Category Archives: History

The Oscars Been Awarded but There Are Dark Shadows on the Silver Screen by Kenneth Weene

Just over a century after the release of D.W. Griffith’s film “The Birth of a Nation,” Nate Parker’s film of the same name came to the silver screen. While the Griffith film justified the Ku Klux Klan and portrayed white racism as the salvation of America, the Parker film traces the life of Nat Turner and the slave revolt which he led in pre-Civil War Virginia. From totally opposing perspectives, both films spoke to the fear and anger that has poisoned American race relations since before the Revolution.

It should certainly not surprise us that films speak to our national consciousness and help us define who we are and what we believe. If there is one art form that is quintessentially American, it is movies, and what greater purpose has art than to explore the human condition.

While the two “Birth of a Nation” films explore the darkest sides of American race relations, three other films released at the end of 2016 try to raise an entirely different set of issues.

“Fences,” based on the August Wilson stage play, presents a Black America that is separate and if not equal one that has its own unique culture. The protagonist Troy Maxson is a Black man who is painfully aware of the limitations that have been placed on his life because of his race. Fearful of what the world will do to them, he tries to protect his sons by forcing them to see the world through his own bitter eyes. Set in the 1950’s, “Fences” references both the fact that Black Americans were fenced in by segregation and prejudice and the career of Jackie Robinson, whose success as a baseball player gave hope for an avenue towards equality.

“Loving” is based not on a play or story but real lives. Richard and Mildred Loving were a working-class couple who loved one another. Because he was White and she Black, the state of Virginia forbad their marriage. Going out of state to marry, they returned to Virginia and found themselves jailed and only released if they promised to leave the state. Featured in a Life Magazine story which I remember reading, the Lovings eventually won not only the right to have their marriage recognized in the home state but also the legal end of miscegenation laws in America. Loving v. Virginia was decided by the Supreme Court Dec 12, 1967. The movie asks a simple but poignant question: are Blacks less human than Whites; are we not all more nearly human than otherwise?

During the years between 1958, when the Lovings married, and 1967 another story was also playing out in Virginia. NASA was established in 1958 with the goal of taking America into space. “Hidden Figures” focuses on three Black women who worked at NASA’s Virginia facilities. Dorothy Vaughan eventually became NASA’s first Black-American supervisor. Mary Jackson became an aeronautical engineer. And, mathematics whiz Katherine Johnson played a pivotal role in figuring out how to bring the astronauts home. These three women entered NASA when it was a segregated and misogynistic organization and managed to find the recognition they deserved. This multiple-biopic subconsciously takes us back to Jackie Robinson as it challenges us to judge people not on race but on competence. Should the best mathematician, engineer, or supervisor not get the job regardless of the color of their skin. The message is clear: we are all the same under our skins. Or, to use one of the most self-conscious lines of the script, “At NASA we all pee the same color.” Presumably, that is the color of rocket fuel.

Why this sudden spurt of films about the Black experience in the fifties and sixties? It would be easy to point out the diversity has become an issue in Hollywood and particularly when it comes to awards. That may be one part of the answer.

Another, and in my opinion a more important answer is represented by that centennial of the release of that abhorrent film “The Birth of a Nation.” The release of that film in 1915 began a portrayal of Black America that has often been offensive and assuredly requires redress. As distasteful as the representations of Blacks has overall been in film, that issue pales in comparison to the actuality of Black life. And, on the other side, as horrific as slavery, segregation, and bigotry have been, there has been real movement towards civil rights. Without doubt, the possibilities for Black Americans are far greater and better today than they were at the beginning of the fifties and sixties.

The question that these three films asks is what has made things better. During those years, powerful voices were raised, marches held, and riots occurred. Were those the catalyst for change, or did change come because White America came to see Blacks, like all of us, were more nearly human than otherwise? These new films would have us ignore the marchers, the rioters, and the conflicts. They would have us learn a new mythology of American race relations, one in which aspirations change the world and the system can be altered from within.

These three movies are trying to rewrite the history of race in America. They are trying to say, “Let us forget about racism and segregation. Let us forget about the struggle that brought Civil Rights. Let us instead recognize that the right prevails, that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ and that the basic American character is one of decency.”

Is this revision realistic? Can we rewrite American history and bury slavery, segregation, the Klan, and discrimination? The rage of both “Birth of a Nation” films is seared into the soul of America. It cannot be so easily papered over. Elimination of America’s racial divide will require not simply the creation of a new set of “happier” myths but real reconciliation.

The great Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung spoke of the shadow, that part of each person that they cannot accept in themselves. It is the part of the person that they keep hidden. Reconciliation cannot take place until those shadowy parts on all sides are exposed in the light of recognition. As much as I enjoyed the three films, “Fences,” “Loving,” and “Hidden Figures,” I see them not as sanguine harbingers of a just and equal society but as signs that once again America will try to bury that which is dark in our history. If the “American Dilemma” is to be resolved, it cannot be by the application of whitewash but only by the piercing sting of real discussion.

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Bio: Novelist, poet, and retired psychologist Ken Weene has long been a movie buff. Currenly, he is co-writing a script based on his novel Times to Try the Soul of Mani. You can find more of his writing at www.kennethweene.com

 

Christmas: Past and Present by Micki Peluso

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of talking dolls, video games,
bicycles and other expensive toys, danced in their heads. Mama in her kerchief
and I in my cap had just settled down to tackle the mountain of Christmas bills,
which was larger than the national debt.

Years ago, Christmas seemed easier, less commercial and more enjoyable. Many families lived near each other, and most of the decorations, foodstuffs and presents were homemade. While there was stress and haste to accomplish the needed tasks by Christmas Eve, the stress was different than what is experienced today. Generations past did not seem to lose sight of the reason for Christmas; a birthday celebration of sharing and love. The nostalgia of horse-
drawn sleigh rides through wooded country roads is sorely missed. Bells jingling
accompaniment to carols sung off key by bundled-up children in the back of the
sleigh, is a thing of the past. Yet Christmas retains an aura of magic, nonetheless.

Originally, the Christian church did not acknowledge Christmas at all, as such observance was considered a heathen rite. The earliest records of anyChristmas celebration dates back to the early part of the third century. Gift giving, as a custom, may have originated with the Romans, relating to their worship of Dionysus at Delphi. The Christmas tree comes from the Germans, although its origin has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The tree replaces a former customary pyramid of candles, part of the pagan festivals. There is a legend that Martin Luther brought an evergreen home to his children and decorated it for Christmas. German immigrants carried this custom with them to the New World, but it did not gain popularity until 1860, when John C. Bushmann, a German, decorated a tree in Massachusets and invited people to see it. Evergreens, a symbol of survival, date to the 18th century when St. Boniface, honoring the
Christianization of Germany, dedicated a fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the  sacred oak of Odin. The “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” was the General Grant tree in General Grant National Park in California, dedicated May 1, 1926, by the town mayor. The tree was 267 feet high and 3500-4000 years old.

