Sunday, May 31, 2015

Captain Bligh - Misunderstood

One of my favorite tales of the sea, whether told in a book, or on the screen, has always been "Mutiny On The Bounty." I have read everything available concerning both the voyage and the mutiny, and I have come to some startling conclusions, all supported by fact.

Captain Bligh has been portrayed over the years as a cruel and heartless man. This is not accurate. The depictions of daily floggings, and the famous keel hauling episode, which never happened, have all served to miscolor the reputation of the Captain. Moreover, it has often overshadowed one of the greatest nautical feats ever accomplished; the 3,000 mile voyage in an overladen launch with scant provisions and no charts.

A careful review of the facts, and the testimonies of the crew, some of whom were mutineers, sheds bright light upon the undeserved and darker image of Captain William Bligh. The fact is that he was one of the most humane Captains of his time. The rate of floggings aboard HMS Bounty was well below that of any other ship of the era. He was also one of the best Navigators of his time, as we shall see.

Consider this, in the outward voyage to Tahiti there were NO floggings, this despite the fact that the ship's Carpenter, Purcell, had refused, on two occassions, direct orders from the Captain. This was a hanging offense, yet Bligh took no action at all. At the time, aboard other vessels, 7 floggings per month was not unusual, but in the first sixteen months there were only 7 floggings aboard the Bounty.

Moreover, Captain Bligh knew that the voyage would take two years. The practice at the time was for there to be two watches per day, which allows only sporadic sleep. This would be hard on the crew. Captain Bligh broke the watches into 3 shifts, the advantage being that the men got 8 hours off to rest instead of only 4 hours, which is very tiring. Again, this is the real Captain Bligh and not the portrayal of the man we have come to know through books and film.

The Captain had sailed with no Marines aboard to control the men, and discipline aboard was fairly relaxed. When they arrived at Tahiti he decided to let his men go ashore on a rotating basis. Having no Marine Guard aboard to prevent it, he knew he could not keep the men from the island. This was a huge mistake, as the men began to fratinize with the natives. Relationships were formed and the crew began to dread the return trip home.

In all of the logs and testimony given at the Admirality Hearing, there is no testimony pertaining to excessive cruelty on the part of Captain Bligh. Even in the journals of both Boatswain's Mate Morrison and Peter Haywood there is not a word of excessive punishment or floggings. The troubles all began within the first 3 weeks of the return voyage to England.

Half of the crew had wed while in Tahiti and were not too pleased with returning to a damp and dreary England after having lived in a veritable paradise for the past year. Chief amongst these crewmembers was Flecther Christian, who had wed the native Chief's daughter.

In the third week of the voyage home, and on Christian's watch, some coconuts had been pilfered during the night. This prompted the famed confrontation between Bligh and Christian, during which Bligh called Christian a "damned hound." To Christian this was a slur not taken lightly and he spent the remainder of the evening drinking heavily.

At dawn the next morning, Christian awoke Bligh with a cutlass at his throat. He then cast the Captain, and his loyal crew members, adrift to die. This left Captain Bligh 2 choices, either make for the nearest island, a mere thirty miles distant, and perish there, or sail with the current, three thousand miles, with no provisions, to the Dutch Island of Timor. From there he would reach England, return to Tahiti, capture several of the mutineers, bringing them back to England in chains to face justice. Some were hanged, others pardoned.

The Admirality rebuked Captain Bligh for losing the Bounty, but never acknowledged their own mistake of sending the ship on a 2 years voyage, with conscripted sailors, and no Marines. The record is fairly clear here. Captain Bligh was a man way ahead of his time concerning the treatment of men at sea. And yet, through the vagaries of history, and Hollywood, we have come to know him as a tyrant.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Two Men Come Down the Same Chimney

This is one of those old stories which are often attributed to the Talmud. This is the version from Rabbi Telushkin's book, "Jewish Humor." There are slight variations in any version of the story, but you'll get the point. I have posted this before. 

Two Men Come Down the Same Chimney

A young man in his mid-twenties knocks on the door of the noted scholar Rabbi Shwartz. “My name is Sean Goldstein,” he says. “I’ve come to you because I wish to study Talmud.”

“Do you know Aramaic?” the rabbi asks.

“No,” replies the young man.

“Hebrew?” asks the Rabbi.

“No,” replies the young man again.

“Have you studied Torah?” asks the Rabbi, growing a bit irritated.

“No, Rabbi. But don’t worry. I graduated Berkeley summa cum laude in philosophy, and just finished my doctoral dissertation at Harvard on Socratic logic. So now, I would just like to round out my education with a little study of the Talmud.”

“I seriously doubt,” the rabbi says, “that you are ready to study Talmud. It is the deepest book of our people. If you wish, however, I am willing to examine you in logic, and if you pass that test I will teach you Talmud.”

The young man agrees.

Rabbi Shwartz holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

The young man stares at the rabbi. “Is that the test in logic?”

The rabbi nods.

”The one with the dirty face washes his face,“ he answers wearily.

“Wrong. The one with the clean face washes his face. Examine the simple logic.The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face.”

“Very clever,” Goldstein says. “Give me another test.”

The rabbi again holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“We have already established that. The one with the clean face washes his face.”

“Wrong. Each one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face wash his face, he also washes his face. So each one washes his face.”

“I didn’t think of that,” says Goldstein. It’s shocking to me that I could make an error in logic. Test me again.”

The rabbi holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“Each one washes his face.”

“Wrong. Neither one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. But when the one with the clean face sees the one with the dirty face doesn’t wash his face, he also doesn’t wash his face. So neither one washes his face.”

Goldstein is desperate. “I am qualified to study Talmud. Please give me one more test.”

He groans, though, when the rabbi lifts two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“Neither one washes his face.”

“Wrong. Do you now see, Sean, why Socratic logic is an insufficient basis for studying Talmud? Tell me, how is it possible for two men to come down the same chimney, and for one to come out with a clean face and the other with a dirty face? Don’t you see? The whole question is "narishkeit", foolishness, and if you spend your whole life trying to answer foolish questions, all your answers will be foolish, too.”

Note: The illustration does not represent the hypothetical fireplace to which the 2 hypothetical men would descend from the hypothetical chimney. It must be assumed that there would be no fire in it at the time of the descent. I only add this to provide some tongue in cheek clarity; as well as to ward off any deep discussion on the matter.

Friday, May 29, 2015

"It Scared Me" - For Sue (2012

I first posted this in 2012. It’s still a relevant question we never like to ask; for whom do we mourn? Is it for the afflicted, or is it for ourselves?

It shook me up
to see you lying there.
The blood on the floor
made me scared.

Never felt so helpless
and didn't know what to do.
Was I thinking of me,
or thinking of you?

It's hard to say
what scares us the most.
The loss of your lover
or the love that you've lost.

