A Note on Terrorists

A Note on Terrorists

by James L. Secor & Minna vander Pfaltz

We need to begin speaking truth to the terrorists of today. We need to call them what they are. They are murderers. Mass murderers. To call them anything else is to give them legitimacy. They and their actions prove there is nothing legitimate about them. They are simply conscienceless murderers. People with a great blood lust. They are no more than Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Kansas’ own cold-hearted killers, made famous in Truman Copote’s In Cold Blood. They are the Papin sisters, a perverted, not too bright pair who battered their patroness to death for no good reason. These so-called terrorists are the Manson Family murderers writ large on the pages of the popular press. To call them terrorists, to call them anything but what they are–murderers–is criminal. It gives their murdering ways legitimacy.

It drives up fear to call them terrorists and their actions terrorist attacks, which our politicians and media adore because they like war and control. To give these murderers legitimacy by calling them terrorists is to give full proof to Rachel Maddow’s thesis in her book Drift. No self-serving, self-incriminating media outlet would dare change the rhetoric from the myth of terrorism to the truth of murder.

But a change is needed. To speak truth puts these people and their perverted religion on the defensive. For, in fact, these murderers, these mass murderers by their own religious doctrine (Quran) are on a fast to track to Hell and sitting at the right hand of Satan (Shaitan).

This is this story we should be telling. The story of murder, of mass murder and the sick clans that purvey it in the name of their Lord. A true using of the Lord’s name in vain.

The Wall

The Wall

by James L. Secor & Minna vander Pfaltz

Buck limped across the street, calling out, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

It was a bright sunny day, as per usual in Chokepointe Piste, or anywhere in the Brazos River Basin, where the rain rarely came tumbling down to cleanse the air and the land. Acid rain here was disallowed. It had been comfortably moved northward to Dallas and Houston and southward to San Antonio and Mexico. This very point allowed the PR firm of Yabu & Son–there was no son but it sounded good and made for an increase in business, for it dripped respectability–to sell tourists on the “sun all year round”-ness of the country and the temperate climate conducive to tan and wind and open range freedom. The pitch hadn’t caught on yet but what’s time when profits are involved?

So. . .Buck was perspiring by the time he reached the boardwalk on the other side of the street from The Lone Star Inn & Bordello and began stumping–rump-TUMP, rump-TUMP–along the loose boards until he turned into The Hotel, where he raised his breathless voice again, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

The desk clerk dumbly watched him. Anything was a welcome break from routine. Buck peeked into the lounge. No Hellecchino. Buck peeked into the restaurant. No Hellecchino. Buck peeked into the bar-salon. No Hellecchino. Each time, he called out, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

Buck ran–ker-PLUNK, ker-PLUNK–up the stairs and knocked injudiciously on the door to Hellecchino’s room. No answer.

Buck descended the stairs and stood before the front desk catching his breath. Finally, he said, “Where’s Hellecchino?”

And the desk clerk answered, in all truthfulness, “He ain’t here.”

Buck nodded and stumped out of the hotel. He looked both ways before he stepped out onto the boardwalk. It was difficult to decide which way to go, right or left. So, he turned right and continued plunking down the boardwalk toward Fancy Dan’s where he knew Hellecchino liked to indulge in lip-smackin’, finger-lickin’, chin-dribblin’ bovine costae with generous dabs of Arthur Bryant’s Masterpiece Barbeque sauce shipped direct from wild and wooly Kansas City via Yabu Transport and thus an extravagant item. Import duties made sure that any competition to the famous Yabu Cactus Barbeque Sauce remained beyond the capabilities of the common man while the ribs themselves were cheap at half the price.

And sure enough, that’s where Buck found Hellecchino, face covered in a clown-like smile of reddish-brown sauce dripping from his chinny-chin-chin down onto a checkered bib, supplied by Fancy Dan’s as part of the dinner packet. After all, rib juice and barbeque sauce stained, and stains would limit Fancy Dan’s business drastically. But, he covered his ass, Daniel Bunesci did, by also owning and operating the Italian Ristorante a la Mexicali and the Chinese laundry that conveniently did a big business removing spaghetti sauce evidence. Wives and mothers were eternally grateful. So was Daniel Bunesci.

“Hellecchino! Hellecchino!” yelled Buck, clunking up to Hellecchino’s table and plopping himself down in the chair opposite his mentor and hero.

“What’s up, Bucko?” inquired Hellecchino, smacking his lips and showering Buck with little pinpoint splatters of sauce. “Better get a napkin,” suggested Hellecchino. “Oh, boy! Another napkin, please.” He snapped his fingers, sending a shower of sauce and juice into the air.

The napkin was brought. Buck wiped his face.

“So. What’s up, Buck?”

Buck wiped his face again. “Yabu’s back in town.”

“His town. No news there.”

“No. We got trouble.”

“We’s alahs gots trouble, Bucko. It’s de name o’ de game. It’s what brings me to dis part of the world.”

Buck wiped his face. “But he’s just back from seeing his guru.”

“You mean Master Hiram Evananda?”

“You know about him?”

“Shore do, Bucko. Ain’t nothin’ I don’t know ’bout. I’m a hero, y’know.”

“An’ yore magic,” chortled Buck, wiping his face yet again.

“Oh, boy!” and Hellecchino snapped his thickly wet fingers again, again spraying reddish sauce hither and yon. “I’m finished. Bring me the handiwipes and take this stuff away.” When the boy had done his bidding, Hellecchino said, “Put it on my bill. Now. . . what is it that couldn’t wait until I finished my noonday repast?”

“Well, Yabu’s returned from Big Chief Buttons Compound out on Merengue Montaña. An’ he’s shoutin’ and carryin’ on about bein’ enlightened.”

“What so new about that? So damned many people return from Peyote Pete’s Big Rock Candy Mountain claiming the same thing.”

“Ain’t none o’ them Gyorgy Yabu.”

“Well, now. There you have a point. What’s he on about this time?”

“It’s reported–”

“Who’s reporting this?”

“McTortle. He keeps a keen eye on these kinds of things.”

“Hmm. . .always some kind of shell game, eh?”

“That’s exactly right. How’dja know?”

“I’m a hero. I keep tellin’ ya, Buck. Don’tcha ever listen?”

“Huh?”

“What did McTortle have to say?”

“Yabu’s enlightenment is about separatin’ good from bad.”

“Wowzer! He’s got a way to tell the difference?”

“Seems so. He’s gonna build a wall to keep the bad out.”

“Oh, my. . .that’ll cost a bit.”

“Not so, Hellecchino. Master Hiram Evananda has ties to the asphalt and concrete business down the road at Ocee and he owns the grease and oil business out on Country Road 317 on the way to Old McGregor’s Farm.”

“I see. . .”

“So, we got a problem, Hellecchino. Let’s get to work and save mankind.”

“I think you’re being a bit hasty, Buck. What if mankind don’t wanna be saved?”

“Yore shittin’ me!”

“No. I’m not. We gotta wait til people start complainin’ and seein’ the error of Yabu’s ways. Y’know, if’n it ain’t in yore backyard, it ain’t worth doin’ nothin’ about. It’s the rules o’ the game.”

“Ain’t Chokepointe Piste yore backyard?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. But people tend to shrink the term ‘backyard’ to personal, private dimensions. Let me tell you a little story–”

“We got time for stories?”

“There’s always time for a story, Buck. It’s in stories that knowledge is passed along, as Wredgranny says.”

“Who’s Wredgranny?”

“An old Indian woman. An elder. A storyteller.”

“She fat?”

“Buck, I’m surprised at you!”

“Why? Ain’t all Indian old women fat?”

“You ever seen an old Indian woman?”

“Hell no. They ain’t allowed in Chokepointe Piste.”

“So, what do you base your opinion on?”

“The pitchers in hist’ry books.”

“Well. . .let me tell you, Buck. Those books are written by white men who don’t like Indians and so the pictures are what they want you to believe is the truth.”

“Go-awlly!”

“Right down the road there is the Educational Research Analysts, led by Mel Gabler, Hedda’s distant relative. Deborah L. Brezina rents the building out of which Gabler and the Educational Analysts regurgitate history. Y’see, Buck. All you know of fat old Indian women is what this organization tells you. They stereotype the Indians. Fat old women are not welcome in this part of the country, no?”

“Well, I’ll be hornswaggled!”

“That’s right, Buck. You’re the victim of political propaganda.”

“Old Indian women aren’t fat?’

“No. Not necessarily. The only thing that all old Indian women are is wrinkled.”

“Well, hell! That comes with age.”

“Indians are people.”

“Well, sure. But. . .ain’t they all got big noses?”

“You mean like Italians and Polish?”

“Sure. Like that.”

“Stereotype.”

“Ain’t stereotype something that comes outa two sides?”

“Buck. . .let me tell you a story.” Hellecchino pushed his chair back and crossed his hands over his flat belly. “To stereotype is to fix in lasting form.”

“Kinda like sculpture?”

“In a manner of speaking, stereotypes are writ in stone. Howsomever. . .a stereotype is also something constantly repeated without change–”

“Like a prayer!”

“Will you just let me get to the bottom of this?” Buck subsided, hung his head. “Alright. As I was saying. . .stereotypes come in phrases and X and factoids. . .”

“Factoid?”

“A factoid, etymologically, is ‘something like a fact.’ ”

“So a stereotype is something like a fact but it ain’t.”

“Exactly.” Hellecchino leaned back, looked up at the ceiling and began his story. “The blowback on stereotypes is that some people begin to believe ’em. That is, if you’re told something enough times, you begin to believe it. Like a fox. Foxes been told they’re cunning tricksters for centuries and they believe it now. But the trap is. . .it ain’t necessarily true. Now, somehow or other, Fox got his fellow woodsy denizens to work for him harvesting his fields. Fox, of course, was wily enough to get out of most of the hard work. But, along about mid-morning, Rabbit got a thistle stuck in his paw. He started hoppin’ and jumpin’ around and shoutin’ enough to wake the dead. You know how over-excited rabbits get. Anyway. . .Fox came trottin’ down the row Rabbit was workin’ and saw the thistle. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘go on over t’ the well and put some cool, clear water on it. But don’t be gone too long, y’hear?’ Rabbit didn’t say nothin’, just hip-hopped outa the patch and through the woods to the well. Well, when he got there, he found that the water was way down in there. He dropped a pebble into the well an’ it took some time to find bottom, as it were. There were a couple buckets sittin’ on the edge o’ the well, so Rabbit figured he’d just ride one down to the water, dip his paw in the water, take a little drink, it bein’ a hot day an’ all, and then ride right back up. So, he jumped in a bucket and fell downward, landin’ kerplop in the water. It was pretty cool down there but Rabbit knew he’d better get back to the vegetable patch before Fox came a-lookin’ for him. But when we pulled on the rope, the bucket up top lodged against the pulley and. . .Rabbit was stuck down the well. ‘Holy cow paddies,’ he said to himself. ‘I’m in for it now.’ There wasn’t anything he could do but wait for Fox to come stormin’ after him. An’, sure enough, Fox appeared at the top of the well. He knew all along that Rabbit was jus’ tryin’ to git outa work. ‘Hey! What you doin’ down there?” Fox shouted. ‘I’m fishin’,’ answered Rabbit. ‘Some fine fishin’ down here.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Really. Come on down ‘fore they’s all gone. Easy pickin’s,’ Rabbit encouraged Fox. How stupid of Rabbit, thought Fox, ‘to let me go down there an’ git all the fish while he’s up here starvin’. Okay,’ he said. ‘Just jump in that there bucket,’ suggested Rabbit. Fox did and he flew to the bottom, passin’ Rabbit on the way up. Rabbit waved at Fox, smilin’ kinda big, like a Cheshire cat. ‘I’ll come back later, when the farmin’s done,’ shouted Rabbit and hopped merrily along. Well, o’ course Rabbit didn’t come back an’ there was wily ol’ Fox stuck in the bottom of the well. Didn’t take him long to figure out who outfoxed who, let me tell you.”

