Should you be among the vast legions of loyal Gamut readers who read and preserved last week’s column you will no doubt have committed to memory the conversation between our contemporary Adam and Eve, ergo Jim and Peg, concerning the glories of spring.
Unfortunately, another of those readers was Peg. Usually she just types up my burnt offerings as rapidly as she can without deigning to take the slightest note. However, since her name was mentioned she actually read and was not amused by last week’s “Fair and Balanced” exposition of hers and my differing approaches to the Earth’s yearly awakening. Peg has demanded a retraction in lieu of filing a lawsuit or worse.
I spent at least five seconds resisting her unreasonable and incessant demands then remembered what Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) wrote:
The Female of the Species
WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
‘Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other’s tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!
But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.
She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!
So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.
And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.
(Thanks to my friend Sam Blankenship for directing me to this warning.)
Anyway, Gentle Readers (at least of the male persuasion), I am confident you will agree with me on two points: (1) Peg was dead wrong; and, (2) I would be foolish to say so!
When God took a rib from Adam and made Eve He started us down a slippery slope. I may not have been in The Garden of Eden but I am pretty sure I know how the first conversation between a man and a woman transpired:
Adam: That is the most beautiful apple tree in the history of the world!
Eve: It needs to be pruned and it looks like some of those apples are ready for picking. Since you were here first, you do it.
Adam: I have never seen a finer fig tree.
Eve: Somebody needs to pull off some of those leaves so I can weave them into a new dress. You are taller than I am, you pull them off. By the way, what’s a dress?
Adam: Isn’t it great to have all this to ourselves?
Eve: It’s about time you quit just cavorting around as if you were in Paradise and helped me take care of these kids. And don’t give me that excuse about watching football. Tom Brady hasn’t even been drafted yet.
Adam: Would it be asking too much for you to maybe fix a meal?
Eve: A meal! Here, have a bite of this apple I just had you pick.
Actually, Gentle Reader, I was not thinking about the Genesis of life but the beginning of the never ending spring at JPeg Ranch and my own Eve’s inability to see anything that doesn’t involve a job for me that just has to be done right now or our home will crumble like the Tower of Babel.
For example, with this glorious February weather I thought Peg and I would both enjoy a peaceful walk about our rural home. I was half right.
Jim: Isn’t this marvelous weather?
Peg: Do you believe all the sticks and limbs that blew down this winter? I guess I’ll probably have to gather them all up myself. Of course, since you’re so much stronger than I am, you might want to do it?
Jim: Boy, the pond is sure clear. Maybe I should grab a rod and reel and try for a fish or two.
Peg: Or, you could help me put the fountain back in. However, since you weren’t around when I took it out, I’ll probably just do it myself, even though it would be a lot easier for you to reach the cable since you’re taller.
Jim: Don’t you think this weekend would be a good time to just build a fire out of that wood you want me to pick up and watch the spring flowers gradually appear?
Peg: If you mean those early dandelions, sure. Maybe this year you’ll get some of them before they reach beanstalk status.
Oh well, so much for an early Spring in Paradise.
I do not play the bugle so any veteran’s farewell from me must come in words. I wrote this tribute to Gene McCoy, Harold Cox and all Korean War Veterans in September 2005. When my friend Gene McCoy passed away February 12 (Lincoln’s birthday), I was reminded of his many years of service to the rest of us about which I had written twelve years ago. Gene told me then he appreciated the bon mots. Because he was such a considerate friend, I am confident he would say the same thing now.
AN UNKNOWN VICTORY
You name the WAR:
Two countries are created from one by the greatest military power in the world and are monitored by the United Nations;
One country led by a ruthless dictator invades the other in spite of the United Nations warnings not to;
The Secretary General of the United Nations declares, “This is a war against the United Nations.”;
A United States President leads a coalition of world leaders to unite to drive the invaders out and re-establish the status quo;
An American general was placed in charge of the United Nations forces;
While many countries offered some help, the American military provided more than half of a million personnel in the war;
The aggressors were driven out of and liberty was restored to the invaded country; and
The mission for which Americans fought and died was accomplished.
If you said The Gulf War of 1990-1991, that is understandable. Almost all Americans supported that war and recognized that victory. However, I am talking about the Korean War of 1950-1953. It too was a great victory for American and United Nations interests and helped prevent World War III. We owe a huge debt to our Korean War veterans.
