Friday, February 28, 2014


JAN 31, 2014
Enter the year of the Blue Horse

For centuries the Chinese have had a yearly cycle designated with a creature or an animal’s name. From today on, until January 2015, the Chinese symbol for the year is the horse.

The spirit of the horse is one that makes great efforts to improve themselves. The Ancients liked to designate an able person as “Qian Li Ma,” a horse that covers a thousand li a day. (“Li” is a Chinese mile, or thereabouts.)

Unfortunately all of us can’t be born in the Year of the Horse. I am one of those born at the tail end of the Year of the Snake. In polite society it is known as the Year of the Small Dragon.

I must agree with the records that say one born the Year of Horse is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able.
Why do I agree? Because, my lovely wife of nearly 64 years, Nelda JoAnn Long Towery, known to one and all as Jody, was born in the Year of the Horse, 1930. She is all of that and more.

Jody has the communicating techniques so evidently needed in the art of teaching. She began as an elementary teacher at Alice Carlson Elementary School, next to the campus of Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.

Then in the beautiful desert in San Manuel, Arizona; teaching English and Bible in Pingtung, Taiwan. She kept at it with vigor in Hong Kong: Pui Ching Middle School and Hong Kong Baptist University in Kowloon, and Hong Kong International School on south side of Hong Kong Island.
The Ancients go on to say Year of the Horse people are cheerful, perceptive, talented. Earthy but stubborn. I am sure of one “stubborn” moment only. That was when she fell in love with West Texas and wanted to move to San Angelo. I’m glad she knew we should move here. These 12 years have been some of the best and we have lived in lots of places.

Now I should confess that the Ancients also listed a number of weaknesses. Those I do not think apply to Jody, so no reason to list them here.
Thanks to the Internet information sites we know that other outstanding people are Year of the Horse people: Chopin, Davy Crockett, Rembrandt, Teddy Roosevelt, Sir Isaac Newton, Harrison Ford, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, the Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Yongzhen of China’s last dynasty, the Qing, and finally old Genghis Khan himself. What a crowd!

According to the Moscow Times, many Russians love to honor the animal that symbolizes the coming year, based on the Chinese astrological calendar, believing — half-jokingly but many would insist – that it brings them luck for the next 12 months.

The Moscow Times advises its readers: “The year of the wooden horse is supposed to be a temperamental one, so if you feel like horsing around during the upcoming festivities, that may be particularly fitting this year. Just be careful with the fireworks: Setting something on fire or upsetting a police officer would be backing the wrong horse.”

To be precise, the color blue in the Year of the Blue Wooden Horse, is suppose to be a lucky color to wear. Green also ranks as a lucky color to many Asian peoples as well as the Irish.

Russians and some others speak of the Blue Horse, while in the Chinese tradition the Horse is green. In fact, both blue and green are possible, as are emerald and turquoise. Green is the color associated with wood, nature and harmony. Blue is the color for Water, the element that nourishes the Wood.

(Personal Word: Last Christmas night Jody had a stroke from which she is coping at this time. She always read these columns to help me do s better job of writing. I shall be very glad if and when she can do so again,)




Feb. 28 Towery column

Whence cometh the U.S. Constitution?

DeLay says God wrote our constitution. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made the news again last week when he announced that God wrote the U.S. Constitution.

James Madison, the lead author of the United States Constitution, and later the fourth president of the United States could not be reached for comment. (Records show Madison died in 1836.)

DeLay was voicing his concern that the American government is becoming secular, and leaving its spiritual roots. In the interview Delay said, “we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.”

To rise to the occasion DeLay’s supporters tell us that DeLay meant that God guided those who physically wrote the Constitution. DeLay was speaking metaphorically.

This is politics for the 21st century? Apparently it is as America’s ultra-right wing of the Christian religion continues to insist that the United States began as a Christian nation. The only way for America to become great again is in a religious awakening. Their thinking is in a Christian revival, not in connection with other faiths. The Christian faith alone is included in the phrase, “freedom of religion.”

