Thursday, October 10, 2019

Origin of the Horn of Plenty

One of the traditional Thanksgiving decorations is the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty. The English word is derived from the Latin  cornu meaning horn and copia meaning plenty. It has become a symbol of abundance and funnel shaped baskets appear on Thanksgiving tables across the country with fall gourds, squashes and Indian corn - none of which ends up on the Thanksgiving table, and it is highly doubtful most people could even identify these nutritious foods let alone eat them. Experts give credit to the origins of this symbol to interpretations of ancient Greek and Roman myths invoking the struggle of the gods and goddesses for power. Just as the Pilgrims are given credit for the first Thanksgiving, credit for the symbol is also given to the English settlers of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. However, I prefer another myth as the origin of this symbol.

Around the 11th Century the nomadic tribes of the Eastern Woodlands Indians of North America were facing extinction due to famine and endless war for control of the abundant virgin forests and the riches found there. An Onondaga chief named Ayowenta ( Hiawatha) sat on the banks of Lake Oneida in what is now the Great Lakes Region of upstate New York grieving the loss of his family and the condition of the few members of the tribe that remained. He looked up to see a vision of one who would become known as The Peacemaker who convinced Ayowenta to travel with him to bring a message of peace and prosperity to the tribes by coming together in peace. Six tribes joined this Confederacy called the Iroquois Confederacy that set forth a government that would bring peace and prosperity to the region. The six tribes joined in a loose league of friendship that was based on these principles:

  • Land stewardship instead of ownership.
  • Empowerment of women.
  • Consensus to settle arguments instead of warfare.
  • Setting aside public lands to be used by all the tribes with the basic principle of take only what you need and leave the land better than you found it.
Living in this way, the Confederacy became the most powerful and prosperous group in North America at that time. Although not all tribes joined the Confederacy, principles of land use and sharing were followed by most of those groups who were farmers. As the culture developed many myths about creation and God developed and were passed onto the children of the tribe. One of these myths concerned the Great Mystery (Father Sky) who inhabited the heavens above the clouds and who worked in harmony with Mother Earth to keep a continual supply of food for the people. 

The Great Mystery created an opening in the clouds in the shape of an upside down tornado. The vacuum created pulled great quantities of food that spilled out of the opening onto the ground below. The belief was that this funnel had to be continually emptied to keep the supply flowing. Therefore, at the Harvest Celebrations food was carried into the center of the village in baskets that were emptied and put into the great storehouses to be used by everyone. Prayers of gratitude, smoking ceremonies and burning of sage were also a part of the ceremony. Perhaps the Pilgrims took part in one of the Harvest Celebrations at the end of their first year in Plymouth Colony during which over half of the original settlers died from exposure and starvation. If the indigenous people had not welcomed them in peace and taught them how to farm, the Pilgrims could have easily been defeated. Despite what the experts say about the origins of Thanksgiving and its customs attributing these to the Pilgrims, I believe these customs came more from the Native Americans. You already know the "rest of the story."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Earth Day and Martin Luther King Celebration Instead of War

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is coming to the nation's capital on April 4th
 to mark its 70th birthday. Instead of celebrating NATO's anniversary, a growing 
organization is throwing a peace fest to offer alternatives
 to the largest military alliance in the world. 

While championing peace, NATO has repeatedly violated international law 
by bombing Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. 
This is not humanitarianism. Bombs do not champion peace; they kill citizens 
(women and children), destroy infrastructure such as bridges, power plants, 
and local businesses. World Wars I and II did nothing to stop this from happening 
and repeating the same does nothing to break the cycle. 

Decades later the Balkan area is still reeling from billions of dollars in damage 
and an outbreak of cancer from the 6 tons of uranium bombs dropped in the country 
in the 1990's. Princess Diana of Great Britain brought these truths to the forefront 
of the world during her visit in the 90's walking around land mines.
The war in this region never obtained the United Nations Authorization. 
NATO now accounts for three-quarters of military weapons dealing on the globe. 

