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We formed Romanian Times over 8 years ago, and the paper is run mostly by volunteers
who are professional romanian writers. They emigrated in US many
years ago. The paper is printed in Romanian language and distributed
for free in the Romanian Churches around Portland area every
other week, and many other major cities in the US like Seattle WA,
Phoenix AZ, Los Angeles CA, Sacramento CA, New Yourk NY,
etc. We promote what is the best in Romanian culture and
spirituality, politics and business.
Romance language speaking people, Romanians emigrated all over the world. They adapt rapidly to any environment. In America, they emigrated since world war II. The Oregon climate attracted a lot of Romanians because of the weather, almost similar with the one in their native country, Romania.Romanian community around Portland metro area, reaches 30,000. The majority of them gather at churches of different denominations, where they worship and socialize at services in their native language, Romanian.
The Character War by
Paula Ioanide, PhD
I’ve avoided writing about the upcoming presidential election. As is often the case in politics, the two candidates have entered a complicated game of rhetoric. The recent political tit-for-tat makes it increasingly difficult to know what McCain or Obama actually stand for on a number of problems the nation is facing. The conversation has shifted from substantive issues to questions about the candidates’ character. We are encouraged to vote for the candidate who is best suited to lead the nation on the basis of their personality and personhood. Who is the most patriotic? Who can identify most with the average American’s economic woes? Who is “tough enough” to deal with in foreign policy issues?
Obama is now being painted as an elitist who is out of touch with average Americans; inexperienced; not “tough enough;” his upbringing too eclectic for the “average American.” The candidate is scrutinized to the nth degree: What does he eat? How does he dress? Where did he receive his education? What songs does he have on his iPod? Where does he vacation? Is his wife too radical? In a smart rhetorical ploy, the McCain campaign is portraying Obama as a shallow “celebrity” who has no business meddling in the affairs of running the United States of America. (Of course, no one is recalling that two of the Republican Party’s brightest heroes—Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger—were both actors.)
Since he has vowed to run a positive campaign, Obama can’t very well point out character flaws in the former prisoner of war who is after all, his elder. The media rarely asks McCain nitty-gritty âuestions about his private life. We don’t know where he went to college, what he eats, what church he goes to, or where his wife gets her hair done. The absence of a counter-offensive on McCain’s character has allowed McCain to portray himself as a patriotic war-time hero who is more in touch with Americans than Obama. This is a remarkable achievement in political rhetoric given some of the things McCain has recently said. Contrary to the expert opinions of economists and suffering average Americans, McCain declared that the economy is ‘fundamentally strong.’ Meanwhile, when asked how many houses he owns, McCain declared that he did not know. (He owns seven, by the way). Hardly a comment someone in touch with the average American would make.
The character war—which McCain is currently winning—rather than a debate about different approaches to substantive issues, has led to a stalemate between Obama and McCain in the national polls. Presumably, if the election was being staged on the basis of issues, one would expect Obama to be much further ahead. With George W. Bush’s approval ratings as low as ever, the economy facing major crises, the dollar down, the War in Iraâ unpopular, and the international community calling for the end of “America the Bully” in foreign policy, one would think that the Democrats were heavily favored. But then, elections are never logical in America.
Why isn’t Obama doing better, then? Is it because people actually believe he is elitist? Is it because he is too well-educated for the average American? Is it because his views are too liberal, or too far to the left? Is it because some Democrats are still mad that Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected as the presidential nominee? Is it because of the false rumors that Obama is Muslim? Is it because Obama eats arugula instead of regular lettuce? Is it because he’s Black?
Let’s take one issue at a time, even though the motivations are entangled. Are Obama’s views too far to the left for the majority of Americans? Obama has declared repeatedly that he wants to ‘unify’ the nation, which is a code word for being centrist, not leftist. The misperception that he and his wife Michelle are “radical” began with the overplayed and drawn out Rev. Wright controversy. Yet nothing Obama has said about his policy plans suggests anything but centrism. The most ‘leftist’ proposition he has made is to re-introduce taxes for the most rich in order to replenish the federal budget emptied during the Bush years, when the richest Americans were given the greatest tax breaks in history through the incremental elimination of the estate tax. (According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, making the estate tax repeal permanent for another ten years after it sunsets in 2010 would shortchange the federal budget by $1 trillion from 2012-2021). His “universal health care” plan does not even come close to resembling the state-subsidized health care plans available to Europeans in France or Germany. In fact, such a ‘leftist’ health care plan would probably be impossible in the U.S., since Americans are vehemently against raising taxes.
The claim that Obama is an ‘arugula-eating elitist’ who is out of touch with average Americans strikes me as an incredible fantasy-projection. Did anyone ever declare that George W. Bush was ‘elitist’ because his father had been president, his brother was a governor, and they owned most of the big oil business in Texas? Here is a candidate who had all historical odds against him to become the presidential nominee. He is biracial, was raised by a single mother who lived abroad and a grandmother, and has hardly any American legacy of importance. Additionally, even though social scientists have incontrovertibly documented that people of color face more adversity in education, housing, and employment than whites—in a remarkable rhetorical reversal—Obama is declared to be the privileged one in this election!
And now for the elephant in the room...
the âuestion of race. There are two general camps when it comes to how Obama’s
racial identity affects his chances of being elected. One camp will not vote
for Obama simply because he is Black. These are white working class and rural
voters in conservative states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania. They have
vowed to vote for McCain simply because they cannot fathom having an
African-American president. For this camp, bigotry is alive and well, and they
are not afraid to say so. One of their national spokesmen, Rush Limbaugh,
recently played the racist “Barack, the magic Negro” song on his radio show. In
short, there is a faction in the American public for whom evidence and
well-phrased arguments will not make a difference because the logic of racism prevails.
A second camp—made up of inde-pendents, centrists and liberals—will never openly declare that Obama’s race impacts their opinion of him. They will declare that they are not prejudiced, and that they too have a Black friend, but they have worked for liberal and progressive causes. They are purportedly “color-blind” and declare that America is a post-race society. Yet as law professor Patricia J. Williams wrote in last week’s issue of New York Magazine, “There is an interesting kind of cognitive dissonance at work in the American psyche. We rejoice in the warm symbolism of interracial bliss, particularly in the idealized and thoroughly mythic sphere of celebrity existence: Tiger Woods’s Pan-racialism, Brangelina’s adoptions, Steven Spielberg’s handsome brown son… At the same time, there’s terrible ambivalence on the ground. Does one really want “the race card” living next door, or being your boss? Do you really want your child marrying outside his race?” To add one more âuestion, do you really want “the race card” to be your president?
Though this second camp argues that race does not impact their decision, there is plenty of evidence that race does in fact matter. Americans love to choose presidents who appear to be personable, down-to-earth and charming. The personality test often trumps where the candidate stands on substantive issues. Since a majority of Americans do not socialize with people outside of their race or ethnic group, it is understandable that most cannot identify with Obama at an emotional, intuitive level. McCain’s political rhetoric has done a great job at amplifying the already present discomfort with Obama’s difference. It remains to be seen how the character war will pan out in the end. But if the fear of difference is provoked just a bit more, all “rational arguments” might as well be thrown out the door.
