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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 64,058

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Viva la France

A couple of years ago, a foreign exchange student from France lived with my family. She remains in contact with us -- the miracle of the internet! -- and plans to visit us in the late spring/ early summer. She’s a wonderful young lady, a talented artist, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot in the past couple of days.

It’s strange for me to have one of my “daughters” living in a war zone. It is, sadly, a rather common feature in the human experience. I’m not particularly bright, but I do understand the role of colonial France in causing suffering among human beings. And I understand that the relatively limited amount of violence in France in the past 72 hours

Instead, I’m thinking of a human being ….in this case, a young lady who brings a smile to my face when she calls me “Dad,” and who was absolutely a sibling to my other four children. I think about how she and I talked about “American culture” -- warts and all -- and how she would accompany me to public government hearings, where I advocated for a clean environment.

I compare that to these young adults from the Muslim world who have been convinced by some older adult -- my age -- that they have a duty to maim and kill other human beings, with a promised reward in the afterlife. Odd how these old men skipped their opportunities to blow themselves up (much like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sat out the war in Vietnam).

In recent times, it seems as if the dark forces of hatred is sending its unholy warriors out against humanity “not in single spies, but in battalions,” to quote Shakespeare. It is essential that we respond, by way of a peace movement.

Peace,
H2O Man

mean people suck

“Spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.”
-- Hau-den-no-sau-nee

“Intolerance betrays a want of faith in one’s cause.”
-- Gandhi


A couple of nights ago, a news commentator said that while Mario Cuomo’s Democratic Convention speech defined his career, his lesser-known speech at Notre Dame delivered an equally-important message. Hours later, after both of my daughters had gone to bed -- leaving my computer “open” -- I re-read that speech.

http://archives.nd.edu/research/texts/cuomo.htm

“This ‘Christian nation’ argument should concern -- even frighten -- two groups: non-Christians and thinking Christians.

“I believe it does.”
-- Mario Cuomo at Notre Dame

Governor Cuomo’s commentary on the ever-present tension between politics and religion is worth reading. He understood -- much like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that “tensions” can be either positive or negative. The positive aspect brings forth growth, starting with the individual, and thus benefiting the group. The negative aspects include self-righteousness, and violence.

A few hours after reading that wonderful speech, the initial reports about the ugly violence in France began to play on the television. Like everyone, I found the news disturbing ….disgusting in that it is all too common. Having had two relatives shot in October, with one killed, the viciousness of this act leaves me less interested in considering an in-depth analysis of the political, economic, social, religious, and cultural dynamics that came into play. It is not that I do not recognize the importance of such things; rather, at this time, I don’t have the energy to go there. Sometimes the human condition simply knocks you for a loop, and it’s okay to just sit back for a brief moment.

With all the “bad” in the world -- and there’s enough difficulty in just every day life, without the brutality of the morally- and ethically bankrupt brutes -- there is a heck of a lot of “good,” including good people …..or else the world wouldn’t keep on going. I try to not forget this. I try to think about ways in which good people can make progress, not because of this extremely negative tension, but in spite of it.

This morning, for the second day in a row, I dropped my older daughter off at a recording studio. In a few days, it’s back to the university for her; besides classes, she’ll continue with her music. Human expression, be it music, writing (including satire), or whatever, have the ability to make sense of life, and even to lift our spirits. Life goes on.

Peace,
H2O Man

Remembering Mario Cuomo

I remember a sunny, cool day in the fall of 1990. The media was reporting that Governor Mario Cuomo was going to be visiting a Veterans’ Home in our county. A co-worker and I went to the event on our lunch hour. After Governor Cuomo gave his speech -- and that man was a most powerful communicator! -- he saw me in the audience, and came over to discuss a Native American issue.

I don’t mind saying that I loved that Governor Cuomo started our conversation by thanking me for assisting him previously, with a rather hostile crowd. For in those days, the state was considering placing a nuclear dump in our county. Although I was as opposed to that concept as anyone, I had treated Governor Cuomo with great respect. For I had learned, from back when he served as NYS’s Lieutenant Governor, that Mario Cuomo was an honest man.

