Wednesday, August 27, 2014

the more you watch...the less you know

A bit of musical history today about a CD which was important in its time. "the more you watch...the less you know" with Danny Schechter as executive producer and Bill Adler as producer was mastered by Joe Lede in synergy with the Media and Democracy Conference in October of 1997.
"the more you watch...the less you know" is difficult to find now so, if you have it, you might want to hang on to it.  It is almost an orpahn CD.  It is difficult even to find a catalogue listing for it anymore because the company which handled it is, alas, no more, a victim of "downsizing" in the recession.  It was distributed by Mouth Almighty Records, a Mercury label which Mercury ditched in about December 1999 when Seagrams bought out Polygram which owned Mercury.

The tracks on this CD include names which were important back in 1997 and are still very much a part of us in the early twenty first century.  Included are names like Wammo, Leonard Cohen, Nenad Bach, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Springsteen and more.  

Here is a photo from the covers: 

and here is a photo from the inside:

Look at those tracks!  Prizes for anyone's collection!

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
27. kolovoz 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I know I'm behind.  There's so many things I haven't told you about.  There has been a lot going on and That's why I have not had time to write here.  I haven't finished writing about what happened in Washington a few months ago much less mentioned anything about Nenad Bach's movie in Houston, Adriatica, or the President's speech in Houston last month.  There's more beside those things too.  Soon.  ?  Maybe soon. I hope.

Today I've been waiting. Frustrated. Tense.  Tired.  Waiting for some data that I needed four years ago.  "I'll have to get back to you on that."  Urrrgggghhh.  I waited yesterday too, and the day before, and for several years before that. This week I have been trying to keep all the channels of communication open so  maybe this time I can have the data I need.  Waiting is boring so I decided to do something more or less productive while I wait.I decided to root around in some numbers which, as far as I know, no one else has available, not even Google/YouTube.

About this time last year I reported that Croatian YouTube channels had amassed approximately three hundred million views since 2006 when YouTube came into being.  At the time, I was impressed with what we had done as a group in those few years.  Of course we aren't a group. We are competitors in an open field and he/she who does good work and promotes it well is rewarded with views.  Most of us don't make any money from our efforts.  Our reward is mostly just from promoting the music and the musicians from our beloved Croatia.  Of course, We video producers don't mind a few accolades along the way.

A year ago, I only had about seventy channels on my chart. I had missed a few - there are 850 channels on the chart now and I still find a new channel once in a while to add to the list.  There isn't any way to find all the Croatian Channels because we are all over the world.  Yes Terka from Slovakia, you are on my chart because you illustrate so many Croatian songs. If a Croatian Channel is connected to others then I have a fair chance of finding it.  No one is paying me to keep the chart so if there are some omissions or inaccuracies, I'm sorry but I'm trying my best just because I want to know the data.

Where a year ago  I was so proud that we had three hundred million views, our number one channel has over four hundred million views.  As of today, as a group we have passed over TWO BILLION 500 MILLION views on YouTube.

Among us, the average channel has about 2,941,176 views.  The top 133 channels are above and 717 channels are below that number.   The median is about 360,000 views.  The smallest channel has about 50 views and the largest has about 400 million views.

In the for what its worth department, YouTube keeps yammering  about how we should get our "subscribers" up.  Here is what I see from the chart:  channels with more subscribers are either at the top of the chart or they are edging their way up.  Channels with the high rates of new subscribers are jumping up the chart.  Number one on the chart has gone from 0 subscribers to about two million in a year and a half. YouTube knows what they are talking about and it takes great material to get subscribers and keep them.  All in all we are doing a good job in that regard. Look at the results!

TWO BILLION FIVE HUNDRED MILLION views as of today.  Way to go Croats!

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

David Byler a.k.a. Canovals

4. lipanj 201

Monday, March 24, 2014

Synodical President Speaks Out

"We must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty."
...from a letter sent out 24 March 2014 by the Reverend Matthew Harrison*

You’re tired of hearing about Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court, tired of all the talk of fines and health-care plans and reproductive rights, tired of being bombarded with words spoken in anger from both sides of the aisle. You want to put your fingers in your ears, switch the channel, and wait for the ruling and the rest of it to just go away.

But even though you are tired, even though you’ve grown weary of having the same discussions about the same points, Hobby Lobby and fines and health-care plans still matter. They matter because your country – the United States of America – was founded on the principle that you were born with certain rights: the rights to seek and follow truth, to live according to your beliefs, to worship freely.

And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.

Today, our federal government threatens that right, consistently refusing to protect religious liberty as our Constitution and the laws of nature demand. In the dozens of cases against the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, the government has started dictating the boundaries of religious beliefs, and to pick and choose which beliefs – and which individuals – deserve religious liberty protection.

The contraceptive mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide a full range of 20 FDA-approved contraceptive devices, drugs and services in their health-care plans. These include "emergency contraceptives" with the ability to prevent implantation of an embryo – in other words, the ability to end a human life. Catholics, Lutherans, and many other Americans find these drugs morally reprehensible. Yet, though objections to the mandate are strong and numerous – with over 90 lawsuits filed so far – the government has simply swept them aside.

The mandate’s provisions allow for very narrow exemptions for houses of worship. Exemptions do not extend even to affiliates of those houses of worship; for example, a Catholic order of nuns, operating homes for the elderly poor, is not exempt. Nor are Christian colleges, nor are thousands of other religious non-profit organizations, which serve the public good.

In the case of the non-profits, the government has come up with an empty "accommodation" that would force organizations to sign HHS forms directing third-party administrators to provide the drugs that the organizations cannot. As one plaintiff, the Little Sisters of the Poor, explained, these forms are nothing more than permission slips. The Little Sisters cannot direct someone else to act immorally, just as they cannot act immorally themselves. The government has branded this particular belief meaningless.

Neither the exemption nor the false "accommodation" extends to individuals who run their own businesses, like David and Barbara Green, owners of Hobby Lobby. The Greens morally oppose providing drugs that can prevent implantation and have filed suit against HHS, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In the Greens’ case, the government claims that moral convictions must be abandoned at the door of the workplace. The Greens may not run their own companies according to their consciences. Or, in return for staying true to their convictions, they will be forced to pay crushing fines.

The government’s distinctions under the mandate don’t make sense. The government does not get to reduce God and the way in which He works down to what happens only in church or worship. By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church – not the government – must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries.

Moreover, God uses each of us in our vocations to serve those around us. This call to serve others and live according to our beliefs extends beyond our houses of worship, into our homes, our communities, and our work. To prevent individuals from following the dictates of their consciences is an abuse of power and a gross infringement on human dignity.

As the leader of a Christian church body, I strongly object to the government’s approach of picking and choosing whose beliefs merit consideration. Now, according to the government, Catholic nuns must authorize others to give out free contraceptives, and evangelical Christians must abandon their most deeply held convictions in the operations of their own businesses. What group, and what belief, will next be under attack?

Friends, we may be weary. We may be tired. But we must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty. This mandate threatens not only those whose religions specifically compel them to oppose it, but all Americans. We cannot allow our government to define the content of our beliefs or the degree of their significance.

* The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the current and 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

David Byler a.k.a. Canovals

24. ožujka 201

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Foreign Policy.

