Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I recently attended a play about two people who were Armenians and who had escaped the ravages of the Turkish Armenian war and the alleged genocide that took place during that war. The alleged genocide was not too different than the results of the continuing genocides that occur on the African continent. Nor for that matter not different from the Stalin genocide of the Ukrainian people. Nor the Jewish genocide; nor the Gypsy genocide; nor the attempt to kill the Polish and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the sexual deviants. Nor was the attempt by the Eugenics movement in the United States in the early 20th century to sterilize all persons who were not free of disease, improper social behavior or low intellectual levels any different. The Supreme Court ruled that forced sterilization of socially unfit persons was legal. Nazi war criminals used the court ruling as a defense.

These events are still fresh in our minds because the offspring of these groups remind us about the horrible events.

The American blacks still remind us of the days of slavery, their grandparents were slaves; the Jews remind us of their slavery in Biblical times; no one today has living relatives of that event.

None of these memories do us any good. They perpetuate the hatred and longing for revenge and in the case of the Blacks demanding remunerations for the years of slavery and the unpaid earnings due them. We now have a museum dedicated to one of the genocides and it selectively emphasizes one aspect of the event. If all the groups who were victims of genocides built a museum detailing their special genocide, the cities would be full of these buildings.

Freud after years of study of persons caught up in disturbed mental conditions came to the conclusion that we all must come to grips with our past and accept what can not be changed and move forward to a more rich and fulfilling life.

Societies must do the same. Understand what was done and vow not to repeat it again and move forward.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The bible relates the story of Judas and his fingering of Christ to the soldiers of Caiaphas in the garden of Gethsemane. Caiaphas then surrenders Christ to the Roman soldiers. The subsequent story of the trial and persecution by crucifixion of Christ is the beginning of the Christian religion.

History is replete with similar stories of spying by countries; double agents in time of war or confrontation. We even have a name for double agents: moles.

Now we have retired military officers who have been the willing conspirators in the war against Saddam and Iraq. Countless numbers of people have suffered because of the war. The United States has lost four thousand soldiers killed, thirty thousand wounded and unknown numbers of soldiers with perhaps permanent psychological problems. We will have to live with the results of this for many years. There is no account of the Iraqi soldiers and civilians who have been killed or maimed or lives ruined forever. Nor is there any account of the displaced families, ruined lives and permanent dislocation of social order. These retired officers were dined and entertained and made information media stars for brief moments, appearing on various news casts and telling a distorted version of the progress of the war. These officers are currently retired from the military with the usual remuneration that allows them to lead a very comfortable life style in addition to be allowed to visit the Pentagon and be kept abreast of the war.

For this action they received some five hundred to one thousand dollars a month and probably social status that comes from appearing on television as an expert.

Judas of course received thirty pieces of silver. I do not know what thirty five pieces of silver would be worth today, but according to what I have read, Judas refused to accept the silver when he learned what he had done. We of course all have our price. I would not settle for what the generals settled for, but maybe I’m just picky. Various versions tell the story that Judas kills himself or is killed by unknown forces or wanders the earth until he dies. Of course we do not know which version is correct, but they all seem to agree that he suffered for his betrayal. I wonder if these officers will feel remorse and return the money, or perhaps give it to the widows or families of our fallen soldiers or to the families of the Iraqis who were killed or forced to leave and become a member of the displaced. I do not think that like Judas, they will kill themselves.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Arlington National Cemetery is dedicated as the final resting place for our fallen heroes. Sometimes the definition of who is a fallen hero is questionable, but all in all the great bulk of graves are occupied by Americans who have in some sense been involved in government activities. Here I include military personnel, both north and south from the civil war and all the other wars since. John F. Kennedy, our late president is buried there along with his brother Robert and many other notables. His grave site is lit by a perpetual flame and all the grave sites are kept neat and tidy by the United States Government. And that is how it should be for our national heroes and soldiers who have given their lives in the cause of war.

