By Taylor MacHenry (aka Charles Henderson)
A song came in my head this morning while I set water at a slow trickle on my red apple tree. Baby Blue, a melody by Badfinger, a worldwide hit in 1971.
Hearing the guitar riff play in my mind, so catchy, I began to recall those days when I served in the Far East, a young United States Marine who had risen to sergeant and was surrounded by the best men I have ever known, or perhaps will ever know. Men who were boys then, but did the work of men, and had pure hearts and high ideals.
Corporal Doug Bricco could play the guitar and sing too. He could pull off that Badfinger riff from Baby Blue and sound just like the recording. Doug, big and muscular, was a studious type, gold rim glasses and a black moustache, regulation, of course. But he was a lot smarter than most of us. A young man with a beautiful mind, and talents to match. He would go far, if he lived past the present days.
Then Corporal Carl Hebert, a coonass from New Orleans. What a piece of work! Filled with jokes and sweetness. I don’t think Carl ever stopped smiling, even when he followed Lieutenant Colonel Ray Porter and his battalion of Marines onto Koh Tang Island and engaged Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces that had kidnapped the American cargo ship, Mayaguez.
There was a certain goodness that hides deep in my heart from the Viet Nam War era. Not the war itself but from that time: The closeness to each other that we felt, we who were mere boys then and put on the uniforms of men and became men.
We were innocent in those days, like America, like everyone in the Land of the Free. Driven by idealism based on goodness and ethics and decency, driven by a love for God and for our country.
Our fathers had, like us, become men in battle. World War II and Korea. I recall as a child in Artesia, New Mexico the hometown boys in uniform, olive green and shined boots, helmets on their heads and M-1 rifles on their shoulders, marching down Main Street, our National Guardsmen home from Korea. Boys who became men, enduring horrors that words cannot describe, yet still holding onto the promises and the innocence of America then, 1953.
Ten years later, things would change. Innocence and decency, purity and honor fell under attack, led by ruthless cowards who saw an opportunity to make money and perhaps train the forces in some real-time combat. They didn’t take Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap seriously.
The French were sissies, after all. Got beat at Dien Bien Phu by a bunch of rice farmers with worn-out guns. They branded the French ineffective fighters for how they rolled over to the Germans in World War II and Charles de Gaulle ran for cover, leaving his nation unguarded. They didn’t stop to consider that General de Gaulle had remained in the weeds, hidden with the French Resistance and led them in a continued fight against the German forces that occupied France. And those rice farmers in Viet Nam fought for a cause alongside well-trained soldiers who had not stopped waging battles since they fought the Japanese in World War II.
America stepped in where the French had failed, ten years earlier at Dien Bien Phu, believing the ideals of Superman—no one can beat us. We were innocent and pure in mind and heart. Our nation’s political leaders weren’t, but we were. And we believed. Because innocent America had raised us. We had goodness in us, running through and through. We came to help a beleaguered people of South Viet Nam, honestly. We did. Honestly. And we died there, physically and emotionally.
The crooks pulling the strings and making money hand over fist did not believe in anything except their richness. They could not care less for America’s children sent to die in a war we did not understand. To this day we still do not understand.
Thus, the hard-working poor and middle class of America once again took up arms, while the mighty few who filled their pockets did not but filled their pockets.
We came home from that war changed. Changed just like America. The goodness became cynicism, mistrust of authority and openly angry objection. We can blame our change as angry men on PTSD, the trauma of war. An easy cop out, but there’s much more to it than simply PTSD. Those of us who saw additional war and more horror after Viet Nam have the memories and struggles and flashbacks of our service stacked atop itself. Most veterans from my time and today’s wars cope, but too many among us simply and finally give up, put a gun to their heads and pull the trigger. We look forward to rest at last from the darkness that overwhelmed us. That took our innocence.
We who remain to fight on miss that innocence and goodness, and the love. We loved America then, and we loved God much more. We loved our families and loved the ideals taught to us at Hermosa Elementary School in Artesia, New Mexico in 1954. And in 1966 when we graduated high school and marched to war in Viet Nam.
We miss the time in this nation when even in New York City the high school boys had shooting clubs and took guns to school. At my high school, we kept them loaded on racks in the back windows of our pickup trucks, parked out front, on the street, unlocked. Not to use to commit violence or terrify anyone, but because guns were a part of who we were as Americans, innocent and pure hearted in our ideals. Guns in America were for sport and pleasure.
They were part of something even much larger: Our liberty. Our decency. The goodness that America was in those difficult years. And during those years, our innocence died.
No, we were not perfect. Far from it! Racial inequality loomed large and shameful, and directly opposed our true American idealism that said God created all of mankind equal and required equal justice and opportunity.
Today, as a nation, we have become bitter and angry. Racism seems to have grown worse, not better with what should be enlightened understanding. We have become selfish like the bastards who led America to war so long ago. Guns mean violence today, and hate stands at every corner. Blame and hatred and loudmouthed condemnation from every side. Ugliness thrives where beauty once lived. Innocence and decency slain by the devil himself, it seems.
Baby Blue begins with, “Guess I got what I deserve… Left you waiting there too long, my love… All that time, without a word… Didn’t know you’d think that I’d forget… or I’d regret… The special love I have for you… My baby blue….”
I can still hear Doug Bricco singing it. His guitar in perfect sync and tune. Boys in the barracks, waiting for battle, to do the work of harsh men. And my heart aches, because I too miss the innocence of that day. I miss the sweetness. The purity of our idealism. And most of all, I miss the love.
by Charles Henderson
I am posting this short story from Rudyard Kipling’s, Just So Stories, for my great granddaughter, Julianne. Daughter of my beloved granddaughter, Janice Elizabeth Henderson, who is one child who is much like the Elephant’s Child, full of what Kipling called in his story, “‘satiable curtisosity.” Once, Janice told me, “Grandpa, I’m just one of those people who has to pee on the electric fence.”
I had told Janice that her father had always learned the hard way, not taking advice but trying things out for himself. I had said that some people will listen when you warn them to not pee on an electric fence. But there are those who must find out for themselves if the electricity is working. After all, the electric fence is just there, all quiet and unassuming, seemingly dead. But go ahead and pee on that bare wire running through insulators.
My Best Beloved Janice is just such an Elephant’s Child, full of adventure and courageous to try anything, despite the warnings and the spankings.
Currently, while serving on active duty in the United States Army, Janice’s beautiful little four year old daughter, Julianne, is living with Janice’s father, my son Toby Warren Henderson, the very same person who must pee on the electric fence. Toby’s brother, Bobby, on the other hand, listens well to advice. But that’s another story. However, today I am talking about my great granddaughter Julianne and “‘satiable curtiosity,” peeing on electric fences.
