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Research & Thoughts

Abortion Debate Updated

Let's start this debate off with a little quote from a well-researched novel about the Church's attitude in 1215.

 

 "Her funeral, too, had to be held outside the church, for her body held an unbaptized infant, and the church must not be defiled." Really? You wanted babies baptized inside the womb? I'm going to say it out loud, because that attitude is so offensive.  Just because Christians believe that every conception is a gift of God doesn't give them the right to regulate someone else's womb. This whole issue about birth control, including abortion, is about a woman's right to choose her time to be a mother.  But it's more than that.  It's against the Christian idea that they have the right to control society.  Normally I have nothing against Christians.  But on this issue I do, and by the time you're done reading this—if you read it with an open mind—you'll understand the debate a little better.  

 

Granted, this opening quote was from 1215 in Italy.  But think about it—is it really so different an attitude than what pro-lifers promote today?  I made a radical comment in a novel I wrote—about a girl out west in the 1800s who was raped by her father, gave birth, and the father strangled the child and never let her see it.  There have been readers who have badmouthed the book and refused to read more because of this event, a pivotal event in a relationship that moves the story further. Why so incensed?  Because it could never possibly happen?  Of course it could.  Had this girl been allowed an abortion, a lot of grief and trauma could have been avoided.  I don't know how they did abortions in the middle 1800s, but by the late 1800s I know that abortion doctors were available.  I found search for another novel set in the 1940s that claimed the use of a morning after drug.

 

But in today's world, we need to factor in emotional maturity, because today's unwed mother is so often left alone to fend for herself.  And pro-lifers refuse to face that fact.  They want to force that woman to bear the child but provide nothing to help her out afterward, unless she is willing to fall on the auspices of their church and plead eternity loyalty to their savior.  

 

Is it any wonder that newly born babies are often found abandoned?

 

If you believe that from the moment an egg is fertilized by sperm its life deserves to be protected until it is born and takes a breath, you're a pro-lifer.  Paul Ryan, former Senator from Wisconsin, wanted to give a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a breathing human being.  This GOP attitude has led to the issues of Justice Scalia saying that the Roe V. Wade protection of abortion got it all wrong. All wrong is from a Christian standpoint. Let me demonstrate.

 

Roe V. Wade's Supreme Court ruling referred to the 14th Amendment's Constitutional right to privacy. That this issue is between a woman and her doctor and no one else -- in effect, no state was then allowed to prohibit abortion because it's interfering in a woman's right to privacy. There's also a phrase in that Amendment that says that all persons have a right to life, liberty and happiness … all "individual persons" was then latched onto and Christians began demanding we see fetuses as individual persons. Ah yes, there's the rub. How is a fetus an individual when it cannot exist outside the mother?

 

That's the issue and there's the compromise. No child in the womb who is able to exist out of the womb can be aborted; that is, deliberately killed. We make the part of this privacy act and we effectively cover all bases. There really are no arguments that don't boil down to this specific comment: Is the fetus an individual? No, not if it cannot sustain itself.

 

It all really boils down to 'none of your business.' Today we're also facing a formula shortage. I mean, how does that even happen, when more women than ever are breast-feeding? Well, it means the formula companies have to scramble to make the product cheaper. I hear one even sickened babies and had to be removed. Not all women can breast-feed. Sadly. It's the best thing for the baby. And now they want to do away with abortion at a time when current babies are a struggle to feed.

 

My strongest argument in favor of birth control, including abortion, is that there is no one more helpless than a newborn infant, an eating machine that at first seems to cry incessantly because he doesn't always know how to eat, or maybe he's simply frustrated, too, at the birthing process and in pain from all the adjustment his body has had to make.  The mother has to have extreme patience in those first months, while dealing with this squawking eating machine, especially if breast-feeding, along with a host of other problems, namely pain and maybe even a little post-partum depression.

 

Add to this the frustration of having a baby you really didn't want, and formula that's hard to find.

 

The problem with calling abortion murder is what happens when a women miscarries. Is anyone going to believe it was accidental? Or does a woman who miscarries automatically become a murderer? Being pro-life puts you on a slippery slope for which there is no real escape. You have to keep defending and defending that position, along with wanting no government interference, which is supposedly a GOP stance -- less government involvement in our lives.

 

Grieving women have a hard time coping with the loss of their lovingly anticipated offspring.  Should we accuse them of murder?  Did they do something wrong, causing the fetus to abort?  Absolutely not.  But how do we know that this mother, whose baby miscarries or dies at birth, really wanted it?  If you outlaw abortion, will ever single prenatal death be called murder?

 

A woman has an abortion not because she's mean, but because she's loving. She knows that her child deserves the right kind of environment. So what happens when you force her to bear young before she's ready?  She may have such a horrifying experience that she never does it again.  So by making her bear one she doesn't want, you are robbing her of the loving experience of having others she does want.

 

Today, a woman needs to be ready, because killing a breathing infant IS murder.

 

Caring is a remarkable feeling and giving birth is a beautiful thing -- if the child is wanted. Yes, adoptive families are most often loving ones (although I have known failures).  Adoptive children fill a gap. But there will always be things about that adopted child the parent will never know, forcing that child out to seek her birth parents.

Abortion has a very long history, indicating that women have always believed they had the right to choose motherhood.  But then Christianity stepped in and made it a forbidden act, by converting those "pagans." Aside from the crime rate caused by unwanted and abused children, do you know what women had to go through before Roe vs. Wade?  Doctors were sought who would perform abortions in closets (figuratively speaking), coat hangers were used by those desperate for do-it-yourself … I would bet some very dangerous substances were ingested as well.  Women died in desperation because of the fear of bringing a child into an undesirable circumstance. And we've mentioned the occasional dead baby found in the garbage, or flushed down the toilet because of the terror of women unable or unready for the responsibility, and fearful of the stigma of pregnancy.  

The point of pro-choice, then, is not to stop people from having babies. Instead it recognizes the seriousness of the mother/child relationship and allows the mother some say when it's her time.  

 

Pro-lifers think everyone has to give birth because they and their God will be offended otherwise.  But their God does not belong to everyone. People who are comfortable with their spirituality have no need to push their beliefs on others, which is what pro-lifers try to do.  

 

No one is forced to have an abortion.  That might be the biggest fallacy out there.  But to say we want to be free to have guns and defend ourselves and in the same breath take away a woman's control of her own body is an arrogance that only an insensitive man can devise.

 

I long for the day when there is no need for abortion, because of easy access to birth control, lots of sexual activity training by the time the girl is menstruating and at that same age for boys, an open conversation and dialog about this most important of duties, and free birth control and morning after drugs readily available.

 

I would rather see Christianity disappear than hear one more of its radicals say that they have the right to stick their hand over another woman's vagina.

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Patience Is Hell

If you have an article or complete novel out there being read by someone in the magazine or publishing world and it's been months and you don't know if they still have it or sent it back or burned it or are laughing themselves silly about it over martinis at one of those sushi bars so you decide to send one of those polite little letters to ask about its status because you've been told it's an okay thing to do – I've just got one word of advice.

 

Don't.

 

If you have given them the amount of time stated that they would get back to you and they haven't gotten back to you, consider it a rejection and move on. I will personally guarantee you that, if they don't tell you how long to wait, and you only wait a month and then write that nice little "can you tell me the status of my submission I'm just curious because maybe it got lost in the ether-world" letter too soon, you will within two weeks get a rejection. 

Happens to me every time.

 

You'd think I'd learn my lesson. Uh-uh. Impatience is a writer's worst enemy. Don't give a publisher a reason to think you'll be "difficult to work with." I can just see old Bill now, he opens the letter, sees my polite query after waiting only four months for word, stamps rejected on the novel that he actually quite enjoyed and sends it back. Do you know how many novels he has to read in a week? Me either. But I do know that there are writers out there who have learned their lesson long before me. And Bill would rather work with them.

 

Because they have patience.

 

I still remember vividly the first time I blew it. Finally, after years of trying, I got a major publisher (Llewellyn) to read my novel. They liked the query, liked the novel, sent it back and asked me to flesh out the characters. So I added another 100 pages. I loved it! We were on our way! Then I had to wait for final word. I kept a journal of my thoughts during this time, can you imagine doing that?  You can? 

 

Here's impatience:

 

October 31st – sent the rewrite out.

November 28th – "hope this isn't a mistake. Am sending out a follow-up to Lewellyn." (See, already I had a clue, but couldn't stop myself.)

December 7th – got the novel back. Form letter rejection.

 

Form letter rejection? After all that?

 

As all we so-far unsuccessful novelists know, sending a novel out to be professionally read is like making out in the back of a VW Beetle. It's that cramped, can't-we-hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with-in-a-good-way kind of feeling. If we could only just think and act like second-time successful novelists the first time, we'd be first time successful novelists by now.

 

Maybe.

 

Once I showed extreme patience and waited a year and then sent a followup. They responded that they had no idea what happened to that novel but if I wanted to, I could send it again. I did. They rejected it after a month. Oh yes, that was a lot better. Like inflating an old tired balloon and then running it over with a truck.

 

So I decided to think professional. I got an agent. Well, actually, she got me. Getting an agent is like waiting for a bus on Sunday, when they don't run on Sunday and you end up walking that five miles to Griffith Park yourself, only to find it's closed on Sunday, too.

 

With an agent I thought it would be a lot easier to wait. And it was in a way, because I wasn't allowed to make the decision of whether or not to do a follow-up letter. And publishers reject more quickly to agents than to writers. But once she got all the rejections she could possibly tolerate on one particular novel, I decided to query e-publishers, figuring emails had a quicker turnaround time. Problem is, I wanted to send a quicker follow-up!

 

Ah, patience is hell.

 

But I've decided that, hereon in, if they like it, they'll let me know. I'm going to start learning from my own experience – and by the way, patience works! I got my first publisher that way. I found out that editors who like my work let me know promptly. It's only those who don't – who don't. 

 

So now, publishers and editors, beware. I will only give you six months – no, wait, four – no, three – oh, okay, six – before I feel free to send that novel or article to someone else. Because if you had been interested, you would have said something by now. Anything. Or, at the very least, wait six months before I gently and kindly ask a status update.

 

You wanna be a writer? Be a patient & considerate writer. Success is worth waiting for.

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Environmental Philosophy #1

"Nature is a life support system that wastes nothing, that requires no resupply, and that humans already belong to, which is why scientists have long tried to recreate it for long-duration space missions." Jessica Camille Aguirre, "Another Green World," Harper's, February 2022, page 37.

