Showing posts with label assassination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label assassination. Show all posts

11 September 2017

The Moments We Remember

By Steve Liskow

Jim Howard, a former Hartford police officer whom I see more often than not at open mic gigs, is one of those rare people who can play harmonica and guitar simultaneously. Today, he turns 71 (Happy Birthday, Jim), which makes him almost exactly six months older than I am.

But that's not how I remember his birthday.

We all have a handful of days we remember, and they change from generation to generation. Some are good days: meeting your future spouse, for example, or the day you won some award.

There are other days we remember because they changed the way we look at the world. Forever.

One Friday afternoon in 1963, I sat in my Latin III class when the principal came on the PA to tell us that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. The next few minutes are hazy. I remember feeling like the floor had dropped out from under me, and the gorgeous German exchange student whom I never had the nerve to ask for a date turning to the boy next to her and asking him what "assassinated" meant. He answered with tears pouring down his face and most of us cried along with him.

I was sixteen. That may be the moment when I began to comprehend what I now identify as "evil."
Years later, my wife and I met Laurent Jean, a fine actor and director with whom we worked on many theatrical productions. Laurent's mother went into labor on November 22, 1963 and he was born the next day. I remember his birthday easily, too.

Five years later, I was shaving for a date with, coincidentally, another young woman from Germany when my next-door dorm neighbor burst in to tell me Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot. I watched the play that night, but I don't think either my date or I could have told anyone about it the next day. By the time I walked her back to her dorm, we could see the orange glow dancing in the sky over Pontiac, Michigan as the town went up in flames five miles away.


Barely two months later, Robert Kennedy was shot, too. The year I turned 21 featured both those killings and the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (Where former CT Governor and JFK Cabinet member Ribicoff infuriated Mayor Daly with his comments about police "Gestapo tactics" against demonstrators), not to mention the escalating Vietnam War.

By then, most of the shaping had been done and I was probably about 90% of the person I am now, for better or for worse.

One of my former students was in pre-med classes at George Washington University hospital when the Secret Service rushed Ronald Reagan into surgery after John Hinckley wounded him. He wrote me later to tell of his shock and horror when men in suits rushed in waving weapons and badges. This was his first life shattering event.

In January, 1986, I was producing a play and sat in the lobby of a local theater trying to reach my set designer on the pay phone (remember them?) and watching a portable TV replay the Challenger explosion. My director, a former Vietnam pilot and then an aeronautics engineer, watched a dozen replays and finally called the local news station to suggest what might have gone wrong. The subsequent investigation confirmed his suspicions. We didn't rehearse that night. A few people may have wired up speakers or focused a few lights, but most of us sat in the half-assembled gallery and cried for the astronauts and their families.

In September, 2001, I was teaching five classes--two for the first time--and still learning the names of 125 students. I cut through the media center toward the teachers' lounge and saw dozens of people jammed around the TV set near the AV department. They were still telling me what had happened when we watched the second plane slam into the World Trade Center.

To my students in 2001, the World Trade Center was what Kennedy's assassination was to me, and I remember feeling the curriculum shift slightly for the rest of the year.

Every generation has a horrific event that shapes it. Right now, we're dealing with several natural disasters: Harvey and Irma, the earthquake in Mexico City, tropical storm Katia, the fires in the northwest (Nope, no climate change, uh-uh). But I tend to give the man-made events more weight. We know that Nature is immense and implacable, but the assassinations and explosions remind us over and over (and we never learn, do we?) of our own hubris.

And that's what we all write about. No matter whether we write crime, romance, sci-fi, poetry, or anything else, our material is the shattering events in peoples' lives. The events that force them--and us--to surmount and survive.

The events that make us remember for too short a time that we are all human.

19 November 2015

The War on Anarchism

by Eve Fisher

Naturally I have been thinking about the Paris attacks, and my conclusions are that the terrorists' goals were:

(1) to inflict significant random casualties, causing as much terror and disruption as they can (terrorists always like to see people afraid).
(2) subvert the entire refugee process, hopefully ending it, so that all potential refugees will "know" that they can't escape, and will submit to them.
(3) make the name of Islam stink in the nostrils of the West (our own politicians and media are already helping spread the word that 'all Muslims are terrorists'), again to remove hope from all those in the Middle East who want them destroyed.
(4) to financially bankrupt the West as we attempt to destroy an idea militarily.
(5) to morally bankrupt the West as we subvert our own values in the name of freedom and the War On Terrorism.