Tom DeLay, who was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy charges until the Texas appeals court overturned the judgment, continues in the interview that he has been trying to lead members of the House to Bible study. He assured Matthew Hagee, son of John, pastor of the San Antonio Cornerstone Church that Americans “stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution.”

This sounds a lot like the revelations in Jeff Sharlet’s 2008 book “The Family” that was about the frat house for Jesus on C Street in Washington, D.C. The congressmen, lobbyist and Republican and Democratic supporters lived in an eighteenth-century brick row house on C Street. Bible study and prayer meetings (in their view) would restore fundamentalist faith to America’s political agenda.

C Street was the old political power grab with an evangelistic approach. The homosexual problems in Uganda today grew from these men’s opposition to anything related to gay rights. Congressmen even went to Uganda urging the government to make anything gay illegal.

Religions of the world generally have good relationships with one another until one of them claims to worship the one and only true God. The trouble is between monotheists. Monotheists believe in one God. The greatest of these are the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims.

These three, following the ancient texts, each claims to have a lock on God. Living by the letter of their own religious texts, puts them at odds with each other and other religions.

That is why a fanatic Muslim becomes a human bomb, refuses to eat pork and abstains from alcoholic drinks, goes to his heaven in the process. Not every Muslim, just the fanatic taking his book literally.

Throughout the Jewish scriptures are rules for fasting, warring, loving, cooking, and activities to be done or avoided on the Sabbath. They too, like their Arab brothers, have a dislike for pork products. (But Hebrew Nation makes a wonderful all beef weenie.)

A full embrace of scripture is simply to believe it, act on it, make it as a means of pleasing God. That is why we have fundamentalist, conservative and liberal religious believers. Each in his or her own way is seeking to grow closer to God and Truth through their own understanding and faith.

As time evolved religious man or woman sought to be more religious than their neighbors. As religions developed, divided and grew more common, humans felt their god was much better than the god across the pasture.

So what is so different today when a politician or a preacher says his god is the true God, sewing discontent. They were not there when God, after writing the Ten Commandments, wrote us a constitution.

What does it mean? Simple answer: No one knows. I was not there “In the beginning…”

Feb. 21 Towery newspaper column ---- A classic book is born in jail

There was a Baptist preacher who was known more for being thrown in jail than making converts. In the year 1678, this middle class man of fifty years wrote a book.

The father of the preacher-writer was the son of a rural tinker who mended utensils, pots and pans. The boy traveled with his father, learning the trade and meeting a variety of people.

Later in this preacher’s life he would talk much about his poor upbringing, when actually he did not grow up in poverty nor did he lack an education.

At the age of 16 he joined the Parliamentary army and fought in the English Civil War. He married a young woman he described as “amiable and religious.” Her dowry was simple: a Bible and two other religious books.

The man was John Bunyan and his book became the renowned “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”

In his 1666 autobiography, Grace Abounding, Bunyan wrote about his youth, describing himself as did the Apostle Paul as the "chief of sinners." The sins he listed were profanity, dancing, and bell-ringing.

John Bunyan’s conversion to Christianity was with a nonconformist sect. A nonconformist was a believer who did not conform to the teachings and worship of the Church of England. Numbers of nonconformist left for the British colonies in America.

One thing this sect did not do was preach or worship in public. They were real “house churches.” Not authorized to worship as they pleased. John Bunyan began preaching in public places and he was thrown in jail.

The story goes that the judge asked Bunyan to give up preaching, but he refused. Next the judge asked Bunyan to just stop preaching even in private groups. What the king feared was such private gathers were forming plots against him.

Bunyan refused the judge on that count as well and he stayed in prison for 12 years. When released he went right back to preaching the Gospel but was jailed again for six months.

To support his family while in jail he made thousands of shoelaces. But this work did not meet the need he felt about the Christian life and he began to write “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” (A “denn” was another word for jail.)

He begins his book: "As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream." (A “Denn” was another word for jail.)

