Friday, February 28, 2014

How We Got the News about the Vietnam War

My niece Rachel Sanders asked this question:

7.  How did you receive most of your news about what was going on in the US and world during the time?

At the beginning of the Vietnam War, I heard some news on the nightly network news programs--CBS with Walter Cronkite, NBC with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and less so, ABC. I also watched some of the Today show on NBC back then. There were 3 TV stations in those days--at least on my TV. All programs were broadcast, received over antennas. There was no cable TV and no internet. The internet was not even dreamed about. Of course there were no cell phones (though the Dick Tracy comic strip imagined such a thing).

I also read the Cleveland Plain Dealer (and delivered it!).

While a student at the University of Notre Dame, I saw almost no television until about 1969-70. Almost no students had televisions in their dorm rooms and even radio broadcasts were hard to pick up in the dorms. I often did see the South Bend Tribune and sometimes the Chicago Sun Times. At lunchtime we could sometimes hear the Paul Harvey's radio show broadcast over the PA system. For the most part these were very conservative sources of news, pro-war, super patriotic (in one sense of the word). To be against the war was to be both a traitor and a coward.

Gradually the reality of the war began to sink in, even to the point where Walter Cronkite could no longer echo the Pentagon line--and he started telling it the way it was.

One odd dimension of the news on Vietnam were the body count statistics. It was like keeping score. We heard of hundreds or thousands of Viet Cong deaths every week, and far fewer American deaths (though even these eventually added up to over 55,000--including my cousin (Tommy Fitzpatrick), my Notre Dame friend and classmate (Stephen Shields), and a St. William's classmate (Buddy Chasser).

Toward the end of the war there were many other sources of news--alternative newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and journals. The truth was getting out there, slowly but surely. I helped with one of these newsletters, The Peacemaker, published by Ernest and Marion Bromley, out of the village of Gano, north of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Staying at an Emergency Homeless Shelter Last Night

Last night we opened an emergency shelter for the homeless at St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio.* At St. Mary's, there are some amazing people dedicated to living out the Sermon on the Mount and the Works of Mercy--the central focus of my Christianity.

Was it necessary to open the shelter? Think of this--this morning the temperature in Painesville dropped to -3 (that does not even consider wind chill). When I got back home to Chardon this morning my car thermometer read -13. These temperatures could easily cause people to freeze to death.

So we took in 13 people last night, 10 men and three women. They ranged in age from perhaps 35 to maybe mid 50's--it's hard to say, because homelessness takes a toll on the body and one's appearance. The folks who stayed with us were polite, respectful, and very helpful. This morning they worked together to clean up the gym where we all slept, and had it spic-and-span in a half hour. Everything was cleaned up perfectly and ready for the regular gym activities

I talked to many of the guests last night and I am struck by one thing in particular--they are all very much like me. They are average, intelligent people. I can't quite figure out the reason for the homelessness. One fellow, an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc, speaks about 5 languages fluently--Croation, Slovenian, Russian, German, and English. He is very bright. Some days he walks over 2 hours to work (he has no car and Lake County has such a poor system of public transportation). So we don't totally understand the homelessness and hunger we encounter, but we try our best to address these problems (especially in this brutally, dangerously cold winter).

There are wonderful people who are homeless; and there are wonderful helpers at St. Mary's--Brian, Cheryl, Joe, Shiela, Linda, Rose, Kathy P., Kathy F., Chuck, Bea, Ken, Pam, Jan, Christa, Ed--and others who don't come immediately to mind. This church is a beacon for the whole Diocese of Cleveland--and even for the Catholic Church in America. And by the way, many of the helpers, like Cheryl R. and Kathy F., are not even Catholic. I think Pope Francis would be pleased that our church and our friends have taken on this mission.

