Thursday, July 24, 2008

Memorial to Dad's 2WW service

My brother John just put up this page, of mission notes composed by Dad's top turret gunner (and enginneer, John O'Connor, "in situ", as it were), of their combat tour in B-17's at the end of the War. Mission #17 is particularly note-worthy. Included are a couple pictures of "Hard Luck" (their B-17), the combat crew and three of their ground crew (combat crew are positively identified, but unfortunately the three pictured ground crew are not); also newspaper clippings of most of the missions, and a map of Thorpe Abbotts.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy birthday Connor my lad

My only grandchild at the moment. So, Happy Birthday Connor!

Monday, June 30, 2008

My, that was close

The Supreme Court ruling on the Second Ammendment, that is. Five justices for and four against the ruling: that D.C.'s total ban on handguns is unConstitutional. The upholding of the Second Ammendment as specifiying an already existing individual right is a great victory. But the closeness of the decision causes me serious concern for the future. Especially since I expect McCain to tank as badly as Barry Goldwater ever did. And Obama is Mr Gun Control in the flesh.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"M" for Marvelous

The Appeals Court has only just ruled in behalf of 48 (out of how many?) FLDS mothers; that is a victory for them all, of course, but only legally applies to the 48. We don't know how many children they have between them. And yes, it is likely that CPS will file a counter appeal.

As for this ever reaching a Fed court, that would be a rare thing indeed; as in the past, Fed courts tend to stay well away from family matters, leaving such to the States.

This is all good news. But these abused people are not out of the woods by a long stretch.

For anyone thinking that I am surprised by this, I am not: merely relieved that the situation in Texas isn't as bad as my fears and imagination painted it. The same thing happened back in '53: some over-zealous authorities charged in and threw their weight around, got burned badly and retreated (the AZ governor lost his bid for reelection over the fallout).

It appears with each further piece of evidence coming out of the actions of the legal defense for the FLDS, that the normal behavior of these families puts under-age "brides" in an extreme minority and nothing like the pervasive abuse that many have believed it to be.

I suspect, believing as I do in the overwhelming sense of love and duty to children that parents everywhere feel, that the "lost boys" phenomenon will also turn out to be focused in only a comparatively few families and nothing like a religion-condoned practice among the vast majority. The missing teen boys at the YFZ Ranch could have been missing for other reasons than simply being cast out into "the lone and dreary world". But those 2/3's missing are a great concern and this needs to be followed up as this whole mess is investigated.

What I do not want happening as part of this, is the Law dropping all effective investigation of the FLDS, and other religious whacko sects: I don't want the State getting burned and backing off scared. What I want, rather, is that the Law determine where crimes are being committed and prosecute the perpetrators.

None of this, however, should require the removal of all the children. Once they are returned to their mothers, and the State is starting to arrest the men who have engaged in sexual abuse of under-age girls, and forced out under-age boys, I will be content to move onto the next crisis that rears up to threaten innocent people in this Nation. I hope that others in great numbers do likewise, wherever they live.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Maudlin over muddled messaging

As the discussion has plodded on, I raised this interesting addition to the evidence of Texas CPS and police using excessive force and outrageous behavior as they raided the YFZ Ranch. And the "vocal" anti-FLDS group (interestingly, apparently all female, a point made by one of them and cited as significant for no specified reason) have not commented, not even after being prompted twice more by myself. Instead, they have all gone in a body over to "Hell", where one of them started a thread using my handle in a very rude and slanderous way. I have refused repeatedly to participate in their brand of "free speech". And they can't talk me around on the FLDS thread in "Purgatory", so they have now departed and are off to write rude observations about me on "my" thread.


Last peek I made of it, that Hell thread was already up to eight pages, that's over 350 posts. The letter is being denigrated as mere media hype to gather sympathy.

And I am getting to be quite the infamous fellow in some very limited circles in cyberspace. Which is too bad, since affecting others that way is counter-productive to why I even bother such lengthy exchanges over this issue. But I have to say what I must say. If only I could say it better....

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mods modelling model behavior;f=2;t=011395;p=10

The FLDS thread has been reopened!

The Ship of Fools Admins are not fools (a community that deprecates itself by such a title probably is not staffed by Fools: I thought that was probably true, all this time, and it is good to see that my assumption was justified).

Come and see Merlin the Mad in battle against "100 to 1" odds, defending "truth, justice and the American way." Not defending the FLDS per se. I don't like the FLDS! But I dislike Texas CPS right now even more, and for better (as in justified) reasons.

The thing that continues to puzzle and amaze me is that so many people can apparently read what I say and then respond as if I didn't say it or mean what I said. Case in point: a lengthy reponse on that page claims that I haven't addressed the issues raised: then proceeds to rehash the statistics of pregnancy among the endangered age group (making a comparison to the much lower pregnancy rate amoung girls in public schools), the evident number of "lost boys" from said-age group: and then raise the specter of education (are these children getting the schooling they are entitled too?). The inference is that somehow I have missed the point of why CPS had to take away those children. My response? Of course CPS is supposed to remove all children "in imminent danger", not to mention the children already being abused. I have said as much all along. What I will not be quiet about is the children of prepubescent age, because no imminent danger has been shown. Claims that State foster care is the correct answer for little children living in the abusive environment of seeing their older sisters pregnant and older brothers turned out into the world, are denying other claims that CPS is very reluctant to take children away except only in the most extreme cases of abuse. No evidence of "imminent danger" has been shown; much less anything to suggest extreme abuse, justifying a claim that State foster care (which has a four times higher death rate among children than in family-based life) is better than leaving them with their families: where, years later, they might be sent away, if boys, or married before legal age, if girls.