Hellecchino paused.

“That all?” asked Buck, sitting up in his chair.

“Yep. Old wily Fox got himself stuck thinking he was outfoxing Rabbit.”

“Did he ever git outa that well?”

“Sure did. A thirsty hunter came by and hauled up a bucket full of water–only he got a bucket full of Fox. Well, Fox lit on outa there before he got a behind fulla buckshot.”

“Didn’t git no fish neither.”

“You ever heard of fish in a well?”

“No.”

“Pretty dumb Fox, eh?”

“An’ foxes are s’posed t’be so cunnin’.”

“Yep. Fox believed all that hype about foxes being cunning and got himself trapped.”

“So that’s how a stereotype works! An’ I was right to begin with–a stereotype is somethin’ that’s got two sides. There was two buckets there at that well. Boy! Yore ingenious, Hellecchino!”

They sat quietly at the table for some time, each thinking his own thoughts. Finally, Hellecchino got up.

“Okay. I’m digested. Let’s go out into the sunshine and see what Yabu’s up to.”

“There you are!” shouted McTortle from down the street. “I been looking for you.”

Along with McTortle was a young woman, tall and willowy with long, flowing black hair, black eyes and thin but ruddy lips. She was dressed in calico. Her hips jerked right and left as she hurried after McTortle.

“Lookie there! There’s my sister.”

“You got a sister?”

“Shore. Ain’t only Mexicans got sisters, y’know.”

“She always chase after McTortle like that?”

“Nah. McTortle’s married. Harriet’s her name.”

“Might pretty lady, your sister.”

“Yep. I s’pose so. Y’want I should interduce ya?”

“Don’t think you’ll have much choice.”

The sprinting couple came to a panting halt but a few inches from Hellecchino and Buck. They leaned over, hands on knees, trying to catch their breaths. Both spit into the dry, dry road dust. Both held up their hands, as if to speak. . .and then subsided into heavy breathing once more. Finally, McTortle straightened up. “Yabu’s done done it this time,” he said. “Don’t know how much longer I can put up with this.”

“How much longer have you put up with it so far?” asked Hellecchino.

“Oh, hell. I don’t know. Perhaps 10-12 years.”

“Where would you go if you actually ever decided to got?” Hellecchino seemed genuinely interested in McTortle’s dilemma, leaning in and peering at McTortle’s reddened face.

“Don’t rightly know. Haven’t given it much thought. My home is here. I’m kinda settled in. . .if y’know what I mean.”

“How are you, Miss Harriet? I’m Hellecchino, local hero,” smiled Hellecchino as he smiled down on the diminutive lady and held out his hand.

Harriet gripped his hand rather more forcefully than he expected and said, “You don’t look much like a hero.”

“Appearances are deceiving.”

“I’ll say.”

“Harriet!”

“Buck. . .what the hell you know? You’re drunk half the time.”

“No, I ain’t. More like two thirds’ the time.”

“And you’re braggin’?”

“Cain’t brag ’bout my leg, yknow.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t wanna talk bout it, alright? How many times I gotta tell ya, huh?”

“How come you chose Buck to be your sidekick, Mr. Hellecchino?” Harriet asked sardonically.

“He asked.” A bald-faced truth.

“Well. . .I guess that explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Huh?”

“Have I got a piece of land for you!”

“I thought you was a hero.”

“I am.”

“So, what you goin’ about sellin’ land for?”

“Seemed like a good thing to do with Yabu’s wall going up.”

“You know about that?” startled McTortle chortled.

“Yep.”

“How could you? We haven’t told you yet.” Harriet creased her brow, one line between her eyebrows, and tilted her head off to the right.

“Harriet. . .I’m a hero.”

“I’ll be damned!”

“I doubt it. You’re too pretty. Care to take a walk?”

“Where to?”

“Does it matter?”

“I suppose not, all things considering. . .”

“You’ll take care of McTortle, right Buck?”

“Shore thang.”

“What about Yabu’s wall?!”

“What about it?”

“He’s gonna build it through town keepin’ out all the bad tings. The things he don’t like.”

“Just things?”

“No. People too, more’n likely.”

“I ‘spect so. But, tell me. . .is it built yet?”

“No.”

“Well, then. No worries.”

“But we gotta keep it from bein’ built, damn it! It ain’t right.”

“Why ain’t it right, McTortle? He was given the task by his guru, Dr. Hiram Evananda, Master of the race. Surely, Yabu believes in whatever he’s told.”

“But it ain’t right, shuttin’ good people out.”

“No, I s’pose you’re right. But Yabu doesn’t consider them good people and that’s what’s important.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, people don’t have to buy into it. If he thinks it’s important, let him build it. He’ll stop sure enough if nobody else thinks it’s important. I think what y’all oughta do it take up a collection to help him finance the building of his wall. He’s precious protective of his own money, y’know. Getting someone else’s to do the job would be mighty pleasing, don’t you think?”

“Ain’t that self-defeatin’?”

“Nope. If you donate to the building of the wall, you get to know where the wall’s going before it’s gone there and so you can organize yourselves. After all, sooner or later he’s going to need supplies, right?”

“Yeah. I ‘spec’ so.”

“Well. . .here’s a stack of money,” and Hellecchino dipped into his back pocket. “I want you to go on over to the real estate office and buy up a strip of land just outside of town. . .like right where the Chisholm Trail bends round to come into town. You buy up the land so it crosses that road. A half mile on either side and 100 yards wide. When you got title, come and find me.”

“Whatcha gonna do with a piddlin’ piece o’ land like that? Can’t hardly build a house on it.”

“Why you gotta keep throwin’ up blockades to success, Buck? We don’t have no need of a devil’s advocate here,” scolded Harriet, putting her hands on her shapely hips.

“I’m only tryin’–”

“You stop tryin’. You’re tryin’ to second guess a hero here. You can’t know what he’s thinkin’.”

“Yeah, but I wanna. Any harm in that?”

“I’ll tell, ya, Buck,” said Hellecchino, putting his hand on Harriet’s left hip hand, “if I tell ya what it is I’m up to, you’ll know too much. If you don’t know why I want a stupid strip of land for, so much the better. But it’s your land, Buck. And you’re already known for being kinda mindless, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, the agent will just put it down to another stupid Buck move and think nothin’ of selling you a useless bit o’ land ’cause his goal is to make money.”

“Y’mean. . .what I don’t know won’t hurt me?”

“In this case, yes. Though it might be more to the point to say what you don’t know won’t hurt me and alot of other folk.”

“Damn! I never knew ignorance could be so useful!”

“Y’don’t know everything, Buck.”

“Goddamn it, Harriet! Why th’ hell you always comin’ down on me?!”

“Come on, Miss Harriet, let’s go for our walk. I’d like to see the cemetery.”

“Which one?”

“There’s more than one?”

“Sure. One for us and one for Yabu’s men and one for the Yabu family.”

“Whatchu wanna go to the cemetery for on yore first date, Hellecchino?”

“‘Cause it’s quiet.”

And with that, Hellecchino steered Harriet down the street and around the corner, despite her quiet insistence that they needed to go the other way. Hellecchino told her, soto voce too, that there was more than one road to take to get somewhere and there was no more arguing. Buck when on to the real estate office, another DIY operation, while McTortle was left in the middle of the street spluttering and turning in circles over nothing getting done to solve the problem of the wall. Finally, he scratched his head and went on home, thinking that some heroes are really weird. . . and perhaps not worth their weight in salt.

Hellecchino, meanwhile, was banking on history. And psychology. How many walls have been built down through history to keep certain kinds of people out? Hadrian’s Wall. Didn’t keep the Picts out. The Great Wall of China. Didn’t keep the Xiangnu and other northern barbarians out. Flodden Wall. Didn’t keep the Brits out. Jericho’s walls. They came tumbling down. The Berlin Wall. This one came tumbling down, too. The Israeli Roadmap to Peace Wall. It was difficult to tell whether this was keeping its own in or out. Prison Wall. Nope. No good. Prisoners still got in. The Southern Border Wall, really a huge electrified barbed wire concentration camp type affair keeping Texans in and Texans out. It weren’t no good neither. So, what was one more wall? Certainly couldn’t be no worse than Frost’s Fence!

Well, Hellecchino had a plan. As all heroes do. It had to do with logistics.

Here are some questions to consider:

1) How’s Yabu going to get his wall built?

2) What’s Hellecchino going to do with Buck’s piece of land?

3) What if Yabu makes a mistake?

4) Does it really matter?

Well. . .a few days later, Buck found Hellecchino and Harriet sitting under a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. And he was waving a piece of paper.

“Hellecchino? Hellecchino?”

“What is it, Buck? Can’t you see I’m busy cementing social relationships?”

“But I got the land. Here’s the title.”

“Good boy. Now go build on it.”

“Build what?”

“A block house. Cinder blocks. A door and two windows.”

“One on either side of the door?”

“Yes. So it looks like a mouth and two eyes.”

“And then what?”

“Move in.”

“But I got a house.”

“This is more than a house, Buck. This is a business. When you’re done with the house, you build a little three foot high pedestal alongside of the road, one on either side of the road, and you get a pole made that’ll fit into the slots you made in the tops of the pedestals. But you don’t use it yet. You keep it behind your house, where the ladder to the top of the house is.”

“What I need a ladder to the top of my house for?”

“Because up there you’re going to build a little garden with a little table and a couple three chairs. Maybe even an umbrella or something.”

“You want me to do all this?”

“Yep. I ‘spect there’ll be lotsa people wanna help a crip do himself up good.”

“I guess so. But. . .I don’t like pretendin’ and whinin’ an’ such.”

“The hell you don’t! Just gowan out’n do what you’re told for once in your life!”

