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The Trump Administration and My Politics

I read Tsun Tzu, the ancient military strategist from China’s Imperial past long before I lived in China. I have blogged about him before. I wrote about Mao’s reliance on Sun Tzu when I was  writing one of the seminal posts in this blog. China was very fresh in my mind in those days. One thing that has changed since that early post is that I have since managed to read through Mein Kampf and some other books by the founding and influential Nazis. But they are not at the center of this discussion.

Perhaps the best literary quality of what might be called successful political manifestos and plans for cultural change would Saint Augustine’s City of God and the collaborative Federalist Papers of America’s founders Jay, Hamilton and especially Madison. Not so long ago in the East, Chairman Mao Zhe Dong actually produced a book of some literary interest — the once ubiquitous Little Red Book was a sort of mutlipurpose book which was a reworking of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” , Mao’s own art of war which any cultural conservative with his resume would have to produce having had his experiences and on the other hand it was a radical experimentation with making Marxian and Hegelian theory and the Communist Manifesto into something Chinese. It is a sign of Mao’s talents that he could create a brief and readable book which largely accomplished these goals.

I have never read Hitler’s My Struggle or Mein Kampf and the fact that I mention it is probably more than I am normaly inclined to do in writing. I have not read The Turner Diaries although I believe that the author is still alive and is my fellow American. These I think are manifestos which resemble mine in being personal although the Turner Diaires are unique in actually being a novel. I do not despise all anger and violence and the sense of an urgent need to do something. My disdain for these books comes from another place and embodies other criticisms.Hitler was a socialist who is somehow lumped with the right like Mao he killed a lot of people in his own country. Mao admired George Washington far more than most foreigners of his stature ever have and maintained that admiration his whole life. Hitler imitated some of the American experiment but I have always despised Hitler and yes I have always admired Mao. I visited his tomb in Beijing with great respect and bought mementos as gifts. However, I could certainly have schemed against him and shot him if we had been fated to meet as adversaries. I simply would have done it with respect.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun TzuThe Art of War

The most obviously current challenge facing the Trump administration is the confrontation with North Korea.  North Korea is a subject of discussion in this blog fairly often.  A recent post has dealt with the subject of North Korea primarily. In addition Asia has long been a major subject of interest here. I have recently posted on my Facebook timeline a You Tube link related to what North Koreans think about Americans and another to what South Koreans think about the U.S. Army. 

Those are among the small efforts that I can make to try to provide a glimpse of what the situation is like along the Yellow Sea where I lived in China amid Russians, North Koreans, South Koreans and the Chinese — among others. It is in fact a challenge for this part of the world to be well understood across much of the republic. It is not clear that we are communicating well with any of the parties in the East nor all that badly either. Much is currently unclear.  That is not likely to be entirely accidental.
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
― Sun TzuThe Art of War

It has been over a dozen years since I walked around China, and especially Yantai’s Korea Town. For me the chances I made there for influencing the way things have worked out have slipped away. One of the things that has happened as I have gotten older is that  I have slowly reached the point where very few of my minutes are spent hoping for a specific set of advantages such as one might play for in a set of business deals if one were a major worldwide developer. In many ways there is far less resonance between my life and that of Donald Trump in recent years than there has been in the past. Although our lives have never been much alike. I could try to find a few good things to say about this administration generally but I am not likely to do as much of that as I possibly could. I am an American and I support the American President in his efforts to promote our interests. Many who do support each and every country affected by this crisis nonetheless have reason to question the capacity, skill, information and even intentions of their leaders  — how one balances doubt and support varies from country to country. Su Tzu had a few thoughts about what made a leader successful in conflict.

“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
― Sun TzuThe Art of War
I am not likely to do much of that in this post. The  fact of the Trump Administration’s existence and its communications of policies and messages is more of my concern today than other things are. This has been a difficult week at a personal level — a week of moving ever in a downward spiral. But that is much the same pattern that typified my week on any given week of the Obama Administration. Neither the Trump Administration nor  the Obama Administration excited in me great hopes for the future. Neither have I blamed either administration in a large and significant way for the lack of hope that I often feel. Presidential politics provides one set of frameworks for the world in which I live my life. Both Trump and Obama have tried to modify and amplify the effect that their presidency could have in many of our lives. But for most people, I am not sure that the personal impact has been all that great. That is only if one takes a very narrow view of the office. At another level every Presidency has a great impact. I have recently mentioned the Roosevelt legacy in politics and whether one discusses Franklin, Eleanor or Teddy — the Roosevelts were also a transformative force.

But I am not confident that President trump will move in the transformational directions that I would like. I have set out an agenda in this blog and I still stand by it. It has cost me a great deal — and I had severe limits on what I could afford when i began to write it. But having written policy statements, model constitutions and cultural criticism — one stands by them. At least this one who is me does, whenever possible. But since the Conservatives became the majority in the UK Parliament and Trump was elected here the interest in the politics put forth here has declined overall.There have been spikes of interest in this blog, even very recently. I am hopeful that it may yet have its role to play. This has been a week of getting things into a lower orbit in some ways. I am simply aware of the constant trend toward pairing down expectation and limiting exposure to the internal risk of having to focus on the barest kind of public existence.

 

This is a different day than many I have had and yet there is a definite connection to it’s seemingly countless dates which are its mates across the course of my life. But it is also a day in the Trump administration and this blog has not focused on politics nearly as much as it did during the Obama Administration. I am only checking in here to say my politics have not changed but the President has and we must face the future he is leading us into.  This is a challenge and we must recognize that fact — yet there is more than winning which is desirable.

“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”
― Sun TzuThe Art of War

My Present: Games, gambles, gambols and Gammie’s:

This year has been a year of many great disappointments, in a life that did not lack for disappointments before. This is a theme I have addressed in recent blog posts and will probably revisit. But although I feel weary and bitter –I have few regrets. I am going to discuss my current position in life as an American man through the lens of another American man who died at 60 years old but clearly shaped his world by 53 in a way that I have not.  I have found all efforts to make real progress or secure any real opportunities for my life stymied and setback in far too many ways to enumerate. I have often said to my closest confidantes that I have no real talent for happiness. That has been true throughout my life. I also have a growing sense over recent decades that the worst of a bad lot is yet to come. But if there will be a bitter harvest yet to reap that does not mean that I am filled with regrets, in fact I am less burdened with regret each year.  Foreboding, exhaustion and a sense of the goodness dripping out of life I know in abundance — but regret diminishes annually.