Two of those heroes (they just hate to be called that but, hey, it’s my column and facts are facts) are Posey County natives and brothers-in-law Harold Cox and Gene McCoy.
Harold fought with the U.S. Army’s 25th Division which suffered many casualties and bore much of the fighting in Korea. Harold was an infantry rifleman and was the jeep driver for his company commander.
Gene was a combat engineer with the Army’s 84th Engineers Battalion and, also, served as a courier/mail deliverer.
Harold was on the frontlines and Gene was building wooden bridges about 1000 yards behind those lines. Gene says Harold had it a lot rougher than Gene.
Both suffered the 20 below zero cold, the stifling heat and humidity, the loneliness, home sickness and fear in what those not there called a “police action.”
Harold said one of his worst memories, outside of dodging enemy mortar rounds for a solid year of combat, was the stench of the human waste the impoverished Koreans would save all winter and fertilize their rice paddies with in the spring. Gene, also, mentioned that nauseating smell and the mud and flooding caused by the lack of vegetation due to constant shelling.
When Gene first arrived in Korea they put his outfit on a train which stopped frequently. Each time it stopped the young soldiers were given a few rounds of ammunition and ordered out to guard the train from sabotage. Gene said this initiation to Korea was more than a little unsettling.
Harold told me that the traffic signs in the war were a bit more to the point than those back home. On one particularly dangerous stretch of road a sign advised:
“Get your ____ in gear and drive like ____! The NK can see you.”
Harold paid attention.
Harold and Gene came home and re-started their lives. Harold served as Mt. Vernon’s Water Superintendent for several years in the 1980’s and1990’s. Gene served as a Mt. Vernon City Councilman and the Posey County Recorder. Gene is (in 2005) currently Posey County’s Veterans Affairs Officer. They both raised families and went on publicly as if there had been no Korean War. However, privately what General Douglas MacArthur called “the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield” never left their consciousness.
Of course, there was a Korean War and it helped save you and me from another world war. It was a largely unappreciated “mission accomplished.” Thank you Harold and Gene and all your fellow Korean War veterans.
As General MacArthur might have said, both the old song and those it honors quietly fade away:
Sun has set, shadows come,
Soldier rest, your race is run.
Last year was spent observing grown people who were seeking to lead and inform the Free World calling each other names. This year has begun with little promise of a different approach. One might say the adults we have hired to govern us and those who are paid millions to report about them are all acting like children. However, my memories of childhood belie that comparison. It seems to me our leaders and their detractors would benefit from a re-taking of grade school where the rules were clear: Get along or get out; Pay attention or pay the consequences; Tell the truth or be quiet; and the Golden Rule of Describing Others – If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything!
The reasons these rules sound so familiar is because they have been the touchstone for civilized behavior since we came out of our caves. They are valid, easy to remember and rarely applied. That is why we keep having to re-learn them, the hard way. Sometimes the re-learning only costs embarrassment; sometimes it takes economic catastrophe or even war.
Gentle Reader, are you about fed up with politicians and news anchors engaging in behaviors that would get them stood in the corner if they were in grade school? Are we not paying enough in taxes and for advertised products to get a functioning government and civilized language and demeanor?
There is a solution. Turn off the television!
If the politicians and pundits have no audience they will have no reason to play to it.
Peg and I have made a concentrated effort to eschew the nightly diatribes and do other things with our time. Of course Peg, being Peg, has taken advantage of this to find even more tasks that I must get done. That’s okay; it’s better than watching adults engage in a perpetual food fight.
P.S. For a more advanced exposition of this theory see the Robert Fulghum book
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
“Love” and “hate” have become meaningless. Not too long ago, say before the pervasiveness of cable TV, most humans, especially male humans, reserved “I love you/it/them, etc.” for those few special people and things we actually did love. “I hate you/it/them, etc.” was only applied to those rare persons and things we had a personal reason to hate.
Now everyone “loves” everything from certain soft drinks to ball teams and “hates” everything else. Love and hate are applied like a coat of paint to everything that we used to “like” or “dislike”.
And when it comes to commenting on the words or actions of others, say public officials, the national news media no longer takes the effort to produce facts which might prove a statement careless or incorrect, now the shortcut is to assert all statements are “false” or “lies”.
This deterioration in communication is probably due to our human need to keep others in those places we believe they should stay. And since we may no longer beat down our opponents with ad hominem appellations, i.e., politically incorrect terms, we just say they speak with forked tongues. This development was an unintended consequence of the p.c. movement.