Mistletoe, burned on the altar of the Druid gods, was regarded as a symbol of love and peace. The Celtic custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the practice of enemies meeting under the plant, dropping their weapons and embracing in peace. Some parts of England decorated with mistletoe and holly, but other parts banned its use due to association with Druid rites. Mistletoe was considered a cure for sterility, a remedy for poisons, and kissing under it would surely lead to marriage.

The 4th century German St. Nicholas, shortened through the years to Santa Claus, has become the epitome of today’s Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas, taking pity upon three young maidens with no dowry and no hope, tossed a bag of gold through each of their windows, and granted them a future. Other anonymous gifts being credited to him were emulated and the tradition grew. The Norsemen enhanced the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with their
goddess, Hertha, known to appear in fireplaces, bringing happiness and good
luck.

Sir Henry Cole, impressed by a lithograph drawing, made by J.C. Horsley, instigated the idea of Christmas cards. It took eighteen years for the custom to gain popularity, and then it was adopted mainly by gentry. Christmas was banned in England in 1644, during the Puritan ascendency. A law was passed ordering December 25th a market day and shops were forced to open. Even the making of plum pudding and mincemeat pies was forbidden. Thislaw was repealed after the Restoration, but the Dissenters still referred to Yuletide as “Fooltide.” The General Court of Massachusetts passed a law in 1657 making the celebration of Christmas a penal offense. This law, too, was repealed, but many years would pass before New England celebrated Christmas. When Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, it was the observance of Christmas that made his conquest of the British a success. The enemy was sleeping off the affects of the celebration.

Befana, or Epiphany, is the Italian female counterpart of Santa Claus. On Epiphany, or Twelth Night, she is said to fill children’s stockings with presents. According to legend, Befana was too busy to see the Wise Men during their visit to the Christ Child, saying that she would see them on their way back to the East. The Magi, however, chose a different route home, and now Befana must search for them throughout eternity. The sacred song traditionally sung on her yearly visit is the Befanata. The number of Magi visiting the stable on that first Christmas Eve could be anywhere from two to twenty. The number three was chosen because of the three gifts; gold, frankencense and myrrh. Western tradition calls the Magi, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but they have different names and numbers in different parts of the world.

Though distinctly Christian, the social aspect of Christmas is observed and enjoyed by many religious and ethnic groups. Rabbi Eichler, during a sermon in Boston in 1910 explains why: “…Christmas has a double aspect, a social and theological side. The Jew can and does heartily join in the social Christmas. Gladly, does he contribute to the spirit of good will and peace, characteristic of the season. It was from the light of Israel’s sanctuary that Christianity lit its torch. The Hanukkah lights, therefore, justly typify civilization and universal religion.”

Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, penned the famous poem, “Twas the Night before Christmas.” Dr.Moore never intended for the poem to be published. Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Troy, New York, accompanied her father on a visit to Dr. Moore. She asked for a copy of the poem and sent it anonymously to the editor of The Troy Sentinel. A copy of the newspaper carrying his poem was sent to Dr. Moore, who was greatly annoyed that  something he composed for the amusement of his children should be printed. It was not until eight years later, that Dr. Moore publicly admitted that he wrote the poem.

Christmas is the favorite Holiday of children, who unquestionably accept the myth of Santa Claus. In 1897, one little girl began to have doubts as to the reality of Santa Claus, and wrote to the New York Sun, asking for confirmation. Her letter read: Dear editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says,” If you see it in The Sun, it’s so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?” Virginia D’Hanlon. Francis P. Church’s editorial answer to the little girl became almost asfamous as Dr. Moore’s poem. In part, this is what he wrote: “Virginia, your little friends are so wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe, except they see… Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists….Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as if there were no Virginias…No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

It is sentiments like this that warm the heart of child and adult alike as Christmas nears. It is not the gifts, soon forgotten, that make Christmas a time of wonder and magic. It is the love within all people for God, for children, for each other. During this hectic holiday season, take a moment or two to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

“And I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a Goodnight!”

by Dr. Clement Clarke Moore
Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, leading to a first time publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a career in Journalism. I’ve freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper, written for two more and published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges, magazines and e-zine editions. My first book, published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . . And THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that Builds Character, third place in the Predators and Editors Contest and first place for People’s Choice Monthly Award. I have stories in ‘Women’s Memoirs’, ‘Tales2inspire’, and ‘Creature Features.’ Two of my short horror stories were recently published in an International Award winning anthology called ‘The Speed of Dark.’ ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ is my first children’s book. My collection of short fiction, and slice of life stories in a book collection called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck’, is due to be released in January, 2017.

Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

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I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

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Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

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Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

pepeserrano-borges

Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

I DID SURVIVE: A TRUE STORY told by Fran Lewis

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Growing up I wondered why my grandmother had trouble seeing at times, why she constantly had to check her blood levels and why she always seemed so sad and frightened. As a young child and because she was my best ally, best confidante I knew that at the age of 14 I was too young to ask her about her life as a child not of course thinking that she had something she wanted to hide. But, one day she sat me down when no one was around and explained just why my grandmother was her hero, her champion and how she came to be Mrs. Max Goldberg.

My grandmother had five sisters and all of them were in different camps during WWII. The stories she told me that I am going to relate to you as they were told to me will reopen old wounds, replay scenes from the war most would choose to forget and let everyone remember that this really did happen and we better stay on guard or it just might happen again. What was done to my grandmother was an insult to humanity and her dignity. So many suffered at the hands of a select few. Hear her voice as she relates the story behind the stone and then meet the man who did this to her as I made sure he had a stone of talc with his name written on a piece of paper pasted to the outside. It’s more than he deserves.

Here is my grandmother’s story.