Many are the lessons in this powerful allegory. Many of the phrases are a part of the English language. It follows its main character, Christian, on a journey from the City of Destruction (earth) to the Celestial City (heaven).

Along the way Christian faces many difficulties as is common to all of us. Places like the Valley of Humiliation, Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle and Hill Difficulty.

He meets interesting bunch of characters along his journey, each with a lesson for him: Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Old Honest, Mr. By-Ends, and Talkative.

The book was a best seller from the first day. It has been translated numerous times into many languages. (In our first year of studying Chinese, we were required to read portions in Mandarin.)

With all the trials of Christian readers are reminded there is no “free lunch,” or “bed of roses” without leaving the impression of being “persecuted.” It is just the way life is.

This classic would not be such a treasure had the nonconformists been stamped out by the government. It was a tremendous step toward freedom of religion.


Friday, February 7, 2014

George Volsky -- White Russian Refugee

Feb. 7 Towery column

George Volsky, A White Russian’s Story (693 words)

It was winter, the year 1969, when I met face to face with a White Russian. It was in a small hotel in the Tsimshatsui District of Kowloon, the mainland side of the British colony of Hong Kong. One of those hotels reached by a long narrow and steep staircase. There were many of these establishments serving as a rest stop for travelers coming and going in this unique China border and British port city.

The term ‘White Russian’ had nothing to do with race. It was a term for ethnic Russians who opposed the Bolsheviks in the 1917 Russian Revolution. Many Russians were forced to leave their homeland with the Soviet’s communist takeover of the government.

Many Russian refugees settled in China. Harbin, on the border with Mongolia and Russia, had 100,000 Russians by the 1930s. Portions of the city are still distinctly Russian with Eastern Orthodox churches and Russian language and culture still quite noticeable. Shanghai became one of the best-known artistic centers in the Far East due to the presence of exiled first-class opera singers, ballerinas and musical comedy stars from Russia.

The lot of the White Russian was never good anywhere. A White Russian woman in Shanghai wanted a passport more than any treasure. They were stateless with no country and no ability to go anywhere. So any single American or European man became easy prey.

For the White Russian males it was even more desperate. The stigma of statelessness hung around their necks like an albatross. He had little hope of marrying even a girl of his own race. Because he was a foreigner and poor, it was out of the question to marry a Chinese girl
Their plight became even more hazardous when the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Any foreigner or person with any foreign connections was suspect as an enemy of the people. The Communist began to force the White Russians to leave. Hong Kong was the most convenient exit port.

George Volsky was the first White Russian I met. He spoke enough English for me to understand his story. Fellow-Russians had helped him from the Lowu border train station (now Shenzhen) and found him this room. Several of them were in the room as we talked.
He was born in China and had lived in Shanghai since 1934. He was a secretary for a British Reality Company before the Communist took over in 1948. After that there was no work for a foreigner.

He had a Russian passport that he received during the Japanese years in Shanghai. It was not one of the new Soviet passports, but they half-heartedly honored it. He had to report in person to the Soviet Consulate once a week.

The passport helped with the amount of rations the Communist provided from time to time. Through a black market.
In his broken, yet precise English, he said, “If you wish to know from the beginning, it was 1962. I am having a dinner at half-past eight. It is Russian New Year. Friday, January 12, I have a friend there and one Chinese lady. I’m a bachelor and natural have girl friend.”
George Voskey’s dinner friend, Mr. Kostoniony, excused himself after dinner and George walked him to the door and out to the gate of the compound. George said was “a sort of a half-lawyer or something.”

At the gate he saw a strange sight. Crowds of people were in the street. “Of course,” he continues, “I always have a feeling I will be arrested. One by one every foreigner has been arrested and my time must be coming.”

George Voskey was repatriated to Australia the year after we talked. He never said what happened to Mr. Kostoniony.
Do we really appreciate the honor and privilege we have to live where there is the fear of being arrested? America is still free or we would not be talking about NSA spying on us, and other stuff that may not be ideal, but as long as it can stay in the public press or news we need not fear the taking away of our rights.