Citizenship

An article in the Wall Street Journal of 24 July 2014 on page A7 inspired this from me.

For those who didn’t know or have forgotten, my son Neel has been a missionary in Thailand since 1987.  He is married to a Thai Christian woman and they have two children.

My daughter-in-law is active with programs to help migrant Shan children’s day care centers and health care clinics.  She gets around.

After they were married a quarter of a century ago, I reminded my daughter-in-law that as the wife of a U.S. citizen it would be easy for her to also become a U.S. citizen.

Her answer was clear and without equivocation, “Dad” she said, “I have more freedoms than you have.”  I thought about that remark many times, especially in these last five years.  It took a while, but I’m now convinced she was right when she said it, and she remains right today.

So what does my daughter-in-law ‘s remark have to do with that article in the Wall Street Journal?

Simply this, and I have underlined the critical words in the first three paragraphs of that article reprinted below:

“BANGKOK – Thailand’s military leader secured the king’s endorsement for a provisional constitution that will pave the way for a new legislature and interim government while allowing the military to retain power.  

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha prostrated himself on a carpet before King Blumibol Adulyadej as he received the charter on Tuesday at the King’s seaside palace, televised footage showed.

It was the first time that Gen. Prayuth was granted an audience with the country’s revered 86-year-old monarch since he seized power from an elected government and scrapped the 2007 constitution two month ago.”

With all that – my daughter-in-law still maintains that she has more freedom than do I. And, I think she is right.

Conflict

When I review the history of the Palestinian Israeli Conflict, I see aspects of it that, I believe, have been swept under the carpet by doctors of spin from distant places. The first thing I see is that this conflict is nothing new. It has been brewing, simmering, burning and exploding for several thousand years.

It is not the direct result of the actions of any one person. It started about the time that the first books of the Bible were being written and was pushed in various ways for various reasons, more recently by the Ottomans, Faisal, Balfour, T.E. Lawrence, and the League of Nations and the United Nations.

It is the result of an accretion of cultures, crowded and confused by dogmatic religions and some dogmatic religious leaders. Differing languages and the very meanings of words exasperate an already explosive atmosphere.

The second thing I see, is that modern warfare calls for high level technology and it is very costly. It costs far more to kill a person today than it did 500 years or even 100 years ago. So now technology and money from people in distant places can keep a battle going long after the contestants are exhausted and broke and ready to call it quits.

I don’t know who is right and who is wrong. I don’t favor one side or the other. I do regret the loss of life, the suffering and the cruelty. I fear the possibility that the conflict might spread. So what should I, and like minded people who are not living right there, do? I would start by following the money.

Anyone elsewhere in the world who wants to stop the conflict should stop supporting the warring parties. This is the fuel that supports the fire. Witness the various jihads and crusades that drew technology and money and foreign fighters for a thousand years. Without the help and encouragement of people from elsewhere, this bloody conflict cannot afford to proceed. What is going on in Palestine and Israel will grind to a halt if it is not supported by enablers from elsewhere. If both sides are deprived of funding to fight a modern war, they will have to reach an accommodation – or at worst case be limited to stones and sling shots.

One successful, howbeit slow step, which I witnessed in Thailand and in Kerala, South India is to educate all the children of all faiths in the same school. Another would be to teach only one language at school. This is an ancient conflict. I believe there is no quick fix.

93

I’m now in my ninety-third year and having survived a war and a dozen trips to distant places, I pause to review some of what I’ve learned about solving other peoples problems.  Here are a couple of examples.

In Manaus, Brazil I was tasked with aiding 4,200 Lepers who, I was told, were so poor that they were reduced to eating garbage.  A charitable organization in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota had been raising money for them for years, and a benevolent group in Bar Harbor, Maine enlisted me to perhaps establish an aquaculture program to alleviate their grinding poverty.  So I went to Florida to board a once weekly airplane flight to Manaus, Brasil.  There I would actually visit the Leper Colony on the Rio Negro, 800 miles up the mighty Amazon from the Atlantic Ocean.  I found it to be as it was described, precisely located exactly where I had been told it was.  The only snag was that in the seven days that I was allocated, even with the help of officials and academia and taxi drivers, I could find only two Lepers. The other 4,198 Lepers were completely and absolutely missing.  They had been gone from the “colony” for forty or so years I was told.  It seems that Leprosy is not contagious when treated with a modern drug, and so these people were no longer a vector for the disease.  As a result, they were no longer isolated, but were accepted back into society.

Make no mistake, in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota that charitable organization was still collecting money for a non-functioning Leper Colony in Manaus, Brazil.   The buildings were still there, but the Lepers were all gone.  Oh yes, those two Lepers that I did find;  one was driving a school bus and the other was at his home tending his garden.  I spoke cordially with both.  It was difficult because I spoke only Spanish and they both spoke only Portuguese – but I did verify – they both had been patients there long ago.

