Cutting Off Heads…
Dr. George H. Elder
And so another war cannot be ignored, largely in an area that we “liberated.” I wonder if ISIS would have come into existence in an Iraq run by Saddam? Perhaps an enfeebled version might have sprung up in Syria, but I tend to doubt it would have gotten any further. Saddam was a brutal tyrant who savagely suppressed any uprisings and military actions that were not of his making. So we freed the Iraqi people from a tyrant, and opened the door to an organization that literally wallows in blood and savagery. Indeed, ISIS seeks to expand into Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as in some modern day version of an ancient plague that is manned by psychopaths and led by self-serving demagogues who wear religious rags and Rolex watches.
Well, what to do? Two Americans have had their heads cut off in brutal fashions, and we’ve probably killed a few hundred ISIS fighters, either directly or indirectly. But these are early days. ISIS is good at recruiting, appealing to people who do not think very deeply–but are keen on making themselves “better than” or “holier than” by way of unmitigated cruelty and violence. They are largely outcasts, people who have nothing but brutality and fear to mark themselves as powerful or worthy or righteous. They remind me of the old KKK, members of which marched under a banner of Christian ideals while lynching, burning and castrating people.
Yet ISIS has money and the mendacious enterprise and efficiency of a criminal organization. In short, they must be countered, and that is why we will become just like them in our destructive ends–though perhaps not in our means. Nonetheless, our ends will be to obliterate ISIS as an organization, though killing ideas is never easy. Some fool always picks up lost causes, as Putin is by picking up the pieces of Hitler’s shattered nationalistic dreams and using the bits to achieve his own destitute ends. In the meantime, we become the killer of killers, and so it goes. To be sure, there is little choice, and therein resides the problem. There is no end to the spiral we are on.
ISIS cuts off heads, and we will bring hell-fire down upon them en masse. And so it will go until one day some bright lad develops a vengeance weapon that causes such harm to us and our friends that the hell-fire bombs and missiles we drop turns into the same nuclear fires that power the sun–with actions and reactions leading to a largely empty battlefield. That is the course of events, their ultimate resolution when one plays out all the cards. I often ponder if a better outcome might have evolved if we had simply stayed away. But the arrow of time moves in one direction, and thus there are no do-overs. They cut off heads, and we drop bombs. How far we have strayed from God’s path, and especially those who claim to be acting in Allah’s name. Rough times ahead…
This Ferguson case has been far more divisive than most, but it bugs me when friends use slurs to emphasize their views. As I noted in a recent article, scratch the surface and a lot of racial angst pours out. Some racial terms, like the “N” word, bother the hell out of me because I have many Black friends. Why the hell would anyone want to insult them–and especially someone who played sports in mixed-race venues? That’s bullshit! People who do that crap have fully disengaged their brains. Of course, some tell me I can’t use the terms Black or African-American, or even mixed-race. I’m told those are racist terms. Well, screw the f’n PC thought police–screw ‘em all to hell! Look, I have two wonderful little nieces of “mixed ethnicity,” was married to a Chinese woman, and generally judge people by their behaviors and abilities. Granted, humans are categorical thinkers due to the way our information processing systems operate. Yeah, we tend to lump things into groups. But this system also allows us to make many distinctions within categories–for all members of any category differ in as many details as they are similar in others. Only an idiot would think otherwise. Be that as it may, we’re all prejudice about something. For example, I tend to despise folks who are stupid enough to believe that one can judge the totality of a person based on just a few characteristics. And when they toss around racial insults, I get more than pissed off. Yeah, I hate “those kind” of ignorant, red-neck, sons-of-bitches–which makes me just as bad as they are. Our wiring is fucked in some ways, but no time to get into the details. As I get more ill, I feel more free. My true nature comes out, an overly aggressive man who knows that he does not know–but ain’t afraid to roar. Could be worse.
by Dr. George H. Elder
Several years ago, I had a dream wherein I was acting as a future rebel who was bent on blowing up a colossal fortress. I was with a group of like-minded people that stealthily approached the fort’s towering blackish-gray walls. I was in awe, for the structure seemed to fill the ominous, nocturnal setting. The edifice stood atop a rocky promontory and seemed to organically meld at its base with the landscape. After avoiding several trip-wires, motion detectors, and other security devices, our group easily penetrated into the fort via cutting though bars that protected a huge sewage pipe.
I recall the stench and muck we encountered within, but soon enough we managed to find an access hatch that led to the fort’s lower infrastructure. We quickly separated into small groups, with me and another fellow ascending stairs and traversing a dizzying array of corridors. There was great fear, but we were well-trained, determined, and knew where we were going. Our mission was just, having to do with personal freedom–and our task was to do away with what we took to be a dictatorial power structure.
Many of the details elude me, but we had to constantly evade various traps and avoid cameras, with one ambush device being a waist-high metal rotor concealed within various walls that would rapidly deploy upon sensing motion. The purpose of the device was to knock intruders off their feet and crush them against adjacent cement walls–repeatedly battering them into a pulp. But we jumped over the rotors and quickly planted explosive charges here and there. I wasn’t positive when the charges would go off, but after the payloads were deployed our focus quickly shifted to getting out of the place–and especially after alarms sounded!
Hoards of “semi-women” wearing tight-fitting leather uniforms darted through corridors and raced up and down stairwells. Their bodies appeared feminine, but their faces bore mustaches, beards and goatees, as if there had been in a mixture of the genders that did away with the notion of male and female. Some of their weapons were very futuristic, and others were more old-fashioned–as in razor-sharp Japanese katanas. The soldiers were fast and agile, and I knew there was no escape. Part of me felt guilty for being part of a violent operation that could take lives, but another part knew that the battle had to be fought–though dying in this dark and sterile place of steel and concrete was a terrifying prospect.
I awoke just before they caught me, and the dream’s meaning remained unclear for some time. As fate would have it, my days of graduate school at Penn State were indeed filled with private and public battles, the most prominent of which involved free speech. To be brief, I was canned from my teaching position for making a stance against a policy that forbade me from asking students to become public or private advocates for various actions that they supported. I went public after being dismissed, and thus began a very explosive series of battles that obliterated any chances of securing future teaching assignments. Yes, my anti-academy polemics killed my career, although some of my opponents also suffered–with at least two leaving the department within a few years of my dismissal. I thought it a good trade.
Still, some elements of the prescient dream remained mystifying, such as the hermaphroditic soldiers. Yet thanks to an acquaintance who recently graduated from a prestigious school–the more subtle messages within the dream are at last coming into focus. There are those who work against freedom of thought without ever quite realizing that is what they are doing. They are taught that words like Black, White, etc., are essentially racist in nature because they are divisive descriptors that are based on stereotypical concepts. Similarly, terms like men, women, etc., are sexist because they portray gender-based stereotypes, including those words that are reserved for people of trans-gender, gay, and lesbian persuasions. Yes, one pays $60,000 to $80,000 per year to have their children taught these often “politically correct” doctrines, with the students smugly walking away from it all thinking that they are pretty damn bright.
And if one uses terms these graduates don’t like, one is quickly branded as being this or that–with words like paternalistic, antiquated, racist, and much worse being bantered about. These would-be academics claim to be superior in their discursive styles and ways of thought, although I noted they seem a tad inconsistent at times. I have recently been called a prick and cunt by some of these bright young folks, though the terms were couched in barely coded language. They disagreed with me, and ultimately strove to make their points the old-fashioned way. I found it very amusing–to be linguistically categorized as this or that by would-be elitists who supposedly seek to stand above using such crude tools of categorization. Granted, I was teasing them a bit, although my views were sincere.
Let us briefly return to the dream’s metaphors. Of course, the fortress is the overweening power of the academy to shape minds and actions, albeit in strictly directed and approved fashions. Some call this “political correctness,” though I call it operant conditioning. One is patted on the head and given “tasty” intellectual acknowledgements for displaying approved academic behavior–woof, woof. The hermaphroditic soldiers are the legions of freshly matriculated students who would deign to guide our thoughts, deeds, and language use. These nascent fascists don’t even know they are being fascists, such is the ardor of their conviction vs. their ability to grasp the nuances related to their academically instilled ways of thinking. Since the first step in gaining wisdom is to know that one does not know, I depend on the happy idea that life will eventually teach these young people what the academy has failed to.
I worshipped at the alter of higher education for many years, and am well familiar with the various linguistic relativity theories that run through some dated and recent suppositions regarding how people use language. For example, the notion that one cannot experience or communicate certain thoughts (e.g., racism) without specific words has been around for a very long time. The theory maintains that we cannot think about hate or rose or car or racism without having terms for these ideational and/or physical referents. Thus, one can slowly do away with racism by eliminating terms that could be construed as racist–although whom decides what words are or are not racist isn’t quite clear.
It is a simplistic concept, for what defines a thought? Surely, it cannot be words or language alone that defines thought. Our pets anticipate when we are coming home from work, often waiting by the door. They have no words for friend, time, happy, or situation, yet all of these “ideas” are in play. Furthermore, they often commune with us through nonlinguistic vocalizations and nonverbal com, expressing desires and other concepts that they often intend–as in hunger, play, and pet me. In fact, they can change or induce our subsequent actions and reactions, all without the use of anything we would call words or language. Thus thoughts and words are two different things, albeit that they can be and are related in some species.
The real task is to understand exactly how thoughts and words are related, which takes us into neurolinguistics, neuropsychology, and even neurophysiology. I delved into these weighty areas for many years, writing a text on the subject that was published by NOVA Science. The reason I did this was because many people in the academy were promoting ideas regarding how communication functions that I knew were inconsistent with what science has revealed. I will not bore you with the details because the subject matter can be weighty–yet some things are easily understood.
For example, it appears that we are categorical thinkers by nature, and even at birth. A newborn will attend a paddle-board stimuli adorned with stereotypical eye and mouth facial markers in strong preference to other patterns. A newly hatched chick will duck when the form of a predatory bird is presented. There are many hundred examples like these of hard-wired perceptual and reactionary traits, but the central point is that we continue being categorical tinkers as we mature–regardless of our education and quaint ideas about language. We know this from brain damage studies. To be sure, people with focal lesions can lose their abilities to recognize and/or name all manner of different categorical associates–as in faces, specific types of objects, colors, or even emotions.
We cannot “educate” our inherent information processing design away, nor am I sure this is a wise thing to attempt. Humans process information via abstract or concrete categorical association, something that has been proven time and again. This is the heart of metaphor, the ultimate means by which thoughts are shared. I wish there was more focus on this area being taught in the academy because most of what I see at present is a species of insular idealism and intellectual elitism that stands in sharp contrast to a lot of science–not that science should be our God. Indeed, what we don’t know would fill a universe vs. the scant array of texts concerning what we do know.
One can certainly contend that we should always be aware of what messages our words are conveying to a given audience, though the blanket eschewing words like Black, White, queer, etc., might not be the best way to accomplish this end. What is required is the donning of an allocentric perspective. This is a capacity wherein we strive to perceive ourselves as others perceive us, which is no easy task. It demands a removal of the self in preference for a greater focus on how others might be interpreting our communication and viewing our actions. This idea entails a greater understanding of external perceptions of our ongoing interactions rather than a strict concentration on word use alone. No, it ain’t easy.