First reaction: Damn them. Damn all anarchists /terrorists/ bombers/ fanatics, of every religion, of every creed, of every political persuasion, past, present and future, who always prefer to see frightened children, weeping families, and dead bodies than have anyone escape their cultish claws...

Second reaction:  Screw them.  Spit in their eye.  Get out and enjoy life.  "But terrorists may sneak into the United States!"  Sneak in?  We've got them, we've had them, and we can also grow them ourselves.  In 1901, anarchists killed United States President McKinley; there have been lynchings, murders, and church burnings perpetrated against blacks since before the Civil War, and sadly, it's still occurring; in 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building; of course 9/11; and just in 2015, here at home, there have been 290 deaths from mass shootings by our own fellow citizens. Seriously, if we weren't afraid a week ago, there's no reason to be afraid now.

The problem with a war on terrorism is, of course, that it's actually a war on an idea, and ideas never die. But, when they become overwhelmingly popular and attractive, they can easily, rapidly lead to mass violence and murder. Now, before you go off and say, "see, I told you!"  The other side of ideas is that people can change their minds, and an idea that seemed absolutely universally true can become relegated to something abhorrent, or quaint, or completely unimportant.
Examples:  the divine right of kings, infant damnation, the geocentric solar system, the subjection of women, the general inferiority of other races (common in Europe, China,
and Japan), the mercantilist theory of economics, and the hugely popular notion that war is the normal condition between any two countries.  
Anarchism was one of those ideas.  The idea really caught on in the late 1700s, during the Enlightenment, when Jean Jacques Rousseau, my least favorite philosopher, wrote a number of works that, among other things, claimed that private property was the root of all evil, and that uncorrupted morals prevailed in the state of nature that [supposedly] existed before government came along. In his work The Social Contract, he said "The larger the state, the less liberty".  (Yes, Thomas Jefferson read Rousseau - EVERYONE read Rousseau, from Robespierre to Bolivar to Ho Chi Minh, which, imho, is part of the problem.) Small, city-states were ideal, in which [only] men exercised their freedom on election day. Now here's where Rousseau put an edge on the blade: he believed that the majority would always be right; and therefore the minority must be "forced to be free", i.e., obey the majority. And if they continue to rebel, kill them.

John D. Rockefeller 1885.jpg
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937),
the richest man in America.  Ever.  
During the Gilded Age, and slightly after, (1870-early 1900s), anarchists in Europe and the United States took Rousseau and ran with it.  They believed that people were naturally good and virtuous; that government and property were all corrupt and corrupting, and that government and private property should be abolished, violently if necessary.  And there was a lot of private property and government around that certainly wasn't theirs.

The Gilded Age was Grover Nordquist's wet dream: no income tax, no unions, no minimum wage, no regulations on industry, and government's only role was to collect foreign tariffs and defend our borders.  It was a time of huge economic inequality. From 1860 to 1900, the wealthiest 2% of American households owned more than a third of the nation's wealth, and the top 10% owned 75% of it.  There wasn't much left for the rest.  And the most popular philosophies among the upper classes said that was the way it should be:  Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism applied survival of the fittest to people and nations, making the poor simply lazy and unfit, while William Graham Sumner's push for a totally laissez-faire economy (What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, 1884) assured everyone that assistance to the poor only weakens their ability to survive in society.

Jacob Riis,
Five Cents Lodging, Bayard Street
Meanwhile, it was a bad time to be one of the 90%.  The urban tenements in the north were horrendous (Read Jacob Riis' 1890 How the Other Half Lives:  Studies Among the Tenements of New York) and the mines and sharecropping in the south barely kept the workers alive.  Blacks in the South were stripped of the political power and voting rights they'd [briefly] had during Reconstruction, and were barely able to get any job.  The attempts to form labor unions - which fought for 8 hour days, safety regulations (the United States had one of the highest accident rates in the world, with no compensation for the injured/dead), abolition of child labor, etc. - were fought savagely by the owners of railroads, mines, factories, who hired police and private protection to stop them by any means necessary.  At least twice, under Hayes and Cleveland, the President sent in the U. S. Army to break up strikes.