For another example, a Roman Catholic Bishop half a world away in Kerala, India, was visiting the United States to raise funds to help his people in a small city on the shore of the Arabian Sea.  The rice, fish and coconuts that these people had relied on for centuries had all failed and the community was really and truly destitute.  As in Brazil, I was enlisted to try to alleviate poverty.  The Bishop had been advised by some laymen in his council that the solution would be found by getting funding from Americans for the purchase of a mangrove swamp that could be made into a shrimp grow-out farm.  The trouble with the plan is that very poor people can’t afford to buy shrimp.  So the farmed shrimp would be marketed.  Sadly, in that part of the world, the market was the domain of the men, and the value of the product would be greatly diluted by alcohol, drugs and electronic novelties.  Not much benefit would trickle down to feed hungry children.  This is not something spelled out in aquaculture texts, but it is a fact.  It took about a week there for me to also realize that the shrimp scheme was really a scam to use American money to buy mangrove swamps to the profit of some Indian businessmen.  Also there would be the environmental loss to all the people who lived near the shore.  The mangroves protected the shore from storms and flooding.  Later, I learned that the only continuous source for the baby shrimp – the only available hatchery – was not operating and might not ever operate.  Without a constant supply of baby shrimp, no intensive grow-out aquaculture of shrimp is possible.  Even the Bishop didn’t know any of that.  It took someone with the knowledge and without bias or financial stake to see the whole picture, before proposing a solution.  In this case, I chose tilapia to be raised by the women in backyard ponds, and fed to the children without the overhead costs inherent in an Indian small town market economy.

Again, the problem could not possibly be solved by a think tank thousands of miles away from the tangled details and ramifications of an ancient culture that was set in its ways.  It needed someone knowledgable with mud between their toes.  I’ve come to conclude that money alone will alleviate a problem like a train wreck or a fire, or a sudden epidemic, but chronic disease, poverty, long term cultural strictures or oppression needs a long term commitment with human relationships.  Money alone won’t do the job.

Looking Back

I’m an old man, and so I can afford to pause and look back.  My parents loved me and influenced me, I’m sure – but I remember no rules except not to play cards with strangers on the train.  I had no discipline, no long-term plans, no hopes and no inspirations.  I was never told that I could or should be the President of the United States or a lawyer or a doctor or even a candlestick maker.

I didn’t seem to be interested in school.  My mother was a teacher, and I never ever went to kindergarten, nor did I enter first grade on time, perhaps never.  In the only essay that I remember I wrote, I stated that “I liked school, but not all the teachers.”  By second grade I was firmly in the New York City School system, and remained there until I completed high school.  By the time I was 10 years old, I discovered that I had not taken my books home – ever!  This was not a deliberate, conscious effort on my part.  It just evolved, and eventually I realized it.  My grades were better than just passing, but I did not do any homework.

In high school I was very active in the Theatre Club and was usually the stage manager.  I joined no other clubs save theatre.  I did nothing in any athletics or student government.  Nothing.

After school, except for the stage, all time was mine.  I probably read all of the twenty or so volumes of the Book of Knowledge and would sometimes dip into my father’s set of the Eleventh Edition of Britannica Encyclopedia.  I read travel, exploration, natural history, a few novels, no poetry, no foreign language and no religion.  I did visit zoos and museums.

During the daylight hours, I looked, listened, walked, cycled, rowed, collected small creatures, fished and mucked about on mud flats in Jamaica Bay and on Atlantic beaches.  I almost always had a boat.

When I came near to graduating high school, my father asked me what I wanted to study in college.  I responded that I would prefer to go into the fishery and he said that fishing was for Sunday afternoon.  He was in the glass business, so I ended up in the New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University.  There I earned a degree in Glass Technology and learned to shoe a horse, milk a cow, poach deer and run a stage.  I took post graduate courses in liberal arts subjects.  In biology, the professor told me that in a year he could have me at the Medical School of Strong Memorial, Rochester, New York preparing for a career in medicine.  I thanked him with a “No, I don’t want to work for a living.”  As a matter of fact, I quit working for others when I was about forty-five years old.

How did I manage without taking books home, without doing homework?  Simple – in class I listened carefully and I watched intently.  I paid strict attention, not only to what the teachers said, but to them as people.  I didn’t just know the periodic table, I understood it.  Also I never did the same thing in the same way twice.  Whatever it was, whatever I did, it was not the same the second time.  I never repeated what I had done – perhaps I forgot?  Generally the change was an improvement.  Someone else could make an exact copy.  Not I.  For me a prototype was obsolete the day it worked.  I photographed a shot string, a jumping frog and invented a water pump – just one and then I went on to something else.  It worked.  Obviously this is not the way to manufacture, and by and large invention governed the choices I made and things I achieved.

Sewer Avoidance in Old Lyme Connecticut

The Town of Old Lyme, Connecticut has an established Sewer Avoidance Program.  It is a proven fact, established in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, that with nothing more than technology already approved and in use in these and other nearby states, human septic waste can be, and is presently, treated in situ.  All this without the need for municipal sewage treatment plants discharging sometimes less than potable products into natural waters to eventually digest or dilute these wastes elsewhere.

