Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Fourth (Other) Wise Man

I have always loved this story and its message. I offer it up as something to think about during the Christmas season and for the New Year. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Adapted from Henry Van Dyke

By Joy Swartley Sawatzky

In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem high on the hill overlooking the region of Persia, sat the estate of Artaban the Median, a priest of the Magi, a king in his own right.

On this particular night, as he stood on the terrace of his roof, dawn was threatening to arrive. The cool and quiet that reaches its peak just before the first rays of sunlight appear had begun. Far over the eastern plain a white mist stretched like a lake. Just above that, the sky was perfectly clear.

Artiban was trying to free his mind from all that had happened just hours before, trying to make sense of it, actually. His friends could not comprehend his new found understanding, that the answers were no longer in the stars. They refused to go with him on his journey to find the King who was to be born this night. In fact, they had wondered out loud: what had happened to Artaban’s rational mind, his predictability, even his sanity. They had known him as a scientist…not a believer in a child born to become the King, and to be the hope of the world, out of some vague predictions.

Artaban held on to the knowledge that at least three of his colleagues among the Magi believed with him. They understood why he would sell his home and all of his possessions, and use what he received in order to buy gifts for this king yet to be born. Gaspar, Melchior & Balthezar would be the ones who would join together with him to journey to find this one to be born Kind of Israel.

He reached into the pocket of his robe and drew out three great gems – one blue as a fragment of the night sky, one redder than a ray of sunrise, and one as pure as the peak of a snow mountain at sunrise.

His gifts to the king – his tribute, to honor him. “Religion without a great hope, would be like an altar without a living fire. It would be pointless.” Artaban spoke, if only to himself. Artaban believed with all of his heart that this child, yet to be born, would be that hope.

As Artaban looked back to the sky his eyes opened wide with wonder! Out of the darkness began an explosion of color. It was as if the colors of the jewels in his hand mixed together and finally exploded into a point of white radiance. The star shone in the distance.

This is it…It is the sign!” He said. “The King is coming, and I will go to meet him!”

And before the sun began its journey across the sky, the Fourth Wise Man was in the saddle of his swiftest, most trusted horse, riding to meet his friends.

Artiban knew he must ride wisely and well if he was to arrive at the appointed hour with the other Magi. Fifteen parasangs, was the absolute most that he could push the horse to travel in a day. At that pace, he would reach the Temple of the Seven just before midnight on the tenth day…the appointed place and time of meeting.

Artaban’s prize horse was almost spent as he arrived, at nightfall of the tenth day, beneath the shattered walls of Babylon. He would have turned into the city to find rest and food for himself and his horse, except that he knew that he had three hour’s journey yet to the Temple of the Seven Spheres, and he must reach the place by midnight if he were to find his comrades waiting. So he did not stop, but continued on.

A grove of date-palms made an island of gloom up ahead. As the horse passed into the shadow of it she slowed her pace and began to pick her way more carefully.

Near the farther end of the darkness, caution seemed to overtake the horse. She sensed some danger or difficulty. The grove was close and silent as a tomb; not a leaf rustled, not a bird sang.

At last she stood stock-still, quivering in every muscle, before a dark object in the shadow of the last palm tree.

Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form of a man lying across the road. His humble dress and the outline of his haggard face showed that he was probably one of the poor Hebrew exiles who still dwelt in great numbers in the vicinity. The chill of death was in his lean hand, and as Artaban released it, the arm fell back limply on to the motionless breast.

He turned away with a thought of pity, resigning the body to that strange burial which the Priests of the Magi deemed most fitting – the funeral of the desert where vultures and varmints would pick the bones clean.

But as he turned, a long, faint, ghostly sigh came from the man’s lips, and the brown, bony fingers closed on the hem of the Priestly Magi’s robe and held him fast. Artaban’s heart leaped to his throat, not so much with fear, but with a dumb resentment at the inopportunity of the timing…of the possibility of a delay while so close to his destination.