Now the anarchists weren't the only ones challenging the status quo, but they got the most press because they were the most violent.  They didn't just talk about destroying the state.  Thanks to the invention of dynamite, they worked at physically destroying it.  They bombed public places, killing innocent civilians.  They assassinated some very important figures.  Some of the more notorious examples are:
  • November 8, 1893, the Barcelona Opera House was bombed during a performance of "William Tell", leaving 72 dead or seriously injured.
  • December 9, 1893 - Anarchist Auguste Vaillant bombed the Paris Chamber of Deputies, injuring 20.
  • Februrary 12, 1894 - Emile Henry bombed the Cafe Terminus in Paris, killing one and injurying 20.
  • June 7, 1896 - an unknown anarchist dropped a bomb on the traditional procession of the Sacred Host (it was Corpus Christi) in Barcelona, killing 23 people.  
  • May 31, 1906 - a bomb was set off at the wedding of Spanish King Alfonso XIII and his bride Victoria Eugenie “Ena” of Battenberg.  The royal couple survived, but 25 people were killed and 130 were injured. 
  • April, 1919 - at least 36 booby-trapped, dynamite-filled bombs were mailed to a variety of politicians, appointees, and businessmen, including John D. Rockefeller.  
  • June 2, 1919 - coordinated bombs were set off, almost simultaneously, in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Patterson, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. The intended targets included a mayor, a state legislator, three judges, two businessmen, a cop, and a Catholic priest. No intended victim was hurt, but it terrorized the American public.
  • September 16, 1920 - a wagon full of explosives and shrapnel was set off in front of the Wall Street offices of J.P. Morgan & Co., killing 39 and injuring hundreds more.
(There were many more.  Please note that all of these were done before cell phones, twitter, or any other form of social media.)

And then there were the assassinations:
  • June 24, 1894 - French President Sadi Carnot was stabbed to death in Lyon, France.
  • March 13, 1881 - Russian Tsar Alexander II was killed by one of three bombs that were set off, killing him and at least two others, as well as wounding a number of people in the crowd.
  • Assassination of Alexander II
  • July 29, 1900 - King Umberto I of Italy was shot to death.
  • September 6, 1901 - US President William McKinley was shot to death.
  • February 1, 1908 - King Carlos I of Portugal, along with his heir Luis Filipe, were shot to death.
  • September 10, 1908 - Austrian Empress Elizabeth (wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I) was stabbed to death.  
  • And, of course, on June 28, 1914, the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, were shot by Gavril Princip, sparking World War I.
So, what was the reaction to these 30 years of terror, bombings, and assassinations?  The following is patched together from Johann Hari's excellent article  "Blood Rage and History" in the September 22, 2011 Independent:   Terror, a crackdown on immigration, a "bonfire of civil liberties" - in 1920, after the Wall Street Bombing, Congress declared anarchism "un-American", and said anybody preaching it would be held responsible for "aiding" the attacks.  (This was the first time that an idea had ever been declared un-American.)  A wave of arrests and convictions of people who actually hadn't done anything but talk quickly followed.  (There were some protests, but not a lot.)  But Spain, Italy, and other countries were worse, "and the countries that had the harshest crackdowns ended up with the largest anarchist movements of all, while those that reacted calmly and kept their freedoms open saw the movements implode much faster."  
"From the 1920s on, the anarchist attacks began to dwindle, and by the late 1930s they were over. Why? What happened? Nobody is entirely sure – but most historians suggest a few factors. After the initial wave of state repression, civil liberties slowly advanced – undermining the anarchist claims. The indiscriminate attacks on ordinary civilians discredited anarchism in the eyes of the wider public: after a young man blew himself up in Greenwich Park in 1892, his coffin was stoned and attacked by working class people in the East End. The anarchists' own cruelty and excess slowly deprived them of recruits. 
"But, just as importantly, many of the anarchist grievances were addressed by steady reforms. Trade unions were finally legalised, and many of their demands were achieved one by one: an eight-hour working day, greater safety protections, compensation for the injured. Work was no longer so barbaric – so the violent rejection of it faded away. The changes were nowhere near as radical as those demanded by the anarchists, but it stripped them of followers step-by-step."  Ibid, Hari.  
Can this be applied today?  The simple answer is, yes.  Changes can be made that would address some of the Islamic extremist grievances - two suggestions Hari gives are to abolish torture (even if everyone else is doing it), get free of our oil addiction so we no longer have to be the hired guns for anyone with oil, starting with the house of Saud, which has been and is supporting, harboring, and financing Wahabism, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups for years.  (See Charles Pierce's Esquire piece, There Is Only One Way to Defeat Isis , in which he says "As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh.")  

