Sane and Intelligent

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April 13, 2021- I watched a small segment of a newsreel from the World War II era, which included a Disney cartoon, promoting payment of taxes as an act of patriotism-one of many ways in which the average citizen of that time could support the war effort, through personal sacrifice. Along with dehumanizing the opposing forces of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan), the appeal to acceptance of taxation, recycling, conservation and not spending on oneself was made so that the bulk of the nation’s resources would go towards support for the Armed Forces.

Defeating the most formidable opponents the forces of democracy had yet known required a fair amount of such sacrifice-and the burden was shared by Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several smaller nations. The Soviet Union was our ally, but its citizens were already living under onerous conditions-and knew little of personal freedom. Stalin’s sole recognition of individual dignity came in his decrees that men and women were equal under the law and that every child was entitled to a free education.

We, on the other hand, found some of our freedoms temporarily curtailed-as a means to focus the nation’s energy on defeat of the totalitarian enemy. That presented a conundrum to some people. As the bulk of the opposition to this temporary halt of free expression came from people who were not altogether opposed to the Fascist cause, it gained little traction. Besides, President Truman restored civil liberties, once the war was over.

Baha’u’llah teaches that the practice of a sane and intelligent patriotism is essential, for avoiding the evils of excessive centralization. This makes such a practice all the more vital, for the time, in the distant future, when a system of international governance becomes established. The Baha’i view of such a system is that it is built from the ground up-and thus, the more basic units of social structure: Family, community, city/town, county, state/province/prefecture, nation never lose their legitimate powers. The governance of the planet as a whole depends on the strength of the layers of society on which it is built.

There will always be times when temporary sacrifice is needed, in order to defeat a common threat. Certainly, the current fight against Coronavirusdisease2019 is such a time. That we are learning to make these sacrifices, and are making slow headway in overcoming this threat to public health, is a good lesson in learning what is sane and intelligent, in terms of patriotism.

Pearl Harbor

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December 7, 2020-

Today was my first weekday without work, in quite a while. I toyed with taking a hike somewhere, but ended up focusing on getting my Christmas cards and message ready for mailing-actually getting a few of them sent out. I also organized the Beta version of my life story, with the draft now in the hands of its editor.

Otherwise, today was a day for taking stock of our debt of gratitude to a generation who, in a very real sense, saved the best of our way of life. The 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor once again put the spotlight on my parents’ generation. Two survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona are still alive. Several thousand veterans of World War II, as a whole, are still with us- including a dozen or so Code Talkers, from various First Nations and a small number of Tuskegee Airmen. All who served, regardless of their status in a then-segregated military, merit the appreciation of their countrymen.

Pearl Harbor, among all attacks on United States soil, remains perhaps the most infamous such event, if only because it came totally without warning-and at a time when good faith negotiations were underway between Imperial Japan and the United States. We saw, for the first time, a comprehensive plan for bringing a global conflict to North America. We saw the possibility of domination by forces whose philosophies of governance and economics were at variance with our own.

Because of the novelty of this attack, there were overreactions- Internment of Japanese-Americans being the worst of those. Mistakes get made, in dealing with situations with which we have no experience. Nonetheless, our country’s overall response to the attack on Pearl Harbor was rapid, intense and correct. Our continuing expressions of appreciation, for those who carried out that response, should never let up.

Indelible

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December 7, 2019-

Three men remain alive, of the Americans who fought at Pearl Harbor.  It’s been 78 years, since that day that brought the United States into de jure  conflict with Imperial Japan. The de facto war had been going on for some time, with Lend Lease and with Americans enlisting in other nations’ military forces.

The conflict was both the second-worst war of the Twentieth Century, after its predecessor, and the scenario for the hardest choices this country’s leadership has ever had to make.  The contributions of our best service people, the sacrifices of our civilian populace and the courage of underground fighters, across the globe- and on every inhabited continent, all are part of what makes World War II indelible in the memory of a conscious citizen.