What is not lacking in life for some is terribly lacking for others and it is the whole realm of soul searching, gut-checking and the like. I mean only a particular family of introspection and not every possible kind of introspection. There are kinds of self acknowledgement and examination which create more ennui and those which resemble the football player who watches the tapes of his game. In this post I am  (among too many other things) discussing the latter. How many of the readers of this post will instantly recognize the following line, I do not know — but here it is:  if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. I don’t think the evidence that I have dared greatly is as obvious as the evidence that Teddy Roosevelt did and yet as I sit placidly editing this post I think of myself as one who has dared greatly.
August 3, 2017 is the occasion of the Hall of Fame Game broadcast on NBC. It identifies the moment when professional NFL football  returns to the screens across America. I’m watching the heat of a house with very little working air conditioning. Hot as it is it is the evening and a cooler than usual summer evening. There is a chance it will defrost over the course of the night and work as it should. But I am not sure that is the case. The defrosting of an AC unfit can take longer and given the type of case and the fact that I don’t own it or the house, there is no way for me to be sure that the freezing of the unit is the issue. I’m sure that this is the step to take next in servicing the unit. Playing football early in the season gets hot in Louisiana. The Hall of Fame Game far to our north is probably not cool for the players.  But it is a worthy celebration of the game. The Hall of Fame Game is part of my life right now.

Like other posts I have created that deal largely  with someone else’s words in this blog — this post is still largely about me as I have sat in the Vermilion Parish Library in clothes I usually use for yard work but not yet dirty or sweaty and my leg braces which I love not to wear but when I do wear them I never wear them for yard work. My shorts there, tucked under the public access computer revealed the braces which I often am less than eager to display although I have. It’s also a post about me laying across my bed.  It seems one of those days when one is beyond really caring about the outcomes of most of life’s past stages and such. I am by circumstances drawn to look at my life and the world thought the lens of a particular set of words by a great — but imperfect man. A man who abounded in courage and activity but could also reflect and think. he was not a poet or a singer and yet one part of his huge output of words is read in a poetic light and has a certain song like quality, so I am blogging about it.  I have blogged about Frank Sinatra’s song My Way and used it to discuss other issues. In that song he has the lyric “regrets  I have a few, but then again too few to mention.” That is in fact a sentiment that resonates with me more as I age. I have more bitterness but fewer regrets than when I was younger.  I am going to wrap this post around a set of quotes as I also did with a post quoting Bruce Springsteen and one quoting  Billy Joel this past year. The three songs involved in those three posts linked before have very little to do with one another but the are all  by American men with big popular careers who sang songs they wrote rooted in personal experience. I have never done a post about Kipling’s poem If  , but if I had done so it would be a good bridge to this post because this post is not about a recent popular song and how it relates to something that I want to say but rather about a presidential speech from the early twentieth century from which a portion is often excerpted as an inspirational sort of prose poem.

If was written in 1895 and published in 1910 the same year that former President Teddy Roosevelt gave the speech that this post is written largely about. It is quite possible that Kipling had Roosevelt in mind along with others when he wrote this poem. It is also possible that Roosevelt knew the poem fairly well. To my knowledge it is possible that neither work was much influenced by the other very directly but there is a connection in larger terms according to the poetry foundation…  Kipling was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s connections to poets and literary artists that actually mattered:

The Kiplings lived in America for several years, in a house they built for themselves and called “Naulahka.” Kipling developed a close friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, then Under Secretary of the Navy, and often discussed politics and culture with him. “I liked him from the first,” Kipling recalled in Something of Myself, “and largely believed in him…. My own idea of him was that he was a much bigger man than his people understood or, at that time, knew how to use, and that he and they might have been better off had he been born twenty years later.” Both of Kipling’s daughters were born in Vermont—Josephine late in 1892, and Elsie in 1894—as was one of the classic works of juvenile literature: The Jungle Books, which are ranked among Kipling’s best works. The adventures of Mowgli, the foundling child raised by wolves in the Seeonee Hills of India, are “the cornerstones of Kipling’s reputation as a children’s writer,” declares Blackburn, “and still among the most popular of all his works.” The Mowgli stories and other, unrelated works from the collection—such as “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and “The White Seal”—have often been filmed and adapted into other media.

So there can be no question of whether or not Roosevelt’s view of empire and imperialism in Egypt, India, the Philippines, Panama and Korea as they appeared in his public policy were at least minimally influenced by Kipling. Nor is it at all likely that Kipling’s literary vision in a number of works was untouched by his experience of Teddy Roosevelt. One is aware that both shared many interests and attitudes and a certain perspective on how to live. But that goes beyond my  scope in this post.  Part of this post is going to be about my interest in trying to compete on Jeopardy.  I am mentioning that because Kipling and Roosevelt both use images and suggestions of competition and sport in the broadest sense — the GAME — to describe what they envision as the virtuous life. I spent time in the Philippines and Colombia and had friends in both countries, and still do. .Both are countries where Teddy Roosevelt’s darkest and direst legacies are remembered. But even from their points of view, he is a man one can understand. He was not a man of absolute and blind hatreds and greens. He could do great things and he did. He was in many ways the kind of man Kipling calls for in If.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master;
If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on! ‘

Kipling had a rousing end to his poem and there is time and space to point out some kindred notes in the speech we are discussing here. I will say that France,  England and the larger United Kingdom as well as Roosevelt’s United States of America all had different understandings of class but class is a theme that is important in this final verse and in Roosevelt’s speech.

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And- -which is more- -you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

Here is the paragraph in full that precedes the famous part of Teddy Roosevelt’s speech. It is not my place here to point out all the connections that exist between the two but simply to declare that such connections exist.

It is well if a large proportion of the leaders in any republic, in any democracy, are, as a matter of course, drawn from the classes represented in this audience to-day; but only provided that those classes possess the gifts of sympathy with plain people and of devotion to great ideals. You and those like you have received special advantages; you have all of you had the opportunity for mental training; many of you have had leisure; most of you have had a chance for enjoyment of life far greater than comes to the majority of your fellows. To you and your kind much has been given, and from you much should be expected. Yet there are certain failings against which it is especially incumbent that both men of trained and cultivated intellect, and men of inherited wealth and position should especially guard themselves, because to these failings they are especially liable; and if yielded to, their- your- chances of useful service are at an end. Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

Two fundamentally different men were saying some things in different ways but the passions, ideals and event the weaknesses of both men have lots of common qualities.  I am not sure at all that the age of Roosevelt and Kipling is really as near to us in spirit as it is in time compared to most ages of history and literature.  Neither man much describes the life I have lived for I have largely lost and they felt themselves largely to be winners and the difference illuminated all of their words compared to mine.
This is a day when I have been running errands and was hoping for a small deal to come through, but as of the time that this post is going up it looks like it will be a while before I know it will come through or not come through. Perhaps it is only delayed but perhaps it fits into the pattern of ever constricting possibilities and  lessened opportunities which define most of my life today. So like a lot of American men who are not happy with their own future I enjoy watching the men in the arena of professional sports living out their potential and being rewarded in grand ways. Like many others I feel I too have played a few games that matter although things have not worked out so gloriously as  the glories that this game celebrates.