Monday, May 5, 2008

More Ship of Fools fascination

Originally posted by Emma Louise: A friend of mine has announced she's started going to a Mormon church. My general knowledge of Mormonism is that its not regarded as "Christian" by many other churches in the UK - but I'm not entirely sure why. I think they also have another "divine revelation" (is this the Joseph Smith one?) and some rather dodgy beginings.

EL: I know I've also encountered their missionaries (very smart young boys in suits...) who tried to convert me, despite being a Christian.

EL: Anyway - I'm not really looking for a slanging match (They're Christian/no they're not etc) but a genuine question as to what the core beliefs are that mark them out as different, what have peoples impressions been etc.

EL: I got muddled up with 7th Day Adventists (they're the no coffee/alcohol/healthy living ones aren't they?) when talking to her so I've made a bit of a muddle already!!

EL: Thanks

MerlintheMad: Wow, where have you been this last week or so? ;)

MtM: Being a "Mormon" by birth, upbringing, marriage and family connections, etc., I am qualified to give you a reasonable facsimile of "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" (that's a book, btw, by a Mormon scholar, Grant H. Palmer, and I can recommend no better place to start getting the real skinny on questions you may have).

MtM: Here'a an ironic parallel on the "Mormons aint Christian" perspective: the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, does NOT consider the "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" to be "Mormon", either. But the great majority of "outsiders" to either religion do consider the LDS and FLDS the same, i.e. Mormons-all

MtM: (In light of the latest insufferability manifested by some jocular denizens of The Ship, and some Hosts, this thread will now close down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6,....)

Monadism masquerading as moderation!

Originally posted by Mad Geo:....Oh yes, You've been called to hell.

MerlintheMad: I do not go to Hell, in case you didn't notice.

Mad Geo: Paint me surprised. Since that is the freest free speech zone on the Ship, I guess that really says something about your REAL position(s) on the Constitution/free speech. In the meanwhile, everything you need to know about your position(s) are now on that thread where they now have to be.

MerlintheMad: I dislike watching seemingly intelligent people demean themselves, by taking the time to come up with "clever" and inventive ways to use the "F" word; when they could take the same amount of time to express themselves with some thoughtful use of the vocabulary they no-doubt possess. How stupid is it to resort to crap language, when you've got all the time in the world to compose something with some class?

HOSTING: What an extraordinary piece of self-sabotage. I couldn't care less whether you "do not go to Hell" - you DO NOT participate in a Hell thread by importing it into Purgatory and making a personal attack on Mad Geo here. As you correctly said, MerlintheMad, that was the last warning.This thread is permanently closed and the embargo on any thread in Purgatory about the FLDS, child abuse, child marriage, the Texas CPS or any combination of those topics is in place until further notice. Duo Seraphim, Purgatory Host.


And there we have it: the inevitable shutdown, again, of any further talk about the FLDS, "child marriage", and the rest of it. Ironically, to me, I get blamed for making a so-called "personal attack." Anyone reading my response can see that I was explaining why I do not go to "Hell": how can you explain that without talking about what it is about people's behavior there that you find disagreeable?

In case you want to personally check out why discussion on the Ship of Fools "Hell" board is such a complete waste of time, you can take a tour of the place: then you will see why any discussion on this issue there would be ultimately pointless.;f=3;t=004225 See what I mean? Hardly any of the posts to that sad excuse of a FLDS topic thread have anything to do with discussion of the issue. Even the title of the thread is a personal slam, linking me with child molesters. The nerve and lack of integrity of some people's kids....

If there is a place populated by a high density of the "Three Deficiencies", it is Hell. (The Three D's are: deficient in textual analysis; deficient in courtesy; deficient in self-confidence: reading comprehension skills leave much to be desired, rudeness and "driveby" behavior is manifested, and "winning" an argument is the paramount goal, not discovering truth.

The Internet continues to disappoint me. I have been holding too high an assumption that the human race is enlightened. The amount of bigotry focused upon an unpopular people has opened my eyes. Most critics are not interested in anything that defies their construct defining those people. At best, that is bad enough. At worst, if a mob formed physically nearby, they would join in and "hang the bastards up by their dangly bits." (That is a direct quote from the individual I have been accused of "attacking personally.")

Friday, May 2, 2008

Meditating over mendacious meddling

Over on another forum (Ship of Fools) , I have been "having it out" with practically everyone participating there. A few others have been reasonably averse to the actions taken by the State of Texas CPS. Altogether, the climate of debate has for the most part been coherent. Compared to "the forum(s) that shall not be named", where I got into trouble earlier last month, Ship of Fools is positively penetrable as clear running water. But, the acrimony over this issue is such that, even there, the moderators this morning have threatened to close down the thread and forbid any further discussion of the FLDS "issue", if there is one more incident of personal attacks ("pigtail pulling"). So I added my "rebuttal", because I don't trust everyone there to play fair: someone will want to close down discussion (probably because they feel that they are "losing"), and get the thread closed and the subject banned from discussion. I have posted my rebuttal below:

As we have received our last warning; and as I don't trust some people participating here to not deliberately sabotage this thread, and close down any and all future speaking to the FLDS problem on The Ship, I want to hasten to say a few things:

As a final rebuttal, let me just say that there is much about our Nation's concepts of what is and is not Constitutional that are at great variance with each other, and much that needs addressing at the Supreme Court level.

