Category Archives: Hmmmm . . .

REFLECTIONS

gift-return

USA Today disclosed last week that the average family home in the US has 71 toys.   71?!?    I can only remember having two when I was a child — a farm set and a train set.   Admittedly, both had multiple pieces.   But 71?

Actually, I can believe it.   I always seem to be stepping on toys when I walk through our home.   Even at our daughter’s in Indianapolis, the living room floor is the favored spot for dumping toys.  My wife always said that toys were things to drag from the bedroom and dump on the living room carpet, and then the kids go out and play with a stick.

It wasn’t like this in Africa.   Most children there had no toys, unless a family member had made one from a used car tire or an old cardboard box.

When we first moved to the US, I was fascinated by how different American children are from African children; not for the better, I might add.  Too many American kids say bad things back to their parents and are more materialistic when it comes to getting things (toys and candy, mostly).

Part of the problem is television programs and commercials.   Children put incredible pressure on parents to buy them everything they’ve seen on TV and advertisers know this.   Credit cards enable parents to buy – few in Africa have CC’s.   One other factor I think all parents should think about – how many buy toys out of guilt?  With very little time to devote to children, parents over-compensate by buying lots of things.

I think their offspring would prefer time with Mom and Dad.  We didn’t have lots of things growing up, but our mother was always there, thankfully.

One other thing we should be concerned about is not to encourage materialism or greed in our children and grandchildren.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ (Matthew 6:19-21).

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It’s no surprise that Jimmy Fallon and Meryl Streep criticized President-elect Donald Trump Sunday night at the Golden Globes.

Fallon even commented that the Globes are now the only place in America where the “popular vote” counts.  Really?   I wasn’t asked to vote on the best movies of 2016.

The theater was full, as usual.  Many of those seated threatened to leave the United States if Trump won the election.   Canada seemed the preferred destination.  But they were there at the Globes.  Presumably they flew back for the evening!!!   Or, perhaps, upon reflection, when they saw how much they would have to pay in taxes in Canada, they decided to stay in the United States.

These people are unreal.  (Well, they are actors, after all.)  They rake in the millions or hundreds of millions and spend more money on face-lifts and breast enhancements than Donald Trump will ever spend on the military.  Their gowns alone cost more than the GNP’s of many countries.

Meryl Streep is a good actress.  So are some of the others in the audience.  They should stick to acting and stay out of politics, before millions of their fans turn away from them in disgust.

There was also an element of hypocrisy when Meryl Streep, commenting on Donald Trump, warned that violence begets more violence.  Hollywood has arguably done more to promote violence than Donald Trump or any other president could possibly do.

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alixs-kids

Diane and I have just been down to Indianapolis to see our eldest daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their four children.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing few days.

I was able to take our two granddaughters, Alyssa and Elena, to tour President Benjamin Harrison’s home in downtown Indianapolis.   It was well worth the time and money to tour the historic house.   I am pleased to say that both girls asked intelligent and perceptive questions.

President Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States, in office from 1889 to 1893.   He replaced Grover Cleveland and was succeeded by the same man, a Democrat.   Harrison was a prime example of Churchill’s later dictum:  “If you’re not a socialist (liberal) at 20 you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head.”  He started out as a Whig but later became a Republican.

Historians do not rate his presidency very highly, but it’s interesting to note that he was facing the same issues that confront President-elect Trump today.   He raised tariffs on imports to help reduce the federal deficit and built up the navy which had been neglected since the Civil War.  (Interestingly, the day we toured the home, a website revealed that, for the first time in decades, there were no US naval vessels on patrol anywhere in the world.)

President Harrison is remembered as the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, who was president for exactly one month. He gave a very long speech at his Inaugural in 1841, caught a cold which developed into pneumonia, and died.   The two Harrisons are the only grandfather-grandson presidents in US history.

The second president also saw six states enter the Union during his four-year term, a record number under any chief executive.

It was sobering to note that the three-story home had no indoor plumbing!

It was an interesting visit and I recommend it if you are ever in Indianapolis.

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On a different day I took the twins to McDonald’s for an ice cream sundae, followed by a visit to Meijer, a huge grocery store that also sells toys.  (The twins would probably describe it as a toy store that also sells groceries!)

When ordering ice cream for them, I asked for a hot tea for myself.   The man taking the order responded with “Excuse me?”  I repeated my request.  He said he had never heard of it!  (seriously!)   So I asked for the manager and, again, repeated my request for a hot tea.   He had at least heard of it.   I added a request that the bag be put in the cup before the water as it tastes so much better that way.   My order came five minutes later – a styrofoam cup with luke-warm water and a separate tea bag!