Intelligence in the Service of Hierarchical Dominance
by Paula Ioanide, PhD
In a science fiction series by Octavia Butler titled Lilith’s Brood,
aliens from outer space rescue a few human survivors from planet Earth,
which had been devastated by nuclear war. The three novels in the
series were written toward the end of the Cold War, in 1987, 1988 and
1989, respectively. Because a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and
the United States was plausible at the time, the premise of the science
fiction novels allows an exploration of questions both moral and
philosophical. The aliens in Lilith’s Brood are genetic engineers who
operate by democratic consensus, are healers of disorders, avoid pain
at all costs, and seek out new genetic material with which to
eventually create new life forms and species. They study the humans for
hundreds of years and find in their genetic construction what they call
“The Human Contradiction”: intelligence used in the service of
In the novels, the aliens claim that when human intelligence serves the drive for dominance, it often finds ways of rationalizing its pursuit. It also has the tendency to deny obvious facts. This is what made it possible for humans to ignore the fact that the Earth would be destroyed by nuclear weapons while the national super-powers sought to outdo one another. The aliens find that the genetic instinct toward hierarchical orders is much more ancient in the humans than the more recent development of intelligence. For this reason, the Human Contradiction prevails and proliferates: intelligence is more often than not used in the service of raising one’s power and status on the hierarchichal ladder.
While we may not be ready to accept the idea of aliens, Octavia Butler’s keen description of the Human Contradiction can be seen everywhere. Certainly, we can see it in the human capacity to destroy the very environments that give them life and oxygen. Manufacturing industries produce endless consumer products while causing grave environmental pollution; there is continued resistance to higher environmental protection standards; oil spills are a regular occurrence in seas and oceans; the 2008 Olympics in Beijing are taking place under a cloud of polluted air because of the desire for products… and so the cycle goes. Human intelligence has been used to create new technologies that seemingly yield more power and pleasure (individual or national); but it has generally avoided thinking about long-term consequences for humanity’s overall well-being or for the species with which it shares the planet.
Indeed, even the nuclear war fictionally portrayed in Lilith’s Brood is certainly no less of a reality today than in 1989. An August 5, 2008 New York Times article by Nazila Fathi claims that Iran has issued a warning that “it could easily close a critical Persian Gulf waterway to oil shipments and said that it had a new long-range naval weapon that could sink enemy ships nearly 200 miles away.” The warning comes after the expiration of “an informal deadline for Iran to respond to an offer of incentives from six world powers to stop enriching uranium.” The six powers—the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany—have agreed to pursue new sanctions on Iran, but it remains unclear what they will be.
Here is a clear case of the pursuit of power, a challenge to the existing hierarchichal order established by the superpowers of the world in the context of global interdependence. Since the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, possessing nuclear weapons has been a clear sign of power (symbolic and actual). But since the 1960s, this power has been allowed only to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain, China and the United States. A few exceptions were allowed for Israel, Japan and the rest of Europe, who were protected either by the Americans or the Soviets. The hierarchical arrangement of who could have nuclear weapons and who could not was formalized in 1970, when the United States established the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nations who signed the treaty agreed not to build nuclear weapons in exchange for the right to acquire ‘peaceful nuclear materials’ while being subject to rigorous IAEA inspections and controls. (Iran signed the NPT.) According to a Nov. 2005 Atlantic Monthly article by William Langewiesche, however, the most contentious part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was that the original five superpowers were completely exempt from IAEA intrusions under the ephemeral promise that they would someday disarm themselves.
A hierarchical order indeed. And one that to the day produces a lot of resentment throughout the world. The resentment is not only political, since nations who cannot develop nuclear weapons are in a permanently ‘subservient’ position to the five superpowers. The resentment is also economic, since the enforcement of the NPT relies largely on restricting the sale and export of nuclear-related materials. Often, these materials can be used for both “peaceful” nuclear technologies and for nuclear weapons development. And here is where the amalgam of power-seeking gets complex. Basically, the companies that sell products that can be used for both ‘peaceful’ and nuclear weapon purposes don’t want to have their exports stopped. In the same Atlantic Monthly article, Langewiesche tells the story of how Pakistan assembled nuclear weapons (having never signed the NPT) largely without hiding and with the help of European exporters of nuclear-related materials. In short, the attempt to stop nuclear weapon proliferation in the world conflicted with corporations’ desire to make money on nuclear-material sales. The ominous ‘end’ to that story was that when India tested nuclear weapons in 1998, Pakistan responded in kind, just to make sure India was aware of Pakistan’s ascendance in the nuclear weapons hierarchical order.
What’s the moral of the story? As is customary in societies where intelligence is used in the service of gaining dominance, the United States, other UN Security Council nations and Iran are now engaged in a tit-for-tat. Iran, aware of the United States’ dependence on oil, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, an important oil route. The United States will probably have to negotiate some kind of sanctions. The world’s well-being hangs in a delicate balance of inaction based on who possesses the bigger ‘threat,’ or which nation has the greater power to make the other submit.
I wonder what the aliens in Lilith’s Brood would say to this new yet recurring development. They made it pretty clear that left to their own devices (i.e. without genetic reprogramming to correct the Human Contradiction), the humans would once again end up in a war of self-destruction. The humans insisted that they would not, that they had learned from past mistakes.
I wonder also what God thinks of our proclivity toward hierarchical power, war and destruction. To what use will we put our free will and our intelligence? Will we turn toward or away from God’s commandment to love one another? It is one of the greatest enigmas to me that though God has shown us what we must do to engage in an ethic of care, love and understanding through the example of his Son, we often choose to follow the ancient proclivity toward hierarchical dominance that tends toward destruction and subjugation rather than good. I expect that the pleasure derived from the acquisition of power is at the heart of the proclivity.
Certainly, I am not suggesting that an absolute form of egalitarianism can exist on Earth. This would presumably eliminate all differences, something that is decidedly human. It is simply to question toward what end we use our differences, our faith, our talents, and our intelligence—characteristics that, though they are certainly not equal, could help us serve others’ welfare rather than pursue power whose consequence is the denigration of others.
Valuing People Over Property by Paula Ioanide PhD
When I was in my first year of college, I decided it
might be wise to take an economics class. Understanding the operations
of markets, supply and demand seemed like useful knowledge to have in
an increasingly complex global economy. Besides, all the ‘successful’
types at the college seemed to be economics majors. I enrolled in the
class and purchased the textbook. The professor had instructed us to
read the first chapter of the textbook as our first assignment. Eager
to be a good student, I opened the textbook and read the first sentence
of the chapter. My stomach turned. I read it again to make sure that I
had understood what I had read. I stared at that sentence for a long
time, unable to move on to the next one. It said something like this:
“This textbook presumes that the people are self-interested individuals
seeking to gain the greatest advantages for themselves.”
I closed the textbook, returned it to the bookstore, and withdrew from the class. I could not go on studying a subject whose premise, in my view, was essentially faulty.