The FLDS situation is very complex, made more so by the extreme action taken by TX CPS: removal of ALL the children is what has sparked this heated debate from the grassroots level all the way up to the Supreme Court; for make no mistake, the Justices are already talking about this too in private conversation.

What I expect to come out of it is immaterial. My personal views are immaterial. My views do not come clearly out of the snipped collection Mad Geo provided above: the context of my statements is lost. And trust this: I express myself in rather lengthy prose, not in snippets. So snippets do not convey the whole thought I was getting into.

What will come out of this is going to be good and bad for both the FLDS and for the State of Texas, and the Nation as a whole.

I hope mainly that the rights of parents are upheld and strengthened: this will require that Texas CPS is held accountable for excessive response to the FLDS problem.

I also hope that age of consent laws are upheld as Constitutional: in other words, that nothing the FLDS may throw at the existing Statutory Laws will succeed in vitiating said-laws as they apply to protecting minor-aged people from being victimized by adults. The freedom to practice religion will not include violating Statutory Law as it is established in this Nation at this time.

The main (most guilty) perpetrators of such past violations will be arrested, prosecuted, and join Warren Jeffs, Tom Green, et al. in prison for Statutory Rape.

Should the FLDS gain any victory, I hope it will be nothing more than an overturning of the Statutory Law currently prohibiting adult to minor age differences.

I have a concern that monogomous-only marriage will be shot down as unConstitutional as an outcome of all this, and I hope that doesn't happen. If it does, then the door to the FLDS system will be wide open.

If polygamy never is legally allowed, then the FLDS will be prevented from any free exercise of "child bride" so-called marriages: because bigamy/polygamy will remain illegal, ergo, no "parental consent" to illicit sex will be condoned. The FLDS will, perforce, have to wait to "marry off" their daughters until they are 18.

Monday, April 21, 2008

DNA gathering now!

I am by this point extremely suspicious that the Texas CPS is in cahoots with law enforcement, who want to bust up the FLDS in Texas for good. The family relationship tangle within the FLDS is virtually impossible to sort out. Especially since they don't cooperate. They have incomplete, contradictory or non existent birth records. The children don't point to one woman and say "that's my Mom." They call all the women "Mother." And there seems a concerted coverup of who "Dad" is. They act like a community that views their family business as nobody on the outside's business. I can't blame them for that.

And if they were not guilty of under-age sexual relations, Statutory Rape, I would not be sympathetic to the Law at all. But it really is that simple: the Law wants prosecution. And it can't get prosecution without identifying the fathers, the husbands of under-age mothers. So the cooked up phone call for help (or an actual call, it doesn't much matter, since that unidentified girl is still missing); the taking of all the children, instead of only the pubescent girls; allowing the mothers to come along (totally against standard operating procedure); then peeling their outside contact away by confiscating all cell phones; then removing the mothers of children over the age of five; now the nursing mothers are going to be sent away. The children will be totally isolated in State "care." And every one of them is going to have their DNA recorded. The Law will compel the adults to submit their DNA. The matchups of fathers to mothers will ID which women were impregnated before the age of consent; i.e. the fathers guilty of Statutory Rape will be positively pin pointed. And the arrests and prosecutions can begin.

The insidious precedent about all of this should be obvious to anyone: the State (of Texas) has violated the requirement of probable cause in taking the children away. The only probable cause that tentatively existed in the beginning was about a wife being beaten and "raped" by her allegedly fifty year-old "husband." So there was no probable cause regarding any prepubescent children; and no evidence in the week-long search of the YFZ Ranch to give evidence of any "danger of abuse". Yet the children were taken anyway, and that was the reason given: "We are concerned for possible abuse and have removed the children to protect them." Their State care will end, I predict, as soon as all the DNA evidence is taken from them. They will be returned then. But that won't be the end of this. That will truly be only the beginning.

The rest of America's children are then equally at risk, should the State decide that their DNA is needed for any reason; or if they are "at risk" for any reason. Any cooked up "probable cause" can be offered. It sounds good in the news if it comes from high enough up.

I hope a lot of heads in Texas CPS and other government roll for this. I hope that Americans make an outraged cry over this. I hope that Americans view the FLDS as Americans and not "them". If we watch and say, "They had it coming, the State is right to get this DNA information and prosecute the parents for allowing their under-age daughters to be sexually abused by older men," then we are condoning State-sponsored tyranny in the name of justice. The dichotomy will not die with the FLDS being broken up: it will breed in that ground of religious prejudice, justification by any means, and the spawn of this precedent will consume others. The Mormons, the mainstream LDS church, could easily be next for a variety of closely-related reasons....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"M" is for moderation

The FLDS are breaking the law. No religion can be protected in its illegal beliefs if they become illegal acts. So either change the law or desist.

None of what I have said below should be construed to mean that the FLDS have some protected right to practice polygamy. It is illegal and the perpetrators of that should be prosecuted. But to take their children away on the basis of a popularly held view that the religion's teachings are abusive is crossing that line that protects freedom of expression and religious belief. On that head, the Texas CPS may feel justified in taking all the children by calling the influence upon them "abuse", but then the can of worms opened would include any and all odious religious doctrines that millions of parents teach their children: all of that would be equally vulnerable to the same attack: remove the children ("protect the children") from the abuse of indoctrination.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Protect the children", or, "Bust the cultists"?