Either way's a loser;
a turn of the cards.
While all the time you're thinking,
"God, why's life so hard?"

This was my reaction to Sue’s accident in the garage back in 2012. She gashed her head and had 6 stitches. I was worried about her, and also thinking of me being left alone; calling into question whether I am a good man, or a bad man.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Origins of Guilt - More Bad Poetry

I've been writing this one since I was a little kid and my Mom was sick. She passed away in 1984 after decades of illness. As a child it must have taken a toll on me; though it was years until I could admit it. And even then, dealing with it was another matter entirely. Today I have nothing but the fondest memories of my Mom; which is as it should be. 

The Origins of Guilt

When Mom was sick the world was gray
There was no light from the sun.
I spent my time willing time away;
Avoiding what should never come.

So, I willed it on as I ate the pain;
learning how to live without her;
and when she was home – tho’ I wasn’t alone-
I’d wish she was gone again.

To hide from the guilt I built a wall,
Which only locked it all in.
And when I finally knocked that wall down
I was left to face up to my sin.

That cycle went on forever
And became a race I could only lose;
Unless I learned to eat the pain
Of the sin I didn’t get to choose.

Mooresville, NC 5-28-15

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day - A More Complete History

You may have read the truncated version of the history of Memorial Day on line yesterday. It was dismaying; to say the least. Here is the history of Memorial Day as covered by Yahoo news;

“A few years after the end of the Civil War, May 30 was established as "Decoration Day" -- a day to decorate veterans' graves with flowers. May 30 may have been the selected day because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

In December 2000, the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.”

That’s it. They left out some important pieces of how the holiday became Memorial Day: traditionally; before it was turned into just another 3 day weekend. Let’s examine the history of that tradition.

They are incorrect in stating that "a few years" after the Civil War had ended people began flooding the cemeteries to honor the fallen. In the South it began with the first anniversary of the wars end and was called “Confederate Memorial Day”. It was first celebrated in 1866 on April 26th. That date was chosen by Mrs. Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis. April 26th is the anniversary of the final Confederate defeat at Bennett Place, North Carolina. It was there that General Sherman accepted the sword of Confederate General Johnston. For most of the people of the South, this is the true date on which the military hostilities ceased; not in early April with Grant and Lee at Appomattox Courthouse.

That first effort in 1866 was organized by the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia.  A woman named Maryann Williams (no relation to me) was the Secretary of that Association and lobbied hard for the state legislature to pass an Act marking the date as an official observance. It was quickly accomplished. Within months all of the former states of the Confederacy had followed suit. The holiday is still marked in several of the former Confederate States on April 26th, rather than late May. In Texas it is also known as Defender’s Day. In North and South Carolina the holiday was observed on May 10th until about 15 or 20 years ago when I first arrived here. That has changed drastically with the influx of us "Yankees".

By 1868 the Northern states were clamoring for their own holiday to honor their fallen. General John Logan, Commander of the Union Civil War Veterans fraternity known as the Grand Army of the Republic, began the Memorial Day holiday which was observed for so many years on the 30th of May. The General stated that “it was not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South in perpetuating the memory of their friends who had died for the cause they thought just and right.” These eloquent words; spoken so soon after the hostilities had ended serve to mark the deep respect which the Northern and Southern soldiers had for one another. The war had been brutal, and none knew that better than the veterans of both sides. 

After World War One had ended we got Armistice Day, which marked the end of that conflict. Then there was the problem of the two part victory over Germany in May 1945 (VE Day) and then Japan (VJ Day) in August of the same year, ending World War Two. So, we now had the need for at least 5 holidays to honor our nation’s war dead; plus any days which would be necessary to mark future wars we might engage in. Something needed to change. And, so it did.

By the early 1960’s most of the country was celebrating the holiday on the 30th of May; with the exception of the 11 southern states. They were still observing the holiday between April 26th and May 10th. That changed in the early 1970's.

But, in reality, the full story of the current tradition of Memorial Day is simply that the playing field got too crowded for a separate Day of Remembrance for each of the wars we fought; or were likely to fight, in the future. By 1971 it was declared a 3 day holiday; more out of a desire for a 3 day holiday than to honor the fallen.

It is interesting to note that some of the Southern states have held onto their traditional Day of Remembrance, while the rest of us have opted for convenience and an extra day off.  Well, no matter what date they choose, the fallen will always be honored in the “hearts and minds” of people like me who have the freedom to write articles like this about the nuances of honoring the things which they have actually done. We are lucky to have been the benefactors of their sacrifice.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Empire of Sin" by Gary Krist (2014)

This book is an enigma. It begins as an examination of the famous New Orleans Ax Man Murders of the early 20th Century and just when you are settling in nicely with that gruesome crime, the book becomes a history of jazz and after that morphs into a collective biography of some of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived.

So, just what is this book? Well, I’ll tell you; honestly this is one of the most invigorating and engaging books on serial killers and jazz musicians which I have ever read. The big difference in the two subjects is that, of course, while the Jazzmen chronicled here may have slayed their audiences night after night with the new sound called “jazz”, the Ax Man murderer was slaying his audiences permanently in private performances all over New Orleans for several years. His crimes are still listed as one of the most puzzling of all serial killers, including the infamous Jack the Ripper.

Mr. Krist is an accomplished author, and it was his name which drew me to the book, the complicated title notwithstanding. Just how he wound up juxtaposing the history of what was happening in New Orleans at the time of the murders with the history of jazz is somewhat of a mystery to me, but the justification for doing so becomes apparent as you read the book.

New Orleans was a wide open Southern city; if you could call it a truly Southern city at all. There was no real segregation and racial intermarriage was quite common before the early part of the 20th Century. Gambling and prostitution were openly practiced, if not celebrated. And the Port of New Orleans brought together sailors from all over the Caribbean, Europe and Africa; not to mention an influx of Asians and South Americans. And in the days of Reconstruction all of these different people lived together in relative harmony.

At the close of the 19th Century there was an influx of European immigrants; notably Irish, Italian, German and Jewish. Each group had their own customs; and music. The first race riots in the city were not; as one would expect; between blacks and whites. Rather they were between the whites and the Italians. The Italians had become known as a “mafia” like organization. They were involved in kidnappings and extortion. They also strong armed their own neighborhood grocery stores, and in some cases murdered the owners. But when a group of these men kidnapped a young child and killed him, the city exploded in the violence of revenge.

Against the backdrop of those events in 1890 the author traces the history of crime in New Orleans through to the end of the 1920 election and the advent of Prohibition. As I said earlier, had he only concentrated on this aspect of New Orleans at the time this would have been a great book. However, by choosing to combine and compare the history of crime in New Orleans with the creation of jazz, he has created a fantastic and lively portrait of one of America’s most beloved and eclectic cities.