Probably most students were not disturbed by this fundamental premise in economics. But to me, the idea that we were merely ‘self-interested individuals’ stood in direct contradiction to my beliefs about humanity. I was not so naïve to think that people weren’t self-interested; the evidence was all around me. Yet, I wanted to believe that we were capable of something more than that; in fact, that God’s will for us was to surpass our own ‘self-interest’ and private gain so that we might serve others and God.
Much later in graduate school, I did end up studying economics. But instead of approaching the subject from the perspective on an economist—whose job is ultimately to figure out how to gain the largest profit rate for himself, his clients or his corporation—I studied economics in relation to cultural and political systems. I learned that ultimately economic policies are intricately related to people’s socio-political ideologies. And I learned that as ideologies change, so do economic policies.
Today’s economic scares—from rising oil prices and utility costs, to the chaotic stock market, to the recent near-meltdown of the two largest mortgage companies in the United States, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—is reminiscent of the United States in the 1920s. As most people know, the 1929 stock market crash led to the 1930s Great Depression. Many factors contributed to the crash, but the principal one was greed. Monopolies that had gained capital and wealth during the 1920s at unprecedented levels hit the ceiling and plummeted. Much like today, the housing market crashed due to people’s inability to pay mortgages. Several shifts in economic policies came about during the Great Depression, the most notable of which was Theodore Roosevelt’s 1932 New Deal.
Most people don’t know that the New Deal was established as a result of an organized movement led by inter-ethnic alliances between immigrants and other working class Americans. Historian George Lipsitz argues that the “culture of unity” that was created in the 1930s challenged the moral authority of dominant groups whose primary interests had been to gain excessive wealth at the expense of the working class majority. Some of the most important economic safety nets came out of the New Deal, among them Social Security, workers’ labor protections and rights, and the National Housing Act that established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). By federally insuring mortgages and restructuring the federal banking system, the FHA made it possible for working and middle class Americans to become home owners for the first time. These benefits were disproportionately allocated, however, with 98% of FHA loans granted only to white Americans from 1934 to1968. Owning property in America turned out to be the best economic investment a person could make. It has been well documented that home ownership leads to intergenerational wealth accumulation, accounting for the disparities in wealth and education among different groups.
Since America is once again facing a housing market crisis, it is useful to know how we got here. Since the 1970s, economic policies in the US have generally shifted to serve the interests of large corporations, whose ability to move globally posed a number of problems nationally. These economic shifts came about in relation to political ideologies that have come to be known as “neoliberalism.” Essentially, the ideology of neoliberalism argues that serving the needs of most powerful and wealthy by placing fewer restrictions on the movement of capital—“freeing markets”—would produce benefits that would eventually “trickle down” to the less advantaged. An example of this would be to give tax breaks to corporations in exchange for staying in America instead of moving overseas. This was the ideology most ardently defended by Ronald Reagan, who initiated the movement to increasingly cut down federal “safety nets” in the name of reducing “big government spending.” But it was also an ideology followed by Bill Clinton, who initiated policies like NAFTA and the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, and continued the trend of shrinking the social welfare state. (The social welfare state includes insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security, public education, public works projects like the interstate highway system as well as programs for the poor like Food Stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).
Well, the relationship between corporate exponential profit seeking and a state whose role is theoretically to regulate and redistribute wealth is sort of like that between a child and a parent. The child wants more and more chocolate; the parent warns that eating too much chocolate will make the child sick; the child doesn’t listen and keeps eating more chocolate; finally the child gets sick.
Recently, the federal government had to take a parental role and rescue sickly Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae from going under by lending them $300 billion. The two companies hold or guarantee almost half of the nation’s mortgages, valued at $5 trillion. Corporate greed and the drive of ‘self-interest’ are some of the undisciplined children in this housing market meltdown. Wall Street, investors, companies in charge of regulating and overseeing mortgage loan approvals, and rating agencies all wanted to keep eating the chocolate produced by subprime mortgages and predatory loans (usually called fees). But the federal government hasn’t exactly been a good parent either, since it more often than not failed to enforce fair housing laws and regulations meant to stop unfair and predatory lending practices. The losers in this story are millions of people who have lost or will lose their homes. Particularly vulnerable were those who were working class, since they were the guinea pigs of the first wave of predatory loans. This is no small matter, since losing home ownership in America is virtually equated with losing opportunities intergenerationally.
Yet, as I mentioned at the beginning, economic policies don’t take place in a vacuum. Since the 1970s, the majority of Americans have participated and conceded to a culture that increasingly values private property over public goods. If one looks at changes in the taxation system, the annually shrinking budgets of public education from K2 to higher education, the falling infrastructure of public projects like bridges and roads, the closure of public parks and libraries, one thing is clear. For the past thirty years, Americans have disinvested from shared goods and have increasingly focused on their own private gain (and perhaps that of their families’). Additionally, a review of welfare policies indicates that any moral duty to help the poor has virtually disappeared. American attitudes toward the poor (the majority of who work full time but still cannot make ends meet) are defined more by contempt than empathy. The role of helping the disadvantaged has been left mostly to religious institutions and private charity organizations. As economic policies have produced an increasing gap between rich and poor, such religious institutions and charities cannot handle the numbers who need assistance.
It seems that the premise stated in my economics textbook—that people are essentially self-interested individuals striving for private gain at the expense of others—is truer today than at other times in American history. It remains to be seen whether this economic crisis, depending on how bad it gets, teaches us the consequences produced by a culture of valuing property over people. In the short term, participating in this culture yields the pleasures of eating chocolate, consumerism, and the status that comes with wealth. But in the long term, it produces consequences that inevitably lead to ethical emptiness. This is because valuing property over people—in its fundamental premise, if you will—requires that we serve ourselves before we serve others. It may even require (and it often does) that we exploit or denigrate someone so that we can serve our interests. Should we find ourselves reveling in the culture of valuing property over people, it may be wise to remember Christ’s warning: “One cannot serve both God and money.”
Citizenship and Democracy by Paula Ioanide PhD
America’s Independence Day—the 4th of July—arrives this year amidst economic crisis, political indeterminacy, a general election year, and incisive debates over immigration, citizenship and the meaning of democracy. I have always found it calming in moments of crisis to step back and consider problems that look new and immediate within a larger historical context. After all, disputes over immigration policy, the meaning of citizenship, and definitions of democracy have been staple debates in national public discourse since America’s 1776 founding. In some ways, the pulses that pull either in conservative or progressive directions continue to be characterized by premises and contradictions outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
In this week’s issue of Time Magazine, Peter Beinart describes some of these premises and contradictions by looking at different understandings of American patriotism. He notes that conservatives understand American patriotism as an inheritance or a birthright. As a result, they “tend to believe that loving America today requires loving its past.” This entails many things, but it foundationally means embracing and honoring America’s forefathers and their vision of the nation-state. This is why conservatives often fret over political or educational discourses that taint America’s history or emphasize America’s past sins. Beinart argues that “Conservatives worry that if Americans don’t appreciate—and celebrate—their nation’s accomplishments, they’ll assume the country can be easily and dramatically improved. And they’ll end up making things worse.” The suggestion here is that America should not divert too far from its founding conception.