All I can say with certainty about my prospects for the rest of my life is that they are not good. The work I have poured into novels, projects, businesses and ventures which have not prospered can never be replaced, and the costs have been borne while undertaking many more prosaic things. I have drunk fairly deeply of personal and social defeat at many levels.  The questions that realistically face me today are not about whether I will know success or failure. My only fantasies that have any hope of coming true are those which are tied to plans and dreams  about levels above or below the point at which I feel that I would sort of break even in life. The other thing I can say is that in terms of realism and experience as I have known it, things are likely to keep getting worse in all sorts of ways over the foreseeable future. Every major sign as to the direction of things is toward the worsening of most or all things that matter. I have taken some risks in life there is no doubt about that, I do not feel that I took a lot of unjustified risks — but when one risks one must be prepared to loose. The more one loses the more risks one must sometimes take. Like a team with the lower score and the clock against them in football — I must play the long odds. Gambling becomes the conservative position.

Another game in my life right now is Jeopardy. This year I took the online test to qualify as a Jeopardy contestant. I very much doubt that I will ever appear on the show but I took the test. I have been watching the game on television and playing the J-6 game on my own on the computer as often as possible since I took the test. I have not been called for the audition, interview section of the process yet. I likely will not be, but if called I think most people who are called are not actually invited to appear on the show. If I do appear on the show, then the second place finisher receives a compensation prize of 2,000 dollars and the third place finisher receives a compensation prize of 1,000 dollars. If I were to defeat my two well selected and qualified opponents then I would have to beat long odds to win more than once. I figure that if I won four times it would make a real difference for the rest of my life that would probably make everything more than worth it and would change the status and outlook of my remaining years. The odd of me winning the Jeopardy game four times are more or less infinitesimal from the point of view of my current position as one who has not been invited to the interview stage.   But I honestly believe that this is my most realistic chance for a good and prosperous old age.  I don’t think it is even a particularly close thing. Nor do I think that it would be all that great — simply that it would make a more positive and tolerable old age more plausible as an outcome. That is my best shot at a modest prosperity. To win a hundred thousand dollars on Jeopardy. There are no other paths leading to good and prosperous outcomes. At least none that I can see ahead. The gambling chances are the best ones for this man who can no longer gambol along reliably on dependable legs.

 

 

 

I have just recently turned 53 and my life no longer has the blush of the fresh rose upon it. But I am not sure that it ever had much of that. Right now I am in the ongoing process of  watching  the Ken burns film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. The second episode is titled, The Man in the Arena and ends with the famous excerpt  from his Citizenship in a Republic speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on the 23 of April 1910. The best known part of the speech is below.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I am writing some of this blog post on August 3, 2017. It is the birthday of my niece and godchild Anika Claire Spiehler, besides being the Hall of Fame  Game  day.  I have invested alot of my life in her and she is a great person but the truth is I did not contact her successfully on her birthday — another defeat in a string of many.  August 3 was also a day in the deep summer of South Louisiana with its heat and humidity, the AC stopped working in the place I live — that I still call Gammie’s house. It is a day in the year that I am 53, and like almost everyone, far less successful than Roosevelt.

Of course he and I had different goals but even allowing for that he laps over the lines to achieving some great success in addressing interests that are more my interests than his own. It probably is a day in a year that I thought I would not reach at all if I did not reach it in a better state of mind, well-being and prosperity than the one I occupy. One of my interests in life has been the connection between France and the United States. On that point I wish to quote Theodore Roosevelt:

France has taught many lessons to other nations: surely one of the most important lesson is the lesson her whole history teaches, that a high artistic and literary development is compatible with notable leadership im arms and statecraft. The brilliant gallantry of the French soldier has for many centuries been proverbial; and during these same centuries at every court in Europe the “freemasons of fashion: have treated the French tongue as their common speech; while every artist and man of letters, and every man of science able to appreciate that marvelous instrument of precision, French prose, had turned toward France for aid and inspiration. How long the leadership in arms and letters has lasted is curiously illustrated by the fact that the earliest masterpiece in a modern tongue is the splendid French epic which tells of Roland’s doom and the vengeance of Charlemange when the lords of the Frankish hosts where stricken at Roncesvalles. Let those who have, keep, let those who have not, strive to attain, a high standard of cultivation and scholarship. Yet let us remember that these stand second to certain other things. There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character – the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man’s force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor. I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good. We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution – these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.

 

The  little known quote about France above is from a speech is well known for another part that is usually applied in the most personal ways and only vaguely in a public service way.  But this paragraph about France is the paragraph which directly follows the most famous part of the speech. The part I am referring to is usually printed, read and published alone as an inspirational prose poem and titled, The Man in the Arena . This part of the speech is personally edifying and is intended to inspire and many people, like me do find it personally edifying. The rest of the speech is known only to very few, relatively speaking. I am quoting another part out of order and will slide some other sections around as the post drags on. The point of the next section is that this speech was about individuals but it was about individuals in the context of citizenship and their role as citizens in a republic. It was not just about individual living their own lives with no social context.

 

Today I shall speak to you on the subject of individual citizenship, the one subject of vital importance to you, my hearers, and to me and my countrymen, because you and we a great citizens of great democratic republics. A democratic republic such as ours – an effort to realize its full sense government by, of, and for the people – represents the most gigantic of all possible social experiments, the one fraught with great responsibilities alike for good and evil. The success or republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure of despair, of mankind; and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme. Under other forms of government, under the rule of one man or very few men, the quality of the leaders is all-important. If, under such governments, the quality of the rulers is high enough, then the nations for generations lead a brilliant career, and add substantially to the sum of world achievement, no matter how low the quality of average citizen; because the average citizen is an almost negligible quantity in working out the final results of that type of national greatness. But with you and us the case is different. With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.

 

 

 

 

It is none to easy to put the time we live in and the time Roosevelt lived in next to one another for good measure. Despite, the famous part of the speech — Roosevelt was a critic as well as a man of action. He was introspective, religious, well read and an historian. He was a man devoted to family and culture. The contrast between him and all recent presidents at a personal level is striking. The exceptions are the one term presidents George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter both of whom were enormously successful compared to most men but remarkably shabbily dispatched as Presidents.  Only they can approach (in my view) his kind of personal resources in approaching the post. The challenges we face are greater than those he faced. But I wonder if our internal resources are his equal.

DL Menard remembered…

I have looked back on recent years with mixed feelings and some troubled thoughts but one bright spot was meeting DL Menard a few times.;;
This is his obituary in the New York Times.  He was a legend in many ways…. My cousin Billy Massie’s death prevented my attending recent ceremonies in Erath honoring Native Son and local musician  and songwriter D L Menard. I was going to be part of a group of Acadian Museum related attendees. However I had seen him in recent months at the Acadian Museum Cafe in Erath where this picture was taken by me. We talked for a while.

I
Back in  time just a bit   in 20011 D L Menard
joined with L’Angelus to play for a Family Missions Company fundraiser called Music for the Mission from Madeleine Square.

I had quite a few picture of that including some with D L  but most are currently lost or inaccessible.  Family Mission has a tradition of raising funds through music.  The link here connects to music made by those involved in the FMC life daily. 

