hero


It’s been 2 years since our Angle Maker passed away. We miss her every single day. This is our Angle Maker.

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The worst news of the year hit us on the last day of 2008. Lynette Robb, the Angel Maker, passed away today. I… Can’t… Write. Not now. Maybe another day…

Lynette Robb, the Angel Maker…

I don’t know where to start with this. I’ll just start by telling you how I feel.

A piece of my soul is missing. That is how it feels. This big empty space inside. Because I couldn’t be there with Lynette on this dark day in December. And I can’t be there with her family on this last day of 2008. My family.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I was a real mommy’s boy. I loved my mother more than you can think. I lived for only her for most of my younger life. And then she left me to go to a better place. I was happy for her. She had a tough time down here on our little earth.

But I was blessed again. I had another mother. Lynette Robb…

It’s easy to say that you have another mother. But I mean it. Really mean it. She wasn’t a substitute for my first mother. No. She was my mother. She is my mother. Because she made me feel like I was her son.

If I am tired I wanted to go to her house. When I was sad I wanted to go to her house. When I was happy I wanted to go to her house. When I wanted to be me I wanted to go to her house. I always just wanted to be at her house. With my mom and my family called the Robbs.

She made the baggage of life feel like a feather. She made you feel like the world was there for your taking. She made you feel like you can love more than what you ever thought you could. She just made you feel alive…

Just being at her house made me feel as if the dirt of life was washing away. You knew you were in the presence of something greater than yourself when you were with her. A greater love.

But how do I tell you about Lynette?

Lynette Robb made me a better person. Her mere presence in my life made me a better person. Makes me a better person…

You want to know the meaning of Ubuntu? I am because we are? You want to see that and feel that? Then you go to Lynette. She is Ubuntu. She is Ubuntu.

She made all of us better people than what we deserved to be. You should have met her. I wish everyone could just have met her for one second. Just hung out with her for a little while. To know how it feels to be touched by an angel. If there was ever an angel on earth it was Lynette. It is Lynette. She is gone. But she will never be gone. Never be forgotten. Never… It is impossible to not remember her. Memories of her will never fade. They grow like the seed of love she planted inside all of us. You can’t ever forget that. Not once you have been touched by an angel. Not for us. Not now and not ever. She is Lynetter Robb. Our mother and our pillar of life. Our foundation angel.

She didn’t preach. She didn’t teach. She didn’t have some power you could see. She didn’t talk about these great lessons in life. No. She didn’t. But she taught me more than any teacher could. Without knowing. Just through love. The funny thing is that for Lynette the world was never about Lynette. It was always about us. Lynette giving to us. Food. Love. You name it. She always just gave. Never wanted anything back. But what she got back was us. With love. And everything we could give her.

It is just who she was. Just her presence. The way she was. She was all that without ever wanting or trying to be all that. Because she is Lynette Robb.

Have you ever seen a moth just going towards the light without thinking? That was us around Lynette. Even now. It is us. We can’t help it. We just go there. It’s a force of goodness and love that pulls us to her. It still does because her presence will never go away. She is inside all of us that knew her and loved her. Who know her and love her. We know that just being around her makes us better people. Even now…

And there were always people around her. At her house. In her life. Because we can’t stay away. We lived for her love and her life. Her light to shine on us.

Her house. With her in it. That is where I want to be. I know that when I am in South Africa I can recharge my batteries of life at her place.

…There are no words…

She was a gift God gave us. As if God placed her on earth with the plan to let us see who we can be. What we can become. If only we loved more. Lynette Robb is the love that God shows us.

I always heard nothing but love from her mouth. What she tells me she will tell anyone else. In their face. And if she doesn’t agree with someone… She will let them know. But that person will still know love.

Oh. You don’t mess with Lynette and her family. Her wider family. Me and my wife and my daughters included. We were… No. We are family. You touch any of them or speak badly about any of us… You do not know Lynette Robb. She will do everything to protect us. Anything. Because of her love. Unconditional love. Just natural love.

There are a million things I want to tell you about Lynette. My mother. But how don’t know how. There are no words to describe Lynette.

I wish I could be with her right now. Me and my wife and my kids. That is where we should be. With our other family. With Lynette and Derek and our sisters and the kids. And now? Now with my sisters and Derek. I miss them today more than anything. I just want to tell them I love them. That I will always love them. Because they are my family. We share a mother and a love. And what she gave us will never break the bond we have.

I want to sit on her stoep at the back and just rest my soul for a little while. Just laugh and joke about the langnekkie. Watch a game with Uncle Derek. Share a joke with the girls. Maybe take a swim in the pool with the kids. I can hear her laughing right now. I can hear her say “Foksies“. I can see her sit on her chair outside that afdak. Lynette sitting somewhere laughing. But always keeping an eye out for everyone around her. Making sure we are okay. Making sure we know we are loved. I wish I could be there now. And just feel her presence and see her smile.

Take your happiest feeling and bottle that. Because that is how Lynette made us feel.