Rudyard Kipling is one of my very favorite authors, and I do have several that I love, but Kipling is among the best of them. And perhaps my most favorite of Kipling’s tales is that about the insatiably curious child of the mother elephant who one day asks the question: What do crocodiles have for dinner?
Do not tread, O Best Beloved, too near the water’s edge of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees. Advice is a good thing to consider, because experience is often the harsher teacher. Best be prepared for addressing experience by learning a bit first. Then venture off to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, wise with good advice.
As with all the Just So Stories, each has its moral, and often a good explanation of life and nature, such as just how the elephant got its trunk.
I hope that Janice, or perhaps my son, Toby or his wife, Autumn will read this wonderful Kipling tale to Julianne. And when they do, be sure to add the voices of each character. Just as my own loving mother did when she read this tale to me.
THE ELEPHANT’S CHILD
From the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
N the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn’t pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant–a new Elephant–an Elephant’s Child–who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his ‘satiable curtiosities. He asked his tall aunt, the Ostrich, why her tail-feathers grew just so, and his tall aunt the Ostrich spanked him with her hard, hard claw. He asked his tall uncle, the Giraffe, what made his skin spotty, and his tall uncle, the Giraffe, spanked him with his hard, hard hoof. And still he was full of ‘satiable curtiosity! He asked his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, why her eyes were red, and his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, spanked him with her broad, broad hoof; and he asked his hairy uncle, the Baboon, why melons tasted just so, and his hairy uncle, the Baboon, spanked him with his hairy, hairy paw. And still he was full of ‘satiable curtiosity! He asked questions about everything that he saw, or heard, or felt, or smelt, or touched, and all his uncles and his aunts spanked him. And still he was full of ‘satiable curtiosity!
One fine morning in the middle of the Precession of the Equinoxes this ‘satiable Elephant’s Child asked a new fine question that he had never asked before. He asked, ‘What does the Crocodile have for dinner?’ Then everybody said, ‘Hush!’ in a loud and dretful tone, and they spanked him immediately and directly, without stopping, for a long time.
By and by, when that was finished, he came upon Kolokolo Bird sitting in the middle of a wait-a-bit thorn-bush, and he said, ‘My father has spanked me, and my mother has spanked me; all my aunts and uncles have spanked me for my ‘satiable curtiosity; and still I want to know what the Crocodile has for dinner!’
Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, ‘Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.’
That very next morning, when there was nothing left of the Equinoxes, because the Precession had preceded according to precedent, this ‘satiable Elephant’s Child took a hundred pounds of bananas (the little short red kind), and a hundred pounds of sugar-cane (the long purple kind), and seventeen melons (the greeny-crackly kind), and said to all his dear families, ‘Goodbye. I am going to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to find out what the Crocodile has for dinner.’ And they all spanked him once more for luck, though he asked them most politely to stop.
Then he went away, a little warm, but not at all astonished, eating melons, and throwing the rind about, because he could not pick it up.
He went from Graham’s Town to Kimberley, and from Kimberley to Khama’s Country, and from Khama’s Country he went east by north, eating melons all the time, till at last he came to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, precisely as Kolokolo Bird had said.
Now you must know and understand, O Best Beloved, that till that very week, and day, and hour, and minute, this ‘satiable Elephant’s Child had never seen a Crocodile, and did not know what one was like. It was all his ‘satiable curtiosity.
The first thing that he found was a Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake curled round a rock.
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child most politely, ‘but have you seen such a thing as a Crocodile in these promiscuous parts?’
‘Have I seen a Crocodile?’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, in a voice of dretful scorn. ‘What will you ask me next?’
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child, ‘but could you kindly tell me what he has for dinner?’
Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake uncoiled himself very quickly from the rock, and spanked the Elephant’s Child with his scalesome, flailsome tail.
‘That is odd,’ said the Elephant’s Child, ‘because my father and my mother, and my uncle and my aunt, not to mention my other aunt, the Hippopotamus, and my other uncle, the Baboon, have all spanked me for my ‘satiable curtiosity–and I suppose this is the same thing.’
So he said good-bye very politely to the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, and helped to coil him up on the rock again, and went on, a little warm, but not at all astonished, eating melons, and throwing the rind about, because he could not pick it up, till he trod on what he thought was a log of wood at the very edge of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees.
But it was really the Crocodile, O Best Beloved, and the Crocodile winked one eye–like this!
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child most politely, ‘but do you happen to have seen a Crocodile in these promiscuous parts?’
Then the Crocodile winked the other eye, and lifted half his tail out of the mud; and the Elephant’s Child stepped back most politely, because he did not wish to be spanked again.
‘Come hither, Little One,’ said the Crocodile. ‘Why do you ask such things?’
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child most politely, ‘but my father has spanked me, my mother has spanked me, not to mention my tall aunt, the Ostrich, and my tall uncle, the Giraffe, who can kick ever so hard, as well as my broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, and my hairy uncle, the Baboon, and including the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, with the scalesome, flailsome tail, just up the bank, who spanks harder than any of them; and so, if it’s quite all the same to you, I don’t want to be spanked any more.’
‘Come hither, Little One,’ said the Crocodile, ‘for I am the Crocodile,’ and he wept crocodile-tears to show it was quite true.
Then the Elephant’s Child grew all breathless, and panted, and kneeled down on the bank and said, ‘You are the very person I have been looking for all these long days. Will you please tell me what you have for dinner?’
‘Come hither, Little One,’ said the Crocodile, ‘and I’ll whisper.’
Then the Elephant’s Child put his head down close to the Crocodile’s musky, tusky mouth, and the Crocodile caught him by his little nose, which up to that very week, day, hour, and minute, had been no bigger than a boot, though much more useful.
‘I think,’ said the Crocodile–and he said it between his teeth, like this–‘I think to-day I will begin with Elephant’s Child!’
At this, O Best Beloved, the Elephant’s Child was much annoyed, and he said, speaking through his nose, like this, ‘Led go! You are hurtig be!’
Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake scuffled down from the bank and said, ‘My young friend, if you do not now, immediately and instantly, pull as hard as ever you can, it is my opinion that your acquaintance in the large-pattern leather ulster’ (and by this he meant the Crocodile) ‘will jerk you into yonder limpid stream before you can say Jack Robinson.’
This is the way Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk.
Then the Elephant’s Child sat back on his little haunches, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose began to stretch. And the Crocodile floundered into the water, making it all creamy with great sweeps of his tail, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled.
