June 7, 2021- I read an article, in the current issue of National Geographic Magazine, about a sizable number of Old Colony Mennonites, settling in rural, forested areas of Mexico, and clearing huge swaths of the forest, so that they could plant Transgenic (GMO) soybeans. The process includes aerial spraying of glysophate-a poison that has been shown to lead to metastasized cancer, when ingested through air and water. There has been conflict with the indigenous people of the region, the Maya, who have used the land for small farming and to raise bees. The Mayan bees have been dying off, since aerial spraying of glysophate began. The Mennonites say they have bees that can thrive, despite the presence of glysophate.

I have friends in Pennsylvania who are Mennonites, and who are committed to keeping the Earth both productive and in a relatively pristine condition. They are horticulturists, and much of their produce is raised in greenhouses. I am not aware of any widespread use of glysophate in their operation. So, the NGS account set me to thinking: Why are the settlers in Mexico so adamant about their mission?

People being creatures of habit, with deeply engrained genetic memory, it helps to trace the residential patterns of a group. The Old Colony Mennonites came from grasslands of central Europe and Russia, via Germany, and settled in the prairies of central and western Canada. They are accustomed to large farming operations, worked by large families. They are also given to hard work, relying on Biblical Scripture for guidance and practicing prudent business. A treeless prairie is turned into productive cropland, with relative ease, compared with the forest-which, whether tropical or temperate, is alien land. Thus, with no regard for any value the rainforest may have, the trees are cleared. The land becomes grassland, or cropland.

This has been repeated since the first nomads emerged from the steppes of Central Asia, millennia ago. The treeless land of their origins formed both their mindset, as to the status of the environment and as to the approach that should be taken towards any environment that differed from their native grasslands. Forests were meant to be cleared; deserts were meant to be irrigated; mountains were meant to be either terraced or laid low. The Old Colony Mennonites are no different, in that respect, from all who migrated before them.

That said, there remains the one thing that could lay both them, and their neighbours, low: The poison, that their interpretation of Scripture says is essential to maintaining their way of life. Glysophate has been shown to lead to several cancers, most commonly Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. While only a longitudinal study, of the people of Campeche and Tabasco, will likely convince the leadership of Old Colony that this practice is dangerous, such intransigence is going to cause harm to the very people for whom the leaders say they are engaging in large-scale farming: Their children and grandchildren. Even if the leaders can claim to be unconcerned about their neighbours, an unlikely scenario, for them to be blithely placing crop yield, profit and Manifest Destiny over their own families’ lives, proceeds from sublime to ridiculous.

We can debate the merits and pitfalls of transgenic farming for days on end, but the use of pesticides that are deadly to all life should no longer be up for discussion: Mexico, along with most other civilized nations, has banned the use of glysophate. Predisposition to dominance aside, it is time for the Old Colony members to stop its use, and seek to use methods of crop protection that are not lethal to humans, or bees.

And Greenwood Burned


June 2, 2021- Much long overdue attention has been focused, over the past week, on the Centenary of the destruction and massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood section, on May 31-June 1, 1921. The President has visited, and met with three survivors, commemorative events have been held around the country, and in other nations, and even the Murdochs, in their National Geographic Magazine, have commissioned well-thought-out articles on the horrific event, and on race identity in general. I will make my own visit of homage to Tulsa, and to Greenwood, after visiting with my son and daughter-in-law, outside Dallas, next month.

Many did not know of this stain on our history, until recently, but as a country, we have long known of the legacy of the slave trade and its aftermath. “The Underground Railroad”, whose televised depiction I am viewing now, on Amazon Prime, gives even more graphic illustration of what went on in many, if not most, plantations and smallholder farms, where slavery fueled the economy. That mindset died hard, where it did die at all, even in “Free” states. There is still far too much of the concept of “Us” vs. “Them”, even among those who say they abide the presence of people of colour. I can see it, in the readiness of so many to embrace restrictive laws, in the areas of voting, of residence and of taxation for the public weal. There are those who would summarily execute people illegally crossing both borders or homeless people in large cities-and there are more of the “I, the Jury” types than one would care to think.

I first learned of the Greenwood Massacre-and similar events in Chicago, Detroit, East St. Louis and Rosewood, Florida in 1973, during a class entitled U.S. History Since 1877. The instructor, Dr. Israelsohn, was a classical conservative, but had no use for race-baiting and the systemic segregation that occurred in every part of the country, to some degree or another, right up until the time that course was offered. Her conservatism was that of true free enterprise and self-sufficiency.

That people can mature and develop, admirably, in so many ways, yet be unable to recognize the futility of Zero-Sum, increasingly escapes me. Where there is enough to share-then there is room to share, as well. Where there is enough to cover the feet of the people around oneself, then why hog the blanket? To be sure, this is one reason why I travel-and it is one reason why community service is a priority. Where there is real connection, there is no “Other”.

Let there be no more Greenwood Massacres, of any kind.

The Road to 65, Mile 244: Ninety-Nine


July 30, 2015- Today marks the only birthday of an uncle-by-marriage that I remember from my childhood. John Ellsworth “Ellie” Reilly would have been 99 years of age today.  Uncle Ellie and Aunt Hazel were my godparents, during my Roman Catholic upbringing, and had their birthdays within a few weeks of one another.  Aunt Hazel would have no part of us knowing her birthday, but always made a fuss over her husband’s, so the next-to-last day of July was always a big event.

Ellie was the youngest of five children, and despite being of slight build, had an Irish temper that put the fear of God in those who needed to be set straight.  I was one of the lights of his life, so that fear found me, via another source.  Uncle worked in a meat-packing plant for about twenty years, then arthritis set in, President Nixon expanded the SSDI, and Ellie found himself minding the house, while Aunt Hazel worked a payroll job at the G. E. plant.  They never had much, but their house was always the venue for family gatherings, at Christmas time.  The two of us Godchildren got a few bucks around then, also- that was the Reilly way. Hazel and Ellie also got me started with National Geographic Magazine, at age 9,and I’m still a member of NGS, 56 years later.

I recall one summer when I was about twelve, such a tactful age, that- I mentioned to Ellie that some of the people about town were speaking uncharitably of the houses on his street.  His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing to me- though my Dad gave me what for, a day or two later.  Nonetheless, the next time I walked over to visit, I noticed the yards west of theirs had been tidied up.  I know Uncle and Aunt had a well-kept yard, because I kept it nicely.

Uncle Ellie passed on in 2002, as Fall was making its own turn for the worse.  He would sound off about all manner of current events, but I seldom heard a word about his ailments.  Truth be known, his was a generation that regarded ailments as private business.  He chose to spend his time, once left off of the Job Train, reading all manner of books, fiction and non-fiction, when he wasn’t prognosticating which dog would win at the Wonderland Race Track.  It was a life lived honestly, and he remains one of the most beloved men of my youth.

I will remember, for all time, our intense and somewhat heated debates over the efficacy of the Nixon Administration, and after August, 1974, he humbly owned up to having been far too trusting of his fellow Republicans.  Of course, once Mr. Reagan got in, and we were on the same side again, he smilingly called the turn of events- “The Irish Revenge”.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my view of RWR was tarnished somewhat by Iran-Contra.

John E. Reilly was, nonetheless, a  classic, unto himself.