*[I wrote, ". . . we opened an emergency shelter." Well, the shelter has been open for about 14 days of this hard winter. I'm guessing the force behind opening the shelter was Kathy Philipps, founder of Karpos Ministry, or maybe it was a joint decision with other people involved, not sure. Whoever made the decision got enthusiastic support from many people in the parish and in the community. I have been able to spend 2 nights there.]

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Most Poignant Memories of the Vietnam Era: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Steve Shields, Kent State Killings

This is a response to question #2, asked me by my niece Rachel Sanders:

2. What are some vivid memories you have about the time? What do you consider to be the most important events? Why?

The most important events for me personally were, for the most part, not the most important events nationally. The first event that hit me like a ton of bricks was the death in Vietnam of my first cousin, Tommy Fitzpatrick. I grew up about a mile away from Tommy in Euclid and I went to grade school, St. William's, with him. Oddly, our extended family was so large and close that we hardly had friends outside the family. Tommy was killed in April 18, 1969 ( He was 21-years-old, his whole life ahead of him. His funeral was at St. William's and he is buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon.

Tommy in Vietnam (left)

A second vivid memory was the death in Vietnam of my Notre Dame friend and classmate, Steve Shields. Steve studied with me in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria. He was brilliant, fun, and funny. Everybody loved Steve. At Notre Dame Steve was in Army ROTC and became an officer after college graduation. After a period of training, he went to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. Steve's copter was shot down in June 20, 1972 ( I went to his funeral in Philadelphia and his military burial at West Point.

A third poignant memory for me was the killings at Kent State on May 4, 1970. I cannot express how terrible and traumatic that was for me. Kent State was located very close to my home in Euclid, Ohio, and so many friends attended there. Even my cousin Maggie Brock was there that day. This was a turning point in my life and I think a turning point in public approval of the war.

The huge demonstrations against the war were memorable and the My Lai massacre March 16, 1968) was one of the most significant events, but personally the combat deaths of Tommy and Steve, and the killings at Kent State were the most affecting.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Me as an Oral History Source on the Vietnam War?

My niece Rachel Sanders has asked me some questions on the Vietnam War--as part of a project she is doing in her classes at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. It's odd to think of my life, experiences, and knowledge as some sort of history or historical source! But I guess I am one of many pieces of the puzzle. Here are the questions Rachel has asked me. I intend to send my answers to her and to also put them on my blog within the next week or so:

1. How old were you during the Vietnam War? Where did you live?

The Vietnam war actually pre-dated my awareness of it. I think there were advisors there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I became aware of the war around 1964 (I was 16). My religion teacher at St. Joesph High School, Brother Richard Pilder, began talking about the war and he seemed to be really opposed to it. There were some Barry Goldwater supporters at the high school who began to tease Bro. Pilder (even acted like they were going to picket him for being a Commie!) because of his opposition to the war. Opposition to the war grew very slowly! I started developing my own opposition to the war around 1966 or '67. By 1968 I felt the war was wrong and was eager for anti-war candidates, like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy, to challenge Lyndon Johnson for the presidency. So I think my own position to the war became clear in 1968. These things evolve as you learn things. Until the Fall of 1966 I lived in Euclid, Ohio, about 15 miles east of downtown Cleveland. Then in 1966, at age 18, I went away to college, to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. In 1966-68, opposition to the war was an unpopular position--could even get you beat up!

2. What are some vivid memories you have about the time? What do you consider to be the most important events? Why?
3. What were some of the tensions in society? Was there racial and gender equality?
4.  What was your role as a conscientious objector? What prompted you to become one? What was the process like?
5. Did you participate in any protests?
6.  How were your friends and/or family affected by the war? How was your life different during the war?
7.  How did you receive most of your news about what was going on in the US and world during the time?
8.  How was popular culture affected by the war?
9. Were there generational conflicts surrounding the war/ those who resisted service?

