Tag Archives: politics

We Kill the Children

(the following was written a few months back, but as the US still fails at adequate, humane treatment of asylum seeking families at our southern border, I find it to still be relative)

We Kill the Children

by Joel Howard


Her name was Marilyn DeMont.

Her father was called August. Their time of notoriety, of infamy, was 1945, specifically July 23. It was on that day that Marilyns died. Her death immediately preceded her father’s, both occurring in the roiling waters of San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge has forever served as a towering character in their story, as it was from that fabled structure that they leapt to their deaths.

Marilyn was two weeks shy of her sixth birthday. Many accounts at the time were lurid with sensationalism, yet every voice echoed both sadness and outrage.

Today, many are justifiably outraged when learning of children at our southern border being wrested from their parents’ arms, the wailing – ours and theirs – a reaction to the inhumanity perpetrated by the uniform-clad servants of our government. These current atrocities are in too many ways like Marilyn’s story, it being adults who inflict inhumanity upon a child as border patrol officers and their overlords bring terror and even death to children in their charge.

For little Marilyn, she may have felt as if she was stepping onto a cloud, or perhaps falling into the tranquility of a backyard pool. It’s a struggle to understand why she took that step from the bridge, her foot landing upon nothing but air and death. One can assume that she found a day with daddy to be an adventure, likely as unexpected as it was thrilling. Here is the man who guided her life, and in whose trusted bond did the five-year-old depend for her safety and serenity.  

Her father gave no indication of his intentions. While he had been under a doctor’s care, he seemed none the worse for the bump on his head, an injury he’d suffered on a work site. As the foreman of an elevator repair crew, and by all accounts a man of good humor, one can imagine that he may have joked that his days had their ‘ups and downs’. All seemed okay to those who knew him. Yet on that ominous day during the heady days of victory after the second world war, set high upon the Golden Gate Bridge, August committed his heinous deed.

Whether August was of sound mind can forever be debated. Such cannot be said of the men and women who perpetrate today’s cruelties upon those seeking asylum from our great and compassionate country. The issue, rather, seems to be one of indifference, a cessation of morality that has its roots in jingoistic nationalism and this country’s lingering racism. The Trump administration uses fear of “other” to bring out the very worst in us.

On that July day in 1945, when father and daughter succumbed to the relentless currents of the Pacific Ocean, the event was called out for its unfathomable brutality. As the police investigated, they found parked nearby an abandoned car. Inside lay a note, part of which read simply ‘I and my daughter have committed suicide”. Those final words, as perfunctory as they were chilling, serve as their final farewell.

As father and daughter stood on the bridge’s edge, witnesses claim there was no command, nothing spoken, from the father. The girl simply walked a few paces ahead, turned toward the railing, and made that final, hollow step. His authority as a father appeared to rule Marilyn to the end.

The story was not yet over, as we further learn from witnesses that August, having seen that his daughter was falling to the cold waters below, then took his farewell by also stepping casually from the ledge beneath him. It was, it seems, the simplest act, as if he was fulfilling a directive from some unseen commander. His action was said to be one of nonchalance, like tipping his hat to a passing friend.

Today, it is excruciatingly painful to think of young children not knowing if they will ever return to their parents’ warm embrace. Unlike father and daughter of so long ago, there is no doubt as to asylum-seeking kids’ unwillingness to participate in their own suffering. It can be seen in the deep wells of pain evident in their eyes. For those youngsters seeking asylum, their steps are orchestrated by the adults in their worlds, first as they flee with their families the violence of their native homes, and then again as they’re pushed into cages by our abusive government and its vindictive supporters. As a society, we today bear witness to our own freefall into our lesser – absolutely worst – selves.

The border children likely see the darkness of the waters below, and are justifiably scared. For our part, we should all be not just ashamed, but also outraged, as we allow our elected officials to continue pushing children into the abyss.



An Erst-While Endeavor: a Short Story

An Erst-While Endeavor

by Joel Howard


Poor ‘Erst’!

How often is this simple yet utilitarian word called upon in today’s world? Alas, rarely. And it is sad, is it not, the loss of a noble word, such as the once mighty, monosyllabic ‘Erst’? Today he is mostly abandoned, despite his easy and simple nature. His being ignored has fallen heavy upon the life, or at least the versatility, of our language. One may venture to say that as a word, poor Erst is worst for wear. Yes, yes, I know, while not grammatically correct, that statement does have a rhyming cadence  –  Erst to worst  –   and as our language has suffered the ills of ‘dufus’ and ‘irregardless’ in casual conversations, and so much coarse vulgarity on national news broadcasts of late, I take such liberties with absolutely no offer of an apology.

