I recall very early in my life experiences with people that shaped my attitudes thereafter.

When I was very little — up to about 4 when we moved to Farmington — we lived on a street in West Hartford, Connecticut. Among our neighbors were a retired policeman and smuggled really in the backyards of houses built later a small cabin where Bert lived, the only African American, as I later learned, residing outside a small ghetto in the center of Hartford. Only African American women working as household servants would travel on our buses.

To to get to my experiences, our police friends and his family countered what might have become my prejudice that all cops were mean and racists. One day I followed a young policeman for several blocks until he realized that he had a 3 or 4 year old in tow and kindly asked me where I lived and brought me home again. Police were friends was the lesson that I had learned — or at least some of them.

But it was Bert who had the major impact on my attitudes. One day my pet Boston bull terrier cut his leg on a broken milk bottle and Bert kindly patched him up. On another occasion I was teasing my dog by confining him under a chair. Bert gently explained to me that I was making my dog unhappy. And I thereby learned that animals have feelings, too, and are not just inanimate toys for one to treat anyway an impulse strikes. Bert in effect became my extra parent and taught me that care and concern for others were important. He was the first of many future mentors who made all the difference in my life and disposition toward people and other living and feeling beings. I am guiltily not a vegetarian although I know how cruelly our now mainly commercialized meat producers abuse our ‘food’ supplies. At least when I was a kid, chickens and other wild animals lived largely happy lives until we slaughtered them. Living in the country my pets included dogs, cats, two lambs, and a pig. We thought we could raise our own meat during the rationing of WW2, but once one has made a pet of an animal, killing and eating it is not going to happen. We returned them to farmers raising animals in humane ways.

I will forever be indebted to Bert for teaching me that all our fellow humans — even some of the more evil ones — as well as intelligent animals — are creatures to be treated as feeling beings and with all the care we can muster. I am not a pacifist. I lived through WW2, wanted to join the fight which ended before I was old enough, and was in training later as a naval officer in college until Eisenhower ended the Korean war just in time for me to resume a civilian identity. I view capital punishment to be one of our lingering crimes practiced by people not fortunate enough to have had a Bert as a critical formative influence in their lives. And I deeply appreciate Tony Papa’s heroic efforts to end off the cruel Rockefeller imprisonment laws for non violent offenders:


“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent [blind copies]

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