I’m pleased to say that Tim Horton’s is moving south – they have now reached Ft Wayne.  I think I will stay away from Indianapolis until they move the extra 120 miles!  At least the Canadian franchise makes decent tea – just stay away from the donuts.

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There was an interesting paragraph Monday morning from an Israeli paper:

“Religious Jews are more excited about Messiah’s return than Christians are,” Markell told WND.   “Muslims are more anticipatory about their Mahdi’s return than are Christians about Jesus’s return. This shows the deplorable state of the church today that is ‘majoring in minors.’   They have their finance seminars and marriage conferences but have shoved the idea of the Lord’s imminent return not just to the back burner, perhaps to the back yard.”   (WND)

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AIRPORT ATTACK

The latest terrorist attack at Fort Lauderdale’s airport is disturbing.  It highlights the danger that ISIS is spreading beyond Islam to non-Muslims.  The perpetrator of Friday’s attack was an American born Hispanic.   If ISIS spreads its influence to hispanics and other minorities in America, attacks like this will only become more common.

A Palestinian drove a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four and injuring dozens.   These truck (or lorry) attacks in France, Germany and Israel are also spreading.

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NEW YEAR, 1917

We were with Alix and Mike over the New Year’s weekend.   Mike came across a quote, supposedly from Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, who wrote on the last day of 1916, in the middle of World War I:   “1916 was cursed. The new year will surely be better.”   Those who know Russian history will be aware that the Czar abdicated in February of 1917, the country was plunged into civil war before the year ended and the royal family were all slaughtered.   The “quote” was tweeted by Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess player who now lives in the United States.   Whether it’s true or not, it should make us think!

WHERE HAVE ALL THE CHILDREN GONE?

Children

On Friday afternoon, I took two of my granddaughters to the fair.   The St. Johns Mint Festival, to be exact.   St. Johns is a small town north of Lansing, Michigan.

Their father (my son) came along, too.

We got there a little early and the only thing running was the pony rides.   At previous fairs, the girls were given a very short, once round the circle, ride for $5.  This time, they went round at least ten times for the same price.

It was hot and humid so I sat down on one of two plastic chairs.   The owner came and sat down next to me.

He told me that when he started taking his ponies to county fairs, there were hundreds of children enthusiastically wanting a ride. Now, the numbers are down to a mere handful.  He said kids would rather spend time on electronic gadgets, but then made a comment on how many millions of children have been aborted, depriving us all of the joy of seeing happy children enjoying themselves at fairs and in the streets.

The man told me he was 81.   From what he said he clearly felt I was about the same age, asking me how many GREAT grandchildren I have.   I responded by saying that all my grandchildren are great.  I added that I am “only” 64!

Later, while the girls went on other rides, I sat down at a table with a rather uncomfortable bench.   Another man, looking a bit like he might be 81, sat down next to me and ate a meal he had just bought. I asked him if he was with his grandchildren. His sad response was: “No, I’m all alone.   My family is dying out!”

Diane and I are privileged to have eight grandchildren whom we love dearly, but the Rhodes name is still dying out.   Only two of the eight have the name “Rhodes” and, when they marry, they won’t have it, so the name will go with them.   Fortunately, I have five nephews in England who will ensure the family continues, at least on that side of the Atlantic.

In a restaurant a few months ago, we met an elderly couple in their eighties, who told us they had 40 grandchildren and were awaiting the birth of their 25th great grandchild.   Can you believe that?   Yet, their familial situation would not have been unusual in previous generations.   It has become unusual in this generation; I should add “in the western world.”   It’s not unusual in many other parts of the world.   For four centuries the Bible believing Protestants, who dominated the West, took seriously God’s command to “go forth and multiply” (Gen 1:28).   That era has gone and birth control has made it possible.

It helps explain why the dynamics are changing in the United States and elsewhere.   Nations are changing hands, as they pass from one dominant ethnic group to others.  You can see this very clearly in Western Europe.   Because America is a much bigger country with a lower population density, we don’t see it as much, but demographic trends show it is still happening.

President Theodore Roosevelt warned, when the first Planned Parenthood clinic opened in 1916, that it would lead to the death of the race.   And that was before abortion. It’s not just abortion that has led to this dramatic change.   All forms of birth control have contributed to it.

But we can’t blame birth control, either.   Birth control was simply the means.   But we, the people, made it happen by choosing a higher standard of living over the responsibility of more children.

Let’s face it, we didn’t give it much thought.   It was a no-brainer.

But the result is exactly what TR said a century ago – we are now facing the death of the race.  In every country where Europeans and their descendants have dominated for centuries, significant changes are taking place.  Not one of those countries will still have a dominant western culture by the end of this century.

It’s a sobering reality and perhaps the most significant one happening right now.

