I walk with Roxy each day in the local municipal Cemetery.
It started out because anywhere else, our self absorbed fellow citizens walk with their dogs off leash.. And the do it wherever they please. I suspect that many of them really get a kick out of scoffing at the leash laws right in front of all the signs that say, All dogs on leash all the time.
It is tempting to skewer that behavior with the long thorns of acidic sarcasm and wicked wit. Let me just dismiss that path by saying that we are merely seeing another manifestation of the heads in the sand, I’m entitled Unites States of Narcissism. It is our culture now.
i was struck by the quiet in the cemetery. Expecting to be put off by being around dead people, I was surprised. No smell of rot. No hands reaching up out of the grave to grab Roxy and pull her, screaming, back down undergroud. No apparitions being exhaled like thin smoke by the grave. Not a thing from Hollywood at all. Just quiet and grey stones in varying stages of wear stuck at tottering angles, like uneven teeth in an old man’s mouth, On brown grass. Gothic trees reaching with concentration camp limbs silently to something we cannot see, lording their powerful shadowed presences over us lesser mortals.
Nancy had found this place after having been frightened by dogs off lead while walking Roxy also. She had urged me to go, but I was reluctant. Why?
We had made a memorial to our three beloved German Shepherds Zora, Bruno and Kaiser. All three died in our house on the mountain with us right by their sides. I took to heart what Butch, our deceased Schutzhund trainer had said was his moral commitment to his GSDs: he would make certain that the last thing any one of them saw on this earth was his loving face. Amen. Me too.
We had found a cross shaped piece of wood, the day after Bruno died, on a spot in the woods where he loved to lie. More than coincidence, random chance? I stained it, found rocks and spray painted them gold, and made a little memorial mound on that spot. I loved to go there, sit on the bench I’d made of cinderblocks and boards, remember them while loving the beauty of the woods and feeling, still achingly sorrowful for their absence, grateful for their lives.
On the last night we were in that house, a really perfect cool clear night on last March 29-30, we took the urns with their ashes, and spread them in our woods memorial chapel. I read a farewell passage and prayer we had written for the occasion. We did the same at all their favorite outdoor spots.
That was supposed to have tied off the loose ends of grief. It did not. It did not because it was aimed,ever so subtly, at relieving me, at least, of my grieving for them — which I still am doing and most likely will do until the day when I die too. I had not gotten the message.
The cemetery is not colorful, and the plastic flowers or wilted real ones just emphasize by contrast the grey, colorless ness of a whole bunch of old and new graves. It is clear to me that there will always be loose ends, that I could well be one of those headstones one day, and at 76, not too far off. My memorial spot back up on the mountain– well, it was not an acceptance of life on life’s terms. And that was a well meant mistake, an act of American pretend. It was a way to hang on. You cannot hang onto anything gone from this world, it’s like trying to grab and hold a chunk of The Present.
What’s left? For me what’s left is the realization that this life, which seems so hard and sturdy with its atoms and molecules and thumbs that hurt when hit with my hammer, is just an illusion. When you cannot stop the show and cannot hold onto the present, how can it be otherwise? A glorious, beautiful, super ultra high definition movie which we crate as we act out our roles. A moving feast. What a theater, what a chance to grow!
So: Memento mori–remember that I too must die. And I’ve discovered that in doing that, I find much much more of rich joy in that ephemeral elusive thing we call the present. Heavens, today is a great day to die on! I now know that native American wisdom to be a statement of gratitude for reality, not a morbid preoccupation with Holllywood’s contorted view of death and dying.
Thank heavens for my cemetery walks. I have my beloved Roxy with me, sometimes my dear, patient, loving and long suffering Nancy — and being there above ground provesI’ve got one more day on which to enjoy the abundance of God’s earth. Carpe diem and memento mori.
We live in (yet more) turbulent times. The expected orders are being upended, the familiar dreams are being destroyed, the economic system on which most of us have relied seems headed for the junk pile, our leaders are people we would earlier not have chosen in a thousand years. It seems that we are experiencing the re-valuation of all values.
So I was lazily drifting through blogs, books and emails when I stumbled across the following. I’ve shown it to a few people and all agree: there is here some validation of the woe of our times. See what you think:
“Oh grim calamity, where have my years all gone?
Have I dreamed my life or is it real?
Whatever I held to be something, if it were there,
Was it really something?
And so I slept and knew nothing of it.
Now I am awake and now is strange
That which was before as familiar as my own hand.
The folk and the land in which I grew up
Are now foreign to me—as if that all were untrue.
My earlier playmates have grown slow and old.
The fields are abandoned, the forests all cut down.
Were the streams not flowing
Where they formerly flowed,
My pain would be truly great
I must believe.
