I commit the unpardonable sin


Unofficial Motto of the Church of Christ
Some basics: The fundamentalist Church of Christ is congregationally ruled, and its beliefs and practices differ by time and location. The following is based upon my experiences in Mississippi and Georgia during the 1950s and '60s, places in which my father's father and his father had been preachers. 

The churches of my boyhood: (1) regarded the Church of Christ as the "one true church" and explained its actual 19th century origin as a resurfacing following two millennia of persecution; (2) boasted of having no written statement of faith; (3) held that salvation was through a combination of faith and works; (4) believed that members of other churches and religions were destined for eternal agony; (5) practiced baptism by immersion; (6) forbade women preachers and (in Mississippi) women Sunday school teachers and announcement makers; (7) celebrated "the Lord's Supper" every Sunday; (8) boasted of studying "the Bible only" rather than books about the Bible; (9) taught that "the way of salvation is so simple that even a child can understand it;" (10) held that all doctrinal mistakes come from willful disobedience and doom the person who makes them to hell

(11) regarded political involvement as un-Christian; (12) held that all lawyers are hell-bound liars; (13) disapproved of Masonry and other secret organizations; (14) believed that divorced people who remarry commit adultery; (15) denied the intellectual reality of atheism ("The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God);" (16) regarded instrumental music during worship services as sinful (people weren't even allowed to bring a piano into the church for a wedding for fear non-church attendees might think the church used musical instruments all the time); (17) denounced Christmas as a "pagan holiday;" (18) kept no membership roles because only God knows who is and isn't a member of his church and; (19) kept no tithing roles because the promise of future income would eliminate the necessity of faith; (20) believed that sincere seekers of God in all places and at all times would be led by God to a Church of Christ; (21) Churches of Christ that disagreed with other Churches of Christ claimed that these other churches were "false churches" and were therefore doomed to hell; (22) some churches forbade the use of more than one glass for communion because when he instituted "the Lord's Supper," Christ said "this cup" rather than "these cups."

Although people (ourselves included) commonly referred to our church as the Church of Christ, its official name was given in the plural because that's how it appears in the Bible. This meant that instead of saying, "I belong to Johnson Grove Church of Christ," I was supposed to say, "I belong to Johnson Grove Churches of Christ." Another example of literalism turned fanaticism comes from the occasional ministerial debates I heard that ran along the following line and that, coincidentally, related to my own history. To whit: the Bible says that a person has to be baptized to be saved; when I was twelve, I asked to be baptized during a revival at a church without a baptistry; I was taken to another church for baptism. 

The debate question was this: if someone dies in a wreck on the way to be baptized, will he go to heaven or hell? The invariable conclusion was that he would go to hell because he failed to meet one of the requirements of salvation. Small wonder that even the literalistic Southern Baptists considered the Church of Christ nutty, not that we cared about their opinion because they weren't even Christians in our view.

The most painful event of my boyhood occurred one day when I was thirteen and running my paper route. I had been struggling for two years to hold onto my faith, and in exasperation, I said to God at a spot in the street that I still remember, "I don't know how you can expect me to trust you when you failed your own son" (as he hung on the cross, Christ had uttered, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"). I don't know how many seconds passed before it occurred to me that I might have committed the unpardonable sin (a sin that is mentioned in the Bible but, strange to say, never defined), but I lived in terror for years.

The prospect of telling anyone what I had done seemed unthinkable, yet I became so desperate for reassurance that, a few years later, I went to the country home of Bro Buford Stewart (we called our preachers Brother because the Bible didn't authorize the word reverend) the man who baptized me. Once there, my courage failed, so I suffered for several more years until I had so little remaining faith that I stopped worrying and started hating. First, I hated the Church of Christ for the needless pain I had endured because I trusted it; I hated the people who abandoned me when I left the church; and I hated the deity that it represented, not because I still believed in him, but because of how much I had suffered because of what I had been told about him. From my earliest memory, I had been made to feel so afraid of God that I would sometimes hide under the bed in tearful terror after a "fire and brimstone" sermon (something that the Church of Christ was big on), and I now concluded that this made me a victim of emotional abuse.

Some men my age remember the War in Vietnam--I remember living in daily fear of eternal hell. I have been told that, had I grown up with a kindly image of God in some other church, I wouldn't have become an atheist, but all churches worship a deity that is depicted as all-powerful and all-loving yet one that created an imperfect world and that continues to remain passive in the face of an infinity of suffering and death, much of it committed in his name. Even if a deity should exist, I believe that we commit an act of cowardice and even immorality when we profess to love him for "sending his only begotten son to die for our sins," when it is he who is in need of our forgiveness. We might as well whitewash shit and serve it up as bread.

On Sex, a Personal Perspective


Bower Bird Artistry
The recent news regarding men who sexually degrade women has led many women to express the belief that all, or nearly all, men are guilty of at least wanting to engage in sexual aggression; sexual aggression doesn't deserve to be understood; the only way to end sexual aggression is to shame, sue, and criminalize bad behavior. Furthermore, all sexual aggression is the same, so any man who dares to suggest that,  

There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape (a paraphrase of Matt Damon)  

Is unqualified to judge such things by reasons of his maleness, so all men should keep quiet and listen for once (a paraphrase of Minnie Driver). 

Man that I am, keeping quiet is not one of the things I do best, so I'm going to write about my own sexual history and the beliefs regarding women that led to my behavior.

My earliest memory is of wanting to sleep beside the wife of a visiting cousin when I was, I suppose, three or four. I thought the woman was more than human and that she was drawing me irresistibly to her. I believed she knew everything about me, and that she had given her silent consent for us to sleep together. When my mother said it was time for me to go to bed, I was pulled from the woman's lap screaming amid adult laughter. I have often felt a similar heartache regarding my relationships with women. 

During my adolescent years, my sexual naiveté was endless. For example, I must have been fourteen before I discovered that vaginas existed. That same year, I called a friend one night to ask what the word fuck meant. He said I was supposed to already know, so I hung-up wondering if he knew.

When I was fourteen or fifteen, three male friends and I went on a camping trip together. They knew one another better than I knew them, and they wanted us to pair-up for sex. I saw the prospect as an exotic lark, but when Dennis tried to stick his penis up my ass, I tightened my buttocks until he gave up. I might have been the only straight kid in school who knew who many of the queers were, because even the ones who intuited that I was straight trusted me with their secret. I often wished that I was gay because men can understand men in a way that women can't.

