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 Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel

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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptySun Jun 16, 2013 1:34 pm

Manuel (Paternal Grandfather)


They also came for you in the middle of the night,
But found that you had gone to Buenos Aires.
The Guardia Civil questioned your wife in her home,
Surrounded by your four young children, in loud but respectful tones.
 
They waved their machine guns about for a while,
But left no visible scars on your children,
Or on your young wife, whom you
Left behind to raise them alone.
 
You had been a big fish in a little pond,
A successful entrepreneur who made a very good living,
By buying cattle to be raised by those too poor
To buy their own who would raise them for you.
 
They would graze them, use them to pull their plows
And sell their milk, or use it to feed their too numerous children. 
When they were ready for sale, you would take them to market,
Obtain a fair price for them, and equally split the gains with those who raised them.
 
All in all, it was a good system that gave you relative wealth,
And gave the poor the means to feed their families and themselves.
You reputation for unwavering honesty and fair dealing made many
Want to raise cattle for you, and many more sought you out to settle disputes.
 
On matters of contracts and disputed land boundaries your word was law.
The powerless and the powerful trusted your judgment equally and sought you out
To settle their disputes. Your judgment was always accepted as final because
Your fairness and integrity were beyond question. “If Manuel says it, it is so.”
 
You would honor a bad deal based on a handshake and would rather lose a
Fortune than break your word, even when dealing with those far less honorable
Than yourself. For you a man was only as good as his word, and you knew that the
Greatest legacy you could leave your children was an unsullied name. 
 
You were frugal beyond need or reason, perhaps because you did not
Want to flaunt your relative wealth when so many had nothing.
It would have offended your social conscience and belied your politics.
Your one extravagance was a great steed, on which no expense was spared.
 
Though thoughtful, eloquent and soft-spoken, you were not shy about
Sharing your views and took quiet pride in the fact that others listened
When you spoke.  You were an ardent believer in the young republic and
Left of center in your views. When the war came, you were an easy target.
 
There was no time to take your entire family out of the country, and
You simply had too much to lose—a significant capital tied up in land and
Livestock. So you decided to go to Argentina, having been in the U.S. while
You were single and preferring self exile in a country with a familiar language.
 
Your wife and children would be fine, sheltered by your capital and by
The good will you had earned. And you were largely right.
Despite your wife’s inexperience, she continued with your business, with the
Help of your son who had both your eye for buying livestock and your good name.
 
Long years after you had gone, your teenaged son could buy all the cattle he
Wanted at any regional fair on credit, with just a handshake, simply because
He was your son. And for many years, complete strangers would step up offering a
Stern warning to those they believed were trying to cheat your son at the fairs.
 
“E o fillo do Café.” (He is the son of the Café, a nickname earned by a
Distant relative for to his habit of offering coffee to anyone who visited his
Office at a time when coffee was a luxury). That was enough to stop anyone
Seeking to gain an unfair advantage from dad’s youth and inexperience.
 
Once in Buenos Aires, though, you were a small fish in a very big pond,
Or, more accurately, a fish on dry land; nobody was impressed by your name,
Your pedigree, your reputation or your way of doing business. You were probably
Mocked for your Galician accent and few listened or cared when you spoke.
 
You lived in a small room that shared a patio with a little schoolhouse.
You worked nights as a watchman, and tried to sleep during the day while
Children played noisily next door. You made little money since your trade was
Useless in a modern city where trust was a highly devalued currency.
 
You were an anachronistic curiosity. And you could not return home.
When your son followed you there, he must have broken your heart;
You had expected that he would run your business until your return; but he
Quit school, tired of being called roxo (red) by his military instructors.
 
It must have been excruciatingly difficult for you.  Dad never got your pain.
Ironically, I think I do, but much too late. Eventually you returned to Spain to
A wife who had faithfully raised your children alone for more than ten years and was
No longer predisposed to unquestioningly view your will as her duty.
 