…Lynette Robb…

She made angels. That is what she did. She took us and turned us into these angels. And she let us fly off and do what we had to do in this world. But we always went back to her. Because we were not strong enough. We needed her to recharge our lives. We need her to recharge our lives…

To remind us of the good in this world. To remind us that we can make this world a little bit better. To remind us that tomorrow there will be even more love. Even in the darkness of today.

She made angels. That was Lynette Robb.

No… She makes angels. That is Lynette Robb.

I love her. Not because I have to. But because she is Lynette Robb. My mother. My Angel Maker.

I will live my life to make her proud. I will make angels for her. I will need help. I am not strong like her. But we can make angels for Lynette.

Lynette. I know where you are. I am closing my eyes and I can feel your hand on mine. I needed that. I am holding it. You will always be with us. Always. You made us better people. And I will take your love and make it grow. Make more angels. I hope you are proud of me when you look down sitting there with God. He is a lucky God. He will have you on His side. It will make Him even stronger. Like you made us stronger. You made us angels. I will make angels for you.

I love you. We all do. We are your angels. You made this world a better place. And me a better man. It would have been enough just knowing you. But you showed me love. I am your son. I love you. And I will make angels for you.

Lynette Robb. Angel Maker.

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President Obama is visiting Buchenwald today. And it reminded me of a hero I never knew about. A true American hero. Someone who never asked to be one. This is the life of James Hoyt and Buchenwald…

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You know me. I get pretty worked up about some politician out there and their gang of cronies. They just don’t measure up. They don’t honor those who sacrificed for this country called the US of A. They are nothing compared to true American heroes. They don’t deserve to even stand in their shade. They dance on the graves of those who truly sacrificed for this country. And they dishonor those who saw the best and the worst in the name of America.

I am not from here. I am just visiting. But I want to tell you a bit about a true American hero. And maybe you’ll understand why I think this country has something going for it. And why I get so pissed at some people out there. People who forget what it means to be true heroes. People who forget who the true Americans really are. People who just disrespect the meaning of being American.

What a real hero looks like

What a real hero looks like

James Hoyt was born in Oxford (Iowa) on 16 May 1925. The son of a railroad worker and a schoolteacher. He died in Oxford on 11 August 2008. Oxford is a small little town. About 700 people. And he lived their his whole life. Well, almost his whole life. He once went overseas.

He ranked his greatest achievement as being the Johnson County spelling bee champ in 1939 when he was in eighth grade. He remembered the word he had to spell – “archive”. It’s apt that it means “a collection of historic documents”. Some things should just never be forgotten. Like Mr. Jame Hoyt.

Mr Hoyt was a mail carrier. James Hoyt delivered mail for 30 years in Oxford. He retired in 1992. He worked until he was almost 70. Just a normal guy. Delivering post in little Oxford, Iowa. The furthest he ever got was was Des Moines. The furthest that is, until he went overseas.

James Francis Hoyt Sr. came back to Oxford after his overseas trip and married Doris. Or as he called her, “She’s the love of my life”. They had six children. They lived a happy and loving life together.

James, or Jim as his friends called him, didn’t talk much about his overseas trip. Even those who knew him for many years didn’t know about his trip. But every week he would go to meet his little group. You see, Mr. Hoyt went to group therapy each and every week. Because James suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. All because he went on a trip to Europe.

James went to Europe because of war. James was in WWII. And James was one of the four U.S. soldiers to first see Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp. With him goes a piece of history. A memory we will never be able to hear from again. He was the last of the four to pass away.

He hardly spoke about that day in 1945. Partly because James was a humble man from a small town in Iowa. But also because of what he saw. “There were thousands of bodies piled high. I saw hearts that had been taken from live people in medical experiments. They said a wife of one of the SS officers — they called her the Bitch of Buchenwald — saw a tattoo she liked on the arm of a prisoner, and had the skin made into a lampshade. I saw that.” He saw a lampshade made from a prisoner’s tattoo…

James didn’t like to talk about what he saw when he was 19.

“Seeing these things, it changes you. I was a kid,” he said.

And then there was the dreams. “I still have horrific dreams. Usually someone needs help and I can’t help them. I’m in a situation where I’m trapped and I can’t get out.”

James Francis Hoyt Sr. was a true American hero. Someone who loved his country. Someone who had nightmares for his country. And someone who kept quiet, loved his family and delivered the post for 30 years. James Francis Hoyt Sr. is a hero.

R.I.P. Mr. Hoyt. I hope you also saw the faces of the prisoners you met that day. Starving and dying and almost beaten and tortured to death. But when they saw you Mr. Hoyt… Oh, when they saw you. Their bodies ravished by the hunger and the pain. But they lifted you up. High up in the air. Throwing you up into the air. Again and again. Because you where there Mr. Hoyt. You came for them Mr. Hoyt. Like you, they never forgot that day. They to had nightmares of those days. But not of that day. That day is the day of dreams come true. Of happiness. Of liberation. I hope you can now see your face in their dreams Mr. Hoyt. The face of a hero. A true American hero. Your life was the life they were waiting for.

