Timothy Hayes-El, 1962-2014

I am deeply saddened by the death yesterday morning of Timothy Hayes-El, a well-known and much-loved Newburgher who attended and spoke at virtually every City Council meeting.

His first name, Timothy, comes from the Greek meaning, “Honored by God,” and surely he was so honored, as he devoted his later years to God’s children here in Newburgh. His last name at birth was Hayes, but he adopted the suffix –El, which is one of the Hebrew names of God. God indeed suffused Timothy Hayes-El’s being; he was as striking a person as any prophet. With his tall, erect bearing he resembled a Maasai warrior, and his large, shining eyes could draw the attention of everyone in the room. His voice was as commanding as a preacher’s, and he used that voice often and well, to promote his passion: increasing job opportunities for city residents.

He first impressed me when I was working for the TH-Record under the editorship of Mike Levine, and the paper did a series called something like, “How Do We Fix Newburgh?” Timothy was part of a focus group Mike led on that subject. Timothy gave us a great quote, in which he said something like, “I’m not a ‘resident of Newburgh’; i AM Newburgh.”

He was right: Newburgh is missing a great part of itself today. His passion for this city led him to offer himself as a perpetual candidate; most recently, he ran for the Ward 1 City Council seat in November, losing to Karen Mejia. Two years ago, he ran for Mayor, losing to Judy Kennedy. His activism also inspired many young city residents to register to vote. He served time in prison as a young man but returned to Newburgh determined to keep other black youths out of trouble by helping them get jobs and by advocating for them before the City Council.

Timothy had a variety of health problems and had been on kidney dialysis. He had felt ill on Sunday and did not go to church (a rarity for him); instead, he walked the few blocks from his home on Johnston Street to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he died too soon, too soon, on Monday morning at age 52.

Rest in peace, Timothy Hayes-El, Honored by God.


New Maus Fan

Never one to jump on a bandwagon until it has rolled by and disappeared over the horizon, i just this week read Art Spiegelman’s great masterwork, Maus and Maus II.

Published from 1986 (Maus) to 1991 (Maus II), these works won Spiegelman a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. For those few of you who don’t know, Maus is a comic book about the Holocaust.

OK, i know that doesn’t sound good. But it’s wonderful. Here, Spiegelman is a cross between Hannah Arendt and R. Crumb, combining riveting, gut-churning horror and suspense with great cartoons (black and white), while telling the story of what happened to his Polish-born father during WW II.

The Jews are all drawn as mice, the Nazis as cats, the gentile Poles as pigs, the French as frogs. Mercifully, he intersperses his father’s you-are-there story with “present-day” updates showing how he went around tape-recording his very ill father in the latter’s old age, and we see how grumpy, cheap, and hard to get along with the old man was.

We also learn that shortly after her suicide in 1968, the father has destroyed his wife’s (Art Spiegelman’s mother, who also survived the Holocaust) wartime diaries —  an act that Art Spiegelman considered a kind of “murder” and for which he never forgave his father (i think).

Anyway, it is all you ever need to read or see about the Holocaust, and both volumes are also beautifully produced. Go read them, please!

Blood on my Hands

Got up this morning and tried to wash the blood off my hands.

Not working.

My neighbor Angel Calderon was attacked at 1 a.m. in his own house, where he was sitting watching TV with his dog (forgot to ask what show), when a guy Angel describes as a 6-foot-tall black man, “strongly built,” burst into his livingroom. Apparently he had come in through a window in the back of the house; Angel lives alone on the first floor. The guy punched him till his whole head and face were bleeding, but Angel managed to run out the front door and start yelling for help. That’s when Tim and i, who were engrossed in a DVD of Season II of “Downton Abbey,” heard him and came running outside. Angel was already standing at the foot of the porch of our neighbor Elizabeth Holpuch’s house, and Elizabeth was already on her cellphone with the cops.

Dear God, it seemed like she was talking to them for an eternity. i heard her describing his wounds in some detail, and relaying questions to him (“Did you get a good look at him, Angel? Did he have a gun?” etc.) and telling him to sit down, put a “cold compress” on his head, etc. i ran back home to get a roll of paper towels (brand-new; it happens we’d just bought it yesterday) and a pan of water and a can of spray-on Bactine as if it were a mosquito bite. i ran back and started mopping off his head, which was dripping, dripping, dripping with blood, all down his face and shirt and down onto his shorts and socks. That’s all he was wearing. i’d used up the whole roll of paper towels, and half a 6-quart pan of cold water, before the cops arrived some 20 minutes later. Then it took another 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, though the police dispatcher had told Elizabeth that he was calling for one while she was still on the phone. Anyway help did finally arrive.

