Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shanghai China Baptist History

This is the original Minutes of the Shanghai Baptist Church, November, 1847, when they organized. Also known by the name Old North Gate Church, since it sat on a corner across from the North Gate of the Chinese city of Shanghai. The British and French sections north of it were still in the formative stages of development.

Matthew Tyson and Eliza Yates were the first Southern Baptist missionaries to Shanghai, just two years after the SBC was organize in August, Georgia, USA. This first meeting was held in the house where J.L. Shuck lived. Shuck had already many years experience in Hong Kong and Canton (Guangzhou). The purpose was to organize into a church. The names of those present is recorded: Rev. J. Lewis Shuck, Elvia Gable Shuck (Shuck's first wife Henriette Hall Shuck died in Hong Kong and buried in Happy Valley Cemetary up above the Happy Valley Race Course.), Rev. Matthew Tyson Yates, Eliza Emmeline M. Yates, Rev. Thomas William Toby (earlier a Canton missionary), Isabella Hall Toby, Rev. Yang, Mr. Sun. ("Seen Sang" written after their names is the way the missionaries romanized the Shanghai dialect word for "Mr." or "teacher." (Pinyin: xin sheng)

Shuck was elected moderator and pastor and Yates was secretary (this could be written by him?). Rev. Toby and wife and Mr. Yang were elected deacons.

A January 1st, 1848 meeting minutes follow and it is signed by M.T.Y, clerk (Matthew T. Yates, so this is in his handwriting. During the American Civil War years it was difficult to get funds to China missionaries and Yates worked as a translator and sometime lawyer-judge for the British colonists.

The church, small in beginning, but grew to be a ministry of hope for the Chinese population. The only other church at the time was the colonial Anglican which ministered primarily to the British and foreigners.

My wife and I came upon the church in 1980s. That is, the brick building built in the 1920s. The church did not reopen after being closed by the new Communist government in late 1950s. In 1979 men like Bishop K. H. Ting (Ding Guangxun) and Shanghai pastors petitioned the government to allow their churches to be re-opened. Some 20 Shanghai churches regained their buildings and worshipped. The Grace Baptist Church was one of those allowed to re-open, but the Old North Gate Church had been changed to a school and the government felt the school at that location was more important than a church.

We were allowed to go inside the auditorium. There an eldery gentelemen shared with my wife that he had been baptized there. The baptism pool was on the platform under the pulpit. A common practice both in America and China. It was still there but not being used naturally.

It made us remember our visit to the old Baptist Hospital in Zhengzhou, Henan province and a chance to visit the Baptist church there. Building still there but used as auditorium rather than a church. The Baptist Hospital continues as a city hospital to this day. Our friends the Fielder (Maudie and Wilson Fielder) were missionaries there from 1912 to 1950. Below is a picture of Mrs. Fielder and the church youth group, 1940. The little girl on the left side of front row is Florence Ann Fielder, age 8, pigtails and all. She is now Mrs. L.G. McKinney, former missionary to Hong Kong and Macao.

More of the little-known stuff which we have had the pleasure of encountering in our years in Taiwan (1957 to 1966); Hong Kong (1966-77 and 1982-83); and as bridge builder (of understanding) with churches in China mainland, both house churches and the open churches, 1983-1992.

Two early documentaries produced with our help in China. The FMB-backed "Winter is Past" and the SBC Radio and TV joint production with ABC-Television, "Walls and Bridges," Emmy winner for documentary, 1988-1989.

Taiwan Baptist Missionaries (1)

This 1958 group photo of all the male Southern Baptist missionaries stationed on the island of Taiwan, often referred to as The Republic of China, was rare chance to get them all at one time. Here is a little about each of them.

FRONG ROW: Harry RAILEY, Carl HUNKER, Charles Culpepper Jr., C.L. Culpepper Sr., Oz Quick

Harland was later a VP of the SBC Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board); Britt and Jody were the third new couple to Taiwan; Bynum and wife were second couple; Alex was born in Henan province China and served there first; Richard and Tena were first couple to study Taiwanese language with SBC, others were all in mandarin Chinese; Glenn studied mandarin, pastored English-speaking Calvary Baptist Church in Taipei; Harry and wife were first missionaries appointed to Taiwan. Up to that point all the missionaries there had come from the China mainland; Charles born on Seminary Hill, Ft. Worth, grew up in Shandong province; C.L. (Charlie) went to China in the 1920s and was the treasurer of the Taiwan Mission; Oz was also in Guilin, China, after being appointed to Japan and being a chaplain in the invasion of Japanese islands during World War 2. Oz and his wife Mary taught university-level English to mainland Chinese students in Yan'tai (old Chefoo) after retiring.