Gee, this looks more like a book than a simple blog response! But I will give it a whirl. The last question made me cry all of a sudden as I remembered the May 4th, 1970 Kent State shootings. My cousin Maggie Brock was on campus, practically in the middle of the smoke, the bullets, the blood. I called my Mom and Dad from the University of Notre Dame--I was a senior 5 weeks from graduation. And I proceeded, amid my tears, confusion, and anger, to yell at my Mom and Dad (people I loved dearly, who bore no blame for the war or the Kent State massacre). Such deep regret in me now for that phone call. I hope they forgave me!

The iconic image, tattooed on my heart.
Yes, there was generational conflict over the war. Our fathers had all fought in World War II. Opposing the war felt like being a traitor to the sacrifices our Dads had made 20-30 years earlier. There's a great book by James Carroll about his conflict with his father over the war--"An American Requiem."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brenda Tarbell in: Columns| Cincinnati Magazine

What a wonderful story about Brenda Tarbell and the Cincinnati I knew back in the early 1970s (and after). This story, written by Katie Laur, the great Cincinnati bluegrass singer, talks of Brenda's ceramic art, and mentions her husband, Jim Tarbell, Arnold's Bar and Grill, and the amazing art and music scene in Cincinnati in the 1970s. I was so lucky to be a part of that!

Columns| Cincinnati Magazine

The Frozen Great Lakes--Winter 2014

Look at this amazing image of the Great Lakes taken recently. 88% of the surface waters are frozen, with Lake Erie at about 100%. Of course this changes day to day. The rain and thaw of last week opened up more waters, but they will freeze up again with our current blast of frigid air.

Only Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario show substantial open water. Cold winter around here!

Monday, February 24, 2014

How Do You Become a Good Writer?

If you want to be a good writer you need to do the following:

a. Read a lot--especially the kinds of things you want to write. I myself am especially interested in writing poetry, biography, and memoir. So that's what I need to be reading. It's also important to be reading good-quality material. How do you know what is good quality poetry, biography, memoir, or fiction? You begin to recognize quality when you do a lot of reading, but you also need help from teachers and friends. It is very hard to get a sense of quality all by yourself.

b. Write a lot. You need to write regularly and for an audience if possible. Try to write every day. You don't have to show everything you write to others (some things should be shredded and burned, especially what Anne Lamott calls "shitty first drafts"). Sometimes you will need some sort of memory-erasing procedure for your crappy work (which everyone creates). If you share crappy work, do it only with generous and forgiving friends (I have a few I can share with). Even then, you might have to put them through a memory-erasing procedure! Or they may never love you again.

Stories and poems can take considerable time and psychic effort to write. Still, you will have time to write diary and journal entries, emails, and blogs besides the stories and poems you are working on. Don't underestimate the power of emails and blogs for improving your writing skill. Emails demand an audience and often allow you to experiment with attitudes, ideas, voice, techniques. You can try to be humorous (very difficult--often fails!). You can try to communicate clearly--it's hard. You have to keep working at it. Blogs are normally public, but they give you the opportunity to edit and delete entries--even long after the original posting date. Blogs often allow for comments from readers and you can manage and delete comments if you wish (or you can disallow them). Anyway, I am pretty sure I have greatly improved my writing by blogging and writing emails to my friends and family.

c. Try to get feedback on your writing, both from friends and peers, and from teachers, mentors, or masters. You give them generous yet honest feedback, and they give you the same. You accept criticism (but don't believe all of it). You try out their ideas and see how their suggestions turn out.

In the end, you hold on to your confidence and your powerful sense that you have something to say, something to share with the world. And you will improve and join the great conversation that is writing. I have seen very mediocre writers become excellent writers by following the advice given above.

Finally, read two books: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. These brilliant, humane, and very funny books will help you grow as a writer.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Robby Taking a Bath

Robby being bathed--and eating his fist! Note his beautiful eyes.

"Stubborn Ounces of My Weight"--Bonaro Overstreet's Great Little Poem

A friend of mine, Kathy Flora, signs off her emails with a wonderful little poem by Bonaro Overstreet, who lived from 1903 to 1985. Overstreet was an author, poet, and psychologist, and her obituary can be seen here: Bonaro Overstreet obit.