I’m greeted coolly
By those who knew me well.
Everywhere the world is bleak
The moment I recall many a magnificent day
Which has now slid away like a splash in the ocean
Then, forever: oh woe is me.”
Ring any bells with you? My sense was that, essentially, this sums up a lot of how I have felt recently. And says it more eloquently than I could,, for sure.
But there is another aspect to this also: perspective, in the sense that, first, my impressions are not just my own particular insanity, and, second, that we have been here before and are still around to talk about it. It appears that we are like the timex watches of ads when I was young: we take a lickin’ but keep on tickin’
And why, you might ask, do I come to that conclusion about this:
Simple. It was written 800 years ago.
800 years ago by an itinerant German troubadour named Walther von der Vogelweide. Walther spent a lot of his life walking —. Yes on foot in all weather, day and night at a time when the world was lit only by fire — from one Prince’s court to another. HJe composed his poems and then sang them to his audiences for food, shelter and any other reward which his benefactor cared to bestow.
He turns out to have been the for many greatest poet of the German Medieval era. Apparently some people back then thought so too. His works survive in 32 manuscripts and one of them has a record of the melody to one of his Crusade Songs, the Palästinalied.
For me, today, his words go well beyond just having great historical importance. Historical importance is a value in and of itself for me. But this occasions both a sad reflection on persistent tragic folly of mankind and in a roundabout way, an encouragement in these turbulent times of ours. It’s pretty obvious that here is an 800 year old ode to the tensions in the Holy Roman Empire during his time, and that they are to unlike some of mine at least, here 800 years later in another time of tensions and struggles. Our tragic folly is hardly different today: fractured governance, fractured values consensus, seemingly endless warring, repeating some of the same actions that led in 1932 to The Third Reich, reversal of the reverence for nature implicit in our former embrace of ecology, etc, and so forth. Different bottle, same sour wine.
The questions then must arise: have we changed? Has our notion of progress been an illusion? If it has not, even in part, then could it be that we are not fundamentally here to make this world a better place? DO we need some deeper reflection on the persistent tragic folly we create?.
On the other hand, this man lived in circumstances physically enormously more dangerous and trying than mine. He lived in a world lit only by fire. He walked or, if he was lucky, rode or was pulled by some animal in his travels. In the winter, he did not have to worry about his cars heater and defroster working. No impermeable snowmobile suits with fitted gloves, boots, headgear and facemasks: he wore heavier cloaks and possibly leather boots. There weren’t even buttons to use on clothes. No radio, no tv, no newspapers, no mail service… He depended on handouts for his food, drink and shelter. There was no social safety net of which we know (have to be careful here not go judge then by now’s standards however). Lifespan was shorter. Diseases which we have controlled then regularly cut down whole populations like scythes cutting tall grass. He even engaged in some rather pointed and possibly very dangerous political poetry/song writing which could easily have been seen as Walther biting the hand that fed him.. And yet: he survived and left this world works of beauty that have endured 800 years.
Therein lies the encouragement. Do we not have so much for which to be grateful, even if it becomes the stage on which we act or our age’s tragic folly? Should I then be consumed by concern? Where are the gifts that are bestowed upon us in our time? If we can be open to it, even the cry of human woe grasping at our hearts across 8 centuries can be beautiful—-to my ears the beautiful music of Walther’s words. Think of a poem or work of some sort where the words and the rhythm of the writing pleases you very much. You will then have an idea of what this man’s literary power was 800 years ago..
Walther seems a lot closer to me now than he did 50 years ago and yet his distance has grown by 50 years. Increasingly my reading of history uncovers how we have been similar over the centuries, how our humanity has been the same, regardless of the physical and technological conditions of any particular time. I have a growing sense that we are all in all ages in this together somehow. Why not? Einstein said time is a delusion. My dear friend Bruce asserts that there is no future and no past, just the same day repeated over and over with different perceptions of the same thing=and all for the purpose of learning. Walther’s cry of Owê, oh woe, oh alas, ach Weh gives that abstract thought shape and color. At least for me.
Such mulitleveled beauty in one cry of existential sadness! If we did not know that Walther said that 800 years ago, we could think someone said it today! His reality and beauty is then ours too.
If truth is beauty, then our true reality is beauty, not turbulence. Turbulence just causes us to find new ways to create and celebrate beauty–to love. That’s! the reassurance of Walther’s Owê.
With this perspective, do we really have anything to fear but fear itself? O in the end Walther leaves me with this one compelling question:
Owê,what am I leaving behind of beauty?
The announcement by DJT that the US is leaving the Paris Accords takes this repugnant regime and the rest of the US from the frying pan and into the fire.
As usual, his facts are wrong.
