Monday, August 30, 2010


Ronald Lewis Carton (1919)

In the place to which I go,
Better men than I have died.
Freeman friend and conscript foe,
Face to face and side by side,
In the shallow grave abide.

Melinite that scared their brains,
Gas that slew them in a snare,
War's inferno of strange pains,
What are these to them who share
That great boon of silence there?

When like blood the moon is red;
And a shadow hides the sun,
We shall wake, the so-long dead,
We shall know our quarrel done, --
Will God tell us who has won?

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Black Woman's Civil War

The life of Susie King Taylor displayed not just one but many moments of determined heroism. Hers was a heroism anchored in the struggles of everyday life but also fearless in demanding that the country live up to its promises to blacks as they journeyed from slavery to freedom.

Susie King Taylor (1848-1912)was born into bondage on a Georgia plantation during the high tide of southern slavery. Although she had humble origins as a slave, she was sent to a clandestine school run by a free black woman. She had to wrap her books in laundry or newspapers to disguise the fact that she was going to school, because it was against the law to teach slaves to read. During the civil war, she escaped and became a nurse to the black soldiers of the northern army. When Clara Barton arrived, the two worked side by side caring for the wounded. The black former slave girl and the Yankee spinster showed the way that diverse backgrounds could be commingled into one strong unified force. After the war, Susie experienced the full force of prejudice and hatred but remained optimistic and dreamed of the day when justice for African Americans would arrive in the South. She wrote a memoir - "Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, with the 33rd United States Colored Troops Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers". Her testimonial contains poetic and powerful prose.

The choices facing Susie King Taylor may have been limited by the contraints of race and gender, but the heroism she demonstrated during wartime should inspsire us all.

(taken from "Forgotten Heroes" by Catherine Clinton)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Feel Extremely Alone

"In high school I felt chills run down my spine when I read Samuel Taylor Coleridges's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", especially these lines:

Alone, alone, all, all alone
Alone on a wide, wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony . . .
So lonely 'twas that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.

In my own grief I have often felt all alone. Telling myself that I was not alone didn't help much, even though it was true. Remember, David the psalmist felt terribly alone at times, especially during his troubles from Alabama. The same David wrote: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Let your brother David remind you that feeling alone is not being alone." (from "Everyday Comfort by Randy Becton)
Psalms 102:1-4

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Mild-Mannered Hero

"Felix Kersten, a mild-mannered, short man, had a unique place in the Nazi scheme of things. He was a masseur and had wealthy and influential clients in the Third Reich. His most famous cliet was Heinrich Himmler, who was the second most powerful leader in Germany. Just before Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Himmler was stricken with severe stomach pains. Physicians had failed to relieve his suffering, so Felix Kersten was called in. Kersten treated the patient with such success that Himmler would be dependent on him during the years ahead.

In March 1945, it was clear that Nazi Germany was on the brink of total collapse, but Hitler had ordered the Gestapo leader to murder the hundreds of thousands of prisoners in concentration camps before they could be liberated by the Allies. Himmler, was again bothered by stomach pains and went to see Kersten. Kersten brought up the topic of the concentration camps and Himmler told him of Hitler's orders. The mild mannered masseur pleaded with Himmler to ignore the directive. 'Those are the Fuhrer's direct orders, and I must see to it that they are carried out' Himmler said testily. Undaunted, Kersten kept hammering away at his patient through his manual therapy during the next 2 weeks. After many heated arguements, the persistent masseur won out. He coerced Himmler into writing on paper a personal pledge to Kersten that he would not have prisoners killed and they would remain in the camps to be handed over to the Allies. Himmler stared at the amzaing document for a while but he finally signed it and gave it to Kersten."

(taken from "Bizarre Tales from World War II by William Breuer)