The book sparkles with the names of the musical legends that gave birth to a new art form. The stories of these men; with names like Jelly Roll Morton; Sidney Bechet; Freddie Keppard; Buddy Bolden; Louis Armstrong and George Baquet; are the history of what became the modern day New Orleans of legend, but also of Storyville itself; that quarter where these men first blew the notes which would come to define an era, and a genre.

Here is a link to the Library of Congress recording of Alabama Bound by Jelly Roll Morton. This is the type of music I was listening to while reading this book. Listening to the music of the time while reading the book enriched the whole experience and made for a delightful reading of this wonderful book by Mr. Krist.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Rainbow Quest" - Pete Seeger and Guests

There was nothing on television to hold my interest the other night and so I turned to You Tube. There are so many things I would like to watch on there that I never take time for. And, with so many new things to discover on there, I will never catch up. Contrasted with the constant clicking associated with channel surfing, it was kind of nice to settle into something different for almost an hour.

The Pete Seeger "Rainbow Quest" series ran for 1 season on Channel 47, the UHF mostly Spanish speaking TV station, from 1965-66. I ran into it a couple of times by accident while fooling with the UHF antenna when; you guessed it; nothing worthwhile was on regular TV. So, how ironic is it that I should run into the same problem 50 years later and find the same solution in Pete Seeger both times?

This show is typical of all 39 52 minute episodes. There is no audience; which adds to the stark quality; I mean Pete was the "sing along with guy". He was the Mitch Miller of folk music. Actually, Miller took that page from Pete's book.

The list of gusts on the Rainbow Quest shows will knock you out. Everyone from Donovan to June Carter and Jonhny Cash, Judy Collins, Buffy St. Marie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are just some of them.

Naturally the show didn't make it. How many of you actually fooled with UHF at all in New York City? Actually I had forgotten all about the shows until I read the book "Red Scare" a few; well, several years ago. That book deals with the McCarthy Era and the blacklists; which included Pete Seeger. If you don't know about his role in that shameful episode of government overreach you should look it up sometime.

But it wasn't until I was re-reading it last year that I took the time to watch any of the shows again on You Tube. Maybe it's the passage of time; or the passing of the people on these shows; but time has made them even better than I remembered. If you're bored, take a listen and see.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Myrtle Beach

This is Sue flying high over Myrtle Beach last weekend. We stopped for one of those helicopter rides- up and back. I don't fly well anymore; Sue went solo and took this beautiful picture of the hotels on the beach. One of them was ours.

Speaking of the beach; here I am on the sand; a very rare thing these days. A German woman who was taking pictures of her friend offered to take pictures of Sue and I. She took about a hundred! 

And here is Sue holding me up against the wind...

And then later walking in the surf alone while I took this picture from the 16th floor.

It was a quiet weekend for us- but King Kong was still angry about something.

This was my first trip anywhere in 4 years. It was all good, but one of the best parts was just looking at the ocean again. From the 16th floor you can just about see the curve of the horizon, about 10-12 miles away...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Wonderland" with Val Kilmer and Kate Bosworth (201 )

This is a kind of fascinating story. It involves “Long” Johnny Holmes, the iconic porn star from the 1970’s. Along with Linda Lovelace and Marilyn Chambers, he blazed new trails in the adult entertainment business as far as bringing it to the forefront; putting porn right in your face, so to speak.

For all of the glamor and the drugs and women though, there was a price being paid. And director James Cox does an excellent job in keeping the whole thing in control. He is also one of the writers of the script for this film. As the main character, Johnny Holmes; played by Val Kilmer; spins out of control the careful direction helps in keeping sight of the larger story.

At the time of these events in 1981; including the murder itself; Holmes was estranged from his wife, while trying to keep his teenage girlfriend, and also struggling each day to get his “fix” without any real means of income. This is a recipe for disaster, don’t ya think?

When the police showed up at 8763 Wonderland Ave in Laurel Canyon they found 4 bodies. They were the drug dealers and the owner of the home. The wife of one of the dealers was still alive. They had all been bludgeoned with a steel pipe.  The investigation which followed turned the spotlight on the seamy world of Hollywood’s porn industry.

With suspects such as Johnny Holmes, a local nightclub owner named Eddie Nash, and Holmes's estranged wife Sharon and his teenage lover Dawn Schiller, the story was just made for the tabloids. While Holmes freely admits to robbing the guy the day before, his wife says he went back again on the day of the murder. But Holmes then also says he only set up the hit; he didn’t actually participate in the murders. With all the living parties pointing fingers at one another, who will the authorities finally believe? More importantly; whose version of this tragic story would you hang your hat on?

Excellent performances by veteran actors Kate Bosworth, Carrie Fisher and Lisa Kudrow serve to round out this film.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gone to the Beach!

I'm taking some days off to go to the beach; first time in 4 years! Not sure I’ll actually be able to walk around on the sand; as a matter of fact, I can’t. But, just seeing it again after so long a time will probably be kind of emotional.

I grew up less than a mile from Brighton Beach; a mile from Coney Island; both in Brooklyn. And  just a half hour to the east by bicycle put me in Riis Park, Queens. The next stop east from those places would be Spain. I never did swim it. As Burt Lancaster said in the film “Atlantic City”, “The Atlantic Ocean? You should have seen it in the old days. Yeh, the ocean was really something back then.”

It’s like that in memory; we enlarge things. And sometimes we get disappointed when confronted with the reality of what something has become. Burt Lancaster was right in certain respects. Back in the old days the ocean was a huge barrier. No transatlantic flights; telephone service was expensive and difficult; and ocean travel was infinitely slower than today. So the ocean is smaller than it used to be in that respect.

But it still holds all of its majesty. It still has that fury when the wind kicks it up, or when the tide pulls upon it to excess. Ships still go down to the bottom; taking their crews with them; somethings never change. I've lived near it; worked upon it; swam in it; and fished in it my whole life; but it has never ceased to astound me. It’s still both bigger and stronger than I am. They say it's where life began.

Well, enough for now, I'll see you when I get back! Enjoy my vacation…

Friday, May 15, 2015

"The Gold Watch" by Alistair MacLean (from "The Lonely Sea")

Long one of my favorite authors, Mr. Alistair MacLean outdoes even himself here. It would be impossible for anyone but Mr. MacLean to have written this story.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have.

"The Gold Watch" by Alistair MacLean

His watch was the pride of our captain’s life. It was of massive construction, being no less than 3 inches in diameter; it was made of solid gold; it was beautifully engraved with cabalistic designs of extraordinary intricacy; and finally, it was attached to a chain, whose dimensions, with regard to both length and circumference, had to be seen to be believed. The chain also, needless to say, was made of gold. Anyone who had the temerity to doubt this last fact, was handed the chain and coldly asked to observe for himself that it was stamped on every link.