 

Which has precedence, human rights or Nature's rights? The answer must involve which of the two can survive without the other. Obviously, since humans try to recreate it, we know the answer. That's why the Sierra Club went after Disney for trying to build in a wilderness. If you're going to build a new complex, build where there's already concrete and abandoned buildings, rather than tearing down more of Nature. There are always vacant lots. Vacant parts of town. Rundown parts of town that humanity has abandoned. Think about what Nature abandons. Nothing. In fact, Nature will try to take back what was taken from Her.

 

The trick is to believe we're hurting Nature to the point where it appears there's no return. She becomes unable to take back, or reclaim from the damage we do to Her. Yes, I capitalize Nature because She's as much a Goddess as any God you claim to believe in. Your god will not keep you alive if Nature dies. That was the subliminal message in the recent movie, "Don't Look Up." It's not just the non-climate-change believers who will suffer from Nature's demise. And there is no better planet where we can migrate to.

 

Nature is real, but saving Her is a philosophy. We need what Nature provides but some seem to think we're above needing Her. Before humans evolved out of Nature they lived as other animals do. Yes, there is the destructive forces of Nature, but these can be referred to as a cleansingeed. Tornadoes, fires, things humans cannot control, the strong conquering the weak, cats eat bunnies type of Nature, all designed to work as part of Her harmony. We are the ones that invent meaning to everything we see, rather than just accepting Nature at face value. We invented our gods to control Nature.

 

And then as thinking humans, we thought we had the right to conquer Nature, to subjugate Her resources until we pollute and destroy ourselves by using Nature as it was not intended to be used. Digging carbon out of the ground for oil means we're using ancient animals that are meant to stay buried. Here are just two examples (the pandemic could be a third) of what we did to ourselves with our abuse of Nature:

 

The Great London Smog of 1952: They didn't even realize it was happening or how many people were dying at the time. Count is as high as 12,000, noted at one site, but varies at others. The cause was extensive burning of high-sulfur coal. I remember playing in a coal bin in our basement in the late 1950s, and today am allergic only to sulfur.

 

Japanese Minamata Disease of 1956: "Minamata disease (M. d.) is methylmercury (MeHg) poisoning that occurred in humans who ingested fish and shellfish contaminated by MeHg discharged in waste water from a chemical plant (Chisso Co. Ltd.). It was in May 1956, that M. d. was first officially "discovered" in Minamata City, south-west region of Japan's Kyushu Island."

 

I've also done research on Lyme Disease and believe chemicals used by humans have come back to bite them in the form of ticks which can walk around unaffected by the chemicals they carry. "All natural resources should be managed to benefit humans," is a plunder resource philosophy. Most of these chemicals are manmade but developed using natural ingredients not meant to be combined. Many people believe, however, that Nature is meant to be controlled, managed and contained, not protected.

 

But if we recognize that we're dead without Nature, why don't we see Nature as more important than we are? What makes us more important than all other species?

 

Well, that self-importance would be hard to answer completely here, but it relates to that idea that we understand mortality and fear death. This fear of death, of being forgotten, has lead to all this progress that's now destroying us. Kant noted, "Only rational beings have moral worth." But what rational being sees a human as more important than that without which he is dead? Instead, let's argue that instinctual species, those that don't fear death or being forgotten cannot commit a wrong. Your cat might show some intelligence, but never fears being forgotten. They may avoid pain but death is accepted.

 

Murdy says that anthropocentrism is justifiable because human beings have a special place in nature, yet Christians say we live outside of paradise because we committed sin, and only after death will we find that paradise again. I think that attitude causes more suicide than the belief in karma, actually. Why destroy the paradise here on earth? Because that's not where Christian paradise is.

 

Humans have intrinsic value because of our awareness. We can see and think about what's going on around us. We can also do something about it. But it's not easy. It means giving up ease of living; we like our plastics. I read recently how Kwik Trip is going to make you bring your own mugs for coffee. That's a step in the direction we need, but it means we all have to remember our mugs. Oh, heavens, life has just gotten harder.

 

I'm going to argue here that in order to save the planet's ecosystem and thus save ourselves, human society needs to become as egalitarian as Nature herself is. There is a reason we call Nature female; because it's the female of every species that dominates. Now you won't find that information online, because there is an incredible difference of opinion. The male appears to dominate, as there is an alpha male in a wolf pack, for example. But it's the female that they're protecting. In your own experience, which cat, the male or female, is the hunter? Which seems to be in control of the other? That's what I mean by dominance. The male is typically bigger and stronger, but in early human societies, matriarchy was the rule. Once men realized they were the ones getting them pregnant, they started to control women and thus their offspring. Try having two female cats in the same household; one needs to be dominant. It has never worked for me. If you have two males, it's a little easier, but if you add a female, one of the males will become dominant and began to mark its territory. The female, however, still rules. I had a two male, one female grouping once. She often got between them and stopped their fighting.

 

We know Nature is destructive. But there's a reason rabbits reproduce so quickly. But if you want to refer to poor people as the rabbits of the world, let me hasten to remind you that humans sit outside of this ecosystem. We are an anomaly, by reason of our desire to control or alter Nature, rather than living within Her. If bunnies outstrip their environment without natural predators, their populations would crash. So would ours. But the planet's human population has been on a downswing and that's a good thing, except that now there's a movement to prevent abortion. Animals naturally abort when the environment around them dictates they won't be able to care for them. Humans have, too, since the beginning of time. Again, religious orders seem to think they have the right to change the Natural way of things.

 

There is also a growing endeavor around the world to use more sustainable products, to turn junk into stuff that has purpose again. Another good trend. Even in poorer places like Gaza, eco-friendly construction materials are being used in a tech firm called GreenCake. So it can be and is being done. What about Africa? Why don't we know more and care more about Africa? That, too, has to change to make our world more egalitarian.

 

Egalitarian means: All people are created equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Socialism is the economic version of this. Communalism is where the leaders are the poorest because they make sure everyone else has enough. And communism in the system we've seen where the leaders are well cared for while the rest at the same level of economic stagnation.

 

There is a very real thing call environmental racism, where the rich can afford to live in cleaner places. An EPA report indicated that ethic and racial minorities are disproportionately exposed to pollutants in air and water. They will take measures to clean it themselves, but there's only so much they can do when the pollutants come from the rich. When I lived in Green Bay, years back, I read about the efforts to lean up the PCBs in the Fox River. But at the same time, the Hmong population continued to fish there, even after the reports came out that the fish were loaded with PCBs. Asking them not to fish was like asking them to change their way of life, something those who still didn't speak English could not do, any more than hunters could see a lyme-infested tick before it bit them.

 

Pushback against climate change issues also includes those who read science skeptic sites that tell them about the cycles of the planet warming and cooling over thousands, even millions of years. (Odd that they accept this and not that the planet is more that 6,000 years old.) Of course we know this was true. We know about glacial effects, about heating and flooding and that alligators used to live in Spitsbergen where they don't anymore. No one is arguing that tornadoes and floods and fires haven't been around for a very long time. What needs to be understood is the kind of death that happens with cancer, with respiratory illness in smog, with diseases that break through from very deep underground when our carbon acts have impacts we don't like to think about, because we are used to our gas-guzzling trucks.

 

Others, like Koonin, noted that "the impact of human influence on the climate is too uncertain, and may be too small, to merit costly action to reduce fossil fuel use. Society, he says, will be able to adapt to warming." Well, I'm not sure we're doing a very good job of that. Not many have moved inland from the coastal areas yet, or out of Florida, where sinkholes suggest that state might just all sink sooner before later.

 

The environmental movements of the 1970s encountered pushback in the 1980s with the wise-use movement, saying that we can achieve a balance between natural sites with need for jobs, energy, food and tourist sites. Sure, maybe. But just who, exactly, is making that determination? Capitalists? Those who view Nature as only resources to exploit? We heard during Trump's administration that all national parks should be opened up to get at those resources. What happened? I'll save that for the next article.

 

My belief is that, in order to save the planet, we have to apply the socialist approach to egalitize (my word) human livelihood. But how would that work? For one, if everyone has equal access to clean surroundings, water, and decent food, will they be more willing to work and do their share? Now I don't intend to go all "imagine no possessions" here, but think about it. Until the global job and pay rates become equalized, where there's no more scrambling to make a living, we won't see the environmental changes to the degree that are being called for today.

 

When I first moved to Madison, alone, to work a $15 per hour job back in 2015, I moved into a low rent district for affordability. My apartment building had two other whites, students, and then they moved out. I was now in an all-black apartment building. The only problem I ever had there, compared to the one I had to move to in 2017, was the amount of litter in the parking lot. That indicates lack of caring due to lack of equality. If you care about where you are, you show that, or your landlords, at least, demand that respect. On the plus side, no one complained about my cat running up and down the stairs like they did at the 2017 apartment; but in their defense, by that time I had two cats running up and down the stairs. They were not in the least intimidating; they were mousers and kept the area free of varmints, but that didn't matter. So if I could move back to one of them, guess which one I'd choose? Where people were friendly in 2015, and liked my cats.

 

The point is that our environment is important to us only if we care about it. In the recent issue of Harper's there's a huge article about how space scientists are trying to recreate Earth's Biome so that we can live on other planets, because, and I quote: "While he doesn't consider himself a pessimist, Staats is increasingly certain that human civilization is on a path to self-destruction. Space colonization, as he sees it, is our only option."

 

Think about what that says. We're going to send humans, who are destroying this planet, into space to recreate our world somewhere else. What makes these space pioneers so sure we won't destroy that, too? What makes this so ironic is that they don't realize that saving a few people with a ton of money (ala the message in Don't Look Up) isn't near as good as saving this planet with that same ton of money. I remember making this same argument in high school way back in 1970.

 

That money would form, and they could provide the leadership on, a socialist network to save this planet. But for some people the only way the learn to care is if some disaster hits them, and even then, they don't wake up. A socialist environment, properly run, like in Denmark, works. The reason Denmark, however, is the cleanest place on the planet is because they have a closed system; limited immigration, 2% black and no national minority group, as we have with Spanish as a second language here. The U.S. is also a much bigger country and thus harder to regulate. England, too, has racist and littering problems, also with limited immigration.

 

So socialist solutions cannot be compared to socialist economic nations, but more to the race to space that should be applied right here at home, in recreating a biome out of a polluted biome.

 

You know this isn't the end of this topic, but only the beginning. I would love to develop this further and will continue to look into the issues raised here, such as who could help lead the way to egalitarian environmentalism so that our planet can be saved. I'll start with those space pioneers. I would love and welcome your thoughts.

