Thursday, June 19, 2008

The following may seem silly but it is bases on an actual incident.

In the 1800's Chinese laborers were imported in large numbers to do tedious work on the expanding railroads and and the dangerous and demanding work in the mines.

The "Celestial" as they were referred to were the subject of scorn by the European workers not only for their strange dress and customs but for the fact they they worked harder and demanded less.

Individuals after working ten or twelve straight hours would tend their little plots of vegetables only to have cowboys demolish their crops by riding their horses over the maturing plants.

Those that panned the rivers for gold were subject to be beaten or murdered for the valuable dust.

There was a murder in Colfax, Washington, in those days. The Marshal needed a perp. Rather than doing a laborious investigation he arrested a young Chinese man who it was reported had walked through the area of the crime at one time or another.

Justice in those days was prompt. Some wanted to string him up immediately but the Marshal was a stickler for procedure so the man was dragged to the local bar which was quickly converted to a courtroom. A jury of good Americans was selected from the imbibers and impaneled.

When it was pointed out that the accused neither spoke nor understood English, someone was sent out to get Chan, the laundry man, who spoke passable pidgin English and was respected as a good "Chinaman".

The prosecution presented its case. It was time for the defense. The only witness for the defense was the testimony of the poor guy.

As he went to the stand, the impartial judge mused that since all Orientals lied in their dealings with Europeans he doubted if he could accept the testimony.

The laundry man assured him that Chinese were very superstitious and the custom in China was for the testifying person to cut the head off a live chicken, grab it by the feet and swing it around his head three times. To lie after that ritual was to endanger one's immortal soul.

Chan then began a long conversation in Chinese with his client in which he demanded that his instructions were to be followed without question. Your life depends on.

Wondering why he was doing it, the man took the offered knife and decapitated the chicken and began swinging it around his head. Heart still beating the chicken spewed gore over the clothing and faces of juror and spectator alike.

The laundry man then began translating a long story he was actually making up as he went along
confirming the fact that the accused had been attending a Chinese Benevolent Society meeting at the time of the crime. The other ten members of the board were waiting out in the street to confirm. Could they recess while he found ten more chickens?

No need! The acquittal decision was quick and unanimous.

The chicken was brought in. The young man was given a sharp knife.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Concerning statues in Europe as mentioned in my previous blog, a guide told us that if the hero is depicted astride a horse, he died in battle. If he is depicted standing, he died in bed of old age.
Is the greater hero the one who died in battle?

This puts me in mind of General George S. Patton's harangue to his troops immediately before the D-day embarkation to Normandy. It went something like this:

No poor S. O. B. ever won a war by dying for his country. Wars are won by making some poor unlucky S. O. B. on the other side die for his country.

I don't know if that was original with him but I have always felt it was profound.

In this same vein was the statement by my ROTC professor at the University that any time the military fires a shot at an enemy in anger it was a result of a string of failures by civilians to take adequate diplomatic action and of the military to flex its muscles and maneuver in such a way as to intimidate the prospective foe.

In 1950 was he ahead of his time?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mike gave me a copy of an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal reporting on the pledge of cousins Stan and Alta in the amount of four million dollars to the University of Washington Law School "to establish an institute to improve human services around the world."

My first thought was our family has come a long way from grandfather B. who in early life was a cooper's apprentice shaping barrel staves and after coming to America went farm to farm with a horse and wagon bartering for scrap metal and animal skins. Grandfather often slept in barns and ate meals offered by the farmers on their back porches.

But reading even further, I was impressed by Stan's quote:

A lack of basic human services, many of which are widely available to the wealthy, is preventing the poor from improving their lives. Ensuring those services is a smart foreign policy that will save lives and earn a great deal of good will."

Over the weekend I attended the high school graduation of a young man adopted at birth by an American family after being abandoned by his birth mother, a Central American Indian, at a mission hospital. This was her seventeenth live birth. With her husband, children and a grandchild, twenty people shared space in a one room shanty where they lived on a bare subsistence level.

Mainly due to poor nourishment no one in the family including the parents was over five feet tall. This biological son is approaching six feet. With the love and encouragement of his adoptive parents and siblings he is off to continue his schooling and will have meaningful life.

Traveling in Europe, I remarked to my wife, "There are statues all over to people who have lead armies to war. Where are the statues of people who have prevented war?"