No one may be publicly denigrated or even described by gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, physical attributes or age without exposing the speaker to a cacophony of boos from the political correctness police. I say good! As one who grew up in a legally segregated state at a period in history when only Anglo-Saxon males were judged worthy, I say America has taken several steps forward since World War II. It is instructive that our notions of acceptable speech now make it unwise to set out, even in a newspaper column condemning prejudicial slang, examples of such hurtful words as …. Well, you may supply your own.
However, we humans appear to be incapable of not ascribing bad motives to those with whom we disagree. And now, since we cannot rely upon demeaning terms as short-hand for those we despise or even just disagree with, we have turned to saying we hate them, they are liars, their premises are false and their motives are suspect. For some sociologically implausible rationale, it is reprehensible to refer to persons by catch phrases but perfectly fine to assert they are motivated by avarice and evil designs or have the morals of Wylie Coyote.
The national news media of today would never use politically incorrect terms for public officials but also seldom report what the officials say without gratuitously stating it is false. Setting out the facts and leaving it to the viewer or listener to come to her/his own conclusions does not seem to occur to the national media. One need only turn on the nightly news on any given evening to see how we have progressed in politically correct speech and regressed in consideration for differences in opinions.
Another interesting phenomenon has been the gradual merging of male and female speech. Until social pressure forced men to speak less paternalistically and chauvinistically, women were rarely heard, at least publicly, engaging in demeaning terminology. However, if one observes the plethora of female news anchors on today’s airwaves, venomous attacks, often factually unsupported ones, pour out without regard to the gender of the anchors.
And it is not just the media. Many of us, at least it seems to me, are now so bereft of acceptable demeaning terms for those unlike ourselves, we must seek to bring them down to our level by other means. We are uncomfortable not being able to differentiate “us” from “them”.
This phenomenon has been years in the making and is not the province of just one sociological group or political party. I recall when Congressman Joe Wilson, who still represents South Carolina, during President Obama’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress in September 2009 publicly yelled at the president, “You lie!” And I find it difficult to watch CNN anymore as they assert virtually every statement by President Trump is, “False!”, without giving any supporting data for their accusations.
I do not wish for a return to those Jim Crow days when any group one claimed to be a part of felt comfortable denigrating any other group. However, perhaps we have exchanged politically incorrect speech for terms every bit as demeaning to individuals and perhaps even more dangerous to our democracy.
Dr. Weaver, a Posey County, Indiana physician, and Judge Parrett, the Posey Circuit Court Judge when our courthouse was built in 1876, were friends. If Dr. Weaver could step into an operating room of a hospital today he would be unable to function. If Judge Parrett walked into the same courtroom he presided over 141 years ago, he would not miss a beat. Medicine has progressed. Law remains much as it has been for centuries. However, starting in April 2017 citizens in Posey County who need legal services will see a change much like Dr. Weaver’s new operating room.
No longer will one need to be chained to a courthouse to file legal documents or check on the status of their case. E-Filing and digital pleadings will soon take the place of musty old file folders. The legal profession has often seen changes in the law as a dangerous meddling with carefully and slowly developed procedures that are based on years of experience, good and bad. Lady Justice has always worn the same blindfold and toga for good reason. She carefully guards the courthouse portals.
This attitude has sometimes led to arcane mysteries that stultify the system and result in slow or incomplete legal outcomes or even unjust ones. Perhaps modern technology will help staunch the flow of inordinate amounts of legal documents, much of which are irrelevant to just resolutions, and will reduce the time between when cases are commenced and resolved.
Instead of citizens getting their knowledge of their legal system at the coffee shop or from television, much as patients used to turn to home remedies and wives tales, now one will be able to go right to the actual source.
Of course, changes in trappings and procedures do not guarantee justice. We might be able to increase access to the legal system while we reduce costs and delays. But justice must still come from people, not just the staffs of the Clerk and the Court, or the attorneys and judges, but also from the lay people who come to or are brought to the Bar.
Regardless of legal procedures and technologies, a desire in the participants to fairly resolve controversies always has been and always will be the best safeguard of justice. Truthful testimony and pre-trial exchanges of accurate information mean far more than scanning in pleadings or printing out court decrees over the Internet.
On the other hand, if one cannot access justice easily and economically, a proper spirit of honest compromise is of little help. Soon Posey County’s legal system will address the access portion. Citizens and those who operate the system will still need to address the rest.