My name is Katie and what I related to my granddaughter really happened to me and explains why I had so many medical issues to deal with and why she heard her Aunts and Uncles at first call me by my first name or Tante and not Mama. How the world allowed this to happen is unthinkable and the fact that I survived quite remarkable. Doctors are supposed to save lives not destroy them. I was placed in a cell that was filthy with rodents crawling from all parts, as there were so many holes inside it. No windows, no vent just a small metal opening in the door to push a food through. Food that I would never touch because just smelling it allowed me to know that it was drugged and would make me even sicker than I already was. There was a cot, a small mattress, a small pillow and a blanket with holes in it. The cell was about four feet long and 6 feet wide. The bars on the door were close together you could barely see outside but the screams and cries of the others could not be ignored. Fear entered my heart as I had no idea what they were going to do to me and why. The time period of the Third Reich and the Nazi doctors violated more than my privacy, dignity they tore at my inner core and soul. They were cruel, relentless, heartless and demanded total submission. They taunted us every chance they got and the tortures were many. One morning after trying to make me eat what was supposed to pass for oatmeal but looked like someone’s stomach contents they took me into a stark white lab and placed a burning hot sun lamp on my lower parts. They did this many times and the pain was horrific. My screams were unheard and the faces of those in the room frightening as the just smiled, laughed and wrote down what they saw.

But, this was not the worst of what I endured as they had devised a sterilization plan that led to more than 200,000 Germans being sterilized and based on The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. ( July 14, 1933). If successful and in my case it was the sterilization could rid the world of inferior races and create what they felt was the master race of those within it who were masterful and rid the world of those of us that were not perfect.

There were two forms of sterilization that they used: x-rays and injections. In my case it was X-rays. Fear was in my eyes but I would not allow them to see me cry nor would I give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was terrified. I tried to hide my feelings as two or three times a week I was brought in to have my ovaries irradiated with x-rays. The dosages varied. I was subjected to these experiments and at times too weak to go back to work but they did not care. I don’t know whether working in the kitchen and making their food was better than living in a state of hell within that cell. Prisoners such as myself were subjected to these experiments and the pain and burns from the radiation did not deter my tormenters. Suffering the serious burns and swelling on my genitals did not receive any medical relief.

The results of these sterilization experiments to some seemed disappointing but in my case they served what they would say was their purpose. Others were victims of surgical castration and they felt that this time more time-efficient.

The sick mastermind behind these experiments was Dr. Josef Mengele who became the chief physician of Birkenau in 1943 hoping to prove the superiority of the Nordic Race. Schumann was the man that created them where I was. But, this was not to be my final destination as they sent me to Dachau where pharmaceutical compounds were tested to supposedly fight off contagious diseases like TB, yellow fever, malaria and other infectious diseases. Sulfa drugs were invented and used on some prisoners but they refused to see that I am allergic to that drug and kept injecting me with it anyway.

These doctors were sadistic and enjoyed what they were doing and they had little or no morals, no consideration for any of use and could care less if we survived. There were some seventy medical research programs at these camps or so they were called and over 200 so called doctors. The fact that they had contacts with leading universities and medical institutions is scary.

After being here for at least two years or more I have lost track I look at myself and wonder that I really am. I can’t sleep, eat and every time they come to get me I have no idea what will happen next until a miracle occurred and God heard my pleas and my voice.

In response to the German occupation, some Poles organized one of the largest underground movements in Europe. More than 300 widely supported political and military groups. I could not believe what happened. We heard little about the outside world or the news but the guards often talked when we were even allowed in the yard for some respite of fresh air but not much.

After finally escaping I learned more about this group and why someone would come to my cell dressed as an SS officer, pretending to take me for another experiment or test and then I was taken into the woods, under tunnels and found myself somewhere else and supposedly brought to safety with many others. Air force physician Dr. Horst Schumann ran the experiments where I was at Auschwitz.

Liberated and free did not help when I was haunted by the nightmares of this horrific place and the stench that never left my body. The bugs, the smell of death and the tattoo on my arm that I hid from everyone by wearing long sleeves, hiding my shame at being a victim of these monsters as I picture the camp divided into three main areas. According to what my granddaughter learned from her research the estimated amount of innocent Jewish people killed at Auschwitz was between 2 and four million people. Those gas chambers burned the bodies in twenty minutes and starvation, showers; sleep deprivation were just some of the horrors. Freedom comes at a high price but those of us that found our way were not ever really safe within our own hearts. Although freed from the horrors we had to remain silent, safe and in close quarters in the homes of others who agreed to protect us until we could gain safe passage to America.

When I finally arrived in America my sisters Fanny, Rosie, Shandina and Tillie all who were taken to safety but had not undergone most of what I did greeted me. We never spoke of our experiences or shared our heartaches. We preferred to keep it all-private. My granddaughter will tell you some of the rest before I complete my thoughts and the reasons why I am behind this marble stone.

Fran Lewis continues the tale:

I am named after my grandmother Fanny. She had four sisters who survived the concentration camps in Poland. Two sisters and Fanny’s parents were brought to America from Poland by my grandfather. Katie and Tillie came from Poland and their parents Tzvia Bella and Joseph Mordecai Cohen as well.

Fanny, my biological grandmother, spoke five languages and instilled in her children the importance of being educated and going to school. Both Max and Fanny taught their children Irving, Kenneth, Harry, Tova and Ruth, to always strive for what they wanted and never give up until you succeed. Always working to succeed on your own with the support and guidance of your family is the only route, Max felt to being successful.

When Fanny passed away, Max was devastated. He no longer had a mother for his five children. Faced with this serious situation he decided to court and finally married the only grandmother I ever knew, Fanny’s sister Katie.

Katie did not walk into a great situation. She had a difficult time making the transition from aunt to mother. A unique and wise woman, she quickly won the love, trust and devotion she so rightly deserved from all five children. Katie and Max brought up the five children with love, understanding guiding them and supporting each one in whatever they chose to do. With a strong and firm manner my grandfather headed his family and received the respect he deserved from every member.

Katie’s story continues:

Five children that learned that I was their new mother after Fanny died and left them. It took many years before they considered me their Mama but they finally did. My grandchildren, many of who live in so many different places never learned the truth. You see, because of those monsters and what they did to me I am sterile and cannot have children. I have this awful brown liquid that comes out of me and I have to use stool softeners and enemas in order to cleanse my colon. My life is great being married to Max and my grandchildren and children are my life.

They are respectful, wonderful and my granddaughter that is telling you this story even taught me how to write my name and read. I still cannot see that well when I walk in the street I have to count the number of steps that I know to my destinations. You see I have these awful cataracts too thanks to everything they did to me plus Diabetes and other illnesses. This would get anyone down but not me you see I DID SURVIVE. The love of one man who devoted himself to me and his children and the love of my grandchildren is what kept me going for so many years. To the SS officer that did this to those and me that helped him torture so many others and they and me your voices have been silenced do not deserve to hear now or ever. This is my story. My name is Katie Goldberg and I DID SURVIVE! They tried and tried but my spirit was never broken.

