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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Illegal Immigration Has Gotten Out of Hand!


 



By Gregory K. Taylor


I am an Obama supporter who thinks the President has been dealt a shitty hand by a recalcitrant, do nothing, Republican/Tea Party congress whose mission since his inauguration has been to thwart, interdict, sabotage, and defy any and everything Obama tries to implement. The level of disrespect shown this man is sickening. 


Now, that I've laid out my Obama bona fides, I am just stupefied about what I am witnessing with these unaccompanied children, mainly from central America, making a B(ee) Line to our southern borders with the expectation of entering America in order to benefit from all it has to offer.

I've never been a supporter of illegal immigration, and at the risk of giving aid and comfort to the right wing nut wing--I have to say that THEY ARE RIGHT ON THIS ISSUE! 

A country invites anarchy if it doesn't protect its borders. I have never been able to travel anywhere that I didn't have to produce documentation about who I am and the purpose of my visit. Everyone's quality of life is being affected (negatively) by this unfettered access to our healthcare, educational, and legal system. 

We are all going to regret this in the very near future.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Let Me Tell Ya Something About THE NEGRO


 


By Gregory K. Taylor


An open letter to that idiot Cliven Bundy, who can tell ya something about THE NEGRO, and those who think just like him.

About THE NEGRO, I propose that every free NEGRO who can prove his relatives were held as slaves in America be given an education, in perpetuity, free of tuition and concomitant costs. This would eliminate the constant battle over affirmative action, because it's clear that the Supreme Court and greater America only want to deal with, when it suits them, the cold-lifeless statutory law with no exceptions for fairness.

It's not enough that THE NEGRO has been in the lowest percentile of college enrollment, we the people, must keep THE NEGRO from ever attaining a true fair shake in this country. I, too, know something about THE NEGRO, and it's that he has paid his dues over and over and over again to this country with his life and the life of his children.

Photo: An open letter to that idiot Cliven Bundy, who can tell ya something about THE NEGRO, and those who think just like him.

About THE NEGRO, I propose that every free NEGRO who can prove his relatives 
were held as slaves in America be given an education, in perpetuity, free of tuition and concomitant costs. This would eliminate the constant battle over affirmative action, because it's clear that the Supreme Court and greater America only want to deal with, when it suits them, the cold-lifeless statutory law with no exceptions for 
fairness.  

It's not enough that THE NEGRO has been in the lowest percentile of college enrollment, we the people, must keep THE NEGRO from ever attaining a true fair shake in this country.  I, too, know something about THE NEGRO, and it's that he has paid his dues over and over and over again to this country with his life and the life of his children. 

THE NEGRO, has famously been the last hired and the first fired. Only THE NEGRO is uniquely qualified to discuss what it feels like to be declared "not human" and treated as a mathematical fraction of a human being. 

Overt and covert discrimination against THE NEGRO is something he has endured since being dragged in chains to the shores of this country.  THE NEGRO, has tried his best to fit in, assimilate, integrate, and participate in the American dream in spite of the obstacles placed in his path only to be slapped down, beat down for trying to better his lot.
  
And, what does THE NEGRO do in response, he has historically turned the other cheek demonstrating time after time that he is a loyal American. No better example of the "Stockholm Syndrome" can be found--a lesser people would have 
rebelled centuries ago.

What group of people have historically been put to the grist mill for table scraps, substandard housing, inadequate sanitation, worked from can't see to can't see for no pay?  Even the Japanese, who don't have the history of subjugation that THE NEGRO has in America, received financial compensation for the wrong visited upon them during WWII.  

THE NEGRO, has patiently waited his turn, often resigning his rightful place in the line of opportunity.  He is forever insulted, mistreated, laughed and scoffed at, called names, ridiculed, disrespected by people that couldn't live one hour in his shoes.  No, no one would ever trade places with THE NEGRO, because everyone knows he is treated poorly.

This is why I propose a free college education for THE PROUD BLACK MAN which would provide him with the professional tools to really make a go of it in this country.  God knows, THE BLACK MAN, has earned that much!
Cliven Bundy

THE NEGRO, has famously been the last hired and the first fired. Only THE NEGRO is uniquely qualified to discuss what it feels like to be declared "not human" and treated as a mathematical fraction of a human being.

Overt and covert discrimination against THE NEGRO is something he has endured since being dragged in chains to the shores of this country. THE NEGRO, has tried his best to fit in, assimilate, integrate, and participate in the American dream in spite of the obstacles placed in his path only to be slapped down and beat down for trying to better his lot.

And, what does THE NEGRO do in response?  He has historically turned the other cheek demonstrating time after time that he is a loyal American. No better example of the "Stockholm Syndrome" can be found--a lesser people would have rebelled centuries ago.

