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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What Is and What Will Never Be

 What if? 

These two little words pack a powerful punch.

For those who enjoy crafting fictional tales like I do, they provoke creativity. What if we make the protagonist a kleptomaniac? Or what if the killer is the mother? What if we set the story during the Renaissance?

For those who battle or have battled anxiety, (myself included), those two little words can send an anxious mind down a path to panic. What if that mole is cancerous? What if they die? What if I don’t have enough money saved for retirement?

For the “what might have been” crowd, the What if? question can be haunting. “What if I hadn’t gotten drunk, driven my car and injured that pedestrian? What if I hadn’t cheated on my girlfriend? What if I had chosen a different major?

For historians, these two little words spark debate. In fact, there is a series of books entitled What If? in which brilliant historians examine critical turning points in history and what the world would be like today. They explore such topics as: What if the Americans had lost the Revolutionary War? What if Lincoln had not freed the slave? What if the Russians hadn’t backed down during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Since we celebrate Veterans Day this month, I thought I’d share my little stroll down the historical What if? path. Although many men in my family have served in the armed forces including the Korean War and World War II, my family has been fortunate to lose only one life to war and that was my Will Moran, my paternal grandmother, Agnes Lane's older brother, who died in World War I.

 


I didn’t know much about Will except for seeing a few black and white photos of him in his Army uniform and a photo of his mother, my great-grandmother, on a ship sailing to France for Gold Star mothers to visit the graves of their fallen children.

As we began to dig a little deeper into Will’s life, we learned that he was killed near the end of the war at the Second Battle of the Marne in France. My son knows so much more about history than I do, and one of the history books he has stated that a young German soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler was on the front during that battle where Will perished. That got us to thinking: What if Hitler had died at that battle instead of Will? How different would our world have been? Would there have been a Second World War? Would six million Jews have died in the Holocaust? What would Europe be like today?

While the What Ifs are intriguing and thought provoking, they are futile. Although those two little words are powerful, two other words surpass them, and they are: What Is.

Reality is where life takes place and dealing with what is and what is real is where we can affect the most good. You can’t live in regret or fantasy or conjecture or what will never be. So, in life, there’s no going back, there’s only going forward. 

Note: While researching this article, I recently learned that Will Moran was killed on July 19, 1918, and is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. He was also awarded a Purple Heart. 

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Northern Connection Magazine.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Rules Are: There Are No Rules!

 


Do not be surprised when those who ignore the rules of grammar also ignore the law.

After all, the law is just so much grammar.  - Robert Brault

Bear with me and read this little passage:

When the family arrived at the hotel, they dropped off her luggages. At the restaurant, they will eat dinner and ate dessert. They accidentally

What the heck was that, you may be wondering? The above example is an illustration of what the written word would be like without grammar. No one would ever write like that unless they were an illiterate you may think. But if our crazy world has its way, this may become acceptable because recently, the misguided Rutgers University’s English department declared that proper grammar is racist, saying:  

"This approach challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar [and] sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, nonstandard, ‘academic' English backgrounds at a disadvantage," department chairwoman Rebecca Walkowitz said. "Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them [with] regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written' accents.”

I don’t even understand that gobbledygook, and they are supposed to be the experts. Think this is only Rutgers? Think again. Anarchists are not content to demolish every institution from government to religion, they are throwing out all the rules of the written word we have spent years as students learning.

Though not tied to racial issues, nevertheless all the rules are being tossed out like the trash.  According to an article last year in Inc. there was an incident between a young employee and boss that illustrated just how bad things have gotten. When the employee spelled the word “hamster” with a “p” in a communication, her boss asked her to correct it, pointing out that there is no “p” in hamster. The employee replied, “But that’s the way I spell hamster and that’s all that matters.” And then the employee’s mother called to berate the boss!

 

 

The purpose of grammar is to provide a framework for conveying clear meaning in communications—so people can understand each other. As someone who has made a living with words, I think this move to throw out the rules of grammar is not only absurd and just another indication of how far our society has declined, but it is racist as well. It assumes that those people of color cannot master the rules of grammar. Tell that to Frederick Douglass, who taught himself to read and write and penned several books. Or Martin Luther King who wrote the inspiring “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Not to mention Thomas Sowell, who has written 30 books or the excellent black teacher who taught English at my children’s school and the scores of other black writers.

Black educators and authors like former Vanderbilt and Princeton professor Dr. Carol Swain, said that relaxing the standards for minority students is “demeaning.”

Before the Civil War, there were anti-literacy laws on the books in some states that prohibited teaching slaves how to read and write. The thinking was that teaching a slave would make them dangerous and would encourage a slave revolt. While those laws were reprehensible, they at least they respected the intellect of black people because they believe that they could learn grammar. Rutgers and all who advocate for throwing out the rules should be ashamed because they presume that blacks do not have the acumen or intelligence to learn. That is not only racist; it’s a disgrace.  

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Fine Line

 

Have you ever read Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece autobiographical Holocaust account Night? The book details how the Nazis rounded up the Jews in his village, in what is now Romania, when he was a teen and how his family was sent to the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. It is a short book and brutal to read, but one you won’t ever forget.


 

I’ve read many Holocaust accounts, but there is one part in the book that has stuck with me even though I read the book more than 10 years ago. It occurs early in the narrative when Moshe, a fellow villager, is deported by the Nazis and escapes death to return to the town to warn everyone that the Germans are rounding up Jews and murdering them.

You’d think the villagers would appreciate the heads-up; however, what he tells them is so unfathomably evil, that they dismiss him as crazy. Who can comprehend that much hate? They conclude that could never happen. Sadly, not long after that, Moshe is proven to be a prophet of doom; the Nazis come for the whole village. Of his family of six, only Elie survives the concentration camps to tell of its horrors.

As a writer, I’m a bit of an information junkie; I like to know what’s going on. If you are paying the least bit of attention, you know that we are experiencing protests, division, riots and violence in our streets. Some pundits have opined that we are on the verge of a second civil war or that we are at the beginning of a complete cultural and societal collapse, much like Ancient Rome.

If either of those scenarios is true, we are in for a long, painful ordeal, and who knows what life will be like on the other side. It’s all very heartbreaking and frightening. So much so, that for sanity’s sake, I find myself trying to walk a fine line. I find myself pulling back from the news yet wanting to stay informed.

I know others are feeling this way too; I’ve heard several people remark that they don’t even watch the news anymore. They can’t bear it. I can sympathize and have at times withdrawn to find solace in prayer, family, friends and the soothing beauty of nature.

But then I remember the book Night and how the villagers were warned about what was coming, and I find myself being sucked into watching the news, scouring the internet, and scanning social media, trying to read the tea leaves to discern what’s in our future, as if knowing what’s ahead will inoculate me and those I care about from suffering.

Had Elie Wiesel’s family heeded the warning of Moshe would they have lived? Maybe. But with six million Jews perishing in the Holocaust, 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians dying in World War II, even if they had not been murdered, their lives and much of the world’s would never be the same.

For now, I plan to try to walk that fine line; I plan to stay informed and to take time to hope and pray for the best—emphasis on prayer—because if things do go south, and the unthinkable happens, unlike the Wiesel family, we have no good options for escape.

Abraham Lincoln once described America as always being the “last best hope of earth.” Let’s hope and pray that we avert this strife, that we don’t destroy ourselves and that we continue to be a haven of hope for generations to come.