How could he stay here in the darkness to minister to a dying stranger? What was his duty? If he was delayed for even an hour he could hardly reach the meeting place at the appointed time, and his companions would think he had given up the journey. They would go without him. He would lose his quest, the quest he had invested so much in.

But if he went now, the man would surely die. His spirit was in agonizing turmoil. Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from the following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor, perishing Hebrew?

“God of truth and purity,” he prayed, “direct me in the holy path, the way of wisdom which only you know.”

Then he turned back to the sick man. Loosening the grasp of his hand, he carried him to a little mound at the foot of the palm-tree.

Assuring first that he was comfortable, he brought water from one of the small canals nearby, and moistened the sufferer’s brow and mouth. He mixed a drink of one of those simple but potent remedies which he carried always in his girdle – for the Magis were physicians as well as astrologers – and poured it slowly between the colorless lips. Hour after hour he labored as only a skillful healer of disease can do; and, at last, the man’s strength returned; he sat up and looked about him.

“Who are you?” He said, in the uneducated dialect of the country,

“I am Artaban, of the Magi, and I am going to Jerusalem in search of one who is to be born King of the Jews, a great Prince and Deliverer of ALL. I can not delay any longer on my journey, for the caravan that has waited for me may leave without me.

Here is all that I have left of bread and wine and here is a potion of healing herbs. When your strength is restored you can find your way home.

The Jew raised his trembling hand solemnly to heaven.

He looked at Artaban, “I have nothing to give you in return for what you have done for me – only this; that I can tell you where the Messiah must be sought. For our prophets have said that he should be born not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem of Judah. May the Lord bring you safely to that place, because you have had pity upon the sick.”

It was already long past midnight. Artaban rode as quickly as was possible. The great horse restored by the brief rest, dipped into her last remaining strength and fled over the ground like a gazelle.

Even so, the first beam of the sun sent a shadow before the horse as she entered the final steps of the journey, and the eyes of Artaban, anxiously scanning the first glimpses of the Temple of the Seven Spheres, could detect no trace of his friends.

He dismounted and climbed to the highest terrace, looking out toward the west.

The huge desolation of the marshes stretched away to the horizon to the border of the desert. There was no sign of the caravan of the three wise men, far or near.

At the edge of the terrace he saw a little pile of broken bricks, and under them a piece of parchment. He picked up the parchment and read: “We have waited past the midnight hour and can delay no longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert.”

Artaban sat down upon the ground and covered his head in despair. “How can I cross the desert,” he moaned, “with no food and with a spent horse? I will have to return to Babylon, sell one of my jewels, and buy a train of camels and provisions for the journey. I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall lose the sight of the King because I stopped to show mercy.”

So Artaban did indeed return to Babylon, and with his sapphire he purchased what he needed for the journey.

Through heat and cold, Artaban, Priest of the Magi, the Fourth Wise Man, moved steadily onward – crossing the desert

He arrived weary, but full of hope in Bethlehem, bearing yet his ruby and his pearl to offer to the King. “Now at last,” he said, “I shall surely find him. This is the place the Hebrew exile told me that the prophets had spoken of.

As he searched for the place where the baby lay, he was award of the desolation of the streets. All was an eerie quiet. From the open door of a low stone cottage he heard the sound of a woman’s voice singing softly. He entered and found a young mother hushing her baby to rest. She told him of the three wise men that had appeared in the village three days ago, and how they said that a star had guided them to the place where Joseph of Nazareth was lodging with his wife, Mary, and her newborn child, and she told how they had given many rich gifts to the child to honor him.

“But the travelers disappeared again, as suddenly as they had come. And the man of Nazareth took the babe and his wife and fled away that same night secretly, and it was whispered that they were going far away to Egypt.

Ever since there has been a spell upon the village; something evil hangs over it. They say that the Roman soldiers are coming from Jerusalem to force a new tax from us, and the men have driven the flocks and herds far back among the hills, and hidden themselves to escape it.”