And the Elephant’s Child’s nose kept on stretching; and the Elephant’s Child spread all his little four legs and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose kept on stretching; and the Crocodile threshed his tail like an oar, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and at each pull the Elephant’s Child’s nose grew longer and longer–and it hurt him hijjus!
Then the Elephant’s Child felt his legs slipping, and he said through his nose, which was now nearly five feet long, ‘This is too butch for be!’
Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake came down from the bank, and knotted himself in a double-clove-hitch round the Elephant’s Child’s hind legs, and said, ‘Rash and inexperienced traveller, we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension, because if we do not, it is my impression that yonder self-propelling man-of-war with the armour-plated upper deck’ (and by this, O Best Beloved, he meant the Crocodile), ‘will permanently vitiate your future career.’
That is the way all Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk.
So he pulled, and the Elephant’s Child pulled, and the Crocodile pulled; but the Elephant’s Child and the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake pulled hardest; and at last the Crocodile let go of the Elephant’s Child’s nose with a plop that you could hear all up and down the Limpopo.
Then the Elephant’s Child sat down most hard and sudden; but first he was careful to say ‘Thank you’ to the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake; and next he was kind to his poor pulled nose, and wrapped it all up in cool banana leaves, and hung it in the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo to cool.
‘What are you doing that for?’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child, ‘but my nose is badly out of shape, and I am waiting for it to shrink.’
‘Then you will have to wait a long time,’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. ‘Some people do not know what is good for them.’
The Elephant’s Child sat there for three days waiting for his nose to shrink. But it never grew any shorter, and, besides, it made him squint. For, O Best Beloved, you will see and understand that the Crocodile had pulled it out into a really truly trunk same as all Elephants have to-day.
At the end of the third day a fly came and stung him on the shoulder, and before he knew what he was doing he lifted up his trunk and hit that fly dead with the end of it.
”Vantage number one!’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. ‘You couldn’t have done that with a mere-smear nose. Try and eat a little now.’
Before he thought what he was doing the Elephant’s Child put out his trunk and plucked a large bundle of grass, dusted it clean against his fore-legs, and stuffed it into his own mouth.
”Vantage number two!’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. ‘You couldn’t have done that with a mere-smear nose. Don’t you think the sun is very hot here?’
‘It is,’ said the Elephant’s Child, and before he thought what he was doing he schlooped up a schloop of mud from the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo, and slapped it on his head, where it made a cool schloopy-sloshy mud-cap all trickly behind his ears.
”Vantage number three!’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. ‘You couldn’t have done that with a mere-smear nose. Now how do you feel about being spanked again?’
”Scuse me,’ said the Elephant’s Child, ‘but I should not like it at all.’
‘How would you like to spank somebody?’ said the Bi- Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.
‘I should like it very much indeed,’ said the Elephant’s Child.
‘Well,’ said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, ‘you will find that new nose of yours very useful to spank people with.’
‘Thank you,’ said the Elephant’s Child, ‘I’ll remember that; and now I think I’ll go home to all my dear families and try.’
So the Elephant’s Child went home across Africa frisking and whisking his trunk. When he wanted fruit to eat he pulled fruit down from a tree, instead of waiting for it to fall as he used to do. When he wanted grass he plucked grass up from the ground, instead of going on his knees as he used to do. When the flies bit him he broke off the branch of a tree and used it as fly-whisk; and he made himself a new, cool, slushy-squshy mud-cap whenever the sun was hot. When he felt lonely walking through Africa he sang to himself down his trunk, and the noise was louder than several brass bands.
He went especially out of his way to find a broad Hippopotamus (she was no relation of his), and he spanked her very hard, to make sure that the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake had spoken the truth about his new trunk. The rest of the time he picked up the melon rinds that he had dropped on his way to the Limpopo–for he was a Tidy Pachyderm.
One dark evening he came back to all his dear families, and he coiled up his trunk and said, ‘How do you do?’ They were very glad to see him, and immediately said, ‘Come here and be spanked for your ‘satiable curtiosity.’
‘Pooh,’ said the Elephant’s Child. ‘I don’t think you peoples know anything about spanking; but I do, and I’ll show you.’ Then he uncurled his trunk and knocked two of his dear brothers head over heels.
‘O Bananas!’ said they, ‘where did you learn that trick, and what have you done to your nose?’
‘I got a new one from the Crocodile on the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River,’ said the Elephant’s Child. ‘I asked him what he had for dinner, and he gave me this to keep.’
‘It looks very ugly,’ said his hairy uncle, the Baboon.
‘It does,’ said the Elephant’s Child. ‘But it’s very useful,’ and he picked up his hairy uncle, the Baboon, by one hairy leg, and hove him into a hornet’s nest.
Then that bad Elephant’s Child spanked all his dear families for a long time, till they were very warm and greatly astonished. He pulled out his tall Ostrich aunt’s tail-feathers; and he caught his tall uncle, the Giraffe, by the hind-leg, and dragged him through a thorn-bush; and he shouted at his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, and blew bubbles into her ear when she was sleeping in the water after meals; but he never let any one touch Kolokolo Bird.
At last things grew so exciting that his dear families went off one by one in a hurry to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to borrow new noses from the Crocodile. When they came back nobody spanked anybody any more; and ever since that day, O Best Beloved, all the Elephants you will ever see, besides all those that you won’t, have trunks precisely like the trunk of the ‘satiable Elephant’s Child.
I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five.
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men:
But different folk have different views:
I know a person small–
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends ’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes–
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
by Charles Henderson
Here’s a screenshot of the front page of The New York Times, Friday, January 20, 2017 edition. Look at the headline to the left of the photograph of Trump arriving in Washington, DC for the inauguration. It reads: “Wiretapped Data Used In Inquiry Of Trump Aides.”
The article says in its lead paragraph that investigators while conducting surveillance operations intercepted telephone conversations and data (email) of the Trump presidential campaign, his staff and his associates talking with the Russians. This is how they got the goods on General Michael T. Flynn. If the Obama White House did not authorize this surveillance and wiretapping, then who did? And why? What was their “Reasonable Cause” to justify a wiretap?
While we listen to the spin from every sector and side, one warning comes to mind: Don’t drink the government’s Kool-Aid.
