Abuse and the Afterlife

Standard
NFL players charged with domestic violence along with the man who enables them.

NFL players charged with domestic violence along with the man who enables them roasting in Dante’s Inferno.

I am not an expert on the afterlife of any religion, including my own Christianity, but if the afterlife is a means of obtaining ultimate justice from a holy and just God, I am certain of one thing — an especially hot, miserable, and demon infested corner in the lowest bowels of Hell is reserved for people who abuse children, the elderly, the helpless, and animals. Then, right below THAT little slice of paradise will be a sewer just for men who abuse their spouses, girlfriends, and other women in their lives.

It’s one of the first lessons I learned even before I went to kindergarten as a child: BOYS DON’T HIT GIRLS! It is a rule deeply etched into my psyche, into my very bones. Every boy I knew growing up, from all sides of the tracks and every type of home environment had the same lesson drilled into them: BOYS DON’T HIT GIRLS! I realize some of them probably didn’t see the lesson modeled very well for them at home and some of them were probably too busy trying to dodge punches themselves to give much thought to philosophy of gender, but all of us learned it nonetheless.

I am extremely biased because I saw men modeling the lesson for me all the time. Daddy and I have had our disagreements over the years and he and Mama divorced when I was small, but I can swear to this and Mama confirmed it long before she ever died — for all of Daddy’s faults, he never raised his hand to Mama nor lay a single finger on her in anger. Even in the most bitter moments of their marriage disintegrating, Daddy didn’t even raise his voice to argue with Mama. He and my stepmother, Teresa have been married nearly 40 years now and they have had some barn burners of fights, but Daddy has never so much as taken an aggressive step towards her. Neither of my Papas were violent men. I don’t know if I ever heard Papa Wham speak above a normal conversational tone more than twice all the days I knew him.

http://wsmv.images.worldnow.com/images/20974520_BG1.jpg

The face of domestic violence. What if Lindsay was your neighbor, co-worker, or even a stranger in a store?

Apparently, though, many of the “men” now playing professional sports think it is somewhat fashionable to knock the important women in their lives unconscious, as Ray Rice recently did in a horrific moment captured on a hotel security camera. Strangely, once the video surfaced to wide exposure, we find out a veritable slew of other players have CDV charges pending or even convictions. Looks like a lot of NFL “men” aren’t “leaving it all on the field” but instead are “bringing the pain” home to their loved ones . . . although how you can claim to love someone you just knocked unconscious with a left hook worthy of George Foreman is beyond me. What seriously turns my stomach, however, is how so many people are more concerned with whether or not these players are going to be allowed to continue on their teams instead of how they are punished. I don’t think the argument should be on if they get to stay in the NFL; it should be whether or not they get to stay on the streets or even stay in our midst.

But that’s all I have to say about the NFL’s domestic violence woes because I’m not naive enough to think this is an NFL problem — domestic violence is a societal problem. All across the nation in every region and every demographic, men are terrorizing their wives and children. Some stories are nothing short of nightmarish like Lindsay Arp who was left disfigured and partially paralyzed after her live in boyfriend poured boiling oil over her body while she slept. Here in South Carolina a man has recently been arrested for murdering his FIVE children, dismembering their bodies, and scattering the pieces in garbage bags all across four states.

That’s just two cases out of THOUSANDS! What I want to know is why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? These people had neighbors, co-workers, SOMEONE had to have noticed. The were not like the Lykovs living alone a million miles from nowhere. Clerks at grocery stores had to notice black eyes. Why didn’t anyone do anything until it was nearly too late for many CDV victims? This is what disturbs me the most. Have we not progressed any farther as a civilization than the New Yorkers of Kitty Genovese’s time, than the Europeans who watched their neighbors loaded into boxcars in the late 1930s and early 1940s?

Patrick Stewart - Domestic ViolenceOnce upon a time in this country, granted it was long, long ago and seemingly in a galaxy far far away, a man would not idly stand by while another man beat a woman or a child. Oh, sure, every generation has raised its share of people who refuse to “get involved,” but our current generation seems to me especially craven. What are we afraid of, being sued? Do we possess anything more dear to us than another human’s life? I’m afraid that answer is “yes.” Are we terrified of being shot or stabbed ourselves? Is our own life so much more valuable to us than anothers? Again, I’m sure it is “yes” for all but a meager handful of people.

This attitude of apathy must change. If the hands of the police are tied, society must step forward and use pressure to change this odious behavior. We cannot be afraid of embarrassing a woman or her husband by asking, “Honey, how did you get that black eye?” She may well be one of the multitude of women who desperately want to get out of an abusive, dangerous situation but don’t know how to take the first step. Abusers need to know we are watching and we will not tolerate this kind of behavior. Certainly people have their rights to privacy; but we also have a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to defend the defenseless. We will send armies to foreign shores to fight for other cultures, other people, but not lift a finger to stop the violence we see in too many homes today. We cannot afford to forget what Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil men to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Do something.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean.

 

Great War Wednesday: New Artillery

Standard

blacktom-09.jpg“If you want to make a lot of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other’s throats with greater facility.” Unknown American to Hiram Maxim, 1881

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Albert Einstein attributed

Many people view the machine gun as the most iconic weapon of the First World War, the greatest ground based technology employed all the multitude of advances in artillery. For hundreds of years, dating all the way back to China, black powder and its derivatives powered artillery. Black powder was the propellant which sent the projectile on its way as well as the payload packed in the earliest exploding shells. Cannons were cumbersome and slow to load. They had to be served from the muzzle in all but a tiny few experimental iterations and this limited their projectile size and the length of their barrels. Leading up to World War One, however, cannon technology took off in exponential fashion with the advent of new propellants, newer shell designs, reliable breach loading mechanisms, and — most of all — bigger calibers these advances made possible.

