OF MICE & MEN


September.  October.  The bees and the flies were once again trying to take up residency in my home.  Maybe because I lived on the corner, high above the single family residences below, I was to war with the insects each September.  

 

I have one friend, a classmate from grade school, high school and college, who makes his life in war with insects and rodents.  And he is very politically active too.  He was always at war, 12 months a year, against rodents and insects and with one political party.   He saw the things that I never saw.

 

Ah, the visible!  There were associations fighting blindness, as well as paralysis.  Of the senses, I had to count the five to see how speech fit in.  The speech pathologists for the most part did not gather as much support in their battles.  It might be because speech was not one of the Big Five.  I was in need of speech therapy when I was in first grade.  I am forever grateful to the speech pathologist as I have not had difficulty espousing my thoughts once I reached the age of reason.  It was at that point in my life that I met the exterminator. 

 

I was only really conscious of politics in September and October, and of the threat of insects.  From talking to the exterminator, I have learned that the battle heats up at this time of year over the loss of light.  It was instinctual and not, as so many thought, on the surface about hunger.  In Minnesota, the time of the year was about survival.  It was all about the cold.  And the people here in September, a lot like the insects, began to instinctually worry each year about the loss of light among the political leaders. 

 

Yesterday I called to complain to a clearinghouse that they were sending me The National Review, instead of my beloved America magazine.  I pointed out that my check had been sent for America, a Jesuit publication.  Whereas I had appreciated the good writing of a William Buckley, I was not on the same page of the living inheritors of his thinking.  After chewing a lady out for the mix up, she told me that my renewal of America was received but that the wife of my friend, the exterminator, had sent a gift subscription, unbeknownst to me, for 6 months. 

 

I already was reading to much media about the state of the daily world, at the cost of the books waiting on the shelves.  Last night I was in a used bookstore.  I bought about 50% of the books that intrigued me.  One I left behind was Thomas Hartman’s Unequal Protection.  He discussed the history of the 14th amendment that originally was written to grant rights of “person,” to the freed slaves who were born in the United States.  It was not too long before personal rights, human rights, were granted to corporations by the United States Supreme Court under the 14th amendment.  Thomas Hartman quoted a speech given by William Jenning Bryan, railing against the decision.  Bryan pointed out the lack of feelings that corporations had had for real people.   One hundred years later we seemed poised to hear the same speeches again.  Corporate persons had not displayed much sympathy for real people over the mergers and acquisitions, of leveraged buy-outs, in last 20 years.   

 

 

The incredible part of my journey was that the three schools which exterminator and I  were in were in 3 cities.  And the would-be exterminator and I, with 120 grade school classmates, with 140 high school classmates, and maybe with 1,000 college classmates, never were in many of the same classes, though we had been placed on the same floor, on the same wing, of the same dorm.  The last class was a prerequisitie theology course with Thomas A. Hoffman, S.J.  The would-be exterminator was not surviving, the fourth semester, in his second year, in battle with his own demons.  In those days, the war he fought was within, with himself.  The university was 378 miles away, in another state.  In Nebraska. And soon he returned home.  In the years since he had changed from a classmate to a friend. 

 

The times of William Jenning Bryan in Nebraska were those when a way of life was being lost.  People lost their farms.  He is credited with inventing the national stumping tour in his bid for president in 1896 when he gave five hundred speeches in twenty seven states.  There was a harshness to those times.  In Nebraska, when Bryan settled.  And as a result, people got harsh.  Reflecting the division in the country, Bryan was famous for his Cross of Gold Speech.  I now wanted to read it. 

 

 In Minnesota, the time of the year was about survival.  It was all about suffering, and not just the cold.  The layoffs would soon be coming again.  And real people had real feelings, over the loss of light.  It was not just the mice.  

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