Here’s the facts, Jack. Since the passage of the Patriot Act, after 9-11, most wiretaps are initiated and conducted without the benefit of a warrant. Investigators just go snooping, tap a line and then when they smell a skunk, they go for a warrant using evidence for reasonable cause to which they were led by their illegally gained information. Quite often they use the umbrella of the Patriot Act, all in the name of seeking out enemies of the American people. Yes the 4th and 5th amendments are pretty much out the window, along with the 1st Amendment and the 14th Amendment.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency/Central Security Service, Defense Intelligence Agency and even the Central Intelligence Agency (albeit illegal as it may be for the CIA to operate within US borders) spend thousands of man hours daily monitoring wiretaps, most of them dubiously conducted under the Patriot Act, and often conducted by private security contractors. Private contractors are handy when you want to deny an activity and cover up crimes, especially when the stuff you’ve done is illegal. Are you watching the HBO TV series, HOMELAND? Yes, very scary.
I know a lot about the subject because in 2006 I was a victim of illegal wiretaps and ruthless throat cutting by a US government security contractor. And it cost me nearly everything I had, and very nearly cost me my writing career.
In 2006, I was under contract with a major New York publisher to write a nonfiction book about the war in Iraq. I had assembled a good deal of research, and had a multitude of sources, many of whom provided me information under my promise to never reveal who they are. Overall, the book was fairly benign, it just examined the war from specific operational standpoints. However, during the research, I came to know about the wanton murder of two Iraqi civilians by an American contractor. One of their supervisors simply shot the two individuals for sport. He just wanted to kill some people. He had told the three security agents with him that he was heading home the next day, and had not killed anyone on this tour. So he sport shot a man in a sedan in Baghdad, and later killed a man in a delivery van near the airport.
As I began to peel back layers in this disgusting story, I found that a reporter from The New York Times and a reporter from The Washington Post were also investigating the story. So, I contacted them and we shared information, getting to the truth of the story. At the time, American contractors in a war zone did not fall under any United States legal jurisdiction, but only faced prosecution by a host nation government, if one existed. In Iraq, the government was not interested in such prosecution, nor capable of even investigating these murders. Death lived on the streets of Baghdad then, daily. Thus the contractors operated with no legal oversight. They could sling guns and kill people, and faced no consequences. For justice sake, that needed to change, and this might help.
As I worked on my book, one day I was surprised to learn that a federal court in Herndon, Virginia had issued a subpoena to me and ordered me to surrender to the court all my computers and similar devices, all of my notes and notebooks, all recordings and notes, provide the court a complete list of all of my sources, and that I was to be deposed to answer all that I knew about the matter of the killing of the two civilians in Baghdad. I was to surrender all of this and be deposed by the attorneys for the private security contractor for whom the man who had committed the murders worked.
It was not the government investigating the murders, but the federal court helping the private security contractor put a sock in my investigation, stop me from writing my book, and silence me about the killings. The private security contractor, along with State Department had covered up the murders, and they needed everything I knew or would say buried. So they came after me.
I countered the attack with my attorneys, citing my First Amendment Rights as a journalist, and Colorado Shield Laws protecting journalists, and I refused to comply with the federal court order. This cost me a hunk of money, everything I had received in book advance, and then once it went to trial it would cost a whole lot more money that I did not have, nor had hope of having. Of courses, the private security contractor’s lawyers were going to render me dead by a thousand cuts. Drain me dry so that I couldn’t fight back. They had lots more money than I had, and they knew it.
During this time that I came under assault by the contractor, I was carrying on almost daily conversations and exchanging email with the Times and Post reporters, and with United States Senator James H. Webb.
Senator Webb was carrying out his own inquiry in relation with investigating the very dubious and questionable activities of American contractors in Iraq, and the fact that at the time they fell under no legal jurisdiction except the Iraqi government (and similarly in Afghanistan), which was in no position to pursue any murder cases. The Iraqi government was in shambles, and people were getting shot on the streets of Baghdad daily. Therefore, an American contractor in Iraq could commit cold-blooded murder and never face prosecution.
In this case, the State Department paid off the Iraqi people that needed to be paid for silence, the government contractor fired the supervisor that committed the murders, and fired the three employees who witnessed the murders. Coverup complete.
Except, one of the fired employees was angry about what he had witnessed, the cold-blooded murder, and for getting fired for seeing it happen and reporting the events up the chain of command, as he should. He wanted justice and he was talking. The man was a Marine who left active service to work for the contractor, and he knew me. So, he called me and told me every dirty detail, including their use of alcohol, illegal drugs and steroids, and how that made them all a little crazy.
After the contractor had come after me, many of my sources suddenly became distant, reluctant to answer my calls or email. I suspected that the security contractor was reaching out to everyone that might know me. My sources came to know by the grapevine that I was in the contractor’s crosshairs. So, to head off the rumor mill, I called everyone involved in my book and told them that for the time being, I would not be talking to them. Not until this nightmare had run its course.
Then the one eyewitness who was sounding off about the killings ended up dead. Hit by a car and no witnesses. Small town sheriff investigation open and shut in a day. This man had gone back on active duty with the Marine Corps, had gone home on leave with his wife, and ended up splattered afoot and alone on dark highway in the Wisconsin back country. That pretty much put an end to anyone ever saying another word. The other two eyewitnesses suddenly suffered from memory loss. If the contractor hadn’t arranged the deadly accident, it looked awfully convenient for them.
At the time that I was subpoenaed and ordered to give up my research and sources and be deposed, my colleagues at the Post and the Times went dark. Too much heat and not enough corroborating evidence for them to publish their stories. And now no witnesses. They didn’t want to be caught up in a costly lawsuit and have nothing to show for it. Also, my publisher disappeared off the horizon as soon as the word, “lawyers,” was mentioned. Good luck pal. You’re on your own. And I don’t fault anyone here. It was a lost cause now.
As we were preparing for trial, and were in the last days of discovery, where the opposing side had to reveal their evidence to me, my lawyer showed me a number of interesting documents. Private emails about the Baghdad killings exchanged back and forth between me and Senator Webb, discussing details of the events of the murders, and other information about the contractors, such as their use of narcotics, meth amphetamines, steroids and alcohol while on the job. A lot of very disturbing facts that gave us greater understanding of how reckless some of these gunslingers operated.
Now, let me be clear, I have a number of friends who worked for security contractors in Iraq, and they did outstanding work. Very much above board. We are talking about a minority of individuals, some reckless dirtbags and a company that operated at a level below the bottom of a sludge pond.
The opposing council had a whole raft of documents, and a number of items of information obtained only from telephone conversations between Senator Webb and me that were strictly private. The only way they could have obtained these documents and this information was through illegal surveillance and illegal wiretaps of my computer data streams and telephone lines.
It was hardly a day after my attorney had confronted the contractor’s lawyers with this evidence that strongly revealed that they had illegally wiretapped me, that they dropped the entire case. They signed a document that said they would leave me alone, and I was free to do anything I wanted with all the information that I had.