 

Sources:

Jessica Camille Aguirre, "Another Green World," Harper's, February 2022, page 37.

Janine Di  Giovanni, "Generation Gaza," Vanity Fair, February, 2022, page 78

Xu Wanting, "Environmental Philosophy." Encyclopedia of Education for Sustainable Development,  http://www.encyclopediaesd.com/blog-1/2018/10/19/environmental-philosophy

"What Does Past Climate Change Tell us," Skepticalscience.com,  https://skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period.htm  

"Environmentalism and Social Change," Cliffnotes.com, studyguides/sociology.

Lakhani and Watts, 2020, "Environmental Justice Means Racial Justice," The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/18/environmental-justice-means-racial-justice-say-activists 

Marianne Lavelle, "A New Book Feeds Climate Doubters," Inside Climate News, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04052021/a-new-book-feeds-climate-doubters-but-scientists-say-the-conclusions-are-misleading-and-out-of-date/ 

Barbara Polivka, "The Great London Smog of 1952," National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29596258/ 

M. Harada, "Minimata Disease," National LIbrary of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7734058/. 

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History Lesson #17: Whose Historic Heritage is it?

We've heard lately of the outrage in teaching the Critical Race Theory (CRT). I personally had no problem with this particular idea IF it is taught to balance what in the past could be called "patriotic history" or conqueror's history.  U.S. history has been taught (as do other nations, no doubt) to show itself in a good light to make us good citizens. I can see blending CRT into a seamless history narrative to show what our country was really like. This is a nation of immigration, of pushing aside native Indians for the land, of importing blacks to work the huge plantations of crops, of throwing off the British yoke of economic oppression for the sake and need to conquer the entire country; all of these things need to be taught in a seamless approach.

 

I read recently in Madison's own Ithmus, a free quality paper they publish monthly (January 2022), something that made me want to look further into what happened to standardized education in this country. I agreed long ago that history needs to be taught with an objective approach, but today's history seems to be further segmented. Ruth Coniff, author of "The Unraveling of public education in Wisconsin," talks about a tribal college in Hayward helping to launch a conservative charter school further south in Oconomowoc -- Lake Country Classical Academy. This school has a "1776 curriculum," Trump's answer to CRT, and she refers to this revelation as shining "a light on the unraveling of public education in Wisconsin." More specifically, this is the unraveling of our historic heritage.

 

The problem may be one of the unregulated education of charter schools. We had a new one open up here in Beloit, called "The Lincoln Academy," which I'll look at further in a moment. But to get more into what has outraged me here into noting the danger of this unraveling of public education, from the viewpoint of these Ojibwe college authorities: "The U.S. government has just shredded Ojibwe knowledge and indigenous knowledge. So for me, the big thing is educational sovereignty. Parents have the right to educate their kids the way they see fit."

 

Yes, they do. At home. If we have a proper educational system, all history being taught would be objective over-arching history, summarizing the experiences of all the people who've lived it, and stimulating the children into looking at their specific interests. But have we ever had that? I came to my history master's degree late in life; in 2006 I was 53 years old. In high school history was my most dreaded subject. Learning dates and names was never my strong suit; still isn't. Did I at that time believe I was being indoctrinated? Perhaps. I had the misfortune of communicating with that history teacher after getting my master's and learned he was a Trump supporter, too, as are many in my high school graduating class. I have never been one to support white supremacy, not ever, though I have voted Republican in the past (not since Reagan's first term, though). And when I attended my first history class, just for fun, with a very liberal history professor while going for my BA in communications, I was both shocked and delighted, and switched my major.

 

While going for my BA in Green Bay, I discovered the horrors of Columbus and began to promote changing Columbus Day to Diversity Day. I still remember my conservative professor, who said to me we shouldn't try to change history. I didn't want to change it, I replied. I just want the truth to be known. These conflicting attitudes indicate that we have history teaching problems yet today.

 

Why can't kids learn real history? Because they might come to hate the U.S.? I didn't. Teachers need to have history sensitivity training, I think, to teach that attitude of the history players is what created those events, and how we're all human. Yes, even Lincoln.

 

"Right to educate how we see fit." Does that pertain to school systems? It shouldn't. Because it's part of what further divides this country into camps. You want a president like Biden to be a moderate, and yet he's got the lowest approval rating ever. Why? Because he can't satisfy a single one of these "camps." Tribal sovereignty wants to establish their own charter schools so they, too, can teach their kids any way they want. This is what Trump's reaction to CRT meant, his insistence that patriotic history is all that matters. This shows how the mis-election of someone who had no business being president continues to erode at that idea that we were or could still be "united states."

 

Coniff speaks strictly from a Wisconsin view. She says that in 2011 Wisconsin's legislature (under a GOP governor) cut per pupil spending by $554 across the state. Per pupil. That's a significant amount. If you were to watch a new T.V. series called "Abbott Elementary," you would see them struggling for lack of funds in a public school. And you would call teachers heroes for struggling against all kinds of odds. Even Democratic Governor Evers has had no luck raising the budget of spending on schools with his Republican legislature; well, you have to blame them as Evers was Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction. But the state continues to funnel money into these charter schools.

 

The situation is complex, we can telling from looking at Coniff's list of what entities can authorize charter schools:

UW's Office of Educational Opportunity, Milwaukee's common council, the chancellors of UW System schools, technical college district boards, the Waukesha county executive, and the state's two tribal colleges -- The College of the Menominee Nation and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College. Imagine all these 'lower case' unnamed people able to say parents have the right to chose how their kids are educated, and the possibility that this choice is racially biased.

 

The one thing I know about history is that there are two (or more) sides to every story. That's the problem with parental choice. What side do they want for their kids? If it's not objective history, it will only further divide us as people trying to live in a single culture. That's almost a laugh, isn't it? A single culture here in the U.S.? But I digress.

 

If a charter school is authorized by any of these lower-case entities, then they qualified for a grant from the state. To be clear, the one in Oconomowoc is a tribal-related entity, but it does not just serve tribal members. This academy's founder, Kristina Vourax, according to Coniff, noted, "We have a mixture of all backgrounds." The burden on the city where these kids come from to fund the school is astronomical, too. What does this do to other schools in the area? Are they operating at a loss?

 

Coniff ends her article with a bit of a whimper. "That cost includes our shared interest in maintaining high-quality public schools for all Wisconsin children." Well, yes it does. But what about solutions? Are there any? I'm suspecting that the normal subjects of reading and writing, and learning math to be able to perform in society are still being taught. Focus is more on computers than it ever was when I was in school. But the most divisive subject is history, and that's my concern here. If charter schools are allowed to teach history any way they want, we have an over-arching regulatory problem. Not that public schools have been doing better. But it sounds like charter schools are being allowed to further divide our historical roots.

 

Let's look at little closer at another example: The Lincoln Academy here in Beloit. Now I have to say, first off, that since moving to Beloit four years ago, our property tax has gone up over $700, and this with no further services added and no further assessment upgrade on our house. We lived in a town in Oconto County for 40 years and never saw more than a $100 increase /decrease in any given year. Can we relate this increase to educational changes?

 

I went to this charter school's website and learn they call themselves a "public charter."  Here's what I found about that designation:

 

A public charter school is a school that's publicly funded, free to attend, and run by independent contracts. Often, people will confuse public charter schools with private schools, but they are quite different in terms of funding, accessibility, and structure. Whereas public charters are free for students to attend, private schools are tuition-based and aren't regulated by the government. Private schools also tend to have looser regulatory standards, whereas public charters need to uphold an agreed-upon charter that's set up by a board. Public charter schools are also different from traditional public schools. Contrary to some myths, the biggest difference between the two isn't that they're regulated; it's how they're regulated. Traditional public schools follow a strict set of guidelines that are set by the school district. Public charter schools still need to follow federal laws and regulations, but they're not tied to a district school board. Instead, they follow guidelines that are set up by a separate, independent board. 

 

That would explain that increase in our property taxes, and no, we had no say. My husband said our Republican legislature had that say for us. Then I took a look at the curriculum, K through high school, and not a single history class to be found anywhere. How is not teaching history a solution?

 

Be assured that if objective history is not being taught at any grade level, people will pick and choose what to believe about our nation's history. Here's a good comment about how history is being taught today, and it appears it hasn't changed in 50 years:

 

Currently, most students learn history as a set narrative—a process that reinforces the mistaken idea that the past can be synthesized into a single, standardized chronicle of several hundred pages. This teaching pretends that there is a uniform collective story, which is akin to saying everyone remembers events the same.

 

Okay, this article was dated 2015, but that's not all that long ago, just previous to Trump.

 

I tried to sell an article on political correctness once, where I make the point that history teachers need better training so they know how to teach history. Instead of banning Mark Twain from the classroom, figuring out how to explain the racism in our history could have a positive impact on students, especially with the explanation about how we're all better people for understanding that we're all human. History is a humanities issue, after all. I don't understand how hard that can be. We ban what we don't want to face, what makes us uncomfortable, or can show us in a negative light. We need to see that negative light throughout our history to understand our country today.

 

One problem noted was that "When historians begin to explain and interpret facts and events, they are using their personal judgments and opinions." If they are trained properly, they will learn how to interpret those events using only the attitudes of those who lived and created those events, not their own. Maybe that's what we're missing today. No one should interpret the past with today's viewpoints.

 

No, it's not possible to teach everything about every immigration pattern or indigenous prehistory. Is it even possible to give them a sense of belonging to this world? Of course it is. If history teachers are taught to be objective, it will be amazing what they can teach. If they are freed of the restrictions of pretending that that our "American" history can do no wrong, then true immigration and true native indigenous history will emerge. It has to. Because that's what this country is.

 

Sources in addition to Ithmus:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/the-problem-with-history-classes/387823/

 

https://www.thelincolnacademybeloit.com/ 

 

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/readers-respond/bs-ed-rr-history-instruction-letter-20210629-nmnfpbrbk5hjbmpgq2k6ctf2ae-story.html 

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Using Attitude to Clarify Controversial History

We all know controversy. It's when we can't agree on something that happened and argue about it. Most people argue about things that happened that cannot be known for sure. Controversy is defined as "a disputation concerning a matter of opinion."  This means that no real answer can be found, and people argue what they believe to be true. It's like arguing that your God is the real God because you believe it. There's no way to establish that as fact; even NDEs can be argued as being nothing more than dreams based on a person's beliefs. Sirhan's denied parole again today for killing Bobby Kennedy indicates people don't want to visit that controversial proof that Sirhan could NOT have fired the killing shot, because, boy, what a kettle of worms that would open.