This is part 6 of a series concerning a briefing at the White House in Washington DC on Ethnic Day 2014

part I of the adventure is at:  dorucak na granici
part II is at: booooom
part III is: at White the House

Foreign Policy.  I promised to tell you about our "Ethnic Day" White House Briefing on Foreign Policy.

First the moderator wanted everyone who had been recording or filming the event to bring their equipment or devices forward to the podium. I supposed that was to erase their recordings because the next thing he told us was that everything being said was "off the record."  I noticed there was not a rush forward to the podium.  My camera was stuck back in a car because we couldn't have cameras with us for the White House tour.  I was a little disappointed in this because I had lugged the thing all the way to Washington D.C. just so I could video the proceedings as I was told I could.  Sigh.

Next we were introduced in rapid fire sequence to some young people whom we were told were  from the "NSA" which I take to be the National Security Adviser's office not to be confused with the National Security Agency which is engaged in signals intelligence, i.e. tapping your phone. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is a senior official in the Executive Office of the President who serves as chief advisor on national security issues.  The National Security Advisor participates in the National Security Council and is supported by the National Security Council staff which produces research, briefings, and intelligence for the National Security Advisor to review and present either to the National Security Council or directly to the President.  I believe our presenters then were actually from the National Security Council staff.

The first presenter was from the "Russian desk."  He carried on quite a while about Russia. Most of us in the room probably have a greater understanding of Russian history, Russian culture, Russian peoples, current Russian trends and events than this poor man had.  One of our group remarked that the man has probably never read Dostojevski in Russian.  My guess is that the fellow has never once read the Oče naš in Russian either much less prayed it in Russian or any Slavic language.  I can not remember if he knew the Winter Olympics were about to be in Sochi or not.  After a certain point in his presentation I was greatly under impressed.

So that was fun.  Next we were to hear from the "East European Desk." The young woman's high heeled boots and above the knee skirt as she crossed the stage earlier had seemed a little short of professional but she made up for that with her enthusiasm.  It was in that enthusiasm that I began to be overwhelmed with sheer terror.  She described Germany as East Europe.  Are the warning flags going up in your head yet?

She told how Germany was becoming stronger and stronger and that was a good thing she said for the region and for America.  She described how Austria and Slovenia were gradually coming under Germany's influence. In my mind I could hear the rumbling klank! klank! klank! of the German tanks as they were described to me by men I knew who had escaped ahead of them once before a lifetime ago.  I could hear the tromp! tromp! tromp! of columns of German soldiers moving south into South East Europe.  I know I was not alone in these emotions because I saw the leader of the Serbian delegation look back at us with a terrified "WTF" look on his face.

The little bit of Croatian I know is kind of an off brand 300 hundred year old brand of Missouri-Texas sort of Kajkavski mixed now with some modern Croatian. As a result it hasn't been just awfully difficult for me to communicate with my YouTube friends from just over the border in Slovenia where they speak something fairly close.  When I hear those tanks and when I hear those soldiers coming the hair on the back of my head rises.  This is too close for comfort.

A Young Bosanac man went to the microphone.  He asked what was the Administration's take on what was happening in Sarajevo.  It was obvious she did not know where or what a Sarajevo is much less anything about what was happening there.  The young man returned to his seat with a frustrated look on his face.  Remember - this is that Friday when the Archives were burned in Sarajevo and she did not know anything about it. We all knew.  Everybody in the room knew. Why didn't she know?

One of our group was at the microphone.  It was clear that the folk on the podium had not one clue about our concerns.  In fact, it quickly became clear that they did not know where East Europe is and they certainly had not a single clue about where is South East Europe.  There was no hope that they might know on what continent Croatia might be. 

Someone from the Polish delegation went to the microphone.  He had had enough already.  "Will all the Russian-Americans in the room please rise?" He asked. No one rose.  He asked all the German-Americans" to rise.  I saw no one rise.    "Will all the Polish-Americans please rise?" There was a ripple  across the auditorium as a mass of Polish people stood to their feet.  His point was that the presenters from the White House had totally missed the mark with their presentations. We didn't want to hear about Russians and we didn't want to hear about Germans who have had us in their sandwich for generations. We wanted to hear about us and the White House didn't even know who any of us are much less where our homelands are.  Soon the briefings were dismissed and we found our way outside into the street.

Lest anyone go away from my report thinking all this was a waste of time, let me tell you that I think what we experienced and what we learned is vitally important in several ways.   First, some of us Croatian-Americans had never met each other face to face before.  I had never met Nenad Bach or any of the others before this time.  Seeing each other for the first time in the flesh was a pleasure and we learned things about each other during our brief time together which  will enable us to work more effectively together in the future. Second, each of us met new people from the other hyphenated-Americans with  whom we will be working in the future on mutually important tasks.  One  cannot put a price on the value of these relationships either.  Third, we've learned what the White House does not know.  That is important. That is vitally important.  It explains for example why President Carter  was bombing Novosad  when the city was ruled by the local Democratic Opposition, which was against the regime in Belgrade.  He did not understand the make up, structure, and situation on the ground in South East Europe and he had no one to tell him the true story. 

It is vital to the interests of America and it is crucial to the interests of hyphenated-Americans to find a way somehow to begin to communicate with the White House concerning our various peoples and about the lands from which we have come. This is the task before us.  It is a huge task but for all of us both sides of our hyphenation will benefit greatly at any success we have.   This is a task we must to undertake, a task in which we must succeed and keep on succeeding. This is not about politics or even about which Administration is in the White House.  This is about us, all of us. 

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

David Byler a.k.a. Canovals

5 ožujka 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lunch and some more on Immigration

This is part V of a series:

part I of the adventure is at:  dorucak na granici
part II is at: booooom
part III is: at White the House

The Lunch Break was perfectly timed as far as I was concerned. I was hungry and I needed time to cool down.  The guys helped me down to the hallway near the "Indian Treaty Room" where cardboard lunch pails were lined up on the tables.  There was a choice of  whatever was on this table versus whatever was on that table.  It all looked like turkey from where I was so I took one labeled "Turkey" and saluted the Anglo-Americans who seemed not to be represented at all in our Ethnic Day gathering of various hyphenated-Americans even though the Irish-Americans were.    

For a beverage to accompany our feast we had a choice of lukewarm  bottled water or lukewarm bottled  water which I took with me into the "Indian Treaty Room" all the better to remind me of that fabled early American Turkey feast long ago.  Our small group scattered through the room so that we could interact with a broader range of people.  I noticed that for the most part the other groups were also scattering among the crowd and meeting new people.

I was wondering how "Indigenous-American Treaty Room" would look on the Brass door plaque instead of "Indian Treaty Room" when a delightfully blonde young lady approached and asked to join me.  Having been the proverbial dirty old man since I had seven years upon me of course I smiled and agreed.  As she introduced herself I learned quickly that she was Polish-American and she was there beside this old grey haired man with an agenda of her own. What did I think about the first session of the briefing?  Were others in my group feeling the same way?  She shared her feelings with me. Clearly we were on the same page.
Among other things we were both disappointed that we did not hear more from the fellow who had brought the strongest argument to the table for more open immigration. He had given us some statistics about how new immigrants were more likely to be entrepreneurs than people whose families had been here several generations. What was the source of those statistics?  He hadn't said.  Both of us had wanted to know more about this, but alas that fellow had disappeared from the discussion on the podium much too soon.