All but one of the girls I dated in high school wanted to have sex with me, but I demurred because I was in abject terror of getting them pregnant, none of them being on the pill, and me not trusting condoms. 

I imagined that girls had all the power in relationships, yet I began to feel sorry for them one day in the school cafeteria while watching my friends repeatedly drop their forks on the floor so that they could stick their heads under the table and "shoot squirrels." Poor student that I was, I wouldn't have known the word dehumanizing, but that's how I felt, and when they went on to talk about girls as if they were objects that boys needed yet hated, my sympathy increased. If a boy talked tough about girls, I figured he was tough, it never occurring to me that he might have been hiding his vulnerability. It did occur to me that anyone who hated girls was doomed to being unhappy and causing unhappiness.

I lost my virginity at age twenty-two to a contraceptive-taking college girl named Judy. Judy was only fairly attractive, but there she was; there I was; and the sex felt good. I think she gave me hepatitis, but the blood test for the disease was inconclusive in 1971, and later blood tests didn't contain the expected markers. I lost thirty pounds, ran a low grade fever, and felt so fatigued that I had to quit my first teaching job. When I turned yellow, my doctor put me in the hospital where I got well on my own.

I only behaved with sexual aggression once, and that was in 1970 or '71 when I took a new acquaintance on a picnic. I was, in a manner of speaking, was "all over her." When she went from discomfort to fear, I stopped. Because I regarded attractive women as demigods (I had no such illusions about homely women), I not only treated them well, I was afraid of them. I felt like a male bower bird who knocks himself out to impress females, while said females stand to one side and pass judgment on his existence. I would guess that a lot of male anger toward females is inspired by the fact that our self-worth comes from winning the approval of females, yet the games we are obliged to play to win their approval robs us of self-worth. 

As for my deficits, I was handsome but not memorably so, and although my personality was pleasing, people didn't seek me out. I wouldn't have spent money conspicuously even if I had been rich, nor would I have been interested in women who valued conspicuous spending. As for assets, I possessed depth, sensitivity, intellectual leanings, and a college education. I also preferred the company of women to that of men. When a female co-worker said, "You really like women, and not many men do," I couldn't imagine what there was to dislike.

If I thought a woman's eyes contained kindness, depth, wisdom, and sadness (sad women made me feel protective and therefore safe), I was capable of investing their owner with all manner of virtues. The trait that attracted me most was the one that I found in Peggy, which was gentle modesty, while the one that bothered me most was what I interpreted as an effort to present oneself as sexually available by wearing tight clothes, string bikinis, heavy makeup, low necklines, exposing one's midriff, and so on. Despite the fact that I was promiscuous for much of my adult life, I regarded the appearance of promiscuity as being like a sign that read, "All I'm good for is fucking." Other turn-offs were women who were loud, vulgar, mercenary, incurious, unintelligent, or fur clad. I regarded the Playboy models as interchangeable from the neck down and as near as Hugh Hefner could make them from the neck up. While I was willing to have sex with women I didn't like, sex was all I was willing to have with them.

Because I valued emotionally honest women, I tried to present myself as emotionally honest even if I had to lie. If a woman preferred a man who could cry, I could cry. If she wanted poetry, I could write poetry. If she asked for my complete acceptance, I would feign complete acceptance even if it meant telling a potty mouth that I preferred profane women, or a smoker that I was okay with kisses that tasted like a dirty ash tray. My combination of lust and adoration were such that whatever a woman honestly wanted, I could fool myself into honestly giving, at least until we had sex, after which I sometimes lost all interest in her.

I regarded physical intimacy as inseparable from emotional intimacy, but also as something that needed to be gotten out of the way before emotional intimacy could occur. I suspect that most men would prefer to get to know a woman by fucking first and talking later, the desire for sex being like the need to scratch an itch

I used to feel sorry for older men because I didn't believe that younger women could want them for anything other than their money, so I'm now happy to find that this older man has no interest in younger women--or in older women for that matter--for sex. I've gone from being unable to walk a city block without being repeatedly aroused to regarding few women as beautiful, and even those few don't strongly affect me. If I could choose between a gift subscription to a porn magazine or to a magazine about cats, I would take the one about cats.

I've gone from thinking that permanent bliss could only be attained through women (I was vague about how many women this would require) to realizing that my pursuit of women was like a collapsed bridge that separated me from bliss. Thomas Moore wrote the following over 200 years ago, not about women, but about the obsessive pursuit of women. When I first read Moore's poem (of which the following is a fragment) decades ago, I thought he was engaging in wishful thinking, the reason being that I regarded women as the sea and men as tiny boats that the sea is free to toss about and sometimes destroy.

"The time I’ve lost in wooing,
In watching and pursuing
The light, that lies
In woman’s eyes,
Has been my heart’s undoing.
Though Wisdom oft has sought me,
I scorn’d the lore she brought me,
My only books
Were woman’s looks,
And folly’s all they’ve taught me.

As for sex itself, I thought of the vagina as something that had the power to draw me unto itself whether I willed it or not, or whether I was granted access or not. I have come to realize that this attitude is not a given among men, with some men even abhorring the thought of a union that I regarded as an act of worship, an act that could lift me to the heavens, if only for a moment. The following is Hjalmar Söderberg's expression of a view wholly unlike my own:

"Why must the life of our species be preserved and our longing stilled by means of an organ that we use several times a day as a drain for impurities; why couldn't it be done by means of some act composed of dignity and beauty, as well as of the highest voluptuousness? An action which could be carried out in church, before the eyes of all, just as well as in darkness and solitude? Or in a temple of roses, in the eye of the sun, to the chanting of choirs and a dance of wedding guests."
from Dr. Glas, circa 1905

Indeed, why couldn't it? I elevated to the heavens an act full of sweat, odors, cries, screams, grunts, and squirming, an act also conducted by hogs in filth. I imagined that the gender that brought life into the world could somehow preserve my own life although it can't even save itself. Even when I claimed to worship Jesus, I would have urinated on the Bible in exchange for sex with any one of innumerable women that I mistook for goddesses. I now regard my behavior as degrading, yet if my hormones were to rage now as they raged then, I doubt that I would behave any better.