I leave you with these words from Retired Gen. Robert Sentman…

“When the prisoners saw Jim, they picked him up and threw him in the air, that’s how happy they were after seeing such horrors. Prisoners had been hung from hooks to die. He saw a lampshade made from a prisoner’s tattoo. Jim carried those horrors with him forever. He never got what he had seen out of his mind. If you ever wondered about Jim, think about what he saw.”

“When you were discharged, no one really gave a hoot about you. It was difficult for a compassionate person like Jim to forget what he saw. He was a hero.”

R.I.P. James Francis Hoyt. Sweet dreams Jim. We will never forget.

What I hope Jim remembered. The smile of liberation.

What I hope Jim remembered. The smile of liberation.

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Note: Only two news agencies reported on the death of James Francis Hoyt Sr. Ask yourself. How many of the news stories you heard this week will you remember in 63 years time? Thank you to CNN for remembering – I used their report a lot and dug around a bit more to find some additional info on Mr. Hoyt and Buchenwald. 

I couldn’t bring myself to post more photo’s of Buchenwald. It is too horrid for this blog. But do yourself a favor – go do a few image searches and see what Jim saw when he was 19 and lived with for more than 60 years.

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We won and we lost. Obama winning helped to put one piece of injustice to sleep. But injustice is still with us. Discrimination is still lurking in the laws. Liberty is still for the select few. Freedom is still not for all of us. Equality still hunts us down like we were on cotton plantations.

Because “they” are still not allowed to get married. “They” are still held as second class citizens. Tell me? Who the hell are “they”?

Bullshit. Bullshit I tell you.

It’s like playing that whack-the-mole game. You hit one piece of bigotry on the head and another one pops up. Whack! Whack! Whack! It never stops. But unlike the game, we can’t pull the plug on bigotry. Their batteries get charged by their own hatred.

Look. I am REALLY getting sick and tired of this. There is no “they”.

There. Is. No. They.

There is only us. “They” are you who are bigots. The only people who are “they” are those who preach hatred. Hatred for gays, hatred for Africans, hatred for African-Americans, hatred for rednecks, hatred for Jews, hatred for Muslims, hatred for Christians, hatred for… and more hatred and more hatred and more hatred.

You! Yes you! Bigot! That one who hates gays. Or who doesn’t want “them” to have the same rights as everyone else. All that separates you from burning “them” on a cross is some wood and matches. All that separates you from strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing them up is a book in your hand and a different language. Bigotry is bigotry. Hatred is hatred. It’s only the degrees that differ.

You think you are so different from those who kill innocent people elsewhere in the name of a jihad? You think you are so different from those policemen who killed Biko? You think you are so different from the Christians who murdered during the Crusade? You think you are so different from those who flew those planes? You think you are so different from those who kept slaves on the plantations? Who burned people at stakes? You think you are better than a Hutu or a Tutsi? You think you are better than the priests leading Jesus to the cross?

You are not. You are no better. You are separated only by the degrees of action. You speak the same language. You spew the same hatred. You can cloak it in nice words. But so did Hitler. So did Pontius Pilot. So did PW Botha. So did Mao. So did Stalin. So did everyone who believed they were better than “the others”.

You are no better than those who killed and murdered. You are them. Separated by a small degree of heat. A small step. One action separates you. Just one. They are your brothers. Your keepers. In thought and prayer.

Don’t ever call me straight. I am not straight. I am me. Who I sleep with and who I love has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with my bad fashion sense. It has nothing to do with my anger. It has nothing to do with defining who I am inside.

I have no choice about who I am. I am because we are. I have no choice about being straight. I have no choice about being gay. I am just me. Like the color of my skin is not my choice. And my gender is not my choice. Or where I was born was not my choice. It is who I am. We should not be defined by these parts of who we are. We should be defined by our love and compassion for others and for ourselves.

Hell, if I had a choice I would not have chosen to be a pale heterosexual male. Except for the fact that it helped me find the love of my life it is nothing to be proud of. It is nothing special. In fact, I don’t like many of those who look like me. Hitler, Bush, Stalin, Verwoerd – all white males proclaiming to be straight. Too many bigots wear the same “clothes”.

I don’t ever want to be defined as heterosexual. I don’t. Because I am not. I am just a person who met another person and who loves. It could have been anyone. It just happened to be someone from the opposite gender. I didn’t make the choice to love her. It just happened.

That’s all I want the world to have. Just to feel the same love I feel. I don’t care who you are. Jew, Christian, gay, Muslim, straight, male, female, black, white, Chinese, Russian. I don’t care.

I. Don’t. Care.

All I want is “us” to all feel love. And see a better future together. As us. Not as “them” and “us”. There is only us in this world. All of us.

There is no such thing as a “gay issue”. Any injustice is my issue. Our injustice. Any limitation on freedom is a limitation of my freedom. Our freedom. Any inequality takes away my equality. Our equality. Any time the liberty of others are restricted then my liberty is restricted. Our liberty. Any place love is threatened my love is threatened. Our love. There can be no “others”. There can be no “gay issue”. There is only my issues. And our issues. We all have freedom, liberty, equality, justice, life, love and opportunity. Or I have none. I am not gay. But I am gay. 

I am the “gay issue”. We are the “gay issue”.

