‘… OF THE PEOPLE …’

February 19, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

It is said that Lincoln frequently jotted words, phrases, sentences on paper scraps that were thrown in a desk drawer. When he neared writing a speech, he took the jottings and assembled his word thoughts as stitched quilt patches, with the whole the message.
That he could do so was his gift; that he did so was ours. Witness the Gettysburg Address, one of the speeches offered in November 1863 at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at the famous Civil War battle site.
Controversy remains as to which of several copies of the address was given and from where the president mined the gem of the speech, “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The last lines, “… government of the people …,” are Lincoln’s simple but reaffirming nod to America’s founders and the journey they set the nation on, one that was to continue in restatement, commitment, fine-tuning.
How many of those vital, defining words were on paper scraps in the president’s desk, jotted down from memory or the influence of others, we will never know.
Were Lincoln alive today, what would he say about what seems to anyone of any political persuasion a great straying of the nation’s original intent?
The growing oligarchy obscenely supported by hidden, special-interest money and the indifference to the humble greatness of a land now raped by greed, lies and deliberate indifference seemingly have buried Lincoln’s words, along with the war dead of the civil conflict, the wars before and after, the dead of government neglect, the young dead of gunshots in our schools.
No matter where your politics lie, unless you are dressed and fed and tickled by the hidden, even sinister interests, within and from without in this America, you are not even close to protection as a human being with aspiration and hope. Your right to “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” secured by so much sacrifice and once articulated by a gift such as Lincoln, are now empty words.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

BEARS AND HUMANS

‘Anthony’s  Nose,’ Bear Mountain’s brother

February12, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumrule.com

Bear Mountain, N.Y. — I once overheard, in this verdant wonderland of forestation, an earnest fellow say to his four year old: “They call Bear Mountain that because it is bare on top.” Well, it is bare, but that’s not the reason for the moniker. We local hayseeds know that.
This beautiful part of the heavy mountain ranges off the Hudson River, so close to Gotham, is part of the New York State parks system and specifically in the Palisades Interstate Park network. Despite being underfunded for decades (in tougher times, libraries and parks always get the shaft), Bear Mt. State Park, its umbrella the Harriman State Park, and other New York parks in the Hudson Valley region are full of trails, famous stone structures crafted by Depression-era artists, some pools, quite a few lakes and the historic Bear Mountain Inn, itself long-awaiting fuller restoration when the money — perhaps better said, the will— is there. A hotel, cafe, small eating section and trading post are now at the inn.
For decades, at least since the inn’s construction in 1915, we locals have driven to or hiked to or, once upon a time, taken the West Shore Line train to Bear Mountain on weekdays, when the urban crowds were back at work. No complaint about city folk, of course — they help keep the parks going, too, and what a weekend respite, but it’s like when company goes home. You have the house to yourself once again — it is a delight.
Bear Mountain Inn was designed in the Adirondack Great Camps style, and it never goes out of style, literally. Even a poorly done 1970s retrofit with blonde wood, now removed, could not wither the great oaks and other dark woodwork of this monumental building.
My hope is that the Palisades Parks Conservancy, properly formed to aid “the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public”  will some day be successful in specifically restoring Bear Mountain State Park, its parking lots, its trails, its zoo, its inn, its skating rink and many other features so that the “great masses” will continue to visit — from New York City and beyond and from local communities, too. That is what was intended so long ago in the Teddy Roosevelt-style founding of the parks nationally. May the bears continue to roam at Bear Mt., but humans, too.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@hotmail.com This column is adapted from an earlier piece.

IN FLU, SOME ZEN

February 5, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

Enduring the flu is a cleansing experience, literally and beyond. It is also lucky triumph over what has been a killer this most unusual season as the preventive vaccine has often not worked. It did not for me.
But maybe it was not the flu, though the aches, chills, fever, sore throat, lethargy said “yes.” Maybe it was a cold/flu-like virus, of the adenovirus type. You can get a vaccine for that, but you have to join Uncle Sam’s military machine.
Whatever hit me Wednesday last as I was in usual mode, running here and there, burning one candle at three ends, had me by evening with chills, fever and onstant cough covered with enough blankets to make a polar bear leave the igloo.
The usual concerns, and the stress I bring to appointments, writings, paintings, volunteering, this and that disappeared quickly. Didn’t look at the cell phone, the iPad.
Didn’t eat, either, as appetite left faster than a Yankee fan in Beantown. Even the friend that shakes my hands all the time — arthritis — didn’t call, and for once the finger that needs to relax first thing in the day before it folds again behaved.
In an odd way, perhaps nature’s protection, I slipped into neutral. Yes, lots of aches, feeling 150 years old, disgusted, but it was a blessing not to be concerned about anything.
All I did was drink fluids, especially electrolytes, and watch the fever, which never got to the level and duration requiring a trip to the med people. The complications were few enough, too, so I could stay home.
Meanwhile, back on the treadmill, the volunteering I was supposed to handle was so superbly done by others that I now know how utterly replaceable I am. A rebalancing of the ego, another of nature’s re-tuning.
As the appetite slowly began to return after three days, I found the taste buds rejected salt and sugar as aliens. So why have I courted both so long?
I didn’t touch the cell phone for days, and when I finally looked for it, the phone was in the trash with a gazillion tissues.
Now on the full mend, slowly, I realize flu or adenovirus can be a teacher, however difficult and dangerous the lesson may be. As long as you have a mild case, and that admittedly was my good fortune, you can find peace in simple living, resting, eating minimally and wise, forgoing the constant email checks and appointment worries.
I was blessed to get better quickly, and I do not wish illness of any sort on anyone just so they can have a zen moment, but I found that peace can come in the oddest ways.
Now to maintain the equilibrium.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com