Fran continues:

Although the facts are there the sequence of events might not be perfect but this is what I recorded when my grandmother told it to me. Historical events sited in this story are written and told the way my grandmother told them to me. She was brave. She was smart. She was KATIE!
Shared by Katie and Fanny’s granddaughter Fran Lewis:

GROWING UP IN THE SHADOW OF A LONE WOLF KILLER by Unni Turrettini

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Anders Behring Breivik grew up a twenty-minute drive from my parents’ home near Oslo, Norway. We frequented the same movie theaters and cafes and no doubt crossed paths at some point. Although he didn’t look like a terrorist then or does now, he murdered seventy-seven people and wounded hundreds more five years ago, on July 22, 2011. In shock and disbelief, I asked myself how something like this could happen in my native country. How, in Norway, the second wealthiest nation in the world, with the second highest gross domestic product per capita, and its Nobel Peace Prize?

Breivik was not born a killer. In fact, the psychiatrists who observed him as a child concluded that Breivik was a docile boy, showing no signs of violent behavior. So how did he become one of the worst mass murderers in history?

Any country can produce madmen, one might argue. Unconvinced by that easy explanation, I went on a mission to discover how this seemingly normal young man could become a mass killer. I needed to know if there were any way to stop the next massacre by the next Breivik, regardless of his country.

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As I studied other lone wolves, including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, I discovered that the lone wolf doesn’t murder for fun, profit, or as a shortcut to suicide. This killer is so shut off and shut down from humanity that the only way for him to matter is to connect so completely with a cause that he is compelled to kill for it.

Breivik’s childhood could match that of anyone growing up in Norway in the 1980s, including mine. He was born in 1979 to economist Jens Breivik, a diplomat stationed in London and Paris, and Wenche Behring, a nurse. Soon after Breivik’s birth, the marriage fell apart, and Wenche decided to return to Norway, settling in Skøyen, an area within Oslo’s affluent West End.

So far, there was nothing exceptional about Breivik. But underneath the appearances, his childhood differed from mine. Before entering grammar school, when he was three years old, his mother began showing signs of erratic behavior. Neighbors gossiped about her smothering her son with inappropriate affection, having him sleep in her bed with her, and then suddenly turning on him with a mix of anger and fear, as if she were frightened for her own safety.

Due to exhaustion, Wenche requested help from the State Center for Child and Youth Psychiatry around the time Breivik turned four. Child Protective Services, upon hearing that she was frightened of her small son and that she was emotionally unstable, recommended that young Breivik be sent to a foster home. Breivik’s father made an attempt at obtaining custody, but the court decided in favor of Wenche, and Breivik remained in her care.

In school, Breivik’s hunger to succeed and be recognized found little nourishment. A misbehaving or openly ambitious child was quickly put in his place by the teachers and fellow students. Sticking out, even in a positive way, was unacceptable in Norwegian schools, and Breivik experienced both bullying and exclusion.

The attachment issues Breivik experienced as a young boy with an unstable mother and a distant father no doubt contributed to his difficulty in developing meaningful relationships and his rejection from every group with which he tried to connect. Breivik’s childhood was not worse than many others, but the lack of emotional nourishment was catastrophic for his development.

All the lone wolves I researched were intelligent and highly sensitive. Some psychologists refer to them orchid children, because of their fragile personalities. If neglected, orchid children wither. But if they’re nurtured, they not only survive, they flourish.

Few people recognize the killer among them when that killer is a lone wolf with no paper trail. Had I sat in a classroom beside Breivik in those early days, I doubt that I would have found him unusual, let alone dangerous. I might have even related to his need to be more than a sheep following the rest of the herd into Norwegian mediocrity. Perhaps that is one reason I wrote my book—to understand how a culture contributes to the making of a killer. More important, I wished to find a way that will allow law enforcement to identify a killer like Breivik before he strikes.

***

Norwegian born Unni Turrettini is an attorney and the author of The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer: Anders Behring Breivik and the Threat of Terror in Plain Sight from Pegasus Books.

Because He Survived By T.R. Heinan

 

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He was rock star famous and Warren Buffet rich during his lifetime, but, unless you are a native Portuguese, you probably never heard of him.  His life was a series of improbable events that significantly changed the history of Western civilization.  Born out of wedlock, he became the father of royal dynasties, yet he died penniless.  With only 6,500 volunteers, he challenged an army of 30,000 professional soldiers, led by the King of Castile himself. It was the decisive battle for Portugal’s right to self-determination and independence. Few, if any of his contemporaries expected him to survive. Not only did he survive, he defeated the entire Castilian army in just one afternoon.  His name was Nuno Alvares Pereira, and had he not won that battle, it is likely that you or I would not even exist

Born in 1360, Nuno Pereira was the natural son of the Prior of Crato, who was himself the son of the Archbishop of Braga, both of whom appear to have had some difficulty keeping their solemn vows of chastity.  Given the circumstances of his birth, he seemed an unlikely candidate to become the ancestor of many European royal families.  Yet, both King Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic of Spain, the monarchs who sponsored the voyages of Christopher Columbus, were direct descendants of Nuno. So was Emperor Charles V, who ruled over more territory than any other European monarch, including most of the Americas.  Catherine of Braganća, Queen Consort of England, for whom the Borough of Queens in New York was named, Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered World War I, and the Royal Houses of Braganća who ruled over Portugal and Brazil, were all directly descended from this man.  By somehow surviving the Battle of Aljubarrota on August 14, 1385, Nuno not only preserved the independence of his native Portugal, but was lived to start a family and have a daughter who would marry into royal family of Portugal. Her decedents would rule much of Europe for centuries.

Nuno lived at a time when both his nation and his church were in total upheaval.  His elderly king was planning to offer his only legitimate heir, Princess Beatrice, into the royal family of Castile. His Queen was having a rather public and scandalous affair with an agent of Castile who hoped to serve as regent. Three different men claimed to be Pope.  Following the wrong one could have serious consequences. A mob had tossed the bishop of Lisbon to his death from the tower of the Cathedral.  Confusion and revolution reigned.

During this period, the Arthurian tales had begun to reach Portugal from the shores of England and, as a young boy, Nuno told his parents that he wanted to become a great knight, a knight like Sir Galahad.  At age 13, after taking it upon himself to spy on Castilian military scouts and reporting his findings to his king, Nuno’s wish was granted and he was invested as a knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known today as the Knights of Malta.  So small was the boy at the time, that he had to borrow amour from the king’s teenaged natural son for the ceremony.

It is said that Nuno may be the only knight in history to have lived up to the ideals of the legendary Galahad. His reputation for chivalry soon spread beyond the borders of his native land.  In time of war, he fed the hungry populations of his Castilian opposition at his own expense. He customarily refused to share in the spoils of war. Once, he was so hungry that he traded his horse for a loaf of bread, then decided to give all of that loaf to a group of starving English knights who had allied themselves with Portugal.  It is recorded that Nuno even allowed squires from the enemy forces to meet with him in peace, just because they wanted to see the “Great Nuno” about whom they had heard so many stories.