Artillerymen long looked for something to replace black powder for several reasons. Black powder gave off huge clouds of smoke when fired and this made it impossible to hide a rifleman, much less a billow belching artillery piece, and no commander wanted to give away his gun positions. Also, black powder quality varied tremendously even within a batch. The smallest change in relative humidity could change the burn rate of the propellant, which then affected the range and accuracy of the piece. Most problematic was this wouldn’t be noticed until the shell was fired and by then it was too late. The first leap in artillery came with the stabilization of nitrocellulose or guncotton as a propellant. Guncotton was invented or discovered in the middle of the 19th century along with its close cousin nitroglycerin. Unfortunately, both of these substances were entirely too volatile in their earliest forms to be of real battlefield usefulness. By the time of the Great War, however, guncotton was refined enough and stable enough to use as a propellant. The result was a tremendous increase in the reliability and power of the artillery.

The second major development in guns on the battlefield was in the area of projectiles. For years, muzzle-loaded cannon shot one of two projectiles — solid shot or grapeshot. Solid shot, as the name implies, was a single solid ball, first made of stone, then of iron. Grapeshot, however, was a canister of hundreds of smaller balls, often musket ball caliber. When shot, the canister fell away and the cloud of balls acted like a shotgun on massed infantry. The American Civil War saw the first use of explosive cannonballs. These were hollow iron spheres filled with black powder and fused to explode after a certain amount of time or upon impact with something solid. These explosive rounds did great damage — when they worked. With the perfection of nitroglycerin, however, explosive shells became fearsome indeed. A shell packed with nitro or guncotton either one would blow tremendous craters in the earth . . . or fortifications. Canister shot was replaced by shrapnel shells. These new antipersonnel projectiles still featured a multitude of smaller balls, but now they were packed in explosives. The shells would arc high into the air then explode over their targets raining death down on the men huddled in the trenches.

The final major advancement in artillery was reliable breechloading. The ability to serve the gun from the rear, or breach, instead of the muzzle meant the gun didn’t have to be lowered for each shot. Leaving the gun in firing position enabled better accuracy for followup shots. Breechloading also allowed for a higher rate of fire since the new shells were in one piece rather than separate powder and shot.

german big berthaTaken together, these advances created the most awe inspiring weapons on the battlefields of World War One. During the American Civil War, the largest coastal defense guns fired a shell which weighed twenty pounds out to a maximum range of about five miles with a fire rate of one shot every three minutes by an expert crew. The workhorse of the French Army in World War One, by contrast, the French 75, could fire 15 rounds per minute at a range of five miles with 16 pound high explosive shells filled with mellenite, a particularly nasty explosive to men’s lungs.

The 75 was a popgun compared to the true Queens of the Battlefield — the railway guns. Very early in the war, some enterprising German got the idea to take a naval rifle, designed to be used on a BATTLESHIP, and mount it on a rudimentary carriage to fire overland. The result was less than ideal since the carriage was destroyed every time the gun fired and had to be rebuilt, but engineers honed the design and figured out how to mount the guns on a modified railroad car which would absorb the recoil. The result was beautifully horrible to behold. The Germans had the “Long Max” which could launch a 15 inch diameter shell weighing two TONS a distance of 27 miles. The French, not to be outdone, fielded Le Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 that fired a shell TWO FEET across weighing 2.5 tons over ten miles.

The damage these guns could do cannot be overstated. One soldier wrote in his diary of seeing a group of 200 men gathered at a worship service in the field being hit by a “German Heavy” and “turning into a red mist” with no single man being identifiable afterwards because not enough pieces could be found.  The “heavies” of both sides excavated huge craters whenever they hit. Some pictures we have today show shell holes sixty and seventy feet across. The constant barrage of these guns turned the battlefields into moonscapes and men’s nerves into tapioca. Literally nowhere within range of the guns was safe. A high explosive shell could kill men in trench dugouts placed thirty or forty feet deep under ground.

The machine gun may have been the image most people associate with the War, but the artillery did the most damage. By some estimates, over 85% of combat casualties in the Great War were the result of artillery. If you were in range, as one soldier put it, “You were a dead man.”

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and remember the fallen with honor.

 

The terrorists have won.

Standard

Osama bin Laden accomplished what he set out to do even though our SEALs killed him deader than John Edwards’ political career.  He was a smart man — an asshole to be sure — but an intelligent man. I don’t think he believed flying those jets into our buildings 13 years ago today would destroy America. He knew about Pearl Harbor, so I’m certain he knew he was going to royally piss us off with his nasty sucker punch. He also knew what happened to the Empire of Japan once they pissed us off, too. He wasn’t trying to destroy our country . . . even now we are much too strong for anything approaching the end of America. So what if we go flat broke? We’ve got ten giant nuclear aircraft carriers afloat with three more being built as I write this. If ten carrier task forces can’t keep the bill collecting countries away, the 2,104 mushroom makers sleeping silently beneath the Midwestern prairie or lurking 150 fathoms down in eighteen underwater states most definitely will. Bin Laden and al-Queda brethren couldn’t destroy America so instead they did something much more sinister — they destroyed our way of life.

How many times have you heard a talking head or some radio guru say “We live in a ‘Post-9-11 World?'” What they are saying  (whether they are happy about it or not is largely a function of their politics) is we went to bed on September 11, 2001 and when we woke up on September 12, 2001, the world — and especially the United States — was a radically different place. One of the jets should have taken out the Statue of Liberty because the American patron saint “Miss Liberty” was the first casualty of what we call now The Global War on Terror.

In the days, then weeks, then months following 9-11, we reacted in typical American fashion. Fifty-four Forty or Fight! Remember the Alamo! Remember Fort Sumter! Remember Custer! Remember the Maine! Over There! Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember the Maddox! Bomb,bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran! We like to fight here in America. It’s what we do when people sneak attack us . . . or not, but I digress. It’s understandable why our leaders launched immediate retribution against al-Queda. As Principal Vernon so eloquently put it to John Bender, “You mess with the bull, son, you get the horns.” Still, I agree with Dan Carlin when he says we need a law against passing laws in a time of deep emotional upheaval in our country. Unfortunately, those laws don’t exist . . . so here we are.

