Saturday, January 30, 2016

I have published two pieces today because I will be unable to post for a little while. When I return the primary in NH will be over and the world of politics will have moved on. It is shaping up to be a very strange election year and I am not sure our state will have done much to clarify things. I hope, in the end, we choose candidates who will work to bring our nation together. The world needs us to be a better, stronger internal community, and one that can provide leadership in a global congregation that seems to be losing its way.

Glenn K. Currie
When I was young almost every town had a Memorial Day Parade. This was a big event for the community and our school bands marched in all of them. I was proud to be a part, playing at different times saxophone, clarinet, drums and once even a glockenspiel. I especially liked how proud I was to be marching in the same parade as my Dad who was a WWII veteran.

In those days we had veterans from four wars march with us, although the wounded and almost all the Spanish American vets rode in open convertibles.

As kids we would get restless as we stood around at the cemeteries waiting for ceremonies we couldn’t hear to finally finish. Most of the time the bands were positioned off in the far reaches of the place where all the “old” graves were located. I can remember wondering who put all the little flags on these graves that were so far removed from current life. Most of them were for Civil War veterans whose markers were small, often in disrepair and very hard to read.

I wrote the poem Abraham’s Mountain (In the Cat’s Eye, 2009) a few years ago, after  I stood in a different cemetery on another Memorial Day. This time I had intentionally sought out that old portion of the cemetery which was again far from the ceremonies. The focus, as might be expected, was mostly on veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The little flags were still placed on the graves of all of our veterans but little attention was otherwise focused on the distant memories of the Civil War.

As I listened to the far off report of rifles and then the haunting notes of taps, I wondered if the soldiers buried at my feet would be surprised to learn that their war has been the longest of them all. That bringing a nation together, after it had been ripped asunder, would involve so much more than the force of arms. Would they be surprised that hatred and prejudice still bubbles to the surface from the tar pits of people’s minds, even so many generations later?

Perhaps as Lincoln’s actual birthday approaches, we might honor those who gave so much for freedom but also remember that Lincoln’s and our work is still not finished. Our nation is a work in progress and each of us is also.

Glenn K. Currie

                     Abraham’s Mountain

Strangers gather here
On Memorial Day.
They plant little flags
Made in China.
Worn stones are decorated
To honor those
No one knew.
James (something)
New Hampshire 5th
Died December 1864.
Speakers are as stiff
As the cheaply-made flags.
Words from a different time
Remember many wars
With little understanding.
Their heavily labored words
borne on caissons:
Their ashes then
 solemnly carried away
On a languid wind.

They forget that
Abraham’s war,
Started so long ago,
Wages still
In deeds and spirit.
Strangers fire their rifles
Into the air,
And hear only
The thin cry
Of a lonesome bugle.
But far away,
Invisible dominoes
Are still falling,
Like the ancient gravestones.

The Road (Daydreams, Snap Screen Press 2004) is about New England…and about life. It is a path we have all traveled in one form or another, encountering obstacles that most of us have faced.

Perhaps that’s what fascinates so many with the New England countryside. In it, along its highways and byways, we can find pieces of the evolution of the American culture, and evidence of some of the places that lie in our future.

It is still a fascinating journey.

Glenn K. Currie

                            The Road

                                                Through old mill towns,
                                                Married to rivers
                                                That have lost their purpose.
                                                Facades staring out,
                                                With long memories,
                                                And short futures.
                                                Leaning toward the water,
                                                Like divorcees
                                                Who can’t let go.

                                                Past dairy farms
                                                That once prospered,
                                                Now fighting for survival.
                                                Faded red barns,
                                                Framed by rocky meadows,
                                                Rusting mowers,
                                                And homes too big.
                                                Waiting hopelessly,
                                                For reinforcements.

                                                Weaving through valleys
                                                Huddled in shadow.
                                                Mountains made tall
                                                By their hulking proximity.
                                                Stealing the sunlight.
                                                Bullies ruling
                                                A small world.
                                                Forcing travelers
                                                To go around.

    Ending at the highway.
    The intersection
    Of fast food and fast cars.
    Public restrooms
   And self-serve gas.
   Where everyone knows
   Where they are going,
   And can’t remember,
   Where they have been.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I try to stay away from too much politics in this blog, but I thought I would include a recent piece of mine that the Concord Monitor published on Friday. The world seems to be going a little crazy lately and I think we need to tamp down the anger a lot both in the U.S. and almost everywhere in the world.