In appreciation for Nuno’s unexpected victory over the Castilian army, Portugal’s new King John bestowed Nuno with a great number of titles and, to the consternation of various nobles, granted him land amounting to almost a third of the nation. Nuno, a deeply religious man, attributed his victory to the protection of the Virgin Mary. Historians would note that masterful military strategy, a travel weary Castilian opposition suffering from dysentery, and a few hundred expert archers provided to Nuno by the king of England also played a significant role in achieving his “miraculous” victory.  Nuno believed in the power of prayer, but his was never a jingoistic, arrogant conviction that God was exclusively on his side.  Nuno fought side by side with English troops. He died the same year as Joan of Arc, who fought against the English.  His writings suggest that he would have had no problem accepting a God who favored justice over nationalities.

Having suffered greatly from thirst during the heat of the battle, Nuno erected a small chapel to be built and ordered that a pitcher water be kept there for thirsty travelers.  That chapel and the offer of free water remain to this day. Nearby, there remains a small monument that he erected in memory two of his own brothers who, seeing that Nuno was vastly outnumbered, died opposing him in battle with never fulfilled hopes of obtaining some land or title from the Castilian king.

As peace returned to Portugal, Nuno joined his close friend, Prince Henry the Navigator, in promoting mathematics, rudimentary science, and geographical understanding.  In doing this, he helped shelter many Jews and Moslems who were in danger of expulsion from Portugal.  He joined the Queen in a campaign to restore morality and marital fidelity to the royal court.  Finally, after the death of his wife, when his daughter reached the age of majority, he renounced all of his titles, built a monastery for the Carmelite religious order in Lisbon, and then entered that order as a lowly brother spending his remaining years under a vow of poverty as the monastery gate keeper.  During his lifetime, Nuno acquired incredible wealth, but by the time he died, he had given all of it to religious and charitable projects, one third of his fortune went to support children orphaned during Portugal’s wars to maintain independence.  Though he was known for his courage and brilliant military strategy, he grew to hate war and is remembered in Portugal as The Peacemaker. On April 1, 1431, at the monastery in Lisbon that he built and joined, Nuno died while his brother monks read the passion of Christ to him from the Scriptures.  Almost six centuries later, in 2009, Nuno was declared a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI.

Based on the reports of his humility written by his contemporaries, I suspect Nuno would not like care for the many statues and monuments bearing his image that can now be seen throughout his native Portugal. His model of charity for the weak and marginalized has inspired the formation religious confraternities named for him in both Europe and North America and an orphanage chapel bearing his name now exits in Mexico. In life, Nuno preferred obscurity to fame. He believed that any good he may have accomplished was the work of his God. His worldview seems to have been less “God is on our side” and more “we can do nothing at all without him”.   It was a remarkable outlook for a man of his era and perhaps one that would be helpful in our own age.  I suspect no small number of Kurds, Palestinians, Tibetans and Basques would admire his firm belief in justice of national self-determination.  I believe that our world would benefit greatly from his example of humility and less boasting that God is on our side. I believe that we will never be able to fully grasp the significance of the ripples that just one human life can spread through time.

St. Nuno was an extraordinary individual whose contribution to both secular and religious history, while not altogether forgotten, has been largely ignored. We cannot imagine what course history would have taken had he died in battle, but he remains to me both an inspiration and a striking example of courage, humility, and the unfathomable value of every human life.

 

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a haunting 19th century New Orleans legend.http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

The turning point of World War 2 by Jon Magee

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I could not fail to notice that in the week that this item is being published Britain will be remembering the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For us in Europe the war had begun in 1939, and the Battle of Britain was the turning point of the war as Adolf Hitler faced his first defeat.

As I reflect on this momentous time in history my own personal memories, whilst serving in the British Royal Air Force, go back to when I climbed onto the wing of the Spitfire and into the small cockpit. I was conscious not only of how small it was, but also of how difficult it was to see ahead. Its long straight nose, up tilted when the tail wheel was on the ground, would have made taxing difficult since it was not easy to see ahead. It would have been necessary to swing from side to side to look in front. The view at take-off would also have been restricted in the same way until travelling fast enough to lift the tail; only then would it be possible to see over the nose. To take the pilot’s seat and feel the thrill of sitting in one of the world’s most iconic cockpits was an experience beyond compare. However, for me it was not the real thing of facing the battle of the 2nd World War. It was thirty years later in 1975 as I served as a young airman attending to the maintenance of the aircraft on an RAF base in Wales. The vast majority of the aircraft there were Hunters, but this one solitary Spitfire gave me the opportunity of allowing my imagination to run freely, thinking of a bygone age. Trust me when I say that it was the most emotional, historical and exhilarating experience available in aviation.  The Merlin engine powered two of the greatest fighters of World War II, the Supermarine Spitfire and the North American P-51 Mustang, but for the average Brit, it was the Spitfire that would always be seen as the one most well remembered.  spitfire2 (1)

 Douglas Bader, is a name well remembered as one of the heroic pilots taking part in the Battle of Britain, and first flew a Super marine Spitfire in February, 1940. He wrote about it in his book, Fight for the Sky (1973).  He said that the Spitfire “had eight machine guns of .303 calibre each, mounted four in each wing. The guns were spaced one close to the fuselage, two mid-wings, one further out. The eight guns were normally synchronized to 250 yards. In other words the four in each wing were sighted so that the bullets from all eight converged at that distance, in front of the Spitfire. Experienced fighter pilots used to close the pattern to 200 yards. The successful pilots succeeded because they did not open fire until they were close to the target”.

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The Second World War air campaign by the German Air Force occurred over several months in 1940. The UK suffered devastating aerial bombings as the Luftwaffe attempted to destroy Britain’s air defences. The RAF’s efforts prevented Hitler’s plans to invade Britain and were a crucial turning point in the war, marking Germany’s first major defeat. There were 348 British pilots that were killed during the campaign and they each need to be honoured, yet there were also numerous interesting tales that can be discovered happening on the ground, as a small nation with limited resources showed that it is still possible to face the might of a larger nation even when they seemed to be left on their own seeking to defend themselves and the principles of the needs of the future of democracy.