 

In "controversial history," as I will define it here, there is a way to use attitude of the people who made history to find out why things happened the way they did.  One way, of course, is by sharing both sides to every story and staying completely objective, as I tried to do in "Civil War & Bloody Peace," just following the orders and showing responses formed by attitudes. History should never be just about what happened. Dates, names and places. These have been forced on kids to memorize, without an understanding of the event itself.

 

The problem with American history, in general, is that historical events contain so much hidden attitude.  We don't want to think that our motives were ever anything but noble, so we don't get into too much depth over why events happened. We know Custer died at the Little Bighorn, and as a result, the Indians lost the Black Hills. But why?

 

That's the question we have to keep asking until we get at the truth. Many historians believe they'll never know the real reason Custer died at the Little Bighorn, and they don't want to believe what Grant had to do to get the Black Hills. Questions remain because we cannot see the whole picture without attitude. It's controversial, because it contains information that people really don't want to know.  Attitude that creates the why is what people seem to believe we can't possibly ever know, anyway.

 

In a way, we can't. I can't say for a fact that Lincoln was so involved in the Civil War because he felt guilty for secession coming over his election. There will never be a fact in that attitude unless we find it in his handwriting somewhere.  But when we infer this attitude based on the fact that secession happened because he was elected -- and we apply logic, as in, wouldn't you feel guilty? -- then we can make sense of a lot of his decisions over those four years.  

 

Making sense of history is what helps us to understand why something happened. Finding out why something happened is the only way we can learn from history. We always hear this; people who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well, how do we learn if we don't explore reasons why something happened? And how do we learn the why if we don't look for attitude?

 

So controversial history is history using attitude that brings new light to the pieces of fact that don't otherwise fit together. Things that make complete sense because of what people who were involved in an event stood to gain from the event going a certain way is what made President Grant the instigator of the Little Bighorn, as you'll see following those events in "Civil War & Bloody Peace." Making an event make sense by looking at the attitudes of the participants also clarifies so much of what happened in the 1960s, as you'll see in "From Lincoln to Trump," and why things happened as they did after that. Think we had a handle on Civil Rights? Then how did we get a resurgence of white supremacism under Trump? How do we now see minority voting rights being threatened? Why are the minorities in this country the most at risk in the pandemic? If A + B doesn't equal C, then the event is not making sense. We cannot know the attitudes of people, but we can infer them by their actions, by what they deemed important.

 

Controversial history is also learning how the U.S. as a country, with many leaders and an over-arching guiding principle of free market, capitalism and Democracy, has made so many mistakes and bad decisions in the name of resource capital. Let's call it Uncle Sam, so we're not picking on a political party here.  Now Uncle Sam seems like a shining example of freedom to the world, and people come here to escape oppression. All well and good. But we have history that we have not learned from because we don't teach it, we hide it from view;  Uncle Sam doesn't like to tell people why he does things the way he does. Yes, the American dream is to get rich. Anybody can, right? That is the U.S. myth that so many buy into. Doctors come here from socialist countries because they can make more here. All my doctors last year had foreign accents. All of them.

 

Nearly since the creation of the U.S., big business has been in control, and rich people are more ordained than made.  There are examples, of course, of people rising from poverty due to innovation, just as there are those who were born rich and squandered it all. John Mackay is one; due to the Comstock in Virginia City, he became one of the ten richest in the world in the 1800s, but a rare man who retained that goodness to him. There are those who are rich enough to buy a political seat only to be on the inside where they can get richer. And those resources? Uncle Sam decides that if he can control another country through a petty dictator, our country will thrive. Who cares about them, right? Our cries of freedom become tarnished.  The labor (and that's the rest of us) are kept as little more than slaves to the system.

 

Uncle Sam, you see, was the last industrial nation to free its slaves; even Russia freed its serfs before slavery ended here. That's a fact that you won't hear in history class. And the attitude? Racism is caused by the dominant group (whites) not wanting competition and liking cheap labor. Slavery now is little more than being sucked into a system where you can never get ahead, because you're too busy struggling to make ends meet, and being kept there by a system regulated by business. And we have immigration problems because business likes cheap labor. Except that lately, politicians don't like how immigrants vote, so obstruct immigration, leading to a lack of labor; businesses can't find people, because they don't want more voters voting Democrat. The system has opened up its internal flaws, and we all suffer.

 

Uncle Sam, however, will continue to insist that anyone can get rich. We've all heard those stories of people who have invented the next great thing. Or won the lottery. It's like self-publishing a novel that actually turns out to be a million seller. Or trying to become the next great screenwriter, opposing a closed system.

 

All of this that I've just discussed is controversial history. There is no way to prove that we are all basically being held back by Uncle Sam's capitalism, right? This has been an on-going debate for a long time, and there are no real answers to offer. Free guns for all, that's freedom, isn't it? People will point to the socialist system and say it's no better. Where do all the bright minds and great inventions seem to emerge? The U.S., right? Although in today's world, it feels the U.S. is being surpassed in many ways by China, and being thwarted on the international front by Russia.

 

What I offer, as a historian, are answers to controversial historical events that have been puzzling historians since they happened. Answers will emerge by the application of another piece of information pertaining to the event that has been either unknown or that Uncle Sam does not want you to know. That, too, is attitude.  

 

And while you might say that the addition of this information doesn't make this new "why" a fact, I think you'll see that it becomes hard to look at that event any other way anymore.  Because fact with attitude makes sense.

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Became a Fanfic Authorized Novelist

Back in 1992 I was head of "the Bonanza Board" on Prodigy's internet site. I had found no other Bonanza fan sites and since I had just started writing Bonanza fanfic for a western fanzine, craved communicating with other fans.  

 

It was a different kind of internet back then.  There was email but no IM'ing and the sites did not send email from other people directly into your inbox.  Instead, you had to link onto the public bulletin board to read what others wrote to your posts.

 

I got nearly an immediate response to the start of this Bonanza fan site, and the first online Bonanza-dom was born. Inside that universe I found what I did not expect -- all the anger toward Pernell Roberts (Adam) for leaving the show. I openly confessed there that after Roberts left I lost interest in the show, so many of those who came together under this Prodigy roof began to revile me.  I remember my son Adam getting on my computer to blast at people who were blasting me.

 

In early 1993, with several short stories published and a Bonanza novel idea conjured, I heard that they were making a new Bonanza TV movie. This fueled the fire in me to write a movie script. But immediately after hearing about the movie I thought this would be the perfect time to sell my Bonanza stories, as part of my goal as a published writer. So I found David Dortort's address in the Who's Who at the library and wrote, telling him about the Prodigy Bonanza Board where fans gathered to talk about the show. I sent him a fanfic story I'd written along with a brief story of how Bonanza saved me life several times, and my goal of keeping the series alive and picking up new fans along the way.

 

Now the story of my life might not be unusual to some, but it caught his eye. I told him that Ben Cartwright, and not my parents, taught me how to be a parent, someone who does not play favorites with their children, as my parents and their parents had done. I also told him that I had three children, which had been my goal because of Bonanza, and also that my sons' names were Adam and Bennett (Ben) and husband's name was Joe.  Coincidence?  My daughter, however, would not let us call her Hoss. All three of my children possess qualities similar in birth order to the three Cartwrights. Bonanza saved my life by helping me recover from the death of my sister and my dad, and also helped me to stop smoking.

 

I didn't really expect a response.  His show had tons of fans after all, as I was coming to learn firsthand, and he probably got tons of letters like mine.

 

In June, I was contacted through the Prodigy board by Danny Sarnoff, assistant producer of the Bonanza TV movie, Bonanza the Return, and the Bonanza retrospect due to air that November.  He told me that Mr. Dortort would be in touch with me shortly. Of course you can imagine my reaction - I jumped out of my chair, ran upstairs, ignored the supper burning and dragged my husband down to see if it really said what I thought it said! 

 

Thus began Sarnoff's correspondence with my fan board. He wanted our help, you see, sent there by Dortort to get the pulse of the fan world. Sarnoff, as Dortort's rep, wanted us to help choose favorite clips to use in the Retrospect. We had months of fun with this, but the pending specials also led to more angry discussions when fans realized that Mitch Vogel and David Canary would be ignored in the movie and not given much attention in the Retrospect.

 

I also emailed privately with Sarnoff, and heard about problems with filming along the way, including trying to get Pernell to host the retrospect (he wanted too much money ws what I was told).  Sarnoff also agreed to read the script I'd written for a potential second TV movie, impressed that I'd written it even before the first movie aired.  Well, heck, if you know Bonanza, you know Bonanza, right?  Once I heard about the characters, I knew I could write them.

 

By the end of that month I received my first letter from Mr. Dortort.  He was extremely gracious in his response, while delivering bad news.  He told me that he appreciated my writing, but that Stephen Calder had an exclusive contract to write Bonanza novels through the end of 1994.  Now, no offense to Calder (or the two writers who comprise the pen name), but it seemed Calder never saw the show but once or twice and penned westerns, rather than historicals, which is what Bonanza was. Undaunted, I felt Dortort should at least consider my movie script. I sent a copy to Sarnoff, but also sent one to David. 

 

Meanwhile the Board anticipated these big Bonanza events -- we even saw mention of our Prodigy board in one of the national news promotion articles! And we were all delightfully surprised that both the movie and retrospect pulled in good ratings; the movie was #6 for the week and the Retrospect in the top 20.

 

After the fun was over, David told me that the second Bonanza movie script was already chosen but he appreciated my interest in writing one. Feeling I had a much better script than the first and maybe even the second, I queried NBC and various production companies who might be willing to look at it.  But I understood their reluctance. You see, in my script I brought Adam back to the ranch to 'die.'  I felt sure Pernell Roberts would relish killing Adam off. He'd never had a farewell on the series. I kept in touch with David, telling him all the places I was sending the script, and I kept telling him that I just knew Pernell would do this script.  

 

In the meantime the second movie bombed and it seemed no one would take a chance on making a Bonanza movie again -- unless, I figured, we could convince Pernell to be a part of it.

 

For three years I continued these efforts, in the meantime going back to college to get a B.A. in history and finishing other writing projects, during which time my brother Bill moved to Los Angeles. I thought about visiting him, and knocking on some producers' doors; I also wrote some other, non-Bonanza movie scripts. I wrote to David in April 1996, telling him I was going to be in LA and would he like to talk about the Bonanza script in person? He wrote back, gave me his phone number and told me to call him when I got to town.

