Archive for the ‘homelands’ Category

As A Place To Be Neutral Is Lost Again

Homes. Homeland. The Law. Being dismissed from an action, having no cause of action” which does not capture in WORD what the conflict was about. To capture the range of what I am about. When you are not recognized in the Law, when you have no cause of action in the first place, you are legally homeless. “You have no dog in the fight,” or are not allowed to be recognized. When you are not “constituted.”

It was the War to End All War. The Great War. The Jews were bearing the brunt of the burden of this war, in contending with loss, not only on the battle fields where they suffered with the rest of the world, but also in their homes. The lost recognition … as you become just another body. “To be a part of” ….. to belong here. The population of seven million Jews, which at the time exceeded that of Belgium, bore the brunt of the war. Behind the lines of Russian and Poland was the Pale of Jewish Settlement where four million Jews lived. In fifteen Russian provinces, before the Russian revolution, what Lenin had set out to destroy was all shared belief so that all that was left was the belief and dependence upon the state.

When you are not “constituted,” you could be destroyed. The Grand Experiment called Lenin’s Russia makes the present age forget the past. The disaster which came out of the Cold War together with the Holocaust has contributed to memory loss of what happened one hundred years ago. When the War To End All War broke out, one-half of the Jewish population of the world was trapped in a corner of Eastern Europe that was absolutely shut off from all neutral lands and from the sea.

The place to be neutral was lost, in a disaster surpassing that of all other nationalities, in the threat that was alive to the innocent as much as in the story of Noah – to women and new children – in physical and economic loss, none have borne a greater burden than the Jews.

To annihilate God. In ways of moral and spiritual torment, there is strength that comes from sacrifice, per the story of Abraham with his son, in the story of the Akedah. “Of all the people that have suffered deeply from World War I,” a population of seven million Jews were threatened with extinction, in the War To End All War. Singled out, if not for their old peculiar ways…. by their peculiar geographic, political and economic position. Threatened by assimilation into the secular world, trying to keep ritually pure. Kosher Jews. At the time there was in Russian-Poland (read the history) over two million Jews. To the south was this frontier province of Austria called Galicia with one million Jews. Did anyone stop on religious holidays to note all the brothers fighting brothers in this great secular War to End All War? Yes, the Jews were fighting each other, just as the split German tribes – based upon the German line of kings in England and Russia – were fighting each other. In all the armies of Europe, there were more than 350,000 Jewish soldiers fighting for Russia and 50,000 Jews fighting for Austria-Hungary. Of the world Jewish population, probably 500,000 Jews were in the ranks of the fighting armies of Europe.

Like so much the current wars in Syria, Iraq, and the Cold Wars among the Muslims, in a rehashing of the War To End All War, in the unseen world against the seen one, when you are not “constituted,” you could be destroyed. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories, the importance was of the binding in the relationships, in stories about unconditional love. When your relationships were so alive, when you prayers were so alive. And you wanted others to then have the same experience. With God’s intervention, mostly the same stories, generation after generation…. with a great restlessness … carrying the fire, with your own tradition, in search of the Promise Land … as the place to be neutral is lost. Again.

Religion Blogs

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
In a season when something unexpected can break out, it is time today to pray for goodness and the people of Syria.


Those 3rd Generations

Why were you here? What exactly was it that drew you here? To this place. Of all the places in the world to live. To your lover? Of all the places in the world to live. Of all the people in the world to love.

Why were you here? Did you even know? Something drew you. To Omaha. To an employer. To Fargo. To Sioux Falls. To St. Paul. To this town. To that cemetery. Something drew you. In Lourdes, Iowa. In 1992.

Why were you here? It was the type of question that you heard on retreat. Something had to have drawn you here.

It was June and I would soon be back on retreat. Something drew you back on retreat. Was it last year’s priest? A maternal grandmother? A great grandfather? A namesake?

Why were you here? The discussion always led back to the sense of wonder. A curiosity. Of my own.

The 3rd Generation. At the start of the 20th Century lived a man with my name. He was my great grandfather. He died within a couple months of my birth. Matt was a stock broker. By the time the Great Depression came along, his eldest son was 34-years old. Matt was said to own properties around town. When it came to time to collect rent, he let a lot of things go during the Great Depression. He was alleged to be quite a kind man. I was driving on a business call in Cresco, Iowa. In 1992. I stopped on the way back at that cemetery in Lourdes, Iowa. His first wife, my grandfather’s mother, was buried there. She had died during childbirth. Of her second born, who did not live.

Across the country my maternal grandmother was 30 years old when the Great Depression came along. Her name was Theresa. She was in the midst of her short married life that saw her with 11 kids by the start of World War II. Okay, long enough to have 10 pregnancies. By the end of the war her eldest son was in the seminary and her youngest was 3-years old. That was the point when her husband took ill. He was dead within a year. A woman with 11 kids did not have time to work. Somehow during the next few years, anonymous checks came in the mail. That was what sustained the family. That was life in the Irish American neighborhood at the end of the 1940s.