A few months ago, NPR reported that Ann Arbor, one of the most affluent areas in Michigan, had seen a 40% drop in school enrollments in ten years.   Just pause for a moment and think of the effect this is going to have on the local economy.   The figure will be roughly the same across the US, except in areas with a high population of Hispanics, Muslims and others, who all have a much higher birthrate.   They may fill the gap in terms of numbers, but how much will that change the country?   Additionally, will they volunteer to defend us against our enemies, to whom many of them will feel a closer cultural connection?

Interestingly, when we visited Ann Arbor last month for medical appointments, we stopped at Costco, which now has an halal meat section occupying a significant part of the freezer area.   Headless sheep hung there, covered in burlap so that sensitive Anglo eyes would not freak out!   This is illustrative of how things are changing.

The St. Johns Mint Festival is highly unlikely to make the national news, but the declining numbers of children wanting pony rides illustrates the most significant trend in America, the fact that many couples no longer want children.

A nation that does not make the raising of children a priority is doomed to failure.   Worse . . . to extinction.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE BENGAL LANCERS

IRONY

Robert Osborne knows more about movies than anybody in the United States.   He has been introducing movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) for over twenty years.   His introductions to old movies are always very welcome and often fascinating.

But he doesn’t know so much about history.

When introducing a 1951 movie titled “Soldiers Three,” a bit of a comedy based on a Rudyard Kipling story, he commented on how, quite often, in Hollywood’s golden period (the thirties and forties) movies were set in India under the British Raj.   He described this as “a time when there were always some Bengal Lancers ready to jump in to help out a noble cause.”   He spoiled this when he added:  “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble at all . . . ”

This might not have bothered me too much, except that I had just heard something similar from a doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital.   We shared a very amicable conversation about Diego Garcia, of all places.

Diego Garcia is an island in the Indian Ocean that has been turned into a major military base.  The island has been a British possession for two centuries, having been acquired from France following Napoleon’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.   According to the doctor, there are only 55 Brits on the island today, while there are over 2,000 Americans.  The Brits have the unenviable task of policing the island, where the only trouble the Americans can get up to involves alcohol!   There really is nothing else to do.   Even swimming is out as the island lies in shark-infested waters.

Towards the end of the conversation, my doctor made a derogatory remark about the colonial period in Africa and how much better off the Africans are now.

I instinctively came to the defense of the colonial period pointing out that this was not the experience my wife and I had – that Ghana and Zimbabwe, the two countries we lived in, were much better off under British colonial rule than they have been since independence.

Which brings me back to Robert Osborne’s comment.   “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble after all . . . ’’

This is a loaded statement and very misleading, to put it mildly.

There is nothing we know now about colonial India that we did not know under the Raj.  The same can be said about Africa.

What has changed is the attitude toward empire.

The movies Mr. Osborne was referring to, made prior to “Soldiers Three,” a movie frankly not worth watching, were movies like “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” made in 1935.  They were all pro-British and showed what the British were doing in India, notably policing the North-West Frontier, where hostile tribes were always causing trouble.   This area was arguably the most violent part of the empire during the two centuries of British rule.   Today, it is a stronghold of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now, of ISIS.   Neither the Pakistani nor the Afghan government has a handle on the situation there.   Looking back, it would have been better to keep it under British control, thereby avoiding 9-11.  Twelve years after independence, the movie “North-West Frontier” (1959) showed the British role in the region in a positive light.

But in the following decades, attitudes changed toward the empire, just as they changed in the United States toward its own history.   Instead of being proud of past accomplishments, in the 1960’s history was taught with a sense of shame.   This self-loathing on both sides of the Atlantic has led to what African-American writer Shelby Steele calls “White Guilt,” the title of his 2006 book.  Whites now feel guilty about everything in their collective past and constantly fork out billions to try to “put things right.”  Those billions have achieved nothing.   Given to Africa and India, the money is siphoned off by the wealthiest people with little benefit to the poor, while in the US, they have produced an underclass perpetually dependent on welfare.

This change in attitude was partly the fault of Hollywood, which started making movies that made Britain and America look bad.

But it can be largely blamed on academia.  Liberal socialist (even communist) intellectuals got control of western universities and started filling the minds of young people with anti-western propaganda.

When asked what Britain had ever done for India, Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza responded with the following words:

‘Apart from roads, railways, ports, schools, a parliamentary system of government, rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, and the English language . . . nothing!’”

The same gifts were bestowed upon the British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.   Sadly, since independence, many of these countries have endured dictatorships and debilitating poverty as the dictator keeps all the wealth for himself.

This is why people are fleeing their home countries in the millions, seeking a better life, ironically in the countries that used to rule them.   What a pity the Bengal Lancers aren’t around today to take on the noble cause of ridding the world of some of these evil despots!

 

 

WAS CICERO AMERICAN?

