In my youth, high schools regularly required classes in world history in addition to American history and civics. These subjects didn’t thrill us, but in retrospect they had definite benefits. Today, when high school students are shown a map of Great Britain or France, many have no inkling where these places are located.
Still, most of us lack an understanding of less familiar parts of the world, especially where there is little current American involvement. That includes Eastern Europe and the Balkans, where we recently visited. Spending a week in this region certainly does not make me an expert, but it is enlightening and is a great reminder that we Americans are very fortunate.
BUDAPEST ON THE DANUBE
Visiting Hungary the second time in a decade was instructive. While the Capital, Budapest, remains a magnificent old city on the Danube River, with new buildings and an easy-to-navigate subway system, there are new ominous political concerns.
On one of our tours, our guide was answering questions about the current government and suddenly announced that he thought it was time for him to stop. Away from the group, he noted that the Hungarian president, Victor Orban, was now moving the country in an ultra right direction, causing fear and motivating educated young people to leave.
“SHOE ON THE DANUBE BANK”
Having previously passed by the Holocaust remembrance exhibit, “Shoes on the Danube Bank,” where Jewish men, women and children were told to take off their shoes and then shot into the river by Hungarian Nazis in 1944, this information was very disconcerting.
Taking a walk in a non-tourist neighborhood pointed out that cigarette smoking is frequent and constant. We may think that tobacco companies worry about the decline in American cigarette consumption, but Eastern Europe is picking up the slack. Another fascinating find was the large numbers of stores selling sewing notion, fabrics and machines. Obviously, the economy is such that homemade clothing is needed as it was here in the middle of the 20th century.
We visited Croatia and Servia, two of the six countries that once were part of Yugoslavia, a country that existed from 1942 to 1991, when the somewhat benevolent independent communist dictator, “Tito” (Josip Broz) kept those countries in line and prevented them from killing each other. This area, known as the Balkans, has always been a tinder point for wars.
Vukovar, a small attractive Croatian city, was about 85 percent obliterated in the 1990s in their war with Serbia, which extended into much of the former Yugoslavia. According to our guide, it’s peaceful now, but unemployment is 33 percent and emigration is causing a brain drain among the young educated people.
Perhaps the most amazing piece of information from our guide regarded schools. Croatian and Serbian people reside in both Croatia and Serbia and some have intermarried. But when the children of intermarried couples go to school in Croatia, they must decide if they will attend a Serbian or a Croatian school; the youngsters of these nationalities cannot mix in schools even if their parents have done so.
I wasn’t prepared to like Bucharest, Romania’s capital, as I’d heard that it was a grey boring city and a set of my grandparents emigrated from Romania over a century ago because of the dangers facing them.
A BUCHAREST CAFE
But what we found were friendly people, interesting places, great food, joy at getting rid of their Communist dictator in 1989, an amazingly modern McDonald’s and ease in getting around Bucharest with Uber.
Travel is always interesting; visiting a small part of Eastern Europe was enlightening.
[This wonderfully descriptive article first appeared in the Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch on Thursday, September 14, 2017. The author, Diane W. Mufson, a retired psychologist, and her husband Maury reside in Huntington, West Virginia. Ms. Mufson is a weekly contributor the editorial page of the Herald-Dispatch. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org]
STATUE OF ROBERT E. LEE - This is what started it all in Charlottesville.
A descendant of Robert E. Lee spoke these words at the MTV Video Awards last month in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville:
“My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.
“Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched int he Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
Long story short, his North Carolina congregants didn’t like what he had to say on national television and they decided to take a vote on whether he should remain as their pastor. Lee took the hint and issued this statement:
“I regret that speaking out has caused concern and pain to my church. For this is [sic] I offer my heartfelt apology. I understand that my views could be considered to be controversial. I never sought this sort of attention. But, I do believe in God’s role in calling out for positive social change for the good of all.
We are all called by God to speak out against hate and evil in all its many forms. There are so many good things going on with this congregation and I do not want my fight to detract from the mission. If the recent media attention causes concern with my church, I reluctantly offer my resignation.”