The problem with the FLDS seems to be motivated by public concern for the welfare of “the children.” We are told in the news that Texas CPS went in and took all the children to protect them from abuse. The nature of abuse that could apply to ALL the children has not been specified. And we further hear that “this is the way it is always done” in child abuse cases. CPS when it goes in takes all the children, sorts through who is actually at risk, and then returns the children that are not at risk.

The reason why that claim does not fly in this case is because Texas CPS and the local police knew for four years that the FLDS community was practicing under-age “spiritual marriage”. When they finally moved in, they were targeting the at-risk children, i.e. those minor girls of “child-bearing age.” They knew because they had an insider, according to the sheriff of Eldorado. There has been no talk whatsoever of any abuse of the younger girls or any of the boys; yet all were taken into CPS custody.

When we ask “why were all the children taken?” the only reason is that given above. This is why the specter of infringement upon religious freedom is raised. Religious freedom apparently exists only for those religious groups that don’t offend the sensibilities of the mainline Christian Protestant sects in the USA. It seems evident that this is consistently true in Texas at any rate.

Hypothetically, if the FLDS had been practicing “spiritual wifery” with girls at the age of consent, i.e. 16 and older, would Texas CPS have moved on them? If the wives engaged in sexual relations with far older men were no younger than 18, would CPS have moved on them?

If you say “no”, that means the FLDS should be safe to be polygamists: there would have been no raid on the Ranch and no minor-aged children taken into State custody. This hypothetical FLDS community, not known to participate in under-age "marriage" practices or sexual activity with children, should be safe from arrest or interference.

If you say “yes, CPS would have moved on them anyway”, then we are not even talking about “sexual child abuse” as the motive for the raid of the YFZ Ranch: rather, Texas is moving against a perceived aberrant religious community and breaking it up (granted, a lot better this way than with bullets, tanks and fire as happened in '93). And the alleged “abuse of children” could only be religious indoctrination. Texas wants no polygamy or “Zionism” being taught to children in their State. (The Branch Davidians at Waco were "Zionists" too.)

And if you say “yes”, then Muslims are not safe here; neither are Jews, Native American religious practices, Mormons or even Roman Catholics. Parents who home-school their children are not safe here. If government can do what Texas is doing, still, then American freedom of religion is not being protected. Religion perceived as not mainline Protestant Christianity is not safe here.

I think that in Texas, we may be witnessing an underground swell of fundamentalist Christian bigotry and government steeped in that growing mindset. If that suspicion is true, then to use “the children” to get at a hated religion is the worst form of hypocrisy I can think of, and is itself child abuse: using children as a shield of their real feelings of religious bigotry masquerading as altruism.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"M" is for "messed up"

It was, an, interesting weekend.

I do feel quite irrational this morning. If anyone were to charge me with being irrational, I would have to plead "guilty." Lack of a good night's sleep tends to do that to me immediately anyway. But it's a complex of things: being deprived of sleep was partially to blame on the book I get out when I want to read until sleepy enough: currently that is W. S. Churchill's 2WW history, volume Six. I hit the chapter, "The Martyrdom of Warsaw." Yegods! That will stick in my mind forever, I don't want to know more. For some reason, his dry writing style was quite sufficient to paint lurid moving pictures in my mind of the whole atrocity. (And the Russians have not seemed to change since those days, not one whit, really; Putin scares the shit out of me.)

What called this into "life" must be my imagined feelings of the FLDS mothers and fathers and their children. Ignore, for one moment, the fact that they are polygamists. Waiting to see what Texas is going to do is hard.

Also, I have "echoes" (text doesn't echo, but you know what I mean) of the exchanges I had yesterday at another forum (which shall not be named by me), mainly over accusations of condoning pedophilia, which seemed in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping, like the ravings of lunatics. How can people make snap judgments of someone they haven't even seen or talked to? Because of written defense of a group of children? The topic had morphed into the accusations of pedophilia or condoning the same. It started when a poster asked: "Let me get this straight, do I understand you to mean that you think it's okay for a 50 year-old man to have sex with a 12 year-old girl?" To which I responded in the negative. But then I got carried away, as I usually do: I was on my idealism/altruism high-horse. I allowed that in some places in this world, a huge number of people still regard a girl of marriagable age when she is of child-bearing age. I erred in tying menarche to defining that age; then as the exchanges heated up, I corrected myself to include the size and proportion of the physical body as the final determining factor in "of child-bearing age." I defended the FLDS adults with benefit of the doubt: that I am sure (still) that they do not condone impregnating -- or even having sex with -- "under-age" girls, as in, not of child-bearing age. In other words, they judge each girl individually in determining when she can safely bear children, and marry her off accordingly. It is all very clinical and sounds as emotionless as caring for a horse. But that's the suspicion and fear and disgust (even hatred) talking. Well, when I allowed that a young woman "of child-bearing age" should naturally have the right to marry when and who she chooses, the lid blew off. I was getting accused of being a "pedo" myself, and this went over to that "other" forum (which shall not be named).

The injustice and vapid stupidity of the segment of the human race, which inhabits the Net and indulges in such "witch hunts", annoyed me enough to motivate me to compose a topic in my own self-defense. That was Saturday night. When I went to the forum (which shall not be named) Sunday morning, lo and behold, my self-defense topic was gone! And the two earlier threads frothing over me and the hated topic of the FLDS and child sexual abuse had been locked!? Inconceivable. Unprecedented: that forum had never done that before. So I feel flattered and alarmed at the same time.