In addition to the aforementioned merits, the watch, our captain claimed, was completely moisture proof. We had, on several occasions, urged him to prove his words by submerging the subject of discussion in a basin of water, but on each occasion, the captain’s reply, uttered in a very injured tone, was to the same effect, namely, that if we did not believe his statement, he was not going to stoop to demonstrate its truth to us. From this, we could only conclude that the captain, like ourselves, had his doubts as to his watch’s ability to defy the ravages of water. It was indeed, we knew, a very, very sore point with our captain, one which he longed, with all his heart and soul, to prove, but lacked the courage to put it to the final test.

Usually, this watch was hidden from the plebian gaze- and fingers- in a locked case, which in its turn, lay in a locked drawer in the captain’s cabin. But today, it reposed in the captain’s waistcoat pocket, while the chain, such was its length, seemed almost to girdle the area of the captain’s maximum circumference. Waistcoats are very uncommon with “whites”, and it was maliciously rumored that the captain had had his specially made for the purpose of accommodating and displaying the watch and its accessories. Be that as it may, here was our captain, this blistering June afternoon, going ashore for his last interview with his Basrah agents, wearing a genial smile on his face, and, about two feet further south, his beloved time keeper.

When he came back a bare two hours later, his launch nosing its way through the date laden lighters surrounding our vessel which was anchored in mid-river, his genial expression was no longer there. Neither was his watch, and our deduction, that the latter accounted for the former, proved to be correct. Having solicitously helped the red faced, perspiring captain on board, we waited patiently.

He was, at first, incoherent with rage, with his clearly visible, ever mounting blood pressure, we feared an apoplectic stroke. Fortunately for him, he at last recovered the power of speech, and this undoubtedly relieved, to a great extent, his almost over powering feelings. He was very bitter. His language, in addition, was shocking, but we had to admit that he had full justification for it.

He had, apparently, been walking peacefully back to the ship from his agents, with malice in his heart towards none, but nevertheless, taking due and proper precautions for the safe guarding of wallet and watch, when among the riff raff of the street bazaars. Once clear of them, he had dropped these precautions, deeming them needless, and, at the entrance to the docks, he had had to push his way through a group of Arab sailors, whom he, in his great and regrettable ignorance, had thought to be as honest as himself. (His bitterness, at this juncture, was truly remarkable) Suddenly, he had been jostled in the rear with great violence, and on turning to remonstrate with the discourteous one, had not felt his watch and chain being slipped from their moorings, with that dexterity and efficiency which bespoke of long and arduous practice, so that, when about to resume his journey, he found his watch no longer there.

At this point he again lost the power of speech, and to our fearful and dreading eyes, his entire disintegration appeared not only probable, but imminent. Recovering himself with a masterly effort, however, he resumed his narrative. Although unable to espy the actual perpetrator of the theft, who had, with commendable discretion and alacrity, completely vanished, he had realized that the jostler must have been his confederate, and had pursued the said confederate for over half a mile, before being eluded by the Arab in a crowded thoroughfare. This, we realized, accounted for our captain’s complexion and superabundance of perspiration.

Here again, having once more relapsed into incoherency, he was left to his vengeful meditations, alternately muttering “My watch” and “the villain”, the former with a touching pathos, and the latter, preceded by some highly descriptive adjectives, with an extraordinary depth of feeling.

Thirty hours later found no appreciable dimunition in our captain’s just and righteous anger, although he could now speak like a rational being, albeit forcefully, concerning his grievous misfortunes of the previous afternoon. We had loaded our last case of dates just on sunset, and, early that morning, even as the first faint streak of grey in the eastern sky heralded the burning day, had gratefully cleared the malodorous port of Basrah. We were, by this time, fairly into the Gulf and proceeding serenely on our way, South by East, through the stifling tropical night, the darkness of which was but infinitesimally relived by the cold, unthinkably distant pinpoints of stars in the moonless night sky.
Our captain, whose outraged feelings evidently refused him the blessed solace of slumber, had recently come up to the bridge, which he was now ceaselessly pacing, very much after the manner of a caged leopard, all the time informing us as to the dire retribution which he intended meting out to the present illegal possessor of his watch, should he ever be fortunate enough to lay hands on him. The lascar Quartermaster, very zealous in our captain’s presence, was poring over the compass box, while in the bows, the lookout man was either thinking of his native village in far off Bombay, or had found sleep vastly easier to come by than our captain.

This last, was of course, pure conjecture, but it must have approximated very closely to the truth, for the first the lookout knew of the dhow lying dead in our path, was when a loud splintering crash, accompanied by even louder frenzied yells, informed him that our steel bows had smashed the unfortunate dhow to matchwood.

“Don’t say we’ve run down another of these bloody dhows,” groaned our captain wearily (it is a surprisingly common occurrence), ringing the engines down to Stop, and bellowing for a boat to be lowered with the utmost expedition. This was done, and then minutes later the lifeboat returned with the shivering, brine soaked crew of the erstwhile dhow; the captain, duty bound, went down on deck to inspect them, as they came on board.

The rope ladder twitched, and as the first luckless victim- how luckless, he did not then completely realize- appeared over the side, the captain’s jaw dropped fully two inches, and he stood as if transfixed.

“That’s the gentleman I chased yesterday,” he ejaculated joyfully (“gentleman”, as will be readily understood, is employed euphemistically) then stopped, staring, with rapidly glazing eyes, at the second apparition, who had just then topped the railing. Dependent from this, the second, “gentleman’s” undeniably filthy neck, and reaching to his waist, was a most unusual ornament for an impoverished Arab- no less an object than our captain’s purloined watch and chain, thus miraculously restored to him, by the joyful caprices of Fortune.

With drawn breath, and with sincere pity in our hearts, we waited for the heavens to fall, for the captain to execute the oft repeated, blood thirsty promises, for, in short, the instant and complete annihilation of the Arabs (four in all) who were regarding the captain with the utmost trepidation, which they were at no pains to conceal.

To our small astonishment- and it may be added, relief- the expected Arab massacre failed to materialize. Instead, stepping quietly forward and lovingly removing his watch and chain from the neck of the cringing, violently shivering Arab, the captain, in a strangely gentle tone, in which there seemed, to us, to be a barely repressed inflection of triumph, merely said, “Take these men below and give them something warm to eat; we’ll hand them over to the Bahrain police, in the morning.”

We were astounded. We were amazed. We were utterly and completely dumbfounded.
Our modest comprehension could not grasp it. What, we asked ourselves, wonderingly, was the reason for this incredible change of front? We were not left long in ignorance.

Swinging round on us, and brandishing his watch on high, the captain shouted: “See!- er, I mean, hear!” We heard. The clamorous tick tock, tick tock of his watch would have put any self respecting alarm clock to shame.

“Waterproof!” he cried exultingly. “Waterproof, you blasted unbelievers! Waterproof!”

