IS THIS THE END OF DAYS? – Marilyn Armstrong

I know, because I keep reading about it, how “end of days” is supposed to work. This is when the good guys (not me or mine) will go wafting upward to heaven whilst the unshriven and/or non-religious, disbelievers, and the many who believe in “the wrong gods” are left behind in a world of Bad People. Or, at least not good enough to be drawn into heaven.

Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the “end of the world” or “end times.” In Judaism, the end times are usually called the “end of days” (aḥarit ha – yamim, אחרית הימים).

If ever we’ve faced a genuine “end of days” for all of humankind — rather than for a specific group of people at who is one of the many current objects of local (but highly effective) genocide, it’s right now. This oncoming “change of climate” is no local holocaust on some “other” continent. This is the one that is going to hit everyone, though not everyone at the same time.

And there will be no gentle ascension into heaven for the praiseworthy and most righteous. To put it in musical terms, one more Tom Lehrer song for those who like a little humor with the “end of the world.”

Now, of course, we don’t expect to do it in one big flash-bang of bombs, though given one thing and another, that’s not entirely out of the picture … but this is still a good summary number.

Me being me, I never expected to go wafting up to heaven but I also didn’t think I would hit my 70s and wonder if the world was going to survive through my granddaughter’s midlife crisis.

GOOD TIMES, HARD TIMES, AMERICAN PROPAGANDA AND THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

I never thought America was the international good guy. Read far too much actual — not school — history for that. What I did think is that we had a fundamental sense of right and wrong and that when nip came to tuck, we’d do the right thing … and right had nothing to do with the Soviet Union, either. Remember, that Berlin wall came down when I was pretty young. I really thought — for a while until, like most illusions, it was shattered by reality — that the old U.S.S.R. might, without their antique soviet rulers, be free enough to make good choices.

I remember a world where people were more polite to each other and where however individually corrupt our pols were, they still believed in “the good of the country” above and beyond their individual agendas. That belief has been falling apart with the passing years. I really thought at least some of them cared. I wish I’d been right about that. We could use some caring.

This horror in which we live right now? It didn’t start with Trump. It started when we decided to create a nation, we would allow slavery and it was okay to slaughter the Natives. We sold our collective souls to the devil before we even had a constitution or anything resembling a country. Oh, we had a nicely written constitution and some idealistic people who did some good, sometimes, when they were allowed.

Overall? We have always owed our souls to whoever had the most money because that was what the slavery deal was about — letting the south keep slaves so they could hold on to their plantation and not (heaven forbid) have to actually work.

Standard Oil went half a dozen rounds with Theodore Roosevelt and theoretically, Rockefeller lost over and over in court, but really, he lost nothing. He literally laughed at the court rulings and nothing changed. J.P. Morgan had a good laugh too as TR tried to break up his ownership of the railroads and many other corporations.

Today’s Exxon is Standard Oil with a cooler name. It is bigger, uglier, and more ruthless than ever. Huge corporations never lose, not today or ever. Money is power.

I don’t remember that nearly perfect world, nor does Garry. Maybe only white middle-class people remember it. The rest of us were under no illusions about where we stood in the great scheme of things.

I do remember a world where there was more personal communication between people. There was also more opportunity to make progress in the game of life. Those opportunities have largely disappeared. The big corporations have bought out, sold off, or absorbed most (almost all) of the smaller organizations which had been the stepping stones for individuals trying to climb the ladder.

Today, we are feudal. If we are born a serf, we will die a serf.

There is an assumption by our kids including my granddaughter that we remember a perfect world.

We don’t. There’s a lot of assuming going on. Some old people want to remember that world. Maybe they lived in one of the white suburbs and never had to bump into a dark-skinned person and treat him or her as an equal.

Then again, maybe age has rosied their memories so now they remember what they wish it had been.

Yup. Lots of assuming going on.

I miss people being polite and talking — even arguing — together. I never believed our propaganda, probably because my mother and father didn’t believe it either. There’s a lot of youngsters out there who are so deeply ignorant they think the boomer generation destroyed the world. We did everything. Built the corporations, fought all the wars — even the ones that occurred before we were born.

All of the problems if this world were created by my generation. And probably yours, too.

The level of ignorance and stupidity going around the world is breathtaking. I think I’ve gotten past being shocked. Now, it’s closer to disgust.