The young woman excused herself.  As I finished my lunch, I thought about how useful those statistics would be if they were from a reputable source.  Back in '98, the Mid-South District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had sent me to Concordia University in Irvine, California to the Mission Training Institute.  Among the things we learned in that Institute was that new converts beget more new converts at a much higher rate than people who have been members in a congregation for a long time.  We also learned that new congregations grow and start other new congregations faster than old established congregations do. Obviously there are all kinds of human elements at play in this.  Among those are enthusiasm, excitement, adventure and more.

Musing back over previous life experiences, I remembered that when I could place a new application for a product in the hands of new customer my sales blossomed.  It all made sense to me.  Very different circumstances but very similar human dynamics seem to be involved.  

The facts concerning new immigrants matched what I know as well.  The first generations of my own ancestors in America had been entrepreneurs. Jakob had his gun powder mill.  They had migrated within the United States and built roads.  It even worked when they migrated back out of the United States into New Spain.  They built roads and way stations to outfit and repair vehicles. On Mother's side, her father had left the United States proper and engaged in business.  He got burned out and left the United States all together and again was unsuccessful, but he had engaged in the process.  When he returned, he bought up the cheapest scrubbiest hillside land you could imagine and planted strawberries whereupon he engaged in marketing strawberries from Missouri to New York - a thing which had never been done before but he had invented a way to make it happen. It seems that immigrants, which ever way they are migrating, are caught up in the dynamics of a new place, new opportunities, new ways of doing things, and they bring enthusiasm and will to succeed with them.  

So, what did I know about more recent immigrants?  Louis Navratil in Wharton, Texas came to mind. Louis made shoes.  Boots really.  His boots sold for two hundred fifty dollars back when two hundred fifty dollars was worth two thousand dollars in today's money. He understood where the market was going to go twenty years before fancified "Western Boots" had become all the rage. He had wanted me to work in his shop and learn the skills of his business. Maybe I should have done that.  I could have done worse.

I thought of the Flek family over by Dancigar. For those of you who don't know,  that is pronounced Dan-singer but don't blame yourselves for not knowing that, you have to have known where the town used to be over in Brazoria County to be able to tell when you are there today. Around the corner from where Dancigar used to be across from where the sawmill used to be, the Fleks had had a watermelon farm on the worst piece of scrub sand land you could imagine.  That piece of land had been so worn out before the civil war that when the slaves had been freed, the plantation owners breathed a sigh of relief and abandoned the place.  The former slaves refused that land when the government offered it to them and moved on down in the forest a ways onto some land that yielded much better crops even if it was hard land to work. The Fleks came from "Austria," like it said on everyone's passport, and they had bought the old plantation for a nickel on the dollar because no one else ever wanted it. In my youth I noticed they certainly had fine trucks to haul those watermelons in to market and they could dress fine when they wanted to. 

The descendants of the former slaves?  Some of them are still around there.  We hunted together and haunted the woods together when we were younger.  One of my buddies from "Cedar Breaks" (another 'town' you have to know where is to find it) became a county official about twenty-five years ago.  

As I scratched through my mental notebook, I could see as many failures as successes, maybe more, but I could dig out a lot of examples from people that I had known which suggested strongly that there was a lot of merit in what the man had said. I wish he had said more.  He had the beginning for a good presentation. This could be a key argument in favor of opening the doors a little wider to legal  immigration into the United States.  

Of course, there is another aspect of all this that should be noted.  My African friends, my European friends, my South American friends, and my Asian friends of all sorts, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philippines, you name the country, and the Iranians and others I personally know, have all come  in the front door, legally, documented, with paperwork.  Nearly all of them are now in some professional career or they are in business for themselves.  The other side of the picture comes mostly perhaps from those who have arrived overland through the deserts or across the river without documentation.  Many of the later group arrive with only the skills of a seventeen year old or less and very little education.  They wind up cutting grass and in other trades where they are paid in cash.  These too are entrepreneurs but because not only of their undocumented status, but also because they are ill prepared to succeed, they work hard all their lives with little advancement in their situation. Others arrive and become farm workers or laborers in a shadow labor market.  The "American Dream" seems always beyond their grasp. Still, they are usually better off here than where they were and so they come, and remain.  

I saw nearly the same situation with domestic immigration back in the 1960s.  The USDA had ridiculed "subsistence" farming and in time many Black families from Louisiana migrated to Houston because supposedly they could make a "good" life working in all the industry there.  Alas, most came with so few employable skills that it took a whole generation to begin to untangle the welter of poverty that created. In the meantime the tiny farms they left behind were seized for unpaid taxes and sold behind the courthouses for a few cents on the dollar to real estate barons who had waited patiently to line their pockets.  Yes, I can testify to this.  I got around in my career and I read the De Ridder newspapers enough to see what was happening in the late seventies and early eighties. 

Other immigrants to these shores arrive legally and are entrapped in a scam here in America.  The persons who brought them over demand that they repay the costs of the visa and transportation to America. The immigrant is caught in a  trap. If he doesn't agree to pay the costs plus whatever his sponsor adds on to the bill, then the sponsor reports him as non compliant to the Immigration Service.  The result is often slavery.  

One case like this that I know about happened in Tennessee while I was serving as a pastor.  The owner of the "night club" which used to be where the Lutheran Church is now in Paris, Tennessee "sponsored" a young woman and her boyfriend from Mexico.  When they agreed to immigrate, the couple didn't understand that "waitress" meant dancing naked and "servicing" the desires of certain patrons.  When the owner threatened the young lady with "La Migra" (the Immigration Service), the young man stabbed him to death.  The dispatcher called me at the same time she called the Sheriff.  When we arrived, the young man was sitting on the curb with his hands on top of his head.  By the way, he was not convicted of murder, but you see the situation in which the young couple was placed - the opportunity they were being offered was sex slavery.  Others are not so strong and they succumb.  This is a detestable practice which must be ended in this country.

These visas fuel an enormous legal trade in the United States.  First there is the cost of the visa and then there is the cost of the lawyers to work through the vulgar tangle of laws and regulations.   If these immigrants are so valuable to the American economy perhaps the government could find its way clear to eliminate or lower the fees and simplify the laws so any one can understand them.

This was part of the discussion I wanted to hear at the briefing but which was sorely lacking.  Immigration is not so simple that a pep rally to entice us to promote the administration's policy and proposed legislation can address the real issues.  "Mantras," "political sloganeering," and "talking points" won't get the job done.  I agree that the system is broken, but a simple "fix" won't fix anything. We hyphenated-Americans need to be chest deep in the process of crafting and devising laws that will serve the needs of the United States and be workable and humane, sensible instruments of immigration into the country.  More than anyone else, more than all the lawyers and all the politicians, we hyphenated-folks can bring more expertise to the table that will serve everyone's legitimate interests.  Hear us! We can help and we want to help!!!

I must apologize.  I promised some people that this section would concern  the White House Foreign Policy Agenda but we didn't get to that.  We will next time.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
19. veljače 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

White House Briefing Part I

This is part IV of a series:  Immigration, Healthcare and the Economy

(part I of this adventure is at dorucak na granici
part II is at Booooom 
part III is at the white-house

The briefings were divided into two parts, the first part of the White House Ethnic Day briefings concerned Domestic Agenda: Immigration, Healthcare and the Economy. 