“Now, Harriet, don’t be so hard on the guy,” soothed Hellecchino. “Look,” he turned to Buck, “you want to build this yourself?”

“No.”

“Well, then. . .play on your disability to get all those people who don’t really care about you to help you.”

“You think they will?”

“Anything to get you outa their hair. Besides. They’ll consider it fulfilling a debt to society.”

“Right!”

Buck hobbled off into town.

“What have you got up your sleeve, Hellecchino?”

“Buck owns that strip of land and the road running through it. He’s going to have to control traffic if he’s going to live a quiet life. So. . .once Yabu starts building his wall, Buck sets up a traffic gate and charges toll to get past.”

“So not only does he create a problem for Yabu, he makes a livin’ on his own.” Harriet smiled broadly and then kissed her hero. “My! You’re amazing, Hellecchino. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because you were looking at the wall as a problem for you when, in fact, it’s a problem for Yabu. When people are the centre of attraction, they tend not to be paying attention to the periphery of life.”

“So, what happens next?”

“I think we outa get outa this heat and into some place more private and. . . comfortable.”

Some days later, there was a town meeting held out in the worker’s part of town. To be exact, in the minority meeting hall. Buck and McTortle organized it. Hellecchino was the featured speaker. It was all kind of hush-hush but that really didn’t matter as Yabu and his men stayed out of this section of town. It was considered not a good section of town. Especially not one to get into at night. Even the law stayed out. Although most people saw this as a slap in the face by a big three-fingered prejudiced hand, it was actually a very empowering situation. Hellecchino had a plan.

“Because certain people don’t like you and look down on you and could care less about you, you have power,” Hellecchino began. He was shouted and hooted but he held his place, held up his hand in time and continued on. “Y’all can organize. Y’see. . .these certain kinds of people don’t do the work themselves.” Murmurings of agreement on that, for sure. And then Hellecchino laid out the plan. It was very simple.

First, they hired themselves out, the unemployed or under-employed, which was close to 25% of these kinds of people, to build the wall. Being as there were always rabble rousers and unruly teenagers who liked to destroy things, they were to be enlisted in dismantling part of the wall every night, carefully restacking the blocks and whatnot alongside the wall. This way, it would take literally forever to finish the job. Yabu’d be terribly frustrated and would turn his energies to stopping the delinquency while the workers would be employed and making some kind of living, albeit, if everything when as per usual, not much of a one. But, then, something is better than nothing. . .and there was more to come. When the heat got up, the devilish social reprobate teenagers would cool it down and leave the wall building alone until vigilance became relaxed in the face of no threat and calm–and then they’d strike again. Only this time, they’d dismantle the beginning of the wall. There’d be enough work for everybody.

The next move was to move the shopkeepers’ families up to of their shops if their shops were going to be on the good side of the fence. This would force Yabu into rerouting his wall to exclude those particular shops–or buy them. In this latter instance, the shopkeepers were to bargain for the best price possible and then take the money and run, never to work in that shop again.

A few of the old boys began chuckling over this.

“Soon,” one of them said, “he gonna be needin’ what we got.”

“Exactly,” said Hellecchino. “If you’re on the wrong side of the wall, he isn’t going to get what he wants–”

“Or he gonna hafta rebuild his wall,” said another worker.

“An’ we ain’t gotta work if’n we been bought out,” said another faceless worker.

“An’ he ain’t got no bizniss sense,” shouted out a worker woman in the back of the hall.

“Shit! He kin jest import it,” countered another.

“Buck’s got a tollgate out on the Chisholm Trail. He owns a great stretch of land that the road runs through,” offered Hellecchino.

“Damn man! We set.”

There was a chorus of approval at this point and the evening was brought to an end.

Sometimes, all a hero’s got to do is kind of look at things a little askew.

Social Studies 3

 

Social Studies 3

“Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, teacher,” appropriately answered the class in unison.

“My name is Mr. Kruztashun.” He fiddled with some papers on the little lectern on the table. He did not sit. “Mr. Drumpfelstilzchin is away on business.”

A hand went up in the back. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction and pointed.

“Where’s our usual substitute teacher?”

“Mr. Braunesel has better things to do.” Mr. Kruztashun set his hands firmly on the papers on the lectern. “Today we are–”

“We hate this class,” said a little boy in the far corner. The rest of the class snickered.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about! Hate.” Suddenly the class was quiet, so quiet the windows rattled with the breathing of the students. “This is Social Studies 3, is it not?”

“Yes!” answered the class in unison.

“Well, then! There’s nothing better to talk about in relation to social studies than hate.” Mr. Kruztashun put a hand on his left hip, bent forward from the waist and pointed out over the heads of the students, a good teacherly thing to do, for it kind of included everyone. “What do you hate?”

A great intake of breath in the classroom. They’d never been asked about this before. They’d been told that hate was bad and not to be disseminated out in public–and surely not toward parents, the greatest thing in the world to hate.

“I hate niggers.”

“I hate spicks.”

“I hate camel jockeys.”

“I hate girls.”

“I hate rich people.”

“I hate poor people.”

“I hate smarty pants.”

“I hate chinks.”

“And gooks.”

“And nips.”

“Injuns!”

“I. . .hate. . .parents!”

The class erupted into tremors of chaos. Girls and boys were shouting and laughing and generally whooping it up. Mr. Kruztashun did nothing to quell the uprising. After all, getting people, even little people, enthusiastic and involved was part of teaching. Only when you’ve got them on your side, as it were, interested in what you were teaching, could you succeed in teaching them the right stuff.

When the class settled down somewhat, Mr. Kruztashun put up his hand. “Wow! We’re doing so good! You hate a lot.”

The same hand that shot up at the beginning of class shot up again. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction again.

“Hate is good?”

“You betcha. Before you can do anything about it, you have to get it out in the open. Then you can do something with it.”

“Like what?” asked a tow-headed little girl in the front row.

“Well. . .what happens when you hate?”

“You get left alone?”

“Right. And what’s the big word for being left alone?”

“We don’t know any big words, Mr. Kruztashun.”

“Well! Would you like to learn one?”

“Yes!” from the now enthusiastic class.

“Okay. Here it is. . .isolation.”

“Isolation,” the good students parroted.

“Right. Isolation. You hate it when people don’t leave you alone, don’t you?”

“Yes!”

These kids were good, Mr. Kruztashun thought. “So, that hate makes them leave you alone, right?”

“Yeah. We get sent to our rooms.” Lots of murmuring agreement.

“And you hate that, right?”

“But,” Mr. Kruztashun held up a knotty knuckled index finger, “when that happens and you are isolated, there are no more hateful people with you. They are all outside. Right?”

“Yes!”

“You are isolated.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “And inside.”

“Yes!”

“What do you do when you’re left alone?”

“Masturbate,” said a little boy at the far end of the front row.

Everyone else snickered and giggled and held their breaths. To say such a thing in public! To say it in the classroom! What was Johnny thinking?

“Exactly!’ Shouted Mr. Kruztashun. “You win the prize.”

“What prize is that?” A smiley face? A star? A gold sunburst?

“You get to feel good!” Quiet reigned. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

Half-hearted assent.

“Sir?” a little blonde girl put her hand up. “You mean it’s okay to feel good when you. . .masturbate?”

“Of course it’s okay.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then. How can that be bad?”

Lots of mumbling and rumbling and giggling.

“So!” Mr. Kruztashun brought the class round to him. “When you hate, you are isolated, right?”

“Yes.”

“And that’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes!”

“And it makes you feel good that all that you hate is outside, right?”

“Yes!”

“So, now you can hate all you want in your isolation, right?”

“Yes!”

“What better kind of place could you live in?”

“None!”

Yes!” Mr. Kruztashun wiped the wetness from his lips. “Now. You’re left alone.”

“Yes.”

“And you can hate to your heart’s content.”

“Yes.”

“That’s like masturbating til your hand hurts.”

“And you’re all sticky!”

“Ee-yew, Johnny! You’re dizgusting.” shouted a group of girls in the middle of things.

“What do you care?”

“Yeah!” shouted another antagonistic boy. “What happens when you tickle your moose?”

The class erupted in joyous laughter and taunting.

“I bet you wet your pants,” said a shy little boy.

“I want to watch.”

“Well!” said Mr. Kruztashun, clearing his throat. “When you’re isolated, you can watch because everyone’s masturbating.”

“Cool beans, Mr. Kruztashun,” said Johnny. “You’re the best teacher ever.”

“Oh, thank you, Johnny!” Mr. Kruztashun tried hard to blush but only got his eye lashes to flash up and down. He had short eye lashes, too. “Well! So. You’re isolated. What else can you say about it?”

“Nobody bothers you.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to pay attention to what anybody else says.”

“Right. You don’t have to share.”

“Yeah. And you don’t have to do things like other people do.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to share!”

“Exactly! You’re your own boss. You don’t have to trade with those others.”

“Trade?”

“Yup. Like, I’ll give you this and you give me that.”

“Does that mean, Mr. Kruztashun, that, like, I can, uhhm, wear things that are mine?”

“You mean, like things that are only made by you?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes. Only things made by you, for you.”

“Like. . .no Chinese stuff?”

“Right.”

“No Japanese stuff.”

“No German stuff.”

“No Mexican stuff.”

“And no African stuff.”

“That’s right. Only American stuff.”

“Then we’ll know it’s good, right?”

“Right.” Mr. Kruztashun rubbed his hands together. “Boy! You guys are great.”

“Yeah!” shouted one girl. “We can do what we want! We can do for ourselves. And we can keep it all for ourselves.”

“Masturba-aaation!” shouted little Johnny. “Uhn! Uhn! Uhn!”

“Yes. And. . .what happens when you’re isolated and everything is for you and by your and you don’t want or need anyone else and your masturbating to your heart’s content?”

The bell rang just as the kids raised their hands, clamoring to be the one with the answer.

“Oops! Looks like we’ll have to wait for next time to talk about stagnation.”

“What’s stagnation?”

“Time’s up. We’ll talk about that next time.” Mr. Kruztashun opened the door and held it for everyone. “See you next time, guys,” he said as all the students filed out. “You’re the greatest.”

“Hate!” said one boy, giving Mr. Kruztashun a high five.

“Isolation!” said another.

“Masturbation!”

“We’re the best!”

“It’s my land.”

“Right. Hey! See you next time.”