Doubtless, you could no more understand that than dad could understand
You. Too much Pain. Too many dreams deferred, mourned, buried and forgotten.
You returned to your beloved Galicia when it was clear you would not be
Persecuted after Generalisimo Franco had mellowed into a relatively benign tyrant.
 
People were no longer found shot or beaten to death in ditches by the
Side of the road. So you returned home to live out the remainder of your
Days out of place, a caricature of your former self, resting on the brittle,
Crumbling laurels of your pre Civil War self, not broken, but forever bent.
 
You found a world very different from the one you had built through your
Decency, cunning, and entrepreneurship. And you learned to look around
Before speaking your mind, and spent your remaining days reined in far more
Closely than your old steed, and with no polished silver bit to bite upon.
 
Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. Lopez is available for  the Kindle and in paperback at http://www.amazon.com/Of-Pain-Ecstasy-Collected-ebook/dp/B0059XEREI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1371405797&sr=1-9
Various sample readings from of Pain and Ecstasy are available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGA9jqMarpGQdW3Zj6X1CZw/videos?view_as=public
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyWed Jun 19, 2013 1:54 pm

Who is the subject?  Powerful!
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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyThu Jun 20, 2013 10:35 am

Thank you, D.K.

The subject of this excerpt is my paternal grandfather, Manuel Lopez. The entire free verse poem is  about my grandparents and the facts related are true to the best of my knowledge from a lifetime of conversations with my parents, grandmothers and friends who knew them both here and in Spain. Both of my grandfathers passed before I could meet them. My mom, who is experiencing very serious cognitive issues, tells me almost every day when we speak--sometimes several times in our conversation--how very much she wishes my grandfather (Emilio) could have known me because we are very similar, in her view, and I always remind her of him. The only thing that he and I have in common is my mom's fervent love. I am unworthy of the comparison other than in her own mind having neither his courage, strength of character or willingness to literally give everything up for the sake of conviction, of what is right (in his mind). But even a rock could not fail to be moved or motivated by even second-hand contact with such people. And I know I am a better rock for it, though still a rock nonetheless.

When time permits, probably when my academic career is at an end, I hope to be able to write a book titled Unsung Heroes that will include all of the people in my life who have shown incredible courage under difficult circumstances and who have done so in complete anonymity. My parents deserve their own book each and will certainly be included, as will a select number of close friends and family members, some of whom have passed and for whose passing the world is measurably poorer.
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

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Age : 80
Location : Germany

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyThu Jun 20, 2013 10:50 am

Agree with DK. It is powerful.  I think you have a subject that needs telling.  Values seem to be lost among many.  I still remember the handshake and in some cultures, it still exists.  A man's word is his bond and a handshake seals the deal.
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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

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Location : New York

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyThu Jun 20, 2013 11:22 am

Thank you, Abe.

When we need a lawyer to tell us what promises we should keep we are doomed as a society. I've said this elsewhere more than once and to my students as well: you don't have to be the smartest or most experienced person in the room to be a success, as brains and expertise can be bought or rented by the hour (employees and consultants). But integrity is the one quality that distinguishes a person above all others. It cannot be bought or rented by the hour and, like fine crystal, once shattered it can never be repaired. An education and integrity are the only things that no government can ever take away from us and are by far our most prized possessions.

This is not my wisdom, though I fully embrace it, but my parents' and grandparents' taught and learned not in a classroom but by their example. I did not learn it at university or from anyone with a string of meaningless letters after their name that lent gravitas to their words. It is simple wisdom worth more than everything I learned in a lifetime of formal learning in and out of the classroom. Strip everything I own from me and I will still be rich as long as I have these.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

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Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyThu Jun 20, 2013 11:30 am

I worked in Northern Florida, located in Madison but serving six economically depressed counties.  I went there from southwest Florida.  The difference was great.

A handshake was still the seal of a deal.  Promises were not made that could not be kept.  People shared whatever they had with a needy neighbor. 

