the colonists should find a new colony to move to if they didn’t like the British empire? Would they hope their British nine pin team might lose to another country because someone on it wasn’t a loyalist?”  I wondered too and Tom and I don’t usually agree on much.

Tom triggered a mental vision King George III sitting on a porcelain throne, his considerable girth covered by a gold, terry cloth robe, hammering out angry tweet after angry tweet.  There are some things that can’t be unseen…the mental vision will haunt me for a while.

Image result for George the Third

Understand, there was plenty of propaganda that flowed from both sides of the Atlantic during the lead up to our revolutionary war.  I say our revolutionary war because our little skirmish was just a small part of what became a larger conflict, The Anglo-French War.  The difference with propaganda then was that correspondence was considerably slower than our current form.  A month or more to get the news out as opposed to instantaneous.

Benjamin Franklin drew this now-famous cartoon of a disjointed snake in 1754 — telling fragmented colonies that if they didn't join the fight, they would perish.

Patriots such as Ben Franklin and Paul Revere created stunning propaganda art including Revere’s copper engraving depicting a highly sensationalized version of the 1770 “Boston Massacre.”  Newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals on both sides were guilty of sensationalizing any and everything.  Kind of like today only not at light speed.

This copper engraving by Paul Revere is a sensationalized depiction of the

Can you imagine the meme’s that could have been created over the Boston Massacre?  Jackbooted English lobster backs firing on innocent colonists throwing snowballs.  “Just boys liquored up and having a bit of fun.”  Or from the other side, Crispus Attucks dressed in a hoody and portrayed as an “Antifa Thug!”

Image result for Cyprus Attucks

I doubt King George would be tweeting that there were fine people on both sides and please realize, the Patriots were the Antifa of 1776 or at least the Anti-monarchy…Antima?  See…that could have sparked a heated social media argument…and may still.

Three years later drunken members of the Sons of Liberty would badly disguise themselves as Native Americans and dump chests of “cheap” British Tea into Boston Harbor.  Were they really upset over the Tea Tax or was it that, even with the tax, Britain had undercut the black marketeers?  “How can an honest criminal make a living?”  Tweets would fly.  “How dare they dress as Native Americans?  Racist liberal scum.”  Tweets from loyalists, Royalists, King’s Men, or Tories would fly, only to be returned by patriots, revolutionaries, continentals, colonials, rebels, Yankees, or Whigs.  Pick a name…any name.

Image result for Boston Tea Party

On April 19,1775, Emerson’s “Shot heard ‘round the world” would find its way onto a million Facebook memes as Minute Men sent British Troops packing back to Boston from Concord and Lexington.  King George would tweet, “Bunch of chickens!  Very bad, hiding behind trees.  Real men fight out in the open.”  Thomas Jefferson would counter with “Yo Mama wears combat boots!”

The next eight years would give ample fodder for tweets, Instagram posts and of course Facebook.  Most non-combatants viewed the war as a football game between rivals…except football hadn’t been invented.  It’s okay, neither had social media.

Early on it didn’t go well for the colonists and loyalist could post hateful GIFs, Thomas Jefferson being hung while the loyalist chanted “Shimmy up a toothpick, slide down a pine, look on the scoreboard and see who’s behind”.

Later as the winds of fortune shifted to the continentals, tweets about Patrick Ferguson, the only British soldier killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain, would erupt along with chants like “Chewing tobacco, chewing tobacco, spit, spit, spit, Exlax, Exlax, go team go” or “Don’t come round these here hills stirring up trouble.”

Related image

In October of 1783, an end run by the French fleet and Washington’s Continental Army supported by the French under Comte de Rochambeau caught Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown and led to hundreds of tweets about how unfair it was.  “Battles should be fought one on one.”  “Cheaters, cheaters, cheaters.”   “We were having to play against the officials too.”

George the Third was beside himself as he tweeted, “I should have fired Cornwallis after Guilford Courthouse.  He couldn’t find his butt with both hands.  So very sad.”

Image result for cornwallis leaves yorktown

Yes, Tom, it would be interesting if social media existed in 1776…well…as interesting as it is today.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.  Stop by and give him a little love.

Image 1:  George the Third of Great Britain  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_III_of_the_United_Kingdom

Image 2:   Ben Franklin’s cartoon of a disjointed snake https://www.businessinsider.com/pro-independence-propaganda-from-the-american-revolution-2015-7#this-parchment-was-used-to-call-american-patriots-to-arms-as-the-war-heated-up-1

Image 3:  Paul Revere’s copper engraving of the Boston Massacre https://www.businessinsider.com/pro-independence-propaganda-from-the-american-revolution-2015-7#this-parchment-was-used-to-call-american-patriots-to-arms-as-the-war-heated-up-1

Image 4:  Crispus Attucks, one of five killed by British fire during the Boston Massacre http://crispusattucks.org/about/who-was-crispus-attucks/

Image 5:  Sons of Liberty at the Boston Tea Party.  They weren’t that well disguised.  https://chapinus.fandom.com/wiki/Boston_Tea_Party_(Final_Draft)

Image 6:  Patrick Ferguson, the only Briton killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain.  The rest were Loyalist or “Over the Mountain Boys.”  https://www.knowitall.org/photo/major-patrick-ferguson-kings-mountain

Image 7: Cornwallis’s surrender.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwallis_in_North_America

Featured Image: Some of the signers, https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/why-does-united-states-america-celebrate-independence-day-4th-fourth-july-declaration-holiday/