At present, I am a dismayed by what continues to spew out of the academy. It’s the same old shit-on-a-shingle that was being crapped out when I got my doctoral degree. Well, I never fit into the academy when I was there, being far too course and blunt in my views. If a concept lacked support, I said so–albeit in harsh terms at times. You see, I was older when I got my PhD, being 46. I had worked, gotten knocked around a bit, and tasted both failure and success. When I was the age of some of the kids I have recently communed with, I was doing all sorts of drugs, getting into tiffs, and partying up a storm. I am not saying young people need any of that “reality,” but they surely need more life experiences before opining on how life works–let alone how we should use language. I opt to be optimistic, hoping that this generation will eventually learn to judge itself–as well as others.
by Dr. George H. Elder
A Cause Without a Cure
by Dr. George H. Elder
I despise the nightly news shows. As usual, the press is doing its very best to beat a story to death, as in the Ferguson debacle. Reporters are acting like flies buzzing about feces, and after awhile so cover the material as to obscure what is actually there. Mix a remarkable lack of imagination with ample hyperbole, and one gets the US press, which is infamous for making as much noise as news. And they drone on and on, gagging us with special reports that are often much ado about nothing. So, what can we take from the Ferguson story that is helpful?
The convenience store’s videotapes demonstrate that Michael Brown had “probably” acted like a thug on the night he was killed, committing petty thievery and physical intimidation toward a much smaller person. That being said, he did not deserve to be shot down, although no one is quite sure what transpired between he and Officer Darren Wilson. I suspect Wilson was scared witless, not that this justifies shooting someone six times. Yet fear can easily be transformed into anger and irrationality, and thus we have the distinct possibility of both Brown and Wilson behaving in ways that led to an all-too-frequent outcome. Yet even if this is the case, the local Black community is inflamed and many Whites are largely mystified by what has unfolded.
The degree of racial divide that is crawling out of this fiasco is palpable. A recent Pew poll reveals a staggering divergence in views between Blacks and Whites. For example, only 37% of Whites feel Brown’s death reveals big issues about race, while 80% of Blacks do. When asked if race is getting too much attention, 47% of Whites say yes, while just 18% of Blacks answer in the affirmative. In addition, 60% of Blacks feel the police reaction has gone too far, but only 33% of Whites feel this way. Finally, a huge majority of Blacks (76%) have no faith in the ongoing investigation, while Whites are three times more likely to trust the investigation.
Yes, scratch the surface, and the racial divide comes gushing out. I do not believe Brown is a great exemplar for anyone to rally around, but I fully understand that the manner of his death was a reactionary impetus for many Blacks–a collective injury of sorts. To be sure, many innocent Black people are hassled by the police for no reason, which is something I have witnessed. On the other hand, many Black youths indulge in criminal behavior–with homicide being the number one cause of death in 18- to 24-year-old Black men. In Palm Beach County, Florida, five times as many Blacks are killed by homicide as die in car accidents, and in some cities the murder rates are staggering. For example, in New Orleans, a whopping 466 per 100,000 young Blacks are lost by homicide each year vs. the national average of 77–greater by a factor of 6. In fact, on a national level, young Black men are 6 times more likely to die from homicide and 7 times more likely to commit murder than are Whites the same age.
There are lots of reasons for these statistics, as in poor graduation rates, high unemployment, poor paying jobs, limited opportunities, gangs, sociocultural influences, and what I call White Fright. To be blunt, some White folks are scared witless by young Black men–judging the whole by the actions of a relative few. The police certainly have a history of racial profiling, and I ponder what else they can do given the existing crime stat’s. This goes for both Black and White officers, with their reactions often being a matter of personal welfare. Hey, when an officer makes a mistake of the streets, he or she can die from the miscue. So the police go with the odds, and thus see many young Black men in terms of high-risk. It is a very sad and miserable truth, for which I do not see an easy cure.
I was a coach for 11 years, and worked with numerous young Black men. Of course, these were college kids, with most being well educated and very determined. Thus the Blacks I worked with differed a bit from national averages, and went on to do some remarkable things. I did not witness the violence or criminality manifest by some young Black men, and thus never developed White Fright. Hell, I was much more criminally inclined than my charges when I was young, being somewhat of a thug myself. The essential point is, not all young Black men are the same, which is something White folks and the police have to recognize. Moreover, even Black men who come from very tough and poor neighborhoods differ in personality and tendencies, as do all people in general.
Yet many folks fail to see this because we tend to be categorical thinkers. It is largely a matter of how our brains are wired to react. We notice a few traits, and from these invoke a stereotypical schema that dictates our subsequent actions and reactions. The survival benefits of such a mechanism are obvious, as in rapid flight from a charging animal or other dangerous situation–an act of self-preservation that is governed by rapidly processing and reacting to a few cues. The “whole” does not matter when we think this way–just a few traits. Some of the schemas we develop are derived from harsh experience and others are learned via family, friends, and the media. We thus watch 48 Hours, listen to the news, and learn what to fear. In short, reactionary prejudice can be taught.
So a White dude sees a Black guy heading his way on the street. ‘My God! That’s a Black guy! I’m screwed! What to do? Oh, what to do?’ Whitey quickly crosses the street to avoid conflict with a man who might be a kindly minister or paramedic. The details are lost once the schema is invoked, with fear guiding many actions, thoughts, and reactions. And Lord help any White person who sees a group of five or more inner-city young Black men milling around outside a store or on the corner. This is a no-go zone for most White folks–including me. Some of the activated fear responses are well placed, though not always.
Thing is, a gathering of young Black men is often also a no-go zone for many Black people, folks who live in communities wherein violence is endemic. Yet one has to get milk and food for the kids, come whatever may be waiting around the next corner. That women or man going to the store can’t walk away or cross the street to escape those kids, and knows very well that everyday life carries great risks in this part of town. But given the economics, where else can one go? In fact, the vast majority of violence young Black men unleash is on other Blacks.
We should recognize here that violence does not stem from young Blacks alone. I have good friend who is Black, and he got hassled the other day by some ignorant, red-neck White teens–kids that are a blight on any community. He confronted them, and I am thankful he wasn’t shot or attacked. Such things can and do happen in rural Vermont, and are occurring at an increasing rate. “You do not know what it is like,” my friend has advised. “It is a constant threat, the same one you would feel in Washington.”
I do not see an easy cure for any of this. I think a family unit including a Mom and Dad is important in providing children with a model on how to live well, and one of the central problems in many communities is that such family units simply do not exist. Kids are born and raised by single moms, with their fathers being nowhere near. Many of these fathers lack a sense of personal responsibility, one that is usually instilled while being part of a family. Thus the children of these wayward fathers grow up and repeat the often dreary model of the life that they experienced, and so it goes–deadbeat dads giving rise to deadbeat dads.
This isn’t a problem of Black families alone, for many are loving and caring. In addition, numerous White families are undergoing parental divides, with fathers bugging out to pursue whatever pleases their fancy. I fear where all this will lead. At its core, this tendency to avoid personal responsibility is all about selfishness–a prioritization of the vagaries of one’s transient desires to that of familial duties. It is hard to raise a family, especially when one has no education, no job, and lives in a society that prioritizes the self above all else. It is not a matter of Black or White. It is a matter of poor values and limited opportunities–which run rampant when the idea of family turns into dust.
So what to do? Punishment is merely a means of treating a disease of the soul and not of preventing it. Of course, there is often no recourse but punishment when punk kids make surviving on “their” home turfs miserable for an entire community. The only long-term salvation I can see is crafting a context wherein the family structure can be preserved–which is easier said than done. So what do we do in Ferguson and other places to achieve this end? That is the essential question that is never asked. We cannot do a damn thing at present. Now that the reporters, anarchists, and their like have grabbed onto the issue, the entire town has become a nightly battle zone. This will burn itself out eventually, and then we can turn our thoughts toward how families can be preserved. At present, I do not have a clue, and am not ashamed to admit it.
So Wanted to Say Goodbye…
by Dr. George H. Elder
I met Jack in rehab at the Genesis Center in Lebanon, NH. Oh, this isn’t the kind of rehab center celebrities go into when they get too drugged out or otherwise self-indulgent. No, it was a place for physical rehab wherein one does various exercises to get out and about–as in being able to walk, go to the bathroom, and perform the most basic parts of our daily routines. Jack had been laid low by a severe stroke following the use of an experimental chemotherapy drug to treat his bladder cancer. I was coming off a very bad reaction to anesthesia which aggravated an existing coordination problem.
In any event, we were roommates for a short while, striving to get through the protocols needed to get home. Hardly anyone wants to be in a nursing home, no matter how “nice” that home might be. However, some people have no choice because they simply cannot do what is needed to maintain an independent existence. Yet Jack and I were determined to go home, so we worked our asses off. My journey was easier than his. I was younger (62 vs. 71), less impaired, and a former coach–meaning I already had a mad-dog attitude about achieving goals.
However, Jack was also very determined. He was a teacher who worked with autistic children–and he sure as hell wanted to continue with the job. Jack played tennis and was otherwise very active, but that damn chemo made a mess of things. Still, he had gladly taken the risk, for his cancer was aggressive and Jack showed a warrior’s spirit in fighting it. Nor did he back down from the consequences of the therapy. Jack would put on his bionic braces, as we called them, and troop up and down the halls–being aided by one of the PT staff.
I was horrified by how weak and clumsy I had gotten, but worked hard to regain a bit of balance and control. My battle only took about 12 days, though Jack’s struggle had been about four times as long. Still, we got out of that place within a few days of one-another and kept in touch. Jack went back into chemo and my glacial slide continued, a condition called Multisystem Atrophy (MSA)–or so they say. We spoke on the phone, occasionally for very long times.
Then came that call wherein Jack told me that the treatments had failed. We both knew what that meant, and I was miffed that he had been so casually sent home to die. I thought it callous, especially considering how the treatments had degraded his quality of life. Jack’s needs soon exceeded his wife’s capacity to provide, and he ended up back at the rehab center–having lost a great amount of weight and strength. This is typical of the wasting some cancers cause. I tried to call him on Monday, August 11, but the attendant told me that phones had become difficult for Jack. I asked if I could see him later in the week, and the fellow said yes. I asked if I should get there sooner rather than latter, and he said I probably had some time.
So I went to Genesis on Saturday, bound and determined to give Jack some company. But he had died the day after I called. I was stunned. The nurses would not tell me any details, for such are the laws governing privacy. But I managed to talk to enough people to piece the story together. And I am still so very upset. As I type this, tears flow. I damn myself for not being there for a friend, for not saying a final goodbye. We don’t get second chances at such things, and I am beyond sad. Jack fought for life, like we all do–and strived against long odds. I recall the conversation we had about his kid while at Genesis.
“How am I going to tell him?” Jack asked.
“I would think he knows.”
“Maybe,” he said with a frown. “But I try to keep the details from him.”
“I don’t want this on his mind. He’s got classes to worry about, and I want him doing well. He has to take school seriously.”
“God, I wouldn’t know what to say. Damn cancer. Took my Mom and raised hell with my family.”
“But we have to keep trying.”
“We do. I see you doing that with your walks.”
“I think it drives the attendants crazy, but I have to keep trying. Just hope I’m not too much of a burden on my wife.”
“Hell, she knew the job was dangerous when she took it.”
“I don’t think she bargained for this,” Jack sighed.
“Maybe it won’t be so bad. You can walk on your own now.”
“A little bit. Doubt I’ll ever use this hand again.”
“But your mind’s still there.”
“If you say so,” Jack replied with a smile.
“I know so. Well, I have to get down there in a bit. Got my big evaluation today. I am going to kick some serious ass.”
“That’s the spirit!”
And so it went. Jack was high maintenance due to the effects of his stroke, but he made it out of Genesis shortly after I left. Over the coming months we called one another and shared various stories and updates about how our lives were unfolding. Occasionally, we talked about falls or medical problems, which are minion in anyone with chronic diseases. But mostly, we discussed life in general, as in Jack’s love of the many types of birds that flocked to the feeders at his house. Then I got the call wherein Jack related that the doctors at DHMC told him that further chemo was pointless. The cancer had spread from his bladder.