So Mr. D.L. Menard was part of my life and many others through the recent past but he is enshrined in a mural at the Museum Cafe and written up in the New York Times mostly for things he dis in the fairly distant past.  I listened to and sang along with his music then but I had not conversed with him at any length before 2011.

This post is just a mention of a man who was known for a body of work and for friendship, making  furniture and being a pillar of the Acadian  Community in Louisiana.  I was glad to have known him.

Cops, Women, Movies and What I might blog about more if I were really a celebrity….

When the Aurora  theater shooting was perpetrated there was a whole series of issues in the way the event was handled that I found very upsetting. I wrote some things about police handling of the investigation that were among the angriest and most offensively worded things that I have ever written. It was a desperate attempt to attract more attention to reforming police procedure, reporting on mass shootings, reporting between agencies and public police relations. Of course I got no response from any of the parties I tried to offend — not the police, the mainstream media or the sort of half-breed institutions  that act as part media and part police. No response except some evidence that some isolated elements in both media and police took offense and put me on their enemies list. Fair enough, I have earned lots of enemies but although I hate reading those words I  still think that if I was not so universally ignored it might have prevented some of the horrors of police – public connections and relations that have plagued us ever since. Yes that is egotistical, but if you read this blog regularly you already know that I am fairly egotistical. Insulting the most capable group in society of inflicting harm was not a choice I made lightly even in the heat of anger.

O. J. Simpson’s legal team demonized the police so he could get away with murdering his wife and her associate or lover — his tactic succeeded despite the lack of any relevance to anything. I suggested that the police needed to disprove that a man dressed entirely like a cop, in a place cops were known to work and who shot with skill was not in fact a cop. I suggested that this lack of confronting that issue was inexcusable. I did it in ways that were over the top. But my goal was to start a discussion — I failed to achieve my objective where Simpson’s attorneys did achieve theirs. I never said a cop did it and I laid out the facts that Holmes probably did it and said so clearly to those few who can actually follow an argument they do not like.  But I achieved no discussion whatsoever of how to handle situations when a cop may have run amok. That was around this  time of year in 2012. All of the corrosive events since then may make many people (whose point of view I can’t respect) feel that such criticism contributed to the bad will sense. They are basically fools and self-deluded cowards but many of them hate people like me on sight so this won’t gain me new enemies really — they sense that I dislike the status quo they don’t wan’t criticized  as soon as they see me. Still I would apologize for how angry those words were if I thought it meant anything.
When the Lafayette theater shooting occurred in 2015 and the killer was not dressed like a cop in the view of hundreds of witnesses and the reporting was in my mind sane I said nothing negative about the cops or the cop reportage media industry. I focused on the victims and shared reported links about them such as this and this which emphasized their great human beauty as people. I also shared other links like this. Until this sentence I have never mentioned that Train Wreck is a disturbing movie which many people would find offensive and hard to watch in any of my other treatments of this topic. That is true although as I wrote with empathy in the Charlie Ebdo massacre I never took up the Je Suis Charlie Ebdo tag. I actually think Amy Schumer has some serious things to say in the film and they need to be said. I am not at all sure she says them in a way that deserves major feature film distribution acroos America. But until now I did not mention that and I did focus some attention on the killer and his horrible points of view which led to this crisis. A post or two on that shooting made this blog. So my criticism harsh as it was had a very specific context. Positive posts about police have appeared here , here and here. But that first post which I do not link but which is still here on this blog and elsewhere will haunt me for the rest of my life with a long and more complete line of ghosts than most people have.

So two lovely women who are part of the Acadiana community which I have loved and lived in were killed at a movie about women’s issues that were offensively portrayed by a man whose whole life was devoted to offensive behaviors and thoughts. the cops and media handled it well and that scarcely lessens the tragedy. That is not the kind of writing I would like to do about women, movies are cops but it beats the Aurora piece. I have blogged about the Louisiana Story and the Blob which have been big parts of my life. I have also blogged about other movies such as here  for LA LA Land,  here for a local film and here for the classic Belizaire the Cajun and here for other films. Films are a major interest of mine.

In my brother’s recent foray into feature films I had a chance to shoot the pictures below of an attractive young woman, Dasha Nekrasova a Belarus native who grew up in Las Vegas and lives in Los Angeles and is making a movie in Louisiana. It reminds me of a time when I was able to think of cops, women and movies all in a different and more hopeful way than I can now. It reminds me of a time when my past life was less complex. That being said I was never the kind of person cops look like and say “he is a good citizen and we want to be on his side” with any kind of universality. I have a certain instinct for trouble, am usually unhappy and they usually sense both things pretty quickly.
I have never really known what it is like to move forward in life without feeling that terrible tension between what was going on and what is tolerable in the world but I am trying to understand things better. All the good things in life get more distant to me as I age even when they are present. But I did  feel connected to something better seeing this girl/woman telling an American story.

 

A walk in the Park

Yesterday Jude Meaux, Philippe Boudreau and a I — along with other people spent some time in Godchaux park while my brother John Paul Summers was (as far as I can tell) Director of Photography and Co-Director with Peter Ambrosio who is Director, Writer and Executive Producer on a new project that John Paul and his Infinite Focus business are filming in Acadiana. We got a chance to do some work and the home base for the day was at my parents house nearby.

It was great to see JP work. My general rule in recent years is that nothing ever works out in my life for the best but it was possible to remember better days and I was happy to see JP doing well. I taught him a home school film class when he was in elementary school and I have followed his growing interest in film since then.

Films are always interesting and the project was one which interested me a good bit for a whole variety of reasons. I am tempted to optimism by such events as good day but regular readers will know that the temptations never last long i never succumb to them entirely.

 

But the day was  a good one and local film community players such as UL Professor  D. Broussard were on hand as were many people with whom my brother has developed relationships.  Peter knows John Paul’s (and my own) first cousin Taso Smith who moved out to LA to work with his band Youngblood Hawke.  Tasso also spent plenty of time here (despite being a San Antonio guy)  and thus the connections were made. Jude, Philippe and I have all spent some time in Drama and media and so this was a good opportunity to reminisce

Titles may change and I am not really associated with the project directly nor entitled to speak for them but the whole thing looked great and the lead whose actual name is Dasha Nekrasova and who has worked with Ambrosio before  was an attractive and commanding presence even before the magic of post production.

Sunday girl Dasha Nekrasova 1

While these phone based bandit cam shots don’t really capture the magic they do create a sense of the project. I hope that more films will be made in the area and I salute the ones that are being made. I hope to here more from Peter and JP in the future as they make quite a team. Best wishes from me to all involved in this project.

 

I will highlight this film in this blog when it comes out if I can. All photographs were taken by me in a public park without encouragement  or discouragement  of the dour lurking relative cam…

Counting Down to 62, and thinking back.

