If you happened to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the ’60s and were ever called as a Ward Clerk, or one of the assistant clerks – Historical, Financial, or Membership – you may remember the old Adler 200 typewriters.¹
Long before the advent of computers or word processors or even IBM Selectrics or Daisy-wheel typewriters, Adler was the go-to brand if you wanted a typewriter with an unusual font. I don’t know how many Adlers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased over time, but I’d bet they kept a lot of factory workers and typewriter repair personnel in business for decades.
The LDS Adler had a specific keyboard layout, as well: you didn’t have to shift for numbers (because they were used mostly for entering financial records) and symbols were on additional keys.
The font that came with these machines was OCR-A, “a font created in 1968, in the early days of computer optical character recognition, when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans.” (Wikipedia) It looked like this:
In the case of financial donations, members would fill out donation slips (being admonished to always write their names the same way each time):
and clerks would painstakingly transcribe these slips onto a ledger sheet on the typewriter, which was then sent by snail mail to headquarters where the records were scanned and entered into mainframe databases. Other information was also recorded using these machines, which were built like Sherman tanks, and like a Timex watch they would “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.”
Ward clerks often served for extended periods of time; whereas service callings in the Church today generally only last a few years, back in the day it was not uncommon for a clerk to serve for decades, especially if he did a good job.
The Ward Clerk
He kept the minutes, typed each note, And put them in the file. The membership he knew by rote; He labored with a smile.
The ordinations, births and deaths He faithfully recorded For forty years, until at last He went to be rewarded.
The people he had known so well Turned out to shed a tear, And pay respect to this good man, Gone to another sphere.
But as the choir rose to sing, They saw with consternation The good man from his coffin step To count the congregation!
It is said in the navy that the Captain may command the ship, but the E-7’s (Chief petty officers) keep the show running. Much the same could be said about a ward or branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Bishop or Branch President may be in charge, but the ward clerks keep the wheels greased and everything running smoothly so the leaders can focus on ministering rather than administering.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ The typewriter photos used in this post are from typewriter hunter Jake Fisher at the Typewriter Database.
Joseph Biden, Jr. won our latest presidential election, the most secure in our history. It’s a confirmed fact.
The idiot currently in the White House, in my lifetime’s greatest display of pettiness, infantile spite, and breathtaking narcissism, has continually refused to honor our nation’s traditions and concede his spectacular loss – both in the popular vote and the electoral college – and continues to claim that he won the election by “a lot,” that millions of votes were cast illegally by democrats and dead people, and that the election should be overturned in his favor. Legal scholars could debate this for a lifetime, but from where I sit this is not just arrogance and megalomania, it’s an attack on American institutions and the Constitution, and hence rises to the definition of treason.
But that’s not unexpected from this incompetent, unqualified clown. In fact, given the daily outflow of lies, conspiracy theories, misrepresentations, insults, and heart-stopping displays of abject stupidity seen on this con-man’s Twitter feed, it’s exactly what many people predicted would happen. So it’s not exactly astonishing.
What is astonishing is the number of people in positions of power and influence – almost exclusively Republicans – who have hitched their wagon to this pathetic, dying star and are supporting both the man and his insane attempt to stay in a position of power that he has for too long disgraced and abused.
They have filed lawsuit after lawsuit on his behalf, the vast majority of which – over 59 as of December 13th and counting, according to a running tally on Twitter – they have definitively lost in front of judges and courts, many of which were appointed by the Buffoon-in-Chief himself. Their claims have been absurd and frivolous, and all of them (except one or two about minor procedural matters) have been appropriately dismissed by these jurists and indeed, by the Supreme Court.
“that the Court give Pence the “Exclusive Authority” to decide which Electoral College votes to count and which ones to ignore during the upcoming congressional session on January 6th when the House certifies the election. The lawsuit LITERALLY demands that Pence be given the exclusive authority to decide the election.”
Breathtaking doesn’t cover it. Heart-stopping doesn’t cover it. Mind-raping doesn’t cover it. The abject stupidity and un-Americanism of all these attempts to overturn a United States presidential election, not only by juridical means but also by loudly and repeatedly trumpeting the lie that the election was stolen by Democrats, is absolutely impossible for me to fathom. In the words of a certain segment of a previous generation, “I just can’t even.”
And the saddest part of it all is that I don’t see any consequences forthcoming for this army of sycophants and followers of our modern-day caudillo¹, all of whom have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the world and of history. Certainly, on January 20th The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office will either walk out of the White House (or be frogmarched out by the Secret Service, which I have to admit would be a more satisfying spectacle), and fade into obscurity to become an ignominious footnote in history, along with the rest of his corrupt clan and hangers-on.
That’s an indisputable consequence. And it pleases me to think that despite any executive pardons either already issued or forthcoming, many states are lined up at the starting gate with indictments and subpœnas in hand, waiting to delve into the personal and political corruption that has been on public display for the last four years. But for many of the people who have foolishly attached their names to lawsuits, or signed on as friends of the court, or done anything to try to subvert a constitutionally-conducted election, I fear that our nation is simply too complex, and the issues facing us at the present time – not the least of which is the Covid pandemic – are so pressing that things will simply return to business as usual and there will be neither punishments nor repercussions.
And there should be. There must be. From the Republican Senate’s refusal to hear evidence or witnesses during the impeachment trial, issuing a verdict based on political ideology rather than facts, to the current insanity of a disputed election, there must be consequences or our nation’s political process will remain forever tainted. Every senator who stated – in advance! – that they would not be an impartial jurist during the impeachment trial; every senator or congressperson who joined lawsuits to try to keep a drooling cretin in power for four more years despite the will of the American people – should not be seated in January or should be immediatly recalled. They have disgraced themselves, disgraced their legislative bodies, and disgraced the Constitution of the United States. If they are attorneys themselves, as so many of them are, local or national bar associations should sanction or disbar them. What they have done and continue to do is virtually inexcusable.