Please to forgive me, but I grew up in and I still live in a world which has a special internal response to officials speaking or writing about domestic agendas.  Food and eating are a major part of our culture so if you have a recipe and want to tell us about it we are always happy to listen. If its a recipe for sarma for example, we expect you to cook some and then we'll tell you if we think it needs some more paprika or whatever.  Be sure, if we think its not just right, we will tell you.  Recipes, politics, domestic agendas, its all the same to us.  Tell us your story, we will listen politely, you cook it, we'll let you know if the flavor is right.  I must also tell you at this point, that the opinions I express here are my own and not necessarily the opinions or viewpoints of anyone else in our group. 

So, on Healthcare and the Economy, the presenters did a good job of presenting the current party line.  Ok.  That was interesting.

I think our ears perked up with the presentation about Immigration.  That too followed the current party line - with some peculiar and interesting twists. The young lady presenting talked about some "standards" which the leader of the House of Representatives had presented as opposed to "principles" which the opposing party was presenting.  Somehow I think that we were supposed to feel that "principles" were more principled than standards.  If you sense by now that I am amused, you are right.  At this point, I am amused.  The next two presenters on the topic talked about the House leader's "principles."  

I have lived nearly all my life in the once Democrat controlled Texas and I still live in the mostly Democrat controlled Rio Grande Valley.  All my life, until fairly recently, I've had friends inside Communist controlled regions of Europe.  Almost everyone in the room either once lived in Communist controlled Europe or had family who did.  We all understand how these things are supposed to work.  You keep your party line, whatever it is today, consistent.  If you don't, even though all you can see is our straight poker faces, somewhere inside we are laughing at you. Lesson for the current or any other White House: propaganda is ok, we understand propaganda for what it is and we are not offended, but please do try to keep your story straight. Once you adopt a party line, stay on target.  Please.

Someone went to the microphone and asked "How many ethnic groups are represented here today?"  Answer:  "We don't know."

There was a moment of pregnant silence across the entire room.

There was a request for the officials to find out how many ethnic groups were represented.  There was a hasty almost embarrassed promise to find out and pass the information along to us.

Again, another pregnant silence.  

As if to move the discussion away from that kettle of hot kestena*, one of the presenters asked us all to look around and see what the other people in the room looked like.  He pointed out that "certain people" wanted everyone to think the immigration "problem" concerned all the Mexican immigrants but that the Mexicans were number nine on the list of people wanting to migrate to the USA.  Yeah, that's what he said "number nine."  Someone at the microphone asked him who the other eight on the list were. Sigh, he didn't know.  He said the room represented the "real" picture he wanted us to take back to our constituents.  

Harpreet S. Sandhu and David Byler
We had constituents?  We did not know that, but we all looked around the room. Our taxi cab driver that morning had been Ethiopian but I did not see any one who looked Ethiopian.  The lady at the desk in my hotel had been from Ghana but I did not see any one who looked like they were from from Ghana.  The server at the restaurant at the hotel that morning had been from Cote d' Ivoire but I did not see anyone who was likely to be from Cote d' Ivoire.  The evening server and the cook at the hotel were from Columbia. Granted, one of them had a grandmother from Dalmacija but I did not see any brown faces in the room.  There were some gentlemen who are perhaps Sikh, but they look just like me only younger and with much prettier colored hats.   In fact, our beards even almost matched. The "picture" I was supposed to  take back to my "constituents" was the "picture" of a sea of white faces.  Sorry Charlie, I am from  El Valle del Rio Bravo where the fences at the border are tall and topped with concertina wire.  I know about the face of immigration to the United States.  People in the room around me were looking at each other with looks of disbelief on their faces.  

Back in Brownsville, both Doctor Factorizza, my Doctor, and his Physician's Assistant are from the Visayas in the Philippines where Typhoon Yolanda hit back on 6 November 2013. They have family out there on those islands where the storm hit, where, even as more bodies are recovered daily, the death  count has risen to over six thousand and tens of thousands more are essentially homeless. I care about my doctor and his staff.  They supported me with their loving expertise throughout the five years of my wife's final illness. They care about me.  I care about them. 

The Philippine President formally requested that the U.S. government designate his country as eligible for "Temporary Protected Status" under American Immigration laws back in December. TPS would help Filipinos support their families back home by sending remittances and thus assist in the country’s post-Typhoon recovery. Under federal immigration laws, a country may be designated for TPS due to certain conditions in the country that prevent its nationals from returning safely or in certain circumstances in which the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. In the Philippines' case, a natural disaster like a typhoon is sufficient for a declaration of Temporary Protected Status. TPS changes aliens’ immigration status and makes them not subject to removal, work authorized, and able to secure travel documents as well as driver’s licenses.  

Its not just my doctor, there are almost three and a half million Filipinos living in the United States. Without this "protected status" many of the fourth largest group of immigrants to the US, behind only Mexico, China, and India, (Yeah, Mexico is number one, not number nine)  become illegal simply because they cannot return home at this time.  Some of those who do return home to help with the disaster loose their chance at citizenship in the US.  As of the time of our briefing on Friday 7 February 2014 the US Administration had not responded to President Aquino's request.

I was in too much pain to hope to get to the microphone, but another from my group asked my questions and so did others from other groups. The responses were all pretty much muffled pebbles in the mouth "I don't know" or along those lines.  Most unsatisfactory.

Oprosti me, but by this point in the "briefing" I am having difficulty believing anything I am being told from the podium about the Administration's concern with immigration.  The truth is, by this time I was in a rage but I tried to do the poker face thing because I did not want to embarrass Nenad Bach and my other fellow Croatian - Americans.  I do hope that if rage showed on my face that everyone took it to be the pain in my back but I was one mad dog about to explode.

I've been on the front lines of immigration issues almost all of my life so those young whipper-snappers up there on the podium did not have much over me.  My parents were in immigration court with attorney Lyndon B. Johnson right beside them on behalf of a young man from Mexico before I had seven years behind me.  In another venue, the community welcomed and absorbed refugees from the aftermath of the Czech Spring, the Croatian Spring, and everybody else's Spring. At All Nation's Festival in El Campo, Texas one year, Mr Zeidman and Freddie and I counted off 46 ethnic groups and as many languages present from our county there in the town square all at once time.  We may even have missed a few.  

In Houston, there was a time when law enforcement would clear up its outstanding cases by raiding Alacran - (the Scorpion), a neighborhood full of refugees from whichever whatever was happening in Nicaragua and Honduras at any given time. The neighborhood was reputed to be the roughest neighborhood in the city.  My company had a records warehouse there.  It was never bothered, nor was I, but then, hardly anyone ever bothers the biggest bear in the forest. The court appointed attorneys would advise "Pancho" to plead guilty because otherwise "La Migra" (the US Immigration Service) would be called and "Pancho" would be sent back to certain death at home.  After "Pancho" began to get quiet advice to ask for a jury trial anyway, and both the courts and the penitentiary up in Huntsville began to be clogged with all the "Panchos", a Federal Judge stepped in.  A local Judge or two who were on the take in this business and a couple of lawyers went to jail themselves and this practice stopped.  I don't agree that "Pancho" should have  been in Houston illegally, but we still do not abuse and terrorize him because he is vulnerable. Americans are better than that.  At least hyphenated-Americans are better than that or we had better learn to be.  