The young mother laid the babe in its cradle, and rose to care for the strange guest. She set food out for him, what little food she had, – graciously offered, and the gratefully received.

Suddenly there came the noise of wild confusion and uproar in the streets of the village, a shrieking and wailing of women’s voices, a clanging of swords, and desperate cries: “The soldiers! The soldiers of Herod! They are killing our children!”

The young mother’s face grew white with terror. She held her child close to her, and crouched motionless in the darkest corner of the room, covering him with the folds of her robe, praying he would not wake up and cry. Artaban went quickly and stood in the doorway of the house. His royal bearing filled the opening, blocking any sight of the home within.

The soldiers came hurrying down the street with bloody hands and dripping swords. At the sight of the stranger in his imposing dress they hesitated with surprise. Artaban did not move. But said, in a low voice;

“I am all alone in this place, waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace.”

He showed the ruby, glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great drop of blood.

The captain barely hesitated, but stretched out his hand and took the ruby greedily.

“March on!” he cried to his men. “There is no child here.

The clamor and the clang of arms moved down the street. Artaban re-entered the cottage. He turned his face to the east and prayed:

“God of truth, forgive my sin! I have said the thing that is not, to save the life of a child. And two of my gifts are gone. Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?”

But the voice of the woman, weeping for joy in the shadow behind him, said, very gently:

“Because you have saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

So, the Fourth Wise Man traveled from place to place Beginning in Egypt, he searched among the people of the dispersion, he saw hunger and famine, plague stricken cities, imprisoned and enslaved. In all the morass of humanity, he found none to worship – but many to help. He fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and healed the sick, and comforted the captive; and his years went by ore swiftly than the weaver’s shuttle through the loom, leaving behind a pattern of love and compassion. It seemed almost as if he had forgotten his quest.

Thirty-three years of the life of Artaban passed away, and he still was a pilgrim, and a seeker after light. His hair was now white as the wintry snow. Worn and weary and ready to die, but still looking for the king, he had come for the last time to Jerusalem. He had often visited the holy city before, and had searched through all its lanes and crowded hovels and black prisons without finding any trace of the family of Nazarenes who had fled from Bethlehem long ago. But now it seemed as if he must make one more effort, and something whispered in his heart that, at last, he just might succeed.

It was the season of the Passover. The city was teaming with strangers and many languages.

But on this day there was a singular agitation visible in the multitude. The sky was veiled with a dark and rolling gloom. And Artaban joined company with a group of people from his own country, Parthian Jews who had come up to keep the Passover, and inquired of them the cause of the agitation, and where they were going.

“We are going,” they answered, “to the place called Golgotha, outside the city walls, where there is to be an execution. Haven’t you heard what has happened? Two famous robbers are to be crucified, and with them another, called Jesus of Nazareth, a man who has done many wonderful works among the people, so that they love him greatly. But the priests and elders have said that he must die, because he named himself as the Son of God. And Pilate has sent him to the cross because he said that he was the ‘King of the Jews.’”

Artaban’s heart beat quickly. Could it be the same one who had been born in Bethlehem thirty-three years ago, at whose birth the star had appeared in heaven? He said within himself: Could it be that my last pearl is just in time to offer for His ransom and save his life.

So the old man followed the crowd. Just beyond the entrance of the guard-house a troop of Macedonian soldiers came down the street, dragging a young girl with torn dress and matted hair. As the once noble and stately Magi, still priestly in his bearing, paused to look at her with compassion, she suddenly broke from the hands of her tormentors and threw herself at his feet.

“Have pity on me,” she cried, “and save me, for the sake of the God of purity! I also am a daughter of the true religion which is taught by the Magi. My father was a merchant of Parthis, but he is dead, and I am seized for debts to be sold as a slave. Save me from this fate worse than death.”

Artaban trembled.