By then, however, the contractor knew that my sources were silent, and that I would not be writing the book, because they had succeeded in torpedoing the entire project. So they went away, their mission accomplished.
On the plus side, I never revealed my sources, and I never was deposed, nor did I ever turn over a shred of paper or a note to anyone. But I didn’t write the book either. My gracious publisher, thanks to a very caring editor, gave me a new contract for another book, and took the prior advance that I owed them for the failed book project out of the new book, which I delivered.
Meanwhile, Senator Jim Webb was furious about the obvious illegal wiretaps, and wanted serious blood. Then karma, providence and probably God stepped up. As Webb went after the government contractors in Iraq, one day a crew from Blackwater was leading a convoy out of the US Embassy in Baghdad. For some unexplainable reason, one of the Blackwater crew opened fire on a crowd of people. Hearing his shots fired the crew accompanying him lit up the whole neighborhood with gunfire. The sidewalks teamed with civilians that day, and when the smoke cleared 31 of them lay dead.
It wasn’t long after that happened that Congress passed a law that brought all American contractors operating in any combat area with US forces under the legal jurisdiction of the United States Government. We didn’t need to publish the story after all, because some reckless contractors had cut all their own throats. But to this day, the murderer of the two Iraqi civilians still walks free, and the Marine eyewitness who demanded justice is still dead.
But the moral of this story is simple: The Government can say that they didn’t tap anyone’s data streams or telephones, and no one may have ever gotten a warrant. But that doesn’t make their denials true. Especially if they hire a contractor to do the dirty work.
Wiretaps by the government, too often illegal, or under the cloudy guise of the umbrella authorizations of the Patriot Act, are a fact of life today in America. Our 4th and 5th, as well as our 1st, 2nd and 14th amendment rights have been badly eroded all in the name of public safety. And even presidential candidates are not immune to the invasive nature of our government, all in the name of national security.
Ask yourself this: If there were not wiretaps, no government agents listening in, then how did they know about the Trump campaign’s conversations with the Russians? How do they know many specific details, and how do they know the right questions to ask?
This is not to defend Donald Trump, but to say don’t drink anyone’s Kool-Aid. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was just as likely surveilled as was the Trump campaign, Bernie Sanders’ campaign and others.
By Charles Henderson
“Do not go gentle into that good night,” wrote Dylan Marlais Thomas in 1951 as his father, David John Thomas, lay dying. Verses of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night have rung in my head the past two days as my dear little brother, Jim, lies raging at the dying of his light. Stricken by ALS for the past year and a half, his light has slowly but surely faded. A cruel sickness. His life now ends, and my tears flow as my heart breaks and breaks, and I rage at the final fading of his good light.
The elder Thomas, a teacher of English literature at a local grammar school in Swansea, Wales, the town of Dylan’s birth, finally died the following year, 1952. Dylan Thomas died a year after that, November 9, 1953, after traveling to New York City in mid-October to perform engagements of poetry readings.
Thomas wrote two poems that year, 1951, described by his biographer, Paul Ferris, as “unusually blunt.” Both teamed of sorrowful life and bitter death, as death itself seemed to haunt Dylan as his father lay slowly dying, not going gentle into that good night.
“Lament,” the first poem, was a retrospect of Thomas’ own troubled, ribald life, seeing death as his destiny. Then there was “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” a nineteen-line villanelle (vallanesque) urging his dear father to keep fighting the good fight, and do not go gentle but rage, rage at the dying of the light.
Death seemed to haunt Dylan Thomas from the onset, however, he retained hope to rage against it always. One of his first works, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” he wrote in a personal notebook in April 1933, the title taken from the Bible, book of Romans, chapter 6, verse 9, “Knowing that Christ raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Dylan had befriended local grocer Bert Trick, who suggested that they write about immortality. While Trick saw his poem, “For Death Is Not The End,” published the next year in a newspaper, Thomas’s poem did not see daylight until he included it in his second book of poems, “Twenty-Five Poems,” published in September 1936, two years after “18 Poems.”
Like many great writers, mood swings and self-loathing, and a wealth of pure bullshit painted the outward character that people saw in Dylan Thomas. He enjoyed a stout ale or two, and more. Often he drank before his poetry readings, and made a show of it. Like a tweed jacket, he wore it well.
Many doubt that Thomas was nearly as drunk as he put on while shocking his audiences. Great writers can get away with murder, if the audience buys that the demon spirits have engulfed him. They pity with awe, and Dylan Thomas lapped it up, hating himself all the while, living hard and dying young.
While I lived in New York City in the 1980s, I lapped up some of the same liquor, with other aspiring writer friends. I was internationally published with a bestseller, and Vincent Sardi seated me at a front table. Fraudulent license, because I was no great writer then, but it got me good seats, and Broadway show tickets. Tommy Makem gave me the run of his Irish Pavilion on Lexington and east 57th Street, and gave me dispensation to smoke my Cuban cigars in his establishment, while on the menu, clearly printed at the bottom of each page, “No Cigar Smoking,” cautioned all clients.
One of my favorite stations for dark stout ale sat at a back booth in a saloon called The White Horse Tavern, on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. I noticed one day, while sucking froth off my Guinness pint, a brass plaque above my head that simply read, Dylan Thomas. I pointed it out to my old dear pal, John Britt, the Mustard King from my book Silent Warrior, a man who forgot more poetry than I ever knew, and wrote great poems that few have read.
“Yeah, Dylan Thomas died here,” John said. “You didn’t know?”
“No,” I said, wanting to know more.
“Actually, he collapsed here,” the Mustard King said, smoking his cigar and sipping dark stout ale. “They took him to Belleview, I think, and he died there.”
In truth, Thomas died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he lay in a coma for five days from alcoholic encephalopathy—brain damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Scottish poet, Ruthven Todd, had introduced Dylan Thomas to the White Horse, and that “hard-yella-liquor,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald called the nectars distilled in the West Highlands and Far North of Scotland.
Thomas and Todd had gone on a bender, and Dylan returned to his digs at the Hotel Chelsea, telling friends, “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s a record!” Witnesses said Thomas had perhaps half that number.
Dylan returned to the White Horse with his lover, Liz Reitell, an attractive assistant of American poet, John Brinnin, who had brought Thomas to America for the poetry readings and headed the Poetry Center in New York, where Thomas was slated to appear in the performance, Under Milk Wood. Dylan and Liz had a racy three-week romance. The poet had many such affairs since his marriage to Irish dancer, Caitlin McNamara, in 1936, and regardless of the flings, Caitlin stuck it out.