The men are sitting on a small amphitheatre beside the auditorium for the summer conference grounds at Ling Tou, north of the city of Taipei. Bertha Smith and Martha Franks began and ran the summer conferences. Bertha was the first SBC missionary to Taiwan from China. She went there to see if work was possible soon after 1948 when it became apparent the Communist would be taking control of all of China.

The first missionaries for SBC to Taiwan were women from the Mainland: Pearl Johnson, Ola Lea, Josephine Ward, Katie Murray, Lola Marie Conners, Clifford Barrat, Lois Glass, Addie Cox, Mary Demarest, and Irene Jeffers. Later Gladys Hopewell (only SBC missionary murdered, Tainan); Mary Sampson; Lorene Tilford; Jennie Alderman; Inabelle Coleman, was The Commission Magizine editor before going to teach English at the Hu Jiang Baptist College, Shanghai, where she had tremendous influence on future preachers and leaders both in church and government.

Ivan V. and Edith Drotts Larson were the first couple also came over from the China mainland. Most of their ministry was in Shandong province. Ivan was interned by the Japanese and repatriated in 1942. They began churches in Chia Yi (Jia Yi) City, Taiwan, and were joined by the Akins in 1958.

The Mission was slow to get into Taiwanese language work as the Presbyterians had been there for over one hundred years and had churches in all major cities. Also, the Conservative Baptist out of Denver already had a Bible School with Taiwanese preachers and missionary preaching in Taiwanese. Jim Cummings was one of these who had a real good grasp of the language and people. Being single he had lived with a Taiwanese family for a while. On a furlough he found the perfect mate: Maggie, who at the time was a guide at DisneyLand.

Other SBC missionaries who were early into Taiwanese work were Hunter and Patsy Hammett, B.L. Lynch and wife, and others whose names have slipped from my memory at present.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What does America REALLY need?

UPDATE: As a reader points out in the comment thread of Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, swore off writing about Ms. Sarah Palin for at least a month. The pledge went something like this:

“I hereby pledge that, beginning on Feb 1, 2011, I will not mention Sarah Palin – in print, online or on television – for one month. Furthermore, I call on others in the news media to join me in this pledge of a Palin-free February. With enough support, I believe we may even be able to extend the moratorium beyond one month, but we are up against a powerful compulsion, and we must take this struggle day by day."

FURTHER UPDATE: As astute readers know, February, 2011, has long passed us by and the drought-ridden hot summer awaits those of us on the plains. While the former half-term governor of Alaska is still the hottest item in every newscast and entertainment segment available on television or in magazines.

I know not how the pledge-maker of last February is doing. Seems not to matter if reports of the Star of the North (S.P.) continue fluffily and brazenly showing her as being possibly as smart as a fifth grader. It also shows an over-the-wall or up-the-wall shame-faced ignorance of those who picture her as what America needs.

At one time folks thought Mae West was what we needed and on and on.

At one time all America needed was a five-cent cigar.

Cigars have disappeared and Mae West is but a life preserver and some think America needs something.

MOST RECENT UPDATE: I will vote for having men and women dedicated to integrity, even if they are not running for some office.

My vote goes to the person who does a good job, if just flippin’ burgers or cleaning sewers, or trimming trees, and the good job, however unpleasant makes other folks life easier.

My vote goes to those who after doing a good job do not have to go on television and tell us how humbly grateful for what they did. They do it and sit down, not expecting a gold chain or medal.

One thing I find hard to do these days is to stop writing about S.P. for she is so full of stuff we never expect a person to learn. Like when she was blessed by her pastor to take out demons. All that talk about President Barack Obama’s former pastor and never a word about this Alaska preacher S.P. spent time with.

How Mark Twain and Will Rogers would have had a field day had they lived with the rest of us in this glorious 21st century. They would have us rollin’ in the aisles as they humored us along. Revealing to us once again there is a real world out there—somewhere.

How Other Cultures Bless

A recently passed Arizona House Bill 2281, which bans from the public schools ethnic studies that promote race consciousness or promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a trace or class of people.

So an Arizona state representative wants to cut out foreign study programs from universities. As a former Asian Studies Program director I disagree with his lack of curiosity and vision.