Putting all that aside, a man is not a hog and, for better and worse, we presumably bring more than a hog to the act of sex and all that surrounds it. I will quote again from Söderberg, only this time, instead of teaching me things that I had only dimly considered, he's reminding me of decades spent longing to be saved while also longing to save:

"...we know so little about one another. We embrace a shadow and love a dream... But I'm alone and the moon is shining, and I long for a woman. I could be tempted to go over to the window and call her up, she who is sitting down there alone on the bench, waiting for someone who doesn't come. I have port wine and brandy and beer and good food and the bed has been made. Wouldn't it be heaven...?"

A New Kitty


Sage's Cage Card
We agreed that three cats were enough. Then we made the mistake of looking at the kitties at PetSmart nine days ago just for fun. We had done the same thing after agreeing that two cats were enough, and the result of that visit had been Scully. 

I encouraged Peggy to get Sage, and after thinking about him continually for two days, she did. Scully's adoption had been more interesting in that after Peggy fell in love with her but declined to adopt her, we went across the street to Costco to grocery shop. While there, I asked Peggy if she was sure she didn't want Scully, to which she responded, "Go get her." Upon hearing these words, I ran from the store, only getting to PetSmart a minute ahead of another person who wanted her. Peggy later said that she had been joking about getting Scully and had thought I was too.

The Back of Sage's Cage Card
If you have other cats, you're supposed to keep your new cat isolated for a few days until the cats you already have get used to his presence. Meanwhile, you're supposed to take items that the cats have touched back and forth so the cats can smell one another. When we did this with Smokie (a cat we kept for a few weeks until his new owner could get him), and our cat Brewsky hated him anyway, we decided to ignore the isolation advice when we adopted our second cat, Ollie. When Brewsky immediately started bathing Ollie, we knew we had done right, so we did the same thing when we go Scully. Scully hissed at Brewsky and Ollie for about an hour, but after that they were friends, so we again concluded that we had done right.

So we did the same thing with Sage (a week ago today), only to watch in horror as Brewsky stomped about hissing, not only at Sage but at Ollie and Scully. By the next day, things had calmed down. Scully and Sage are now playmates and Scully is bathing Sage. As for Brewsky, he's somewhere tween rejection and acceptance. Ollie is still hissing, but only when Sage gets really close to him.

An acquaintance of mine asked me why we would pay $120 for a cat when we could have gotten one for free off Craigslist. The question reminded me of why I dislike the man who asked it. I told him that the money got us a cat that had been socialized in foster care, had received its shots, been neutered, been treated for parasites, and came with a free vet visit. Most importantly, we were supporting people who are doing their best to make the world better for cats, to which end they reserve the right to visit your home and require that the cat be indoor-only. They also ask: what you would do if the cat needed $2,000 worth of veterinary care; how long each day the cat will be alone; what you will do with the cat if you move; and other questions that people like my interrogator would consider intrusive.*

I didn't say, but wish I had, that I don't even want to look into the face of people who only have kittens to get rid of because they're too callous and irresponsible to have their cats spayed and neutered. I didn't say this because my questioner had just told me of taking a box of fourteen kittens to work and leaving them outside his door. All he knew of their fate was that they were gone at the end of the day, and that was good enough for him. I hate people like that, yet they're the kind of people who rescue groups are forced to interact with for the good of their cats.

I admire no one on earth more than I admire people who help animals that have no voice with which to praise them and no arms with which to give them plaques and trophies. I often feel guilty that I'm not such a person. The author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion argues that too much empathy is the enemy of compassion. His says is that when a person identifies too strongly with the victims of the world, it makes him so miserable when he tries to help those victims that he can't keep it up. This, I believe, is true of me. Maybe it's also an excuse. For what it's worth, I try to be a really good pet owner. I look at our new kitty, and I ponder the fact that all in the money in the world couldn't create such a miracle, yet millions of his kin die needlessly each year because of people like my questioner. Peggy and I had the same furnace technician out three times this year, and on his second visit, he told us that when he dies, he hopes to come back as one of our cats. Aside from Peggy telling me that she loves me, it was the nicest thing anyone ever said to me.

*Please visit my friend Strayer at https://catwomanflix.blogspot.com/)


I find myself in a quandary


Peggy is going to have back surgery for two slipped lumbar disks and one extrusion (the inside of the disk is being squeezed out of the disk). It's her third surgery ever (I'm up to around twenty), and the other two weren't as scary.

Peggy's back started hurting her out of the blue two months ago, but she wouldn't go to the doctor until she was fighting back tears. Then came an MRI, steroids, and a two week wait to see a surgeon (Carmina Angeles). I told Carmina that I knew Peggy to be in a lot of pain because Peggy is in the habit of hiding her pain, but she has been unable to hide this. Carmina said she's seen grown men cry and grown women crawl into her office begging for surgery when their MRIs looked like Peggy's.

Peggy has a friend named W___ who has been in love with her for at least two decades. W___ and I were good friends for years, but when his last marriage failed (he's had five failed relationships in the thirty years we've known him, two of which were marriages), he no longer wanted to be around me. He wouldn't say why, but I suspected that it was because he saw me as a barrier between him and Peggy. I suspected this strongly enough that I wouldn't have stood between him and a cliff-top, yet I couldn't be certain that I was right. When I had my knee replacement last August, he stayed at the hospital for every waking moment (of the three days) that he wasn't at work, and he treated me so lovingly that I came to trust that he wanted to be friends again. When I got out of the hospital and he ignored me completely, I felt hurt and pressed (over three emails) for an explanation. After my third email, he responded with but one word ("Stop"), and I concluded that he hadn't spent all those hours at the hospital in order to support me but rather to support Peggy. 

Now that it's Peggy's turn to go into the hospital, I anticipate him wanting to stay with her. I told her that I wouldn't be comfortable with that, and she said that: (1) his welcome would be contingent upon him apologizing for that email; and (2) she won't tell him that she expects such an apology unless he says that he intends to come to the hospital. In other words, she's unwilling to broach the subject of him coming to the hospital, but if he broaches it, she won't demand that he answer my question, but she will demand that he apologize to me for his response. Such an apology wouldn't mean squat to me because all I would take from it would be that W___ was willing to fake an apology in order to stay at the hospital with Peggy. My best guess is that he will either not bring up the subject of coming to the hospital and afterwards not come, or that he will show-up unannounced.