War is the leading contributor to the growing refugee crisis around the world 
as well as a climate crisis. War militarizes the police which is a top cause of the 
erosion of civil liberties and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. 
April belongs to Martin Luther King and Mother Earth. Instead of saying "happy
birthday" to NATO, celebrate peace to honor Martin Luther King's speech 
against war on April 4, 1967 one year before his assassination. 

April is also Earth Day month. Those concerned about Mother Earth and 
in favor of a new policy toward the treatment of the earth should also celebrate 
by being in Washington and speaking to their representatives about their desires 
for better treatment of the earth that sustains us all by doing away with war and 
tturning our weapons into "plowshares."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ari Ara and The Way Between

"The Horns of Monk's Head bellowed low and sonorous. Ari Ara skidded to a halt. . . The Horns announced the change of seasons. Autumn had arrived. She (Ari Ara) leapt across the black rocks of the High Mountains. The wind flung back the hood of her thick, black wool shepherdess cloak. Her red hair burned bright against the steep slopes. The sky blazed cold blue. The wind nearly knocked her off her feet."

Thus, Rivera Sun introduces the superhero of her dystopian series "The Way Between" and its sequel "The Lost Heir."  In these two books Ms. Sun has created a world filled with all the adventure and fun of  mystics, martial arts and magic contained in "The Hobbit," and "The Ring Trilogy" and the "Harry Potter" series but with deeper messages about the struggle between good and evil like the Star Wars saga without creating losers. As Ari Ara (Not This, Not That) struggles to find the truth of her past and the people with whom she belongs the way Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn did in the works of Dickens and Twain, she becomes the leader of a world of orphans and misfits dealing with bullies and powerful adults who have the power of Attar- warrior force.  With the help of the Fantan Grandmother, leader of those who practice Anar (peace through avoidance) the old warrior Shullen, The Great Lady, young nobles in Mariana Capital, and dress makers and hawk keepers she stumbles upon Azar (the way between) to lead all toward unity and the dissolution of war.  

This series is a must read for students in grades 5-8. Young adults will find endless entertainment in the adventure but also realize the story is showing them a way to deal with bullies, gun violence and poverty that has been the world of children since the days of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Parents would enjoy reading this story aloud with their children as well. There are not enough superlatives to describe this series so I will use the words of authors of the Marvel Comic heroes that best describe it - Wow! Bam! and Pop! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Suffragettes and the Me Too Movement

Women had been seeking the right to vote in the United States since the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. In fact, the last sentence in the Declaration of Women’s Rights presented at the Conference was that “women should have the right to vote.” Slavery, child labor, sweat shops, poverty, lack of education and warfare were issues these suffragettes worked to end from the 19th Century until the start of the 20th Century. Interconnected with their desire for social change was obtaining the right to vote.

In 1915, when Europe went to war, Jane Addams organized a meeting in Washington, D.C. to establish a Women’s Peace Party that would call for peace in Europe, put a limitation on armaments and the nationalization of weapon’s manufacture and oppose militarism.  Jane Addams and other leaders knew that females had to be franchised if the Reform Movement in the United States was to be effective in getting rid of government officials and politicians in Washington who supported an aggressive and military based foreign policy.

Three thousand women attended the conference in February, 1915. Those women produced a platform calling for extending suffrage to women and for a conference of neutral countries to propose the idea of an armistice followed by continuous mediation to settle the differences between the warring nations. The meeting was held at The Hague in the Netherlands in the spring of 1915. Although originally planned for neutral countries, women of Great Britain, France, Germany and Austria were invited to attend. The largest delegation was from The Netherlands. French, Russians, Serbs, and Japanese were not allowed to leave their countries. Only 20 of Britain’s 180 delegates were able to obtain passports. Of those 20 only three managed to get permission to attend.
There were 50 Americans, 12 Norwegians, sixteen Swedes, sixteen Danes and 28 Germans. Italy was not yet in the war, but only one delegate attended. There were also delegates from Poland, South Africa and Canada. The total number of attendees was 1,136. Dutch Chair Aletha Jacobs opened the Conference with these words: “With mourning hearts we stand united here. We grieve for many brave young men who have lost their lives on the battlefield before attaining manhood; we mourn with thousands of young widows and fatherless children, and we feel we can no longer endure in this 20th Century of civilization that governments should tolerate brute force as the only solution to international disputes.”
There was speech after speech from women delegates from all over Europe, but probably the most stirring was from Austrian Frau Hofrath von Leeher. She was an upper middle class housewife who nursed the wounded without food or dressings for their wounds. She asked the soldiers, “What are you fighting for?”