Such feelings do not make for relaxing into sleep. This morning, I am in a frumpy mood. I want to gouge something worthy of being gouged: like someone from the CPS of Texas. They have now confiscated all cell phones and thus limited contact with the outside. The children are crammed into two "concentration camps." They are being medically examined and questioned and "traumatized." Their mothers claim that their children know nothing of the things they are being asked. I believe that. So, this morning's news indicates that the situation for the FLDS just gets worse. What could they expect? The mothers have sent a letter of appeal to the Texas Governor, detailing their plight, which includes having some children in the cramped conditions getting sick enough to need taking to a hospital.

Stupid people! You couldn't wait until the young women were 16 (or better still, 18, then no questions about age of consent asked)? One alleged 16 year-old at the Ranch already has FOUR children! If that sort of thing is true, the entire community is cooked.

I defend the right of people to believe what they want to, and to teach it to children. I do not defend the "right" to break the law. Ignorance or wilful disobedience, it makes no difference. The men and women guilty of condoning (even worse, compelling or forcing) under-age girls to "marry" should be prosecuted. According to Statutory Law the men and women (fathers and mothers, and their leaders) are guilty of Statutory Rape and are sex offenders. It doesn't matter if Nature determines otherwise (which is where I got myself into hot doodoo: defending a theoretical definition of when a girl ceases to be such and is now a woman: all motivated by a desire to help people see that the defining of "child-bearing age" to the FLDS is akin to Old Testament and Old World standards, ergo, not simply pedophilia running rampant): the Law of the Land decrees that a 15 year-old girl may not marry unless she has parental consent (well, yeah, of course she does at the "Ranch"), and a judge's endorsement. In Texas 14 years of age is right out. And the husband cannot be more than three years older than the girl. Since most of these girls are "spiritually married", i.e. they are wife number two-through-whathaveyou, they are simply being sexually abused according to the Law of Texas (and the USA). How could a bunch of religiously devout people be so STUPID? It boggles my poor sleep-deprivated mind....

Friday, April 11, 2008

"M" stands for Miscarry (as in justice)

Google results for "FLDS Texas"

The Texas government is first in line for an "award": let's call it, "Enemy of civil Rights" award.

I have to declare Texas as the most dangerous place in the USA for religious sects. Waco back in '93, and now the search and seizure -- of 419 FLDS children! The excuse for the seizure and subsequent full-scale search, including the FLDS's temple, was that evidence of "abuse" had been discovered on-site, so the children were taken into "custody" for their "protection." (sorry for the excessive use of "" marks, but the words are just so abused in their context)

IF the abused were as the alleged 16 year-old girl who was making cell phone calls for help, then the only children that should have been given asylum are the girls of child-bearing age; because there is ZERO evidence that sexual abuse of pre pubescent girls, much less of boys, has been going on. But no. The entire child population that could be rounded up were taken away. And what could possibly be the excuse for that? "We are protecting ALL of the children from the abuse of religious brain-washing." Yes, that is it: religious prejudice, nothing less. Here, in the USA, if the Gov decides that your brand of religion is dangerous to children, they can confiscate your children like property, "for their protection."

Nothing this outrageous (and dangerous to American liberty) has happened since the FBI, et al. Federal government and State government agents, slaughtered over three score Americans and crushed the evidence to powder under the treads of tanks, all because they "feared for the safety of the children." And it's Texas again.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I sent this Obit' to the Website of the Bloody Hundredth


My father, Merlin N. Larsen, has just this morning passed away, moved on, checked out. He's no longer with us. He was a great father, and as far as Mom has indicated, a fine husband. The last two years of his long life (he was 83) he was a fading shadow of the man he used to be. But now he is at rest.

His combat tour spanned late February through April, 1945.

Dad never talked very often or much about his brief career as a heavy bomber pilot. But the few anecdotes he shared are treasures to me:

How he flew his plane full of crew down into the Grand Canyon, then buzzed the Rim coming out, after coming to his senses (I don't know which Rim though), evidently being the guilty party to the reported disturbance of president Roosevelt's son's honeymoon.

How he landed for fuel in Greenland taking their plane over to England. And how his copilot broke his arm playing in a ball game, and thus missed all but the last few of their combat missions. And how is replacement copilot was a man who was "all flakked up." He just sat there and couldn't do a thing.

Of the time when a mission was scrubbed because the clouds just went all the way up; and coming back to England on instruments was almost a calamity, because another B-17 nearly collided with them in the murk: the tail gunner screamed a warning over the radio and Dad dumped the nose of his plane, and then this other B-17, holding a steeper angle of descent, went right on over them so close "you could have reached up and touched it" and was instantly lost in the clouds ahead.

How his engineer, the top turret gunner loosed off a burst once (Dad told me this, when I asked him once, "Did any of your gunners ever shoot down any German fighters?").*

How he came back on three engines a couple of times. And he showed me a souvenir shard of a German 88mm shell, as big as your finger, that a mechanic took out of a stopped engine.