Americans need to learn more about the people of the world, not less. Our culture grew from the cultures of immigrants. We can’t stop learning about our ancestor’s heritage, then and now.

“The Way of Chuang Tzu” is Father Thomas Merton’s personal versions of the writings of Chuang Tzu, the most spiritual of the ancient Chinese philosophers.

Chuang Tzu, the greatest of the Taoist writers of the Way (“The Tao” misspelled with a “t” in the West, now spelled as it is pronounced, “Dao”). Chuang Tzu’s historical existence is verified. He lived during the Bible times of Ezra and Nehemiah, 5th century B.C..

The word “dao” is the same word used in the Chinese Bible where Jesus says, “I am the way (dao)…” Just as the Christian “dao” is vital to Christian thought, so the spirit of Chuang Tzu’s subtle, sophisticated, mystical “dao” has left its mark on all Chinese culture. Chuang Tzu’s dao should not be confused with Western interpretations (superstition, magic or health) with the philosopher and his philosophy.

Among other things Merton reminds us that Chuang Tzu brought humor to the Indian religion of Buddhism as it was introduced into Chinese culture. He did not hesitate to ridicule Confucianism and other Chinese schools of thought. He did not begin a religion, though it has become the largest religion in China, many more believers than Buddhists or Communists.

The secret of the Way was not the accumulation of things like virtue or merit, but wu-wei, the non-doing or non-action, which does not depend on results or chest-thumping. "Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness."

Daoist philosophy attempts to illuminate the interdependency of all things, including life, art, and language. Its simplicity is baffling to non-Chinese.

John C.H. Wu, in his book “A New Appraisal,” writes: “To Chuang Tzu the world must have looked like a terrible tragedy written by a great comedian. He saw scheming politicians fall into pits they had dug for others. He saw predatory states swallowing weaker states, only to be swallowed in their turn by stronger ones. Thus the much vaunted utility of the useful talents proved not only useless but self-destructive.”

When Chuang Tzu was about to die, his disciples began planning a splendid funeral. To them he said: “I shall have heaven and earth for my coffin; the sun and moon will be the jade symbols hanging by my side; planets and constellations will shine as jewels all around me. … What more is needed? Everything is cared for.”

Buy they said: “We fear the crows will eat our Master.”

“Well,” said Chuang Tzu, “above ground I shall be eaten by crows, below it by ants and worms. In either case I shall be eaten.” With a twinkle in his eye, he asked his disciples: “Why are you so partial to birds?”

What do we learn from foreign lands? Not just Asia, but Hungry, Spain, Scotland, and Bolivia all have ideas, views and ways thatπ could benefit us. Foreign cultural studies broaden perspectives; deepen insight; expand vision; increase understanding of others. There is little joy compared to learning new “stuff” from all corners of our blue marble.


Friday, May 20, 2011

More on China's Master Storyteller

The above graphic announces the Beijing Performing Arts Theater's presentation of Lao She's graphic novel of the years the people of Beijing, China, endured the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. The title of the novel in Chinese is "Four Generations" and the English translation by Ida Pruitt (Southern Baptist missionary's daughter, 1888-1987) is titled "Yellow Storm." It is being presented June,2011.

When I was last in Beijing, 1999, I enjoyed seeing Lao She's "Teahouse" as a musical. It was first class in every way. Nothing can compare to what the Chinese can do in the arts. I attended the presentation along with Lao She's widow Hu Jieqing, her son Shu Yi and daugher Shu Ji, both writers of renown in China. For more on Lao She, his museum and works go to my other web site: Lao She.

Marjorie King, Ph.D., an independent historian, who taught at the Beijing Foreign Affairs College, wrote the biography of Ida Pruitt titled: "China's American Daughter." Published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2006. ISBN 962-996-221-7. Chinese University Press web site. E-mailcup@cuhk.edu.hk.

Dick Tracy Flash Gordon Buck Rogers

Those who passionately read the daily newspaper’s funnies in the 1930s and 1940s are sure to remember that neat little phone wrist watch that crime fighter Dick Tracy used. Back then it was just whimsy from the mind of a cartoonist trying to be creative. Nobody took seriously that there could be such a thing as a radio-phone.

(Chester Gould’s long-running comic strip about a hard-hitting and intelligent police detective began in 1931. Gould wrote and drew the strip until 1977. Dick Tracy’s cool watch radio phone enabled him to communicate with headquarters.)