 

I booked my plane ticket that same day.  

 

Bill worked as an 'extra' for movies and television. I stayed at his little apartment, where he didn't have any furniture except a TV where he could watch Christian broadcasting. He gave me his mattress on the floor and slept on a blanket. I called all kinds of agents and producers about my other scripts, but the goal was to talk to David about the 'perfect' Bonanza sequel movie script. My hand shook as I dialed his phone number.  He answered the phone and sounded glad to hear I'd made it to town; we set up a 2 p.m. meeting at his house.

 

Since I had to find my way to his house, near UCLA, on a bus, I got to campus at 11 a.m. I followed his directions until I stopped in front of the big wrought iron gates, with an intercom button to announce my arrival. But I still had over two hours to wait. So I took a walk on the UCLA campus. I bought a bottle of water, read a while, and looked for a restroom.  

 

To make a long story short(er), I got lost on the UCLA campus! 

 

It happened during my search for a restroom. Finally after a long walk with the fear of entering a strange college building, and with no gas station around that I could find, I found a movie house that was open. But the women's restroom was broke, so I had to use the men's. When I came out, I must have been in a hurry and turned the wrong way. All I had to do was find that bus stop and I could find my way back to Dortort's house. 

 

Well, there must be more than one bus stop because everyone gave me different directions.  My feet hurt, my makeup ran, I was sweating out of every pore on this hot June day in the black clothes I wore. Swearing, sweating, crying, at 1:45 I finally found the bus stop. I took off my shoes and ran with nyloned feet in the grass along the side of Wilshire Boulevard. 

 

I could imagine what people were thinking – "she must be making a movie."

 

Somehow, I managed to ring Mr. Dortort's intercom bell at 2:00 p.m.

 

The intercom clicked on.  "Hello?"

 

"Hello, Mr. Dortort?!"

 

"Yes?"

 

"It's Monette, here for our 2:00 meeting?"

 

"Oh yes." I jumped back as the iron fence opened.

 

Then it was all uphill. The Dortorts lived on the top of a hill with a driveway winding around a beautifully tended garden of all kinds of flowers. At the top of the driveway, which did nothing to help me get my breath back, I saw David and Rose Dortort standing in front of their house, waiting for me.

 

As I reached them I shook their hands in a kind of stuttered greeting, and then David took me in his arms and gave me a big Bonanza hug.  One of the basic things to know about David is his extreme devotion to Bonanza and to all who love it. If there is one man in the world who is proud of his legacy, it was David Dortort (he died in 2010), and his affectionate nature is part of what made Bonanza great.

 

They took me inside the most wonderful house I'd ever had the pleasure to visit, big rooms, dark oak trim, but I didn't get a tour. Instead David took me into his library -- walls and walls of books, the sight of which made this Bonanza writer sigh -- and we got down to business.

 

David has such a friendly face, so when the first words he spoke came out in anger I nearly bolted from the house. "What did you think you were doing, sending that script out to studios without my permission? Do you always do things the hard way?"

 

Stunned and suddenly so scared I stammered in response, "I guess so, Mr. Dortort.  But...what's the easy way?  No one's ever told me."

 

 Well, that made him laugh. I tried to explain that I kept him informed of every place I sent it, all the while hoping to convince him to read it. I was even more unprepared for the next thing he said. "So what do you hear from Pernell?"

 

 I think the world stopped at that moment. I understood immediately what I'd done and wanted nothing more than a big rock to crawl under.

 

"You said you knew Pernell would do this script. Did he tell you that? Has he read it?"

 

By telling Mr. Dortort, "I just know Pernell would do this," he got the idea that I knew Pernell personally.  

I explained that I felt Pernell would want a chance to get the 'goodbye' on the show he never had. I gave David all the reasons I could think of why I thought that. And then he opened up. For the next two hours, David talked. He told me things I'm not sure he's ever shared. I didn't record him or even write things down, because I felt he wouldn't be comfortable. The gist of it was that he recognized that even though Ben Cartwright never played favorites, he did -- and he regretted not recognizing it at the time. 

 

He told me that the episode, "the Gamble," credited to Landon, was mostly his, that he was proud of getting Landon started on his very lucrative writing and producing career.  But no, since the day Pernell left, he has not been in touch. And that, along with timing, allowed me in his house.  He had hoped -- and I let him down -- that I could help bridge that gap with Pernell.

 

But he also loved my script. He finally did read it, you see, once he realized I was coming to LA. He said my capture of the characters was right on. But he wanted a rewrite. He didn't think we were going to get Pernell for anything more than a cameo. He didn't know if we could get it made, because the second Bonanza movie bombed. And yes, he also knew why -- they had to re-cast the actor who played Adam Jr. Alistair McDougall had been hugely popular with the fans but he got picked to do a TV pilot and backed out of the second movie. The second Adam Jr. looked too much like a Little Joe fan.

 

He talked about the two of us writing another script together, and in the months that followed, we did that by mail and by phone, until Adam was no longer in the script at all. Pernell never responded to either of us. Then I got the idea that David was embarrassed to have been working with me at all, because  he told me to never tell anyone -- which is also what Sarnoff told me. The last script idea David had was to write a Hoss script where Dirk Blocker would play both Hoss and Hoss's son. He felt bad that he didn't have Dirk Blocker play Hoss's son in the two movies. But Dirk was excellent in the role he did have. I couldn't do it. I told him that.  So even though he agreed to let me publish Felling of the Sons for 10% of the royalties, he decided we could no longer write together.

 

Neither I nor my agent could find a traditional publisher for Felling of the Sons because the Calder novels did so poorly. But I did stay in touch with David over the years, and even though at times he could be a little cruel, most of my memories of communications with him are positive ones. I remember many times listening to him rant and rave about Beth Sullivan's new series, Ponderosa, the prequel to Bonanza. I even sent two of my scripts to the series producer, but with bad timing -- too late for first season and the series never got a second season.

 

We also talked on the phone about Mystic Fire, my second Bonanza novel.  I got permission from Bonanza Ventures to produce and publish this within two years of the contract, but since I had just started back to school to get a master's in history, I asked David to amend that and he did, to 'whenever I get it available.'  He didn't like me going for my history master's though, which surprised me. I felt it made me a better researcher.

 

Because of this master's degree, I feel Mystic Fire has a lot more validity as historical fiction, showing Lincoln for what he was really like in 1862, something I could not have done without better research on my nonfiction book on the Civil War. He loved that I knew so much about the Civil War, too, because he considered himself the eminent Civil War historian of his day in Hollywood. I was able to deliver him a copy of Mystic Fire in September, 2009, the year before he died.  But I'll never know what he thought of it. He said he though Felling read too much like episodes from the series -- and I took that as a compliment.

 

And now, though he's gone, I continue to try to keep Bonanza out there and help draw in more fans for the series. Because that's what it's all about; the series is important, more than my writing. With hope that the future of Bonanza is as secure in the hands of its fans as it was in the heart and mind of its creator, a man who recognized that we're all human, we make mistakes, but not in loving the four Cartwrights, who still represent pure family moral values. That and the fact that it was the first color TV drama means it should never go out of style.

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Christmas Came Anyway

We anxiously awaited Christmas of 1967, my brothers and sisters and I, then a young teen. We never would have guessed that by the time Christmas had arrived our lives would be permanently altered. I was 14.

 

After our parents' early December Florida vacation our holiday festivities got underway. Dad decided we should get the tree early this year -- had he already some idea that something was wrong? We went to Rawhide Boys Camp as we had the year before, with the idea of making it a yearly tradition. This ranch gave customers a festive, old-fashioned Christmas, with a sleigh ride out to the grove of trees, allowing us to walk around and pick one out, Dad fielding the six different opinions over which one was perfect and then choosing his own -- the hot chocolate, hot dogs and donuts afterward. It may have been the last happy, perfect day of my childhood.

 

Dad and I had always been close. It could have been because I was his eldest daughter, or because we seemed to think and laugh alike – Bugs Bunny, Pink Panther – even that movie called Salt and Pepper that didn't seem the least funny to me watching it without him. With growing unease I watched him call his doctor about a pain shooting down his left arm, only a few days after returning from Rawhide.

 

The next day he was in the hospital preparing for surgery.

 

The Christmas season should have ground to a halt, but it didn't. With news that dad's surgery had gone well, we made up for lost time getting Christmas ready to come as scheduled. Even without Dad's persistent singing to lead us on, we managed to relearn all our favorite Christmas songs. My brothers ventured to the rooftop to get the lights up around the outside of the house -- crooked, but secure. The Christmas tree went up in the basement for the first time. We planned it as a special welcome home for Dad, because he had been working so hard to get the basement recreation room done, with a painted Hawaiian scene on the cement wall, and even a running waterfall -- neither quite done. The shower that he put in worked, though, and it was a blessed relief from taking baths all the time.

 

Shortly before he was to be released, we were told he'd need another operation. The first one didn't "take." That Christmas Eve Day Mom spent at the hospital, waiting. The five of us kids had to sit home and endure the worst kind of wondering, mostly silent, not reaching out to each other but buried in pain. I kept thinking how Dad would miss us this Christmas Eve, miss telling us the Christmas Story from the Bible, miss leading us on all our favorite songs with all the lights out except the tree, and miss most of all helping Mom with the cookies and eggnog --helping to devour them, that is. Dad was still a boy at heart, and this was his favorite time of year. He was only 41.

 

"It's not fair!" That scream kept echoing in my head. I had pleaded with Mom whenever she called to let me come to the hospital, too. I wanted to tell Dad not to worry -- there'd be more Christmases.

 

Mom did say we could come, but only I and my older brother were old enough to be allowed in the room. My aunt and uncle picked us up. I was glad to go, but our other brother was only a year younger than me and he hated being left behind. How could hospitals be so mean on Christmas Eve, I wondered. 

 

When we met Mom in the waiting room I was surprised to see so many of Dad's relatives there, all from out of town except for Uncle Clarence. He lived close by, but I never got to see him enough. Dad came from a big family, and his mom was as playful as he was. But not that not. She was a widow who lost her husband when her youngest was only two. I wanted to cheer her up and tell her that won't happen again. But I couldn't.

 

Mom hugged us and led Marty into Dad's room. I saw the Christmas poster I had made for him in art class hanging on the outside of his door. "He can't see it there," I said to no one in particular. 

 

Relatives made hushed small talk. I didn't listen.