Conversely, Beinart claims that liberals “often see [patriotism] as the promise of a future that redeems the past.” Emphasizing a set of ideals rather than a common culture based in a glorious past, liberals attempt to close the gap between the ideals of democracy, equality, and the rule of law and actual American realities. Liberals are perpetually forward looking insofar as they seek to surpass an American past frought by practices that contradict the ideals of democracy. How can the founding fathers be celebrated, claim liberals, when even the writer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner who considered his offspring by the enslaved Sally Hemings property? Patriotism, from the liberal standpoint, entails challenging America to overcome its past prejudices, granting greater economic equality and access to opportunity, and preserving the tradition of openness toward immigrants.
Given this general (and by no means fully representative) view on divergent interpretations of American patriotism, I want to return to a related critical issue in contemporary American politics: the meaning of citizenship. If for conservatives patriotism generally entails a duty to preserve and honor the past, then citizenship is characterized by a duty to maintain a “common culture” based in Protestant, Anglo-Saxon traditions, preserving English as the singular national language, affirming work ethics based on property ownership and rugged individualism, and remaining exclusionary to people who seem to threaten these traditions through immigration policy. If for liberals patriotism means bridging the gap between reality and the originary principles of equality, democracy and the rule of law, citizenship becomes an expansive and inclusionary notion. The citizen’s duty is to grant the rights and opportunities afforded by democratic ideals to an increasing number of people who contribute, belong or come to the United States.
Yet history is slippery; making claims on the meaning of American foundational democratic principles is often an interpretive act itself. As such, it is useful to understand the ways the meaning of citizenship, for conservative and liberals alike, has changed over time. The original Naturalization Act of 1790, for example, granted American citizenship only to white Protestant men who owned property. In its original conception, then, the American democratic principle that “all men are created equal” and therefore have the right to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was not referring to men without property, people of color, or women. The brilliance of the foundational principle, however, is that its definition was interpreted differently over time. Like a good poem, meanings originally not intended by its founding authors were attributed to the phrase in different phases of American history.
This was certainly the case for African-Americans, who were brought to North America as chattel property as early as 1654 and “became human” under the U.S. law only in 1865 (or if they committed a crime under slave law). Contrary to popular opinion, the end of slavery did not come easy, nor was it the single-handed decision of Abraham Lincoln. To begin with, repeated slave rebellions from the 1830s to the Civil War were making it increasingly difficult for plantation owners to maintain control. Secondly, the United Kingdom had already abolished slavery in its colonies, while Haiti had staged the only successful slave revolt and declared its independence as early as 1806. In short, slavery as an international trade and practice had become discredited, particularly through the work of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass. The fight for American citizenship and equal protection under the law for African Americans did not end in 1866, with the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. It can be argued that full citizenship rights for African Americans were not granted until 1964-1965, when the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act ended legal racial segregation and discriminatory practices. Over hundreds of years, then, the promise of equality and democratic rights written in the American founding principles allowed the struggle for citizenship inclusion to persevere.
And what about Europeans? Have they always had a clear path to American assimilation and citizenship? Historically, no. The 1924 (Johnson-Reed) Immigration Act, for example, established very explicit hierarchies and quotas for European ethnic groups in response to large waves of European immigration that had begun in the 1890s. The Act limited overall immigration to about 15-20% of peak years to 165,000 per year. People from England, Ireland and Germany made up 86% of total immigrants, while people from Southern and Eastern Europe were limited to only 9% of the quotas. Meanwhile, the Act barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific triangle entirely until 1965. The logic of the Act was based in part on eugenicist notions popularly accepted in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. These claimed that there was a biological hierarchy among racial and ethnic groups, with Anglo-Saxons as the most evolved race and Jews and Blacks as the least evolved. People from Southern and Eastern European countries such as Italy, Greece, and Romania were positioned lower on the hierarchy than Northern Europeans, and were mostly considered “undesirable.” If one reads the congressional testimony record of the Johnson-Reed Act, it is clear that legislators were attempting to preserve the racial and cultural make-up of the United States as primarily Anglo-Saxon.
It was not until the 1965 Immigration Act that racial and national quotas for immigration were eliminated. This act opened the United States’ doors to immigrants from all over the world, including those from Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, who were previously barred. In part, this was an economic necessity for the United States, since its labor demands could not be met by the native population alone. Yet the 1965 Act was also contiguous with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, whose general demands aimed toward dismantling ethnic and racial hierarchies and sought a more expansive definition of American citizenship and democracy. Significantly, European immigrants were in part able to assimilate into American culture because the definition of whiteness widened to include them over time. Likewise, the immigration restrictions from 1924-1965 allowed a period of integration undisturbed by new immigration waves, cultures, etc.
America is once again at a crossroads with regard to the meaning of citizenship and democratic principles as social, cultural and economic conditions in the United States have undergone major shifts since the 1970s. The effect of these shifts has generally been detrimental to American middle and working classes, with whites still faring better at all socio-economic levels than people of color. Public debates over immigration, American “common culture,” foreign and economic policy reflect the struggle to redefine the nation in light of new waves of immigration, shrinking social welfare resources, and a global economy. As is well known, periods of economic uncertainty coupled with mass immigration waves often cause a rise in nativism. American citizens aim to protect shrinking wealth and jobs, while ideologically nationalism—sometimes expressed in absolutist and violent ways—increases. Currently, this sentiment is most commonly expressed against Latinos and immigrants from the Middle East.
In the contemporary moment, Americans have to consider to what extent they want to preserve the pulse that drove so many of the formerly unequal and excluded to keep hoping in America’s democratic principles despite realities of systemic and radical inequality. It is worth remembering that most of the progressive and democratic elements in American civil and economic policies were instituted as a result of struggles staged by the most disenfranchised and marginalized. They did not come ‘naturally’ from the top down or granted benevolently from the most powerful and enfranchised. Should these democratic struggles not also be considered part of the past Americans seek to preserve? Certainly, the extension of American democratic rights and citizenship cannot be extended ad infinitum. Perhaps there are those who long for a return to a mythical past of racial and cultural homogeneity that never really existed in the United States. But the question remains: who has the right to belong to America, a nation constituted by British ex-patriots, slaves, the religiously persecuted, indentured servants, and generations of immigrant laborers? It remains to be seen whether the meaning of American democracy will move toward favoring the middle class, the poor, immigrants and the most disenfranchised; or whether it will follow a more exclusionary and hierarchical pulse just as active since the nation’s founding.
The Foreigner, by Paula Ioanide
Thinking of my father and my paternal grandfather, I begin this column with a little trepidation. Following in the shadows of the legacy they left behind means coming up against certain expectations. For this reason, it is not easy to know how to proceed. When my mother gave me my father’s stilo the other day, she was symbolically suggesting that it was time to re-conceptualize the family’s writing tradition in the context of the diaspora. Except this time it was not the diaspora to which Cristian Ioanide had dedicated so many thoughts; rather, it was the diaspora lived by the children of first generation immigrants. It was then that I realized that the task of continuing an intellectual and spiritual legacy is fundamentally defined by a paradox: how to give voice to the new generation without disregarding the wisdom and knowledge of preceding generations.