They replied, “We do not know; we were told to fight.”

Frau Hofrath continued, “I am not a strong and militant woman . . . all my life I have been dependent upon men. But I have seen our men dependent upon us weak ones. I have seen their strength wrecked. What are we women of Europe to do? Give us back our men.”
The Conference ended with a set of resolutions that Ms. Addams and other leaders were to take to all European capitals. The resolutions were as follows:
·         That no territory should be transferred without the consent of the men and women in it and that the right of conquest should not be recognized.

  • ·         That autonomy and a democratic parliament should not be refused to any people.
  • ·         That the governments of all nations should come to an agreement to refer international disputes to arbitration or conciliation and to bring social, moral, and economic pressure to bear upon any country that resorts to arms.
  • ·         That foreign politics should be subject to democratic control.
  • ·         That women should be granted equal rights with men.

Although Woodrow Wilson did consider these proposals none of these were acted upon, including the plea for the right to vote. The carnage in Europe continued for another three years only ending when the United States entered the war and broke the stalemate. None of the resolutions proposed found its way into the Peace of Versailles – excepting one. The last of Wilson’s Fourteen Points was the establishment of a League of Nations to serve as a place where nations could come together and mediate disputes.

 The Treaty of Versailles was never ratified in the United States because the country refused to join such a League, preferring isolation and the protection of the huge Atlantic Ocean. Because of the harsh terms of the Treaty imposed upon Germany, the conditions were set up to lead to Hitler rearming (against the Treaty) and taking over more and more land in Europe with the consent of the Allies to maintain “peace in our time.” The rest as we say “is history.”

Although women received the franchise in 1919, they had no real voice in making the peace and bringing about the fulfillment of the resolutions from the Peace Conference. Franklin Roosevelt listened to his wife, Eleanor, and near the end of World War II held a meeting in San Francisco to write the Atlantic Charter which would become the basis for the creation of the United Nations. Over the years the UN has become less and less effective and its purpose lost in the creation of more military alliances – NATO, the Warsaw Pact, and the Southeast Asia Alliance and on and on.  It is time for the United States to take the lead and work through the agencies of the United Nations to rebuild third world countries instead of continuing to support authoritarian regimes that destroy the ability of people to live peacefully and productively in their homelands. We need to send in peacekeepers to get a handle of the chaos and unbridled violence along with doctors, farm equipment, and educators to create democratic governments operating free of foreign influence that keep the wealth in their countries.  Tribalism that leads to unbridled jingoism must stop and a new Pangea must emerge from the tearing down of walls and the building of bridges.

Read more about this in “The Peacemaker” available at    

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Why I Teach

I am a Christian and have always used the life of Jesus and His parables in the New Testament to serve as my moral compass in directing me to the best life possible on this earth. I have found that with a strong, moral compass I have been able to accomplish this goal throughout my 72 years of life. Part of my decision to become a teacher was watching my father interpret spiritual truths from the Bible that made sense to me and seemed to help others in their life's journey. My father had wanted to be a teacher and my becoming a teacher was one of the proudest moments in his life. I am glad he lived to see that.