Later, as a pastor in Tennessee, I was in immigration court on behalf of Mexican Parishioners.  In Brownsville I have been in court with an Iranian parishioner.  I do not know all there is to know, but I am no stranger to immigration issues either, so don't nobody try to pull no wool over my eyes no how no time. 

I should tell you that after the break for lunch, someone on the podium announced that everything being said was "off the record" so would all those who had been recording the session please bring their devices up to the podium, please. That wonderful "picture" of the "face" of immigration to the USA was never going to happen.  Even if any of us had been of a mind to forward the administrations program as it stands, we did not get to take the picture. An opportunity wasted.  I kept wondering how inept these folks could be.   Look, I'm in the propaganda business.  That's what a preacher is, you know, we do propaganda for Jesus.   Now I promote Croatian music, i.e. I write propaganda for our music.  The skills are all the same.  One thing you never do is miss the perfect photo op.  Sigh.  

As you might guess, this affair is just now getting to be interesting but we have to wait until next time to hear some more ...

* kestena, chestnuts.  Around Christmas time or so back Home, or where ever we are that chestnuts are plentiful, the men build a little fire outside and put lots of chestnuts in a kettle or something metal and roast them.  They pop, they crackle, they jump, and they are very hot.  One does not want to put his hand in the kettle with them.  The consequences might not be pleasant.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
17. veljače 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

At the White House ...

part III of a series
(part I of this adventure is at dorucak na granici , 
part II is at Boom and there will be yet more to follow)

By now in this narrative you have probably concluded that I am a member of two minorities in the United States.  I am a hyphenated - American, Croatian-American to be exact and I am somewhat physically disabled.  My doctors tend to think the later is due to late arriving aftereffects of polio long ago.   That puts me in an elite group because there aren't many of us polio survivors.  The former may be a mystery to some readers who know my more famous shirt sleeve relative Eric Byler who is Asian-American.  Eric is the creator of  "Charlotte Sometimes," which if you haven't seen, you simply must because its a masterpiece.   

                             I got to meet Nenad Bach in person for the first time!

In Washington, the Croatian - American group passed through the second check point at the White House in spite of the fact that all we had was State issued driver's licenses and that the White House had urgently emailed us that out identification had to be "US Government issued."  

On the Texas border with Mexico when the authorities want to see US Government issued documents, they want to see a passport or a border crossing card.  Your Texas driver's license or other State issued ID will not do at all in those cases.  You look around and see tall fences surmounted with concertina wire and armed men everywhere and you produce your passport.  We know what "US Government issued" means. Apparently the White House officials do not.   English.  Perhaps some ill feeling and confusion could be averted if Federal officials learned to write on english.

I was exhausted by the time we reached that second check point.  My back was announcing to me in no uncertain terms that it wanted no part of the excursion we were about to embark upon. When I relayed that information to the security people they were quick to furnish me with a wheel chair.  Chach was kind enough to volunteer to push me around and so off we went.

Around the corner, to our consternation, there were concrete steps.  We couldn't see any way around them but suddenly out of the bushes, in a flash like something from a James Bond movie, there appeared a Secret Service type fellow who guided us through a hole in those bushes we had not seen.   As we passed through a gate which reminded me of gates in various prisons where I have visited parishioners (yes, even Lutherans sometimes run afoul of the law), the thought occurred to me that we might be on our way to Guantanamo never to be seen again.   Blessedly, our adventure was not quite that eventful.

In a few moments we were actually in the White House, a wonderfully appointed place - which has within it more steps, beautiful steps, but steps.  Another splendidly uniformed Secret Service fellow appeared and led us on the tour of a lifetime. Chach and I were whisked through store rooms and work rooms and cloak rooms and finally we passed the highlight of our whole tour - the kitchen.  I could see the spotless stainless steel appointments of the room and that there were leeks on the table, all sized exactly alike.  We saw some finely appointed rooms and such but nothing compared to the kitchen.

At that moment I was elated. First of all, I do like cooking and seeing such a kitchen was a fantastic delight.  All these years since 1959 I thought the "Kitchen Debates" took place in that kitchen of the White House and I thought I was seeing the very place where East met West.  Sigh, this morning I learned that those debates took place in an entirely different venue.  Still, it was a tour which, according to our Secret Service guide, only one in about 600 ever gets to have.  That is special.

We rested a while afterward and took some photos outside.  Nenad has most of these photos and when he makes them available I will attach more of them here or over on Crown Croatia somewhere so you can find them and see them later if you like.   As we left the grounds, the officers retrieved the wheel chair and I faced the walk to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building unaided.  

      L-R:  Dragan Chach Cacinovic, David Byler, Steve Rukavina, Anne Pavlich and Nenad Bach

It was a long and painful walk during which my back complained vociferously, but as it turned out,  we Croatian - Americans had brought along  with us our own nurse, Anne Pavlich, who made sure I stopped and rested sufficiently along the way so I didn't hurt myself.  According to the intern assigned to our meeting, the Secret Service had a wheel chair available but it was not released to us until I had made the trek to our designated entrance around the corner about three impressively  large Washington DC blocks away and was seated inside the auditorium where the White House had planned a briefing for us.  At sixty, none of this would have been a difficulty.  

Perhaps the White House needs a reminder that some of us actually do live past sixty and that disabilities occur to some of us.  All the politicians in Washington from the President down yammer on and on about how disabled folk should have open access to everything everywhere but there in Washington DC itself, the Capitol of the United States, at the White House, this was my experience.  

I was determined to attend the briefing and Anne was determined to help me so at last we rejoined the others at our entrance.  I was out of breath and in pain as I looked for a seat.  A Serbian gentleman graciously yielded his seat at the end of a row to me.  I know, I know, for a Croatian to use Serbian and 
gentleman in the same breath is anathema to some of my Croatian brothers but I'm just reporting the facts as they lay on the ground in that room on that day in that place.  I did not catch his name, but he was a gentleman and I am appreciative of him.  

That moment would not be the last time during that meeting that Slav - Americans of various sorts demonstrated a measure of solidarity. That would not be the last moment that immigrant Americans and hyphenated  Americans of various kinds demonstrated solidarity.

More on this next time ...

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
14. veljače 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Part II of a series
(part I of this adventure is at dorucak na granici , there will more to follow)

"BOOOOOM!!!" My eyes were instantly open.  Instinct propelled me to drop and roll.  Of course dropping and rolling from a prone sleeping position placed me on the safety of the floor between the bed and the wall. My brain wasn't on yet.  I couldn't get it on.  My brain doesn't reboot from my sleep any faster than my computer reboots from its sleep.  

After that one single "BOOOOM!" everything was silent.  No dogs were barking. No cats were miauing.  No possums (we call them tlacuatches here) were rustling.  No night birds were clucking.  No bat wings were flapping.  I listened intently for the soft sound of my tarantulas scuttling through the grass.  Nothing.  Not a sound. 

No sound even of a truck on the freeway not far away.  Odd, even at that hour. I kept my head low as I eased over to the computers near the foot of my bed.  One was black.  The other had just rebooted.  The computer's clock told me that it was 0300.