Wastewater is a mineral resource that should be recycled.  Old Lyme has been doing just that for 300 years.

Arguments to the contrary are tied to urban situations or industries.  Here in Old Lyme, we have the experience of sanitarians who answer to the Connecticut Health Code, rather than to arbitrary rules created and enforced by the Connecticut DEEP.  Combined sewers, that carry both storm runoff and sanitary waste, also contribute to the problem of waste treatment in urban areas of high population density, but here in Old Lyme there is no industry and little urban crowding.

Virtually every attempt by Old Lyme to mitigate the calculated pollution here has been rebuffed by the DEP or the DEEP, and this calculated pollution has not been demonstrated by any scientific test data.

Why I’m Not Going to Any More Alfred Reunions

I was born in 1922. I started in Alfred in 1940 because my father was in the glass business; in those days that is how it was done. I finally left Alfred in 1948 after about four years on the campus and a war intervening. Incidentally, in 1939 when I was accepted, I was told to learn to read German, because glass technology literature was not available in the English language.

At Alfred, Dr. Samuel Ray Scholes saw to it that I got a degree in glass technology, but the rest of my experience in the valley is really what shaped me, and it had little to do with most of my classmates or my curriculum studies.

Professor C.D. Smith introduced me to aspects of theatre that I never imagined. He made the stage come alive. Drama – not glass.

J. Nelson Norwood, as President, spoke at my obligatory first campus chapel service. I don’t know if Alfred does that anymore. He said many of us would meet our spouses in the valley, he did and so did I.

Stanley Saunders, an Alfred University graduate, kept Holsteins and sold milk in Town. Through him I learned to strip the last bit of milk from their teats after the milking machine had done its work. Yes, I was enrolled in Glass Technology.

Charles Sisson lived on Church Street and kept cattle in a fenced pasture that must have been more than 1500 acres, west of Town. I hand-salted his heifers to keep them tame in winter so they could be rounded up in springtime.

Sandy Luce, a Townie from Irish Hill, taught me to tack horse shoes on the animals that Bob Young AU’47 and I kept at Mrs. Mamie Vincent Rogers Thomas Armstrong’s barn on South Main near where Dr. Watson make his honey chocolate Candies.

Barn rent was five dollars a month and hay, Bright Timothy, was less than a dollar a bale. We bought our mounts from the Remount Service at Cornell ROTC for about $150 each.

A.J.C. Bond, Dean of the School of Theology, taught me how to back a buggy and horse out of a parking place in front of the pharmacy on Main Street, and he also taught a course in the Literature of the Old Testament. I took that course and another from Dr. Hall in the Liberal Arts College where he reminded students that there was no such thing as a disembodied mind, and still another from Dr. Roland Warren that helped me to understand the various moralities of ethical systems like those of duty, religion, and happiness. Yes, I earned a degree in Glass.

Dean Ellis Drake got me to understand that I had to pay for repairing his office lawn after my horse walked over it in a foot of snow. When the snow finally melted in spring, the lawn had a horse track across it, and he remembered – and I paid.

I hunted deer from horseback and shared the venison with people in Town.

I lived on Sayles Street with H.O. Burdick’s family across from Pi Alpha Pi Sorority and eventually married one of them, Edith Foster, AU’47. We had six children, one of whom, Edith Ann, was Theta Chi in the next generation. She married a chap from Delta Sig, or was it Klan?

Dr. H.O. Burdick was active in the first Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church and I joined it. He pioneered in the human pregnancy test using a diesterous mouse.

Reverend Everett Harris was a part-time teacher at the School of Theology and he was my Pastor when I was in Alfred. He too hunted dear but was a poor shot.

At a recent reunion, the only person left who I knew from my college days was Billy Crandall. The students I encountered didn’t have the slightest knowledge of the SDB Church or that Alfred once had a School of Theology or the fact that in 1940 the U.S. Post Office and the bank were open on Sunday and closed on Saturday. Few students I met at reunions interfaced with the Alfred Fire Department or the local Boy Scouts.

Many old buildings and monuments remain, but the demographic has changed, and I no longer make the connection. This is not, in any way a complaint. Things change; for example in 1941 the Town barber “didn’t know how to cut a colored man’s hair” and a pregnant undergraduate killed herself. For me, to be designated a member of the President’s Council today would strike a discordant note, if ever I was asked and if then I spoke up. I represent an eight year tiny wedge of Alfred’s long past culture, but here and now the President and the University must address problems of the present and the future. Golden Oldies – yes. President’s Council – no.

I’ll grant it was fun for a few years to be wined and dined and taxied over the campus; but to be included in a President’s Council is not in the cards.

Amy Jacobson, you have a difficult job. I don’t know how a President’s Councilor fits in. Alfred in 1940 was good for me then, but I have not the slightest idea what colleges today do for young people today. Thanks for the memories.