Looking for significance even in what seemed insignificant on the surface. People with a common past to begin with. What exactly was it that drew you here? To any friend.

How old were you when you had the chance to search for significance? Some people only began in their retirement. Others never really thought about it. In the post-war world. In 2009. Looking for a point to view. There were a ton of questions all along. Subtle ones. People with a common past to begin with. In family. It all made saying Grace much more heart-felt.

Those fourth generations were what the Torah meant, in new perspectives. About the God of Abraham. The God of Isaac. The God of Jacob.  The one who started writing the story.

Those “Givers of life.” From the past.

Throughout her life, Theresa was known for her pies. Of her descendants, one woman made pies like Theresa did. I did not know if this pie-making would be passed along to her 4th generation. By my generation. Of her 43 grandchildren.

Descendants from those “givers of life.” The 3rd generation.

Slicing the pie. In Minnesota, the Cowles family had owned the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1950s. Other branches of the family owned the Des Moines Register and The Ladies’ Home Journal. As one generation passed to another, the children all seemed to want the same size slice of pie. There was a desire for more, even when there were more family members trying to survive with the same pie. In the world of journalism, often the solution was to go public. To get a bigger slice of the action, less interested in the stories. The descendants, the inheritors wanted more money, not recognizing the still one pie to split. This was one factor in the crisis facing survival in the newspaper business.

One solution was to become leveraged. Becoming a stock company let the shareholders look for higher profits. There could be more out of control greed with shareholders. Market forces at work.

Something drew you here. What was it? The Cowles had a mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. The neighborhood became run down over the years. The world kept evolving.

No one was buying the paper. The hard copy. The Cowles had sold out at the right time. For something like $1.2 billion. There had been descendants to please. The McCloskeys took over. And they sold out after a brief run. For $500 million. They stayed in the business, acquiring the Knight Ridder chain. Those descendants wanted their pie, if not the same size slices. In another very short time, Avista Capital Management’s investment had shrunk to a worth of $100 million. In 2008. Newspaper reporters were given pink slips.

Some good writers became part-time. Actually the best sportswriter in these parts. Pat Reusse, went to radio full-time. It was an interesting reaction. If people would not pay for the paper, why keep writing for them? Why give away your product? When unions could no longer protect the workers’ seniority, when the product was given away, this was one answer to affect change. When shareholders no longer could answer the question as to what exactly it was that drew you here? To this investment. To this city.

Quit writing for a while.  In the world of supply and demand, why not see how much the reader appreciated you?

Market forces. Sharing power. In alliances and coalitions. In those fourth generations. Getting a market share. Changing the way the pie was sliced. With a fear of market forces. Badly sharing power.

With fear, it was important to stay focused. So said a guest on Reusse’s radio show who had written a book.  Norman Ollestad.  He had survived a plane crash that took his father’s life, killing everyone onboard, except Norman.  I lost the other specific details as I climbed out of bed, with his voice.  In knowledge of how to respond appropriately, he stated fear was only one of the options.  He had survived because fear — he had learned from his father — was not a choice in times of panic.

Getting a market share. Getting out of bed, I heard of the importance of getting a market share.  In the newspaper business.  Editor & Publisher editor-at-large Mark Fitzgerald was yesterday’s guest, talking about what had happened in the newspaper business.  He had just delivered a speech to the Inter American Press Association in Asuncion, Paraguay, on the state of the U.S. newspaper industry.  Changing the way the pie was sliced.  With stock companies replacing newspaper families.  With new fears of market forces. When profits were diminished, and no one recognized the windswept change coming from Craigslist, while going all the way to Paraguay to discuss the forces.

The mission was still about finding the truth.  With each generation.  And finding the truth was not so easy even when it all seemed to be spelled out.  The mission for the fourth generations was still about finding something to say and then how to say it.  Most of the excitement in the romance was found in the early chapters.  As arousal gave way to fear, there was a lot more suspense along the way.  Fears about endings.  When love, not yet vanished, is still the theme.  Amidst the market forces.

My namesake’s only grandchild and his great grandchildren had all studied either journalism or English, to address exactly what it was that still drew the 3rd generation here to his place.  Still.

Amidst all the fear, looking to find something to say.  And then how to say it, in your own words.  About current events and the news.  About the attraction for baking pies.  It was a good definition of prayer.  Amidst the market forces, slicing the pie.

Those fourth generations and new perspectives.  With the same mission to discover the truth. In the news.  Or about what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Torah meant.  When finding the truth was not so easy, with budgetary pressure.  When people were not buying your product.  When the levels of passion seemed to be diminished.  Looking to find something to say, in your own words.