As a word, ‘formerly’ has a past, and that past dwells upon simple little ‘Erst’, who so many eons ago was married most commonly to ‘While’, forming the ‘Erst-While’ family still found occasionally in today’s communications. So ‘Erst’ has yet a pulse, faint though it is. Such a tenuous clinging to life, to relevance, has the poor word on the precipice of the hereafter, standing as he is on the banks of the river Styx. Most all of us, whether deliberately or through negligence, serve as Charon, ferrying such words of beauty to the world of death. In such quiet passing there is a shocking dearth of concern, the glaring lack of a call-to-arms an occasion that saddens the heart.

Like a hand tool left to the elements, disuse is the cruel villain of words deemed archaic, nurturing the rust that too soon stifles and strangles. How very sad such a loss!  Some may find this paean to a single, wee word to be banal, even perfunctory, yet I find it not to be such. A flippant dismissal is the very disease that cost many words (and expressions, too) their lifeblood. Like Yorick and his poor ‘alas’, the carillon of death casts its dark shadow upon yet another innocent sequence of letters, slaying the once proud syllables of dear ‘alas’, a sensitive lass who surely meant no harm.    

But I digress.

Must ‘Erst’ be but flotsam upon the tides and foibles of the English language? Modern slang, it seems, is the cool cat, the hep one, the be-all entourage amongst Webster’s A-listers. Erelong, what is today most common shall tomorrow be tossed upon the monstrous pyre of our lexicon. Beware the cruel mistress of fate, for today may hold ‘hoser’ and ‘barf’ as words most useful, yet tomorrow may scoff heartily at such syllables. The wants of the masses remain fickle, my friend, so ‘tis best to be vigilant.

Was it the highly revered Dr. Seuss who said… no, wait, I believe it was Descartes who said, ‘Cogito ergo sum’. Truer (yet disused) words were never spoken. But please, dear friend, I beg that you not get me started on the cruel fate of Latin, for it is my wish here to focus solely upon English, and the many words of our language that have been abandoned most cruelly. Today, I say to ‘Erst’ and his friends, stand tall and loudly proclaim, ‘I was once spoken, therefore I am’. For you see, the bane of any word is to be relegated to a high shelf in a dank cellar, never to fall from the lips of an orator, to be but an oddity in a disused dictionary. Some words, especially those of speed and utility, deserve a fate better than death. ‘Erst’, small yet purposeful, deserves more than that cellar. So please do stand tall and proudly speak of Erst.

E-R-S-T. Oh how beautiful in your simplicity and versatility! Deem me a mooncalf (but please, call me not a hoser!) if you must, but I proffer this sincere tribute to one single word as perhaps the bellwether for other such words that yet languish on the fringes of the English language, or worse yet, have fallen to such a degree as to be unrecognizable even to their closest synonyms. Such a broken family dynamic must have the apricity of an early February day brought to bear upon its collective heart. Surely, some modicum of love, neigh decency, may be found for such trifling yet historical words. Let them not be next along the river Styx.

So it is today, pen to paper, or to be precise, fingers to keyboard, that I beseech some small reprieve for my dear friend ‘Erst’. If even the few among us add my little friend as a valiant and proud arrow to your quiver of words, then sweet breath may yet see ‘Erst’ rise to greet a new dawn. A dystopic tomorrow surely awaits if we tend not to the casual lunacy indicated by the slaying of our most noble words. Such flippant disregard, if allowed to continue unchecked, will result in nothing but darkness, mark my words. 

On behalf of such near-dead nobility as larcener and falderal (which this missive is not), and for the sake of the ne’er-do-wells and unlearned the world over who’ve nary once heard ‘Erst’ mentioned, please answer this clarion call to act in saving at least this one word. I pray that it was never miscreants who planned with malice in their hearts who did mostly slay ‘Erst’, but rather the skullduggery of pure mindlessness that cast my dear friend to the far corners of usefulness (oh, that dank cellar again!) in today’s most officious communiques and common asides.

So please, go forth today upon yon world with dear ‘Erst’ ripe upon your lips, breathing life into this word so useful. Do this ‘irregardless’ of all else; be not dissuaded by any catcalls of ‘dufus’ cast your way.


WWJD? Not This, One Hopes

I guess the days of the Christian Right asking themselves WWJD are gone. Now it’s more STIN  –  Screw Those In Need. Source: Attorney General Barr Issues Rule To Keep Some Asylum Seekers From Posting Bail | HuffPost