That’s what I demand, as a citizen of a once-great nation which has been made decidedly less great by a harlequin in a red hat. I hold out a faint glimmer of hope that in some cases, elected officials will be voted out during their next run for office, and retire in disgrace. I hope against hope that there will be legal consequences for some of them. But whether or not these things happen, I am content to have said my piece to the world. To my children and grandchildren and whatever posterity I am blessed with, know that I stood against this raging tide of folly, I voted my conscience, and did what I could to end the madness.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ If you’re not familiar with the term,
“Historian John Lynch states that “Before 1810 the caudillo was unknown. … The caudillo entered history as a local hero whom larger events promoted to a military chieftain.” He gained in power by his success as a military leader. In a rural area that lacked any institutions of the state, and where the environment was one of violence and anarchy, a caudillo could impose order, often by using violence himself to achieve it. His local control as a strongman needed to be maintained by assuring the loyalty of his followers, so his bestowing material rewards reinforced his own position. Caudillos could also maintain their position by protecting the interests of regional elites. A local strongman who built a regional base could aspire to becoming a national caudillo, taking control of the state. In this situation, caudillos could bestow patronage on a large retinue of clients, who in turn gave him their loyalty. In general, caudillos’ power benefited elites. But these strongmen were also mediators between elites and the popular classes, recruiting them into the power base, but also restraining them from achieving power themselves.” (Wikipedia)
Yesterday the White House issued a proclamation on Columbus Day, purportedly from the *president.
First of all, let’s be honest: The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office had virtually nothing to do with this proclamation.
Columbus Day is not even on his radar, because it makes him no money.
It’s full of vocabulary that is only taught after the third grade, which means there’s no way the Orange Screechweasel could have penned it. It was doubtless written by one of his sycophantic staff, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been penned by Stephen Miller, it’s so full of jingoistic, nationalist rhetoric.
One paragraph is especially egregious:
Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister. They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy. We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.
Instead of providing inspiring national leadership, 45’s *administration can never resist an opportunity to demonize his political opponents in particular and liberals in general. Fortunately, there are people like Justin P. Cowan, Associate Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Western Connecticut State University. He took the “red pen of rational thought” to this paragraph and crafted something far more reasonable.
The edited version is a much more satisfying read:
“Thankfully, in recent years, thoughtful citizens have sought to contextualize Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These mindful people seek to broaden discussion of his vast contributions by recognizing his failings, evaluating his discoveries alongside his atrocities, and acknowledging his achievements while not overlooking his transgressions. Rather than ignore our history, this centrist ideology and its adherents seek to engage with it, recognize its splendor, while not overlooking its sinister acts. They seek to cultivate a generation of thinkers and intellectuals. We must celebrate these tactics and consent to a more well-rounded, representative, and factual view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the relocation of monuments to our problematic heroes like Columbus to museums where both their achievements and inherent flaws can be equally evaluated.”
I appreciated Dr. Cowan’s re-imagining of what a proclamation from a normal, human president might look like. It admits of Columbus’s significant contributions while at the same time refusing to whitewash the severe consequences of his journeys. Although Dr. Cowan is not a historian by profession, Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is, and in her “Letters from an American” she states,
For all of Trump’s attention to patriotic education, his proclamation is quite bad history. Aside from its whitewashing of the effects of Columbus’s voyage of “discovery,” the proclamation misrepresents the original point of Columbus Day, which had a lot more to do with putting down white supremacy than celebrating the “enduring significance” of Columbus in opening “a new chapter in world history.”
Her complete essay about the proclamation and other events of the day is definitely worth a read.
Don’t get the idea that I’m jumping on the “Hate Columbus” bandwagon with these thoughts. Half of my blood comes from Italy, and I respect and love that heritage. Columbus is part of the reason that I get to live under the Constitution of this nation, for which I am immensely grateful. But as Dr. Richardson went on to explain,
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.
As an aside, these are things I never knew; I certainly wasn’t taught these facts in school. History must of necessity take all factors into account if it is to be a valid basis for national introspection and growth. We can’t look just at the good, or just at the bad.
I’m grateful for the positive results of the voyages of Cristoforo Colombo, but I’m mindful of the atrocities that were perpetrated along the way. The best thing humanity can do to atone for the destruction of the Taino and Carib populations is to take a good hard look at the realities of the Spanish conquest of the Americas and vow to treat all people with equality, dignity, and respect in the future. As a race of people, we’ll never make it to the stars if we can’t stop rolling in the mud.
Watch this video (Begin at the 3:00) mark. Listen to Joe Biden’s words. If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript below.
While not as heart-pumping as Bill Pullman’s “we will not go quietly into the night” speech from Independence Day, this one is the real thing, addressing real issues and real dangers that we as a nation face. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative – this is the kind of president we need right now. Issues and concerns can be debated, positions can be put forward, compromises can be made, once people of good will – not obstructive, power-hungry ideologues – are in charge of leading us.
“Thank you all for being here. Thank you. I appreciate you being here on this gorgeous day in a magnificent, magnificent setting, until you think about all the lives that were lost here. Y’all please, all have a seat.
On July 4th, 1863, American woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle in American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg; three days of violence, three days of carnage, 50,000 casualties, wounded, captured, missing, or dead, over three days of fighting. When the sun rose on that Independence Day, Lee would retreat. The war would go on for nearly two more years, but the back of the Confederacy had been broken. The Union would be saved. Slavery would be abolished, government of by and for the people would not perish from the earth, and freedom would be born anew in our land.
There’s no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg, to talk about the cost of division. About how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment, we must come together as a nation. For President Lincoln, the Civil War was about the greatest of causes. The end of slavery, widening equality, pursuit of justice, the creation of opportunity, and the sanctity of freedom.