Lee’s congregants emphatically did not like the world wide media attention. Washington Post:
“Lee did not describe specific responses he received from congregants. But the comments section on an article about his VMA speech in the Winston-Salem Journal gives some sense of the backlash. One commenter wrote that there was “no way” Lee was a Christian and that “it seems anybody that wants to protect our country is a racist, or white supremacist. …It’s a sin to use your position to name-call and judge.” Another commenter wrote that rather than appear on television, Lee should devote his time to ministering: “You have how many faithful members? Maybe if you spent more time around the church that number would increase.”
“In an Aug. 18 interview with BBC News, Lee argued that statues of his ancestor honor white supremacy and endorse a system in which it is acceptable to be racist in America. He pointed to the complete lack of markers to fascists in Europe following World War II as evidence that there is a way to “remember your history and not commemorate it.” Lee talked of how he had spoken with a descendant of a slave owned by the Lee family, describing his heartbreak over hearing the firsthand experiences of those “hurt and oppressed by statues.”
“Lee has spoken openly about how he arrived at his own conclusions about his lineage, saying he has at once felt pride in the fact that Lee family members signed the Declaration of Independence and shame over Robert E. Lee’s leadership over the Confederacy. In one NPR interview, he spoke of how he was often given mixed messages on whether the elder Lee was a proponent of slavery or states’ rights.”
REV. ROB LEE
Rev. Lee is quite courageous. He is in a small, yet gradually increasing group of courageous pastors, notably John Pavlovitz and William Barber, who are unequivocally standing up for what is right in America. They truly are moral leaders in troubled times when churches and congregations are reflecting the divisions and turmoil that exist all over our country. Their moral compass is strong and we are fortunate. When Rev. Lee was asked “was it worth it,” he replied, “Unequivocally yes.”
[This article first appeared in Daily Kos on September 5, 2017. It was re-blogged by “Support the Dream Defenders,” “Street Prophets,” and “Daily Kos Liberation League.”]
Almost no presidential administration has escaped the taint of a scandal or two. Scandal substantially tarnished the administrations of Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding. More recently, most of us recall Watergate, Whitewater/Lewinsky, and Iran-Contra.
TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL
I selected only a few to make my point. I could have mentioned many more. Readers can google “Presidential Scandals.” Seth Cline, a staff writer with U.S. News and World Report, began his article “The 7 Worst U.S. Presidential Scandals” (March 1, 2017) mentioning Grant.
If you research Trump administration scandals, you will discover a hefty list of Trump’s disgraces, and you will realize these articles have been published in the first eight or nine months of his presidency. We may have three more years to go. Simply untenable!
We should have done more than raise our eyebrows when, from the beginning of the Trump administration, nepotism (“favoritism shown to relatives in appointing them to jobs”) reared its ugly head. Nepotism is illegal (see 5 U.S. Code #3110, Sub-Part B: “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.”)
The responsibilities President Trump has given to his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka will prove extremely troublesome. Kushner is already a major subject of current investigations by the Congress. He and Donald Jr. are also under scrutiny for their involvement in questionable meetings with Russian operatives.
TRUMP AND DAUGHTER IVANKA
According to an article in Politico by Sarah Holder (July 26, 2017) “13 Trump Scandals You Forgot About,” Ms. Holder barely mentions some potential problems for Trump before listing 13 in bold type. Combining the most dubious, Holder documents that Trump and his family are taking advantage of his position to increase their own personal wealth.
Holder begins with “Foreign Governments Are Paying Trump. The White House is promoting Melania’s Jewelry and Ivanka’s Clothing Line, Trump has ‘jacked up’ Mar-a-Lago’s rates, with his campaign paying his businesses and the government writing him a $15,000 check” for use of the plush facility.
Secretary Wilbur Ross is keeping investments he oversees as Commerce Secretary and the Kushners tout Jared’s White House connections to do business in China. Jared Kushner failed to disclose key assets, while he and Ivanka are still raking in cash from their businesses.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP “BUDDIES UP” WITH RUSSIA’S VLADIMIR PUTIN
Bluntly, the above plus Donald Trump’s solicitous attitude toward Vladimir Putin and the obvious (proven) Russian interference in our most recent presidential election will, I suspect, prove the Trump presidency to be the most scandal-ridden administration in American history.
Trump supporters take the attitude, “Who cares?”
