When I think of Coal | Street Jazz

When I think of Coal


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Some time ago a series of “There’s no such thing as Clean Coal” commercials ran that particularly hit home with me, as they brought back memories of when we used to visit my grandparents in their tenement home in Liverpool in the 1960s.

It had been long time since I had been in England, since I was a baby when we first left, and so when my father was stationed at Croughton Air Force Base in 1964, we lived for a time with my grandparents, in the Wavertree district.

Talk about culture shock.

The only running water in the house was in the kitchen, which meant that weekly bath time meant dragging a huge tub into the living room so that we kids could take a bath.

The outhouse was in the back garden patio area, and the Liverpool Echo (a daily newspaper) was used as toilet paper.

And the heating?

Coal. Nasty, black chunks of coal.

Every home on Callow Road was heated with the stuff,  and every home for miles around. The smoke over the community rose like the smoke over a factory before environmental laws set in, and by noon, it came back down again, settling down on whatever it touched.

Your face, your neck, your hair.

It was worse in the cold weather, of course.

Ah, sweet coal!

Later we moved to Banbury, where we still used coal to heat with, but we had indoor plumbing.


And about those horses . . .

There were also horse-drawn milk trucks making deliveries. Oh, how Norman Rockwell!

Yeah, coal soot and the lovely presents that horses leave in the street. Welcome to the big city, kid.

One day I’ll write about the dreadful school I attended for a time, St. Bridget’s, in Liverpool.


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Everyone has talent; what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. - Erica Jong


The America Question - Coralie Koonce

Coralie Koonce has written  two books in the Thinking Toward Survival series, and is currently at work on the third

Expecting America to be the "greatest country in the world" makes me uncomfortable. In other words, I'm a matriot rather than a patriot.

America is great because it has had 225 years of Constitutional government, the Bill of Rights, assimilated a large number of people who were immigrants or former slaves, has gradually and finally become a true representative democracy. It is special to me because it is my country and I'm familiar with  its traditions and customs, its people, mountains, lakes, trees, animals, and  plants. I've lived in 12 different states in all four corners of this country and the middle.

But insisting that "We're the greatest" reminds me too much of some guy yelling in a bar. Why is it a competition? Other countries have some great things about them, and we have some big skeletons in our closet. As I pointed out in latest book Swimming in a Sea of  Ideology American  exceptionalism is notable for the many ways we lag behind a number of other countries in measures of social well-being.

When did it stop being great? Even the Founders made a few mistakes. Our Constitution should have written in the women and not written in slavery. We  took some wrong turns starting 150 years ago with Manifest Destiny and the war  with Mexico, which was the first act of blatant imperialism and also set us up  for the Civil War. Then the corporations gained too much power after the Civil  War, especially the 1886 rule that gave them the rights of people.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 started us on a century of imperialism, with a  brief interlude of non-aggression during the 1930s. We've been wasting our  treasure on trillions of dollars of armaments ever since the Cold War began 60  years ago. We lost the moral high ground with CIA coups in places like Chile,  Guatemala, and Iran in the 1950s. Wars in Vietnam, Panama, the Gulf--not acts  of the "greatest country in the world."

Things started to go downhill when Reagan was elected in 1980 and the counter-revolutions began against the New Deal and the 1960s. The Southern  Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 didn't help our political system.

Well, eight years of Bush-Cheney was the last straw.

I'll go out on a limb and say that the Cold War began a decline that makes us not nearly so great as we once were. And that was Truman who started the Cold  War.  The Cold War set us on the path of military build-up and interventions. I think  the answer is to dismantle the American Empire, as historian Chalmers Johnson  proposes. To defend ourselves we don't need hundreds of bases around the world  or building up for war in space. It just bleeds our treasure.

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