His words would live ever after. We hear them in our heads. We know them in our hearts. We draw on them when we seek hope in hours of darkness; “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Here on this sacred ground, Abraham Lincoln, re-imagined America itself. Here, a president of the United States spoke of the price of division, and the meaning of sacrifice.
He believed in the rescue, redemption, and rededication of the union. All this in a time, not just of ferocious division, but of widespread death, structural inequity, and fear of the future. And he taught us this, a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth. Today, once again, we are a house divided, but that my friends can no longer be. We’re facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have to bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the Shoals of anger and hate, and division.
As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again, what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked. As I look across America today, I’m concerned. The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many Americans see our public life, not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting, partisan warfare.
Instead of treating each other’s party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. A spirit of being able to work with one another. When I say that, and I’ve been saying it for two years now, I’m accused of being naive. I’m told, “Maybe that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.” Well, I’m here to tell you they can, and they must if we’re going to get anything done.
I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me, as those who do. That’s the job of a president; the duty to care for everyone. Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.
And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well. That’s the choice I’ll make as president. But there’s something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion, competing viewpoints give life and vibrancy to our democracy. No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper. Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them, we must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fist clenched, but our arms open. We have to seek not to tear each other apart, we seek to come together. You don’t have to agree with me on everything, or even on most things, to see that we’re experiencing today is neither good nor normal.
I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville. Close your eyes, and remember what you saw. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches light, veins bulging, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile herd across Europe in the ’30s. It was hate on the march, in the open, in America. Hate never goes away, it only hides. And when it’s given oxygen, when it’s given an opportunity to spread, when it’s treated as normal and acceptable behavior, we’ve opened a door in this country that we must move quickly to close. As president, that’s just what I will do. I will send a clear unequivocal message to the entire nation, there is no place for hate in America.
It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It’ll be given no safe harbor. In recent weeks and months, the country has been riled by instances of excessive police force, heart-wrenching cases of racial injustice and lives needlessly and senselessly lost, by peaceful protesters, given voice to the calls for justice, by examples of violence and looting and burning that can not be tolerated. I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police.
But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, the moment when black men, women, and children first were brought here in chains. I do not believe we have to choose between law and order, and racial justice in America. We can have both. This is the nation strong enough to both honestly face systemic racism and strong enough to provide safe streets for our families and small businesses. The two often bear the brunt of this looting and burning.
We have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacy groups, menacing our communities. If you say, “We should trust America’s law enforcement authorities to do the job,” as I do, then let them do their job without extremist groups acting as vigilantes. If you say, “We have no need to face racial injustice in the country,” you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.
There’ve been powerful voices for justice in recent weeks and months, George Floyd’s, six year old daughter, who I met with, who looked at me and said in her small child’s voice, “Daddy changed the world.” Also, Jacob Blake’s mother was another. When she said, “Violence didn’t reflect her son and this nation needed healing.” And Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country. That has for far too long, never been recognized. What we need in America’s leadership that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communications, to bring us together, to heal, to hope. As president, that’s precisely what I will do. We paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact on how we deal with the Coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead, and the number’s climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year; enough, no more. Let’s just set partisanship aside, let’s end the politics and follow the science.
Wearing a mask… wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Testing, tracing, the development and all approval and distribution of a vaccine, isn’t a political statement. It is a science-based decision. We can’t undo what has been done. We can’t go back. We can do so much better. We can do better starting today. We can have a national strategy that puts politics aside and saves lives.
We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation. This pandemic is not a red state or blue state issue. This virus doesn’t care whether you live, or where you live, what political party you belong to, it affects us all. It will take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.
There’s another enduring division in America that we must end, the division in our economic life. That gives opportunity only to the privileged few. America has to be about mobility. It has to be the kind of country where an Abraham Lincoln, a child of the distant frontier, can rise to the highest office in the land. America has to be about possibilities.
The possibility of prosperity, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, for all of us. Working people on their kids deserve an opportunity. Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people, and I quote, “An open field and a fair chance. An open field and a fair chance.” That’s what we’re going to do in America. We’re going to build together. We fought a civil war that would secure a union that would seek to fulfill the promise of equality for all.
And by fits and starts, our better angels had prevailed again, just enough, just enough against our worst impulses to make a new and better nation. And those better angels can prevail again, now. They must prevail again, now. 100 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the vice president, Lyndon B Johnson also came here, and here’s what he said.
He said, “Our nation founded soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg, we must not lose that soul in dishonor, now, on the fields of hate.” Today, we’re engaged, once again, in the battle for the soul of the nation, the forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down and holding us back. We must free ourselves of all of them. As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. And light, not darkness. I’ll be a president who appeals to the best in us, not the worst.
I’ll be a president who pushes toward the future, not one who clings to the past. I’m ready to fight for you and for our nation every day, without exception, without reservation, with a full and devoted heart. We cannot, and will not, allow extremest and white supremacist to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas, to overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores, to overturn the America that has been a Haven and a home for everyone, no matter their background.
From Seneca falls to Selma, to Stonewall we’re at our best when the promise of America is available to all, we cannot, and we will not allow violence in the street to threaten the people of this nation. We cannot and will not walk away from our obligation to at long last, face the wrecking on race and racial justice in this country. We cannot and will not continue to be struck in the partisan politics that lets us, this virus, thrive, while the public health of this nation suffers.
We cannot and will not accept an economic equation that only favors those who have already got it made; everybody deserves a shot at prosperity. Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will Marshall the ingenuity and Goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another.
In the second inaugural Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we’re in to build up the nation’s wounds, bind up the nation’s wounds.” Now, we have our work to reunite America. To bind up our nation’s wounds. To move past shadow and suspicion. And so we, you and I together, we press on, even now. After hearing the second inaugural address, Frederick Douglas told President Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” We have to be dedicated to our own sacred effort. The promise of Gettysburg and the new birth of freedom was in hand.
