A Soldier and A Spy – George Herbert Walker Bush And The Willie Horton Ad

Dear Mr. Walker and Ms. Vennochi,

I’m an oft-frequent reader of your Boston Globe columns.

And i enjoyed your columns about George Herbert Walker Bush. They were done well.

You did a fair job of capturing the twin facets of this man, the President. After all, don’t we all have a combination of ‘ying’ and ‘yang’ in our personalities?

However, in order to put your comment about Lee Atwater, the infamous Willie Horton Ad, and the 1988 U.S. Presidential Campaign, into an alternate perspective, I felt compelled to express the following.

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Those who came of age in the New Century, may not be fully aware of the ethos of the country back at the close of the last one.

In the Mid to the Late Eighties, the era of big puffy hair, shoulder pads, corporate greed, and actor Michael Douglas, one of the prominent markers that defined American cities was the rampant crime that pervaded it.

And New York City was the Proving Grounds for the scene.

Scrape the memory just on the surface, and who can forget?

-what came to be known as the case of the Central Park Jogger, a trader at Salomon Brothers (remember that name?), who was raped by hoodlums and left for dead in Manhattan’s Central Park,

Bernard Getz, a diminutively built man, who was terrorized and bullied continually and daily on the NYC subway on his commute to work, and who ultimately exercised his Second Amendment rights to render Vigilante Justice on the perpetrators,

-the Mormon teenager from Utah, the only son of his parents, who was shot and killed on his family’s first visit to the not-so-glittering-anymore city,

-the image of Mayor Koch visiting the lad in the hospital, and the boy’s sister who was a teenager herself, screaming at the esteemed Mayor and demanding him to leave the room.

If anyone cares to tear below the surface, this ‘Bright City with the Big Lights’ was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, and President Gerald Ford had to cajole Congress to bail it out with huge taxpayer dollars, thereby sealing his fate of not getting a chance at re-election.

Anecdotally, comes to mind a relative, who’d enlist in one of the many City Colleges (CUNY) for one course, barely make it to one or two classes, withdraw, and get a free pass on the subway for the whole semester using the student ID.

How great is that? God Bless America! Nobody will accuse us Indians of not being savvy.

Then, one fine New York morning, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on its front page, of how baggage handlers at the JFK, were brazenly looting passengers’ luggage on its way to the belly of the awaiting  jetliner, in broad daylight, right on the tarmac, and right under the noses of the flight crew.

If anyone bothered to take on the futile task of pressing charges, which in and of itself would take a full day, the thieves would get off with a hearing, and a second chance, a third chance, and so on, to endless chances. Not even a slap on the wrist.

We’re also in the know of four separate cases of friends and families, getting the entire contents of their car trunks pilfered out from parked spaces, all in NY,

and a couple of occasions where valuables were ransacked from the conveyor belt, one of them right when they were watching, at the airport, which is of course in Queens, doesn’t matter.

NY, under the ‘bleeding’ guardianship of Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, (and David Dinkins, who will forever be known for sanctioning NYPD to ‘stand idly by’, as some Hasidic Jews were rampaged in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, I’ll never know why liberals are so anti-Semitic), had fallen into utter disrepair and downright decay.

Times square was a place where one didn’t dare be caught dead or alive.

It all came to a head, and the downward spiral culminated around the stretch, when one fine week, Time Magazine published their Cover Story, with the glaring and catchy title, ‘The Rotten Apple.

The Big Apple, no longer.

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It was into this disarrayed and malfeasant national context that Michael Dukakis , the then-Governor of the Bay State, launched his candidacy, banking on his extreme liberal positions, that had worked in Massachusetts (remember we used to be called Taxachusetts?), as he was of the strong conviction (bless his heart), that violent criminals should get Second Chances. And that, with ‘love and acceptance’, they could be rehabilitated.

During one of those ubiquitous debates with HW, even to a hypothetical and mostly egregious question as to what he would do, if his wife Kitty Dukakis were to be raped and murdered, there was only one response any man, other than Jesus, would offer.

Instead, to the horror of his aides and supporters, Dukakis demurred something about drug rehabilitation of deranged offenders.

The fact, that moderator Bernard Shaw would even ask this most outrageous question, shows how the country perceived candidate Dukakis.

And Kitty was sitting right there in the audience, mind you.

Just to keep straight records, I was one of the bleeding Dems during the said times, and even all through the Nineties, right up until September of 2001.

Which is another story. And I’m sure you don’t care.

Our daughter Mekhala and I were on an Air Canada jet out of Logan, making the start of our way to India, (the rest of the family would join a week later), to be a big part of my favourite brother’s wedding, when at 8.00pm Eastern, just as MA and other East Coast polls closed, the captain cracked on the intercom and made the announcement that the election was called for HW.

This was before Networks ceased the practice of calling elections before polls closed on the West Coast, (where the sun really sets).

I was disappointed. But the Duke really had no chance. He had been lagging in the polls for a very long time.

So The Ad didn’t define Dukakis, as much as Dukakis defined the Ad.

So with that said, the Willie Horton Ad was fitting for the time.

—————————————–

It was into this lethal mix Rudy Giuliani and his Law And Order message made their appearances, to a very liberal populace along the Hudson.

The year was 1992. The time was ripe. New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for this big mouth Conservative.

To make this very long story not really short, Rudy cleaned it up, and the city was glistening again by September of 2001.

At the same exact time, a man who called himself,  A New Kind Of Democrat, (the fact he had to call himself that speaks volumes), The Man From Hope, ‘Three Strikes And You’re Out’-Bill Clinton, burst onto the national scene, unleashed his Charm Offensive, took American Political Scene by storm, forever changed it.
25 years later, in his raspy voice, with thinning hair, and occasionally shaking hands, the millennials may not appreciate what the fuss was all about, but believe it, he was different. He was a democrat and practical.
Even with the lackluster economy prevailing, no other democrat could have defeated GHW Bush. He had just won Operation Desert Storm. He was well-liked.
In the end, HW and the man who denied him a second term became like Father and Son. Speaks well for the characters of both men.
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Adrian and Joan, and all else, i welcome feedback.

good Sunday night…

mercy

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A Reason For Thanksgiving – 2018

“God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

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So it was Saturday, November 10, 2018. Time: Approximately 5.15pm.

November, the Month of Thanksgiving Celebration on the American Calendar.

We, my husband and I, are on MA Route 2, going West, towards Gardner, with an eventual destination of Athol, MA.

We’re on our way to attend the retirement party for a dear friend of over forty years, a pediatrician who practiced in Gardner, and who has now retired and is moving to Southern CA, to be near his son’s family. The entire town of Gardner was throwing this party for him, who, I understand from the sentiments expressed during the evening, clearly had done so much for many of them, and for the town, over the past four decades.

His wife Sheila had moved already, and now it’s Mathachen who’s packing up the pieces of their last connection to New England for the Golden Sunshine of Southern California.

Now, I have nothing against Gold or Sunshine, but we’re both really beyond sad about Mathachen’s move 😢, but are pleased to have this one last chance to say good bye.

So we’re on Route 2W, as I said.

Thampi used to be employed in this area of Gardner and Leominster, for Simplex, and then Tyco after the two merged, and was pointing out all the Highway’s exit landmarks to me.

We didn’t want to be late, so Thampi is doing 65 (may be more) in the Fast Lane (paying no heed to Lilly’s lesson from the previous Saturday of ‘Being In The moment’ 😢), merrily explaining away, when literally and all of a sudden, this huge, white object appears in the middle of the lane we’re on.

Even to now, I don’t know what that item was. it was white, appeared of plastic, and it was large enough not to fit into anyone’s trunk, not even an SUV’s.

I suspect it had fallen from the roof of some vehicle.

As Thampi stopped chatting to make a quick swerve to the right, I saw a car looming on the right, and he did too, up and way too close and personal, Thampi swerved back to the left, fast back onto the fast lane, managing to avoid hitting the menacing article ahead, and the car on the right.

The whole sequence of events happened in the blink of an eye, a few seconds tops.

Traffic was swift for a Saturday afternoon, so sudden-braking most likely would have caused a rear ender.

After the ‘Shock and Awe’ settled minutes later, my first reaction was, wow! my husband handled that well. I always knew how he could maneuver roadways. But a few breaths afterwards, I realized it was the Divine who executed it.

Now, I don’t know if the car on the right had sensors that indicated we were popping into their lane or not, our Honda CRV certainly didn’t have them. But for sure, there was another kind of ‘Sensor’ in the works.

The incident rattled us both, but we arrived at the Country Club Function Hall in plenty of time, had a pleasant evening which is not part of this story.

I complimented Thampi for being so deft, which I always know he is, but he immediately corrected me, said it was a deft God who intervened.

———————————-

Well, This Is Not The End Of The Story.

The following day, Sunday, November 11, we were in church, on time even, seated in our usual lower left seats.

By now, we had missed attendance for a few Sundays in a row for assorted reasons, it’s a wonder that none of our Achens have yet issued any warnings for our dismissal. 🙏

There was Jeslin Achen in his vestments, giving the Sermon.

Achen had a story to tell.

Achen, Kochama, and Serah were on the road the previous Saturday, November 3, 2018.

At approximately 2.15pm, exactly 7 days and 3 hours prior to our incident, Achen was also in the fast lane.

Achen didn’t say at what speed, hope he wasn’t speeding, although I’ve heard that cops who pull over Reverends do not issue speeding tickets, assuming they’re on their way to do last rites for someone. I’m sure the cops don’t want to be in the way of someone attaining Eternal Salvation. 😉

Achen was on route from a parishioner’s engagement party, to a ladies’ workshop/meeting in our church and was running late.

So this tree branch strikes Achen’s car, but somehow escapes causing injury to the occupants, or serious damage to the car, while Achen watches in horror through his rear view mirror the same branch striking the windshield of the car just behind, whereupon that driver pulls over into the breakdown.

As Achen was re-telling this story during Sermon, I’m in disbelief: is Achen talking about us, we didn’t talk to him, so how could he know?

No, uncannily, Achen experienced a similar occurrence on a different day, one week prior.

I turned to look at Thampi’s face to read his reaction, I even poked at him, he’s sitting there, didn’t say a word, but I knew what he was thinking. His thoughts were the same as mine.

If we had not gone to church that day, we would’ve missed Achen’s testimony.

Just so parishioners know, later in conversation with me, Achen related that the car did have some damage to the wheel housing which was fixed later in the week.

Whichever way you read the 2 narrations, one after the other, and whatever, if any, significance you attach to it, the ‘coincidence’ of it all was spell-binding for me.

So it is in this spirit of the Season of Thanksgiving, I’m sharing this with you.

The 1621 Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation had plenty to thank God for.

And make no mistake, so did the Wampanoags of Mashpee.

Wish you a Thanksgiving that’s Happy…

Mercy

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Fake News

I don’t get it. I just don’t get Mark Zuckerberg.

He now stands accused of facilitating Russian operatives with flooding Facebook with tons of fake advertisements during Election Cycle 2016.

Trump came up with the term, ‘Fake News’. But at least these two outlets, Facebook and Yahoo News, converted it into an art form.

Throughout 2016 and before, FB was full of links and shared-many-times-over links that said crazy, dubious-sounding stories, Hillary giving birth to a black child, for one.

The titles often gave them away as fabricated. But they kept coming. Myself, I used to wonder, not so much about the source, as to who was ever reading them.  

There are many varied and opinionated analysis on why Hillary lost the last U.S. election.

On election Tuesday last November, even as of 5.30pm, the NYT was reporting a 90% chance for a Hillary win. This is a fact. This was the last thing I checked before l hurriedly left work that day.

Whether one agreed with her policy stances or not, a pity, we won’t be seeing the likes of her, running for the nation’s highest office for a very long time. We can be certain of this. That rare combination of drive and intellect is hard to come by.

But there is such an unwittingly prudent phenomenon in American politics called the ‘Pendulum Swing’. This is largely a good thing.

If it keeps swinging just one way, it’ll eventually break the fulcrum it’s on. 

Cases in point:

Long ago, we switched from the creator of ‘The Great Society’,

 to a Commander-In-Chief who had a ‘Secret Plan To End The Vietnam War’.

To, by extension, someone who declared ‘Our Long National Nightmare to be Over’.

From there to someone who promised us to ‘Never Tell A Lie’.

Then we marched to the Gipper’s drumbeat towards ‘A Shining City On A Hill’.

And then we listened to the ‘Read My Lips, No New Taxes’ upper crust Yalie.

Then along came the ‘Man From Hope’ who raised our hopes as a breath of fresh air.

And moved on to the ‘Uniter’ that everyone supposedly wanted to have a Texas beer and BBQ with.

Then, of course, came the history changer, ‘The Change We Had Been Waiting For’. Yes, We Can. And we did.

to now to this, to the one who wants to ‘Make America Great’ again.

Again? I thought it was the greatest. But never mind.

With each adjustment came a party switch. (Except the one time when we went from ‘Morning In America’ to ‘The Thousand Points Of Light’.)

So, that Hillary lost, does not have to remain a mystery.

And alas, she didn’t have a catchy slogan for a country that gets fueled on slogans.

Back to MZ.

What a lousy excuse.

What FB committed is indefensible.

Recently I saw that MZ asked for forgiveness. As well, he should. Fittingly, it was on Yom Kippur. The Jewish Day Of Atonement.

Wonder how many have seen the movie ‘Social Network’? If you haven’t, I recommend it. I’ll give it 4+ stars.

Granted, movies are dramatized. That’s what movies do. Exaggerate. But there is a whole of fact in there.

Mark Zuckerberg is a case study for severe contradictions. Ying and Yang. Hot and Bland. 

On the one, he seems unassuming, wearing baggy sweatpants, and hoodies, and T’s and flip-flops around the most elite academic spot on earth, and among its preppiest.

On the other, he willfully cheats the three people (four, if you count Divya Narendra) who helped him get to where he is.

-Three of them, the Winklevoss brothers and Divya, from whom he stole the idea of creating a social connection space on the internet.

-Then his right-hand sidekick, Eduardo Saverin, who was the marketing genius behind all of it, and whose ultra-rich Argentinian father bankrolled the whole venture, while Mark was sitting in a windowless dorm room, coding and coding.

All four had their days in court and won their Dollar battles.

Plus, Eduardo won the right to forever be billed as the cofounder of FB along with Mark Zuckerberg. But he had to go to court to get it.

On the one, he donated $100 million to the Newark, NJ school system, (which by the way, completely have gone unaccounted for. That’s another story).

On the other, he ran pages and pages of fake ads on FB for a solid year. This from a guy who champions human rights, women’s rights, and pets’ rights.

Saying he didn’t know the Russians were behind it. didn’t know? Sounds a lot like ‘the cat ate my homework’.

On the one, he seems to be in a committed marriage to Priscilla.

On the other, he completely calloulsy stood up his girlfriend, this, at least by the film version.

On the one, he has given away his daughters’ inheritances.

On the other, it comes with some sort of a string attached. 

Just to be fair, Yahoo’s Marisa Mayer was equally complicit in these dubious postings, all listed sources with names that made them sound legit: International Time, Business Insider, The independent, to name just three.

But they were as fake as the Cool-Aid drinking beverage. Cool-Aid is the nastiest food in America. Don’t drink it.

Among the mostly ‘non-existent’ media coverage was the following in the Globe the other day.

‘Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized this week for using storm-damaged and flooded Puerto Rico as a background while he showed off “Facebook Spaces,” the company’s new virtual reality project.’

Oh, brother.

What with the two menacing Harveys, (the monsoon and the man), Joseph and Maria before that, and California ‘not’ Dreamin’ (I’m in disbelief watching what’s going on there), I guess the media have bigger fish to fry. Russia has moved to the back burner while King Mackerel is frying on the front.

Thus, So far, Mark is getting away with it all by a winning smile, and charm talk, like the one he gave at Harvard Commencement this year, but followed it up with a hearty laugh all the way to J.P. Morgan Chase.

 

 

 

The Union And The Confederacy – North And South

Good Friday morning!

I thought the hysteria surrounding ‘the statues’ gripping the nation would dissipate. But it seems to be picking up steam, instead.

So, now we’re talking about changing the name of historic Faneuil Hall in Boston. Because back in seventeen hundred and something or other, one mister Peter Faneuil, whoever he was, owned slaves.

This sudden idea of removing all confederacy symbols is liberal hysteria gone amok.

There is a movement in India, thankfully a tepid one for now, to diminish the stature of Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru from the public space. They were ‘too British’, attended Oxford, and were not ‘Indian’ enough. And I guess Gandhi beat his wife once. There’s conversation regarding the removal of Gandhi’s face from the Indian Rupee notes.

Come on. On Gandhi’s tiny shoulders, stands the expansive Republic Of India.

A diminutive man from a rural fishing village on the Western Indian Coast, MKG, stood down an empire, with just the highest moral certitude as his compass, and an utterly devout faith as his guide.

The one who declared, “we have come four hundred years with the British, and when they leave, I want us to be friends”, (and we are), needs to remain where he is. As the Father Of The Nation.

Heck, there’s a statue of him in the town of Sherborn, Massachusetts.

I, for one, (don’t yell at me!) am of the opinion that colonialism was good for India. The Portuguese, The Dutch, The French, and finally The British. The most extensive railway in all of Asia aside, who can forget the Rosario’s Bakery in Kottayam? 😊

My life in America is the purposeful result of the twin documents, The Declaration Of Independence and The US Constitution.

The men who penned them should be revered, not vilified for their shortcomings. Slaveholders or not.

Superior intellect of a man, Thomas Jefferson, who affirmed that God has endowed each of us with the right to pursue our own brand of happiness, should get his own pedestal.

General George Washington, who led his troops against the same mighty Empire where the sun never set, and won a revolution, should get our esteemed affection.

We cannot and must not re-write history to suit the current winds.

The documents these men wrote are living ones. So even as Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘all men are created equal’, in time (a long time, perhaps), it was amended to mean, ‘all men and women’.

What does it all have to do with our daily grind?

Just a quick reading of a sliver of The Constitution affirms that, in order for a policeman to enter our homestead, he needs to carry a search warrant issued by a judge.

This brilliant concept arose in 1215, the year the Magna Carta was written.

In those ways and days of the English monarchs, All The King’s Men could barge into any home, at any time, and do whatever that pleased them.

Jefferson in his infinite wisdom, wanted to assure that the common man was protected against this sort of blatant tyranny.

It’s a historical fact that TJ almost wrote ‘property’ instead of ‘liberty’ in the famed lyrics, ‘Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Happiness’.

He declared ‘A man Is The King Of His Castle’, that no one can encroach upon.

We once had a neighbor, the most wonderful kind, Peter Olsen. He had a little girl who’d have to take the school bus every day to the Peter Noyes Elementary, from right in front of our house.

One day, before Courtney started school, Beth Olsen walked over to our house, and literally asked for our permission for Courtney to cut clear across our yard to the bus stop, instead of walking on the well-trafficked Pelham Island Road. A courteous gesture, I’ll never forget.

All extra-ordinarily gifted and men and women come with serious flaws in their character, blemishes in direct proportion to their genius.

‘Shakespearean Flaws’ is the nomenclature for it. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was such a character. And The Bard studied, knew and predicted human behavior to a T.

Or as Isaac newton would say, ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’. 😉

Maurya Dynasty’s Samrat Ashoka, the grandest emperor of the ancient Indian Subcontinent, who planted shade trees and erected load-easing edifices along weary travelers’ roadways in BC 250, is known to have killed countless numbers of people in war, before he had an ‘Apostle Paul-like’ conversion and found Dharma Margam.

King David committed the most egregious sin against man and God, and Jews celebrate him as the most luminous King Of Judah ever lived.

Biblical Patriarch Abraham kept slaves, and yet he’s called the Father of three major world religions.

And Moses, the first and the original law-giver in human history, killed someone. The claim was self-defense.

All of them fulfilling God’s plan on earth at precise times and places.

We must most certainly keep their place in history, and in the place where their influence was most indelibly felt.

I personally couldn’t care less about General Robert E. Lee, or Stonewall Jackson (whoever he was). Their statues can serve as reminders of what we should never be. May be we can put a tarpaulin over their heads.

Let us look at it this way.

There, if you go to Auschwitz in Poland, you can find certain old buildings. And if you can muster up the fortitude to walk into one of them, you can see with your own eyes, the spot that housed The Crematoriums, the crucible of Hitler’s evil experiment called The Final Solution. And if Adolph Eichman had attended Sunday school, or had attended one of Sam Achen’s bible studies, he’d have known that, just like the Burning Bush from where God spoke to Moses on top of the Sinai, the Jews may burn, but will never be destroyed.

If the Jews have managed to keep these killing machines on display all these years, to remind us of the atrocity against humanity that took place right behind the eyes of the world, there is a lesson there.

I don’t think many Jews make the pilgrimage there. But then again, they just might want to.

There’s no sane way to defend Mr. Trump’s words or deeds. But for the purpose of this piece, let’s take him out of the equation.

Some Princeton University students recently appealed to authorities there, to take down Woodrow Wilson’s name from their International Studies School. I wonder what poor Woodrow was guilty of!

Next it’ll be taking down Fletcher out of the School Of Diplomacy at Tufts. I hope Fletcher didn’t own slaves. Who was Fletcher anyway?

The point I’m arriving at is: There may not be an end point.

Coming back to the point however: history is a teaching tool, as well as an inspirational one. We can keep it alive without re-living it.

Are you still with me? 😂 if you are, please say a ‘prayer for us, as we take wings’ to Atlanta tonight. (and let me know if you do).

wish you a sunny summer weekend…

mercy

 

Protestant Reformation

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a movement that was led by a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther, and one that profoundly altered the infrastructure of a Christian Europe.

On October 31, 1517, the day before All Saints’ Day, a solemn day on the church calendar, Luther posted what has historically arrived to be known in theological circles as the 95 Theses, on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

In reality, they were ‘grievances’ he had with the Roman Church, of which he was a huge part.

Luther’s grievance Number One, if it can be called that, was against the price of ‘indulgences’ the church levied on mostly poor peasants, who supposedly committed what the Church considered as sins, in their teachings and in the indoctrinated understanding of the peasants themselves, heavy drinking a chief one among them.

I guess one had to ‘pay’ to the church to have their ‘sins absolved’.

So the math works that, if the flock sin more, the church’s coffers get richer.

This penance offering was used almost entirely to construct The Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, arguably the most breath-taking structure in all the world.

I have stood on the cobble-stoned steps of the majestic Saint Peter’s Square that houses the basilica, with the arms of the gigantic Roman columns all around me as if in an embrace.

To say, I got all goose-bumped would be an understatement.

And The Sistine Chapel. La Capella Sistina.

What is there to say about it? How can one describe it?

the Reformation in Western Europe had followed the Italian Renaissance and coexisted in close historical epoch, one enriching the other.

The famous fresco painting on the chapel’s ceiling, ‘The Creation of Adam’: where God as a dynamic figure on the right, lifting Adam up from his slumber, Adam as the lithe figure on the left, their forefingers reaching for each other’s but not touching, creating that space between them where infinite possibilities exist.

Frankly, It’s disingenuous to soak this all in to a hilt, and then disapprove of the method by which it got there.

It’s equally hard for me to fathom this was the effort of a mere Man. I have no doubt whatsoever it was Divinely inspired. God was there holding the Man’s (a devout one) hand.

So, In a strange sort of admission, I’m glad Pope Leo commissioned it. (Apparently Michelangelo didn’t come cheap. 😁)

However, I wonder what Peter would say to seeing all this. Jesus might say to His most trusted disciple: Hey, Pathrose! This is not what I had in mind. 😉

So in a more real sense, I’m glad the indulgences were done away with.

———–

The theology of the protestant reformers departed from the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of, at a minimum, three great principles.

  • The sole authority of the Scripture.
  • Justification by faith alone.
  • Priesthood of the believer.

There were other major and significant points as well. It’s too lengthy to elaborate on them in this space. (Each one is a separate blog.)

Christian Community may not be cognizant of these Doctrinal differences, as much as what has really ‘set us up apart’ for five centuries, which are the seminal changes that occurred after and as a result.

This tide-turning movement that happened in the 1500-year-old Church’s history ushered in (among others):

-The end of priestly celibacy (Luther got married),

-Translating the Bible into local vernacular, so that lay people could read, study, and interpret, the Word of God all on their own (Luther translated much into German),

-Incorporating sermons and hymns during worship service (‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’, a personal all-time favorite hymn, was written by Martin Luther himself.)

-and priests playing a significant role in parishioners’ daily lives, pastoring of sorts. Parish life became part of one’s spiritual life.

A single man single-handedly stood down the Pope, and Christendom was ruptured along its fault lines.

While the centrality of the Papal authority has enabled the Roman Church to remain as one, the schisms in the Protestant movement have led to innumerable denominations within it, each with different doctrines and core practices. Staying true to its name: as people who protest.

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Exactly 318 years after this major crack in Europe’s Christianity, a similar kind of Reformation found its way across the continent to the Malabar Coast of Southern India, to the Malankara Syrian Church of Malabar and Travancore.

This is known as ‘Navee-karanam’ in Malayalam (meaning Renewal), and The Malankara MarThoma Syrian Church of Malabar was formed in 1835, and has never looked back.

And I’d say The MarThoma Church grabbed this crusade by its horns, and kind of ‘ran with it’. The structure, and The Practices.

One would expect nothing less from the ‘Syrian Chrsitians’ of Travancore, right?

-The Singing, the Memory Verses.

-Localized Prayer Groups within a parish (Prarthana Muri), Vicar’s church-mandated house visits (Bhavana Sandarshanam) to parishioners’ homes.

-The ‘Suvishesha Sevika Sankham’, the women’s arm that was solely created to empower women, in a way no one else dared in 1919 Travancore;

An event that was preceded by the founding of the Nicholson Syrian Girls High School in 1910, modeled after schools in Britain for the same great cause of educating girls in a Christian setting.

-The ‘Sannadha Suvishesha Sankham’, dedicated to the spreading of the Gospel.

-The Maramon Convention, a Western-origin ‘revivalist’ gathering, the largest of its kind in Asia.

And so much more.

I can claim without equivocation, that no denomination pays the kind of singular attention to learning the Bible the way The MarThoma Church does, not even Mainline American Protestant churches. Seriously, the best part.

At the core of it, MarThoma Church‘s foundation is and has always been The Gospel of Jesus Christ: the Four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It used to bear that if something’s not in one of the four Gospels, we did not practice it. This may have transformed over the course of the last century, as complacency and the need to conform with outside strictures have crept in, but the core remains pretty much the same.

For better or for worse, here we are, one half of a millennium later.

Regardless of how it all turned out, we all owe much to the forerunners who brought about the positive changes; even the Roman Catholics must be pleased: after all who needs those who press for changes all the time?

And in honour of Martin Luther and one Abraham Malpan (called The Luther of the East),

Happy Reformation Day to all…

Mercy

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Kunju,

Your post made me long for Pan Am. and TWA. There was a time when America was Pan Am and Pan Am was America.

Now we have American, United, Delta. And of course, Spirit, the airline that brings your spirit down as it soars into the sky. It offers you a discount if you fly, not standby, but standing.

There’s no love lost between us and them.

Before Reaganomics, Reagan Revolution and Supply Side Economics, and David Stockman’s Trickle-Down Theory, before president Ronald Reagan de-regulated the airline industry, and before Islamic terror took grip of our psyche, and when TSA used to be just 3 syllables of the English alphabet, and not a part of our airport nightmare, air travel used to be mostly carefree, rather expensive and therefore infrequent, and you used to get a seat. A real one.

Fast forward to the future: 2017.

American, that great innovator in air travel, decided that those allergy-inducing peanuts were costing, well, more than just peanuts, and substituted them with that gourmet food called pretzels in a bag (where there was more bag than pretzels) and started charging us.

Next came the bag fees.

So folks became resourceful and instead of checking the bags, started to cram an entire week’s worth of belongings into a so-called carry-on, bulging out to the sides, on board.

It just gets better from there. To recline or not to recline. This is the question. One has to crouch, worried that one is going to elbow-bump the next seat’s already out-of-sync passenger. This is the point at which you wish you had been bumped from the flight.

So the passengers are on edge. Cabin crew is over the edge and into the deep, dealing with disgruntled passengers, irate for not being helped to stick the bulging into the overhead. ‘The Crouching Travelers become Hidden Dragons’.

And now the pilots, not to feel left out and outwitted, have joined in the action.

Airlines meanwhile are looking for additional ways to squeeze out the max for the mini (profit and comfort respectively).

So they hire Harvard MBA’s (sorry, Sushila, not you!) who do extensive and years-long research, and come up with ingenious ideas such as if you shave off a foot width from each seat, you can add 40 more passengers per row.

And as if this isn’t enough, they have us go through the upper crust cabin, where the ruling class is sitting with fluffed pillows at the back, margaritas in hand, and Ralph Lauren cotton slippers on feet, throwing pitiful glances at the Proletariat, dragging their sorry suitcases down the crammed isles.

Has anybody noticed how all this brouhaha from throwing punches never happens in first class?

A recent Washington post headline read, I kid you not, ‘Much-loved giant rabbit found dead after United flight to O’Hare’. The poor rodent (of the phylum Chordata) was most likely petrified of his Homo Sapiens fellow travelers and may have died of acute shock.

This scenario is not going to bring out the best in mankind any time soon, that’s for sure.

So I suggest we should just take to the air on ‘a wing and a prayer’. And may be JetBlue.

Happy Saturday all, from rainy New England

The Back Story – 03.04.16

Our little guy is now a week old.

And in our Seattle household, ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, has morphed into just the name of an old movie.

Meanwhile, I got to musing more:

According to the Kerala Syrian Christian inheritance practices, (again to repeat myself with that word by making it sound like we’re some kind of chosen people!), Thampi, being the youngest of 2 sons of Achayan (his dad), had inherited the family house.

So if our nuclear family had been making India our home for the last half century, Mekhala being the youngest of 3 girls with no brothers, would have inherited our Pallipad house. To make it more cumbersome, prior to their marriage, David would’ve had to agree to this set-up, because this would mean he would give up the same rights from his family.

And Will being the only son of Mekhala, youngest or not, would be poised to inherit it subsequently.

So how fitting is it that Will is named after the original owners of the house, P. (Panackal) A. (Abraham) Eapen: Achayan, Will’s great grandfather, and also Achayan’s grandfather. Achayan’s name, in conformance with the custom, was naturally from his grandfather Abraham Eapen.

So Will and his great, great, great, grandfathers. That’s three ‘greats’. They Make up the substance of this story. life has turned full circle.

God answers prayers. If not always, at some point. If not now, some day when you’re not looking.

And what I would give to see Achayan’s face right now.

Achayan was an only child of his parents.

When we ended up with 6 daughters between his only 2 sons, Achayan used to say half-jokingly, that all the desperate prayers of valli-amachy (his mother) pleading with God to grant her at least one girl, were finally answered in the form of 6 girls years later, but with no boys in the mix.

I have no clue why Amachy didn’t beg for another boy, you know, as in ‘an heir and a spare’ as they say in the British Kingdom, but she wanted a daughter.

The family lore is that Amachy, who was from Thalavadi Amprayil family, once went to the Edathua ‘perunal’, which was right next door, and did a ‘nercha’, but kept it an ‘open secret’, because ‘good’ MarThomas were not permitted to participate in ‘nercha’. I think she pledged a few chicks to the palli or something.

Achayan had 2 daughters who ended up with 4 sons between them, but they didn’t ‘count’(!), as you all well know why.

I’m not certain how many of our progeny are cognizant of the fact that we come from such a methodically configured culture.

And there would be rancor if anyone tried to break the mold. And mostly no one did.

Say what you will about the apparent male chauvinism involved in all this – I’d rather call it patriarchy – but what it did also, was to create an order, at a time when we needed to keep it all together.

The second, third, and beyond, generations would undoubtedly benefit from being conscious of our past, no matter how far removed they are from it.

Past can always inform the future. For better or for worse.

So now ‘Back To The Future’:

When we had Mekhala, after having 2 girls, and Thampi’s brother having had 2 girls (then another one later), everyone including my parents were anticipating the ‘answers to all their prayers’ in the form of a boy, as an inheritor of the family name, the house, and the so-called wealth. Achayan used to call our Pallipad house Mekhala’s.

What transpired next: so Mekhala was born 11 days past her due date. When no easy phone service from the US was available back home, the whole universe – which meant the family and a whole lot of neighbors – were anxiously awaiting the news to hear if the ‘heir apparent’ had arrived.

And on February 20th, the whole village awoke to see the telegram guy bicycling towards the Kochupurackal house, and within moments, as cousin Kunjachayan’s daughter Susy was seen running away from the house in tears, and our beloved Kuttan asking helplessly ‘thampi thampuranu pinnem oru pennano?’, word spread like wildfire that ‘poor’ hapless Kochupurackal Babychayan had another girl grandbaby. Milling around the house courtyard, they sympathized as best as they could, with Achayan and Amachy. “vidhiya, babychaya, kochame – entho cheyyana”.

Valli-amachy gave away too many chicks. 🙂

By the way, all 3 of our daughters have heard this story more times they can count, so don’t feel bad about breaking this to them gently. I was also one of the souls who shed tears that February day.

Years later, would I change a thing about that girl baby or any part of experience? The answer is: emphatically no, no way on earth.

And little did anyone imagine their prayers will be answered in the form of one Will Stephen Fentin.

Call it a willful Will or God’s will.

I felt really compelled to share this as a post-script to my posting from last week.

While doing so, I was also imagining David, Mekhala, Laila, Nora and Will, living in our Pallipad house – which no longer exists, not even one brick of it.

Regardless, it was fun picturing them living next door to Pandarathil Thankachayan (a relative), Percattu Kunjumon, Krishnan, Venu, et al.

The best was visualizing Kunjipennu drawing water from the well, and Thomachen, the vegetable vendor haggling over the price of one-day-too-old achinga.

And imagine, these things didn’t happen in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient sites of the Indus Valley Civilization, it was just some 30 plus years ago, and it happened in that watery dip called Kerala’s Upper Kuttanad.

From Travancore to Seattle. From deep Southern India to the Northwestern United States. I found it hard to wrap my head around it.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me, and allowing me to reminisce. I had fun. I’m sure some of you stopped reading long ago, like at the half-way mark. 🙂

————-

And further with the movies theme, as sweet Will was taking his sweet time last week, contemplating when to come out head first to say hello! to the world, he granted ample time for Ammi to teach his big sister (all of 6 years old) how to make yogurt at home, who was fascinated it could even be done, and also to see ‘Trumbo’ and ‘The Martian’. Go see it.

Very fondly,

mercy