I begged him to try Cancer Centers of America or some other hospital, but he was worn and weak. One often hears death in a person’s voice well before it pays a final visit. There were times I called when he could not speak very long, though he reported about the weight loss, lack of appetite, and all the rest. He said he was going back to Genesis, and we both knew it was a one-way trip. I promised I would visit, and thought there would be more time. But I failed my friend, not that there was anything I could have done to ease his passage.
Time… It’s all about time. We only have so much of it, and squander hours on end in useless and trivial pursuits. We march toward that final period that ends all sentences, and seldom fully consider the things that are truly important while life’s lines are being written. Jack knew what was important, and it all went back to family for him. There he was, ravaged by a stroke and cancer. Yet his concern was always for his son and wife. To my way of thinking, such a perspective is an act of love. And when one loves, one is living fully. I am positive that Jack lived fully until his time came, and hope that I am half as courageous when that period is placed on the end my last sentence.
THERE IS A MONSTER AFOOT
by Dr. George H. Elder
In Iraq, ISIS cuts off the heads of nonbelievers and kidnaps their women–handing young girls over to the gentle graces of the “holy warriors” who slaughtered their friends and families. In Israel, there was a videogame made wherein one gets points for blowing up Palestinian houses and killing the residents. In the Ukraine, 20,000 Russian troops hover on the border, sending in weapons and “advisors” that have turned that corner of the world into a vast killing field. In Africa, Ebola runs rampant, freed by world neglect, poverty, and superstition. All over this earth people of mal intent practice their perfidy, plotting and planning, striving for power and wealth, and blithely spending lives as if they were an expendable currency–a mere means of achieving desired ends.
So what do we do? Fools like me write articles, while others pray for relief in churches, temples, and other places of worship. Some take harsh positions blaming the right, left, or various religious groups for all our ills, stridently arguing that one side is 100% right while the other is totally wrong. Lies and distortions flow, and after a while the truth becomes buried under layers of obfuscations that make it nearly invisible. And all the while the pot bubbles and boils, much like the world itself stews in the juices, vapors and toxins that we have served up.
I shake my head and close these tired eyes. What can we do? Oh, what can we do? If I were wise, or at least a tad intelligent, I’d have an answer. Yet all I can offer are insights from dreams. In one of these, I sought an answer to a question concerning God’s existence, only to find myself looking into a mirror–staring into my own desperate eyes as they gazed back into my soul. Yet in that sublime moment, I finally realized that self-reflection is our only hope, though it often requires a type of honesty that burns our souls. To see ourselves as we truly are is no easy feat, and it is a process that can leave us in tears. It requires us to think about how we are thinking, to see ourselves as others see us–and to understand fully how our actions are influencing the world around us. Oh, why did we beat our child? Why did we steal? Was cheating on our spouse worth it? The answers sear us, but without asking such questions–there can be no reflections.
I wonder if Netanyahu mourns the Palestinian children who have died? He knows that not all were the victims of Hamas’ callous uses, for bombs are dropped by people–and people make mistakes. Bombs have no souls; no regrets or remorse. They are part of the spears that our leaders throw, and once set to flight they cannot be recalled. Yet the real damage is what killing en masse does to one’s own people. Imagine Israeli children playing computer games wherein one gets points for obliterating other children. Imagine a society that compares the mass killing of any people with “mowing the lawn.” An insightful and reflective leader might notice that the callousness manifest in these games and views is indicative of an underlying morality that makes the “good” as wanton as those who are considered “bad.” Indeed, what differentiates the good from the bad when both sides have a complete disregard for the innocent? In terms of reflections, Netanyahu might as well see the face of a Hamas extremist when he looks in the mirror, for they are as one in using lives as means of achieving political ends.
Ah, but it gets even worse. Every now and then, the world gives rise to demons who find happiness and meaning in there own perfidy, who brutally seek to craft the reflection of a supposedly “higher” belief or ideal regardless of the consequences. Consider Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader if ISIS. Here is a man who wears watches that cost thousands of dollars while calling himself humble and holy. He oversees the slaughter of all who disagree with his views, using the agency of men who are even more blind than himself. Ultimately, he does not perceive the massive ego that a mirror might reveal, the wretched and simplistic self-absorption that can justify mass murder and doling out captured Yazidi girls to the gentle graces of his “people.” Yet anyone who can decapitate prisoners, shoot them in mass graves, or commit similar crimes is hardly worthy of being considered a person. Here are beasts who are completely incapable of seeing their own reflections, their savage inhumanity of spirit. They justify their horrors by dim-witted recitations of holy texts and spewing ideologies that they obviously do not understand. They simply cannot perceive that they are the worst humanity has to offer, for such is their blindness.
We have witnessed the coming and passing of such wretches in NAZI Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and a host of other places–and the potential for becoming demons resides in most of us to one extent or another. The ancestry of these beasts stretches deep into the past, and only a few have faced the same vile debauchery that they have dished out. I ponder about God’s nature when I think of such things. If God is in all things, than the collective actions of all of us must define God’s being within a given context. During WWII, many Jews considered this issue, with some finding against God. To be certain, how could a good God ignore their plight, the gave injustices being perpetrated upon them each and every day? It might have been more appropriate to find against humanity, for if there is a God, we are most certainly part of it. Indeed, the people of many nations have crafted contexts wherein butchering their neighbors was perfectly acceptable, a necessary means.
Ah, but we are just a tiny part of an infinite whole, and can hardly perceive that when we defile ourselves, each other, and the earth around us, we also defile a bit of God. We simply fail to see the divine in our own reflections, though some might claim to have a higher understanding of God that makes their “accounts” sacrosanct. Such is the mental illness of men like al-Baghdadi, Hitler, and so many others. They see themselves as THE whole, instead of tiny aspects thereof. Extreme narcissism mixed with myopia is the bane of history, and so it goes. It is a blinding and binding set of traits that produces beasts to this very day.
Some beasts can only be contained in cages of iron until their days end, though many would argue that we should simply kill them. Yet killing does little to prevent their eventual resurrection in one form or another–for they seem to spring anew from every corner. Some might argue that killing makes us like unto the beasts we slay, and I am torn by this contention. A part of me wants to see al-Baghdadi literally torn to pieces by his victims, slowly and painfully–over a period of several days. Then I reflect on the gratuitous urge, and am shamed by what I see. To be sure, I am acting like al-Baghdadi in my desires, which is the real danger of terrorism. Terrorism makes us terrible people, both the perpetrators and the victims. We do unto other as was done unto us, regardless of our morality–our underlying principles.
Our generation has seen more than it’s fair share despots, but I believe they have an awful role in perfecting what we will become. If the beasts and their works become ascendant, our species will fall into interminable conflicts that will prevent an evolution of what we might otherwise become. Instead of striving for the stars, our missiles will find targets here on earth. Our kind will be laid low by interminable wars, but the universe will go on. We will be but a lost opportunity, a tiny bud that did not fully blossom because it was fatally flawed.
I wonder if we will dare blame God if this grim possibility becomes a reality? In the end, I suspect God sets the stage for possibilities but does not assure outcomes. That is our job. The best advice for any leader is to consider fully the image one sees in a mirror well before acting, and to see within this reflection how interconnected all things are. An act of cruelty makes one cruel, while killing anyone makes one a killer. Look at where such actions lead before taking them… and see what influence they might have on the collective welfare of the whole. Alas, fools are minion–and truly good people are rare by any measure. Good leaders are rarer yet. So we sit on the precipice and reflect on what we can do. It’s a joint responsibility, but the answers don’t come easily.
by Dr. George H. Elder
I have been arrested and jailed by the police. I deserved it and have no complaints about how I was treated. I have also helped the police when asked, as they have helped me. In general, I find the police of great value, and far more so than as a mere means of preserving the peace. But what is going on in Ferguson is nuts! The more I see, the less I can understand why the police are reacting so strongly. I mean, I am seeing some very heavy military equipment that one does not associate with the kind of force needed by the police for crowd control. Granted, a Humvee can go lots of places and save folks come floods and other disasters. But some of the weapons being deployed are WAY beyond crowd control.
You know, given an armed populace, all the elements are in place for a real war, and I am hoping that cooler heads prevail. No, a kid shouldn’t be shot down like Brown was. It was bullshit, and especially the lack of medical attention that was brought in. On the other hand rioting and looting is hardly the best response! That is an insult to a family that lost one of its own–a terrible blight on an already tragic situation. The police have over-reacted, and the chief and others have to go. The looters should be punished to the max. As for the officer who shot Mike Brown, let the fed’s run the investigation and prosecution. Take it out of the town, and let the guilt or innocence fall where it may. Tonight, the potential is there for a real fight, with guns blasting away on all sides. Let us hope this doesn’t happen. We are living in strange times. There is madness everywhere–and life is beginning to mean nothing.
by Dr. George H. Elder
Few Americans make any kind of meaningful stand protesting what Israel has done in the Gaza strip, a fact that is clearly evidenced by the recent Congressional authorization of $225 million for the Iron Dome shield. The vote was a whopping 395 to 8, with the likes of Harry Reid offering that even more money would be forthcoming. This, in conjunction with the administration authorizing yet more weapon transfers to Israel, clearly indicates which side the US has taken–and always takes. It has been this way for many years, though some Americans are deeply disturbed by the blatant bias of “our” foreign policy.
Of course, most Americans approve of Israel’s action, with 57% opining that the Jewish state’s ongoing war against the Palestinians is justified. This is despite the horrible pictures of dead and dying kids, mutilated bodies, and the vile collective punishments that proliferate by the day. So how did it come to this? After all, the US usually does not support the mass killing of children, women, and civilians, at least overtly. Yet here we are, tossing more weapons into the fray–thus insuring the IDF can “mow the lawn” even closer. That’s what they call these “cleansing” operations in Israel, with the notion being that Palestinians are little more than weeds that require an occasional pruning via the ham-fisted shears of the IDF.
America’s actions must both inflame and mystify many abroad, and especially those in Palestine. After all, it is largely American ordnance that has killed 1,700+ and wounded another 8,500 Palestinians–figures that are bound to grow. It is as if we have donned moral blinders that obscure the massive loss of life and property that the IDF is causing–an idiotic policy that only serves to make more radicals. If it were my mother, father, brother or sister who was being laid low, I would want revenge–just as those traumatized people most certainly do.
And they will lash out, thus feeding Netanyahu yet more political fodder–more “reasons” to feed off those innocents some arrogant Israelis call weeds. Now, we in the US are largely blind to all this, with most not understanding that American policies regarding the Middle East were the impetus for those radicals who took down the twin towers. We just don’t get it–as in understand how a vote to arm those who murder people en masse will come back to haunt us in the end. Nor do the Moslem masses understand why the US reacts as it does, so please let me offer one American’s view.
The truth is, the US is an “occupied” country–a place where a disproportionate amount of the media and nearly all of the political power rests in the hands of a wealthy and vested elite. And in the US, the Jews are amongst the elite in many fields. As a group, the Jews have worked very hard to accomplish this end–which was hard-going for a small and disenfranchised group. Currently, there are between 6,200,000 and 8,300,000 Jews in the United States, depending on how one categorizes what being a Jew is. If one extends religious affiliation to having a grandparent who was/is Jewish, the US Jewish population rises to roughly 11,000,000. These sound like big numbers, but as a percentage of the US population (310,000,000+) they are tiny–ranging from 2.0% to 3.5%.