I think it’s at risk. Every generation that’s followed Gettysburg has been faced with a moment when it must answer this question, will they allow the sacrifices made here to be in vain, or be fulfilled? This is our moment to answer this essential American question, for ourselves and for our time. And my answer is this, it cannot be that after all this country has been through, after all that America’s accomplished, after all the years, we have stood as a beacon of light to the world.
It cannot be that here and now in 2020, we will allow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people to perish this earth. No, it cannot. And it must not. We have it in our hands, the ultimate power. The power to vote. Its the note instrument ever devised to register our will in a peaceable and productive fashion. And so we must. We must vote. We will vote. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our way, because once America votes, America will be heard.
Lincoln said, “The nation is worth fighting for.” So it was. And so it is, together as one nation under God, indivisible. Let us join forces to fight the common foe of injustice and inequality, hate and fear. Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born.
You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.”
I want our nation to return to sanity. The mad divisiveness that infects our politics now is not anything that our founders envisioned. We need to get back to government by reason and compromise instead of bombastic ideological warfare and obstruction. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.
This coming November, please vote to sweep the authoritarians from power, and return our nation to the democratic republic that we were given at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. ¹
The Old Wolf has spoken, but Joe Biden has spoken better.
¹ A good exploration of Franklin’s quote, “A republic if you can keep it” can be found here.
This is a Twitter thread from Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) on June 11, 2020, condensed here for easier reading and without all the responses – many of which are simply ignorant and do nothing to improve the conversation. You can visit the original thread here.
All right. Let’s talk about how the Confederacy survived the Civil War, was absorbed into our culture, laws, and politics, and remains an everpresent threat we must destroy. I didn’t know any of this until I started researching American Rule.
First things first, the Confederacy is hardly dealt with in our history or curricula. There’s a reason the Civil War is reduced to a history of battles and military maneuvers. To look any deeper would mean an actual reckoning with white supremacy and power in America.
The truth is that the Confederacy considered itself the true ancestor of America and that the North had betrayed America’s founding and purpose as a white supremacist state. It wasn’t a different country. It was America interpreted as a white supremacist nation.
There’s a reason why George Washington is all over Confederate iconography. Why Jefferson Davis was inaugurated in the shadow of a Washington statue. The Confederacy was battling over the United States of America, not creating a separate nation.
And for all of the lies about it being about state’s rights, it was explicitly about white supremacy, which Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens made clear in so many words. Stephens, by the way, still has a statue in the Capitol.
Another reason we don’t talk about the Confederacy is because it was a twisted version of America, with its blatant white supremacy and its basis in white-identity Christianity. As the South lost battles, its leaders demanded humiliation, days of prayer, reckoning with God.
As I’ve mentioned before, Confederate preachers told Southerners that the Christian God was white supremacist, that he demanded white supremacy as the law of the land. The Confederacy saw itself as the real America and God’s chosen nation.
In addition to not understanding what the Confederacy was, the myth that it simply went away when it surrendered militarily has done massive damage. America re-absorbed the Confederacy and ingested its blatant white supremacy and continued its customs and laws.
To get into this properly and deal with our history, we must reckon with our myths, including the messiah-ization of Abraham Lincoln, who had troubling views on race and even tried to sell freed slaves to other countries to remove them from America.
There is a possibility Lincoln could have continued evolving had he not been assassinated, but we’ll never know. That murder, however, created a scenario wherein America could make its post-Civil War reality into a mythologized moment of redemption.
Instantly, Lincoln was turned into a martyr, his death a moment of redemption and a chance for spilled blood to scrub America’s sins clean. It was a Christianized myth that served to hide our history and the reality of race in America.
In this twisted marriage of national and Christian myth, Washington became the Father, Lincoln the Messiah Son, and Americanism the Holy Spirit. The narrative was that Lincoln had saved us from white supremacy and that America was now ready for an equal future.
What we don’t discuss much is Andrew Johnson, who took over following Lincoln’s death. Johnson was a toxic white supremacist who fought against Reconstruction and denied dignity and rights for freed slaves. This is what happened.
Johnson told black luminaries like Frederick Douglass that equal rights were an abomination and that blacks had conspired with Southern slave owners against poor whites. Johnson was disgusting and hindered the project of equality from the beginning.
Johnson installed white supremacists as governors in the south, including Florida’s William Marvin, who told freed slaves to still call their masters “master” and that they were not equal to white people and to never believe otherwise.
Meanwhile, white supremacists worked behind the scenes to create laws that could keep freed slaves as close “to the condition of slavery” as possible. The developing laws were meant to hide the insidiousness of blatant white supremacy behind laws and government.
As this was done, paramilitary groups like the KKK performed domestic terrorism, attacking African Americans using their new freedom, as well as the white allies who helped them. In this way, the Confederacy became an invisible empire enforced by law and violence.
US Grant, as president, fought against this continued Confederacy, empowering organizations and waging war on the KKK. But white voters grew tired of their taxes and his means of waging that war. They let down African Americans in a huge way.
Reconstruction was hindered by propaganda that claimed it was a means of helping lazy and inept African Americans, a conspiracy against white southerners. Meanwhile, the black community organized at record pace and was incredibly successful despite these setbacks.
The man who arguably killed Reconstruction before it was complete was Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president. Hayes wasn’t even that interested in the presidency, but promised if supported he would return the South to white supremacist southerners.
To continue the story, for years the South worked with white supremacist laws. Eventually, academics like Woodrow Wilson would use their work to wash the Confederacy clean of its white supremacy and portray it as dignified, and the war as being over state’s rights.
Wilson was a disgusting racist whose work claimed Southern slave owners loved their slaves and that they were wrongly attacked. This “Lost Cause” mythology sought to protect white supremacy and changed history completely. Unfortunately, it was incredibly successful.
Wilson’s writings eventually inspired projects like Birth of a Nation, that completely revised Construction and the post-Civil War South, portraying the KKK as necessary heroes. This affected our collective history in terrifying ways.