What group of people have historically been put to the grist mill for table scraps, substandard housing, inadequate sanitation, worked from can't see to can't see for no pay? Even the Japanese, who don't have the history of subjugation that THE NEGRO has in America, received financial compensation for the wrong visited upon them during WWII.

THE NEGRO, has patiently waited his turn, often resigning his rightful place in the line of opportunity. He is forever insulted, mistreated, laughed and scoffed at, called names, ridiculed, disrespected by people that couldn't live one hour in his shoes. No, no one would ever trade places with THE NEGRO, because everyone knows he is treated poorly.

This is why I propose a free college education for THE PROUD BLACK MAN which would provide him with the professional tools to really make a go of it in this land. God knows, THE BLACK MAN, has earned that much!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Look Up When Walking the Sidewalks in Taiwan






Gregory K.Taylor                                                

February 17th, 1937, twelve construction workers fell to their deaths while attempting to remove scaffolding from underneath a platform on the Golden Gate Bridge. On the 26th of September, 2001, a 2 1/2-ton plywood-and-steel panel built to protect motorists from Bay Bridge retrofit work collapsed into the eastbound traffic, crushing a pickup truck and killing its driver. April 1st, 2002, cranes and scaffolding at a high-rise building crashed to the ground after an earthquake jolted Taiwan--killing five construction workers. These accidents illustrate the inherent risk in construction work involving large structures. There is usually a price to be paid in human terms for these awe-inspiring improvements

Case in point, approximately ten years ago during one of my visits to Taiwan a corner construction site for a high-rise condominium complex had started to go up. Well, not exactly going up, but more of a dredging and excavation of an area where the foundation was to be poured. This was a plodding methodical churning of mud coupled with a sustained flush of a subterranean sewer until the surface area had clotted resulting in a hardened mass of goo just right for paving. This operation appeared to be taking forever and a day because each time I returned to Taiwan over the next couple of years the construction site seemed to be in the same condition as it was the last time I was there.

Press Johnny on the Spot
Cai Liao Station 采料站
My next trip had a more lengthy in between time--I hadn't been to Taiwan for nearly eight years. This trip revealed a marked improvement in the pace of construction, and for icing on the cake a new subway station had been added right next to the now fully developed high rise building. During these final phases of construction (mainly internal), a metal canopy had been constructed along with a large blue tarp enveloping most of the building's lower floors to protect the pedestrian traffic below from inadvertent falling objects. When in Taiwan I am always mindful when walking by high rise buildings to look up. For whatever reason, I've always been on guard for a falling wrench or hammer or piece of scaffolding or even, God forbid, a falling body. Wincing with regret when I've forgotten to either look up or simply forgetting to use the overhanging roof of a building over a walkway.

There came a day when I was exiting the subway at the new station only to encounter a yellow taped off area and a transit cop directing me to an exit that would be taking me across the street. Hmm...what was this all about? As I made my way up the stairs and onto the street facing directly in front of the high rise building, I could see scaffolding that had fallen to the ground and more scaffolding perilously dangling from the building's edifice. What I always feared had happened. The winds aloft swirled around this building breaking scaffolding loose from its moorings. I suspect the construction crew hadn't anticipated this possible mishap (although I don't understand why they wouldn't) and somewhere someone hadn't securely latched down the scaffolds.

Having seen my fears realized, I think I'll take to wearing a hard hat as I traverse the sidewalks of Taiwan.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vietnam 2013--Khe Sanh, Part Two






By Gregory K. Taylor
 

To avoid an international incident, my driver and guide finished their lunch and we resumed our trip. Up to that point, no one had ever said anything negative to me about the American War—the Vietnamese name for the Vietnam War. Ironically, Most want to move on and prosper economically with the aid of the American economy. In fact, one is hard-pressed to find anyone of the war generation willing to discuss the conflict openly without government approval, and those who do request that I not mention their name or reproduce their likeness in print or video.
This inebriated individual appeared to be too young to remember anything about the war other than what he gleaned from history books; so, his reaction to my presence was a bit puzzling. I must have had “I'm an American war veteran” stenciled on my forehead.

American Hardware Captured or Abandoned on Display
The fog and mist began settling on the tarmac as we continued to drive obscuring our vision of the school children, some walking, some riding bicycles, all wearing matching uniforms climbing the elevated slope of the mountain. Such a trek to get an education speaks reverently about the precepts found in the Analects of Confucianism which explains the Asian culture's propensity for higher education. Stunning hues of green, shades of dark, shades of light--everywhere!  Beauty that belies centuries of violent invasions from the Chinese, the French, and the Americans. 
Khe Sanh War Monument


Khe Sanh! We have arrived at the town monument commemorating the battle by the same name etched in NVA filigree. These hieroglyphic pictograms tell the stories of victorious battles against the Americans. Captured American soldiers with raised hands being marched away at gunpoint is one such illustration adorning the monument. To the victor goes the history and the Vietnamese monuments and museums all tell a story of Victory against the "Imperialist Bourgeoisie."