Now cell phones are putting the land line phones out of business. The colorful little corner phone booth is no more. (You only see them in old movies). Cars whiz past me with a cell phone plastered to the driver’s ear. In addition to regular cell and mobile phones, Dick Tracy’s phone wrist watch is selling like hotcakes on eBay. And surprise, a video watch phone will be out this fall selling for a mere $1,000.

After all, on those same pages Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers were sailing through the galaxies with all kinds of neat gadgets in wonderfully created space ships. No one on my block took such adventures to ever be in our future. Like Clark Kent’s Superman, it was just pure comic entertainment; flights of fancy meant only for the imagination of little kids. Now it is evident there are more worlds out there than Flash or Buck ever dreamed could be. We are just beginning to see the greatness of creation and the vastness of what God has made. Our world is not alone in this unbelievably huge and multi-universes. God has many more worlds, more sheep, some more advanced than we are and some less so. One day we can see better than this primitive darkened old mirror.

As an old local West Texas columnist closes his column each week, I will borrow the phrase: See You Out Yonder.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coming Of Age in 1940s

When soldier Joe B. Swan joined up with the U.S. Army he was assured he would work on military newspapers and continue the kind of work he had done at Howard Payne College (now University), Brownwood, Texas. So, rather than get drafted with no choices he joined up. Stateside and later in Japan he never saw a typewriter. He was just another dogface and cleaned latrines and peeled potatoes just like the infantry. This was before there was a Haliburton to contract for all that stuff.

He was not long in Tokyo when the North Koreans took it upon themselves (with Stalin"s encouragement) to invade and make South Korea as sad a place as the north was becoming. He shipped over and saw combat before the Army red tape finally caught up with him and he was made editor of a camp paper.

His commanding office did not take to Joe's satire and cartoons in the paper. Reamed him out and was going to have him shipped off to a worse place. Can you imagine anything worse than anywhere in war torn Korea? But the general heard of the trouble Joe was having and he let the commanding officer know he liked Joe's cartoons and to leave Joe alone. His writing and cartoons did more for moral than all the orders and rules the Army insisted on.

The photo was taken in Brownwood with me on the left. This was before he was sent overseas. We corresponded for over 55 years. After the war he married the love of his life, Laura Jones, art student at HPC. They had two good kids, a boy and a girl, both living around San Jose, California. Joe built the photography department of San Jose State University from nothing to one of the leading such schools anywhere. He had three students later gain Pulitzers in photography and another who won an Oscar for a film documentary.

In the early 1980s Joe wrote me in China that he had seen the future. He was on leave and in Hawaii where he saw the first of the new way of publishing photos and newspapers. He knew then that film cameras would one day soon be antiques. Color in newspapers was becoming the thing to do.

Back when we were teen-age Lyric Theater ushers Joe and I and Bob Graves would walk home after work. Often sitting under a street light planning how we would make a future for us. We once rented an office in the old Southern Building on Center Ave. so we could practice being big-time writers.

After Bob moved to California he continued to write as he was a foreman on a ranch. He finally sold a story to a magazine. What a thrill. Until he received a copy which turned out to be a rather adult magazine he could not brag about or let his kids see.

Bob's been gone a long time. Joe just a couple of years. And I have my memories of two of the best guys God ever put on this earth. Sometime when the time is right and I can still use this computer keyboard I want to write more of the visions of the youth of the 1940s. Half those year our land was at war and the other half trying to adjust to peace without rations.

To tell a true story you need to be talented in writing fiction. That is original with me. Thought it up myself. And when I finished the biography of Maude and Wilson Fielder and their 40 years in China, I'll work on my fiction.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Limited Freedoms in China Better Than None

It was May 22, 1989, on the campus of the Nanjing University, Nanjing, China. With some seminary students and friends we rode bicycles to the gathering of students. This was happening all over China. Students leading the way for more freedoms and respect from the paramount leader, primarily Deng Xiaoping.

Nanjing Theological Seminary students were in evidence with a Christian witness. They were sharing water with the students. An opening for Jesus' water of life. There was no violence. That came later on June 4 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in front of the Forbidden Palace and the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party and government. Chairman Deng had a difficult time finding army units that would disrupt the protesting students.

The students would march around that part of Beijing with signs and songs. The shoppers and shop keepers saw the brave young kids and cheered them on. Factory workers and others joined them at a distance. I saw a long red streamer several feet long hanging from a building proclaiming "Tong Xue Wan Sui" -- "Students Live Forever." Same as old streamers and slogans for Chairman Mao: "Mao Zhuxi Wan Sui"

I left Beijing the day martial law was installed. Week later Deng had found soldiers who would go into the square and attack the students and break up the peaceful demonstrations. Until then soldiers at the scene had not been swayed to be so cruel. Chinese of Hong Kong were sure that Chinese would not kill Chinese. They did.