This column is therefore characterized by continuity and rupture. The continuity involves interpreting and writing about social and political events in ways that help us to live more ethically in the world—that is, in accordance with Christ’s commandment to love one another. The rupture is to approach such issues from the perspective of immigrants’ children—those whose language, experiences and references are rooted primarily in the United States, though significant ties to Romania remain. Allow me to introduce this context—the diaspora as seen by the children of immigrants—with a story.
I remember the night we left Romania with stark clarity, even though I was only ten years old at the time. Later, I puzzled over the way that departure determined the entire proceeding sequence of my life. Had we not chosen to emigrate at that critical crossroad in our lives, none of the experiences I’ve had since then would have taken place. We boarded the train toward what was then Yugoslavia, understanding that we may never return. Since it was 1988, at the border we held our breath for what seemed like the longest minutes of our lives as the immigration officer checked our papers. When the train finally moved across the border, we all exhaled a jubilant cry of disbelief, as if the insurmountable iron wall that had kept us confined to Romania had cracked open to let us through toward our futures and destinies.
The joy we experienced when we finally touched American soil can only be apprehended by those who have also dreamed of a “promised land.” We hoped that the U.S. would make up for all the hurts, wrongs and betrayals we had experienced in Romania. We imbued the new home with aspirations and dreams larger than reality and we believed in the promised democratic “freedom” with the naivety that all new immigrants share.
Only those that have experienced the lack of materialism in the former Eastern bloc can fathom the first encounter with Western capitalist culture. I remember how we stood frozen with awe when we first entered an American supermarket. As kids who grew up in an era where Western chocolate, gum, coffee and cigarettes were the most coveted commodities and meat had become scarce, we were amazed by the excess and extravagance of American consumerism. Thinking with the minds of children, that first experience at the supermarket made us believe that, as far as chocolate and gum were concerned, we had indeed reached the ‘promised’ land.
About eight months after we arrived, the realities of acculturation and adaptation set in. I went to my parents and declared that I wanted to go back to Romania. There was the linguistic disorientation, the cultural newness, an exaggerrated focus on appearances, clothing and brands that was incomprehensible to me. Whereas in Romania performing well at school was valued and respected, I soon understood that in American middle schools and high schools the smart ones were sidelined as “nerds” while the athletes and the dancers were the most valued. Everything seemed to be up side down. But above all, I couldn’t make any friends. This to me felt like social death. Being an extroverted person, I had always had a group of good school friends in Romania. Here in the U.S., all the students seemed to regard me as some kind of intrusive parasite as soon as I opened my mouth. The mark of the linguistic accent or the mark of strangeness in appearance made foreign kids like myself perpetually susceptible to exclusion.
It is a particular hurt of immigrant children that their parents can offer little guidance in the difficult journey of acculturation. Our parents’ own disorientation, fears and foreignness only compounded the stigmatization we felt. Because our desire to be included was so strong, we did not pay much attention to the remarkable losses our parents were experiencing at the same time—loss of profession, loss of culture, loss of family—all in the midst of struggling to survive economically.
Since going back was not an option, I struggled to integrate with renewed determination. In my memory, it seems like I was silent for at least two years. Perhaps this silence is experienced by every immigrant whose attempts at communication in the new cultural context repeatedly fail. I did not understand the jokes, the colloquial expressions, the cultural references; I said the wrong thing at the wrong time. My rhythm and finesse were replaced with awkwardness. Sensing my own cacophony, I made learning English my top priority. I really believed that once I mastered the language and ridded myself of the stigma of being an ESL student, I would be included. I would become American, have American friends, and finally feel at home.
Of course, this moment never arrived. Much later, I understood that the foreigner—even the one that emigrates in his or her youth—remains perpetually suspended between past and future, between original home and new land, between cultures, customs, histories, and languages. Negotiating these contradictions, the foreigner experiences the pain of never fully belonging to any single place or time. But this suspended status between here and there also grants the foreigner a unique perspective, allowing her to have a kind of double vision.
I did not fully understand the value of the foreigner’s vision until I returned to Romania in 2000, twelve years after we had left. By that time, the country of my childhood had undergone massive changes. The contrast between rich and poor was stark and widening, while the social alienation that accompanies competitive consumerism was evident. Still, I remember how the rhythms of speech were strangely familiar to me. I had not experienced such in synch conversation and laughter since I had left. It confirmed to me that the cultural alienation I had experienced in the United States had been very real. Yet, though the rhythms were so sweetly familiar, it was clear that there too I was an outsider. It was impossible for me to make the knowledge that comes with having lived in two nations legible to those who had never left Romania. There were no frames for understanding that experience, so a part of me still felt excluded.
The context of the diaspora experienced by the children of immigrant parents is therefore characterized by the unique ability to interpret the social and political events that shape our lives in a way that is not obvious to natives. Because the foreigner does not operate under the same the cultural, social and political assumptions as natives, she or he can offer viewpoints not evident to others. The diasporic context of immigrants’ children is also characterized by an attachment to and investment in the new home (in this case the United States) that often eludes first generation immigrant parents. This investment in the new country breathes new life into the American possibilities for the future. It remains to be seen, however, which American futures will be shaped by the uniqueness of second generation immigrant perspectives.
RE~VIEM for CRISTIAN IOANIDE a WRITER’S TALE,
by Leonard Oprea
For a Christian , truthfully living into God means:
moderation – which is generosity
wisdom – which is meekness
power – which is sacrifice
humility – which is the art and science of leading
The order can be different. Who knows?
But can a man be like this?
Can a Christian be like this?
Can even a part of all these make a good Christian?
Being a Man, Jesus Christ was so much more.
Once upon a time there was a writer. He lived in this wide world of ours as one whose only gift was to write books. The kind of books, however, which from the first to the last page are pure fantasy, no more than tales spun by the human mind to talk of who men are and what they do, and about how they have done good deeds and evil deeds since Adam walked the earth.
And this writer, who had a family, friends and foes, like everyone else, had sailed successfully half way through his life and had written âuite a few books, when it dawned on him that he cannot live another day without finding for himself the answer to a âuestion that had been besetting him for a while now.
He knew only to well that this âuestion had tormented many other writers more or less famous than himself, just as he knew that none of them, had they even been his parent or brother, would have shared with him the true answer. For this is how things work between writers and generally between people.
So this writer kept wondering, if I write books that are pleasing for everyone and everywhere, eâually read by friend and by foe, I will make good and useful money. I will no longer have to worry about tomorrow. Even more, I will enjoy fame and countless favors. And if I write those wonderful and wise books that I hold so dear to my heart, few will buy them and fewer still read them, while the money will be less than I need to keep myself from starving. To say nothing of my family. I can’t be happy if I’m rich. I can’t be happy if I’m poor.
Which path should I choose? Thus our writer kept torturing himself day and night as he strove to find the right answer.
Finally he gave up writing books entirely. Both the ones that please everyone everywhere, and the ones full of beauty and wisdom, that he held so dear.
He kept himself busy for a few years gardening, teaching grammar lessons to those who needed that kind of thing, and spending the money he had made from selling his books so that at least his wife and children may live a carefree life.
