THE UGLY AMERICAN REDUX

For those of you of a certain age, you may remember when the early 1960’s produced volumes of a kind of “Blame America for Everything.” Philosophy, There was even a movie with Marlon Brando with that title. There was nothing that we had done or were doing that would satisfy our craving for self-hatred. Why, we had even lost a majority of the world to the Commies. There were maps in the rotogravure sections of the Sunday newspapers with the countries that were nominally communistic colored red, while we were other shades of pink and green.

It was tough reading all of this crap. In some ways, it led us to the Vietnam War, where we would cleanse our guilt by freeing a people from the web of communism. We would lose that war and lose confidence in ourselves as a nation. Strangely enough, it quieted our feeling of self-deprecation. Somehow, we were now just a super power in the world.

Now, a professor from Columbia University, born in Russia, came here when he was young. He has a love for the Russian people, but does not like the dictatorial ways of Putin. Funny thing though, he blames the U.S. for Putin’s arrival, the bad things that he has done and the present situation.

He also thinks that our relationship with Russia is, at least, secondary to the problems with the children who have come across the border and have been removed from their parents. He believes that the 1990’s, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Yeltsin and then Putin years were traumatic to the Russian people. He blames our foreign policy of dictating what Russia should be doing of creating that trauma and thus making Russia what it is today.

Let’s take a look at a bit of Russian history. Russia has always been a country that would be ruled by either nobility or dictators. When serfs, who could not own land, were emancipated in 1861, it did not really free the huge percentage of the population from servitude. While nobility held the reins of power, there was a small middle class.

In the 1917 revolution, led by Alexander Kerensky, there was about a year of democracy before the Bolsheviks (minority) ousted the Mensheviks (majority) led by Kerensky. So, that was a year of hope for the Russian people followed immediately by Lenin and then Stalin.

Post Stalin leaders were pretty much little imitations of Stalin. The next small piece of democracy happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was followed by Yeltsin and Putin. So, how many years of democracy has Russia had in its history? Let’s be generous and say 5.

Now, can we blame the United States foreign policy for the return to oligarchical rule? I would rather say that we were responsible for the only two times in Russian history that Russia had any form of democracy.

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THE REAL SHERLOCK HOLMES- PART II

It is not easy to contradict the fables of Dr. Doyle. His stories are so ingrained in the public mind and in those who have endeavored to write in the Doyle style that telling the truth as opposed to “Fake News,” is a might job. I can only say that what I am telling you comes from unimpeachable sources that were alive when Holmes was alive.

Let us assume that Holmes spent some of his years after Eton at some college or university. We are certainly not sure that happened, but we do know from newspaper reports of certain public happenings that a person in their early twenties was involved.

The story now told, does not necessarily begin or end in the London of the latter part of the 19th Century, otherwise called the “Victorian Age.” Revolutions of the kind in Paris, the molding of Germany and Italy into a single entity and beginning of the end of monarchial Europe highlight those years.

Holmes, or whatever he called himself in those days, was involved in so many of those incidents. His name will not be found in any historical records or personal journals. There will be no Doyle or Dr. Watson to chronicle Holmes involvement in important historical events.

Let us begin with a simple happening. By reading newspaper reports of the day, one can always sense that there was more to the story that was either left out deliberately or censored by some government or other. The only way to know these things is by speaking to someone who was actually there.

Chief Inspector Simon Cogen worked for Scotland Yard in the 1880’s and 1890’s. He was not the model for Inspector LeStrade. Cogen was a man of considerable skill and integrity. One can look up his record in the annals of the Yard and see his successes. His one failure was to capture that famous slasher, “Jack the Ripper.”

Cogen worked day and night to find this horrible person, but the only thing that happened was more murders in the Whitechapel section of London. One evening, trying to retrace the Ripper’s escape for a particularly ghastly killing, he spied a man leaning against the wall on one of Whitechapel’s many dark alleys. At first he thought that is might be Jack, however upon closer inspection, he realized it was someone he knew.

Cogen had seen his face many times in the local press. What he did not understand was why he was lurking around Whitechapel. He certainly did not live near there. He sauntered over to the famous gentleman and extended his hand. The man shook Coben’s hand with a warm and convincing strength. Coben inquired if the gentleman was there for any reason so that he could be of help.

 

 

 

 

 

THE REAL SHERLOCK HOLMES

No one knows the real story of what happened at Reichenbach Falls that cold day in 1891. Doyle’s description in the “Final Problem,” was meant to end the saga of both characters, as well as Dr. Watson. There was such uproar by fans of the characters that Doyle brought him back in 1901 in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles was set in a time before Holmes had been killed. The “Return of Sherlock Holmes” did not appear until 1903-04 with a series of stories. This is the public view of that happened. The real story is nothing like what Dr. Doyle, an ophthalmologist describes in his tomes.

There was a real Sherlock Holmes. Doyle killed him off in is story of the “Final Problem.” However that fatal contest between Holmes and Moriarity at Reichenbach Falls was just a way of keeping the secret of Holmes identity silent.