Now, 22 years later, the students dreams have not been fully realized, but they made for better times. Today there is more freedom in job seeking, travel abroad, study and the churches are growing in numbers and strength as never before. Still there are problems and all freedoms are limited, but to my mind they are making more of their limited freedoms that most of we Americans are.

The last time I saw Beijing was in 1999 at a literary conference honoring Lao She on what would have been his 100th birthday. Writers, scholars and poets from around the world were there to honor a writer who helped bring Chinese fiction into the modern era. He had been a victim of the tragic Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. Now he is read and studied in China mainland and Taiwan and Singapore schools.

I gave my library of his works, art by his wife, Hu Jieqing, tributes by Dr. Chow Lien-Hwa, and related Chinese history books in Chinese and English to the library of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA. It forms the Towery-Lao She Collection there. It was dedicated by Lao She's son and daughter, Shu Yi and Shu Ji. It is the largest such collection of his work outside China and Japan.

I have dedicated a blog to Lao She's memory. Have a look.

And in the meantime, be thankful for limited freedoms --- they are far better than none!!!

USS Indianapolis & Scapegoats

Insecure people create scapegoats

San Angelo was treated recently by the visit of Loel Dean Cox, hero and survivor of World War II. This Texas farm boy from Comanche was on the bridge of the USS Indianapolis when a Japanese submarine accidently spotted them and fired six torpedoes.

His harrowing tale has been told in film and books, but to hear him tell it is special. Just past midnight, on July 30, 1945, midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, his ship was hit by two torpedoes, just weeks before Japan surrendered.

The Navy scapegoating began and the ship’s captain, the late Charles Butler McVay, III, was court-martialed. Among other things, evidence that would have cleared McVay was withheld. The Navy Department only wanted a scapegoat. That was 1948. For years the surviving crew fought for justice for McVay without success.

Cox, in his San Angelo talk May 12, told of an eleven-year old boy who in 1998 recognized the miscarriage of justice (of all places from the film “Jaws”) and wrote a paper for his school: McVay should not have been court-martialed. The New York Times and a congressman took up the cause and in 2001 justice prevailed for McVay. With pressure from Congress the Navy at last conceded that he was innocent of any wrong-doing.

I was aware of the tragic loss of ship and lives (out of 1197 aboard only 317 survived) but until hearing Cox tell of his experiences, the story was just a story. (Cox grew up in Sidney, Texas, five miles from Stag Creek, where I was once a pastor.)

It brought to my mind how common the act of scapegoating has been in our young nation’s history. So where did this scapegoat tradition get started anyway?

Each year in ancient Israel on the Day of Atonement, the record of all the sins of the Israelites were, by ritual and blood sacrifice, transferred to a goat. This goat was then released into the desert, taking with it the sins of the people. The result being that the sinners got off scot free and the goat died in the wilderness.

The beginnings of the scapegoat ordeal was in the years following the escape of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and on their way to the Promise Land. (See Leviticus 16.)
Since the goat is sent away to perish, the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes (Encyclopedia Americana).

Scapegoats are used even today as a defense ploy to take the heat off the real culprit. It is terribly evident in both government and the military. And in the business world, scapegoating is all too common. Minor employees are blamed for the mismanagement or mistakes of senior executives.
René Girard, French historian and literary critic, writes that one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled. This person is the scapegoat. Girard writes: “social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual.”

There are many ways that the powerful slough off, deflect or ignore their guilt. “Shoot the messenger” is one popular method. “Blame the victim” is a favorite of rapists and insecure men. The 1690s Salem witch-hunts and the 1950s “communist threat to America” paranoia of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Trying to deflect their own shortcomings and incompetence by blaming others.

Have we so soon forgotten what the Army brass did concerning the “friendly fire” death of Pat Tillman, Jr., the Arizona Cardinals football player who left a million dollar contract behind to fight for his country. He died in the mountains of Afghanistan and to this day the cover up and foul-ups of his death have never been satisfied.

Today’s scapegoat is Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of leaking a trove of secret government documents later published by the Wikileaks website, sits in solitary confinement without trial, pending a court martial. Our government, like the Army and Navy hates to be caught with its pants down.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Texas state Talking Book Program

As we move along in life and our birthdays come sooner and sooner and we begin to gradually walk with more care; even think in new ways; experience that life is not all wine and roses.