It was the old conflict in his soul, which had come to him in the palm grove of Babylon and in the cottage at Bethlehem – the conflict between the expectation and the impulse of love. The conflict between the gift he hoped to offer the king and the open faced need right before his eyes. This was his last time to face this choice.

One thing only was sure to his divided heart – to rescue this helpless girl would be a true deed of love. And is not love the light of the soul?

He took the pearl from his bosom. Never had it seemed so luminous, so radiant, so full of tender, living luster. As he looked at it, a soft and iridescent light, full of shifting gleams of blue and rose, trembled upon its surface. It seemed to have absorbed some reflection of the colors of the lost ruby and sapphire. He took one last look and laid it in the hand of the slave.

“This is your ransom, daughter! It is the last of my treasures which I kept for the King.”

While he spoke, the darkness of the sky thickened, and shuddering tremors ran through the earth.

The walls of the house where they stood in the shadows rocked back and forth. Stones were loosened and crashed into the street. Dust-clouds filled the air. The soldiers fled in terror. But Artaban and the girl whom he had ransomed crouched helpless beneath the wall of the Praetorium.

What did he have to fear? What did he have to live for? He had given away the last gift to the king, his tribute. And with that he gave up the hope of ever finding Him. The quest was over, and it had failed. But, even in that thought, there was peace. It was not resignation. It was not submission. It was something more profound and searching. He knew that all was well, because he had done the best that he could, from day to day. He had been true to the light that had been given to him.

One more lingering tremor of the earthquake quivered through the ground. A heavy tile, shaken from the roof, fell and struck the old man on the temple. He lay breathless and pale, with his white head resting on the young girl’s shoulder, and the blood trickling from the wound.

As she bent over him, afraid he was dead, a came sound through the twilight, very small and still, like music sounding from a distance, in which the notes are clear but the words are lost. The girl turned her head to see if someone had spoken from the window above them, but she saw no one.

The old man’s lips began to move, as if in answer. Clearly he had heard the words, and she heard him say in the Parthian tongue:

“Not so, my Lord. For when did I see you??”

He stopped talking and the sweet voice came again. And again the girl heard it, very faint and far away, but now it seemed as though she too understood the words. She heard this:

“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

A calm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the pale face of Artaban, like the first ray of dawn on a snowy mountain peak, and one long, last breath of relief exhaled gently from his lips.

His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.

In the midst of this Advent season – this holiest of times, may you find hope, light and life in the smallest of acts of love and compassion.

And remember – the journey is the answer – the answer is the journey.

Copyright June 26, 2005 by Joy Swartley Sawatzky. All Rights Reserved.

Ella Fitzgerald: “What are You Doing New Years Eve?”

“For a new year to bring you something new, make a move, like a butterfly tearing its cocoon! Make a move!” ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

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Give the Valuable Gift of Your Time

  I have a gift I want you to give this holiday (whatever your holiday is) season. It isn’t a present to benefit me it is a present to benefit you and your family. The gift I want you to give is an investment of your time. The giving of that time will have a big pay off in the future. This gift of time will reward you with much more than you gave. This gift of your time will be just a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time the person you are giving it to has given you over your lifetime. I’m talking about you taking some time to visit elderly family members, loved ones and friends in hospitals, assisted living care and nursing homes. These are people who invested their valuable time to give you food, shelter, clothing, manners, values and to enhance your life in many ways. Visit these people not just because you owe them but because you love them for what they have done for you. I don’t want to hear that your time is very valuable because so was their time and they gave it willingly.

  Visit elderly family members and take a recorder and ask them questions about your family history. This is valuable information to be able to tell your children and grandchildren. Get it from the horse’s mouth while you still can. Yes, yes some of us had parents who didn’t spare the rod and were overly strict with us. We may bear some anger about such things but if it didn’t send us into therapy it made us stronger. Our parents might have even taught us how not to raise our kids by some of their actions and that was also a valuable lesson. People make mistakes and parents aren’t perfect but they did the best they were capable of. I’m willing to bet that your parents were even better grandparents.