If I could collect the money I am vested in for Social Security because of having made the payments necessary to be permanently vested then I would be 62 years old. It would not be a lot and it would be much better if I had a good job and was earning more FICA credits, but there is no reason to hop that anything in my life will improve before 62. If I can survive till 62 then I can perhaps hope for some meager harvest of the crops sown in my still meager but much better days from 1979 to 1995 when I paid the most FICA and the years from 1995 to 2005 when I paid some.  But if I had to guess I think my death benefit will be all I ever collect. Nine years is a long time in a life where things almost always get worse. But this post at 53 is not about looking forward but rather about looking back about nostalgia.

Today I was helping a friend set up a Facebook page for the Table Tennis operation which he feels passionately about. He is quite a bit older than I am and table tennis keeps him in shape and engaged with other people and he finds a way to make a few bucks off the sport as well. Once upon a time I played a bit of the sport but that was a long time ago.  I have little nostalgia about those days but not very much because there are so many other things to be nostalgic about. There are many songs about nostalgia or expressing nostalgia in American popular culture but one of the ones that stands out for me is Glory Days, by Bruce Springsteen. Here are a few lyrics:

I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was:
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

I suppose that my friend and I have discussed his path through life and his past quite a bit — although we have never shared a beer over it . His journey was accompanied by different music than the Boss’s most of the time. Although I fancy he knows Springsteen a bit. But He is still fortunate to be more involved in many of the pursuits of his  youth than some people — like me for instance  — generally are at an earlier age.

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Rocky Russo remembers the glory days of his life as an outdoorsman and hunter with these photographs.

I was never a Bruce Beast as a few of my friends self described themselves, but I was a the owner of a few albums that I enjoyed listening to. One of Bruce Springsteen’s songs that I liked was Glory Days. For those who want to see a video it should be available here.

Nostalgia takes many forms. Looking back in times takes a different tone because of why one is looking back, what one is looking back at and how one is  looking back at the past.  The

My first cousin once removed, Charles William Massie III died this July.  Among other things he and my Dad cut and suctioned my snake bite and tourniqueted my leg and helped rush me to the hospital. He also helped me wash an eye popping out of my head from an allergic reaction and helped rush me to the hospital again a few years later.  He had a longer obituary in the Abbeville Meridional but here is a link to his obituary at the funeral home where I attended his wake. Big Billy and I shared many experiences outdoors and indoors, hunting, religious and familial over my whole life. Yet we were not that close when he died.

I am entirely sure that life will hold a few surprises in each day that I continue to live and breathe. But this year I have run into a number of women with whom I spent some time many years ago and we have had fairly decent visits,. I am made aware of how much my life is about limits and impossibilities compared to the years in the past when there was more hope and I think some of them are reminded of times when they found social life a bit more exciting than they do today. But perhaps our exchanges are not all that close to the one described in the next part of Glory Days.

Well there’s a girl that lives up the block
Back in school she could turn all the boy’s heads
Sometimes on a Friday I’ll stop by
And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it’s two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times,
She says when she feels like crying
She starts laughing thinking about
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

In this year and many years ( twelve to be exact) I have not had any kind of regular girlfriend and the general trend in my life has been towards ever greater isolation of all kinds since I got back from China in 2005. Before China I had been increasingly isolated every year since 1995. So China was just an island of intense social and occupational engagement. But in the years from 1995 to 2004 I wrote for newspapers and taught in public schools as a substitute — recent years have not had those kinds of public engagement for pay. My  Dad has been in the mode of trying to retire more and more and discusses his declining ability to pursue some of his outdoor hobbies. I think of  the next lyrics in Glory Days when I think of talking with him.  Although few of the facts are similar still I empathize with the narrator’s connection of nostalgia across generations. It is something that as it grows in us connects us to older generations.

My old man worked twenty years on the line
And they let him go
Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
They just tell him that he’s too old
I was nine years old and he was working at the
Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
But I can tell what’s on his mind
Glory days yeah goin back
Glory days aw he ain’t never had
Glory days, glory days

This year and part of the past one have formed a unit as I have been back in Abbeville and living in my grandparents old house and trying to get the grounds back in shape with limited time, energy and resources. Eve the resources to put photographs of the glory days of that house and its occupants seem to be in short supply.  But it is a place of nostalgia. This is the year not of the great parties or the family trip to Sea Island,  Georgia but the  trip to local sites during the greatest flood in memory with an open would wrapped in plastic, a ruined cell phone. The year when one of the highest sites in the parish which did not flood still held a lot of water because I had not yet removed the fallen ceiling and caused me to loose even more equipments and supplies than I would have lost just from the torrential rain damage itself . The glory days of the house were definitely in the past despite it being a high and dry place.  Flood damage came too in the form of cars parking to escape the flood and trying to leave when it was too wet. Flood damage came in opportunities lost when I had just started to find a few after moving in and in time and cost of donated labor treating flood related  injuries and buying cleaning supplies. There were other things too but compared to many others we had nothing worth noticing.

 

The truth is that this year, although I have spent time with family I have spent a good bit of time with two old friends named Philippe and Jude. I don’t give their last names and a great deal of what we talk about is better times in the past. Though we have known each other those were not mostly times spent together so the stories are new  — we are not exactly the same age — but all count Abbeville as our hometown. We rarely drink much together but on occasion Jude and I share a drink. We do smoke together, a much despised habit and one that never held me really in a habituated position until recently.  But we have a few places we occasionally go whether drinking or not. and we are nostalgic together there more often than not.
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

 

 

One of the places we have been is Twin Peaks in Lafayette. There the waitresses (Katelyn and Leah in these pictures) have less nostalgia and lives more directed to the future. Of course they are cute too and since I cannot afford to do much or go anywhere very often I don’t worry much about the higher than normal prices (which are not that bad — and the food is good). The young girls smile and chat a little and make you feel the present is a kind of present and I have no qualms of conscience about that, in a society of vast sexual problems and maladjustments in terms of every aspect of identity, relationship and interactions between the sexes there is certainly still room for some to object that the food is served with a side of flirty display. I don’t mind saying I find real girls knowing their cute and making a little conversation as they serve you a hamburger refreshingly innocent. Whether this is up to the date, nostalgic in itself or a trend for the future I DON’T KNOW.  But I do know that   in a life in which the best  is mostly in the past it is fun to go to places like this and hope that the girls have life with a more fun present and future. I know that not all of their experiences are fun. But it is an interesting phenomenon in our society today. Links to the experience can be found here and here.  It is perhaps a bit like getting involved on some of the sets of the hit series Mad Men except in a bar that is a fake lodge. But whatever it is it serves a break from the dismal pervasive feeling I often have about much of everything. I have only been twice so far. The reasons I ended up there are too complicated to put here but if I can I will probably go back. I promised Katelyn and Leah I would post these pictures — so I did.

 

June 2016 to July 2017

I have long been under the certain sentence of ever diminishing expectations. But I do not always blog and act as if that were the case there are happy and good moments to seize and I believe in seizing them. In addition, I am always ready to lay out some of whatever resources i have to make a better future. That always means what I see as a better future for myself and what I see as a better future for  someone and something other than myself.   But make no mistake, those many acts which are good in themselves and fit into some kind of good vision in my mind are far indeed from a plan for success. If by a plan one means a realistic set of steps and initiatives that will lead to a better outcome.