As usual his conclusions are wrong.
As usual his party is wrong.
As usual, this is what Scott Peck called evil: being unwilling to exert energy unconditionally on behalf of other people.
He is living proof of the German adage that stupidity will never become extinct. But what should one expect from a spoiled brat whose parents protected him from the consequences of his boyhood bullying, who evidently was totally immune to learning during his educational years and whose lawyers and aggressive behavior have protected him from knowing what an unmitigated disaster he has been all of his malignant live?
Is this just a political difference of opinion? Absolutely not. It represents greed, ideology and oppositional thinking (being against things to be against things in the erroneous belief that opposition is somehow strong) blinding decision makers to reality. It is in short, disastrous denial and terminal uniqueness.
Climate change is real and 194 nations on this ailing planet agree. 194. So that leaves Generalissimo Trump and his Repugnikan cohorts gleefully thinking that they are the only soldiers in step in the army.
This destroys American leadership in the world of democracy. This destroys American initiative, creativity, determination to dominate the world in the future of energy production. And it won’t come from oil or coal. Even some of the oil companies refuse to support DJT in this evil insanity.
This is the macro-economic equivalent of wanting to deprive millions of Americans of health care. Think through all the twists, turns and jumps and jerks of any part of this bully’s behavior and you must wind up at only one conclusion: this is just plan evil in power. Its what in Faust the Devil called himself: the spirit who constantly negates. This is what M Scott Peck called evil: the unwillingness, perhaps even inability, to do anything for the benefit of anyone else without condition or thought of reward or recognition. Perhaps it is so utterly blatant that many cannot see it, but it is there nonetheless.
So this has now finally placed us at that place where the divide, until now still at least theoretically bridgeable by civil dialogue, is too great to bridge. Civil dialogue with the morally bankrupt, know nothing bullies in the Repugnikan Party and anyone who even remotely supports them, is a waste of our time from now on. As the kids said in the 1950s, we are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Except that there is no mirth in this at all. This will do for our economy what the Repugnikan version of health management will do for our health: undermine it.
Time to take off the velvet gloves and hit back as hard as we can — plus 10% just to be sure. The line has been drawn. We are indeed beyond the divide.
I keep beating myself up with self-recriminations. Why didn’t I read the signals clearly and get help for Titanoman earlier?
It began after we gave him a bit too little food with his morning Augmentin on Wednesday. He walking into another space from his bowls and vomited. He repeated vomiting until it was dry heaves in the vet’s office in the early afternoon. An exam, more blood drawn and a hypothesis: his stomach was upset by the powerful anti-biotic.
But he needed to calm things down so that he could continue the Augmentin, the supplement which protects the liver, the prednisone and if he had any pain, the combo of Tramadol and Gabapentin. He needed all that to keep the lymphoma at bay and keep his blood count normal. He needed all that with this his third chemo protocol, the “rescue” chemotherapy, to give him maybe another two to six months, outside, to live.
And on Wednesday he refused to take any medications or eat any food after the regurgitation spasms. He had been given a shot of Cerenia and it helped with nausea, but something else was going on: not eating and hobbling on the left rear leg. The vet said take him home and let’s see if the Augmentin’s absence and the anti nausea med does the trick.
By mid afternoon he was having troubles getting up and walking. We were at wits’ end about what to do until we found that our former vet here in our new hometown offered home care! Unbelievable. Nobody offers home care any more as a routine part of a medical or vet medical practice. But she does. And she did.
He verdict was: probably his spine. Lets give him Gabapentin by mouth, Prednisocw by mouth, more Cerenia and then morphine just to be sure. And if he cannot or will not get up after the morphine wears off around 11 PM, then tomorrow we will have to end his agony and life: euthanasia.
His morphine rest was restless. He really did not sleep, he just vegetated and began panting in earnest. OK, that could just be sensitivity to morphine. We will know after 11 PM what the score is. (Come on buddy, you can do it, God, come on, don’t let this wonderful friend down, don’t make Nancy suffer what I suffered when you couldn’t help us save Kaiser from hermangiosarcoma that windy night out on our deck April 2 last year. Please, please, please…)
He stood by himself twice between 11 PM and 3 am today. By 3 am he could not stand unless we hoisted him in the Help ‘Em Up Harness which Bruno had and which the vet and vet tech had helped us get onto him. Otherwise he was struggling with episodes of heavy paying and open mouth breathing while on his side in the hall, struggling to try to move himself, failing back into exhaustion and not getting up.