I try to limit my posts to around 1000 words, give or take a hundred or two, but even if I stretch out this post to double the normal size, I couldn’t get in everything our government has done to destroy our liberty in the name of keeping us “safe”, so this will have to be a skimming, but I hope when it’s all done, you’ll agree with me that America may still stand and she may be the greatest country on Earth to this day, but the same cannot be said for Lady Liberty. It has gotten so bad, I firmly believe our beloved Founding Fathers would not only be unable to recognize the country they created, but they would probably be arrested for treason or — at the absolute minimum — placed high on the domestic terrorists watch list.

“Here to protect YOU from your FREEDOMS!”

For starters, they would run afoul of The U.S. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act of 2001. In the — again, understandable — furor surrounding the 9-11 attacks, the 107th Congress handed over 225 years of work towards liberty and freedom in our country to unelected bureaucrats and government agents. The provisions of the act are nothing less than astounding. Title 1 of the act gives the FBI, CIA, and NSA a blank check to pay for DOMESTIC surveillance AND authorizes those agencies to ask for MILITARY assistance in monitoring suspicious civilians. Title 2 is one of the most odious parts of the law to anyone loving privacy and liberty. Under its provisions, government agencies — again, UNELECTED and so UNACCOUNTABLE people — can legally access your documents, tap your phone, demand your library records, and pretty much walk in your house and search it all without a court order provided you are “suspected” of being a terrorist.

Now THERE is the rub, to quote the Bard. “Suspected of being a terrorist?” First of all, who is defining what a terrorist even IS? Sure, all of us common folk think we know what a terrorist is — it’s someone like Osama bin Laden or his ilk. Terrorists are always “over there” unless they are some demented homegrown folk like Timothy McVeigh. Terrorists are obvious! Well, they are until the lawyers get involved. The Federal legal definition of terrorism includes both foreign and domestic and it runs three computer screens long at 1280×1040 resolution and the upshot of it is a terrorist is pretty much anyone someone in the government WANTS to be a terrorist. Greenpeace is a terrorist organization, for example.

The PATRIOT act and subsequent legislation has absolutely gutted the Bill of Rights, particularly the First and Fourth Amendments. In 1968, Chicago erupted in protests during the Democratic National Convention. These people gathered right outside the building housing the convention. Even today, images of Mayor Daley’s police force bludgeoning young and old, male and female alike with batons evokes a sense of the definition of police brutality. Of course, assemblies and protests like that are a relic now.

Today, if your group wanted to protest the President or some convention, you would be assigned to a “Free Speech Zone” blocks away from whomever or whatever you wanted to protest. No pictures of any beatings would surface because your protest would take place far, far away from any stray media coverage. Most likely, no one would ever know your protest occurred. Of course, the government will tell you if you protest your protesting that the whole affair was, “For your safety and protection!” Who are “we the people” supposed to be protected from?

So, the bureaucrats at the intelligence agencies and in the Department of Homeland Security don’t want us to “peacefully protest” because someone might get hurt? We can’t vote them out of office because they aren’t elected in the first place. We can’t fight them in court because any pertinent evidence we might want to introduce will quickly be redacted under the all-encompassing phrase, “for national security concerns.” Where are we headed if we can no longer “petition our government for redress of grievances” without running the risk of being labelled a terrorist? To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, if you make peaceful demonstrations impossible, you assure violent demonstrations will happen.

That’s just the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is an even bigger joke today. We live in a surveillance state today. Everything you do, type, create, or say on the phone is probably recorded somewhere and if you trip enough flags, it’ll get analyzed and once you get analyzed, anything can happen. If Edward Snowden’s revelations didn’t wake people up, I’m not sure what it is going to take. He produced a smoking arsenal of evidence that our government is spying on us . . . but why? Many of you may recently have switched to Facebook Messenger on your smartphones. If you have, you know of the many warnings different quarters have raised concerning potential privacy leaks. When I asked Budge if she was going to switch knowing how much information an agency could track, she said, “Why not? They already spy on us every other way.”

So, thirteen years on, Obama laughs from his watery grave at what has become of American liberty. What was once the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” is now the “Land of the Watched and the Home of the Caged.” People need not point fingers at any particular administration either. Democrats who howled about how egregiously President Bush was treating our rights have completely shut the hell up now that their man is in office. President Obama has continued, if not increased the same policies President Bush started. THAT is what people don’t understand! These laws NEVER go away! Once they are on the books, “we the people” have ceded another bit of our power over our government. We’ve given these powers to our executive, do we really think another executive is going to give them BACK?

In his speech to the American people on September 11, 2001, President Bush said, “”Today . . . our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts . . . . Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.” That is where the President was wrong. The monsters hit us, so we went out to hunt them, but we failed to take Nietzsche advice, so we became monsters ourselves. Be angry at me if you will, but it does not change the fact the terrorists have won because we may not have lost our country, but we’ve lost what our country stands for.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

Great War Wednesday: Shellshock

Standard

http://grocerystorefeet.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/8b453-schalestossopfer-shellshock-firstworldwar-deutschlandunddieostmark-petercrawford.jpg?w=291&h=296

“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self control.” Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars

In every conflict, some men seem to hold up to the stress of combat better than others. In World War I, however, the increased combat demands on individuals managed to break the resolve of even the most resolute soldier. At some point in the ceaseless rain of steel and sulfur, each man would eventually reach a point where he absolutely could not go on. Some men broke and ran while others fell down into a fetal position and still others could only stand rooted to one spot gibbering like mad men. This phenomenon, first noted in the British Expeditionary Force of 1914, is what became known as “shell shock” and it is one of the iconic mementos and most lasting sorrows of the Great War.