Moreover, it is not like the entire US Jewish population is monolithic on most issues. As has been often observed, the definition of an argument is putting two Jews in the same room. I have known numerous Jews, and consider many to be good friends. It is a mistake for anyone to think that all Jews are alike, that most worship money, and that many have no ethical values. Granted, every so often a Woody Allen comes along who is wanton and salacious enough to cast a grim light on an entire people, but it is lunacy to judge the whole from the actions of any one person. Allen-type debauchery occurs in members of all faiths, and it is my personal observation that most Jews are moral people.
They are successful, bright, and wealthy. Over half (55%) of all Jews in the US have a college degree and 25% hold advanced degrees. Only 29% of the general US population holds college degrees and just 6% have Master’s or PhD’s. Truth is, most Jews prioritize education, and invest heavily in their children’s academic and career futures. This pays off. Over 60% of all employed Jews have professional/technical (41%), management and executive (13%), or business and finance jobs (7%). As a result, 46% of all US Jewish families had an income of $100,000 or more in 2010, while 75% were in the $50,000 or above bracket. Corresponding figures for the US average are just 18% at $100,000 or more and 48% at $50,000 or more. The Hindus have also achieved lofty economic standards in the US, but no other religion is even close.
The point is, Jewish Americans control a great deal of economic, corporate, professional, media, and technical power, especially in relationship to their modest numbers. I laud these accomplishments, for much bigotry and entrenched reticence had to be overcome. Indeed, there was a time when Jews were not welcome to participate in American politics, but now there are 12 Jews in the Senate and 22 in the House, with the 12 in the Senate representing 12% of its total membership vs. the mere 2.0% to 3.5% of Jews in the national population. Once again, no one begrudges Jews from making such progress on so many fronts.
And while Jews seldom agree on anything, they have a gaping blind spot for Israel. To be sure, many American Jews are as loyal to Israel as they are to the US, and thus some of the primary reasons for US policy bias are fairly obvious. When it comes to Israel, America Jews tend to both fund and vote for those who defend its interests, and thus there are hardly any differences between Republican and Democratic policies regarding Israel. In America, power goes where the money flows, with the press beating whatever drumbeat its financial masters dictate.
People from afar must understand that the notion of the US being a democracy is largely an illusion. Our political system has become predicated on who can garner the most “contributions”–which our courts equate with “freedom” of speech. I know that sounds absurd, but politics in the US is far from reasoned discourse between independent parties. If anything, we have a power system based on public relations, and it costs a lot to make glossy commercials criticizing your opponent and praising your own deeds–be the ads true or not. In that America has a vested Jewish elite that controls an enormous deal of wealth and public outreach capacity that can be used to pursue political ends, Israel has systematically become America’s master.
Some Americans will claim I’m being extreme here, but please consider how the votes go on supporting Israel. You’ll seldom find such obvious bias in policy votes promoting the welfare of Poland, Italy, Ireland, Turkey, Germany, or any other nation that comes to mind. Our relationship with Israel is “special.” Indeed, we are Israel’s bitch, to be used and abused as our masters see fit. Just consider how Netanyahu taunts Kerry and Obama, his political playthings. I am ashamed of our leaders’ weakness, their political blind eyes. Eventually, there will be a terrible price to pay for this abrogation of authority. In fact, it is happening already.
One of those kids who has witnessed his family being blown to pieces will understand that his “best” recourse is not the idiotic and impotent means of achieving “justice” that Hamas employs. He will understand that Hamas is mostly composed of irresponsible fools who butcher their own as blithely as do the Israelis. Here will be a Palestinian “weed” who studies biochemistry, earns advanced degrees, does world-class research, and becomes one of the very best on earth in understanding the genetics of life. Yet he harbors deep within a festering hatred toward all things Jewish–reliving constant nightmares of his family’s grizzly death. The trauma drives him. It hounds him, giving his soul no reprieve. So he plots in private and stays away from political affiliations, with no one knowing what this outwardly happy man’s ultimate intensions are.
Perhaps the plague he finally releases will begin in Jerusalem, or maybe Tel Aviv. His breath will become labored as the fruits of this traumatized “weed’s” genius spread and multiply, ignoring borders and all means to contain it. He knows no Iron Shield can stop the deadly virus, and smiles while musing about how desperate Israelis will be trying to flee to the US. Yet there will be no escape–no time to make antidotes. It will be a collective punishment, as in what has been repeatedly imposed on the Palestinians. The entire world will suffer for the hatred that Netanyahu has foolishly planted in so many, and the US should not wonder why it had to be this way when the piper comes to collect his dues. We will die by the millions, perhaps finally understanding that we made some very poor choices.
This scenario is not a matter of if, but only of when. Perhaps 50 years, maybe more or less. But there will be a terrible price for the mass murder that has been committed by the IDF, and no army or force on God’s earth can prevent it. Feast in victory, Netanyahu, but know you well that your country’s fate has been sealed–if not the world’s. The land has always been God’s, and God’s alone! Instead of sharing the garden, you opted to “weed” it again and again and again. Well, Israel will reap the harvest of hatred that it has planted. As for we Americans, it is important to understand that being anyone’s bitch has a steep cost.
BLINDNESS OF BLIGHT
by Dr. George H. Elder
We have seen the pictures of screaming and mangled Palestinian kids, along with the limp and bloodied bodies of those who are rushed into overburdened hospitals by frantic families and friends. There are no words that can justify blowing up children, and it is utter folly to even try offering excuses. Claiming that it was the fault of another that “caused” you to act wickedly is to ignore any sense of personal responsibility–as in a policeman who shoots a kid to get at a criminal. When all is said and done, what Israel is doing is every bit as wicked as what some Palestinians are doing, and continuing this madness will not change a thing. Do you think a kid who loses a best friend, sibling, or parent to a bomb “we” Americans supplied will hate us any less than he or she hates the Israelis? The towers in New York fell for a reason, though we seldom consider what it might have been. We see effects, but often fail to see deeper root causes.
At present, ALL the warring parties are planting the seeds of their eventual destruction, and one day mushroom clouds or far worse will sprout over all the major cities in the land of milk and honey, incinerating Moslems and Jews alike. We’re only 50-100 years away from that nightmare, but the seeds are being planted right at this moment by myopic and jingoistic nitwits who justify killing children as a matter of national defense. Take a look into the eyes of those kids who are being pounded every day by bombs and missiles–who see their best friends and family members being blown to bits. Their eyes reflect hatred; stark, pure, and infinitely deep. It will fester and grow, devouring everything in its path. Those children will one day become wild-eyed adults who embrace death, with their only goal being foisting the misery and loses that they suffered upon others.
No words can change that, and it is time for the US to step aside. Israel is becoming like the beast it purports to despise, and it has lost vast amounts of moral authority as the slaughter continues. It is a nation that may one day reap a harvest that technology cannot protect it from. Be it a virus, bacteria, or bomb, the results will be the same for all concerned–friend and foe alike. It is only a matter of when and not if, for the hatred being instilled will find its recourse. In the interim, it is best for the US and others to cease supporting anyone in this dreadful miasma, this desecration of what was once the holy land.
Perhaps America can do some good for the survivors, but this can never be accomplished by supplying weapons, blind support, or banal justification for unmitigated evil. Israel’s leaders have made it into a land of mass murderers; ordering pilots, sailors, and soldiers to kill and maim thousands. They are the tip of a spear that was thrown by a fool, yet hardly a one said, “NO!” Nor is any wisdom to be found in Hamas’ leadership, a group that trades lives for political gain. The sad thing is that both the children of David and the Prophet KNOW what will one day happen as the wheel takes its inevitable turn. At it’s essence, the land being fought over belongs to God, and God alone. If it is not shared in peace, it will surely be shared in mutual death–with only the wind echoing a refrain to what might have been.
By Dr. George H. Elder
Putin ordered his “special” forces and troops to seize the Crimea, and no one stood against him. Oh, the US and others complained bitterly, but now his sights are being set on the Eastern Ukraine. In the meantime, we hear cheering Russian masses singing patriotic songs. Those masses also smiled and cheered when anti-gay laws were passed, with Putin being all to happy to engage in the same scapegoating that dictators traditionally use to unite the unwashed. They claim the “out-group” is the result of all ills, but the leader is strong enough to take them on. Indeed, the leader is wise and powerful, capable of crafting a new world order where a down and out nation is once again respected.
Hilary made the obvious comparison between Hitler and Putin, something our erstwhile president seems loath to do. Oh, we threaten sanctions, do nasty economic things, but it seems American power has been vacated. Getting involved in Afghanistan and Iraq has exhausted the country on many levels, and at present we lack the gumption to stand up to Syria’s perfidy, let alone Putin’s. So we carp mightily while Syrian children die en masses, and cry aloud as countries are consumed by a man of consummate wickedness, a willful man who lies with all the practiced aplomb of so many of our own political leaders.
I despise the prospect of war, and did not want us getting involved in Iraq or any number of other areas wherein there was the prospect of long-term boots on hostile ground. This is seldom a good idea, although that lesson seems slow in coming to some US leaders. Now, we have squandered lives, treasure, and public determination on treks that ill-served the country’s long-term interests. Our goal ought to have been simple. Destroy those who caused 9/11. We opted to build nations instead, something we could never do considering the political background of the countries we opted to occupy. And while our brave men and women bleed, our national will grew weaker, which is completely understandable. Indeed, we all realized that “our” democracy is not the bread-and-butter of many cultures, and thus what kind of nations could we really build?
Now we have a vicious beast afoot, a true threat to his neighbors and world peace. He is armed to the teeth with thousands of nuclear weapons, has a vast army, and seems to have no compunction against using force. Putin Hitler knows we lack the will to confront him, and thus he has opted to run wild. He will take and expand, until his dear Russia is what it once was–a vast amalgamation of captive souls who dare not complain. He will use intimidation for the most part, but eventually, he will kill more directly. It is the Beast’s way, and always has been. And all the while, the Russian mass’ will cheer his name, this new messiah of the Rus.
In the end, he will miscalculate. Nearly all dictator’s do, for they are creatures of unbridled narcissism and ego. This can lead the world and Russia into a disaster that makes WWII seem like a tea party. Imagine if Putin Hitler goes after a treaty state, and thus the US and others are compelled to react. That’s when it all can end, in hundreds of blinding flashes that incinerate millions of souls. So what do we do? Well, the only recourse I can see is for him to die, though I am ashamed to confess the depravity that such a conclusion betrays.
My hope is that a Russian patriot will do the deed, and Putin Hitler certainly has no lack of home-grown enemies. Indeed, his opponents are the world’s best hope, and their efforts should be supported. I know “our” direct involvement in killing Putin Hitler violates US and international Laws, and it also violates my own ethical standards because I feel all life is precious. But if Putin Hitler lives, millions will die or suffer. One has to ask, would it have been better to kill Hitler in 1937, or to have let WWII happen? Is the loss of one man worth the death of 50 million people? It is a fair question, though arguing alternative realities is pointless for beings that are bound to the present.
Putin Hitler has shown himself to be a beast in every sense of the word, and it is far better that he die than be allowed to kill. It is a question of how, and this brings us into black operations, the very things that Putin Hitler did for a living. He was a director of secret assassinations and other dark deeds, someone who ordered such operations during his 16 years of KGB “work.” I am positive his personal defenses are very strong, but there are many Russians who would much prefer to see him dead–despite the cheering masses. As for the morality involved, killing Putin Hitler is far better than the eventual destruction of a multitude, including his admirers.
