April 8, 2012
Unhappy Easter As A Little Kid
When I was a little kid, I didn't understand Easter at all. In fact, it remains a confusing juxtaposition of opposing images -- death, resurrection and ascension. Christmas was clearly and obviously the great religious and societal celebration. In celebrating Christ's birth, and being raised during the booming post World War II economy, cool inventions coming all the time, and the only people I knew were Protestants, an occasional Catholic and one Jewish family -- everything fitted together seamlessly into a world of snowy joy, fun and lots of presents. What was there not to to be happy about?
The Easter hymns were the worst -- death dirges. And while the minister didn't do fire and brimstone, his sermons echoed off the the sanctuary walls, life is hard and then you die -- so pray for your soul. Well, life was hard then in this poor farming community. I concluded Christmas was happy and Easter unhappy, and church was one of those inexplicable but necessary things you had to do, like going to the dentist, or worse, piano lessons!
Following the minister, nobody smiled. Parishioners grimaced in step with the minister, all guilty for our sins. When I learned the meaning of sanctuary from Reader's Digest Word Power, I decided it was the exact wrong word for the church meeting room.
Living on the lake took me away from the dreaded church next door -- so I could enjoy Happy Easters -- and also get rid myself of sinners guilt. I didn't have to see the lord's dungeon for sinners every day. Well, mom still dragged us all to church on Sunday, for she was a proper lady, the doctor's wife. As I grew older, my brother and I came up with all kinds of great excuses not to go to church. I have a boil on my butt and can't sit in that hard pew. Dad said! My brother's occasional ear ache came on clockwork at 9:00 on Sunday and disappeared by 11:30 so that he could go fishing. And when we boys ran out of excuses, or couldn't convince Mom, Dad would claim, Uncle George will be calling long distance from New Hyde Park. A long distance call was huge deal then. We even put on our Sunday best jackets and ties. This vexed my mother, who was gradually out boxed by three males to her one female.
One time I asked my father about Saul, the Jewish doctor in nearby Seneca Falls with the mail order sophisticated wife from Long Island who made the piano sing like an angel in their elegant home, How come our church is so ugly with music just as bad, the minister saying the Jews killed Jesus, and this Jewish guy's wife brings the only beauty around, except for Loretta Young? My father, shook his head and chucked, and said, Don't ask your mother that! That was the only chuckle I ever heard from my German born father.
Easter In American Culture
Whether you are Christian or not, Easter is woven into our American social fabric. The religious idea of Easter being joyous issues from the resurrection. But Jesus, and some other guys too, bled to death on those crosses. It's compelling story for believers -- Jesus suffered so we could be saved. But I never got it. I saw a lot of suffering when I went with my father to bandage up farmers mangled by machinery, and when he rushed to Saturday night car accidents, bodies crushed. There was more blood there than on the crosses, and it was fresh! I always thought, well, how come Jesus' suffering is such a big deal, and nobody cares much about our own neighbors bleeding, often to their end?
I eventually concluded that Easter actually only rings true within the context of American's optimism, ever enduring, even during the worst of times. I figured this out when I learned early in school that we lived in this bounteous time following the Great Depression. I also learned this from my parents, and their friends, never to forget those lean times -- and they were were seriously thankful had ended. Clean your plate. Millions of Chinese don't have enough to eat! What the Chinese had to do with this is another childhood mystery. My father's only Shakespearean quote was, Neither a borrower nor lender be. At the rare restaurant out, nobody ordered steak or lobster. Both my parents were scandalized that after my brother married, he took his nurse wife out for dinner once weekly.
Yes, there were bad times in the 30s nobody would entirely forget, and bad times before that. But with American indomitable hope and hard work, Happy Easters has always come with candy, colored eggs and girls pretty in new spring outfits. That's how I fitted in the elusive Easter bonnet thing. Too, Easter was in the spring, when the long snowy winter ended, everything dead came alive and started growing again. Rebirth. That was the message. I thought Easter wouldn't work at all if it were in February, and who would bother if it were in July -- the height of glorious summer? Besides, it would interfere with all the fun on the fourth of July.
Happy Easter Comes True!
And growing up on the lake, which was very pretty and out from the church's shadow, life did get better. This was the post World War II boom. At the lake's south end, Cornell stood with its agricultural and veterinary colleges transforming farmers' lives -- better seeds, chemicals, safer machinery. livestock breeding and care, advanced farming techniques. New life-saving drugs came in the fifties and sixties, saving many who before would have suffered greatly, even died. Remember the polio vaccine? A real hospital was built near neighboring Seneca Falls. The Romulus Volunteer Fire Department bought an ambulance because it finally had an emergency room to take the wounded. There were no more calls for Dad alone with only his black bag and the Sheriff standing by. Hard drinking farm boys still raced their Chevies and Fords on Saturday nights, but safety advances cut down on the deaths. Seat belts really helped a lot! Hello the American Dream! And Happy Easter!
The high school drop out rate was always around 50%. I escaped to boarding school in Massachusetts my junior year. We were kept on campus, like monks. I came back for the summer to find hardly any of my former farm girl classmates nursing babies. Later they actually graduated and many went to nursing college. Miniskirts were in, which meant panty hose! Makeup was no longer banned. Bikinis were next! And nobody wore those stuffy bonnets either! The hat vanished completely. And Lady Clairol turned dull tresses into California blonds, ravishing brunettes and so hot redheads. State colleges blossomed. Everyone went to college -- or could if they wanted to and studied hard in high school. Nobody got rich, but few were grinding poor either. Unhappy Easter was forgotten, transformed into a truly joyous Happy Easter -- except in that church, of course. But by then, nobody paid much attention and attendance began dropping off. Besides, the grim and grimacing congregation was studded with brilliantly glowing blonds, brunettes and redheads, banishing the gloom. Much later, when Bush I talked about a thousand points of light, I was reminded of that real redemption.