Foggy Road to Khe Sanh Firebase

We first drive ten to fifteen miles in the opposite direction from the Khe Sanh Firebase over to the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp which was a forward observation post in 1968 that was overrun in the February attacks. This attack facilitated the siege of Khe Sanh eliminating a troublesome obstacle for the NVA. We're here! We're here? We've passed it? What? Lang Vei Camp has completely vanished after some 45 years. All that's left is one road with high vegetation on either side and a tank or personnel carrier atop a hill near the entrance. Nothing to see here, so we head back to the war monument and turn left up a foggy road toward Khe Sanh Museum. 


After some early missteps and lost revenue, the Vietnamese government has learned to capitalize on American war nostalgia. So, in its best capitalistic
Inside the Khe Sanh Firebase Museum
practice there is a negligible cover and bathroom charge to enter the grounds and the museum. What one will find in many Vietnam war museums, indoors or outdoors, is a liberal stash of American hardware on display. War equipment from airplanes to helicopters to tanks to munitions that were abandoned, dropped, or captured.

Longer View of the FireBase

Due to the dearth of people today, and a cool mist coupled with light falling rain, and a vast mountainous terrain, it all offers up an eerie quiet with the exception of a distant echo. Sound carries far here, even a whisper. Alas, interrupting this reflective moment is a lone peddler hobbled with a leg injury carrying a tray of American war artifacts--bullets, dog tags, and medals which he insists I buy. No amount of “No Thank you” can deter his singular purpose.  As for my guide and driver, after a few photos, they appear to have abandoned me to my own devices venturing into the museum and then into the taxi, all in an attempt to avoid the elements.

The siege of Khe Sanh is so well documented that I stutter to add anything new. All I can do is walk the area and envisage the scene of exploding ammo dumps, raining (perimeter) B 52 bombs, rockets, mortar fire, and hunkered down Marines. The siege lasted approximately three months and ended in a whimper without the long anticipated NVA ground assault. Historians have concluded the entire siege was a diversionary tactic in order to conceal the North Vietnamese government's real intention—Tet. The importance of Khe Sanh deals more with President Johnson's fear of another Dien Bien Phu disaster and his
President Johnson Obsessing Over Khe Sanh Mock Up
preoccupation, even to the extent of maintaining a mockup model in the White House, with defending it at all costs. This was going to be a last stand battle that America was not going to lose.

After leaving Khe Sanh, I concluded that it was not feasible to head over to Hamburger Hill with the time I had left. I would have to stop in Aluoi and get a special permit and guide from town officials. I suspect the reason for this precaution is the continued danger presented by unexploded ordinance as a result of this tumultuous battle. One would be foolhardy to try and go there alone.

NVA = North Vietnamese Regular Army

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vietnam 2013--Khe Sanh, Part One





By Gregory K. Taylor



I am headed to Khe Sanh firebase by taxi from the city of Hue to the mountains of Vietnam close to the Laotian border. It is a wet, rainy, and dreary day. My driver is a young student who is moonlighting in order to earn money to defray his costs for college. He has brought a dorm friend with him who claims to know the history of Khe Sanh, at least, according to my driver, better than he. The beauty of this ride is—it's off the meter!

The drive is another epic three and one-half hour trial by fire, and with any luck I hope to, in addition to Khe Sanh, take in its forward base of Lang Vey and perhaps with a bit of wishful thinking Hamburger Hill which is an additional two to three hour drive.

Rock Mountain Firebase
The planned route will start North from Hue on Highway 1 (which runs the length, north and south, of Vietnam), turning west onto Route 9 from Dong Ha, over to Rock Pile Mountain, then curving south to the town of Dakrong, turning west again passing the Dakrong bridge and arriving in the town of Khe Sanh which intersects with Route 9 at a large war monument that defines the main street to Khe Sanh firebase and the Khe Sanh Museum.


War Monument
Rice Paddies, Banana Trees, Bamboo Leaf Hats, Water Buffalo, and Stilted Houses whiz by one after another in what seems to be a seamless panorama of National Geographic wallpaper. Other than the paved highway we are riding on and the overhead transmission lines--time has virtually stood still with little visible 21st century amenities. Modernization has come to Vietnam in peculiar ways, even if a bit anachronistically. Cable TV dishes jutting conspicuously from rooftops of dry-thatched vegetation or the current roofing of metal-corrugated sheeting. To close one's eyes is to conjure images of thick overgrown growth beat into submission by lumbering grunts trying to eke out an area in which to defend and an area from which to attack.