Angel used my cellphone to call his sister in the Town of Newburgh, and when the EMTs had finished bandaging him up the best they could and the sister had arrived, Tim and i felt he was in good hands and went back home. We figured he’d be in St. Luke’s Hospital today. But just now i ran into Elizabeth and she said St. Luke’s had sent him to Westchester because the contusion inside his ear needed stitches that St. Luke’s couldn’t provide.

Let us pray. And let us wonder if there isn’t blood on the hands of us all, for our failure to demand and produce a safer city for all the Angels among us.

You Make the Call

Discerning readers, please decide: Who was the more important woman who died this week?

Margaret Thatcher: Best known for: making millions of people miserable. 2 greatest achievements: Being Great Britain’s first female prime minister and abolishing the nation’s free-milk-in-schools program. Best friend: US President Ronald Reagan, promulgator of the failed “trickle-down” theory of economics. Friendship began in 1981, when he was 70 and she, 66. Quote: “I stand before you … the Iron Lady of the Western World.”

Annette Funicello: Best known for: making millions of people happy. 2 greatest achievements: Being a Mouseketeer in the first year of the “Mickey Mouse Club” and starring in the carefree “Beach Blanket” movies with Frankie Avalon. Best friend: Shelley Fabares, singer of “Johnny Angel.” Friendship began in 1955 in catechism class, when they were both 13. Quote: “Beauty is as beauty does; that’s what wise men say.”

A lot of ink was spilled praising Margaret Thatcher this week, to which I say: Rest in peace, Annette.

Language and Labor

When you let the wrong side grab the right language, you’re sunk.

Two huge cases in point: Americans long ago yielded the “Right to Life” title to anti-abortion zealots — hardly any news media call them the “anti-abortion” group, which is all they are — while anti-labor zealots are universally referred to as favoring the “Right to Work.” Abrams Predicts: It won’t be long before the anti-labor gang forms its own political party, as the anti-abortion folks did years ago. Hey, the “Right to Work Party”? Who wouldn’t vote for them? Who doesn’t think all decent Americans have the Right to Work?

George Orwell would be proud.

We cede political power to special interests whenever we start calling them by the name they give themselves (this usually involves “the Right” to do or have something, even when their goal is to limit the rights of the majority).

We have the right to life, yet we stand in reverence before the so-called Right to Bear Arms, which results in the taking of 30,000 American lives each year.

We have the right to decide whether and when to bear children, yet we let the “Right to Life” gang force women to bear unwanted children.

And now we have, in far too many states, the so-called “Right to Work,” which forces employees at organized workplaces to bear the costs of union representation for those who enjoy the benefits of that representation but refuse to bear their share of the costs of it. (Some of those benefits: raises, sick pay, vacation pay, bereavement pay, overtime pay, holidays and personal time off, job security, enforcing of contracts, and educational, charitable and social opportunities.) In other words, so-called “Right to Work” laws force union members to support freeloaders.

Agency-shop clauses (the ones so offensive to the “Right to Work” gang) do not require anyone to join a union; they simply require everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay to the union, an amount equivalent to dues. So if you don’t believe in unions, don’t worry! You don’t have to join! You also won’t be able to go to union meetings, speak your mind about working conditions, or vote on the contracts it negotiates for you. But you WILL get all the benefits of those contracts. That’s the law. That’s the way it is now. But that’s what the anti-labor forces in Indiana, Wisconsin and other states are taking away from working people: fair play and a stronger voice.

Rarely mentioned in discussions of the so-called “Right to Work” laws that are metastasizing now, is the fact that agency-shop clauses (the ones requiring nonmembers who benefit from a union’s contract, to pay the equivalent of dues to the union that negotiated it for them) are not imposed by unions on the workers, but are themselves negotiated during the bargaining sessions, by a bargaining team elected by the workers.

Not bearing your share of the cost of union representation is simply saying that the price of democracy is too high for you. But the enforced imposition of such freeloading is what Through-the-Looking-Glass Republicans today are calling “Right to Work laws.” And by accepting that name for their evil schemes, the news media — and all of us — are just as culpable as they are.