I concluded that the "BOOOOOM" was not mortar fire.  By this time I was awake just enough to decide that it wasn't a shell from a cannon. I couldn't hear any AK47s firing and heaven knows there are plenty of those around here which people fire off on Christmas, New Years, Fourth of July and whenever else they get drunk.  Anyway, we weren't being invaded and it wasn't the sound of a border drug war like we hear the sounds from all too often  from just three or four miles away.  It was still silent as a graveyard.  It couldn't have been a katyuska - who on earth in their right mind fires off just one of those things and expects to do any damage?  

I was still groggy when I remembered that the Iranians were sending warships toward the coast somewhere. Maybe they had lobbed an atomic bomb at us.  People have always said that it would take an atomic bomb to wake me up in the night after I have gone to sleep.  That seemed logical then.  The Iranians must have bombed the Port of Brownsville.  I was way too sleepy to handle that, so I went back to bed and slipped back into a sound sleep from which I didn't awaken until late this morning.

A few weeks ago, Nenad Bach called me.  He was so apologetic and concerned that he had awakened me.  Nenad is a kind and considerate man.  I assured him that if I had been asleep, I wouldn't have heard the phone.  That was the truth of course -since it takes an atomic bomb to wake me up (see above).  Actually, that was not an atomic bomb last night.  I can't blame the Iranians.  Even so, the noise was so loud it was heard all over the city.  This morning on Facebook Brownsvillians were trying to triangulate the source of the sound until the weather service explained that we had some unusual lightening along with an inversion layer which amplified the sound.

Gotta learn more about how this works.  Imagine getting control of this phenomenon somehow and placing a rock band in the middle of it someway so the sound would go out over a whole city.  Awesome thought.  Someone should work on this sometime.  

Anyway, that night a few weeks ago, Nenad told me about "Ethnic Day" at the White House in Washington DC.  He wondered if I might be interested in being part of the Croatian - American delegation.  Of course I wanted to go.  There were a few details to work out and all that went well.  While I was in Houston for Ambassador Paro's presentation at the Holocaust Museum we planned for the delegates to meet with him at the Embassy while we were there, so everything was set. Washington DC here we come!

We have all heard stories about how the TSA sometimes gives people a hard time during their screenings.  I'm an old guy so too much hassle could be a problem.  I picked up the phone and called the TSA to find out what to expect and what to do.  The man explained everything to me and told me to be sure and let the agents at the airport know that I am partly disabled.  

At the airport, I was received with great dignity.  Security found a way to check me and my luggage out without any hassle at all.  I like the idea of flying safely and I like the idea of being treated with some decorum.  The TSA accomplished both.  I was so impressed that I called the TSA help line again today just to say "thank you" because somehow I doubt they hear a "thank you" very often.  Soon I was on the airplane traveling to Houston and on to the capitol city. 

There was one detail I learned after I was in the hotel in Washington.  The White House was insisting on two things:  1. That we present identification which matched the identification which we had sent in earlier and 2. That this identification be US Government issued.   

I was depressed.  I've been around the block a few times, in the US military and so forth.  I know that there is exactly such a thing as US Government issued identification.  There are military driver's licenses, passports, and border crossing cards.  I had given my Texas Driver's license number.  Texas is Texas and not the US Government.  There is a difference.  Here on the Texas border we are acutely aware that this is an important difference.

It wouldn't have mattered a lot really if the White House had refused my identification. Somehow seeing where the President lives was not nearly so important as meeting one of the greatest musicians of our time. Nenad Bach was live and in person there at the rendezvous point.  My purpose in being there was accomplished.  It was good to meet my friend for the first time in the flesh.  The rest of the adventure would be icing on the cake. 

The rest of the delegation are all especially fine people too - the sort that make a person extra proud to be a Croat.  We will talk more about them as we go along.

The Croatian - American delegation approached the first White House check point and it seems that our state driver's licenses were quite acceptable after all.  Apparently what the White House had meant to say was that we had to have identification issued by an official entity of the United States, such as one of our respective states.

One observation on this experience so far:  All of us hyphenated - Americans speak on english pretty darn good (except perhaps when I write miau instead of meow for sound cat makes) but it really might be helpful if the Americans would learn to speak on english also.    

There is more to this adventure, so do please stay tuned .......

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
12. veljače 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doručak na granici

"America."  Everybody in the world knows where is "America."  The fact, however, is that "America" is a continent.  Actually there are two of them, North and South.  Still, everybody in the world knows that "America" is the "United States."  Even that is a wee problem because in North America there are two "United States."   There is Sjedinjene Meksičke Države and there is Sjedinjene Američke Države.  Despite those little technical difficulties no one in the world is confused about which one is "The United States," or just "America." 

It wasn't always so.  When the first Croats showed up in the waters around America, America was still America in the broader sense.  Those early Croats shared the continents with Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Muskogee, the Cherokee, the Comanche and others.  What's more, Croatians, along with others,  helped build a few countries in North America like Texas, California, and even the Kingdom of Hawaii out in the Pacific.

With no independent Homeland back in Europe, these Croats were, for the most part, uninvolved in empire building or "colonialism" in the usual sense of that term, but they were having great adventures.  One of those adventures has to do with what I am eating this very morning. 

The histories all show that Napoleon III withdrew French troops from Mexico but hardly a word is written about the Croatian Hussars who were in Mexico with Carlotta's husband even though everyone loves Carlotta.  When the Emperor was captured and shot, the Mexican officers with Benito Juárez asked him what to do with all these soldiers.  Juárez is reputed to have said something like "We have cut off the head, the body of the snake is harmless."

So now, you are a Croatian soldier in a strange land far away from home.  You have no money in your pocket and no way home.  Besides, why would you want to go home? What is there for you? You have little future except perhaps to be a fisherman or a farm worker on some large estate owned by one of the Austrians who run the place.   

You are hungry.   Your belly is crying out to you.  You've managed to steal two eggs out from under a chicken, one stale tortilla, an onion and a tomato.  Beside yourself, you have three companions to feed.  What do you do?

You crack open the eggs and you put them in the mess kit you were issued by the military. As always, te dvije oči jaja su namigujući on you.  Those two eyes of the eggs are winking at you. What next?  You crumble up the tortilla into the eggs, you cut up the tomato and the onion and you mix everything all together in the pan over the fire.

The war was vicious as all wars are.  There is a shortage of young Mexican men. The smell from your cooking attracts the attention of a young Mexican woman carrying water home from the well. You try to explain your recipe to her.  There is laughing and giggling.  She tastes your meal.  The closest she can come to saying all that about the eyes of the eggs winking is just "migas."  Close enough.  A new dish, a new word, and a new love has been born in the same hour.  You are married and you have children.  Your neighbors love your music.  Eventually the community around you forgets that once you were a stranger.

Two generations later, Mexico cracks down on the Catholic Church.  Your grandchildren don't remember exactly why, but they are Catholic among the Catholics and they find themselves across the border in Texas.  They bring with them their Mariachi tradition also born in Eastern Europe. Your great grandson composes a song for his daughter for her wedding but he has been taught that it is not permitted for him to play and sing in church. But somehow a Croatian - American pastor who knows and understands what he is seeing insists that the father serenade his daughter at the end of the wedding service INSIDE the church.  Perhaps he will not forget that day the rest of his life.