The origins of shellshock lie in the type of combat men faced in the First World War. For most of recorded history, men had gone out to a battlefield, engaged in wholesale slaughter of one another, then retired to a base camp around dark if the day proved inconclusive or ran like scalded dogs from the pursuing cavalry of their enemy. In other words, battles were generally short, local affairs. To give some perspective, in the American War of Northern Aggression, the Battle of Gettysburg — the largest battle of the war — lasted for three whole days and it was considered near the end of human endurance. By contrast, the Battle of the Somme in 1916 lasted three MONTHS. The Battle of Verdun lasted ten months. These campaigns were not rightfully called “sieges” either. These were months of sustained contact with the enemy and, even worse, days upon days of unending bombardment by artillery which dwarfed anything used in combat before or since.

Not to make the ancient and medieval battles less important, but a man at Cannae or Agincourt could think to himself, “If I can just survive today, I’ve got a decent chance to get home.” This was far from the case in World War I. Every day a man lived with death flying through the air towards him in the form of shells or waited for him “over the top” in the wasteland of No Man’s Land. To be at the front was to be under constant stress from fear of death and eventually, officers noticed their men began to come unhinged.

http://www.britishpathe.com/admin/images/user_images/xthousandyardstarevs.jpg.pagespeed.ic.-BnX5KfZ4Z.jpg

The “Thousand Yard Stare” of a man who has seen more than men are meant to see.

One of the saddest commentaries of the entire First World War is that for much of the first months of the war, shell shock was not recognized as a true malady. Men who cowered in the trenches in tears and shaking were not considered unwell, they were considered cowards and malingerers shirking their duty to their country. Men who could not make themselves go over the top were charged with desertion or leaving one’s post under fire in addition to the accusations of cowardice. The result was the same regardless — a court martial. If the board found the defendant guilty, the punishment for cowardice, desertion, or dereliction of duty was the same — execution by firing squad. In all 306 British Empire soldiers — all but 15 enlisted men — were executed during World War I. Records show the majority of them were shot for desertion or cowardice. Being deserted by one’s faculties was not considered a reason not to fight, never mind that the hapless soldier often could not control his bladder, much less his limbs to shoot or march.

Gradually, thankfully, medical professionals began to take notice of what was happening. Doctors at front line casualty clearing stations started seeing definite patterns among the men they were treating. Early on, they thought what came to be called “shell shock” was a result of unseen brain damage caused by the concussion of high explosive shells near the victims. Then, the began to realize many men were showing similar symptoms even though they had not been in the vicinity of an explosion. That was the moment the medical corps realized it was dealing with a malady of the mind rather than the will and began treating men instead of shooting them.

Unfortunately, psychiatry was in its infancy as a medical practice in the early 20th Century so doctors weren’t sure how to help these hapless men. The one thing that seemed to work best was rest. Eventually, a man who began showing symptoms of shellshock was removed from the front to a safer rear area. Sometimes, this would be enough and a week or two with clean sheets, hot food, and no lice a reasonably safe distance from the bursting of the bombardments would restore a man and he could return to the fight. Once this became documented, the allies started the practice of rotating bodies of troops between the front and rear areas rather than demanding one unit stay on the fighting line for the duration of the campaign. This practice helped a great deal and new shell shock cases declined.

For some men, however, no amount of rest and recuperation would restore their shattered minds. Some of these poor souls could not stand unaided. Many shook uncontrollably at all times. For them, if they were lucky enough to survive until seen by a doctor, the war was over. They would be invalided back to the Home Islands, but for many, the damage was permanent. Some would spend the remainder of their lives in asylums or “neurological” hospitals with symptoms which never abated.

Even those who managed to avoid any outward symptoms of shellshock were seldom as unscathed as they appeared.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/AL5noVCpVKw/0.jpg

For many, coming home didn’t end the Great War. Look closely under the bed.

War correspondent Philip Gibbs wrote in his 1922 account of the war Now It Can Be Told of the mass of men returning from the war:

Something was wrong. They put on civilian clothes again and looked to their mothers and wives very much like the young men who had gone to business in the peaceful days before August 1914. But they had not come back the same men. Something had altered in them. They were subject to sudden moods, and queer tempers, fits of profound depression alternating with a restless desire for pleasure. Many were easily moved to passion where they lost control of themselves, many were bitter in their speech, violent in opinion, frightening.

At the time, people didn’t realize what was happening to these men, but their conditions demanded research.  These men, hale and whole in body yet shattered in mind and emotion paved the way for our understanding the soldiers of our later wars so that we no longer speak of “shell shock” but instead talk about Acute Combat Fatigue among our troops and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Combat Related once they transition to civilian life. It’s still not an easy fight as my daddy, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD could tell you if he could talk about it, but at least we no longer shoot our men as cowards just because their wills desert them.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean.

Of Blind Hogs and Acorns

Standard

http://www.boommybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Blind_Hog-200x300.jpgIt’s been six years since I left my career in education and I have a confession to make — even though I loved my students and did the best I could by them, I pretty much sucked at being a teacher and I wasn’t much better as a school librarian. It wasn’t for lack of trying or preparation; I joined NCTE and read English Journal faithfully the entire time I was an English teacher. When I was a librarian, I payed for School Library Journal out of my own pocket instead of using the school’s funds. I tried to help my kids and my fellow teachers, but I just didn’t have the gravity and ability so many of my colleagues did. My students never gave me any trouble and I always had one of the lowest discipline incident records each year, but I’ve never managed to shake the nagging feeling in the back of my mind — even after all this time — that I was subjecting students to a type of slow torture by force-feeding them Beowulf and Macbeth or short stories and poetry.

I wanted to get them writing, so I tried some writing workshop tactics without anywhere near the success Nancy Atwell promised me I would have in In the Middle. I just wanted them to find their own voices. Teaching research papers wasn’t much better. After I worked and worked with them on finding information and warned them about plagiarism, I still got at least one paper each time containing “see illustration on pg 103″ somewhere in the middle of uncited sentences containing words I knew my young ones couldn’t define with a dictionary and a scientist to help them out.

The kids didn’t drive me out of the classroom and the library though. That was my own lack of political ability and tact. I never was a “good little solider” able to do what someone told me without comment. So, I butted heads with authority time after time after time and inevitably, I ended up allowing my battleship mouth to run over my rowboat butt. So I finally hung it up after being shown the door six years ago in my last position.