War is never out of style. There has always been a war going on as long as I can remember, which goes back to Korea. I remember listening to the news of the war on the radio with my mother. I remember her talking about it, wondering why in the world we were there in the first place? What did we think we were going to accomplish? I must have been four or five, but I understood. How? Maybe it’s not my first life.

We destabilized Asia. That’s what we did. We are still trying to deal with the consequences. Mom was ahead of her time.

Then, later, I was in my mid-twenties. It was during Vietnam. There were protests and I was involved in some. Not most. I had a little one and a fulltime job, so there were time limitations.  I had friends, a husband, dogs, cats, and a house where sometimes it seemed the immediate nation congregated every evening. A lively social life.

I pointed out to my mother (like I had just discovered this, silly child) if we weren’t sending all that money to make war in Vietnam, there would be money to do things here, at home. Maybe we could do something about healthcare.

My husband and I went effectively bankrupt following my spine surgery and we had insurance. It didn’t cover everything and my surgery — and the four months in the hospital which followed — was wildly expensive. I remember asking Jeff if we didn’t pay them, would they take me upstairs and re-break my back? Because we couldn’t pay. We were going to have to pay them off, month by month for years to come.

Then Owen was born with two club feet. It was the final blow. Wiped out. We never rebuilt our finances. Even way back in the 1960s and ’70s, my issue was healthcare because everyone thought their work insurance was plenty. They hadn’t had a major medical crisis. They would learn.

But, I digress.

My mother raised an eyebrow and looked at me. She said:

Thus spoke my mother. Because cynicism isn’t always wrong.

I was taken aback. I thought she was being too cynical. But you know? She was right.

Wars end and the war-making money vanishes. Never does it go toward healthcare or education. It just disappears as if it never existed and no one seems to question it.

Just once more, I’d like to hear our politicians across party lines look for ways to do what’s best for the country and the people they serve.

TODAY IS THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

You sure wouldn’t know it by what’s on television.

Not a single movie, documentary or anything. We watched “Oh, What a Lovely War” with a chaser of “The Americanization of Emily.” Garry scoured the listings, but no channel is showing anything related to D-Day.

Not like there aren’t plenty of movies and documentaries from which to choose. So, have we forgotten? Call me weird, but I think this is a day to remember. Always.

Here I am, cynical, skeptical and nobody’s flag-waver reminding everyone that this day was important. It was the beginning of the final stage of the most devastating war in remembered history.


The summary of loss of life, 1937-1945:

    • Military deaths: More than 16,000,000
    • Civilian deaths: More than 45,000,000
    • Total deaths for the war years 1937-1945: More than 61,000,000

I don’t think we should be allowed to forget so quickly, do you?

European border before the first World War
Europe just after WW 2
Europe-circa 1970

Because when we forget, when the lessons we learned are lost. We stand in imminent danger of repeating history. I, for one, think that’s a bad idea. Oh, wait … we ARE in the middle of repeating history.

Lest we forget … this is how it all began. With a world just like the one in which we are living. Today. With leaders who think war is a fine idea.

WAR GAMES – A REBLOG BY JUDY DYKSTRA-BROWN

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

photo with permission by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

War Games

I’m not an island hopper, even in time of war.
Didn’t your mother tell you that’s what a basement’s for?
Wherever you may wander, wherever you may roam,
the best place to dodge missiles is right there in your home.

So reinforce your bunkers, store up delicious rations
so you can withstand war games of the leaders of our nations.
Naughty little spoiled boys who cannot learn to share
will not heed entreaties of those of us who care.

Even our democracy is ruled by a throne.
He gnaws away at joints of beef and throws us all a bone.
With no other agenda than playing at his game,
he does not know the difference between infamy and fame.

So build up your defenses. Reinforce your door,
for he and his rich cronies would profit from a war.
And all…

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COMPROMISE: THE MISSING OPTION – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Compromise

Talk about things that have gone missing from the American — and for that matter, international — scene.

Compromise. The ability for both sides to give a little and get a little until finally, they reach a satisfactory mid-point and everyone is happy with the result. Or, at least, comfortable with the result. Or — sufficiently comfortable to not feel an overwhelming need to ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people to make a political point.

The parallels of what’s going on in the world today, with America functioning as “the leader of the pack,” with what was happening during the 1930s which led to the bloodbath of World War 2 are absolutely terrifying. Do we not remember how it went last time?

Are we so ignorant of even the most recent history to not recognize we are making the same mistakes — again. This time, though, instead of fighting the good fight, America is leading the bad fight. We are not the good guys this time around. Not even close.