At that time, I was a single father, raising two little boys. My life was pretty full: my wonderful little boys; working at the mental health clinic; and also serving as Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman’s top aide on burial protection and repatriation issues in the northeast. I did have a crush on my co-worker, and I suspect that conversation with Mario Cuomo impressed her in a positive way. (We soon began dating, and she was one of the most outstanding people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. However, after about a great year, we recognized that I was too busy with my sons, and working with Paul, to be able to invest the time and energy in the relationship she surely deserved. We parted as good friends. It remains one of those “what if?” episodes of my life.)

It likely comes as no surprise to any conscious DU community member that there have been very few non-Indian politicians that the traditional Iroquois have respected. The only other one that I can think of from the century of the 1900s would be Robert F. Kennedy. I could write for a week about why men such as Nelson Rockefeller or George Pataki were deemed as wholly unworthy of respect. Yet Kennedy and Cuomo were exceptional -- they could be trusted. I guess two other “what if’s?” would be if either had ever served as the President of the United States? I’m fully convinced our nation would have benefited from human beings of their quality serving as president.

(A brief “side-note”: a reporter from an area newspaper approached me moments after my conversation with Governor Cuomo. He asked if I would tell him “what that was all about?” I asked him why he had mis-quoted me in an article 18 months previously? He said that the editor had changed his work, specifically attributing some utter nonsense to me. I didn’t believe him at the time; however, I did talk to him about a burial protection issue that was heating up. And, for the next two years or so, he did write a number of outstanding articles on Native American rights, including the case at hand, which ended up in NYS Supreme Court.)

Although I can’t say that I was ever “friends” with Mario Cuomo, he did give me a card that day, upon which he gave me “private” contact information. I had the honor of meeting him a few times. And I remember a meeting at his office in Albany, that his closest friend/attorney set up. A large construction company, complete with their lawyer and “hired-gun” archaeologist, was seated at one side of the table; Chief Waterman, two Oneida representatives, and I were on the other side. The Council of Chiefs had determined that I would serve as our side’s spokesperson. I remember Paul saying that he wasn’t concerned that I was going against two men who had Ph.D’s, because I was telling the truth. I was younger then, of course, and I remember after the meeting, that I felt the same as I used to after one of my best boxing matches. Plus, I wouldn’t end up sore the next day -- in boxing, everyone gets hurt. But that night, I easily destroyed our opposition’s lies. I was on fire, the way young men can be.

Several months later, Governor Cuomo’s attorney friend called me at my work. The state was going to open a new department, to work exclusively on Native American issues. Besides the burial protection issues, it would focus on disputes about both taxes, and a proposed casino. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t pretty interested in the job he was offering me. But there was no way that I would stop serving with Chief Waterman, the most honorable human being that I’ve ever met.

Back then, Andrew Cuomo served his father as a top advisor. We all knew that the son was a highly intelligent man. My impression of him from back then was that he was ambitious. I am not intending that as a compliment. He struck me as cold. It was funny: although his voice sounded exactly like his father’s, and he clearly shares some physical attributes with Mario Cuomo, he seemed to lack the quality of humanity. I can’t think of a better way to express that; I hope that it makes sense.

The last communication that I had with Mario was about six months ago, when I e-mailed him. I didn’t hear back from him, but that was fine. Of all the politicians that I’ve met over the decades, Governor Mario Cuomo impressed me the most. By far, really.

It’s strange: yesterday, the NYS public schools’ teachers union went to picket outside the Governor’s residence. Sad to say that public education is being attacked, even here in this state. I had spoken with some regional union leaders two days before, suggesting that the union and the Board of Education(s) should be joining together on the issues involved. While I am unsure if Andrew Cuomo would approve of that, I’m confident that his father would have said it was important that the teachers union and BOEs join together to advocate for public education.

Rest in peace, Governor Cuomo.

H2O Man
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