New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 4, 1985, New Braunfels, Texas
New Braunfels Hera\d-Zeitung Thursday, July 4,1985
Dave Kraasr, General Manager Robert Jokifoa, Editor
Ellen GoodmanAmerica: our separateness keeps us together
We might have chosen some other day. Maybe Sept. 3, the day the British signed the peace treaty in Paris. Maybe March 4, the day the U.S. Constitution became effective. Either one would have made a decent enough national holiday.
But July 4th was the day that audacious group of Americans declared independence. I suspect it was independence which seemed then, and certainly now, the American thing to celebrate.
^dependence was what united the different people of the suspicious states of late 18th-century’ America. Independence was what the polygot of immigrants in the late 19th century all read into the exploding firecrackers. Independence is what the late 20th-century population of self-seekers march to.
What connects us back through history to our founders and across space to each other is, ironically, a shared sense of the importance of our own separateness. Together, we defend our right to be independent of others, including each other. Together, we value self-reliance. And together we often forget our togetherness.
Americans are quick to demand the independence of our country from the world. We are eager to protect the family from the government. We are most eager to protect individuals from every intrusion. It is easier for many of us to think of the pursuit of happiness as a getaway plan. Even the words “I have to find myself” have become the farewell address of many relationships.
Yet the founding fathers of the country declared a split and a new union on the same day. This same ambivalence runs among modern Americans as well. Our desire to belong still rubs up against the more fierce desire to separate.
In the book Habits of the Heart, five sociologists describe this quality in the American character as ‘‘the deep desire for autonomy and self-reliance combined with an equally deep conviction that life has no meaning unless shared with others in the context of community.” But they are aware, as most of us are, that the centrifugal forces are more powerful.
The authors met people who were virtually tongue-tied when they tried to explain the meaning of commitments
in their daily lives. The language of the self was everywhere they went, especially in the popularized lingo of psychology. But the vocabulary of connection was sorely limited.
I have seen some of that in daily life. Many of us get our greatest sustenance from home life and yet raise our own children to leave home. Often we live in families counting on each other for support and yet teach our children “the importance of self-reliance as the cardinal virtus of individuals.”
In the same cultural ambivalence, we go on valuing marriage but become increasingly wary of “losing ourselves” in it. Even husbands and wives deeply committed to each other are less able to explain why except in the feel-good terms of psychobabble. Increasingly, religious or political communities, are evaluated by how they serve our individual needs.
“We strongly assert the value of our self-reliance and autonomy. We deeply feel the emptiness of a life without sustaining social commitments." write the authors of Habits of the Heart. “Yet we are hesitant to articulate our
sense that we need one another as much as we need to stand alone, for fear that if we did we would lose our independence altogether.”
I don’t know why Americans see the “I” as fragile and the “we” as threatening. I don’t know why it is easier for us to ward off intrusions on our freedom than to welcome supporters.
It may be because we are a nation of inveterate leavers. It may be because we still feel essentially that we have to make it on our own — we are loners in the economy if not the wilderness. It may be simply that we need a language to describe the values of sharing and the ways joint effort enlarges any sense of enterprise and mutes loneliness.
But on at least one July 4th it’s worth remembering that the original day of independence was also a day of commitment and of community. They were not isolated self-seeking loners who closed the declaration by saying. “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
What's in a word? Not sure? Look it up
A letter is at hand from Edith Kelt/ of Northbrook, 111. Her word is “mundane.” Another letter comes from Trudy McV icker of Hound l^ike Beach, 111. Her word is “fungible.” The gentlewomen, I can tell you, have the souls of writers. They are in love with words.
This is an indispensable characteristic for any person who wants truly to become a writer. You must see words in all kinds of ways as elementary tools, as precision instruments, as the merest playthings, as jewels to be caressed and admired. And the identifying mark of all such lovers of words is: They look 'em up.
So with Mrs. Feltz. She started to use “mundane” in something she was writing, but in the back of her head was a small stirring of uncertainty. Her thought was that “mundane” has but one meaning — commonplace, dull, boring, everyday, banal, ordinary, humdrum. She was sure the accent was on the first syllable. To her astonishment, she discovered that
while “mundane” lias the negative connotations she had attached to it, its first meaning is “worldly" as distinguised from “heavenly” or “spiritual. And the word can be accented on either syllable.
So, too, with Ms. McV icker. She read a review in the Chicago Sun Times of a book about China. The book is a companion volume to a TV series about China on the Public-Broadcasting System. Said the reviewer: “After the series has ended, viewers will still have a fungible reminder of what they have seen.”
Fungible reminder? She looked it up. She found that Webster’s, American Heritage and Random House are equally unintelligible: “Being of such a nature or kind that one unit or part may be exchanged or substituted for another unit or equal part to discharge an obligation.” Said Ms. McVicker: “It still does not make any sese to me.”
If a writer for the Christian Science Monitor had been blessed with the same curiousity, he would not have
blundered in April in a story about a seed company that sent out samples of a new turnip seed. “Back came some of the most fulsome praise for a vegetable that Thomas ever received.” The writer went on to quote some of the rave reviews given the new variety. He thought “fulsome” meant "enthusiastic," or “warm,” or “sincere.” Well, it doesn’t.
On other matters: Homophones, those mischievous sound-alikes, continue to bite at our prose like chiggers at our ankles. In Winston-Salem, N.C., the Associated Press reports, “Brown also is charged with speeding to allude arrest.”...At a meeting at the Cascades Volcano Laboratory in Vancouver, “about 300 people poured over laser equipment and other displays."...In Philadelphia, a citizen wrote the Inquirer to demand the resignation of a city commissioner “for her cavalier flaunting of the tax laws."...In Washington, D.C., The Post quoted a spokesman for the Department of Transportation on
Hat conj! THATS RIGHT, TOMMY, irs mo ANL I'M HERE VIEU
time!erne w only losers
TANNING CHAMP ZONKER HARMS!
