Kabul

“If you love this land of the free
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
It will make the politicians sad, I know
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
They wanna tangle with their foe
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
They wanna test their grand theories
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
With the blood of you and me
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
We’ll give no more brave young lives
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
For the gleam in someone’s eyes
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
And we will all turn out
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
The church bells will ring with joy
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
To welcome our darling girls and boys
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
We will lift their voice in song
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
When Johnny comes marching home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from the overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
If you love this land of free
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from the overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home”

– Bruce Springsteen

Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine

Storyteller Tom T. Hall died yesterday. RIP. He was best known for the song “Harper Valley PTA” that captured the soul of the 1960s and has been kept alive by so many performers over the years. Still a hit every time.

In this introduction to “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” he talks about performing at the contentious 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. That ultimately disastrous event was also covered by Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”. This followed the earthshaking 1968 convention recently re-enacted for us in the movie “Trial of the Chicago 7” last year. I never heard Tom T. Hall perform live but heard many musicians express their admiration of his poise and style.

The recording is worth a listen.

How old do you think I am?” he said
I said, well, I didn’t know
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago”


I was sittin’ in miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge

There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ Ironsides on tv
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

“Ever had a drink of watermelon wine?” he asked
He told me all about it, though I didn’t answer back
“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

He said, “Women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain’t around
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down”
He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime
Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

“Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate”
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
‘Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine

I had to catch a plane up to atlanta that next day
As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine

This is perhaps the most famous performance of “Harper Valley PTA”: https://youtu.be/B4uJ8QV-8R8

A portrait in honor of a seagull

I photographed this seagull with a broken wing in front of my home today about half hour before it died.

Johnathan Livingston

I thought about the lessons of the book by Richard Bach that was so popular when I was a young teen. Johnathan Livingston Seagull was probably the first book I read at age 12 or 13 after my mother died. It would not be an exaggeration to say that book had more influence on my spiritual life than the Bible. The music of Neil Diamond reinforced those messages as I must have listened to hundreds of times as a teenager and into my 20s.

In honor of this seagull , I will pull the book off the shelf and listen to the music once again.

The meaning of Apollo 11, 1969

On this weekend in 1969, 52 years ago, the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, our local newspaper, included in its special edition, a large glossy color print of the astronauts landing on the moon on July 20. I taped that photo high on the wall, almost touching the ceiling of the farmhouse bedroom wall where brother John and I had our bunk beds. The unwritten but well understood message of that event and that era was that we, as a nation, could do anything we set our minds on. 

We saw that photo every day. The message of its meaning confronted us as we climbed out of bed each morning. We were the rural middle income kids of a single father, without any noticable social advantage or predictor of notable future achievement. But as I look back on that era and the parenting and societal mentorship of that era it could be encapsulated in that photo:
We, as individuals, can do anything that we set our minds on. 

As far as I know, that photo remained on the bedroom wall of the farm house until the farm was sold when I was in graduate school more than a decade later. Coincidently or not, both John and I went on to become national champion athletes in our own different sports and each of us launched separate businesses that were recognized as national leaders in their respective fields. Anecdotal coincidence? Perhaps, but it still feels like a compelling connection all these years later.

For younger generations who may not understand the psychological impact of this moon landing event had on millions of us then, I feel sad to think that their memories will be of multibillionaires efforts to exploit space. I feel sad that the nation has lost its way and ability to commit to common goals. I feel sad that the abilities of individuals to accomplish great things are limited by the widened gaps in wealth, income and community influence compared to our world of decades ago. 

Today we continue to march forward with the same values, influences and sense of determination. But my perception of the world’s opportunities has clearly changed.

The challenge of working with dead souls

“More and more I am convinced that you can not challenge a dead soul. Not with truth. Not with principle. Not with morality. A dead soul must be first brought back to life. And the only thing that can do this is tenderness.” – John Flynn

I can think of only a few rare occasions in my life where a dead soul has been affected over a long period of time through tenderness.

A powerful code of ethics

I can’t vouch for the source but the communication if powerful.

LAKOTA CODE OF ETHICS

  1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
  2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy – and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
  3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
  4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
  5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
  6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plant.
  7. Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
  8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
  9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
  10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
  11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.
  12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
  13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
  14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.
  15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
  16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
  17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
  18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
  19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
  20. Share your good fortune with others.

Americans care about our history

When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem.

The 137 year old American Historical Association points out that we care about knowing the truth when it comes to learning about history. This is true across all political persuasions, sex, age, race or other distinctions. Multiple sources confirm that we care about knowing the facts when it comes to learning history. Even people who are inclined to ignore facts and data in other fields like science, medicine and social programs still care about facts when it comes to history.

Nine states under Republican governments have already passed laws that restrict the teaching of historically accurate history when the true history would cause upset or division in some people. Republican governments in 17 more states are considering passing similar laws.

This week Texas state government took it a step further and pushed for the cancellation of a book signing and lecture event about a new history book published by accomplished historians. Ironically, a core theme in this new history book is how our modern culture has distorted the historical facts over time to suit our currents needs. When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem. That’s exactly what happened here. Texas state government is actively supporting propaganda and repressing the historical truths.

We’ve made a joke about the saying “Facts and data have a liberal bias”. But I’ve never really considered that well documented facts about American history would actually be so blatantly opposed by modern American governments. More often now we hear different versions of the theme ‘we will believe what we want you believe and make enemies of those who prove us wrong’.

To some of us accustomed to free thought and free access to academic learning, this Orwellian government action seems shocking, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I am quite surprised myself that I am writing something like this in 2021 in the United States of America. Where do we go from here?

Woody Guthrie “Old Man Trump”

“I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

[Chorus]
Beach Haven ain’t my home
No, I just can’t pay this rent
My money’s down the drain
And my soul is badly bent
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home

[Verse]
I’m calling out my welcome to you and your man both
Welcoming you here to Beach Haven
To love in any way you please and to have some kind of a decent place
To have your kids raised up in

[Chorus]
Beach Haven ain’t my home
No, I just can’t pay this rent
My money’s down the drain
And my soul is badly bent
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home”

Memorial

Today I’m thinking about three Vietnam war veterans who influenced my thinking years ago. All three suffered mental health collapses in the war. It might’ve been drugs or chemicals or traumatic brain injury or (I suspect) a combination of these. But the point is they left here as normal kids and came back and never recovered their lives. Two of them spent a substantial part of their lives living on the street. As far as I know all have died since. As a young adult I remember having the opinion that every town in America had at least one brain injured veteran living on the street downtown. I tried to be kind but not patronizing. It hurt to see how they were teased and mocked by younger kids who had not lived during war time. I had already adopted my pacifist beliefs as a child and knew that I would never serve in the military. That has never been a popular decision and I assume it never will be. But I will never forgive my government for what it did to these boys and then abandoned them in the street.

The craziness around us

The most important person in the Republican Party today is Donald Trump.
The most important thing Donald Trump has to talk about today is how the bizarre QAnon-led search for bamboo fibers in Arizona ballots is going to put him back in the White House. We know that a good number of our friends and neighbors will believe whatever lies he says. So how do we move forward from here?

This cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher seems to sum it up.