In fact, the real Sherlock Holmes died in 1924 of ailments that stemmed from his incessant drug habit and drinking. Dr. Watson’s narrations in the Return of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles had nothing to do with one of the most famous characters in literature. Until J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter, no one was more famous.

The real Holmes was even more brilliant than what appears in Doyle’s books. Orphaned at a young age, Holmes grew up on the streets of London. His early life was circumscribed by a Fagan like character who taught young Holmes the ways of the street. Did you often wonder how Holmes was able to use the Baker Street Irregulars to help solve specific crimes? In fact, he was the creator of the group when he worked the cold streets of London.

He was born on January 6, 1854. That means he was plying his work in the gaslight times of old London. His ability to work in the backstreets and his keen mind were observed by an older boy whose name was Mycroft Singulair. I am not sure that either of those names is real. My sources tell me that this young man came from an elite family. He attended Eton College, Berkshire and matriculated at Cambridge.

There is some hint at Eton that a young man named S. Holmes went there in 1869. There is no information about his education beyond Eton. If he did go to a university, it is buried somewhere in a cavernous library in Cambridge, Oxford or some other university.

It may well be that Singulair’s family, whoever they were, took in S. Holmes. There is a gap in my history of Holmes right after he might have gone to Eton and a time when he became a public figure. His public persona was not anywhere near being a consulting detective.

 

 

DANCING WITH JEFF SESSIONS

Most of our married life, Carol and I have danced at events like weddings, new year’s eve, bar and bat mitzvahs. We have kind of invented our own way of doing things using steps from the foxtrot, lindy, cha cha and other assorted step. Because of the longevity of our relationship, over 55 years, we never minded much what steps we were doing.

A few weeks ago, Carol discovered that there were free ballroom dancing lessons to be had here in our corner of the universe of Sun City. Each Friday evening, there would be one hour’s worth of lessons and then “free dancing.” It sounded very interesting.

The price was right, about 10 bucks to join and a visitor’s fee for 6 dollars. We really didn’t know any one there. Evidently, we were the only people there that were first timers.

The instructor was a nice young woman with the patience of Job. She lined the men and women up across from each other and proceeded to explain the steps that she was going to teach us. First she demonstrated the steps for each of the genders. Remember that for every step that the woman makes, the man does the opposite and vice versa. There were also some steps that were different for each group.

After a while, a number of the people were proficient and the rest of us practiced till we could do the bare minimum. There was then a time for the men and women to get together. That began a series of steps that looked more like collisions than dancing. I must admit that I was not the most agile of the dancers. However we kept trying and finally felt that we were doing some semblance of the dance.

After we were separated, both the men and the women practiced the steps on their own. It was at that time, when leaning up against the stage a bit worn out from dancing, that I noticed a tiny gentleman to my left practicing the steps in some profound deliberate way.

Each of his steps ended with some kind of slap of his shoe. His performance was calculated to put him into a position where he looked like he was marching rather than dancing. He was so pointed in his movements, that I was entranced by his machinations and not his demeanor.

When he stopped once, I looked up at his face. He was the spitting image of Jeff Sessions. If he was a doppelganger, he sure was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had trouble looking at him after a while. I thought he might say something to me and I would have to respond by saying, “Yes sir Attorney General Sessions.”

He never looked up from his dancing. I also did not turn and look in his direction. It was too frightening. It was like having a dream during the day. I know that I am living in South Carolina, but during the ballroom dancing I thought I might be in Alabama in the 1950’s.

 

WHEN GUILE FAILS, POWER WINS

Remember at the Republican Primary debates, when Donny Little Hands questioned Marco Rubio’s manhood, accusing Ted Cruz’s father of being involved in the Kennedy assassination, Carly Fiorina’s face, and Megyn Kelly’s womanhood. What was the response of those who were standing there as opponents or members of the press. THEY DID NOTHING.

That gave Donny a whole new spin on how to deal with all folks that he doesn’t like. He knows that they will be ladies and gentlemen when speaking to him and never get down into the gutter with him. You know what folks, civility is out the window. When I hear friends and family members say things like, “You should not get down to his level,” I cringe. This sort of talk reminds me that one of the Clinton-Donny debates, Donny walked behind Clinton and was allowed to wander around while Clinton was talking. No one seemed to be in control.

What would I do if Donny did that to me during anything like a debate or discussion, I would go behind him and whisper in his ear, “Cut out the crap and if you don’t, I really don’t mind going back to jail.”

Having been a public person at some point in my life, I have had people like Donny challenge me in a most uncivil manner at public gatherings. Although I am a pretty civil kind of person, these “make trouble at any cost “people have no right to scream epithets or cast doubt on your sincerity and rightmindedness by cursing your family or ethnic background.

I am currently amazed that this poor excuse for a human being is allowed to disgrace our military, disparage almost all of our allies, call the leaders of our friend’s names and tell lies about almost everything. Just the other day Donny condemned Western Europe for allowing too many immigrants into their countries. He said that crime is on the rise in countries like Germany. In truth Germany’s crime rate is lower than any time since 1992.