  I want you to give of your time to visit the elderly as I just experienced my 92 year-old mother-in-law dying. My wife visited her almost daily in an assisted living facility for the past several months. Thankfully my mother-in-law was as sharp as a tack up until the end. Daily pains did cause her to be quite demanding off the staff at the facility. The staff was as pleasant as they could be to her knowing she was having a lot of anxiety. Many days my wife came home exhausted from having to deal with her mother at the assisted living care facility. My mother-in-law Margaret of course just wanted to be healthy enough to be living back in her own home. At the age of 92 the fact is that every day you are getting worse and there will be no better days. I went with my wife often to visit because my mother-in-law who was a strong-willed woman took it a little easier on my wife if I was around. My wife and I are glad that we visited my mother-in-law the day before she died. She actually seemed fairly well that day and we never suspected she would pass away the next morning.

  We are also glad one of my wife’s three brothers had spent time with his mom recording family history. We played some of it at a wake we had in her honor. I won’t bore you with the history of my wife’s family but I urge you to learn the oral history of your family from its elder statesmen and women while they are still around. Invest your time in visiting the elderly in your family while you still can. I know people who are undergoing their own hardships and health problems and put those aside to reach out to our family. I want to thank so many people who came forward in our families time of sadness and showed us what real community is.

  The following photo and comment by my daughter, Mackenzie more eloquently illustrate what my mother-in-law and her baba (grandmother) meant to us than anything I can say.:

  “I don’t know many people who can say they had a 92-year-old best friend. No amount of words could express the bond Baba and I shared. I’m thankful to have been able to laugh together during the good days and be by her side holding her hand through the worst days.” ~ Mackenzie

Photo: I don't know many people who can say they had a 92 year old best friend. No amount of words could express the bond Baba and I shared. I'm thankful to have been able to laugh together during the good days and be by her side holding her hand through the worst days. <3

Dani and Lizzy: “Dancing in the Sky”

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

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Weapons of Middle Class Destruction

The middle class is vanishing
much like a silent ghost
at the hands of those with the most
without nary a boo
or a boo hoo hoo.
The genocide of the middle class
has been an economic tsunami
ushered in by the wealthy’s
“God of Greed” Ronald Reagan.
The wealthy PREY on us
as they pray at the altar of Ayn Rand.
Aided by so called, “Reagan Democrats”
who voted against their own economic interest
making them their own worst enemy.
The wealthy used all manner of WMD’s
weapons of middle class destruction
to kill off the middle class.
Toxins like: voodoo trickle down economics
where the only thing that trickles down
has been the size of the middle class.
The cost of a war in two countries and the
no-bid supply contracts that went with it.
Add to that the housing market bubble bursting
and family houses losing value.
Bad trade agreements NAFTA, GATT,
CAFTA and the WTO and World Bank.
Elimination of the payroll tax break,
drops in medium incomes,
low pay wages,
cost of inflation,
cuts in working hours,
part time jobs,
big corporations moving jobs
to third world sweatshops,
workers paying more
and more of their healthcare,
401K’s instead of pensions,
stolen pensions,
underemployment,
unemployment
no job security.
Unions being busted
and the idea of a group of people negotiating
a fair salary together in collective bargaining
is now being called socialism.
No minimum wage increase,
deregulation and weakening the FDA and EPA.
Corporate welfare exceeds social welfare.
Slashing assistance programs from
people that are already in dire straits.
High tuition for college and
huge college loans
hanging over graduate’s heads.
This while the GOP wants to keep pulling money
out of education and school loans.
Now we’ve had Wall Street,
Real Estate, and financial managers
all collapse and had to be bailed out
at the expense of the middle class.
Congress refuses to pass a single jobs bill.
The infrastructure has been dangerously neglected.
The job creators are busy exporting jobs
especially since offshore tax credits reward
corporations for outsourcing jobs overseas.
Nothing gets the attention of corporate CEO’s faster
than global opportunities to screw workers
anywhere in the world the most they can.
They will bring jobs back to the USA someday
when they have sufficiently Third Worlded it.
The corporations fail to see
that their customers are the workers
whose jobs they exported.
The 1% can bring us that corporate serfdom faster
if the middle class promises to never utter the word “revolution.”
They will also need you to continue to be divided by racism
and wrap yourselves in the flag, unchristian Christianity and guns.
Oh and yes keep voting for
their corporate owned politicians
or they’ll once again get the Supreme Court
to stop counting votes and pick a winner.
The Supreme Court has also ruled
that Corporations are now people.
These new corporate citizens want more freedoms.
Freedoms to steal your pension, bust your union,
offshore your job, and pollute your water, air and land
all without government oversight.
This ruling means more than ever that
our “representatives” are a commodity to be purchased
by the wealthiest Americans and special interest groups
as politicians can only get elected
with lots and lots of cash donations
that only wealthy corporations can provide.
That means our politicians in charge of reigning in
polluting and greedy corporations
will never bite the hand that feeds them
but they have taken a big bite out of the middle class.
With unlimited lobbies and backdoor payoffs
US corporations are rewarded with no taxation
and all of the representation.
The US Constitution is now replaced
by Corporate Bi-Laws.
The elite don’t really want a healthy economy
they just want personal wealth for themselves.
Many middle class lemmings believe
the poor have too much money
and the rich just don’t have enough.
There hasn’t been sufficient outcry over economic injustice
because Americans have been lulled into passive acceptance
by whatever the corporate owned media tells them.
The makers of America have always been
the working class and the middle class.
The takers have always been the Robber Barons
and the CEO’s who want 100% of everything.
The middle class and Mother Nature
have become collateral damage
in the war to enrichen the rich.
The middle class is becoming an endangered species.
Are you willing to realize we are at war and fight back
or are you going to just roll over and become extinct?