As we get closer and closer to our destination hunger pains are getting the better of my traveling companions. Every mile produces another indecipherable grumble. Unlike the ubiquitous food stands in Taiwan, sorting out a place to eat on the road here is a bit more challenging. Finally, they spot a place to dine and immediately pull over and light from the car. I don't do well at roadside hole-in-the-walls anymore, so I chose to give my stomach nothing rather than something to upset it. 

My guide (foreground) and inebriated customer--left background
Like many of these out of the way diners their customers are generally relegated to a few locals. In this case, two guys--one of which had clearly been drinking too much. Along about five minutes, he noticed me sitting with my two companions and began to yell something in my direction about dropping bombs here while demonstrably pointing to the floor. He repeated this accusation again a little more loudly. My driver and guide cautioned me to ignore him as they ate a little quicker......

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vietnam 2013--Christmas Bombing and Mining Haiphong Harbor

 



By Gregory K. Taylor


December 18, 1972, after peace talks had broken down President Nixon started a massive bombing campaign over north Vietnam. These bombings came to be known as the Christmas Bombings. They continued until the 29th of December at which time the North Vietnamese agreed to resume negotiations.

Also, in 1972, President Nixon mined Haiphong Harbor and other waterway inlets in order to interdict the flow of supplies from Russia to the North Vietnamese troops who were fighting in the South.

Manhole Bomb Shelters
One of the famous landmarks of Hanoi and touted as the best hotel in the city is the Sofitel Metropole. At the risk of sounding like a shill for this grand hotel, its historical backdrop during the Christmas bombings has become an important symbol in large part due to a Life Magazine front page layout of the manhole bomb shelters running the length of its eastern facade. 

 Jane Fonda took up residence here in June of 1972 during her infamous trip to Hanoi, and Joan Baez traveled with an American peace delegation the same year in December only to find herself trapped during the Christmas bombings. “Where Are You Now, My Son?” was partially recorded by Joan in the hotel bomb shelter during one of the night bombings. The song is played in the Hotel's bomb shelter as a feature of the free tour.

Three and one-half hours (by car) to the east of Hanoi and consisting of thousands of islands jutting out from the Gulf of Tonkin waters is Halong Bay. Its breathtaking beauty will belie its historical struggles. These limestone islets provide a serene ambiance and majesty in which to aimlessly navigate, preferably on an old Chinese styled Junk.
Beautiful Islets Halong Bay


However, as the entrance to Haiphong Harbor located west of Halong Bay, its 1972 mining represented an important pressure-lynchpin in breaking the will of a recalcitrant north at the Paris peace talks. Mindful that the ground fighting took place south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and never in the North--the Americans in conjunction with the South Vietnamese Army fought a war of attrition. Kill as many NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and VC (Viet Cong) until they cry Uncle. In contrast, the NVA invaded the south consistently with personnel and supplies (Via the Ho Chi Minh Trail) and with its Southern Vietnamese Nationals they took the fight to the South with the intention of reuniting the entire country.


The above video depicts this writer's November 2013 trip to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel bomb shelter in Hanoi.  Mirroring Joan Baez's 1972 and 2013 return trip to the same Hotel bomb shelter.


http://www.themetropoleblog.com/joan-baez-returns-to-the-metropole-part-1/

http://www.themetropoleblog.com/joan-baez-returns-to-the-metropole-part-2/


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vietnam--2013, The French Influence

 




Gregory K. Taylor


Many of the Vietnam veterans who return to Vietnam speak in terms of paying homage to their brethren whose lives, limbs, and sanity were lost in a land of unparalleled beauty. From its coastline beaches to its curvacious mountains to its lateritic red soil to its pock marked landscape all reveal a subtle and not so subtle story of battles yore; but mostly, these vets speak to exorcising demons from a moment in time their psyche has, heretofore, been unable to release.

This writer makes the trek to Vietnam as a tourist of sorts with a history that is inextricably linked to one's youth, fears, and “what ifs,” about a land most baby boomers went through extraordinary efforts to avoid. Accompanying me are images depicted in such Hollywood films as the Deer Hunter, Apocalypse now, Platoon, and Hamburger Hill.

Flying into Hanoi
As the plane hugs the coastline of southern China on a southwest heading for final approach into Hanoi, visions of America's newly minted warriors straining to catch a glimpse out of an airplane window with lumps in their throats at a land shrouded in ancient mystery and death, rummage through this writer's mind. Sadly, for far too many this would be their necropolis.