Peggy doesn't plan to tell him when she's going to the hospital in order to avoid the latter scenario, but I'm confident that he will be able to figure it out. If he should simply show up, I'll just bear it the best I can because it certainly wouldn't be a good time for a row, and because I wouldn't see it as my right to tell him to leave. For Peggy's sake, I can but hope he won't come, and this makes me wonder if she's doing right by not telling him upfront what she expects of him if he wants to come. She could, of course, ask the hospital to withhold her room number, but what a sad commentary that would be upon their friendship. In fact, it would be such a sad commentary that it would suggest--to me--that their friendship was damned near dead.

But regardless of what Peggy does, here's my problem: should I try to put aside my feelings, and tell Peggy that I would be okay with him coming to the hospital without offering an apology since his apology would be meaningless to me? While I wouldn't anticipate her changing her mind about demanding that he apologize, this isn't about what she says to him, but about what I say to her. My thought is that, if out of love for her, I were able to put aside my feelings, it might at the very least alleviate some of the tension she must be feeling given that she cares deeply for W___, and that, if circumstances were different, having him there would mean a lot to her. 

UPDATE

Peggy and I hadn't talked about this post until just now (two days after it was put online). She said that I seem to have misunderstood her in that, even if I said it was okay for W___ to come to the hospital, she wouldn't want him there unless he apologized to me because she recognizes that his presence would (1) cause me unhappiness, and (2) would make it harder for me to be emotionally present for her. She was also concerned that my post might be interpreted as portraying her as being on the fence about whom she wants to be her life's partner, although she is firm in her commitment to me alone.

The Franken photo


Peggy and me, 1981
For those who live in America and pay attention to the news, the top photo is a reminiscent of the recently released bottom photo of Minnesota senator Al Franken and a woman with whom he was on a USO tour (the USO entertains troops in war zones). My photo was taken by my brother-in-law who was "in on the gag." Peggy was, as might be expected, startled, but didn't complain, perhaps because she took the attitude that, "Boys will be boys," and that's partly why girls love them. 

Al's little joke is--to me anyway--harder to forgive because he was 55 (I was 32); he wasn't having a relationship with the woman in the photo (Peggy and I had been married for ten years); and because it occurred in 2006. That said, I don't know what preceded Al's photo. While no woman deserves to have her breasts touched without her permission, if the trip had been filled with ribald humor that went both ways, the photo might look worse than it appears. Although the woman insists that she was a victim all the way, I wouldn't bet money on it because: (a) Al set up the photo, implying that he didn't anticipate a negative reaction, and (b) it hasn't been established that he makes a habit of predatory behavior. None of us are as bad as our worse moment, and this might be Al's worse moment.


It's common in modern America to argue that people from decades ago should "have known better" about all manner of things. No doubt, many of us state this conviction over a steak dinner while wearing sweat shop clothes, and, when we're done, leaving our underpaid "waitperson" a 10% tip. Surely, none of us are as pure as we might be if we operated from our hearts rather than from the latest moralistic fad. I even think it likely that, for most of us, our hearts are so overlaid with decades of jumping on the bandwagon that we are dead to messages from our hearts.

I hadn't thought about the top photo in years, it only coming to mind after I saw the Franken photo. I feel uncomfortable with it, but Peggy doesn't (while neither of us is conservative, Peggy leans more heavily in that direction than I). 

I heard a radio program yesterday in which a woman interviewed several men who admitted to playfully slapping women on the ass (I wondered how many men she had to interview to fill a radio program with nothing but such men). In any event, the men said that it was all in good fun; was intended as a compliment (sort of like, "I wouldn't have raped you if I hadn't thought you were pretty"); and that if women don't enjoy it, they need to "lighten up."

I asked Peggy if there had ever been a time when she would have been okay with being slapped on the ass, no matter how well she knew the man who did it, and she said that, unless I did it, she would have always interpreted it as a low level sexual assault. Neither of us could remember me having ever slapped her on the ass, but I later recalled that (before we got old and pathetic) we used to roughhouse pretty much everyday, so I surely did, and it's also true that we have on occasion popped each other with rolled-up towels while working in the kitchen. I can but say that if Peggy held her body so inviolate it precluded innocent playfulness, I would have a problem with Peggy. Thankfully, I have never had such a problem with Peggy.

P.S. Whatever my faults, I'm better looking than Al Franken.

Thomas Dixon, Reconstruction, and the KKK


Frontispiece to The Clansman
While browsing at St. Vinnie's, I came across the works of a Baptist preacher/writer named Thomas Dixon (1864-1946) who was best known for three novels about the Reconstruction era following America's Civil War. These books are entitled: The Leopard's Spots; A Romance of the White Man's Burden (1902), The Clansman (1905), and The Traitor (1907). In 1915, D.W. Griffith made The Clansman into a hugely popular three-hour movie entitled The Birth of a Nation. The movie revived the waning Ku Klux Klan, and despite strenuous objections from the recently formed NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Dixon's friend, Woodrow Wilson, made it the first movie to be screened in the White House. I've completed the first two books of the trilogy, and nearly all of what I have to say about Dixon comes from these books, especially the first book in which he details his thoughts about race. 

Dixon depicts black people as inferior based upon their intrinsic immorality, intellectual dullness, and physical appearance. He argues that the black race never advanced culturally, technologically, or governmentally except under the immediate influence of white people, and that American slavery was a boon to black people in that it exposed them to the fruits of "four thousand years of white civilization." He blames blacks for the Civil War and repeatedly asserts that "a drop of nigger blood a nigger makes," by which he meant that, "It kinks the hair, flattens the nose, thickens the lip, puts out the light of intellect, and lights the fires of brutal passions."

The evil white characters in Dixon's book (carpet baggers and scalawags) manipulate the voting system to install equally evil, but far less intelligent, blacks into office in order to become rich through crooked governance (blacks won the vote in 1870), while the good white characters fight against corruption, and discuss what to do (once they have regained control over their black neighbors) with millions of recently freed illiterate people, hence the term "the white man's burden." The first goal is to disenfranchise black voters, and then to decide whether to keep them in the country or send them someplace where they would have the advantages of such civilization as the white race had been able to impart. Those who favor keeping them in America debate whether to put them to work in the various trades or restrict them to agriculture. Everyone agrees that education for blacks is undesirable because it couldn't alter their inherent inferiority while it would lead them to imagine themselves equal to whites. 