Jimmy Barnes: “Working Class Man”

“Driving Wheels”

I have to live for others and not for myself; that’s middle class morality” ~ George Bernard Shaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Very Fishy Tale

  Have you see the movie “Blackfish” about Sea World? It is about the captivity and trauma that the killer whales at SeaWorld Parks endure. Here is a site where you can see a trailer for the film.  I was glad to see that Willie Nelson, and bands Barenaked Ladies and Heart cancelled their appearances at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. They cancelled citing the “Blackfish” documentary.

  At one time we had a Sea World about an hour away at Aurora, Ohio but it closed several years ago. In 2001 I wrote an investigative piece about Shamu the killer whale for the late great Impact the Rank and File Newsletter. The piece was on Shamu losing his job in Aurora and being transferred elsewhere. I will reprinted it below.

Fishing For Answers

  On January 2001, Busch Entertainment Corporation sold Sea World Ohio to Six Flags Inc. The whales, dolphins, and penguins were moved to other Sea World parks. Six Flags kept all the other marine mammals, fish, birds, etc. and all the shows and buildings, but not the Sea World name. The park reopened as part of the nearby Six Flags Lake Geauga theme park. The new combined park was known as Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. Six Flags brought in dolphins from one of their other parks so they could have a dolphin show. The second season saw the addition of a killer whale to their collection, an attempt to bring back most of the shows and exhibits familiar to visitors of the old Sea World Park.

  Eventually, Six Flags sold out to Cedar Fair, who renamed the park Geauga Lake, ditched the animal park and turned that area into a waterpark. After a couple of under performing seasons, at the end of 2007 Cedar Fair gave up on the concept of having a ride park and a waterpark in one and shut down the ride portion of the park.

  In 2001 when Shamu was deported I did the following investigative piece of journalism:

  The last two weeks of January have seen major mergers, layoffs and closings. There have been thousands laid off at Chrysler, 15,000 at GM, 16,000 at Lucent Technologies, and 5,300 jobs are gone as JC Penney’s closes 47 stores. Here in the Youngstown area we have layoffs at WCI, Lordstown, Packard, and possibly a plant closing at CSC.