It was, I believe, the supreme moment of our captain’s life.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Selma" with David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay (2014)

I barely finished watching this film. I grew up in a household where Martin Luther King was as revered as JFK. He was seen as the the primary hope for the future of those who were then termed "Negro" Americans. Selma and the events which took place on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were seen as righteous and necessary steps in the fight for integration. It is a primary event which was a turning point in the the struggle for Civil Rights. 

I'm not going to review this movie. It's too important to too many people for me to knock it. I will only say that I was deeply disappointed in the treatment of then President Lyndon Johnson, who; although hardly a favorite of my generation due to the War in Vietnam; was nonetheless a shrewd and effective partner for the Civil Rights Movement and the Right to Vote. Here's why;

When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed it did not address the Voting Rights aspect adequately. The choice was to get a Bill passed acknowledging the Civil Rights problem and demanding equality under the law. The strategy was that since the Southern states would not vote a law into effect that included the Voting Rights provision before the Presidential election, then the smartest way to go about effecting that change was to pass the overall bill first; and then take it to court for the Voting Rights aspect. 

Of course this meant that the 1964 Presidential election would be up and gone by the time the voting issue was dealt with, but the reality was that; either way; African-Americans were going to have to sit that one out. If the 1964 bill had failed to pass then the next election African-Americans could hope to vote in would be 1968. The risk was in "overreaching" and failing.

The bill that passed offered the best way to ensure that they would get to vote by the 1968 Presidential election. Johnson had been a member of Congress and the Senate for almost 20 years before becoming President and knew how to work Congress and get what he wanted. By the time Selma rolled around Johnson was working Congress with his usual mixture of charm and threats to get the Voting Rights Act passed. The conflict in Selma was a necessary step to that end. 

Here is the President's speech after the murder of Viola Liuzzo on March 26, 1965. Pay attention from 2 minutes and 26 seconds into the recording for the meat of this thing. Here is the President of the United States labeling the KKK as terrorists and hoodlums. He lets them know in no uncertain terms that the times they are a changing. 

And for a little bit more information about Violo Liuzzo I have included this short but very informative little video about her, lest she get lost in history.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Jade Buddha Returns

The Jade Buddha returned to Charlotte this past weekend. I saw it last when it passed through here on the same date in 2010. Not much that I can add to the traditional history of the statue itself. Best if I leave it to what I wrote 5 years ago. If this exhibit comes through your area, take the time to go and see it; if only to observe the people who are adherents to Buddha. They come in all shades and sizes. Shapes; too.

The Jade Buddha is in Charlotte for the next week. It arrived here last week and is on display at Lien Hoa Temple on Lake Drive. The statue is only 10 feet tall but seems much larger. Made from 4 tons of jewelry grade Jade and adorned with a halo of gold gilt, the statue beams benevolently over all who come to view it.

The four-ton "Jade Buddha for Universal Peace" was being exhibited around the world on the way to its permanent home at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo, Australia. The Buddha is worth about $5 million. (Smaller, lighter ones for wearing are on sale for about $15 dollars.) The statue was carved from an 18 ton block of jade found in Canada called the Polar Pride", which was found in 2000. The boulder was sent to Thailand for carving and is fashioned after the Buddha statue which sits in the Mahabodhi Stupa in India.

According to the Jade Buddha website the goal of the tour is as follows;

“The purpose of exhibiting the Jade Buddha around the world is for everyone, irrespective of their religion, to take a moment to reflect upon peace; peace for the world; peace in their relationships; peace for their families and friends; peace at work; peace in their mind. We hope that such positive inspiration will bring joy and motivation in the lives of those who are able to see the Jade Buddha.”

The statue has also previously been displayed in Vietnam and Australia. The sight of so many Buddhists devotees, as well as the smell of the food, both work together to put a smile on the faces of all who come to view it. And that's exactly the point of the tour.

Charlotte has quite an active Buddhist Community. Last year Sue and I went to see the Essences of the Dalai Lamas. That exhibit consisted of the remnants of the cremated remains of the past Dalai Lamas. When the body is cremated a small portion of bone, or metal and minerals, are left behind and these are called the "Essence" of the deceased. In the case of Dalai Lamas the remnants are considered sacred relics which contain wisdom. They are almost like jewels.

Another Buddhist event worth catching is the sand painting ritual. This tradition consists of groups of Buddhist Monks working in teams to create an intricate work of art. The colored sand is painstakingly applied through brass cones that are manipulated with a metal rod to allow the exact placement of each grain of sand in a pre-ordained traditional image. Upon completion this work is carried lovingly to the nearest body of water and thrown in, thus symbolizing the impermanence of all things.

Events like these serve to hammer home the reality that we all must share this one small planet. And when you look around at the different faces and explore the different cultures you are helping to achieve that goal.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Klansville, USA" - A PBS Film (2015)

I just read this book back in January and somehow never reviewed it here. Don't know why, except that one book ends and another begins. Sometimes a good one gets left out. Such was the case with that one. But, in case you missed the book there is a PBS documentary of the same name and by the same author; David Cunningham.

Reading the book was an eye opener in that I would never have guessed that over half of all the KKK memberships and claverns in the United States were located here in North Carolina; many within 100 miles or less from my home. Kannaoplis; which is 18 minutes from my house; was a particularly active area. There is a tree located about 3 miles from me which is indicated on the chart showing the location of each of the lynchings which took place between the turn of the last century and the dawn of this new one. 

The film is stark and will leave you wondering how the hell they got some of these films. They actually show the "secret" initiation ceremony and other portions of the documentary show men, women and children parading; with hoods up in broad daylight; down the streets of Salisbury, Greensboro and other cities throughout the state. Watching them reminded me of the people who indiscriminately allow themselves to be filmed saying and doing idiotic things today. What were they thinking? 

I passed through North Carolina for the first time when I was 9 years old in early 1964. We were on a trip to Virginia and Washington, DC when we decided to go a bit further and see where my Dad's cigarettes came from. So, we wound up in Raleigh and also Durham, where the biggest cigarette manufacturers were located.

The most memorable part of the trip for me was stopping at a Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge, complete with restaurant and orange roof. What could be more welcoming than the familiar corporate colors, which meant comfort and civility? We entered the restaurant and ate our meal. I was amazed listening to the accents and hearing the waitress call everyone "honey" and "sweetie." Man, I was down South! Then the Coca-Cola truck arrived to make a delivery.

The waitress behind the counter greeted the driver flirtatiously and with honey dripping from her every word. The driver, too, played his part perfectly. With his rolled up short sleeved Coca Cola shirt and a cigarette dangling from his lips he was the embodiment of an American workingman. Then they spoke.

She began by barking, "Boy! The trucks here, get it inside!" A small black kid; skinnier than me; came out from the kitchen area. He never looked up; only down at the floor and mumbled "Yes, 'aam." And as he went to to the door and the task of wheeling in those cases of soda; which were taller than either of us; the driver added, "And don't you break nothing now, y'hear?" This film captures that with crystal clarity.