It was around this time that so many of the Confederate statues we’re now tearing down were put in place to continue the revision of history and remind African Americans that the Confederacy survived the Civil War in our culture, laws, and politics.
Wilson used his revised history to scrub America cleans of its sins in preparation for World War I, where he used propaganda to portray this country as fair and righteous and to hide our white supremacy so we could be a world power that supposedly believed in equality.
Wilson’s propaganda changed the American story, so when the Civil Rights Movement began Americans didn’t believe there was any fight to be had, equality had been won. The fight was to challenge this narrative in order to finally realize a semblance of equality.
There’s a reason why the South turned to Confederate flags during desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. The Confederacy had survived in our laws, culture, and politics. This was a clear symbol that it had simply been hiding the entire time.
Meanwhile, open white supremacists like George Wallace made the connection crystal clear. He supported the Confederacy and, like the CSA, believe white supremacy was under attack by a communist, anti-American conspiracy, because the CSA WAS America.
Just like we’re seeing now, protestors were abused, brutalized, all because white supremacists believed it was a conspiracy. Instead of Antifa, it was communists, anarchists, anyone who could fit the conspiratorial mold.
By now we’re all familiar with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but it’s important to note that this took the Confederacy and white supremacy, and drove it further under the veneer of rhetorical dog whistle appeals. It was about hiding the Confederacy but still embracing it.
If you haven’t already, please see my work on the Cult of the Shining City and Jerry Falwell and Neo-Confederate preachers. The hiding of the Confederate God in white-identity Christianity was yet another illusion that maintained the Confederacy while hiding it.
The attempt to continue white supremacy and the Confederacy and our politics continued with Ronald Reagan, who took it another step forward and hid it behind tax rhetoric and “colorblindness,” or pushing the idea that America no longer had racial inequality.
Reagan claimed that America was finally equal and that the market and economy would determine winners and losers. But the market and economy were made explicitly with white supremacy in mind. It was a giant lie from the very, very beginning.
If you haven’t before, look up Reagan’s speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, where white supremacist murders had taken place. Reagan took right off with Woodrow Wilson’s propaganda, promoting “state’s rights” and implicitly supporting the Confederacy.
Reagan’s dogwhistling and rhetorical appeals to white supremacy further legitimized white supremacy and the Confederacy, driving them further and further into American politics while giving them cover to operate without the ability to be scrutinized.
Following Reagan and HW Bush, the GOP and American Right began flirting openly with the New World Order conspiracy theory, which was a Neo-Confederate belief that white Americans were being threatened by evil outsiders and traitorous liberals.
We like to frame Timothy McVeigh as a lone nut, but he believed he was a soldier in the invisible war against the New World Order. There’s a reason he wore a shirt calling Lincoln a tyrant. This was the Confederacy declaring war, once again, on the United States.
The OKC Bombing was a battle in a fictitious war against the New World Order, or the Deep State, or the cabal, whatever you want to call it. American conspiracy theories are inherently white supremacist fantasies fueled by white supremacist paranoia and weakness.
McVeigh was inspired both by Right Wing appeals and Neo-Nazi literature that sought to return American to the Confederacy, which inspired the Third Reich in the first place. American domestic terrorists are seeking a return to the CSA and a racist dystopia.
There’s a reason Donald Trump is supported by these people. White supremacists see him as their warrior, a president who will explicitly stand up for them and continue hiding the Confederacy in culture while furthering its surviving goals.
He is a Confederate president.
You need to understand, the Confederacy wasn’t limited by geography or a moment in time. It was an ideology that was felt throughout the nation.
This is why the flags are everywhere, in the North, West, every part of the country.
It is a surviving worldview.
White supremacists and fascists and Confederates would much rather hide in plain sight, behind the American flag and the veneer of American equality.
That’s what they want.
But as we’re seeing now, they’re more than willing to show their true colors if necessary.
It’s no coincidence we’re having these debates now, that Trump is standing up for blatant white supremacy and the Confederacy. The movement is making actual inroads into dealing with our white supremacy, and they’ll seek comfort in the CSA just like Civil Rights opponents.
We need to relearn our history, see what actually happened, and how the Confederacy never went away. It was absorbed, hidden, empowered by its disguise. America is riddled with the Confederacy and if we want to avoid fascism, we have to rip it out by the root.
PS: As an educator, I have to say that any fight against white supremacy has to involve radical discussions about how to revise our curriculum to tell the honest story of America, because what we have now is propaganda designed explicitly to hide and empower white supremacy.
PPS: I’ve taken a ton of history classes and always considered myself really informed. Until I started on the new book so much of this was completely unknown. It’s all out there waiting to be discovered. It has to be discovered and it has to be told.
It used to be that anything that was on the Internet lasted forever. Sometimes that’s true – the Streisand Effect makes sure that when people do their best to scrub things from the web, they are replicated and hosted in multiple places, so that the Wayback Machine (a part of the Internet Archive) can grab them.
On the other hand, the advent of robots.txt and other devices ensured that archive copies of some websites were never grabbed, and that’s a shame. But a lot of pages, even if they become obsolete, are still available.
The oldest page on the “World Wide Web,” a term that is about as common these days as NCSA Mosaic, is this one; the earliest screen capture was taken in 1992.
I ran across this picture from September 2008 in my Livejournal:
It linked to a quiz at NerdTests.com, which I was pleased to note still exists. How geeky are you?
A list of websites created before 1995 can be found at Wikipedia, for further perusal.
The Million Dollar Homepage was one of those flashes of inspiration that came to someone who was in the right place at the right time. Once an idea like this is done, it can’t ever be successfully replicated. Kinda like “The Princess Bride.”
The Net is a strange and wonderful place, a rabbit hole with no perceptible bottom. But if you surf diligently enough, you can actually get to the end.