 

© James L. Secor, 2017

Justice Matters My Ass

Justice Matters My Ass

by James L. Secor, Ph.D. & Minna vander Pfaltz

“If we consider the purity of the Christian religion, the sanctity of its moral precepts, and the innocent as well as austere lives of the greater number of those who during the first ages embraced the faith of the Gospel, we should naturally suppose that so benevolent a doctrine” would have filled and comforted us with due reverence and that its works would shine, strengthening the imperative of justice, thus making a city where such justice “rolls down like a mighty river”–and what better place than the arrogant little town of Lawrence, Kansas, albeit in the name of the world.[1]

And so it is that Justice Matters, a conglomerate of myriad Christian denominations purporting psychological knowledge, has set about solving the mental health crisis in, first, Lawrence and Douglas County, and then purportedly the nation. Justice Matters believes that the Christian way knows the right way to solve psychological suffering. Indeed, Christianity believes it has the answer to every sort of suffering. A befitting arrogance, as Justice Matters considers itself a Nehemiah action.

Nehemiah was a builder–a re-builder. It is believed that he rebuilt the walls of Israel but, in fact, he only rebuilt the walls of the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judea (capital at Jerusalem). Apparently, the northern kingdom of Israel was somehow not worthy of consideration.

A great man? Perhaps. But he was arrogant and boastful: “I beseech thee, O Lord, let thy ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant. . .and give him mercy. . . .” The Book of Nehemias I:ii. “The hand of my god was good with me,” II:18. “Remember me, O my God, for good according to all I have done for this people,” III:19. “Remember me, O my God. . .and wipe not out my kindnesses, which I have done. . .,” XIII:14.[2]

The more so arrogant because he was eunochus and not oinochoos (cup-bearer). A later re-interpretation saw eunuch as not so highly thought of? Within the text itself we have proof he was, though: 1) he appeared in the presence of the Queen, not to be done if he’d been a “real” man; and 2) he would not, without great rationalizations–especially to his heroic status–cross over the temple threshold which, as eunuch, he could not cross over. A taboo that even the possibility of death could not override.

Ergo, the Justice Matters leaders fit their Nehemiah namesake for arrogance: religious leaders expecting God to praise them for their doings. But Justice Matters’ arrogance is worse, for while Nehemiah knew what he was doing, Justice Matters is pretending to knowledge it does not have. The religious organizers know not the psychology of mental illness but pretend to. And they pretend to help while they are not the least interested in admitting to their number, much less listening to, the mentally ill or the social activist. Why? Justice Matters knows better, that’s why. Über-arrogance.

But the situation is considerably more tarnished and twisted. For this, the Justice Matters people are in denial, denial of their Janus-faced behavior, in denial that they do not know psychiatry and mental illness and organic brain disease and in denial that the mentally ill are not helpless and do not know themselves. The Justice Matters people believe they have the answer while propagating the old and conventional belief in hospitalization, belief in isolation and separation–and medication. They even use the nomenclature of incurable illness that is, in fact, old hat and, in the rest of the western world, has been found to be inappropriate.

This attitude is unsupported by science and empirical evidence, unsupported by the Hearing Voices Networks and the alternative methods so popular and successful in Europe; unsupported by the personal testimony of the “sufferers” themselves. “Sufferers”? Only in that psychiatry and society has made them suffer in their ignorance, for neither listen.

Justice Matters is correct–by jumping on the bandwagon–that jail/prison is not the best or appropriate place for the mentally aberrant; aside from lack of knowledge and treatment, criminalizing “mental illness” equals no treatment outside of abuse. Something more and better is, indeed, needed.

Otherwise, Justice Matters is not the least bit interested in making their professed belief in what needs to be done happen. There is no plan of action. For, with their very successful fundraising drives, nothing has been done with the money raised. Nothing at all. As the money raised by donation to a religious organization, there is no accounting. No taxation. Where is it going? Certainly not to the realization of their vision.

“We’d like to get concrete expectations on where we’re moving,” says Ben MacConnell, an organizer for Justice Matters. Doesn’t he already know? This is akin to a general going into battle without any plans to fight.

“Our scriptures speak of a powerful, loving God when matters of justice arise. So, let us go upstream–as one body–and trust in God to help along the way” (Justice Matters website). So, they really have no plan, only God. And. . .if God’s away on business? Then what? “St. Peter don’t call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store”?

There seems to be no innocence of motive here. Moral precepts are sidelined in the push to appear great in the eyes of their God and the world. Look at me! Look at me! So very Nehemiahan: remember me and bless me for I am good, full of good intention. Halleluiah! The humanity necessary to support and succor the poor and homeless, the disabled and mentally ill has all but been squeezed out of existence leaving an empty, rotting shell.

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic.
She has you right by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk
inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.[3]

There is no more purity and benevolence left in religion. The truth of this assertion billows into a black and boggy Garden of clinging choking vines nursed by Christians’ practice of intolerance and hatred and a love of war and their demand to discriminate and refuse to serve those who don’t fit their brand of righteousness, of their social Darwinian precepts. So much cruelty and violence–abuse–is meted out these days, rationalized by citation to the holy book, rationalizations that are, in fact, not there. The Christians are lying to themselves as they lie about the world and lie to the world in order to get. . .what? What is the pay-off? Simply to get ahead? To earn indulgences so to sit on the right hand of God? Nehemiah arrogance to be sure.

Theocracies are ever of this ilk.

In an abusive society, no one is truly interested in helping (Cf. R.D. Laing). Abusers have lost all sense of proportion and all innocence; there is no austerity to their lives, which would give them some sort of compassion. As others in need are found wanting, so the religionists themselves are wanting. Better to talk and paint exquisite pictures than to engage in practicing the espoused higher virtue of their way, The Way, while they wonder, loudly, how it is the world has become such a horrible, gruesome place; for with people of such worthiness as themselves abounding, it is inconceivable that we are living in the end times.

Since Christians are doing nothing and, of course, since nothing is happening, everyone must pray. A pray festival–with donation–is the answer, a vital need. Cry out unto the Lord!

Praying is too slow. And Portugal is too small and too far away. . .and not American.

Justice no longer means or involves transformation. It is now all about feelings of satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing profound. No transcendence. Just me and my ideas. Me and my survival. Legally, any more, justice means vengeance with laws built around someone’s disgust and shaming. It is also about hiding facets of civilization that are disturbing to have around for their evidence of society’s inhumanity to man.

Before continuing let us remember a few things:

  1. He who can name the way does not know the way; and
  2. Beware the do-gooder; and perhaps
  3. The way to success is to correct oneself.

One could, at this point, add, “alas and alack.” For wisdom does not seem to be part of the Christian canon. Not to be wondered at as none of the wisdom writings of Christianity were included in their New Testament. None. That is to say, they–the Wisdom Writings–are non-existent but in the Old Testament where we find a warning of the self-proclaimed wise: “Let us therefore wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and devulgeth against us the sins of our way of life” (Wisdom II:xii, in which the self-proclaimed wise are upbraided). And “He boasteth that he hath knowledge” (Wisdom II:xiii). Ignorance is vain reckoning. And yet again, “He that rejecteth wisdom. . .their hope is vain, and their labours without fruit, and their works unprofitable” (Wisdom III:ii, in which the truly wise are extolled).

Other than “become not unwise” (Ephesians V:xvii), look to the Nag Hammadi and you shall see the wisdom books, considerably more “books” (45) than make up the New Testament.

“Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance” (Proverbs XIX:2) because “I would not have you ignorant” (Romans I:xiii). Perhaps Justice Matters should heed the question put to Job: “Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?” (Job XXXVIII:ii).

Why do I say Justice Matters is ignorant? Again, they do not wish the so-called mentally ill in their organization; nor do they read anything other than the accepted status quo diagnoses and treatments and, therefore, have no knowledge that hospitalization and drugging are not the best or most productive of treatment methods. Justice Matters is stuck in 19th century mode. Perhaps they should read history and the horrors of 20th century hospitals. Perhaps they should heed the words of the knowledgeable, the “mentally ill.” Willful ignorance is a sin against God.

Romans I:xiii, “We would not have you ignorant.”

Thus it is that these people with a belief system and their leaders with degrees in Divinity–a devilish conundrum–have no knowledge of psychology or of mental illness yet believe they do because God is on their side and they have a desire to do good. I wonder. . .does this mean their belief is that people are mentally ill due to disbelief in their creed? And that, as of old, the heathen, pagan disbelievers who are (obviously) mentally ill must be isolated from the rest of Mankind and drugged into the oblivion all non-Christians are deserving of for fear of contamination?

Most telling–and without damning commentary–is Justice Matters’ lack of knowledge of modern, more humane approaches being applied outside the US, including a non-illness approach; after all, the organic brain disease approach was a diagnosis of Emil Kraepelin, from the late 19th century; and it is known that a major component of mental illness is socio-cultural: quite simply, if you take away the anxieties, you ameliorate many of the symptoms. Then, one must deal with handling the problem, which is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Peer-to-peer gives more applicable and useful options. Perhaps, though, reading is not a thing the Justice Matters ministers do, despite their religion’s reliance on humanity and human rights.

These more humane and more successful means of treating “the mentally ill” are not obscure or hard to find. In fact, as research goes, discovering this information is all but effortless: it’s on the Internet, to begin with.

The oldest involves the people of Geel, Belgium, from the Middle Ages where the mentally ill were given a home and work and the mental illness symptomology decreased, even disappeared.

There is the vast–except in the US–Hearing Voices Network, one of several peer-run approaches that are accepted in the health insurance industry of other countries. Peers: no doctors, no nurses, no social workers, no family or friends. By, for and of the people who hear voices. Or, for that, matter any other “mental illness” sufferer–including those who have liberated themselves from the system to find a real life. How many artists have ended their lives secondary to in-hospital treatment, especially that horror known as ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy, aka Electro-shock Therapy). For more on artists see Kaye Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire.

But, again, reading about mental illness does not appear to be high on the list of Justice Matters’ things to do. Perhaps I ask too much (Cf. Romans I-xiii). “We” In this moment means the mentally ill. To not listen to these people is to continue the practice of modern-day psychiatrists who also do not listen, just hand out drugs like good pushers. “God damn the pusherman,” sings a popular rock band. Why? Because the pusherman doesn’t give a damn what the drugs do to you, as long as he gets his money. Are not these psychiatrists akin to the money changers in the temple? The temple of the mind.

The Norwegian approach that does not use drugs–unless the individual wants–and then at the level each person finds comfortable. (Cf. Robert Whitaker, The Door to a Revolution in Psychiatry Cracks Open.) This self-assessment is important, for the Big PHRMA-set therapeutic levels are often enough inappropriate. Often, the side-effects to anti-psychotics and anti-depressants are passed off as “just what you have to put up with.” Drooling, involuntary mouth and tongue movements, problems swallowing, dull affect, inability to think or speak, agitation that never abates and has, itself, a diagnosis (akathisia). And the therapeutic level can itself be an overdose, as with Lithium (LiCO3). Overdose of Lithium results in behavior and symptoms similar to those of a stroke, called encephalopathy–and occurs at “therapeutic level” in some people. The sooner caught and treated–cessation of Lithium–the better. Sometimes, these people go on to suffer TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack; colloquially, a small stroke). If a less than “therapeutic level” works to control symptoms, it’s good, Big-PHRMA be damned. But psychiatrists prefer the dogma.