 I have always been a passionate teacher and even though retired from the profession for many years, I cannot seem to stop teaching and writing. I sometimes have wondered why I don't just stop and enjoy being "retired." But I always come back to "this is where my joy is." I spend hours reading, researching and writing things and, for the most part, certainly have not become famous or rich. But that was never my intent in the first place. I am constantly besieged by promoters who want to help me promote my book. They always tell me my books could be best sellers with just a little more exposure. I never was interested in fame or fortune but I live with the dilemma of wanting my books to sell because of the message but not being motivated to enter the corporate controlled publishing industry or Hollywood control of my work. Today, I read something in "The Poisonwood Bible" that encouraged me to keep writing and teaching regardless of what my bank account might say. It has been something that has been in my subconscious lately as I keep writing and doing without any seemingly spectacular results.

I just finished reading a chapter in "The Poisonwood Bible" which contains a conversation that Leah (one of the missionaries' daughters) has with a native teacher named Anatole who works with the young boy pupils (girls were not allowed to go to school) and interprets her father's sermons on Sundays. The gist of the conversation was one in which Leah asked Anatole that if he did not believe in the truth of what her father preached, why he continued to interpret? The following is his answer. "What I believe is not so important. I am a teacher. Do I believe in the multiplication tables? . . . No matter. People need to know what they are choosing. I've watched many white men coming into our house bringing things we never saw before. Maybe scissors or medicine or a motor for a boat. Maybe books. Maybe a plan for digging up diamonds or rubber. Maybe stories about Jesus. Some of these things seem very handy, and some turn out to be not so handy. It is important to distinguish."

"And if you didn't translate the Bible stories, then people might sign up to be Christian for the wrong reasons. They'd figure out God gave us scissors and malaria pills so He's the way to go."

"He smiled at me sideways." Anatole now tells Leah what the name  beene-beene that he calls her means. "It means as true as the truth can be." My dilemma vanished when I read this. Growing up in urban poverty I saw many "visitors" to our Neighborhood coming in with their snake oil products and words of "truth" to bleed the vulnerable, uneducated poor who lived there. I chose first to find a moral path that kept me free from buying their tainted words or goods and then education to understand where my truth really lay. I chose to be a teacher to teach the truth (facts) in an effort to help "my people" distinguish their own path. This is why I teach.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fiddler on the roof - Lechaim (with subtitles)

The Rose of Auschwitz ©

Ashen gray clouds heavy from too much hate dimmed the silhouette of a soldier
Trudging slowly through this landscape of stench and despair,
His shoulders stooped  under the heavy burden of war. 
In his backpack among bullets manufactured in hate he carried chocolates of hope and love
Whose sweet smell was overwhelmed by the smells of smoldering metal and flesh.
Feeling hopeless in this chamber of death he sensed a pleasant fragrance causing him to look down.
There in the dust and ashes he saw the bright red color of a Rose –
Its freshness and sweetness denying the ugliness of human hate.
Holding tightly to that Rose, he began to pass out chocolates and hugs
With words of freedom that had sustained those still clinging to life.
The soldier planted the Rose in a container of dirt that survived the storm tossed trip
To a harbor in New York  with a Lady holding a Torch as a Beacon
To light the way of all those tired and poor travelers weary of war and yearning to be free.
The soldier carried the Rose to a hill outside his home  in Penn’s Forest
Near the City of Brotherly Love.
A giant oak tree called The Tree of Life grew there nourishing the squirrels with its acorns and
The ground with the mulch of its fallen leaves for the rebirth of flowers and trees in the spring.
To provide a safe nest for the birds filling the air with the beauty of diverse life and song.
And Rose grew strong at the center of this Tree of Life and blossomed for ninety-seven seasons.
Those visiting the garden were filled with the joy of her blossoms of love and peace.
Suddenly, on a dark day with clouds heavy laden with hate,
A lightning bolt borne of these clouds pierced through the Rose,
Breaking her into single bright red petals and she was no more.
Mourners gently carried her petals to a site for a time for mourning and grief.
Filled with the love of her memory their tears moistened the earth.
And the light of spring brought forth a new Season of Love.
And the garden that sprang forth boasted a host of beautiful Roses to keep that love alive once more.

Make America Great Again