Female working the Rice Fields

Initial reaction upon arriving in Hanoi was much the same as arriving in China—an environmental disaster of sorts--at least in terms of air quality. Nothing says Vietnam more than ubiquitous rice paddies with stooped over women wearing Bamboo conical hats (non la hat—in Vietnamese) transplanting seedlings with a nearby, loyal as a dog, water buffalo. Nothing says Vietnam more than stilted housing, high mountains, deep ravines and lush vegetation

French Metropole Hotel
The country is trying to attract more investment dollars, but it still has a ways to go to make the stay of foreigners hospitable. The airport is undergoing a facelift, if not, new construction because the current one is as disastrous as the air quality—hardly a welcoming representation of a great city.  Once in the center section of Hanoi the French influence is unmistakable and unavoidable. One hundred years of colonial dominance often leaves its architectural mark of shudders and overhanging roofs. French IndoChina encompassed present day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The last Emperor Bao Dai is often credited with changing the name of the country from Annam to Vietnam. Historically, however, many manifestations of the current name were credited to many people. The country actually settled on the name Nam Viet which, to this day, is the current way the United Nations list it. Loosely, Nam means South and Viet means People with the current Chinese name of Yue Nan 越南 meaning “beyond the south” people.

Stilted Housing
After WWII, the French incredibly reasserted themselves into IndoChina. Vanquished and brutally occupied by Nazi Germany, with the imposition of a Vichy puppet government, one would think that the French would've been more sensitive and sympathetic to the needs and aspirations of the Vietnamese people after such a similar experience in Europe. Apparently, old dynasties die hard and memories are fleeting.

Mountainous Lush Vegetation of Vietnam
The French have returned to Vietnam in great numbers and the Americans have not. The defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 hasn't had a lasting demoralizing affect on them. To watch them walk around these grandiose hotels that they once lived a privileged life in it's as though amnesia has set in and they are back in the 19th century. Americans have less of a history to this country and the one they do have is negative. Perhaps, in time, Americans will travel to Vietnam in greater numbers—but I doubt it. 




 

Greg is Traveling through Vietnam.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Vietnam, 2013





By Gregory K. Taylor


In 1965, I remember talking to a classmate when I was 14 yrs. old about the Vietnam war.  Even then we were speculating about the likelihood of us being drafted into what was then called a police action.  I told him by the time we turn eighteen that war will be over—so not to worry. Well, the years went by and the next thing I knew I was about to graduate from high school and that damn war was still going strong.  I was turning eighteen a few days before my graduation and at that time every eighteen year old, by law, was required to register with his local selective service board. So, If memory serves me right, I fulfilled that obligation by signing up at my local post office.

Basic Training 1970 Ft. Jackson
The war was being fought unfairly by the poor while the rich and upper middle-class kids were seeking and getting student deferments, medical deferments, or fleeing to Canada. I can't emphasize strongly enough as to how important this war had become to the eighteen year old.  From the ever increasing body count dished out on the nightly news, to the student protests, to the wounded soldiers returning home in wheel chairs--it was inescapable.  My oldest sister had brought a returning vet to our home once who was missing both legs and consigned to a wheel chair.  I had never seen a person in such condition. There had become such a hue and cry
about the unfairness of the draft that a lottery system was devised based on every eighteen year old's birthday.

The first drawing of numbers, which I was not eligible, was for those born between 1944 and 1950. The results of that drawing, had I been eligible, would have given my birth date of June 8th the number 366 which represented leap year.  So, I certainly would have never been drafted that year.  The following year of 1970, however, which I was eligible, was for those born in 1951.  I received the number 7 for that drawing which meant I was guaranteed to be drafted.

Tank Hill, Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Not being one to wait for the Sword of Damocles to befall me, I approached my neighbor who had earlier joined the Army National Guard and asked him to take me with him on his next drill date where I would join forthwith. Yes, I had successfully dodged the draft by choosing the lesser of the two evils.  I would do a four month active duty stint called Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and an Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I received the same training as the regular army draftees with the only difference being I knew I was coming home while the majority of the people I trained with would be going to Vietnam.

The last day of our training, we all stood in formation as the Sergeant barked out the orders for our next duty station.  Private So-and-So, Republic of Vietnam, Private Such-and-Such, Republic of Vietnam went the refrain as we stood at attention. One after another ordered to Vietnam while a lucky few heard names like the Presidio in San Francisco, Korea, or a base in Germany.   For the minority of National Guardsmen in the company our orders were preordained, we knew where we were going. Some would jokingly say, "Fort Home."