Look, too, to the Finnish.

How much better if doctors listened to patients who say, “Oh, yes. This is enough.” But US psychiatrists–and Justice Matters, as already noted–don’t listen to the mentally ill; they simply administer drugs and then damn as non-compliant the imposed-upon individual who won’t take the drugs due to effects and/or side-effects. Some of these nut cases are told it’s all in their head. (Oh, the irony!) And hospitalization, wanted or not. This is the wrong way to deal with the problem. This is hiding it and attempting to make it go away, as with the homeless people, as embarrassment to the abuses of modern civilization.

Imposing isolation and drugs on people is unconstitutional: it is a restriction of freedom.[4] In the House of Representatives, there is a man who has attempted over several years to have a bill passed into law that would require forced hospitalization, drugging and other treatments for anyone with a mental illness diagnosis. His name is Murphy. The House has passed his bills; the Senate, the lawmakers, has not. If passed, there would be no artists of any kind on the streets, on the stage, in the movies. Truly a Murphy’s Law.[5] What a dull, second-rate society we’d live in. . .and one mirroring a Fascist state: utilitarian and intolerant.

Justice Matters utilizes diagnoses found in the DSM-V, a diagnosis by committee booklet that medicalizes everything that is not considered normal–even women who cannot achieve orgasm are mentally ill, according to this book. This book is the only way to get symptoms covered by the health insurance industry. It is extremely unpopular amongst practitioners: “In recent years, clinicians and researchers have started to question the very diagnostic paradigm that once gave them so much hope. Mounting scientific evidence has indicated that DSM– and ICD-based categories do not reflect patterns of mental distress found in both clinical and general populations.” Indeed, it is generally thought that there are “built-in assumptions of homogeneity within diagnoses, purported to occur as a singular, one-size-fits-all process [that] leave[s] no room for the heterogeneous reality of mental health experiences” and result in “the pathologizing of sociopolitical deviance.” This is what the DSM-V is all about.[6] (Aside from money.) The health insurance industry in the US is, “If you can’t afford it, you deserve to die” and mental illness is all but dis-included as unworthy even of the limited coverage given to the physically ill, despite the ties the mind has to the body.

Who, then, it seems to be right to ask, is the true mentally ill person?

The mental set of Justice Matters is old hat and not fully accepted within the psychiatric field. Justice Matters approaches the situation from one of disease, indeed, incurable disease. This is just not so, for there are times–often years–when symptoms are not present. The disease model sees this as “remission”; the human (humane?) model sees it as normalcy because the symptoms of mental illness are not continuous forever and ever diseases, aka organic brain disorders, or permanent and irreversible chemical imbalances. Nothing in the brain is static. Indeed, the mind, the mentality affect of the brain, is not the brain. Science doesn’t know where it is, much less what it is. Which would make mental illness an undefined unknown.

Mental hospitals were done away with because of their ineffectiveness, abuse and even worsening of the mental situation. The replacement was supposed to be local acute care clinics. Not one state in the US bothered to institute such clinics. The “mentally ill” were left to wander the streets; to be arrested and jailed. Though Justice Matters notes it is interested in acute care clinics, the organization has done nothing to help bring this about, despite the money collected in one fund raiser after another. Ergo, Justice Matters isn’t interested at all in the mentally ill other than as a means of enriching its “leaders” and making its constituents feel good about themselves for becoming involved in some kind of human interest do-gooding.

Why?

If Justice Matters were serious about what it says it wants to do and if Justice Matters was in touch with what’s going on in the city, they’d know there is a place for establishment of an acute care clinic. But Justice Matters is out of touch with reality and more interested in face and money. That is, they chose a social action that turned out not to be easily attained nor easily understood. Justice Matters entered the fray in ignorance and has continued in ignorance, perhaps believing their God-given desire is all that’s necessary. Yet, Proverbs XIX:iii has it that “Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance.”

[1] Quotes are from Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the Justice Matters website.

[2] The Holy Bible, John Murry & Co., publisher, 1891.

[3] The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks.

[4] Cf. the Fourth Amendment. Quarantine is a different matter.

[5] Manic-depression occurs eight times as often in artists than in the general population. Indeed, it was once known as “the artist’s disease.” And it has a genetic component. Nowadays, under the rubric of Bipolar I or II, it is a diagnosis for anyone who has mood problems, including those with severe anxiety problems and borderline personality people, genetics be damned. But the confusion is good for the psychiatric pocket book.

[6] Although the quotes from this article, “Psychologists Push Back on Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual” can be found variously on the Internet, it first appeared in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and alongside another article looking at alternatives in The Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

Following a False Creed

Following a False Creed

by James L. Secor

The Bible. An etched in stone document of collected stories and teachings taken as the statement of Christian values. Invaluable. Incontrovertible. Inviolable. And fake. A predigested by “prelates” conglomeration of pre-Christian doctrine, i.e. excerpts from both the Tanach, and apparent Jesus doctrinal writings and the ancient Greeks, the pre-Socratics like Protagoras. Excerpts that became the accepted codus, the raison d’etre of itself.

The Bible is not infallible because it was codified with malice aforethought over several centuries until the final form was made up in the fourth century. Malice? Most assuredly. It was built up by people who wanted power and control, people who detested the esoteric doctrines by those known today as the Gnostics, that is, the early Christians. Their system having no organized edifice, these doctrines were considered by the organized church–initially, Irenaeus–as heretical. (Many of the beliefs of these and later heresies have made their way into the canon, interestingly enough.) So infused with self-worth and arrogance were these holy men with only the good of mankind in their minds and behavior (rationalized) that they managed, much like modern day communists and fundamentalists, to burn the library at Alexandria and murder the greatest philosopher and intellectual to come about since hallowed ancient Greece, Hipatia, and make it look like the work of a mindless mob. Though perhaps her greatest sin was that she was a woman, a woman better than most men.

The bible is a series of diverse documents that were organized and reorganized–as with John and Revelations–to suit the needs of men but is not a godly or holy book. Many writings were not included because they didn’t fit with these power hungry men’s ideas of what ought to be believed and worshiped. They wished to be edifices and it would seem they have succeeded. Which makes it odd that The Didache was not included, as The Didache is basically a set of step-by-step instructions for the Christian life: how to apply the commandments of God and the sacraments. To have had these rules included would have prevented some of the schisms and spilled blood of later history. Almost all of the ideas of those heretics are now included in the Christian church dogma, gaining ground by coming in through the back door.

The Gnostics, via this codification, were more or less defeated in keeping themselves alive because how can you have an organized edifice for–for lack of a better term– enlightenment? Enlightenment, self-discovery, is personal and may not accord with doctrine or dogma. In fact, it cannot be expected to. Doctrine and dogma are delimiting. Enlightenment goes beyond limits because it knows no barrier to knowledge. But because there is no apparent organization, no structure or how-to in gaining this godly vision, it is inaccessible to Everyman–at least to begin with. But without a step-by-step guide or a preconceived end. . .

So. . .the Bible, understandable by Everyman. The most read book in the world, it seems, at 4 billion copies. Not a book of God. Rather a book of men that everyone calls the book of God because they say it is so. A book that strove not only to fight off the heretics and the Gnostics, but a book driven to establish consistency in belief. The synoptic gospels all have a passion narrative, though without the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Peter is the only telling of the rise from the dead of Jesus. And he didn’t believe it at the time. How is it, then, that a traitor to the cause became The Rock of the Church and Faith?

The Bible. An amazing 4 billion copies. Of which version? The Western? The Eastern? The Anglican? The Protestant?

The original idea of the codifiers was to limit what people read and heard and, therefore, believed. All for control, for that one idea of Christianity first propounded by Irenaeus. Power and control. And you can bet that anyone who is interested in controlling you is going to lie to you. How did the Bishops lie? By including only those texts they wanted read, texts that fed their idea of what ought to be believed; and by establishing a creed of the right way to think. The organizers put Christianity in a very narrow box.

Heresy? Possibly hearsay.

There are several different versions of Genesis corresponding to self-assessment in the historical record of how the Jews sought to define themselves. But the version accepted by the Bishops and Tertullian, taken from the Masoretic Text of the Jews, is labeled “j.” What of the other versions? Regardless of the many versions, the Bishops chose to use only this one, giving followers one particular beginning. One of the other versions, involving Lilith, would, of course, have been seen as heresy of the worst sort. Somehow or other Lilith has come out into the light. But while everyone else notes this, the Christian hegemon turns a blind eye.

With the canon itself there are, nevertheless, problems, especially noteworthy as Christians take their belief-ancestry from the Jews. Not to be wondered at, as Jesus was a Jew. How many lies are there in that heritage? To begin with, there were never any Jews in slavery to the Egyptians. They were highly thought of for their financial acumen. There were no slaves to build the Pyramids. This historical fact throws a wrench in the belief system of the Literalists who choose to deny it. Halleluiah!

But it gets “worse.” In the first century record there is only one mention of the Jews–by an Egyptian merchant, in passing. Israel is not mentioned at all by Herodotus. Ergo, Israel was not a great nation at all, just a little settlement in southern Palestine with which the Egyptians traded en passant.

Why III Kings is not included in most versions of the Bible is a mystery, as it deals with Elijah’s prophesies while in the Babylonian exile. As if to say, only the Jews were held captive while, in fact, the Babylonians overran the entirety of Palestine (Phoenecia to the Greeks). Whyever would they have taken only the Jews? And the flood story was lifted from a much, much earlier work, now found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian legend of a man searching for the key to life (and immortality) as encrypted in stone during the days of Babylonia. Pity the Jews lifted only the flood. The flood story exists in all other peoples’ cultures too, its universality speaking to something far greater than a cleansing of the Jews, God’s chosen, the Christian ancestral horde (that failed).

Could it be the Bible should be looked at metaphorically? Far more meaningful, since metaphor bespeaks a broad picture and multiple possibilities. Which is a problem for people who want control and power: there must be one story, one belief, one way to think. A horrible problems exists, though, when the church fathers metaphorize The Song of Solomon, a beautiful, evocative love song of sex and arousal: pomegranate breasts metaphor for God’s love? If so, that would mean God is female. Heaven forbid! Which raises the question of why this bit is included in the bible to begin with. Maybe the Bishops found it arousing and could not let it go? Most assuredly they had run into naked breasts and brown skin, no? But sexual arousal as a metaphor for getting to God? I think not, especially as the body was evil and sex was beyond evil.

Which leads to. . .why only this book as a metaphor out of 66 books? (Six is a superstitiously important number, as are three and seven–all found as important in the Bible. A point that raises questions about further superstitions, such as magic and transmogrification.)