How after the war, he was picking up troops and taking them to N Africa (preparing for the abortive push of men to the Pacific). And how, at Marrakesh, he took off with locked controls?! He and his copilot fumbled for the pins as the B-17 veered toward the control tower, and barely got his ailerons freed up in time to prevent a crash. I thought this last event the most illustrative of Dad's emotional state: how the war was over, everyone was relieved and eager to get back Home; attention to the "little" details, like a preflight check, went by the board. (Men died tragically for much less than that.)

Anyway, Merlin N. Larsen passed away on the morning of 2 April 2008, from complications incident with old age (not to mention that he fell twice in the last two weeks and hit his head).

(I believe that two of his crew still live.)

*Years ago, his engineer made photo copies of hand written notes that he had composed of each mission, and sent them to all the surviving crew members. I will get copies for myself, scan them, and forward them to you, if you would like that. They make brief but interesting reading! Especially the mission where the top gunner (the author of said-notes, coincidentally), did indeed throw out a burst at a passing ME 262; that was the only time that the crew saw enemy fighters close enough to shoot at, and, iirc, one of only two missions where enemy fighters were sighted. Also, iirc, that mission was the same one as the time they took such heavy flak that their plane was holed dozens of times. The last four or five combat missions (of the 19 they made, 22 all told, I believe, including the flights after the war ended), however, were "milk runs", no fighters and no flak: the engineer, on some of those mission notes, drew a little "milk" bottle.


Doug Larsen

Dad's "on the roof"

Dad in full uniform,
before the "crash" in September 2005
Late last year, Dad
wearing his Air Force uniform jacket and officer's cap.

Dad back in August of '92,
playing his accordion at a family campout at Redman,
Big Cottonwood canyon, Utah.
Dad and I at one of our almost-weekly lunches
(the Arctic Circle at 39th S and 7th E) winter of 2007.

October, 2007, Dad, Gwen and I, visiting the
Hill Air Force base museum.
Gwen made sure that the tour guide and other visitors
nearby knew that Dad was a B-17 pilot in the 2WW.
Several expressed their admiration and
thanked him for his service.
The Hill Air Force base museum B-17,
and Dad waiting for the tour guide to undo
the crowd barrier belt, so that Dad could have
a looksee inside the fuselage, through the rear side door,
which you can see just behind the American marking.

I just got a phone call from my wife, at the Garden Terrace nursing center: "Dad just died! I noticed he wasn't breathing. I told someone here. And now he's growing cold."

So this looks like the real deal. I've already sent a group email to our children, and my siblings. I just talked with my sister, Lori, on the phone too. Mom was sitting at her kitchen table getting cookies for the neighbors ready, when Gwen called her with the news, right after she had called me.

Well, "God" is good to us. Dad didn't wait a long time, even though I feared he was in the act of fighting death tooth and claw, every step, and, being a stubborn man (a combat pilot, after all....), he would just "hang in there" for months or even years. My worst nightmare. Averted now, another one, "thank God."


Gwen has talked to me again, and my sister has, and Dad is definitely gone. They, Lori and Mom, are keeping his hands warmed up, so that Sarah and Amy will have a warm and not a cold hand to touch when they arrive: Gwen has gone to get them out of school and take them over to the care center. I have been invited to come too, twice by my dear long-suffering wife: but I am not interested in saying "good bye" to a corpse. If he was dying still, I would race off to be there for the death. But as he has already checked out, I can see "him" later, after the morticians have had their ways with his earthly remains.

(I have yet to see a person die before my eyes. I have seen "dead" people, or rather, what's left of 'em: but never witnessed the most common event, as common as birth....)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And there's enough of him for her sisters, May and June.
My fav Frazetta pic: Castle of Sin. Click the pic to get the full-sized image. Note: There's a horned ambusher, just inside the doorway, with up-raised bearded axe, awaiting the knight errant: who should know better than to lust after THREE swivel-hipped, lucious, beguiling, Frazettic babes. Methinks "our hero" is doomed merely by the sin of lust, and will not enjoy any of the fruits beyond feasting of the eyes....

Today "M" stands for Morose

I am going to write this in one continuous, unedited run. I am not even going to reread anything for continuity, and post it as-is, completely unrehearsed.

There are three extremes to which a life can gravitate: the opposites to each other, and the middle, as far away from either opposite extreme as possible.

In my case, speaking of life choices at the beginning, and perpetrated consistently throughout my days up to and including the present moment, I chose marriage and family. The opposite to this would be a monastery. The furthest from either approach would be the middle "road", which I see as hedonism: total devotion to self-gratification.

Family at this point is something I am adept (or, an adept) at: I do it without thinking most of the time. And, like all things I do, I do it well enough: competently enough to be bored with it and never excel. Had I been born and raised a Catholic (instead of Mormon), I would likely have chosen family as well. But lacking the uber commitment to it, because of the feasible and venerable and respected alternative offered within the religion, I would always have had a monastery beckoning me. Had I lacked the family attraction: had family not panned out, I would have (perhaps) been happy to deny the whole wide world and become a monk. I feel very monkish this morning: a monastery seems like a nice place for my present attitude. But it is of course a silly concept in my real world.

Had I botched my life at the getgo, and chosen hedonism, if I was still alive at my age, my life would be worse than boring, it would be disgusting and lamentable. What is more uninviting than a wasted, middle-aged hedonist? Sexual capacity largely or entirely gone; health, looks self respect, all wasted away. Confidence and hope nonexistent. Habits clamped around your vitals like parasites. A desire for self-destruction denied by a life-long habit of cowardice: which is all a hedonist really is: someone who refuses to say "no" to anything he wants, at the expense of the whole wide world if necessary. So the middle-roader can't have a family life, because he never put family before himself, and, as he goes along, his selfish wants become needs that consume and never conserve. The hedonist consumes people as easily as he consumes commodities. In his wake he leaves a wasteland.