I know his daughter has not forgotten because, you see, I was that pastor.  This happened about a decade ago.  My musician friend is Croatian - American in the wider sense of that term. Mexican culture has mostly but not entirely forgotten there ever was such a thing among them. Homero Prado's family knows, and a few other musician families know.  All the average Anglo - American sees when he looks at my friend is one more "Mexican." As a matter of fact, all the average Mexican - American sees is one more "Mexican."

My musician friend is one of those Croatian - Americans like those which Ambassador Joško Paro spoke of a few nights ago at the Croatian Embassy in Washington D.C.  My musician brother knows some about the Croatian part of his roots and he is interested in knowing more.  He is proud of his ancestry and he treasures that part of the culture he retains.  Is he, or any of his extended family interested much in modern Croatia and other Croatian people?  No, not especially.  He is content here in South Texas where he can live his life as he wishes playing his music on special occasions. His children and grandchildren however just might be tourists in Croatia someday.

My friend is an example of one of those ethnicities about which neither Mexico nor the United States have any awareness.  That's not surprising considering hardly anyone except us old ragged grey-haired historian types know about the Jews and the Arabs who also live in North Mexico and in Southern Texas - people who were exported from Spain and who lived under the thumb of "religious police" for several generations. Throw in the descendants of several Indian nations whose states disappeared long before they migrated into this area, a few modern Croats, some Poles, a handful of Polish Jews, and some "Anglos" and you begin to see that down here at the Rio Grande we are a rich and complex tapestry of "ethnicities" even though the statistics want to lump nearly everyone together as "Hispanic" just because almost all of us speak at least a little on Spanish.  

Being Brownsvillian is complicated.  We are not all the same, yet we share a lot in common.  Being Croatian - American is complicated.  We are not all the same, yet we share a rich heritage.  Being Croatian is complicated.  We are not all the same.  Being South-East European is complicated. Being East European is complicated especially when you hyphenate any of that with "American" and then you discover that the US National Security Administration doesn't even know where East Europe is, much less anything about South East Europe.  What hope do we have that they know anything much about Croatia or Bosnia.  God forbid that they should need to know about the Sandjak or the Vojvodina or anywhere else in our neck of the woods. God help anyone from anywhere else.   This is the start of another story ... its important, so I will write about that a little later.  Do stay tuned for more over the next few days.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
10. veljače 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Joško Paro at the United Nations Remembrance Day 2014

Some weeks ago I received a phone call from Nenad Bach.  He was excited.  Could I be in Houston on the 27th of January?  The  Ambassador would be in Houston on that day to make a special presentation at the Houston Holocaust Museum concerning the United Nations Remembrance Day 2014. There would be recognition of Croatian "Righteous Among The Nations."

Now I was excited.  Of course I could go.  There was no doubt of that.  Of course  there followed a flurry of emails and phone calls to set everything up. Just before I began the 380+ mile trek for Houston I learned  that Sunday would be "Consular Day" for the Croatians in Houston and there would be a gathering at the Croatian club in the evening.  A chance to see so many of my Croatians friends in Houston and to meet the Ambassador too!  Greg couldn't come this time so I was on my own and I went up on Saturday so I could have a little time to rest before all the fun began.  On the way up I stopped in Rosenburg at the Police Department but that's a story for another time.

As I drove I had time to think about the phone call I had received the afternoon before.  Fred had called.  I went to High School with Fred.  That was just about a half century ago, more if you consider we were in classes together all through Elementary School in Wharton, Texas.  I had always admired Fred's mother as a kind and gentle woman who cared about people.  She wasn't Croatian, but just the same she was among those wonderful women who set an example for me to follow.  I remember her with great fondness.

Back in August of 2010, I was footloose and fancy free for a few days in Houston.  I had plans to attend a play at the Alley Theater and besides that I had a little time on my hands.  I called Fred and he suggested that I could tour the Holocaust Museum.  Fred, Fred Schwartz Zeidman, had been appointed Chairman of the United States Holocaust Commission by President Bush.  Fred, I used to call him "Freddy" in school, had done right well for himself.  A lot of the gang from High School are gathered together over on Facebook after all these years and we are all very proud of him.   You see, we all know that he did not come from wealth and power.  Fred earned everything he has by working hard and by working smart.

I went to the museum.  The exhibits and tour were out of this world - except, except when it came to South East Europe there were at that time a few items which I saw that could stand some clarification and some  more details.  When Fred and I met later, I had some suggestions for him  about this. He listened carefully, poor guy, for almost three hours, as I told him the story of other Holocausts at Bleiburg, in Vukovar and in Bosnia in the later years of the twentieth century. I told him about the disappearances which affected people even in the diaspora. I told him the truth about my sister Susan.  I told him about how I had been rescued by Mrs. Redding's sister.  That was a matter which had been handled quietly, efficiently, and firmly with little noise.  We understood the cause, but were in wonderment because our family had not been a danger to anyone in hundreds of years.  I told him some of the stories of other Slavs, Jews, Roma, Vlachs, and Muslims whom I knew and who had made their way from Croatia to the very area where we had lived as children and who were still coming. I noticed that Fred took notes.

I also noticed over the next few years that the Holocaust Commission had taken an active part in collecting evidence that helped with the trials and convictions of some of the monsters who had killed so many and destroyed the lives of so many many more.  No one had to tell me that Fred had something to do with helping bring some justice to bear.  I knew.  Whether we had ever conversed or not, Fred may have acted.  Fred Zeidman always had a deep sense of right and wrong which his parents helped instill in him from his youth.

Still, as I hurtled down the highway with the cruise control set on 75 mph and as I listened to my CDs with Nenad Bach and Maki and Damir Radov and some klapa, I mused about how one Jewish man who was a lifelong friend with a grizzled old Lutheran pastor, who himself was irretrievably connected to a gaggle of Roman Catholics and a gaggle of Muslims who lived in a far away land, had managed to accomplish something for us.  There is a God, you know.  This is a story which runs directly counter to all the hatred the world wants us to hear.  The press seems to want us to hear about Muslims killing Jews and Jews killing Muslims.  Whatever there might be to any of those stories, there is also this story. 

Fred's flight would not arrive in Houston on Monday until long after the commemoration at the Museum was over so he asked me to deliver his apologies. I did exactly that on Sunday evening when I met Ambassador Joško Paro at the Houston Croatian Club.   It was a jovial setting that evening.  We had been feasting on trays of  meats and cheeses and homemade goodies the ladies had prepared.  There was a bit of wine too.  Our Consul from Los Angeles was there.  Everyone was talking and having a good time with each other.  That did not change when Mr Paro arrived.  He fit right into the crowd.

I know he will not ever read this so I can say whatever I want to say about Joško Paro.  I was impressed with the man.  Mr Paro is well spoken and a gentleman.  I became aware that he does his research too.  He even knew about my YouTube channel "Canovals."  We had a few moments together where we discussed some issues that might affect someone in the diaspora who wished to return Home.  I want to tell you, he was on top of those issues.  Not all of these issues are easily solved, but he knows about them and he is working in our behalf.  My impression is that the man cares about us out here in Texas.  He is not only Ambassador to the US but he is also Ambassador to us.  In some way perhaps, he also serves as our Ambassador to the Croatian state.