I also have had my moments of happiness snatched from the fires of poorly apportioned idle and busy misadventure which will shape most of those hours that are likely to make up any month in the near future or have made up any months in the past.  Those moments do not all fit one type in a neat way either and not ever one involved in one moment would approve of the other moments. In addition there are relationships in my life which have varied a great deal from one another in many ways and are divided  between those which undoubtedly have great substance that anyone could measure and those which are a combination of fleeting interactions, online connections and third-party interactions  — all of those have been observed differently by different people. People have judgments about how meaningful such connections are and if they grant that they have meaning they may have opinions I don’t share about what that meaning is.  For example my most meaningful relationship in terms of romantic or other connections was with my ex-wife of about eight years but I have not seen her (except in a handful of online pictures), heard her voice or spoken to her since the day she called me to meet at one of our favorite restaurants ostensibly to discuss our separation and a potential reunion but actually to serve me with divorce papers. So she really has  no part in my life present or future. Other people whom I barely know have had some impact on my life in recent years. Most of my relationships fall some where in the middle. But I would say that my capacity for relating to people in general diminishes a bit more and more each year. There are eddies in  that current. But the general trend is towards more isolation.

 

There has never been a time when I was a total recluse and there has never been a time when I felt myself to be completely adjusted to and engaged in the world in a way that I thought really fit me. But I have also always known that I was not alone in that experience. Many people have found a better sense of fit and place in life and many people have not. One struggles to make the best one can of what one is doing in the world, struggles to survive and thrive, to deal with responsibilities and help those one cares about and to try to make a difference in the bigger picture.

It’s not all that easy to say how the world is doing this year.  My most recent post was on North Korea and I have a lot of personal connections to the subject matter of that post that I have tired to describe. But not all my posts in this blog are of that type.  I have recently posted largely about Saudi Arabia — with which I have little connection. The world is a big and complicated place. It’s pretty clear that I can observe a mixture of good and bad things going on in my own life. I hope that anyone reading this feels that he or she can tell a few things about the direction of his or her own life. That’s mostly the kind of blog post this is.  Just some imagistic remarks and picture in a blog that has fewer readers than it once did and is less connected to other influential blogs than it once was.  But there has been a history of ups and downs and the blog might possibly have another upswing some day. But when its readership narrows my political and social blogging tends to diminish in ambition and scope. I don’t delete the old content but in the newer content there is a more confined tone.  It’s political here from time to time but even in the discussion of politics each post is mostly a reflection on my own life. My life had more followers on this blog at some times in the past than it does now.  I can’t really say if that could be said to be good or bad. I only know that declining blog readership is one of many factors defining my shrinking life.

The month of June is not the most  electoral or political month of the year. June is the month of my birthday and Fathers Day. It’s a season for me personally to keep  track of the progress or lack thereof in my life. The year in the title of this post is the year that I was 52 years old. The year has been one of extraordinary failure and reason for despondency even in a life that has known very little hope for a long time. I am driven or drawn to commenting and posting on why that might be and how that bleak reality plays out. Of course, my life has a political context but really it is very  hot and humid and the grass and weeds grow very fast and I struggle at times to keep up with the outdoor things I try to take care of with the limited resources that I have and that makes me feel  less preoccupied with politics in many ways.

 

This is the first post I have mentioned that I am supposed to be presenting another presentation at an academic conference this year.

I have made some progress but I have not gotten as much done as I would like but I have a huge foundation of work on the subject. Of course, my very pessimistic point of view reminds me that it could fall through despite assurances to the contrary. I feel a keen limitation in needed resources and then there are the distractions of life. But in the meanwhile there are hopes that by October it will be a good and worthy presentation. That also falls into the middle ground between daily survival and the larger scope of social and political aspiration.

I also experienced three significant  deaths in my life this past month,  the deaths of Charles William Massie III and Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton were both deaths of people who at various times had been very close to me.  In looking for Big Billy’s death notice I discovered that my friend Christian De Prinz had died months earlier and it had escaped my attention. That and a few other significant events have shaped my perception of the world more than the political scene has this last few months.  I suppose that the situation in national politics worries more people than usual. But how many more and how much more the situation worries them is not clear. I suppose that I will be alone with my thoughts many times before the world changes its perception of its own situation a great deal.

The shooting of Steve Scalise hits fairly close to home as I received numerous emails purporting to have been written by him and we have many mutual connections — although I actually do not know the man. So we are back into my life of ambiguous relationships. This has been a remarkably tough year as things go. but perhaps the future will be better.

North Korea, the USA and a few thoughts from me.

This will be a blog post with a few bullet point lists. That is often a sign of not having fully absorbed the material or not being willing to aim it at a very particular audience or readership when one creates such a list. A well written prose paragraph has many advantages. The real lead in this story consists of a seven point bullet list below the big group of pictures. I have my reasons for burying it a little bit. But any reader may skip to it and find the points that I think I most have to offer this discussion of North Korea.

I realize that only the President of the United States can deal with the US foreign policy as regards North Korea. I also know that there have been many surprised by both the ICBM capacities of North Korea among those in intelligence and among media experts reporting on North Korea. Articles discussing this gap in knowledge and it meaning can be found here and here. beyond merely being an ICBM program the North Koreans of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have demonstrated a mobile ICBM program. Mobile ICBMs are harder to wipe out completely as they can be continuously moved. In addition, North Korea has a network of fortified tunnels as a large part of it defense obsession — probably a tiny percentage of these can accommodate the huge trucks that carry these ICBMs,  but if they have 1,000s of miles of tunnels (and I have heard credible reports and seen images that make my believe that they do then perhaps they have a few hundred or even a hundred mile of key tunnels ready to accommodate these large vehicles and help them move in and out of air attacks and back and forth to different launch sites. Whether they can miniaturize atomic warheads, guide ICBMs to precise targets for small scale nukes and how long it will take them increase the range to affect not only Alaska but the rest of the United States — these are things we cannot now be sure about.

America has strong and historic interests and some or other treaty obligations in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. None of these countries is in exactly the same state of being nor the same relationship with the United States. But they are real and important interests. President Donald James Trump is facing new challenges with North Korea as manifest in their ICBM test. His tweets on the occasion of the recent test do reveal something about what is on his mind.

 North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

I think that there are lots of good reasons to seek to cooperate with China in meeting the North Korean threat, lots of great things about China generally and lots that the U.S.A. and China can do at people to people, business to business, military to military intelligence to intelligence, and  at the highest levels of government. But I also believe that while academic, religious and commercial outreach to China is in the interest of all Americans and of the Chinese we should remember that they see the Korean Peninsula and the Yellow Sea very differently than we do and that they are a very different country.