These actions/behaviors suggest that Trump is unfit to serve as president of the United States–that he is using the highest and most important office in America for his and his family’s personal, financial benefit.
Investigations will likely show a collusion with Russia during the campaign and still influencing the Trump presidency. Unacceptable!
L. MILTON HANKINS
[This opinion-editorial first appeared in the Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch on September 11, 2017. Hankins is the publisher and editor of Columnist with a View. He lives in Ashland, Kentucky with his wife Deborah and furry buddy Jose. He is the author of two books “Ashes on the Snow” and “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People.” Both are available through Amazon.com.]
[The following mostly unedited conversation appeared in the E-edition of the Herald-Dispatch in August, 2017. Explanatory notes placed appropriately; otherwise, it appears as originally printed. The exchange was brought on by the editor’s response to a column in the H-D by a local columnist, who shall remain unnamed. The subject of the original column was anti-abortion and the body of the exchange, after a bit of back and forth on criticism, is on the subject of abortion.]
BILL: Milt, as you so often say when facing criticism regarding what you write in your own column, this is the opinion section. What’s good for the goose?
MILT: So it is. And so, I expressed my opinion above, as I generally do when I disagree with comments about my own columns. Also, it irks me and many others that [unnamed whose column was on the subject of “abortion”] never comes here to defend, explain, comment on criticisms, or expand on his thinking, etc., etc. Sometimes, he writes like he’s the voice of God, and anyone who disagrees with him (especially us liberals) is bound for the lowest levels of hell. Balderdash! I’m certainly neither goose nor gander, so what’s your point Bill?
BILL: My point, Milt, is that you lash out at people who criticize you on your column seemingly using the defense that it’s your opinion, therefore immune from criticism. And here you are lashing out at [unnamed] for his opinions. Seems rather hypocritical.
MILT: Bill, sometimes I’m hypocritical. What’s so strange about that? Most people are from time to time. Actually, it’s not hypocritical to be aggravated by responses to what you have to say, while being really critical of a completely different person. What you’re confusing here is oranges and apples. Oh, well, yeah, I don’t like to be criticized, but since I am frequently criticized, I think it’s perfectly okay if I lash out now and then. Whatever….
BILL: Well if [unnamed] criticized you, you would certainly be entitled to criticize him back, but he doesn’t. But at least you admitted you are sometimes hypocritical, so kudos on that, and yeah, you’re probably right, most of us are from time to time.
MILT: Bill, I think you have missed something. There are times when [unnamed] entire column is a rebuttal (or criticism) of one of my columns. He never uses my name, but the material and the theme is familiar…. Bill, opinion is never exempt from disagreement or criticism. That doesn’t mean I have to like it!
BILL: Interesting comments, some of which I see your point. I haven’t seen much of what you refer to as [unnamed] entire column being a rebuttal (or criticism) of one of your columns, but maybe I just missed that. I couldn’t find that in this particular column. I take it from your response to him that you’re fine with abortion?
MILT: I wrote a three paragraph response giving you two real examples I encountered as a minister, and hit a wrong key on my computer and deleted it before I could send it…but yes, I do believe in abortion under certain conditions if that’s the mother’s choice. And it is the mother’s choice (along with her physicians, family and mentors). As I remember my bottom line, it is definitely not MY CHOICE, YOUR CHOICE, OR ANY RELIGIOUS GROUP’S CHOICE. I also believe if a person believes in abortion under certain circumstances, then they believe in abortion, period. For me, it’s an either-or situation.
Some fetuses, i.e. severely deformed, without brainstems, without limbs, situations where there are defective chromosomes and genes, etc. that should not be allowed to term. I believe abortion is warranted for conception by rape, incest, and other situations that a woman must live with for the rest of her life. If you believe what it says in the book of Genesis, it says, “And God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul.” To me, that means that a fetus is NOT “a living soul,” until it takes breath outside of the womb. Man, I wish I had not lost my first response, but it vanished for good. I hope this explains my belief satisfactorily. But, I will confide that it took me a long, long time to come around to this way of thinking. My wife helped. When we were married I was 100% definitely opposed to abortion, period!
