Archive for July, 2017

Life, Living and Lived

This is a collection of experiences for me so far this week. On Sunday, I was told by one of our priests as I entered that one of my best friends at church had died the previous day. I had known him for at least thirty years as a friend and (for the early years) a co-usher at church. With a group of friends, we had lunch together during our working years. His loss has hit me pretty hard.

Then, this morning, with my wife and a daughter, we went to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens off of 295 on the east side of the Anacostia river. These lily gardens were started by a Civil War veteran in the 1870’s and were acquired by the Park Service in the 1920’s. We were told the lilies were not at there peak, but the variety and colors were beyond anything I have ever seen.

On the way over, my driving daughter taught her mother how to use the direction finder on my cell phone. On the way home, she set it up (simple so even I could use it) for me. All I could think of was the years I had spent in unfamiliar territory trying to read a map to get to my destination. This addition to living life would have made mine so much easier when I was younger with a car full of children, or trying to find a school with a student teacher.

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Evil Persists

One of the books that recently caught my attention was the diary of a governess for three children on the edge of World War I; An English Governess In The Great War, by Mary Thorp. I bought it and began listening to my wife read short sections to me.

World War I began shortly after Thorp settled in as governess with three little boys in Brussels. The German army made its attack on France through Belgium south curving east through northern France, but failed to drive the British and French out of the war. Belgium became an occupied country which is the story of this diary.

While I have selected German activities that have practically driven my wife out the book, the one that grabbed me most was the gathering up of
men and shipping them off to Germany to perform work there for which there were no longer enough Germans. This, of course, left not enough Belgians to keep that country going. Once in Germany, these men were worked until sick to death when they were shipped home to die. Coal from Belgian mines was confiscated. All metal, including metal household goods (pots and pans, wash tubs) were gathered up in multiple sweeps. And, these are just the beginning.

What I had not realized, was that exactly the same seizures and controls were put in place 20 years later with the Nazi invasion. The more I learn about Nazi behavior which I lived through in WWII, the more I feel the almost complete destruction of German social and physical structure was well deserved.

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New World

New World

The big corporations built up over WWII got their workers from veterans who went to college and were a disciplined and educated group who could fill the jobs in new corporations like camera company Kodak. Pullman porter jobs were gone as airlines hired stewardesses. Auto companies exist only in bits and pieces in this country today. Information work has young people coming and going, but few 20-30 year jobs remain. A recent article describes how convenience stores can (and are) now selling their goods without human clerks.

Marriages are down, but suburban jurisdictions, like Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia, can’t build schools fast enough while rural counties throughout the country have to consolidate schools. Collection of a majority of people in urban areas leads to increased living separation between those with well paying work and those with poorer paying work. Farming, manufacturing, service work are increasingly done by fewer people using various forms of technical assistance.

Medical diagnostic work is also going out of the hands of physicians into those of technicians. Computers have moved into schools, though that has not (yet) reduced the need for teachers. The list could go on. We are obviously in the midst of major change in the way we live our lives. It appears we have even less control over this one than the one I lived through.

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Maybe Not Where We Thought We Were Going

This Fourth of July holiday seemed a good time to remind ourselves of the wars we have been in since this Declaration was approved.

July 4, 1776 Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain.

July 4 1814, United States at once again at war with Britain which was on the doorsteps of the White House

July 4, 1863 found the Union Army victorious at the close of battles in Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, Mississippi.

July 4, 1846-48, war with Mexico

July 4, 1898 war with Spain

July 4 1917, War with Germany

July 4 1942-45, War with Japan and Germany

July 4 1956-1975, Vietnam War

When I thought that I would make a few comments about the War for Independence, the Civil War and World War II, it took me a little time to realize that we had much more time at war. For a people who see ourselves as peace loving this expanded time at war has led me to think about our being in conflict that required Congressional support for at least 30 years of our existence (and this does not count the seven years of the French and Indian War while a British colony). Nor, does it count our military involvement in Iraq begun in 2003, and Afghanistan from 2001 to the present. I now see our resemblance to the Romans as they shifted from being a republic to a dictatorship. I have often wondered what led them to move from being a republic to the dictatorship of an emperor. This little exercise puts their political history into better understanding (though it doesn’t make me feel better about what I see as our direction).

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Still Hot Summer

What a week! Relatives came to visit, family gatherings and trips, special meals, much conversation; lots packed into two days. Sorry they couldn’t stay longer.

Now back to real life. Trump and crowd are doing their usual thing. The Republicans in Congress have discovered what most already knew; trying to pass legislation that the constituencies of many members don’t like can lead to shortened terms. What will we hear after the 4th of July at home?

Early the President still wakes up and gets mad at people he can’t fire. Comments are mostly what you would find at all male clubs. The papers have him going to European conference where he will meet with Vladimir Putin. Heaven only knows what will come of that, given that it is reported he has basically taken us out of union with Europe.

I’m trying to learn the various features of a mobile phone. A good part of that so far involves calling friends and family members. I am reluctant to pursue that for too long with one person; how long can I lean on good will. The fourth of July is upon us and the neighborhood party is leading to people trying to find out what food items other people will bring.

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