  Some of the job losses are through attrition and early retirement offers. Another thing that happens to many people because of mergers and closings is job transfers. Being uprooted because of a job transfer can be hard on a family. It’s sad to say goodbye to friends and family and pick up and start all over again, and that’s what I want to address. This week one of the saddest victims of a company buyout actually happened here in NE Ohio. That was nearby Sea World of Aurora, Ohio, the 232-acre marine park owned by Anheuser-Busch Inc. being bought by Six Flags Inc. for $110 million. The sad victims of the buyout are the animals at the park who are going to be relocated.

  Another victim is the park’s annual 1.4 million visitors. Six Flags does plan to keep operating the attraction as a marine park, under a new name. Unfortunately, Sea World’s three killer whales, including Shamu the signature of the park, along with the park’s penguins and its ten Bottlenose and Commersen’s dolphins, will be relocated to other Busch theme parks. I will be left like many parents, trying to explain to my children what happened to Shamu the Killer Whale and his friends when we make our annual voyage to the park.

  I decided to do some investigative journalism so I made the hour journey to the park. I entered the park and headed to Shamu Stadium to see the big guy himself. Many killer whales have played the 30 -year -old part of Shamu. 4100 lb. Keet now plays the part. He sadly confided, “I’ve never got my own recognition but had to live up to a dead whale’s legacy. Now to add further insult they’re moving me. My namesakes have been making a large splash here since the park opened in 1970. I have been a good employee, whose loyalty has reached great depths. Hell, I’ve jumped through hoops to please management and audiences alike.” He added, “I’ve been here 8 years, but so much for seniority when corporate America enters the pool. I have resented the term killer whale my whole life but right now because I’m going to be moved away from what is my home I’m in a killing mood.”

  Next I went to interview the dolphins that are also being moved. A Bottlenose dolphin that asked me not to use his name greeted me warmly. I told him I had already talked to Shamu. He replied, “Shamu is a sham, there’s no such thing as killer whales. They’re just fat dolphins. Beluga whales, Bottlenose and Pacific dolphins were all part of the Odontoceti family. Shamu is touted as the big star around here so he’s developed a swelled head.”

  I asked, “How does management treat the animals in the park?” He replied, “Management likes keeping the animals in the park divided and fighting amongst themselves over food, accommodations and billing. It’s the old divide and conquer strategy, just like a page out of Machiavelli’s, “The Prince.” “We know the bosses have been making a fortune off of our talents and energy for years telling us we’re all family. Family, my fin, now we know we’re nothing but wage slaves.” He continued, “Unfortunately the animals here never stuck together. It’s a funny thing about solidarity. In the wild we dolphins travel in packs of twenty and killer whales travel in packs of up to thirty and by damn it we watched each other’s backs. There’s no solidarity here in captivity. Natural instincts in the wild like compassion and respect were replaced in captivity by greed and the quest for the easy life. We had someone to feed us so we became complacent, thinking only of ourselves and pleasing management.”

  He continued on, “A few years back one of my Hollywood friends, Flipper came here trying to organize us animals into the screen actors union. Many of us were interested but management started threatening us. Shamu also opposed it so he started throwing his weight around, all two tons. We all respect the sea turtles that live here because of their age so we turned to them on this issue. Let me tell you age does not mean wisdom. Two hundred year old turtles are in no hurry for change. On top of that it was impossible to convince spineless jellyfish and sharks with cartilage where their spine should be that a union would be a good thing. Sea World ended up hiring a couple of thugs from Arthur Treacher’s and the next thing you know Flipper disappeared. The word is he was breaded deep-fried and served with a side of chips.”

  He added, “If any of us animals dares speak up about how management is making huge profits while we are fed stale herring we’re read the riot act. They say we’re unappreciative and unpatriotic and accuse us of talking class warfare. The truth is a class war is going on and it’s being waged against us and if we don’t wake up to it we’ve already lost.” I exit, now realizing why dolphins are called the smartest of all animals.