This essay comes to an admittedly terrible conclusion, one that sanctions death as a means of preserving life. I suppose one could use the same rational to justify killing any leader who invades another country, and perhaps that is not such a wicked thing. As a man who has sought God in many ways, I find my conclusions disturbing and unethical. It is the byproduct of a man who cannot call himself good, for seeking the death of anyone is inherently bad. I wish I could discern another way of dealing with Putin Hitler, but I cannot. He is the end product of an institution that wallowed in blood, and we see from the abuse of his nation’s laws and the rights of those around him that this Beast is a clear and present danger to the entire world. It is better that he pass, and for advocating that–I am as dreadful as he.
Friday, October 4, 2013
I just signed a contract with NOVA Publishers for Reflections, and thus begins another adventure. There is much to do in terms of marketing and all the rest, but this book was the best I can do in many ways. I am certainly glad an “established” publisher picked it up. I was ready to go the self-publishing route, but that is a VERY poor way to move any significant number of books. Here is the current blurb, though it will certainly change:
Saturday, September 07, 2013
The dithering concerning bombing Assad’s military assets continues unabated, and I find myself in the minority yet again. Moreover, I am also taking a stance that is in fundamental disagreement with my personal beliefs regarding the sanctity of life. However, I would hardly call my position categorical on that issue as I’m pro choice and pro assisted suicide–though only when one is terminally ill and suffering. On the other hand, I am against the death penalty, so my philosophy on taking life is hardly “mature” or consistent as it now stands.
The problem is that context makes a mockery of categorical positions. For example, in my view it is unconscionable to force a woman to give birth to a child that is the product of a rape or incest–regardless of one’s position on abortion. Similarly, one can be against the death penalty, but still seek the life’s blood of a criminal who savagely raped and murdered one of your kids. The situation often dictates what recourse we seek, which puts me in the camp of moralistic relativism–a dreary place for sure.
I suppose my position on the “need” for attacking Assad is based on fear. There are chemical weapons out there that make Sarin look tame, such as VX. A leader who uses such weapons on his own people is also prone to using them on others, as Saddam proved during the Iran/Iraq war. We turned an official blind eye to that, at least until Iraq became unfriendly. It was the fear of such weapons that drove us to attack Iraq, though it turned out that Iraq had abandoned its chemical munitions. Silly us.
Now we have a person who has definitely used these weapons of mass destruction and done so on a large scale. Yet there is NO desire in the hearts of the American people to stop him. Been there, done that, didn’t work out so well. And it isn’t like the UN will ever intervene, toothless and useless organization that it is. My goodness, the UN has the oddest governance and decision-making mechanism imaginable–one wherein one powerful nation can insure that nothing gets done. Until that changes, very little good can come from that organization.
Of course, giving the UN power would come at the cost of countries like the US, China, etc., conceding control and authority. It does not seem that the powerful nations are ready for that, and thus it often boils down to nations taking unilateral actions that meet shifting and transient ends–such as destroying Assad’s means of using chemical warfare. As its core, we have created a toothless world governance, mostly out of fear that it will one day bight us in the ass for our own perfidy. We are simply not willing to give up our control, our sovereignty. Indeed, the idea of actual world governance has become anathema to nearly all powerful countries…
Given this dreadful status quo, each powerful nation takes it on its own shoulders to stop a threat that could one day reach its shores. The US has shown time and again how silly that behavior is, and now we are too weary to act. Had Bush not lied us into the Iraq war, it might have been possible to get mass support for eliminating Assad’s WMD. But now, we must go it alone or turn our heads away. Oh, but the cost of turning our heads away eventually leads to terror at home.
The only real answer is to craft a UN that has real power, a power that cannot be controlled by any one country. That will not happen any time soon. So on one hand, people in the US bitch about us playing the part of the world’s police force. But on the other hand, we’ll also bitch about not being subject to a police force that isn’t under our solitary and direct control. I don’t suspect many folks see the irony in all this. There is only one answer, but we’re not quite ready for anything like “real” world governance yet. I hope the future will not curse us for our myopia. I hope it doesn’t end up destroying everything we love…
Thursday, September 05, 2013
The American people have no desire to take on anyone in the Middle East, be the cause good or bad–just or unjust. Thus the majority of us are quite content to passively watch while innocents are gassed en masse, humanocide writ large on our TV screens. We have become like so many beaten dogs, whimpering at the mere thought of yet more conflict. Given the lies that were told to get us involved in Iraq, who can blame the people for being reluctant?
My problem is this: in Assad we have a petty tyrant who truly does have weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, he has shown an inclination to use them on his own people–and on a large scale. He is allied with several quasi-religious and extremely violent groups that are both capable and numerous, and one wonders what we will do if those noxious white clouds suddenly appear in a New York subway or Fenway Park. That is the threat, and not just what is happening in Syria, terrible though it is.
I despise war, and think it is ample proof that humanity has hardly evolved in over 5,000 years. Furthermore, the American people have every right to feel exhausted, having been involved in an only partially justified fight that has lasted the better part of a generation. Alas, there comes a time, exhausted or not, when we have to do what is in the best interest of our children. And like it or not, removing those chemical weapons from the scene is in our best long-term interest.
Yes, it is only a temporary fix, something that may buy us 10-15 years before another dictator arises who has a yearning for power and no qualms about using ANY means to get and keep it. Already, we see all the efforts we extended in Iraq drifting into a mindless civil war that will spawn the next “strong man,” the coming dictator. And in this failure, we see yet more reasons not to get involved, for many American lives have been lost and vast treasure spent for little, if any, long term gains.
It is a matter of using power intelligently. One aids those who are fighting for their own freedom, with Bosnia being a prime example of how effective this policy can be when used properly. We have the technical ability to degrade Assad’s ability to rule without putting boots on the ground, and to do so in a fashion that allows the Syrian people to express their own will. We may not like what evolves, but what choice is there to act given the weapons involved?
So I agree with the policy of removing Assad’s chemical weapons, though I find Obama’s handling of this situation very dubious. If one sees a mad dog at the door, one doesn’t dither before acting–and the butchering of over 400 children surely indicates that we are dealing with a mad dog. Instead, we go through this legalistic national and international debate, and at a time when our people are already exhausted. Our leaders have no choice but to act, even if there is a lack of consensus. To do nothing means that we have truly lost, for we will have become a people who can watch children suffocate by the hundreds while waiting for our dinners to be cooked. Where is the humanity in that?
BOOKS IN PREPARATION:
REFLECTIONS: A DREAM QUEST (click for sample!)
Essays of a Mad Man.
CURRENT BOOKS IN PRINT:
Child of Destiny Book 1 of The Genesis Continuum. (Amazon) (Barnes & Noble)
Pursuing a Legend (Book 2) is available now. (Amazon)(Barnes & Noble)
Forging a Future (Book 3) is available now. (Amazon)(Barnes & Noble)
Deep Thought (prequel) is now available on Kindle Select.
SAMPLE FROM REFLECTIONS
Diary of a Madman
Vota has a Hissy Fit
The Author as Enemy
On Sci-Fi Artwork
On Sci-Fi Artificial Intelligence
On Sci-Fi Character Development
On Sci-Fi Conflict
On Sci-Fi Editing
On Sci-Fi Themes
On Sci-Fi: The Question of Religion
On Sci-Fi Violence
Humanity’s longest day begins with a deep space observation satellite detecting a large“energy bubble” encompassing Penn State’s campus in State College, PA. No one knows what caused the mysterious event, including its creator, a graduate student named Alexander Barr. He has discovered how matter, energy, and thought are interrelated, with the critical information coming from ancient texts. Alexander’s efforts are making him into a being of incomprehensible power, but he carries the flaws we all harbor within.
The powers that be try to stop Alexander’s development and end up wounding him. The resultant energy release devastates the northeast, destroying major cities and killing millions of people. Alexander slowly recovers and becomes ever stronger, with an outreach that can extend to the furthest reaches of the universe. All the while, efforts are made to contain the threat he is thought to represent and thus begin judgment errors that makes the apocalypse seem like a pleasant day’s outing.
There are no rights and wrongs here, just well-intentioned actions and reactions that often go horribly wrong. Will the earth survive? Indeed, will existence itself continue? The stakes are huge, and you’ll have a front row seat.
Parts of the battered Serenade are formed into the scouting ship Ral’s Rake, and Ral takes on a robotic body. He begins a tempestuous relationship with Anita, which comes to a tragic end when the crew soon discovers the badly damaged Dragoonter. She is transporting thousands of Elesian children, but it strays too close to the Serenade and is decimated by the ship’s automated defense systems. A subsequent collision cripples the Rake, destroys the Serenade and Dragoonter, and tears Ral to pieces—thus crippling the mission.
Ral’s remains are salvaged, and Anita installs his AI modules in the capsule. However, Ral betrays the crew and turns the renovated Rake over the surviving Elesians. Anita removes Ral from the capsule and installs another AI system named Marcus. Thus begins a final attempt to reach Terra. The Terrans and Alcara continue their savage battle over the capsule, but the Seekers finally intervene.
The crew members are given the choice of continuing the mission of pursuing whatever life-courses each selects. Will Kara and the others decide to go on? If so, will they survive the trip to Terra? Will the missing Seeker still exist, and if so, can he be awakened? Will the old adage be careful of what you wish for be the mission’s final epitaph?
The Universe shifts as the battle draws near. The Alcara have used a mass transfer device to destabilize the Universe. As galaxies and star systems shift, the Confederation revives the long dormant Fulcan fleet in a bid to destroy the powerful and titanic weapon. Thousands of ships gather to confront the Alcara and their deadly device, and one question reverberates among those ready for battle… will the fleet get though?
As the battle draws closer Kara meets the “Ancient One”, the lone surviving member of the earliest sentient species. Using her extensive powers, the Ancient One helps Kara awaken dormant abilities that could help in the impending battle.
The key question remains…will Kara and the crew be able to make the jump to Terra and reach the legendary Seeker in time?
The universe’s expansion is nearing its inevitable end and everything is being devoured by entropy. The key to having a future is a missing energy source, a legendary metaphysical being known only through ancient tales. The last hope of a dying universe is to awaken this dormant Seeker who possesses the capacity to link the entire universe in thought and deed. He alone may be able to rekindle the sparks of a new universal cycle.
The remaining advanced species desperately want existence to continue, and send for missions to search for the Seeker. One such mission unexpectedly and inexplicably materializes on a primitive world that is inhabited by the Labateen, a Stone-Age warrior culture. Here they encounter Kara, an outcast Labateen noble woman and fierce warrior. Kara knows details about the Seeker’s litany that go well beyond coincidence, although to Kara they are simply the ways of God.
Is Kara the key to locating the long lost Seeker? And what of the races who believe that existence should end in an entropic whimper and who will not sit by while others attempt to alter the end of the universe. Lofty ideals give way to brutal pragmatism as a confederation of races struggles to survive and save existence. For a view of the first few chapters, please click here.
ON ED SNOWDEN
I am proud to be a Liberal, but Ed Snowden is no hero to me. He broke sworn promises, supposedly to help our common good in avoiding government intrusion into our personal affairs. But a man of honor should stand ready to suffer the consequences of his actions, be those consequences just or unjust. All I see in Snowden is a self-serving blabbermouth who runs from Hong Kong to Moscow–ever striving to avoid being held accountable. How can anyone regard this behavior as heroic? He is certainly not acting like a righteous man who is seeking to do his fellow countrymen and the world at large any altruistic good. In the end, he will have to pay the piper, and all his days will be spent behind bars. That would be a better fate that being reviled as someone who ran from accountability, the same accountability he would hold the government to by way of his deeds. How odd for an individual to regard himself as worthy of judging the body politic while lacking the resolve to face judgment for his own actions. His is the height of egotism, and those who laud this behavior ought to consider what harm Snowden has done to others–as well as the country as a whole. If he had stood ready to face the music, he might be worthy of praise. But his actions are so craven as to repudiate any claim that he is serving a noble goal. Let him be judged for his deeds, as he surely will be. In my estimation, he is an egotistical coward–and one who has obliterated any chance of being regarded as a good person.