Because… I am because we are.

All of us. I am us. I am the “we”.

We will not fail each other. Because there is no gay issue. There is only an us issue.

 

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A few other posts of mine looking at the “gay issue”:

The “gay problem” or The Idiot’s Guide to Bigotry

The Gay Agenda

And one more thing

How to solve the “gay marriage problem”

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A friend of mine just passed me this link to something Keith Olbermann had to say on gay marriages. I missed it completely as I don’t watch enough telly. But it seems as if Keith and myself have more in common than what I thought. Go watch what he had to say. It is long. But it is worth it. His questions are very similar to mine. Just more eloquently put…

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Mama Africa died. The voice of the people. The song of the people. She is no more. But her music lives on. And with it… Her love for Africa and its people.

This is from one of her first songs that the world got to see. Hum… She was hot! Mama Africa singing Pata Pata.

The one song every bloody Souf Efrikan whitie knows… (And she is still hot!) Miriam Makeba singing The Click Song. (With a bit of an intro into Xhosa and politics – sorry, I had to use a new link so the politics got lost. Someone removed the original from YouTube!)

And this one has a bit of a long intro but it hits you hard when she starts singing. Man… Did I mention that she is hot! Sinead O’Connor of Africa singing Amampondo.

But in the end Mama Africa was about so much more than her music. Miriam Makeba made music. Mama Africa spoke for her people. A glimpse of what she had to say to the UN back in 1963. Being Mama Africa…

Her citizenship was revoked shortly after this. She couldn’t go back to her country. To her people. But she always fought on. Always for justice. Always for her people. The people of Africa. And her people from South Africa. From fighting for justice when she married (and later separated from) Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael to receiving the UN Dag Hammerskjöld Peace Prize. She always fought for justice. Always.

But she saw her country united at last. She came back in 1990. To her home. To her people. And this song was made for her to sing. (The intro is played by Hugh Masekela. Another legend and another ex-husband of Mama Africa.)

Mama Africa never forgot about the fight for justice. Never. She didn’t die at home. She died in Castel Volturno in Italy, in the evening of 9 November 2008, of a heart attack, shortly after taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation. Camorra finances itself through drug trafficking, extortion, protection and racketeering. It is the oldest organized criminal organization in Italy. Mama Africa… Mama World… Mama Ubuntu… No matter where you were, she was with you in your fight for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all.

She died just after singing Pata Pata. She died on stage.

In the words of Mama Africa, “I will sing until the last day of my life.”

So she is gone. But live on. Always.

Viva Mama Africa! Viva! Long Live Miriam Makeba! Long Live!

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I’ve never tried writing fiction. This is a first attempt. Written at midnight. Just a start. Just a beginning of a story that has been forming in my mind. But like I said, I am not a writer so see it as a first shot at something written very late at night. Let me know what you think.

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Waking Up

A blink and he is awake. It’s always like this. Just a blink and his eyes open and he is awake. Nothing but a blink. No tiredness and no dreams to remember. Just a blink and he is awake.

The darkness is total. There is no window to let the light seep in, but he doesn’t need any light yet. He just lies staring at the darkness for awhile; staring at the tin roof hidden in the darkness. Letting his eyes find the first signs of light and life. Any second now the tin roof stars will show themselves. A little spot of dull early morning light that fades through a tiny little hole, first one then another one and another one, turning the holes into dancing stars on the tin roof. His tin roof stars.

The tin roof stars dance around and pop up everywhere. Every nail that was ever used on the tin sheets of the roof is shining and dancing. Every hole left by the nails is a memory of better days; the days before it was a tin roof in a shanty town.

But he isn’t thinking of the memories of the holes. Not this morning. He is looking at the dancing stars to see if a brighter light will shine through any of the holes, because that spells trouble. A brighter light means a hole in the thick black plastic sheets that are spread out and tied down on the roof. These plastic sheets are the defense against the rains. A bright light is a leaking roof. But this morning there is nothing but dancing stars. He smiles into the darkness at his tin roof stars. Today is going to be a good day.

Slowly the shanty town morning noises seep through the walls. The far-off hooting of the taxis at the taxi rank a mile away. Telling the squatters they have space for a few people more and ready to go. The voices of women talking amongst each other as they walk through the narrow passageways between the shacks making their way to the taxi ranks to catch the early trucks selling fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables they’ll need as they lay out their tables at the market before people come to buy their daily goods. Taxis and women are the shanty town voices of the morning.

He’ll be at the market a bit later this morning, buying an apple or banana on his way looking for work. And so will his wife. She’ll be there before she comes home from her day looking for work, buying a potato or two, maybe some carrots to put in the stew that goes with the pap. The market is the main artery of the shanty town. It feeds the people who feed the shanty town.

But right now he just lies in bed and stares at his tin roof stars. And listen to the shanty town morning voices. He lies there for another twenty minutes or so. Slowly the room starts showing itself. But he doesn’t need to look at it. He knows where everything is. He’ll rather just look at his morning beauty, his wife lying next to him.

His wife never wakes up like him. She always takes her time waking up. He watches her every morning as she wakes up. It’s the perfect start to his day. It is life waking up to a new day.