Dixon's position has several fatal flaws as I see it, all of them built upon the common human error of deciding what one wants to believe, and then looking for proof that it is true. To whit: (1) He never clearly defines the concept of innate black inferiority, and such evidence as he offers is self-serving and anecdotal. (2) He acknowledges that there are differences in individual potential within the white race, and he holds that every white person has the right to realize his unique potential to the fullest, but by lumping all black people together as being but a step away from savagery, he goes so far as to feel justified in relegating a genius to a life of manual labor without regard for that person's desires or abilities (I often pictured Neil DeGrasse Tyson while reading Dixon's books). (3) Dixon blames the problems that the black race had with assuming leadership during Reconstruction upon innate inferiority, while completely ignoring their problems with illiteracy, inexperience, and centuries of slavery. (4) Dixon is resigned to the fact that nothing short of terrorism can effectively keep an entire race of people in a condition of eternal subservience. (5) By holding the black race as barely human, Dixon is able to rationalize their oppression and exploitation as coming from a place of superior morality.

Dixon portrays the Ku Klux Klan of the Reconstruction era as a idealistic endeavor that was forced into existence in order to protect white Southerners from the combined vengefulness of the freed slaves and the U.S. military occupation. If it is true that the situation during the Reconstruction era was as desperate as Dixon described it, I too would have joined the Klan because I would have seen it as my only source of help and safety. That said, the circumstances that gave birth to the Klan ended when Reconstruction ended, and so it was that Dixon adamantly opposed the reconstituted Klan that his writings inspired. He wrote that it had little resemblance to the original Klan, and that its members tended toward stupidity and corruption. He also complained of its anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism.

Dixon's writings are yet another reminder of how woefully unschooled I am in regard to my nation's history despite the fact that the period of which he writes is a fourteen year segment of the much longer period (1865-1929) in which I am the most interested. He has also shown me how ignorant I am of the history of the KKK, a plethora of organizations with similar names which I imagined to have always been composed of sadistic ignoramuses who were proud of their ignorance and contemptuous of the educated. By contrast, the Klan which Dixon describes was a haven for men who were cultured, courageous, and idealistic. Even allowing for hyperbole, I am convinced that what I thought I knew of the Klan--and of America's Reconstruction era--was insignificant even where true.

Dixon has also reminded me of a personal deficit which lies increasingly heavy on my mind, namely that there are so very many things that interest me greatly, but that I hitherto ignored (thinking I would pick them up later) and now don't have time to learn. I had imagined that, by limiting my reading to a few decades of the largely forgotten literature of a single nation, I could at least become a passable scholar in regard to that period, place, and literature, but my mistake was akin to that of a person who looks at a slide of microscopic pond life and imagines it possible to learn everything that is known about something that is, after all, so small. If I could do my life over, I would probably strive for scholarship in the fields of American history and American literature, but where does that leave me now that my time is so short and my ignorance so vast? The walls are closing in upon me, and they find me as desperate to learn as I am paralyzed by the thought of how little time I have to learn. As Mme du Barry (mistress of Louis XV) expressed it as she stood on the scaffold, "Life, life, leave me my life. I will give all my wealth to the nation. Another minute, hangman!"

The Black Dog



During his confinement in Nazi work camps, psychiatrist Victor Frankel knew inmates who developed fantasies of being released on a given day. They would maintain optimism until that day came and went, at which point they would either throw themselves into the electric fence, or simply weaken and die.

I expected to be mostly recovered from my knee replacement in six weeks based upon remarks that the surgeon made. I was wrong, but I took comfort in the fact that I had made a lot of progress. I also reminded myself that full recovery can take a year. I then recalled that recovery from my shoulder replacement took longer than that (these joint replacements amount to dreadful wounds). At seven weeks, I developed a Baker Cyst, which is fluid-filled sac at the back of the knee that develops in response to irritation within the knee. I was first bothered by it many years ago, and I had a unsuccessful debridement surgery in 2008. For unknown reasons, the cyst eventually got better on its own, but now it's back, and the more I'm on my feet, the worse it hurts. I can no longer walk without a limp, or do most of my physical therapy exercises. Indeed, it was the exercises that brought back the cyst. I figured out which ones were to blame, and asked the therapist for alternatives. When she insisted that I continue with what she had already assigned, I decided that further therapy was most likely a waste of time.

Peggy's mother suffered so grievously from depression that she was twice institutionalized. She also suffered from chronic pain due to scoliosis, and when her life ended at age 79, the pain and depression had caused her to lose touch with the outer world. Thankfully, Peggy took after her father who's invariably upbeat. She will occasionally reflect upon something sad, and feel down for a few minutes or hours but, as far as I can tell, her lows are higher than my averages.

John Fox Jr. (1863-1919)
Because of her mother's problems, Peggy grew up vowing that she would never marry anyone who was mentally ill, and it is true that, for most of our relationship, I did better than I'm doing now. I was often lonely and found it hard to overcome disappointments, but I'm now discovering that the older I get, the lower I go. While I could have done much worse in life, I don't look upon my life as a success, and I've lost hope that I will ever realize whatever potential I once thought I possessed. 

Because of my growing struggles with depression, I simply don't have it in me to deal with additional challenges and, combined with my back problems and arthritic shoulders, this Baker Cyst is proving to be a significant problem in that it's keeping me from getting good sleep and meaningful exercise, both of which are essential in combating depression. 

Peggy has gone away with friends for a few days, and while I miss her, at least I don't have to bear with the guilt of knowing that I'm a growing burden. If somewhere deep within, I contain an untapped reservoir of strength and resiliency, I'm sadly unaware of it. It seems to me that the world is filled with people who do much better with problems that are much worse, yet I know that the mere act of making this comparison is a symptom of depression.