DIARY OF A MADMAN
This is an entry from my diary that was sent to the FBI on April 15, 2013 via an e-mail form that is on the FBI website. I imagine it is still in their records, although they did not reply. At the time, I had no idea what the symbolism in the dream meant–though it is clear now. Here we have a Muslim shark captured in Watertown–while hiding in a boat. I wish the hell I could have been more helpful in discerning the meaning, but find it odd that these kind of predictive dreams are still happening. I thought they were over, and still do not understand their basis.
Monday, April 15, 2013
I had a mantic dream last night, but did not recognize it at the time. I was swimming in the ocean, which was warm and inviting. I swam without problem, but sensed something was wrong. Then I noted a shark was circling, coming in closer and closer. I didn’t know what to do and there was no escape. The shark opened its mouth and went after my legs, mauling them in a way that was palpable. I woke up yelling, but had no idea what the dream meant–other than a threat was in play.
Today, a terror bombing happened during the Boston Marathon, which killed at least two and wounded about 110 or so. Numerous people had their legs injured, and in a few cases legs were completely torn off–ripped asunder. Metaphors and premonitions. It seems the old predictive dreams have not completely evaporated, though what good it did is problematic. Those sharks will always be circling, just biding their time before zipping in to take a bite.
The thing is, the ocean, shark, and swimming metaphors might have another meaning, something that is related to the details of what happened. I wish I could see it, as in a name or location. Alas, I’m too damn limited.
It’s 11:08 PM. It seems there is a battle of bumper stickers in Cairo, with Muslim sharks being pitted against Christian fish. I wonder if that’s it? There are some white supremacists “shark-tank” conservatives in Florida, extreme conservatives. Man, I have lost it. Usually, I can make sense of these things.
Death toll is up to three with 140+ injured. Amputations are needed–a real mess. Lots of mauled people. I felt the pain in my legs when that damn shark attacked, but awoke from the misery. Those poor folks cannot awake from their nightmare.
I hate these damn dreams, and thought they were finally over. I will send this out and hope it helps, but I doubt it.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Doing a bit better, but still not very productive. I am greatly saddened by the murder of 20 children by some nut-case with a bunch of guns. It happened yesterday, and has had a very traumatic effect. I hope you folks in the future are doing better than we are with regards to these damn gun issues. The primitives in the US cling to their interpretation of the Second Amendment, which has made the country into an armed camp. It is a primal way of living, with ANYONE having access to weapons of all kinds. It is lunacy writ large, and there is NO security! Any fool has the power to easily kill, and it is often exercised!
I wrote a little prayer for the dead kids, although a redneck from Georgia didn’t like the sentiments on one posting board, equating the mass murder of kids with traffic accident losses. Can you imagine such a thing?
Grant these lost children a place frozen in time
where they are forever surrounded by their own kind.
Wrapped in environs of safety and cheer,
and dreaming of things that kids hold dear.
It is fairly clear that the society we have forged is a failure in many respects. Hell, our society can’t even protect its own children! It will change or dissolve. That is the nature of things, with the fatally flawed going extinct. I think where we went wrong was in placing the welfare of the individual above that of the state, which has led to all manner of problems–as in the murders and shootings we see on a daily basis. Personal responsibility toward others has been made into an option rather than an obligation, and thus the disturbed and criminal take guns into schools or playgrounds and kill kids by the score. Meanwhile, the NRA chirps about OUR right to bear arms. Idiots, myopic nitwits who suckle on automatics instead of security blankets.
Stupid is as stupid does, and it seems we have condemned ourselves to repeat this same sad storey ad infinitum. I imagine this will happen umpteen times more during what remains of my life before going on into the future. I was going to write a comprehensive essay, but I am still seeing double. I am going back to bed. Still very tired at times–overpoweringly so. Sorry, I am letting you down.
by Dr. George H. Elder
I’ve been reading about the most prolific and wealthy political donors who help to pollute our political system with vast wads of money. The top ten in this group includes Sheldon Adelson (Republican, 79, Las Vegas, gambling), Harold Simmons (Republican, 82, Dallas, business), Bob Perry (Republican, 80, Houston, real estate), J. Joseph Ricketts (Republican, 71, Chicago, business), Fred Eychaner (Democrat, 67, Chicago, media), James Simons (Democrat, 74, New York, finance), Robert Rowling (Republican, 59, Texas, business), Peter Thiel (Libertarian, 45, California, business), William Koch (Republican, 72, business), and Joseph Craft (Republican, 62, business).
Some of these rich folks are brilliant, such as Simons, a mathematician and theorist who has written scholarly articles. Others, such as Adelson, are not scholars by any measure, but are shrewd and hard-working business aficionados who know how to turn big profits. Most are elderly, white, Republicans, who contributed mightily to right-leaning political causes, and for not much gain in the last two elections.
Yet what bothers me about ALL these folks is that they might be better served in giving some of their hard-earned money to people who really need it–like me ;). Hell, I’m awash in a sea of red ink, and that tide keeps coming in. And there you guys go, wasting over two billion dollars on two causes that do little more than create the kind of discord that ensures that the nation doesn’t get a damned thing done.
You buy and sell political influence by the millions, and make yourselves popes of the moment. Then the lame-ass politicos come and kiss your rings. They say words that please you, and all the while our country goes to hell in a hand-basket. Tell me, are your egos that bloated? Are you sure spreading your ideology is the more important than the ongoing corruption that is destroying our political system? Yeah, you folks ought to be ashamed of yourselves. And that little bit of sage advise I just offered ought to be worth a few million–or at least enough to pay for my damn propane bill.
So instead of giving to some damn pac to do the devil’s work with regard to our nation’s welfare, help folks in ways that count. And I know some of you rich people are already into philanthropy, although many of you seem to hate it when giving comes by way of social programs. I just don’t get that. On one hand, some of you rich bastards give to beat the band to scholarship funds, building programs, and education. But then you get all strange when it comes to the government doing the same thing. Someone will have to sit down and explain all that to me.
But instead of swift-boating a Kerry or mangling a Mitt, why don’t you guys give to the “Save the George Fund.” Yep, you could foster the creation of witty essays like this here–at least during those time when I can stay upright. Yeah, I’m a disabled person, one of those useless eaters. Of course, needy kids deserve the help more, as do wounded vet’s, battered women, and the like. The point is, you folks just coughed up over two billion dollars in political donations. And what did you buy? Well, you got an increasingly divided nation, a congress that can’t get a thing done, and the possible ruination of America’s future. What a deal!
You people ought to be whacked with a big stick, but let’s not go there. Instead, let us look toward what needs to be done to help the country. And don’t tell me it’s giving even more money to damn politicians! The system has become corrupted enough, and it has reached the stage wherein it is failing fast. You rich geeks have been a big part of the problem and not the solution–which is something you need to be told. So put your mendacity aside and help set things right. I think you know the causes that are worth a damn, and they are not associated with parties or pacs or politics. They are associated with your neighbors, children, and folks in need. If you guys can’t see that, you’re not looking hard enough.
Voter Anger or Vota Anger?
by Dr. George H. Elder
Brian Vota did work for me assembling and painting models for about eight years. Actually, I helped to set him up in business within the small scale model ship community, with his primary emphasis being 1/1250 scale model planes. He also did work for me on larger scale models of all types, and was good at what he did. We maintained a cordial business relationship over the years, and I would speak to him at least once per week. Indeed, sometimes he’d call three times per week.
Now, Brian had always leaned toward the far right, as do many others. Yeah, he claimed to admire the Third Reich and was big into collecting guns, bayonets, and other lethal weapons. He saw Armageddon coming around every corner, and would go on long-winded racial, misogynistic, and social welfare rants. I didn’t agree with his philosophy, but we were on good business terms.
Then came the election, and Obama’s victory seemed to have unhinged Brian completely. The day after the election, I got a call from Brian which must have lasted less than a minute. He advised me that my models were being returned, some of which had been out on consignment for three years or more. I hardly got a word in edgewise, and only hoped that all my goods would indeed be returned.
Well, not everything was returned, and those items that were arrived in the condition you can see in the photographs below. Some models were simply tossed in a box and left lose, including several 1/1200 scale metal models and 1/700 scale WSW kits. Numerous parts of these items were scattered about, and there wasn’t a single model that escaped undamaged. Moreover, various pieces were missing, ensuring that no kit could be completed. On top of all this, Brian had been prepaid in goods and money, all of which is now lost.
There was a short note in the box calling me a “useless eater” and claiming that I had “stolen” from him. I suppose that was Brian’s feeble way of justifying taking payment for having done no work and destroying what wasn’t his. I consider his actions wanton and dishonorable, something akin to how a hysteria-prone debutant acts when someone doesn’t like her dress. In effect, he had a hissy fit–a temperamental outburst; a tantrum.
I was irked because I was out a very good chunk of change. Then Bill Gilpin cut through the angst by noting it was more a case of “Vota” anger than “Voter” anger. Another collector wrote me an e-mail indicating I suffered a case of “Vota fraud,” and so the puns went. One can’t be angry while laughing, but I owe you collectors a head’s up. The moral of the storey is be careful who you do business with. If the guy sounds extreme, odds are there will come a day you’ll regret prioritizing business over belief. I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to do business with Mr. Vota unless he or she is of his persuasion–and then that person has my deepest sympathy!
by Dr. George H. Elder
I’ve been a pain in the ass on the social networks about the coming election. The truth is, I’m afraid. I’m one of those disabled people, the kind who are barely hanging in there. Yeah, I suppose I’m one of the 47%, and I’ve read the planned policy changes that Romney and company want to put in place. They are terrifying to me because I cannot afford to make ends meet if these cuts are made, and am thus in an untenable position.
A good friend who is also disabled told me not to worry, that folks like me will not be put on the ice flow. He is an ardent Republican, and I get the sense that he still has some money. I do not. And I know he couldn’t have fully read the Romney/Ryan plan for privatizing Medicare and Medicaid. Basically, I would be forced to procure private-market insurance with a government voucher that stays at a fixed value–despite likely healthcare cost increases. Moreover, the “premium support” clauses in the plan means that insurance companies, not doctors and nurses, would make decisions about my care. Lastly, Ryan plans on cutting Medicaid by 30%, so there go my medications, the only things keeping me alive.
Yeah, I’m scared. I’m scared because I actually read the plan, which is something 95+% of the public has not done. And it hurts me to see my friends disregarding the implications of a Romney election as they apply to the old and disabled–folks like me. But I don’t blame them. Most people were hurt by the Great Recession of 2008, and they yearn for better times. That recession was not Obama’s doing, as any fair-minded person knows. His mistake was promising the world when any fool should have known that it will take 10-20 years for the banks to clear all their bad debts. That is the simple truth of things, something no politician likes to talk about.
The economy is slowly mending, as the numbers clearly show. And to be honest, the policies of both Obama and Romney are unlikely to have much of an influence on the bad loans that the banks are still carrying. Those bad loans stood at 5-7% during the worst of the Great Recession, and are now at 3-4%. Traditionally, a rate of much over 1% was deemed as an indicator of poor bank health. As for the national debt, the only thing that can reduce that is for the economy as a whole to improve, for even the most draconian budget cuts won’t make much of a dent on government burrowing if revenues do not increase–the stuff of taxes.