LIE IN THE SUN f
SO PIP I YOUNGSTER BUT BUT BUT THEN I HOSED UP I THOUGHT SEE THIS '‘HEALTHY TANNING GUJk/r TAKE A CLOSER UIA6COOL, LOOK!'
GET SMART. C1MR UP. ALOHA
Want some dough? Put a curse on it
advertisements offering airline seats at a bulk rate: “We have seen these ads, and they have peaked our curiosity.”
Once more the record: Look things up! We ought not to confuse allude and elude, pour and pore, flaunt and flout, and peak and pique, and we won’t mix them up if we will only cultivate the writer’s sixth sense of something that’s not quite right.
The mail brings some magnificent bloopers and mangles. In a feature story from the Newhouse News Service: “Tall and slender, Jane Goodall’s eyes, ringed by crow’s feet, seem to dance when she talks about her chimps.”...in the Birmingham (Ala.) News, we learn that delegates to Democratice national conventions "are now half men, half women.’’...And this from the program of the Presbyterian Church of Plum Creek, Pa.: “The music for today’s service was composed by George Frederick Handel in celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth.” Somebody couldn’t get a Handel on that sentence.
There have been many stones about bright kids using their home computers to steal large sums of mone> They don’t even have to break down a door or crack a safe the way the old-time thieves had to do.
With their technical wizardry , all they have to do is figure out how to punch into the computers of banks or other financial institutions and electronically switch money from this account to this one.
That is known as giving the younger generation the advantages which we never had. Or progress.
But I'm pleased to note that some things don't change.
Just the other day. the cops grabbed Laura Wanko, a tiny gypsy woman who lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side, and tells fortunes, gets rid of evil spells, curses and whammies, and brews up potions that will make people happy.
It seems that a woman came to laura for help and advice in solving her problems By the time I .aura got done helping her. the woman wasn't any happier, but she was $39,000 lighter.
I'm always amazed when I hear about people being plucked that way, since we are in the late 20th century, and it’s hard to believe that gy psies are still running cons.
But con artists like Laura and her many thieving relatives goon and on, with the same gimnucks they’ve been using for centuries. And there are always people who fall for them
This is the way she did it, according to Detective Dallas Tyler, who specializes in gypsy scams
“The woman who came to her had problems. She was an intelligent, reasonable woman. But Laura convinced her that there was a curse inside of lier. And she told her to bring an egg that she had slept with under her bed.
“Then she breaks the egg and says she sees something inside that proves there is a curse And she tells her to bring some bathwater that she’s bathed in. Then she pours it in a dish and it creates the image of the devil on the bottom of the dish That’s easy to do. You pour a chenucal on the
plate and when waler pours on it, the images ppears.
“After that, she convinced her there was a devil in her life, which wasn't hard to do with some people lf you believe in God, chances are you believe in the devil.
“Then she convinced her that she had a mcney curse She told her that one (rf her bank accounts was cursed and that if she didn t take the money out of it. her children or loved ones would die.
“To convince her that the money was cursed, she brought out a rooster to look at the money and the rooster went into a kind of stupor She has a way of putting a rooster into a stupor Then she had her spit on the cursed money and she said she should throw it into a box and she'd bury it to get rid of the curse So the woman spit on her money and threw it into a box. Then Laura took it out to bury it We don't know what she did with that money, though, because she's not admitting anything “That wasn't enough for her She told the woman to borrow $20,000 from her church. That was somehow going to help in lifting the curse “That’s when the light finally dawned on the woman that something wasn t right. So she came to us and we made a clean pinch on Laura.”
It's not known if Laura Wanko is related to Rachel Wanko, who once clipped an old janitor here in Chicago for $16,000 Or if laura or Rachel Wanko are related to Louis Wanko, who was in on a scam with a fortune-teller named Mother Vanessa, who took an old lady for $120,000 As the cop said, the Wankos are a big family. And they apparently keep pretty busy with their stuptfied roosters, devils on plates, and cursed eggs under the bed.
But if you think about it, why should it be surprising that there are people who believe I .aura Wanko.
Every day, thousands of stock-bokers call supposedly sane people and tell them that if they just write a check, they'll become rich. That’s legal.
Small claims treatment frustrates reader
I am writing this letter to enlighten the public as to what is happening in our “Small Claims Court”.
A short time ago, my daughter filed suit against a party owing money to her. The filing fee was $25.50. Although the party was easily located, several months passed before (tis summons was served. The court date finally arrived and my daughter was awarded the judgment. At this time the defendant proceeded to tell the Judge that he did not have the money now and could not pay it all at once.
To this the Judge replied “this is only a judgment, you don’t have to pay it at all if you don’t want to.”
Needless to say site has not collected a penny fom this party. The only recourse she has is to abstract and record this judgment in hjpes that the party will someday own ana »cil a piece of real estate. At this time she could collect oo this Judgment against IL This could be fears or maybe never.
I woald like to know Just how ti-foeti** Is s SMALL CLAIMS Coart being operated in this manner? She would certainly never waste her filing fee to appear in front of this judge again.
Name witnheld by request
HA, HA'LOOK AT THAT KIP MTH NO TAN1 BOY, IS HE
PONT LAUGH., TOMMY THE JOKE COULL BE ON YOU! ^