Other stories within the Bible that are just not historically, culturally true include Esther. There is absolutely no way that a king would consider a commoner, especially an outcast commoner, as beautiful or worth sleeping with. Esther would have been considered untouchable. Or Jonah. Jonah and his whale is a sham. The story is an excuse for not getting to his destination in time–he never wanted to go to begin with. The story of Jonah is a satire, illustrating how people will believe anything, even heresy, if it’s dressed up enough. Jonah never gets to God’s message, the reason for his journey; but people down through the ages continue believing in his wacky tale. A whale in the Mediterranean? Duh! The book says “a big fish.”

These obfuscations are from the Old Testament. Preaching from the OT is important because of the kind of God therein: a vengeful, angry, punitive, abusive God who is not averse to blackmail: you either do this or I will hurt you. Usually by sending an enemy to annihilate you or bring some kind of natural disaster or plague down on you. In fact, after giving mankind–the chosen mankind, the rest of the world be damned, which has been the way down through Christian history–after giving the Jews (mankind) the Ten Commandments, God proceeds to break all of them, asking his chosen to join in with him in his depredations. God is obsessed with war, rapine and genocide. He even–to beget Christianity–engages in rape to get an offspring, very much in the manner of Zeus, virgins being so naïve and gullible. And probably luscious.

And now we have the New Testament. Why is this “new”? Let’s be literal here: it’s a new testament because the God of Jesus is a loving God. Most certainly a new view of God, considering the OT! The problem for me here is, why is it Christian churches preach from the OT rather than the NT and call themselves Christian? Jesus repudiated this old knowledge base. Any NT quotations are chosen so they seem to support the OT pronouncements.

Thus, for instance, war is good and godly when, in fact, according to Jesus and those writing about him, war is anathema. It might also be that there is so little to choose from given the tiny number of Jesus writings included in the NT when there were innumerable other writings available: did you know there were nine epistles to the churches and people by Paul and two by Peter, along with his Gospel describing Jesus’ rising from the dead and the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Pre-Markian Passion Gospel and The Apocalypse of Peter? All speak to a broader teaching and belief system, one that is more interested in Jesus’ message and teaching than his dying for us (a god-awful guilt to have to carry around). But they are not part of the canon.

Even more to the point, the second coming has already occurred–and it is, as it were, well-documented. Jesus came first via birth and a second time when he rose from the dead. Oops! Modern believers are Doubting Thomases and Peters? The second coming is your own, as in “you must die to yourself.” And Jesus is still waiting for it. Most of the modern born again lot are no such thing: no über-knowledge, no enlightenment, no release from everyday suffering and burden. Only their selves re-framed. Zen Buddhists speak ill of this. So did Jesus in the secret closet metaphor in Matthew–and probably in the Gospel of Thomas or The Signs Gospel (or Q–hinted at in the synoptic gospels but never found) or the Dialogue of the Savior. How illustrative would be a dialogue! Thoughts and images in motion.

But, again, the accepted NT books were chosen because the Bishops did not want to sully their belief system; nor did they like what these other writers had so say; nor did they like esoteric teachings bespeaking both individual knowledge and understanding, and knowledge and understanding beyond doctrine and dogma.

These other texts, Gospels, are known today as Gnostic Gospels. Among them are the Gospel According to Mary (Magdalene), the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Matthias, the Gospel of Perfection, the Gospel of the Seventy, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Gospel of the Twelve, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of Bartholomew, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Eve and the Gospel according to Judas (fragmentary).

The Gospel according to Judas is damned. It is not to be read. It is heresy, maybe even a fake (it is not). The Gospel according to Judas, shows Jesus with a sense of humor and a far more far-reaching, cosmic vision than is given in the accepted Gospels. And a much more cynical, realist Jesus. It shows Judas in a much more human light. Judas is chosen because he is the thirteenth Apostle, because he is outcast, because he is the only Apostle who understands. Jesus knew that his death was necessary and he knew Judas was the only one who understood and could be counted on. Judas played his role and then killed himself.

Mary Magdelene was the only one to recognize the risen Christ. It is recorded she saw him first but, because she was woman, she could not be first before a man. So, she was completely written off. The doubters were left in place.

Wait a minute! Judas the thirteenth Apostle? In the painting of the last supper–a supper no different than any before–there are only 12 people, not including Jesus. Where is Judas? Indeed, where is Mary Magdalene? Most notable in the former; to be expected in the latter, as women were not, in that society and time, included in much of anything. Things have changed since then, though many believe that what was considered de rigueur 2000 years ago should still de rigueur today.

Having a belief is good and the Christian ethical base is noteworthy, albeit few truly follow it; but to maintain that a man made, pre-conceived book that purposely did not include writings extolling the entirety of Christian thinking is the holy book is foolish. It is a false creed.

What Is This Bullshit!

What is this bullshit?!

The US radicalizes Muslims years into the future after they’ve come to the US?

This assumes that there is no radicalization in the Middle East to begin with. Let’s not even bother that these US radicalized Muslims were children when they arrived in the land of the free, home of the brave.

This assumes that these radicalized Muslims attack, in a terrorist manner, the US. Which does not–has not–happened. If they go elsewhere, who knows who the fuck they are or what the fuck they do? It all comes down to hearsay, oui dit.

What is this bullshit?!

The US radicalizes Muslims years into the future after they’ve come to the US?

This assumes that there is no radicalization in the Middle East to begin with. Let’s not even bother that these US radicalized Muslims were children when they arrived in the land of the free, home of the brave.

This assumes that these radicalized Muslims attack, in a terrorist manner, the US. Which does not–has not–happened. If they go elsewhere, who knows who the fuck they are or what the fuck they do? It all comes down to hearsay, oui dit. After all, this picture is not real but we believed it to be. This is not a partial picture of Saddam Hussein. And it is not part of the papers these children are retrieving. Even the shadow of its placement is wrong!

This assumes that there is something wrong with the US. No one in the media is seeing this. No one questions this radicalization, whatever the hell that is. No one questions the iniquities of the US that would lead to radical behavior. . .even though radical behavior has been around for many years. Shall we say, since the Suffragettes? That’s, like, a century, man.

What kind of bullshit is this?

Perhaps not. US citizens are, in fact, radicalized daily, though most of us are nonviolent; a few who have become radicalized in its present day sense–whatever the hell that is!–have become terribly violent, involving themselves in mass killing. The US tries to deny a sociocultural problem by blaming the mentally ill, despite evidence to the contrary. And, yet, there have been religious men–the Berrigans –and Indians and protesters since the 60s who have gone to jail for their radical ideas.

I would have to think that, even via denial, the media, especially the visual media, are in collusion to hide the fact that the US is a fucking sociocultural mess. Racist, classist, Social Darwinist, ideologicalist. . .how many more “ists”?

This, even in the face of fundamentalism and anti-government types crying out for the violation of our precious founding fathers’ ideas and beliefs, i.e. the Constitution.

In fact, we cannot radicalize anyone but our own.

To maintain that social programs and tolerance and togetherness will solve the problem is engaging in chasing the Heffalump. Bullshit. More bullshit. As if we only know bullshit. Bullshit denial. Cliché bullshit.

The problem is the socioculture of the US. We are fucking ourselves. And, since no one is doing diddly about it, we must enjoy it. Pooh and Piglet went round and round the pit hunting the Heffalump many times before they realized they were following their own footprints. Such a silly bear of little brain.

We may want to believe in the Velveteen Rabbit but he, in fact, does not exist. He is not, however, a figment of our imaginations. He is just the delusion of the overly optimistic, the Pollyannaists.

To say, too, that the US radicalizes people from the Middle East is to say we are making our own problems. A truism extraordinaire. Because if we didn’t have problems we wouldn’t be real, we wouldn’t be human–despite utopian thinking and needs. So, we gotsta make it up.

So, really, what the fuck is radicalization? And why is it only the US radicalizes? I mean, we have the arrogant bigoted Bill Maher to lead us onward, we don’t need to imagine anything on our own, yellow grass notwithstanding. Yellow grass and high quality dried green grass.

Let us appeal to Rumi:

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic.

She has you right by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk
inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.

“An Empty Garlic” trans. Coleman Barks

Radicalization comes from the US. Well, if so, someone in the US needs to question radicalization and this radicalization bullshit. People need to wonder why it is it the US can only accomplish negativity. . .and the surreality of War is Peace, which we promote in the Middle East under the guise of “We bring you Democracy,” i.e. our version of authoritarianism and balance (in our favor). The true radicalization we create is in our invaded countries, not here in the US.

Why does everyone accept, even the news media, especially the visual news media, that radicalization of foreigners happens here, in the US?

Is nobody fucking thinking?!

I know. A stupid question. Look what we elected?

No one questions the iniquities of the US that would lead to radical behavior. . .even though radical behavior has been around for many years. Shall we say, since the Suffragettes? That’s, like, a century, man.

What kind of bullshit is this?

Perhaps not. US citizens are, in fact, radicalized daily, resulting in mass killing. The US tries to deny a sociocultural problem by blaming the mentally ill, despite evidence to the contrary.

The problem is the socioculture of the US. We are fucking ourselves.

Why does everyone accept, even the news media, especially the visual news media, that radicalization of foreigners happens here, in the US?

Is nobody fucking thinking?!

I know. A stupid question. Look what we elected?

 

(c) James L. Secor, 2017

 

 

What Have We Got So Far

What Have We Got So Far

by Minna vander Pfaltz

  1. A President the Chinese call “The Clown in the White House.”
  2. A man who, indeed, does know words but not many of them and not much knowledge of grammar. Proof positive that privatized education is somehow wanting?
  3. A man who has no humor and does not understand humor yet, however, can make the press and other officials laugh.
  4. Stories of Chaos.
  5. Behind the scenes, we now once again have coal slag being dumped into our rivers.
  6. The House passed these three bills: HR 424 Removes Grey Wolves from the endangered species list and removes protections of the Yellowstone Habitat. And HR 717 Alters the Endangered Species Act of 1974 to allow Dept. of the Interior and Dept. of Commerce to deny endangered species status to a species if protecting them and their habitat would impact the economy. And HR 69 Repeals restrictions on recreational hunting of prey animals in Alaska wildlife refuges. All will now go to the nefarious-minded Senate full of Republican ideologues who will rubber stamp them before The Donald rubber stamps them.
  7. Treason. Traitorousness. So much penetration by the Russians into the US political and intelligence systems that it makes our intelligence not porous but sieve-like.
  8. A president who proves again and again that he lives a life of denial and is delusional.
  9. A president who lies so much it is impossible to figure out what he’s talking about when he says words. An “unreliable narrator”?
  10. A president who likes muchly the destructive nature of nuclear bombs–and wants more.
  11. A president who is in violation of the Constitution and the Laws of the land;

11a. A Senate full of Republicans who are not only frightened but ideologues intent  on remaining loyal to the Republican ideal while letting the country slide into the crevice.