Cowardice is sewn into our flesh. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" defines this. A friend of mine said that bravery is impossible where there is no fear. He used two examples to illustrate this: himself, as a boy, and a late mutual friend of ours. As a boy, my friend learned to ride horses by getting on again and again: he was unafraid of horses. So even though his buddies exclaimed over how brave he was, he knew that he wasn't brave, just fearless. As a father, by contrast, he has lived in a more or less constant state of dread interspersed by intense periods of terror; yet he has always stuck by his wife (now also deceased) and his children: he knows that he is a brave man, because he still has his family and never gave up. Our late mutual friend, on the other hand, had no family, lost his female relationships routinely, could never seem to settle into any job or any place with anyone. He ate to excess and essentially committed slow, "permissible" suicide. Yet, as a young man he loved a good scrape. He volunteered for two tours with the Rangers to Vietnam. He lived violently, engaging in fights as a bouncer, rode his motorcycles with insane abandon (repeatedly injuring himself in accidents), and seemed to possess virtually no fear of physical pain or danger. Yet he was one of the most fear-riddled men I have ever known. He could not endure peacetime: his one outspoken ambition was to defend the prophets and the church like Porter Rockwell, but the "apocalypse" never happened, and he died of broken health, grossly corpulent, alone in his apartment. He was fearless in battle, and terrified of the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. He was a coward.

That is a severe judgment of the departed. I stand condemned of being judgmental; but I claim to be no jury. How our mutual (late) friend will be judged, or even if he will be judged by "God" at all, is not for me to know. I don't know what happens when we all die.

My friend who stood (and continues to stand) by his family, was raised a Catholic. We have known each other virtually our entire adult lives. He has expressed to me on a number of occasions, how he is not religious; yet he hopes that I am right, and that his wife, daughter, parents, et al, the departed, are all waiting for him as family. He once expressed to me that Italians have always believed in family forever. This came up when I noted that emphasis in the movie "Gladiator": being a Mormon, I was flummoxed to see such a central tenet of our faith dramatized in pagan society; and I questioned the accuracy of such a view of the afterlife, and my friend said: "Oh, Italians have always believed that." I was skeptical, because the Catholic church certainly doesn't have such a doctrine. "That doesn't mean anything," I was told: "People believe what they want to. The Church can teach what it wants to." I couldn't wrap my mind around a religious presence separated from personal beliefs: that is a foreign concept to a Mormon. Anyway, throughout our long friendship, my religious faith has given my friend hope: because as a fundamentalist "unbeliever", he can't hope alone for an afterlife with family, anymore than he can avoid the evidence here, of life being utterly extinguished at death. He keeps an open mind for both possibilities; but my strong faith in the afterlife, and of "God's" loving forgiveness, has always been something that my friend has enjoyed hearing expressed.

Yet the faith I held has morphed. I still want the afterlife with family, but I have no dogmatic reasons for expecting it to be true; at least exclusively true. My religious concepts have both broadened to include everyones' that I can fit together, and reject all dogmatic, manmade religion at the same time. I don't believe any of it is more valid than the other beliefs humanity has or has entertained throughout our brief recorded history.

The James Michener book, "The Source", pursues the religious core of our species, from prehistory down to the present. His first historical chapter is about the stone age hunter, who is proud of his strapping son; and in the hunt, it is the son who gets gored by the huge boar, and the aging father is left to ponder "Why?" He has no answer, and there is no one or nothing to provide one. He only knows that the boar should have killed him and his son should have lived. The later chapters examine epochs of our civilizations upon the same spot of ground ("Tel Makor", east of Acre, or was it Tyrus, I forget which, no matter); the early bronze age human sacrificing cults: religion run amok, because the "priesthood" has usurped the mind and will of "God" and inflict increasingly burdensome sacrifices upon the people for each time that their failure to avert his wrath has disappointed the expected outcome of said-sacrifices. It always works like this: the hunter's son dies instead of himself, so he goes to the shaman, priest, oracle, whathaveyou, and asks his question, "Why?" The spiritual leader disposes the mind of "God", and imposes a sacrifice upon the man or whole clan: "Thus the God will be appeased and this will not happen." But the next calamity to afflict the People brings them running to the spiritual leader for more answers: the possibility that s/he might be a humbug never is seriously entertained, because getting "answers" to the terrible questions is vital to sanity and purpose. Thus the religion grows generation by generation, becoming more onerous to bear; because the probability and outcome that rules the universe will always dispense vindication upon the religious exegesis, and, operate in conflict with it also. During the seasons of conflict with the religion, the spiritual leaders must discover the fault in the People: why God is displeased with them and not blessing them. Always, in the past things were better, and to return to those "good times", the People must sacrifice enough; which means, more than they currently are. The ultimate development is throwing your own children to the flames. To make this palatable, sexual excess must be allowed at the same time: thus the fertility rites included in the chapter on Makor's religion: the man chosen as the fertility "god" for a week with the temple high priestess of sexual abandon, loses his daughter/son to the flames at the next sacrificial season. Of course, such a dichotomy of emotions -- horrible fear of death reaching out to claim one of your loved ones, and sexual addiction -- causes insanity. The man, when not chosen for a second go with the delectable high priestess, goes mad and murders the man so-chosen, out of sexual jealousy. He is hunted down in the marshes outside Makor and executed. His wife and children are forever shunned as contaminated by the father/husband's impiety. And so the centuries pass and insanity flares up and wanes; to be finally exterminated from the village by the arrival of the desert nomads, those the Old Testament calls the Israelites. Their "God" is a jealous deity, who blesses them or curses them along with the best of the pagan gods, but with this one difference: he abhors human sacrifice, and demands in its place strict adherence to personal laws of cleanliness and sacrifice: of time, talents, energies, worldly goods, but most essential of all, "a broken heart and contrite spirit." In short, the will of each follower. The priests are the caretakers of the Law. It is very strict and bloody, invoking capital punishment for a lengthy list of religious infractions. But this religion is vitally different from the bloody gods of human sacrifice: it disallows sexual promiscuity, or vice of any kind, yet glories in the joy of simple living. And it holds out promises of an afterlife of great rewards to the obedient, not just creating a blessed land in this life. The following chapters in "The Source" pursue the progress of Judeo-Christianity down to the time of Christ, through the rise of Islam, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and into modern Palestine and the rise of the State of Israel. It is an astoundingly profound and tour de force work of writing. As you can tell, I have been greatly influenced by it. After the failure of "scripture" in my personal religion (failure, as in, I no longer believe there is anything to the notion that scripture is the inspired word of God contained within special covers), "The Source" remains as exemplary of the common man's pursuit of answers: in this case, why do we have religion? And the simple answer, is, "Because we require answers to the terrible questions."