William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, was a notorious broadcaster of Nazi propaganda to the UK during World War II. His announcement ‘Germany calling, Germany calling’ was a familiar sound across the airwaves, introducing threats and misinformation that he broadcast from his Hamburg base. However, there was one occasion when the residents of the South of England knew without a shadow of doubt that Lord Haw Haw had made a tremendous mistake, as he announced that the Luftwaffe had completely destroyed Biggin Hill airodrome, though he would have felt confident he was making a true statement.  Among the various tricks used by the British at the time was focused on the nearby golf course where replica models of the Spitfire had been placed. As the bombers flew over they were sure that the golf course was the place they were on a mission for. The spitfires were clearly there for them to see, but they were merely false illusions not at the aerodrome but on the golf course.

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My grandparents lived at Bigginhill in a home they affectionately called The White House. It was painted white and easily seen from the distance. My grandmother would often recall the days when they were notified that they were at risk, and needed to move house. The Luftwaffe was known to have been taking photos of the area, and there must be a reason for it. Gran was a determined character and saw no reason why she should leave home just because of a photographer. Eventually, in frustration the authorities agreed for her to stay, but on condition that they did not paint the house in any other colour nor change anything related to the external structure. Any change would have meant the Germans would have suspected that their plans had been found out. That spirit of standing firm was at the heart of the character of the people who faced the bombings regardless of the risk to their lives. It was noted that even the Royal family refused to move out of London, but stayed with the people, bringing to them comfort and encouragement.

There were those who would have wondered in later life how they managed to escape. Driving home one evening an air raid began and my parents could see the local people heading for the nearest air raid shelter. They knew what they ought to do, head for shelter, but something within them seemed to be saying “head for home, head for home”. They could not understand that inner feeling, but it was home they went for. The next morning they knew why home was best for them. The air raid shelter they should have gone for was completely destroyed. That would have been their last day if they had not followed the call for home.

Mum had volunteered to work with the London Ambulance service during this time. She was a mere 4 foot 10 inches in stature, and the commandeered removal Lorries that were used as makeshift ambulances were not the place for her, one might think. Being so small she must have scared the life out of others on the road who could not see the driver, but night after night the emergency services did their bit whilst the few in the air likewise did theirs. A small nation with limited resources, but everyone needed to do their bit in times of war and emergency even if it was a noncombatant role. In every age I guess it is still the same, it is only as everyone is prepared to work as a team putting in their everything that the whole of society can see the victory in life.

Author of “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” & “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey” http://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister

The United States: Is she still a beacon to the world? edited by Kenneth Weene

 

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Exceptional or Problem Country

My View – Dellani Oakes

I was raised in a very liberal environment, but a patriotic one. My parents believed in the government, supported the military, but a lot of that faded when we got involved in Vietnam. Much more of that faith was shaken after the Watergate scandal. Still patriotic, still supportive, there was a feeling of discontent, even embarrassment.

I am proud to be American, though I see the flaws in our country. Our system needs an overhaul, where the needs of the people are met, rather than political agendas. It saddens me that we are viewed so negatively by so many in the world. We’re still a destination for those who want a better life, mostly because people have learned to work the system. They ring what they can from it, leaving We the People to pick up the pieces.

Discouraged as I am with our government, I still love my country. I still believe that it’s one of the greatest places to live. We have freedom that many don’t share. We can move from place to place across state lines without having to show papers and a passport. We are free to gripe about our government and its leaders, voice our opinions and gather in protest. We can vote and sign petitions. I’m not saying that our wishes are always met, but at least we can say what we think without fear of death.

Do I agree with everything our country has done? Not at all. But I can’t deny that I am proud to be an American and I believe it is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

 

Dellani Oakes is an author of romantic suspense novels, who lives in Florida where the sun shines, rain rains, the sky is blue and you can have all three at one time.

www.dellanioakes.wordpress.com

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Stars & Striped Coloured Glasses

by Stuart Carruthers

Back when I was a youngster living in England, we looked across the pond and our hearts sank. America had everything; it was the place from which cool radiated to our young eyes. Cowboys and Indians, trucks and cars with bonnets that stretched to the horizon; police shows were Cagney and Lacey, Starsky and Hutch and The Rockford Files and even the Churches had a band with electric bass guitars and drum kits. We, by contrast had police with pointed hats and sticks, brown short nosed Austin Allegro cars, Juliet Bravo, and churches with pipe organs and hard wooden pews. Evel Knievel jumped gorges and trucks; Eddie Kidd hopped over rivers.  Where we ate cereal and toast for breakfast, I was told by my mum that Americans ate donuts and apple pie! What more could a young boy want!

Skip forward 30 plus years and something has changed. Now everyone has hundreds of TV channels; all countries involve their soldiers in unjust wars and cars have become the same bland Japanese shapes. My son still wants to go to America, but that’s because it’s a long way away not because it has anything more than we do here in Taiwan. Globalization has given us everything from anywhere in the world wherever we are. Being American is no longer an aspiration it’s a way of life. We are fed a non-stop diet of American TV, fast food and god help us Coffee (since when was America synonymous with good coffee!?)

Thanks to social media we’re now fed the worst of Americana: cops that kill indiscriminately, highways perpetual state of inaction and never ending images of the worst of Walmart’s customers.

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s too much information, maybe, as with the rest of the world, the post-war baby boom has expired and the hope and optimism that came with it has faded and grayed with age like the children of the 50’s and 60’s.

I still haven’t found my way across the pond, but this is largely because other places looked more interesting. Not better or worse, just not the same as the UK. Today, America seems too familiar and it’s that familiarity which leads to a perceived lack of excitement for a traveler. But one day I will go and I hope that I’m wrong and that it’s as different as it could be.

 

Stuart Carruthers is a writer and a British ex-patriot who lives in Taiwan. Find him at https://www.facebook.com/Writeimagination

 

 

A Note on Returning Home

by James L. Secor

After years of travel, wandering in foreign lands, I returned to

My home–or so it was called, this place I grew in, and left for adventure,

But, in fact, was not my home, not a real home, this place I recognized

Showing little change for the years passed but now an effaced place of people living

In cells, cocoons isolated and without touch from other cocoons

Without touch–had touch been reduced to a sin, a perversion, human

Made to be inhuman?

True, a face was on it, all pasted on as

Hollywood, political smiles are, the stuff of cartoons, eyes dead in

Faces of plastic doll heads blurting sound bites of recognized syllables, but

All empty words divorced of any emotion, devoid of sentiment.

So misleading, hearing I behaved, as social, civilized man might and

Became an inappropriate one, my conduct that of a foreigner, lost in

My own land that truly was not my land, or my country, not my home,

Home being a place of welcome and warmth and support, with

Family and friends, but now no more than Odysseus’ isle of coldness and

Treachery calculated and so, fit only for a battle, a battle

I am too old to fight, too old to withstand the volcanic hatred

And killing, for surely some must cease breathing for life to once more break ground.