  I next stop at the Penguin Encounter a 45,000-gallon icy sea pool. I encountered one hundred of the formally dressed regal residents. I address an emperor penguin as to how he feels about being moved from his home. He answers, “Two of the four species of penguins at the park will be transferred we are being kept in the dark about which two species. It’s par for the course because over the years management here has done all it can to agitate racism between the four species.”

  He goes on to tell me he feels betrayed not just by management but also by the visitors and children who come to the park. He explains, “The visitors should have formed a picket line demanding that all the animals should be allowed to remain here at the park. Management knew what they were doing as far as the timing of the parks sale. They did it at this time of the year because it’s football season. The public is too wrapped up in the Super Bowl to care about what injustices are happening in the animal world. After all, humans don’t even care about injustices in their own world like the recent hijacking of the presidential election.” He ended by saying, “We penguins are at heart social animals that live in colonies. So, I’m going to miss my brothers. Hell, I’m a penguin, you think I want to be transferred to somewhere like Florida?”

  On my way out of the park I stopped by the employee’s lounge where I found many of the parks animals taking a coffee and sardine break. I questioned the animals about the park’s sale and about the soon to be departure of many of their friends. A sea lion named Clyde complained about management, “They have stooped so low as to watch many of the animals breed.” “Yeah,” chimed in his friend Seamore, “They’re a bunch of sick peeping Tom bastards.” An octopus told me he’d like to help stop the animals from leaving but felt his hands were tied. Tunas expressed fear of ending up between two slices of bread at the concession stand. On top of that the park’s waterfowl were in a foul mood and lobsters were seeing red. One otter commented, “And sushi think they got a raw deal?” Sharks said they feared for some time that corporate raiders were circling the park. With their keen sense of smell the sharks were the first to smell the blood in the water scent of a corporate takeover. In the end, the sharks at Sea World were no match for the predator sharks from Wall Street.

  As I write this none of the animals at the park feel they have a safe harbor. Yet, something they all expressed makes me think they can look forward to a better future. That is the idea that if you feed a fish you control him, but if a fish organizes he can control his own life. To end my sad tale I say goodbye Shamu and friends my family will miss you.

Taj Mahal: “Gone Fishin'”

“Catfish Blues”

“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” ~  Gloria Steinem

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Greed Stampede

Greed Stampede

We give thanks on Thanksgiving Day

for all we have but it is not enough

as by that night we  need to go out

and buy, buy, buy more, more and more.

Retailers kicked off the Black Friday sales

many hours earlier this year,

with many stores staying

 open on Thanksgiving Day.

Kmart has outdone them all announcing

it will be open 41 hours straight,

starting at 6am Thanksgiving Day.

Walmart will open their stores at 6pm Thanksgiving Day.

Their chief marketing director, said employees are

“really excited to work that day.”

Yeah I’ll just bet they are.

For you Thanksgiving shoppers

how would you like it if you could not be a shopper

but had to be a store worker on Thanksgiving?

Across the country, shoppers attacked

 each other with knives and guns,

 fighting for merchandise both

 inside and outside the stores.

In Las Vegas a shopper was shot

as he carried the big television

he had just purchased home.

There was a fight over parking

at a Walmart in California.

Three people got into a fight in the parking lot

 of a Walmart in Rialto, California

 because shoppers were cutting in line.

At a Kohls in Chicago a police officer shot the driver

 of a car that was dragging another officer

responding to a call of alleged shoplifting.

At a Walmart in West Virginia

a man “was slashed to the bone with a knife

after threatening another man with a gun

in an argument over a Walmart parking spot.”

There was fighting over televisions

at a Walmart in North Carolina

as a couple dozen people crowded around TVs

and began pushing each other around.

 One man threw another man to the ground.

All this to supposedly buy for others (nod wink)

to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Prince of Peace.

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