My father is dying. Not nearly fast enough to satisfy me. He is in his 84th year. When he was in his 63rd year, he opted for bypass surgery, and has been more or less umbilically attached to the medical profession ever since. Right now he is not capable of engaging in conversation, but a couple of weeks ago (before he fell and received a concussion), he expressed to me (again) that he regrets not working longer, of not making more of his life: he had, by his estimation, a lot more talent and opportunity than he ever made use of: but he chose accounting as his job because, "I didn't know what I wanted to do." At the time he opted for bypass surgery, I asked him if he wanted to pass up his chance to go quickly in the high tide of life; he was maybe choosing a messy, slow, degrading death in place of a quick, clean death. He thought about that for maybe one minute, then chose to continue with the operation. A number of years later, he had to go into the hospital again to repair an aortal aneurysm (caused by the bypass, of course). After that, he increasingly battled feelings of uselessness. He tutored my younger children in reading, but when the last was "graduated", he had nothing at all left to give immediate purpose to his existence. That summer he slipped into further depression, suffered (we later learned) a number of small strokes, and finally ended up mentally collapsing. For the last two and a half years, he's been a mere shadow of himself, never rising above a rudimentary level of taking care of his personal needs: Mom has been a babysitter for the last three years of the marriage. Now, hopefully, the end is near.

Which leads me to ask: Is the "Greatest Generation's" refusal to admit death completely admirable, or was the Amerindian approach more noble? The legendary "walk out into the wilderness to die" pulls at my soul: the hospital-bound, lingering death of a body that can be kept "warm" long after the mind has ceased to enjoy living, repels me like nothing else I can think of. The old Amerindian who was now a burden to his family and tribe, did the noble thing and went away. Later, they would find him or her and bury their loved one properly, tenderly. This lingering shadowlands kind of life that we put our spoon-fed old people through: that is hell, both for them, and for the caregivers. How is that superior to accepting death at the time of your choosing? Suicide isn't what I am advocating. Simply choosing the time of your passing: like Aragorn, king Elessar, of Gondor, when he felt his body changed and old age's dotage creeping upon him. He lay down after bidding final farewell to his queen and lover, then "gave up the ghost." If only we could do that!

I had a dream-experience once, where I did that: I awoke in the wee hours, beside my wife's back in the bed, and felt the "switches" shutting down all over inside my body. For a brief instant, I panicked and clenched, and the shutting down stopped. Then I said to myself: "What are you doing? Let it go, let it happen. This is the way it is supposed to work." So I relaxed and let my body finish shutting down. I barely had breath to whisper "Good bye", then I was "gone." I found myself in the bleakest of wildernesses imaginable; no light source, just enough gleam on the distant horizon to show that there was a horizon and firmament. All was colorless and featureless. Not a breath of air stirred. I did not breath. Turning 360 degrees offered no feature to indicate that I had in fact come back to the starting point. It was as voidlike as is possible for a "place" to be. I waited for a few minutes, or longer, I cannot tell, but no one came, nothing changed, I continued to stand there, for there was nothing to move toward. I realized that I was premature, and needed to go back. I decided to do that, and awoke in the bed, everything alright, my wife breathing softly with her back to me still. "That, was interesting," I said to myself. And ever since then, I have retained the conviction, that when I feel the "switches" shutting off, I will throw them myself if that is possible. Most people, I believe, hang on far longer than they need to, because they are cowards when it comes time to die. I hope that I am not a coward. But I may not be brave either: maybe dying, for me, is like my friend learning to ride his horse: I don't fear it enough to be brave. "Death is certain, Life is not." What could be more obvious and inevitable. Why fear the inevitable?

(light edit for some spelling)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What does the "M" Word stand for?

Depends on the day and my mood. Today it stands for muddled, which is related to boredom, which you can tell is my condition, because I actually typed this into a blog....