He would tell all, even his family, the same lie: ‘I’m writing the book of my life and this story keeps me busy all the time.’
Naturally, that was not what was really happening.
All the writer did all this time was ask himself the same old âuestion over and over again in various forms. Over and over again.
The man was utterly unhappy. He was running out of money and his palms were itching with the desire to write again. Any book.
Yet he wanted to know what was best and what was the right choice to make.
What finally happened was what one expects will happen to such writers under such circumstances.
Everyone abandoned him. Even his family.
God alone did not abandon him. Our man found a modest job and started his life over again, living the simple and natural life of an ordinary fellow.
After a while, he forgot all about his âuestion. But one night he dreamt that he was talking to this other man, a man whose face he could not see. He knew he was a writer like himself. The man told him: ‘You eat when you are hungry, you drink when you are thirsty, you sleep when you are tired. Write, then, just as you manage to do all these other things. It is really that simple. Live as you breathe. Write as you breathe. It is really that simple.’
In the morning, the man woke up, gave a long yawn, stretched his bones till they snapped. Then he washed, ate something for he felt hungry, drank his coffee, and smoked a cigarette. For that’s what he felt like doing. And when he finished all that, leaving aside all senseless âuestions and answers, he started writing.
His first true book.
Is there life after death?
By Aurel Micurescu
Philosophy of Religion. Instructor. Dr. John Farnum
Since the beginning of civilization human beings have been preoccupied with studying life after death. History documents give us evidence that ancient people like the Egyptians believed in the immortality of the soul. They believed that there are three elements of the soul : Ka, Ba and Arh. Ka is the life force or spiritual double of the person. Ba is represented as a human-headed bird that leaves the body when a person dies. Akh is the spirit of Re, which encapsulates the concept of life- the transfigured spirit of a person that becomes one with light after death. Christian theology tells us that human beings are composed of three parts: body, soul and spirit. Philosophers like Plato believed that he human beings were composed of two substances, a body and the soul. After death the soul continues to live either in Hades or Heaven. Others philosophers like Aristotle were monists- human beings are a simple construction of body and mind, a combination of essence and matter. The soul, in the Aristotelian view is a biological term with no life after death. In my own opinion human beings are eternal entities from the moment of their conception. In the moment of death, the soul and spirit leave the body and go either to hell and remain in the presence of the Devil and his angels, or heaven and live in the presence of God and his angels. The bodies of those who are saved will be resurrected when the rapture of the Church takes place at the secret coming of Jesus Christ, and the bodies of the unsaved will be resurrected at the end of the millennium and face judgment before the white throne of God. All those who do not have their names written in the Book of Life would be cast into the lake of fire and be tormented forever for their sins.
Plato was an Athenian philosopher who deeply influenced the Western culture, developed the body-mind dichotomy and first attempted to prove the immortality of the soul. Plato believed human beings to be dualistic-composed of both body and soul. The soul after death leaves the body and is liberated, like the captain of a ship that goes into a port, so the soul after death goes wherever he wants. I agree 100% with Plato following statement:
As physical things, our bodies are finite, temporal, and changing; they are subject to disease, decay, and finally death. If there is a loss that is difficult for nearly all of us to swallow, it is the loss of ourselves in death. In many passages where he discusses the human body, Plato expresses a sense of disgust, sometimes bordering on revulsion, at the body. Is this because the body is only too real, because he knows his body will finally fail him? Perhaps Plato felt the inevitability of death to be intolerable and to assuage that knowledge he convinced himself that even his body was not completely real. What is real is the “eye of the mind “the psyche, or soul, which because it knows or is in touch must be itself eternal (Plato’s Metaphysics, 87).
In Plato’s view all material bodies are composite: the soul however, is simple and therefore imperishable. This argument was adopted by Thomas Aquinas and become a standard in Roman Catholic theology. A modern Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain states:
“A spiritual soul cannot be corrupted, since it possesses no matter; it cannot be disintegrated since it has no substantial parts; it cannot lose its individual unity, since it contains within itself all the sources of its energies. The human soul cannot die. Once it exists, it cannot disappear; it will necessarily exist forever, endure without end“(Philosophy of Religion, 317).
Plato says that there is a separation between the mind and the body. The body has the senses and the mind has intelligible qualities. The mind grasps the eternal truth. Metaphysical reality can also be separated into: a sensible realm and the intelligible realm that should be the place of our soul. There is a division between the reality of the sensible world and the reality of the intelligence world. The sensible world experiences a change. Helen of Troy is changing, she looks different when she is old and her beauty cannot be compared with that of a goddess. There is a deeper form of reality, a super form called good. The good is a super form where the other things emanate from; there is the earthly world and the eternal world of God. There is a dualism between God’s world and our world. In Plato’s allegory “The Cave” life on earth is compared with a prison where the prisoners are in a
“Cave with the fire behind them, bound so they can only see the shadow on the wall in front of them, cast by puppets manipulated on a wall behind them. They think this is all there is to see; if release from their bonds is forced to turn round to the fire and the puppets they become bewildered and happier left in their original state. They are even angry with anyone who tries to tell them how pitiful their position is. Only few can bear to realize that the shadow are only shadows cast by puppets; and they begin the journey of liberation that leads past the fire and right out the cave to the real world. At first they are dazzled here, and can bear to see real objects only in reflection and indirectly, but then they look at them directly in the light of the sun, and can even look at the sun itself” (Plato- Understanding the Good: Sun, Line and the Cave 252). The Cave is the human condition, but we don’t end there, we pass from darkness into the light and are liberated.
Hinduism states that the way we live in this life will determine our initial state in the next life. The human soul is dualistic and becomes Karma and can live in different bodies. Karma is the reincarnated, shedding the old body and moves into a different one. According to Hindu view:
“Never was a there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of these cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at the time of death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. For the soul is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. As a person puts new garments, giving up old ones, accepts new material bodies, giving up old and useless one (Philosophy of Religion, 334). I don’t agree with this view, because I believe we live just once and after we die there is no cycle of reincarnation. God created us as intelligent and responsible beings for our deeds in this earthly life and we’ll spend eternity according to our pattern of living on this earthly life.
The Philosophy of Religion says that according to Christian tradition the soul (psyche) is not separated from the body (soma); rather, the person is a holistic, unified being with the soul or self being the form of the material body (in an almost Aristotelian sense). In death the soul is not liberated from the body as from the corpse, but rather a new, glorified body comes into beings that are somehow related to our present earthly body. Then there is a reference to a passage written by Apostle Paul in his epistle to the I Corinthians chapter 15: 12-53. In this passage Paul is talking about the resurrection of the saints who are raised from the dead into spiritual, glorified bodies at the secret coming of Lord Jesus. I disagree with the manual view that the soul dies along with the body until the resurrection.