I was first introduced to the world of automated translation in 1977 via Brigham Young University’s TSI (Translation Sciences Institute) which later spawned ALPS (Automated Language Translation Systems); I worked at both enterprises as a linguistic programmer.
It’s a huge field now, much more than it was in the ’60s and ’70s when the technologies and theories were merely a-borning; much has been written about automated translation since the ’60s and even earlier. The history is out there on the Net if you want to do your own research ¹ (and that doesn’t mean watching two hours of YouTube videos that tell you what you want to hear). There’s also some funny stuff out there. ²
A post from one of my Facebook friends and translation colleagues was the source for some Japanese text; this is just a raw comparison, and you can draw your own conclusions or dig deeper if you want. Or don’t. But it’s something that fascinates me, and I could study it for a lifetime. Wait, I did. Whatevs.
Google Translate began by using statistical machine translation (SMT), which uses the analysis of huge bilingual text corpora to generate translation based on statistical models. They later moved to a combination of SMT and neural machine translation (NMT) which uses an artificial neural network to predict the likelihood of a sequence of words.
DeepL is a relative newcomer to the automated translation scene, but has received high praise from translators and governments alike. It uses neural machine translation, but its power comes from the massive Linguee database. While it currently works with only 11 languages as compared to Google Translate’s 109, the results appear to be consistently better and more natural.
Below you will find two examples of highly colloquial Japanese and the output from the three different translation engines.
えーーー？だれ？もっていっちゃったのは！たぶん、カメラに写っているよね。返してー (Eeee? Dare? Motte itchatta no wa! Tabun, kamera ni utsutte iru yo ne. Kaeshitee)
What? Who is this? I took it! Maybe it’s on the camera. Give it back
Eh? Who? What I brought! Maybe it’s in the camera. Return
Ehhh? Who is it? I’m the one who took it! Maybe you can see it in the camera. I want it back.
そんなことをする人には絶対にばちが当たるヨ〜 (Son’na koto o suru hito ni wa zettai ni ba chi ga ataru yo 〜)
People who do such a thing will never win ~
People who do such a thing will definitely be hit
People who do such things are going to pay dearly for it.
Neural network translation is interesting in that repeated submission of a single phrase can often result in different outputs:
返してー 返して. 返してー
when given to DeepL results in:
I want it back. Give it to me. Give it back to me.
Whereas the original phrase reduplicated (返してー返して.) produces:
Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!
The technology has made multiple quantum leaps since the earliest forays into automated translation. My Pixel 3XL phone is many times more powerful than the IBM 370/138 that BYU was using to develop their one-to-many interactive translation system based on Junction Grammar, both in storage capacity and processing speed. To be very honest, I don’t know what kind of hardware these systems are running on, whether distributed or mainframe or supercomputers that are capable of processing whigabytes of data at processing speeds that almost don’t have enough greek prefixes to describe. I just know they’re big, and fast, and they’re only getting bigger and faster all the time.
That said, translation, particularly literary translation, is just as much of an art form as it is a mechanical process, one that has cognitive components that no computer will ever be able to duplicate. No machine would ever be capable of translating Les Misérables into English, or Harry Potter into Hebrew, for example, and preserve the wonder of language; I challenge any machine, now matter how sophisticated or fast, to translate things like this:
“I stepped off the train at 8 P.M. Having searched the thesaurus in vain for adjectives, I must, as a substitution, hie me to comparison in the form of a recipe. Take a London fog 30 parts; malaria 10 parts; gas leaks 20 parts; dewdrops gathered in a brick yard at sunrise, 25 parts; odor of honeysuckle 15 parts. Mix. The mixture will give you an approximate conception of a Nashville drizzle. It is not so fragrant as a moth-ball nor as thick as pea-soup; but ’tis enough – ’twill serve. I went to a hotel in a tumbril. It required strong self-suppression for me to keep from climbing to the top of it and giving an imitation of Sidney Carton. The vehicle was drawn by beasts of a bygone era and driven by something dark and emancipated.” -O. Henry – “A Municipal Report”
The need for human translators is in no danger, and never will be – but that’s not to say that technological advances have not brought both advantages and disadvantages to human translators. Back in the day, it was pencil and paper, and hard-copy dictionaries, and rolodexes. Now it’s translation memories and electronic dictionaries and segmentation systems that allow for rapid recall of already-translated words and phrases and best-guessing (fuzzy matching) for things that are close. This speeds up the work and increases consistency, but as a result translation agencies have taken to telling translators that they’ll pay, for example, 9¢ per word for new material, but only 4¢ for fuzzy matches, and almost nothing for 100% matches. This means that translators have to turn out much more material to generate the same amount of income – but what agencies don’t care about is that every word needs to be processed and reviewed through the skillset of the translator as though it were brand-new. What’s more, the proliferation of free online translation services means that any schlub in India or China can claim to be a translator and charge 2¢ per word, and the agencies love that – but in exchange they’re getting lousy output and dragging down the rates of pay for the entire industry – which is exactly why I got out of the business of freelance translation. It’s a crime, and I won’t put up with it.
The Old Wolf has spoken, Der Alte Wolf hat gesprochen. Le vieux loup a parlé. Il vecchio lupo ha parlato.
¹ If you want to dig into the history of machine translation, you can start here, following the references at the end of the article for more. Warning: It’s a very, very deep rabbit hole.
Yesterday Bernie Sanders ended his campaign. After 7 years of supporting his runs for President, it was a difficult moment. I will take exactly 24 hours to grieve for the lost dream of an administration that would put the American citizen first, instead of wealthy corporations and oligarchs… and then I will go back to working for that dream, much as Bernie has done for the last 4 decades in the face of continual opposition and derision.
It will happen. Just not on this day.