It's so very true that the last thing a depressed person needs is to have someone advise them to count their blessings and to reflect upon how much worse things could be, as if they're too stupid to come up with glibly obvious ideas on their own. I have heard a few people maintain that a person with cancer can simply think away the disease, but such people are rare, whereas those who say it about depression are commonplace. This is because they assign depression to a purposeful and inexcusable cowardice toward life, a failure as a human being that exists at the core of the sufferer's soul, and that could just as easily be remedied with a little gumption. During World War II, the English referred to the failure to fulfill ones duties as coming from "a lack of moral fibre." The hell of depression is that the sufferer accepts this appraisal, and at worst loses all hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Anna's Hummingbird
Still, my life is not devoid of meaning. Although my track record is poor, I find meaning in trying to be a good husband. I look for ways to show kindness to others; and I trust that my three cats would pronounce me a success due to the joy, goodwill, and affection that I offer them. I don't know how much a thousand little pleasures are worth when it comes to assigning meaning to life, but I love the hummingbirds that frequent my feeder, one species of which (see photo) will remain with me all winter. I enjoy strong black coffee; watching Perry Mason in the evening with Peggy; the birders' class that I attended yesterday; a nightly bowl of ice cream; the yellow leaves on the ash outside my window; and the John Fox, Jr book that I am now reading. Despite the physical and emotional pain, there is still much to do and to enjoy, at least on the days that I am able to get out of my own way enough to do them and to enjoy them.

Weinstein, Trump, and the Conservative Contempt for Women


Peggy taught high school math and science in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, in the mid-seventies. She was 22 and diminutive with a trim figure, brown eyes, and long brown hair. She looked so young that, on the first day of school, another teacher mistook her for a student and scolded her for being in the teachers' lounge. Mississippi teachers still paddled at the time, but the only kids who needed disciplining were boys who were much bigger than Peggy, and who laughed at her paddlings. One day as she leaving school, three boys met her in hallway. Two of them penned her arms behind her, and the third held a knife in her face. Peggy struggled, and the knife nicked her. The boys immediately let her go.

She told her principal of the incident, but heard nothing back. When she asked him about it, he told her that the matter had been "handled." When she demanded to know what "handled" meant, he said he had spanked the boys. It was the same same punishment he would have given for throwing spitballs. Peggy appealed the matter to the school board, and I went with her to the meeting. Peggy, the boys, their parents, and I were left in an outer room until the board got to her appeal. One of the mothers screamed at Peggy for "getting my boy into trouble," and then shoved her. I stood between the woman and Peggy, and warned the woman to back off. The board wouldn't let me into the meeting, so I remained with the boys and their parents. I told them that I hoped Peggy would file a criminal complaint. 

 The boys told the board that they hadn't meant to harm Peggy, and that she wouldn't have been cut had she not struggled. The board informed Peggy that these were "good kids." Its members then demanded to know what Peggy had worn that day; why she had remained at school after the final bell; and what she had done to make the boys think they could get away with treating her as they did. They quickly decided that the principal's punishment had been adequate. Instead of going to work the next morning, Peggy and I went to a lawyer. He wrote to the board saying that because they had failed to follow their own rules (which called for expulsion as the punishment for assaulting a teacher), as well as the laws of the State of Mississippi, Peggy no longer felt safe in her person or her property, and was unwilling to return to work.

The principal expressed dismay that she had become so upset over such a "trivial issue," told her that she was a fine teacher, and implored her to stay. The students got up a petition and, when she still refused to stay, bought her a going away present. She then went to nursing school, and finished her career life as a registered nurse. As I look back, I think she did right in not pressing charges because she would have surely been as victimized by the court as she had been by the school board.

I remembered this incident when I heard the news of Harvey Weinstein being called to task after decades of sexually demeaning and assaulting women. I further reflected upon the fact that, what Weinstein did and lied about, our president boasted of doing. As he put it: “Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” 

Why, then, did 52% of the women who voted in the last presidential election vote for Donald Trump? While Weinstein gave money to liberal politicians, liberal women have never, to my knowledge, intentionally voted for a sexual predator for president, nor were the politicians who took Weinstein's money aware of what an asshole he was. So what makes liberal women different from conservative women, and why is a president who exemplifies none of the virtues of Christ so popular among the sort of men who sat on Peggy's school board, by which I mean white evangelical Christians? Perhaps you can show me a way to shake off my conviction that conservative politics and conservative religion are diseased to the core, and that their cancer doesn't stop with their contempt for the rights of women, but rather extends to the support of policies that harm all classes of marginalized people--the very people that Jesus championed. 

Organized Christianity is already on the wane in America, and I can but hope that both it and America's political conservatives have firmly set their feet on the banana skin to hell by having aligned themselves with a party and a candidate who prove that all of their talk about love and brotherhood--as well as their claims of respect for women--is utter bullshit. I have long been accustomed to blatant Christian hypocrisy, but nothing has made me loathe religion more than the ongoing Christian support for Trump. In the minds of many, if not most, conservative Christians, nothing that a liberal does can meet with their high moral expectations, while nothing that a conservative does can disappoint them.

My take on the issues


I regarded Trump's election as a flip of the bird at the condescension of liberalism's most prominent faces, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I also saw in it an embrace of discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, homosexuals, transsexuals, and secularists. Because I too despise Obama, Clinton, and groups such as Black Lives Matter, I sympathized, yet I regarded a vote for Trump as like setting your child's head on fire to kill the lice.

I had these thoughts today because of a chain of comments between myself and a Georgia blogger (http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-world-is-not-ending-today-after-all.html), a chain that ended with him observing, sadly I thought, that Atlanta has become notable for its diverse cultures and religions. He would like life even less here in Oregon's Willamette Valley, because it is one of the most liberal, and least religious, parts of the country, although this isn't to say that conservatives and Christians don't abound. I didn't know how much they abounded until the "Make America Great Again" caps and bumper stickers started appearing during Trump's election bid. Sad to say, those who publicly supported Trump risked having their property vandalized, and one local man was even assaulted by a mob. Before moving to a liberal area, I imagined that being liberal meant being tolerant. After all, their bumper stickers read, "Honor Diversity."


I suspect that the few conservatives who read this blog regard me as a liberal, and that my liberal readers are sometimes offended by my conservatism. When we like someone, we want them to fit into our tribe, and this means that we must agree with them on important concepts. The purpose of this post is to present my views on current issues. You will find that I don't fit anywhere.

Diversity. I think it breeds disharmony, so I would prefer, in the interest of harmony, to live in a land that was overwhelmingly composed of people who trace their roots to Western Europe, which is to say, people who are as much like myself as possible.

LGBTQ. I'm fine with gays--I even like gays, and, yes, I think they are different from heterosexuals in ways other than who they sleep with. Transgenders? As many of you know, my father believed himself to be a woman, but I have no idea what influence that has on my attitudes. Suffice it to say that I want homosexuals and transgender people to have equal rights in every way, but I'm personally weirded-out by transgenders in particular. 