(Come on bud, you can do this! You just need a little rest and you’ll rebound. After all your blood tests just 5 days ago were all totally normal and your lymph nodes all right sized. If you’d only just eat a little, just drink a little more water. Should we try to get you to an Emergency Vet? Don’t know if we can lift you into the back of the car. But I think you want to be in the car, which is your safe haven and favorite place. Right? How abou some sign of agreement? But if I get you into the car, am I doing this just so that I’ll feel better or is it really going to serve you? I’m so rightly strung that I think I;ll bust.)
At 3 we realize that we need help, even if it is for a euthanasia. (Large, hard lump in my throat, nerves screaming, mind whirling, fatigue pushing me hard but not overtaking me). The Emergency Vet Hospital 15 minutes away says get him here. We haul and hoist him into the Outback “trunk” area on top of an old, soft deep comforter. He smiles the car is one of his homes. He is safe. By 4:30 we are there.
This loss is especially hard for Nancy: Titan was one of the greatest loves of her life. She and he were, are and always will be one. that is a once in a lifetime inimitable gift. Precisely that, however, insures that she will feel even more sharply the aching emptiness of the hole beside snd inside herself where he used to be, while the healing process of grief takes its course.
As for me, as I write I am quietly rehearsing my habitual though basec on his being nesrby: “come here bud, lets play tug the ball”. In that very instant Inrealize with a feeling of almost nauseating bottomless falling, that his physical being cannot do that any more.
Then I’m knocked down by the very big disaster for me, on older fellow who found his only effective cure for lifelong very severe ADHD in the companionship not just of dogs, but especially and powerfully with trained GSDs. The big knock down is realization.that for the first time in 17 years there is no GSD awaiting us at home when we return is daunting. It ties up my gut in fear.
Ut at least helping him with his dying we got right in the end. We are so very very glad that he died while in the hospital; we took him there because we could not handle his struggle by ourselves. And we wanted him and his body to be treated with the utmost care and dignity.
Things got so unbearably painful for him and us that night. We filled God’s inbox with prayers, petitions, even outright commands in less than civil language. With just an bour left for him, We achieved that at nearby Western Carolina Regional Animal and Emergency just in time.
We are so utterly grateful for the unconditional love he brought us — just as Bruno,Zora and Kaiser did. We are grateful to German Shepherd Rescue and Adoption of NC for having brought Titan and Kaiser to us. Our GSD companions have lined our lived for 18 years with safety, steadiness, solace and sweetly intelligent companionship.
Titan came to us on the 19th of April, 2013 via Connie from German Shepherd Rescue and Adoption, a group of some of the most loving and tough people I’ve ever known. It takes a lot to have to face a dog whom some dead-souled human starved, intimidated, kicked in 3 ribs and knocked out a tooth while scarring his muzzle and psyche — all before dumping in the woods to die? Is that love exceeded anywhere?
That’s what happened to Titan and the context in which he had lived when I fist met him at GSRA’s Adoption Event in March, 2013 in Cary.
We know who did it from what he feared when he came to us: a slim person, wearing dark shoes or especially boots, jeans or especially cargo pants and a baseball cap,. We think this person, if such a lowlife can deserve the appellation of human implied in the word person, must have been a male: titan was terrified of me, cowering, baring fangs, growling at first. We think he was protected by a woman–he had no fear of any woman who is comfortable around him. And in some way the back seat or utility area in the back ofd an SUV type vehicle was his safe haven: even dying, one hour before his body gave out, you could see the realization and joy at being in the back of our Outback–regardless of going to his final vet visit.
He became noticeably more agitated at the vet hospital. It was hard to draw blood because it was thickening inside his veins. He began to breath with his mouth wide open, tongue hanging out, long, loose, pink in color but dry as a bone and oozing a sweet-rotten smelling green nd black gelatinous goo which had to be wiped from his lip: dehydrated saliva. He was alternately restless and almost senseless.
The vet was in a hurry to get his blood tested. Maybe there was something that could still be done.
(My God, is he dying right before our eyes? He isn’t even whimpering. Don’t worry bud, we’ve got you covered, we won’t let you suffer : dammitallanyway, the signs of all this were evident 5 hours ago at home, my God, my God, my God it was my need to keep him around and then to be his savior that made him suffer needlessly.)
I say that to Nancy. She says remember we did not think we could lift him into the car. (Yeah, I forgot, it took us one hour to move him basically two car lengths with the Help ‘Em Up harness and then every ounce of strength we two oldsters could muster to heft him, feeling like a burlap potato sack filled with lead potatoes, into the rear. Oh thank you God;, he looks so peaceful here. He seems to be smiling, and the panting is far less severe. He’s safe and we did it!)