Monday, May 11, 2015

"The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot" by Blaine Harden (2015)

On September 21, 1953 a North Korean pilot got into the seat of the MIG-15 to which he was assigned to and flew away to South Korea. The story of Lt. No Kum Sok‘s flight to freedom was a story which instantly dazzled the world. But for the weary Lieutenant No it was the culmination of a dream he had held close since he first saw Kim Il Sung speaking from the top of a pile of fertilizer 7 years earlier. He wanted to go to America.

Blaine Harden has taken one of the most fascinating events of the Korean War and placed it at the center of a unique and highly readable book not only about the man who flew the plane; but also the story of Kim Il Sung and how he got to be on top of that fertilizer pile in the first place.

World War Two was the result of the failure of the Treaty of Versailles to correctly address all of the problems which had sparked that war in the first place. Coupled with the heavy handed financial burdens placed on Germany, the treaty was actually a recipe for the next war.

So it was with the end of World War Two. Treaties and alliances were made which would ultimately shape the post war world and lead to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Against this backdrop were the political positions and politics of countries like Vietnam and Korea in Southeast Asia. Just as with the former colonies in Africa which were abandoned soon after the war ended, the fate of these 2 nations rested upon the needs and desires of the United States and the Soviets.

Kim Il Sung was the product of the war against the Chinese in the 1930’s and then the war against Japan in the 1930’s and 1940’s. By the time the second conflict ended Korea was indiscriminately cleaved in half at the 38th parallel; leaving families torn apart from one another in much the same way that the division of Berlin would do to the German people. The political vacuum left in the North was quickly filled by Kim, who had fashioned himself into the role of “Great Leader” much as Stalin had become “Uncle Joe” and Mao became “Chairman Mao.”

As the United States became somewhat complacent with her place in the post war world, the Russians and the Koreans were scheming to consolidate their positions in the hierarchy of worldwide Communism. There was no dispute that Uncle Joe was the head; it was more a question of how close you could be to the top. And Kim wanted to be there with all his heart.

The Soviet Union had just gotten their first atom bomb when Kim Il Sung decided he wanted to re-unify the two halves of his country. No Kum was just 17 when his father died and his country invaded the South. His family had enjoyed immense privileges under the Japanese rule while working for a Japanese firm. When the war ended so did the family’s largesse.

No Kum did well in school and made sure to spout the “party line” whenever necessary. He was granted entry to North Korea’s fledgling Air Force and trained as a pilot. At the same time Kim Il Sung was asking Uncle Joe for some of the new MIG’s which the Soviets had developed. They were not faster than the Sabre’s flown by American pilots; but they could climb higher, giving them the advantage in surprising our bombers, which were pulverizing North Korean cities. 

When Uncle Joe relented and sent the fighters and pilots to North Korea for the training of the Korean Air Force, No Kum was selected to be among the trainees. Unknown to him at this point was that the US Government had a standing $100,000 reward for anyone who could; or would; steal a combat ready MIG and fly it to the South.

When No Kum finally gets his chance he goes for it, landing in South Korea. From there the book becomes an even more remarkable story, as he learns to fend his way through Western type red tape. He was also used by the CIA and the State Department for propaganda newsreels and press conferences.

This book has a lot to give; and it does so from the very first page. The carpet bombing of North Korea; which killed on a level not seen since the fire bombings of Japan and Germany; is explored in sufficient detail for the reader to actually learn something. And the authors summary of the history of Korea in relation to the Japanese and the Chinese is spot on, and does much to help explain the insanity which came to roost in North Korea and occupies the seat of government to this very day.

No Kum Sok finally got his money, a college degree and is still alive today as Kenneth Howe. He lives in Florida.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day - Ruth Marcus Williams

This is my Happy Mother’s Day wish to my mother Ruth Marcus Williams. She passed away in 1984 after a lengthy battle with cancer. I think of her often and wonder what she would have thought of my kids and grand-kids? She passed away too early to see me settled down. So if you've got a Mom - make sure you call or send flowers to her on this special day.

The photo above was taken on Veteran's day 1957 at Riis Park during low tide. I still remember the biting cold and wind. We had been flying paper kites earlier that day. These are the earliest photos I actually remember being taken of my brother or I. While going through these photos several years ago I wrote this song/poem. Even though it's been 30 years I still want to pick up the phone and call her every now and then. That's probably the best compliment that I can pay her. I still miss her.

I'll Never See You Anymore

I can still see you there; you’re standing by the door-
Wearing your best kerchief and your coat.
And though I think I see your face so clearly in my mind,
I know I’ll never see you anymore.

I can still hear your voice; it’s ringing in my head.
I still hear the words to every song.
And though I think I hear your voice so clearly in my mind,
I know I’ll never hear you anymore.

Times the silent master, as it steals your life away.
It robs you just a little at a time.
Then suddenly you realize that you've got nothing left.
She’s taken everything you once called “mine.”

I can still see you there, standing by the shore.
Kerchief blowing with the oceans' roar.
And just when I see you fixed, so clearly in my mind,
I know I’ll never see you anymore.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" - Betty Hutton

When I was about 3 years old I heard this record for the first time. It was a 78 RPM acetate. Some of my earliest musical memories are of my parent’s records. We had Patti Page doing "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window" and the Cast Recording of "GiGi" along with scores of others - but this was one of my many favorite first records. 

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I still do. And of course I am a big fan of Hoagy Carmichael; who wrote the song; as well. Ms. Hutton passed on in March of 2007 and I figure she’s still “dancing With the Stars”. I still love the way she moves!

Friday, May 8, 2015

It's That Time Again - The Pendulum

It’s that time, once again, for a short talk about Pendulums and how they work. A pendulum is attached to a fixed point, which, for the purpose of this discussion we shall label the 12 o’clock; or “noon” position. The pendulum; when left alone; hangs straight down in what we shall refer to as the 6 o’clock position. That is the center of its gravity. 

It is also the beginning point for any deviation which might occur; causing the pendulum to swing to either the left, or the right. This is healthy; as that is what pendulums do. They swing; in a predictable arc. But what happens when it swings too far, either to the right, or to the left?

In politics, we have the Pendulum of Democracy, which works best when swinging back and forth, over a period of time; while never exceeding a point further than half way up either side. Think of it as a clock face. When the hour hand goes too far right, passing the 3 o’clock position; or too far left, passing the 9 o’clock position; we are in trouble.

Examine the role of the Pendulum in history. When the Pendulum is straight down, at 6 o’clock, things are going well, though a bit stagnant. When the Pendulum swings to the left there is usually some kind of social change driving that motion. But, when that Pendulum starts to swing too far to the left, the gravity inherent to that situation is usually enough to bring it back to the six o’clock position. The same is true of the Pendulum when it swings too far to the right.