  1. A Senate Oversight Committee that is, indeed, overlooking just about everything.
  2. A Duke Political Science major, son of a Jew who sounds like Hitler’s speech writer and policy maker. Goebbels becomes Gobbles.
  3. A president who makes decisions at the dinner table where everyone can overhear him and everyone is taking pictures and posting them on line yet complains bitterly about the incompetence of the country’s intelligence system.
  4. Apuleius’ Golden Ass has jumped off the page and into modern American life.
  5. News agencies so taken by the chaos and irrationality of The Donald that many more newsworthy happenings in the world go unreported or under reported. Which makes me wonder just what else is going on behind the scenes that is bad for us and the world. Will there be another Wag the Dog movie?
  6. Two possibly positive decisions: Gen. McMasters and
  7. The Mexican government must be thrilled to know that not only will unwanted emigrants be tossed back into the mix but that the US is dumping its petty criminals into Mexico. This is only humanitarian. Why petty criminals? ICE can’t catch the other kind.
  8. The Donald has produced a nation of activists and their Republican representatives are frightened. Not frightened of their lives per se but of losing power, the results of greed and respectability.
  9. Whew! I’m getting short of breath!
  10. If California doesn’t fall into the ocean, it will become run-off into the ocean. Due in no small part to wiping out the beaver population, building dams, diverting the rivers, diverting water for farming to the cities (thank you, Arnie), deforestation of the mountainsides so rich people can build glorious mansions and the LA Lakers turning into losers to match the SF 49ers.
  11. The swallows have not returned to San Juan Capistrano.
  12. Nostradamus perhaps prophesied the demise of the US with the coming of The Donald. Nostradamus is notoriously difficult to decipher so he could also mean Pence or Paul Ryan, each is in line for taking over the reigns of government. There is also the possibility of a hugely big massive earthquake, a prediction that seismologists have not ruled out. Nuclear war, not a distant possibility with a man who finds such destruction likable. Of course, just because prophets prophesy doesn’t mean the prophecy will occur. Nostradamus had a caveat. They are all Fake Newsmakers according to James Randi who assumes if they were truth-sayers, they’d be 100% correct, like magician’s magic.
  13. Whethercocks, Petulant Frenzies and a Brazen Hussy does a pretty good job of capturing the state of the art of government in the US at the moment.

25.

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

by James L. Secor

“Stevie-boy!” called Donald the Dragon Killer.

And like magic, as if he’d known beforehand, Stevie-boy was there, in the room, just inside the door. His hulking frame, his head cocked to one side, blocked much of the light. Donald had not yet opened or had opened for him his shuttered windows, whence the two streaks of light that tore across the floor and up the opposite walls.

“Saddle my horse. I’m going out and I’m going farther than before.”

“Whatever for, Sir Donald?”

“A hero’s job is never done, Stevie-boy.”

“Yes, sir. And what of breakfast?”

“I’m a hero, Stevie-boy.”

“As you say, sir. But even heroes must eat.”

“Oh, alright. Have me a tankard of ale and a loaf of black bread sent in. That’ll do me.”

“As you say, sir.” And Stevie-boy suddenly disappeared.

For the umpteenth time, Donald wondered how Stevie-boy did these appearing and disappearing things but it was no use trying to figure it out–the workings of these lower-downs was really quite beyond him.

Candy-girl brought Donald his breakfast and stood demurely against the wall til he had finished. Then, she took the plate and tankard away. Donald belched and rose from his table. His stomach rumbled a little and he was reminded of how long it had been since he’d had a decent meal. He liked black bread and ale but the sameness of the routine bothered him. It was, in truth, wearing on is nerves. As was the idleness–or, rather, the lack of encountering heroic situations. Surely it was not possible to have swept the world clean.

Sir Donald strode out into the bare courtyard, where even the grass refused to grow. He had his mighty bow and quiver full of arrows. Sean-boy stood by his horse’s head with his trusty golden lance, never broken during battle. But it did not gleam in the pale sunlight. Donald looked up into the washed out bluish sky with its straggly, used up clouds and wondered again at what had happened to the world.

Sean-boy watched from bland eyes as his master mounted his golden gelding. He handed Sir Donald his lance and stepped back. The horse groaned a bit under Donald’s weight but stood its ground. It took Donald several kicks in the animal’s side to get the beast moving. Off they went at a leisurely walk. Although Donald grimaced slightly, perhaps this pace was better until he’d passed through his demesne.

Once again, as he had for uncountable mornings, Sir Donald The Dragon Killer rode tall through fields of emptiness. Stubble there was and an occasional sorry stalk of some grain or other, but otherwise nothing. Not even vermin or insects roamed the dry earth. The trees scattered around, dotting the hazy horizon here and there, showed dull, dusted green leaves on branches that sagged earthward.

How long had the world around him been barren? Donald could not recall. A long time, that was for sure. Why it was this way was a conundrum the hero could not get his mind around. He consoled himself by telling himself that it was his job to do, not to think. That is what a hero did. A hero acted. He killed problems and since he had to eat, he killed his food as well. When there had been game, he’d been good at it. Unsurpassed. For his aim was unerring. After all, he was a hero. Sometimes he used his hunting as an excuse to keep his skills sharp. Sir Donald The Dragon Killer was proud of himself. His abilities never atrophied.

Yes. All in all, despite the lack of game, Donald had a good life, he thought.

It wasn’t til after passing through the once fecund now fallen fallow cropland that his horse began to canter. Donald felt better at this pace and so was not bothered so much by the lack of a view. But he did pull his steed up short upon spying a forest up ahead. This was a sure sign he’d gone farther than he’d ever gone before. It was a lush green forest with tall-standing trees and dancing foliage, for there was a breeze. That brought his head around: a breeze! He could feel the breeze. He could smell the air. He felt invigorated. Surely there was life here and he’d eat well tonight. Sir Donald’s mouth watered. He kicked his trusty charger into a gallop. Unlike earlier in the morning, this did not take much effort.

The forest was much farther away than it appeared and by the time they entered its cool shade, the horse was sweating and snorting and foaming at the mouth. Horse and rider slowed to a walk, savoring the smell and the feel. Donald’s exceptional hearing picked up the sounds of stirrings amongst the trees and in the underbrush. He knew, though, that it was small stuff so he didn’t bother to look. He was after bigger game.

It would be nice, too, if there were a stream or a well.

The time passed almost unnoticed and then Donald spotted a clearing ahead. And in that clearing, his keen eyesight espied a fowl. A partridge. A very fat partridge. He moved a little closer, steadied his mount and took aim. His arrow flew silently and swiftly through the fresh air and sank itself into its target. The bird keeled over without a sound. But as Donald was cantering in to gather up his kill, a keening cleft the air.

When Donald broke into the clearing, a skinny old lady dressed in rags stood over the fallen fowl howling her grief, hands raised in the air, a look of horror on her gnarled and crinkled face. The door to her lean-to stood open and her spinning wheel lay spilled on the ground, thread sprawled everywhere. She looked up at Donald’s approach.

“You bastard!” she cursed. “Look what you’ve done.”

Donald looked. “Yes! I’ve just shot my dinner. Excellent marksmanship, don’t you think?”

“It was my only laying hen you shot!”

Donald dismounted. He looked closely at the dead bird.

“Yes. You’re right. It is a hen,” he said.

“Damn right I’m right. What are you going to do about it?”

“Do? I’m going to take it home and eat it.” And Donald reached for the dead thing.

The old woman sprang between him and his goal. “Over my dead body!”

“Surely you jest. I’m a hero. I always get what I want.”

“Not this time, buster.”

“Who the hell are you to challenge me?”

“I’m the old lady of the woods and this is my bird.”

“Life’s tough, honey. Tell me about it.”

“You want to take my hen and leave me to starve to death. Is that it?”

“That’s it.”

“Well, that isn’t it. . .unless you pay me first.”

“Pay you? With what?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money when you’re out hunting?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money out here in the woods?”

“Well, then. You have to kill me to get the bird.” She pulled her scrawny self up to her full height, perhaps her head came up to Sir Donald’s nose, so she was not too terribly intimidating.

“Okay,” shrugged Donald The Dragon Killer and he drew his sword and cut off her head in one fell swoop. “Evil old lady,” he muttered as her head plopped onto the ground and rolled around, staining the spun thread red. “Dinner and one less witch in the world,” Sir Donald The Dragon Killer said to himself. He was quite satisfied. It had been a good day.

Sir Donald carried the arrowed trophy-hen proudly over his shoulder.

“Zippity-doo-dah, zippity-ay,” he sang.

He turned to look back at the forest before the long journey home. The color was not so green and the leaves did not rustle. Somehow, the woods had sunk in on itself, it wasn’t so big any more. Like all the life had been taken out of it.

Sir Donald the hero wondered why it is this happened wherever he went. He shook his head. And then he turned round and headed home.

“My, oh my, what a wonderful day,” he sang.

(c) James L. Secor, 2017

Old Country Baggage

Old Country Baggage, or The Making of America

by James L. Secor

We all know vampires suck the blood of the living to continue living, even though they are dead. The living dead. A curse.

We don’t know where vampires come from. They just suddenly appear in folklore. The most famous being European. Central Europe, to be exact. Though the Chinese had vampires, too, they did not travel to the West with their fabled RR builders and laundry entrepreneurs.

European vampires had not migrated to Britain before the 19th century, else they would surely have made their appearance at Salem, if not Jamestown or Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony. As it was, America had to wait for a later mass migration of Europeans.

George Calvin Brown and family and friends are prime examples of vampire baggage carriers. As always, the opening of the carpet bag was innocent, however traumatic. Very like Pandora’s box.

Ephemera Gladys Brown, George Calvin’s loving wife, died of tuberculosis one day. George and the children were crestfallen, as one would expect. Losing a caring, loving, thoughtful mother was not expected or wanted. While the family mausoleum was being built and readied, the family mourned. Mother Brown was en-coffined and discretely kept in a corner of the Ice House, which the Brown family owned and operated. With all but the carving of the alabaster monument completed, public mourning ensued with the requisite religious broodings and blessings.

And then life went on, albeit with Leonard Gardener Brown coughing a wee bit more than usual. The grocery store side of the business suffered as Leonard’s coughing increased in frequency and intensity. In fact, Leonard was excluded from both the grocery and the Ice House. Left alone, his coughing and whitish pallor led to a drinking habit that wormed its way into the family’s profits. Eventually, he, too, succumbed to the wasting away disease and was laid to rest alongside his mother. Another name was chiseled into the alabaster and life more or less went on.

Lena Mercy Brown was so distraught and beside herself and so very fearful of the future, specifically her future, that she became a frequent visitor to the grave site. Early in the morning just before dawn and late at night well past the waning moon, Lena Mercy could be found at the cemetery. So regular and spectral was she, she was spoken of as a ghost. Lena Mercy haunted the graveyard with an unhealthy obsession. So said the town doctor. But Lena Mercy would not desist, even as her pallor paled and her eyes reddened. And then she died. She told her father, one day, that she didn’t feel so good, coughed once into her white, white hands and died.