BILL: “To me, that means that a fetus is NOT “a living soul,” until it takes breath outside of the womb.” I agree with that, Milt. If even then. I’ve always wondered about the fact that we seem to accept that when a person dies, the soul leaves the body, which recognizes that the two are distinct from each other. It’s the entry point which to me is totally in question.
MILT: I hear you. I’m skeptical of such an ancient statement from the earliest chapter in Genesis on which to base such a critical decision…but…in my lengthy post I lost, I gave two examples of children I saw while I was in the ministry that never should have been born. I was very close to both families. Frankly, they were living in hell with a child that should have been, in most anyone’s opinion, I think, aborted.
One was a 11-12 year old boy, no speech, no measurable IQ, no awareness of surroundings or recognition of family members, completely confined to an apparatus with a feeding tube and requiring the 24-hour attention of his parents and one older sister, who was not only normal but quite bright [intelligent]. The boy developed pneumonia, which [in his condition] he contracted fairly often and was hospitalized. The doctors consulted with me and asked if I would help them [convince] the parents to decide to let them stop medications [and food and water] and allow the child to die. I conducted the boy’s funeral. The daughter was then able to go on to college, and I think she is a master’s degree teacher now. The parents, too, have a life. The boy never should have been born [aborted], in my opinion.
DEFORMED NINE-YEAR OLD GIRL
The second case is almost unbelievable…but I was totally shocked when I saw the situation. The boy, probably 17-18 years old was kept in a cage [literally]. He had no normal human abilities or capabilities. He made screeching noises like an animal and swung back and forth in his cage, holding onto the upper bars. He was, for all intents and purposes, an animal. He was somewhat vicious [savage], so his food was placed in the cage and, of course, they had to do their best to keep the cage as clean as possible. [I don’t know how they accomplished this.] The explanation I was given was that while he was being born, he had to immediately have a blood transfusion and was transfused with the wrong type of blood [blood type]. Okay, he was born, but, in my way of thinking, immediately upon understanding the gravity of the situation, he should have been immediately aborted. I know lots of people would say that would have been murder, but, in my thinking it would have been a medical, post-partum abortion…and a blessing to his family. Actually, his condition (which required the immediate transfusion) should have been identified in the uterus and the entire situation could have been very different. I don’t know. [Perhaps, doctors did not have that capability back then.]
I just believe that sometimes the consequences or results of a birth are not a moral issue at all…but a humane and ethical one. With these situations (and others) I still remained anti-abortion until I married my wife. Over the years, she helped me to understand that abortion is a woman’s choice…. Isn’t it strange that those people who are so anti-abortion seem to have no such compunctions about taking the life of someone who has committed a heinous crime? It just seems to me if we as a society so value life we ought to be very careful to allow compassion and understanding in situations where a life is to be taken. This is what has shaped my way of thinking on abortion. It also seems to me that those people who so vehemently oppose abortion should be willing to adopt an “endangered” child to insure that life! Such an unwanted child was adopted into my aunt’s family and became a well-educated professional who is of great service to his community.
Bill, for your information, I also believe in euthanasia. I would hope that should I ever be completely inhumanized by some fatal disease, i.e. Alzheimer’s or A.L.S. or a disease that completely debilitates me and steals the quality of my life, that my wife would take me to a state where euthanasia is legal that that my life would be humanely terminated. What a blessing that would be!…WOW! I really laid it all out there, didn’t I?
BILL: Yes, you did (lay it all out there). I’ll never agree with you politically, most likely, but I do on these things you just wrote about…I definitely do not believe life begins at conception.
MILT: I understand that, Bill. But my politics is based on the general moral and spiritual principles I discussed in my responses. Let me give you another thought. I could never be a Republican conservative if Donald Trump is an example of that party. I can sum him up in one word: disgusting! I cannot agree at all with those who think he is good for America, i.e. [unnamed]. Yet, I was a moderate Republican until Bill Clinton’s second term, when I liked what he was doing with the economy and switched parties. To attempt to compare Clinton’s moral lapses with Trump’s total lack of respect for women and marriage is ludicrous. No comparison. As far as I’m concerned I got out of the Republican Party at just the right time!
[I admit this conversation might be boring to many; but, to others it might give some insight into how one might form a tenable, sensible opinion on such important subjects as abortion and euthanasia…and political affiliation. –the Editor]