Yantai where I lived and taught in China was 258 miles from the Capital of North Korea and about 200 miles from the relevant part of the Korean coast for accessing North Korea. It was there that I lived and had a chance to observe the way that North Koreans interacted with their neighbors from China, South Korea and  Russia within the context of Chinese society. It also was a good place to observe how Chinese and China’s government viewed Korea. However, that was in 2004 and 2005 and so many things will have changed.  Most things have changed in ways that are less promising for the kinds of pro-American visions I could see as worth working for at the time. But some underlying conditions are the same.

 

 

However, I think that the main thing I learned from interacting with North Koreans and those who knew them when I lived in Yantai, China is that they are stuck in ways and to a degree that virtually non of our rhetoric allows for…
Public rhetoric and internal agency policy may be different but when rhetoric goes on for decades it is policy.
1.North Korea is a racially and ethnically hyper-conscious regime that sees in the mingling allowed in South Korea a kind of defeat that makes their regime superior. This is rooted in Korean history.
2. China and Russia both use North Korea as an actual and potential cat’s paw for confrontation with the United States. They wish a force to balance US interests in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines and North Korea fills that bill.
3.Korea’s economy is crippled in large part because it spends so much on defense — perhaps more as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. That is more of a factor than any other aspect of their many problems.
4.Their economic crisis and international sanction regimes which never ends keeps them dependent on private funds from all secret enemies of the USA, aid from China, aid from Russia (mostly employment and covert aid) and involvement in activities not allowed by international law .
5. The ongoing crisis keeps the centralization of power a practical arrangement and China will not easily allow a collapsed state with millions of refugees into China or an American led invasion of the north.
6. They do realize war with the USA could be as close to suicide as one can get but they hope to deter it without losing their position and they have made decades of preparations including very sophisticated worldwide networks of operative of many kinds, cyberwar capacity, a hope to blackmail key players in crucial Asian countries, networks of fortified tunnels, massive artillery arrayed against South Korea, propaganda assets ready to deploy misinformation and the cultivation of huge units prepared for suicide missions.
7. It is certain that we do not hear reporting here on there most unique human assets and whether that is good or bad I am not sure but the absence of such reporting makes those same assets more impressive to those with whom they interact daily. In another way of saying it, they seem like invisible supermen because nobody talks about them and when they show up in any setting that makes them more credible.

We think far too much of North Korea as isolated and its leadership as crazy. That is pleasant for us. But we have to tell our military that they may have to fight, kill and die for a conflict with a less isolated and crazy regime than they have been told they were fighting. Battle commanders can tell young infantry whatever it takes to get them fired up in the field  but North Korea is a regime supported by many in South Korea as an alternative to total American dominance int he region my guess is as many as 25% would rather have North Korea continue to exist than have a Western Dominated Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and the Russians will never really support a Greater South Korea solution. North Korea has support from terrorist networks, despots and isolated states who want their weapons and expertise and are willing to return favors for such help with their own problems. There are also many Koreans who would like to see a new kind of North Korea or united Korea more like the South Korean Republic of Korea but find almost nothing helpful from the West in that decades long struggle. I support with passion a US military presence in the Far East. As corrupt as I find our society to be it still offers some support to Christians, orderly world commerce, women’s institutions,  and Americans traveling abroad. Those are all things worth fighting for. But Korea is deeply rooted in a sense of its own Korean race, culture and tradition on both sides of the DMZ. They also have deep traditions of meaningful ties to China and Japan. Those relationships are ancient and profound and full of chapters of problems we can legitimately exploit to gain Korean support but most Koreans see their country in terms of being between those two countries in lots of meaningful ways.

So there is very little chance of mobilizing a sense of wiping out the crazy North Korean regime. The regime is often able to exploit our very poor understanding of the situation.    Their commitment involves millions of people including skilled linguists with athletic ability and cosmetic surgery planted across the world. It includes hundreds of thousands  perhaps even millions who are by Western standards chronically suicidal. In addition there are things they are right about and we are wrong about. They do some things well and cherish some great values. Yes they have a society of mass killings, brutal slavery, incredible militarism and other horrors but they are a society full of millions who love their country and culture and who see that that they have patiently worked for and waited for a process of peaceful unification. They are real people in a real country whom we will have to interact with as such.

Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton, Obituary Post

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette passed away Wednesday. He was 86 years old. The press has remembered him already and so have many of the institutions with which he was associated. His official obituary in the Daily Advertiser is here. More or less the same obituary appeared in other papers. I attended only the wake for complicated reasons but expect the funeral to be a grand and deserved tribute.

Mouton died at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center among those attending to his last illness was his brother, Frank Anthony Mouton. He is preceded in death by his father, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Sr., mother, Inez Genevieve von Phul Mouton, brother, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Jr., and sister-in-law, Margaret Apple Mouton. He is survived by his brothers, Frank Anthony Mouton and Marc Gilbert Mouton, Sr., sister-in-law Betty LaCour Mouton, and numerous nieces and nephews.  The Mouton family is a prominent family in the region and Alfred Mouton, at least for now, still occupies a central place on a statue in the center of Monsignor’s hometown. The Mouton House is a museum not far from the Cathedral  where Monsignor lived out much of his last phase of life since July 1, 2007, Monsignor took up residence as a Senior Priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. This nearby Mouton house seems small compared to other Plantation owners homes in the South but this  was the town house (not the larger country home) where  Governor and General Mouton — father and son– stayed over to attend mass at the nearby St. John’s  Church in Antebellum Lafayette.  The Mouton connections among Acadians (such as the governor and the General) and the non Acadian French are indeed extensive. Monsignor Mouton was very aware of his heritage though not one to harp on it with people who were not aware of it.

Richard Mouton was born on March 17, 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was baptized on March 25 of the same year at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where he would later attend  the Cathedral primary school and receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. He was ordained at this same Cathedral on June 4, 1955 and assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville –which has always been my real home parish where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed — but Monsignor did not officiate at any of those sacraments and was not pastor there in any of those years.  I did not know him as Associate pastor.

When I met him he was the intellectually mature Pastor of the Parish who had returned from completing his doctoral degree in Rome. His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass,” Father Mouton returned to Louisiana and was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Lake Charles, the current Bishop of Lake Charles Glen Provost was one of his Associate Pastors at St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville and they distinguished themselves as a team with their deep love of the liturgy. Monsignor had also gotten an international status as a priest before he was pastor — this was because in 1962,  he attended the Second Vatican Council, in the company of Bishop Maurice Shexnayder, and was subsequently appointed Peritus Concilii Vaticani Secundi (Expert of the Second Vatican Council). Still before I met him and when I was in fact two years old, In June 1966, Father Mouton was elevated to Monsignor Mouton. Like Monsignor Ignatius A. Martin with whom I lived in Duson and who had a major role to play in my parents return to the faith of their youth when he was a  Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene — Monsignor Mouton would also serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools from June 1967 to the time he received his first assignment as Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville in 1973. It was during that period that I got to know him. Many people knew Msgr. Richard Van Phul Mouton better than I but nobody knew him exactly as I did. His official obituary did not mention founding the Christian Service Center in Abbeville, the work he did with liturgy in parish life, hosting the Lay Evangelist Training and Commissioning Program for the Diocese of Lafayette or his significant involvement with the Fr. Conley Bertrand’s Come Lord Jesus program, the ground work and development of the Catholic is the Name Weekends, fostering Perpetual Adoration, or any of the other ways in which our paths crossed most publicly. He also officiated at my great grandmother’s funeral where I read one of the readings and based on that encounter he asked me to serve as lector which I did most of the time when I was in country and he was pastor was it was my turn. Many of the friends of my youth had him as a teacher at VCHS, they told me. I never did. But despite eating hundreds of meals with priests, I was somehow closer to Monsignor than all but a tiny few. It is odd, I suppose. But my real connections were more personal and complicated, he twice asked me to enter the seminary and I twice regretfully declined — that was a long time ago, before I was married. I considered the priesthood at other times but really at those particular times I felt certain that I could not seriously pursue that option. Monsignor was also my confessor and spiritual director for some but not all of that time, I found him an insightful and serious man with whom anything could be discussed.