Not everybody remembers anymore that most of us kept fairly quiet about where we were from or where our ancestors were from.  First of all, no one much knew what or where was a Croatia.  When they heard the  word Croatian it sounded sometimes to people like "crustacean" and they would give you the oddest look.  When you pointed on a map they would say "Oh! Jugoslavia!"  But for some of us, "Jugoslavia" was not part of our history and we did not know really what to think about this "Jugoslavia," either one of them.  We were  Croatian pure and simple and so we kept our mouths shut.

Some of my friends knew or had experienced what happened in the years after World War II and so we kept our mouths shut in public. Finally, in the 1990's we could lift up our heads again and we began to feel free to identify ourselves. Even then there was sometimes a penalty to pay. I was accused once by a couple of church officials of being a Bosnian terrorist.  That accusation of course did not fly but still it was made.  A former "friend"  told me that all Croatians are dirty people.  That ended that friendship fairly fast.  I still find people who think Croatia is somewhere close to Chechnya or Kazakhstan.

Some of my Jewish friends knew about the NDH and so Croatia still has had a bad taste in their mouths.  For years, I kept my mouth shut around them. 

Now, on Monday, the 27th of January 2014, the Jewish community in Houston was  acknowledging that some Croatians were "Righteous Among the Nations."  This is  an important milestone for us.  

I was at the Holocaust Museum early, among other things, to make some photographs and to set up to film the proceedings.  My reception was warm and enthusiastic.  Everyone from the security guard to Mark Mucasey, the Chair of the Holocaust Museum  and members of the American Jewish Committee welcomed me and engaged me in conversation.  One lady especially comes to mind, Carol Heard, who was amused to find that I knew about Richmond, Texas and all the smaller communities around where she had spent her youth. The Consular party arrived followed shortly by our Ambassador who himself was swiftly swept up in the welcoming greetings. 

Soon afterward we all went into the auditorium and the ceremonies proceeded.  When it came time for Mr Paro to speak he said "I have to say a couple of things especially for the children and generations to come - Remembrance is important to remind us how evil we can be and how good we can be."  He told us a little of the complicated story of his own family in the history. We heard that he was married  to an MOT.  I didn't know that "MOT" means "Member of the Tribe" until a gentleman who survived the Holocaust in Poland sitting beside me on the back row explained it to me.  Mr. Paro made a point to be clear that the current state of Croatia is not an heir of the fascist state but is an heir of the resistance. "There was a snake of evil in the body of the Croatian people. We were able to produce both things and it is still in the Croatian people.  We call our selves Croat, we're ugly, can we be proud without remembering the evil we have been able to commit?  No!"    You can hear his entire speech in the video down below. 

After the choir sang a final time, we all processed to the garden past posters commemorating the Croatian "Righteous Among the Nations" and there was a further time of fellowship.  The weather forecast was for freezing "winter precipitation" (meaning that "s" word which south Texans simply cannot pronounce) so very soon I was on the highway back to Brownsville.  On the way home I felt content. Some Croatian people had been recognized as not so bad after all. Some were even heroes.  I had been received with honor and dignity and friendship, and so had my Ambassador and the Consul and Danijela Miškić and all the other Croatians present. My back hurts like crazy from all the driving but I can hold up high my head now. Yes!!!

There is a lot more work to be done of course.  We are not finished.  But this was a good and exciting moment in the journey we have before us.

The video is long and prepared in HD1080 so it took a very long time to upload.  I managed to record the entire public proceedings of the event.

Righteous Among the Nations From Croatia
Honored by Yad Vashem  by 1 January 2013
"It needs to be noted that the numbers of Righteous recognized do not
reflect the full extent of help given by non-Jews to Jews during the
Holocaust; they are rather based on the material and documentation
that was made available to Yad Vashem."

Name, File#, Year
Antunac, Ivan 8762 1999
Bartulovic, Olga & Dragica 185 1965
Bauer, Cedomir; son Branko 4653.1 1992
Bedrica, Mate 4432.2 1989
Belajac, Ivana 10143 2003
Belic, Jozefina, daughter Djurdja (Peternel) 10142 2004
Beritic, Djina-Gertruda; son Tihomil 6116 1994
Buterin, Matej 2967 1984
Car, Karel & Marija 7654 1997
Cargonja, Bela-Veronika 8282 1999
Carnelutti, Alfred & Vera & son Mario 2868 1984
Crndic Anka 10582 2005
Deletis, Ratimir 3859 1988
Djerek, Agata 8931 2000
Dolinar, Zarko; brother Boris 5804 1993
Ercegovic, Miho; son Velimir 7397 1997
Filipovic, Prof. Marijan & Kristina 1008 1975
Fuchs, Ruza 4145 1989
Fulgosi, Ante 7003 2001
Guina, Marica 6816 1995
Hocenski, Franjo & Milica 8503 1999
Horvat, Pavao 171 1965
Hrnkas, Jozo & Katica 12284 2011
Jagodic, Joza 9320 2002
Jakic, Anna 9569 2001
Jankovic, Stjepan 7606 1997
Jerbic, Milan 12235 2011
Jesih, Dr. Dragutin 5418 1992
Joris Denise 10628 2005
Juric, Andrija & brother Nikola 4432.1 1989
Jurin, Jozica (Sister Cecilija) 4209 1989
Kalogjera, Ante 9395 2001
Kalogjera, Jaksa 9394 2001
Kirec, Miroslav 4603 1990
Kohn-Turkovic, Anna 8454 1999
Kovacevic, Pavao & Katarina & children: Anna, Katarina,
Marija, Petar, Franjo
9229 2001
Kovacic, Hedviga & Vinko 9318 2001
Kraljevic, Ada & Ivo 5524 1992
Krtic, Frano 7553 1998
Kumric, Tomas & Iva 7926 1998
Lang, Ljubica 10122 2003
Loncar, Ankica & son Darko 8547 1999
Malcic, Juca 3963 1988
Merlic, Tomislav 11238 2008
Neuman, Olga (Rajsek) 9848.1 2002
Obradovic, Olga; sister Ida 4653 1992
Oruzec (Papa), Djuro & Kata 10169 2004
Ostric, Anka 2967 1984
Pavlovic, Amadeja (Mother Superior) 11368 2008
Pirovic, Marija (Sister Karitas) 4209.1 1989
Podolski Stefanija 10763 2006
Poklepovic, Andrija 7089.1 1996
Praschek, Dr.Bronislawa & son Dr. Wladislaw 3229 1985
Pribilovich, Josip 9190 2001
Radonic, Jakov & Ankica 4432 1989
Roic, Boris 8135 1998
Roter Rudi 10383 2004
Roth, August & Branka & daughter Dushka 9274 2001
Schmidlehner, Drago & Draga 12154 2011
Siljeg, Stanko & Pera 9328 2001
Silobrcic, Mihovil 7089 1996
Sopianac, Franjo 6849 1995
Sopianac, Lela; son Ivan 6849 1997
Stefan, Lujo 5563 1992
Taborsky, Emanuel & Mandica 6399 1995
Ugljesic, Zlatan & Milica 12469 2012
Ujevic, Mate 6144 1994
Valentintic Ludwik & Vera (Oberiter) 10123 2003
Vranetic, Ivan 561 1970
Vukovic, Dane 9849 2003
Vuletic, Antun 7396 1998
Zagar, Ljuba; sister Vera Rousal 5545 1994
Zivkovic-Stefan, Ljubica 5563 1992

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
1. veljače 2014