The doctor said that Lena Mercy Brown also died of tuberculosis, no history of coughing notwithstanding.

What kind of curse was this laid upon the Browns?

Surely, some townies said, this was the result of a prior life-sin. Others pooh-poohed such a superstition. Still others believed that the family was particularly susceptible to invasion by minute, even unseen animalcules. Animalcules being animalcules, this was difficult to deny. Invisible things forever manifest themselves into life. People breathe air, don’t they? And they dig in the dirt. And wash and bathe in the water. Everyone does. Some few were more susceptible than others to invasion by animalcules.

George sold the grocery business. People were wary of infection. As long as he ceased operating the Ice House, he was able to hold onto the business. The income was enough to keep him and his youngest, Edwin Prentiss. They could find no one to help around the house, though.

But tragedy again struck.

This new wrinkle to the family horror came via the cemetery grounds-keeper. This elderly gentleman began seeing the ghost of Lena Mercy wandering through the cemetery to end up hovering around the family vault, raising her hands and looking upward as if mourning her mother’s and her brother’s and her own demise or calling upon God. All in utter silence, of course, as ghosts make no noise, though their mouth holes be open. The old night watchman also reported the silence of the cemetery. That is, no scurryings of night denizens and no owl hootings. Not that owls tended to be very communicative to begin with or while hunting. The oldster’s repetitive sightings brought out the ghost hunters, ghost busters and ghost curious. The crowding of the cemetery brought about less Lena Mercy walking. This phenomenon led to a generalized exodus but for the curious, who tend to be quite persevering. Their nightly vigils paid off. Sightings were reported and substantiated. Though not by an outside, objective, uninterested individual.

Much to the discomfiture of the remainder of the Brown family, this ghostly appearance of Lena Mercy became a hot topic in the district. Curiosity seekers began visiting the Brown house. The worst of the lot were the various newspapermen. Rude and invasive, if they got no story they made one up.

Eventually, George and Edwin shut themselves up in their house. Groceries and sundries were delivered, ordered by messenger. Eventually, interest flagged somewhat. At which time the true tragedy struck.

It was here that the European old world baggage was opened and spilled out its contents all over the ground. The soil was fertile. The horror grew like kudzu, choking the hell out of reason.

How could this happen?

The mind’s job, as it were, is to make sense of things. Make sense of the world. Make sense of chaos. Make sense of the senseless. For this purpose, pre-laid pathways in the neural network of the brain are activated, for your brain forgets nothing. This is how we can remember how to walk without thinking about it. The baggage that sometimes ought not to be carried with us is opened like this; that is, habit of mind. We are creatures of habit. Habit helps us cope with the world. Habit helps us find meaning. Some of these habits are deep-seated and enduring, enduring like fairy tales, folktales, folklore.

How the mind does this is by putting various happenings together and coming up with an answer. It is this solution that is most often influenced by deep cultural memories. Memories of explication. Memories that are connected to an answer and a solution. Habits of mind. Short cuts for thinking.

First were the deaths of the Brown family. Three out of five.

Second was the ghostly sightings by all and sundry of Lena Mercy.

Third was the haunting of George by Lena Mercy. She became a nightly occurrence, dancing around George in bed, George at the kitchen table. Lena Mercy was insistent. According to George, she harassed him. Eventually night and day.

Fourth was Edwin Prentiss’s illness. The same as his mother’s and his brother’s and his sister’s, Lena Mercy not having suffered the coughing. Edwin began his coughing and increasingly wan coloring within two weeks of Lena Mercy’s haunting the house.

Surely there was a connection here.

Ghosts are not known to be benevolent.

George sought solace, sought answers with consultations of the town elders, the doctor, the various ministers and the travelling Chautauqua professors. Though not all were in agreement, those obsessed with their old baggage, those in the majority, convinced George that Lena Mercy’s hauntings and Edwin Prentiss’s advancing illness were connected. That is, Lena Mercy was responsible.

Something needed to be done. Proof was needed.

So it was that the Brown family tomb was opened. Of the three coffined bodies, only Lena Mercy’s was not decomposed.

A great cry rose up and it was decided Lena Mercy was a vampire.

What other reason could there be? Only vampires feed on the living. Edwin was declining while Lena Mercy was not. Not dying. So?

There could be but one conclusion.

The townies cut out Lena Mercy’s heart. They burned it, cringing somewhat as it sizzled. They made Edwin drink a concoction of ash of heart and red wine.

All was well. No more hauntings. No more coughing.

Edwin Prentiss died in silence two weeks later.

How could this be? Lena Mercy the vampire had been appropriately done in. Maybe Edwin Prentiss was too far gone by then. Maybe more needed to be done.

So, Edwin Prentiss’s heart had a Palo Santo wood stake hammered through it. Both the heart and the stake were burned. The remains were buried. Holy water was cast upon the ground.

Everyone waited, fretting. For lifetimes they fretted and worried.

Would it ever, really end?

Vigilance could not be relaxed.

And so it was.

(c) James L. Secor, 2016

 

Getting a Mouthful

Getting a Mouthful

by James L. Secor

People are isolated and isolated from themselves. They are alienated, from themselves and others. There is no knowing anything of anybody.

With this unbridgeable gap between me and you, commitment centres on me and what I want whenever. Life happens to me and I go with it. That’s all any of us have. So, what’s important is now because I only exist in the now. I don’t exist in the past tense. And, of course, I can’t exist in the future because it’s not here yet. I only exist here and now. I only feel things in the eternal now. One thing after another. Me and you. Separate but going along the road. On and on. Wherever it takes us. Just me bob-bob-bobbing along. Me. Because I have no idea about you and I have no idea where this  road of life is taking me.

Since I know nothing and am not an agent of anything in particular, I cannot be held responsible. Life affects me and I react: I have no choice. I can only go with what I’m given. Now. Events are not future. Events are now. We are all at the mercy of events. The nowness of life. Events happen to you and me but there is no connection between the events and no connection between us and we have no choice but to go along with it. Events are the stampede makers of life. Like grasshoppers or lemmings.

Take the case of Johan de Witt.

I, of course, did not know him. Personally. How could I, being of humble origin? But I knew of him. I had seen him in his numerous processions through town, through the province, though he progressed through more than just mine. The whole country, in fact. He was a handsome man with long dark locks, a thin moustache at his thin upper lip and no beard, though perhaps there was some peach fuzz right along the chin; heavy eyebrows and a long, thin nose. Aquiline? I don’t know. I don’t know what an aquiline nose is. Nor have I found it necessary to find out. What is important is that he smiled at us as he passed. He smiled and waved. Once, his eyes made contact with mine and I knew he was human. Acquired aristocracy be damned.

He was everybody’s hero.

But this was not to stand him in good stead. For who knows what will stand you in good stead since you don’t know where you’re going or what road you’re on.

Is there more than one road?

Isn’t it more like a delta where the river splits into myriad channels that inevitably lead to the ocean? And at the ocean what does it amount to?

Johan de Witt. A Republican, a man who believed in the people and the Republic of Holland and not a supporter of Holland as the aristocracy’s playground. The True Freedom.

Imagine that! A you-and-me type of person coming to rule the country. Stranger things do not happen.

Johan de Witt brought great prosperity to the land and, therefore, everyone loved him. He brought overseas trade–other than with Britain and the other European nations–though we knew these others were barbarians, barely human. But what does this matter when we should never have to meet them? Living off of their labor was no problem at all. We introduced them to civilization. We brought them need and the need for satisfaction. Which we held the key to. In the name of free trade. And the country became rich. And the people therein. More ours than theirs, as would be expected. Advanced countries need more, eh?

Could a born aristocrat have done as much? I dare say not, since an aristocrat would be interested solely in himself. That is, in fact, the definition of an aristocrat: self-interested. The rest of the world be damned. It’s the way of the world. And nobody likes it.

Johan de Witt was a breath of fresh air. New blood. And so his end is the more telling. Some would say, it says more about the people, the yous and mes, than it does about him. But he’s just like you and me. Just another human thrust along the event path. Just because he made something of himself doesn’t mean anything. Certainly not that he’s different than you and me. You and me aren’t what’s important. We are what makes the world go round. You and me. I. It takes a lot of I to keep the gears working. So many that we are faceless. All the more reason to celebrate Johan de Witt.

You might say, success went to our heads.

Johan de Witt cut quite a figure at the head of the armies. He wore the minimum of armor passing through town and countryside since the battle was down the road a piece. Thank goodness. I would not want to have it here. Me and you, we have lives to live. We are not soldiers. It is not our profession to fight. Though I think more come home than die. It doesn’t seem like it, all attention being lavished on the dead and wounded. But there it is.

In establishing the Republic, the Free Hollander Johan de Witt led us into wars to repel the greedy European powers that drooled over our riches. We would not be slaves to their appetite. A road we’d been on far too long. Mostly, we fought against the English and the French. The French had long belabored us and were petulant over losing their colony. The English were greedy barbarians who believed killing their rulers solved problems and proved their strength and worth. A land of slobs and rogues.

There were many wars against these English upstarts. Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelius were successful, though we lost New Holland during the second war. No great loss. Not much in the way of trade. Not really. We, in turn, sailed up the Thames River to London and demolished the English. No one had ever done this before. What a coup! In the end, we became richer and stronger until finally we Dutch could strut a bit.

Revenge. Justice. Judgment. It’s all the same. Control yourself? Where’s the rule of thumb? Where’s the standard? Where’s the proof that control orders anything? Things happen. First this, then that. Move on. Life’s like that. No telling what’s up next. So, what’s this control business? Controlling yourself does not control the world. And who are you to tell me, eh? You don’t know me. Can’t know me. I don’t know you. We are all separate individuals.

What happened to Johan de Witt was sad, though. I’d like to say no one deserves such an end, but who am I to make such a judgment? And what is it to say that it was due to the disaffected? We’re all disaffected. Isolated. Alone. Stumbling along as best we can. We are not responsible for what life hands us. If it says to go this way, we only go that way. Go with it.

One day Cornelius de Witt was arrested. No one knows why. Some malfeasance or other. Johan de Witt went to see his brother in prison. When he came out, standing a moment to suck in the fresh air, people attacked him, beating him with clubs and pipes and knotted rope. They kicked him. People flailed away, frenzied beasts. When Johan de Witt fell silent, his body was dragged to the square where hangings and other punishments were accomplished. Fires were built and set alight. We hacked Johan de Witt to pieces and roasted his parts. Several of the inns rolled kegs of beer before their doors so we could drink as we ate and carouse the night away. There was not enough of Johan de Witt to go around.

(c) James L. Secor, 2016