The vet had sprinted with the blood to the testing area at about 5:15 am. He’d given T an injection of painkiller to slow the stress on the heart and lungs. Nancy was talking to him – T – and turned to do something at the counter in the exam room. I was sitting a bit away and behind where Nancy was standing. The instant she turned away, he raised his head, looking for a split second up towards the corner ceiling in the room to his front and left. He had not been able to raise his head or even react for hours now. And now suddenly he sits up?
But that’s not even the half of what I saw and cannot explain.
Just before Nancy had turned around, I had noticed that, lying there on his side, panting, those deep, large brown eyes had begun to shine a glazedgolden brown . Suddenly the great bear head raises up, just as if he were at home and had heard something outside that was not supposed to have been there: high alert. It was as if he’d seen something beyond that room. But his alert was suddenly ecstatic. We all know what our dog looks like when he is overjoyed to see someone he loves. Those golden brown eyes the instant he showed his joy glowed molten gold.And then, the golden light just stopped and he slumped slowly, head first and neck curved, as he’d been doing when tired from exertion all night to his right. My eyes went instantly to his abdomen: the lifting and falling of life was gone. He was dead.
I had seen something that we just do not get to see on this earth. Please don’t ask me to prove it — you were not there, I was. It overwhelmed me, I knew biblical awe in a flash, but my mind was kicking on my thoughts saying, tell her, tell her. God I did not want to tell her that but I did. She screamed for the vet — but more for her loss, and he came running. No heartbeat. Just a very very handsome boy lying there, eyes open but with a gentle far away stare, those large black coal nugget eyes that always had had that polish and questioning look, were dull and blank..
I am editing this on October 23. My oh my how that hole in my life still aches, how that empty hall still hangs dark with shadows of his suffering and last nights struggle. I’d do anything to get him — and Kaiser, and bruno and Zora — back. But I digress.
The blood tests showed that his kidneys had failed. We were right in deciding not to do resuscitation.
So it would not have made one iota of difference whether we had gone there earlier or not. He was on his way out all during those two days. He was trying to tell us that by not eating. He was trying to get, not to the hospital, but back into the car. At least just about his last experience was a 15 minute car ride. He wanted to leave from his safe place.
Of course now we are enduing the wrenching and lurching agony of separation, parting with no debrief afterwards. We are doing all the phases of grief. But they say that the brain remains active for a period after the heart stops. I am so utterly grateful that that night shift vet gave us 10 minutes with him and then promised dignified and caring treatment of his body. Indeed when he came back, he sat down in front of T, told him how handsome he was, and stroked his head, neck, legs and sides. But in those 10 minutes, when I now believe his true eternal self had made those eyes glow and was still gently hanging on to this world, he heard, saw, felt and knew a love song enough to break the bonds of death itself.
The miracle was that we wound up doing it all just right. Or more accurately: we were guided by him to take all the right actions at all the right times.
We are devoted to German Shepherds and after a pause to grieve and reorient ourselves, not only want to bring more into our lives. We feel strongly that we must do that, that it is our lot in this life to provide a home and a good life for GSDs misunderstood as “aggressive”, rejected, dumped, abandoned, beaten, starved and worst of all, ignored. We owe it to Bruno, Zora, Kaiser, Titan. Having our hand out for them is our responsibility.
Thank God he chose Nancy for his earthly commitment. Thank God that we had the honor and sublime joy of having been his companions for four years. Thank God that we gave him in return the best life we could. Thank you Titan for having given me just a quick glimpse of whatever it is that animates all life. Thank God for Titan and German Shepherds.
Why the lethargy in finding out whether the President of the United States and his immediate subordinate have committed actions which could well amount to treason?
How come, then, is it the demonstrable case that the worst it gets with Trump, the more dedicated Trumps radical supporters get in pushing what they think is his cause? It must be some basic facet of human character that makes such devastation possible: it happened in Nazi Germany and nothing seems able to stop if from happening again, right here in River City,
Everyone knows that if this were anyone else in the chair in the Oval Office, the sky would have fallen in on him or her and he or she would either be history or on trial in the US Senate. Why not DT?
A friend urged me to read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, probably to help me see where I’m still stuck in adolescence at age 75….
So I still have some growing up to do: tell me something I don’t know!
OK, from Rohr, here it is: the same division of individual life into two phases applies in Rohr’s book to societies aka nations. What Rohr has to say about that in regard to the US answers the questions above which have been rattling around in my mind ever since January 20. (Text in brackets […] is mine, not Rohr’s).