Here is her powerful little poem:

Stubborn Ounces of My Weight

by Bonaro Overstreet

You say the little efforts that I make 
will do no good: they never will prevail 
to tip the hovering scale 
where Justice hangs in the balance.

I don't think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate

in favor of my right to choose which side 
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.

Judy Bechtel Blackburn and I used this poem in a biography of Maurice McCrackin we published in 1991--Building the Beloved Community: Maurice McCrackin's Life for Peace and Civil Rights. Hardback copies of this book are hard to find (try, but a revised paperback version is readily available. We used this poem because it was one of McCrackin's favorites.

Anyway, Kathy, just like Maurice McCrackin, puts the "stubborn ounces of her weight" to work in her service to the environment (Frack-Free Geauga), and in her work for the hungry and homeless. So many fine people around here also lend the stubborn ounces of their weight for justice and peace. I will try to acknowledge these extraordinary people from time to time.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

At Penitentiary Glenn, Lake Metroparks

Moi, at the edge of the deep ravine, Penitentiary Glenn Metropark
[The inscription, partially visible above, states, "Within ourselves there is a deep place at whose edge we may sit and dream." - Lehrman.]

Well, this is indeed a deep ravine, And right now the creek running through it is chock full of ice. Gigantic icicles creep down the cliffs of this gully. When I first saw this area the locals (my cousins Jerry and Mickey Coughlin and their friends) called it “Penitentiary Gully,” explaining if you ever fell into the gully, you wouldn't be able to get out--as if you were in a penitentiary. That's the story, and I'm sticking to it.

I came very close to getting arrested here once, around 1964 or 1965. I had borrowed my Dad's little sports car, a jerry-rigged mish-mash of a car, called an "Innocenti." My buddy Jed Korthals and I drove out to Kirtland to look at the ruins of the old Halle mansion, right along this creek in the gully. We parked on Booth Road, I believe, and walked down to the ruins of the mansion (the ruined house was still standing at that time). We walked through the place and then tried crossing a broken-down suspension bridge that crossed the creek. The floorboards of the bridge were gone and all we had to step on were cross-beams, each about 4 feet away from the next beam. And then four feet away again, and so on (hard to explain this--wish I could draw a picture here!). In the middle of this broken-down bridge, I was stung by many hornets. But there was no way to hurry off the bridge. I was just going to have to suffer through the stings. While I was in the middle of the bridge, I heard the horn of the Innocenti honking, over and over. Jed and I finally got off the bridge then ran to the car. There, 2 people were on horses, with several kids around the car, trying to let air out of the tires.

When I confronted these people, one woman on the horse said to me, "What are you doing here? You're trespassing!"

I responded, "We just wanted to look at the Halle mansion that my cousins told me about."

"Where are you boys from?" she asked.


"Ah, it was Euclid boys that burned down this mansion! I've called the Sheriff. He'll be here soon.

Well, this wasn't good news. Besides our trespassing, I happened to have what looked like a gun in the car. It was just a starter's pistol that my brother Denny and I used when practicing our track and field skills. But it looked like a real gun.

After waiting a very long time, with the sheriff not arriving, the lady on horseback said to us, "You boys stay here until the sheriff comes. I have to get back to the house. Then she and her friend left, as did the children. Soon as they left, Jed and I were gone in a flash. We escaped. No trespassing. No possession of a firearm. Just a good story to tell.

Linda Sanders-Coughlin

Extraordinary Blog Entry by Mike Rivage-Seul

To get to Mike's actual blog (and not my reprint), click here:

I worked with Mike Rivage-Seul at Berea College from 1982-88. Mike is a former Catholic priest and was a professor at Berea College for some 30 years. Mike is a brilliant thinker and he matches his prophetic writings with action. Below is one of his most recent blog entries (here in the form of a homily). In a way, Mike is still a priest. I hope Mike doesn't mind that I've reprinted his blog entry here.