Two great examples of the Pendulum swinging out of control occurred in the 20th century; and should still be fresh in most people’s minds; if not their memories. The first example is the Russian Revolution, which put the Communists in power for 70 long years, plunging that country into a darkness which overtook all thought and reason. That out of control swing was to the left, and gave us leaders like Joseph Stalin and the millions of deaths at his hands.

The second occurrence was the rise of the Nazi’s to power in Germany. That event also sucked all thought and freedom from the population. It also gave us Adolph Hitler, who; with his out of control swing rightward; also piled up millions of deaths.

So, the question is this; which is best; a swing too far to the right or a swing too far to the left?

The answer, of course, is that neither extreme is healthy.  What is the difference between Stalin and Hitler? A few million bodies is all that separates them.

Are these extreme examples? Not really. Just look back through history and you will see that the Pendulum has been an indicator of freedom for thousands of years. And how does this apply to us, here and now?

This election year will take its usual course; with folks on both sides urging you to support a swing to either the far left, or the far right. They will disguise their intentions behind the flag, the Bible; and in the case of the left it will be social engineering isues. You will be bombarded with vitriol concerning Gay Marriage Amendments; Abortion;  and all manner of other social issues, designed to take your eyes “off the ball”, so to speak. But don’t be fooled.

The issues which concern us the most as a nation go far beyond these “window dressing” topics. The economy, the wars, the health care debate, and the increasing economic divide; these are the real issues. And, as you ponder your beliefs, be sure to think about that Pendulum of Democracy. And remember this; when the Pendulum has swung too far in either direction, you may not be allowed to think at all.

Note: Think of it as having to share the society in which we live. After 40 years of liberalism the Pendulum may swing to the right for a while. Then it will swing back to the 6o”clock position before returning to the left again for a while. And after that it will start the cycle all over again. It’s what a healthy Pendulum does. May it ever be so. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"The Immigrant" with Jeremy Renner and Joaquin Phoenix (2014)

When Ewa Cybulska; played by Marion Cotillard; arrives in America with her sister Magda ; played by Angela Sarafyan; she expects to be greeted by her family and become acquainted with her new homeland. Instead, her sister is denied entry due to tuberculosis and she is set to be deported because her relatives never showed up. This is the beginning if an ethereal film which takes you on Ewa’s journey in the America of the 1920’s and Prohibition.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Bruno Weiss, who first meets Ewa at Ellis Island. He spots her in the line of persons to be interred before deportation and offers to help her out. He slips the guard a bribe to let him take her back to Manhattan with her on the boat.

Ewa’s first days are marked by getting to know the other women who seem to all know Bruno. With her limited English Ewa is hard pressed to find out what these girls do and how they all know Bruno, who presents himself as a promoter of some sort. In reality he runs a string of prostitutes and intends to make Ewa one of them.

Bruno’s cousin Orlando; played by Jeremy Renner; is a magician at the nightclub which features “shows” performed by Bruno’s girls. When Bruno puts her onstage for the first time she is savaged by the audience with verbal abuse and erotic suggestions. As a devout Catholic she withdraws within herself to fend off the fear and confusion she feels; not to mention the betrayal by Bruno.

As Bruno draws Ewa more deeply into his world of degradation we see the effect it has upon him. He begins to love her without knowing how to express it. In reality; although she is the one being degraded, Bruno is the one who suffers for it. The irony is that he basically suffers the consequences of his own decisions. While she has her religion to fall back upon; he has nothing.

Meantime, Ewa forms a bond of sorts with Orlando which allows her to transcend the terrible things happening to her as she awaits a chance to get her sister out of quarantine and begin her life without Bruno.

This is a much nuanced film, with beautiful cinematography. It is a bit slow paced; perhaps deliberately so; to let the viewer feel the uncertainty of the events being experienced by Ewa. Real life is like that; things which are unfamiliar seem to drag by until you get used to the routine. The film is directed by James Gray from a script he co-write with Ric Menello .

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Youth Beware...." by Seidu Malik, PhD. - Manipulation? You Decide.

This article by Seidu Malik appeared in this Sunday’s Charlotte Observer on the Op-Ed page. The man who wrote it is a PhD. Is this article misleading? You decide. I have followed it with a definition of caliphate and also the links to the complete quotations from the Quran used in the article so that you may refer to them. 

“Youth Beware……”

By Seidu Malik -

Charlotte Observer Sunday May 2, 2015

The rate at which some vulnerable youth are becoming brain-washed into believing ISIS propaganda calls for a serious dialogue on the issue. Any youth contemplating joining ISIS should bear in mind that the barbaric killings of Christians, destruction of ancient artifacts and murder of innocent people in the region under the control of ISIS have absolutely no affiliation to the ethics and tenets of Islam. There should be no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:257) and the prophet Muhammad never forced anyone to accept him. It is therefore very strange that despite all these atrocities, some youth still fall victim to this diabolical organization which has become adept at spreading misinformation and taking advantage of ignorance.

It is important for youth to understand that ISIS is flourishing in unstable countries in the Middle East, such as Syria, Iraq and Libya, due to breakdown of law and order. When there is a power vacuum in a country as a result of war, any splinter group can emerge to fill the void left behind. Such is certainly the case here. ISIS’s barbaric actions contradict the Quran and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad. Hence, the ISIS organization should be viewed as a political unit struggling for power in the affected countries.

Quran requires tolerance

Islam as a religion shows great tolerance to people of other religious faiths and, in fact, it is incumbent upon Muslims to protect the lives and property of those of other faiths (Quran 22:41). Even idol worshippers, which the Quran categorically reject as false (Quran 6:109) are not to be abused or insulted. But what does the world see ISIS doing today? Brutal killings of Christians, journalists, foreign aid workers, raping and enslaving of women and children just to mention a few.

Are these actions not against the prophet Muhammad’s own words when he sought to protect the Christian monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt?: “No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.” Did the prophet not give his mosque for a delegation of Christians to hold their church service? Did he not send some of his companions to seek asylum in the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia? Since the answer is yes, why should ISIS murder Christians in Libya and other areas under their control?

It is apparent that ISIS is distorting true Islamic teachings to suit its political ideology and therefore the youth should not buy into its sophisticated propaganda. If the purpose of joining ISIS is for spiritual development from their so-called “caliphate,” it is bound to fail because the true caliphate of Islam as clearly exhibited by the companions of the prophet Muhammad for more than a century and recently by the Ahmadiyya Community have never resorted to violence to spread the true message of Islam.