 

Suddenly Mom was there for my turn. I followed her into his room. I had hoped to see him sitting up, like last time. Instead he just lie there in bed, an oxygen mask over his face. He looked at me and I could see his eyes light up. I smiled at him but couldn't think of a thing to say. "What about next Christmas," I thought, but suddenly it didn't seem right to say it. I took his hand.

 

"You look so pretty," he said to me. 

 

My eyes clouded up. Does he even know what day it is? "You'll be okay, Daddy." I finally said. I couldn't take my eyes off him as Mom led me away. No, that can't be all. You have to say more, some fatherly advice. But nothing more came out of me. Or him, that night.

 

In a heavy daze the five of us kids got through that evening. One of us read the Christmas story. One of us started singing, only to stop after a few lines. My little sisters, ages 3 and 6, noticed our mood, and Mom and Dad being gone, but for them the tree was the thing. So we tried to be excited with them. In immense relief I buried myself under the covers that night, grasping at the little bit of hope I could find. "Surely, he'll be fine," I reasoned. "Dreams are given on Christmas Eve, not taken away."

 

I felt myself shaken awake what could have been just minutes later. It was Mom, and it was a little after midnight. Telling me that Dad had died.

 

Did I sleep again? I'm not sure. I could only think about Dad's face, remembering his smile, his crazy sense of humor, all the love he had for us and everyone around him. I wouldn't allow the tears. Not yet. I had to keep that reality away, at least for awhile.

 

Someone called my name the next morning and I wandered slowly down the basement to the tree. I stared at the unfinished Hawaiian landscape and saw a 41-year-old man's dream had ended. I couldn't see the tree anymore --I couldn't see anything.

 

Mom hugged me and sat me down by the tree. Finally I wiped my eyes and saw that my sisters and brothers were opening their gifts, my aunt and uncle and Dad's mom were there, and they were smiling and hugging. And I could hear the songs playing in the background. Already the mess under the tree was huge. I reached out for my turn, but there really wasn't anything I wanted. Not under that tree.

 

Mom handed me a present. "Come on, honey, enjoy. Your Dad would want you to."

 

I looked around at everyone's faces, and though I saw sadness, I also saw joy. The present said, "from Dad." It was the slim gold watch I had wanted, with an inscription, "Love forever, Dad."

 

Dad wasn't gone, not really. He would never die for me. As tears streamed down my face I put the watch on, hand shaking, and held it to my ear, hearing it tick. I felt his love as strong as ever.

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Rants Against Self-Publishing -- by a self-published author

 

I first began this vendetta decades ago when the friend of a friend thought she could write a novel, just by sitting down and writing it. So she did, and then she self-published it. This was before KDP so I don't know what she used or how much she spent. She then published another, and it was worse. She quit, because she only wanted to call herself an author.

 

I started writing novels in 1984 and I'm still writing them today and I wish I didn't have to compete with people like that.

 

Just recently I read a book by a fellow who gave me a free copy and asked for a 100% honest review. Well the formatting was terrible, for starters, but I gave him a fair read anyway. Usually I just toss those aside. It was a self-help book designed to help people break out of their rut. And it wasn't too bad, all things considered, until I got to his rant against perfectionism. "See this book? It's full of errors. But at least I can say I'm an author!"

 

That, along with his free use of the word "shit" in the book, brought his review down to 2 stars. Sadly he has mostly five stars. I see that a lot. Crappy books getting five-star reviews. So maybe all we need to be a "great author" is a ton of friends. Or find ways to pay for reviews. I see this all the time at Goodreads. People begging you to review their book. I get the sample. And I delete the sample. (I recommend everyone get the sample of my books, too, by the way. Perfect way to find out what suits you.)

 

Here's a short take on the beginning of my authoring adventure. Starting in 1998 through about 2002 I had the makings of a pretty good writing career. I was getting articles and short stories published, for pay, had my first Bonanza novel published by a small press and was getting ready to write the second.  I was an authorized Bonanza novelist, given me by the series creator, David Dortort (he died in 2010 but we remained good friends). And I developed good contact with Bonanza readers through the various Bonanza conventions and my online activities. I had other books I was writing, and I was agented. I thought my future looked secure.

 

Then I decided to get a master's in history, and by the time I got out, in 2006, this writing career had collapsed. I published the second Bonanza novel with the same publisher in 2009, but then it took me until 2015 to get my third book published, and guess what? I did it at Amazon—yeah, I self-published. But wait! Before you judge—Dancing with Cannibals is co-authored, and he got tired of waiting and released it with someone else as editor. The book was half mine, but he didn't care. I made Amazon take that illegal copy down, and put the right one up, with another couple edits, of course, and a better cover created by my graphics talented son Adam.

 

Can I blame self-publishing for my woes? Not directly, not at first. I was busy with research and working and marketing my major nonfiction developed while getting my masters (so yes, I can blame my masters; Dortort told me not to go, but it made me a better researcher. That's it.) I tend to allow myself to be pulled in many directions at the same time, classic Type A -- now mind you, all the while continuing my stage work. But I am also constantly submitting to markets, and while I got a few contracts offered in this period, none were good enough. I even got one on Dancing but Spartan was brand new and, I think, a college experiment. I don't think they exist anymore. I didn't like that they were trying to maximize the size of the book with bad formatting to offer it for a higher price. I told Dicho we're doomed if we allow badly formatted books to be published.

 

So while I continue to tell people that you don't need an agent to find a traditional publisher, not all small presses are good either.  I have rejected more contracts than I've accepted. Small presses sometimes exist to take advantage of us who feel we are "too good" to self-publish. But do not submit to publishers with the hopes that you'll get a free edit from them and then look to cancel the contract and use the edits. That's wrong, too, and what small presses also fear. There are good small presses. Keep looking. That's what I'm doing. If I ever want to give up on this writing career, the rest of my materials will be given to Amazon, and I will walk away. I keep saying that, but not seeing my ability to actually do that.

 

My main rant about self-publishing is addressed at those who don't care how flawed their book is; they feel they are guaranteed readers as soon as they publish, and then wonder where the money is. Trust me, the money is not automatic when you're published. Shades of Gray is an anomaly. It's not going to happen to you.  Before you get too angry, I have to tell you that I don't write this because I want the self-publishing trend destroyed.  I only want people to write books for the right reasons, and not just to publish and say that they're authors. I want readers to be assured that if something is in print, it deserves to be read.  

 

Are self-published novels good enough to be read? That's the trend I want to see. Wannabe authors think they have something brilliant, so they hurry. Stop. Ask yourself: Did I edit it at least four times? Find at least two readers who aren't family? If you don't have a good enough grasp of English, did you get an editor? Submit to at least two publishers? This is really a good idea because getting responses will help you hone it even more. Go through the submission process first. You might get lucky. You might have something they've been looking for. Don't be lulled by the idea that if you self-publish ALL the money is yours. Big deal -- all of nothing.

 

Writers who become authors without paying their dues; that's what I'm against.  

 

Self-publishing, including by Amazon, has cheapened the publishing world with people looking to get rich fast; they think a writing career is the way to go.  Look at it this way:  Imagine you were starting to make good money as a symphony conductor after years of study and practice, and all of a sudden just anyone walks up out of the audience and takes over, and for a lot less money, too.  Sure, the band wouldn't sound as good, but the audience already bought their ticket, and they might get a good chuckle, anyway. There goes the career you worked so long and hard at, because now just anyone can do it.

 

Is my writing really to blame, and I'm casting around for a scapegoat?  Perhaps.  Perhaps I cannot stand the extra competition, like I once did, or I'm eaten with jealousy when I hear yet another vampire novel getting all the attention.  But as a historian who sits on the fence between professional and amateur, I know that if I want to lean to the professional side, I have to lean away from self-publishing.  At the same time, I'm not a professor who doesn't mind giving their work away to an academic press, either. I got two offers that way, neither of which would give me anything back.

 

I don't discourage people who seek writing careers from self-publishing. I've have two books I'll be putting up at Amazon myself in 2022.  My point is simple: don't throw your stuff out there before it's ready.  If you don't have the goal of being a writer for life, for all that it's worth, then you are cheapening the market for all writers and readers by putting crap out there.

 

There is no substitute for doing the work. Any novel that hasn't had at least four edits and two non-family readers is not ready for self-publication, no matter how good you think you are.  Self-publishing can ruin more potential careers than it can ever hope to help.  The biggest problem is that there are no gatekeepers -- no one to tell you if the book is ready, or good enough. Can you trust your own judgment?  

 

Self-published authors (there are always exceptions) produce and promote work that is not ready to be published.  They are not good judges of their own work. I know this as fact, because I have had three requests in a row asking for me to review their published books, and in each I could not get past the first chapter.  

 

Having independent beta readers is more important for fiction than nonfiction. The two I will publish in 2022 are nonfiction: one is the second copper resource manual and the second is local history. I have a dedicated market for both. You cannot say that for any fiction novel, even if it's genre. You're entering a heavy flowing stream there.

 

Be proud that you were able to write a book.  But be proud enough of that book to want to make it as good as you can.  When all you do is write a first draft, do a spellcheck, and then publish, you do the world, and your book, an injustice.  It's like ripping a month-old fetus from your womb, putting a pair of shoes on it and saying, now get out there and make something of yourself. Print a copy, and red-pen edit the book. Read it aloud. But even that's not enough, if you're not a good judge of your work. It takes time, sometimes a long time, to become a good writer, and become savvy about your work. It happens to very few overnight. "But I'm tired of editing it." Really? Then maybe the book's not as good as you think. "Felling of the Sons" was edited over 20 times before it got published, and I loved reading it every time.

 

There's only one thing that's a sure thing: You control your book, and what happens to its future. Don't turn readers off by competing for their time with sloppy work. It just hurts all of us. That reader might never buy another book.

 

ADVICE to readers: Most self-published authors have ebooks to offer. Always take a sample read first. If you don't have an ebook, download Amazon's free Kindle reader to your computer and/or to your phone. You will often see mistakes on the first page, and let that alarm you but read the whole sample. Can you get past the errors because the book captivates you? Also, make a habit of reading the lowest reviews received. If they sound valid and make sense, believe them.  (Except for fanfic like mine – that's often jealousy talking. There the three-star reviews would be the most valid.)

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History Lesson #16: Pop & Politics of the '60s

These days we tend to think of the 1960s as an era of riots and protests, and for good reason. Assassinations of three (four including Malcolm X) major political figures trying to fight for civil rights and wanting to end the Vietnam War created a malstorm of sadness, unrest and protests. I will explore that era more closely through three questions on my mind about that time. I hadn't even graduated high school by 1970 so I wasn't as engaged as I could have been and yearn to know more.