She’s lying on her side cuddled up with the teddy bear he got her from the charity down the road. She starts with little moaning noises like a puppy dreaming. Then the waves start. Her body making slow rhythmic moves as she moves her arms and legs like some underwater dancer seducing the gods. This is when he knows she will open her eyes or whisper to him. The bed is too small for the two of them. Just a single bed mattress made for two. She turns around to stretch out but there is not space. Her hand hits his chest as she tries to stretch. Some mornings she gets a fright as if she didn’t expect someone to be lying there. Not him or anyone. But not this morning, this morning she starts with a smile. His morning beauty.

“Morning baby”, she whispers. Her eyes are still closed but she is smiling. That’s all he wanted, just a smile and a whisper. He kisses her softly on her lips and whispers back, “Molo Beauty”. He pulls the blankets a bit higher to cover her shoulders and then slowly slips out of bed. “Lie down Beauty. I’ll boil some water and make us something to eat”, he says to his wife as he leans forward and gives her another kiss on her forehead.

Thank God it is summer, he thinks to himself. He hates winter. It’s always a rush to get his clothes on before the coldness takes over. But in summer it is easy. He slips on the pair of jeans that has seen better days. More patches of denim and off-cuts than the original jeans. A shirt over his t-shirt and then his boots and he is ready.

He slowly walks over to the little paraffin lamp. Taking special care not to bump against the bed where his wife is still lying with her eyes closed. He picks up the matches lying next to the lamp and takes out one match before turning the knob on the lamp. And in what seemed like it was part of the same movement, he strikes the match and light the lamp while shielding the bright light with is hand. He turns the light down to a shimmer so save on paraffin and to not let it shine too brightly before his wife gets up. He’s done this a thousand times. He doesn’t even think about it anymore. It’s like flipping a switch.

He leans down to pick up the water bucket. It’s empty. His wife forgot to fill it last night. He smiles to himself. He remembers why she forgot. He looks over at her to say something but sees that her eyes are still closed. He shakes his heads with a smile, picks up the bucket and heads for the door. No need to get her out of bed. The taps aren’t far. It’s a quick walk to the community centre and he’ll be back in thirty minutes at most.  It’s one of the advantages of not having a steady job, you can take that extra thirty minutes to go and fill the water buckets. No boss to chase you around if you are late. Beauty will wait for him. It will be over before she knows he is gone. Well, almost. It will be quick. He’ll be back to make them some black coffee they can share in their little shack called home. A moment of peace before they take on their day.

(I am okay with it up to here. Still rough around the edges but it is more or less where I was hoping to go. The rest I am not sure about. Not sure I want to take it there, but thought I would leave it in for now.)

He just stepped outside the shack when he heard someone behind him. He knew who it was. It was Sipho, the boy next door. “Morning Sipho”, he whispered. Sipho was about to say something but he stopped him by waving his finger and whispering, “No Sipho. Beauty is still asleep. Do me a favor and keep an eye on her for me. I’ll buy you an apple today”. Sipho grinned and held up both his thumbs. That was a close one, he thought. Sipho is a great kid but is always making a noise to try and get his attention. He’ll make it up to him later and chase him around the shacks. That always gets Sipho going.

The walk to community centre was quick. He enjoys walking through the shacks this time of the morning when it’s not too busy. There are women walking to the taxi ranks to buy their goods but most people are just starting to wake up. You can still hear your footsteps on the hard ground this time of the morning. He was quickly lost in his own thoughts.

Thank God it’s too early for the queues, he thought to himself, just a few women filling up their containers. He goes to one of the taps and starts filling the bucket. He’s been away for about ten minutes now. Beauty will be up wondering where he is. She’ll see the bucket is gone though and know that he came to fetch water. She might even be getting some bread ready for them to eat together. He smiles thinking of how she always puts too much butter on his bread. She knows he loves butter and they can’t really afford it but she always somehow gets butter just for him.

The bucket is filled; time to go home and make some coffee. The walk back is more difficult because the bucket is heavy. He laughs to himself thinking about the women who carry the buckets on their heads. Men can’t do that. Their necks hurt and they can’t balance the buckets. Whoever thought that men are the tough ones should come to this shanty town and look at the weight that these women carry. He is always amazed at how Beauty carries such a heavy bucket as if it is nothing. His Beauty.

He was still deep in thought when he heard the shouting. It was coming closer to him. Louder and louder. Closer and closer. It was Sipho. He could make out that it was Sipho but he couldn’t make out what he was shouting. He dropped the bucket and started running towards the shouting; his heart pounding in his chest. Did she fall and hurt herself? Oh please let her be okay.

He could see Sipho dodging between the shacks as he was getting closer. Still shouting and calling for him. He didn’t even look where he was going. Sipho was just running like crazy. He kept on calling his name and shouting, “Jonas! Jonas! Quick!”. Sipho looked up while running and saw him coming towards him. He tried to shout for Sipho to calm down, “Sipho! Calm down! What is it?” Then he saw Sipho’s face. The face of fear.