Political winds shift regularly, and the political pendulum swings over time. What makes the “Bernie Revolution” so critical in our day is that the pendulum of ideology has swung so far to the right over the last 40 years that putting a moderate or centrist Democrat in the White House will only be good enough to slow the progress of our society toward an evangelical fascist nation, the beginnings of which have been painfully evident in the most gangrenous *administration I have experienced in my almost 70 years of life.
America doesn’t need a moderate right now, it needs a more radical approach to governmental transformation, and Bernie would have been just the ticket.
There’s an old aphorism floating around out there that basically says “If you aim for the trees you’ll hit the ground, but if you aim for the stars you’re more likely to hit the trees.”
Anyone who’s ever practiced archery or marksmanship knows this. If you want to shoot higher, you need to aim much higher than your target, and any candidate who tries to get elected by promising to preserve the status quo is guaranteed to hit the ground and not the target, only dooming America to a continued march toward corporate-funded despotism.
Bernie had thoughts about just about everything. For reference, a basic list of his positions, consistent over decades is found below.
Capital Punishment / Death Penalty: Abolish it Cash Bail Reform: End it Cocaine Sentencing Disparities: Scrap the disparity Mandatory Minimum Sentences Reform: Eliminate them Private Prisons: Eliminate them Election Security: Mandate paper ballots Affordable Housing: Construction funding, rent control and taxes to curb speculation Big Banks: Bring back Glass-Steagall Income Inequality: Raise taxes on the wealthy, create new social programs Minimum Wage: Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour Paid Leave: Support several months of broad paid leave Reparations: Study reparations Charter Schools: Restrict charter school growth Cost of College: College should be free Student Debt: Cancel all student debt Teacher Pay: Boost teacher pay Campaign Finance: Unlimited spending should not be allowed in politics Electoral College: The Electoral College should be eliminated Felon Voting: Felons should be allowed to vote while incarcerated Nuclear Power: Support closing down existing nuclear power reactors Oil and gas drilling: Ban fracking everywhere Reducing carbon emissions: Impose government regulations Farm Economy: Break up agribusiness Farming and Climate Change: Pay farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices Nutrition: Universal free meals in schools Rights for Farm Owners and Workers: Expand farm worker protections, but no specific plans for USDA civil rights Assault Weapons: Support a voluntary buyback program Background Checks: In favor of universal background checks Bernie Sanders’ views on: Abortion ACA / Coverage Expansion: All in on Medicare for All Drug Costs: Importation and patent breaking Medicare For All: Medicare for All or bust DACA: Citizenship for Dreamers Illegal Entry: Repeal the statute The Wall: Don’t support additional wall funding Transportation: Boost infrastructure spending, but no stated funding mechanism Legalizing Marijuana: Legalize it Marijuana Convictions: Scrapping past pot convictions Defense Spending: Slash the defense budget Overseas Deployments: Bring the troops home Capital Gains Taxes: Increase the capital gains tax rate Corporate Income Taxes: Eliminate tax breaks for “offshoring.” Wealth Taxes: Create special taxes on wealth Rural Broadband: Create a public option for broadband Social Media: We should consider holding companies legally liable for user posts Tech Competition & Antitrust: Break them up China: Support the goal, change the approach NAFTA / USMCA: Against the USMCA Tariffs: Use tariffs to crack down on certain countries TPP 2.0: Oppose joining CPTPP or opposed TPP
I don’t think even the most radical of Bernie’s supporters convinced themselves that every one of these platform planks could be enacted into law. But every one is something that would make life better for all citizens, not just Democrats.
If we could get the three I have highlighted in red enshrined in American law – A decent minimum wage, universal single-payer healthcare, and repealing Citizens United – it would go a long way toward creating a better life for every American.
There’s no question that I’m sad. I know that there are people out there who will be exulting in the copious “liberal tears” that are being shed at the moment, and I’m sad for them as well – because they’re essentially cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Bernie will continue serving the American people without compromising his principles as a senior Senator as he has always done, and until he can serve no more. There will come a day when he will go the way of all the earth, and it is my fervent hope that there will be those who come after – young people like AOC, or others who have not yet arisen – who will mature in government service and pick up Bernie’s torch. In the meantime I will do what I can to support progressive candidates who will work to build a world that works, in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller,
“for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”
As I commented to a Facebook acquaintance, I am approaching the twilight of my life, and in these uncertain days one never knows how much time is left. When my own time comes, I need to be able to go down to my grave knowing that I did all that I could to leave the world a better place for my children and grandchildren; I need to be able to look them in the eye and say that I voted for freedom, for prosperity, for equality, and for human dignity. For me – and your mileage may vary – to support the current occupant of the White House for another 4 years would be voting to keep my posterity in a state of servitude to the wealthy, to say to them in effect “You must remain poor. You do not deserve a living wage. You do not deserve affordable healthcare. In order to get an education, you must undertake a lifetime of debt. You girls do not deserve the right to choose your destinies, you must submit to abuse at the hands of any man who feels like you are nothing more than property, and if you happen to become pregnant, too bad for you. You have no choice.” This I cannot do.
I have written about my Journey Into Magic, in which I mentioned my love of hanging around the Magic Center on 8th Avenue. Sadly, no photos of this shop seem to exist around the net, so I was delighted to find an old New York City tax photo from the 1940s which clearly shows the Magic Center at 741 8th Avenue (I believe Russ later moved his shop next door to 739).
Click the image to enlarge it; the Magic Center is clearly visible on the right.
Edit: According to Richard Cohn (see comment), the Magic Center was owned at this time by Al Cohn, the “Spongeball King,” whose caricature you can see on the King Tut advertisement below.
Russ used to advertise various tricks in magazines of the day, including Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and the New Yorker:
The next thing I need is for someone out there in the wide world of the Internet to come up with a good photo of Russ himself.