Mike with a grandchild

Sunday Homily: It’s Time for Christians to Embrace Pope Francis’ ‘No to War!’

by Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog
Francis War
Readings for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time: LV 19: 1-2, 17-18; PS 103: 1-4, 8, 10, 12-13; I COR 3: 16-23; MT 5: 38-48.
Like so many of you, I find it increasingly discouraging to read the daily news – and even more so to watch the shouting matches that pass for news coverage on television. The Koch brothers and the extreme right are on the ascendency. The disastrous Citizens United decision along with congressional gerrymandering, fraudulent voting machines, and voter suppression have all but insured that such ascendency will continue to the extreme detriment of democracy itself.
Where is the hope in all of this?
Where money is equated with free speech, where corporations are treated like persons [except they’re never put in jail (or dissolved) for breaking the law], where the powerful (like James Clapper) are immune from perjury charges (though they admit lying under oath), but those who tell the truth (like Edward Snowden) are identified as “enemies of the state,” where’s the hope?
How avoid despair in a country where those responsible for war crimes (like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney) brag about their crimes publicly and are rewarded on the lecture circuit or where a head of state like George Bush commits what the UN terms “the ultimate war crime” (waging a war of aggression) and avoids prosecution?
Two things: (1) remember history and (2) be awake to history’s counterparts manifesting themselves around us today. Just recalling the names associated with “lost causes” that ended up winning is inspiring. The short list includes Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. . . .
Their counterparts today? How about Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Pope Francis I. . . .
Of these, Pope Francis, it seems, holds the most hope for believers – and for the world. He is the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. And when he says, “Never again war! War never again!” Catholics must take his words into account whether they agree or not. Even non-Catholics must do so because of the pope’s stature and since his uncompromising anti-war stance calls into question what Paul identifies in today’s second reading as “the wisdom of the world” – about the inevitability of war.
In fact, today’s readings all steer us away from such worldly wisdom. They point us instead towards the biblical tradition which understands God not as the vengeful warrior of competing biblical traditions, but as merciful and compassionate. As today’s Gospel reading reminds us, that merciful and compassionate understanding (and not its biblical opposite) was the understanding Jesus embraced. It’s the basis of his commandment that his followers’ way of life should mirror the perfection of God. It’s the foundation of indiscriminate love of neighbor and of the Christian pacifism pope Francis so courageously embodies.
To begin with, in today’s Gospel, Jesus takes pains to distinguish between the Bible’s warlike vengeful God and its Compassionate One. Jesus specifically rejects the one and endorses the other. For Matthew that rejection and endorsement was momentous – as significant as Moses reception of the Ten Commandments from his God, Yahweh. That’s why Matthew [in contrast to Luke’s equivalent “Sermon on the Plain” (LK 6:17-49)] has Jesus deliver his “sermon” on a mountain (5:1-7:27). The evangelist is implicitly comparing Moses on Mt. Sinai and Jesus on “the Mount.”
In any case, through a series of antitheses (“You have heard . .. but I say to you . . .”), Jesus contrasts his understanding of the Law with more traditional interpretations. The Mosaic Law demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but Jesus’ Law commands:
• Turning the other cheek
• Going the extra mile
• Generosity with adversaries
• Open-handedness to beggars
• Lending without charging interest
• Love of enemies
Matthew concludes that if we want to be followers of Jesus, we must also be merciful and compassionate ourselves. As the reading from Leviticus says, we are called to be holy as God is holy. Or as Jesus puts it, perfect as God is perfect.
And how perfect is that? It’s the perfection of nature where the sun shines on good and bad alike – where rain falls on all fields regardless of who owns them. It’s the perfection of the God described in this morning’s responsorial. According to the psalmist, the Divine One pardons all placing an infinite distance (“as far as east is from west”) between sinners and their guilt. God heals all ills and as a loving parent is the very source of human goodness and compassion. That’s the perfection that Jesus’ followers are called to emulate.
All of that is contrasted with what Paul calls “the wisdom of the world” in today’s excerpt from his first letter to the Christian community in Corinth. The world regards turning the other cheek as weakness. Going the extra mile only invites exploitation. Generosity towards legal adversaries will lose you your case in court. Open-handedness towards beggars encourages laziness. Lending without interest is simply bad business. And loving one’s enemies is a recipe for military defeat and enslavement.
Yet Paul insists. And he bases his insistence on the conviction that we encounter God in every human individual whether they be our abusers, exploiters, or legal adversaries – whether they be beggars or debtors unlikely to repay our interest-free loans.
All of those people, Paul points out are “temples of God.” God dwells in each of them just as God does in us. In the end, that’s the basis of the command we heard in the Leviticus reading, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Normally, our self-centered culture interprets that dictum to mean: (1) we clearly love ourselves more above all; so (2) we should love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
But in the light of Paul’s mystical teaching that God dwells within every human being , the command about neighbor-love takes on much deeper implication. That is, Paul the mystic teaches that our deepest self is the very God who dwells within each of us as in the Temple. We should therefore love our neighbor (and our enemy, debtor, adversary, and those who beg and borrow from us) because God dwells within them -- because they ARE ourselves. They ARE us! To bomb them, to fight wars against them is therefore suicidal.
No wonder, then, that Paul threatens that God will destroy the person who fails to recognize others as temples of God and harms them. Paul means that by destroying others we inevitably destroy ourselves, because in the end, the God-Self dwelling within us is identical with the Self present in every human being. That is a very high mystical teaching. It should be the faith of those pretending to follow Jesus. It should make all of them (all of us!) pacifists.
If we owned that truth, that would be the end of wars. Imagine if the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics simply refused to destroy their fellow human beings because they recognized in them the indwelling presence of God. Imagine if we stopped worshipping the God Jesus rejects – the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” War God – and embraced Jesus’ compassionate and loving Parent God.
It’s up to us who do accept that recognition not to reject the Christian tradition which speaks so powerfully to so many. Rather we are called to take steps to rescue Jesus’ God from the war mongers and oppressors who have so distorted Jesus’ teaching as presented in this morning’s readings.
I suggest that means
• Returning to church.
• Embracing the “No to war” message of Francis I.
• Making it explicit that our “No” is a matter of faith denied only by those who have (in Paul’s terms) embraced the “wisdom of the world” which is foolishness in God’s eyes.
• Mobilizing our congregations accordingly.
• More particularly, organizing congregations (as a specific response to Pope Francis) to endorse the International Day of Peace (next September 21).
Inspired by Pope Francis, it’s time to take the microphone away from Christian warmongers and to make Christian pacifism a mainstream movement. That's our best hope, I think, in the face of all those reasons for despair.
Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog | February 21, 2014 at 1:00 AM | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Magdalene Laundries and the Movie "Philomena"