And Sipho kept on shouting and shouting…

But all he could hear was, “It’s Beauty. They are taking her…”

This post was inspired by Monroe Anderson (I still can’t believe that he reads my blog. I am not worth the crossing of his t’s. He is the man.)

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The first shop I went to when we landed here in the US two years ago was a convenience store just down the road from us. It’s called Honey Farms. Just your run-of-the-mill convenience store like a 7-Eleven. Nothing much. Bread, milk, cigarettes, Coke and chocolates. Everything I need to get through the day if pushed. That’s where I met them. The people working at Honey Farms.

The first guy I met was this old guy that must been at least 65 in the shade. But still in excellent shape. He cycles to work and back. We just called him ‘the old guy’. My lovely wife knew who I was talking about whenever I told her I had a chat with the old guy at Honey Farms. He was the first American I had a just a normal general chat with. Good guy. Exceptionally good guy.

It started off like any normal chat for us foreigners over here in smaller towns. The accent. He loved my wife’s accent. Called it “the Queen’s English”. Well, she does have a pretty good English accent even though she is South African. He made her talk just so he could listen to her accent. And then he will just be like a little kid and be all giddy. And tell all the other customers to listen to her speak. Yes, I think he had a bit of a crush on her.

I didn’t get the same treatment. But then, my accent is a bit more harsh. Less exotic, more farmer. But what can you do? We did have many good chats – me and the old guy from Honey Farms. Anything really – and he was as funny as hell.

Whenever I bought my cigarettes he would offer me “free” matches. And he used to say that they are so committed to customer service that they are happy to replace the matches if I am unhappy with them at any time. Yes, they were free to start off with.

Or the time I walked in and asked if they had dish washing liquid or tablets for the dishwasher. He made a huge scene claiming that they have the best dishwasher liquid in the whole of downtown Natick – if not in greater downtown Natick. (You can’t buy or find it anywhere else in downtown Natick.) He went to tell me how good this dishwasher liquid is. His wife swears by it. And he has never had a customer come back to say it didn’t do the job. With a smile I asked him if he has ever used it. He shook his head and said no. Never used the stuff. He still washes his dishes by hand. And then laughed a bit more. Both of us.

Yeah, he was a funny guy. Always something funny to say or a smart comment to make me leave with a smile.

But it always bugged me. Why is he still working when he should be taking it easy? When he should be retired. So I asked him. I asked him why is he still working. And he stared at me for a little while. And then just uttered a simple little concept…

“healthcare…”

“Why healthcare”, I asked. Simple, he needs to be covered if something happens to him or his wife. Especially in their old age. And he needs the extra money to pay for it. As security for when they really need it. The government will help but it might not be enough. In his old age he has to worry about that. He never had to worry about it when he was covered when he was young and healthy and looked after.

He also told me that he got his daughter a job at Honey Farms. But that he had to make her stop working there and found her another job. He was worried about her safety. When she worked the late shift. When some of the rougher and drunker guys came around. Nothing ever happened. But it wasn’t good for her to be exposed. It was good enough for the old man, but not good enough for his daughter.

He left my Honey Farms a few months back. He got a better offer to actually run a Honey Farms in the town next to ours. We still walk into each other now and again. And we still have our chats then. He still makes me laugh. And he still cycles to work.

Actually, he is doing more than that. One of the many discussions we had was about American addiction to cars. Hell, people will drive 200 yards to Honey Farms to buy their stuff. But more than that, single drivers keep on driving to work and back or to downtown Natick on a beautiful day when they could be walking. It bugged him. And he decided to do something about it. A campaign. A campaign to get Natick people to cycle more.

This old man decided to do it on his own. He got a plan together that we spoke about a few times. And he took it to the local authorities to get their backing. And convinced them to support him. Not with money. But with communications – posters, notices, free bicycles etc. And off he went. His “cycle more” campaign. Good for traffic and good for your health. This old man that should be retired did it because it bugged him. Never made a cent out of it. It was all about getting people out of their cars and start cycling when they go to downtown Natick. Yep, he was an activist in his own way.

I really liked him. Still do.

He is America for me. Him and the other people I have met at Honey Farms. The other slightly less old guy who knows everything anybody ever wants to know about the history of coins – American coins. Or the gay middle aged woman who suffers from depression. Or the woman whose kids always come to visit her when she works the late shift on a weekend. Or the young black kid from the wrong side of Natick that is taking extra jobs to stay out of trouble and build himself a future. All of them. They have been America to me. Proud. Strong. Easy to talk to. Friendly as hell.

Yes, they might not know as much of the world as what the world knows of them, but these people are good decent people that I would be happy to call my own. I can see in their eyes why America is great. Because they are great people.

So why am I telling you this? Why is this even important? I’ll tell you why…

…McCain and taxes…

What?

Yep, McCain and taxes. McCain is attacking Obama for wanting to raise the taxes of the wealthiest of Americans. One key line of argument from McCain is that the top 1% of Americans will pay almost 35% of American taxes under the Obama plan. That just doesn’t sound right. That is just unfair. It isn’t just. Why should 1% pay so much of the taxes? Well… Because that same 1% also own almost 35% of America’s net worth. That’s why. Mr McCain.