Meanwhile, at the White Horse, continuing his binge, Thomas rode high on some drugs a doctor had injected in him, three times that day at the hotel, supposedly to help his “feeling sick.” Among the injections, thirty-two and a half milligrams of morphine sulfate.
Sex, drugs, rock and roll had not come into the American hip consciousness quite yet. Jack Kerouac still roamed free, creating the hip beatnik dream. Yet, truth be known, it was Dylan Thomas who did it first. Sex, drugs, rock and roll killed him in the White Horse Tavern that ninth November day of 1953, when Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night was all the rage.
So there I sat then, in 1987, New York City, with John the Mustard King, and a stranger next to us, that turned out to be Robert Downey Jr. He was not such an Iron Man in those days, but did like the Dylan Thomas way of life.
We sat and smoked the Cuban Monte Cristo torpedoes and drank dark brown ale, and a few hard yella liquors deep into the night, or a few nights and more. The ghost of Dylan Thomas there by us, at his high backed wooden booth, putting down the shots and suds, and raging at the fading of the light.
And here I sit today, raging at the fading of the light. My little brother Jim, going into that good night.
I dedicated my new novel, TERMINAL IMPACT, to Jim, and it thrilled him. He got to read it, and I hope he liked it. He never said, before he drifted off into this final rest, my heart breaking and me raging, raging and raging against the dying of Jim’s light. (Update: Jim passed away on February 20th, 2016, two days after I originally posted this commentary. We buried him next to his son, Jody, three days later. And I continue to weep for my dear little brother, who suffered so greatly and we loved him so very, very much.)
Dylan Thomas’s poems ring strong in my mind, both the dark and the bright: Life everlasting in, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.” Life lived to the brim in, “Lament.” But at the end of the day, it seems that “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” keeps coming round and round. Its raging verses raging and raging as the light fades.
And Death Shall Have No Dominion
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.
And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.
When I was a windy boy and a bit
And the black spit of the chapel fold,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of women),
I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood,
The rude owl cried like a tell-tale tit,
I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled
Nine-pin down on donkey’s common,
And on seesaw sunday nights I wooed
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
The whole of the moon I could love and leave
All the green leaved little weddings’ wives
In the coal black bush and let them grieve.
When I was a gusty man and a half
And the black beast of the beetles’ pews
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of bitches),
Not a boy and a bit in the wick-
Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf,
I whistled all night in the twisted flues,
Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
And the sizzling sheets of the town cried, Quick!-
Whenever I dove in a breast high shoal,
Wherever I ramped in the clover quilts,
Whatsoever I did in the coal-
Black night, I left my quivering prints.
When I was a man you could call a man
And the black cross of the holy house,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of welcome),
Brandy and ripe in my bright, bass prime,
No springtailed tom in the red hot town
With every simmering woman his mouse
But a hillocky bull in the swelter
Of summer come in his great good time
To the sultry, biding herds, I said,
Oh, time enough when the blood runs cold,
And I lie down but to sleep in bed,
For my sulking, skulking, coal black soul!
When I was half the man I was
And serve me right as the preachers warn,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of downfall),
No flailing calf or cat in a flame
Or hickory bull in milky grass
But a black sheep with a crumpled horn,
At last the soul from its foul mousehole
Slunk pouting out when the limp time came;
And I gave my soul a blind, slashed eye,
Gristle and rind, and a roarers’ life,
And I shoved it into the coal black sky
To find a woman’s soul for a wife.
Now I am a man no more no more
And a black reward for a roaring life,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of strangers),
Tidy and cursed in my dove cooed room
I lie down thin and hear the good bells jaw–
For, oh, my soul found a sunday wife
In the coal black sky and she bore angels!
Harpies around me out of her womb!
Chastity prays for me, piety sings,
Innocence sweetens my last black breath,
Modesty hides my thighs in her wings,
And all the deadly virtues plague my death!
Do not go gentle into that good night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I love you, Jim. I look forward to seeing you again.
by Charles Henderson
A young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus answered the man (Matthew 19:16-22), “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
And as so many young people will retort, the young man asked Jesus, “Which ones?”
Jesus answered him:
“Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Again as so many will argue, the young man told Jesus, “I have kept all these. What do I still lack?”
Then Jesus responded, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Clearly, this overwhelmed the young man, as it would so many of us, and Jesus knows it too. The Scripture concludes that when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
We all can identify with that young man. We have much and do not easily give what we love away. Yes, we do love our material world, and those things that we possess. We are human, and God knows this about us. Very, very few of us give up all we own and follow Christ. We want to have our stuff, and Jesus too.
Jesus then turned to His disciples and told them (Matthew 19:23-26), “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
His disciples were astonished and asked our Lord, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We know that eternal life with Christ comes only one way, through Christ Jesus, Himself. (Ephesians 2:8-9) “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast.”
All of us have broken many of God’s commandments. How many of us are willing to sell all that we own and give to the poor? And how many of us are willing to even come and completely follow Christ?
Following Christ means letting go of this worldly life and living in God’s will, wholly serving Jesus as our Lord, doing all that He calls us to do, and turning away from all that we want to do for ourselves.
Yes, that last part is the hardest part. Turning away from all that we want to do for ourselves, and doing all for Christ. As human beings are we even capable of it?
So, what is the least we can do? As Christians, what ought we do?
Paul says that we are slaves of Christ by our free will, our own choices, when we are saved. As slaves of Christ, the Lord owns us body and soul, and all that we have. Yet, none of us, not even the best and most righteous of us, come close to what Jesus told the young man.
God knows this, and has known it all along. Jesus knew it when He told the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and come follow Him. He was asking the humanly impossible.
However, to serve Christ we must at least give it our best efforts. And I think that this is what matters to God. We give to Him our honest best efforts, put Him first in our lives, and beg His forgiveness when we fail. And we do fail daily. Believe me.
So, you may ask, what does this best effort entail?
One thing clearly, the Holy Spirit will show you. Each day you will have choices, selfish ones and giving ones. Choices that serve God’s will and choices that serve your own desires. Believe me, you will know it when you encounter the choices. The Holy Spirit will tug at your heart, or gut. You will feel that little pull on your strings somehow, somewhere, and rather than ignoring that twist at the pit of your stomach, stop and listen to what the Lord says to you.
While the Bible does not command us to give, we know that God wants us to give. Does that make sense?
Paul repeatedly tells us that God has made each of us with talents that support and serve His will and the Body of Christ, His Church. He calls some of us as preachers and teachers, some as prayer warriors, mentors, some as musicians, some as financial managers and fund raisers; each of us different, and most of us with multiple talents. But God calls all of us to serve Him in one way or another, in all the ways that we can.