I’ve lived daily with the feeling of failure. I had every intention of staying in one room at one school and retiring after teaching grandchildren of former students or when they condemned the building around me, whichever came first and it just didn’t happen. Still, even a blind hog finds a nice juicy acorn every now and then and when I was feeling particularly low yesterday, a former student of mine replied to a post I’d made on Facebook about the ten most influential books in my life. Once I read it for the tenth or twelfth time I got to thinking maybe I wasn’t quite as horrible as I thought I was.

Here is what one of my boys — who I remember as a chunky little freshman with a complete inability to sit still very long at all — wrote on my Facebook wall. As you read it, keep in mind I had no idea he was fighting some of the battles he was waging and though I remember him well, I can’t recall giving him the book no matter how hard I try but he sure does.

Coach, I figured out why back in school I hated to read and you were the only teacher to actually take the time and say I have a book you might like to read and it was J D Salingers Catcher in the rye. Think thats how you spell it. After all these years and quite a few books and audio books cause i still struggle with reading. That book always sticks out in my mind. Oh the reason was im Add and Dyslexic. My favorite author now is Dean Koontz. I have alot of his books and alot of his audio books. I think if it wasnt for you showing me that book and how interesting books can be that I wouldnt read or listen to books now. You opened my eyes and encouraged me to read and open myself up and let my imagination make the words come alive and paint a picture of what I was reading. I have a 13 yr old son who is ADD and Dyslexic and he is the same way I was. He’s in the 8th grade now and i think next yr im going going to get that book and let him read it because it was the 9th grade when you gave me that book to read. I saw this post and figured i would comment. Thanks coach hope all is going well with you and your family…http://www.planetthoughts.org/userfiles/image/2011/Aug/starfish.jpg

You really don’t know . . . you really just never know. Maybe I’ve been a little hard on myself. Maybe never having a “Teacher of the Year” plaque on my wall isn’t as important as I thought. I still think I pretty much sucked as a teacher, but looks like I managed to get one starfish back in the water. Funny how the biggest boosts sometimes come along at the lowest ebbs.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

If You Want to Help, Here’s How!

Standard

TipJarICONHello everybody!

I realize I play fast and loose with the fourth wall here at Granny Beads and Grocery Store Feet, but today, I’m chucking any semblance of distance to explain a new feature on my site. I’ve figured out how to add a PayPal donation button in the form of a tip jar to the blog. What I’d like to do is test the waters to see what commercial ability the stuff I write possesses, if any. I’m not selling anything and I don’t want any of the three of you who read this daily to feel obligated in any way, form or fashion to read my blog.

BUT, the truth is, every little bit helps. Disability doesn’t pay well, despite what some people may think and because of some various and sundry things, my career options are — shall we say — limited. I just thought it’d be nice to see if anything I write actually would be worth enough to someone out there in cyberland that he or she would drop a dollar on PayPal at the end of a particularly good post.

So, if you like something or if you just feel sorry for me (hey, I’m not above pity change) just click on the tip jar under the Freshly Pressed icon and make a nice safe donation to my peace of mind through the security of PayPal.

Once again, nothing is required. My thoughts will always be free of charge, which is one distinct advantage of not having that thing between your brain and your mouth to filter out some of your thoughts. I’m just casting a baguette on the bay and seeing if it returns in a day or two.

As always, love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

TL;DR: New tip jar; donate if you want to.

Great War Wednesday: In Mordor Where Shadows Lie

Standard
"Crossing the Dead Marshes" by Ted Naismith

“Crossing the Dead Marshes” by Ted Naismith

On either side and in front wide fens and mires now lay, stretching away southward and eastward into the dim half-light. Mists curled and smoked from dark and noisome pools. The reek of them hung stifling in the still air. Far away, now almost due south, the mountain-walls of Mordor loomed, like a black bar of rugged clouds floating above a dangerous fog-bound sea.  “The Passage of the Marshes,” Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, JRR Tolkien.

The Battlefield at Passchendale

The Battlefield at Passchendale

Conditions are unbelievable , on either side stretches a quagmire , a solid sea of slimy mud . everywhere there are dead horses and mules ,smashed ambulances , ammunition limbers and guns.  There are great shell holes of muddy water into which mules and horses sink to their bellies and wagon wheels to the hub. Well , if this is La Belle France they ought to give it to Fritz. Somme Mud, Pvt. Edward Francis Lynch

If JRR Tolkien had possessed a more robust physicality or a somewhat better equipped immune system, the world may today be ever poorer for we likely would never know such creatures as hobbits ever existed. Luckily for us, Tolkien was not a strong man physically nor given much to feats of daring. In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled, “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” In fact, Tolkien would put off joining up until he finished his undergraduate work at Oxford by which point questions concerning his patriotism were “becoming outspoken from relatives.” Once he reached the trenches, the young officer proved extremely susceptible to “trench fever,” a lice-borne disease which resulted in his being invalided home on three occasions, one of which came the day before his entire battalion was wiped out in battle.

Tolkien reached the Western Front as a newly minted second lieutenant signal officer of the Lancashire Fusiliers just in time to take part in the months long unspeakable carnage we know today as The Battle of the Somme. The privations young Tolkien endured and the hideous brutality and slaughter he saw made their way into his imagination and eventually worked out again in his writings of Middle Earth. Probably the easiest influence for us to grasp today is the sights of the battlefields he saw every day. It is hard to read the descriptions of the slag pits and blasted craters of the plains of Mordor without envisioning the wasted, churned, and cratered landscape of the Somme.

The genesis of the Dead Marshes lay in the bodies littering the mud of the Somme.