Although I was only obligated to serve six years in the National Guard, I would stick around for the next nine years. In hindsight, I've often wondered if I made the right decision. A combination of guilt I suppose and a sense that I missed out on something akin to a rite of passage. I find myself asking, how many of the friends I had made during my training are now names etched on a black granite wall in Washington, D.C.? I look at the  faces in many photographs of the guys I lived with for four months wondering if this one is alive or if that one is alive. We were all so young and dumb. The oldest guy in our company was a prior service 26 year old--and we called him grandpa.
 Ft. Gordon, Georgia

So, here it is 2013 and I am considerably older and much more reflective. I have traveled and experienced many things in the world. I have few regrets and continue to enjoy life with the zest and zeal of an eighteen year old.  I will be returning to America soon after spending a year in China and Taiwan. Upon my return to Asia, I will be embarking on my next quest—called Vietnam. Not for the beaches or the Pagodas, not for the culture or the food, not for the landscape or the language, but for the War.  My war, ironically.  I will visit as many of the historical locations that I remember about that war from the iconic photo of the execution by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan of the Vietcong prisoner on a Saigon street, to the Son My Village massacre better known as the My Lai Massacre, to the Hanoi Hilton where American pilots were imprisoned, to Dien Bien Phu where the French suffered a humiliating defeat, to the ancient imperial city of Hue virtually demolished during the Tet offensive, to Khe Sanh where the U.S. Marines were under siege and Hamburger Hill.  Hopefully, I will visit many sites of battlefield lore and take in the ghosts of Vietnam.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The Superior Man and The Inferior Man




By Gregory K. Taylor



In my three score and two years on this earth I have seen, in the big scheme of things, little that warrants celebration. Sure, there have been marvelous accomplishments and inventions in the science and technological fields that have substantially improved man's life--but at what cost? There has always been a disproportionate, negative and opposite reaction to every accomplishment. This can be witnessed in the poisoning of our atmosphere and the corrosion of our planet as the Earth is beaten into submission to relinquish its fossil fuels in man's never ending pursuit for energy. To that end, man has traveled the four corners of the earth in pursuit of its bounty while wreaking havoc and laying waste to all in his path. He has demonstrated, without caution, a self-destructive attitude bereft of environmental concerns in his quest to master all he purveys.

What design flaw exists in man that he must reflexively control everything? What angel of angst abides in him that he must bestow unto himself the title of superior man? As dreadful as man is to his environment it pales in comparison to his treatment of his fellow man. Some call it God's will, and who can argue with that, while others call it the will of the superior man; perhaps, as close to the image of God as we humans can get.

To the weak, who often suffer at the hands of the strong, many choose to escape through supplication for advantage in the ethereal realm--Lord please give me my reward in the by and by. While the strong prefer to believe their favored position as manifest destiny ordained by God. You hear it all the time, as one political party stresses the superiority of America couched in the term “exceptionalism.” I'm reminded of the Cypher character in the original Matrix film, who asks Neo (the protagonist) how does one handle being told that he is the ONE? In other words, how does one handle believing he is the superior being above all other beings? With munificent benevolence or as a corrupting power corrupting absolutely?

History is replete with megalomaniac despots, from Herod the Great to Julius Caesar to Adolph Hitler, and always portends a calamitous decline in the morals of man. The superior man will always justify any shortcomings he might display as circumstantial, unique to the time and situation—rules apply ultimately as he interprets them. Once the inferior man understands that the game is rigged and not for his benefit—then he will realize that he can never get true justice in the superior man's courts--unless he grants it. I was once asked to sign a contract that was written in both English and Chinese. In the contract, it clearly stated that the only enforceable parts of the contract were the areas written in Chinese...hmm? How many, including lawyers, can understand most legal documents written in English? Even the Internal Revenue Service admits that most customer service employees, who are hired to give advice, don't know their own rules. This is akin to a jury system that makes its selection based on geography, essentially superior men sitting in judgment of inferior men. The sleight of hand here is convincing the inferior man that the system is fair for him as well as the superior man. I suspect the inferior man would fare better in a game of three-card Monte.

All white Jury.  Have you ever seen an all black Jury?
Seldom, if ever, will the superior man concede anything without a stouthearted-irreversible demand. Asking him to treat you as an equal is whistling past the graveyard. It only confirms to him that you are NOT his equal. If equality has to be bestowed on the inferior man then he will never view the inferior man as an equal. Equality is accomplished through deeds, through self-anointment, through abilities, through independence and confidence. The superior man will respect that, with trepidation, but respect it he will. If you implore him to treat you as an equal he will treat you like a Chihuahua nipping at his heel.

The superior man's rule is not devine it is man made. In fact, if history is a barometer, and it always is, the superior man's rule like all dynasties/empires will collapse under its own weight. Manifest Destiny can be self-ordained, educate yourself, quietly, without boasting, improve yourself from generation-to-generation, unrig the game through political clout, work from within and without. Once you have attained the superior man's position--let's see what you do with it??