“Law and tradition seem to be necessary in any spiritual [read: attitudinal] system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity, and to make at least some community, family, and marriage possible. [Rohr’s italics]. …
Without laws like the Ten Commandments our existence here on the earth would be petty precarious indeed. What if you could not rely on people to tell you the truth? [Sound like anyone we know in government today?] What if we were not expected to respect our elders, actually to dismiss the age old role of community elder, and we all based our lives on cynicism and mistrust of all authority? [Sound like any current generations you know?] What if “I love you” between partners was allowed to mean nothing? [Know any prominent couples where love would be an empty formula?] What if covetousness, which Rene Girard calls “mimetic rivalry”, was encouraged to grow unstopped, ,as it is in capitalist countries today? [Any particular consumer minded societies come to mind, where the people — some of them — have gone way beyond conspicuous consumption in their greed? Where certain politicians and churchmen have actually preached that greed, one of the original cardinal sins, is good?] Such shapelessness would be the death of any civilization or any kind of trustworthy or stable world.
I wonder: Are we there already? …
If you want a job well done, on time, with accountability and no excuses, you had best hire someone who has faced a few limiting situations. [Give me your tired, your poor, your teeming masses…and they will do the work that Americans think is beneath themselves.]. He or she alone has he discipline, the punctuality, the positive self image, and the persistence to do a good job. [Research has shown for decades that the best leaders essentially fail their way to success by learning from failures. Can we say that about DT?] If you want the opposite, hire someone who has been coddled, been given “I Am Special” buttons for doing nothing special, had all his or her bills paid by others, and whose basic egocentricity has never been challenged or undercut. Rohr states that , to be honest, this seems to describe much of the working population and the student body that one hears about in the USA. Many of the papers he received teaching in summer graduate courses at major universities were disturbingly deficient. It was embarrassing to read their undisciplined style and purloined, unattributed content. Yet those same “adults” are shocked if the do not get an A. This does not bode well for the future of our country. (from Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 28 ff)
The reason that Trump gets more popular as he gets worse is that he is the emblem, the symbol, ,the embodiment of the adolescent culture we have planted, fertilized, cultivated, grown and harvested over and over again for decades. He is their self image become flesh. They accept his dark blessing as white because their ability to make distinctions, by and large, ended with that of a fourth grader. They cannot see or abide the grays of life. Just like children they want it all black or white: absolute predictability and validation of themselves. Before they are willing to change that, if indeed they ever do, they will have to hurt a whole lot more than the discomfort of a few blog posts, marches, investigations and adamant speeches will create. They clearly would rather fight than switch–not an unusual response to change, even if it does not ever work. And if the history of post WW2 right wing reactions is any guide. many of them will wind up defeated but unconvinced. they will wait in the wings, teaching their progeny the litany of ignorant indignation and blame, waiting for the next Emperor to come along.
To think otherwise is to deny. Denial: the best friend of the irresponsible and a sure path to everlasting ignorance and the eventual collapse its pervasiveness will trigger. We have armies of citizens, really armed to the teeth, who are determined to force the rest of us to admit that the Emperor really does have new clothes….
Even more than that, they will have to be willing to accept that DT, just as Hitler and Stalin and all the rest of the autocrats ever did, has hoodwinked them to keep them forever bound to their character defects. In the midst of an era when nothing is constant except upheaval, and when our world’s Gretchens of Faust find it ever more elusive to hand onto old rituals, he told them that he knows all the right answers and will take all the responsibility. And they say: it’s a deal, Big Guy!
There is only one power on earth stronger than that. Eisenhower described it in warning our enemies in WW2: there is no force stronger than an aroused democracy. To arouse my own democratic indignation and that of any of the handful of people who may ever read this, mainly, is why this essay is here. I must write and publish whatever I perceive, think, reflect on, sense about this most critical of crises since the Civil War. A moral statement without committed action in its name is just whistling wind..
The moral worth of a man only just begins at the point where he is ready to offer up his life for his own convictions. General Henning von Treschkow, final words of farewell before taking his own life after his efforts failed in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler.
And why a commitment whose price could well be our own mortality? Bernard Shaw said it: Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
There are things more important in this theater of morality we call life than our individual lives. One of them is liberty and justice for all. Can we let what untold numbers of humans have died for just slip away?
If we want liberty, then we must be willing to commit to making it happen, even if it looks hopeless in the short run. I cannot tell you what you must do. But I must be ready, even at 75, even or maybe especially because it frightens me, to go the whole nine yards.
The citizens of this country have every cause legitimately to feel untempered indignation about DT and his cronies. They have violated with contempt and cynical abandon the physical, legal, moral and spiritual underpinnings of the United States. They have discolored the bright, developing light of the worlds only constitutional republican experiment in multicultural democracy with the fetid dank, putrid stain of self-seeking, bigoted, unthinking, dull cynicism.
They, not the mainstream Republicans, not the mainstream Democrats, not the Progressives, not the Libertarians, not the Mexicans or Catholics or Intellectuals: no one but they and their dedicated collaborators alone have brought on the time of remorseless reckoning. They have created and surely earned the unsparingky intolerant earthquake-like shockwaves of the moral and legal bombs they’ve been dropping.