As we age we are fortunate to see maturity as anything but dull and meaningless years tacked onto the closing chapters of our time on earth. Anything but monotonous, boring and tedious. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.” (Robert Browning).

Long life is a time to build on what has been learned, review and revise our views on life, faith, and be a light for those who may be discouraged with the aging process. Never lose the old ‘get up and go.”

Medical science has a lot to do with “living into the best years of life.” Attitude is important, especially when ailments increase and we can’t jump rope or play hopscotch and other exciting “stuff” we came to enjoy.

There is help and it is from a place that seldom gets the credit it deserves. The state government of Texas may misuse or waste tax dollars -- but there is another side where wonderful programs use tax dollars wisely.

One of these government run entities has a history of helping the sight-impaired: the Texas Talking Book Program (TBP). Texas has a good record and long history of providing library services to people who are blind. In 1918, the Texas Legislature appropriated $1,000 to purchase raised-lettering books for the blind. Texas was one of the first states to join the National Library Service that was established by the Library of Congress in 1931.

The last 80 years much has changed for TBP. Books were on phonograph records in the early years. Phonograph players and records were furnished free to patrons. It took a lot of records to hold longer books. The 1930s best seller, Gone With The Wind, was on 20 long-playing records.

In the 1950s reel to reel tapes were used and in the 1970s books on cassette tapes were introduced. Spanish was added in 1978. The use of digital flash cartridges began in 2009.

Downloading book and magazines is the latest innovation. Instead of 20 records needed for “Gone with the Wind,” the entire book will fit onto one BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) cartridge.

The 82nd Texas State Legislature has one huge challenge: the proposed budgets. It is not news that most every state agency will be taking significant cuts to their budgets and staffing. A bright spot is that the Talking Book Program thus far has suffered very little in the way of direct cuts.

The bad news is that the State Library is facing a 71 percent reduction in its general revenue (the money given to it by the State Legislature). The TBP may be affected by large cuts to the State Library, meaning that TBP will need more donations from concern people, readers and citizens.

By law, the budget must be balanced and must be passed by the end of the legislative session May 30, 2011. Our representatives need to be aware we are watching and praying health and medical programs will not suffer. Dropping nurses like dropping school teachers is not in the best interests of Texans.

TBP now serves 18,000 patrons and sends out an average of 4,500 items every weekday. Cartridges and players are postage free.

For information on the program check with Texas Talking Book Program, P.O. Box 12927, Austin, Texas 78711-2927. A toll-free number, 1-800-252-9605, can be used for information about disabilities and health conditions.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Critics for a better America

A New York City newspaper editor wrote the president:

“Dear Sir: I do not intrude to tell you---for you must know already---that great proportion of those who triumphed in your election . . . are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursing . . . We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss . . .”

Sound familiar? Reads like it came from a newspaper editorial page in this Year Of Our Lord 2011. The writer of the letter was Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in August of 1862. The letter was addressed to Abraham Lincoln well into his second year as president of the United States.

No president is immune to opinions and letters like this in the 19th or 21st centuries. We forget Lincoln had his detractors and those who saw the lawyer from Illinois to be unfit for such a powerful position.

Today jingoism has replaced the serious criticisms that leaders deserve. Catchy phrases with little depth and less light are used by the likes of Letterman, Leno, and John Stewart, to point out the foibles of the politicians.

Emma Goldman, professed anarchist and feminist heaped sarcasm on American leaders responsible for the Spanish-American War. Following the war that made Cuba and the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island American colonies she spoke out: “When we sobered up from our patriotic spree --- it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American War was the price of sugar. . . . that the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the interests of the American capitalists.”

Mark Twain was a famous and respected writer as the new year of 1900 began. He wrote in the New York Herald: “I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored from pirate raids in Kiao-Chou, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pockets full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies.”

Granted, writers like Jack London, Upton Sinclair and Theodore Dreiser, whose books were read by millions, had their own agendas. But behind all their criticisms, deep in their own hearts was a love for America and a desire for wrongs to be corrected and America being all it professed to be.

In 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke from the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City:

“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”

Where are the critics in 2011 demanding an end to the series of wars our nation has let itself become involved in? With Osama bin Laden dead, the reason for war in Afghanistan is gone. Mission accomplished. The true patriot should stand with an unfurled stars and stripes and shout: “enough with the excuses for endless war and the continued death of innocents.”