Cicero-4

QUOTE FROM CICERO, 55 BC

“The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt.   People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

REMEMBER THE SABBATH

Keep calm sabbath

A few Sundays ago, I had to go to Kroger, a grocery store that’s about two miles from our house.   I chose to go at lunchtime.

When I arrived, there were no shopping carts available (trolleys, for those who live in a Commonwealth country).   I had to wait for somebody to return one.

This had never happened to me before.

After purchasing a few items, I went to the check-out to pay.   I asked the man there if it was always this full on Sunday at lunch time.   He said yes, that most of their customers at this particular time of day had just gone to church and were now doing their shopping.

I remarked on how, when I was growing up, nothing was open on a Sunday.   He looked at me as if I was really old!

It wasn’t until 1994 that stores in the United Kingdom could open on Sundays.   Before that, newspaper shops were open on Sunday mornings, so that people could buy their trashy tabloids and keep up on all the sin politicians and others were committing; but the general populace was expected to observe “the Lord’s Day.”   In the sixties television did not commence programming until sometime in the afternoon and there was a mandatory evening break for religious programming.

When South Africa first got television in 1976, no entertainment was allowed on television on Sundays.   I remember watching the South African Defense Force Choir singing hymns followed by a documentary from Alistair Cooke on the Mormons.  No advertisements were permitted, either.   It was also forbidden to buy alcohol, unless you were resident in a hotel and could use their bar.

Back in 1895, when Theodore Roosevelt was appointed President of New York City’s 4-man Board of Police Commissioners, he chose to strictly enforce the “Blue Laws” that prohibited Sunday drinking.   This was not appreciated, especially by German immigrants who liked to down a stein of beer with their comrades on Sundays.   The once popular TR quickly turned into the most reviled man in America.   Fortunately for him (and the German beer drinkers), President William McKinley appointed him to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897.   Four years later, when McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt became President.

I remember my mother telling me that during World War II, the local town council had allowed cinemas to open after 4pm on Sundays, to cater for the American GI’s based close by.   Clark Gable, then the most popular male actor in Hollywood, had been seen on the steps one Sunday afternoon.

In 1947, Compton MacKenzie wrote his classic novel “Whisky Galore,” which told the story of a small Scottish island during World War II that ran out of whisky.   The islanders were uplifted when a merchant vessel carrying Scotch ran aground off their coast.   But, sadly, this happened late on a Saturday evening and there was nothing they could do to rescue the desired liquid until the “Sabbath” was over.   After church Sunday morning, the men all gathered on the cliff top and simply watched the wrecked ship longingly!   But Sunday night, immediately after the stroke of midnight, the men were all there on the rocks salvaging what they could to enjoy the drink, perhaps also on the rocks!   The book was turned into a movie the following year.   For some reason the title was changed in the US to “Tight Little Island.”

A popular story in the 60’s was about the sky-diver in Northern Ireland who had fallen to his death when his chute failed to open.   The comment was made that “he should have known that nothing opens on a Sunday in Belfast!”   (I’m sure things have changed since.)

We’ve come a long way in the last fifty years.   Now church-goers routinely do their weekly grocery shopping on the way home from church, something that would have been unthinkable two generations ago.

An article by a syndicated US columnist some years ago showed that the same church-goers then went home and watched football followed by “Desperate Housewives” which was based on everybody breaking the Ten Commandments.

One hour of church followed by two hours of shopping, then a family meal, football and a trashy, unchristian TV show.   One has to question the priorities Christians have.

I’m sure God does.   When people, even Christians, have so little time for Him, why should He have time for them?

The root word for Sabbath means “to rest, to cease from labor.”   Jesus Christ said:   “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).   In other words, a 24-hour period of rest from work and from “doing our own pleasure” (Isaiah 58:13) is for our own good.

Today, most people are stressed out, most of the time.   The need for a day of rest has never been greater, yet many don’t have one.    And, if they do, other members of their family may not, so it’s become very difficult to get families together to build the bonds necessary for any society to thrive.

Instead, people are constantly working in one way or another, always trying to make a few dollars more or to have more fun.

We live in a society where God is not taken seriously.   One hour a week in church, followed by the pursuit of secular pleasures is not what He intended.

Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath and attended the synagogue every Saturday (Luke 4:16).   Christians are to be like Him.   We should do the same.   It’s one of the Ten Commandments.   “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

Previous generations in North America, Britain, Australia and elsewhere were very strict about Sabbath observance.   The irony is that the biblical Sabbath commanded here in the Ten Commandments was not Sunday.   Rather, it was the seventh day, to be exact, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

People need a day of rest, the Sabbath.   Instead, we have a society where everybody is worn out, with consequent serious damage to family life and relationships.   It’s never too late to change and to start keeping the Sabbath as God intended.