At some point, things stopped getting better. Nobody noticed it because depression born folks were still getting used to having money, and technology advanced in huge strides. By the turn of the millennium, though, they began scratching their heads about the American Dream. It wasn't an easy slam dunk amy more. Things were starting to get harder -- like jobs, health care, housing, college.... I started to think life was changing back to Unhappy Easter.
But, we hadn't lost out optimism yet! Yes, when I was a little kid in that awful church, everyone was long-faced, but they were grimly confident. They would make it back from the Great Depression, just as their families had always persevered through American's many booms and busts. And Western New Yorkers were especially tough, had to be with the hard winters and the economic ups and downs. The Great Lakes effect dumped more snow Syracuse than any other American city. Being snowed in for a week was routine, I remember once riding with my father to the school, where a huge Army helicopter landed on the football field, rotors clacking, snow flying everywhere, with emergency antibiotics. Hard work and patience would do it now, just as it always had. Plus, didn't Ronald Reagan say in that famous G.E. commercial, Progress is our most important product? Well, great progress had been made, and progress will be made again. Amen to Happy Easter!
The April 11, 2009 In-depth Forecast, Global Economic Outlook Into 2012 And Beyond speaks to this American Optimism in the section, III United States Chart -- A. Another Chart Of Great Wealth, stating,
Unhappy Easter Again
The bottom dropped out of the economy in September 2008, crushing the last of the already worn down and tattered American Dream.
I can see in my mind's eye the old Presbyterian church, the minister still grim, the paint again peeling off the church, the men's faces grimacing again, the women's lined with fatigue. The sermons are the same, the hymns and singing just like over a half century ago. Is the hope gone after 3 1/2 years of decline? Maybe yes in some, probably not in most. I don't need to go home to find out, even though it's been over 30 years since mom's funeral in Romulus. People don't change there. Few leave. Families go back many generations.
But nobody knows what to do. Working harder doesn't help. Crop prices are squeezed by expensive machinery, high taxes and insurance, gasoline going through the roof again. Much of the agriculture went West to cheap illegal farm labor and even overseas. The boutique wine business is dead. My dad was the last doctor, retired in 1972. His $3 office visits and $5 house calls are no more. There's no local dentist either. College is unaffordable. The politicians in Albany are corrupt, and the downstate 1% fat cats in New York think only about themselves.
From their view, Obama didn't mess of things, but he hasn't fixed much. And while no one there has actually been to Hawaii, they know it's a state. After all, farmers they may be, but they are also New Yorkers. Oh, and they don't trust Romney, for Mormonism was founded there. They know all about those Mormons, who weren't actually driven out. They did kind of wear out their welcome. The joke going around begins with Romney having found the missing 10 golden tablets Joseph Smith somehow lost. It ends with Romney keeping the 10th as a commission and promising to unveil it at his inauguration.
And word has it that the women in Seneca Falls, the birth place of women's rights in 1845, aren't happy about all these Republican men attacking their reproductive rights.
The folks in Western New York have been there a long time, and they don't forget. Much of the land was given by George Washington to his troops in lieu of pay. The historical marker for the Romulus Presbyterian Church also gives the Church organization date, 1796, reflecting that early settlement of the then wilderness with Cayuga Indians and Moose. In fact, when my parents bought the old hunting lodge on the lake, there was a moldering stuffed moose head on the wall, with a moose foot on another. I carried around that moose foot for many years. If I visited now, most would ask my why I've been gone for so long and tell me how they miss having a doctor.
What To Do?
The January 8 VedicLeaks addressed popular protests this winter and spring. The section, Popular Protests Rising stated, The Celestial Wheel has also focused on Jupiter turning forward Christmas day -- symbolizing a powerful, even dominant, karma for popular protests through the winter and spring until mid May.
The next section, When Popular Protests Will Actualize, explained,
Following is, How Popular Protests Will Actualize,
With spring weather here, it's protest time. The 99% Spring Action Training
This old Vietnam era protest song is also appropriate, Where have all the flowers gone?
But this one if for us now, If I Had A Hammer
And What Would Those Romulus Farmers Be Saying?
Again, I don't have to go back home to know. Again in my mind's eye they would be still going to that Presbyterian church, paint peeling off again. grimacing now more than ever. Since it was the church was organized over 200 years ago, its a habit they won't break. They will be talking about long past bad times and good times -- and today's hard times. They would remember the violent student protests at Cornell against the Vietnam war in 1968 and think now that wasn't such a bad idea, for many were in that generation. And some would have grown children in the many local colleges -- Ithaca College, Syracuse University, University of Rochester... They would be thinking about arranging some food to get the students through, and maybe some tents and other camping supplies. After all, their forbearers were revolutionaries -- soldiers in the war for independence.
If I actually visited, they would tell me that farmer Donnie Warn has retired but still has my 1967 Austin Healy 3000 he bought from me. I left it in Cooper's barn in 1972 among the straw bails so it wouldn't rust. Donnie found it, called me parents, who called me, and I sold it for the same $2000 I paid for it. He restored it. Farmers love to tinker with cars during the long winters. I would ask if it's still green, and they would ask, why would Donnie change that? Maybe they would even remember my thing about Happy Easter and Unhappy Easter. Some were childhood friends. They would invite me to a fund raising dinner in the church annex. I would ask, what for? They would say they are trying to raise money to paint the church again.