Starting at home would be a good idea. The United States should set an example for the rest of the world by electing a President who can work with others and bring some logic and order to our actions both at home and abroad. I hope the electorate will be smart enough to figure this out.

Glenn K. Currie

Conservative Choices

When I was in junior high school, I agreed to play on a church basketball team. One night we played the top team, against which I had scored nineteen points during our previous meeting. Apparently, that was frowned upon because the first time I drove the basket, one of their players hit me in the teeth with an elbow. There was no foul call and lots of trash talk.

I let my anger fester and finally exploded later in the game when my assailant was driving his basket. I put a hip under him that sent him six feet off the court. We immediately got in a fist fight and I was thrown out of the game and off the team.

The relevant point regarding the current primary is that we have seen conservative republicans taking elbows in the teeth for two decades and the festering anger is finally starting to surface. In their anger some are throwing their support behind a guy they think will “even the score”. The problem is that such a candidate will stand no chance of winning the general election and will probably result in their very valid concerns being discarded as they are “thrown out of the game” for picking a stupid fight. Instead let’s “get even” by uniting the party and appealing to the large number of unhappy independents, to make real change, and help eliminate the incompetence and irresponsibility that currently exists in Washington.

The world doesn’t need any more “bomb throwers”. Electing someone as President of the United States is a huge responsibility. And yes, we haven’t done a very good job lately. We have already proven that a “hope and change” guy, with no experience in anything, is going to be totally overwhelmed by the office. It’s a complicated job that takes an ability to make hard decisions, and also a willingness to compromise and work with others.

Our government has spent the last few decades throwing one big frat party at home. We have left a trail of destruction in morals, ethics, drugs, and infrastructure. We have lost our sense of responsibility for our actions, and our ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. Nobody has a clue how to pay for this big party and the answer from the Democrats is “more of the same’, and to let someone else deal with all the garbage our generation leaves strewn on the front lawn.

And overseas it may be even worse. We cannot make a decision and sometimes don’t even make an appearance when things start to go to hell. Uncle Sam is like the weird old relative who lives in the attic and only comes down on the Fourth of July wearing a tin pot hat and thinking he is going to lead the parade.

Our young people are dying or being maimed in conflicts all over the world and we seem to have no strategy and no real objectives. Yet we ignore the major threats to our way of life. Our answer to terrorism is to call it by a different name and try to pass bills to disarm Americans at home, and to sign treaties abroad that will arm our enemies. (Are we really giving Iran 150 billion dollars to support the mess in the Middle East and kill our allies?)

If conservatives are truly angry about all of this, they should work to create a Republican ticket that can actually get elected. There are lots of independents and even some Democrats that are finally getting tired of our current situation. People yearn for leadership that can help reunite the country and solve problems instead of just feeding the flames of hopelessness with devalued dollars. The Democrats have no answer. If they are tired of Hillary and more of the same, their only choice is Bernie, whose solutions all involve spending more money and throwing a bigger party.

But the solution certainly isn’t to be thrown out of the game. Please choose carefully in the upcoming primary. It may be feel good to hit a few people in the teeth after the mess that has been created, but we need long term solutions. There are several candidates that actually have some answers. Let’s fix things, not blow them up.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

As I sit inside with ice on my driveway and more snow forecast for tomorrow, I realize just how right people have been about climate change. It changes almost daily and in New England in winter, it hardly ever changes for the better.

When the sun comes out, it is usually bone-shattering cold. If it is cloudy, it’s even colder, or about to rain and freeze on the roads and cars, or about to snow and stay until May. We do usually have a January thaw, except some years, but even then it is really just an excuse to create slush that careless drivers splash all over the desperate walkers who mistakenly take to the streets in hopes of finding spring.

It is at these times that I think most about climate change and how we might seek solutions to this problem that our President has labelled as the most pressing issue facing us in the world (unless you happen to have just been captured by ISIS).