During the episode told in The Two Towers where Frodo and Sam, led by Smeagol, cross the Dead Marshes, Tolkien lets slip another of the nightmares he witnessed on the front lines. Frodo falls headlong into one of the sodden pools and screams when he sees dead faces staring back at him. As he and Sam look closer, they see these dead faces of men, elves, and orcs are all about them. On the Somme and in the trenches in general, the dead were a constant companion to Tolkien and his comrades. Incessant shelling and sniping made it impractical if not impossible to recover the bodies of the killed and so they were left in the open to fester and rot until another shell impact might bury them under fresh mud. Indeed, stories are extant of men weighted down under packs and weapons losing their footing in No Man’s Land and drowning in the sucking mud of the Somme and elsewhere.

Another facet of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien admits to crafting based somewhat on his war experiences is the complex and devoted relationship between Frodo and Samwise. The British army in World War One was a microcosm of British society at large and that society was rigidly structured on class. Officers came from the upper middle classes and the gentry while the “Tommies” or regular enlisted soldiers drew their ranks from the lower classes and the working classes. Officers were forbidden to “fraternize” with their commands, but each officer, no matter how lowly his rank, had a batman assigned to his care. These batmen were the officers’ personal valets and saw to the officers’ needs and provided what creature comforts they could muster. The batmen were also invariably drawn from the lower classes of enlisted and for many of the upper class officers, they were the only members of the “other half” of society those officers knew.

2nd Lt JRR Tolkien, 1916

2nd Lt JRR Tolkien, 1916

Frodo, the privileged heir, to the riches of Bag End had his own batman — the sturdy, implacable, and altogether devoted gardener Samwise Gamgee. More than once, Sam’s low born skills and good common sense carried the day and kept his dear Mr. Frodo out of scrape after scrape. In fact, had Sam not decided to take the Ring from the comatose Frodo in Shelob’s dark lair, the Quest of Mount Doom would doubtlessly have ended in abject failure.

Upon the four companion’s return to the Shire following the War of the Ring, they were marked out as many of the veterans who returned from the Great War were. Merry and Pippin had been in battle, but not subject to quite so much of the hardship as Sam and Frodo. As a result, they were much more eager to tell the tales of their adventures and to draw swords to defend the Shire when the need arose. Sam, like the brave but honest VC winner, would recount his exploits when asked, but his was the bravery which needed no bravado. Meanwhile, Frodo, the most wounded of all his compatriots, sought only peace and release from the horrors he had witnessed and the pains which he endured. He is the picture of the one million British soldiers who returned from the Great War missing at least one limb; he represents the untold number of “shellshock” victims who suffered in silence and madness following their service.

Finally, Tolkien writes about how the War of the Ring signaled the end of an age. The old order passed away, burned up in the fires of combat. So too did the First World War usher in systemic societal changes in ways the Second World War never did. The Great War swept the newest empire in Europe as well as two of the most ancient monarchies into the dustbin of history. Tolkien lived long enough to see the changes his war brought about — redrawing of not just maps, but of social orders and systems of governments.

http://dickstaub.com/files/765.jpg

Tolkien with his three closest friends. Only Wiseman would survive the war.

Unfortunately for Tolkien, he was one of only two members of his closest circle of friends to survive the War and the magnitude of such loss weighed heavily upon him for the rest of his days. He remarked once, with some hint of understandable bitterness, “One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; . . . By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.” That one friend, Christopher Wiseman, likely owed his survival to fortunate enlistment in the Royal Navy; he became the godfather and namesake of Tolkien’s youngest son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien.

So it was that JRR Tolkien, a gentle man of great imagination and feeling, saw and suffered in the pits of the charnel house which was the Western Front and while other men may have turned to drink or in the last ditch, suicide, to quiet the horrors screaming out in their minds, Tolkien — linguist, professor, and dreamer — turned to the pen instead and the world is a much richer place because Middle Earth and the Baggins’ of Bag End survived.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Metamorphosis of Matronly Mean Girls

Standard

As I’ve told here before,http://static01.nyt.com/images/2008/09/29/timestopics/topics_nursinghomes_395.jpg on Tuesdays I ride down to Clinton to visit my sole remaining grandparent, Mama’s mama, my Granny Ima. When I arrive, the residents of Granny’s wing are in a rough circle overlooking the activity room. One or more non-vocal clients, like Granny, will often be over to the side, which I admit annoys me sometimes, but I’ll save that for later. I’ll make my rounds and speak to the ladies and dispense pats and hugs where they are welcomed and try to avoid some of the more “exuberant” ones before I sit down to give Granny the weekly update. It’s during these interludes I made my observations on how mobility, lucidity, and family may replace popularity, desirability, and money, but mean girls are still mean girls even in a nursing home and the hierarchy among these elderly ladies is every bit as rigid as any pecking order one would find in a high school or middle school cafeteria.

First, I’m sure you’ve noticed I mention “ladies” exclusively. That is not without purpose. The only creature less common in a nursing home than any gender of Hispanic is a male. At Granny’s, the ratio of men to women is – from my rough and unscientific observations – about fifteen women to each man. In the five years of Granny’s residence, I’ve also only seen one male nurse. It’s a safe bet the wings of NHC are fairly awash with estrogen, or would be if most of these ladies were not past the days of estrogen production.

What few men are around circulate in an entirely different manner than the women. The three I know the best — Mr. Joe, Mr. Jack, and Mr. Ralph — generally keep to themselves off to one side. During activities, they will line up wheel to wheel together on one side of the room looking for all the world like junior high boys at a sock hop earnestly hoping to not be asked to dance. Mostly, the women leave the men alone. I can’t say with certainty exactly why, but I suspect, given the lengths of the marriages I’ve heard bandied about among the ladies, they’ve just had enough to do with men to last a lifetime.

The ladies do have a pretty clear caste system among themselves, however, and the first criteria is mobility. Only two of them are able to walk unassisted for any distance and it’s obvious they are objects of envy. I can only imagine how sweet it would be to those who are Depends clad and wheelchair bound to be able to rise at any moment and tend to nature’s call alone and removed from the tyranny and interference of some whippersnapper CNA. Unfortunately, just because only two ladies are ABLE to walk unassisted, it does not mean others ATTEMPT to walk unassisted, often having forgotten the atrophy of their legs or — in some cases — the complete lack thereof. I don’t pass a day with Granny without hearing a “personal chair alarm” go off at least once as someone — usually Mother Gault — forgets she is no longer able to stand unaided but still wishes to give walking the old college try.