 

So I knew why, with more conviction than when I began my return,

I felt that I did not wish to come back to this, my country–a lost place

With no connection to me or anyone else. I knew there was nothing,

No life, no soul, no waiting arms open and welcoming, like the place

I had grown to love, with family and friends and support for a life

Far from the abuse and oppression of the people who called me their own

Only to find nothing had changed but everything had worsened and I

Was wanted less than I was before.

So, now I live nowhere at all.

 

Jim Secor wandering scholar, student and teacher, returned to the States in 2010. A social activist/critic playwright, Jim’s 44 years overseas sharpened his sense of a home gone awry. He can often be found at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com .

 

 

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While Nero Fiddled . . .

by Micki Peluso

The Roman Empire between 100 and 200 AD encompassed Northern Scotland and reached out as far as Asia. It was one of four classified Empires; including Han China, Mauryan, India and Parthian Persia. The Roman Empire stands out due to its ability to unify and cause major changes in language and the development of lands conquered. It is said that the United States of America is second in this endeavor. So why did the Roman Empire Fall? The glory that was Rome fell by 284 AD due in part by what is taking down our country today — greed, corruption and apathy.

As we watch our own great nation, once the shining star of the free world grow ever weaker, inundated with internal and external problems, one wonders if we are following the footsteps of the once mighty Empire whose arrogance and refusal to see or care blinded them to their own demise. Our country became the United States of America in 1776 with the words of our Constitution written in the blood of those who fought and died for it. That would be about 240 years ago.

We face many of the Roman Empire’s problems and more, which includes loss of respect from other nations, mockery from our enemies, little or no aid from countries that we spend billions upon, as well as major financial, medical, and environmental problems on our front. Scandals in government have scorched the integrity of our political philosophies. We have backed down from stamping out terrorism when it first raised its ugly tentacles in the 1970s; beatable than, not so easily now. Our economy, dependent upon two-income families, has affected the lives of this present generation of children, along with the ever progressive computer technology which is both advantage and bane. We have been forewarned and educated in problems needing immediate solutions. As a Super Power we still ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk.’ Chicken Little is scurrying about, crying out, ‘The Sky is Falling.’ We don’t bother to glance up.

Can we be so foolish as not to see what’s happening to our once great nation? The greed, corruption, and apathy are snowballing into a massive avalanche that may well bury the country we once knew. Cartoonist Walt Kelly paraphrased Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous quotation, ‘We have met the enemy and they are ours.’ On the second Earth Day on April 22, 1970, Walt Kelly’s first ‘Pogo’ cartoon graced the cover of a magazine. His words were relating to environmental issues but aptly fit all the problems of our times. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

Magazine writer, humorist, and memoirist Micki Peluso  can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1435341140&sr=1-2

 

 

American Alchemy

by Kenneth Weene

Having grown up in New England, my childhood was imbued with the “Shining City on the Hill” mythology of America. We were, after all, the landfall of Pilgrims and Puritans, the home of Anne Hutchinson and Rodger Williams, the bedrock of Unitarianism, town meetings, and transcendentalism. We believed in the transformation of man. If the ancient alchemists goal was to change lead to gold, New England offered the promise that mere men could be transformed into pure-hearted signers of a perfect social contract. Hadn’t that been shown on November 11, 1620 aboard the Mayflower? Hadn’t that human steel been proven in the Revolution and again in the fire of the Civil War?

Even today, despite much revisionist history, despite learning of the abuse of Indians by those “founding fathers” and of the slave connections of many of those revolutionary heroes, despite knowing that many New Englanders grew rich during the War Between the States: it is easy to look back on my childhood—so close to Concord, Lexington, Walden Pond, and Bunker Hill—and believe America did offer the world an example of what could be.

Our downstairs neighbor, who appears from time to time in my writing, was a veteran of World War I. Despite the shrapnel in his legs and the laboring of his gassed lungs, he believed America had fought to make the world safe for democracy and to end the age of war. He believed we were a place that offered the possibility of—if not perfection, surely—improvement. We all believed America was the place a man could rise to new heights.

Born just before World War II, I can remember the pride of standing with my grandfather and watching General Eisenhower’s motorcade come down our main street. One of my first published poems was about that day.

Now much older, I look back and wonder when the possibility that was America was lost. Intellectually, I know there were always problems of justice and equality, but what went wrong to our national goal of perfectibility or ongoing improvement. We are no longer interested in the transformation of ourselves or our world into something purer; we have become, as the ancient alchemists, preoccupied with the accumulation of gold.

We no longer believe in a compact between government and citizens. Rather we glorify individualism at the price of mutual responsibility. While other governments offer ever increasing support, protection, and encouragement to all, many Americans see government as the threat and believe that we are in a free-for-all in which the best should and do succeed while the devil takes the rest.

Perhaps it was always so. We are, after all, the nation of slavery, Manifest Destiny, and robber barons. Perhaps we never truly ascribed to the pursuit of something higher. Perhaps my childhood hagiography was a lie. It is enough to make an American weep, shout, and work for change.

 

Novelist, poet, and essayist, Kenneth Weene is one of the founding editors of The Write Room. Find him at http://www.kennethweene.com

Reflections on a certain crime by R.J. Ellory

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Some while ago I was asked by the Wall Street Journal to write a piece concerning ‘unknown’ or forgotten literary classics.  Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in France, I decided to share my thoughts about several French writers, now widely available in English, who seemed yet to be unheard of by my English contemporaries, associates and friends.

Amongst the list of those I chose was Jean-Patrick Manchette, author of La Position de Tireur Couché (literally translates as ‘the position of the gunman lying down’, published in English as ‘The Prone Gunman’).  This book has now been adapted for film and is on general release as ‘The Gunman’ with Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.

Manchette said a very interesting thing about his genre, to the effect that the crime novel was the best way to hold up a mirror to the society within which we live.  That was the central theme of the piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal, and seems to hold true as far as my own writing is concerned.  Dealing with the wider canvas of ethics, morals, justice, crime and punishment, the motivations and rationales of those who violate the laws of the land and all related subjects leads us – not only as writers, but also as interested individuals – into the subject of psychology, the mind, the very woof and warp of life itself.