Hispanics? I don't want people sneaking into my country, although those who were brought here as children didn't sneak in, so they deserve special consideration. I especially resent the liberal equation of people who swim the Rio Grande with those who spend months or years working to gain legal citizenship. No country can maintain its identity if has open borders.

Women's rights?  I'm reticent about women going into professions that require explosive strength, and I'm especially leery of them going into combat, but I think that if we're going to have equality, it needs to be all or nothing, so I can hardly oppose women doing anything they want to do as long as they can pass the same tests as men. 

Abortion? I believe that people who equate a fetus with a human being are full of it, and so it is that I support the freedom to choose. While abortion is regrettable, I think it beats the alternative, which is to force the very women who are the least equipped to care for a child to either bear children or to face the possibility of death from botched abortions, while allowing women of means to spend whatever it takes to get a safe abortion. When my teenage sister got pregnant fifty years ago, she flew from Mississippi, where abortion was a felony, to Colorado where it was legal. The trip put a strain on my parents' finances, but if there was ever a young girl who would have been a parental disaster, my sister was that girl, which means that the responsibility for parenting would have fallen to my already overwrought parents. I have another family member who raised not one but two of her unwed daughter's children after her daughter walked away. This is the price of illegal abortion. The children who are so parented are rarely well-parented, and the responsibility for their care is rarely paid for by those who would outlaw abortion. In fact, the very people who most vigorously oppose abortion also stand in vigorous opposition to government support for poor families.

Religion? If, as religious people claim, love was their guiding principal and their kingdom really wasn't of this world, no one would oppose them, but the sad truth is that religion perpetually wars against freedom and perpetually supports factionalism. Thanks to the power of religion, one-third of the world's nations have blasphemy laws, the penalties for which range from a fine (in Western Europe) to execution (in much of the Moslem world). Century in and century out, religion stands in unbroken support of hatred and intolerance. If, in the name of freedom and equality, you oppose religion's use of government to force sectarian values and practices upon the public, religious people will claim that you are persecuting them, and will take every means to silence you. As most religious people see it, there is no way but their way.

America's blacks. I don't regard the black race overall as making a positive contribution to life in America. In the sixties, their struggle was praiseworthy for its high ideals. Now, their primary struggle revolves around police shootings of black people, primarily black criminals. By making heroin dealers the poster children for their movement, groups such as Black Lives Matter cannot inspire the same public outrage against injustice that was aroused the world over by the likes of a young college student named James Meredith and a hardworking bus rider named Rosa Parks. I don't know why black Americans lag behind whites and yellows in every standard of success and well-being, but they appear to blame their failures solely upon white oppression. Since the masses of white people disagree, the accusation is a non-starter. I'm ashamed to say this because it contradicts my belief that everyone deserves a fair trial, but when I hear of a heroin dealer being shot dead in the street, I just think to myself, good riddance, no matter what his race.

Creationism. The only people who believe in creationism (re-marketed as "intelligent design") are those who regard the Biblical account of creation as scientifically accurate. They insist upon--and often succeed in--having "both sides of the controversy" taught in school, but there are no "both sides." There is instead what science can verify versus what religion accepts upon credulity, aka "faith." The difference between evolutionism and creationism is the difference between astronomy and astrology. The more credence we give to pseudoscience, the harder it will be for us to compete in a world in which science works and religion fails.

The environment. Most of America's political conservatives are Catholic or evangelical Christians who argue that their deity wouldn't have created a world that man could destroy because such a world would place the power of man above the power of God. The result of their thinking is that if humankind can't seriously harm the environment, then humankind need take no responsibility for protecting the environment. Because this is "faith-based" thinking, evidence to the contrary is irrelevant. As for non-religious people who oppose environmental protections, they fall into two camps. The first are libertarians who don't want the government telling them what to do, regardless of the consequences. The second group are capitalists who don't care how many species we drive into extinction until it gets down to animals like cows and chickens that they can make money from. They likewise don't care how many people die in droughts, super storms, firestorms, and so forth, as long as they're not among the dead, and as long as they're making money. With them, it's money first, money last, and money in the middle. Laissez-faire capitalism was made by and sustained by such people.

Gun control. I am ashamed to live in a country in which 5% of the world's population owns 50% of its guns; a country that exports millions of weapons a year to criminals and to oppressive dictatorships like Saudi Arabia; a country in which 30,000 of its own citizen die every year from gun violence, and tens of thousands more are wounded. The Las Vegas shooter only made the news because his victims were white and because he ran up the average number of people killed in a single place in a single day. The supporters of "gun rights" point to the Second Amendment to the Constitution ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"). We're talking here about a document that was written when the only guns were single shot muskets that were slow to load and relied upon relatively weak black powder. What's more, the stated goal of "the founding fathers" was to arm the citizen militias that substituted for a standing army. 

Prior to the recent mass shooting in Nevada, Congress was getting ready to pass legislation that would make it easier for people to buy silencers, not because honest citizens need silencers but because the NRA (National Rifle Association) is a white, richly-funded, physically threatening, one-issue lobby, that opposes any restrictions to gun ownership or to the types of guns that Americans can own. For example, the NRA supports the use of bullets that can penetrate police body armor; they favor selling guns to violent felons and to the criminally insane; and they hold that everyone should be able to walk the streets with guns on their hips or hidden in their clothes. They even argue that the answer to gun violence is more guns, their argument being that this will enable the good guys to whip out their guns and shoot down the bad guys before the latter can hurt anyone. Because this solution is absurd, it is my belief that the NRA simply doesn't want to admit that it values gun ownership over human life. I also believe that it only wants all of these guns so that white people can protect themselves against black people, and so they can wage war against their own government if that government tries to take away their guns. They're monomaniacs, at best, and I think it pleases them to know that black men are fourteen times more likely to be shot than are white men. 

Am I out of issues?

A book buying celebration


A work by F. Hopkinson Smith
I went to the doctor last week for my six week check-in (which was a week overdue) and was told that I’m doing better than most. I hadn’t known how worried Peggy had been because she had the misguided notion that I would worry if she told me, although I don’t remember an occasion on which I took-on her fears. Only after leaving the doctor’s did she confess that the knee’s continued swelling and heat had concerned her greatly.