According with the Bible the soul and the spirit of a person at the moment of death leave the body and go either to Hell or Paradise. Human beings are composed of three parts: the body, the soul and the spirit. The soul and the spirit are immaterial, eternal and when a person dies go into eternity. I define the soul with our inner personality, the center of our emotions like love, hate, happiness or distress. The center of our emotion is in the heart. The spirit dwells into our brain, the center of the central the nervous system who gives commands to body organs. The spirit is the spark of life, the center of our intelligence and thinking, helping us makes decisions. I would compare the human being with an automobile. The vehicle has a body with an engine and electrical system that provides the means of locomotion. If we have a car with a good engine, but the electrical system is not working, the car would not start to go anywhere. So, it is true of human beings, the body without the spirit is dead.
In Luke 15: 19-31 Jesus told a parable and this parable has two main characters: the rich man and Lazarus. One spent his life in luxury and the poor man in poverty and disease, full of sores and lived the company of dogs that licked his wounds. He was always hungry and wanted the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, but nobody gave them to him. The rich man dies and is buried, the poor man dies and buried also. At his death the angels take him into Abraham’s boson, which symbolizes the Paradise. The rich man goes into Hades and there he lifts up his eyes and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his boson. He asked Abraham to let Lazarus to dip his finger into water and cool his tongue because his is tormented in the flame of fire. Abraham denies the rich man’s request and it is doomed into Hades forever.
This scriptural passage tells me that there are two different places where human souls end up. Lazarus did not end up Paradise because he was poor, but because he served God in his life on earth. The name Lazarus means, “God is my help.” I learned from this scriptural passage that people recognize each other after death; they are able to talk, feel pain, thirst or experienced the happiness and comfort of heaven.
In our discussion in class on this topic people raised the question: “ How do we look like after we die? The Bible has an answer to this question. In Luke chapter 20: 27-40 it is written that the Sadducees (a religious party who did not believed in the resurrection of the dead), told Jesus about seven brothers who married a woman after the first brother died, then the second brother married her. He died until finally all seven brothers married her. Finally the woman died and Jesus was asked: at the resurrection whose wife this woman becomes, because all seven brothers had her as a wife. Jesus answered that at the resurrection, people are not going to be married because they would be like the angels and sons of God. Angels appears in visions like beautiful, young people. One of the students in the class said that he does not imagine how heaven would be without women. Angels do not have sex, or the ability to reproduce, they are eternal, spiritual beings created by God without the earthly desire for sex.
I had a friend named Vasile Andreica and he told us in church about 20 years ago that he was put in the hospital with heart a condition. During a medical procedure he had a clinical death for one minute. He told us that during the medical procedure he felt his soul leaving his body and entering into a beautiful place with a lot of light and flowers. The colors of this world are faded compared with what he saw there. He could understand what other people were thinking and talking. He reached an imaginary line and he said that if he would pass that line he could not come back into his body. He was told that he had to come back, and felt himself descending down to earth and re-entering his body. After he told us this experience people nickname him Vasile Mortul which means Vasile The Dead.
Bertrand Russell believes that immortality comes from emotional factors, notably the fear of death. If a person survives death, the memories and habits, which constitute the person, will continue to be exhibited in a new set of occurrences. I don’t believe this to be a rational argument that emotions cause beliefs in future life. My philosophy teacher from high school, Vasile Ranga taught that when a person dies is like a candle whose flame is put out and nothing goes into eternity. Atheists philosophers like Marx think in a materialist-dialectic way, that everything is made of matter and should be proven by science. All things are made of matter (atom, molecule etc.) and nothing beyond this exists.
Many years ago I was watching a Christian Television Show and saw on the program Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a heart surgeon, who told how he encountered people who had clinical death and they experienced the misery and pain of hell and the happiness of heaven. In his book Beyond Death’s Door he tells about Thomas Welch who worked for a lumber company in Bridal Veil, a small town near Multnomah Falls, here in Oregon. He was sent to the trestle to straighten out some timbers, which were crossed, and not moving into the conveyor. Suddenly he fell thirteen feet and landed on his head into a pond, ten feet deep, filled with water and timber. He hit the first beam, and then tumbled from one beam into another until he disappeared from the view. The mill was shut down and he was found after forty-five minutes of search and taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland.
He was declared medically dead as far as this world is concerned, but was alive in another world. The next thing he knew he was standing near a shoreline of a great ocean of fire. It happened to be what the Bible says in revelation 21:8 …the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” This is one of the most awesome sights one could see this side of the final judgment. He declared:
“I remember more clearly than any other thing that ever happened to me in my life time. Every detail, every detail of every moment, what I saw and what happened during that hour that I was gone from this world. I was standing some distance from this burning, turbulent, rolling mass of blue fire. As far as my eyes could see it was just the same: a lake of fire and brimstone. There was nobody in it. I was not in it. I saw other people I had known that had died when I was thirteen. Another was a boy I had gone to school with who had died from cancer of the jaw that had started with an infected tooth while he was just a young lad. He was two years older than I. We recognized each other, even though we did not speak. They, too, were looking and seemed to be perplexed and in deep thought, as though they could not believe what they saw. Their expressions were those of bewilderment and confusion. The scene was so awesome that words simply fail. There is no way to describe it except to say we were eyewitness now to the final judgment. There is no way to escape, no way out. You even try to look for one. This is the prison out of which no one can escape. I said to myself in an audible voice, “ If I had known about this I would have done anything that was required of me to escape coming to a place like this.” But I had not known.
Then Thomas Welch saw a man coming. This man was Jesus Christ. He felt that this man could help him to get out of that terrible place. He passed by him and the other people from that place, but as He was departing looked back at Thomas Welsh and in the following seconds he was back into his body. He entered into his body like coming through the door of a house. The doctors operated on his head and put him in the intensive care unit. He recovered completely from his wounds.
Many people have had similar experiences that cause me to believe that there is life after death. However, neither philosophers nor the Bible nor other books give us all the answers to the many questions regarding life after death. Since none of us have died yet, we cannot talk about this experience. I noticed that my parents, although they were Christians, began to worry about dying, as they grew older. All of us fear death, but none of us can bypass it. John Hicks says in his essay that: “ Only through the sovereign creative love of God can there be a new existence beyond the grave.”
God’s will or DNA? by Octavian D. Curpas
Scientists have long been baffled as to why some people live so much longer than others. Current estimates put the figure of total centenarians worldwide at about 588,000. Exact numbers may be difficult to determine, since many centenarians live in developing or outlying areas, where census data is not often available. However the numbers of centenarians in industrialized nations are still rather impressive. There are approximately 79,000 Americans who hold the distinction of being centenarians, a group now believed to be the fastest growing group of Americans. Some of them are well known because of their celebrity. Others are ordinary people who have lived extraordinarily long lives. Each of them is a page of history. According to the statistics, in Romania are almost 9,800 people who reached the age of 100 or more.
About two years ago, I wrote an article about Gheorghe Onita, a Romanian centenarian who lived in Arizona. He passed away shortly after he turned 100. I remember myself doing a lot of research on the topic of longevity at that time. Mr. Onita held the record as the oldest Romanian here in Arizona.
Now at 115 years old, Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest living person. Fifteen years older than our conational. Parker turned 115 on Sunday, April 20, 2008. Edna was born on April 20, 1893. Her husband, Earl, died in 1938 and Parker lived alone in their farmhouse until 1993. She then moved in with her son’s family, and when they found that she was in need of more care, she moved into a convalescent home.
