The year was 1936 and this now grizzled and sometimes forgetful WWII Veteran sat in the front seat of the family Chevrolet with his father; a good spot from which a fourteen-year-old could observe and prep for that future day, when he might become a responsible driver. We had just pulled up to the tanks, in front of the local gas station and the proprietor came out to greet us, the ever-present chamois in hand. “What’ll it be, Al,” he asked, to which my Dad replied: “The usual; fill’er up, John.” To which John responded, as follows: wiped both the rear window and windshield; checked the tires, then opened the hood to check both water and oil. When all of these were done, he filled the gas tank.
Watching the manically depressed oscillation of an appreciable segment of this nation’s political leadership, during the past several days, hyper-ventilating between vociferous variables over implausible positions, on whether or not to consign poverty-plagued children to starvation-edged cutoffs in their already meager Food-Stamp allotments; and/or exposing their inherently stunted gender incongruity in a malicious maneuver against mysterious female body-parts, for which they secretly hunger, one explication came to mind: an aversion expressed by philosopher Blaise Pascal, nearly four-hundred years earlier, at the irritating repudiation exhibited by the male of the species: “…….what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, feeble sink of uncertainty and error, both the glory and the shame of the universe,” he wrote.
In his “History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire,” Edward Gibbon wrote: “All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.” More to the point of American history, the Irish philosopher, George Berkley (in 1752) paraphrased John Quincy Adams’ note: “Westward the course of empire takes its way,” thus: “The first four acts already past, a fifth shall close the drama with the day: time’s noblest offspring is the last.”
For a nation steeped in adherence to the prohibition of enforced religious belief and impenetrable separation of church and state, as Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black: affirmed in 1947: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable……” (Everson v Bd of Ed’n). Political paladins of various organized religions seem to have been bent on subverting and rescinding it, in favor of one or another preferred religious belief, ever since. That bent seems more prevalent today, than at any time since its adoption.
Vincent Dowling left this tortured earth (5/11/13) at a time when his presence and its voice was more needed and missed, than ever in his mellifluous yet unrestrained and courageously candid career. Among his most notable theatrical achievements, beyond the directorship of Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre, was his giving life to the bedeviling barkeep belittler of political poltroonery, “Mr. Dooley,” who was the creation of Peter Finley Dunne but earned eternal theatrical eminence, via Dowling’s portrayal for the Irish Repertory Theatre’s significant New York production, which achieved historic proportions and endowed both the character and star with a special fraternal identity, that still persists.
Back around 1934 or 1935, when this ancient veteran was in his early teens, my perennial friend and I would saunter the streets of our neighborhood, chanting the latest in ‘smart-aleck’ sayings: “I’m a peaceful guy and I’ll kill the first person who doesn’t believe me!”
As a rising tide of irritation roiled what should have been an energetic second-wind, for gaining new fruit to enrich the electoral edge that OBamians have been thirsting for, this aging veteran was stunned to hear but a single voice raised to protest the temerity of military mischief-in-the-making… and that voice of a Republican rebel, at that. To this ‘pro forma’ civil libertarian, we seem to be on the razor’s edge of a power move, by certain commanders of our various armed forces, toward an American ‘military monopoly.’
This Commentator had decided to devote his essay for today to the two documents which have hung above the desk in his work space, since they were awarded to him, by then Governor Mario M. Cuomo, for his participation and help in achieving major ethics legislation in New York State, on August 7th, 1987. He was going to note how time and trials had wrought changes, which made these documents less important mementos of prior, experience and would then, perhaps, look forward to another time, for yet another, more important change. This might even surpass what was then achieved, to legislate even more important advances in governmental ethics. Alas, it now appears that this will not occur.
When Scottish physicist James Clark Maxwell made the invention of the telephone possible, by unlocking the secret of electro-magnetic waves, in 1878, he playfully wrote of its humble appearance--- “Any disappointment was partially relieved, on finding it was really able to talk.”