And then the other night my wife and I watched a film called ‘The Imitation Game’ with Benedict Cumberbatch, itself a depiction of the life and work of Alan Turing, the man responsible for creating a machine that cracked the Enigma code.  The somewhat romanticized portrayal of life at Bletchley Park, the ‘emotional personalisation’ of the story that was facilitated by placing a brother of one of the research team on a ship that had to be ‘sacrificed’ so as to prevent any possibility of the Germans discovering that the code had been broken, did nothing to obscure the factual tragedy inherent in the tale.  Turing was a homosexual.  At the time, homosexuality was against the law.  Anyone engaging in homosexual activity could be charged with ‘gross indecency’.  Fifty years after the war the truth of Bletchley Park, Turing and the cracking of Enigma became public knowledge, at least those parts of it that the government permitted us to know, and Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon.  It was the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who stood up in parliament and announced that Turing had been ‘forgiven’.  Charles Dance, commenting in the film extras, said that the greatest irony of Turing’s pardon was that it was Turing who should have been forgiving us for the way in which he was treated, not the other way around.

After the film was over, my wife and discussed the moral and ethical ramifications of that specific situation.  Turing was a genius.  Turing built a machine with wires and valves and cogs that gave us the foundation for all things computer-related that we take for granted today.  It has been estimated that Turing’s machine and the cracking of Enigma shortened the war by two years and saved a further fourteen million lives.  Why couldn’t Churchill have stepped in when Turing was charged with ‘gross indecency’?  Why, after all that Turing had done, couldn’t someone ‘high up’ have bailed him out, saved the day, rescued him for the truly dreadful fate that awaited him?  But no.  No-one stepped in.  Turing was charged, tried, convicted, and not one person came forward to tell the world what this great man had done, how his ingenuity, resolve, courage and magnificent intellect had turned the tide of the war.  They couldn’t.  Such a thought was inconceivable.  Everything that Turing had ever accomplished was bound over and held confidential under the Official Secrets Act.  Had you looked up Turing’s war record, you would have found no record at all.  In effect, certainly for the duration of the war itself, Turing was a man who did not exist.

The judge at Turing’s trial gave Turing a choice: two years in jail or be subjected to horrific chemical castration to ‘curb his proclivities’.  Turing, wishing not to be divorced from his ever-ongoing work and research, chose the latter.  He reported in for a year, taking mandatory injections of Stilboestrol (synthetic oestrogen).  The treatment rendered Turing impotent.  On June 8, 1954, Turing was found dead.  His body had lain undiscovered for twenty-four hours.  Whether he committed suicide by eating a cyanide-soaked apple, or whether his death was caused by inadvertent inhalation of cyanide fumes from a machine he’d set up in his tiny room is still a matter of conjecture.  He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at Woking Crematorium.  His life and work went unknown for decades, but now – notwithstanding the fact that we will never have a chance to ask for his forgiveness – at least what he achieved has been acknowledged and appropriately commended.

However, having spoken to many who have seen the film, there still lies the question: Why did no-one step in to save Turing?  Answer: Because he broke the law.  It was that simple.  The simple fact is that many tens of thousands of individuals gave everything of themselves in the Second World War.  Turing was a genius, no doubt about it, but he did what he was able to do to assist in the war effort.  Others, perhaps blessed with less intellect, nevertheless gave no less of themselves.  Ordinary men and women learned to fly aircraft and parachute into occupied territory; they underwent rigorous training and volunteered for missions deep in the heart of Nazi Germany; they ferried supplies across a U-Boat-riddled Atlantic to bring ammunition and supplies to Allied forces abroad; they boarded landing craft for the invasion in June of 1944, certain that they would never again see home.  And millions of them didn’t see home again, as we know all too well.  Just because someone did something truly extraordinary and heroic did it them give them license to break the law, to perpetrate a crime, to be unreservedly forgiven?  No, it did not.  Did Montgomery’s success in defeating Rommel then give him permission to rob banks and kill innocent civilians?  No, it did not.  The law was the law.  Turing broke the law, and he had to face the penalty.

The real truth is that the law was insane.  A law that punishes a man or woman for their sexual preferences or predilections, save where those preferences and predilections actually render physical, mental or emotional harm to another, is the true criminal here.  It was a ‘sign of the times’, much the same as children born out of wedlock caused not only the mothers, but also the infants to be shunned and despised. My wife, as a girl of eight or nine, told a schoolfriend’s mother that her own mother lived with a man to whom she was not married.  That schoolfriend’s mother barred her own daughter from ever speaking to my wife again.  That was in the early 1970s.

We have grown up in many ways.  As a society, we appear to be more tolerant, liberal, perhaps even forgiving, but as individuals it is a different story.  We all harbour our own personal discriminations, our preconceptions, our unfounded and judgmental attitudes, and they influence the way we speak to people, deal with people, handle people.  I was once asked what I believed to be the fundamental difference between a child and an adult.  It was an interesting question.  My answer, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, was simply that a child appeared to trust other people until they were a given a reason not to trust, whereas an adult appeared to instinctively mistrust until they were given a reason to trust.

The newspapers and television news would have us believe that society is dangerous, crazy, unpredictable, potentially hazardous in every imaginable way.  That is a lie.  The newspapers engender, foster and encourage our cynicism and mistrust.  It seems to be their primary purpose.  How many times have you yourself been involved in or witness to an act of murder, rape, kidnapping, even physical or mental abuse?  If at all, then you are in the tiny minority.  Such things happen of course, but they are far less frequent and prolific than the media would have us believe.

The true criminals here are racism, religious intolerance, misogyny, greed, corruption, vested interest, and all the other ills that plague this society.  Beneath all of these is ignorance, perhaps the greatest crime of all, and a society that permits a decline in educational standards, a society that regards ‘celebrity for celebrity’s sake’ as something of value, a society that promotes the ‘let’s all get something for nothing’ viewpoint that appears pandemic, certainly in the West, is a society not only in dire need of change, but also very possibly on the way out.

We are all human.  We are all ridiculous in our own special way.  That old saw, never successfully attributed to a specific author, regarding holding onto anger being much the same as taking poison and hoping the other person will die, has a relevant place here.  Let others be who they are and they may very well let you be who you are.  If everyone was themselves, truly, and we accepted that others were also different and had just as much right to exist as we did, then wouldn’t the world seem different?

I guess it would.

Try it.  You never know, you might just like the world a whole lot better, and find that world likes you just as much in return.

 

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On numerous occasions people have tried to identify Roger’s work with a particular genre – crime, thriller, historical fiction – but this categorisation has been a relatively fruitless endeavour. Roger’s ethos is merely to work towards producing a good story, something that encapsulates elements of humanity and life without necessarily slotting into a predetermined pigeonhole. He attempts to produce an average of forty thousand words a month, and aims to get a first draft completed within three to four months. His wife thinks he is a workaholic, his son considers him slightly left-of-centre, but they put up with him regardless. His son has long since been aware of the fact that ‘dad’ buys stuff, and thus his idiosyncrasies should be tolerated.

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO