Many years ago and seemingly in someone else’s lifetime, soon after graduating from SMU, I married into a prominent family in Dallas. My wife was a wonderful person and so was her father, who invited me to come into the family business. But I was hell-bent on making a career in the movie industry — an aspiration he thought indicative of mental instability.
For a while, it seemed he was right. But three years later, while still working for an insurance company in Los Angeles, I set out to co-write, produce and direct my first feature film, even though I had never even seen a movie being shot. The film, No Return Address, would eventually make a profit — but the money did not come in time to save my marriage.
Over the next 15 years, I made several more low-budget movies, some warmly received by the critics but most tanked financially. Then, the past reappeared in the lovely form of my ex- wife. To my surprise, she was still living in LA, but would be finally moving back to Dallas in the next few days.
She suggested we have a farewell dinner, and mentioned Chasen’s, a restaurant I had never been in but knew as once having been favored by Humphrey Bogart and many other of filmdom’s rich and famous.
Hey, dinner with a woman who had once meant so much to me, Bogart, Chasen’s, great, right? Wrong — because at that moment in my heavily checkered career, I had some seventy five dollars in my pocket — which might, from all current indications, have to last me for the rest of my life. But the money should be, I thought, enough to get me through the evening with my pretentions unperturbed.
Wrong, again. One look at the menu prices and I immediately considered bolting for the door. Instead, I feigned a slight discomfort that had “robbed me of my appetite.” My comely companion said that my spirits would improve after I’d had a drink — and promptly ordered an expensive bottle of wine.
For the next hour, she sweetly asked me about the state of my film career and personal life — to which I blah-blahed about how wonderful everything was. In reality (a place I occasionally visited but never stayed for long) I had recently lost my Mark VII Jaguar sedan and apartment in Hollywood and had been living with a friend for the past few weeks.
When the check came, it was some $72. Miraculously, I could cover it! But when I got my change, the fair lady whispered that the few dollars on the tray would not be nearly enough to cover the tip — to which I confidently confided that I was a regular customer and would settle the matter after I had escorted her to the parking lot.
Outside, when she asked about my car, I politely said that we should get her car first. Another surprise: for a petite, demure and still svelte woman in her mid-30s, her car was a growling Corvette, more the kind that an Indy 500 driver might have been driving.
As we said goodbye, she kissed me and said how happy she was that everything had turned out so well for me — and with that she roared away. I turned to the young valet. The parking was free, but patrons were expected to tip the help. I had just started to go through my song and dance when the punk sneered, “Forget it, pal. You need the money worse than me.”
I must have turned beet red before starting the long walk back to my friend’s place. He had recently rented a sparsely-furnished house, and having but one bed, he had put blankets and a pillow into a long, empty window flower box — and that very same embarrassing night, a would-be burglar opened the window and easing himself into the house planted a foot right in my face.
Ah, but that’s another humiliating story.
I first arrived in Chapala some twenty-five ago with a motor home, two cars, two dogs and a distinctly dismal-looking future. I was coming off a couple of years in Hollywood where I had developed an acute case of the Midas Touch in Reverse and had finally decided that if I couldn’t change my luck, at least I would change my location.
Quite by accident, I found a lovely little trailer park right down by the Lake Chapala where a space cost only sixteen dollars a month. The park was owned by a Mexican family that had been there since 1936, and in accordance with ejido law, was still farming a small portion of the property. The family’s youngest grandson, Carlitos, was in charge of the park. He was an industrious, fun-loving young man and because I knew no one else at Lakeside, we soon became good pals.
Then one day, two attorneys arrived from Guadalajara to inform the family that they were squatting on private property. Stunned, the family quickly collected legal documents going back several decades. Undeterred, the lawyers came again, this time with a pickup truck brimming over with black-shirted police. When one of the cops poked a pistol against the head of the matriarch of the family, the matter was “legally” settled. The lawyers brusquely informed the park’s gringo tenants that they had 15 days to move out.
Many of them, elderly and living on Social Security, didn’t know what to do or where to go. In desperation, they petitioned the American Consulate in Guadalajara, and a young officer happened to arrive at the trailer park just as the lawyers were berating the remaining residents. When the young consul officer voiced a mild objection, the attorneys yelled at him, as well, saying he had no authority to intervene.
I’ll never forget what came next. The young man, in a cool, measured voice, said that where he did have authority was in the US Consulate, where he was in charge of approving all visa applications to the United States filed by residents from the state of Jalisco — and perhaps someday the lawyers or their families would be standing before his desk.
Had he slapped them across the face, their expressions could not have looked more startled. Instantly, contempt turned to cordiality as the shysters did everything but fall to their knees and ask for forgiveness. At that moment, I was very proud of the good ole US of A.
But the retort only stalled the eventual final outcome. Carlitos, along with the rest of his family, was thrown off of his own property. Later, he made a shack down by the water and became a fisherman. He also became addicted to alcohol in its crudest form (this included mixing rubbing alcohol with various ingredients) and only a few years afterward suffered a severe stroke which left him while still in his 20’s with a shuffling gait and garbled speech.
Today he can be seen limping along the highway in his big straw hat, his black dog trailing behind him. I often stop to talk to him, though he does not remember me. But I remember him. He was the first friend I made at Lakeside and I have often wondered how things might have otherwise turned out, had those lawyers not arrived that afternoon of so many years ago to completely blacken out his future.
Years ago, an American president with enormous power and prestige nevertheless observed that life is unfair. I can’t imagine what my old friend Carlitos must think, if indeed he can still think?
When the United States first entered WWII in December of 1941, there were more than two and a half million people of Mexican descent living in the US, eighty-five percent of whom resided in five states: New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California and Texas.
But in early 1941, an order had already been issued by the commander of the 36th Infantry Division that a new unit be formed, comprised only of Hispanic-Americans. The mandate included both officers and enlisted men.
Whether the order was discriminatory cannot be easily judged. What is indisputable is that it gave rise to what later became one of the most highly-decorated fighting units in American history.
The new unit, called E Company, became part of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division, later to be known as the Texas Volunteers. The all-Hispanic rifle company quickly drew many recruits from every part of the Southwest, including many men who had long been members of the National Guard in their home-states.
The rifle company soon became noted for its excellence. The remaining question was how well it would do in actual combat, a doubt that was resoundingly settled when the Texas Volunteers stormed the Italian beach at
Salerno and began blasting up toward its ultimate goal: the Eternal City of Rome.
But then came several elements which in combination dealt the American forces a stunning counter-punch. The Germans held the high-ground at Monte Cassino, from where they could shell the US troops below with shattering accuracy. The terrain had also grown steep and rocky, and with the driving sheets of rain, the entire area became a swamp. Hundreds of Sherman tanks sat stalled alongside washed-out roads.
The Italian campaign had boiled down to that most basic element in any army: the foot soldier. It was now his war to either win or lose. The first major objective was to successfully cross the raging Rapido River. To accomplish this, the 156 men of E Company were ordered to make the crossing first, though it was known they would be facing more than 3000 Germans on the other side, armed with heavy machine guns, mortars and even light cannons.
Why such a pitifully small group of men, all of whom had been in combat for three straight weeks and some of which could barely walk, was sent out on such an impossible mission is something that even now, some 70 years later, is still hotly debated. Of the original striking force, only 23 men made it back to their own side of the river and of those, a dozen later died.
Even so, by the end of the war, E Company had won more medals for bravery than some entire regiments, while overall, Hispanic soldiers had been awarded more Congressional Medals of Honor (in ratio to their numbers) than almost any other ethnic group.
Yet despite their outstanding combat record, these same heroes were initially denied membership in both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. But that history of outstanding achievement has had its way over the past several decades and today every branch of the US military is packed with high-ranking Mexican-American officers.
Moreover, the leadership of both the VFW and the American Legion has often been held by Mexican-Americans.
The philosopher who once said that “the wheels of fate grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine” was not wrong.
Art must always — if it is to have any claim to legitimacy — imitate Life. Yet how sad that life cannot more often imitate art, which can sometimes contain a higher truth than reality itself. I was reminded of this recently when I saw (for the fifth time) one of the most inspirational movies ever made, the monumental 1959 version of Ben Hur.
The film is subtitled “A Tale of the Christ,” and like its earlier silent version was adapted from a novel written more than 140 years ago by General Lew Wallace, who had fought in the American Civil War. The story, set at about the time of the birth of Christ, is about a Jewish nobleman, Ben Hur, and his closest childhood friend, Messala, a Roman. When Messala is later given an important post in Judea, he savagely turns on Ben Hur and sets out to destroy him and his family.
But Ben Hur miraculously survives years of brutal labor — first in the salt mines of Abyssinia, later as a galley slave in a Roman war ship — to eventually return to Judea to join forces with an Arab to vanquish Messala in a chariot race (perhaps the most spectacular action sequence ever filmed, which purportedly resulted in serious injuries to several stunt men). His victory is vitiated, however, when he learns that his mother and sister, after enduring years of confinement in a hideous Roman prison, have become lepers.
Cancerous with rage and haunted by spiritual emptiness, Ben Hur later learns of a young Jewish prophet who has been condemned to death by crucifixion. Standing among the crowd as Jesus of Nazareth finally expires, Ben Hur ruminates that “even as he died, I could feel his voice take the sword from my hand.”
Consider these two elements — all the more relevant in these current days of slaughter and strife in the very part of the world where the story is set: A Jew links his hand and destiny with that of an Arab to defeat the despicable Roman (i.e. terrorists), then this same Jew finds inner peace through the example of a martyr whose life and death become the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Yet the film was made by Jews: William Wyler (director), Sam Zimbalist (producer), and Karl Tunberg (screenwriter).
Consider also that the film itself is today greatly admired by Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, Jews and Christians alike. One reason is that the film-makers chose to keep Christ’s miracles to a bare minimum, in effect saying that even if Jesus had not performed the many miracles mentioned in the New Testament, indeed was perhaps not really the Son of God, His was a life and death that nevertheless should inspire men for all time.
But take the case one step further to ponder whether Jesus ever actually existed, for most of what we truly know of Him was written much later by men who never knew him. The film’s answer (and mine as well) is so what? Those who wrote about Him were nonetheless inspired, for they have left us with what tens of millions of people have always regarded “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
Those same millions believe that story gave the world the most beautiful blueprint for living that has ever been put to paper — and for me, that is more than good enough.
Now if only life could, for a change, imitate art.
Many years ago, I was commissioned to write a screenplay about the life and career of the painter Paul Gauguin, a task I approached with some reluctance. I had seen the movie Lust for Life, a terrific film (which was more about Vincent Van Gogh than Gauguin), but one which (in Anthony Quinn’s Oscar-winning performance) depicted Gauguin as a brutish lout and world-class egotist.
My aversion was not relieved as I began to read several books about Gauguin, including a not-so-fictitious novel about him, The Moon and Sixpence, written by Somerset Maugham. Then I studied the so-called masterpieces which Gauguin had painted but they struck me as intellectually simplistic and technically primitive. Yet here I admit to a personal quirk: the past masters whose work I greatly admire (Millet, Monet) led lackluster lives, while the painters whose work I don’t especially like (such as Van Gogh) had lives that were the blistering stuff of memorable drama.
Paul Gauguin was no exception.
Born in 1848, the year of the Second French Revolution, he later married a Danish woman related to the Royal House of Denmark. Anxious to support his growing family, he became a stockbroker and an instant financial success. He also began to paint. Becoming obsessed with painting, he deserted his wife and children, and with a mistress in tow, went to Tahiti where he hoped to reconcile in his work the barbarous character of the native idols with the sensitivity of European tradition. Returning to France, he was injured in a brawl and was unable to stop his mistress from fleeing to Paris — with all his work.
Nearly penniless and in failing health, he returned to Tahiti, where he did another 44 paintings. A subsequent showing in Paris was, however, a crushing defeat for him, though with one sublime moment: The painter Degas, as famous as Gauguin was unknown, told him that “someday the name of Gauguin will be remembered long after my own has been forgotten.” It was a supreme act of kindness from one artist to another, though the gesture reflected more favorably on Degas than Gauguin, who was still a self-centered albeit ailing manipulator.
However, in reading about his last few years I changed my mind about both Gauguin and the project at hand.
Considering himself an abysmal failure, he returned to the South Seas, where he established a small newspaper which he used to expose corruption among the ruling French elite, as well as their brutal treatment of the natives. He also fought against the prejudices of the Catholic Church, angrily vowing that he wanted to be buried anywhere but in a Catholic graveyard.
Gauguin died at age 55, and (of course) the French buried him in a Catholic cemetery. There a handful of bureaucrats gathered to gleefully ridicule him. But as a stiff wind came up from the sea (as legend has it), the tall grass moved toward the other side of the hill — and there stood more than 1000 Polynesians, heads bowed in a silent salute for the narcissistic European who nevertheless had become their courageous champion. Gauguin had failed to be recognized in his lifetime as a great success, but in his last year he found something far greater than fame. He had finally found a cause bigger than himself.
(I tell this story because I hope it will resonate with many of our readers who also have come to live out their remaining years in an exotic foreign country, hoping to discover some sublime, selfless activity that they have never found before.)
Recently I saw an old newsreel about “The Freedom Train.” Originating in Los Angeles shortly after the end of the Second World War, the train started east with three box cars loaded with food donated by the public for the malnourished children in war-torn France and Italy. By the time the train had made dozens of stops across the heartland of America, and finally reached Staten Island, where the food would be loaded onto freighters bound for Europe—it was pulling more than 300 box cars loaded with food. As I watched the film and the food being unloaded before thousands of emaciated European children, all cheering and waving American flags, I got a lump in my throat.
But I had to wonder: Whatever happened to my beloved country, once the most admired nation on the face of the Earth, today under GW Bush the most vilified. Poll after poll taken throughout Europe, as well as all over Latin America and much of Asia, show that the United States is today one of the most despised countries in the entire world.
So what the hell happened?
A personal recollection: I first visited Lakeside in 1963, and in several humble dwellings, I was amazed to often see, right next to a photo of Pope John XXIII, a photograph of John F. Kennedy. Today, can you imagine a picture of any recent US president gracing the home of a poor Mexican family?
I also remember Kennedy once saying that the US was at a critical juncture in its history: it could become either another Greece or another Rome. Kennedy hoped it would be the former. An avid student of history, JFK had a prescient notion of what eventually might happen to a modern-day imperial dynasty.
The American people must suspect the same thing, for almost every recent poll shows that close to 75% of them today believe that the US is “headed in the wrong direction.” And yet 25% continue to fervently believe that America can do no wrong; worse (remembering Santayana’s dictum about how those who ignore history are bound to repeat its mistakes), that America has never done anything wrong!
But here are just a few mistakes which have so severely soured world-wide opinion of the United States. Items:
• Its dismantling of international treaties which had remained in force for several decades.
• Its role as the world’s worst polluter, while hogging a wildly disproportionate amount of the world’s energy.
• Its failure to remain an honest power broker in the Middle East — thus engendering hatred toward the US among hundreds of millions of Arabs and Moslems.
• Its political evolvement into a theocracy with a holier-than-thou attitude which implies that it alone is doing God’s work here on Earth.
• Its failure to address the monumental problem of global warming, hence putting the entire planet at risk and gaining for itself the unenviable reputation of an “anti-science” government.
• Infuriating much of the world with its “for us or against us” black/white mentality whose simplistic attitudes are right out of a grade-Z cowboy movie.
Oh, maybe I’ve lived abroad for too long. But I still love America and deeply resent that its former image as The Shining Beacon on the Hill is now a tarnished memory. Like most Americans, I yearn for the day when I can again be fiercely proud of my country.
Imagine a character so interesting that when his creator tried to kill him off, waves of dismay came from English-language readers all over the world. This same character would give rise to exclusive clubs in dozens of major cities, organizations whose sole purpose was to keep his memory alive. The British government would even create a museum in his honor, situated at the fictional address of his home in the heart of London. Finally, envision someone so compelling that many books and thousands of articles have been written about him as if he was an actual person.
If you guessed this imposing personage to be Sherlock Holmes, chances are that you’re as huge a devotee of his as I am. I became hooked on the Sherlock Holmes stories as a boy growing up in West Texas — about as far from the dark and enigmatic late 19th century backgrounds of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories as it was possible to get — and I was always especially thrilled by that moment in some of his stories when Holmes would awaken Dr. Watson in the middle of the night to whisper, “Come Watson, the game is afoot.”
The stories started in the late 1800s, when Conan Doyle, a newly-licensed young eye doctor, began to sketch out a story about a “consulting detective,” while he waited for patients that never came. That story, A Study in Scarlet, brought into the fictional world a detective like none other before him. Doyle’s genius was in giving the reader the same clues that were given to Sherlock Holmes — which added to our amazement when he deduced things we “saw but never perceived.” The author sold the copyright to the story (which was as long as a novelette) for a mere 25 pounds, but no matter. Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes were off on the ride of a lifetime.
Before that ride came to an end, Doyle had become an immensely successful author (he, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, among the most celebrated Irish writers of that entire century), and so famous for his own strong deductive powers that he was sometimes called in by Scotland Yard to help with especially difficult cases. But deductive reasoning aside, there was so much more to the character of Sherlock Holmes (most always written about by his faithful companion, “Doctor Watson”) that often the prologues of the stories, presenting Holmes — the obsessive, cynical man — were as interesting as the crimes he solved.
And what mysteries they were! Often set in exotic locales, with an unforgettable cast of characters and villains that made those in the James Bond stories seem like cardboard cutouts — attributes that would inexorably lead Holmes to the movies.
Eventually, some 180 (!) Sherlock Holmes films were made (the best feature the British actors Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett). One entirely original film (written and directed by Nicholas Meyer) had Sigmund Freud help the master detective overcome his addiction to cocaine, as well as resolve some deep-seated psychological problems.
Doyle, in the second half of his life, would turn his formidable intellect to the greatest mystery of all: what happens to us after we die. Never a dilettante, he became world-renowned as an expert in paranormal psychology. He would also, over the course of a long career, write critically-acclaimed novels, among them The White Company and The Refugees.
Yet for me, none had that spell-binding late-night moment in the Holmes stories in which I used to imagine him whispering to me, “Come, young man, the game is afoot.”
(By the way, my belated thanks to all those potential patients of Doctor Doyle’s who never came to see him.)
Sandwiched between the cataclysmic, war-torn 1940s and the explosive 1960s, (which for the first time in U.S. history pitted one generation of Americans against another), the 1950s initially seemed a rather drowsy decade.
But the passage of almost a half century has altered that perception, and part of this change can be attributed to books such as The Fifties, written by David Halberstam, one of the world’s preeminent authors, who earlier won the Pulitzer Prize for The Best and the Brightest.
In retrospect, it seems incredible that the Fifties should have originally been given such short shrift, for much of what happened during that decade greatly determined what American society is (both good and bad) today. It was an era which featured powerful personages who will not soon be forgotten.
— Dwight Eisenhower, the former Allied Supreme Commander during WWII, and later President of the United States, whose common decency and fair-mindedness set the bar higher for all future political leaders.
— John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, whose arrogance caused ruptures in relations with Latin American countries which to this day have not entirely healed.
— General Douglas MacArthur, perhaps the most brilliant military strategist in American history, first won and then lost the Korean War when his ego overwhelmed his good judgment.
— President Harry S. Truman, who left office in 1952 with an approval rating of only 27%, but who is today regarded a near-great president.
— Harley Earl, the GM marketing whiz who put tail fins on cars, and forever cemented America’s love affair with automobiles.
— Martin Luther King radically changed the way America looked at itself, and in the process he gave the country its conscience.
— Elvis Presley brought a brand-new beat to American music, and left an unforgettable legacy to the entertainment world.
— Gregory Pincus, whose scientific team perfected the Pill, thereby forever transforming the sexual habits of a nation, and eventually that of the entire world.
— Marlon Brando, the greatest actor of his generation (and perhaps any other, as well), who along with three other monumental talents in the ‘50s, director Elia Kazan, writer Tennessee Williams and actor James Dean, forever changed the face of film in the United States.
— Senator Joseph McCarthy, who splintered an entire country with his self-promoting accusations about alleged pro-Communist “traitors” (even branding WWII hero and former Secretary of State George C. Marshall a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”), died an alcoholic in a gutter of his own making.
— Marilyn Monroe, whose rise and fall (self-imposed?) made her an icon whose luster burns brighter than ever, some 40 years after her death.
— Mickey Mantle, dubbed “The Natural,” was the New York Yankee center-fielder whose assault on many of baseball’s most hallowed records was thwarted only by a series of debilitating injuries.
— Lucille Ball and Milton Berle changed the night-time habits of an entire nation, and along with a dozen others, made television a vibrant new force in America.
The First Presidential TV Debate, Kennedy vs. Nixon, the night image forever replaced the printed word as the natural language of politics.
A pretty interesting cast of characters for a so-called “drowsy decade,” and only a small fraction of those in Halberstam’s book. If the Fifties was anywhere close to your decade, do yourself a favor and check out this memory-lane of a book.
In 1910, the New York Times called Edgar Cayce “America’s Most Mysterious Man”; after his death in 1945, JAMA, the highly-esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association, called Cayce “the father of holistic medicine.” What happened in between those years is one of the most fascinating stories of the 20th century.
Edgar Cayce was born in a small town in Kentucky in 1877 to a poor though devoutly Christian family. As a quiet but highly inquisitive child, he could memorize pages out of a book merely by sleeping with it under his pillow. Later, he would further astound his family by being able to imagine events that had taken place months before and many miles away. He could also proscribe home-spun (and usually successful) cures for neighbors whose ailments had befuddled the local doctors.
As he grew into his teens, his reputation for effecting “miracle cures” likewise developed, eventually spreading to towns throughout Kentucky and beyond. His method was always the same: under the loving eye of his grandmother, who would quietly take notes, young Cayce would enter a sleep-like state, say the subject’s name, and then slowly begin to “see” the actual cause and hence the best cure for the ailment. In doing this, his mind would go back in time, trying to find the root cause of the ailment. Coming out of his trance, he would remember very little of what he had said, but his grandmother had transcribed it all. Without exception, these “readings” were of benefit to his “subjects.”
A few years later, however, a reading would take Cayce into a new dimension. The subject was a renowned urologist from New Orleans who, along with his wife, was visiting relatives in Kentucky. Considering his medical specialty, the man had an ironic ailment: at age forty, he could not control his bladder, and often awoke in a very wet bed. Distraught, the doctor had sought treatment with specialists all over Europe; none had found a physical cause for the problem.
Encouraged by his wife, who had heard stories about the remarkable cures the teen-aged Cayce had brought about, the doctor grudgingly agreed to see the boy. What transpired would be a life-changing moment for the doctor, but especially for Cayce himself.
With the doctor and his wife in a darkened room inside the Cayce’s humble home, Edgar went into his sleep-like state, and as was his habit, began to go back in time, searching for trauma in the doctor’s past that might suggest the cause of the current problem. Tracking back a decade at a time, the reading finally ended at infancy; then, as Cayce later related, with a flash of light, the past went into a previous lifetime — and then even further back.
The year was 1692, the place Salem, Massachusetts, during one of the most hideous moments in American history: the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Many were burned at the stake for being “witches,” but for lesser alleged crimes, some were repeatedly dunked in large vats of vinegar, which always made the “miscreants” violently ill. Now . . . imagine that the good doctor from New Orleans, in a previous lifetime, had been one those doing the dunking — and that for years afterward he had been psychologically crippled by guilt.
Now presume this guilt was manifesting itself in one of his far more recent incarnations, and that the remorse was manifesting itself by causing his present humiliating condition. Then, believe that when Cayce came out of his trance, and his grandmother read out her notes to the doctor and his wife, the man, in tears and stunned to his core, quietly asked if there was anything he could do to atone for that ancient sin. Smiling, young Edgar said that a way would be shown to the doctor.
Returning to New Orleans, the doctor decided to set aside a full day for the free treatment of people who ordinarily could never have afforded his professional services. The experience exhilarated him, and within a short time, the bed-wetting ceased, never to occur again.
Of course, those knowledgeable about psychiatric techniques know that what Cayce was doing resembled what Sigmund Freud would introduce to the world during the latter part of the 19th century. But where Freud made deductions based primarily on what his patients told him, Cayce needed no such assistance; further, Freud could venture no further than one lifetime, whereas Cayce’s “passport” allowed him to travel much farther back in time. Moreover, while neither Freud nor any of his disciples could foresee the future, Cayce repeatedly did so — with amazing accuracy.
Now, all this sounds rather preposterous, right — and probably just a coincidence. But before Cayce’s life ended at age 68, he had conducted some 17,000 readings, about 14,000 of which are on record at the Association of Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Today, the A.R.E. draws millions of visitors from all over the world to its beautiful facility. The organization also has a huge presence on the web.
Edgar Cayce is one of the most “documented” psychics in all of recorded history, having inspired several documentary films and dozens of books, the most famous, There is a River by Thomas Sugrue. Cayce’s readings covered thousands of topics, and he himself wrote many books, one of the most popular his book about Jesus Christ, as well as a book called Beyond Death: Visions of the Other Side.
For those who are still skeptical, they should reflect on a few words by the greatest writer who ever lived: “What’s past is prologue.” (The Tempest) and “There are some things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, that are not dreamt of in your philosophy.”(Hamlet)
Exactly when it happened is still in dispute, but happen it did and thereafter liberals suddenly were regarded as only a few steps up from child-molesters. Yet given the definition in most dictionaries of a liberal, i.e., “generous…tolerant, broad-minded, favoring reform or progress…,” it would seem a most worthy thing to be.
In keeping with that definition, the liberal movement has been responsible for a great majority of the social and economic advancements of the past 100 years. Go back to the birth of Social Security, the right of black soldiers to fight alongside white ones, school integration, the War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Medicare, Operation Head Start, child labor laws, banking reforms, the fight for universal health care, the minimum wage, (which, disgracefully, hasn’t been increased over the past several years), environmental safeguards, female suffrage, equal rights and protection under the law. Courageous liberals were in the advance units of each and every one of those noble crusades.
Today, liberals and conservatives alike (and yes, even neo-Cons) all enjoy the benefits of those historic battles. Still, the Far Right, while grudgingly conceding most of the above, has fallen back on other anti-liberal arguments. They brand as “unpatriotic” liberals who were against the war in Iraq, snorting that criticism of the war was aiding our enemies; yet Congressional conservatives railed again the war in Kosovo, and Trent Lott, their former leader in the Senate, went so far as to say that President Clinton was “worse than Milosovic!” But nobody ever called those conservatives who were carping about that war “unpatriotic.”
As for the charge that Democrats are a bunch of wusses who can’t be relied upon to protect us against our enemies, the Right-Wingers forget that four of the greatest war (hot, cold and otherwise) presidents of the 20th century were Democrats: FDR, Truman, Johnson and Kennedy.
Another snide accusation is that liberals are too concerned with “fringe elements.” Yet, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, liberals have believed that government has no more noble purpose than the protection of its least fortunate or under-represented of its citizens. The theory is that as the weakest of them grow stronger, the more durable and dynamic the nation itself becomes. Yet often those who fight for the poor are derided as “bleeding-heart liberals,” those who struggle to improve the global environment are branded “crazy tree-huggers,” those who wage war against prejudice and discrimination labeled “anti-religious.”
Here is the contradiction: the vast majority of those hurling the accusations profess to be Christians, and proudly boast of their deep belief in the teachings, sanctity and example of Jesus Christ—even while forgetting that Christ was the Ultimate Liberal. Don’t believe it? Go back to the classic definition of liberalism at the top of this editorial. Is there a more accurate (political) word for the short but glorious ministry of He who gave His name to the most powerful reform movement the world has ever known? He worked among the poor, associated with the humblest of men, was tolerant of every human frailty, devoted to replacing the status quo with something more equitable, and left us with hundreds of all-forgiving quotes such as “Let him without sin cast the first stone.”
Is there a single word which could characterize such a compassionate attitude, such an inspiring message? I suggest to my fellow Christians that it might be… liberal.