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Heartfelt Father's Day Story From the Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor


  
 By Sybil Erden
My father, Mark Erdfrucht was born on November 24th, 1910 in Lodz Poland. He was one of 6 children born to a working class Jewish family.

My dad’s first memories were of running from airplanes overhead which were shooting at the civilians during World War I. He was 4 or 5 years old.

His life was filled with fear. After WWI there were “pograms” aimed at the Polish Jewish population.

At age 10 his father, who he described as loving and educated, a man who spoke and read 6 languages, died of Typhoid fever. This unexpected disaster left his mother alone to raise the children, two boys and four girls, who ranged in age from 3 or 4 to their late teens.

My father loved school, dreaming of becoming a doctor, but was forced to leave school as the family could no longer afford tuition.

At age 10, my dad had to begin working. He apprenticed with a tailor. He would tell me how he turned all his meager wages over to his mother who would buy bread for the family.

By 18, he had traveled through Europe which was briefly at peace and recovering from both the war and the following pandemic. During his teens, he studied clothing design and tailoring in Paris. At some point he had the opportunity to travel to Argentina and Brazil for a year. He returned back to Poland with the shadow of Nazism hanging over Europe. Dad became engaged to his first wife in 1930. The couple began having a family within a few years. He continued working and supporting not only his young wife and two young boys, but his mother as well.

My father would tearfully describe how he was aware of the growing German danger. But with a young wife, two babies and an aging mother, as well as not having the funds to bribe their way across borders, there was nowhere he felt they could go.

While he had an aunt, the oldest sister of his mother in New York City, he wrote to relatives begging them to take his children.  After the war it became obvious that the letters never got to America.

In 1939, on a trip to a nearby town to visit her family, my father’s wife was rounded up and murdered with the Jewish inhabitants of her family’s town. A survivor of that town’s massacre returned to Lodz and informed my father, who was now left to care for two babies, one barely old enough to walk, and his ailing mother. His youngest sister still lived with his mother, but the elder siblings were all married with children of their own. His older brother lived in Warsaw with his wife and children, while the rest lived in or near Lodz.

The Jewish inhabitants of Lodz were rounded up and forced to move into a ghetto…a small run down portion of the town, surrounded by barbed wire and electrified fencing as well as machine gun toting German guards. As the next few years passed, ghetto inhabitants were routinely rounded up and taken to their deaths at nearby concentration camps.

My father told me that there were no animals left in the ghetto. All were eaten--even the mice and rats.

Somehow Dad managed to hide the remaining family moving them from empty apartment and basement to another as the Nazis closed in. He was working when he could and bringing home a daily potato and chunk of sawdust filled bread.

On August 14th 1944, my oldest brother’s birthday, my father and his family were found. His mother, too ill to leave, was murdered in their apartment. His younger sister was separated from him and the two babies, now aged 3 and 7 were put on a cattle train to Auschwitz.

Dad was 34 years old and still strong enough to work. His children were pulled from him and sent to their deaths in the gas chambers.  He had told me that he begged the Nazis to take him too--but he was kicked repeatedly and told,
“Zu arbeit du" meaning "to work you."  This was said in the manner one would speak to a lesser being.

My father survived from August 1944 to January 1945 when the Soviets liberated Auschwitz. He weighed 80 pounds, he had tuberculosis and holes in his feet where he had cut the frostbite from his necrotized feet.

While his sister survived for a while after liberation, she, and many others, died within a few weeks. The well-meaning liberators gave the skeletal former inmates too much food for their decimated bodies to cope. In addition, due to the diseases caused by their incarceration the survivors could not digest their food and succumbed to diarrhea and dehydration. My father intuitively understood the danger and tried to save his sister, to whom he had recently reunited, but she would not listen and would eat too much anyway. My father paced himself eating slowly and carefully--and survived.

Sadly, my father, one of 6 children with a mother, a wife, his own two children, brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law, as well as, a large number of nieces and nephews was the only one of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. The erasure of his family was almost complete.

After Auschwitz, my father along with hundreds of other survivors began walking across Europe. His first stop was back in Lodz where he had buried a tin can next to the family’s original home. He had told his mother and sister that whoever survived should come back and get the can. It contained the few photographs I have of my father’s family along with some gold jewelry and an engagement ring he gave his first wife--a ring I still have to this day. It also contained some worthless aluminum coins called "ghetto money" which was  imprinted with an amount and a Jewish star (“Juden stern”) with a swastika. This was the only money Jews were allowed to have in the ghetto.  Dad, however, had buried some pre-war German marks which still had value.