 

One, did JFK's assassination open the door to the British Invasion?

 

Two, did John Lennon's comment about being more popular than Jesus -- which led to record burning in the bible belt, while Dems there were already turning Republican after the Civil Rights Act -- open the door to the popularity of the Monkees?

 

Three, did the killing of RFK and MLK lead to the first occurrence of popular singers protesting the government and the war in Vietnam?

 

Let's start with this last one, which is the easiest to answer. Protest songs have been around for most of the 1900s. Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit in 1939, a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish Communist who then set the poem to music. He wanted to expose the brutality of racism in the U.S., juxtaposing idyllic Southern landscape scenes with descriptions of lynchings. Holliday began performing the song but was afraid of retaliation. The song became a literal show stopper; she was required to perform it only as her last number of the night. Columbia Records wouldn't record it, so Commodore did and it sold a million copies. You can find her recording at this link. Strange Fruit

 

Some believe the 1755 song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was a protest song. But it was written by the British to make fun of the "Yankee" colonists, so as such, really doesn't meet what we would see as commoners protesting societal acts, which is how I'd define protest music. Anyway, let's stick with the 1900s here.

 

Woody Guthrie wrong and sang "This Land is Your Land" in 1944. He did not like "God Bless America," calling it a smug song. He wanted to question that notion of private land ownership, while pointing out that the country suffered from poverty and inequality. The last line, instead of "this land was made for you and me," he originally wrote "God blessed America for me." A few might know that Woody was Arlo Guthrie's dad (Alice's Restaurant), a hippie of the '60s. Here's the link to Woodie's song. This Land Is Your Land

 

These and other singers of that period, such as Lead Belly, did not see that kind of uprising of protests we would later become familiar with in the 1960s. One website quote puts these early songs in perspective: "Unafraid to speak up against injustice, the best protest songs take on the issues of their day, but transcend their eras to speak to future generations." We can see those early songs sparking the later protest rebels.

 

The babyboomer generation formed the core of that generation in the 1960s, but one thing we need to get straight right off is that these "hippies" formed only a small percentage of their generation. Still, this large audience made and responded more openly to protest songs, as the later protests of the '60s demonstrated. We would see a lot of racial demonstrations in the '50s, but to get a great white involvement waited until after JFK was killed.

 

For instance, you've likely never heard of A. Philip Randolph. He organized the first black march on Washington back in 1941. Note how this came shortly after Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit. The March was never held, however, because FDR met a part of their demand to end federal employment discrimination. Randolph was the one who inspired Martin Luther King (MLK), whose march in August 1963 was organized by Randolph.

 

Bob Dylan, easily the protest solo artist of the '60s, appears to be the influence on all who came after him, but one would need a book on his life to find who influenced him. He wrote Masters of War in 1963, before King's march. He was quoted as saying:

 

"I've never really written anything like that before… I don't sing songs which hope people will die, but I couldn't help it in this one. The song is a sort of striking out, a reaction to the last straw, a feeling of what can you do?"

It's an angry song, the young Dylan obviously incensed by a feeling of helplessness as the United States became entangled in international affairs – Cuba, Vietnam – for reasons he considered to be self-serving. In a 2001 interview with USA Today he explained it was "supposed to be a pacifistic song against war," adding, "It's not an anti-war song. It's speaking against what Eisenhower was calling a military-industrial complex as he was making his exit from the presidency. That spirit was in the air, and I picked it up." You can hear Master of War at https://youtu.be/JEmI_FT4YHU.

 

"The spirit was in the air." He wrote that song the same year that Kennedy was killed. Many want to believe in Oswald as a solo killer, and I don't blame them, because it's easier to accept. But Kennedy was killed three weeks after Diem's assassination in Vietnam by the CIA, an act that JFK did not sanction. We don't know where he would have gone from there. We never will.

 

It is interesting, though, that Dylan would have written an anti-war song at a time we were not officially at war. The Cold War was an unofficial bristling, to put it succinctly. Since Dylan's song was released in the spring of 1963 we might expect what he felt in the air was related to the Cuban Missile Crises the previous October.

 

Dylan made an interesting statement shortly after the assassination when he accepted the "Tom Paine Award" from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee at a ceremony on December 13, 1963. According to those who were there "a drunken, rambling Dylan questioned the role of the committee, insulted its members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself (and of every man) in assassin Lee Harvey Oswald."

 

The Babyboomers were quite literally raised on Bob Dylan, rock 'n roll, and protest songs. I doubt few of us will forget Eve of Destruction, or many of the others, including Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth. 

 

The Beatles, then, were actually latecomers to protest music. I believe their innocent exuberance started to change when John Lennon made the comment that got the Dixie South in an uproar. As Dylan sang in his brilliant protest song, "The times, they are a'changing," what happened in the South was also because of Johnson passing Kennedy's Civil Rights Act. He lost the support of the South, and knew he would, too. 

 

Because of that, perhaps, Johnson instead jumped more deeply into the Vietnam War. Southern Dixicrats turned Republican, and reacted the most violently to John Lennon making an innocuous comment in London that March that "We're more popular than Jesus." He felt Christianity would shrink and eventually disappear. It was just an observation, but the reaction to it demonstrates the Christian Right's takeover of the South. Today those states are solidly voting red, a complete switch from the '60s.

 

Here's more on what happened. Mark Murrman of Mother Jones magazine wrote: "Early August 1966, Christian groups, primarily in the Southern United States, took to the streets to burn the sin out of their beloved Beatles records in response to John Lennon's remark that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." This controversy broke in the U.S. late that July, just before they were to begin a 14-city concert tour in North America.

 

The riot against the Beatles began when two Alabama DJs aired the comment and announced a ban on playing their music, encouraging listeners to burn or otherwise destroy their records. The ban went up the East Coast, into New Jersey, with some politicians demanding their concerts be canceled. The Beatles held a press conference previous to their Chicago concert in mid-August and John tried to explain the comment. Privately he admitted he'd had enough.

 

In Chicago it went well, and generally all through the Midwest, although there were a few bonfires in Detroit. Even the KKK got into the act, as it had probably become well known by then that the Beatles would not play before a segregated audience.

 

To answer the second question, The Monkees TV series first aired on September 12th, only a month later, and the pilot had the infamous scene of Mike throwing at dart at a poster of the Beatles. Actually the series was nearly dead in the water; first conceived long before this, in the fall of 1965 as a response to "A Hard Day's Night." The networks weren't big on the pilot until they added the interviews of Mike Nesmith, with his down-home Texas accent, and Davy Jones, who'd pretty much been a star back home in England already. The pilot itself didn't air until week 10. So the dart at the Beatles was planned before the Jesus comment. The pilot was seriously over the top, though, and was saved to air in week 10.

 

The Monkees' success was nearly immediate with Last Train to Clarksville, an lighter protest song against the Vietnam War, was released on August 16th, eventually to hit #1. Would they have become so popular, though, had not the Beatles suffered that diminished support? I was one who threw them over for the Monkees when I was 14.

 

The Monkees brought us back, for a little while, to our earlier innocence, until they began to revolt against the world that had created them. But their popularity appears due to the Beatles controversy the same way the Beatles benefited from collective U.S. sorrow.

 

So let's answer that first question, if we can. Were the Beatles also in the right time and place after JFK's death? It came so close on the heels of that assassination that you don't have to look far to find people who believe the Beatles broke us out of our collective mourning, a mourning soon forgotten, too, as the Vietnam war heated up.

 

The Beatles' advent into the U.S. was actually delayed by the assassination. They were to be introduced on TV on 11/22/63 on the Evening News with Walter Cronkite, but that report got bumped. Ed Sullivan had already seen the crazy reaction in London earlier and planned to book them in February.

 

No radio station wanted to play their music, however.

 

That changed in December, after CBS ran the story on December 10th without much fanfare. One girl who watched, 15-year-old Marsha Albert of Maryland, called her favorite disc jockey and demanded to start hearing Beatles songs on the radio. Carroll James, the DJ, got hold of a copy of "I want to hold your hand," and had her come into the studio to help introduce it.

 

After he played it, requests to hear it again started pouring into the station. So, in this respect, you might want to see the Beatles as having a hand in helping us overcome our collective sadness. Who made those calls? One, it turns out, living in Illinois, was George Harrison's sister, Louise, who made calls over and over demanding to hear their music. The more the music played, however, the more the calls came in.

 

By the time the Beatles arrived on February 7th, they had four songs on the top of the U.S. charts. But most people (including me) still had not heard of them until they were on Ed Sullivan. Since those songs did not sell themselves, did this author mean those older folk and kids like me hadn't heard of them? Or did it not take much to be on the top of the charts back then?

 

Hylton did not end his analysis agreeing with me about overcoming collective sadness. But just who lit up the switchboard at that radio station, asking for that song over and over?

 

You'll find no end of disagreement over this issue. Just purely coincidence, most people say. Coincidence? Most pivotal events in history are connected in some way to what came before.

 

Jack Paar planned to introduce them as a joke, and did so in January, 1964, a month before they appeared on Sullivan. He quipped:

 

"I never knew that these boys would change the history of the world's music, which they did," recalls Paar. "I thought it was funny."

 

Did the joke become something more because JFK died? Of course, we can never be sure. But we do know that the '60s were a decade of change, as Dylan sang in one of his best protest songs. Those of us who were young, and who lived it, will always wonder about these impacts on our lives. Coincidence? As a historian, I don't think so.

 

I don't know if I've connected any historical dots for you, but for me, this puts the '60s into a little clearer focus. The babyboomers, as all generations, are products of their times.

 

Sources:

 

 https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/best-protest-songs-history/. 

 

 Author, From Lincoln to Trump: a political transformation, 107 & 134.

 

 https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/best-protest-songs-history/. 

 

 https://jfkfacts.org/bob-dylan-on-the-death-of-jfk/ You can read that statement as you wish, but for me he meant that we all killed him. In his song, Murder Most Foul, written in 2020, he alludes to something more sinister than many accept of the killings in the '60s. https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/03/27/bob-dylan-jfk-murder-most-foul. 

 

 https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2016/05/25_most_powerful_protest_songs.html - you can see here for others, but they left off several I felt should be here.

 

 Author, From Lincoln to Trump, 140.

 

 Author, From Lincoln to Trump, various references.