One answer to this issue, which I actually thought up a few years ago, but, surprisingly, has never been acted upon, seems worthy of bringing up again in hopes that the world will soon be free of “climate change”. My one caveat is that this policy should be enacted in summer in New England so that the southern hemisphere gets stuck with the drawback of “no climate change”, which could mean eternal winter for those poor fools.

My solution was previously published in Granite Grumblings (Snap Screen Press, 2011) under the title Solution to Global Warming but has been updated here to reflect the realization that “global warming” is really “climate change”.

Glenn K. Currie

Solution to Climate Change

I’ve been doing some thinking about climate change. All the publicity and concern about its dangers has prompted me to seek a real solution to these serious issues.

Initially, I was led to believe that the cause was a bunch of unthinking folks driving big SUV’s, and maybe those politicians in Washington emitting all that hot air. But, recently, I read an article that stated that the biggest contributors to our ozone hole are cows. Yep, old Bessie’s flatulence is what is really doing us in.

When I looked at the big picture, this made a lot of sense. While I personally didn’t think Bessie’s  issues were that bad, I had long sensed that it was a problem being downwind from Vermont.

As I pondered the Earth-destroying subject of cow flatulence, it suddenly came to me that this could be the solution to many of New Hampshire’s and ultimately, the world’s problems. We could seize the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of this issue. Why not sell “flatulence credits’? Al Gore has been pushing his company that sells “carbon credits”, but I think we could do better.  We could copyright “flatulence credits” and then sell them to cow owners. This would in turn let them off the hook for their olfactory role in causing climate change. They could put little stickers on their milk and cheese and butter certifying that they are “flatulence friendly”.

The concept would work like this, initially. The state sells these credits to cow owners, the revenues from which are used by the state to buy up all the cans of beans on our grocery shelves. This simultaneously removes another only slightly smaller cause of flatulence. Ultimately, we could license this concept worldwide (it would work for sheep, too) and the State would collect a fee for every credit sold. We would in turn use the revenue from the credits, after buying up all the beans, to pay for schools and other needs, and maybe build some giant wind power fans at the Vermont border to blow Vermont’s flatulence down to Massachusetts, where they are accustomed to bad odors.

This would solve a lot of climate change problems. Cow flatulence would be offset by a reduction in human flatulence, our taxes would probably go down, and we would be drinking environmentally-approved dairy products. The only losers would be the growers and processors of beans. But I have a solution to that also. We just get Congress to pass a bill requiring all vehicles to start using a new fuel blend called beanahol. Then everyone would be a winner, once drivers got a good whiff of the beanahol emissions, we would surely see a lot fewer drivers on the road. This might eventually solve the climate change problem completely, and  New Hampshire could take its rightful place as the state that let the air out of the flatulence balloon, ended climate change, and got the ice off my driveway.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sometimes it seems like “the melting pot” is no longer a valid description of America. Newcomers to this country hold onto their history a little too tightly. The nation works so hard to foster diversity and delineate people by so many different cultural and racial identities that we build walls instead of blending into a more uniform citizenry.

At the same time, the picture that we project to the world, and which is so gladly inhaled around the globe, is a distorted view through the lenses of television shows, film productions and musical concerts.

While this is wonderful from the standpoint that it has helped make English the international language, and provides lots of revenue to our nation, arriving refugees think that is what America is really like. It can require a real readjustment if their only understanding of the United States comes from dealing with the State Department and watching the slop put out by Hollywood.

The real America is a big space in between these two places, and most immigrants wind up somewhere in that space.

The people who adapt most quickly are the kids. They go to school and get absorbed into the culture. Often, they in turn then have to bring their elders along. As long as immigrants allow their children the freedom to be American kids, I think our immigration issues will sort themselves out.

So far, in my observations of what is happening in New Hampshire, I think we are doing okay. The poem “The Refugee” (Copyright Glenn K. Currie, 2016) is about a brief observation I had a few weeks ago, and about an intersection of cultures that is, so far, avoiding any major crashes.

Glenn K. Currie

The Refugee

He scorched the intersection
In a blaze of color.
Red and purple and yellow
On black.
He ignored the stoplight,
Went the wrong way
Up the “one way” street
And raced away smiling.

He was one of them:
The new arrivals.
Bhutan or Senegal or someplace.
A long way to come
On a bicycle.
Already oblivious to rules,
Hat on backwards,
He was learning quickly.