I'm a latecomer to this issue--Yesterday I read an interesting article from the New York Times (published January 10, 2014) on the movie Philomena and the real people and stories behind the movie. Philomena was an unwed mother who was given a kind of refuge in a convent, Sean Ross Abbey, in Rosscrea, Ireland. Philomena gave birth to a son and her boy was renamed when he was adopted out to an American family, Marge and Doc Hess of St. Louis, Missouri. Anthony Lee then became Michael Hess. Michael was raised a Catholic and later attend the University of Notre Dame, 1970-'74. He arrived on campus three months after I graduated from Notre Dame. Hess became an attorney and worked for the Reagan and Bush administrations. He was, apparently, a semi-closeted gay man. He tried on multiple occasions to find his birth mother in Ireland, but apparently had no cooperation from the convent and "Magdalene Laundry" where he was born and where his mother went because of the great scandal and shame in Ireland of the early 1950s of being an unwed mother. Michael Hess died of AIDS in 1995 at age 43. He asked that his ashes be buried at the convent school in Ireland so that his mother might some day find out about him. and that is what happened. She never saw her son alive after the adoption, but she was able to visit his grave. Convents like Sean Ross were often termed "Magdalene Laundries" or Magdalene Asylums. Here is a link to Wikipedia's article on them: Magdalene Laundries article