Perhaps the most troublesome subject among church-going people is the practice of Tithing and regular financial offerings. It is vital to every church that the congregation give to the church financially, so that God’s work can reach all who need Him. Today, many, many people need greatly.
Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to Tithe. He does not require us to give a dime. Yet we must give something back to God, some of what He gives to us, in order for His church to do its work and flourish.
Think about it for a moment. Consider yourself and the gifts that others give to you. Except for some greedy children at Christmas, do you command your family to give you gifts, such as on your birthday or Christmas? Yet, for most of us, our families give abundantly to us. Why do you suppose that is?
We give gifts because we love the people to whom we give them.
Same goes for giving to God. We give to Him because we love Him.
God wants us to have a joyful, giving heart. Giving not only to Him, but giving to all who need. Jesus told the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. God loves them, and that is how He gives to the poor. Through us, who love God.
Therefore, Tithes long ago became a standard among Christian churches.
Tithe in Hebrew means a tenth.
The practice of giving a tenth comes in many respects from the example that Jacob sets for us in Genesis 28:22, when he named the place, Bethel, or God’s House. Scripture says, “This stone I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give to me.”
This Scripture comes after Jacob, who God later names Israel, departed from his home and had received from his father, Isaac, the family inheritance, and had received Isaac’s blessing ahead of his brother Esau. Esau, in turn, went to his uncle, Ishmael, and married his daughter, Mahalath. Another story.
As the inheritor of Isaac and the covenant of Abraham, Jacob listened to his father and mother, and departed for Paddan-aram, where he would find his wives, Leah and Rachel.
And thus we have the following Scripture that tells of Jacob’s dream, God’s blessings to come, and Jacob’s vow to God:
Genesis 28:10-22 (HCSB)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.
11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place.
12 And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it.
13 Yahweh was standing there beside him, saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on.
14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it
19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear,
21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God.
22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”
Some people interpret what Jacob vowed as him striking a bargain with God, and in return for that bargain he would give a Tithe or a tenth back to God of all that God had given to him. One hand washes the other. A contract with two sides.
I interpret it differently than Jacob striking a bargain with God. We do not bargain with God!
I believe that Jacob loved God, and spoke his vow as reassurance, knowing without a doubt that God will take care of him in his journey and will bring him home safely. For Jacob, this dream was the proof that God was with him, and he knew it.
Therefore, in praise of God and with a joyful and giving heart, Jacob pledged to God a tenth of all that God gave him.
Jacob realized that all that exists and all that he had inherited came from God, and that he was blessed by God. Jacob’s dream told him this! Jacob’s vow was simply him verbalizing all that he realized, largely shown him in the dream: That God was with him and would take him to this far-away land safely, protecting him, and would return him home safely. And that God’s plan for him was a great nation. His offspring would be like the dust of the earth, and would spread in all directions, and the land where he rested would be his, for his nation, Israel. God promised this to Jacob, without any bargaining.
Jacob pledged to God a tenth of all that God gave him. Jacob made this promise and gave his Tithes because he loved the Lord. Jacob praised God for His blessings. For His promises.
As I said, there are those who will argue that it was simply Jacob’s side of a bargain he struck with God. If God delivered His side of the deal, Jacob would give a tenth of all he received from then on.
I am sorry, but I choose to believe in the goodness of Jacob; that Jacob did not bargain with God but loved the Lord, and celebrated God’s love for him by giving back to God his Tithes.
Today, many Christians follow this example and give a tenth to God of all that God gives to them. That tenth, or Tithe, is the very least they give, their bottom line. It is not a limit to giving but a floor. We do not just give our ten percent, but at least give that much.
We give with a free and joyful heart. Giving because of our love of God. Tithing is one of many ways we praise God, and show Him our thanks for all He gives to us.
Another aspect of this giving is where we draw the line to base that tenth.
We know in Genesis 4 that Abel was a shepherd and Cain worked the ground. Cain presented some of the produce of the land as an offering to God, but Abel presented as an offering to God some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.
I do not know the quality of Cain’s offering of some of his produce, Genesis 4 does not describe it, but God did not find Cain’s offering favorable. However, God did find that Abel giving his firstborn pleased Him. God found favor in Abel’s offering.
Of course, God favoring Abel’s offering sparked the murder of Abel by Cain. Jealousy of brother against brother, the sin that led to murder.
From Abel we learn that God favors the firstborn, or the first fruits. We see that repeated in all offerings throughout history. God favors the first fruits. Its meaning is symbolic of the most valuable and most significant to us. Our gifts to God should have strong meaning with us. It should be a sacrifice to give them, thus they are important and put God first of all things in our lives.
Remember this? God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, for our salvation. Jesus is our Heavenly Father’s firstborn Lamb, God’s first fruit.
Thus, in our offerings to God, giving to our church, we should consider our first fruits as offering. In modern times, many of us regard that first fruit as the gross amount of money that we earn.
What does God give us? All that we have or ever will have. From everything that we receive from God, we should consider taking His portion off the top, not the bottom.
“I can’t afford to give to the church, I am behind in my debts,” some may say.
Others may object, “If I give a tenth to the church, then I am short that much in my family budget. God needs to give me more, so I can afford to give offerings to God.”
On the opposite end of that argument we have churches that basically tax their congregations ten percent of earnings and more. Many do it. They require members to submit annual earnings statements and pledges of their Tithes. They demand ten percent. Some church leaders will say that Tithing is Scriptural Law, which simply is not true. And many in the churches honestly believe it too.
Such practices have many Christians turning away from churches, and condemning even the mention of Tithes. It causes members to begrudgingly give anything.
God wants our hearts, not our money!
God does not need our money! He created all that exists. All of it belongs to Him in the first place.
We should only give to God because of our love for Him, and our desire to serve Him in all that we can do.
For the Christian family, giving a Tithe, is often a good practice. When I was a child, I was taught to call it my “Love Offering.” And I joyfully gave! I love God!
Tithing is a good way for a family to budget its funds too. It is a sound practice for a family that projects its spending, and follows God’s will for us to be good stewards of all that He gives to us.
A tenth, in my opinion, is the least a person can give, or ought to give. And we should always give more at every opportunity. When God calls us to give, we give!
Not just giving from our money, but giving our time, our talents, our energies. Putting God first in all that we do.
We should not fear giving to God, but strive to do it. Lay not treasures on earth but in heaven. After all, the things of this earth will pass away, and burn in the furnace, but the spirit–our spirits–will live for eternity, with our Lord, Jesus!