I doubt it's still the same.
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Abe F. March
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Age : 80
Location : Germany

Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyThu Jun 20, 2013 10:07 pm

Our integrity, our honor is worth more than any number of signed contracts drafted by the best lawyers.

My experience in the M.E. made that very clear.  The inference by the West that Arabs can’t be trusted made it difficult for me until I learned otherwise.  I learned to trust the handshake in a business deal more than any contract.  Trust goes two ways.  If one requires a signed document it infers that you don’t trust them.  The other party to the contract then feels that they can’t trust you.  It becomes a matter of who can find a loop hole in the contract to take advantage of the other.  I found that a handshake was more secure than any contract.  Their honor was at stake.
You often hear in the news that a M.E. country says that a “principle” is involved.  They may feel that their honor is questioned.  Too often our actions are based on Western standards without regard to the standards of those we are dealing with.

It is my understanding based on the Civil Law course I took many years ago, that a verbal contract, a handshake, was still valid.  I don’t know if that is true today.  Victor may shed some light on this.  We continue to add laws to the books.  Do these new laws replace old ones?  Do the old laws remain rarely enforced?
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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

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Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyFri Jun 21, 2013 9:17 am

Abe,

You make an excellent observation. When dealing with any country or people for whom trust is the coin of the realm, to require a formal contract is an insult. We, and by we I mean Americans, base foreign policy on a balance of the carrot and stick. We implicitly threaten the use of force when our interests are threatened (something that every other country understands and at some level respects since they generally do likewise if they have the ability) and also try to "buy" loyalty by giving generous amounts of both humanitarian and military aid--the former to friends and foes alike, especially in times of crisis. Our generosity is duplicitous since it is intended to buy loyalty. That very act is an offense to many cultures. Friends do not need to be bought. Those who can be are anything but friends--more like those who rent their affections by the hour, in fact. Thus we pay countries to be our friends and wonder why they resent it (not the leaders, of course, who like to buy Mercedes automobiles and pad their Swiss accounts--but the people whose hearts and mind we "surprisingly'--only to us-- fail to win to our side).

To your question about contracts, it comes as a great surprise to many people--even my first year students--that verbal contracts are generally quite valid. Yes, a handshake is still enforceable in both the U.S. and Great Britain. But there are a variety of important exceptions to this and have been since the Middle Ages in our common law system that are articulated in the U.S. by states' statutes of frauds and by the Statute of Frauds in the Uniform Commercial Code for contracts involving the sale and lease of goods (UCC Articles 2 and 2A). For example, contracts for the sale of goods with a  contract price of $500 or more must be evidenced by a signed writing (the same for leases of goods of at least $1,000). Contracts that transfer an interest in real estate must also be evidenced by a signed writing, along with contracts that cannot be performed in one year, contracts in consideration of marriage (such as a prenuptial agreement) and several others. But most contracts are still perfectly enforceable without a writing or even a handshake--as long as there is a valid offer and acceptance, there is consideration exchanged by the parties, both parties have the legal capacity to contract (e.g., are not insane, intoxicated, minors, etc.), and the contract is not against the law or public policy. That's pretty much it.

So you can hire me to be your lawyer to represent you in all things legal for the rest of my life (or your life) and agree to pay me $250,000 for the privilege every year, and in the U.S. and that would be a valid contract if we both freely agreed to it orally. Of course, because people lie and misremember what was said, it would be a very bad idea to enter into such an agreement, but the law will enforce it if a Court believes it was actually agreed to by the testimony of the parties involved, potentially with or without witnesses or other corroborating testimony.

The clash of cultures to which you allude is extraordinarily important--and I doubt even our elected officials and some in the diplomatic core fully understand the foundational difference for the divergent mindsets. It is actually both a simple one to trace and a very difficulty one to bridge. It relates to the largely incompatible ethical systems we (the U.S.and Britain) use and that used by most of the rest of the world.  The world relies largely on absolutist ethics and we rely almost exclusively on relativistic ethics--a system that has its foundation in the UK and was adopted for obvious reasons in the US.