Earlier today, one of the last Pearl Harbor veterans was laid to rest, on the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, the prime memorial site of that horrific attack.  Next weekend, our memorials to fallen veterans continues, with the laying of wreaths in each National Cemetery, across the country.   We will maintain our tributes to those who fell, and to those who came back, continued to serve those they loved and, in many cases, struggled with their demons.

Their fight for the common good, however ongoing and difficult, is indelible.

Day of the Dead

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November 2, 2017, Prescott-

Hispanic families, in Mexico and elsewhere, observe this day as a way to honour their departed ancestors and strengthen the ties between this world and the hereafter.

As I looked out the window, this morning, I swear I could see Penny’s image, and that of her father, looking back at me, in a tree across the way.

Some have gone on, this past year, who had roles, large and small, in my life.

Uncle George Boivin, one of my last surviving father figures, gave me a paving stone from Boston’s old Scollay Square, which was transformed into Government Center, when I was about 12.  He was ever available, when I was in Colorado, to set me straight, in the difficult  2 1/2 years, immediately following Penny’s passing.  His mind was sharp, until the end, and those doll houses live on.

Al Tercero served our American Legion, at the post and district level, for over 30 years.  Now he is in what we call Post Everlasting.  The Honour Guard he helped establish is still the finest in Arizona.

George Marchessault, also a Past Commander and Honour Guard stalwart, stayed true to the Legion code and was ever present at our gatherings, on almost a weekly basis, until his last illness confined him to rest.

Bea Cronin, a grand-aunt’s sister-in-law, was always outside watching the Saugus High football team, from her back yard. There was an open door and welcome to the kids who knew her sons, and to us, her far extended family, when we were in the neighbourhood.

Ivaloo Mac Vicar was always in the hall, when I was passing to classes in seventh grade, admonishing us boys to WALK down the stairs, ONE step at a time.  She made it to the Century Mark, and a bit beyond, as did-

Evelyn Porter Anderson, who gave my mother a shot at success as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in the uncertain days after World War II.  She never stopped doting on the five of us, until blindness and infirmity kept her confined to her last home.

Bernis Hanlon taught me, in fifth grade, to rely on my own wits and to start building  layers on my thin skin.  It took twenty more years for that lesson to really stick, yet less time for her next life lesson, appreciation of fine drama, to be absorbed, six years later, when she was the  High School Theater Advisor, who didn’t mind my being on the periphery of that club’s efforts.

Firuz Kazemzadeh was a high-level scholar of the Baha’i Faith, and one of our most accomplished mentors, serving in so many capacities, legal and educational.  His was always a bright and friendly face, at national and international gatherings, as well as at “our own” Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, held annually in Phoenix.

So many others have come and gone- and some day a person or two will write of my time on this Earth.  There is much to do, as yet, so let it not be too soon.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 67: Deferred Attention

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February 3, 2015, Prescott- Television stayed off today.  I did not go to morning prayers, nor did I even get out of bed until 10 AM.  Of course, getting home at 3:30 AM had everything to do with that.  My respite at home will be brief.  Some here in Prescott will wonder, again, why on Earth I even bother coming back here.  There were three key elements at play:  I took part in the commemoration of the deaths of four Navy Chaplains, in the sinking of the USS Dorchester, off the coast of Greenland,on February 3, 1943.  This is an emotional time for those who served in World War II, and many who served later, in the Korean Conflict.  It is significant in that four noncombatants gave the ultimate sacrifice, choosing to die, alongside 653 others, rather than mount a lifeboat.  They set their own hopes and dreams aside.

The other two tasks that need doing here are left for tomorrow and Thursday.  They involve quality attention to dear friends.  So here is a key aspect of the changes that became apparent to me, as I drove home last night:  I am leaving isolation behind.  That’s the scary part, but it’s also the satisfying element.  When I focus on a person, or a task, I am all in.  It may not suit the people who are on the sidelines, and have to wait until a later time for me to attend to THEIR needs, but that attention is only deferred, not cast aside.

I am also getting better at deferring, not casting aside, my own needs for rest and rejuventation.  So, I got up at 10, not 6 or 7.  Early rising will return tomorrow.