At the end of this lesson, Jesus told His disciples:
Matthew 19:28-30 (HCSB)
28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
RESOLVED: I will reach out in kindness and love to all people I meet. I will especially reach out to people of different ethnicity than my own, extending to them love of mankind.
This is the resolution I have made, the morning after I watched in deep sadness as the good hearted people of America fell victim to the haters and race baiters who have used an incident in Ferguson, Missouri to further agendas based on hatred and racial differences.
I will wager that the vast majority of all the people of Ferguson and of Saint Louis County, Missouri, and all across America find the violence and hatred we see streaming across our television screens, on social media, in all media, repugnant. Most people, I will wager, want peace and do love their neighbors. They want justice and freedom for all of God’s children—us.
Haters and baiters seized the opportunity to further their political agendas throughout the last three months, since that fateful day that Michael Brown, a very large and intimidating young man, stole a handful of cigars from a convenience store, encountered a policeman seeking him out, and fell to a violent death in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.
I will not debate one side or the other in the matter of whether or not the officer was justified in shooting Michael Brown, but I will take a stand on what is right in America, and violence, bloodshed, rioting and hatred, especially racially motivated hatred is all very, very wrong. We are better than this!
I watched in horror as Autozone and Advance Auto and locally owned mom-and-pop businesses burned to the ground after all things of any value were looted from these stores in Ferguson, Missouri. Most of these local businesses were owned by African-American people. Good, hard-working people. People who want what is best for our nation and their community. Many African-American people worked in the chain stores too. Autozone and Advance Auto Supply. Mechanics in those businesses are mostly African-American people, and looters and haters and racist thugs stole their personal tools before burning their sources of employment to the ground.
Mechanics across the USA make a living in shops, like barbers and hair stylists, and they own their own tools of their trade. Mechanics work for years and years to earn the thousands of dollars it costs to fill professional tool boxes. Think about it. A lifetime of hard work stolen by worthless thugs who use hate as an excuse to rob and burn a community.
My heart cries out for the hard-working, good people of Ferguson and across America who chose sides in this ugly controversy. People being duped by the likes of Al Sharpton and other racists. Yes, racism lives on both sides of the street.
In 1987, while I lived in New York City, Al Sharpton made himself famous by taking up the case of Tawana Brawley, a young girl of 15 years who alleged that she was raped by three white men, one of whom was a police officer. She had been missing four days from her home in Wappingers Falls, New York, and was discovered lying seemingly unconscious and unresponsive in a garbage bag near an apartment where she had once lived. Her clothing was partially burned and torn, and her body was smeared with feces. At the hospital, medical workers rendering her aid found the words, “KKK” and “nigger” and “bitch,” written across her torso in a black substance like charcoal.
The Reverend Al Sharpton with attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason seized the opportunity to raise a racist outcry that dominated the US and world media, demanding justice, that the police officer and other white men accused in the rape be taken to trial. The three activists vocalized their hatred of whites on all the New York media and that caught on with world attention. They pointed to the police and white people in general as the enemy of all African-Americans. During this same period, Reverend Sharpton was under investigation for embezzling $450,000 dollars from the Downtown Boys Club of New York City.
After weeks of demonstrations, news began to leak that Tawana Brawley had changed her story. She had not been raped after all, but she said she suffered other abuse. The story changed because forensic evidence did not support her allegations. As the facts began to further unravel the disturbed 15 year old girl’s story, the truth began to emerge. Fighting the truth, Sharpton, Maddox and Mason became ever more vocal, accusing the “system” of cover up and injustice.
At the end of the day, the truth finally came forth. No one raped or abused Tawana Brawley. She had run away from home, had gone to her old neighborhood, and to hide her truth of running away from home she concocted the whole terrible tale. She covered herself with feces and wrote the racists slurs across her chest and stomach, tore her clothes and burned them, and then got in the trash bag.
This poor child just needed love and positive attention from her parents, the people who are supposed to love her. She was acting out, and in her sad lie the haters and race baiters caught America afire with hatred.
People who have nothing hate people who have something. It is called envy. It is called coveting. Greedy people who have great wealth draw the consternation of the masses who have little to nothing. It is a fact of humanity since Adam. Envy, coveting, greed, motivated Cain to slay his brother, Abel.
The riots in Ferguson, Missouri and the violence and protests across America have been ignited by hatred. Hatred by a very small minority of African-American people toward everyone who is not African-American. Not just white people, but Latino and Asian and other ethnicities included. They hate authority, and they identify authority as white. In truth, authority across America is of a multitude of ethnicities. Yet the mask of this authority is white.
These ugly, violent few use lies and emotion to strike at the hearts of good people who struggle and have little, and want a better life. They tell the people that they are subjugated and live in a world of injustice. They point to the people in power, and the hatred ignites racial hatred. Like a grassfire on a windy day, the flames of hatred spread, and the people hating do not even know why they hate.
Protesters protest authority, and point at the Police. The militant, racist, Gestapo police in their eyes. In truth, the Police are the good guys who are of all ethnicities and backgrounds, who are the sons and daughters of their community, and only seek to serve and protect the good people from the evil of violent crime that grows among the poorest of America.
Today is a very sad day for us all, watching the hate and protest. Hate and protest of what? Injustice? What injustice do they mean?
Several weeks ago, a young Latino man in Rocky Ford, Colorado was out late at night, and did something that incited a policeman to chase him home. Whatever happened, and those facts have not been made public because the investigation continues, caused the policeman to apparently lose his temper. When the Latino man ran inside his home, where members of his family waited for him, rather than stopping and calling for assistance and a warrant, the policeman kicked down the door. His gun drawn, the policeman then shot the unarmed Latino man in the back and killed him.
As the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has continued its search of the facts and testimony of witnesses, building evidence of fact in the matter, based on the evidence gathered thus far, the district attorney has charged the policeman with murder. What degree and what other charges may come to light have yet to come out, since the investigation continues.
This is Justice: People in lawful authority seeking the truth and acting within the law to enforce the Rule of Law and the United States Constitution. Most importantly, enforcing and exercising the Rule of Law and the Constitution without bias and equally to all citizens. Respecting the rights of the people, regardless of gender, age, origin or ethnicity.
What can We the People do today to stop the violence, stop the racism, stop the hatred? Very simply: Love One Another.
Today, as you go out. Tomorrow as you go out. Reach out to other people. Show them a smile. Offer a friendly word to strangers. Make them feel welcome, and loved.
An open heart and an open hand with a big, sincere smile can conquer all hatred.