The Middle East, of course, is both a cradle for civilization, law and absolutist ethics. There is little room for grey areas in absolutist ethics when it comes to questions of RIGHT and WRONG, or GOOD and EVIL. These questions are not open to debate or subject to filtering based on situational context or the intentions of a person who chooses a course of conduct. If you steal a loaf of bread it is wrong, illegal, immoral and evil all at once, all the time whether you steal it because you are a scummy, selfish, evil little troll or to give to a starving child when you cannot afford to buy it changes nothing. In Hammurabi's time (nearly 6,000 years ago) and before him--the great law giver--you steal, your hand gets cut off. No one gives a damn why you stole, of your personal motivation, intentions, or need. The law cares only that you stole and that appropriate punishment be metered out. Stealing is wrong, must be discouraged and if a hardship results as when a good person is driven by desperation to do immoral things, that person must be punished for the good of society, to preserve order, to protect the people.the individual is not important--protection of society and the promotion of ethical conduct are.

In England under a weak King John, the aristocracy forced the king to give them the "rights" they demanded at the point of a sword--give in or die was that king's only choice. He chose to live and to weaken the monarchy unlike in any other country, giving to the wealthy lords certain rights we take for granted--such as the right to trial by jury (it gave them the right to actually CHOOSE THE JURY that would decide their fate  from among their friends and family, loading the deck in their favor should the now largely figurehead king want to accuse them of treason or take away "their" land which, of course, in every other country and in England before the Magna Carta belonged to the crown and was doled out at the king's/queen's sole discretion--the same as titles of nobility). Trial by jury and the concept of innocent until proven guilty were intended to make it hard to convict those accused of crimes. Of course, it works well in that regard.Incidentally it may also promote the ends of justice, but let's have no illusion as to the real purpose of the system we take for granted today.

Our ethics and legal system is drawn from the relativistic while the rest of the world traditionally draws these from the absolutist schools of thought. Politics of course follows a similar dichotomy. These differences are irreconcilable, and their polar opposite hateful to their respective (polarized) adherents. In a nutshell (albeit a grossly oversimplified one) there is the kernel of civil unrest today throughout much of the world and at home in Europe and in the US. Yes, there are true evil doers hell bent on imposing their will/religion/misguided ethics on the rest of the world. But there is also a very real clash of culture, of ethics, of politics, or legal traditions that we cannot sweep under the rug and that no amount of holding hands, hugging trees or singing cumba ya will bridge.

Suicide bombers are only a symptom of the larger problem and the problem is irreconcilable unless people of conscience ON BOTH SIDES of the divide remove their blinders and are willing to take a hard look at the root causes of the hatred and animus that is deeper than mere poverty, envy or animosity taught from the cradle to the grave. It begins with trust and the honest recognition that people of conscience can differ. It requires the willingness to listen and understand the other person's point of view without trying to argue/bludgeon/bribe them into adopting ours. In a word, it requires mutual respect  not for the sake of appearances or of political correctness, concepts that are laughable in ourselves if we only peek beyond our own idiotic blinders, but for the sake of what should be the highest aspiration for us all: a sustainable peace that can only come through mutual respect and demonstrable honor in the international and interpersonal arenas.


Last edited by Victor D. Lopez on Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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dkchristi
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Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyFri Jun 21, 2013 10:30 am

That is one of the most concise, yet clear explanations I have read lately.  Many touch on the same points but go into such length that the point is lost.  Thanks for both clarifying a handshake contract (let's see if you get any takers on the $250,000 retainer) and the difference between relativistic and absolutist points of view as understood in very different cultural settings.
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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

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Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel   Unsung Heroes - Excerpt #3: Manuel EmptyFri Jun 21, 2013 1:12 pm

Thanks, D.K.
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