He also found the two identification cards in one of the ghetto apartments he had hidden in. They were thin pieces of cardboard with photos of my father and my brother wearing the ubiquitous yellow star which allowed he and his son, then 6 years old, to obtain food. The baby had to share its food, as did his ill mother.

My father took the only remnants of his pre-war life, in addition to his work ethic and his talent as a tailor, to Germany.

My father began sewing clothing for survivors. No one had money, but he was able to trade found valuables, such as, a bone and ivory chess set, a gold watch and such, for the clothing he made for people. His skill was such that even Germans and Americans asked for his services. He began to put together a life and a living.

Upon arriving in Germany he immediately found an organization, which was trying to find and bring together survivors with other surviving family members. It was there that he met my mother, a half Jewish woman who was raised Catholic by her unmarried mother and her mother’s wealthy Nazi family. She had been an Arian model during the Nazi regime--blonde, blue eyed, strong and healthy.

Her family’s wealth and Nazi connections (an uncle in the SS) had bought her falsified papers early on and this was how she managed to survive. While she converted to the religion of her father, who had fled to the US with his wife and son, she had the ingrained disdain for the less-educated eastern European Jews that all too many German Jews had live and died with.

My father finally was able to contact his mother’s sister in New York. She and her husband “sponsored” my father’s immigration to the US in late 1949. My parents, after arriving on a cargo vessel in Texas, took a train to New York City where jobs and an apartment awaited the newcomers. My father was the same age as his cousins--his aunt’s children; but they, as so many Jewish Americans who had limited connection with the Holocaust did not connect with their estranged cousin.  My mom, the beautiful German, was ostracized. And I, the “sheiksa’s daughter,” also was never quite accepted into the now extended family.

I was a “dirty Jew” to the Irish Catholic school kids in my neighborhood, but was not quite “Jewish enough” for the family. It was an early introduction into the unfairness of in-group solidarity versus out-group hostility.
How and why they fell in love remains a mystery to me. While both of my parents were inherently good people, they were not good for one another. My father wanted to recreate his life through the stability of a large culturally Jewish family. My mother wanted to “change” him.  Never having had a father or a real male figure to identify with in a positive way during her childhood made her marriage an unknown and difficult reality. They replayed the war over and over.

I never was told of my father’s past in any depth until I was 10 or 12 years old, when a psychologist my parents and I were seeing told me about my brothers. I knew about “The Camps” and met some of my father’s surviving friends and distant relatives, but I was sheltered from the facts.

All I knew as a child was I had very strange nightmares about trains and snow covered flat landscapes, and that I became panicked in kindergarten and early grade school when having to line up and walk through closed doors, such as, into a gym or auditorium.

In my 20’s, I read a book that described similar fears and experiences of children of survivors.  It led to my theoretical belief that life-threatening experiences change the DNA of survivors, whether human or non-human (animals), passing on the survival skills in some manner to the next generations.

My father was a damaged man. He suffered from the then-unknown condition we now all recognize as PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There was no psychological counseling for the survivors of this long nightmare. My father had been beaten into submission and despair by the ravages of his life’s experiences. There were days where all he could do was scream and yell about the slightest problems we all encounter in daily life. He was paranoid, assuming people outside our immediate family were conspiring to cheat him, or do us harm. He feared that my beautiful and significantly younger mother was “cheating” on him.

Yet, in his own way, he was kind, generous, and loving.   He fully accepted me, but the expectations he had for me were unattainable. These expectations were for me to be the best at everything in order to justify his survival when so many had died.  My father’s expectations, his frustrations, and his loss created in me a type A personality.  When I have encountered adversity, I have always thought, “if my father could survive that, I can overcome this.”  When I am told I cannot possibly accomplish something, it causes something in me to show them that indeed I can.

In the mid-1990’s, I was an adjunct faculty member teaching marketing for artist through the Maricopa Community College system. I was married at that time to Jerry, who was a professor in communications at Arizona State University. One of his associates was teaching a graduate level course on the Holocaust and invited my father to speak to the class.

Watching my father talk about his history and discuss the issues of hatred and inequality with the graduate students was a shared high point in both our lives.

A few days later, Dad sat in while I taught my marketing class at Mesa Community College. Suddenly I was his daughter (“tochter”) the professor. He was unduly, in my opinion, proud, but his rare happiness was my own.

During that same general period of time, my father gave testimony of his life’s experiences through Steven Spielberg’s video documentation of the Holocausts survivors. When I was sent a copy of the video, I learned more about my father than I had been aware of before, and some of the events discussed in this document are in part based on that video. My father often found it too difficult to discuss his pain and loss with me.

Over the next few years, I would travel to Florida as often as I could to visit my father who was in rapid decline.  Dad passed away in November 1998--never recovering from his war experiences.