So I understand the problem, and the limitations of government to fix it given the current rate of bad loans. The ugly truth is, we have to endure while the banks work their way through a mess that they in large part created. In the meantime, we have to decide what kind of society we want. Hey, if you opt to cut the old and disabled out of the picture, then understand that we will suffer accordingly. There is no sugar coating it. You are my friends, and will stay that way, no matter how this election turns out. As for me, there is fear and uncertainty, with the full expectation that I will soon lose my home, furnishings–everything. However, I hope to retain the wonderful memories of the good times we have shared. In the end, they may be all that is left to any of us.
by Dr. George H. Elder
Well, Hurricane Sandy is nearly over, although there are still millions without power and tens of thousands have lost their homes. Like many others, I thought this storm was going to be much ado about nothing, such is the press’s typical yadda-yadda spin on things. But this time, the weather guys and press got it right. It was indeed the perfect Frankenstorm storm in terms of destruction. Some good preparation managed to keep deaths down to around 50 or so, although the counting isn’t done.
What is scary are the pictures ofNew Jersey’s coastal cities. They are wiped out over vast swaths of land. It was tidal surge for the most part, but wind damage was also a big factor. In one place, a wind-blown fire started in a flooded community, and 110 homes, apartments, and businesses were burned out. The first responders were magnificent, and did their best despite chest-high waters. No one was lost in that particular incident, although there are dozens of tragic stories.
The main killers during the storm were falling trees, some of which had stood for 300 years. In one case, two young teens were lost, with one visiting his buddy in a kind of storm sleep-over. God, I hope it was quick, and I cannot imagine the angst the parents must feel. Yeah, none of us knew it was going to get this bad. The early estimates are 20+ Billion in direct damage and another 30+ Billion in indirect losses to business.
As I reflect upon it, I think God tries to tell us things–though we hardly ever get the message. In this case, we have the second major Northeast hurricane in two years, both of which caused devastating floods. Yeah,Vermontgot pummeled last year, and I saw that mess first hand. It was sickening–washed out homes and communities, LNG tanks, trees, and debris bobbing up and down in the raging currents.
Huge ice sheets are melting and the average temperature is climbing at a rate that makes these storm more likely. But will we do anything about it? Hell, no! Humans are about as responsive as frogs placed in a vat of water that is slowly heated. The poor creatures turn into frog stew before doing anything to escape, and thus is our plight.
We simply endure instead of acting, and by the time we do decide to move–it is often too late. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this approach will lead. There are lots of Sandy’s waiting in the wings as the weather patterns destabilize, and hundred-year storms may become the norm fairly soon.
In terms of politics, we have those happy folks who believe that the government should have a minimum role in our lives. They live by this odd creed that the private sector is ideal in solving all problems, and that government is inevitably piss-poor at doing anything. Then there are those who believe government should have a role, albeit a positive one. In a lot of ways, this is what the current election is all about.
On one side, we have Romney–the champion of free enterprise, a man who has made it perfectly clear that he wants to cut government spending in order to save our future. Hell, he even campaigned on the idea of eliminating FEMA and other disaster relief programs, calling them “immoral.”
On the other side, we have a barely competent man, but one who believes that government can have a positive role. I didn’t vote for Obama first time around, but note that he inherited an awful situation from that dolt of a man who ran the show for eight years, George Bush minor. Now that guy is living proof that some of us are much dumber than frogs. Nonetheless, he was elected twice–often by jingoistic bluster that has lead us to ruinous financial losses and costly military adventures.
So what does God do? The Devine demonstrates a force that no individual can stand before, and that only the collective power of a government can help us survive. Yet do you think anyone got the message? Like I said, folks can be as dumb as frogs, and many just won’t get it–no matter how loudly God yells.
I sure as hell do not love Obama, but I’m going to vote for him. He’s done a fair job with a barely manageable financial situation–though no one wants to tell the people the truth. The banks are holding so many bad debts that it may take an entire generation to get beyond what blind greed has wrought. Yeah, a lot of the bastards that caused this mess have floated ever so gently to earth on their golden parachutes while the rest of us got a golden shower of financial woes.
But beyond all that, we have to listen when God speaks, and yeah–I believe this storm was a sign. We need FEMA! We need emergency responders! We need government involvement when the waters raise and the winds roar! Ideology won’t keep the kids alive when our homes crumble, and it’s only our collective efforts that can preserve us against these travails. This should be an obvious lesson, yet we have become so enamored of greed that many Americans simply do not see it.
Hey, if some folks want to be frogs, that’s fine and dandy. But I’ll be damned if those people should be allowed to drag the rest of us down with them. Before Sandy, I Googled– Romney disaster relief. There was about 700,000 hits, IIRC, with many of them noting how he wanted to dump FEMA, etc.. I contacted every news service and toss-up state organization that I could about this undeniable fact. I am sure I wasn’t alone, but the collective impetus has resulted in a Google search of — Romney disaster relief — now getting 28,800,000 hits.
Oh, Romney is backing off his hyperbole, saying that he now supports FEMA and disaster relief. But he has such a history of saying whatever is needed to win a given crowd that I don’t believe him. The man’s true ideals come out when he is amongst his kindred, and that idealism is based more on greed and divisiveness than any kind of altruism. His is a Laissez-faire creed, one that eschews government for the sake of the rugged individual. Yet what individual can stand before a force of nature, the breath of God?
I don’t know if the truth behind all this matters. We hardly ever listen when God speaks to us, and some even dare speculate that God doesn’t speak at all. Well, I’ve had the good luck of nearly dying, and am currently hanging on by painful threads. I have learned to be thankful for every moment and to listen more than I ever did before. And believe me, God does speak to us. We seldom notice what God has to say, but how could anyone one miss a scream likeSandygave us?
We’ll see in less than a week. We have the impetus of individualistic greed verses the power of the collective good. It will be very close, but if we choose incorrectly, I wonder what we’ll do when God next gives us a nudge on the shoulder, a good talking to? Because then there may be nowhere to turn, no collective power that can spare our old, young, helpless, and lost. That’s the choice we face, frogs and humans alike.
It’s a wonder I became a coach at all considering my dubious past. I was a miscreant oaf who was fond of doing all sorts of drugs with my felonious friends, and I made drinking into a regular and terrifying event. In fact, I became infamous during my youth for rowdy escapades, some of which were ended by the local constabulary. There were some reasons for my wonton behavior. I grew up in a “dysfunctional” family, although I suspect nearly everyone does. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was seemingly oblivious to the discord that surrounded her. We were also poor, and I developed a terrible self-image, which wasn’t helped much by my obesity.
My confidence improved when I started lifting weights at age fifteen, and I became addicted to it. In fact, I took all 1,020 pounds of my weights with me when I came to UNH, and set up a weight-room in Congreve Hall dormitory. Lots of students used my facility, including some varsity athletes. I got to know those guys very well because we trained together, and trained hard. My prePhysical Therapy major and experience in the iron game helped me to formulate programs for the athletes, and these proved effective. UNH’s head football coach became aware of my abilities from his players, and he hired me to run the University’s weight-room in 1977, my senior year.
I had a lot to learn about coaching and the lessons didn’t come easy. It was an athlete we’ll call “Grady” who taught me to respect my charges when I began my coaching career at UNH. Grady was a six-foot four-inch +, two hundred and sixty seven pound offensive lineman who was recovering from a nasty knee injury. He was the quintessential laid back Vermonter, ever rustic in his views and mannerisms. He spoke slowly and had a wry sense of humor, being a casual guy and seeming to lack in passion. However, Grady worked out hard in the weight room, and we grew to like one another.
Yet I didn’t fully respect Grady because I thought he had a fatal flaw in his character. I had heard from one of my fellow coaches and from a few of Grady’s teammates that he was not aggressive enough. One athlete even called him a “pussy”—which is the ultimate insult for a football player. I half-believed what those lame sots were saying about Grady because of his mellow mannerisms, and I’d taunt him on occasion.
“Hey Grady, are you really as much of a candy-ass as all your teammates say you are?”
“Come on, Dino, you don’t mean that.”
Grady used to take my barbs in stride, but one day he objected to my badgering by giving me a gentle cuff across the face. My rowdy past instantly came to the forefront, and I decided to take a hands-on approach, all three hundred and twenty pounds of me. I hauled off and slapped Grady’s face so hard that my blow sent him reeling backwards. Grady’s eyes lit up, and he came back at me with a whack across the puss that still makes me cringe when I think about it. The kid almost decked me there and then, but I came right back at him. In short order Grady and I were slapping each other all over the damn weight room, much to the amusement of the leering athletes. Grady would take a shot, and then I’d return the favor—slap for slap.
I mean, these were blows that could knock most normal folks senseless. The only problem was that at five-foot eight-inches I could barely reach Grady’s face and head, yet he had no difficulty in pummeling me from a distance. Yeah, getting into that tiff was a very bad judgment on my part—yet in for a penny, in for a pound. The madder Grady got, the more he mixed forearm shots to my head with his slaps. He certainly wasn’t acting like any “pussy” I had ever tangled with before. He was behaving like a guy with an hard-ass attitude and mal intent, and I knew I couldn’t last long at the rate I was taking damage. Man, I couldn’t even see strait! In desperation I reached out and grabbed one of Grady’s long arms in mid-strike, stopping it cold. I smiled at him.
“For God’s sake Grady, why don’t you do this on the field?”
“Man, your face is red. I bet mine is too.”
He looked at me, perplexed, and then a smile slowly spread across his mottled face. I told him we better stop fighting before one of us got hurt, and I was pretty damn sure it would have been me. He nodded, and I was greatly relived. Grady taught me to respect my charges for what they are, and not what others might say behind their backs. Grady became an All American football player the following year and later went on to become an outstanding coach in his own right. I’m not sure if our slap fight had much to do with Grady’s success, but we both got to learn a little bit about ourselves and each other that day. I came to see that mutual respect between athletes and coaches is fundamental to successful teaching. Moreover, taunting one’s charges can come with a stiff price!
Until my tiff with Grady, I had depended on my strength and size to garner respect. I could take well over 400 pounds off a set of squat racks and push it over-head. I could military press three hundred and eighty five pounds, and do full depth squats with five hundred and sixty pounds for easy repetitions. Oh yeah, I was strong for a non-steroid guy. However, impressing athletes with the amount of iron you can move around does not make a coach. I still had a great deal to learn about the profession and myself. Most of my education was based on my interactions with athletes, but I also learned a great deal from observing my peers’ coaching methods.
My experience with Grady taught me that denigrating athletes is wrong, but many coaches believe that a person has to be torn down in order to be built back up. That’s the typical martial mentality we see in the Marines, although it also exists in many sports. Indeed, there are some coaches who justify their cruelty by adhering to this dogma. The more I came to care about my charges, the more I came to utterly despise maligning them. In fact, I found myself becoming quite vocal if I thought a person was being unfairly treated.
“Ken” was a promising athlete who some coaches thought was not performing up to snuff, and one of the part-time coaches took particular delight in tormenting the poor kid. The comments Coach “Caddy” made to Ken were cruel and cutting:
“You’re a waste of a scholarship, Ken… Christ, you hit like a sissy… Why the hell do you bother wearing a jock?”
It went on and on, but I knew Ken was trying because I saw him working his heart out in practice and in the weight room. He was completely dedicated to improving himself, and he was making good, but slow, progress. Ken talked with me in the weight room a few times about how miserable his nemesis was making life for him, but I assumed he could handle the situation. I was wrong. I saw Ken in the locker room one day, face turned toward the wall and eyes staring blankly into nothingness. I asked him if anything was bothering him.