Except for NPR and a few XM Radio oldies stations, I haven’t been much of a radio listener in the last couple of decades. In the 80s and 90s I would listen to KOMO in Seattle and Olympia, and then KSL radio in Salt Lake as I would drive to work, so when we moved to Maine and people asked me how I was doing, and I responded “better than I deserve,” they would invariable respond with “Oh, you listened to Dave Ramsey.”
Well, no. With all due respect, I had never heard of him. But for the last 10 years or so, it’s been my go-to answer to that question. There were times I would say, “If I were any better I’d have to be twins,” and sometimes I truly felt that way. But the older I get, the more I realize that I have truly been blessed beyond my deserts.
Sometimes when I say this to people, they’ll come back with “Oh, you shouldn’t say that, I’m sure you deserve it!” And that’s a nice thought too. But as I cast my mind over the past almost-70 years, I realize that I have been preserved from destruction or serious injury more times than I can count, and I’m sure more times than I’m even aware of.
When I was about two years old, I remember standing in my darkened kitchen (this would have been 1953), turning the burners on and off and watching the pretty blue gas flames dance around. That funny big knob in the middle didn’t seem to do anything, so I ignored it; what I didn’t know was that this was the kind of oven that had no pilot light and needed to be lit with a match. While I was playing with the burners, the oven was filling with gas and soon the inevitable happened. The oven door flew open with a thundering roar, but I was so tiny that it protected me from the flames other than having my hair singed and a huge contusion on my forehead.
In New York City where we were living, it was common practice when building skyscrapers to blast into the bedrock using dynamite and massive metal blankets woven out of thick cables and dragged around by steam shovels. My mother later told me that whatever I heard one of these explosions my eyes would get big and I would stand stock-still and ask, “Boom?”
Left an impression on me for sure.
In 1962, I was flying from New York to Salt Lake (I would have been around 11) to visit my uncle and his family. I was on United 725, which lost hydraulics and had to circle around for hours dumping fuel while the crew worked on lowering the gear manually. I wrote about that adventure earlier. I do recall someone asking me about the event after we landed, and 11-year-old me responded, “it was kinda boring.” They chose not to include that quote in the writeups about the event, not sensational enough I guess. But it could certainly have been a disaster.
Seven years later I was working at the United Seamen’s Service in Naples, Italy. Mama was “la direttrice,” and I had a year in Italy as a student, general factotum around the club, and enthusiastic traveler. One day I was vacuuming around with one of those old canister vacuums and went a bit too far; but instead of the plug coming out of the wall, it came out of the vacuum. Like an idiot, I went and picked up those bare wires, and got the shock of my life. And don’t forget, in Italy the voltage is 220. It pretty much knocked me on my honus, and I have learned since then that many people have been killed by a 220-volt shock. I was, to put it mildly, very fortunate.
In 1972, I was still a military dependent. Having learned to fly in Key West that summer in a Cessna 150, I was able to continue lessons at the Hill Air Force Base Aero Club at drastically reduced rates, switching to a Piper PA-28 140. During one of my solo flights, I was puttering around above the Great Salt Lake and went up to about 9,000 feet (the airport is at 4798 to start with, so I was almost a mile up) to see what really happens when you do a cross-control stall. And I found out. The plane flipped over on its back, entirely as described in the literature I had read, and immediately went into a spin. Since I’m writing this, it’s clear that I was able to stop the spin and pull out, but it was both terrifying and incredibly difficult. Had I been any lower, I probably would have augered in.
In 1972, my father and I were driving his little Toyota from Los Angeles to Provo, Utah, to look for an apartment – I was attending school there and he wanted to move from LA to be closer to me. He insisted on driving all night (that is, he insisted that I drive all night while he slept.) I began getting drowsy. I opened the window, and he shouted at me that he was cold. I tried playing the radio, and he shouted at me that he couldn’t sleep. I was slapping myself to try to stay awake, and the inevitable happened… I woke up in the ditch doing 70, overcorrected, danced on the brake, and flipped the car over, whereupon it spun down the freeway on its top emitting sparks along the way. It was amazing we didn’t do one of these. We both escaped with only a few bumps and bruises. Angels were with us that day.
6. In July 1989, we had a young man from Japan stay with us for a week or so. We were living in Salt Lake, and so we took him down to Yuba Lake for a day on the water. My daughter, then 8 years old, was floating around in an inflatable raft, and the wind started carrying her out onto the lake. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just swim out and get her back.” Moron. The wind blew her a lot faster than I could swim, and I soon found myself tiring. And of course, I had no life jacket on. I was in trouble, and called to nearby boats to come help me… but none did. They were too busy drinking beer to notice a drowning man. By the grace of God I was able to get myself into a deadman float and work my way to shore, but it was a very close call. I came close to ending my days with Davy Jones.
7. Not a near-death experience, but still significant; in 1993 I had a chance to visit my Italian family in S. Pietro Apostolo, way down in Calabria (in the toe of Italy’s boot.) I had taken my computer along, and had done a lot of genealogy research, met relatives, collected lots of dates, taken lots of photos, and was delighted to have learned so much about my overseas relations. On the way back to Rome, the overnight train stopped for a while in Naples. I was asleep, and awoke to find someone in my compartment removing my bag. It was dark. I had my contacts in, and waking up I couldn’t see very well. I was able to take my bag out of his hands, whereupon he fled – but had I not awakened, all that precious research (along with all my belongings for that trip) would have ended up in the hands of some young thug. And I might have been knifed for my trouble.
Almost all of these events were precipitated by my own stupidity. Things could have turned out much, much worse for me and my family. But by the grace of God, they didn’t. I was spared, and protected, even if I wasn’t living my life as well as I might have been. I still have challenges. I still face trials. But thus far I have awakened each day not dead, with new opportunities and new blessings. The Lord is kind, and I am grateful. ¹
I am truly “better than I deserve.”
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ There will be those who say I was fortunate for other reasons – coincidence, or no reason at all, since the universe doesn’t care one way or the other. Whatever makes them happy.