The honest and decent, long suffering cituzens of this great nation pause now in rapt attention. We are observing, not missing a stitch of who is taking right action or ourbehalf and who, like Matshmallow McConnell is still dodging and weaving, trying yet again first to save his own you know what. We are awaiting the chance to get even with the collaborators and to mark the removal of the DTs with a heartfelt: good riddance!
As for the DTs and their collaborators: it would be high time to prepare to exchange your golden cufflinks and hand made Italian shoes for hardened steel handcuffs and US made shackles. That–or get out of Dodge pronto!
The woman had to stop talking to me because she began to cry.
I did not speak any German then in the summer of 1959, so her son had been translating what she was trying to tell me. I had been lodged with her for a night or two while the group with whom I was on concert tour in Europe, stayed in and performed in Berlin. I do not remember her name, but it was not her name that moved me so deeply that I remember it clearly today.
We had been talking about something in her living room — I recall that it seemed somehow unsuited to be a living room and was puzzled as to why until she asked me to join her through the door beside the kitchen to her former living room. She opened it out onto a hole in the rest of the building where the rest of her living room had been until an air raid in 1945 destroyed it. But from the doorway you could see the runway at Tempelhof airport.
She looked up at me with tearing eyes and began again to talk. He son translated: my mother wants to tell you that she is eternally grateful to the United States of American. I was curious why she was crying with gratitude. He said: she is crying because the United States saved her life in the airlift. She wants you to know that without the airlift she would have either frozen to death or starved to death. The US saved her with the airlift.
I returned to Germany in 1961 to study for a year in Munich with the Junior Year in Munich program from Wayne State University in Detroit. That year is imprinted on my mind in ways that no other year of my now 75 can claim. Of the many many reasons for that, two stand out: my landlady in Munich and Herr Hildebrandt.
My landlady had one hand blown off in a daytime bombing raid on Berlin during the last months of the war.I did not then know that the Brits bombed during the night and the USAAF during the day mostly. At any rate I had no need to know that because she told me so.
I had been very uneasy about seeing her manage that Munich apartment with one hand and rubber bands for pencils and notes around the stump where the other hand had been. My roommate and I were not the first American students to sublet rooms in her apartment — well not rooms but just one room for the two of us. She knew from former experience that her guests would want to know how she had been wounded so badly. So she took the initiative and told us.
It was not the recounting of the bombing that impressed me. Actually she went over it rather perfunctorily. And I think hat was her intention – not to dwell on the events — so that her guests, whose Air Force had harmed her and cost her a hand, would remember her point. She told her two American guests that her missing hand was a constant reminder to her of the evil of war, of the crimes of the Third Reich and she did not want ever to forget it.
I’ve since realized that she had two messages for us, because she could well have chosen not to rent to any citizens of the country whose military had cost her a hand, driven her from her home city of Berlin and flattened 80% of her country’s cities by the end of the war in 1945. She could have but instead she went out of her way to rent to JYM students. She and her apartment and situation had to be approved by JYM. So she chose to have us there to be a symbol of the ruin attendant upon a nation gone power mad with a people who had given up the right to govern themselves. And she had to trust the sons of the soldiers and airmen who just 14 years earlier had done their best to try to kill her.
I saw those messages every day I lived with her.
You were not allowed to spend the year in JYM without a mandatory meeting with the administrator of the JYM office in Akademiestrasse, Herr Hildebrandt.
Herr Hildebrandt was a native of Munich, a Bavarian, who had lived there all during the Third Reich. His round, red-flushed face, wore the round spectacles that one sees on Hollywood Nazis in the World War Two propaganda films commissioned by the War Department to keep the public buying war bonds. I think they needed to do that: to make propaganda or not to make propaganda is not the issue. the issue is what he told me.
It did not take long but again the messages sent by his words and his choosing American students have made an imprint on me that has not faded, have given me and additional model of human dignity and integrity to add to those of the woman in the still blasted out apartment in Berlin and my landlady in Munich.
He said — as nearly as my mind will recall it 55.5 years later: People here will all tell you that they did not know what we were doing in Dachau, to the Jews, in war. they are lying. I knew and we all knew. BUt I did not speak up. I cannot undo the crimes we have committed but I can make amends. And so I ask every American student who comes here to study to come and listen to me, to hear me make amends and say that I regret it all.
And that was it. He never asked for forgiveness. He did not try to defend the crimes. He made no excuses. He simply said that he had been wrong and now needed to admit it.