If you own 35% then it makes perfect sense that 35% of the taxes will come from you. Easy economics. Not socialism. Just easy economics.

And before I forget. Just 10% of the population owns 71% of America’s wealth… I expect that 10% to pay 71% of the taxes…

I won’t even mention that “in a survey of 120 major cities, New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable “alert” line used to warn governments”. I won’t go into that. Just saying that the distribution of wealth in America is beyond unfair. It ranks with the most unjust systems in the world…

Tell me why should the wealthiest not pay according to the share of wealth they have? Are they better than the old guy from Honey Farms? Do they mean more to America than the Honey Farms people? I don’t think that either group means more to America than the other. Or at least, I don’t believe that either group should mean more to America. CEO’s can be replaced as easily as the guy in Honey Farms. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. I work with CEO’s of some of the biggest American companies out there today. The biggest of the biggest. The best of the best. Make no mistake… I can count on my one hand how many of them are truly irreplaceable. And they generally earn a sh*tload of money. Way more than their counterparts from the rest of the world.

I get it that they earn more. I have no problem there. Maybe I have a problem with the extremes of what they earn, but I do get that they should earn a nice package to keep them in the job. But they are not more American than the old guy from Honey Farms. That much I know.

He has worked his backside off for this country. Never moaned. Never bitched. Never complained. When they ask him to serve he serves. When they ask him to sacrifice he sacrifices. He, and everyone else at Honey Farms, are the backbone of this country as much as what the CEO is. Without him there is no America. America is not a country of CEO’s. America is a country of Americans. And everyone should pay their share of being able to call themselves American. The old guy paid his dues. Through sweat and taxes. Even today in his old age. He kept that CEO in his job. Buying his stuff and protecting his rights. The CEO can afford to pay more taxes so that the old guy doesn’t have to work in his old age. Or that the woman suffering from depression can get good help even though she can’t afford it. She works her butt off. Each and every day. She doesn’t sit back and do nothing. She contributes. She pays taxes. According to what she can. Her share. Even though her share of the American wealth is nothing compared to the CEO. We can’t expect him to let it “trickle down”. It won’t. It never has. It’s a fallacy that Reagan tried to sell and we now know it doesn’t work. Mr CEO doesn’t buy from Honey Farms.

One more thing… Patriotism.

Conservative Republicans keep on saying that the American companies will take their business elsewhere if they don’t get the “breaks”. Can we then please question the patriotism of these companies? Who are they? Let’s all stop buying from them if they hate America so much. They made their money off the back of American sweat and American consumers. And now they want to leave? They made their American Dream come true through the hard work and money of other Americans. They made their American Dream off the back and sweat and hard earned cash of those Americans who defines the true American Dream – freedom, justice and liberty without the money attached. Let’s leave them alone if they don’t show the same commitment to America as the old guy from Honey Farms.

I like my old guy from Honey Farms. I like everyone who works at Honey Farms. They taught me about America. Not the CEO and his buddies that I have known for many years. They are also Americans. But they are not America. It was Honey Farms that made me realize what America is all about. The spirit. The belief. The patriotism. The people.

I earn more than the guy at Honey Farms. Way more. I don’t earn $250,000 p.a. (Not yet!) But I am willing to pay a little more to make sure that the old guy from Honey Farms can just ride his bicycle and not worry about the cost of his healthcare. He is America and I am willing to do what it takes to make that work. I am willing to pay my share according to the share I own and earn. That should be the American way.

I really don’t know where this post is going. It’s about heroes. But not sure… Let’s see.

I was doing the dishes tonight. Cleaning up after I had a fight with the barbeque. Oh I lost alright. The chicken burned and I ran out of gas midway. But that’s not the story.

I was doing the dishes and my lovely wife called me to say one of my favorite telly guys just won an Emmy. Stephen Colbert. Wish you could all see this guy. As sharp as a knife. Remember what he did to Bush in 2006 at the White House Correspondence Dinner? Go have a look here if you get the chance. (It is in three parts so please go look for part 2 and 3. It was worth it. I promise. And what the hell was Bush thinking Stephen Colbert was going to do?) Anyway… That took balls. In the lion’s den and he really went for it. And his show won again.

So I stopped doing the dishes and sat down on the couch to have a quick look at Stephen Colbert. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t make a stronger political statement – he did it later when he joined Jon Stewart and they had a bit of a go at McCain. The old prune. I was about to get up when Steve Martin came on just after Stephen Colbert. I felt like having a laugh so stayed to watch him. And he introduced me to a new hero.

Tommy Smothers. Or Thomas Bolin “Tom” Smothers III as he is sometimes known. I won’t go into details of who he is. (Go here to see more on Wikipedia.) I didn’t know who he was. I was just watching Steve Martin make funny references about this guy. This guy who was going to get an Emmy for a show that hardly lasted more than a season back in the late 60s. Steve was funny, but I was about to get up when he did he speech and introduced the guy. For some reason I decided to stay and listen to what the guy had to say.