Protesters rally in Federal Plaza against the partial government shutdown, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I was sure we’d have come to our collective senses by now, but far from it. Because since our “leader” is such vicious, nationalist, self-centered, racist that he has given permission to the rest of the world to be the assholes they really want to be.

Strip away the manners and the traditions of hospitality and simple good manners? Underneath there is a vicious mean-spirited jerk waiting to come out and destroy his world.

What’s the answer? Is there an answer?

Another alternative to a failure to compromise — not our best choice, maybe?

I have no idea. I don’t think another world war is going to improve life, but that sure looks like where we are heading. That or a massive international depression that will take years from which to recover.

You can take your pick of the option you personally favor, but for myself, I favor photographing the birds at play and at the feeder.

Because anything else just depresses me.

IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH – Rich Paschall

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  If “old acquaintance be forgot” as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered. Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and auld lang syne?

In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world, we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”  It is on our greeting cards and in our songs.  It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I used to read on Christmas Day, to those assembled at noon mass at a nearby church, included a call for world leaders to truly seek world peace.  For this intention, I would say to the congregation, “We pray to the Lord.”  They responded to my prayer by rote, since we have the same response to all our intentions, “Lord hear our prayer.”

The Lord may hear our prayer but I think He surely means for us to work at resolving the conflicts that plague the world.  I am not convinced many really heard the intention or remembered it by the time they hit the pavement an hour later.  Do we want a new beginning or will things continue in the same direction?  Our history for this sort of thing suggests the answer.

Sometimes our world leaders do indeed seem to be making strides for peace, but these strides often suffer reversals when conflicts begin anew as they predictably do.  While Presidents, prime ministers and even royalty call for peace, how many are actually plotting retaliations and wars behind the scenes?  In fact, we would all think our leaders were careless and irresponsible if they were not prepared to take up old battles at a moments notice, or begin new ones if need be.

Even the current Pope, revered for his concerns for the poor, has condemned violent groups and urged the world not to be indifferent to the suffering they have caused.  If we are not to be indifferent, than what are we to do?  Is it a call for those facing conflict to continue the fight?  Is it a call for outsiders to join in?

There are no easy answers to what is left of ISIS, the Taliban, the war lords and terrorist groups. If there had been, I wish we would have employed them by now.  How about closer to home?  What of the racial profiling, police brutality, gun violence and large prison populations?  What of the street gangs and drug cartels?  What of organized crime and the violence they are willing to commit?  How many marches in the street will it take to rid us of the same old acquaintances we know through these oft-repeated scenes?  Will marches alone bring peace to our homeland?

The sad truth of starting each year with a call for peace on earth is we end each year needing to renew the call again.  Perhaps it would be best if old acquaintances could be forgotten, so we could start with a new and clean slate. There are, however, those who can not let go of the hate.  They perpetuate the cultural divide.  They do not wish to give up the fight or extend a hand across the border or the battlefield.  Is this what we were taught?  Did we say “Peace on Earth” when we really meant “Don’t let our enemies get any peace?”  What messages are we really sending when we learn that the greeting card verses are more fiction than fact?

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind?” Perhaps. And perhaps we need to start believing in the simple verses of seasonal songs and bring peace on earth. The answers to our problems are actually there in many of those simple holiday songs.  They have always been there.  It is contained in a four letter word we are afraid to use, especially when it comes to those we perceive as our enemies. Do you know that word?  Love, as in Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. They know on the streets we can not continue to live with the past wrongs, some streets anyway.

Auld Lang Syne, or “old long since” is a Scottish poem by Robert Burns.  It was subsequently set to traditional folk music.  The modern question for us is, “Will we ever ‘take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne’?”

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! 
And give me a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, 
for auld lang syne.

THERE’S A LONG LONG TRAIL A WINDING (WW1) – JOHN MCCORMACK – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Trail

It’s a great song and I remember my mother singing it. In fact, I think we sang it in glee club. All our teachers were old enough to remember “the war to end all wars.”

It didn’t end all or any wars. I think it started more wars … as soon as there were enough men to fight another one.

I’m still, after doing a lot of reading on that war baffled as to how it began. There was little to be gained and much to be lost, especially by the people living in Europe where the battles were fought. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

It was all politics, all national leaders trying to prove that they were the most powerful in Europe and everyone bought more and more weapons.

One day, a shot was fired and a war which virtually wiped out all the men in Europe began. Does it sound vaguely familiar?