He could have decided to admit it every night to a friend in Bürgerbräukeller or sitting at a table in a cafe upnear the Uni. Or only to his wife and kids. Or a priest. Instead he chose American students.
The woman in Berlin chose Americans.
My landlady chose Americans.
And finally Mrs Zielski
She and her husband were refugees from Nazi Europe who had gotten here in time. Viktor was an engineer working for one of the auto companies in Detroit. They were our neighbors in Ferndale where I grew up.
She made her own sauerkraut,-she baked her own bread and made my favorites, krullers. Her house had exotic odors that tickled my palate and calmed my soul and she loved America. Her son, Stanley, had been a captain in the US Army and might well have fought on her home continent. I do not know. I do know she was proud as anyone can be that he was in the US Army and an American citizen.
She chose a little American boy, the son of her neighbor, not only to tell abaout her pride in the US, but also to love and care for as if I had been her son also.
To me those choices speak for themselves. All my life I have had immense pride, humble pride, taht my country for the first tie in human history chose to feed a conquered people at our expense and with great danger to pilots who flow DC-3s in and out of Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. The sharing of my landlady and Herr Hildebrand made them my heroes and me just glow with pride in being from a country which for once on this earth had not totally squandered on vain wars and sad memories respect due to moral integrity. I know today that we have not been saints, but I also know that we have on occasion acted in ways that won the hearts of men for our moral integrity.
The Marshal Plan. The Nürnberg War Crime Trials instead of summary executions. The Amerika Haus-es all across Germany. FDR’s fourth inaugural address. Washingtons farewell address. The Gettysburg Address. The Peace Corps. To Easter Europeans behind the Iron Curtain, the Voice of Amrita, the Berlin Airlift,, the Candy Bomber, foreign exchange programs, Care Packages, all the aid we have given at our expense to peoples all across the globe whe were in need, the Statue of Liberty and the chance of a new life she represented to so many immigrants who washed our clothes, dug our ditches, cleared our offices, drove our cabs, cooked our food
Their choices made me proud of the America which did all that.
I am a proud American who is ashamed and repulsed that we have placed into the chair of Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Jefferson, TR a man who has in a few days destroyed all of the goodwill and moral respect that made me so proud and that I want back. NOt via any more Lilly-livered investigations of what everyone else already has documented been the point of doubt and ad nauseam. I want the internal crying for shame and losss to stop. I want the suspicion of my conservative friends to be wiped clean. I want the pain and heat of hate and invective to cool and return to full bore political debate on how to solve or problems. I’ve had it with hearing dodging and weaving and PR nonsense intended to distract, divide and negate. I want the man defiling that honored chair in the estimable OvalOffice out.
On our ridge here in the mountains outside of Asheville, the breezes of the valley become winds as the coves act like funnels, compressing the moving air and speeding it up; nature’s jet engines at times (not especially last night, however).
Last night northwestern winds blew away our winter’s 70 degree hazy day and pulled in a 37 degree day with those high definition NC blue skies.
I hear the silence loudly and my awareness flows quietly into it. I want to convey the serenity of being the observer of beauty.
The sense of serene beauty calls up for me Goethe’s great poem, Wanderer’s Nightsong II (Wanderers Nachtlied II). I want so much to be able to share the beauty I have enjoyed in my life from my lifelong passion for the cultural gifts to the world from Germany, but haven’t yet found a way to pass that on to those who do not understand German. My limping translation does not even begin to hint at the masterful union of sound, image and thought in the original — which he wrote without corrections, strikeouts, correction fluid, erasers, autocorrect, iCloud backup or an Apple wireless keyboard connected by bluetooth to an iPhone6, which is what I’m harnessed to here.
Should anyone want to get some sense of beautiful serenity this poem offers, see Mathias Goerne — some say he is the gold standard for baritones in the world today — sing Schubert’s setting of this most magnificent of German poems. It is available on YouTube. Sad that I can only offer my poor ersatz, here it is anyway:
Calm covers the
In all the treetops
you scarcely sense
even a breath;
The little birds are hushed
in the coppice.
Tarry a bit, soon
you too will find rest.
Music for Discerning and Curious Minds
Various Artists - Deutsche Volksmusik Hits - Lieder von Fernweh, Heimat & Meer: Heimweh & Shanty, Vol. 3 320 kbps zip Album
Various Artists - Deutsche Volksmusik Hits - Deutschland ist schön! Lieder vom Norden bis in den Süden, Vol. 1 zip Album zippyshare 320 kbps
Deutsches Volksmusikensemble - Komm sing mit! Die 25 schönsten Volkslieder, Teil 2 320 kbps Album zip
Deutsches Volksmusikensemble - Komm sing mit! Die 25 schönsten Volkslieder, Teil 1 320 kbps zip Album
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