That brings up a second criteria in the nursing home pecking order because sound legs do not always undergird a sound mine. For instance, one precious lady — Ms. Stoddard I think she’s called — is one of the “easy walkers” and can stroll anywhere she wishes; unfortunately, she usually sits silent and pensive and a casual observer would wonder why until he or she heard her ask — often for the tenth or twelfth time that hour — “Where am I?” She, like almost all of the ladies lucid enough to realize their situation, usually wants to know the same thing when a nurse tells her, “Honey, you’re at NHC in Clinton,” and that is, inevitably, “Well, when do I go home?” Whenever I hear her or any other lady ask that plaintive question, my composure always suffers and once again I feel shot through with guilt that I have to drive to visit Granny instead of simply walking down the hall to her room.

Still, I do go to see her every Tuesday and my beloved Aunt Pearl goes every Wednesday. Having two regular family visitors assures Granny’s place in the hierarchy of the home and keeps her safe from drifting to the bottom. I can’t tell you how many of the ladies I have come to cherish as if they were aunts or elderly cousins sit day by day waiting for a family member who never comes. In some cases, I realize a family is unable to provide for the care needs some of the ladies present and some, like 102 year old Grandma Cleo — Granny’s roommate — have, by process of attrition, outlived any family who could come to visit. Still, in too many cases, these loved ones are more “inconvenient” than “invalid” and as sad as it is to say, our society doesn’t place a very high priority on its elders anymore.

Lest my brush seem too broad, though, not all of the ladies could be called mean girls.  Each week, I receive a fairly detailed report from two of the brightest ladies about Granny’s activity each week and they keep me up to date on how she is being treated by the staff and the other ladies and for that, I am grateful beyond description. For every former cheerleader who sneers at a fellow patient’s inability to move a wheelchair unaided is another kind heart who will wheel over to tuck a blanket around a sleeping comrade. The criteria may change, but just as high school was its on special kind of Hell and winnowing ground, so to is the nursing home a crucible of sorts where under the heat those whose spirits are most golden shine through.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Great War Wednesday: Selling Tickets to Hell

Standard

KitchnerThe British Army at the outset of the First World War was at once a fantastic asset to the Empire and woefully inadequate to the task at hand. With the world’s strongest navy guarding any approach to the British Isles, the role of the army had heretofore been guarding the colonies and territories around the world while a small contingent remained in the Home Islands to deal with what remained of any force foolish enough to try landing on Britannica’s holy shores. On the other hand, this small army was completely made up of professional volunteer men. Practically every man in a British Army uniform had seen some type of combat in some far-flung fighting in southern Africa or in India. They were a proud, hard, disciplined corps of men the equal or superior of every other standing army any nation could field.

Alas, they were also entirely too few to fight the war they went to take part in. Some estimates claim less than one in five of the original professional army that sailed for France in August 1914 remained alive and uninjured by spring of 1915. If Britain was going to stay in the war, she was going to need many, many more men.

The task of supplying the army with fresh troops fell to the Secretary of State for War Field-Marshal Lord Horatio Kitchener. By the time recruitment drives began, word of the horrific fighting and conditions was trickling back from the Western Front and people began seeing the wounded returning as well, both of which tended to lessen fervor to fight for King and Country. What’s more, Britain still demanded a volunteer force. Essentially, Kitchener’s office had to convince fit young men — and some not so young — to willingly sign up for nothing short of a tour of Hell on Earth. Two methods of boosting the recruitment were particularly successful, at least in the beginning. One relied on shame and the other on friendships.

Today, young men — and women — can enlist in the military along with some friends and if they all enlist at the same time and qualify, they have a good chance of spending basic training together. After basic, however, they will most likely be split up unless they happen to be in very specific job sectors within the military. This camaraderie helps during the tough times of basic training and maybe alleviates some of the homesickness. In Britain during the First World War, the idea of camaraderie went to an entirely different level in the attempt to boost enlistment. Men who enlisted together and who wished to would be guaranteed to remain together not only for basic training but also for posting to the lines as well.

Recruiting poster for the 1st Footballers' Battalion

Recruiting poster for the 1st Footballers’ Battalion

These guarantees lead to what we now call the “pals brigades” or “pals battalions” and though the idea may have seemed like a sound one, in practice is was nothing short of horrific. Under the auspices of fighting together, young men of the same town, the same fraternity, the same school, etc would enlist together. As promised, they would go through training together and — as promised — they would go to the front lines to fight side by side. This led to units with names like “The Grimsby Pals,” “The Stockbrokers,” and “The 1st Footballers.” These were men who had known each other for years, some since mere childhood, and now they were to march off to war as a unit.

Unfortunately, in a war of heretofore unknown amounts of casualties, the pals battalions had unforeseen consequences. In some of the bloodiest offensives like the Somme Offensive of 1916, entire units would simply be wiped out. Now, this was terrible enough when the casualties spread across several towns or counties, but with the pals battalions, a single town might see almost all of its young men of fighting age killed or horribly wounded in a single engagement. Thus what was tragedy enough was magnified tenfold over by the loss of so many in one place at one time.

A man confronted by harpies of the White Feather Society.

A man confronted by harpies of the White Feather Society.

 

The second major recruiting tool was shame in the form of the Order of the White Feather. This society enlisted the services of women to shame men into signing up to go be blown to bits. A standard tactic involved a group of young ladies, often quite a large group, surrounding and berating a male of supposedly obvious fighting age as to why he wasn’t up at the front to “do his bit” with the rest of the fighting men. At the end of the harangue, one of the harpies would tuck a single white feather — a traditional symbol of rank craven cowardice in Britain — into the poor victim’s lapel and smugly walk away. We have records of plays stopping unexpectedly in the middle of a performance in order for the ladies to stalk up and down the aisles passing out white feathers to men who made the mistake of relaxing when it seemed they should be fighting.