Maybe it was a lifetime of chores on the family farm that accounts for Edna Parker’s long life. Or maybe just good genes explain why the world’s oldest known person that turned 115 on last Sunday, defying staggering odds. Scientists who study longevity hope Parker and others who live to 110 or beyond — they’re called super centenarians — can help solve the mystery of extreme longevity. Scientists from the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University collected samples of DNA to add to the database of super centenarians. Her genes, along with about 100 other people who lived over 110 years, will be analyzed by aging specialists. They are looking for longevity enabling genes. Social factors largely explain differences in life expectancies both between countries and between different groups of population in each country. Convincing evidence shows that, individual lifestyles, social networks, styles of relating to life, and in particular, social class, are major determinants of the life-span. Does this principle apply to anybody? Let’s take a look at my subject centenarians. From at least one perspective, there is a difference between the two. Edna Parker was born in the United States and has lived in a free country her entire life. On the other hand, Gheorghe Onita, being born in Romania, went through two world wars, three dictatorships, three social orders. He served seven years in the Romanian army. He endured so much hunger and thirst in the wars and the life he lived was generally not very easy. He came to United States when he was 80. The first nine years, he lived in Chicago then he moved to Grand Canyon State. At that time, most of his fellows could be seen just in the memories. Moreover, he didn’t come here to die but to live healthy for other two decades. Ignoring the age, after he turned 100, he was able to read the Bible without glasses. Everybody who knew him was impressed of his vitality. He confessed me in an interview for Romanian Times that when he lived in Romania he wouldn’t believe that there was a place in the world where was always summer. He loved Arizona. The environment played an important role in his well-being.
Edna Parker laughed and smiled as relative and guests released 115 balloons into sunny skies outside her nursing home in Indiana. “We don’t know why she’s lived so long,” said Don Parker, her 59-year-old grandson. “But she’s never been a worrier and she’s always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it.” Like Gheorghe Onita, Edna Parker never drank alcohol or tried tobacco and led an active life. It lessens feelings of depression that might otherwise lower immunity and boost heart disease risk
In conclusion, what could be the real reason for increased longevity?
Lifestyle, DNA or is it God? That’s a âuestion the experts have been eager to find an answer to.
Immortality architects by Octavian D. CurpasHow many times it happened to us to stay powerless in front of a painting, to be simply stoned because the frames managed to grasp more life than we were capable to live? Because at once, the moments that transiently pass through us stop there on the canvas… And only then we realize that painters are immortality architects.
This title rose into my mind only when I met Ion Panduru. The artist’s works manage to preserve with such force the young spirit mirrored on the faces or fragments of nature, than by looking at them you feel that you are immortal. This is how he also managed to grasp the yellow iris in all its freshness, in spite of the fact that the plant is very sensitive to heat, withering in a couple of hours. The flower, whose beauty may compete with the orchid blooms in May, towards the end, in adjacent swampy areas near Pasarea Lake, situated close to Bucharest. He discovered it while being at the beach together with his wife, “the greatest and embittered fun of my painting”, as the painter calls her. And the master’s impetuous creative will brought nature back to life: “I didn’t manage to grasp its unreal beauty for the first time, but the second time I was like possessed, the brush was flushing and I managed to put them in the page. They live and breathe! They stay; they stay well in the page. They look wonderful!”
The truth is that by a simple touch of brush, the artist Ion Panduru manages to grasp the human essence found in its pure form, forgetting about time or other impediments that might wrinkle its authenticity. This was the case of a portrait that he made, proving to be extremely benevolent with the character’s age. “The portrait is a special issue; you have to feel the character beyond likeness. I was painting in Germany the portrait of a lady, the truth is that I had stolen from her 15-20 years. The lady’s husband came and said that not even he had met her so young. I understood exactly what the man was saying and I decently went towards a solution that would content both of them”, confesses the painter.
Ion Panduru was born in April 1948, in Simian, County Mehedinti. His talent impetuously burst as he was only five years old, while looking at his mother weaving a carpet. Then the artist felt the inclination towards painting being fascinated by the colors that were separated and brought together in the models of the Romanian traditional textures, inclination that he initially perceived it by the wish to weave. “I was tempted to weave, but my mother didn’t allow me. Then I took a few colored pencils and I reproduced from a pencil box a drawing with two sparrows at the blackboard. The birds were pupils. Later, when my mother saw the drawing, she took pride in showing it to my father. He astonishingly raised his eyebrows, asking her once more if I made the drawing. She answered positively and my old man praised me”, says the master.
“Don’t waste your time with miniatures”
The inclination towards plastic arts began to strongly vibrate in his soul while attending the courses of the general school in Craiova. The Art Museum, in whose yard he used to play, definitively left its mark on his artist soul. He used to spend hours contemplating the works of Romanian famous painters. But what activated “an inner click”, making him sensitive to painting, as the painter Panduru says, was one of the works of master Tuculescu, embodying a young bull pretending to be bad, but in fact it was full of fear, this painting is currently at the art museum of Constanta.
He graduated high-school also in Constanta, after which he attended the Polytechnic Institute, Faculty of Automatics of Bucharest, where he also settled down afterwards. And as expected, the polytechnic studies could not distract his attention from painting, which attracted him as a thread, as the artist says. Therefore, he attended painting courses with famous artists, as for example the painters Ion Taralunga, Doru Rotaru, a refined colorist, a maker of stained glass windows, great master who adorned Cotroceni and Youth Palace and not at least, Bogdan Stihi, a painter with an amazing execution speed and obviously individual study as much as possible.
Regarding the uncomfortable moments he faced during his carrier, the painter Ion Panduru mentions: You have to see the full part of the glass! To be healthy, to have the power to work. You cannot change the world, not suddenly, there may appear fractures, discontinuities, with painful effect and nobody gets to win. There is place for everybody; time is the supreme, capricious, irrevocable arbitrator. The master Nicolae Tonita was tempering the barren disputes among fellows with the gentle word: “don’t waste your time anymore with miniatures”. In other words, if you can and you have something to say, say it with your artistic means, not with cudgel and insult.
Once I gave a work to a man and after a while, going to his place, I looked for the painting and as I didn’t see it, I asked him where it was, and he started to apologize that he had no money for the frame; my heart ached and that man will not receive any painting from me, not even offering an enormous amount of money”.
His artistic pulse achieved with such meticulousness was gathered in various personal exhibitions as for example: 1991 – Bucharest; 1992 – Agrigento, Italy, 1994 – Bamberg, Germany, 1994 – Bucharest, as well as works in private collections in: Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, The Netherlands, Canada, USA, Switzerland, and Mozambiâue. His works undoubtedly prove that Ion Panduru, both the artist and the person manage to weave, as he wished for as he was a child, suspended bridges between the soul and the surrounding world.
The persons who wish to see these works of art of Ion Panduru, may do it at the address: www.ionpanduru.com You may also express your considerations regarding these masterpieces, directly to the artist at e-mail: IonPanduru@yahoo.com or to contact him by phone at: 01140-723-55.92.39._________________________________________________________________