Brian (the surgeon) suggested that an exercise bike might be beneficial, so we went to Sears where I spoke with a 20-year old salesman who said that, when he was fifteen, he had undergone one of the ten post painful surgeries (in terms of recovery). It was necessitated because his ribs were turning inward and would have killed him had he not had a metal plate inserted and spent a month flat on his back. Then I celebrated the good report by going to St. Vinnie’s and buying seven books. I rarely buy so many, but they had been moved from the rare book room into the main part of the store where I was able to get them for under $5 each and after that to Costco where, because I was using a cane and wearing a compression stocking, a woman who was anticipating a knee replacement approached me with many questions. But enough of all that, because I want to tell you about the seven old books I bought in the hope that, if you don
’t already, you too might come to love old copies of old books.

(1) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970). I read this book twenty years ago, but was thinking just last week that I wanted to re-read it. The German edition appeared in January 1929, and my English edition was published in November of that same year. By its release, Little, Brown, and Company had put out seven editions (presumably, all in English) and fourteen printings. My copy is inscribed “Merry Christmas, 1929. From Mabel to Paul,” leaving me to wonder if Paul had fought in The War to End All Wars.

The store had two copies from the same printing. The other was sent to the States from war-torn Saigon, with the inscription, “Read to Understand.” The preface to the book reads: “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, though they may have escaped the shells, were destroyed by the war.” I’ve read those words twice since I got home, and I’ve cried twice. How is it that I ever entertained the stupid, stupid belief that war makes men when the truth is that it
’s more likely to break them!? I suppose it was because my culture glorifies war, war, and more war, always in the name of peace, although I suppose it’s possible that testosterone also played a part.
 
(2) Harold Bell Wright (1872-1944) is best (and most infamously) known for The Calling of Dan Matthews, which is about a preacher who, like Wright himself, left the ministry to save his integrity. The book I bought today is Their Yesterdays from 1928. I first browsed this same color illustrated copy three months ago, but passed it up because it seemed too spiritual. I don’t believe in omens, yet I can’t say that finding the same copy of the same book meant nothing to me, and it’s also true that much of what he says resonates—for instance: “He had said to himself, ‘When I am twenty-one, I will be a man.’ He did not know then that twenty-one years—that indeed three times twenty-one years—cannot make a man.” I suppose it’s common for boys to pick an age at which to expect manhood. I remember that, at age seventeen, I saw a 19-year-old male mentioned in my local newspaper as “a man,” an concluded that my 19th birthday—at the latest—would be the day that I would wake up feeling different. When nothing happened, I advanced the magic number to twenty-one, and when it too failed, I looked pessimistically to thirty. At 68, I still feel like a minor fraud when I call myself a man, there being too much weight on the word for it to ever be achievable.

(3) The Workers East (1897) and (4) The Workers West (1898) were by a economist named Walter A Wyckoff (1865-1908). Wyckoff was so wealthy that his butler saw him off—in July, 1891, when he  set out walking with old clothes upon his back and without a penny in his pocket. He traveled America for eighteen months, taking day laborer jobs as he went, and writing eloquently about his experiences. This was not a rich man’s lark, but a profound effort to understand the lives of the poorest of the laboring class. One of my two copies of the set is gloriously illustrated, and the set itself had at least two previous owners. The inscription identifying the first owner reads, “Here’s to this little world of ours, which is not growing worse to women, like you, who are doing their best to make it better. V.J. from Tom S. Dec 10,1910.” The second owner was Air Transport Local 1881, IAMAW, Burlingame, CA.” Because the U.S. postal service only instituted zip codes and two-letter state abbreviations in 1963, the second listed owner must have come along decades after the first, which makes sense given that air transport would have been unknown in 1910.

(5) A 1945 edition of Richard Wright’s 1937 book Black Boy. Wright (1908-1960) was from my part of Mississippi, but, because he was black, I only heard of him after moving to Oregon and happening upon his book Native Son at St. Vinnie’s. (I also discovered Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man at St. Vinnie’s and found grim humor in the fact that, given my hitherto complete ignorance of his existence, the title seemed to prove the book’s thesis.)

(6) The Guest, 1946, by Christopher LaFarge (1872-1944). I hadn’t heard of LaFarge, but was intrigued by the book club insert’s promise of a book about a sixty year old “spinster” who lost her grip on reality after her servants abandoned her during the approach of a hurricane.

(7) Light that Faileth (1891) by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). I’ve never read Kipling, but I have read Jack London, so when I learned that London was a major fan of  Kipling, I decided to read him too. One period reviewer wrote that the book had, “a man-loving [surely a euphemism] and misogynistic undercurrent” and was, “…a metaphor for the failing gallantry of 19th-century man confronting the new woman.” My literary idol, Margaret Deland, was among those responsible for creating this subspecies, only to bemoan the fact that some members of her creation were behaving in ways that she considered coarse, if not trashy; that the exalted concept of ladyhood was being lost; and that men were starting to treat women with the same crudity with which they interacted among themselves. One-hundred years later, the word lady has been lost from our language, and the only time I hear the word gentlemen is on the evening news when a cop is referring to a criminal as such. For example; "After strangling Ms Smith, the gentlemen proceeded to kill her dog..." My copy of the book was owned by an Ada Johnson, and how I wish I could talk to her about it!



I want books that long dead eyes read, upon which long dead minds reflected, and into which long dead hands inscribed, because they allow me, in some small measure, to feel that I’m gazing into those eyes, discoursing with those minds, and touching those hands. They penetrate to my soul, and to hold them is to hold the sacred. New books are like new houses in that in that their faces are blank and their souls in infancy. Without them there would be no old books, and the factual ones are often superior, but I’m glad I have little need of them. No matter that new books cost ten times more, I would feel like I was slumming if I walked into a new book store.

As for the authors themselves—as opposed to individual copies of their works—many of the titles I buy are either unavailable new or they’ve been reprinted in paperback, xeroxed editions that I abhor. Without old books, my life would be impoverished. I would still have Mark Twain and Conan Doyle, but I wouldn’t have Margaret Deland and F. Hopkinson Smith, although both were famous during their lifetimes (Smith for his art as well as his books). It’s commonly believed that authors who deserve to remain famous will remain famous, but in my experience, authors are like clothing fashions, the difference being that clothing styles often come back around while, once they’re lost from memory, literary work are rarely rediscovered.