My brother died when he was just 6 months old and I was in first or second grade. At that tender age death was a strange and frightening event. Wakes were held at the home and the coffin with the body was there for the two or three days of mourning. Each evening and into the night neighbors came and paid there respects. The neighborhood fathers stayed awake each night for the required vigil; the undertaker providing the necessary chairs. We kids climbed the stairs in the old house and went to bed. There were no lights except the one lonely bare bulb in the downstairs area which served as the kitchen, dining room and living room. The bathroom was also downstairs but none of us woke at night to use it. The coffin was set upon a stand and suitably draped with linen; candelabras were placed at the head of the coffin and the candles lit each evening. On the day of the funeral, we all lined up and kissed the body; strangely cold and waxy. The coffin lid was then lowered and the coffin taken to the hearse. The funeral procession consisted of just two cars, the hearse and one other. The coffin was set on the laps of two of my sisters and I sat between them.

The grave was open and the priest said something, I do not remember much about the ceremony or the cemetery. It was a singular moment and remains fixed in my mind, even though I do not remember all of the events.

In later years, I was to discover that the grave site was tucked away in a remote corner of the cemetery and had been donated by the church. A sort of paupers’ grave, not readily saleable, set under a large oak tree and carved out among the gnarly roots and never marked in any way. I always wanted to buy a nice grave site and have him buried there. When my parents died, an adjoining grave site was available and living far way from the town where the cemetery was I asked one of my sisters to talk to the church officials and ask to have the body exhumed and reburied in a more fitting grave next to my parents. I told her to emphasis that I was willing to pay for the effort.

However, she reported that the priest who managed the cemetery was adamant that it was not worth the money to exhume a body that was buried so long.

Like all of us I have regrets and one of them is that I did not pursue the issue further. Maybe the priest did not want to be bothered with the effort; maybe he did not understand souls; maybe he did not understand the idea of burial sites as special; or maybe there never was a burial site.

I do not begrudge the people whose final resting place is Arlington. As a veteran I am entitled to be buried there, space permitting. A National cemetery is now available for veterans in Florida. Everyone should have a decent burial plot or some final remembrance of their lives. And so should have my brother.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I read somewhere that during the Renaissance an Italian prince was on a balcony several stories high overlooking the town square with the pope and the local ruler. He wrote later that he was sorry he had missed the opportunity to push both of them off the balcony to their death and so be remembered forever in history. The desire to achieve immortality is ingrained in our psyche. The fear of death so overwhelms us that we want to live forever if only in written words or pictures. Princes, Popes and rulers of all sorts want to leave behind a legacy that will live forever. Think of Caesar, of Lincoln, of FDR and of Wilson who are remembered with kindness. On the other side we have Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan

The current administration is preoccupied with their legacy as have all the Presidents in recent history. The vision of a monument, a library, riding a horse in battle and memorable speeches all enhance the dream.

Mostly a legacy is associated with wars or times of great social upheavals. Think of FDR and the great depression and then WWII. He wins on two accounts. So does Lincoln for saving the union and for freeing the slaves; Wilson for saving the world for Democracy; Teddy Roosevelt for San Juan Hill.

Our current president would like to be remembered for establishing a democracy in the Middle East: a flame of freedom that would ignite and spread to the whole of the Middle East. Of course we have a freedom flame there, the supposed Democracy in Israel which has set the region aflame, but not in the way intended. But regardless of facts, ideologies are forever true.

Legacies are most admirable when they are acquired without being the basic aim of the individual. For instant Shakespeare probably did not think he was creating a legacy when he wrote his plays. He probably thought he was making money and prospering on the popularity of his plays at the Stratford theatre.

Kings and Queens on the other hand did things to be remembered for. And now our presidents do the same. Most often the plans they had failed but the devastation lives on. And for that they are remembered. Think of the Third Reich, or the Socialist Revolution in Russia or the great march in China.

Certain wealthy individuals establish foundations to help humanitarian causes and keep the tax man at bay, and their name is usually the name of the foundation. Doing great things to establish a legacy is certainly a way to achieve immortality. If it can be done without human sacrifice it is commendable.