In February 1987, Monsignor Mouton was assigned as Pastor of St. Pius X Church in Lafayette in a an unusual swap with Fr. Donald Theriot who was the celebrant at my wedding.  Theriot came to St. Mary Magdalene from Pius X. During his time as Pastor, Monsignor participated in the development of various pastoral ministries, most notably the development of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and the founding of St. Pius X Elementary School.  I would later teach at St. Thomas More High School of which St. Pius is a Corporate Parish and would move there during my year of teaching and then away to Baton Rouge to pursue my M.A. but my parents would move there with my younger siblings and  he would remain their pastor and he would be someone I had much occasion to see. When I was teaching at St. Thomas More High School we did have some interactions. Mostly those related to crises in the school administration at a school which is normally stable but was having an unstable year. STM was in the official obituary whereas virtually nothing from Abbeville  was in it except merely his pastorate. However, it is not a matter of question that St. Pius Elementary School there is one of his greatest achievements.  He saw Catholic education as a key part of preserving the Faith and the right kind of Christian intellectual development. But he was a Ragin’ Cajun as well and continued his studies at the local secular university and not only at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Pontifical College. He saw the light of Divine Truth in all learning, although I don’t have the particular courses at hand I am pretty sure that I remember that. He lived a faith in his time.  To quote the official obituary:

If the loss of faith is a life’s greatest tragedy, then surely its preservation is a life’s greatest triumph; Monsignor Mouton was certainly a great guardian of the Church and preserved Her teachings through his ministry to the many who loved him. 

“I value the priesthood I have been graced to share in…I have happily done what I was asked to do by my Bishop, ministering to his flock, hopefully, with zeal and charity. God knows and I praise Him for the graces I believe He gave me in doing so. All the good I have done I have truly done by the grace of God.”

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton

By the Grace of God

Beyond those public ministries, going back to the family comments made at the start, Monsignor was a full and thorough example of commitment to the priesthood but he was also a man with all the connections of a man of a particular, place time and lineage.  Msgr. Mouton had a circle of not very close friends with some common regional interests and I helped people a few times with translations of Heraldic and ancestral documents because they met me when I was discussing such things with this son of Acadiana. He also had great capacity for saying a lot in a few words about places he’d been. I have probably traveled with a hundreds priests, some bishops and a few cardinals — I never remember being in the same vehicle with Monsignor. We were at many receptions together over my lifetime but only shared a meal at table perhaps four times.

Monsignor knew many challenges in life. One of them was a bit vicarious. One of his closest friends in life was also ordained Jun. 04, 1955   and Msgr. H.A. Larroque was the brilliant Canon Lawyer with whom he could discuss many ideas and concerns. Before the explosion of the child abuse crisis Monsignor had (hard as this will be for many to believe) discussed with me his concerns about safe environment issues and the need to do more in preventing problems related to sexual behavior through priestly formation. But the conversations were related to our discussions about my concerns with some seminary environments I had encountered in the world. I had no idea he was dealing with real problems among priests close at hand and not as effectively as he probably should have and felt he should have. His really good friend was caught up in dealing with religious and secular legal matters, world wide media scrutiny and countless other moral issues and it was an ordeal. With me Monsignor never pretended he or his very close friend had perfect answers to any of these crises. I was proud of the fact that the Church paid huge damage awards, sponsored programs, organized safe environment training, struggled to weather the storm and did lots of other things. I often said that while I excused nothing of the worst abuses the Church paid mostly the price of being a responsible and enduring institution in the society of shirking, dissolution and changing  names which characterizes the modern world.    But truthfully the child abuse  scandals did change something about our conversations.

Monsignor and I were both strong personalities, he was clearly the more successful of the two and much older but we held very little back in our really private conversation although they were ALWAYS  cordial they could be both heated and cordial intense and measured. During my later life we corresponded almost entirely about grave and confidential matters and enjoyed only a few brief friendly conversations. Virtually none were related to child abuse or other issues that make a lot of ink. But they were issues we both took seriously.

I considered him a great man and a good priest. Sometimes, I considered him a fairly close friend. That’s not something I find as easy to explain. I lived with Msgr. Ignatius Martin and was a close companion of a Jesuit Missionary priest named Joseph Stoffel in the Philippines. Both were friends and I knew them in more ordinary friendly ways. But Msgr. Mouton and I had some common concerns that I shared with few other people over my lifetime. We didn’t always agree. But the void he leaves cannot be filled by anyone else I know. Life has taken many turns since the days since Monsignor Mouton and I knew each other best.
I have usually posted a kind of obituary on my blog for prominent people who were also significant in my life and I am doing that again for Msgr. Mouton. For as long as the blog exists it helps me organize these memories. People have often revisited these blog entries over the years, so someone else gets something out of it as well. But Monsignor is not likely to slip my mind often for very long.

Whip Steve Scalise and Others Shot

Today is President Donald James Trump’s birthday and tomorrow is mine. That is just one pair of several reasons why I am not covering the shooting up of the Republican Congressional Baseball Team practice as well as I otherwise might in this post relatively late in the day of its occurrence.

Violence is not new to American political life. The shooter in this case appears to have been a very highly politically aware citizen with a penchant for violence. He was deeply antithetical to Republicans, he was armed, homeless and living near the park in his car. As it happened this was a park where Congressional Republicans gathered on many occasions to practice for a charity softball game against Congressional Democrats. Congressional women play against the female press corps. Both games are important events in and around our Nation’s Capital. Steve Scalise  as majority whip had a security detail. Thus it was a gunfight and not a slaughter. But the shooter appears to have been a terrorist out to kill Republicans.

I am praying for the recovery of Louisiana’s own Steve Scalise and for his family. He’s a man of small government, pro-life and cultural conservative principles. A staffer, a lobbyist, two Capitol police officers and the shooter were also transported injured from the scene. I hope to post more about this in the future.

But for now, it is surely another sign of trouble.