A better way

You cannot win people’s hearts and minds by terror and neither can you force someone to believe in your faith. ISIS is a political organization doomed to fail and it will certainly be a mistake on the part of some youth to join such an organization. ISIS’s current despicable actions are against the genuine teachings of the Quran and therefore have no hope of uplifting the spiritual progress of anyone. Not all that glitters is gold and therefore do not be fooled through propaganda or savvy Internet videos into thinking that ISIS represents the true Islam.

If some youth are in the quest for leadership or spiritual uplift, there is an alternative peace-loving caliphate found only in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community with a well-structured organization, huge literature base and clear leadership qualities to help any seeker of truth satisfy his or her spiritual thirst. By this, it is hoped that those youth in search of spiritual enlightenment will abandon the suicidal mission of travelling overseas to join ISIS but will instead turn to the peace-loving caliphate in the comfort of their own homes in America to really understand the true meaning and value of Islam which categorically rejects the killing of innocent souls (Quran 5:33).*

Seidu Malik, Ph.D, is the education youth leader for the RTP Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He lives in Chapel Hill.

Let's just start with that last paragraph and the reference to 5:33;

* 5:33 Sahih International - Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.

Caliphate - the era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Mohammed until the 13th century; some Moslems still maintain that the Moslem world must always have a calif as head of the community; "their goal was to reestablish the Caliphate"
 2. caliphate - the territorial jurisdiction of a caliph
↔jurisdiction - in law; the territory within which power can be exercised
 3. caliphate - the office of a caliph

Note by me:
The 1st caliphate was after Muhammad died in 632. The last ended in 1924 when Ataturk- the father of Modern secular Turkey - abolished the Caliphate for all time. The Caliphate is to extend the Islamic faith as far and as wide as possible; with world wide submission the object. Qur'an (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

(22:41) (Allah will certainly help) those84 who, were We to bestow authority on them in the land, will establish Prayers, render Zakah, enjoin good, and forbid evil.85 The end of all matters rests with Allah.86

84. Those who help Allah are the people who invite mankind to Tauhid and exert their utmost to establish the true faith and righteousness.

85 “If We give them authority”: In this one sentence, the real aim of the Islamic State and the characteristics of those who conduct its affairs have been stated concisely but comprehensively. Those who help Allah and deserve His succor behave righteously, establish Salat, make arrangements for the collection of Zakat and use their power and authority to propagate good and eradicate evil. (Non-believers.)

86. That is, it is Allah Who decides whom to give power in the land and when. This is meant to remove the misunderstanding of the proud and arrogant people who think that the destiny of the land and its dwellers is in their hands, and there is none to depose them from power. But Allah dethrones the most haughty ruler in supernatural ways and gives power to the most humble in order to show that He is All-Powerful, All-Mighty.

[2:257] There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

6:109  And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that if a sign came to them, they would surely believe in it. Say, "The signs are only with Allah ." And what will make you perceive that even if a sign came, they would not believe, is followed by 110 which states;"And We will turn away their hearts and their eyes just as they refused to believe in it the first time. And We will leave them in their transgression, wandering blindly." This is followed by 111 which goes a bit further; "And even if We had sent down to them the angels [with the message] and the dead spoke to them [of it] and We gathered together every [created] thing in front of them, they would not believe unless Allah should will. But most of them, [of that], are ignorant." 

And of course, 5:33 again, simply because it is so revealing;

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Liberty's First Crisis" by Charles Slack (2015)

Imagine a law which would make it a crime to publish, or utter, “any false scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States or either House of the Congress, or the President of the United States with intent to defame the said government….. or to excite against them…..the hatred of the good people of the United States….for opposing or resisting any law of the United States or any act of the President.”

This was the most important section of the Alien and Sedition Act which was passed in 1798 in the wake of the XYZ Affair and the partisan split between the two political parties over the possibility of War with France, even as we were still struggling to find our place in the world as a Nation.

The Republicans of the time; it should be noted; were today’s Democrats and the Federalists were today’s Republicans. The Sedition Acts were the work of the Republicans of the era, and all but 6 of them voted for the passage of it. The Federalists fought it tooth and nail.

Such a law passed today would have the effect of silencing most of the 24/7 news cycle we have all come to love/hate. FOX, Rush Limbaugh and even CNN would be silenced, along with all 3 major networks. Can you picture the silence, the death of debate, and the absence political discourse? The silence; one might say; would be deafening.

With a wonderful background on the of freedom speech stemming back to the Magna Carta and Sidney’s Discourses in 1688; for which Sidney was hung 5 years earlier; and Blackstone’s Commentaries, which although fairly revolutionary for the time did call for limitations on “pretended prophecies”; the author explores the issue of our own Bill of Rights, which contains our valued First Amendment.

Interestingly, Alexander Hamilton felt that there was no need for a Bill of Rights, since none of the rights in it were specifically forbidden in the Articles of the Constitution itself. The danger there, of course, lay in the interpretation of what was not there to interpret. It is no accident that the Bible; although containing all of 613 Commandments from God; felt it necessary to have the 10 most important ones etched into stone on Mt. Sinai. Some things are too important to be left open to interpretation.

It is important to note here that the whole Alien an Sedition Act drama is precisely why we need the Bill of Rights; and it puts to lie the assertions of those; who; like Hamilton; would say that the limits on government contained within the Articles of the Constitution itself are enough to protect our individual freedoms. But without them, what might have been the outcome of this whole era of the Sedition Acts? 

The most interesting part of this book concerns the 2 men most caught up in the calamity of the Acts. They were newspaper editors Benjamin Franklin Bache; grandson of Benjamin Franklin. He died from yellow fever just before his trial was scheduled to take place.

The second man was Matthew Lyon ; an editor who had originally hailed from Ireland and was in double peril due to the deportation aspect of the law. His was the first actual Sedition trial held.These 2 men were thorns in the side of President Adams, while a balm to his Vice President; Thomas Jefferson; who lobbied extensively against the Acts. The volatile relationship between Adams and his Vice President is legendary and the author gives us great insight into this. 

There was also the case of Henry Lyon of Vermont. He was a sitting Congressman and a newspaper editor when he was jailed for Sedition. He bore ill confinement with a dignity which even impressed his political foes. He even stood for reelection while imprisoned and won. His story is particularly fascinating. 

But beyond the newspapermen there was also the trial of a man named Luther Baldwin for the crime of a public utterance. He had wished that a cannon salute being fired in respect to President Adams be fired at his "arse" instead. He was drunk at the time he said he it, yet he was charged; along with his 2 friends; under the Sedition Act. This was just 23 years after the Declaration of Independence, and was perhaps the lowest point of the Sedition Act drama. If a man could not be secure in conversation with his fellows, then what had that revolution wrought? 

This book captures all of the excitement, as well as the drama, of a new nation struggling to come to terms with itself. There was no previous example to follow in this great experiment called America. We were winging it. The lesson to be taken from this book should serve as a lesson to people on both sides of the political aisle who seek to silence one another. We have tried it before and it failed miserably.