His new program of separating immigrant families and ripping children away from their mothers is something that we condemn in other countries. He has created internment camps in 2018. Where are the condemnations from those who Pastor Niemoller warned us against would them come for us.

He will continue to do these things and “tweet out” more disgusting things until someone or some group decides not to be a group of “ladies and gentlemen.” There is no need for civility now. There is now a time for rudeness, name calling, and action. I refer you to the Committees of Correspondence during the Revolutionary War. They were also said to be acting in a rude manner (the Boston Tea Party) by 2/3 of the colonists.

A MEMORIAL DAY RANT

I am not a guy who usually quotes from the bible, but this commandment came flashing through my brain. I went online and got the exact words.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.”

There were and are folks who take that commandment literally. One of the groups is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Guess what, they do not salute the flag. In 1943 the Supreme Court declared 6-3 in West Virginia v. Barnette that freedom of speech allowed the children in school not to pledge or salute the flag. Prior to that the Barnette child was expelled from school on a daily basis.

The story is very important and it occurred during World War II. The court spoke in this manner, “. . . the state did not have the power to compel speech in that manner for anyone. Somehow, I thought that we had this issue settled. During the Vietnam War, the opponents of the war were vilified for burning our flag. Is it possible that the flag burners hastened the end of the war, so that more of our soldiers were not killed?

I cannot understand why we would listen to a President tell us that it is disloyal to kneel during the star spangled banner. I hope that many of you know the origin of the tune and the words. The Star Spangled Banner was made the national anthem on March 3, 1931, a full 144 years later than the founding of our country. Even afterwards the song, God Bless America was sung at sporting events. It was written during World War I in 1918 by the same composer who wrote White Christmas, Irving Berlin.

It was used by the Philadelphia Flyers during their two year run in 74-75, 75-76 years as Stanley Cup Champions. Kate Smith sang the song and the expression, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings,” came from that set of sporting events.

If you have ever gone to a ballgame, a hockey game, or any other sporting event in the United States, you will see people sitting or talking during the anthem. Not everyone is patriotic I guess. When I was an athletic director at a large high school outside of Philly, I would sing the national anthem. Lots of people did not pay attention to me. I did get over it.

I am not sure how our current president has the temerity, or the gall, or the chutzpah to tell anyone that they are being unpatriotic when they do anything. Donny Little Hands avoided the draft 6 times, when other young men were sacrificing their lives for our country. Give me a break you two bit con man. Stop telling us to be patriotic, when you don’t even know the words to our national anthem.

AM I BECOMING A CRANK?

This blog will be filled with the word “I.” That is not to say that I have not done that before, but this tome will resound with that word. I believe that I am becoming a crank. This is not some idle comment about a change in my personality, I have always been less than even handed, but I find myself being swept up in the national malaise.

I should state that my best moments are when I am volunteering at a local rural high school or traveling around the state, with Carol, visiting rural school districts. However, the times in between appear to be approaching a negative norm.

I have been watching television since Uncle Milty, the Bunin Puppets and Captain Video. My evolution into manhood was co-terminus with the growth of pt. from three channels to the myriad number of channels that come to the screen these days. I am now less of a watcher of film, or comedic presentations, than the news. Maybe that accounts for the constant sour taste in my mouth.

I have, however, noticed that this feeling spills over into other corners of my life. For instance, I am now aware of the increasing bad driving techniques of others. I am constantly talking to myself or my passenger about how close other drivers are to the tail end of my car. They seem to enjoy my annoyance and move ever closer when I stop at a light. I think that the word has gotten out, all over SC, that I am an easy mark.

There is also a lack of signaling that crawls up and inspires my bile. Why  is it that all of these old farts with their brand new sports cars, zoom in and out of traffic whether on a local street or on an interstate highway?

Even in my own cubbyhole of a community, I am startled by drivers who pay no attention to crosswalks or drive with their brights on when they are driving in our closed community (not really closed). Am I first noticing these things, or am I developing negative traits that will have me picked up by the rubber truck on most Fridays.

Since I have always been too choosy about who I hang around with, I have become even more so as the years go by. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I like to spend my leisure time doing such esoteric things like going to the gym, reading, traveling around the state, communicating with educators via phone, internet, or in person. I also love to go to high school basketball games. Carol and I have figured out that we have gone to about 35 games over the last three years. A number of the players have been part of the guys that I have mentored.

As I approach my 80th birthday, I have become less optimistic about how the world is going. I am not a complete diehard negativist, but I seem to be going in that direction. I am constantly reminded by the conglomeration of age cohort people here in adult Disneyworld that things are going to hell in a handbasket (I have always wondered what that really means).

I really don’t want to believe that. However, arguing that point is like shoveling against the tide. Maybe that’s why Carol and I hang around mentoring the young people that we do. They may have the capacity to fix the broken things and create a whole new world. I hope that happens before the loonies take over completely.

DID YOU COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES I USED THE WORD “I.”