Even more, though, we should address the fact that most jihadists are unemployed young men, both those who are home-grown Arabs and those who are recruited from Western cities around the world. Let's face facts: young men who are not employed and/or married and (for whatever reason) cannot become employed and/or married are dangerous.  They are restless, discontent, and prone to go off after anyone who will promise them what they want.
Two Notes:  (1) this holds true for our own home-grown malcontents, who are responsible for the majority of those 290 deaths in mass shootings and counting in the USA in 2015.  (2) The Middle East, China and India, have the highest levels of men to women sex ratios in the world, due to in utero sex selection, one-child policies, preference for boys, and (in the Middle East) guest workers.  Right now we're worried about Middle East men.  Some day, someone's going to have to deal with the 30 million [each] of Chinese and Indian men who will not only never be married, but never even be able to get a date.  [Yes, there's a reason for the horrific rise of gang-rapes in India.] Unless someone figures out a peaceful solution, we will be dealing with new terrorist groups, under new names, but will be as horrific as the others.  But more on that another time.
Sex ratio by country for total population. Blue represents more women,
red 
more men than the world average of 1.01 males/female.
DBachmann, Wikipedia
These young men have to be given hope, yes, but not just a vision of it (the extremists give them that), but actual practical things, like a job and a home and a family.  Seriously, this is the way terrorism has always been sparked and how it has always been quenched, from Roman times (read up on the Zealots some time) to the Anarchists.
"Instead of spending astronomical sums on arms, let us spend instead on roads, hospitals, schools, houses, businesses, to create jobs and so on. Instead of financing war, let us purchase peace." Girardian Jean Michel-Oughourlian, Psychopolitics, p. 23
Look it up.  And then go have a good dinner.

Image result for stand with paris




28 April 2014

The Story of a Story

by Fran Rizer


IN THE EIGHTIES

Once upon a time, a writer of magazine articles and promotional materials for entertainers read about a seminar being held at the local university.  Several big name fiction authors including James Dickey were featured speakers and would serve on panels to consult with attendees about their work.  A short piece of fiction or the opening fifteen pages of a novel could be submitted for a contest.  The writer sat down, wrote her first short story on a portable Underwood, and sent in "Positive Proof" with her registration.

Did she win the contest?  No, but an interesting thing happened. 
On the last night of the conference, one of the "big" names sought her out.  

"I was one of the short story judges," he began.

Being more in awe of successful authors back then than she is now, she replied quietly, "Yes, I know."

"I wanted to tell you that I fought for your story.  I thought it should have won first place, but I was outvoted."  He smiled.
"For some reason, they went with that usual southern memoir kind of story."
Fran Rizer in the Eighties

"Thank you," she replied and thought no more about it.  Her first fiction was no more 'southern memoir' than what she writes now. It was about the Kennedy assassination.


The writer continued selling pieces to magazines and really had no desire to delve into fiction again.  "Positive Proof" lay dormant for several years.  I am that writer, and the story of "Positive Proof" is my story.


IN THE NINETIES

After my divorce, I joined a writers' group at the local B&N.
Every time I took in nonfiction or even magazines with my articles printed in them, I heard, "Oh, that's fine, but fiction is a different ballgame.  It's a hard nut to crack."

One night the man I thought of as "the guru" (I had private nicknames for each member of the group), passed out brochures about the Porter Fleming Fiction Competition, sponsored at that time by the Augusta, GA, Arts Council.  (The contest is now in its twenty-first year and sponsored by Morris College.)  

That's the first and last time I ever paid anyone to read something I've written, but I dusted off "Positive Proof," wrote a check for ten dollars, and entered the contest.
The nineties

No, I didn't win first. That went to George Singleton, an already successful short story writer from the Greenville, SC, area whose fiction had been published in Playboy. 
George won $1000. With my prize came $500 and an invitation to read the story at the Arts Festival. I accepted both.

The reception and readings were a wonderful experience. To make it even better, George came up to me at the end and told me he liked my story and was positive I could sell it.

I sent the manuscript to only one mag, which was a big mistake because it was a mystery magazine, and that story isn't a mystery. Devastated when I received a personally written rejection letter stating that the story wasn't suitable for them, I put "Positive Proof" back in a bottom drawer. My magazine features always sold first time out. Why should I inflict this self-induced agony of rejection on myself? 


IN THE 2000s

A few years after my retirement on disability in 2001, I ventured into fiction again.  In 2006, I contracted with Berkley Prime Crime for the first three Callies.


Early 2000s

In 2012, I realized that much would be made in 2013 of the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination, so I pulled out "Positive Proof," updated it a bit, and sent it off to Strand in plenty of time to be considered for publication in 2013.
I still haven't heard from them, so I assume they didn't want it.
The Fran Rizer who sold
"Positive Proof"

On a whim, I sent that story somewhere else a few months ago.  I am pleased to announce that "Positive Proof" has found a home and will be published next month.  Check back in two weeks to see who is publishing it and where you can read it.

Until we meet again....take care of you.