The White Feather Campaign was actually extremely successful. It led to multitudes of men enlisting to fight the Kaiser for King and Country. Some of those men were large boys, often 15 or 16, who had been mistaken for fighting age by the incessant White Feather women. Instead of bothering to try explaining, these boys would lie about their age and take their places in the line. The harassment reached a point where returning soldiers received a badge to wear showing they had served already or were simply at home on leave.

Predictably, however, the White Feather Society produced some terrible embarrassment for its members at times. For instance, Able Seaman George Samson was delayed from attending a ceremony by a group of women who insisted on giving him the white feather since he wasn’t in uniform. Seaman Samson was, at the time, on his way to a ceremony where he was to be given the Victoria’s Cross — Great Britain’s highest military award — for his courage and gallantry in battle at Gallipoli.

The recruiting office undoubtedly had a hard job and one made all the harder since no one really wanted to see these young boys going off in khaki and coming back in linen so often. In time, volunteering no longer kept pace with the demand for fuel for the fires at the front. In those dark days, Great Britain did what she had never done before and instituted conscription. Now, men would be compelled to serve rather than asked to volunteer. It was a terrible time indeed.

Love y’all, though! Now keep those feet clean!

TEOTWAWKI . . . Redux

Standard
http://cdn.gretawire.foxnewsinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/billy-graham.jpg

People might not agree with him, but I’ve never heard anyone call him anything but a good man.

I have a confession to make. Actually, I’ve made it before, but I’ve picked up a lot of followers since then and recent events plus the date have brought this heavily to my mind once again. Some of y’all that I’ve picked up will read this and dismiss me as kooky and probably never read anything I write again. Well, it’s seventeen months from an event I lived my life believing would never occur, so I’ve got to get this off my chest and I guess the chips will fall where they may.

Until October 16, 2006, I was completely, unshakably convinced I would never die — honestly, hand to Heaven, absolutely no joke.

Not only was I certain I would never die, I was JUST as certain Mama, Papa John, and many of my believing friends and family would never taste death either. Standing in front of Papa John’s casket in a driving rain on October 18, 2006 but a huge crack in my uncrackable faith; standing in front of my Mama’s casket on a beautiful, crisp spring morning seventeen months ago shattered it altogether. I am mortal, Budge is mortal, and all my friends I never expected to see buried are mortal.

The reason for my crystal clarity on the matter of my de facto immortality is twofold and one of those reasons I am not prepared to discuss, and may never discuss here or anywhere else, but the second suffices — Mama raised me believing and expecting the Rapture of the Church. Quite simply, Papa, Mama, and I were never going to die because we — and all other believers — were going to be taken up bodily to Heaven to ride out the coming Great Tribulation before our return with Jesus Christ as part of Heaven’s army at the climactic moment of the Battle of Armageddon. I wasn’t going to die. I was going to watch Jesus deal a death-blow to the Antichrist and usher in the Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth.

At one time, I was just as unshakably certain of this as I am now that the Sun will rise in the east and set in the west tomorrow. That is to say, I took it as a matter of course. I couldn’t get my mind around how anyone WOULDN’T believe Jesus was going to take His Church at any second. Then the massively successful Left Behind series of 16 novels came out and all of a sudden, people were talking about what I had believed for certain all my life on Oprah and the Today Show with Katie Couric. The Last Days were the hottest topic of conversation around for a while. Those books closely mirror what I learned as a child and what my own Bible study convinced me of further as an adult.

This series is pretty close to the doctrine I learned growing up.

Then Papa died. Then Mama died. I wasn’t crystal clear on ANYTHING anymore, much less the imminent return of Jesus. Those were black, black days and their shadow and chill haven’t completely left me even now. Some days even now, it’s all I can do to hold on to ANY faith in anything.

I didn’t think about the Rapture anymore. The church I attend now does not stress or teach on the Last Days because our two teaching pastors are diametrically opposed to each other in their views on eschatology (fancy word for “study of the last thing). Good, conservative thinking, Bible-believing Christian people have several opinions on the matter. It’s a big deal and when I was younger, I studied it religiously (no pun intended). I devoured every book on end times I could find and believe me, there’s a lot written. Then, I just stopped because it didn’t seem important anymore with Papa, and especially Mama, dead.

This evening, however, Budge found and read an article to me with the headline “Billy Graham Sounds Alarm for Second Coming.” That got my attention because Reverend Billy Graham is the real deal. The man is 95 years old; he’s been preaching crusades across the world for over SEVENTY YEARS — and his televised crusades were the ONLY thing Papa Wham would switch a Braves game for — in all that time no one has dug up the first speck of dirt on him and don’t think they haven’t tried. No women, no drug use, no money schemes, NOTHING. Seventy years and he’s squeaky clean.

The article took me aback because in all the years I’ve listened to Dr. Graham speak and preach, I’ve never known him to weigh in on End Times. I figured he probably had solid beliefs, but his message was always more about getting people saved than about a heavy theological topic like eschatology. He never mentions it in either of his biographies or in any other writing I can find he’s done. So what? Well, he’s 95 and preachers with that many miles on them don’t usually start making up stuff. If HE is seeing clear signs of the end of days enough that he wants to go on record about it, maybe it’s time to look around a little.

I’m going to set this plane down now by saying I know this isn’t one of my better pieces, but quite honestly, looking at current events and reading the Bible and listening to what other people are saying . . . well, I can’t help but wonder. Most of the major end time prophecies and theories revolve around the Middle East, specifically Israel. In fact, a great many prophecy scholars point to May 15, 1948 as the moment the End Time clock started ticking — Israel, after 2000 years of wandering, became a nation again and with the way Syria is going . . . and Russia (yes, I know Russia isn’t in the Middle East, but Google “Gog and Magog) and things just start looking, I don’t know . . . plausible?

Anyway, I Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!