Joni Mitchell wrote a song about these so-called Magdalene Laundries. Here are the lyrics:

Magdalene Laundries
By Joni Mitchell

I was an unmarried girl
I'd just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I'd be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries

Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We're trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the steaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries

Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me--
Fallen women--
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery ...
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
Oh charity!

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they'd know, and they'd drop those stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They'd like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries

Peg O'Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl
A flirt
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you'd think at least some bells should ring!
One day I'm going to die here too
And they'll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sled Riding with Colin in North Chagrin Metropark

My Dad first took us sledding in North Chagrin Reservation, near Squire's Castle, in the mid 1950s. I took my daughters there in the 1980s and 1990s. Now we get to take our grandson Colin there.
Colin making his way up the hill
Linda giving Colin's sled a push
Only 2 people in the world Colin loves better than "Nana Yinda."

Astonishing Corruption in Governor Kasich's Administration--Fracking in the State Parks

Sent to me by my brother-in-law, Steve Sanders:

Kasich aides knew of plan 

for Fracking in state parks

By Darrel RowlandThe Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday February 18, 2014 5:20 AM

On Friday, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman said the governor’s office knew nothing about an August 2012 state marketing plan for fracking in state parks and forests.
But after an email about the plan involving most of Kasich’s top officials was disclosed yesterday, spokesman Rob Nichols said: “Of course, the administration is going to coordinate and plan ahead on an important issue like gas production on state land.”
The turnaround came after an email became public. It was from Kasich senior adviser Wayne Struble, who sought a meeting about the public-relations campaign with top Kasich officials. Those invited included Beth Hansen, the governor’s chief of staff; Scott Milburn, top communications manager; Matt Carle, his legislative liaison (who is now his re-election campaign manager); Jai Chabria, a senior adviser; Tracy Intihar, who was cabinet secretary at the time; Craig Butler, a policy adviser who is now head of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and leaders of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Aug. 1, 2012, communique called for a “state-land leasing-strategy and communications meeting” on the 30th floor of the Riffe Tower, where the governor’s offices are. The meeting was slated for Aug. 20 — the same day that the PR plan is dated.
The plan was never implemented.
Nichols told The Dispatch on Friday night that the governor’s office had no knowledge of the marketing plan because it had never left the Natural Resources department.
“Clearly, that’s not the case,” Brian Rothenberg, head of the liberal nonprofit organization ProgressOhio, said in a news conference yesterday in which the email was divulged. “The fact that people at the highest level of the governor’s office were involved in this is pretty unsavory.”
Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation-program coordinator with the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter — which obtained the material through a public-records request — said, “This is not only a sad day for our parks and forests, it’s also a sad day for our democracy.”
Rothenberg and Kunkemoeller expressed outrage that a state agency given the statutory duty to regulate the oil and gas industry actually was partnering with the industry to promote it.
Their two organizations called for an investigation into who ordered the PR push, who paid for it and why several environmental groups and two Democratic legislators were named as part of “ zealous resistance” by “opposition groups” that must be overcome.
Natural Resources spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said, “Any responsible organization plans in advance what it is going to do, especially when it knows it is going to face fierce opposition to progress. The fact that these secretly funded extremist groups are attacking us today validates the wisdom of anticipating the attack and planning for it.”
Said Nichols: “If we didn’t (prepare a marketing plan), these same extremist groups would be attacking us for not planning ahead.”
Critics say the 10-page plan goes well beyond a traditional communications effort. The memo itself recognized that the public-relations initiative “could blur public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role in oil and gas.”
The document was prepared by Mark Anthony, a senior policy adviser with the Natural Resources department who once was a press secretary for then-Columbus Mayor Dana G. “Buck” Rinehart. Anthony was hired by the Kasich administration the month before the memo was prepared.
McCorkle said she wasn’t sure whether Natural Resources or the governor’s office had directed Anthony to draw up the plan.
“To tell you the truth, the assignment was a year and a half ago, (and I’m) not sure who asked him to do it,” she said. “No action or next steps came out of the meeting.” 
In 2011, the legislature passed, and Kasich signed, a bill allowing fracking on public lands.
Fracking — hydraulic fracturing — starts with drills first going vertically thousands of feet underground and then turning 90 degrees to carve long horizontal shafts through shale formations rich with gas and oil. The actual fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals below ground to shatter the shale and free the petroleum products so they can be pumped to the surface.
[BROOKE LAVALLEY | DISPATCH FILE PHOTOWayne Struble, left, a senior advisor to Gov. John Kasich, sent an email requesting an August 2012 meeting of top Kasich officials to discuss a public-relations campaign to promote fracking in state parks and forests.]#