Well, maybe I stayed because Steve Martin told us how the show got cut because this guy got a little bit too political on his show. And how the guy didn’t want his name on the Emmy nomination back in the 60s because he thought that the other writers will stand less of a chance to win because of him. Honorable. And then he became my hero.

Just like that. This guy who could have had an easier life if he just kept quiet and did his show the way they wanted him to do it. Who could have had a much more successful career if he just kept his politics to himself. But he didn’t. He stood up for what he believed in. And he still does today.

I give you my new hero. And the words that made him my hero…

“It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war. And there’s nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action,” he said, dedicating his award to “all people who feel compelled to speak out, and are not afraid to speak to power, and won’t shut up and refuse to be silenced.”

That’s a hero. Someone who knows that there are easier ways. But only one right way. And a hero is someone who picks the right way.

Artists aren’t heroes. They are just celebrities. I like watching people like Colbert and Stewart. But they are paid do say what they say. They are good at it. They entertain me. But will they stay the same if the chips are down? Not all of them will. Bill Maher did. And he lost his job before everyone realized he was right. I don’t always agree with him. But he doesn’t pull punches. And never took the easy route.

But celebrities are just celebrities. Pretty people or funny people or “serious” actors. There to entertain us. Do they have a right to use this media for politics? Of course. They have an opinion and can use their medium just like everyone else. Like me. Like all of us. Just like NewsBusters and other right-wingers. I have no more knowledge than anyone else, but I use “my” medium to say what I want to say. And they have their medium. Some CEO’s use their mediums to influence politics. Why can’t actors? Charlton Heston did. And he is (was) loved by Republicans. Or rather by the pro-gun Republicans.

Hey Ronald Reagan was even voted into the office. And the role he was remembered best for was with a monkey. And no, I am not talking about Bush Sr, although I am sure he met Jr at some stage. And you know how I feel about Reagan. I didn’t like him then and I won’t start liking him just because he is dead. I saw the blood that came because of him. But this isn’t about Reagan. This is about heroes. And he wasn’t one.

After watching Tommy Smothers I was reminded of those other heroes I don’t know. That I haven’t met yet. Those men and women who defend the rights of Tommy to say what he wants to say. The soldiers. Yes. They are my heroes.

They do what is right. What they signed up for. To defend this great country when asked to defend it. To go into war when asked. Not questioning the war. Just doing what they said they would do. And staying true even if they don’t like it or agree with it.

Make no mistake. I hate war. And I especially hate the war in Iraq. There is nothing just about the war in Iraq. But they were asked to go into war by a weak President. And they did. Because that is what they signed up for. To defend this country. Even when the definition of defending is warped through lies and weakness and phantom enemies created by a President who ran away from war when it was his turn. The soldiers didn’t define what it means to defend. They only execute the decision by the leader who makes that decision. And the leaders who support that decision. They are heroes. Even when those who send them to fight a stupid senseless war are anything but heroes. President G. W. Bush is not a hero. The soldiers who fight his stupid war are.

It’s a shame they are not fighting a war to keep us safe. It is a shame that they are just fighting a war someone got them into. A war that has not made the US any safer than before 9/11. All it has done is to raise the possibility of them having to defend this country from more enemies than before. And one man wants them to fight some more wars no one can justify. “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Yes McCain. It might be funny to you. But to real heroes it is real and not funny. But don’t worry. These heroes will fight your stupid wars if you make it to the White House. While you sit in your nice cosy home – any of them. And when you sit there and laugh how you “got” the other guy.

These heroes will die for this country. To defend Tommy and everything he stands for. And they will die for McCain and everything he stand for. They will just do it. Because that is what makes them right. And because that is what makes them heroes. Those soldiers are heroes. Each and every single one of them. Even when I don’t agree with the war they are involved in.

But I also learned something else while washing the dishes. Heroes don’t always stay heroes. Tommy stayed a hero. He only became my hero tonight. But in truth… He has always been my hero. Because he always did what was right. Even before I knew him. That is a true hero. Someone who stays true no matter what. Even when it is tempting to take the easy route. Even when they could make more money or become more powerful if they took the other route.

So tell me Mr McCain… When did you stop being a hero? When was that moment that it happened? Or was it a gradual thing. Did doing the right thing slowly wash off you like a bad childhood memory? Or were you never really a hero? But we met you as a hero. When you took every single thing they threw at you when they tortured you and just stayed true. Stayed a hero. For more than 5 years while a prisoner of war. You were a hero. What happened?

John Sidney McCain III. How did you stop becoming a hero? How did you turn into what you have become? How did you go from hero to Nero? Willing to lie to become more powerful. Willing to torture others when you were tortured. Willing to smear anyone else who stands in your way. Putting yourself above what is right. Putting yourself above those who are willing to defend your rights. When did you become like those who held you prisoner for more than five years? When did you stop being a hero?

Heroes… Heroes never give up. Heroes never stop. Heroes never think of themselves first. Heroes stay true no matter what. To Tommy. You are a hero. To those men and women who stay true to what is asked of them no matter what. You are heroes.

McCain. You are not. You are a hero lost. And maybe that is the saddest part of it all. You could have been one…