“I can’t take it any more,” he said in a whisper. “Even my teammates are starting to shit on me now. But you know I’m tryin’. I really am.”
Then he stared off into space again, lost in some terribly painful world of lonely despair. To see a young man reduced to such emptiness is a haunting thing, so I spoke with coach Caddy privately.
“What do you mean, lay off him? The kid’s just acting like a baby, and you’re falling for it.”
“Nah, I think he’s had enough.”
“Don’t you get it, Dino? He’s going to get tougher from this. He’ll perform better as a result.”
“I wouldn’t take the bullshit you’re dishing out.”
Coach Caddy got angry, and sneered.
“You know what your problem is? You’re not a coach to these kids! You’re their friend.”
Coach Caddy said the word “friend” as a venal insult, but I thanked him for the compliment. Ken dropped out of school at the end of the semester, and I never even got to say goodbye to him. His fate still pains me. He was such a happy kid as a freshman, all enthusiasm and hope. Then he was broken by the aspersions heaped on him, made an outcast by his sophomore year. Coach Caddy found a full time coaching job at another college a year or so later. I imagine he’s still breaking down kids to build them up. Ken is just another casualty of his game plan, and I suspect there will be others. Yeah, coaching does have a dark side.
I became friends with many of my charges at UNH, and that is when coaching started to become a labor of love for me. My first utterance when entering the weight room became a bellow that shook the entire facility, a sort of primal roar. In short order I was firing off program info and taking in reports from football players, runners, swimmers, and all manner of other athletes. I worked out with the kids, listened to their problems and fears, and grew to care about them on a personal level. The athletes, in turn, came to respect me as something more than just a coach, and for the first time in my life I came to feel an emotional attachment for what I did. I looked forward to coming into work, and I continued to learn about both coaching and myself.
One of my harshest experiences as a coach involved a lack of empathy, and it still haunts me. The incident occurred in early May, at a time when the students were getting ready for either graduation or summer vacation, a normally happy time of year. There were only a few athletes lifting in the weight room and we were wantonly shooting the breeze. The banter in a weight room can get a bit vulgar at times, and we drifted into tearing up homosexuality, typical politically incorrect “fag-bashing” talk, replete with squeaky voices and faked female mannerisms. It came time to close shop and I harried the kids out of the room so that I could go home. “Sam” was being stubborn, and continued to lift after the other athletes had left, so I chided him about being recalcitrant. He glared at me, and I asked him what was wrong.
“You’re an asshole. You’re just like all the rest of them.”
I was shocked. I had always thought of Sam as being basically stable, yet the person I saw was seething with rage.
Sam grabbed my arms in a vice-like grip, and I thought he was going to punch my lights out. Then he suddenly released me, and bolted out of the weight room. I followed Sam down a hallway and through some corridors before finally catching up with him in an abandoned locker room. He was slamming his fists into metal lockers, punching huge dents into their doors. I thought Sam was going to break his hands, so I grabbed one of his arms. He spun around to face me. He was wet-eyed and trembling, his knuckles bleeding. Sam spoke to me in semi-coherent half sentences that were mixed with tearful agony.
“Dad said I don’t have a home… if I’m that way… Not his kid. And you guys… you’re being assholes about it. So what am I going to do? Because I am that way. I am! Can you tell me? Can you? Can you? Can you?”
In all the years I had known Sam it had never donned on me that he was gay, and I doubt that more than a few of his former teammates know about his very well hidden homosexuality. I was stunned. Sam was anything but the stereotypical image of a gay man, not that such an image actually exists. He was a handsome and well-muscled two-hundred-and-twenty pounder who used to revel in being explosive. Indeed, no one messed with him on or off the field. He was often with girlfriends, and some were stunningly attractive. Yet there he was, spilling out his guts to a coach who could scarcely believe what he was hearing. I wondered to myself, ‘How many other kids have I hurt in that weight room with my inane comments? How many black kids? How many poor kids? How many gay kids?’
In all likelihood Sam had wanted someone to talk with about his homosexuality for years, but no one was there who would listen without judging, including me. So Sam just lived with his secret and acted “moody.” I tried to cover for my failures by telling Sam to love himself no matter what anyone says or does. He replied, “How can I love myself when everyone else hates what I am?” I could not answer his question, and I never got another chance to. He graduated, and God only knows what has happened to him. Perhaps he has learned to love himself or maybe he is still living a lie, a perpetually tormented soul. I sure as hell added to his misery on that day with my inane banter, and there is no way to take that foolishness back. There are some mistakes one cannot atone for. Coaching teaches that you an action taken cannot be undone, either on or off the field.
By this time in my coaching career I had stopped drinking and partying. No more all-nighters doing cocaine, no more 3:00 am joy rides at ninety miles per hour, and no more people overdosing in my apartment. Instead, I was studying books and technical papers about weight training methodologies and writing articles that were being published in nationally circulated magazines. I soon got letters asking for advice from all over the United States and the world— South Africa, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, England—even Australia. I was becoming respected in the field, both at home and afar.
I had long despised the simplistic single-set per exercise training system that was promulgated by the Nautilus Company, so I came out publically against it. I ridiculed the methodology in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness and Muscular Development. At the time, my views were denigrated by some as being antiquated, although mostly by those who didn’t fully understand the physiology and exercise science involved. The battle raged for seven years, before Arthur Jones, the primary proponent of the single set training methodology, publically admitted in the mid-1980s that multiple sets might be beneficial. I had my first real taste of victory in the ongoing battle, a good “I told you so” moment. In the interim, however, I became known as a loose cannon, someone who wantonly violated the expected public decorum of coaches. In coaching, one is expected to be respectful in public forums no matter how one feels about an issue. Alas, I never quite learned that particular lesson, but I’m glad I didn’t! A person who holds his peace will never change anything for the better.
There came opportunities for me to leave UNH, including one that would have landed me overseas and paid more money than I thought possible. However, I had grown to love UNH, my job, and my athletes, so I stayed put. Some of my fellow coaches believed I had no ambition, but I felt that I had already found nirvana—and my nirvana was a crowded, sweat-smelling weight room located deep within the bowels of UNH’s ambling fieldhouse. Even my parents complained about my remaining at UNH, but I was happy there, despite being paid wages that never exceeded $13,500 per year. Besides, I was still learning from my charges.
An athlete named “Carl” taught me the value of two-way communication. Carl was a highly recruited lineman who opted to come to UNH because of the school’s vaunted engineering program. He was one of the rare gifted intellectuals who also liked to play football, and the kid was a coach’s dream. He worked hard, he learned instantly, and he got along well with both his coaches and teammates. The coaches and athletes felt Carl had great potential, and he was a joy to work with. Yet everything wasn’t all light and happiness in Carl’s career. He hurt his ankle in practice during his freshman year, and it didn’t seem to heal. Then he started to lose weight, and the head coach got on me to find out why.
I sat down with Carl frequently, and we tried to get to the bottom of his dilemma. When I think back on it, our meetings were more a matter of my giving Carl advice rather than listening to him. I advised Carl to eat more, get more rest, work out harder, take more vitamins, etc., etc., etc.. Yet I should have noticed that Carl was telling me things about himself that were important. He told me that he was losing weight despite eating triple servings and that cuts and bruises didn’t seem to be healing well. He also said he was constantly feeling run down and tired.
Carl told me that the doctors thought he was doing fine, but then he came back from his sophomore year’s semester break weighing only 225 pounds, down twenty pounds from his freshman year. I became very concerned. I saw how hard Carl was working in the weight room, but his strength and size were dwindling away every day. It was scary, and I had no idea what to do. I kept on giving him advice, but nothing I said seemed to help much. Carl was frustrated, the head coach was beyond annoyed, and I felt the heat.
Over spring break Carl started to feel very ill so he went to see his family doctor. The doctor took some blood tests and found out that Carl’s blood sugar count was over eight hundred! He was a severe diabetic and was in rough shape. The endocrinologist Carl saw was amazed that he hadn’t gone into diabetic shock, and he was very concerned about the degree of damage that might have been done to Carl’s internal organs. I was told his kidneys and other internal organs may have been severely stressed and the news hit me like a lightening bolt. That kid could have been badly injured or killed by what I regarded as reckless incompetence, and the thought of my personal failure to notice the obvious still eats at me.
Yes, I felt responsible. I should have been listening more and talking less. After all, diabetes runs in my family, and I was familiar with its symptoms—symptoms that I had utterly failed to see in Carl. I told him how terribly upset I was for my blindness, but Carl was understanding—observing that no one seemed to have noticed. Carl’s ankle injury never healed properly, and he had to have the bones in his foot “frozen” via a surgical procedure. He has to take regular insulin shots now and his future prognosis is uncertain. Carl became the team’s manager and film man, and continued to lift over the coming years.
He knew how guilty I felt about his medical problems, and once told me, “It wasn’t your fault, Dino. Even my own doctors didn’t know what was up.” Yet I’ll forever wonder if I could have helped him out by noticing more and assuming less. Carl got his degree in engineering. He walks with a limp now, and I look at myself as being one of the reasons for that gait. The key lesson learned was one of accepting personal responsibility. The athletes coaches work with are more than names on a roster. They are our charges, and we owe them the very best we can possibly offer. Anything less is unacceptable and unforgivable.
The end of my coaching career started with a bang. On July 26, 1985 I went into the weight room and got dropped by a vascular event while picking up some weights that had been left out. It was a traumatic accident, complete with slurred speech and convulsions. Some specialists in Boston said I had bisected a vertebral artery in my neck, and the injury left a number of aftereffects. I couldn’t feel the left side of my body and right side of my face properly and I lost some coordination. I also became plagued by vicious right-sided headaches. Still, I wanted to continue coaching.
I coached at UNH for another two years after my injury, but I could no longer lift weights. My headaches became intractable, but I would not give up my career. I had grown to love what I did with a passion that I had never known for anything else. I had also grown to care about my charges above all other things, including my own welfare. Yet I was becoming a liability to athletes due my symptoms, and I was medically discharged in 1988. There was a great chasm where my soul had once grown. Part of me died, and all that was left is a bloated vestige.
A person who has never coached can little understand the allure and attachment the job has to its practitioners. Coaching replaced many of my self-destructive urges with a desire to see my charges improve. I became one with their efforts, hopes, and problems. In return, the athletes gave me a way of living that only coaches can truly understand. I soared through the air with a receiver who was leaping to make a spectacular one-armed catch. I raced down ice with a winger who scored the break-away goal that put us into the national playoffs. I shed tears after some of the agonizing defeats, lost in a world of utter despair that knew no recourse. I lived experientially as well as vicariously. My life had meaning and depth. I was happy.
I left my job with profound regrets because I still had a great deal to contribute. Indeed, learning how to give was my most important lesson as a coach. Coaching is all about giving. It’s giving advice, it’s giving concern, and it’s giving love—the latter being by far the most important. Coaches must love their charges every bit as much as they love themselves and their families. Sure, one gets angry or disappointed at a kid from time to time, but in the end, coaches must always want the very best for their charges. I now find myself an unlikely academic, a refugee from the only job I’ve ever had a passion for. I dwell in a pretentious and superficial world wherein one simply doesn’t holler or be demonstrative—which are traits that have no place in the academy. Alas, the required lifestyle simply isn’t me, and I have no real place in higher education. I’ll always miss the clanging of weights and the sights and smells of the weight room. It is a very special place, a place of labor, learning, and love.