 

 https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/burn-beatles-records-lennon-jesus/#:~:text=Early%20August%201966%2C%20Christian%20groups%2C%20primarily%20in%20the,that%20the%20Beatles%20were%20%E2%80%9Cmore%20popular%20than%20Jesus.%E2%80%9D 

 

 https://www.pophistorydig.com/topics/burn-the-beatles-1966/ 

 

 https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-monkees-mn0000478603/biography. 

 

 Jack Hamilton, 2013, https://slate.com/culture/2013/11/kennedys-assassination-the-beatles-and-phil-spector-nov-22-1963-was-a-bad-day-for-history-and-a-great-day-for-music.html 

 

 J. Gordon Hylton, 2014, https://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2014/02/the-link-between-the-kennedy-assassination-and-the-onset-of-beatlemania/ 

 

 https://calendar.songfacts.com/january/3/675. 

 

https://brokenheartcasm.com/2755/?fbclid=IwAR0ZfM8h84qzd4TQUKcz8dytWdwFceDhXwq6ETvzwLUPIsoFNtA9GITpzqU

 

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Deadline: The Play


ACT ONE
SCENE I:

SETTING: The afterlife realm. A bare stage for
all scenes, with various props that
will be used throughout, and five desks with desk chairs.

Signs over two exits:

UR - exit into next life after deadline. DL - entrance into afterlife stage.

Looking into the audience is observing real-time events on earth.

AT RISE: Curtain is closed. Background
music is low, light and airy. JFK
wanders from DL in front of curtain, confused, unsure of how he got here or where he is.

JFK:
So I'm dead?

(Peers into the audience, and is shocked. He rubs the back of his neck.)

Damnit. I'm dead.
(Frustrated, looks up into
lights, yelling at God.)
I've got things to do! I want to pass Civil Rights and make affirmative action a thing! I have a dinner date with Castro!
(suddenly sad)
Removing Diem was not my idea.

(Behind him the curtain opens.
The set is as described.

MAN 1 and WOMAN 1 are on stage and walk toward each other from opposite ends, stare at each other, and then walk off again, DR and UL.)

(JFK watches them, puts up a
finger to talk, stops.)

At least I'm not alone. Maybe I can still work on the world's problems here.

(He walks to a small gray bare
desk.)

Starting from scratch, I guess. But heck, what else do I have to do? Where's the rocking chair?

(Feels his back, stretches)

Hey, the pain is gone.

(Looks out into audience)

Was I a threat? To who? Anyone know? Where is this? Why am I here?

(MAN 2 runs on stage from UL,
trying to hide his head from
being chopped by WOMAN 2 who
pursues him with a fake axe.)

Excuse me! Can you tell me where I am?

(MAN 2 turns to look at him,
while WOMAN 2 puts the ax
head down and leans on it,
waiting. She doesn't look at
JFK.)

MAN 2:
You're a victim. Of a society you tried to fix, or control.

JFK:
Considering how I died, I guess that's true. But I didn't try to control, I don't think. I just wanted better things for all of us. Is that why I'm here? Why are you here?

MAN 2:
You have a different reason than me. I died normal. If you call having a piano fall on you normal. But someone found you a threat. That means you have to prepare. You get a desk. And a deadline. If you don't …
(he shrugs)

WOMAN 2:
COMPREHEND! COMPREHEND!

(MAN 2 covers his head again as WOMAN 2 screeches that word over and over. She chases him off stage DR.)

JFK:
I have to prepare. Right. For what? Who's ever prepared for what happens to them? I'm no different. I just want … more. Different. Change.
(Stares at a desk)
I think this is the afterlife. Or heaven. But where are the trumpets? I thought I was supposed to be greeted by loved ones, not victims and … angry women.

(Looks at audience and
reacts as though slapped)

Whoa. Looks like I'll get to meet my murderer, too.

(Picks up a piece of paper
and reads aloud.)

"Human events as they are, it seems we must not only act, but listen. Not only do, but refuse to do. See things as they are, not as we want them to be. And know change can come within an eternity." A. Lincoln.
(Drops the paper)
Abraham Lincoln is here, too?

(MAN 4 as victim walks on
stage DL, pulling MAN 3,
priest, who looks frightened.)

Oh, thank God. Excuse me, Father, I need some advice. Can you tell me why I'm here? I think there's been a mistake.

MAN 3:
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

JFK:
That man they shot. He didn't kill me, did he.

MAN 3:
You might not ever know. And you won't meet him here. Wrong level.

MAN 4:
You are in denial. It will pass. But don't worry, you'll learn.
(smiles evilly at Man 3)
We all learn here, no matter what level we're on.

(They walk to UL, after a
complete circular walk, Man 3 is shoved into exit. Man 4
keeps walking, then skips off
UR. He ignores JFK putting up
a hand for one last question.)

JFK:
Be prepared to learn. Okay, I can do that. Wait, this isn't hell, is it? Purgatory maybe. I wasn't that bad. But do we ever really know? I tried … I tried to heal … all wounds. Didn't I?

(walks to another desk and
picks up a paper. Reads
quote slowly, nods until the
last line.)

The things which will destroy a nation...Politics without principle; Pleasure without conscience; Wealth without work; Knowledge without character; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Business without morality; beauty without intelligence. Oh, that's just ridiculous. You can be pretty without needing a degree. How does that destroy a nation?
(Looks at paper again)
Wow, Gandhi's here, too?

(MAN 3 as priest runs on stage DR, hands covering his collar, as MAN 5 chases him with a scissors. Props are big but fake. They run around once and then off again UL.

JFK watches them run, and
then, arms out, gets a
distressed look on his face.)

Wait! Help me! You're destroying my faith in my religion!

(His hands go up to his own
throat, in a sort of
imitation of when he was
shot.)

I'm feeling … really … funny….

(His fists clench as he grows
angry. SCREAMING with rage,
he looks around, runs to a
chair, picks it up and
prepares to throw it.)

BLACKOUT (We hear a CRASH.)

SCENE II:

AT RISE: (GANDHI stands by his desk DL, making
final notes in a notebook. He reads
to himself, looks very satisfied. He
puts the notebook down and walks to
center stage, takes one last look
at the audience.)

(JFK enters UL with a golf
club, swinging it wildly. His
teeth are clenched.

He almost hits Gandhi, but
Gandhi shows no fear.)

JFK:
Stay out of my way, Gandhi! You write that crap on that table?

(Points at the quote he read
earlier.)

GHANDI:
(To Audience)
The end is always beginning.

JFK:
Oh, you think you're so smart.

GHANDI:
No one thinks they are. Just the opposite. But with a project to take to the next life, we have less to fear. I no longer know what landed me here. But that's as it should be. Was I too nice to people? Can death emerge from nicety? I don't know why, but that's my next life's goal.

(Starts to walk UR.)

JFK:
Hey, where are you going? I'm not done with you yet.

(He pounds the golf club on the ground as though beating
someone up. This should be
plastic or rubber.)

(A large GONG sounds. Both look up.)

GHANDI:
Deadline. I made it. I'm expected to save trees this time. People have no gratitude for nature or that without which they would die. Air. Water. Life. Human life wastes too much. While saving trees I … (his mouth moves but we no longer hear him.)

(GHANDI exits UR. Lights
flash and loud APPLAUSE is
heard.)

(MAN 4 and WOMAN 2 enter DL in different costumes. She is holding a hanging rope over him. He is slinking along on his back using his knees. MAN 4 wears a Hitler mustache and gives the audience a horrified look as one arm shoots forward in a Nazi salute.)

JFK:
(following them)
How long I gotta stay here? I got stuff to do. Castro was only going fishing! Hey, they look familiar.

(They ignore him and continue
out UL.

JFK drops the club and
sinks to his knees.)

JFK:
Jackie lost the baby! Where is Patrick!? Is he here?

(WOMAN 3 comes out and stands
staring at him, arms crossed
against her chest. She walks
up to him as he gets on his
hands and knees.)

WOMAN 3:
I had a cocker spaniel with better manners than you. VICTIM!

(She knees him in the ribs
and walks on. JFK falls
sideways.

She looks over her shoulder
and runs off UL. JFK sits up
and looks at audience.)

JFK:
More soldiers? You can't win that war! Pull out, pull out! Lyndon, did you have me killed? Did Castro? Did … dammit, I didn't deserve to die that way! Damn, Bobby was right about you, Lyndon. I never should have picked you. I didn't need Texas. I didn't need anyone!

(picks up golf club, takes a
golf stance, and starts
swinging violently again.)

JFK:
If we hesitate, if we question, it will be too late. We must be prepared to back up the command even to the point of war. Oh, I wanted to see John John and Carolyn grow up.
(Yells at audience, shaking
his club at them.)
Go after them, Bobby, don't let them get away. Whoever them is.
Ignore the problem and it WILL go away! Damn that Jackie - why didn't she tell me she was so smart?

(MAN 5 comes out DR, eating a
bag of plain M&Ms.)

MAN 5:
There's nothing wrong with fat if it's managed well. We all gotta die sometime.

(WOMAN 5 runs on stage from DL with a rolling pin, ready to bash MAN 5 over the head. She chases him around the stage. She catches up, passes him, but keeps running as though she's still behind him.

In the meantime, 3 other PEOPLE (kids if possible, extras with no lines) walk on stage and around in a circle, in a daze, like zombies (but they can dress normal). Woman 5 and Man 5 run in and out and around them.)

(JFK whoops and hollers and chases after them, swinging the golf club. All mass chaos. Dialog below during above action.)

JFK:
Sanctions!

MAN 5:
Donut!

WOMAN 5:
One life to live!

JFK:
Quarantine!

MAN 5:
War monger!

WOMAN 5:
Yellow Fever!

JFK:
Civil Rights!

(JFK stops and glares at the
audience as everyone freezes.)

JFK:
Write your congressman for more information.

(The 3 zombie people exit UL.
WOMAN 5 chases MAN 5 out UR.

JFK follows zombies but can't
Exit. He tries and WOMAN 4
who is larger than him comes
out pushing him backward. His
hands are in the air, as
though a gun is at his chest.)

JFK:
I'm going to kill you.

WOMAN 4:
Oh yeah?
(She slaps her hands together
sharply. JFK clutches his
neck and falls to his knees.
More sounds of GUNFIRE (OR A
SERIES OF SLAPS) offstage, as
if a battle is raging.

On the ending shot WOMAN 4 falls to the ground and lies motionless.)

(WOMAN 2 and MAN 2 dressed in white come out UL singing (HELP! or director's choice) and drag her off DR.

WOMAN 3 and MAN 3 come out DR as JFK stares off after the dead woman. JFK makes a choking motion as they start talking.)

 

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