My thoughts:

Here is what I find astonishing. State agencies responsible for ensuring our physical health, the health of our environment (Ohio EPA), and those entrusted with protecting our parks and natural environment (ODNR) were working in service to the fracking industry. I can't believe this was even legal! It's the old story of the fox guarding the hen house (and we know how that turns out!). In my mind, this kind of collusion is incredibly corrupt; it's immoral; and it's probably not legal.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jack O'Donnell, 1927 to 2014

One of the readings at today's funeral at St. William's in Euclid for our friend Jack O'Donnell was Chapter 13 of First Corinthians. This reading is often featured at weddings, but it was perfect for Jack's funeral. Jack O'Donnell was a kind, generous man, dedicated to his wonderful family. I like to think of him as a good Irishman, with the Irish characteristics of conversation, humor, and a talent for friendship and family. Here is one version of that  great reading, where Paul puts aside his sometimes pedantic style and soars with the voice of a great poet:

1 Corinthians 13

New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.#

As the pallbearers processed with Jack's casket out of the church, Bruce Greig, pipe major from the Irish American Club East Side played the tune "Erin's Green Shores." Here is a version of that tune:

Altan's version, "Gleanntain Ghlas Ghaoth Dobhair" (The Green Glenns of Gweedore):

I hope at the end of my life people will be able to honestly say that I loved my friends and family--that I was a generous, loyal friend.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Modest Proposal for Improving the Nicene Creed

Here is the latest Catholic bishops' approved version of the Nicene Creed, which is said at every mass:

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things
visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come
. Amen.

My Improved Version: The Nicene-Coughlin Creed
We believe in one God,[Let's follow the Jewish ideal of communal prayer--"we believe . . ."]
the Father almighty, [Not also the "Mother"?]
maker and sustainer of heaven and earth, ["Sustainer" has ecological implications! God makes, and cares for and about the earth]
of all things
visible and invisible.["Seen and unseen" would make me and Walt Whitman happier.]
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God, [any better ideas for "begotten"?]
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten,[that strange word again!] not made, one in substance with the Father; ["Consubstantial" is not an English word. Any better ideas?]
through him all things were made.
For us [delete "men"; absolutely unneeded, and an insult!]  and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary, ["incarnate" is ridiculously uncommon and does nothing but obfuscate]
and became human. [Do I have to justify that???]
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one, holy, catholic,[insert a comma here; all American grammars call for a comma in this location] and apostolic Church.
We confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins [I'll accept "confess," but the meaning intended here is not widely known]
and [delete "I" here] look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Finally, I would include some lines in this new creed that would acknowledge Jesus's commitment to the poor and to the Works of Mercy and the Sermon on the Mount. How could the central focus of his life be left out of our creed? I'll think about these lines and include them eventually. Thanks to Mike Rivage-Seul for this idea.